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Scientific American Gives Up 523

Posted by Zonk
from the fair-and-balanced dept.
IvyMike writes "The April issue Scientific American opens with a Perspectives column titled Okay, We Give Up. It opens, 'For years, helpful letter writers told us to stick to science. They pointed out that science and politics don't mix. They said we should be more balanced in our presentation of such issues as creationism, missile defense and global warming. We resisted their advice and pretended not to be stung by the accusations that the magazine should be renamed Unscientific American, or Scientific Unamerican, or even Unscientific Unamerican. But spring is in the air, and all of nature is turning over a new leaf, so there's no better time to say: you were right, and we were wrong.'"
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Scientific American Gives Up

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  • Boy Howdy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iibbmm (723967) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:44AM (#12110847)
    These NEVER get old. Really. Seriously. Okay, I give up.
  • Sponsorship (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:47AM (#12110903)
    This issue brought to you in part by the Bush Administration

    _
    free cursors [paware.com]
  • by 72beetle (177347) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:48AM (#12110916) Homepage
    ...but look at our current political and social climate in regards to theology - this may be tongue in cheek, but it's not unthinkable. That should keep you up at night - it does for me, anyway.

    I have no truck with people believing there's some grey-haired grandfather in the sky that remembers everyone's birthday, but please, keep it out of our schools, and off of our laws.
  • by LinuxFan (90650) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:50AM (#12110946) Homepage
    Fox News is the joke
  • by Three Headed Man (765841) <dieter_chen@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:51AM (#12110958)
    I think an accurate portrayal of Bush would be enough of an April Fool's joke.
  • Re:C'mon folks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MathFox (686808) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:51AM (#12110963)
    April 2nd in Australia.
  • by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:52AM (#12110973) Journal
    I would fully expect to see an article just like this on the 2nd and not consider it a joka at all...
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:52AM (#12110978)
    You sure this one is a fake?

    With creationism snaking its way into science curriculums and environmental issues (e.g., global warming, ocean dead zones, etc.) being pretty much ignored in the good old USA, it's as good a time as any for scientists to say "aw, fuck it!"
  • by 72beetle (177347) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:56AM (#12111017) Homepage
    Ya think? Our oldest daughter was just yesterday telling me about intelligent design, which she learned about from her SCIENCE teacher. It's insidious, this faith-based truth, and is popping up in far too many places where it doesn't belong.
  • Re:Giggles. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mpathetiq (726625) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:58AM (#12111029) Homepage
    My supervisor said it best... once you have faith, you don't need to look for anymore proof. There's no need to find a better answer - no need to strive for higher learning of how the world works. If you are a faith-based person, things just happen "because they are supposed to."

    BLAH.
  • NOOBS! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Friday April 01, 2005 @11:59AM (#12111040) Journal
    Will you people please get into the Slashdot-April-1st-mentality? All I see is "OMG NOW FUNNY!"

    It's not ment to be funny! It's a day where just random joke articles are posted, if you don't like it go read a book. It's a giggle once a year, the "it's not funny" feeling you get after 4 of them is all part of it.
  • by PepeGSay (847429) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:03PM (#12111070)
    It is interesting they harp on the most easily defensible position (evolution) to defend themselves against criticisms that are based additionally on things such as their coverage of global warming, abortion, etc. Yes it is an April fools joke. They are not calling us idiots for falling for it, they are calling us idiots for criticizing them for not sticking to science. Which involves more than just their take on evolution.
  • by MrP- (45616) <[rob] [at] [elitemrp.net]> on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:06PM (#12111102) Homepage
    you do realize slashdot didn't write these april fools jokes? they're just posting links to tech related april fools jokes.. just like they post links to tech related articles everyday

    i could understand if each post was a joke written by a slashdot editor.. but its not. they're just allowing us to see all the tech related jokes that are around today
  • Political Bias (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Detritus (11846) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:10PM (#12111136) Homepage
    It may be an April's Fool joke, but Scientific American has exhibited some rather obvious biases in the past. They've never seen an arms control treaty that they didn't like, and they've consistently attacked all proposals for strategic defense. It's not that these are issues that shouldn't be debated, it's the one-sided approach that the magazine has pursued in this and other areas. They tend to lose their objectivity when covering issues that are dear to the editors and publisher.
  • Re:Giggles. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:11PM (#12111142) Journal
    Then your supervisor is working off of a very bad definition of faith. I have faith in my wife, as she has proven herself faithful. Someone questions that, and he gets a fist in the face. Someone produces a polaroid, and she gets... um... the divorce papers ;)

    Faith is the belief in continued performance based upon past experience. Not a blind belief. Though, I will grant, many make it to be that way.
  • by Illserve (56215) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:11PM (#12111153)
    It's obvious they've become increasingly frustrated by the overwhelming atmosphere of stupidity that has descended over our politics and media lately.

    They wanted to lash out at the source of their frustration, but in a way that didn't imperil their status as a reputable (well that's debatable) publication. So they choose the one day of the year when people can go nuts and say what they really mean, and then throw up their hands and say April Fools!

    Our society is like a toned-down of Japan in this way, we have a built in release valve for venting our frustration at being bound by certain rules and regulations most of the time. *fwooot*

  • There is no GOD. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by daperdan (446613) * on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:17PM (#12111206)
    Everybody knows that the earth was built using a cast of characters including: The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and 3 of the 4 Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles. (Rafael, Donnatello, Leonardo)

    Intelligent design is the best April Fools joke placed on us by our culture.
  • Re:Giggles. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mpathetiq (726625) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:18PM (#12111224) Homepage
    No, you just decribed trust in your wife. If you are shown a polaroid that she has been adulterous, she gets divorce papers; we show creationists "polaroids" all the time, but they choose to remain in their "marriage" to their imaginary friend.
  • by R.Caley (126968) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:18PM (#12111225)
    they are calling us idiots for criticizing them for not sticking to science.

    If you critisise them for `not sticking to science' then you deserve to be called an idiot, as they rightly say it's impossible to isolate science from the social context in which it happens. Eg. if you don't know what is being funded, you can't know whether it's significant that there are a lot of results in some area recently; if you don't see reports of scientists being pressured by the state top change their results, how will you know what weight to put on those results?

  • by Doug Dante (22218) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:19PM (#12111236)
    Caltech Michelin Lecture [crichton-official.com]

    "Worst of all was the behavior of the Scientific American, which seemed intent on proving the post-modernist point that it was all about power, not facts. The Scientific American attacked Lomborg for eleven pages, yet only came up with nine factual errors despite their assertion that the book was "rife with careless mistakes." It was a poor display featuring vicious ad hominem attacks, including comparing him to a Holocust denier. The issue was captioned: "Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist." Really. Science has to defend itself? Is this what we have come to?"

  • Re:Giggles. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:24PM (#12111331) Journal
    from a google search on "Define:Faith"
    complete confidence in a person or plan etc; "he cherished the faith of a good woman"; ...

    Care to continue to argue? Or do you already have "faith" in your argument? :)
  • by kpwoodr (306527) <kenneth DOT p DO ... AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:25PM (#12111338) Homepage Journal
    Fox has a news channel?
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:26PM (#12111361)

    "Students should be presented with both sides."

    I love the "Both sides" thing when I hear it. It makes me wonder why don't we teach the Greek or Shinto or World or Warcraft creation myths in science too...

  • sigh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Trailer Trash (60756) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:28PM (#12111382) Homepage

    No more discussions of how policies affect science either so what if the budget for the National Science Foundation is slashed?

    This is the kind of political bullshit that finally drove me to drop the subscription after 6 or 7 years of it, and it's a shame. Nobody "slashed" the NSF budget, they just didn't increase it as much as you wanted. There is a major difference, and the way that you say it makes a large difference on the perception.

    Such stupid language is pure politics, and bullshit politics at that. It's not science, nor does it have any place in a scientific magazine.

    I noticed, too, that the Clinton administration could do no wrong, whereas the Bush administration can do no right. In actuality, there is little, if any, difference between their policies. Again, we're dealing with simplistic liberal politics.

    I don't for a second blame SA for not lending any credibility to creationism or "intelligent design". However, there is plenty of stupid crap, like the sentence that I pointed out above, which has nothing to do with science yet ends up printed on their pages, anyway.

    Why not get serious about depoliticizing your magazine? Seriously- I know of at least one other subscriber who dropped SA for the same reason, and I haven't even asked anybody else.

    It's a shame, really, as SA used to be one of the best magazines around. Now it's little more than a snobbish, liberal "Discover".

  • Re:Giggles. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mpathetiq (726625) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:33PM (#12111449) Homepage
    There are multiple definitions. You are referring to one, I am referring to another.

    faith Audio pronunciation of "faith" ( P )
    Pronunciation Key (fth)
    n.

    1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
    2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief. See Synonyms at trust.
    3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
    4. often Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
    5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
    6. A set of principles or beliefs.


    I am referring to #2. You are referring to #1.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:41PM (#12111547)
    Did you notice the line about "fair and balanced science"?

    A not-too-subtle poke if you ask me.
  • by SmallOak (869450) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:46PM (#12111600)
    Yup and the church burned people for saying that the universe did not fit the platonic model Are we fair and sqaure now? Are you saying that there has been not advancements in pear reviewing in the last 150 years?
  • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:47PM (#12111607) Homepage
    Historically (up until relatively recently in fact) christians have been at the forefront of learning - a lot of the universities were founded by the belief that you could find out more about God by finding more about the universe.

    In fact a *real* faith doesn't need to reject anything... because if you truly believe something to be true you're not afraid of real world observations. A faith that can only hold up by rejecting most of modern science is no faith at all... it's just blind belief.

    This appears to be mostly a US phenomenon (not exclusively, such nutters exist here too) - the kind of christian who buries their head in the sand and pretends everything is black and white with no grey areas, who refuses to let anyone disagree with them.. because they don't *really* have any faith at all and they're scared to be proved wrong.

    Faith without reason is unreasonable :)

    Don't tar us all with the same brush... I watch the news reports from the US and have a good laugh just like you do.
  • Re:Giggles. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:49PM (#12111624)
    I'm trying to decide if the parent to this post is serious or not.

    If it's not, then I have been trolled. Have a nice day.

    There is no fossil evidence in conflict with the Theory of Evolution. If you think there is, please cite it. If it hasn't been published, write it up. If you can make a case, you'll be hailed as one of the innovators of science.

    Two points do not _make_ a line. They _define_ a line in Euclidean Geometry.

    People presumded that space was filled with "aether" because the then-current theory of waves demanded it. When attempts were made to measure the aether, it turned out not to be there. The person who came up with the best explanation of what was going on... his name is now a household word.
  • Re:sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:52PM (#12111658) Homepage
    Nobody "slashed" the NSF budget, they just didn't increase it as much as you wanted. There is a major difference, and the way that you say it makes a large difference on the perception.

    There are two usual cases where the word "slash" is used in budgetary issues.

    The first is where one arm of our government proposes a certain level of funding for an activity and another one disagrees. The final outcome is that the funding eventually provided is less than what would have been had the disagreeing party not have disagreed. The later has effectively slashed the funding proposed by the first.

    The second case is where the funding is increased at a level not keeping up with inflation. This means that programs that were in progress now need to be cut and the programs have been slashed.

    In either case, the flexibility of the English language seems to allow the usage of the term (and, in fact, use of this phrase may be more accurate in terms of implied consequences than any alternative). Your desire to not use this phrase seems to be based in as much political motivation as those who want to use it.

  • by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:54PM (#12111678)
    The Theory of Intelligent Design cannot be taught in school science classes because it is not science. It makes no predictions; it is supported by no evidence.

  • Re:Giggles. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DShard (159067) on Friday April 01, 2005 @12:54PM (#12111687)
    And what would you "teach" about creationism? What hands on exercise could you do to illustrate it's hypothesis?

    If creationist feel left out of the science classroom it is because they are. There has never been anything out of the creationist camp that resembles science. I have yet to be shown anything other then criticisms of evolution, which shows that evolution is actually better tested and proves nothing of spontaneous generation.

    If beating the drum of political correctness seems to be a good way to win over rational minds you don't understand your audience. If you think it is unfair that theology does not get taught in science class then think of the converse. Maybe all churches should be forced to have science curricula read after the sermon with a notice in the bibles that "The contents of this book have in no way been substantiated and has not been edited to correct obvious mistakes".
  • by Xiaran (836924) on Friday April 01, 2005 @01:01PM (#12111782)
    Why can't both the THEORY of evolution and the THEORY of intelligent design both be taught in schools?

    First tell me : What is the theory of Intelligent Design? What posits does it make that I can test with experiment? Who is the intelligent designer supposed to be? What problems are there in ToE that require an intelligent designer to exist?

    I lurk in talk.origins and have for a long time(Like 10-12 years). Ive read every creation/ID/loonie argument put forward to discredit ToE and all have been knocked down.

    The only reason I can think of that we wouldn't teach both sides of this is that we are so insecure in our own beliefs and those of our children that we'll do anything to keep them (and ourselves?) from forming a different opinion. Yes, I'm a Christian, but I grew up in public schools learning about evolution. I was taught conflicting points of view for most of my educational career (especially college). At some point, no matter how much you "protect" your kids, they are going to hear the other sides of the argument. I've looked at the evidence of both sides, and I stand firmly in my beliefs. I don't believe in forcing my beliefs on anyone else, but I believe that each perspective should be taught equally or none at all. I don't even care if you leave "God" out of the lecture. Intelligent design gets the point across.

    Thats fine. Believe what you like. Thats a good thing in a free country. The problem is that in science there is no dispute. No serious biologist would suggest that evolution is completely wrong... because we have obversed it... the ToE, so far, explains the observations pretty darn well. Thats science. Speculating about hypothetical designers of organisms is unecessary as there is no problem to solve. If you want your kids taught about the christian origins myth(Im not trying to be offensive here... I beleive its a myth... Im not stepping on your right to believe anything you want), then fine. But the proponants of creationism and ID have offered no concrete theory or "killer app" type repeatable experiments that refute ToE or show the requirment for the existence of a creator of life forms.

    The point is, it's very hypocritical to promote the teaching of evolution while denying intelligent design.

    No. It would be wrong to teach non-science in a science class. Teach it if you want. But not in a science class. The teacher of science would be a hypocritic, and be doing a great disservice to his/her pupils, if non-science was taught in science classes.
  • by Airline_Sickness_Bag (111686) on Friday April 01, 2005 @01:03PM (#12111819)
    What is the scientific theory of intellegent design? In the court case in Ohio a few years ago the IDers couldn't come up with one.

    If you want to be honest with yourself and examine the origins of the universe based on purely factual knowledge, we, as a human race, know absolutely nothing about how the universe was formed.

    The theory of evolution has nothing to do with the formation of the universe. It only is about the changes in a population of living things.

    your opinion is based on mostly faith.

    There is a big difference between religious faith (belief in the absence of facts), and belief in scientific theories that are based on facts.

    The point is, it's very hypocritical to promote the teaching of evolution while denying intelligent design.

    The theory of evolution is a scientific theory, "intellegent design" is not. So ID should not be taught in a science class.

    Personally, I think ID should stand for "Idiot Design" - if someone designed us, why did they screw up so badly on so many things?

  • by MoebiusStreet (709659) on Friday April 01, 2005 @01:04PM (#12111827)
    The sarcastic tone indicates that they'll keep reporting as they have been.

    I stopped subscribing when they started featuring stories on removing lanmines from southeast asia. The story was nothing but politics, I didn't learn a bit of science from it.

    When they get back on track reporting quantum physics, biology, even economics and sociology, maybe I'll read it again. But when they're choosing ENTIRE TOPICS based on their politics, count me out.
  • Re:Boy Howdy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Friday April 01, 2005 @01:26PM (#12112067) Homepage Journal
    "These NEVER get old. Really. Seriously. Okay, I give up."

    What, you can't go a day without Slashdot? 364 days a year isn't quite enough?
  • The Sarcasm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zapster (39411) on Friday April 01, 2005 @01:29PM (#12112105)
    I subscribed to SA until I read that editorial. I never liked the political commentary bashing the administration, when other administrations had raped various science budgets and projects but didn't seem to receive the same scorn. But I put up with it.

    After the April issue came out and the editors made known their disdain of their customers through the sarcasm of their little April Fools joke, I decided I will not support them with my dollars anymore.

    Give me science news not a political biased view of science. I don't ask them to start denouncing proven science like evolution, but I do think they could increase their sales if they just stuck to the science.

  • Re:Nice. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday April 01, 2005 @01:32PM (#12112136) Journal
    What I find deeply disingenuous and frankly manipulative about this whole article is that they build this mocking straw man about Creationists, and lump in with him anyone who's criticized them for politicizing the magazine.

    Convenient.

    And then throw in the editorializing in the last paragraph? No, they haven't politicized their stance at all, and anyone who'd suggest so must be one of those slope-browed Creationist religious crazies!

    Personally, I think that they could have a terrific series of articles DISCUSSING politically charged topics - but instead their recent article on Global Warming was again, a strawman 'misunderstanding' of the debate. The article a while back on SDI was screed against the poolitics and the concept with little said about the scientific plausibility (or lack) of the idea. But then who am I? I'm just one of the slope-browed masses who believe that just because you have a PhD in (something) doesn't equate to being an expert in (everything). SciAm *loves* to make fun of congressmen or politicians that blunder about scientific topics, but they see no hypocrisy in their making similarly-uninformed prognostications about international diplomacy or national policy.

    Ironically, they criticize the Bush Administration for 'politicizing science'. Fine, discuss the debate and show the evidence where they've done it (along with fair time for the administration to rebut if they can). But once you take sides, you are NO BETTER.

    You dumb bastards, I've been a subscriber to SciAm since SIXTH GRADE (1980). Aside from a year or two in the middle, I've been a subscriber for 25 years, and it kills me to say it but I'm now cancelling my subscription. This really hurts, but it's been a long time on my mind. I admit that I really do hate you guys for driving me to this. But if I want to read this crap, I'll read Mother Jones.

    "Scientific" American's sarcastic, self important, snide editorial shows precisely what they think of this reader, anyway. Goodbye, SciAm.
  • Re:Nice. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 01, 2005 @02:17PM (#12112732)
    And good riddance to you sir.
  • Re:sarcasm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Friday April 01, 2005 @02:21PM (#12112767)
    There is plenty of place for sarcasm, and it's about time people started speaking up.

    Creationism and Evolution are not even in the same CATEGORY. Creationism is a belief based on religious faith. Evolution is a scientific theory. One belong in science class, one does NOT.

    It's fine if you believe in creationism, or intelligent design. Perfectly fine. It's fine if you believe in God, or Allah, or whatever you want, and it's also fine for you to spread your beliefs around.

    The vast majority of religious people, including very learned scientists, don't see a conflict here. Believing that God created the universe does not conflict with exploring that universe and coming up with scientific theories, it merely underpins everything.

    A vocal minority, however, has been getting way, way too much press saying that their religious beliefs should be taught in science class, and that Evolution is a big lie.

    This is not about belief, it's about science. Scientific American is a science magazine, and they are right to ridicule the spin doctors who want to get them to publish unscientific information based on their religious beliefs.
  • Re:Nice. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mc_barron (546164) on Friday April 01, 2005 @02:26PM (#12112834) Homepage
    They don't criticize the Bush people for combining science and politics - they criticize them for removing science from their politics.

    "I've been a subscriber to SciAm since SIXTH GRADE"
    Dude, seriously. Do you actually read SciAm? Their articles are generally very good at describing the science of political issues.

    "discuss the debate and show the evidence"

    Did you read the last paragraph? Oh yeah, you complained that it was too political. Now you are saying that you want more policies discussed. Want to see the evidence? Open up one of your recent SciAms and READ AN ARTICLE! They explain it all right there, using a (somewhat) formal scientific style of writing with most of the information coming from peer-reviewed journal articles.

    Wow, I really hope you were just doing this for April 1st. If not, then it looks like SciAm just lost a subscriber, but not a reader.
  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by qkslvrwolf (821489) on Friday April 01, 2005 @02:32PM (#12112900)
    http://mediamatters.org/archives/search.html?strin g=fox [mediamatters.org] 961 problems with fox and counting. BTW, I love "a university media study" type citations. "In other news, Bob Jones University researchers found that Fox news, while the most centrist of news organizations was still way out left..." What liberal views get aired on fox? I've watched more than my fair share, and I get to listen to the dittoheads at work spout off about how great fox is all day long (I work at an Air Force Base). There is no liberal news on fox. If you want "liberal news" try Air America radio, http://www.commondreams.org [commondreams.org], http://www.alternews.net [alternews.net], or a real liberal news source. CNN used to be centrist, but even they've skewed right. Same thing with NPR. The closest thing to centrist news available is the BBC. Everything else has been pulled waaaay right. Which you don't recognize until you actually read/listen to some openly liberal stuff. Then you'll see how out of whack all "news" in this country is. Not to mention the fact that stories that shouldn't matter nationally keep getting picked up by conservative bloggers and forced onto national media. Like Terry Schiavo. Should have been a local/regional issue at most. Got picked up and pushed nationally by conservative right-to-lifers (and I'm not even going to start on the irony of Bush's "culture of life" coming from a man who signed more death warrents than any other governer in HISTORY!)
  • by orthogonal (588627) on Friday April 01, 2005 @02:41PM (#12112987) Journal
    "Here's what I don't understand. Why can't both the THEORY of evolution and the THEORY of intelligent design both be taught in schools?"

    Because all the theory of "Intelligent Design" says, is, "since I don't understand how this could have evolved, it must have be designed, not evolved." For at least two hundred years, the "perfection" of the eye was given as evidence of design, until computer models should how easy it is for eyes to evolve, and molecular biology showed us eyes have separately evolved at least forty times.

    Now the "Intelligent Design" proponents having had the eye explained, talk about freely rotating flagella in certain bacteria. They hang their "theory" in the contention that since "half a rotation" isn't useful, organisms with "half a rotation" could not have ben favored by evolution, and so a freely rotating flagellum could not evolve. But it turns out several of the components of that wheel are the same as components of a "needle" used by parasitic bacteria to inject chemicals into host cells, a so-called Type Three Secretory Apparatus.

    All "Intelligent Design" is not a useful theory, in the sense that science uses the word "theory", because all it is able to do is say "I can't figure this out". It has no explanatory or predictive power.

    Compare the "theory" of Intelligent Design to Boyle's law: a physicist on being told about changing temperature in a room full of some gas, knows there's a relation between temperature and pressure because Boyle's law predicts it. The physicist doesn't have to go to the room himself, or ask what mechanism is responsible for the temperature change, or in what direction the temperature is changing, or really even what kind of gas in the room -- the physicist can with confidence predict that pressure and temperature are dependent on one another.

    It's not just that evolution is consistent with what we know, it's also consistent with what we don't know.

    It has predictive and explanatory power: using evolution, we are able to say, "assuming evolution is correct, we ought to see this", and then when we do look, we see what evolution predicts.

    We say, evolution tells us that meiosis helps to keep each paired chromosome like its opposite pair, because genes are exchanged in meiosis. Because meiosis only takes place in sexual reproduction, this allows us to predict that in asexual reproduction, paired chromosomes will diverge. when we look at bdelloid rotifers, we see what was predicted: their chromosomes do diverge, and we can even compare the chromosome divergence between pairs against the to the total mutational change in the entire bdelloid rotifer genome, to come up with a good idea of how long bdelloid rotifers have been reproducing asexually: abut 80 million years.

    We say, evolution predicts that, since workers bees born to a queen with only one mate share more genes, on average, with their haploid nephews -- that is, males born to other workers -- than with their diploid brothers born to the queen, the workers will favor their nephews. And the prediction turns out to be true. We can also predict, using Trivers' work, that if the queen mated with more than one male, a nephew isn't necessarily more related, so the workers in that case won't favor nephews. And that also turns out to be true. (Bee examples from here [metafilter.com]).

    Note that in the bee example, we don't know what mechanism allows a worker to "know" how many mates her mother the queen has had, or the mechanism that, given that "knowledge" allows the worker to modify her behavior. We just know that the worker behaves "as if" she understood the genetic math involved, and knew the mating history. Of course, bees don't do genetics or math and probably don't even remember matings -- but we don't need to see the mechanism to predict that it and the behavior must be there: evolutionary theory predicted that bees would act like "as if" geneticis

  • by Precipitous (586992) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:02PM (#12113228) Journal
    The idea that every publication needs to attempt to be fair and unbiased only leads to chick-shit journalism and hidden biases. Frankly, I enjoy having a copy of the Economist and Sciam on my coffee table. I'd like to have the National Review and the Nation there as well, but I'm not big enough to stomach their stuff (it takes too much energy too filter water from the hogwash, and they leave me thirsty for wisdom). Magazines like Sciam and the Economist are not ashamed to have a specific world-view. There biases aren't hidden, and the facts or assumptions behind their statements are generally clear (at least in longer articles).

    Contrast this to your average newspaper or weekly, which reduces every debate into he-said she said terms, without ever examining to the facts, assumptions and reasoning behind statements. A typical "unbiased" newspaper article might be summarized as "Mr Hozum states that the there is strong evidence that humans affect climate change. Mr Funkerdunk responded that there are many unknowns, and reducing greenhouse gases would be to expensive." Because the "journalist" should not editorialize, they leave misleading or downright deceptive statements unchallenged. Authors that pursue the holy grail of unbiased journalism usually fail to weed total bunk from valid arguments, and do no service to their readership. They also fail to achieve unbiased journalism, as there will always be assumptions and biases. I'd rather not work so hard to discover the biases and assumptions.
  • by katharsis83 (581371) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:15PM (#12113348)
    The problem is that scientists almost unanimously agree that the ballisitic missile defense shield is unworkable in it's current state. The reason that they've "consistently attacked all proposals for strategic defense," is because they won't work, plain and simple. The ONLY test that has ever worked was under a heavily skewed test, where the target's coordinates were GIVEN to the defense missile. If you knew the government was wasting billons of your dollars every year instead of trying to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world, would you do nothing?

    Ever since the 1980's, the Union of Concerned Scientists, which includes many many professors of physics, materials science, and who have done defense-related research, wrote an open letter to Reagan saying his ICBM Shield is unworkable and a waste of taxpayer money. Nothing has changed since; Bush is still funding billions every year into a project that's scientifically unfeasable. The reason there's been so much of a campaign again the current administration by scientists is plain and simple - the Bush administration is one of the most openly hostile to science administrations there are:

    1. Dismissing published/peer-reviewed AIDS studies and promoting people who then teach kids that AIDS might be transmittable through sweat and tears. REVERSING decades of improvements in the Uganda AIDS situation by promoting abstience only education - the UN has issued a strong protest against this as it threatens the lives of millions in the country.
    2. Promoting people to the EPA that have no scientific background and were working in the very industries they're supposed to regulate. Repeatedly ignoring global warming studies despite almost unanimous agreement among scientists; care to point to legimate sources that say there're other reasons?
  • Re:Giggles. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:36PM (#12113604)
    Here is pretty much the entire scope of any argument with a Bible Thumper:
    Thumper: "The Bible says 'this'."
    Rational: "That doesn't mean anything."
    Thumper: "But the Bible says 'that'."
    Rational: "But that doesn't mean anything."
    Thumper: "But the Bible says that it does mean something."
    Rational: "But it's the _Bible_ that says that the Bible means something... that doesn't mean anything."
    Thumper: "But the Bible says 'this'...."
  • by yoshi_mon (172895) on Friday April 01, 2005 @04:34PM (#12114281)
    Even without reading anything I know Brin wins hands down.

    Keep in mind that Brin is an actual scientist turned writer whereas Crichton is a doctor turned writer.

    Now I'm not saying that there arn't doctors who are scientists however there has never been anything in Crichton's bio to suggest that he was. Whereas Brin is a fellow at JPL just for starters.

    Crichton can spin a pretty good tail but even his fiction is no match for Brin when it comes to science.

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