Neanderthals developed their own tools

"The Old Man"
Image via Wikipedia

 

Via BBC

Neanderthals were keen on innovation and technology and developed tools all on their own, scientists say. 

A new study challenges the view that our close relatives could advance only through contact with Homo sapiens

The team says climate change was partly responsible for forcing Neanderthals to innovate in order to survive. 

The research is set to appear in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory in December. 

“Basically, I am rehabilitating Neanderthals,” said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado in Denver, who led the seven-year study. 

“They were far more resourceful than we have given them credit for.” 

Texas votes for textbook standards

Via TPM, Texas has voted for new textbook standards.

The board added a requirement that economics students “analyze the decline of the U.S. dollar including abandonment of the gold standard.” Students must also learn about Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, author of libertarian urtext The Road to Serfdom.

The famous clause requiring history students to “Describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association” remains in the standards, even after its author, Don McLeroy, lost his primary this month.

According to TFN: “the board stripped Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political revolutions from the 1700s to today. In Jefferson’s place, the board’s religious conservatives succeeded in inserting Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. They also removed the reference to ‘Enlightenment ideas’ in the standard, requiring that students should simply learn about the influence of the ‘writings’ of various thinkers (including Calvin and Aquinas).”

Texas tends to affect textbook makers in significant ways. The interesting thing here would be what other states choose to do. States like CA, NY, PA, are big enough to counter the effect of TX. If they choose not to follow similar standards, it would be interesting to see what publishers do.

Besides, there is a push to unify k-12 standards across the country and if many small states join the bigger states like CA and NY, then TX may become irrelevant. One may wonder if states like OK, AR, MS, LA, etc would go with TX. I think not. My feeling is that these states are trying desparately to attract industry and they are eager to show that they adhere to the best academic standards so that they can attract families of the highly educated types that would follow the high end industry, tech jobs. Of course, I speculate.

Recommended Podcast: “From Israelite to Jew”

by Michael Satlow of Brown University. This is a series of podcasts on the history of the Israelites to the end of the first century C.E. It is very, very, very, well done. One example is the handling of the Ezra-Nehemiah story. It is a complicated story and I have listed to another Ph.D. butcher it. Satlow does his home work and his explanations are very clear.

Science, Scientists, and Religion

Dan Gilgoff at US News and World Report blogged about the growing dissonance of scientists and religion. The percentage of scientists who believe in God is drastically less that the God-believing part of the population.

An eye-opening new Pew survey on science and religion reveals a huge God gap between scientists and other Americans. Eighty-three percent of Americans say that they believe in God, while just 33 percent of scientists do. Just 17 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, while nearly three times as many scientists are.

This is not surprising at all being that religion is fast losing credibility. The fact that an ungodly number of Americans, about 40%, do not accept evolution is astounding and is directly attributable to religion. For scientists, the question of evolution is a non-starter. Evolution occured. Period. So when they have to debate the fact of evolution, it is like debating that the earth is indeed round or that the earth revolves around the sun.

Also, the issue of the nature of the human being, i.e., the soul. That’s another that science and traditional Christianity have no middle ground in understanding the nature of the human person.

Until Christianity, especially Catholicism, take a step in honestly dealing with science, scientists will dismiss religion as credible. I suspect that most of these people consider themselves spiritual, which seems to be the cool alternative to traditional religion.

Interesting Math post

I have this love/hate relationship with math. So I do enjoy reading math stories and posts. Here’s an interesting post by Math4barack at Dkos. He’s a PhD math student who gave this presentation to his fellow doctoral math colleagues.

My slide show was designed to reveal the coming Demographic changes and their implications for American education. It was further designed to show that the playing field is not level.
This is the second slide in the show. It offers three reasons for those who teach mathematics to justify its relevance:
First, this is the reality for our students.
Second, these facts have educational relevance for us as educators.
Third, we must act if we are to prevent a future decline in our educational system.

Being in the education field, naturally I find the post interesting. He does bring up the issue of unqualified teachers but does not venture a concrete recommendation. I say no concrete recommendation because that phrase “unqualified teachers” can be quite loaded and used to suggest or defend diametrically opposed policy suggestions.  Clearly, the teacher’s unions have not shown themselves to be the solution and are very often obstacles to quality teachers.  What I like about the post is the urgency it conveys regarding the changing demographics and education needs of the population.