What makes for a healthy society? In today’s world, critical thinking and understanding of basic science must be at the top of the list.  It seems reasonable that people with a higher degree of science literacy would have better prospects regarding jobs and such, but perhaps that isn’t so important. I think that people with a higher degree of science literacy have greater understanding of and greater control of themselves, and of their own sexuality.  By that, I mean lower rates of sexually transmitted disease and fewer unintended pregnancies and thus fewer abortions. While these of course aren’t the only indications of a healthy society, I think we can all agree they are pretty important.

I am surprised by how little research has been done attempting to correlate societal health (or even STD rates for a start) with science literacy, although there has been at least one attempt to make a correlation of societal health with religion. In a somewhat contested 2005 paper, Gregory S. Paul (a paleontologist and illustrator) posited that Societies worse off ‘when they have God on their side’. Paul says,

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

Even though it wasn’t tested, I have to think that the correlation isn’t between devotion and social ills but between science literacy and social ills. I can’t imagine any causation that might exist between faith and gonorrhea rates. I can, however, imagine that understanding how STDs are transmitted might lead to lower STD infection rates. I can also imagine that there is a negative correlation between science literacy and religious devotion, at least from what I’ve seen in the US .

Paul did consider the relationship between religious devotion and acceptance of evolution, and of religious devotion and STD and abortion rates, but I think he could have gone much further. The presentation of the data in the paper is very strange. It would have been nice to see some trend lines. Some critics of the paper argue that Paul chose only a narrow range of countries. I don’t think this is a problem, since we can’t quite compare a relatively prosperous democracy with a poor dictatorship. Regardless of its inadequacies, it’s certainly worth a read. If nothing else, there are tons of intriguing references.

While this isn’t really relevant to the point I’m making here, Paul also spent a lot of time on homicide rather than sexual health, which I don’t think is as strong an indicator of societal health.  The correlation between death and the duality of good and evil was explored further by Gary F. Jensen in response to Paul’s work, although Jensen didn’t even mention the complication of reincarnation.


Gregory S. Paul (2005). Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies Journal of Religion & Society, 7

Gary F. Jensen (2006). Religious Cosmologies and Homicide Rates among Nations Journal of Religion & Society, 8

Note: I am not a social scientist by any means, but enjoy thinking about the relationships between what some people might think are unrelated phenomena.


The Election is Almost Over

In the United States, we have a new president and the election is nearly complete. There are still three seats in question in the Senate. One will be settled by a special runoff election, and two will be settled (we hope) by a recount.

There were two issues in this election which were to be settled by voting on Civil Rights issues. My personal opinion is that referendum on Civil Rights issues should never be subject to vote as this is a circumvention of the idea of a Republic and opens the door to Tyranny of the Majority. I am referring to votes on the issues of gay rights and abortion.

Three states voted to suppress the rights of gays to marry. Two states’ elections were intended to stave off court rulings which may or may not appear before their courts. One state’s election was to overturn a state supreme court ruling that laws against gay marriage were unconstitutional. The resulting outcome of the election has sparked protest and outrage throughout the country, as those of us who think that the concept of marriage should not be a matter of choosing a religious viewpoint to make policy have stated so publicly and loudly. The voters of California, Florida and Arizona made a huge mistake. The voters of Arkansas, in denying the rights of gay adoptive parents and indeed of orphan children to be adopted, made a mean-spirited decision that has no place in a free society.

In South Dakota, the voters sensibly denied a referendum to make abortion illegal and set up a new challenge to Roe v Wade. In Colorado, the voters avoided a very stupid amendment to their constitution which would have afforded unborn children all of the Constitutional rights that adults share, potentially making all forms of abortion illegal. It would have opened up a whole new series of messes in law and medicine.

Over the last two weeks, I have been wondering how science should be used to help guide the ethics of public policy. The proposed Colorado Amendment is especially troubling because of the difficulty in defining when life itself begins in the womb.

The Catholic Church, and indeed many churches who focus on the ethics of abortion, teaches that “Life Begins at Conception.” And this is an obvious first step towards the life of a human, but as gynecologists understand there are many steps between conception and birth that can be naturally interfered with to prevent the outcome of a slap on the butt and a tearful wail.

Following conception, a fertilized egg must implant in the uterus in order to start the process of dividing cells to multiply and form a pharyngula stage embryo. While this process can happen in the fallopian tubes, such events are extremely dangerous to both the mother and the fetus. These “ectopic pregnancies” are deadly and can only be treated by ending the pregancy. The proposed amendment could have led to emergency room physicians who perform procedures to end such pregnancies being prosecuted for the murder of an unborn child. Would that be a positive benefit for society? No.

The Blind Watchmaker has not been kind to women regarding the birthing process. (Epicurus, anyone?) Surely, an Intelligent Designer could have done a much better job of creating such an important process for the beginning of life for an exalted and special species such as Man. While obstetrics have done wonders at saving the lives of thousand of women who would have otherwise died, at any stage of pregnancy the mother carries enormous risk to herself and to the developing fetus inside. Careful, scientifically-based treatments to save the life of the mother may often call for the end of life for the fetus and I don’t see how the government should be able to flatly say that any such treatments should be made illegal and subject to criminal prosecution.

The government of Afghanistan under the deposed Taliban ruled that women were not allowed to be doctors because of their religious belief that women are subservient to men and subject to male whims. Their religion also ruled that no man was to examine a women’s reproductive organs unless he was married to her, and so gynecological examinations were ruled to be illegal and along with that obstetrics were severely hampered as well. While they are temporarily (and I hope permanently) deposed, the resulting unnecessary deaths of women and fetuses was a tragic situation created by religion. While some of you may think that this is an example of reductio ad absurdum, the passage of the amendment in Colorado would have had the same sort of effect.

The impetus for the amendment was religious in nature, and clearly ignored the science of conception and pregnancy. It was driven by the efforts of a young woman who wanted to “protect babies.” I want to protect them, too, by making sure that obstetricians have all of the available tools and options to protect both the lives of the mothers and the fetuses. But doctors are all too aware that saving the lives of both the mother and the fetus is impossible and that the choice belongs to those involved and not the government; and certainly not a government restricted by the questionable ethics of a subset of the population that holds no quarter for abortion of any kind.

There are now cases of priests who have told their parishioners that if they voted for Barack Obama then they should perform an Act of Contrition prior to accepting the Eucharist. They have been told that voting for Obama was a sin because he is not an absolutist when it comes to abortion. For many atheists, this has led to a call for an investigation into the tax-exempt status of the parishes whose priests have made such pronouncements. Churches are not to preach on politics if they wish to remain tax-exempt.

For me, it raises a more disturbing question. Where were these same self-righteous clerics when George Bush was re-elected in 2004? By then, we all ready knew that the case for the War in Iraq was based on data that he knew were faulty and he pressed on anyway. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed (I am not arguing that Saddam Hussein should have been left to kill and torture his subjects. Please review nuance before making that accusation against me.) “Shock and Awe” was an indiscriminate bombing and shelling of targets and “collateral damage” included untold numbers of civilians.

Where was this demand for “respect for life” following the 2004 election? Tell me of a priest who admonished parishioners for choosing Bush over Kerry then. No, the focus even then was on Kerry’s public position that while he is opposed to abortion he would not in good conscience be able to impose his religious beliefs on those who don’t share them.

Too often, as a society, we look to religion for guidance on ethical issues. While this may often be appropriate as clergy usually must have some training on how to approach ethics, it is often very dangerous. I have written about the misguided policies of the Bush Administration’s policy on funding embryonic stem cell research, and the curious ethical position that disposal of frozen embryos is preferable to research which also destroys blastocysts.

The science is often ignored, and the Initiatives, both passed and defeated related to life issues, were based solely on a religious position. For me, as someone who values both women and fetuses, our policies should be more carefully targeted to reducing the frequency of unwanted pregnancies.

But then we get into the issue of contraception and factual sex education, to which the “pro-life” forces also raise strong religious objections.

To sum up, ethics are more sensibly guided by paying attention to science in these issues than to hard-line, Talibanic positions.

I invite any of my co-bloggers to address the issue of homosexuality and “lifestyle choice” related to science and religion.

It is understandably typical for Christians to consider evolution as something that confronts and challenges faith. To say that North American evangelicals consider evolution to be largely incompatible with Christian belief is to state the painfully obvious. An evangelical who will just admit that common descent might be true is a progressive thinker, and much of the current discussion is dominated by attempts to push back on evolution by suggesting that it really isn’t a completely accurate – or even minimally accurate – description of the development of life in God’s world.

Almost certainly because of perceived “incompatibilities,” evangelical theological reflection on the implications of various scientific conclusions, specifically with regard to biblical interpretation, is regularly decried as dangerously inadequate. (Consider Peter Enns’ recent review of a new book on the age of the earth by two of my most excellent colleagues. HT: David Opderbeck.) In other words, many thinking evangelicals are concerned about the lack of serious evangelical engagement of evolutionary theory.

But help is on the way. I’ve already mentioned Gordon Glover’s wonderful Beyond the Firmament (and I reviewed it for the forthcoming issue of the Reports of the NCSE). I haven’t seen Denis Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation yet, but if it’s as good as Mike Beidler says, then the landscape is looking a lot less barren. And now we have a very significant new voice in the conversation: my friend Daniel Harrell, associate minister at Park Street Church in Boston, a brilliant reformed preacher and gifted thinker whose ministry had a profound impact on myself and my family at a critical juncture in our spiritual lives.

Daniel has written an excellent and interesting book on evolution and Christianity, and I give it my highest possible recommendation. It’s called Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith, and you can buy it at Amazon or CBD right now. I read it a few months ago and blurbed it, and sometime in the next few months I hope to review it here. In the meantime, look for occasional comments and quotes. But for now, here’s an excerpt from the Introduction, presented with permission from the publisher. In fact, this is the bulk of the Introduction, but the final paragraph is the paragraph I would have chosen to capture the essence of Daniel’s approach and his project.

Walking across the Boston Common one cold winter’s eve, I was approached by a gentleman, somewhat agitated, who recognized me from church.

“Are you the minister who’s writing the book on evolution?”

This didn’t sound good. “Uh, … yes?” I replied, bracing myself.

“Do you believe in the word of God? Do you believe that God created the heavens and the earth in six days, like the Bible says?” His articulation was semiautomatic—as was his tone.

I assured him that yes, I believed the Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth in six days. I also believe that rivers clap their hands and that mountains sing (Ps 98:9) because the Bible says that too. But I don’t think that the Bible means six twenty-four-hour days any more than I believe that the Bible means that rivers have literal hands.

He worried that I suffered from delusion (which as far as I am concerned is never outside the realm of possibility). However, I reminded him that there are two types of delusion. There is the delusion that believes something that is not true, and there is the delusion that fails to believe something that is true. If evolution is an accurate description of the emergence of life, as science attests, then believing it alongside the Bible should pose no threat. There’s no need to fear any honest search for truth because in the end, all honest searches for truth inevitably lead back to God.

Historically, religious faith, particularly Christianity, served as the loom onto which the discoveries of science were woven. It was within a Christian theological framework that scientific disclosure found its transcendent meaning. Descartes, Bacon, Galileo, Kepler and Newton, believers all, saw their work not as replacements for faith, but as extensions of it. The idea was that the best of science and the best of theology concerted to give human beings deeper insight into the workings of the universe and, subsequently, into the divine character. Scientific discovery was received with gratitude to the Almighty for the wonder of his creation. Scientists, alongside the psalmist, would proclaim, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps 19:1 NIV).

The balance between faith and science (or reason) was established in the Middle Ages by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas, building on Augustine, established a delicate equilibrium between theology (reasoning down from faith) and philosophy, analogous to science (reasoning up from sensory data). Aquinas, unlike the Reformers who would follow, taught that human senses and rational faculties, as made by God, were competent for understanding reality, albeit from a limited standpoint. The limits were filled in by theology. Aquinas asserted that God acted through “secondary causes,” creating the world according to his laws and then giving nature room to unfold in accordance with God’s laws. Whatever was good science was good as far as God is concerned; science simply described what God had already done.

However, if God operated mostly behind the scenes as the prime cause, then it wasn’t long before people started wondering whether he was there at all. In time, reliance upon divine revelation gave way to human reason in its Enlightenment form, and soon the supernatural was rendered superfluous. As science advanced, Christians reacted by retreating into a sort of Manichean dualism whereby science was demonized and faith grew reliant on a super-supernatural world where any ordinary explanation raised suspicion. With battle lines so starkly drawn, scientists were left to assume that any move toward Christian faith was akin to committing intellectual suicide. Conversely, the faithful relied on science for their medicine or the weather forecast, but much more than that was to attempt spiritual suicide. Let a spark of evolution in the door and you were liable to catch the whole house on fire.

The controversy between Christian faith and evolution is exacerbated by increasing mounds of scientific data that lend weight to evolution. Paleontology, biochemistry, cosmology, physics, genetics—you name the discipline—each regularly puts forth newly discovered evidence in support of Darwin’s simple idea of descent with modification. While some people of faith choose to keep their doors closed, shutting out science is not necessary. Christian faith by definition defies human conceptions of reality (1 Cor 3:19). Its claims are grounded in extraordinary events that defy scientific explanation (most importantly the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus). But God is not only present where science is silent; he remains present even where science speaks loudest. The expansiveness of the universe, the beauty and complexity of organic life and the remarkable makeup of human consciousness—naturally explicable occurrences—are also interpreted by Christians as manifestations of God (Rom 1:20). Christianity consistently asserts that all truth is God’s truth, implying that faith and science, despite differences when it comes to explaining why, nevertheless should agree in regard to what is. Why bother talking about God if God has no relation to observable reality?

An avalanche of books has been devoted to the controversy between Christianity and evolution. Don’t expect a contribution to that debate here. There are plenty of other places where that conversation occurs. Instead, I’d like to look at Christian faith in the face of evolution as essentially true as most scientists assert. Now I know that just because a particular theory makes sense of the way something could have happened, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it actually happened that way. But if evolution truly provides an accurate description of life on earth, and things did happen the way evolution describes, how might we rethink the way we think about what the Bible says? To rethink what we think about the Bible is not to rewrite Scripture, nor is it to capitulate to Christianity’s detractors. Instead, rethinking and reworking our theology in light of accurate data results in a more dependable and resilient theology. To be a serious Christian is to seek truth and find it as revealed by God both in Scripture and in nature. If God is the maker of heaven and earth, as we believe, then the heavens and earth, as science describes them, have something to say about God. Natural selection need not imply godless selection. To be reliable witnesses of creation can’t help but make us more reliable witnesses to the Creator.

I hope you’re intrigued. Go buy the book—you’ll love it—then look for occasional conversations here or at Quintessence of Dust about some of Daniel’s ideas.

Note: crossposted from Quintessence of Dust; originally posted there 23 October.

Is It a New Poison?

Feel free to disagree with me, but in my opinion the North Carolina Senatorial campaign between Kay Hagan and Elizabeth Dole has brought out the worst in both politics and religious discourse in the United States.  Religion has been used as a sword against The Other by one of the major parties.  Since this is a nominally non-partisan blog I won’t say who is the guilty party.

In his discussing the presidential race, fmr Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama and one of his major concerns was the way that the Republican party was using religion to divide the country between “Pro-America” and “Anti-America.”  Michele Bachmann’s comments on Hardball about both Barack Obama and a plea for the media to expose the “Anti-America” elements in the House of Representatives were especially upsetting to him.

More importantly, he mentioned the ongoing rumor which insinuates that Barack Obama is a Muslim and not a Christian.  He not only pointed out that Obama is a Christian, but then he made an even more important point.   While the denials that Obama is a Muslim and is instead a Christian are important as far as getting the facts straight, the more important point is that it should not matter.

If Obama were a Muslim, his qualificatons for leadership would not change.  Anti-Islamic bigotry should not be used against politicians.  From the transcripts:

Headstone At Arlington

Headstone At Arlington

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine.  It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave.  And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone.  And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death.  He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith.  And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey.  He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.  Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way.  And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know.  But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

I am troubled at how religion has been used to divide Americans.  I don’t know if there were ever periods in our history when we weren’t facing some sort of religious dvide, but it seems to have been accentuated in this race because of a candidate whose middle name is “Hussein.”

This is not the first time that a candidate has been smeared because of his religion.  Alfred Smith was the 1928 Democratic Party nomnee, but was often cast as being more beholden to the Pope than to the US Constitution.  John Kennedy ran as a candidate in 1960, and the anti-Catholic bigotry once again reared its ugly head.  Kennedy addressed the situation with a speech that really should be used as a template when discussing a candidate’s religious beliefs:

Kenned Speaking

Kenned Speaking

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end–where all men and all churches are treated as equal–where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice–where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind–and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

I really want to be clear as an atheist that while I have serious disagreements with the role that religion should play in society, I have no qualms against voting for somebody whose religious views differ from mine if I find that the person in question has a poltical view that I share.  I vote for Christians in elections, even knowing their beliefs.  In the 2006 mayoral election, I even voted for a Conservative Christian Republican.  I practice what I am preaching here.

One more point before I get to my conclusion and open the topic for comments.  This is not a new phenomena, nor was it new in the 20th century.  Ed Darrell at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub (an excellent blog whose writer is interested in correcting misunderstood versions of American History) refers us back to the 1800 presidential campaign.  John Adams, a defender of religious liberty, engaged with the assistance of Alexander Hamilton in trying to smear Thomas Jefferson as an atheist.  Hamilton convinced editors of newspapers to publish articles and editorials claiming that if elected, Jefferson would send the Army to confiscate Bibles:

One might recall Dumas Malone’s description of the election of 1800, between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson thought it beneath his dignity, and not part of American politics, to discuss a candidate’s religious faith.  Alexander Hamilton, on behalf of Adams, led a campaign of calumny in newspapers throughout the U.S. saying that because Jefferson was atheist, as president he’d send the army to confiscate Bibles.  Jefferson refused to respond.  Malone notes that on election day, fully half of all American voters were convinced Jefferson was atheist.

They voted for Jefferson anyway, rather than stick with the failed policies of Adams.  There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

It’s not new, you see.  It’s just much more effective thanks to the internet and to 24-hour cable.  Karl Rove has mastered the technique of getting the news media outlets to “raise the question” without stating a position.  The question-raising is often enough to shift opinion against a candidate.  The Washington Post featured an article on how it is possible to convince the populace that a candidate’s religion makes his/her patriotism suspect, even if the candidate is not a member of that religion.

Kay Hagan’s response to Elizabeth Dole’s slimy campaign ads involved the disclaimer that she is a Christian.  Many atheists who had donated money to support her were disappointed that she had not used Colin Powell’s example to say that “While I am not an atheist, so what if I were?”

If I ever run for office, atheism will not be my central plank.  But since I am way out of the closet, there will be no way to hide that fact.  And I would not run from it, either.  If it were to become an issue, I would remind voters of what Kennedy and Powell said.  I would also remind them of the way that the voters responded to the charges of Jefferson’s atheism in 1800.

A New Carnival

Skeptical Parent CrossingI am sure that soon there will be a rash of original posts here at Clashing Culture, but that is the drag of a secondary blog.  In the meantime, we hope that you enjoy this link to a new carnival.  One of the posts that originated here has been included in “Skeptical Parent Crossing.”

The topic of the carnival is an approach by both parents on how to birth and raise their kids and for how to teach kids to think critically about the the world around them.  There are some bloggers that I was all ready familiar with, such as C. L. Hanson (who I met and found to be really cool,) and Kylie from Podblack Cat, the Australian Skeptic.

Please take the time to read through the blog, and consider your on topical submissions for the next issue.  Clashing Culture will be hosting our own edition.  In May, about the time that school is out.

Welcome to Clashing Culture

Carnival of Evolution

Carnival of Evolution

For those of you new to Clashing Culture, this is an experiment in cooperation among bloggers who have a common interest in science, religion and their interactions with society at large.  Check out the profiles on the right for more about us.  We all four share in common an interest in teasing out the facts of evoliution, which is still a relatively poortly understood set of theories which tie together the facts thatt show how nature expands its species.  Evolution is about life itself, and the fact of evolution is undeniable.

The misunderstanding of evolution leads to a culture ill at ease with exploring science, mistaking an interest in evolution with a desire to preclude any sort of religious question or answers on how life “is.”  Evolution is about origins, which was once the solely-owned territory of religious explanations.  I think that this crowding out of supernatural explanations for the shape of all life is threatening to many people, but that hardly justifies the way that the concept of evolution is unjustly attacked.  And especially in the United States.  So, the purpose of this carnival is to highlight the blog posts that have been submitted or that I have found over the last two weeks since hosted by Greg Laden on October 3.  I hope that the readers come away with a better understanding of evolution, and more comfortable with the concept.

And to illustrate the main issue, I start with a post by Ben Connor Barrie at Grown Ass People. From the Front Lines of Evolution. So, what happens when the Discovery Institute releases a textbook?  It isn’t pretty, but it is worth watching as some legislatures consider Academic Freedom Bills.  (Acadmic Freedom  ain’t what they are seeking.)

Eugenics is a tricky issue for evolution, and in fact is has very little to do with natural selection.  Eugenics is the purposeful manipulation of genetics to achieve a societal goal.  Evolution is a blind process with no societal goal, but only a goal of survival to reproduce.  So, what is now happening in Lousiana?  A proposal for eugenics? Chris Green presents Eugenics to Make a Comeback in Louisiana? posted at Advances in the History of Psychology. Chris’s submission comment:

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on September 24 that a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives named John LaBruzzo “is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied” in order to contain the state’s welfare costs.

Most of us have seen the movie Inherit the Wind. It is a stylized dramatization of the 1925 Scopes Trial in Tennesee. The Trial didn’t resolve the issue of education’s responsibility for teaching evolution. Jeremy Burman presents Advances in the History of Psychology » Blog Archive » The Scopes Trial Revisited posted at Advances in the History of Psychology. Jeremy’s comment:

In a recent issue of Science as Culture, 17(2), Matthew J. Tontonoz compares the recent “evolution wars” with a revival of the historic Scopes trial of 1925. In this formulation, William Jennings Bryan — who had served as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1896, 1900, and 1908 — plays the role presently adopted by, as Tontonoz puts it, “today’s creationists and proponents of intelligent design.”

Evolution aids our understanding of the interconnectedness of all life, and for one person thinking of evolution erased the “themness” of race. Hank Fox writes a moving essay on how evolution finally opened his eyes to the mistake of a racial divide among humans. He experienced an awakening. Thank You Mister Darwin. Again. at Earthman’s Notebook.

But one day when I looked at Them, I saw US.

I was standing in line at a grocery store on that day, and there was a “black” man standing next to me. I reached down into myself, as I often do, inspecting my feelings, and I was surprised to notice that the fear was gone. This was just some guy, a neighbor, a fellow human thrown into my company by accident in a supermarket checkout line. His eyes met mine momentarily, brown eyes to blue, human eyes, and we both smiled easily.

So, with all of the cultural icons of evolution, where does the science part come it? Well, let’s begin with this article on the interrelationship between hox D genes and homeotic transformation in birds. Nagraj Sambrani presents Homeotic transformation and digit evolution in Birds | Hoxful Monsters posted at Hoxful Monsters. The article refers to an article in an open-access journal so that you can check out the paper on your own.

R. Ford Denison presents This Week in Evolution: Experimental evolution of predation and sexual attractiveness posted at This Week in Evolution.

PZ Myers presents Fossil daisy-chain posted at Pharyngula. My curiosity is piqued as to what they were doing…

Greg Laden presents Cultural Evolution from Mosquitos to Worm Grunting posted at Greg Laden’s Blog. So, how do yams and sickle-cell anemia tie together?

John Hawks presents Human evolution stopping? Wrong, wrong, wrong. | john hawks weblog posted at John Hawks Anthropology Weblog. Follow the links in this post to other writers who tear apart the idea that our species is not going to change anymore.

Richard Owen, who coined the word “dinosaur” is one of the most disliked, and yet probably misunderstood 19th century scientists. Brian Switek presents Richard Owen, the forgotten evolutionist posted at Laelaps.

Greg Laden presents Greg Laden’s Blog : Culture Shapes How We Look at Faces posted at Greg Laden’s Blog.

The Urban Scientist presents Science Vocab: Dulosis – Slave-making in Ants posted at SES: Science, Education & Society.

GrrlScientist presents Love, Sex and War in the Seychelles posted at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) Her comment:

This is a study of the evolution and behavioral ecology of an endangered species that predicted the worldwide economic collapse — it’s amazing what birds can teach us about ourselves, if we only look carefully.

Greg Laden presents Cultural Evolution from Mosquitos to Worm Grunting posted at Greg Laden’s Blog. I had never even heard of worm gruntiing before I read this. How does it work? Does it matter if its practitioners know?

The final post approaches an area of interest to cultural historians; archaeologists, anthropologists and all of us who are interested in our cultural background and the role that evolution plays. Whatever your religious position, the existence of God is separate from the practice of religion. Massimo Pigliucci presents The cultural evolution of religion posted at Rationally Speaking.

Evolution is a far wider field of study than most people accept, and the tendency to either ignore it or only teach it as a separate “unit” in biology classes is dangerous to our society. If our education system tries to hide evolution because it may offend certain “sensibilities” then it will have far-reaching negative effects on our ability to understand ourselves and our relationships to each other and to the natural world.

Thanks to everyone who submitted, and thanks to those who didn’t know they submitted articles. I also want to thank Dr. Daniel Brown (Irradiatus of Biochemical Soul) for maintaining this much-needed carnival. The next issue is going to be at The Other 95%, hosted by Kevin Zelnio and Eric Heupel. Send your posts to be included through the submission form.

When There’s No Place Left To Go

Carnival of the Liberals

Carnival of the Liberals

Remember when people used to say “This is going to be an election about the issues, and we will avoid negative attacks against our opponent?”  Yeah, I remember hearing that last spring when one old Navy guy became the presumptive candidate for a certain conservative party.  It certainly didn’t take long for that to change.  Because negativity works.  And we know from our Marketing 101 classes why.  (Sentence fragments work, too.)  Create the fear and offer the lifeline. Make people aware of body odor and sell deodorant.

This will go down in history as one of the most negative campaigns ever, exceeded only by the preceding campaign the subsequent campaign.  To believe otherwise is to have certain knowledge of things unseen.  Politics have always been negative, politics will always be negative and no election will ever be decided on the issues.  Politics are about a race to the bottom in the hopes that even if we don’t get what we want, then neither does the other side (unless they cheat.)

Doing the Carnival of the Liberals makes me grumpy, because I realize when reading the submissions that the world is not going to live up to my ideal no matter how I try.  And so, on that cheery note, I present the best ten posts of the 38 submitted this fortnight past, written by people who are trying to apply the brakes as we slide towards the bottom.

We start with the Sex-Kitten.net, and I must warn you about the site.  It is not suitable for the easily offended, but here she makes a great point of the effects of the economic downturn on the people we don’t want to admit make money from sex.  The ones that make a lot of money from sex may be the ones that do well, but in a society that hides sex work because of morality, well, people get hurt.  And Gracie has a different sort of bottom to race to.  What does the economic crisis mean for prostitutes?

Ames takes on the conservative meme that any ruling by the Supreme Court is “Liberal Judicial Activism” if they don’t like the ruling.  Hey, people, we live in a Republic, and and Submitted to a Candid World, Ames reminds us that the Constitution is only paper without an independent guardian branch of government. Ames presents Activist Judges?: Surprising No-One, Palin Doesnt Get It posted at Submitted to a Candid World.

Speaking of judging, what happens when men decide that women are tramps? Do they then invite date rape? Surprisingly, men and women in authoritarian, moralistic and paternalistic traditions like to blame rape victims. Marcella Chester presents Man’s Statement Shows How Date Rapists Can Rationalize Lowering Their Standards Of Behavior posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor’s zigzag journey into the open.

It’s not that George W Bush has ruined the Republican party that makes him a terrible president. It’s that he is a conservative. Did I say that? Well, yes, we really need to take a look at what has shaped the current administration. I don’t think that George Bush is smart enough to be able to navigate us as sharply to the bottom. He is a stooge riding the tiger. Alicia Morgan presents Conservatism – The Elephant In the Room posted at Last Left Turn Before Hooterville.

We had a large quantity of posts to choose from on the topic if the Biden-Palin debate. Most of them were very funny. The debate itself could have been the subject of a separate carnival. I had a hard time choosing, but decided on this one. Rickey Henderson presents Rickey Presents: The Vice Presidential Debate of Submisunderestimanation (AKA The Only Vice Presidential Debate Preview Worth Reading) posted at Riding with Rickey.

It’s not surprising that Sarah Palin’s brand of lunacy has caught on with so many people. They likes her, they really do! But they also believe in Angels. vjack presents Confronting Idiocy: From Palin to Angels posted at Atheist Revolution.

The passage of the bailout bill has not helped ease the fears of the ongoing financial crisis. The frustrating part was that liberals as well as conservatives were saying they can’t pass a bill for Wall Street if it doesn’t also address the problems of Main Street. One bill can’t do it. But, then what really is Main Street? The Ridger presents Who lives on Main Street … anymore? posted at The Greenbelt.

So, what could we do to help save homeowners and the economy and thus finally save bankers? An interesting proposal (which does jack for apartment dwellers like me, but is fascinating nonetheless,) proposes the idea of “Homebucks.” When the government earns its money back from buying up all the worst instruments and then re-selling them (snicker,) the perhaps they could use the money for HomeBucks. Mr. Money presents Trickle Up Economics Beats Bank Bailouts posted at My Last Name Means Money.

Does anyone remember a TV show starring James Garner called “Maverick?” Or does anyone remember a guy in the movie Top Gun whose handle was “Maverick?” Does anyone buy the idea that John McCain and Sarah Palin are anything like Mavericks? Nope. Greta Christina presents John McCain and the “Maverick” Snow Job posted at Greta Christina’s Blog.

Well to cheer you up after this, I present a limerick from Mad Kane. Madeleine Begun Kane presents Finally, A John McCain Statement I Can Agree With posted at Mad Kane’s Political Madness.

That’s it for the Carnival of the Liberals for this week. I feel bad for not including the other submissions to this edition, but rules is rules. Anyway, liberals, get on your white horses and ride. If this was an overly negative carnival, just remember that in order to climb to the top you first have to reach bottom. Send some links for the next version through the submission form. The next one will be at Pharyngula. Getting selected for that one may just crash your server (he generates a lot of traffic.)

Later today, I will put up the other posts sent to me, and they will be at Tangled Up in Blue Guy.