Aug 25, 2009 | 45
In a bid to avoid regulations on the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to put the science of global warming on trial. "It would be evolution versus creationism," the chamber's William Kovacs, senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, told the Los Angeles Times.
In other words, the chamber hopes for a "Scopes monkey trial for the 21st century," referring to the famous 1925 court case that determined whether evolution could be taught in Tennessee (a battle that has broken out again in states like Texas). The chamber, which represents millions of U.S. businesses, is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set up a hearing to discuss the science behind that agency's move to declare carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a threat to human health and therefore subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.
Jun 5, 2009 | 22
FULLERTON, CALIF.—If you want to wait by the phone for your next college-aged daughter's call home, you should mark the days of her menstrual cycle on your calendar.
Well, not exactly. But that was one reasonable conclusion of research presented here last week at the 21st annual conference of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) at California State University, Fullerton, by Elizabeth Pillsworth, a graduate student in Martie Haselton's lab at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Haselton (pictured at left with David Buss of the University of Texas at Austin) studies sexual attraction, relationships, and how fertility cycles influence mate preferences and choices (for instance, women dress in a more sexually provocative manner during the high fertility phase of the month). In an interesting twist on this body of research, Pillsworth studied the effects of the fertility phase in women on the incest taboo—specifically, how often college-aged women phoned their dads (versus their moms) during the month. Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how clever scientists can be in thinking up new research paradigms: Who would have ever thought of correlating cell phone calls with estrus cycles? Pillsworth and Haselton (and their colleague Debra Lieberman) did! And the results were most revealing.
May 20, 2009 | 10
On the day after the festivities at the American Museum of Natural History, the star of the show—a 47-million-year-old primate fossil named Ida—is intact, but science is still recuperating from the massive media hangover. Jørn Hurum, the University of Oslo paleontologist who orchestrated the hubbub about the monkey–lemur intermediary, wasn’t coy about his intentions. “Any pop band is doing the same thing, ” he told The New York Times.
But the newspaper of record also coined the phrase the “Mediacene age,” and the response from the science blogosphere was harsher than the entertainment press’ response to Britney Spears’ last attempt at a comeback. Called by its publicists a “missing link” in human evolution, the Darwinius masillae fossil was displayed for the first time in advance of a television documentary called “The Link” and a book, also called the “The Link.” (Please click on this hyperlink to read the actual paper published in PLoS One)
Apr 22, 2009 | 3
It's long been assumed that marine mammals in the pinniped group – seals, sea lions and walrus – evolved from a land-based common ancestor, but until now, no definitive fossil evidence had materialized.
A newly discovered species, Puijila darwini, which lived in the Artic during the Miocene (23 to 5 million years ago), promises to be that missing link, reports a study published online today in Nature. The well-preserved skeleton was found on Devon Island in Nunavut, Canada, an area that would have had a much more temperate climate when the P. darwini roamed the region.
"Puijila is the evolutionary evidence we have been lacking for so long," Mary Dawson, a curator emeritus of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, said in a statement.
Mar 27, 2009 | 45
The Texas Board of Education voted today by a 13-to-2 margin to change controversial language in the state's curriculum, making it harder for creationism to creep into public classrooms. For the past 20 years, the state's curriculum has instructed teachers to present the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, opening the door to nonscientific, faith-based alternatives.
Today's vote strikes the old language and replaces it with instruction to "analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning and experimental and observational testing," according to Joshua Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a pro-evolution non–profit based on Oakland, Calif. Other curriculum amendments proposed by social conservatives failed today, according to the Dallas Morning News, including two that called for biology classes to dissect the "sufficiency or insufficiency" of evidence for aspects of evolutionary theory.
Feb 2, 2009 | 18
Editor's Note: This post is also appearing at the American Institute for Biological Sciences' Year of Science 2009: Celebrate Evolution. For more on Darwin's 200th birthday, see our January 2009 issue on evolution.
"If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone ever had, I'd give it to Darwin." So wrote philosopher Daniel Dennett in his 1995 book Darwin's Dangerous Idea. "In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law."
Jan 23, 2009 | 123
The Texas Board of Education has tentatively adopted new teaching standards that would make it more difficult to teach creationism in Lone Star state schools.
Board members voted eight-to-seven last night to drop controversial language in the state's curriculum that requires science teachers to discuss the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories.
The move was hailed by Eugenie Scott, executive director of the Oakland, Calif.-based National Center for Science Education. "There are no weaknesses of evolution," she told us, echoing a comment she made to the Dallas Morning News, which reported yesterday that that panel was mulling the move.
Nov 26, 2008 | 10
Ever wonder how a turtle got its shell? You're not the only one. Evolutionary biologists and paleontologists have long been stumped by the question. But a recently unearthed turtle fossil, the oldest on record, may hold the answer. Researchers report in Nature today that the fossil indicates shells evolved as an extension of turtles' backbones and ribs.
"Its discovery opens a new chapter in the study of the origins and early history of these fascinating reptiles," says vertebrate paleontologists Robert Reisz and Jason Head of the University of Toronto, in a commentary accompanying the article.
Scientist have been in the dark until now because all fossilized turtles previously discovered had complete shells. But this 220 million-year-old fossil is an ancestor of the modern turtle at a stage when its shell was still evolving.
Nov 5, 2008
Quick: How many top science writers were spotted standing behind a Republican Senate candidate during a concession speech last night?
Only one, as far as we know: Carl Zimmer.
If you were watching News 12 in New Jersey last night, you would have seen Carl holding his daughter as his father, former U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer, conceded to incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg after a 55 percent to 43 percent vote.
Dick Zimmer, 64, campaigned against 84-year-old Lautenberg on a platform of energy conservation and greater efficiency standards for cars and SUVs. He also supported increased nuclear power and energy exploration on public lands.
Oct 1, 2008 | 29
Public fascination with Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, extends to her views on the environment, evolution and abortion, and that curiosity has only grown since media access to her has tightened in the month since Sen. John McCain picked the Alaska governor as his running mate.
We have a bit more clarity now, after CBS Evening News anchor, Katie Couric, grilled Palin on last night's broadcast. Although Couric wasn't able to nail down Palin's positions as concretely as she (and voters) may have liked, she brought out some of the candidate's reasoning on controversial science topics.
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