Good news – more Americans accept evolution as a fact

Way before I started snarking on vaccine deniers and anti-GMO activists, I fought the good fight against creationism, and it’s more pseudoscientific cousin, intelligent design. Although there’s still a long way to go, more and more Americans accept evolution as a fact.

The religiously based anti-evolution forces are still alive in the USA (and some other parts of the world), but they are on the precipice of being relegated to the Moon Landing Hoax crowd. Yes, that is a thing.

Evolution denial isn’t exclusively an American issue – according to some polling, the creationist view was most popular in Saudi Arabia (75%), Turkey (60%), and Indonesia (57%), with the United States ranking 6th (40%), between Brazil (47%) and Russia (34%). Most European countries, which have long ago removed religion out of science education, have huge majorities of their citizens who accept evolution as a fact.

I have found that the ignorance of Americans towards the fact of evolution is about one of the most annoying anti-science attitudes in this country (although, vaccine denial and anti-GMO pseudoscience comes very very close).

Although progress is frustratingly slow, it’s still encouraging that things are starting to change in the USA.

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Amy Farrah Fowler is going to talk to teachers about science

Next week, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), an organization devoted “to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all,” is having their annual meeting in Boston, MA. Normally, I would not write much about this group, because they do good stuff for science, and I tend to focus on those individuals and groups that do bad stuff for science. 

One of the guest speakers at this year’s NSTA conference is Mayim Bialik, who plays a neuroscientist on CBS-TV’s The Big Bang Theory (TBBT). In case you’re not a fan of the show, it is one of the better written shows on TV (a moderate standard, indeed). It follows the lives of four main male characters, who are all researchers at the California Institute of Technology, Cal Tech, one of the premier science institutions in the USA. The show continues to make obscure, but funny, references to scientific ideas, Star Trek, comics, and just about anything geeky. 

Bialik plays not only a neuroscientist by the name of Amy Farrah Fowler, but the girlfriend (kind of, sort of, who knows) of one the main characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a quirky theoretical physicist. But what is particularly amazing is that Bialik actually does have a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA (as does the famous atheist and science philosopher, Sam Harris), and wrote her doctoral dissertation about a rare genetic disease, Prader-Willi Syndrome, which manifests itself with various neurological and neuromuscular deficits. Frankly, it’s brilliant work. Continue reading “Amy Farrah Fowler is going to talk to teachers about science”

Jenny McCarthy’s evil twin–Amy Farrah Fowler

©2013, CBS
©2013, CBS

If you’re a fan of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), a show about five highly educated geek/hipsters (and all doing scientific research as their career, which makes me happy that my career choice ended up as a great TV show) and the girl next door who is in love with one of the highly educated geek/hipsters. One of the main characters is Amy Farrah Fowler, who is a Ph.D. level neurobiologist who has a complicated relationship with one of the male characters on the show. At this point, you’d be wondering if I was hallucinating, because how could Amy Farrah Fowler be a twin of Jenny McCarthy, let alone an evil twin? 

But there’s a method to my madness. Or logic.

Unless you were studying meltwater lakes in the Arctic (an overhyped and incorrect story, by the way), you probably knew that the former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy was chosen by ABC TV (in the USA) to be a co-host on the daytime talk show, The View. Let’s just say that this has not been met positively by much of the skeptical, pro-science blogging and journalism community. In fact, from what I’ve read, hardly anyone but the vaccine denier lunatic fringe is happy about her choice a co-host.

Dr. Fowler is played by the actress Mayim Bialik, who is not only a fairly accomplished actress, starring in two successful TV series (Blossom being the other), but during a break from acting she went to college and graduate school, and earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from an academically elite university, UCLA (the University of California at Los Angeles). In other words, Dr. Bialik is everything that Jenny McCarthy is not–she is a successful actress with fairly good comedic abilities, she is extremely well educated at a real university (as opposed to Jenny McCarthy’s claim of being educated at the University of Google), and, as far as I know, Bialik has not posed nude for Playboy, though I suppose that being featured in Playboy is not an indicator of intellect.

To be honest, I thought it would be great to see a young, well educated woman succeeding on a hit TV show. Moreover, she gets to play a young, well-educated, albeit somewhat more nerdy, dopplegänger of her real life self on TBBT.

So you’re asking, exactly how can she be an evil twin of the uneducated, unsuccessful, Playboy-shilling, McCarthy?

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Richard Dawkins and the existence of god

You’re going to be reading this story about Richard Dawkins and his doubts about the NON-existence of god.  The Telegraph, a British newspaper, wrote about a recent public discussion between Dawkins and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the traditional head of the Church of England (known as Anglicans outside of the USA, and Episcopalians in the USA):

There was surprise when Prof Dawkins acknowledged that he was less than 100 per cent certain of his conviction that there is no creator.

The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did.

An incredulous Sir Anthony replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist.”

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Amy Farrah Fowler may believe in homeopathy, but Sheldon does not

A couple of days ago, I talked about the Amy Farrah Fowler character on one of my favorite TV shows, the geeky Big Bang Theory, who is a neurobiologist played by a real neurobiologist, Mayim Bialik.  Yes, Bialik, former star of the TV show Blossom (never saw an episode) has a Ph.D. in neurobiology from UCLA.  Yes, the real UCLA.

As we discussed, Dr. Bialik seems to believe in a whole host of pseudoscientific alternative medicine ideas, all of which does not make sense given her education.  She believes in homeopathy, which is basically nonsense according to every definition of the word “nonsense.”  Homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience, since it is based on a nearly impossible foundation of water having a sort of memory to what it contacted.  In other words, the basic principle of homeopathy violates all the basic principles of physics and chemistry.  These aren’t ideas that require a Ph.D. to understand, and assuming that Bialik actually studied science, and didn’t cruise through her undergraduate and graduate training without opening a single book, she would have to be scientifically critical of homeopathy.

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Amy Farrah Fowler, I’m so disappointed

I’m a huge fan of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), mainly because I’m a lifelong geek, but also because it is one of the better written shows on TV (a low standard indeed).  The four main male characters are researchers at Cal Tech, although, as the show keeps mentioning, three have Ph.D.’s, and one only has a Masters from MIT.  TBBT also amuses me because I was one of those characters, seemingly clueless about the opposite sex, more interested in games and Star Trek than in anything else, and spending hours in a lab doing obscure experiments.  And I dressed that poorly too!  TBBT just reminds me of my life.  And I still love Star Trek (though Enterprise annoyed me).

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