Ok Life is still all happening at once (or more to the point NOT happening.. more on all this later) so I figure it's time to get back to blogging a bit. Since I don't have any students to bitch about (classes start jan 7th) what better to do than a fossil. Hallucigenia (which gets my vote for coolest name for any fossil ever) from the famous Precambrian Burgess shale in British Columbia.
It's basically a little wormey looking thing with spikes on one side and noodley appendages on the other. The question is which does it walk on the spikes of the noodley things? When it was first discovered it was reconstructed like this.
Walking on the spikes. Now I ask you, does ANYTHING walk on spikes??..... It's ok I'll wait...... Yeah I didn't think so. So eventually cooler heads prevailed and now.
Ahhh much better. At some point another species was found with substantially smaller spikes that could not possibly have been used as legs. So, it got flipped. Isn't Paleontology just too dang much fun?
Grades are in and I'm decompressing. It's been a pretty good semester Archaeogirl and I are closing in on something that is going to be a BIG chance but I think a good one. So of course my thoughts have turned to next semester.
I was more organized this semester than in the past (those of you who know me know it's a BIG struggle of mine) but the wife's idea of a big accordion folder that I just take with me everywhere and put everything in works GREAT so that hurdle is overcome.
I need to spend more time teaching my students how to be successful in college. I'm at a community college and I really think some of them could use the extra help. I give them a lot of supplemental material and I think it's overwhelming to them. I need to help guide them not only in my class but I college in general. Some will always be successful, some will never be successful but there are enough in the middle that I feel I need to address them.
I need to be clearer and stricter about my policies. In particular my makeup policy. I simply can NOT have students coming in in the last week of class to make up tests. I don't have the time to deal with that at the end of the semester.
I think I need to diversify my class. Right now it's just based on testing. I'm thinking about adding some hands on work it'll give them a chance to pull their grades up and it'll help them to understand some of the concepts better.
Ok this is NOT fun. I went into this finals week with such high hopes. I went in COMPLETELY caught up on my grading and attendance (we're required to do that here) Heck I even had the spreadsheet written to calculate their grade all I have to do is enter their scores for the scantron and the essay and BINGO there's their grade. I wrote what I thought was a thorough and thoughtful final exam. And... Despair. Apparently I killed them. The average so far is somewhere around a 60 and only one person has made an A. Oh I'll curve it. but I'm not real comfortable blaming all this on them. There's going to need to be some changes made in my approach to this.
Ok just in case any of my students are reading this (they're not): "I missed that day of class" is NOT a valid excuse for not knowing the material and will NOT get me to just cough up answers on the final.
This week we have the Devonian brachiopod Paraspirifer. Look carefully and you'll notice that the shell looks like it's made of gold. It's not some Tiffany's on acid concoction, the calcite that normally makes up the shell has been replaced by pyrite (fool's gold). Not as rare as you might think but very cool nevertheless.
There is a movement in this country called Intelligent Design. It is a political movement who's goal is to allow, and in come cases mandate the teaching of the Judeo-Christian Creation myth in science classrooms. This is NOT a scientific movement. The basic premise behind ID is that there are certain structures and systems in nature that are too complicated to have formed from evolutionary processes as we currently understand them, therefore these things had to be formed by a "creator". The ID people are very careful to not say God because that would give them away, but with a wink and a nod everyone knows they're talking about. So the root of ID is:
"if we don't understand it God did it"
The obvious problem here is that to totally shuts down science. If we haven't figured something out by now then God did it and we might as well give up. I won't go into how nonsensical this is, there are plenty of people out there doing a fine job of that and they don't need my help.
What I would instead like to look at is the polar opposite view. There are a lot of scientists out there who are also atheists. Furthermore, they feel that anyone who is not an atheist cannot be an effective scientist. (Time for disclosure I'm a perfectly normal mainstream scientist who is NOT an atheist, and there are quite a few of us out there.) The view of the atheists seems to be that since there is no scientific evidence for God then God doesn't exist. So let's generalize that:
"If there is no scientific evidence for something then it doesn't exist."
Now, if you put it like that it also shuts down science. Since what they're essentially saying is that anything we don't have evidence for right now doesn't exist. So why exactly then do we continue to do science? The "bar" for scientific evidence is pretty darn high. Scientific evidence needs to have a host of qualities that ensure that it is valid and any conclusions we draw from that evidence have a pretty good shot a being close to reality. So it stands to reason that there are a lot of things out there that we don't have scientific evidence for that, nevertheless, exist. Think of all the things 100 years ago that we didn't have scientific evidence for that we simply take for granted today just because of advances in technology.
So in the end, I don't think that either model works particularly well and I'll just stick to my middle road.
... and if you're wondering what exactly that middle road is... join the club so am I.
No students are dead and only a little beer was drank and I feel much better. This time of the semester by the end of the week I really am just had. I have plans upon plans for the next semester and I'm starting to look past the work that has to be done this semester. I'm not so sure that's a good thing but I'm gonna roll with it for now.