I found this image while surfing the net. This of course is a paraphrasing of the actual indicated passage but the meaning is accurately captured.
I found this image while surfing the net. This of course is a paraphrasing of the actual indicated passage but the meaning is accurately captured.
It’s been brought to my attention that (young earth) creationist Ray Comfort has decided to give away copies of Darwin’s seminal work, “On the Origin of Species” . The book is to be given out on college campuses across the US to commemorate the 150 year university of the book’s publication. There is only one catch. It’s an abridged copy complete with a brand new 54 page introduction laced creationist propaganda.
I had a look at Comfort’s introduction, which is available here. As you might expect, Comfort pulls out some vintage stuff; “a book can’t spontaneously form, therefore evolution is wrong”, “all us dumb scientists think everything came about after nothing exploded”, and even that old timeless classic “Hitler was motivated by evolution”.
This whole endeavor stinks of an attempt to get creation onto university campuses or into public schools. I suspect that in the next few weeks we’ll learn of plans to donate a number of these copies to various public schools.
Comfort is claiming the original text has been left unaltered and that he hasn’t inserted commentary throughout it. I would love to verify this and so want to get a look at the actual volume they give away. If you’re back to school, and happen to run into this giveaway, please grab me a copy and we can work something out for shipping.
 On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
First, I want to wish everyone a happy Canada day!
I also wanted to start compiling links to free online undergraduate lectures and materials.
If you know of more, please leave a comment and I will add them to the list
This was brought to my attention by a friend of mine back home. The Harper government has been slashing science funding anywhere it can and now our conservative Science minister basically comes out against evolution. I have to say, at times like this I am somewhat embarrassed to be a Canadian.
Source: The Global and Mail
From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
March 17, 2009 at 2:00 AM EDT
Canada’s science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won’t say if he believes in evolution.
“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
A funding crunch, exacerbated by cuts in the January budget, has left many senior researchers across the county scrambling to find the money to continue their experiments.
Some have expressed concern that Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist.
When asked about those rumours, Mr. Goodyear said such conversations are not worth having.
“Obviously, I have a background that supports the fact I have read the science on muscle physiology and neural chemistry,” said the minister, who took chemistry and physics courses as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo.
“I do believe that just because you can’t see it under a microscope doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It could mean we don’t have a powerful enough microscope yet. So I’m not fussy on this business that we already know everything. … I think we need to recognize that we don’t know.”
Asked to clarify if he was talking about the role of a creator, Mr. Goodyear said that the interview was getting off topic.
Brian Alters, founder and director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal, was shocked by the minister’s comments.
Evolution is a scientific fact, Dr. Alters said, and the foundation of modern biology, genetics and paleontology. It is taught at universities and accepted by many of the world’s major religions, he said.
“It is the same as asking the gentleman, ‘Do you believe the world is flat?’ and he doesn’t answer on religious grounds,” said Dr. Alters. “Or gravity, or plate tectonics, or that the Earth goes around the sun.”
Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said he was flabbergasted that the minister would invoke his religion when asked about evolution.
“The traditions of science and the reliance on testable and provable knowledge has served us well for several hundred years and have been the basis for most of our advancement. It is inconceivable that a government would have a minister of science that rejects the basis of scientific discovery and traditions,” he said.
Mr. Goodyear’s evasive answers on evolution are unlikely to reassure the scientists who are skeptical about him, and they bolster the notion that there is a divide between the minister and the research community.
Many scientists fear 10 years of gains will be wiped out by a government that doesn’t understand the importance of basic, curiosity-driven research, which history shows leads to the big discoveries. They worry Canada’s best will decamp for the United States, where President Barack Obama has put $10-billion (U.S) into medical research as part of his plan to stimulate economic growth.
But in the interview, Mr. Goodyear defended his government’s approach and the January budget, and said it stacks up well when compared to what Mr. Obama is doing.
He also talked about how passionate he is about science and technology – including basic research – and how his life before politics shaped his views.
Now 51, Mr. Goodyear grew up in Cambridge. His parents divorced when he was young. His father was a labourer, his mother a seamstress who worked three jobs to the support her three children.
His first summer job was laying asphalt when he was 12. At 13, he got a part-time job at a garage, pumping gas. At 17, the young entrepreneur started his own company selling asphalt and sealants.
He was in the technical stream at high school, taking welding and automotive mechanics. No one in has family had ever gone to university, but he secretly started taking academic credits at night school so he could get admitted to the University of Waterloo. He didn’t want his family to know.
He took chemistry, physics, statistics and kinesiology, and was fascinated by the mechanics of human joints. After three years of university, he was admitted to the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, where he was class president and valedictorian.
He had his own practice in Cambridge, where he settled down with his wife Valerie. He worked as chiropractor for two decades, and set up private clinics to treat people who had been injured in car accidents, sometimes using devices that he invented to help them rebuild their strength and range of motion.
He had sold that business when, before the 2004 federal election, a friend approached him about running for the Conservative nomination in Cambridge. His two children were then in their late teens, so he agreed. He took the nomination and won the seat. He was re-elected in 2006, and again in 2008, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper named him science minister.
“Now I have got a portfolio that I am absolutely passionate about and frankly connected to,” he said, adding that his days of experimenting with engines in high school automotive class gave him an appreciation for what it feels like to come up with something new.
“When I was in high school, we were already tweaking with a coil that would wrap around the upper [radiator] hose and it got an extra five miles to the gallon. … So I’ve been there on this discovery stuff.”
Commercializing research – the focus of the government’s science and technology policy – is an area where Canada needs to make improvements, he says.
“If we are going to be serious about saving lives and improving life around this planet, if we are serious about helping the environment, then we are going to have to get some of these technologies out of the labs onto the factory floors. Made. Produced. Sold. And that is going to fulfill that talk. So yes, we have to do all of it, we have to do discovery … but it can’t end there.”
The Canadian government, under the leadership of the Harper Conservatives, are trying to cut the levels of NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Counsel) at the Masters level. They plan to reduce the maximum time a masters level student can hold the award to a single year and the new limitations will start with the 2009 competition.
The NSERC awards are intended grant promising students the means to pursue ambitious research plans. The award provides enough money to cover tuition and living expenses allowing the student to focus on research rather than making ends meat through Teaching Assistant fellowships or part time employment. In times like these we should be striving to maintain our scientific and engineering work force and we should be fostering innovation. Cutting the NSERC funding undermines both of these goals.
I would like to encourage you to write your premier and encourage them to reconsider this move.
Someone going by the name Rob recently left a series of comments to my post about the California judge who ruled that Universities can deny science credit to schools teaching “Christian Science”. There was a whole series of quotes from various sources, followed by a single line asking if I had the courage to challenge my beliefs. Since rhe responses are likely to be lengthy and the discussion might be of general interest, I thought I would respond to them in a series of posts rather than in the comment section to the original post.
It began with a quote from Thomas Paine, from “The Existence of God (1810)” :
It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences, and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles: he can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.
The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools, in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only, has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of his existence. They labour with studied ingenuity to ascribe every thing they behold to innate properties of matter, and jump over all the rest by saying, that matter is eternal.
Paine’s words essentially boil down to an assertion that schools should not only teach the natural laws as we understand them but also cite their source. It is a classical theist argument – there are natural laws in this world so clearly someone must have acted as a law giver. And that someone is God. There are two main objections I would raise to this assertion. The first is the most obvious; if I grant, for the sake of argument, that the existence of natural laws necessitates a law giver then how do I determine which version of God is the responsible party? I literally have an unlimited number of alternatives from which to choose.
One could temporarily dodge this question by saying that at this point we are not out to select a particular God, but rather we are starting simple and only trying to argue for the existence of a god. After all, inquiry starts with the big details and works to the finer points as our understanding is improved. But this brings me to the second objection, which is by far more fundamental; Paine makes the implicit assumption that the source of the natural laws was a someone.
If you are interested in discovering the truth about the origins of the world you should start with asking questions that don’t immediately narrow your scope of inquiry. In stead of asking “who is the source of the universe’s natural law”, you should be asking “what was the source of the universe’s natural laws?” This leaves open the possibility that the source was a who but doesn’t immediately preclude the possibility that it wasn’t cause by any intelligent agent.
It’s not hard to see why thinkers are prone to making this error. Humans are, by nature, pattern seeking individuals and there is ample scientific evidence indicating that humans tend to see intelligent causal agents in their surroundings. If our ancestors sense a rustle in the bushes due to the movement of a predator then it is in their benefit to flee. By assuming an agency to movements precious seconds can be gained even in the event of a false positive. It’s better to run from a wind moving the bushes than to say for a clumsy lion stalking through the bushes.
Science is not closed minded to the existence of God, despite theist claims to the contrary. If evidence were presented for the existence of an intelligently created cause for the universe then it would be explored. However, to this day, no one has produced any reliable evidence pointing to anything beyond the current natural explanations. If Thomas Paine want’s me to teach that the natural laws have come from some intelligent agent, then he first must demonstrate that such an agent exists. Until that time, I will continue to work with what I have evidence for.
For anyone interested, the original post and comments are here.
 I am not familiar with the original quote and I have not looked it up to confirm it due to lack of time. If the quote is inaccurate then I am sorry.
There is a live cable access program called “The Atheist Experience” that want to bring to your attention. It’s produced by the Atheist Community of Austin and it focuses on critical thinking and promoting the secular viewpoint. One thing I find particularly striking about the program is that the people behind it are interested in a genuine dialog. The hosts encourage calls from theists and will listen to their points and discuss arguments. They also spend time explaining why atheists have adopted their current position or why they reject particular arguments.
It you’re a theist, check it out if only to get a better idea why atheists think the way they do. If you’re an atheist, watch it for the informative discussions coming from many perspectives. One of the hosts, Matt Dillahunty, used to be a devote Christian and often offers very insightful arguments derived purely from biblical sources. Regardless, the show offers something for everyone.
You can find a number of clips from the show on youTube or you can download the full episodes from their website.
I was stumbling pages between my code runs today and came across this. It fits well with some of the things I have been discussing here and thought I would repost it.
I am happy to see that universities are looking critically at what is coming out of the high school curriculum. If your biology class taught you creation along side or with evolution you were done a disservice. But I am not so sure the students should be punished for that. Rather, universities should be putting some kind of pressure on high school boards to have their curriculum changed. But I admit I don’t have an idea as to what form that pressure should take at the moment. I just worry because I wonder how many students are going to suffer or be denied access to university because their board did not provide them with a quality education?
This week’s issue of Science is reporting a recent study that concludes that there is no innate differences between girls and boys when it comes to mathematical ability. Let’s hope that this helps to spur more women into the math and sciences.
The purpose of this post is to give some advice to incoming graduate students in the physical sciences. I am writing this with the perspective of graduate student in physics but I think that this advice is valid across the sciences and maybe beyond. I am going to assume that you have already decided to go to graduate school. If you are on the fence about it you don’t need this post. Rather, I highly recommend “The Ph.D. Trap (Revisited)” by Wilfred Cude. Over the years, I have leant this to a number of people who were considering graduate studies – in some cases it convinced them to go and, in other cases, talked them out of it, but it has resulted in a decision.
This list is by no means complete and I am sure that a number of readers could add to it. If this is the case, I encourage you to leave comments, especially if they are specific to other fields of study. Essentially, this is what I wish I knew going into my degree.
1. Don’t wait until the end to write up your results.
When I was completing my masters thesis I found that I gained a tremendous amount of insight once I started the writing process. Another student in my research group echoed this sentiment when he reached this point. Writing up your results forces you to think about them in a holistic context. You will make connections with other areas and your discussion will ultimately help you understand the motivation for the work, how you might extend it and how to articulate it better.
Along the way you will also get a chance to publish and although this helps, I still think it still pays take the time to write up your own notes. Publications are the final presentation in its simplest form while a write up of your notes will contain ideas that may be expanded upon or avenues to be explored further at a later time. I find that it helps to have that added insight.
2. Complete your course work early.
Research fields are becoming increasingly more specialized. As a result, the learning curve for the tools you will need to make a significant contribution to the field is probably pretty step. This means that you will only have a firm grasp of them near the back end of your degree and this is where your best research will likely be done. You want to leave as much time as possible near the end to do good research which means clearing the course requirements early. You’ve entered a postgraduate degree so you are obviously more than adept in the classroom and can handle a bit of a work load. You shouldn’t have a tough time knocking off the classes while learning the tools of your trade. You might even find that your courses in conjunction with your independent reading will speed up the learning process. Also, if your department has a qualifying exam early in the program, your course work will help you prepare for it and should lessen the amount of studying required.
3. Make an effort to learn the lexicon early.
For many students I know, learning the lexicon of a field was the largest stumbling block they encountered. This was certainly the case with me. Even if you have an undergraduate training in a field, once you hit the research level, you are going to encounter a lot of jargon. You will find yourself rereading papers, thinking that you didn’t understand a thing when in reality its primarily the language that has acted as the stumbling block. Unfortunately, this is going to make you feel like you are behind or that you should have learned more at the undergraduate level. I have spoken to many grad students and I can assure you that this is normal. Personally, I found it helpful to take the first pass at a paper assuming that I would not understand it. I read it at a higher level, skipping the fine details, and highlighting terminology I didn’t understand. After learning the unknown terminology, I would then go back and try to understand the details of the paper and its calculations. I also did this with more than one textbook chapter.
4. Go to the department seminars.
For one reason this helps you with the lexicon. It exposes you to terms and discussion you wouldn’t normally encounter in your day-to-day research. For the first while its going to feel like a pointless exercise because you will probably get very little out of them. In my department, seminars are aimed at the professors who have far more experience in the field and often the graduate student is left behind. I suggest treating the seminars like papers at first. Try to get a feel for the broader context and write down the terms you don’t know for later. And be patient. Eventually you will start to get things out of the seminars and they will give you a far richer understanding of your field as a whole.
5. Discuss things with your peers.
If your department has a journal club, get involved in it. If not, make an effort to meet with other students in your program and discuss what you are doing. I found that by having to explain things to people in physics, who were not familiar with my particular specialty, I learned a lot about how to effectively communicate my ideas. I also found it extremely useful to bounce ideas off people who were not as intimidating as my supervisor.
So that is what I have. Again, please feel free to add your comments if you have things to add to this list. I will leave this off with some useful links. Good luck in your studies.
One Page Guides:
A graduate school survival guide:
Piled Higher and Deeper: