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Corante Blogs examine, through the eyes of leading observers, analysts, thinkers, and doers, critical themes and memes in technology, business, law, science, and culture.

The Press Will Be Outsourced Before Stopped

Vin Crosbie, on the challenges, financial and otherwise, that newspaper publishers are facing: "The real problem, Mr. Newspaperman, isn't that your content isn't online or isn't online with multimedia. It's your content. Specifically, it's what you report, which stories you publish, and how you publish them to people, who, by the way, have very different individual interests. The problem is the content you're giving them, stupid; not the platform its on."
by Vin Crosbie in Rebuilding Media

Travels In Numerica Deserta

There's a problem in the drug industry that people have recognized for some years, but we're not that much closer to dealing with it than we were then. We keep coming up with these technologies and techniques which seem as if they might be able to help us with some of our nastiest problems - I'm talking about genomics in all its guises, and metabolic profiling, and naturally the various high-throughput screening platforms, and others. But whether these are helping or not (and opinions sure do vary), one thing that they all have in common is that they generate enormous heaps of data.
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

Disrobing the Emperor: The online “user experience” isn't much of one

Now that the Web labor market is saturated and Web design a static profession, it's not surprising that 'user experience' designers and researchers who've spent their careers online are looking for new worlds to conquer. Some are returning to the “old media” as directors and producers. More are now doing offline consulting (service experience design, social policy design, exhibition design, and so on) under the 'user experience' aegis. They argue that the lessons they've learned on the Web can be applied to phenomena in the physical and social worlds. But there are enormous differences...
by Bob Jacobson in Total Experience

Second Life: What are the real numbers?

Clay Shirky, in deconstructing Second Life hype: "Second Life is heading towards two million users. Except it isn’t, really... I suspect Second Life is largely a 'Try Me' virus, where reports of a strange and wonderful new thing draw the masses to log in and try it, but whose ability to retain anything but a fraction of those users is limited. The pattern of a Try Me virus is a rapid spread of first time users, most of whom drop out quickly, with most of the dropouts becoming immune to later use."
by Clay Shirky in Many-to-Many

The democratisation of everything

Over the last few years we've seen old barriers to creativity coming down, one after the other. New technologies and services makes it trivial to publish text, whether by blog or by print-on-demand. Digital photography has democratised a previously expensive hobby. And we're seeing the barriers to movie-making crumble, with affordable high-quality cameras and video hosting provided by YouTube or Google Video and their ilk... Music making has long been easy for anyone to engage in, but technology has made high-quality recording possible without specialised equipment, and the internet has revolutionised distribution, drastically disintermediating the music industry... What's left? Software maybe? Or maybe not."
by Suw Charman in Strange Attractor

RNA Interference: Film at Eleven

Derek Lowe on the news that the Nobel Prize for medicine has gone to Craig Mello and Andrew Fire for their breakthrough work: "RNA interference is probably going to have a long climb before it starts curing many diseases, because many of those problems are even tougher than usual in its case. That doesn't take away from the discovery, though, any more than the complications of off-target effects take away from it when you talk about RNAi's research uses in cell culture. The fact that RNA interference is trickier than it first looked, in vivo or in vitro, is only to be expected. What breakthrough isn't?"
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

PVP and the Honorable Enemy

Andrew Phelps: "Recently my WoW guild has been having a bit of a debate on the merits of Player-vs.-Player (PvP) within Azeroth. My personal opinion on this is that PvP has its merits, and can be incredible fun, but the system within WoW is horridly, horribly broken. It takes into account the concept of the battle, but battle without consequence, without emotive context, and most importantly, without honor..."

From later in the piece: "When I talk about this with people (thus far anyway) I typically get one of two responses, either 'yeah, right on!' or 'hey, it’s war, and war isn’t honorable – grow the hell up'. There is a lot to be said for that argument – but the problem is that war in the real historical world has very different constraints that are utterly absent from fantasized worlds..."
by Andrew Phelps in Got Game

Rats Rule, Right?

Derek Lowe: "So, you're developing a drug candidate. You've settled on what looks like a good compound - it has the activity you want in your mouse model of the disease, it's not too hard to make, and it's not toxic. Everything looks fine. Except. . .one slight problem. Although the compound has good blood levels in the mouse and in the dog, in rats it's terrible. For some reason, it just doesn't get up there. Probably some foul metabolic pathway peculiar to rats (whose innards are adapted, after all, for dealing with every kind of garbage that comes along). So, is this a problem?.."
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

Really BAD customer experience at Albertsons Market

Bob Jacobson, on shopping at his local Albertsons supermarket where he had "one of the worst customer experiences" of his life: "Say what you will about the Safeway chain or the Birkenstock billionaires who charge through the roof for Whole Foods' organic fare, they know how to create shopping environments that create a more pleasurable experience, at its best (as at Whole Foods) quite enjoyable. Even the warehouses like Costco and its smaller counterpart, Smart & Final, do just fine: they have no pretentions, but neither do they dump virtual garbage on the consumer merely to create another trivial revenue stream, all for the sake of promotions in the marketing department..."
by Strange Attractor in Total Experience

The Guardian's "Comment is Free"

Kevin Anderson: "First off, I want to say that I really admire the ambition of the Guardian Unlimited’s Comment is Free. It is one of the boldest statements made by any media company that participation needs to be central to a radical revamp of traditional content strategies... It is, therfore, not hugely surprising to find that Comment is Free is having a few teething troubles..."
by Kevin Anderson in strange
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

The Loom

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December 15, 2005

Conservative leader: Intelligent Design is "bull----"

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Posted by Carl Zimmer

Blunt talk from L. Lynn Hogue, conservative law professor from Georgia via Hogue has signed an amicus brief in the Georgia textbook sticker case supporting the removal of the anti-evolution disclaimers. "I'm not religiously sympathetic to anti-evolutionists, who I think are lunatics." Professor Hogue, please drop a line to the President.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Evolution


1. Christopher Heard on December 15, 2005 06:44 PM writes...

Thanks, Carl. I followed your link to the article and found that the part about Hogue is actually less interesting to me than the comments of his successor at the Southeastern Legal Foundation, Shannon Goessling. Ms. Goessling is quoted as saying both "It appears that, on a daily basis, we're bombarded with attacks on Christian expression" and "This is not a separation-of-church-and-state case." So which is it, Ms. Goessling? You can't reasonably characterize the Cobb County issue as "not a separation-of-church-and-state case" and as one of many "attacks on Christian expression." Either the first-quoted sentence above is completely irrelevant to the matter at hand, or Ms. Goessling sees the stickers as "Christian expression," which clearly would make the stickers a separation-of-church-and-state issue. I've got a lot more to say about all this, but it's all over at Higgaion so I won't repeat it here.

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2. Luke Lea on December 16, 2005 12:09 AM writes...

The sticker reads: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."

My only quarrel with this sticker is that evolution is a theory of the origin of species, not the origin of living things. There is no well-accepted theory, and very little evidence, as to the origin of living things.

The question of who is behind the sticker campaign, or what their motives might be, is quite beside the point so far as the legal issue is concerned. I am willing to bet a good bottle of wine that the courts will rule that way. Any takers?

That said, I cannot help but wonder why scientists can't see that it would be a smart tactical move on their part to include a frank discussion of the nature and limitations of science in the preface to every high school science textbook, as a way to keep unsubstantiated theories of intelligent design out of the body of the texts themselves.

Indeed, isn't it time to admit that the question of what, if anything, might conceivably count as evidence for intelligent design is a fascinating subject in its own right. Does the so-called fine-tuning problem in physics count? If not, why not? Why should the anthropic principle be preferred, which assumes the existence of a virtually infinite number of other universes for which we have not an iota of evidence?

Scientists might also be more forthcoming in admitting that chance and intelligent design are not mutually exclusive categories. For example, the chance of throwing snake eyes with a pair of dice is one in thirty-six, but only if the dice themselves have been carefully designed and manufactured to be fair.

But my real point is that the scientific establishment should show a little more respect for the religious sensibilities of the overwhelming majority of American voters. Their belief in the Hebraic conception of God is not only a source of emotional comfort in times of sorrow, but undergirds their sense of moral responsibility towards others. It's neither wise nor responsible to disregard such a widespread belief in a democracy, if only for the sake of the future funding of science.

Luke Lea

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3. jim on December 16, 2005 12:18 PM writes...

need some feedback on those puebla footprints...

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4. Stephen on December 16, 2005 04:12 PM writes...

Scientists have some naming convention karma to work out. When the Vatican said that "Evolution is more than a hypothesis", the terminology was more right than science generally gets it. A hypothesis can be whatever you dream up. Once some good substantiating data backs it up it may migrate to be a theory. It is said, 'The General Theory of Relativity', and 'The Theory of Evolution', which puts Evolution in as much doubt as Gravity. From this viewpoint, the stickers are misleading. So, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" demonstrates ignorance, which parents might want to avoid in textbooks.

What has people up in arms is that the stickers are clearly an attack. The attacks are on science in general, not just Evolution. AnswersInGenesis attacks astronomy, for example
These attacks sound reasoned, but close examination shows them to be nonsense (non-science).

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5. tina on December 17, 2005 09:58 AM writes...

I with you completely agree Luke Lea.

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6. jim on December 17, 2005 12:35 PM writes...

im hearing that some of those puebla/vasquillo footprints "track" thru multiple layers of ash, which means-more recent...

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7. Anonymous on December 19, 2005 02:32 PM writes...

In regards to Luke Lea,

You are correct that the theory of evolution does not directly say how life originated and only provides a model for how species evolve and inherit traits. The defense of evolution, however, if done rationally is neither an attack on religion as the foundation for morality nor disrespectful of its importance to many people. A scientific acceptance of evolution and a belief in religion are not mutually exclusive. And neither does the theory of evolution espouse any morality, these were non-scientific interpretations that used natural selection as a justification and rationalization.

The biggest problems that I see, with having any stickers or frank discussions included in high school textbooks explaining the limitations of science are manifold. One, such a sticker or introduction would be insufficient to explain the ramifications of the philosophy of science and deserves a class of its own. Two, as such the students are there to learn science and these discussion belong in philosophy and theology classes. Three, it places a special burden on science, why not discuss the philosophy of mathematics or history or graphic design? And four there is no scientific controversy or doubt about the basic validity of the theory of evolution. Unless there significant evidence against evolution, and there is not (and those puebla footprints only suggest that humans arrived in the Americas earlier than thought and there is controversy about whether those footprints are real, Nature Dec 1. pg. E7-E8, and data from the discovery team has yet to be published) there should not be a sticker stating that there is.

I can only speak for myself but as a scientists I do NOT think that an acceptance of evolution replaces Christian nor any other morality.

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8. jim on December 20, 2005 10:52 AM writes...

four very good points anon., i was just interested in those footprints, specifically, not as a challenge to anyone-thought i could get a technical discussion going, anyways on the origin of life the idea of panspermia(migration of bacteria in space) was once a crackpot concept but now gaining respect...

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9. Froggy on December 27, 2005 04:10 PM writes...

Excellent observations.
What is science so afraid of that they have to go to court and ban teaching of intelligent design?
Could it be that they fear the loss of their rice bowl?
How does the teaching of intelligent design threaten the teaching of science?
Are they afraid of the side by side comparison?
Does not compute.

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