Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Chronicles from Hurricane Country

If you want to see some wonderful bird and insect pictures check out Elissa Malcohn's post at her blog:

Chronicles from Hurricane Country: Habitat

I have only seen Owlflies a couple of times and I'm an entomologist.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Endless Forms Most Beautiful

If you want a good read, I strongly recommend Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful, briefly discussed earlier. This is a great synthesis of that branch of biology called evolutionary developmental biology(Evo Devo) which sits at the intersection of evolution and developmental biology and which is just beginning to go mainstream.

Triple Labeled Drosophila Larva. Used with permission:

Carroll makes the case that I try to pound into my students-namely that living things and the processes that go on in them are united by common descent and he does it with lots of cool examples that will quickly find themselves incorporated into my teaching and into my thinking about population genetics and evolution.

The last chapter is particularly relevant here in Kansas where the evolution vs Intelligent Design "controversy" is in full swing. To briefly summarize and comment:

Carroll reminds us of the scientific illiteracy of the United States compared to other countries: for example 52 percent of Americans do not know that the earliest humans did not live with dinosaurs. This is a problem for biology since as we know, evolution is the basis for biology as a science.

He then argues that we ought to stop teaching that evolution in terms of change in gene frequencies since that rapidly becomes abstract, and toward a discussion of the evolution of form. He may have a point and I think back to my own undegraduate days where I was most influenced by Thomas Eisner's little book on animal adaptation.

"Let's show students embryos, Hox clusters, stripes, spots and all the glory of making of animal form. The evolutionary concepts will follow naturally."

From Gene to Pattern. Used with permission:

He doesn't ignore population genetics and natural selection and clearly understands the power of selection to shape adaptations. Indeed he argues that we need to show students how even small fitness differences can lead to profound evolutionary changes over time. Nicholas Wade in Before the Dawn makes a similar point.

On another point Carroll directly address Behe's Darwin's Black Box and notes that Behe expected to find evidence of the creator when the black box of the cell was opened, but instead when opened, there is another type of genetics-developmental genetics.

Other Links and References:

Carroll Sean(2005) Endless Forms Most Beautiful. W.W. Norton NY. xi + 350p

Sean Carroll's home page(

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Identity police strike again

Sometimes my Church really screws up. The choir director, Joseph Nadeau, at St. Agnes Church in Roeland Park KS. was fired for being gay and refusing to sign a paper saying that being gay is a disorder and also that he had to be celibate and give up his other job, directing the Heartland Men's Chorus.

Apparently a group of conservative parishioners complained, and the campaign against Nadeau became quite nasty according to

"... In 2003, a group of conservative parishioners started campaigning against Nadeau, who they saw as an emissary of a movement to "legitimize homosexuality at the parish level."

...Members collected signatures on petitions to the papal nuncio, while an anonymous group stapled pictures of Nadeau to ads of underwear-clad men and slipped them under churchgoers' windshields..."

Now, I understand that my church considers homosexuality intrinsically disordered, but Catholics are supposed to treat gays compassionately and the Church even recognizes that homosexuality is not a simple matter of choice; this is quite clear in the new Catechism which states:

" The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. The do not choose their homosexual condition, for most of them it is a trial."

Later on of course the Church says that homosexuals are called to chastity, and given the Church's teachings about sex outside the context of marriage consistent. But as much as I might respect the teaching authority of the Church, the Church does not have a monopoly on the truth and ought to step back and look at the whole person.

Here you have a person, who enriched his parish and his community through his work with the Heartland Men's Chorus. I don't know if he is chaste or not, but if he disagrees with the Church's position on homosexuality as a matter of conscience, that is his prerogative and ought not by itself be grounds for dismissal. A person ought not be punished for leading a basically good life but trying to live an authentic life.

The real sin here might just be the conservative parishioners and Church leaders who tried to force a member of the Church to live a lie.

As the executive director of the Chorus said recently in the Kansas City Star:

"How can a minister be a spiritual nurturer, he asked, if he or she is not able to live honestly?"

How indeed.


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Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Hidden Gem

Most Lawrence people are familiar with Clinton Lake, and the associated State Park and perhaps the Marina, but the wildlife Refuge along the west arm of the Lake and the Wakarusa River are worth a visit because it gives a nice glimpse of what the Wakarusa valley must have been like before Clinton dam was built. Plus, there is lots of new habitat amidst the mixed deciduous forest.

My son Norman has been there several times and we decided to spend a quiet afternoon, hiking and talking.

This image shows a bit of swampy area formed when a creek flowing into the Wakarusa is interrupted by a dirt road leading to a nice fishing area.

There are a number of maintenance roads, worth hiking along, one of which leads to a new marshy area, quite extensive. We saw great blue herons, unfortunately too far away for me to get pictures.

Much of the surrounding land appears to be leased by farmers, who are just planting now. But I don't know what is planted here. We scared up several several snakes. What is really nice here is that you are so far from the main lake that you cannot hear the sounds of cars or motorboats; just the birds.

My camera doesn't take good closeups but I end with some buggy pictures. This first one is a sweat bee, I believe an Augochlora, a beautiful metallic green bee. In addition in some of the open areas there were beautiful green tiger beetles, but they were too fast for me to snap.

Here are some leaf footed bugs on dogwood. Very impressive bugs indeed; they must have been 3/4 inch long!

A cool spider we found under a log. I am not sure what kind, but she's pretty good size!

Obviously this part of the lake is not everyone's cup of tea. Indeed if you don't know what this plant is, you probably ought to stay away.

To get to this part of the lake, go south over the dam to County Road 458 and follow that around to the West side of the lake. Just after the second bridge over the main west arm of the lake, 458, jogs left. There is a not too obvious brown sigh that says Clinton Wildlife refuge. Follow 100E South as far as you can go.

This map shows the spot. We were on the North side of the river around Coblentz marsh. Also the map shows 100 E going over the river but I wouldn't count on that. If you want to go to the boat ramp. Looks like 1023 to 950N is your best bet.

For those not so familiar with the Clinton Lake area and not into the sort of creative driving(As my wife calls it) that I enjoy the complete map is at the Clinton Lake Project home page.

Other links:
Good overview of the Clinton Lake area from the Baldwin City website.
Another overview from Douglas County.
Good maps of areas for wildlife viewing.
A student written review of the Wakarusa Valley and associated regions.

The aerial overview is worth reproducing here:
East of Clinton Dam, land use along the Wakarusa is a big issue as this
link from the local Sierra Club discussing the 'South Lawrence Trafficway', shows.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

A Primer on Evo Devo

From Mike the Mad Biologist comes this wonderful review( of several books on evolution and development. This is the ideal review, one that not so much reviews the books in question but the reviewers critically examine the concepts and thereby come up with something new.


Edward Ziff, Israel Rosenfield (May 11, 2006) Evolving Evolution. New York Review of Books 53(8)

Integrins and animals

In an earlier post I mentioned the idea that animals have an extracellular matrix and that integrins receive information through and about the goings on in the extracellular matrix. Integrins are cell membrane proteins consisting of an alpha subunit and a beta subunit that work together to communicate between the extracellular matrix components. In addition integrins are critical for cell movement and allow cells to move in response to various environmental signals, including mechanical stress (

Indeed there is actually a complex integrin signaling pathway involved in cell development and movement, the details of which can be found on BioCarta. If you are not familiar with this site, it visually shows important metabolic processes and the human genes associated with the proteins involved in these processes. For instance the integrin signaling pathway shown at BioCarta involves an alpha and beta integrin coded for by the genes ITGA1 and ITGB1.

These two integrin subunits appear to be involved in nerve and collagen regeneration.

To try to gain some insight about integrins, I did a blastp using the alpha and beta subunit amino acid sequences for the proteins coded by the ITGA1 and ITGB1 genes. The alpha subunit gave the following conserved domains:

According to the conserved domain summary, the VWA (red)domains appears to be specific to vertebrates and mediate protein interactions between the extracellular matrix and the cell. Significant alignments are found only in chordates with one exception, namely the green sea urchin-not too suprising since Echinoderms and chordates are believed to be closely related.

The blue domains are called beta propeller repeats and they are characteristic of integrins. These propellers have a sequence of amino acids that repeats seven times. A beta propeller structure is in this figure made with the Cn3D protein structure viewer. These repeats have regions that apparently bind calcium ions, which is interesting since these ions are often involved in signaling, for instance as part of muscle contraction.

Since I am always suspicious when a protein seems to have no relatives in bacteria I used NCBI's conserved domain feature to look for related architectures and found 66 references to integrin like proteins in bacteria. The function of these proteins in bacteria is not known but at least some are probably cell membrane proteins. See for instance, Nascimento et al (2004), Journal of Bacteriology, p. 2164-2172, discussing the spirochete Leptospira interrogans. The evidence for this is the presence of seven seven FG-GAP repeats that are highly conserved in the beta propeller repeats of integrins.

As pointed out by this article bacteria often form biofilms consisting of other bacteria and various compounds and perhaps integrins evolved in this context.

For the ITGB1 subunit I found a precursor protein sequence (
NP_596867) through NCBI and found there is only one conserved domain called INB which is part of the extracellular component of the polypeptide. Here are the similar domains:

It's interesting that abnormalities in genes for some of the proteins containing some of these domains relate to cellular mechanosensory problems. This makes sense because of the influence the beta subunit has on actin.

The tie in with bacterial proteins gets a bit murky. Most of the related proteins appear to be related to transcription, but one in E. coli may be related to the evolution of it's flagellar mechanism, according to CP Ren et al (
J Bacteriol. 2005 Feb;187(4):1430-40)

While there is a lot not known about integrins, it appears that the integrins may not be so unique after all, and that at least in the alpha subunits, we evidence that the genes coding for these proteins can be traced back to the prokaryotes. This is perhaps a similar story to the Homeobox region of the Hox genes involved in animal development being homologous to certain bacterial genes. But that is yet another story, again related to what makes an animal an animal. See the Carroll reference cited below.

References and other links:

Jun Qin, Olga Vinogradova, Edward F. Plow (2004) Integrin Bidirectional Signalling: A Molecular View.
PLoS Biology 2(6):0726-0729

A good discussion of how integrins send signals into and out of animal cells and the structure of integrins.

E Ruoslahti (1991) Integrins. J Clin Invest. 87(1): 1–5

Clear diagram of the types of interactions between cells and their environment mediated by integrins.



Carroll, Sean(2005) Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Norton,NY. xi + 350p

I am currently in the middle of this book dealing with the connection between evolution and development or "evo devo". A big theme of this book is that evolution often involves using the same tools in new ways.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Religion and Science

Currently I am reading Nicholas Wade's book on the origin and evolution of humans, Before the Dawn- a wonderful book focusing on new insights gleaned from genetic research. What I like about this book is that he does not shy way from sensitive subjects such as the role of warfare in human evolution, the reality of racial differences, or the origin of religion.

About religion Wade develops several arguments, first is the role of religion as a force for social cohesion and this is a fairly standard idea. But then he introduces what to me was a new wrinkle on this argument, building on arguments by late anthropologist Roy Rappaport. Wade argues that the development of language allowed the elaboration of reciprical altruism in human societies. With this elaboration came greater opportunities for 'freeloaders' to cheat the system by deception. There must be "...some context in which statements were reliably and indubitably true."

Wade argues that scared truths which are unverifiable and unfalsifiable along with the communal rituals of religion provide committed individuals with defense "against the lie" and he provides good examples of this aspect of religion operating even today, for instance among Orthodox Jews in the diamond district seal even large contracts with a handshake. So the defense against the the lie allows enhanced trust between members of the community. Presumably repeated participation in the rituals of religion provides a measure of verification that the trust is warranted, making freeloaders easier to detect.

Turning to science, which is too recent a development for Wade to consider, scientists are interested in true statements and having some defense against the lie just as in religion. The difference between science and religion is in the nature of the defense against the lie. In religion that defense is sacred word and ritual (I would submit that this even true in Zen which attempts to get beyond words and rituals. In science the defense is empirical verification. That after all is why scientific results are communicated through a very formal process involving communication not only of conclusions but also the evidence and how that evidence was arrived at. There are freeloaders in science but just as repeated participation in the word and ritual of religion catches many freeloaders, independent verification in science reduces the amount of freeloading in science.

Science and religion are not the same, and this is true even though scientists may at times make metaphysical statements. The difference is best encapsulated with a statement I saw yesterday on a church announcement board on MY way to church:

"Does the clay question the potter?" The implication of the statement seems to be that we should not question God, and that we should be accepting of what gifts we have from God. I have no quibble with that as a religious statement. But of course with the various manufactured controversies in the public mind here in Kansas about evolution, the question takes on an added dimension, whether intended or not. This is because as made abundantly clear by Wade, we are not clay(thought we may have come from clay) and we do question the potter. When other scientists make statements we insist on some sort of empirical verification. So scientists too are concerned about uncovering the freeloader but we rely on experimental evidence and empiricism to be the decider, not adherence to sacred truth and ritual.

So here perhaps the conflict between science and religion cut to its core: a conflict between ways of uncovering the lie. If as Wade argues, the religious impulse is innate and shaped by the evolutionary process, then this may explain the intractability of the the conflict. Scientists often expect that reason and critical thinking will prevail when dealing with Creationism in it's various manifestations, including intelligent design. And yet, it has been my experience that reason and critical do not work when talking with Creationists at least not in the short run. We end up sliding past each other because we are not arguing on the same levels. The Creationist is arguing from an innate emotive level in defense of "sacred truth" and the scientist is arguing what may also be an innate emotive level only this time transferred to a defense of reason and empiricism.


Rappaport, Roy A(1971) Ritual, Sanctity, and Cybernetics,
American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 73(1) , pp. 59-76 (abstract)

Wade, Nicholas(2006) Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors. Penguin Press NY. 312 pp

Other links:

Talk of the Nation, April 28, 2006 · Reporter Nicholas Wade talks about how DNA analysis is rewriting our recent -- and ancient -- history, including a better understanding the evolution of humans. His new book is Before the Dawn: Recovering The Lost History of Our Ancestors.

Science and Spirit (Review of Wade's book).

PLOS Genetics. Turning the Tables: An interview with Nicholas Wade.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Medicine, Ethics, and Publishers

Surprise! A study in the recent JAMA (Paul M Ridker, MD; Jose Torres, BA
JAMA. 2006;295:2270-2274
. ) found that cardiovascular studies funded by drug companies tended to be biased towards new treatments. This relates to a little ethical problem we have at my school. A publisher of introductory biology texts and laboratory manuals has offered us a great deal: a $2,000 grant if we adapt their package for our introductory course. The grant is to the school for lab supplies and it sounds on the surface like a great deal.

But it bothers me because it seems like we are being pressured to accept this deal at the expense of really looking at other books. Since sometimes I am overly sensitive about such things I asked my wife about the ethics of such things. Can for instance a drug rep tie adaptation of a drug to some sort of favor. Clearly illegal in medicine. How about if the favor is to to the clinic. Still clearly illegal. She pointed out that the situation is much like payola in which DJ's are bribed to play certain songs...again illegal.

Now professors are not quite under the same legal constraints, but it seems to me we are venturing into a ethically problematical area, dealing with something that is legal but not strictly ethical, maybe not all that dissimilar from the situations medical professionals find themselves in, or researchers taking money from private companies to test the efficacy of different therapies.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

What is an animal?

This morning a news item on Yahoo caught my eye. The item concerned a fish disease called whirling disease. The disease is caused by a parasite Myxobolus cerebralis belonging to what normally is considered to be a phylum, Myxozoa in the kingdom Protista and I almost filed the article away mentally into the weird fish parasite mental box. But of course I love organisms with strange life cycles so I decided to take a closer look.

(Myxobolus cerebralis life cycle from

As explained at, this critter has two hosts, a small annelid worm in the genus Tubifex (See also and any number of trout or salmon species. The parasite is yet another old world species that has accidentally been introduced to the United States where it causes problems. In this case since our native trout species did not coevolve with the parasite, they are susceptible to it.

Well darn, it doesn't have a really cool complex life cycle involving 20 intermediate hosts, a stage that looks like a ciliate only its photosynthetic , stuff like that. But a Google search turned up a link ( that made what to me was a startling claim. Namely that the Myxozoa are not Protista at all but highly reduced parasitic Cnidaria (that is at the risk of oversimplification...Jellyfish.!!!).

OK now this is more like it, but of course I want to see the evidence for this and what other scientists think of this idea. Not all radical ideas in science are reasonable contrary to what people who believe in the paranormal or in intelligent design and other superstitions believe. First, the idea that Myxozoa are related to Cnidaria is supported by the apparent homology between a Myxozoan stage called a polar body and the nematocyst ( a kind of stinging cell in Cnidaria). See Siddall's comparison at

His phylogeny based both on morphology and ribosomal RNA comparisons places the Myxozoa clearly in the Cnidaria, but I have not examined his data in more detail. In the Tree of Life's Project's phylogeny, the Myxozoa are currently placed as a questionable sister group to the Cnidaria, but firmly in the Metazoa-Metazoa an alternate term for the Kingdom Animalia. See also

The phylogeny of the Eukaryotes as arranged currently by the Tree of Life Project places the Metazoa and other animals, collared flagellates, Fungi and a group of parasitic organisms called microsporidia all together in a grouping called the Opisthokonts. Opisthokonts have a posterior flagellum in those stages of the life cycle that have motile cells as opposed to an anterior flagellum. Think of the difference between an animal sperm and a Euglena, the latter having an anterior flagellum that pulls the organism through it's medium. Seen in the context of Eukaryote evolution, animals are just part of this larger lineage which is in turn just a small section of eukaryote evolutionary history.

See Armstrong( for a good review of Eukaryote Phylogeny. Indeed we are still trying to make sense of all the different eukaryote groups. Armstrong argues that the 'old' six Kingdom concept no longer is a viable idea since as the relationships between all the lineages becomes clearer the Kingdom Protista does not work for instance because Protista clearly are in the same evolutionary group or clade as plants, but distinct from the other Protista.

This gets into the whole area of cladistics, a method of attempting to reconstruct evolutionary or phylogenetic relationships between different groups of organisms. From the cladistic perspective a natural group has to include the common ancestor of all members of the group and it's descendents.

So what is an animal? Animals generally share or are derived from organisms that share the following characteristics:
  • Animals are multicellular, usually with well differentiated tissues. But not always!
  • Animals are generally diploid and produce haploid gametes via meiosis. In contrast plants produce spores by meiosis and gametes from haploid multicellular stages via mitosis.
  • Animals are heterotrophic or more precisely chemoheterotrophs meaning that they get their energy and carbon from complex organic substances-hamburgers for instance.
  • Animals cells do not have cell walls and animals are unable to digest cellulose, unlike many protists and bacteria. In fact those animals that ingest cellulose such as termites rely on a complex assemblage of single celled organisms in their gut to digest cellulose.
  • Animals produce a diploid zygote from sexual reproduction involving the sperm and the egg and the zygote generally develops into a multicellular larval stage which primitively is free living.
See, and

There is an interesting discussion at the Berkeley site ( that makes a very interesting comment. Animal cells ultimately look very different from each other and the only really unique thing that distinguishes all animal cells from cells of other groups are differences in chemistry and metabolism. I have already mentioned that animal cells don't use and metabolize cellulose and this link notes that animal cells have a complex extracellular matrix made of glycoproteins, collagen. This extracellular matrix is important in animal cell adhesion, communication and development. In a sense, the extracellular matrix, mediates between the cell and it's surroundings. Indeed, all animals appear to have specialized protein receptors called integrins in their cell membranes that receive signals through and about the extracellular matrix.

Integrins are found in some Protista apparently (See
but in animals they have a role in adhesion not found in Protists. So it seems that if one wants to look more closely at the origin of animals maybe these would be good proteins to examine.

So check back later this week for Part 2 of What is an animal...BLASTING for integrins.

Other links:

Myxozoan Network (

The New Animal Phylogeny: Reliability and Implications

Palaeos. (

Evaluating hypotheses of basal animal phylogeny using complete sequences of large and small subunit rRNA (

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Friday, May 12, 2006

New poem.

I haven't had as much time to write poetry this year, something I hope to rectify this summer. So here is a poem actually dedicated to the creationists amongst us that they will become able to hear the conversation of life that is taking place all around us. The poem appears with others on my poetry site, Green Fuse Poetry.

(image from

This poem is inspired by new findings that bacteria actually communicate with each other chemically and often this communication may be between very different species of bacteria that are part of a biofilm. For instance see

Also at the time we had a spate of controversy concerning the teaching of evolution and the press coverage of this controversy in Kansas ( and the two seeming disconnected ideas - bacteria talking and the evolution controversy just made a certain poetic sense to combine. The result is the poem that follows:


Thinking Himself Wise

One long conversation

Me with you and you with the Earth

And the Earth with the Sun

Began with the simplest lines

Joining and breaking words

Without any intention.

The simple begets the complex

And in talking can beget the simple again

Or flow into another conversation,

To, in the ebb and flow of the talk

Become complex

Rising haughty and flush

And deaf to the conversations

In the soil beneath his feet.

Copyright © Paul Decelles May 11, 2006

Other links:

Bacterial Communication and Group Behavior

New Salmonella finding: Inter-bacterial Communication!

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The two cultures

A good quote from Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric.

"At a macro level, I think learning is going to bifurcate society. You're going to see people who want to keep learning, especially about scientific or technical things. They're going to be fine. But those who don't are going to be left behind. There's going to be a broad separation of opportunities between those who keep learning and those who don't."

We know he is right, so why do will continuously send the wrong message to ourselves as a society?

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Blogs for student presentations

My genetics students are required to do a web project and presentation and one of my students decided to use blogger for presenting her project. She had started out using html but found blogger a quick and easy way to get a nice presentation without a lot of fuss.

Check out her project at

She might even appraciate comments.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Audio of the Kansas City Press Club Forum!

Jack Krebs from the Kansas Citizens for Science had the presence of mind to record the JCCC forum I went to the other night. If you hear someone ranting about how dinosaurs are metaphysical speculation, that is Dave Awbrey. Enjoy but don't let your lower jaw disconnect when it drops. Notice his use of the term "postmodern" as if to imply that intelligent design and the sort of mushy thought he uses is anything more than tapioca pudding.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On Bulldogs and the Politics of Intelligent Design

Tonight I attended forum at JCCC entitled Intelligent Design, Intelligent Media:Is coverage accurate hosted by the Kansas City Press Club. This forum consisted of a discussion panel with the following people: Steve Abrams, chair of the Kansas Board of Education, Dave Awbrey Director of Communications of the Board of Education Toby Cook from Fox 4 and a radio journalist, Ben Embry and Dave Helling from the Kansas City Star.

Much of the discussion was quite good, and the moderator, Derek Donovan did the best he could at keeping people on the topic. This was made pretty hard though by Dave Awbrey who immediately came out swinging attacking scientists for not debating the opponents of evolution at last summer's Board of Education "hearings" the science standards. He portrayed scientists as dour, elitist and acting like the Vatican. Now granted I am a liberal Catholic and not always fond of the pronouncements that emanate from the seat of my Church, but I am not sure if I am more insulted as a scientist or as a Catholic at his comments. He railed at scientists for not debating to which Jack Krebs responded from the audience that scientists are are not all dour and that scientists have been debating via peer reviewed journals and other means since the days of Darwin and that alternatives to evolution have lost out in this process.

Awbrey claimed to be "shocked" that the press had not really covered the failure of scientists to debate their opponents, which by the way was disputed by other members of the panel. Somehow Awbrey's comments sounded very much like the conservative board member party line taken by Abrams and the current conservative majority on the BOE. The whole thing with Abrams and Awbrey reminds me of Thomas Huxley who is sometimes referred to as Darwin's Bulldog for his vociferous defense of Darwin's ideas, only this time Awbrey is Abram's Bulldog with the whole thing contrived to make Steve Abrams seem almost moderate.

Of course Steve Abrams complained that he had been characterized in the press as a Fundamentalist Christian. But I think the press can be forgiven for the confusion since Abrams says he is a Christian and believes that the Earth is young, something that is a common characteristic of Fundamentalists last time I checked.

Well the Awbrey - Abrams show got Sue Gamble, one of the liberal Board members just a tad upset, wondering what Mr. Awbrey was doing on the panel. She asked why board members on both sides of the issue were not invited. Certainly a liberal board member board member could provide some different viewpoint of the press coverage. Doesn't Mr. Awbrey work for the whole board, not just one faction? Looks to me as if there is some mighty sticky politics here and some interesting questions about a spokesman, who represents the whole Board, taking sides with one faction versus another.

I suppose one could argue that he was acting as private citizen, but why was he there then speaking the way he did in a panel about media bias no less. Why did he feel the need to come out swinging about the scientists refusal to play along with the BOE's sham hearings last summer? My bet is on the Bulldog wait, hypothesis.

There was in spite of this dog and Master Abrams show, some good discussion of the limitations of the press, one being the time and format constraints the press operates under, another being the fact that journalists are generalists, knowing a little about lots of things. Toby Cook observed that "I am just not smart enough to be an expert on everything" a good admission.

I actually managed to get the last word in and asked why are there not science reporters locally just as there are business reporters or sports reporters or local news reporters? The best answer I could get to that was that science is covered in a number of different areas, business and technology, medicine etc. That's all very nice, but it seems that given the importance of science there ought to be room for reporters that specialize on science reporting in the broad sense. At the very least the mainstream media could avail themselves of some of the wonderful science reporting from say Science Magazine, or the New York Times, which has a wonderful unbiased science section.

Editors are you listening?

By the way in addition to me and Jack Krebs, Harry McDonald and blogger Pat Hayes from Red State Rabble was there. I am sure Pat will have some choice comments on the forum as well.

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