June 2005 Archives


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Two Sundays ago, Peter on Fox’s popular animated cartoon show, Family Guy, believed that he was a genius for winning Trivial Pursuit with preschool-level questions. To prove it he took an IQ test, but the test revealed that he had “below-retarded” intelligence (Episode 59). This is the chart the doctor showed him:

But I imagine that creationists won’t be offended because they call themselves “intelligent design” supporters now.

For a laugh, read my latest report on Selman v. Cobb County at the Panda’s Thumb: If You Litigate, They Will Come.

Kelo Proposal

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The Supreme Court ruled yesterday in Kelo v. New London that politically connected developers and corporations may use the government’s eminent domain powers to acquire private property against the owners’ wishes because such takings may be believed to promote economic development?

Don’t want to sell to Walmart? Too bad, a new Walmart will bring more money and jobs than your family farm.

This decision is ripe for abuse by local governments and corporations, and it really shocks me that a majority of Supreme Court Justices agreed with it. However, we can work with this. I call on all local governments in which Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer reside to begin economic development of their homes as soon as possible. I’m sure the cities can find a strip mall or two that is willing to pay more in taxes than the Justices currently do.

I wonder how long it would take the justices to realize the error of their ways.

“You don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do,” Cruise said.

The interview became more heated when Lauer, who said he knew people who had been helped by the attention-deficit disorder drug Ritalin, asked Cruise about the effects of the drug.

“Matt, Matt, you don’t even – you’re glib,” Cruise responded. “You don’t even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, OK. That’s what I’ve done.”


Twelve Citizens for Science Groups were signatories on an amicus brief filed in support of a recent U.S. District Court decision, Selman v. Cobb County School District, which ruled that the evolution “warning labels” required in Cobb County, Georgia, public school textbooks were unconstitutional. The “friend of the court brief” was filed in the eleventh circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in response to an appeal seeking to overturn the Selman decision. The groups that signed the brief were Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science, Alabama Citizens for Science Education, Texas Citizens for Science, Colorado Citizens for Science, Kansas Citizens for Science, Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education, New Mexicans for Science and Reason, Michigan Citizens for Science, The Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education, Ohio Citizens for Science, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, and TonkaFocus. In 2002, responding to local creationist protests about the inclusion of evolution in textbooks, the Cobb County School Board mandated that every single biology textbook in the district carry a label describing evolution as “a theory, not a fact.” Represented by attorney Michael Manely and the Georgia ACLU, Jeffrey Selman and four other Cobb parents filed suit in federal court. The trial was held in the fall of 2004 in U.S. District Court, with Judge Clarence Cooper presiding. In a carefully reasoned decision issued in January 2005, Judge Cooper ruled that the evolution disclaimer was unconstitutional because it “convey[s] a message of endorsement of religion,” and ordered the stickers to be removed. But the school district decided to appeal the decision, prompting these Citizens for Science groups to weigh in.

The adoption of the sticker does not simply accommodate religion, as appellants would have it, but bends the core curriculum of public education to aid sectarian interests. The doctrine that a school board has the discretion to craft an individual accommodation to religious beliefs does not give it the latitude to tailor the education of all students to the preferences of a particular religious sect, as the district court held happened when Cobb County imposed the disclaimer sticker on all of its students.

(Citizens for Science Amicus Brief p 15)

The amicus brief submitted by these Citizens for Science groups was not alone. Amicus briefs supporting the Selman decision were also submitted by the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association of Biology Teachers; Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee; the National Council of Jewish Women and The Interfaith Alliance; the Witherspoon Society and the Clergy and Laity Network; the American Jewish Congress; a coalition of grassroots pro-science organizations, including Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education; and a coalition of fifty-six scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Flag Burning

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According to the AP, the House has passed another flag burning amendment. The prospects of the amendment passing the senate are greater this year than previously.

It very much saddens me to see such Anti-American policies get so much political support. This amendment is getting passed not because the American Flag needs to be protected from being burned “unpatriotically” but because the State wants to oppress citizens who disagree with its policies. We fought a revolution to criticize the State, and now our politicians are turning their back on it.

Desecration of the flag occurs everyday and not by anti-government protestors. I know of very few people out side the military who know and follow proper flag etiquette. The people most likely to consider themselves “True Patriots” desecrate the flag by not following proper etiquette. You desecrate the flag when you

  • fly it in the dark.
  • fly it in the rain.
  • fly an old flag that should be retired.
  • wear the flag as clothing.
  • use it as a stamp.
  • use it on paper plates or napkins.
  • fly it below another flag.
  • display it horizontally at football games.
  • use it in advertising.
  • etc.

However, you won’t see politicians ever trying to criminalize people who do these things because they really don’t care about the flag. What they care about is people who are vocally oppose their politics. According to the dissenting opinion in the committee report:

The history of the prosecution of flag desecration in this country bears out these very warnings. The overwhelming majority of flag desecration cases have been brought against political dissenters, while commercial and other forms of flag desecration have been almost completely ignored. An article in Art in America points out that during the Vietnam War period, those arrested for flag desecration were “invariably critics of national policy, while ‘patriots’ who tamper with the flag [were] overlooked.”

I’ll leave you with the statements of Congressman Nadler of New York:

Let there be no doubt that this amendment is aimed at persecuting ideas. Current Federal law says that the preferred way to dispose of a tattered flag is to burn it. But there are those who would criminalize the same act of burning the flag if it is done to express political dissent. The same act would be a crime under this amendment if done for purposes of saying I disagree with whatever-I-disagree-with, as opposed to for some other reason. The same act. So what’s really being criminalized is not the act, but the expression of the idea. That’s why the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. Current Federal law, which is constitutionally void, makes it a misdemeanor to use the flag for advertising or on packaging. How many Members of Congress, used car dealers, attendees at the Republican National Convention the last few times, fast food restaurants and other seemingly legitimate individuals and enterprises have engaged in this act, have used the flag for advertising or on packaging, have put them on slippers and clothes–an act which our laws define as flag desecration? This amendment would presumably make that law constitutional once more. If ratified, I think there are more than a few people who will have to redesign their campaign materials to stay out of the pokey.

South to Georgia


We got back from Alaska yesterday afternoon. The trip was fun, but I’m glad to be back home. The first thing we did was stop in Conyers and eat at Folks, a Southern restaurant. We both had sweet tea (finally!) to drink. I ate fried chicken with mashed potatoes and turnip greens, and Tiffany had a vegetable plate.

While we were in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News ran a story on evolution being strengthened in the Alaska standards: Science teaching standards evolve.

Initially, the department chose to eliminate the reference to evolution altogether, even though a majority of the educators and scientists who helped draft the first part of the standards favored using it.

Education department assessment director Les Morse said he did that to try to avoid the sort of strife that plagued the department in 1993. But he decided to reinsert the word “evolution” parenthetically after similar science standards absent that word in the state of Georgia made national headlines, drawing the scorn of even former President Jimmy Carter.

It’s good to know that our work in Georgia has helped science education in another state.

Fairbanks Post Card


It’s 1 AM in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the sun is still out. It is really throwing off my schedule when coupled with the four hour time difference. I’m posting this from a wireless connection in my room.

Tiffany and I arrived safely with Prof. Steve Steve stowed away in our carry-on. He was a good trooper, willing to go through airport x-rays and all. He escaped in Salt Lake City to see some of the kids running around. I eventually managed to stuff him back into the corner of the bag. He is really excited about sneaking into the conference with me, since he is really cheap. (This was the first time he hasn’t flown UPS.)

We got our rental car from the airport, and it is brand new Ford Escort Hatchback, with 230 miles and a temporary tag. Way cool and very much beyond my expectations.

A final bonus is that our hotel is across the street from a strip club. Prof. Steve Steve and I just have to sneak over without Tiffany knowing.

North to Alaska

I leave later today for a conference in Fairbanks. I will be presenting some of my doctoral research.

Committee Reflections


A doctoral student in science education at Ohio State was going to defend his dissertation earlier in the week on the benefits of “teaching the controversy” about evolution. However, his defense was postponed when it was learned that the committee did not satisfy the requirements of his program and more importantly lacked anyone qualified to advise and judge his research. The committee did contain a pair of vocal anti-evolutionists, whose only qualifications appear to be political agreement with the student. The student will probably get a new committee, one that will not favor rubber stamping his research.

This has got me thinking about my own committee, which was recently reorganized because John Avise is moving to Irvine and was reorganized before that because my advisor died. I now have six faculty members on my committee, reflecting my eclectic research interests:

  • A Drosophila evolutionary geneticist who has published pop-gen theory
  • A pop-gen theoretician from the stat department
  • A forest population geneticist
  • A population ecologist who has published theory
  • A conservation geneticist
  • A parasite genomicist

My research covers things from classical pop-gen theory, to individual-based geographic models, to theoretical pop-eco, to molecular evolution and phylogenetics. At heart I am a computational population biologist. My committee is probably not sufficient to judge my dissertation as fully as can be done (none probably are), but that is why I am working to publish my research before I combine it into a dissertation. Peer review should help improve my dissertation.

Project Image


I’m slowly working on a new web project. It is not ready to be announced, but I will show off the image I’ve designed for it.

Boiled Peanuts

The grocery store finally has green peanuts. So, yesterday, I picked up a couple pounds of them with the intent to make boiled peanuts at home.

It was my first attempt in making boiled peanuts, but I think they came out pretty well. They’re not all that hard to do if you have a crock pot. Mix up a brine in the crock pot, add the peanuts, and slow cook for half a day. My brine consisted of salt, mustard seed, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

It’s tasty, and the boiled peanuts won’t stay around for long.

I’m Back


Our fishing trip got rained out, so I have no stories to tell.

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