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great resource from NCSE -- free!

Download "15 Evolutionary Gems" here, brought to you by Nature magazine.

The table of contents:
Gems from the fossil record
1 Land-living ancestors of whales
2 From water to land
3 The origin of feathers
4 The evolutionary history of teeth
5 The origin of the vertebrate skeleton
Gems from habitats
6 Natural selection in speciation
7 Natural selection in lizards
8 A case of co-evolution
9 Differential dispersal in wild birds
10 Selective survival in wild guppies
11 Evolutionary history matters
Gems from molecular processes
12 Darwin’s Galapagos finches
13 Microevolution meets macroevolution
14 Toxin resistance in snakes and clams
15 Variation versus stability

Worth reading, and worth keeping on hand.


old news, but good to have in the archives

The President Elect's speech on the necessity of secularity in a government.


Science is winning out in Texas (so far)

The Battle of the Failure to Understand the Scientific Method continues in Texas, as the third draft of the TX state science academic standards, has been released. Some pro-creationists, similar to our semi-local battle in Dover, PA, are saying with their actions that it is so important that students get exposed to creationism that they're willing to destroy the students' concept of the process of science.

Recent battles have involved the phrase "strengths and weaknesses" in one standard about the scientific method. Each draft has read as follows:

"The student is expected to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing."

"The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information."

"The student is expected to analyze and evaluate strengths and limitations of scientific explanations including those based on accepted scientific data, and evidence from students' observations, experiments, models, and logical statements."

There are more changes, but the significance of the inclusion of those particular letters in that particular sequence says a lot about what the authors think. As a 6th grade science teacher, and knowing how influential TX standards are to standards across the nation, I'm going to continue to watch my former home state closely.


Right on, Silverman!

I was trying to put into words why I think it's okay for me to have an unusually good time at Christmas despite not believing in the Jebus. Then I read David Silverman's last post:

When you make unbelievers comply by force, they will comply the way they can without changing their views, and that's why Santa is more important than Jesus this time of year.
Beautifully said. I'm not going try to top that. And no, I'm not going to midnight mass, either.

Also: Dawkins weighs in on Christmas, Dvorkin just says no, Jim Holt asks us to prove a negative (the comments for this one are the best part).


Happy holidays from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!


to all the atheist educators out there

If you haven't found it yet, visit the National Center for Science Education's site. They're fighting for the idea that science is science and what isn't, isn't. This usually takes the form of speaking out against, and mobilizing against, teaching of religious ideas in science classes.
They have an rss feed so you can add it to your feed reader, like Netvibes or bloglines.


Anti-religion ad on buses in D.C. attracting attention

Visit for the short article, but stick around for the comments. It's a lively discussion, and the nature of the web begs for us to contribute to others' work, so post your thoughts there!

The ad was posted by the Washington Humanist Association.


BBC report: religion and nanotechnology

Acceptance of nanotechnology has an inverse relationship with religiousness of nations, according to researchers publishing in the journal Nature Technology.

Interesting line:

"The researchers say their finding support the idea that underlying cultural beliefs have a stronger influence on opinions formed about nanotechnology than science based information about its potential and pitfalls."


Sketchy results on an online poll? Believe it!

Philly.com ran a poll next to a Philadelphia Inquirer story about a PhillyCOR billboard on I-95. The question: "Do you believe in God?"
YES 4039 (27.7%)
NO 9585 (65.7%)
Not sure 967 (6.6%)

As much as I would love to believe this, the likely response is either (a) one person voted many times, or (b) only people predisposed toward not believing in God read the article, then took the extra step to vote in the poll.

My barely educated guess, if everyone in the US voted, would probably be:
YES 65%
NO 15%


humor via YouTube

Here's a playful riff on Sandler's Hannukah song, rewritten for atheists:


I found this article, "Ten myths -- and ten truths -- about atheism," in the Morning Call's web archives related to atheism. It was written by atheist Sam Harris, who has contributed a few interesting editorials for the LA Times. (Here's the Times' posting; no difference, but that's the original.)I went over to their archives and found these gems: "God's Dupes," by Sam Harris. Favorite line:
"Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music."

"Disliked, not oppressed," by Paul Thornton (4/18/07) Favorite line:

"But being disliked doesn't come close to the vitriolic oppression other American minorities and women have endured, and it's disgraceful when prominent atheists like Harris and Dawkins compare their own plight to to the truly repressed in a single breath."

"Stalin was an atheist -- so am I," by Paul Thornton (11/7/07) This article explores a common atheist-Christian debates: guilt by association. Favorite line:
"You're supposed to shame me into adopting religion as a way to save my soul from the moral bankruptcy that ensnared Stalin and Hitler.I'm supposed to shame you into thinking that the delusion demanded by your moderate religious belief shelters the fanatics who wage holy war."


atheist ad will run in DC at Christmastime

Via Atheist News, a story ran in The Springfield, MO News-Leader about advertisements District-of-Columbianites will be seeing on buses with the tagline, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." The coverage from the News-Leader is admirably objective. Kudos to them.

A quote in the article from American Family Association's President Tim Wildmon reads, "It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."

So according to Mr. Wildmon, human beings are incapable of deciding right and wrong by thinking about it. They must have God's law to follow. You've got to get pretty irrational to start with, "It's a stupid ad," and then say something even less reasonable.

I checked out the AHA's website, and they've got an article link on the front page. There's more info there, including that interested parties should visit "whybelieveinagod.org." Check it out.


Atheist views in popular culture

Visit Athesim and Religious Satire in Popular Culture, a blog devoted to sightings of non-religious views (and its neighbor down the block, religious satire). The blog is run by an atheist/secular humanist group out of the University of Minnesota.

In less popular culture, nerdcore rappers MC Frontalot has written a humorous song about creationism. Frontalot's "Origin of Species" has him playing the role of a creationist minister in a tongue-in-cheek call for action toward ignorance (warning: hip-hop, possible profanity, nerdiness after the jump).

I just watched an episode of the Simpsons from season nine, "Lisa the Skeptic." Lisa, on an archaelogical dig with his class, finds a planted "angel skeleton" which turns out to be an elaborate advertising ploy by "Heavenly Hills Mall." Only Lisa doubts the angel's holiness, and she is vindicated in the end.

Where have you seen non- or anti-religious views presented in pop culture?