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Skeptic Summary #324

By The Staff
Posted on: 3/26/2011

Bombs, aliens, Craig, TAM, Becoming Human and more!

Week ending March 26, 2011 (Vol 8, #12)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Forum Highlights:
Bombs away - But didn’t land in Libya, where we expected.

ETs are here, despite guesses to the contrary - The buck stopped here. For now.

William Lane Craig on Japan and morality - An opinion that wasn’t so reasonable.

Editor’s Choice: TAM9 from Outer Space - You must go. I command it.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Becoming Human — From the The Institute of Human Origins, founded by Donald Johanson, discoverer of Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) and as the online companion to the 2009 NOVA series, Becoming Human, comes this wonderful and downloadable interactive site on human origins. The web site is complete with several documentary segments, adapted from the original series and narrated by Donald Johanson, along with clickable related exhibits, timelines, hominid profiles, related searches, and much more. And it’s all presented in such a way that the whole family can enjoy it. There is even a learning center with games and activities, and also news updates relating to human origins regularly posted on the site.

From the about us section:
The Institute of Human Origins (IHO) conducts, interprets and publicizes scientific research on the human career. IHO’s unique approach brings together scientists from diverse disciplines to develop integrated, bio-behavioral investigations of human evolution. Through research, education, and the sponsorship of scholarly interaction, IHO advances scientific understanding of our origins and its contemporary relevance. Combining interdisciplinary expertise and targeted funding, IHO fosters the pursuit of integrated solutions to the most important questions regarding the course, cause and timing of events in human evolution.

The Institute was founded in 1981 in Berkeley, California by Donald Johanson. For many years IHO was located on Ridge Road, one block north of the campus of the University of California. While not affiliated with UC, IHO worked closely with colleagues in the Earth Sciences and Anthropology Departments.

This website,, was created by IHO in the year 2000 and a major upgrade, BecomingHuman 2.0, took place in 2009.

In 1998 IHO moved to Tempe, Arizona. While retaining its position as a research institute IHO became a teaching department within what is now called the School of Human Evolution and Social Change (SHESC) at Arizona State University.

IHO conducts a biennial field school at Hadar in Ethiopia, affording students an intensive, two month credit course in field work. Institute researchers also lead teams working at Pinnacle Point in coastal South Africa.
You can watch the three-part documentary, Becoming Human, at the Nova Site:Taken with its companion piece, Becoming Human should keep you busy for awhile. Human origins have long been a fascination of mine, and my favorite topic in all of science. And being the lover of science that I am, that’s saying something. If you have half as much fun as I have had, perusing the site and watching the documentary, I guarantee both a good time and a wonderful learning experience. Oh, and remember, the site’s main content is downloadable, just in case you want to keep it as a part of your own library.

Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question — to doubt — to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.
— Richard Feynman

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: I (Dr. Mabuse) was an hour late to chat because the USA had already switched to daylight savings, without telling me. It started out with “All your base are belong to us.” Someone told us it’s spring break, but it’s still cold outside. A few chatters will be going to TAM9. Our chat moderator Ricky has been MIA for six months now, so I guess the Administration has to fire me instead for being late. Members with children talked about them for a while, and then we went back to the old debate about the “atheist” or “skeptics” convention. Chat ended with acronyms like DSL, IPTV, HBO, Mbps, and FIOS.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
9 Bills That Would Put Creationism in the Classroom

‘Bigfoot’ Filmmaker Sues New Hampshire

Budget boost for clinical trials

How Free Is Your Will?

Impossible objects…

Oh, and that blood-sucking El Chupacabra? Not real

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says

This Week in Intelligent Design

When disaster strikes others: How your brain responds

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.

Book of the Week:
Lucy’s Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins, by Dr. Donald Johanson and Kate Wong.

“Johanson (Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind), the paleoanthropologist who in 1974 discovered the famed 3.2-million-year-old hominid named Lucy, and Scientific American editor Wong delve deeply into the significance of Lucy, her probable ancestors and her probable successors, including modern humans. The authors capture the curiosity, passion and excitement that Johanson and his colleagues bring to their research, as well as the mundane, backbreaking aspects of fieldwork. Wong and Johanson are also expert at framing the science that informs judgments about what defines a hominid species, such as brain size, the ability to walk upright and facial structure. They probe the equally important question of what drove human evolution, examining three major approaches: a social model, a dietary model and an environmental model. Johanson is adept at framing the debates within his famously contentious discipline, ranging from fundamental questions about the fossil record to theories of early human migration, the fate of the Neanderthals and the controversy over the highly publicized recent discovery of fossil ‘hobbits’ on the Indonesian archipelago. The writing is accessible, especially considering the challenging nature of the science that shapes our understanding of human evolution.”

— Publishers Weekly

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. ETs are here, despite guesses to the contrary
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  4. The Supper
  5. Webcam, bald eagle nest
  6. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  7. Bills planned to legalize abortion murders??
  8. Japan
  9. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  10. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Alternative Medicine and the Death of Candace Newmaker
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. Scientific Truth
  6. Cold Reading
  7. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  8. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  9. N. 53, September 2004: Monty Python's Guide to Philosophy
  10. Skeptic Summary #323
There were 7,196 daily visitors this week.

More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2011, all rights reserved.

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