Definitions are important. A prerequisite of virtually any rational discussion is agreement on a common terminology. Without common terms there may be little meaningful dialogue. Changing or obscuring definitions however is a time-honored tactic used by creationists to wriggle out of an intellectual position they find undesirable.
Georgia Purdom, PhD, of the creationist ministry Answers in Genesis promotes erroneous definitions of evolution so that she may accept obvious examples of natural selection without having to also accept that natural selection is a mechanism of biological evolution. The tactic is not of her own invention but one employed by generations of hardcore creationists unwilling to concede the reality of evolution even in the smallest of doses. In some circles, one’s creationist bona fides are apparently tarnished by the admission that natural selection is indeed a mechanism underlying even the slightest evolutionary change.
When faced with undeniable, empirical examples of natural selection in action the dedicated creationist’s only escape is to change the definitions of natural selection or evolution or both. Purdom has done this in videos, public lectures, in print and in blog posts and while I’m uncertain as to whether these misrepresentations are borne out of deliberation or ignorance the effect is the same, namely to confuse her audience and make scientists appear to be the ones who are equivocating and inventing sliding definitions. In fact they are not. The real definitions of both natural selection and evolution are entirely unequivocal. Read More
Birders have long maintained highly effective communication networks. A sighting of a rare bird will rapidly spread among hardcore birders and scores of onlookers will flock, pun intended, to the best finds. Nearly universal access to the Internet has kicked these networks into overdrive. Now, within minutes of a rare find georeferenced coordinates and digital photos will be disseminated to websites, listservs, cell phones, twitter feeds and Facebook pages. This is the practice known as “chasing” birds brought into the 21st century.
Now, I don’t usually chase birds. It isn’t because I don’t want to necessarily, but more so because I never seem to be afforded the time. But, when I heard of a Hooded Crane (Grus monacha) found with wintering Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) and Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, Tennessee I decided maybe it was worth the chase. I’ve seen Japanese or Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) in Japan and Taiwan and many Sandhill Cranes but I’ve never seen a Whooping Crane or a Hooded Crane so there was the chance for hitting a double on this trip. Plus, with the holiday break I had a nature-obsessed 6-year old boy out of school and in need of a little adventure. So, a 5 hour drive south on I-75 and we are at Hiwassee, and the trip didn’t disappoint; eagles, turkey, bluebirds, kingfishers, waterfowl, and many, many cranes, almost ridiculous numbers of cranes. Hiwassee is home to thousands of Sandhill Cranes whiling away the winter on a steady diet of East Tennessee corn. The Sandhills are typically accompanied by a couple of Whooping Cranes every year and, as of December 13th of this year, one very disorientated Hooded Crane, who should be spending the winter in Japan or China and returning to breeding ground in the Russian Far East in the spring. Needless to say this Hooded Crane was more than a little off course!
Three species of crane at Hiwassee Refuge; Sandhill (grey), Whooping (white) and Hooded (black with white neck) Read More
Debate is bouncing around the evolution blogs. The extreme poles in the evolution-creationism debate agree on one thing; namely that one can not be a Christian and accept the modern scientific consensus on biological evolution. However, in recent years several prominent scientists of faith including Ken Miller and Francis Collins have spoken out about their own personal experience in reconciling science and religious convictions. Even agnostic participants in the debate like Florida State University philosopher of science Michael Ruse have taken a position against these polarizing views that evolution necessarily equals atheism. Science and science education organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have gone to great lengths to counter the creationist claim that evolution is somehow antichristian by frequently emphasizing the views of religious scientists like Collins and Miller, philosophers like Ruse sympathetic to the idea that both faith and science can coexist and religious leaders like Pope John Paul II who see no fundamental conflict between evolution and the central tenets of the Christian faith. These organizations do this for one key reason; to counter the claim by creationists that evolution necessarily leads to atheism. Read More