Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And you think fish are dull?

THIS is an example of why I think science and nature are thrilling, magnificent and awesome (all three terms to be taken literally).

Yes, this fish really DOES have a transparent head.

Click here for PZ Myers, blogging at Pharyngula, who is (tragically for me) much more eloquent and informed than I can ever hope to be.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Darwin Day - Botswana Guardian

Thursday 12th February 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and this year is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s great work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

This is surely something to celebrate.

Very few scientists or thinkers have been able to revolutionise the way we think about our origins, our planet and our future. Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin are probably the two that have had the greatest impact of them all. Each of them changed our entire world-view and what’s more, each of them has repeatedly been proved largely correct. The nature of science is itself evolutionary, theories are slowly adjusted, corrected and redirected but both Einstein and Darwin have been shown to be fundamentally correct.

Darwin’s discovery of natural selection as an explanation for our origins was truly remarkable. It explained, as some had already thought, that superstition was no longer needed to explain our origins. Darwin’s alternative explanation was based on the observation that each generation varies slightly from it’s parents and the one best suited to it’s environment will be the one most likely to pass on it’s genes to it’s children. Over many generations the species will adapt slightly to become more suited to it’s environment. Nature, not a mystical being, selects who will pass on their genes. It’s elegant, scientific and, above all, demonstrably true.

Despite what some religious groups maintain, nobody has been able to disprove the theory. The evidence is there in the fossil record, showing an enormous picture of gradual change over the millions of years life has existed on Earth. Huge numbers of so-called “transitional fossils” have been found, showing the forms of life that occurred between other forms, bridging the gaps between the two.

Evidence for evolution can be seen around us. Our bodes are so obviously similar to other creatures, our DNA is so closely related to our ape cousins, even some of the ways we behave demonstrate our origins.

Evolution can even be seen around us. Tragically HIV is one of the best examples of an evolving organism. HIV has evolved in the years we’ve know of it’s existence. We all know about growing antibiotic resistance, the difficulty in fighting TB and malaria, all of those are examples of evolution in action. Why are we so special that it hasn’t happened to us as well? It takes us perhaps 20-30 years before we reproduce whereas bacteria do it in minutes. It’s no surprise that it’s not obvious to the naked eye how humans evolve.

Unfortunately poor Darwin had his memory tarnished by a series of liars following his death. Despite what you night hear, Darwin didn’t convert to religion on his deathbed, he didn’t say an eye couldn’t emerge by natural selection and he didn’t change his mind about evolution at any point. All those stories were made up by liars who weren’t prepared to accept the evidence.

As has been said before, “Darwin took us to a hilltop from which we could look back and see the way we came.” His discovery improved humanity enormously. We should celebrate Darwin and everything he did for us. Happy Birthday Charles.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A very funny video clip from the Australian "Today Tonight" show on Scientology including the legendary L Ron Hubbard's own voice describing the alien nonsense.

Watch and enjoy!