Via DefCon Blog and the 9th floor project comes this video of the fate of one embryo that could have been used for life-saving research. This is the choice: to destroy embryos (or as we’ve recently learned, not destroying them) in research, or to destroy them in the trash when there’s no longer a need to keep the embryo in storage.
Via the Salt Lake Tribune, we learn that Utah’s “divine design” advocate has been watching too much HGTV, and not enough History Channel:
“I don’t think there’s a racial [sic] bone in my body,” Buttars said in an interview on radio station KCPW Tuesday. “I don’t see black and white. I see people. I always have.” …
[Buttars] and host Tom Grover discussed the merits of Buttars’ proposed legislation that could allow lawmakers to call in some judges at the end of their first terms for a second confirmation hearing. Grover noted that America’s courts historically have been used by minority groups “to ensure [their] rights are protected.”
Buttars … demanded an example. “I don’t understand that at all. I don’t know of an example where the minority is being jeopardized by legislative action,” he said.
Grover mentioned the Kansas desegregation case that resulted in the busing of black students to white schools and vice versa.
Then Buttars retorted: “I think Brown v. Board of Education is wrong to begin with.” And he refused to elaborate,
Asked to explain more of his views in a different setting, he explained that “There were downsides.” Among what he considers downsides “the educational system expressly designed to maximize the number of minority kids in a school in the South” was dismantled.
Could someone explain to Buttars that that was the point?
I know that true Sciencebloggers don’t link to Billy D’s blog, but there’s just too much amusement to be had there. His latest shows that not only did he clearly fail biology (and math), but literature isn’t his thing either. Billy explains:
The Nazi emphasis on proper breeding, racial purity, and weeding out defectives come from taking Darwin’s theory seriously and applying it at the level of society.
Those of you who do remember high school will remember quotes like these from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:
He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well-bred, were not inviting.
This is clearly a cryptic forerunner of the Lebensborn.
That is my idea of good breeding; and those persons who fancy themselves very important, and never open their mouths, quite mistake the matter.
Dear Members of the Kansas State School Board,
I am the Welsh Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have a number of colleagues at Kansas State and the University of Kansas and had the chance to present a seminar there a few years ago and see the vibrant scientific community that had grown up there.
Your current discussion of what to include in your curriculum is an interesting one to all who teach at State Universities. One of the great things about my home state of North Carolina is the investment the state has made in science, beginning with the founding of the Research Triangle Park more than 50 years ago. This has provided a tremendous boost to the state’s economy, particularly as agriculture and traditional manufacturing decline.
In many ways your decision to consider adding “alternative theories” to your Biology curriculum will be a boon to states like mine, as it will ensure that we continue to be favored by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries looking for states with a well-educated work-force. It also means our children will be at an advantage as they go to look for technology related jobs, here and elsewhere, since they will have a sound scientific education. Finally, it will help Department’s like mine when we compete with you for the best young faculty candidates, and as we try and woo some of your more senior scientists to join us here.
I am a Presbyterian and see no conflict between my religious beliefs and my science, but also no reason my own beliefs should somehow be promoted over those of others under the cloak of “science”. In particular, I have been very impressed with the interesting theories developed by Bobby Henderson and other proponents of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Theory, which seems to me to be equally well-founded as is Intelligent Design Theory. While I would prefer to see Kansas students learn science in their science classes, if you choose to open the field more broadly, I would encourage you to give equal time to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Professor of Biology
My emphasis. The Kansas economy is largely dependent on agriculture and the manufacturing around Wichita. This PDF tells a scary tale about the aquifer under the semi-arid western part of Kansas.
Read more “They get letters: Creationism, aquifers, and the future of Kansas”
Pope Benedict XVI has named a new director for the Vatican Observatory. Father José Gabriel Funes will succeed a controversial American, Father George Coyne.
Father Funes, an Argentine Jesuit, is already a member of the Vatican Observatory team. The outgoing Father Coyne, also a Jesuit, has been director of the Observatory for more than 25 years, and now steps down at the age of 73.
Last year Father Coyne drew worldwide attention for his public comments on the topics of evolution and the theory of intelligent design. In an August 2005 column for the London Tablet the Jesuit astronomer criticizes arguments put forward by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn questioning the Darwinian theory of evolution. A few weeks later, speaking at a conference in Florida, Father Coyne said that “intelligent design isn’t science, even if it pretends to be.”
Coyne has been a strong force for sanity in the Church’s relationship with science, a voice which seems increasingly overwhelmed. As Beliefnet reports:
In early September, Benedict will conduct a weekend seminar on the impact Darwin’s theory has on the church’s teaching of Creation. Schonborn, who has described evolution as “incompatible” with church teachings, will speak at the event, along with evolution advocate Peter Schuster, president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
Other speakers at the event include the Rev. Paul Erbrich, emeritus professor of natural philosophy from the University of Munich, who has described evolution as a “fundamentally inadequate” explanation of the origins of life; and Robert Spaemann, a conservative German philosopher who has challenged “evolutionism,” or the philosophical applications of Darwin’s theory.
Not the most balanced of lineups, alas.
There is a still hope though, as the new director previously said:
“When I teach at the University of Arizona, I tell students, I am a priest, a Jesuit, but my class is a science class … and Science is about natural, not supernatural causes.”
The Church is fully entitled to promote supernatural frameworks for understanding why certain things ought to be as they are, but to claim that science is wrong because it doesn’t match religious dogma is a path that has lead to too much strife and error by religious groups.
Fellow Sber Shelley Dpicks up on a discussion of billionaires stepping up to fund basic research originally from Forbes. The most unfortunate passage reads:
(Dr.) Melton landed enough money to start a separate lab, and he works on turning his stem line into insulin-producing cells to study where they go wrong in diabetics. But half his budget goes to redundant lab gear and overhead he wouldn’t need if it weren’t for the NIH rules against stem-cell funding. His stem-cell colleague at Harvard, M. Wiliam Lensch, uses only private funding from Harvard but worries about getting in trouble if he merely talks to NIH-funded peers in his lab.
As I’ve discussed before, the arbitrary restriction of federal funding to a small number of largely useless lines has wasted a ton of money and tremendous amounts of time. I wonder if the objective wasn’t even more insidious, through.
A judge refused to toss out a suit over inadequate curricula at some religious schools in California. The schools claim that the University of California shouldn’t be allowed to reject certain courses as adequate preparation for college. Or, as a lawyer for the schools explains,
The lawsuit is about theological content in “every major area in high school except for mathematics,” says Wendell Bird, a lawyer for Calvary Chapel.
Bird previously lost Edwards v. Aguillard, thus ending the “equal time” rules for creationism and evolution.
The University asserts a 1st amendment right to speak freely about the scientific inadequacies of the courses and their textbooks, the schools assert a 1st amendment right to teach whatever they like without the State (represented by the university) imposing Godless yada yada .…
Part of the reason Harry McDonald lost a his Board of Ed. race against incumbent John Bacon was the 10% of the vote that David Oliphant siphoned off. Suggestions that Oliphant’s run was intended to weaken McDonald’s showing have swirled since Oliphant entered the race, and the Pitch Weekly asked Oliphant some tough questions. I put the whole exchange below, but let’s just pull out a few choice quotes.
Read more “Hack or Buffoon?”
Reposted from the old TfK, where it was picked up by the Dailykos, MSNBC, and many others.
For the Board of Ed:
Waugh won re-election. There’s no Republican challenge, so that seat remains safe.
Cauble appears to have beat Morris! Only 68% of the precincts have reported (with several urban centers that will back Cauble experiencing technical problems), but the trend seems to be holding. If so (keynehore) a lightning rod on the conservative side got burned. Apparently it doesn’t cut it to badmouth your colleagues and use government money to fund a Florida vacation. Tim Cruz will still duke it out, but I expect that western Kansas will be a stretch for a Democrat, especially given that Ms. Cauble has a background in education. The debate will be fun to watch, but the fireworks will be elsewhere.
Shaver beat Patzer. I wish her a restful few days off before returning to what should be a great race against Kent Runyan. Runyan is a great guy with tons of experience and I’ll be following that race closely. It’ll be nice to see a serious race fought on the basis of substance, not wedge issues.
Willard beat Viola. Viola tried hard and came close. Jack Wempe is a great guy, and I hope he puts up a web page one of these days.
And in the most heartbreaking race of the night, Harry McDonald lost to John Bacon. McDonald is the former President of Kansas Citizens for Science, a former school teacher and a really, really great guy. He seemed truly dejected when we spoke last. He raised the most money of anyone in any of the races, he put together a great organization and had lots of help from the pro-science PACs. It just wasn’t enough to bend the conservatives in Johnson County. He’s pledged his support to Don Weiss, who is also a great guy. Heck, he reads TfK, how can he be bad?
The Board is back in moderate hands no matter what. The night is, on balance, a victory. It’d be nice to further marginalize the extremists by winning the remaining races in November, but we’ve got a majority that will implement the science standards recommended by the scientists, educators and parents of the science standards committee. The Board can focus on bigger issues. They can dig into ways to address the special challenges of rural districts, and to find solutions to the problems faced by the students in poorer urban districts. Real challenges, not fake controversy. Helping kids, not fighting culture wars.
That’s what tonight was about, and the kids won. This wasn’t Dover rejecting a few municipal officials. It’s a whole state turning against the divisiveness of the IDolators. Congratulations, Kansas!
This was the first post ever on Thoughts from Kansas.
On the third anniversary of the decision to limit stem cell research, Laura Bush endorsed the existing stem cell policy. Lots of bloggers, especially Chris Mooney, have been pushing this as a wedge issue that the Democrats can win on, and rightly so. Even the Bushes seem to think so.
But there are just some fascinating philosophical issues in this that get glossed over too fast as this has been politicized. The debate, for those joining us recently, is to what extent stem cells obtained from human embryos ought to be accessible to scientists conducting research. Some people think life begins at the instant sperm and egg join. They think that destroying an embryo — even to obtain life saving cures down the road — is murder.
This gets complicated because the embryos scientists want to use are produced in fertility clinics. The clinic induces ovulation, harvests a dozen eggs, and fertilizes all of them in vitro. They let them all grow for a while, and then implant the three or four that appear healthiest. The others are frozen indefinitely.
Read more “Stem cells and the limits of life”