2006 Web Sites of the Month
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Web Site of the Month - January 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

This month’s web site review looks at the information found in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, regarding the recent court case in Pennsylvania involving the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. It is interesting to note how quickly this information has found its way into the online encyclopedia.

The information about the court case is organized as follows:

A summary of the court case is provided before the detailed content information described above. What is unique about the Wikipedia is that the information in the encyclopedia is linked to other articles in the encyclopedia. In the summary of the case you will find links to information about the United States federal courts, public school districts, intelligent design, evolution, plaintiffs, creationism, Establishment Clause, First Amendment and many other topics.

In the Decision section you will find a link (http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf) that provides the 139-page decision the judge wrote for this case. Typical of court documents, you may need to find a lawyer to help you understand why the judge ruled as he did.

Web Site of the Month - February 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

How Could Sex Evolve, and Why?

“Sex was invented just once, perhaps two billion years ago, by a single celled organism. Plants and animals both have sexual reproduction because they both inherited it from their common ancestor. And, at the beginning, there were no ‘males’ and ‘females’. At first, sex was between two single cells that were equals.”

Since this is February, and since Valentine’s Day reminds us to remember the opposite sex, I think it is interesting to consider the question, “How could sex evolve?” If an organism mutated into a female, who would it mate with? This month’s web site tries to answer the question. The web site simply asserts that sex evolved, then provides more details by discussing what a eukaryote is and that it can be haploid or diploid. A haploid cell has a single copy of its genetic information and a diploid cell has two copies, one from each parent.

The discussion then continues by talking about the following subjects:

  1. How did haploid get to be diploid?
  2. What was the advantage?
  3. What about multicellular organisms?
  4. Why have males and females?

These are all interesting subjects to consider. The answer provided for the advantage to sexual reproduction is interesting in that if you believe in evolution you must also believe that sex would never have evolved unless it offered some immediate reproductive advantage.

Web Site of the Month - March 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

Public Divided on Origins of Life

“Religion a Strength and Weakness for Both Parties”

This month's web site review looks at a recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. On the main web page you learn that the Forum was launched in 2001 and "seeks to promote a deeper understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Forum pursues its mission by delivering timely, impartial information to national opinion leaders, including government officials and journalists. As a nonpartisan, non-advocacy organization, the Forum does not take positions on policy debates."

The survey was reported on August 30, 2005 and was based on telephone interviews conducted among a nationwide sample of 2,000 adults, 18 years of age or older, from July 7-17, 2005.

The portion of the survey that is of interest in the evolution vs. creation debate is the section entitled Evolution & Creationism. The survey reports that "Most Americans believe that God was responsible for the creation of life on earth but divide on the question of whether and how life has changed since the creation. Overall, 78% say God created life on earth, while 5% think a universal spirit or higher power was responsible for the creation." The division is that 48% of Americans say that humans and other living things have evolved over time and 42% say that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

Interesting details about these and other views such as the teaching of evolution in schools is presented. You can download the complete survey as a 46-page pdf file.

Web Site of the Month - April 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

News-Medical.Net (Ev)

“… the tendency to be prejudiced is a form of common sense, hard-wired into the human brain through evolution …”

Since it is April, and April 1 often is used as a day to try to fool people into believing things that are not true, I found a news alert on the Internet that provides an interesting example of what passes as an informed scientific study conducted by an American University.

A new study published by Arizona State University in the May 2005 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that “Contrary to what most people believe, the tendency to be prejudiced is a form of common sense, hard-wired into the human brain through evolution as an adaptive response to protect our prehistoric ancestors from danger.”

The ASU researchers had 235 European American students at ASU express their prejudices about nine different groups: activist feminists, African Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, fundamentalist Christians, gay men, Mexican Americans, Native Americans and nonfundamentalist Christians. “Some groups elicited prejudices characterized largely by fear, others by disgust, others by anger, and so on. Moreover, the different ‘flavors’ of prejudice were associated with different patterns of perceived threat.”

How the researchers arrived at the conclusion that prejudice “is a form of common sense, hard-wired into the human brain through evolution” is not clear. You have to read the whole news alert for yourself and see if you can figure it out. What is interesting and puzzling from the standpoint of evolution is that the researchers suggest “we create different interventions to reduce inappropriate prejudices against different groups.”

Web Site of the Month - May 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

The Panda’s Thumb (Ev+)

This month’s web site review looks at a site that uses the currently in vogue features of a web log or blog to discuss topics related to creation and evolution. In the description section of the blog it states that

The Panda's Thumb is the virtual pub of the University of Ediacara. The patrons gather to discuss evolutionary theory, critique the claims of the antievolution movement, defend the integrity of both science and science education, and share good conversation.

Blogs are interesting in that they allow the reader to post comments to the topic under discussion. This ability however makes it necessary for the blog developer to post a disclaimer such as you find on this web site, which states that

Authors are solely responsible for the content of their articles on PandasThumb.org. Linked material is the responsibility of the party who created it. Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org.

By following the disclaimer link, you will find a list of the crew or contributors to The Panda’s Thumb and some brief biographical information about each one. Twenty six different individuals are mentioned.

Topics under discussion in May 2006 include

  1. The Evolution of Cooperation: Hawks, Doves, Ravens and Starlings
  2. Animalcules
  3. Privates by Satan
  4. A call to action in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and many others.

I believe this web will provide the reader with a good introduction as to how blogs can be used to discuss various topics using current internet technology.

Web Site of the Month - June 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

Developmental Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago (Ev)

“Evolution and development are intimately linked: one is the product of the other.”

This month’s web site review looks at a site that provides some information about evo devo, or Developmental Evolutionary Biology. If you enter evodevo into the Google search engine you will receive about 34,600 links to sites that discuss this topic. I would probably be right in assuming that most lay people have never heard much about this subject.

On the main page of the University of Chicago site, the question “What is Developmental Evolutionary Biology and how is it studied at the University of Chicago?” is answered as follows: “Evolution and development are intimately linked: one is the product of the other. Developmental evolution provides an essential key to understanding biological form and diversity. While evolution is an unprogrammed non-repeating historical process, development is a predictable process repeated in each lifecycle. However, for evolution to occur, developmental programs must change.”

The field of evo devo provides the students at the University with research topics such as:

  1. Vertebrates
  2. Invertebrates
  3. Plants
  4. Neurobiology
  5. Paleontology
  6. Molecular Evolution
  7. Developmental Mechanisms
  8. Population Genetics.

The site also provides a link that provides a list of courses and seminars that are available to graduate students training as developmental evolutionary biologists. The list is interesting in that it shows how only evolution is considered to be a valid explanation for questions arising in the field of biology.

Web Site of the Month - July 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

Creationism vs. Science (Cr)/(Ev)

"Why it’s Pistols at Dawn for The Beginning"

This month’s web site review discusses a guest column found on the nakedscientist.com web site of the University of Cambridge. From their web site we learn that, “The Naked Scientists are a media-savvy group of physicians and researchers from Cambridge University who use radio, live lectures, and the Internet to strip science down to its bare essentials, and promote it to the general public. Their award winning BBC weekly radio programme, The Naked Scientists, reaches a potential audience of 6 million listeners across the east of England, and also has an international following on the web.”

The guest column under discussion was written by Dr. Guy Brandon of the University of Cambridge. He makes the observation that Creationists and Evolutionists are “actually fighting on different battle fields.” He believes Creationists concern themselves with who and Evolutionists with how when it comes to questions regarding creation and evolution. He believes that the two sides are “speaking in different languages and defending completely different subjects.”

He then discusses the example of the Bombardier Beetle. He states that Creationists often use this as an example of “irreducible complexity” and counters that others have presented this example with a viable model of microevolution.

He concludes his column by stating that “If science sticks to answering the ‘how’ and theology to the ‘who and why’, then maybe the brawl about The Beginning will hear the final bell.”

Web Site of the Month - August 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

The Case for Creationism… (Cr)/(Ev)

“There is some amazing science that can more reasonably be used as evidence for a Creator”

This month’s web site review discusses another guest column found on the nakedscientist.com web site.  Last month’s review provided detailed information about this group.

The writer of the guest column is Dr. Martin Westwell, Oxford, UK.  He is very outspoken when he says “As a scientist, my overriding objection is that Creationism has no part to play in science lessons. The lack of a scientific approach and any physical evidence for a Creator makes [sic] the teaching of Creationism in science lessons a [sic] complete nonsense. Faced with the overwhelming evidence for planetary formation and biological evolution, I find it hard to understand how rational people can believe in a divine being that created everything -- but they do.”

What he says next is very interesting and seems to contradict what he has said before.  He states that “there is some amazing science that can more reasonably be used as evidence for a Creator”.  The science he is referring to is found in the book “Just Six Numbers” written by the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, who points out that “a viable Universe that can support life can only form when six physical constants have certain values”.

The six constants are n, epsilon, omega, lambda, q and d.  By searching the internet for “Just Six Numbers” you can find numerous reviews of the book that provide more details about how important these constants are for life to exist and the part they play in the creation versus evolution debate.

Web Site of the Month - September 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

Creation & Evolution (Cr+)

"Two of the most important and serious questions people ever ask are surely, ‘Who or what am I?’ and, ‘How did I come to be here, on earth?’”

This month’s web site review looks at a book available on the internet written by Douglas Spanner, who is a retired Professor Emeritus of Plant Biophysics at London University.  He is also an ordained theologian.  You can download the book in a printer friendly pdf format, 181 pages, or read it online.

The home page provides links to the table of contents of the book, which contains:

  1. Foreword
  2. Introduction
  3. God, the Cosmos and the Bible
  4. Approach to Genesis
  5. The Meaning of ‘Creation’ in the Bible
  6. The ‘Six Days’ of Creation
  7. “Special Creation  and ‘Chance’
  8. The Primal Creation
  9. The Garden of Eden, and the coming of Eve
  10. The Temptation, the Fall and the Curse
  11. Adam and Mankind
  12. Contingency, Necessity and the Anthropic Principle
  13. Chance again; and the Origin of Life
  14. Darwinism today
  15. Taking stock of man
  16. Creation: how do we picture it?
  17. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter”
  18. Epilogue
  19. Appendix

In the Introduction section Spanner writes that “The purpose of this book therefore is a simple one. It is to commend the biblical doctrine of God as Sovereign Creator. This suffers today from two things: first, propaganda by able popularisers for the neo?Darwinian theory of evolution, propaganda which is very widely and effectively put across on the media; and second (and worse), the sad ignorance of most men and women of science and of the educated public of the Bible's profound teaching, and the hasty and in fact rather naive way anti-Darwinists often respond.”

Web Site of the Month - October 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

The Myth Collapses: The Theory of Evolution

“In the West, the theory of evolution continues to be promoted as if it were a proven fact or a secure, testable and tested law…”

This month’s web site review looks at an article on a web site that seeks to provide the reader some insights into the creation versus evolution controversy.  Only by clicking on the home page link of the article does the reader learn that the site is actually promoting understanding Islam.  The quote about “In the West…” probably should have been a clue.  Nevertheless, the article provides some interesting insights into why the theory of evolution is really a myth.

After a brief introduction, the article focuses on three main areas:

  1. The origin of life
  2. The problem of transitional forms
  3. The ideological background to the theory

The article closes with a short conclusion.

The section on the origin of life makes the following statement:  “To have any enduring claim to viability the theory of evolution must explain the origin of life in its own terms. It must be able to answer the question, ‘How did life evolve from non-living forms?’ It needs also to explain how the notion of ‘selection for survival’ operates before life exists, to explain how ‘life’ is the best way for non-living forms to exist longer.”  This is certainly something to think about.

The problem of transitional forms is discussed in detail in the middle of the article.

The part of the article that discusses the ideological background of the theory of evolution makes some interesting observations about why evolution became popular in the 1860’s.

All in all, it is interesting to see how the theory of evolution is viewed by people from the East.

Web Site of the Month - November 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

Scientists Endorse Candidate Over Teaching of Evolution

“In an unusual foray into electoral politics, 75 science professors at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland have signed a letter endorsing a candidate for the Ohio Board of Education.”

Since November is the month for local and state elections, I thought I would search the web for sites discussing how the creation versus evolution question plays out in electoral politics.

The site I found was an article published in the New York Times on October 26, 2006.  The article points out that scientists in Ohio “have been campaigning for candidates who support the teaching of evolution and have recruited at least one biologist from out of state to help”.  The scientists want to oust Deborah Owens Fink from the Ohio Board of Education since she is “a leading advocate of curriculum standards that encourage students to challenge the theory of evolution”.

Please read the article and decide for yourself how the press is trying to influence public opinion regarding the teaching of evolution in our schools.

The same article is published in the San Francisco Chronicle under the title “Professors unite in Ohio’s political battle over evolution”.

Web Site of the Month - December 2006
by Lothar Janetzko

Creation News

“The Northwest Creation Network serves the community as a source of creation science related news.”

This month’s web site review looks at a site that serves as a source of creation science related news. The Northwest Creation Network comes from Mountlake Terrace, Washington. The network also provides an email announcement service that was established in June 2001.

On the home page of the Creation News site you will find links to the following featured subjects:

  1. Origin of Life
  2. Anthropology
  3. Astronomy
  4. Archaeology
  5. Catastrophes
  6. Cosmology
  7. Debates
  8. Dinosaurs
  9. Fraud
  10. Genetics
  11. Geology
  12. Intel-Design
  13. Living Fossils
  14. Legal Trials
  15. Noah’s Ark
  16. Schools

You will also find links to

  1. Northwest Creation Events
  2. Local, US and International Events
  3. Creation News Sources
  4. Secular Science News

The home page also has links to Recent Headlines. Here you will find a short description of the topic under discussion and the link to the original material. Many interesting subjects are covered. Past headlines are archived and sorted topically.

The web site also maintains a complete list of offsite creation news services.

I am sure if you explore this web site you will find a great deal of information that will prove helpful when discussing creation versus evolution questions.

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