Friday, June 22, 2007

Primates and Philosophers, How Morality Evolved - from Josh

Hey Kids, I just read a supercool book called Primates and Philosophers, How Morality Evolved by Frans de Waal, a world-famous primatologist at Emory. One of the big beefs that everyone has with evolution (especially evolution of man) is that it has a dog eat dog mentality, that there is only thin veneer of morality that masks our evil, selfish biological instincts. This theory which de Waal attacks, called unsurprisingly the veneer theory, was at the root of the Scopes trial (Bryan disliked evolution ONLY on the grounds that seemed to discard "weaker" members of society) and has been further criticized by people saying that Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene equates evolutionary behavior with selfish behavior according to anthropocentric morality (which Dawkins vehemently denies). De Waal takes the cool position that the emotions of sympathy and compassion and consequently outpourings of philanthropy are actually part of our biology because such phenomena are commonly seen in many other primates. Of course our capacity to deal with philanthropy is much more sophisticated than a bonobo. It is reassuring that one does not need to resort to mysticism to explain morals and such.

By the way, that's Jane Goodall, the only primatologist more famous than de Waal.

Icebergs: Hotspots of Ocean Life (Joy)

I hope everyone's summer is going swell. I read this article and thought it was pretty interesting, because with global warming, in general the articles spell a future of doom for our planet. The article talks about how icebergs breaking off of ice shelves (due to a warming earth) are becoming hotspots of ocean life. The icebergs hold terrestrial material that they release as they float out to sea and melt. The icebergs have a "halo" of increased numbers of plankton, krill, and seabirds for up to a radius of 5 miles. An important consequence of this increased biological activity is that the icebergs may act as carbon sinks, pulling excess carbon down into the deep sea, helping stem global warming. I think it's interesting how our earth reacts to stresses we put on it, and that things don't always have the same consequences as we might predict. It's a somewhat encouraging piece of news--that the earth is still able to compensate for the strains we put on it, in unpredictable ways. It's also a reminder that we can't ever really exactly predict the effect our actions are going to have on the environment. Not that global warming doesn't or won't have consequences, but it reminds me to take it with a grain of salt when someone says that we're all going to be underwater in 20 years.

Galapagos May Get 'In Danger' Listing

While browsing through the NY Times, I came across this short article...

"Galapagos May Get 'In Danger' Listing"
June 22, 2007, New York Times

In 1978, the Galapagos gained World Heritage status from UNESCO. Now, Ecuador has requested that these famous islands be added to the list of sites "in danger." The Galapagos are Ecuador's most popular tourist attraction and are at risk due to its fragile ecosystem. There are 830 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 31 of which are "in danger" due to tourism, natural disasters, pillaging, and/or pollution. The World Heritage committee will be discussing Ecudor's requests and other issues such as the effect of climate change on heritage sites at a meeting that begins this Saturday in New Zealand.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Creation Museum (again) - Lauren

While reading my local paper, The Corvallis Gazette-Times, this morning, I came across an article about the creation museum in Kentucky. I found a much longer version of the same article on the website for the Lexington Herald-Leader: Museum group sued by fellow creationists. The subtitle is: MONEY AND 'ACTING IN AN UNBIBLICAL FASHION' AT THE ROOT.

It seems that another creation group, Creation Ministries International (CMI), based in Australia, has a magazine called Creation. Answers in Genesis (AiG) (the group that opened the museum in May) also has a magazine, known as Answers. CMI has sued AiG on the grounds that AiG has been stealing subscribers from Creation by claiming that it is no longer available. Ken Ham, AiG president, was quoted as saying "All I'll tell you is those allegations are totally preposterous and untrue. The Bible tells you not to have a lawsuit against your brother, so you can see who's obeying the Bible and who's not."

Part of the problem is that Ham is too focused on his own power, and wants to run AiG in his own way. Members of CMI recognized that a focus on Ham could harm their cause, and suggested a restructuring of the organization that would give him less power. Ham of course would not accept that. He also needed to raise money for the museum, and acquired more power for that. His actions did not make CMI any more appreciative of AiG, and the result is this lawsuit.

Hopefully this lawsuit will decrease the credibility of creationists.