14 Sep 2011

A Call to Arms – and Flippers, Too


Image: Cedars-Sinai.edu
 Readers of The Globe and Mail were treated to this headline this morning: “Children’s book too hot for U.S. publishers warmly received in Canada.” Naturally, I was intrigued.

The book in question turned out to be a children’s nonfiction title, published by Kids Can Press: Evolution, by Daniel Loxton.

I had the great pleasure of reading the book when I sat on the judges’ panel for the Lane Anderson Science Writing for Children Award back in June. I can tell you that the book was so well-received by all the judges that it made the shortlist, along with Sea Wolves is by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read, and Ultimate Trains by Peter MacMahon (The winner of the award, and the $10,000 cash prize will be announced later today).
So what’s the trouble with Evolution? It’s factually correct, sensitively and intelligently written, and beautifully designed; the perfect introduction to one of the most important principles in biology, for children and adults.
But for U.S. publishers, according to Loxton, it was “too hot a topic” – i.e., they were afraid of pressure from creationist yahoos (my expression, not Loxton's).  All declined to publish it.
As a born-and-bred Yank, I’m appalled by this thoroughly chickenshit (a well-known scientific term) behavior on the part of my fellow Americans. Book people should know better. Forgive the book-related pun, but book people should  show some spine.  Yes, I know, the book biz is struggling, publishers need to feel certain that a book will make money. But really – you don’t think there’s a big enough market to support a terrific science book? Puh-leeze.
On the flip side, I’m feeling great pride that one of my own publishers here in Canada, Kids Can Press, isn’t as much of a weenie as their American counterparts. They knew a good book when they saw one, and decided to publish it for all the right reasons. I bet they’ll make a mint on it too.
Gillian O’Reilly, the Editor of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre News, is not surprised that Evolution found a home in Canada. She thinks Canadian publishers have distinguished themselves in science publishing for many years. “It's interesting that the American Institute of Physics award for science writing has gone to Canadian books five times since 2001,” she says. “The subjects have been wide-ranging (space, engineering feats and failures, dinosaur poop, math all around us and explosions of all sorts)… I see a lot of great Canadian books in my role, and I think Canadian publishers are willing to take risks and be inventive when it comes to science for kids.”
So bouquets and two opposable thumbs up go to Kids Can Press and all of the other vertebrates (i.,e, those with backbones) of the Canadian children’s publishing scene.

And brickbats go to American publishing invertebrates (read: woosies) who clearly have devolved since The Origin of the Species was published in 1859.
 To read the Globe article, go here.
To find out more about the Lane Anderson Award, go here.
To find out more about Daniel Loxton’s Evolution and/or to buy the book, go here.

17 comments:

Deborah Hodge said...

Great column, Helaine! Three cheers for Daniel Loxton and Kids Can Press.

Margriet Ruurs said...

I will be co-presenting with and interviewing Daniel Loxton during the Vancouver International Writers Festival in October! Now I really can't wait!

Hoodedthis said...

I can't get how some Christians can consider such a great book "evil" or "inappropriate". Have they forgotten that they are forcing their children to believe in a fictitious book, which is full of blood, cruelty, violence, sexism, racism, demons, incest, rape, genocide and infanticide?

spec said...

I sure would love to know the names of the 'publishers', so I can avoid their products in the future.

Anonymous said...

Silly publishers... Creationists don't read.

David said...

Daniel Loxton is editor of Junior Skeptic, a youth supplement included in each issue of Skeptic, a magazine that "examines extraordinary claims."

Why is evolution the one subject skeptics aren't skeptical about?

Regarding vertical evolution (information-building evolution), can evolutionists give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome?

From Loxton's book, "Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be":
(http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Evolution--KidsCanPress--FB.pdf)

Page 13:

"On one island, the [Galapagos] finches had large beaks for cracking tough seeds. On another, they had long thin beaks for catching insects and so on. But if that was true--if one species could turn into several new species--how did it happen?"

Jonathan Weiner ("The Beak of the Finch", 1994) said beak changes during a severe drought (1977) was "evolution in action", even though the changes were reversed after the drought ended, and no net evolution occurred. The beak changes can be more accurately described as "minor variation in
action".

Page 21:

"Most of these insects [peppered moth] were light colored with dark
pepperlike speckles, while a rare few were dark all over....Within a
hundred years, almost all the moths were dark colored. A change in the environment led to a physical adaptation in the moths. That's natural selection and evolution in action!" (p. 21)

Edward Blyth, English chemist/zoologist (and creationist), wrote his first of three major articles on natural selection--although not using the
specific term--in The Magazine of Natural History, 24 years before Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published. Why then do evolutionists think of natural
selection as Darwin's idea?

As for peppered moths, did a new species emerge, or did it already preexist?

Page 44:

"How could evolution produce something as complicated as my eyes?....It's just not true that eyes need all those parts [lens, iris, muscles, etc.] to work. As Darwin pointed out, nature today is full of eye designs much
simpler than ours."

Ian T. Taylor writes: "If Darwin turned cold at the thought of the human eye at the end of the evolutionary cycle, what, one wonders, would he have thought of the trilobite eye near the beginning?" ("In the Minds of Men",
Fifth Edition, 2003)

For Loxton not to include scientific information that questions evolution is to teach evolution as dogma.

See my online article "Evolution: The Creation Myth of Our Culture"
(www.trueorigin.org/evomyth01.asp)

David Buckna

Hoodedthis said...

@David

"For Loxton not to include scientific information that questions evolution is to teach evolution as dogma."

Are you serious?

It is like you're saying that a children book should include every monotheistic and polytheistic theory about origin, since being one-sided means it is teaching dogma. That is just absurd, and will make a book for children an encyclopedia.

I wish you'd tell the same crap to the publishers of Bibles and Christian children books, which do not show any science supporting or opposing their arguments. Yet I guess there are double standards concerning such matter.

Teaching evolution is more scientific than teaching that the Earth is a thousands of years old, that snakes talk and deceive people, that angels and demons exist, that virgins can give birth and that two bears can be commanded by God to maul 42 children.

You're another religious zealot. Evolution has overwhelming proof, and even the pope and some Muslims consider it true. The evolution of the eye was inexplicable at the times of Darwin. Now it is easily explained and illustrated. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSw6vytoLGA

Anonymous said...

Christian books for kids are allowed to be published but for one time, a simple, important educational book based on the foundations of life is rejected because morons are trying to avoid debates and uphold a religion which continues to devastate humanity.

Fuck this planet, I'm leaving.

The Sci/Writers said...

Comments to this blog are not currently moderated, so please keep in mind while posting that our audience includes children. Thank you!

ExTechOp said...

David, I'll for a moment disregard the fact that all your questions are standard creationist canards.

I will only note that creationists have not been able to define "increase in information in the genome" in any meaningful and measurable way, so your question is quite bogus.

The classic of information measurement is the Shannon self-information, which depends on the length of the message. For some reason, creationists don't want to accept that the amoeboid Polychaos dubium contains more "genetic information" than humans (its genome is 670 billion base pairs of DNA, which is over 200 times larger than the human genome).

David said...

To ExTechOp:

If all my questions (www.trueorigin.org/evomyth01.asp)
are "standard creationist canards", and if the scientific evidence for macroevolution is so overwhelming, then it should be a cakewalk for you to answer them.

How about answering one for us? Or... how about answering this question:

Computer programmers utilize complex codes to create software. The genetic code, which is more sophisticated, controls the physical processes of life and is accompanied by elaborate transmission and duplication systems. How does evolution, using natural processes and chance, solve the problem of complex information sequencing without intelligence?

ExTechOp says: "The classic of information measurement is the Shannon self-information, which depends on the length of the message."

Dr. Werner Gitt discusses Shannon information theory in "In the Beginning Was Information" (2006): and in his sequel: "Without Excuse 2011).

http://creation.com/information-science-and-biology

Gitt writes:

"Shannon's concept of information is adequate to deal with the storage and transmission of data, but it fails when trying to understand the qualitative nature of information."

ExTechOp said...

David,

I'll just note creationists like you still have no method of measuring information, thus your "question" on increase in information is mere verbal masturbation.

Your followup ("How does evolution, using natural processes and chance, solve the problem of complex information sequencing without intelligence?") presupposes there exists a problem. Would you care to elucidate in your own words, without resorting to copypasta, what this problem is?

David said...

Now that Daniel Luxton has won $10,000 for winning the Lane Anderson Award, he can try to double his money by agreeing to participate in the Life Science Prize:

http://www.lifescienceprize.org/

I recently learned that on Sept. 14 Luxton was formally challenged and has until Oct. 5 to decide.

From the Sept. 14 email Luxton was sent:

[snip]

Your son and the thousands of children who read your book (and your Junior Skeptic magazine) will admire you for putting your money where your mouth is. After all, they just might use that "critical thinking" you urge them to use.

[snip]

The Life Science Prize is based upon the claim that evolution is an inverted-fantasy religion that does not exist, never has, and never will because it is based on vitalism superstitions 2,500 years old completely outside the realm of science, the exact opposite of reality, and taught by frauds and forgeries in the public schools in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. This claim is addressed to every evolutionist worldwide bar none. If you do not answer this claim by contending for the Life Science Prize by the deadline below, then you will be put on the Debate Dodgers (default-judgment) List (see http://www.lifescienceprize.org/).

Life Science Prize Rules

1. The evolutionist puts $10,000 in escrow with the judge. You may team up with Shermer, Scott, Myers, and any amount of evolutionists.
2. The creationist puts $10,000 in escrow with the judge.
3. If the evolutionist proves evolution is science and creation is religion, then the evolutionist is awarded the $20,000.
4. If the creationist proves creation is science and evolution is religion, then the creationist is awarded the $20,000.
5. Evidence must be scientific, that is, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated.
6. The preponderance of evidence prevails.
7. At the end of the trial, the judge hands the prevailing party both checks.
8. The judge is a superior court judge.
9. The venue is a courthouse.

Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo will contend for the creationists and has his $10,000 ready to hand the judge.

[snip]

David said...

ExTechOp asks what this problem is.

OK.

Dr. Seuss was challenged to write a book using only 50 words. He wrote Green Eggs and Ham. I quote from:

http://kottke.org/09/02/green-eggs-and-ham

From a programming perspective, one of the fun things about Green Eggs and Ham is because the text contains so little information repeated in a cumulative tale (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumulative_tale), the story could be more efficiently represented as an algorithm. A simple loop would take the place of the following excerpt:

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam I am.

[end of quote]

*

When someone says the book doesn't contain much information, we know exactly what they mean. Now compare that to an organic synthesis textbook which is packed with information and could, in no way, be represented by a simple algorithm.

So the problem of quantifying information (still an ongoing concern among information mathematicians) doesn't nullify the FACT that information differences do exist. And a "simple" one-celled organism doesn't have nearly the information packed into a human cell. There is an information difference. Green Eggs and Ham vs. chemistry textbook...One-celled organism vs human cell.

As for the complex information problem...it is indeed a problem. NO KNOWN MECHANISM creates complex information. Small pebbles randomly bouncing down a mountainside, severe winds, etc. will not carve the images of 4 presidents on Mount Rushmore:

http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium/mt-rushmore-presidents-darrell-storts.jpg

Norman Geisler and Kerby Anderson write in “Origin Science: A Proposal for the Creation-Evolution Controversy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987): "But to insist on finding a natural cause where there is evidence for primary intelligent causes is like demanding that a geology class remain at Mount Rushmore until it discovers some natural process of erosion to explain the faces formed on the mountainside."

In every case of complex information from a known source, it's origin is always intelligence. Always.

So back to my question:

"How does evolution, using natural processes and chance, solve the problem of complex information sequencing without intelligence?"

So ExTechOp, if you still think it's not a problem, please explain WHY it's not a problem.

See also:

Evolution Is Biologically Impossible
by Joseph Mastropaolo
http://www.lifescienceprize.org/data2.html

David said...

Grebe Left Imaginary Dinosaur Feathers in Amber

Posted on September 15, 2011

http://crev.info/content/110915-grebe_left_imaginary_dinosaur_feathers_in_amber

*

Listen:

http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/episode/2011/09/17/september-17-2011/

Sept. 17, 2011

Find Feathered Fiends

*

Video newsclip:

Dinosaur Feathers Found in Amber
September 15, 2011

http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/TV_Shows/The_National/1233408557/ID=2131088291

*

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/09/15/science-dinosaur-feathers.html

David said...

Further to my earlier post, ExTechOp seems unaware of the field of bioinformatics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioinformatics

Even atheist Richard Dawkins recognizes the reality of biological information and that it needs to be explained.

In The Blind Watchmaker, he said, which shows that information can be measured quantitatively:

'[T]here is enough information capacity in a single human cell to store the Encyclopaedia Britannica, all 30 volumes of it, three or four times over.'

See:

Is the design explanation
legitimate?
by Jonathan Sarfati

http://www.trueorigin.org/design01.asp

Ishta Mercurio said...

Helaine: This article is marvelous. As long as you continue to call things as you see them, the world will be a better place.

David asks: "How does evolution, using natural processes and chance, solve the problem of complex information sequencing without intelligence?"

That's an easy one, David. Over time, there have been billions upon billions of happenstance combinations of genetic coding. All the lifeforms that had combinations that weren't compatible with the environment at that time died at a rate faster than their rate of reproduction. All the lifeforms that had combinations that were compatible with their environment survived long enough to reproduce enough to keep the chain going. Read James Lovelock's work.

As for the rest, here's the thing: for a publisher, any publisher, not to publish something that draws upon the findings of the vast majority of the scientific community, out of fear that not enough people will want to buy the book or fear of controversy, says a lot about the state of education in that country, and it says even more about the state of mind of the people of that country. And what it says is embarrassing and shameful. For a nation to have turned its back on science is a disgrace. I am a Yank, but I am also an ex-pat. In this moment, I am glad to be raising my children in a country that embraces knowledge and understanding of the scientific principles that underpin who we are and how we came to be here.