Thursday, June 14, 2007

Giant Killer Parrot Dinosaur Discovered

Well, its head looks like a parrot to me, anyway. Maybe it was not a "killer," since it had a toothless beak. But the rest of my title is accurate, I think.

It was the size of a T-Rex, but how did this thing kill stuff? By stepping on it?
Gigantoraptor, researchers say, might be the creature that gave rise to the flying, feathered friends we know today.

Maybe. But if that is the case, it needed several more generations to do it, or several billion. From the photos, this thing was not on the verge of taking flight.

Any thoughts on the adaptive superiority of this? Did it make other animals die laughing?

More at the Times.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Two Librarian Heroes: Saving the World By Banning Books

Related to my last post, Casey Luskin quotes a law professor, Stephen A. Newman, who praises two librarians who banned donated copies of Darwin's Black Box and Darwin On Trial from school libraries:
Consider the experience of two librarians who received copies of two intelligent design books, Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe and Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson, as donations to their high school collections. When the librarians refused to put the books on the school library shelves, they were accused of censorship. In fact, exercising their professional judgment, they concluded that these books had “little or no value to our students and come from those with ulterior motives.” The books did not meet the usual selection criteria, which required that books “support the curriculum, receive favorable reviews from professional journals, and be age-appropriate.” Noting that intelligent design theory had been “repudiated by every leading scientific organization, including the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences,” the librarians determined that teaching intelligent design “would be tantamount to teaching about the existence of Santa Claus.”

The law professor had the audacity to argue that "undermining the teaching of evolution deprives them [students] of access to the best ideas in science." I wish Luskin had provided the full context of that last quote. It is hard to believe that any law school graduate, let alone a professor, actually thinks that banning books helps to give students "access to the best ideas in science."

The librarians justified their actions by claiming that the books did not meet their "selection criteria." But it looks like the "criteria" could easily be manipulated to justify censoring or banning just about anything. For what the American Library Association deems "censorship," you can read here.

Of course, everyone who wants to ban a book thinks that they are only doing what is in the best interest of the dear little children. I think both books would be absolutely excellent additions to any school library. Many, many other people would agree with me. So "selection criteria" seems to be a euphemism to allow librarians to ban any books they subjectively just don't like. Who gets to decide? Whoever has the power- and these librarians have it. So it goes in our brave new world.

Another post on book banning and what kinds of books are appropriate for school libraries is here. Which book is more appropriate and valuable for a high school library: Darwin on Trial or Private Parts by Howard Stern? So it goes in American public schools.

Seems like an overwhelming case of Darwinian Fundamentalism. Or is it just sheer ignorance?

The librarians determined that teaching intelligent design “would be tantamount to teaching about the existence of Santa Claus.” Is this bigotry, or simply ignorance?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another Book That the ACLU Will Likely Want To Ban

The EvoNews blog has announced a new textbook that will present the scientific evidence both for and against key aspects of Darwinian evolution. It will be interesting to see if the ACLU tries to ban this book, like it did with another book. Other commentators discussed this during Banned Books Week a year later.

This is from the post about the new book, Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (Hill House Publishers Ltd., Melbourne and London, 2007):
“Sadly, the majority of biology textbooks in use today are ‘dumbed-down’ and do a poor job explaining evolution,” said Dr. John West of Discovery Institute, the book’s United States distributor. “Explore Evolution will improve the teaching of evolution by providing teachers and students with more information about evolution than they are likely to find in any other textbook written at the same level.” West is Associate Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Explore Evolution promotes inquiry-based learning, encouraging students to participate in the process of discovery, deliberation, and argument that scientists use to form their theories.

“Explore Evolution brings to the classroom data and debates that already are raised regularly by scientists in their science journals,” emphasized science education policy analyst Casey Luskin, M.S., J.D. “Exposure to these real-world scientific debates will make the study of evolution more interesting to students, and it will train them to be better scientists by encouraging them to actually practice the kind of critical thinking and analysis that forms the heart of science.”

If the ACLU tried to ban it, they would almost certainly lose. This textbook's approach was specifically approved by the US Supreme Court:
We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. . . . [T]eaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.

Maybe students will now get to hear about the most important and the most subversive fossils ever discovered.