Saturday, May 12, 2007

Conspiracy Theory Nation

What percentage of Democrats do you think believe that George Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance? I would have guessed maybe 5%. I would have been wrong.

The answer? 35%. Here is the full breakdown:

Did Bush Know About the 9/11 Attacks in Advance?
Democrats responded:
Yes 35%
No 39%
Not sure 26%

You can see that, among those who have an opinion, they are nearly evenly divided. 18% of Republicans and 22% of all Americans answered yes.

I will never cease to be fascinated by the plausibility structures of different individuals. Credulity knows no limits. It is virtually certain that among those 35% of Democrats, a very large part believe that Darwinian theory fully explains all aspects of life on earth, including the Cambrian explosion, and that there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution. You can also be sure that many of them think that anyone who believes that there are significant problems with macroevolutionary theory is loony.

Speaking of plausibility structures, I encourage you to take my Plausibility Survey here, or view the preliminary results here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Eugenics, Eugenics Everywhere: Why It Matters

There has been much talk about eugenics in the mainstream media and blogosphere recently. I thought that I would link to some of this news and opinion, and comment on why it matters.

I will start by linking to my previous post on why it matters. This issue is relevant to Darwinian Fundamentalism, because one of the tactics of the DF's is to obscure certain aspects of the history of Darwinian thought and deny the clear philosophical and religious implications of the way many or most scientists formulate macroevolutionary theory. The DF's also obscure the range of thought of those who are skeptical of macroevolutionary theory by suggesting that the only objections are religious and denying any scientific problems.

The New York Times reports on new developments relating to the widespread practice of aborting babies who appear to have Downs Syndrome:

Sarah Itoh, a self-described “almost-eleven-and-a-half,” betrayed no trace of nervousness as she told a roomful of genetic counselors and obstetricians about herself one recent afternoon.

She likes to read, she said. Math used to be hard, but it is getting easier. She plays clarinet in her school band. She is a junior girl scout and an aunt, and she likes to organize, so her room is very clean. Last year, she won three medals in the Special Olympics.

“I am so lucky I get to do so many things,” she concluded. “I just want you to know, even though I have Down syndrome, it is O.K.”

. . .

Their goal, parents say, is not to force anyone to take on the task of parenting a child with disabilities. Many participants in the ad-hoc movement describe themselves as pro-choice. Yet some see themselves as society’s first line of defense against a use of genetic technology that can border on eugenics.

Many would argue that it does not just border on eugenics, it is eugenics.

The Times article links to a prior piece by George Will on his son, who also has Downs Syndrome:
But many parents see expanded testing as a step toward a society where children like theirs would be unwelcome. The Newsweek columnist George F. Will labeled it a “search and destroy mission” for a category of citizens that includes his adult son, Jon Will.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lucy: Just Another Chimp?

Icon of human evolution "Lucy" is no longer in the Darwinian Hall of Fame apparently:
Tel Aviv University anthropologists say they have disproven the theory that "Lucy" - the world-famous 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis skeleton found in Ethiopia 33 years ago - is the last ancestor common to humans and another branch of the great apes family known as the "Robust hominids."

The specific structure found in Lucy also appears in a species called Australopithecus robustus. Prof. Yoel Rak and colleagues at the Sackler School of Medicine's department of anatomy and anthropology wrote, "The presence of the morphology in both the latter and Australopithecus afarensis and its absence in modern humans cast doubt on the role of [Lucy] as a common ancestor."

One comment to the article in the Jerusalem Post posted by "Lucy's Boyfriend" asserts that there are more important questions:
According to my mother, the question whether Lucy is an Human ancestor is irrelevant. Of more importance; Is Lucy Jewish? You know how moms are.

This is the kind of article that, of course, never seems to make it into the American mainstream media.