Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Too close to home: ID and the Minister

I always knew that there was a strong tendency for Australian politicians and religiosi to follow the American lead. Hell, we've given the Americans some of our stars of anti-science, like Ken Ham. But this is too much. The Federal Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson has equivocally said he thinks ID should be taught in schools.

But there's a weasel wording - not in science classes as a replacement for evolution. So, what? As a "competing theory"? Surely not. What I really hope he meant is that it could be taught in, say, social studies or politics as an example of how science can be perverted by political and public relations manipulation. Or perhaps he is (rightly) suggesting that religiosi should have the right to teach their religions in religious schools. Too bad for the kids, but, sure, let them.

But I fear this is part of the present government toadying to the religious conservatives, and in particular the Family First party, which is a front, so far as I can tell, for the Assemblies of God denomination. The Treasurer (an evangelical himself, as is his politically radical brother) has previously given speeches to them and their massive churches. This, in itself, is reason for me to shift my vote to Labor, or would be if the present leader of that party wasn't also hyper-religious.

Sheesh, Australia used to be a nation with a healthy apathy for religion.

Minister, you better damn qualify that statement immediately...

Just in (i.e., I just heard about this): A longer and better article in The Age.

[Thanks to Larvatus Prodeo and Ian Musgrave.]

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Primate Report is, errr, reporting that two new species of lemurs (one in gen. Mirza, or giant mouse lemurs) have been discovered using genetic analysis. The new Mirza is called zaza ("child"). The other has been put in a new genus, and named Microcebus lehilahytsara ("good man"). The paper describing Mirza zaza is here in pdf. [Historical note - the genus was named by Asa Gray, Darwin's correspondent, in 1870.]

Madagascar is one of the most diverse regions of biodiversity in the world, and it is being reduced madly to a mess due to slash and burn farming.

It's a pity that Eureka Reports felt it necessary to justify conservation of these lemurs in terms of their being "extremely important to understanding the origin, evolution and ecology of human beings". They are worth conserving because the ecosystem of Madagascar is worth conserving. The world will be much poorer for the loss of this habitat.

Late note: ScienceNow reports that a new fossil lemur, Wadilemur elegans has been found in Egypt that pushes the origins of lemurs back to 35 million years.

Gone boring

Times New Roman is a font that elicits harsh emotional reactions amongst typesetters and [good] designers. The reason is that M$ chose a particularly ugly cutting of the Times typeface way back when, and since M$ is ubiquitous, so too is TNR. It sucks. The spacing is out, there are no good large display versions, &c.

So, it grieves me greatly that I must choose it instead of the much more elegant Garamond I used to have, because it was not working well on (you guessed it) M$ Windows. Sorry. If you can override the CSS with something more to your taste, do so.

O tempora! O mores!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It was worth the wait

Well, thanks to Pharyngula, I have finally found a sensible explanation of the Intelligent Design theory. Read and enjoy, but not while you're eating peanuts.