In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Within each species some individuals leave more offspring than others, so that the inheritable traits (genes) of the reproductively successful become more numerous in the next generation. This is natural selection: the non-random differential reproduction of genes. Natural selection has built us, and it is natural selection we must understand if we are to comprehend our own identities.

Robert L. Trivers. 1976.

(TitleThe Selfish Gene; Foreword to the First Edition)

Memetics

Meme: an information pattern, held in an individual’s memory, which is capable of being copied to another individual’s memory.

Memetics: the theoretical and empirical science that studies the replication, spread and evolution of memes

academicatheism:

Evolution of life’s operating system revealed in detail
The evolution of the ribosome, a large molecular structure found in the cells of all species, has been revealed in unprecedented detail in a new study.
Around 4 billion years ago, the first molecules of life came together on the early Earth and formed precursors of modern proteins and RNA. Scientists studying the origin of life have been searching for clues about how these reactions happened. Some of those clues have been found in the ribosome.
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academicatheism:

Evolution of life’s operating system revealed in detail

The evolution of the ribosome, a large molecular structure found in the cells of all species, has been revealed in unprecedented detail in a new study.

Around 4 billion years ago, the first molecules of life came together on the early Earth and formed precursors of modern proteins and RNA. Scientists studying the origin of life have been searching for clues about how these reactions happened. Some of those clues have been found in the ribosome.

Continue Reading

Atlanta biology teacher: Evolution from Satan and the cause of racism, divorce, gay people

Students in a freshman biology class in Atlanta’s Grady High School were shown a PowerPoint presentation that linked evolution to Satan, abortion, divorce, racism, and homosexuality.

The Grady High student newspaper, the Southerner, reported that Anquinette Jones used the PowerPoint presentation to teach the theory of evolution to her students during a freshman biology class last spring.

One slide in the 52-slide presentation included an illustration that shows creationism and evolution as two sides in a war between good and evil. Creationism is shown to be from Christ, while evolution is from Satan. The illustration suggests evolution is the driving force behind euthanasia, homosexuality, pornography, abortion, divorce, and racism — social ills that are all defeated by creationism and Christianity.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted the PowerPoint presentation also includes “grammatical errors and odd illustrations including a photo of Octomom,” along with the creationism picture.

Jones told the Southerner that the PowerPoint presentation originated with the Atlanta Public Schools system. But students told the paper that Jones had brought up creationism and criticized evolution in her biology class before.

“She always had random comments about [creationism],” student Lily Soto told the Southerner. “If someone would ask if we were going to learn evolution, she was like, ‘No, I don’t teach that.’”…

fossilporn:

Paleobirding: What Birds Looked Like 125 Million Years Ago
"The birds that lived during the age of the dinosaurs were very different from the birds that live today," said Los Angeles County Natural History Museum curator and dino-bird expert Luis Chiappe. "And it would have been a completely different experience to go out birding in the Mesozoic Era."

fossilporn:

Paleobirding: What Birds Looked Like 125 Million Years Ago

"The birds that lived during the age of the dinosaurs were very different from the birds that live today," said Los Angeles County Natural History Museum curator and dino-bird expert Luis Chiappe. "And it would have been a completely different experience to go out birding in the Mesozoic Era."

science-junkie:

Smithsonian Scientist and Collaborators Revise Timeline of Human Origins

Many traits unique to humans were long thought to have originated in the genus Homo between 2.4 and 1.8 million years ago in Africa. Although scientists have recognized these characteristics for decades, they are reconsidering the true evolutionary factors that drove them. […]

[Smithsonian paleoanthropologist] Richard Potts developed a new climate framework for East African human evolution that depicts most of the era from 2.5 million to 1.5 million years ago as a time of strong climate instability and shifting intensity of annual wet and dry seasons. This framework, which is based on Earth’s astronomical cycles, provides the basis for some of the paper’s key findings, and it suggests that multiple coexisting species of Homo that overlapped geographically emerged in highly changing environments.

“Unstable climate conditions favored the evolution of the roots of human flexibility in our ancestors,” said Potts, curator of anthropology and director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “The narrative of human evolution that arises from our analyses stresses the importance of adaptability to changing environments, rather than adaptation to any one environment, in the early success of the genus Homo.”

Read the article

Map: Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism.
Thousands of schools in states across the country can use taxpayer money to cast doubt on basic science in the name of a particular religion.
Map: Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism.

Thousands of schools in states across the country can use taxpayer money to cast doubt on basic science in the name of a particular religion.

A Fascinating Study of How Creationists Understand Early Human Fossils

Young-earth creationists don’t ignore science. Instead, they reinterpret it to fit their belief system. One paleontologist was curious to find out what they teach about human ancestry, and how they interpret early human fossils. Here’s what he found out.

skeptv:

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Cute Bonobos

Bonobos are the only ape that doesn’t kill. And unlike any other ape, bonobos help each other out (a lot like humans do). Through the use of “bonobo TV,” researchers found that bonobos’ yawns are contagious (also like humans). But while they have humanlike traits, their biggest threat comes from humans.

Learn what bonobo research reveals about human kindness: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/06/140610-bonobos-great-apes-animals-science-evolution/

via National Geographic.


New Creationist Documentary – Same Old Nonsense

Creation.com, the authors of “15 questions for ‘evolutiontionists’ that that they have already answered but we are going to continue to ignore those answers,” has recently release a trailer for their new movie where they apparently found 15 PhDs who are willing to embarrass themselves by documenting their scientific illiteracy. The film is “Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels,” and if the trailer is any indication, it is just a repackaging of the same creationist lies that have been exposed for decades.

The trailer starts out with the claim, “Most evolutionists have never critically examined their own position.” That is, if you don’t count the last 150 years of scientific examination, thousands of published peer-reviewed papers, and dozens of popular books carefully (what’s that word?) examining the evidence for evolution. We can add to that now the countless websites and blog posts critically examining every question creationists endlessly raise. Seriously, such a claim is either a bald-faced lie, or evidence of profound intellectual laziness.

The next series of “Achilles’ Heel” shockers is based on a misunderstanding of biology, genetics, and evolution. The voice on the trailer claims that mutation and natural selection “work in the wrong direction,” and so “how does evolution work?”

You can see where they are going with this. In their 15 questions propaganda, #3 states that mutations cannot add specific information, because mutations “degrade” information. Then #4 repeats the canard that natural selection only removes unfit genetics from the population, and does not add anything.

It states:

Mutations are known for their destructive effects, including over 1,000 human diseases such as hemophilia. Rarely are they even helpful. But how can scrambling existing DNA information create a new biochemical pathway or nano-machines with many components, to make ‘goo-to-you’ evolution possible?

These statements represent a fundamental misunderstanding of biology and genetics. The notion that mutations degrade the information in DNA, are inherently harmful, or that they “scramble” DNA is all nonsense. It assumes that one configuration of DNA is inherently better than another, or that there is a “correct” sequence for any gene – mutations can only “degrade” this information.

The truth is that the DNA sequence of any organism is already a complicated mess, because it evolved from the bottom up, and was not designed from the top down. Everything is a mutation – mutations are just change, they don’t inherently “degrade.” Most mutations have little or no effect – they don’t change the amino acid sequence, or they change one amino acid to another similar amino acid that has little or no effect on the protein structure or function. When mutations do change the function of a protein, it can be neutral, harmful, beneficial, or have mixed results with some benefits and some detriments. Benefit and harm, however, often need to be viewed in the context of the organism and their current environment and survival strategies.

They actually use the word “devolving” – there’s no such thing. All such change over time is evolution. The concept of “devolving” implies that there is a preferred direction to evolutionary change. Their isn’t. Again – all the creationists document is their own ignorance of the science they presume to criticize….

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Evolutionists use dinosaurs to reach children more than anything to promote their worldview. Our museum uses dinosaurs to help tell their true history according to the Bible.

Irony overload from Ken Ham, Dir of the Creation Museum

(Source: The Huffington Post)

skeptv:

The Scopes Monkey Trial Explained in 5 Minutes

A super fast overview of this historic trial in 1925 that began to redefine how we teach science in our public school system.

via Keith Hughes.