Sunday, March 29, 2009

So who is guilty of suppressing freedom of speech at New Scientist...?

Have just come across this posting on the blog Afarensis:
which describes an incident of self-censorship at New Scientist.

And here is what New Scientist now has in its place:
"New Scientist has received a legal complaint about the contents of this story. At the advice of our lawyer it has temporarily been removed while we investigate. Apologies for any inconvenience."

So who is to blame for this legalistic nonsense? Well, one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to spot the two most likely culprits--the two individuals named in the article! As Al Murray would say: Shame on you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Baba Brinkman confronts Canadian science minister

Forget Kansas, all eyes are on Canada now as the laughing stock of the developed world for the bizarre and non-committal attitude of its science minister, Gary Goodyear, (left) towards evolution. After first saying that he wasn't going to answer questions on evolution on religious grounds, he has now come up with this odd statement:

"We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong."
And now Canadian Rap artist Baba Brinkman has stepped into the fray with this open letter to Goodyear. Here's how its starts:
Dear Minister Goodyear,

I will be performing a show called "The Rap Guide to Evolution" as part of the Vancouver Evolution Festival in a few weeks, and I would like to invite you to come to the performance free of charge. Allow me to explain...

But I won't be taking any bets on Goodyear taking up the challenge!

See also:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Darwin's Pilgrims in Cambridge: the Movie

Here is the next installment in the Darwin's Pilgrims movies, our trip to Cambridge. 

Unfortunately, because of a lorry on fire on the motorway Lauri, Cyndi and I arrived over two hours late for our rendezvous with Baba Brinkman and Claire McShane and so our trip was shorter than planned. Also, Christ's was closed to visitors, so we had to make do with photos outside. But the visit to magnificent King's College Chapel, where Darwin used to go and listen to anthems (like Handel's Zadok The Priest heard here), made it all worthwhile. 

Here is what Darwin said about the chapel in his autobiography:
I acquired a strong taste for music, and used very often to time my walks so as to hear on week days the anthem in King's College Chapel. This gave me intense pleasure, so that my backbone would sometimes shiver. I am sure that there was no affectation or mere imitation in this taste, for I used generally to go by myself to King's College, and I sometimes hired the chorister boys to sing in my rooms.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Tangled Bank: speculative fiction exploring Darwin's legacy

Have just received notice of this interesting bicentenary project:

The Tangled Bank: an e-anthology of speculative fiction, artwork, and poetry exploring the legacy of Darwin and evolution

This year marks 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin, and 150 years since the publication of The Origin of Species. To mark the anniversaries, submissions are invited for The Tangled Bank, an e-anthology of speculative fiction, artwork, and poetry exploring the legacy of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. Illuminate -- or obscure -- the line between the real and the fantastic. The fiction may be of any speculative genre or cross-genre; demand to be included by the quality of your submission. Artwork and poetry need not be strictly speculative in nature, but must engage with Charles Darwin or evolution.

The Tangled Bank will be edited by Chris Lynch and published by Tangled Bank Press in late 2009. For submission guidelines and more information, visit

Friday, March 13, 2009

Darwin's Pilgrims in Malvern: the Movie

I am trying to create a movie of the Darwin's Pilgrims tour, where I hosted a tour of Darwinian sites and series of shows from Lauri Lebo and Baba Brinkman. But the project is turning out to be too large to do in one go in iMovie, so I am going to create a series of short films as a I go along and then join them all together at the end.

Here is a draft version of the first film--the final version will be better quality (currently having problems with the titles). This movie captures Lauri Lebo and Cyndi Sneath's short visit to Great Malvern (an event beset by bad weather!). And in case you don't recognise it, the music is Nimrod by Elgar, the English composer who lived in Malvern (Lauri is seen shaking his statue's hand at the end).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A double dose of Darwniniana on BBC2 tonight

BBC 2 is screening the first episodes of two new Darwin-related series tonight:

Jimmy Doherty in Darwin's Garden 8pm
In three one-hour programmes, Jimmy Doherty tells the untold story of Darwin the experimental scientist. By recreating many of the ingenious experiments that helped Darwin form his theory, Jimmy explores evolution in an original and fresh way. Using Darwin's detailed notes as a guide, Jimmy feeds urine to insect-eating plants, throws a snake into a monkey enclosure at a zoo, and plays a bassoon to an earthworm. Enjoyable and accessible, the programmes drive home the continuing importance of Darwin's ideas - evolution really is all around us.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea 9pm
Andrew Marr's three-part series looks at how Darwin's idea escaped the world of science and took on a life of its own.
(I hope we don't get a dose of Darwin was responsible for Dachau nonsense that appeared in last summer's Dawkins shows!)

Both will be available on iPlayer after the screening. Viewers from outside the UK can use a proxy server to access iPlayer, so that the BBC thinks you are in the UK. If Mac users want to save the programmes, try using iPlayer Grabber.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The fickle news media

What with all these comparisons between Jade Goody and Gail Trimble in the UK new media, plus this ongoing obsession with University Challenge, one is driven to a view of the media as trivial, fickle and flighty. And now this view is reinforced by this blog posting from Seb Atay, who interviewed me for BBC Radio WM and was horrified to see our Rap Guide to Evolution story bumped out of the way by a three-week old story about a halal pizza shop! 

There's no justice!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wow, we actually made it into Science magazine!

Further to my recent posting, where I pointed out that The Rap Guide to Evolution made it on to a Science magazine blog, I have just discovered that we gained a mention in the print version of Science Magazine for 20th February! 

Baba tells me he has taken the show to Fresno and it has gone down well there. I am currently putting together a movie of our Darwin's Pilgrims tour during the bicentennial week when we took The Devil in Dover and Rap Guide to Evolution to Cambridge, London, Birmingham and Shrewsbury and also snuck in some Darwinian tourism (see Lauri's guest posts). Watch this space!