How Cats Domesticated Us….

July 7, 2009

This post doesn’t conform to the blog’s normal fare but, as a felin-o-phile (if that’s a word), I couldn’t resist.

New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade writes (in TierneyLab) of a study on the origin of domestic cats in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

All the other species, in the authors’ view, were bred by people for their desired qualities. Cats, being without utility, were not. Instead, they domesticated themselves and chose their own mates without human interference.

It all came about, the researchers concede, because of wild cats’ powers of observation. They had the wits to notice that the first human settlements were full of uncleared garbage strewn about by their slovenly inhabitants and so were overrun with rats, mice and sparrows.

I knew my cats were in control of my life but it’s nice to have a scientific study to back that claim up

As to the “no utility” claim, my cats keep me amused, help relieve stress, keep away rodents and redecorate the sides of my sofa.

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In Polling We Don’t Trust: Follow the Money

July 3, 2009

Charles_Darwin_seatedThe Freakonomics blog at The New York Times, in it’s continuing quest to point out problems with misusing statistics and polls, wrote yesterday:

According to a Zogby poll taken this year, Darwin’s 200th anniversary, Americans favor intelligent design over Darwinian theory. According to the poll, 33 percent of respondents said they agreed with Darwinism, but 52 percent agreed that “the development of life was guided by intelligent design.

A slam dunk for the ID crowd? Not necessarily. Read on.

The poll was commissioned by The Discovery Institute, which advocates intelligent design. This is the kind of thing that gives Gary Langer fits.

That’s the kind of thing that should give all of us fits. Langer, by the way, believes bad poll modeling is often a culprit in inaccurate polling rather than the perceived truthfulness of the respondents. He writes in a 2007 blog:

But why admit that you built a bad model, asked the wrong question, asked it badly, forgot the follow-up, or just can’t figure it out, when, heck, you can just blame the respondent instead

Even if the Zobgy poll was slanted due to improper questioning or other shenanigans, it may not that be far from reality. The freethinking and scientific community must do a better job in educating the public on the reality of evolution and the inconsistency of intelligent design. Ideas?