The Danger of Pet Hypotheses

Great article!

Remember to keep an open mind, even if that means you have to refute your own pet hypothesis.


Comments on Sewell...

This article was on the main YAHOO page today

Is this what passes for intelligent debate? We'll blame Darwin for Columbine, and school shootings in Finland? And setting up scientists as the evil and unreliable determiners of human fate? OK, yes, I know that Darwin had some wacky ideas about race. But I accept evolution as fact. Darwin's limitations do not take away from this.

To the first point. Yes, we should always reassess any scientific hypothesis. This is the purpose of science. But confusing the opinions of Darwin with the evidence for evolution is misleading at best.

Second point. I don't think I should really dignify this with a response. But here it goes. Any idea can be twisted to serve as an excuse for someone's behavior. The devil made me do it, God told me to shoot those people, Darwin wanted me to be the sword of natural selection...and so on. Lame.

Third comment...human beings are the most important life forms on Earth. This is an idea that I believe allows people to disrespect life. Human beings are part of life on this planet, we are connected to it and what we do to the rest of the living beings on this planet, human or not, affects us.

Fourth. Science as an interest group. Good. We all get together and make dastardly plans in smoky back rooms...someday maybe I'll be invited.

Fifth. Eugenics was used to further ideas that are still in our society. Genetics wasn't the cause of it. Using genetics to look at traits in human populations is not Eugenics. Evolutionary psychology is trying to understand something about the effect of genetics on behavior. Some of it is pseudoscience. Genes make proteins and those proteins can affect how your neurons are formed and work. Not a big leap to think that those things might affect behavior. It is a big leap to say that "scientists" will then develop breeding programs for humans.

Sixth. No one is proposing that we start a eugenics program! This isn't even a criticism of Darwin. It is criticism of knowledge. He is basically saying that we shouldn't look at human behavioral genetics because someone might get the idea to start up a Eugenics program. NS.

Seventh. I have to quote it. "What has the theory of evolution done for the practical benefit of humanity? It's helped our understanding of ourselves, yet compared to, say, the discovery of penicillin or the invention of the World Wide Web, I wonder why Darwin occupies this position at the pinnacle of esteem. I can only imagine he has been put there by a vast public relations exercise."

This sort of criticism shows a lack of understanding of biology. The example of penicillin is amusing. Has he heard of the evolution of resistance to penicillin in bacteria? Without an understanding that the strong selection of an antibiotic on a population of bacteria can increase the frequency of a mutation that allows the bacteria to be resistant to penicillin (natural selection!!), we wouldn't have understood why our antibiotics don't work so well anymore. Infectious disease modeling relies on evolution to understand how infectious disease change over time and evolve new strains that are more pathogenic and drug resistant, and determine the source of infection. SARS, HIV, influenza anyone??


10 things I like about Bozeman...first impressions

10. SNOW
9. green green green!
8. no overhead flights
7. Silence at night
6. happy dogs
5. deer in the yard
4. walking trail just outside the back gate
3. people look you in the eye and say hello as you walk past
2. mountains
1. YNP is an hour away


10 things I WON'T miss about Arizona

10. Dust
9. overhead military flights (we are right in the flight path for DM)
8. police helicopters with search lights every weekend
7. Our frat-boy neighbors that listen to their iPods on level 10 while passed out on the porch at 4AM
6. Cockroaches
5. swamp coolers
4. thorns, stickers and spikes
3. border patrol
2. the republican legislature
1. July


10 things I'll miss about Tucson

10. Geckos by the porch light
9. The Monsoons
8. The smell of creosote bush after the rain
7. lizards in the backyard
6. the way the desert buzzes and hums at 100+ in the summer
5. amazing sunsets
4. Oct-March
3. 4th ave to downtown
2. awesome mexican food
1. my friends!


10 things I like about moving

10. Lightening the load
9. Finding things you thought you lost
8. Reading the old diary
7. Anticipation
6. Burning the stack of bills, receipts and other junk in the firepit
5. Having an excuse to get new stuff
4. Bubble wrap
3. hmmmmm....
2. Moving?
1. being done with it?


Starting a theme of top 10 lists

Top 10 things I hate about moving:

10. Seriously, where did all this crap come from
9. Killer dust bunnies
8. Living in a pile of boxes
7. Fear of throwing something away and realizing after the garbage has come that you needed it after all
6. Leaving friends
5. Forever jamming packing tape dispenser
4. Finding old embarrassing photos you thought you threw out the last time you moved
3. Knowing that you'll put the most important things (remote controls, chargers, etc) in the box labeled "MISC" which you won't find until 6 months after you needed them and had to buy already
2. Packing
1. Selling my crap http://www.amazon.com/shops/ASYF63FD5L6C4



Nice rainstorm today. Wash away the dusty dirt. Dolly loves the mud. Victor is afraid of the rain. The two of them make me laugh. And that is good. Now I am going to relax and hit the books and writing tomorrow. In the air conditioning. It's gonna be hot and humid tomorrow!

Really, life is pretty good.


Some things come back

I wonder sometimes if there is something I need to learn about my choices in the people I have around me. Or is it just really bad luck that both my Master's and PhD advisors turned out to be the wrong person for me? And right at the most crucial point, in both cases, is when I realized it- and that is too late. The funny part is, they are complete opposite personalities. A main reason I picked #2 after my experience with #1.


Now I go to others to get help- wonderful people with busy schedules. People who care about me, but also have their own students, lives and work.

My life sometimes reminds me of the Dead lyric "when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door" So, I got my dream job- a post doc in Montana, working for a great guy, in a nice lab, that is well organized, productive and doing cool work. This is after going to a meeting and giving a good talk, getting an award for up-and-coming young scientist, and also getting tapped to go to an NSF meeting in DC to represent my fellowship program.

I get back, and everything seems like it is going well. I have a committee meeting, there is a lot of work to do to finish by the end of the summer, but we all agree it is possible, that we just have a lot of work to do in the next few months. I set a schedule, and then let my family know that I will indeed be walking in graduation ceremony and we have great time and I am on top of the world.

I meet my deadline for the first rough draft, and send files of the data we need to look at. No word. Then I cajole and beg, and we finally all get together as a lab and have lunch. The bomb drops. Chaos ensues. Since June advisor literally drops off the face of the planet.

So, I keep telling myself that I move on, and pick myself up by the bootstraps, I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, etc. etc. etc. But some days it's really hard. Today is one of those. Because things are looking up- I've got a great committee that is stepping up, I got a fellowship from the grad college to help pay the bills so i don't have to work, I found a quiet study carrel in the library to work. And that has me worried.

Am I so jaded that I can't relax anymore? I think maybe I am just so angry that I am toxic to myself. I think I should take up kickboxing. Scream therapy?


Florida was nice!

What a gorgeous beach. Could have stayed for a few more days. Alas, back to work. I've got a ton to do, and not enough time to do it. I guess that is the story for all grad students!!



Waiting in the airport. Not a great time to leave, but I am looking forward to being in fl. Amanda and justin getting married :) hope to see selby gardens, which is a place I've wanted to see for a long time! Also the Dali museum. Will post pix!


Posting frequency

I have a feeling these posts will be further and further apart. As I look for jobs and try to finish the dissertation "thing," I fear that I will not devote as much time to extracurricular activities.

I just got back from DC. NSF meeting. Posting a photo of the view of the Jefferson Memorial across the tidal pond, with some cherry trees in bloom. Jefferson is my favorite prez, even if he was a slave owning aristocrat from Virginia.

DC was strange. I was surprised at how disappointed I was. The lawns all looked a bit sad, full of crab grass and goose poop. The war memorials now dominate the landscape. We remember our wars, but we don't have grand monuments on the Mall to the constitution, the declaration of independence, emancipation, woman's right to vote...


Asilomar, here we come!

Scott is picking me up in 1 hr and I am still not packed. But I can blog! Meeting starts Tomorrow. Looks like some great talks and best of all old friends I haven't seen in a while. Hope this itouch works as well as I need. I am leaving the laptop behind. Let's see how long I last, LOL!!


Post from itouch

Just seeing if it will really work. This keyboard I'd like 2 change, but still pretty cool. So long as I can get wireless!


The size of the bars to the left indicates the amount of GDP that is produced by each category. So, sectors of the economy that are "making bucks." The ecologists viewpoint is the classic food pyramid, at the bottom are all the things we need to support the rest: we depend on agriculture for our food, extraction of natural resources for our energy and raw materials, and forests for the wood to build all those houses. It is amazing to me that the connection is not made that if you have no more forests, you build no more conventional houses. We've all seen what a bursting bubble in the housing market has done to our economy. What if global warming so alters our climate that we don't have enough at the bottom of the pyramid to sustain our current standard of living? Does anyone else see the problem with the pyramid? Maybe a little unstable?


travels with Victor

Well, travels with Victor and Rob. We go out for Sunday drives quite often. This last trip was a bit of a change because where we were going to go was full of campers and rednecks. We wondered if it had been discovered when we found the turnoff marked with a fencepost and red flagging. And then driving down the road, realizing it was much more well-traveled than we had remembered, we feared that our secret spot had been found out. The road dead ends at a wash that is a great hike. Up to some cool pictographs and nice vegetation. The wild flowers are just starting to bloom. So, plan B was to turn around and look for some place new. Further up the road, we discovered a gate that was unlocked and led to state land. So, off we go. Definitely an area for cattle grazing. The road follows a straight line, along a fence. Then it splits into several forks, and we take the left one. It turns backs and follows a wash. Then crosses the wash, and ends up at this strange site with a large tank and recently repaired windmill. Great photo op! I posted the photos on facebook. Anyway, Rob and I are taking photos at this site, wondering why there would be an actual faucet on a cattle tank. Then I remember where we are. 60 miles from the Mexican border. "This is a trap site," I say to Rob. I've read that the BP puts out places where illegal border-crossers can get water, set up motion detectors, and *BAM*, catch them. Not 15 minutes after I make this revelation, I hear a strange hum. Then a throbbing sound. Next thing I know, there is a military 'copter swooping down on us, buzzing us. Not exaggerating here. They are getting close to landing when they must realize we are just locals taking pictures. Surely they got our license plate, and photos of us. Another page added to my FBI file. Life on the border gets weird sometimes.


Hiding in the background

Having fun with teaching selection. Here the kids are putting green and white pegs on different backgrounds and then being predators. The population changes as each generation is produced from the survivors. Fewer white left on a green background and vice versa.


Scientific Process, thank you very much

Today is my birthday. I won't divulge which one, just cuz I am a big baby.

I spent the early part of the day teaching the scientific process (different from method). Good times. I think they got it.

I ate my first In and Out burger.

I had drink(s) with friends at an Irish pub.

A good day.


Darwin turns 200

A recent post on a blog I follow, by a colleague, John Logsdon reminded me why I started this blog in the first place.

The FACT of evolution has supported modern biology for the last 100 years. Any research biologist I know doesn't spend time arguing over the basic fact of evolution. It would be like a planetary scientist arguing that the earth doesn't revolve around the sun, it would be utter nonsense. I still don't completely understand the resistance to the idea. There is the inevitable "I didn't come from no monkey" knee jerk argument that I've heard a million times. There is the "where is God in all this?" question that I've gotten from students, particularly my young middleschoolers.

Let me be clear. Scientists answer questions pertaining to the physical world. We can not prove or disprove the existent of a metaphysical being. Leave matters of faith and belief to religion and philosophy.

Let's party like it's 1809!