Two Republican creationists block South Carolina’s adoption of the Wooly Mammoth as the state fossil

Why Evolution Is True

Nothing surprises me any more when it involves Republicans and evolution (or science, or abortion, or immigration, or health care—the list is a long one). Yet this story, bizarre as it is, shows how truly benighted the members of that party are when it comes to science—and pandering to creationists.

From Americans Against the Tea Party comes a sad report: sad because it involves a little girl’s attempt to put some science into the state of South Carolina—an attempt stymied by two damn Republican politicians. The report:

Earlier this year eight-year-old Olivia McConnell wrote her state representatives to suggest that since South Carolina doesn’t currently have a state fossil, it should be given one! Olivia decided that she needed a legitimate reason to suggest this besides liking fossils, so she came up with three:

1. One of the first discoveries of a vertebrae [sic] fossil in North America was on an S.C. plantation…

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Should vaccinations be mandatory? A debate in the New York Times

Why Evolution Is True

Sunday’s New York Times had one of those “room for debate” features that feature short essays by a group of people on a single topic, but this one is of special interest to science and woo hounds. The topic was “Making vaccination mandatory for all children,” and four people weigh in with divergent opinions. Surprisingly, only one one favors mandatory vaccination for all, and another—the former Surgeon General of the U.S.—favors mandatory vaccination except for those with religious beliefs against vaccination!

My own view is that vaccination is a social good, and there should be no exemptions save medical ones (i.e., people who are ill, immunocompromised, and so on). Vaccinations protect not only the recipient from disease, but also others in society. Even those who are vaccinated could contract a disease from someone unvaccinated for that disease, as vaccinations don’t always “take”. Further, vaccinations are given to babies and…

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A new way to write papers?

A mathematical model by Edward Flach

My friend and mathematical biologists Edward Flach is experimenting with a new way to communicate scientific results via blogs. Or at least this seems quite new to me. But the Internet (or the blogsphere)  is a big scary place so I might be mistaken.

So what’s the idea? Instead of submitting a paper to a journal he makes the results available to anybody on a dedicated blog. Nothing new you might think but here is the deal: he creates a blog for each paper and each post represents a different section of the paper. For starters Edward has made public a model he developed with Sandy Anderson (and based on conversations with melanoma biologist Keiran Smalley) at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Anybody can coment on a different part of the paper on the different section of the blog and, if Edward agrees, that section can be updated and reflect the suggestions from reviewers. The paper is not a finished product but a living document that reflects the history of the scientific process that led to it.

Ideally, one would start the blog at the beginning of the project so the scientist could describe the evolution of the project as it happens but that might take a bit more of time for people to get around that idea.

Exciting times for open science although so far many of the leaders are those that do not fear for their academic future.

Emotional science

Emotional science Some people might think that scientists are extremely rational people lacking emotions. Some bouts of manic laughter asides think of them as some version of vulcans? Not quite the truth. For a theoretical scientist like Andrei Linde, the experimental confirmation of his hypothesis can be quite emotional.

Could everyone develop a hidden cancer?

Science Talk: the ICR blog

Around one in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer during our lifetime. But research over the last couple of decades has led some researchers to the uncomfortable conclusion that as we age perhaps all of us develop hidden, or ‘covert’, cancer.

This is the subject of an interesting review published in Nature Reviews Cancer by Professor Mel Greaves here at The Institute of Cancer Research in London. By defining ‘covert’ cancer as “a [growth] or tumour that is considered to be either malignant [or a] recognised precursor to malignant cancer”, Professor Greaves refers to many intriguing studies that have shown that many people have cancer without knowing they have it.

Many of these are post mortem studies, in which researchers look for cancer in the bodies of people who have died of accidental or non-cancerous causes. These studies have shown that pre-malignant lesions – essentially tumours that have…

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