The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Pharyngula’

Alien Life in a Meteorite? Ummm, Not So Much

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 13, 2011

Last week the media was all abuzz about a story that a NASA scientist had discovered “definitive evidence” of alien life in a meteorite.  In fact, they apparently even had photos of the little critters…

Here’s the headline:

NASA scientist finds evidence of alien life

Aliens exist, and we have proof.

That astonishingly awesome claim comes from Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, who says he has found conclusive evidence of alien life — fossils of bacteria found in an extremely rare class of meteorite called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites. (There are only nine such meteorites on planet Earth.) Hoover’s findings were published late Friday night in the Journal of Cosmology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

“I interpret it as indicating that life is more broadly distributed than restricted strictly to the planet earth,” Hoover, who has spent more than 10 years studying meteorites around the world, told FoxNews.com in an interview. “This field of study has just barely been touched — because quite frankly, a great many scientist [sic] would say that this is impossible.” …

The “field of study” to which Dr. Hoover is referring is astrobiology, and it is a legitimate scientific endeavor that attempts to study the question of life beyond Earth.  Unfortunately, Dr. Hoover is somewhat of a crank, and his claims are quite overblown, as evidenced by the ruthless criticism he and the “peer-reviewed” Journal of Cosmology received from the wider scientific community.  Here are just a few samples of how these trumped up claims of “alien life” simply wither under scrutiny…

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Posted in aliens & UFOs, scientific method, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Convergence/Skepchicon Day 3: Evolution Mythbusters

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 6, 2010

The final talk I attended at Convergence/Skepchicon was titled “Evolution Mythbusters”, and the panelists included Bug Girl, Greg Laden, Ted Meissner (moderator), and PZ Myers. It was a very wide-ranging discussion of the issues of modern evolutionary science and dealing with creationist nonsense. Check it out…

Evolution Mythbusters

Ted: What are some of our favorite misconceptions regarding evolution?

Bug: I think my favorite one is that “bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly”.  In Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie” they said that bee’s should not be able to fly, so it must be a miracle.  But this is premised on the assumption that the wings of bees are fixed, whereas in reality they bend & are flexible.

Greg: The misconception that humans evolved from apes or that they didn’t evolve from apes, because they are both correct AND incorrect.  But there’s a new one most people don’t know about, and that’s that behaviors can be genetic.  Behaviors develop in individuals in ways that are mostly determined by the environment and not by your genes.  This relates to gender issues, race, etc.  My issue is that there is a Darwinian theory of behavior.

PZ: This has to do with sex & evolution and the panel last night… here’s what was happening all the time.  People raised their hands and asked “why am I gay?”  And people on the panel were trying to figure this out, whereas the reality is that most of what makes you human (and who you are) comes about purely by chance.  What has been subject to selection in the last few million years?  Our immune system and sexual selection.  And when you analyze the genome further you find a handful of proteins that show signs of selection, and most of them are doing very obscure sort of things.  For example, genes for lactose tolerance show up which show signs of selection.  Otherwise, all this speculation about a “gay gene” doesn’t just work – most of that is the product of chance, not selection.

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Posted in creationism, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Facebook Update: Evolution Winning vs. Creationism… by Natural Selection?

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 12, 2010

In a recent entry I informed you of a clash on Facebook between two pages, a creationist page & a pro-evolution page – each promoting the goal of gathering 1,000,000 fans before June 2010.  I just wanted to give you all an update: the update is that the creationists are getting royally PWNed!

More specifically, as of this writing (Feb. 11th) here are the page stats…

Creationists:  53,331

Pro-Evolution: 242,429 – W00t!!!

To give you a fuller picture of the trends here, which are clearly leaving the creationists in the dust, take a look at the updated graph of fans per page…

At this rate, we shouldn’t have any trouble reaching 1,000,000 by June – keep it up! 🙂

Posted in creationism, internet | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Evolution & Creationism Clash on Facebook

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 1, 2010

In another example of the science vs. pseudoscience battles that rage across the Internet, there is currently an interesting clash between evolution and creationism taking place on Facebook.

In mid-January, a group of fundamentalist creationists started a page on Facebook titled “We can find 1,000,000 people who don’t believe in Evolution before June” and it started to gather hundreds, then thousands, of fans within days.  Needless to say, this caused a bit of a stir among those of us who actually like science.

In response, a group of pro-science types started another Facebook page titled “We can find 1,000,000 people who DO believe in Evolution before June”.

Now what’s interesting about all of this is that the creationist page started off ahead because it got a jump start.  If my records are correct (they start at January 14th, 2010), the creationist site was at about 3000 when the evolution page got started.  But the creationists didn’t stay ahead for long – by about January 18th the evolution page passed the creationist one in fan number, and since then has left the creationists in the proverbial dust.  In fact, a good skeptical friend of mine put together a nice graph of the population of each page as a function of time…

The vertical axis is the number of fans, and the blue series denotes the population of the evolution page whereas the red series denotes the population of the creationism page.  To date (February 1st), the creationist page is at 26,300 whereas the evolution page is at 115,400!  I wonder if this is the result of natural selection on the Interwebs? 😉

Long story short: the evolution Facebook page is kicking the crap out of the creationists, but we shouldn’t get complacent because we know how sneaky they can be.  Remember, the goal is to make it to 1,000,000 members by June, and we’re well on our way having already gotten over 10% of the way there.  But we won’t make it by resting on our laurels.

So, to keep this explosive population growth going, I suggest we all spread the word and take a page from noted evolutionary biologist P.Z. Myers when he blogged about this over at Pharyngula. And, one last thing, let’s take a bit of advice from P.Z. on something about the word “believe”…

Don’t get all pedantic and academic over the word “believe,” either. We know that the nature of our belief in evolution is very different than the creationists belief in their god: we have a provisional, non-dogmatic acceptance of the overwhelming evidence for a powerful theory. It’s just that that phrase is ponderous and pretentious when “belief” is a simple English shortcut to the meaning.

Amen, brother! 🙂

Posted in creationism, internet | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Skeptics Visit the “Creation Museum”

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 14, 2009

I’m a Yankee by birth, but I was raised in beautiful south-central Kentucky.  Sadly, the state of my youth has become home to one of the worst insults to science & reason out there… the Creation Museum. This place is basically a “museum” for the fundamentalist Biblically literal interpretation of creationism, run by weirdo Ken Ham and the Answers In Genesis organization. Folks, it is pretty hard to wade deeper into the woo than to visit this place.

But that is exactly what evolutionary biologist PZ Myers did recently with a large group of skeptics – talk about entering the Lions’ Den!  I was so impressed with his documentation of the visit that I wanted to share it with you…

pzm_profile_pic
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The Death and Rebirth of Science Reporting?

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 1, 2009

There has been a disturbing trend in recent years in journalistic circles: the decline of science journalism in many areas of the media, specifically print media (newspapers, magazines, etc). However, it’s not all bad news, because Internet-based blogging provides a new venue for science reporting.

science blogs

As this article in NatureNews states…

Traditional journalists are increasingly looking to such [science-based] sites to find story ideas (see ‘Rise of the blogs’). At the same time, they rely heavily on the public-relations departments of scientific organizations. As newspapers employ fewer people with science-writing backgrounds, these press offices are employing more. Whether directly or indirectly, scientists and the institutions at which they work are having more influence than ever over what the public reads about their work.

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Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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