Gallagher gets it?

The name “Richard Gallagher” may be familiar to some readers. Gallagher is the editor of The Scientist, and last year, somewhat naively suggested that the evolution/creation “debate” was actually a good thing (you can find the text of his editorial at this site). Both PZ and Jason Rosenhouse took him to task for the editorial (and Gallagher replied, and PZ shot back). The next month, The Scientist then published a number of letters responding to the editorial, and Gallagher also wrote a reply (republished here by the Discovery Institute). Gallagher ended that piece with this quote:

Critical thinking has no place in science class? Really? That bodes incredibly poorly for the future of science teaching. We’re shelving our best weapon against intelligent design, and I find it incredibly sad that scientists who support evolution so strongly would have us shield growing young minds from the “dangers” of critical thinking.

If that’s not dogma, I don’t know what is.

…which of course doesn’t really address the arguments PZ and Jason had put forth–no one wants to “shield minds” from critical thinking at all.

So, of course it’s a bit depressing to see an editor of a life science magazine make strawman mischaracterizations of his fellow scientists who approach the issue differently (and, perhaps, have spent a bit more time in the trenches than Gallagher has). But Gallagher’s editorial in the July issue (“Zealots for Science”) makes me think that, maybe, hopefully, he’s starting to get it.
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Pili in streptococcus: moving from genomics toward the clinic

I wrote here that pili–long, filamentous surface molecules involved in adhesion and bacterial “sex”–had recently been discovered in gram positive organisms; pecifically, in group A and B streptococci (Streptococcus pyogenes and Streptococcus agalactiae, respectively), using a genomics approach. Though this publication is quite recent, this is a fast-moving area of research, as evidenced by two new papers which extend this earlier research into pili in the group B streptococcus (GBS).
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New Tangled Bank!

Check out the best science blogging from the past two weeks over at Salto sobrius. Included in the current carnival is a site that’s new to me, VirologyBytes, and in particular this post (well, podcast) discussing just what a virus is. Unfortunately, I’m at a computer without speakers at the moment, so I’ll have to check it out later, but the site looks quite interesting.

Emerging Disease and Zoonoses #19: Bats and emerging viruses

I’ve mentioned previously the role, or potential role, that bats play in disease transmission. They have long been suspected, and recently identified, as hosts for the Ebola virus. (Whether they’re the main reservoir species and what–if any–role they play in transmission of the virus to humans remains to be determined). They’ve also been implicated in the emergence of SARS and Nipah virus, and of course, have long been associated with the maintenance of rabies virus. A new paper reviews the role of bats in the maintenance and emergence of novel viruses.

Bats represent a huge portion of mammal species: approximately 20% of the 4,600 mammalian species are bats, which range in size from a 130 mm wingspan up to 2 m and are found on all continents with the exception of Antarctica. Within these species, at least 66 different species of viruses have been isolated from bats or detected within their tissues, and there is serological evidence for many others. Rabies is by far the most important, as far as human health goes. However, even though 55,000 human deaths occur from rabies every year, only a small portion are from viruses associated with bats. Viruses that have been isolated include influenza virus, Nipah and Hendra viruses, SARS coronavirus, Chikungunya virus, Japanese and St. Louis encephalitis viruses, Hantaan virus (a relative of the Sin Nombre hantavirus), and Rift Valley fever virus, among others. Despite this incredible diversity of human-pathogenic viruses that have been associated with bats, there are giant gaps in our knowledge of both bat ecology and immunology, further discussed below.
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Martha, Martha, Martha…

Following this post about an outbreak of E. coli O157 at a daycare, I received a few emails asking thoughtful questions about food safety. One in particular asked about what food manufacturers are doing to keep their products safe, and what public health officials are doing to educate the public about how to properly handle and cook food. For the latter, I replied that we’re doing what we can, but that it’s difficult to reach people and get them to listen to advice on a topic where many people already feel they have enough education (I mean, food preparation and cooking isn’t exactly rocket science, right? Why should you take the time out of your day to listen to a public health professional about how to do it their way, when your way is working just fine?) A segment on the morning news made it even more obvious to me why our efforts to educate all too often seem to be futile.

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