Field of Science

Dawkins Defends the OUT Campaign

Although I am a bit late to the party, I wanted to point OUT that Richard Dawkins has recently posted a nice essay about the OUT Campaign and why it is necessary. Here is a snippet:
"Our choir is large, but much of it remains in the closet. Our repertoire may include the best tunes, but too many of us are mouthing the words sotto voce with head bowed and eyes lowered. It follows that a major part of our consciousness-raising effort should be aimed, not at converting the religious but at encouraging the non-religious to admit it – to themselves, to their families, and to the world. This is the purpose of the OUT campaign."
PZ has already added his few cents to this and as I post, there are are already 319 comments.

Picture credit here. Thanks Matti A.

Biochemistry By Design

An excellent article appeared recently in TRENDS in Biochemical Sciences (subscription required) that is worthy of note here. The paper, entitled "Biochemistry by design" by BC Forrest & PR Gross, is a terrific primer and riposte to the so-called "Biochemical Challenge to Evolution" that Behe has been promoting in the past few years. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has already posted an article on their site about this paper. The authors are well-versed in the creationism/ID "wars" having previously written the book, "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design" which has just been published in paperback (with an updated chapter on the Dover trial). It's too bad that this great article is (apparently) not Open Access.

The Simpsons Movie

On Friday, I took my kids (ages 10 & 12) to see "The Simpsons Movie". There's always something fun (and risky) about seeing a movie on its opening day and this one actually delivered on the hype. We all enjoyed it, and I would generally recommend it. However, families should be aware that it's rated PG-13 for good reasons. There's quite a bit of off-color (adult?) humor and even a brief shot of Bart's penis (aka "doodle"). They clearly took advantage of the off-TV venue for some saved-up "mature" (?) content. But long-time Simpson's fans should expect some of this (like showing Otto smoking a bong).

The other reason to post here about The Simpsons is the fun piece in Nature this week entitled "Mmm...Pi" that discusses the science-based humor that has permeated The Simpsons for years. The "Top Ten Science Moments" are worth remembering.

The OUT Campaign


Sorry for the long haitus & thanks for staying tuned! Summer time has been keeping me busy this year.

So, what does this big red "A" above mean? Click it and find out for yourself. The folks over at have launched an internet effort to let the world know that there are alot of us OUT there. I'm happy to be OUT. Here's a snippet from the site:
"As more and more people join the OUT Campaign, fewer and fewer people will feel intimidated by religion. We can help others understand that atheists come in all shapes, sizes, colours and personalities. We are labourers and professionals. We are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and grandparents. We are human (we are primates) and we are good friends and good citizens. We are good people who have no need to cling to the supernatural."
When you see the A, you know!

Blogging for good

T. Ryan Gregory over at Genomicron asks: How much good can one blog post do? In a very moving post about the efforts of his father and stepmother to make a difference in Livingstone, Zambia, he asks us to help them in whatever way we can (suggestions are given).

The Livingstone Performing Arts Foundation (LiPAF) mission is to create and perform traditional and original works of music, song and dance which reflect the history, culture, languages and ethnic background of Zambia. Operating as a not for profit organization, LiPAF will enrich the community by providing opportunities for employment, sponsorship of a variety of needy programs and services, and educational programs on topics related to the human condition.


I have been tagged by Shalini over Scientia Natura, Here are the rules:
(although I don't think that she followed #5)
  1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.
1. I consider myself a native Iowan. Although I was born in Missouri (1965), I grew up in Iowa (1968-1983) and went to Iowa State University as an undergraduate (1983-1988). After various academic stints elsewhere, I returned in 2003 to join the faculty at the University of Iowa.

2. I shook hands with Dave Loebsack today at the Coralville 4th of July Parade. Dave is our freshman Democrat congressman who beat out long-standing incumbent Republican Jim Leach last fall. I asked Dave to "keep up the good work" and to pay particular attention to health care and science funding. He assured me that he will do so.

3. I have a motorcycle, but I don't ride it enough. It's a 1995 Honda Shadow VT600C that I got when I finished my PhD 12 years ago. I have been planning to upgrade to a bigger bike someday (a Harley Fat Boy would be nice).

4. I spent a year studying abroad at University College, Swansea (now Swansea University) in Wales as an undergraduate (1985-1986). I took philosophy and psychology courses there because I was unsure about biology at that time.

5. I like my coffee black and my art abstract. Peets Arabian Mocha-Java is my favorite coffee. Rothko and Pollack are among my favorite artists.

6. I played baritone sax when I was in high school. I was particularly interested in jazz and even once won a solo contest at the state level. I considered a music major in college, but quickly realized that I was not as prepared (and committed!) as I needed to be. Lately, I have been considering picking it back up (but I need to buy one first!).

7. My entire academic lineage is comprised of Members of the National Academy of Sciences. My undergraduate mentor, Steve Briggs, is now at UC San Diego. My PhD advisor, Jeff Palmer, is at Indiana University. My post-doc advisor, Ford Doolittle, is at Dalhousie University. I am proud of the accomplishments of my mentors, but they have placed the bar rather high!

8. I eat chocolate at least once a day. Almost anything will do. Snickers and Skor bars are standard fare, but I also enjoy high-end treats.

I hereby tag:

Commenting to each of these blogs (aka Rule #5) will now commence!

Another Fun Blogger Gathering

I returned home late on Sunday (Canada Day!) from Halifax, Nova Scotia where I was attending the Society for Molecular Biology & Evolution (SMBE) annual meeting and the immediately following Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIfAR) Program in Evolutionary Biology meeting. There was lots of good science and one highlight was a dinner get-together of a few bloggers and blog-readers. Bloggers included in our group were RPM, Rosie Redfield, Jason Stajich, Reed Cartwright, and Jacob Tennessen. Both Reed and RPM have posted more about this gathering, including a complete list of attendees (pictured left). Thanks everyone for an enjoyable time! This is an activity that I hope to continue...

Why Rosie doesn't work on Sex

My friend and colleague, Rosie Redfield, has written an interesting post about the origin of eukaryotic sex, entitled "Why I don't work on sex in eukaryotes ". She sums up what we do and don't know about deep eukaryotic relationships and how this impinges on the origin of sex and meiosis. One bottom line is that we still don't know what the earliest branch on the eukaryotic tree is. The other is that it might not matter for the origin of meiosis since work in my lab has shown that homologs of meiotic genes are present in all of the major protist lineages (e.g, this paper, but stay tuned for more details...). Rosie ends her provocative post by paying me a sincere compliment:
"I'm glad that John Logsdon has been working on this, rather than me."
Thanks, Rosie!


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, a few science bloggers got together in Toronto while some of us were attending the American Society for Microbiology general meeting. ASM's MicrobeWorld (a.k.a Chris Condayan) captured us on video. My colleague Tara Smith reported on this earlier today, as did Ryan Gregory. Addendum: Jonathan Badger also reported on this.