Highlight of the week is the landing of the Huygens probe on Titan and the amazing pictures it sent back. This is a world a billion kilometers from Earth with a surface temperature of -180°C; but whilst the wind and rain may be composed of ammonia and methane, the patterns of erosion and drainage are remarkably similar to those found here on Earth.
And back on Earth the discovery of dino-swallowing cretaceous mammals adds a new twist to our picture of the mesozoic. No longer were mammals timid creatures scurrying in the dinosaurs’ shadows. At the risk of sounding trite, that is the truly amazing thing about science, even the science of the distant past – we are always discovering new parts of the big picture.
Which is something that’s totally lost on the proponents of Intelligent Design. This, as Richard Dawkins once wrote, is how creationism has been “excitingly rebranded”. The rebranding is necessary in the USA because the first amendment prohibits using state funds to promote religion, so teaching creationism is banned in state schools. A judge in Georgia has ruled that the addition of stickers stating that evolution is ‘just a theory’ to biology textbooks is religiously motivated and hence illegal. The judge’s ruling is somewhat rambling and no doubt there will be interminable appeals, but this is a blow to the ID movements ‘wedge strategy’ of sneaking creationism into schools via the back door. Read more at The Panda’s Thumb.
Meanwhile in the UK we have the Vardy Foundation whose academies are funded by the state and have replaced comprehensives. In these creationism is taught alongside evolution (and if evolution wasn’t on the national curriculum I bet they wouldn’t teach it) and the government seems to see nothing wrong with that. In contrast with the US the issue has hardly registered with the press or public over here.
The US has separation of state and religion, is one of the most Christian countries in the world and has a very public battle between neo-creationists and science. The UK has the Church of England, is for all practical purposes a secular state and is allowing openly creationist organisations to run state schools. I don’t know which is worse.