Very straightforward: Obama’s responses to Nature on an evolution and stem cell questions

PZ Myers reports on Nature’s election 2008 edition,  He is understandably very proud of Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s response to a question on evolution:

I believe in evolution, and I support the strong consensus of the scientific community that evolution is scientifically validated. I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.

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De Menezes inquest starts: at last a coroner’s jury will get the case

Amnesty reported on Monday, 22 September, 2008, that at long last the coroner’s inquest into the shooting of innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes in a London Underground train by plain clothes officers of the Metropolitan Police in July, 2005.

This is important because it will be the first time a jury hears detailed evidence and decides what happened in the shooting. In November 2007, a jury heard evidence about how the Metropolitan Police handled the response to  serious terrorism, and found the Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, guilty of failing his duty to protect members of the public, including Jean Charles de Menezes.

This was an affair that brought British law enforcement, and the capital, into disrepute.  It’s important that they get this right.

Conservapedia capers: Richard Dawkins

Here’s the idea: every now and then I take a Conservapedia article on a subject related to science and, without breaking a sweat over it, spot some major errors, then blog them and see how long it takes Conservapedia to fix them.

The article on Richard Dawkins dated 1349, 21 September, 2008  calls Dawkins’ Simonyi professorship into question with the apparent intention of implying that he has coopted the term “professor” without justification.  “Dawkins holds the post of Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, but whether this post was granted according to normal academic procedures is a matter of dispute,” it claims.

There is no dispute.  See this item from rationalwiki dated 2329, 22 September, 2008.  They contacted Merriam Webster and Oxford University, both of whom say he’s a professor.   He’s also, since 2001, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and they don’t hand those fellowships out like lollypops.  Only candidates  who have made “a substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science” are considered.  Conservapedia dismisses the body as “an increasingly political group of scientists that wrote a letter to Exxon telling it to stop opposing the liberal view of global warming,” which says more about Conservapedia than it says about the Royal Society.

The article seems to omit Dawkins’ biography.  One would read it in vain  if one expected to know about the place of his birth (Nairobi, Kenya), his marriages (Marian Stamp, Eve Barham, Lalla Ward), and children (Emma, by Eve Barham), where he got his doctorate (Balliol, under Niko Tinbergen).  This is basic information of the sort that most of us have read a thousand times on his book jackets.

The article is of course hopelessly slanted, and I have no hope that any article on Conservapedia will match other, more reputable sources for quality, but it could at least try to do a decent job of including the most basic facts.

Meanwhile, there’s always the Wikipedia article about Richard Dawkins which is probably reasonably accurate.