Monthly Archives: April 2009

Texas Senate Refuses To Confirm McLeroy!

Science Tortured in Texas

Science Tortured in Texas

Disclaimer: The dentist in that picture isn’t Don McLeroy; it’s Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man, and it’s used here as satire — okay?

Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist whom Governor Rick Perry has appointed to another term as chairman of the Texas Board of Education (BOE), has just had that appointment rejected by the Texas Senate.

The Austin American-Statesman announces: McLeroy confirmation blocked. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

The confirmation of State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy is dead in the water, Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, said Thursday.

Glorious news! Fireworks! Loud cheers! Here’s more:

Jackson, chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, said McLeroy will be left pending in committee because there is enough opposition on the floor of the Senate to block his confirmation, which requires approval of two-thirds of the senators.

One more excerpt:

McLeroy, R-Bryan, was first elected to the State Board of Education in 1998 and would retain his seat as a board member even if not confirmed as chairman by the end of the legislative session. Gov. Rick Perry would then pick a chairman from among the other board members who would not face Senate confirmation until 2011.

Think about this. The Texas legislature has salvaged that state’s seriously diminished reputation for sanity. The world watched McLeroy’s obsessively anti-science performance during the Texas Science Chainsaw Massacre. Everyone had access to McLeroy’s personal website, revealing his thinking. For example: Pure Creationism, and also The Mind of a Creationist Dentist.

With full knowledge of who McLeroy is and how he thinks, the governor of Texas re-appointed him to the chairmanship of the BOE. Fortunately, the state Senate has refused to confirm that appointment.

The creationist dentist will retain his seat on the BOE, where others, perhaps even more creationist than he is, will continue to vote as he does. Nevertheless, this is a great victory for reason.

Or perhaps we should say: One small step for mankind, a giant leap for Texas.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Buffoon Award Winner — Ronda Storms

Buffoon Award

THE FIFTH WINNER of the Curmudgeon’s coveted Buffoon Award is — [drum roll, flourish of trumpets] — Ronda Storms!

When a subject is taken up and championed by WorldNetDaily, it’s a very strong clue that the cause, and those who support it, are unquestionably insane. Due to their intimate association with Buffoonery (see: Buffoon Award Winner — WorldNetDaily), we consider everything in that venerable organ to be Buffoon material.

Therefore we paid attention when WorldNetDaily published this story: Will face of Jesus appear on your car? It’s subtitled: “Choosing Son of God as option sparks debate of biblical proportions.” Here are some excerpts:

It may sound ironic, but a governor named “Crist” is taking a firm stand about the face of Jesus possibly adorning license plates on vehicles in his state. Florida Republican Charlie Crist (pronounced not like Christ, but rather rhyming with wrist) says he would not veto legislation creating a specialty tag featuring artwork of the Son of God.

Let’s read on:

Now, two state senators, Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, and Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, are each promoting their own version of a new plate that outspokenly champions their Bible-based beliefs. One depicts an image of Jesus, while other features a cross in front of a stained-glass window.

We continue:

With Florida’s history of approving such a wide variety of tags, some members of the news media went directly to the governor to ask his thoughts about the legality of such designs. As seen in this embedded video from YouTube, Crist was firm in his resolve not to prevent Jesus from appearing on a license plate.

We could embed the YouTube link, image and all, but we’re stubborn about such things. Instead we’ll give you a mere link, which works just as well: Florida Governor Crist, sounding like an idiot.

WorldNetDaily then gives us various man-in-the-street reactions, as reported in Florida newspapers. Some are amusing, some are incredibly stupid, and thus amusing in their own weird way. Here’s a good one:

Yes, I want a God or Jesus license plate to remind all he pagans and heathens they are on the path to eternal misery if they don’t change their ways!

And here’s another:

This is revenue, hopefully it can result in less taxes I have to pay to support you [expletives].

That’s how the WorldNetDaily article ends. Are they for these license plates or not? They don’t really say, but they don’t need to — we know how they think. Is Florida’s governor for the plates? He doesn’t say, except that he won’t veto them. So who gets today’s award?

We’re left with Ronda and Gary, the dynamic duo in the Florida Senate sponsoring these things. Gary definitely has Buffoon potential. According to Wikipedia, Gary Siplin “is the first convicted felon to serve in the Florida Legislature, and sponsored legislation that would restore voting rights to himself and other convicted felons.” His star is rising in Buffoondom, and his day may come. But he needs to prove his merit by sponsoring some creationist legislation.

Rapturous Ronda, however, has a long and distinguished record of Buffoonery (summarized here: Ronda Storms, Ronda Storms), so it’s entirely appropriate that we should give her the official recognition she so richly deserves. If you’re one of those who just can’t get enough of this fabulous woman, here’s her Wikipedia entry: Ronda Storms.

Congratulations, Ronda! Enjoy the award. You’ve earned it!

[History note: The first Buffoon Award was announced here: John West; the second was here: WorldNetDaily; the third was here: Mark Souder, Creationist Congressman; and the fourth was here: The Intelligent Designer.]

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Evolution in a Test Tube

THERE will be wailing in a certain Seattle think tank tonight! The Scripps Research Institute has issued this press release: Darwin in a Test Tube, subtitled “Scientists at Scripps Research Make Molecules that Evolve and Compete, Mimicking Behavior of Darwin’s Finches.” Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A group of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has set up the microscopic equivalent of the Galapagos Islands — an artificial ecosystem inside a test tube where molecules evolve to exploit distinct ecological niches, similar to the finches that Charles Darwin famously described in The Origin of the Species 150 years ago.

Let’s read on:

As described in an article published this week in an advance, online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the work demonstrates some of the classic principles of evolution. For instance, research shows that when different species directly compete for the same finite resource, only the fittest will survive. The work also demonstrates how, when given a variety of resources, the different species will evolve to become increasingly specialized, each filling different niches within their common ecosystem.

But … but … we’re told those things have to happen by design! We continue:

Using molecules rather than living species offers a robust way to do this because it allows the forces of evolution to work over the course of mere days, with a trillion molecules in a test tube replicating every few minutes.

Ah, that gives the creationists an out. They used molecules. That’s not evolution! Here’s more:

For several years, Joyce [Scripps Research Professor Gerald Joyce, M.D., Ph.D.,] has been experimenting with a particular type of enzymatic RNA molecule that can continuously evolve in the test tube. The basis of this evolution comes from the fact that each time one of the molecules replicates, there is a chance it will mutate — typically about once per round of replication—so the population can acquire new traits over time.

Fascinating! We thought that stuff was only done with computer simulations. Moving along:

Two years ago, Voytek [Sarah Voytek, Ph.D., a recent graduate of the Scripps Research Kellogg School of Science and Technology] managed to develop a second, unrelated enzymatic RNA molecule that also can continuously evolve. This allowed her to set the two RNAs in evolutionary motion within the same pot, forcing them to compete for common resources, just like two species of finches on an island in the Galapagos.

In the new study, the key resource or “food” was a supply of molecules necessary for each RNA’s replication. The RNAs will only replicate if they have catalyzed attachment of themselves to these food molecules. So long as the RNAs have ample food, they will replicate, and as they replicate, they will mutate. Over time, as these mutations accumulate, new forms emerge — some fitter than others.

This is great stuff. One more excerpt, then you’ll have to click over to the Scripps Research Institute to read it all for yourself:

In the process, the molecules evolved different evolutionary approaches to achieving their ends. One became super efficient at gobbling up its food, doing so at a rate that was about a hundred times faster than the other. The other was slower at acquiring food, but produced about three times more progeny per generation. These are both examples of classic evolutionary strategies for survival, says Joyce.

Here’s a link to the published paper: Niche partitioning in the coevolution of 2 distinct RNA enzymes.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Events to Watch For (29 Apr ’09)

AS your Curmudgeon reports on The Controversy from our secret underground control room, it sometimes happens that we get so tangled up in the news of the day that we don’t keep an eye on the big picture. This post is a summary of all the events that we’re tracking, with links to our earlier posts in case you need some additional information.

For previous “big picture” posts, see our year-end Intelligence Briefing: The State of the Creosphere, and also Events to Watch For (Jan 2009).

Litigation watch:

We’re waiting for something to happen in Louisiana, now that they’ve got the nation’s only “academic freedom” bill on the books. There are ample precedents that a competent judge can follow to nullify the law, but there won’t be any case unless some parents have both the intelligence and courage to oppose the teaching of creationism in their kids’ school. From what we’ve seen, we’re not certain that such opposition will ever appear. We’d be delighted to be wrong about this, but here’s our report about a poll indicating that over 57% of Louisianans support teaching creationism in the public schools.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has an excellent report on the case of ACSI v. Stearns. This is an appeal of a trial that made some news a few years ago, and we haven’t yet posted about it. The case involves the Association of Christian Schools International and a few other plaintiffs, suing the University of California system over UC’s refusal to recognize various high school level creationist courses, taught by homeschoolers and some private schools, when UC is evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The creationists lost the earlier round, so this may be their last gasp in seeking recognition for their mode of education. Appeals aren’t as interesting as trials, but all the documents are available at the NCSE’s link, so dig in if you enjoy such things.

In Texas, there’s ICR v. Paredes, in which the Institute for Creation Research has sued the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. ICR wants the Board to be ordered to give ICR’s graduate school a Certificate of Authority to grant Master of Science degrees in Science Education. This one just started, so we’ll be reporting developments as they occur.

Legislation Watch:

Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist who is currently chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, is up for confirmation by the state Senate. See: our latest post here.

01 May — the Florida legislative session ends. We’ve already predicted that Senator Stephen Wise’s creationism bill will die. Perhaps the same fate will come to Ronda Storms’ religious license plate legislation.

18 May — the Alabama legislative session ends. That state’s academic freedom bill seems stalled in committee.

30 May — the Missouri legislative session ends. Things don’t look promising for passage of that state’s academic freedom bill.

01 June — the Texas legislative session ends. They have a lot going on. We took a look at some of it two weeks ago. We have no idea what will emerge from that bubbling cauldron.

That’s the current agenda. But we’re not worried about running out of topics. Reason’s enemies aren’t going on vacation, and neither are we.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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