Today's news

February 21, 2006

Academics fight rise of creationism at universities
A growing number of science students on British campuses and in sixth form colleges are challenging the theory of evolution and arguing that Darwin was wrong. Some are being failed in university exams because they quote sayings from the Bible or Qur'an as scientific fact and at one sixth form college in London most biology students are now thought to be creationists. Earlier this month Muslim medical students in London distributed leaflets that dismissed Darwin's theories as false. Evangelical Christian students are also increasingly vocal in challenging the notion of evolution. In the United States there is growing pressure to teach creationism or "intelligent design" in science classes, despite legal rulings against it. Now similar trends in this country have prompted the Royal Society, Britain's leading scientific academy, to confront the issue head on with a talk entitled Why Creationism is Wrong. The award-winning geneticist and author Steve Jones will deliver the lecture and challenge creationists, Christian and Islamic, to argue their case rationally at the society's event in April.
The Guardian

Lecturers to strike
Tens of thousands of university students face cancelled seminars and unmarked work next term after academics voted to strike over pay. Members of the lecturers' unions the AUT and Natfhe voted for a one-day strike on Tuesday March 7, and a national boycott of assessments, exams and coursework from March 8. Union leaders warned that unless employers moved to resolve the pay dispute, exam programmes for thousands of students would be "thrown into chaos". The AUT and Natfhe claim universities have reneged on promises to use new government cash and the extra money from top-up tuition fees to improve staff pay. The academic unions are seeking a 20 per cent rise over three years.
The Guardian, The Independent, The Scotsman

Showdown in Oxford as students face opponents of animal tests
More than a thousand Oxford University students are expected to take to the streets on Saturday in protest against anti-vivisectionists who are threatening the university. The march, organised by Pro-Test, a student group, clashes with a scheduled march by anti-vivisectionists and police have warned that there may be "some disruption". Animal rights activists, led by a group called Speak and the Animal Liberation Front, have made Oxford the centre of their protests because of the research facility it is building that will house some animals for research.
The Daily Telegraph

Graduates 'not fit for workplace', claims Johnson
Some university graduates "cannot even have a sustained conversation", according to the shadow minister for higher education, Boris Johnson. The Henley MP made the remark ahead of Student Volunteering Week 2006, which he is officially launching today at Westminster. On his website he said: "Too many graduates are simply not ready for the workplace, and it is terrifying to discover that some of them cannot even have a sustained conversation."
The Guardian, The Daily Mail

Figures show rise in part-time academic staff
The growth in the number of part-time academic staff has outstripped the rise of full-time staff, according to figures released today. The number of part-time academic staff in UK universities rose by 2.8 per cent, from 43,230 to 44,445, in 2004-05, while full-timers were up by 2.6 per cent, from 105,915 to 108,650. The combined rise was 2.7 per cent, bringing the total to 153,095. The proportion of women in academe was up slightly, to 40.9 per cent, compared with 40 per cent in 2003-04.
The Guardian

Species-crossing diseases on rise
Avian flu has highlighted the growing threat from diseases that move from animals to people. A new study shows that 38 pathogens have made the jump over the past 25 years - a much higher rate than in the past. Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St Louis yesterday there were about 1,400 species of pathogen - viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites - known to cause human disease.
The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Internet bird flu treatments 'could be dangerous'
None of the thousands of "alternative" treatments available for bird flu is backed by evidence that they work, a leading expert on alternative medicine has said. Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, said that some medicines could actually be detrimental to health, as they stimulate the immune system which could be counter productive. Reliance on unproven alternative cures, many of which are advertised on the internet, could also prevent people from seeking effective treatment from doctors, he said.
The Daily Telegraph

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