DAILY MAIL: On the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, professors at Southern Oregon University will devote the week to emphasizing that evolution is more than a theory — it’s hard science.”It’s theory and it’s fact. You can say it’s ‘just a theory’ like the theory that the earth goes around the sun,” says biology professor Charles Weldon, lead speaker of Darwin Week. “In science, a theory is not speculation. It’s supported by mountains of evidence. It’s one of the best supported theories in science.” A century and a half after publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” some 44 percent of Americans still believe in the Biblical account of creation by God in seven days, according to a Gallup poll. Weldon calls that “shocking.” MORE
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Blue eyes are typically associated with beauty, or perhaps Frank Sinatra. But to University of Wisconsin anthropologist John Hawks, they represent an evolutionary mystery. For nearly all of human history, everyone in the world had brown eyes. Then, between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, the first blue-eyed baby was born somewhere near the Black Sea. For some reason, that baby’s descendants gained a 5% evolutionary advantage over their brown-eyed competitors, and today the number of people with blue eyes tops half a billion. “What does it mean?” asked Hawks, who studies the forces that have shaped the human species for the last 6 million years. Nobody knows. It is one of the questions about evolution that persist 200 years after the birth of Charles Darwin, whose birthday will be celebrated worldwide Thursday. MORE
RELATED: Though Darwin published his masterwork, “On the Origin of Species,” 150 years ago and died in 1882, studies on evolution continue apace. Much of that effort focuses on the species Darwin considered the pinnacle of the evolutionary process: Homo sapiens. Until recently, conventional wisdom held that human beings had mastered their environment so thoroughly that the imperative to evolve in many ways diminished about 10,000 years ago, when agriculture gave rise to more-stable societies.
“People thought that with technology and culture, there’d be no reason for physical things to make any difference,” said Milford Wolpoff, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Michigan. “If you can ride a horse, it doesn’t matter if you can run fast.”
That turned out to be wrong. As it happens, the pace of evolution has been speeding up — not slowing down — in the 40,000 years since our ancestors fanned out from Ethiopia to populate the globe. And in the 5,000 to 10,000 years since agriculture triggered the growth of large societies, the pace has accelerated to 100 times historical levels. “When there’s more people, there are more mutations,” Wolpoff said. “And when there are more mutations, there’s more selection.” MORE
JACKSONVILLE NEWS: Amid much controversy a year ago, the Florida Board of Education approved new standards that require public schools to teach that the scientific theory of evolution is the foundation of all biological science. But don’t think that battle is over. Not even close. State Sen. Stephen Wise, a Jacksonville Republican, said he plans to introduce a bill to require teachers who teach evolution to also discuss the idea of intelligent design.
Intelligent design is the concept that life is so complex that it couldn’t occur naturally but must have had an intelligent force working to make it happen.Wise, the chief sponsor of the bill, expects the Senate to take it up when it meets in March. He said its intent is simple: “If you’re going to teach evolution, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking.” Wise said that if the Legislature passes the bill, he wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a legal challenge.
Intelligent design has been in the courts before. In 2005, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania school district from teaching intelligent design in public schools, calling it an example of “breathtaking inanity.” The judge, a Republican, wrote that there was “overwhelming evidence” that the theory is a “religious view,” not scientific theory. Wise’s planned bill isn’t a surprise to those who favor teaching evolution. “We were expecting some sort of effort to blunt evolution education,” said Paul Cottle, a physics professor at Florida State University who helped draft the year-old science standards on evolution. “What you are describing is one of the tools in the standard anti-evolution toolbox.” MORE
FAITHWORLD: Speaking of Darwin, we’ve done several posts about the Turkish anti-Darwin campaigner Harun Yahya and his Islamic creationist campaign against evolution. Most of the attention on this has been on his mega-book Atlas of Creation, how it’s being distributed in Europe and what the reaction to it has been. We’re bound to hear a lot more about Darwin, evolution and faith this year, as it’s also the 150th anniversary of the publication of On The Origin Of Species. This debate has been going on for decades and the pros and cons have been gone through a thousand times. Is there anything new to say about this? MORE
RELATED: What was interesting, though, was the way he explained the Atlas campaign as part of his Muslim vision of the end times. Several Turks have told me they suspect he considers himself the Mahdi, the Muslim saviour who comes at the end of time to fight with Jesus against evil and establish Islam as the only world religion. He denied this, but it a way vague enough that his supporters might still believe it. Whatever it is, he sees some role for himself in the end times, which he said will come in the next 20 to 25 years. MORE
FRANCIS BACON: ‘To conclude, therefore, let no man … think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficience in both.’ — Title Page, Origin Of The Species, Charles Darwin, 1859
THE MUMMIES: (You’ve Got To Fight To Live) On The Planet Of The Apes
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