Saturday, September 24, 2011

and here is a great talk on what Darwin did not know about
adaptation by Hopi Hoekstra;  points if you can find mistakes
(I found one).

 The good thing is that all biofundamentalists'  understand what is wrong with this view of reality...    [from non sequitur}

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Making the most of darkness and color

All becomes clear in the light of evolutionary logic, even random mating in the sparse dark and peacock spiders[].  
oh no, and now an essay on female promiscuity, what is the world coming to (ruin and despair, I am afraid).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

oh my, what a catchy tune......

Thinking about the nature of the universe, I find myself whistling this tune @

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On BS, Vaccines, Science and Presidential politics

What is particularly difficult to deal with is when politicians use BS to score political points.  Most recently, we have a politician making unsubstantiated claims about the safety of the anti-HPV vaccine. If only people harmed by this self-serving BS could sue, and recover damages.  

BS is spouted by members of all political groups, and often has serious economical and medical consequences. That there are people (in Boulder) who seriously think that their can be "zero-waste" anything speaks to the failures of our educational system.  That said death, disease and vaccines are more serious  – see here for an example: body count  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Homework & reading

Interesting article from son Andy, on homework and learning. While I am clearly seriously non-objective, it does seems to me that the students in the class are more engaged, and more interested in the discussion, something I attribute to their ptevious interactions with the text.

Hopefully, group assignments will be getting easier (after the first exam on friday, we will expand from 16 to 20 groups). I am hoping that students will get more comfortable questioning the text, pointing out its flaws and responding to each other, rather than just dutifully answering questions (although even that is an improvement on total passivity).

Next we need to generate a response anlysis system, since there is lots of data (insights) to extract.

I think this this will lead to a revolutiom in how useful texts will "evolve"; It could lead to a new generation of drawfed (i.e. focussed, research-based) texts - I feel an essay coming on.

Well, that explains (almost) everything....

While I always expected that something like this was going on, I now realize my tragic mistake – clearly, one too many nights reading "Good Night Moon".   This will have to be on the biofundamentals test, with regards to sexual selection and mating strategies and the complex interactions associated with biological systems. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thinking about evolutionary oddities

Just finished yesterday Survival of the sickest, a book about evolutionary novelties.  To my mind this is an interesting example of modern popular science writing; it includes a number of interesting stories about unexpected evolutionary scenarios, but all too often treats the most recent "reports" (whether in "prestigious" or less prestigious journals) as facts, and relies on the self-serving beliefs, theories, and speculations of their proponents as if they are significant.  It fails to project how often "breakthroughs" decay into more commonplace observations, once the real complexity of the system is appreciated.  Science is a communal activity, and reliability emerges with replication and extension.

It also fails to consider the forces that drive publication in prestigious journals (which are, after all, generally businesses, and not dispassionate, disinterested reporters)  – all too often it is not scientific rigor, but rather publicity or appeals to current scientific fads (arsenic bacteria and RNA worlds come to mind.)

While the first half of the book is interesting, the second half really goes off the tracks - pushing the idea that epigenetic regulation is more than it is; no conceptual break through, but rather a growing appreciation that how DNA is packaged within the cell matters and can be regulated.  Gene regulatory networks are rather more complex than previously appreciated.

In all of this I see the hand of the "believing mind" (see the essay by Matt Ridley) that highlights Michael Shermer's newest book; we are all susceptible to various "just so" stories, and fail to adequately appreciate the complexity and ambiguity of our actual understanding.  

This is illustrated by the use of the term "theory" when what is really meant is a person's point of view, prejudice, self-serving position, rank speculation, tentative model, etc.  

Thursday, September 08, 2011

jumping genes and early ancestors

jumping genes and evolution:  According to this report P-elements have been present in Drosophila melanogaster for only 80 years; clearly I have to read the paper.

At the same time, more hype about a possible human ancestor (or was it a dead end) and the origins of heavy metals from meteors (hints is clearly the right word).  Hype appears to be order of the day.

Finally, we (that is highlighter) made a breakthrough and we went from 20 to 50 students signed up.  Now a little group sorting and we are really off to the races.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Medical needs

Should  women have a choice about caesarian delivery (regardless of need?)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Family Relations:  Following our discussion of human ancestors and evolutionary lineages, this work suggests that reproductive isolation was not absolute

Monday, September 05, 2011

Still working to get groups functions working, finding some weird problems.