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RFD: sci.bio.evolution moderated

Chris Colby colby at bio.bu.edu
Fri Nov 5 20:16:38 EST 1993


This is a formal request for discussion for creating the newsgroup
sci.bio.evolution. Discussion will take place in the newsgroup


The Moderators

This group will be moderated. Josh Hayes has volunteered to do the
moderation. In addition, an effort is being made to find more 
back-up moderators for times when Josh goes on vacation.

Moderation policy

The only criterion for accepting posts will be relevance. Posts 
dealing with scientific aspects of evolution will be accepted.
Creationist articles will be rejected. Those authors will be informed
that the newsgroup talk.origins is an unmoderated forum specifically
for the creation/evolution debate. Within the framework of evolution,
any/all questions, comments or speculations will be welcomed.

Justification for creating new newgroup

Evolution is a topic of considerable interest and this theory
generates a large volume of discussion on USENET. The current
newsgroup talk.origins is a forum where issues of "origins" are
discussed. This currently includes discussions of the creation/
evolution controversy, discussions of evolutionary biology and
numerous threads that reflect the history and sociology of the
group but appear to have no relevance to anything resembling
origins (or anything else for that matter). The volume of t.o.
is very high these days and many people who would enjoy reading
and contributing to an evolution discussion are turned off by
the low signal/noise ratio.

Other newsgroups routinely have discussions about evolution (for
example sci.skeptic and sci.bio) and a bionet board (bionet.
molbio.evolution) provides a forum for working biologists to
contact each other. In addition, a proposal for a new group,
sci.anthro.paleo, is currently under discussion.

Sci.bio.evolution would create a home for a vast number of 
discussions and not (it is hoped) adversely affect any of 
the existing or proposed groups. The forum would provide
a place for interested parties to discuss evolution away from 
the creation/evolution controversy and yet be more casual than
a bionet newsgroup. It is very likely the traffic to s.b.e
will exceed the current traffic regarding evolution because
it will attract those interested in evolution but unwilling 
to wade through the mountains of creationist dreck on t.o. 

Creationists may express the opinion that the purpose of this
board is to censor them or that they deserve equal time for their
ideas. This is not true. Talk.origins is an unmoderated forum
where creationist posters are encouraged to post. Formation of
s.b.e will not close any avenues of creationist expression.

Another thing to keep in mind is creationism is religious dogma, not
a scientific theory. Most creationist arguments are simply attempts
to refute evolution. These refutations are never scientifically
sound and are frequently nothing more than appeals to authority.
The scientific content of creationism can (and has been) dealt with
in short order. Creationism does not deserve equal time in
science discussions because it is not science. 

In preliminary discussions on talk.origins, a few posters expressed
the opinion that s.b.e would be the death of t.o. I don't think 
this would happen. The creation/evolution controversy comprises the
bulk of the traffic on t.o.; this would not be affected. Only
discussions of evolution itself would leave t.o. It is highly
likely that many current t.o. readers will subscribe to both t.o.
and s.b.e.

Sci.bio.evolution should not conflict with the proposed group
sci.anthro.paleo. The questions of human origins is a small
subset of evolutionary biology. Sci.bio.evolution will deal
mainly with the general mechanisms of evolution, topics which
already generate a considerable amount of discussion in t.o.
An expanded listing of the topics for discussion is given
immediately below in the Charter.


Sci.bio.evolution will be dedicated to discussions of evolutionary
biology. These include, but are not limited to: Natural selection,
genetic drift, mutation, gene flow, recombination, interactions of
the mechanisms of evolution, sexual selection, levels of selection,
common descent, systematics, taxonomy, modification with descent,
macro- and homeotic mutations, adaptive mutations, the history of
life on earth (including the Cambrian explosion and demise of the
dinosaurs), paleontology, taphonomy, ecological genetics, behavior-
al ecology, game theory, computer simulations of evolution, punct-
uated equilibrium, optimality theory, historicity in biology, the
growth of biological thought, the history of biology and evolution,
Lamarck, Darwin, Huxley, Haldane, Fisher, Wright, Simpson, Dohbzhansky,
Gould, Lewontin, Diamond, Dawkins, Leaky, Johanson, Wilson, Kimura,
speciation, adaptive landscapes, adaptation, population genetics and
discussion of recently published works of interest (e.g. is there a
"gay gene"?)
A pre-existing t.o. FAQ file ("Introduction to Evolutionary Biology") 
will be posted every month or so to provide background material for new
readers or posters.

Topics that are better suited to other groups will be directed there.
Creationist postings will be returned with a pointer to talk.origins.
Posts dealing solely with issues of human origins will be returned
and directed toward sci.anthro.paleo if it is created. 

Chris Colby
email: colby at biology.bu.edu

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