Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Look! A new post!

I've been busy lately, taking time out after that Darwin blog-a-thon. I've been working on my Wasmann paper for the symposium this weekend, reading Desmond and Moore's Darwin's Sacred Cause, making arrangements to attend the big SSB/SSE/ASN conference this summer, and basically trying (successfully) to keep the blog from running my life.

The Wasmann project has been a lot of fun, particularly observing how different ideologies used Wasmann's arguments for their own purposes. Basically, Wasmann was open to the possibility of evolution as God's mechanism of creation and believed that the Bible could not be used to inform natural science. Sounds like a theistic evolutionist, right? But Wasmann was also unconvinced that evolution proceeded from a single common ancestor and instead argued for the permanence of "natural species," which in one passage he speculated could be as big as a phylum. He also rejected human evolution based on lack of evidence. What makes this even more interesting is watching the antievolutionists ignore his evolutionary leanings and exploit his scientific arguments against universal common ancestry, while theistic evolutionists ignore his arguments against universal common ancestry while exploiting his evolutionary theology. See? Propaganda wars lead to distortions of the truth. I sound like a broken record.

Meanwhile, Desmond and Moore's new book Darwin's Sacred Cause is quite impressive if ultimately unconvincing. I'll be sending in a review to JETS, but the short version is this: They do much to increase our knowledge of the context of race relations, slavery, and natural history into which Origin appeared, but I just don't see the smoking gun that would implicate these concerns as the major motivation for Darwin's work. I'm not even convinced that it was a minor motivation.

Completion of a draft Neandertal genome sequence was announced at the AAAS meeting, but I'm waiting to see something other than press releases. I don't trust press releases. It should be a really valuable look into questions of comparative primate genomics, which you know is of some interest to me and creationists in general.

Finally, from the "every cloud has a silver lining" department:
Shark attacks decline worldwide in midst of economic depression
I know I'll sleep easier tonight!