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Monday, October 03, 2005

Controversial filmmaker tackles Cambrian explosion

Los Angeles-based filmmaker, Illustra Media best known for The Privileged Planet, whose showing at the Smithsonian took "uproar" to a whole new level, is now working on a documentary The Cambrian Explosion:
The Cambrian Explosion will examine what many consider to be, the single most powerful refutation of Darwinian evolution-the fossil record . When he wrote his book, Charles Darwin realized that the 19th century fossil record did not support his theory of gradual, step-by-step evolutionary change. Yet, he hoped that future generations of scientists would make the discoveries necessary to substantiate his ideas. Today, after more than 150 years of digging, fossil evidence of slow, incremental biological change does not exist. Instead, we find a pattern pf rapid, dramatic appearances of fully developed, complex organisms in the ancient rock strata of the world. A pattern that is best explained by the work of a transcendent intelligence.

Well, this should be interesting. What you never heard about the Cambrian explosion is mostly surprising. While I am here, I may as well shill books on the subject: Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life and Simon Conway Morris'sThe Crucible of Creation are both good reads, in my experience.
(Consumer intellectual safety warning: These books take opposite positions on key issues. Intellectual freedom required. The Darwinian thoughtbot suffered an engineered mishap this afternoon, while mistakenly left in O'Leary's thoughtful care, so no establishment-backed "we-tell-you-what-to-think" service is currently available, except possibly from the Comments box. No warranties available under the circumstances.)
(Notes: Emphases are Illustra's not mine. I don't currently have a link for this information. It came by post.)

Boston Globe columnist: Darwinian fundamentalism is against liberal spirit of inquiry

Jeff Jacoby weighs in at the Boston Globe on teaching about the intelligent design controversy:

How things have changed. When John Scopes went on trial in Tennessee in 1925, religious fundamentalists fought to keep evolution out of the classroom because it was at odds with a literal reading of the Biblical creation story. Today, Darwinian fundamentalists fight to keep the evidence of intelligent design in the diversity of life on earth out of the classroom, because that would be at odds with a strictly materialist view of the world. Eighty years ago, the thought controllers wanted no Darwin; today's thought controllers want only Darwin. In both cases, the dominant attitude is authoritarian and closed-minded - the opposite of the liberal spirit of inquiry on which good science depends.
My own view is that trying to legislate from the statehouse or the bench about what teachers should or shouldn’t say is always a bad idea. Whether we are talking about intelligent design, sex education, or global warming, students lose confidence in the education system when they realize that they are getting a package in school, and that they cannot really ask about the things they hear about in the real world.

I am glad that when I was a kid, teachers felt free to bring up all kinds of topics in science class, including "Was there really a worldwide flood?" "Was there really only one big continent at one time?" [At that time, this was a controversial idea.] "What would happen if the Russians bombed Canada?" "What would happen if the Americans bombed Canada?" "How would evolution change humans over a million years?" "Is the paranormal real or fake?"

How come we didn't all end up screwed up or brainwashed? Because in those days the teacher was expected to be a professional of good character, whose performance was evaluated by peers, not by people looking for something to sue the school board about. I regret that students cannot have that kind of education today.

Let’s start with some fun: Strange math and funny logic

Regarding the rabbi’s contention that, if chimps share 90% of their genome with a human and should therefore have 90% of human rights, as one pundit has suggested:

since bananas share some genes with humans, would it not be logical to accord them say 30% of the rights of people? Where is the line? Some people might even prefer sharing a prison cell with a banana than a monkey, although I think we can assume that the monkey would prefer to share with the banana!

A learned person has written to advise me that "Strictly speaking, the chimp is entitled to share his cell with three sinful bananas, not one." Following the learned friend's lead, it occurred to me that the chimp is also entitled to share his cell with nine-tenths of a human. Thus the human serving time in the slam would be entitled to be out on the street 10 percent of the time. Hmmm. A career criminal could get to like sharing a cell with a chimp ...

Meanwhile, if you are reading blogs on company time anyway, be sure you check out Gene Weingarten’s “What if Gene were a Genius?” spoof on alternative reality what-if scenarios:
What if wishes were horses?

Then beggars would ride. But so would everyone else. We would each have, like, 7,000 horses. They would completely paralyze civilization, consuming all vegetable matter in a week or less. Continents would rise several feet, just from accumulated poo. And anytime anyone wished for no more horses, another horse would appear. The world would end in a terrifying, thundering apocalypse of horses, is what would happen.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
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