Survey: Americans don't know much about religion
Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.
Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.
(tip to Joel)
It's hardly a secret that large segments of the population choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs: economic, political, religious, or otherwise. But many studies have indicated that these same people aren't happy with viewing themselves as anti-science, which can create a state of cognitive dissonance. That has left psychologists pondering the methods that these people use to rationalize the conflict.
Ten years on from the revelation that scientists had cracked the human genome, the phenomenal capacity of modern computers is starting to exploit the potential of that discovery for the fight against disease
TO PIN one big evolutionary shift on a particular molecule is ambitious. To pin two on it is truly audacious. Yet doing so was just one of the ideas floating around at “A Celebration of DHA” in London this week. The celebration in question was a scientific meeting, rather than a festival. It was definitely, however, a love-in. It was held on May 26th and 27th at the Royal Society of Medicine to discuss the many virtues of docosahexaenoic acid, the most important of that fashionable class of dietary chemicals, the omega-3 fatty acids.
Missing women police find remains
Like Missing comma, police decide to hire a grammarian, or Missing his mom, Joe called home? No, wait a minute, this isn't about the police missing womanly company — those first two words are not a gerund-participial predicative adjunct. Could missing be a modifier of women police, then? The remains were found in a remote area by some female police officers who had been reported as missing? A bit implausible. What about find? Is that really a tensed verb with plural agreement? Could it be a noun instead (as in a new find), with remains being the main clause verb, as in Paul Simon's line the roots of rhythm remain? No; it's not making any sense at all. You just can't figure out a plausible story.
If you’re a hog in East Moline you’d be well advised to make a run for it! Pork processing there is big business. Actually, if you find your porcine self in East Moline, it’s too late. The trail from holding pen to shrink-wrapped bacon is a narrow one, well bounded by fences, a trail from which there is no escape if you’re a hog.
This week a man called Martin Gardner died, aged 95. His popular maths column in Scientific American (and 50 books on the subject) spanned the decades, but in 1952 he published a book about pseudoscience, quacks, and credulous journalists. How much do you think has changed over 60 years?
As the Hay festival kicks off, with world-class authors being interviewed on stage all week, we invited writers to follow the example of Nadine Gordimer – one of the star billings this year – and ask themselves questions journalists never ask . . .
The North Dakota DMV did relent and reverse itself, granting his request for the license plate originally denied. Still, that doesn't exactly settle the problem, there is still the question of church and state separation.
From the evil scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory we get some new research that will among other things help:
"To fuel and feed the planet for the future, we need new approaches," said Brookhaven scientist Safiyh Taghavi, the study's lead author. "Biofuels derived from plants are an attractive alternative energy source, but many biofuel feedstock crops are in direct competition with food crops for agricultural resources such as land, water, and fertilizers. Our research is looking for ways to improve the growth of biofuel feedstock plants on land that cannot be economically used for food production. What we learn might also be put to use to increase the productivity of food crops," she added.
Remember genetic engineering is a method not a product and no one is making the claim that genetically engineered plants will end world hunger. What they are claiming is that they can play an important role in working toward that end.
Machakos, Kenya - Fog shrouds the terraced hills, and a stream is swollen from the rain that fell overnight, but the damage of a drought that left 10 million Kenyans dependent on food aid is still evident. On many of the small farms, the ground is bare at a time when corn crops should be several feet tall.
"We had no maize because we planted and there was no rain," said Victor Mutua, who feeds an extended family of 15 from his 20-acre plot.
Poor small-scale farmers like Mutua are at the center of a battle over the future of global agriculture and biotechnology. Scientists are preparing to test in Kenya a genetically modified variety of corn that would be resistant to drought. The seeds are the product of a $47 million project funded largely by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates' foundation and using technology and breeding expertise donated by U.S. seed giant Monsanto Co.
John Hurt my Life on Screen (tip to Brian )
I tend to read things about quantum physics and stuff like that — I don’t have a background in it, I try to understand it, I grapple with it. I don’t read for entertainment, I can’t see the purpose of that. Science is such an interesting area. It’s so fascinating to have lived in a period when religion has taken the thrashing it deserves. Not that it has entirely; we still have a few religions knocking around, doing exactly what they’ve done through the ages — which is f* up everything.
If you’ve been reading the evolution websites, you’ll know about the very nice paper in this week’s Nature by Douglas Theobald. (You may remember Theobald as the author of one of the greatest creationism-refuting websites of all: 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution: The Scientific Case for Common Descent. If you haven’t seen it, you should). In the new paper, Theobald makes a few conservative assumptions to show that the probability that all living species descend from a universal common ancestor is infinitely higher than any other hypothesis, including those of multiple origins of the kingdoms (Bacteria, Eukarya, and Archaea) or of rampant horizontal gene transfer betweeen species that would, by mixing genomes, make life look as though it had a single origin when it didn’t.
A REPORT by the National Research Council last monthgave ammunition to both sides in the debate over the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. More than 80 percent of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States is genetically engineered, and the report details the "long and impressive list of benefits" that has come from these crops, including improved soil quality, reduced erosion and reduced insecticide use.
It also confirmed predictions that widespread cultivation of these crops would lead to the emergence of weeds resistant to a commonly used herbicide, glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup). Predictably, both sides have done what they do best when it comes to genetically engineered crops: they've argued over the findings.
Lost in the din is the potential role this technology could play in the poorest regions of the world -- areas that will bear the brunt of climate change and the difficult growing conditions it will bring. Indeed, buried deep in the council's report is an appeal to apply genetic engineering to a greater number of crops, and for a greater diversity of purposes.
Using a gene from a snapdragon flower, researchers have created a purple tomato rich in antioxidants, and a new study has shown that cancer-prone mice that were fed the altered tomatoes had significantly longer lifespans than those that dined on regular tomatoes. The tomatoes’ purple hue was a side effect of the type of antioxidants produced, called anthocyanins
Imagine for a moment that a large proportion of Americans--let's say half--rejected the "germ theory" of infectious disease. Maladies like swine flu, malaria and AIDS aren't caused by micro-organisms, they claim, but by the displeasure of gods, whom they propitiate by praying, consulting shamans and sacrificing goats. Now, you'd surely find this a national disgrace, for those people would be utterly, unequivocally wrong. Although it's called germ theory, the idea that infections are spread by small creatures is also a fact, supported by mountains of evidence. You don't get malaria unless you carry a specific protozoan parasite. We know how it causes the disease, and we see that when you kill it with drugs, the disease goes away. How, we'd ask, could people ignore all this evidence in favor of baseless superstition?
But that's fiction, right? Well, not entirely, for it applies precisely to another "theory" that is also a fact: the theory of evolution. Over the past quarter-century, poll after poll has revealed that nearly half of all Americans flatly reject evolution, many clinging to the ancient superstition that the earth was created only 6,000 years ago, complete with all existing species. But as Richard Dawkins shows in his splendid new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, the theory of evolution is supported by at least as much evidence as is the germ theory of disease--heaps of it, and from many areas of biology. So why is it contemptible to reject germ theory but socially acceptable to reject evolutionary theory?
One answer is religion. Unlike germ theory, the idea of evolution strikes at the heart of human ego, suggesting that we were not the special object of God's attention but were made by the same blind and mindless process of natural selection that also built ferns, fish and rabbits. Another answer is ignorance: most Americans are simply unaware of the multifarious evidence that makes evolution more than "just a theory," and don't even realize that a scientific theory is far more than idle speculation. . .