Here is a baby duck feeding a Swim Team (it's not my Swim Team, it's someone else's). I was hoping the Team would eat the duck, but it's not what koi do.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
As everyone knows, Clemson got stomped by Virginia Tech last week, at home and while wearing their vaunted purple uniforms, mostly because they couldn't stop VT from running the ball all the way back on nearly every kickoff and punt. Personally, I think the purple uniforms are overrated and may in fact have contributed to the loss. Below is a picture I received via email:
Posted by Steve Reuland at 10/10/2007 10:13:00 AM
Friday, September 21, 2007
This must be the best thing written yet on the MoveOn.org pseudo-scandal:
How Dare You.
These days, mock outrage is used by every side of every dispute. It's fair enough to criticize something your opponent said while secretly thanking your lucky stars that he said it. The fuss over this MoveOn.org ad is something else: it is the result of a desperate scavenging for umbrage material. When so many people are clamoring for a chance to swoon that they each have to take a number and when the landscape is so littered with folks lying prostrate and pretending to be dead that it starts to look like the end of a Civil War battle re-enactment, this isn't spontaneous mass outrage. This is choreography.
But that quote's just a good summation -- you have to read the whole thing for the real juicy bits.
Blog note: I don't have haloscan comments working for some odd reason, and I'm still playing around with the template. Hopefully I'll get it all squared away this weekend and things will be back to normal.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 9/21/2007 12:42:00 PM
Monday, September 17, 2007
For whatever reason, the blog's template seems to have disappeared. I thought at first that it was a Blogger glitch that they'd work out, but apparently the url where the template was stored is no longer operative. So I'm going to have to get off my lazy ass and make a new template I guess.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 9/17/2007 02:00:00 PM
Monday, September 10, 2007
In this article, we learn of the Pope attacking his fellow Europeans for not having enough children:
Pope Benedict XVI blasted Europeans for being selfish and not having enough children, in a sermon on Saturday at the 850-year-old pilgrimage site of Mariazell in Austria.
"Europe has become child-poor. We want everything for ourselves and place little trust in the future," the pope told a crowd of faithful from his canopied area at an open-air, afternoon mass that took place under heavy rain.
Not long after saying this, the Pope went on to defend celibacy.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 9/10/2007 01:15:00 PM
Friday, August 31, 2007
New kitties! My animal hoarding has now reached its apex. I've acquired two cats that were no longer wanted, and they've adjusted to their new home just fine. The birds aren't too happy about it, but they're safely out of reach.
On the left is Jack, and on the right is Nibblet (I didn't name them, they came that way). Jack and Nibblet are brother and sister, respectively. They're quite loving.
(Don't forget to visit the Friday Ark.)
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/31/2007 08:44:00 AM
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
That didn't take long. Stuart Pivar's suit of PZ Myers has been dropped, or at least that's what my behind-the-scenes sources have told me. Let that be a lesson to anyone who would dare insult Stuart Pivar -- he will slap a suit on you faster than you can say "defamation" and then take it right off faster than you can say "frivolous". Unfortunately, that leaves PZ in a state of un-sued, so we'll have to find someone else he's insulted to carry the torch. Maybe Scott Adams of Dilbert fame.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/28/2007 05:54:00 PM
I was digging about on Snopes the other day and came across this video. It got sent to Snopes because it's so outlandishly gross that a lot of people thought it must be a fake. Nope, it's for real. I'd feel more sympathy for the guy, but he got himself into this by writing a bad check and running from the cops. That and the fact that I don't think he was wearing his seatbelt.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/28/2007 10:41:00 AM
Monday, August 27, 2007
Playing football with a $100,000 brick of cash, that's what:
Every time they scratched their asses, they earned; there was so much money around for contractors, officials literally used $100,000 wads of cash as toys. "Yes -- $100 bills in plastic wrap," Frank Willis, a former CPA official, acknowledged in Senate testimony about Custer Battles. "We played football with the plastic-wrapped bricks for a little while."
And that is one of the more minor atrocities documented in this Rolling Stone article.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/27/2007 02:48:00 PM
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I'm talking to you, Miss Teen South Carolina.
Update: Taking pity on the poor thing (she was a Lexington High grad after all), the Today show gave her a chance to re-answer the question. After studying all night, she came up with a highly original and unexpected answer: We need better geography education.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/26/2007 06:12:00 PM
The Expelled movie isn't yet out so we can't make fun of it in its entirety, but as everyone knows by now, the filmmakers started things off rather badly by lying to the pro-science people they interviewed, making them think that it was an entirely different film with a different name and a different premise. That's a good taste of the kind of sleaze we're dealing with.
Another taste can be found on the movie's official website, complete with press release and a blog post by Ben Stein. Although they say you can't judge a book by its cover, one has to assume that the claims being made in the press release and by Stein, who stars in the film, were actually made in all seriousness and truly reflect the content of the movie. I'm going to critique what I've seen so far based on these materials. The film could always surprise us of course by avoiding the insane rhetoric and untruthful claims found in its own promotional materials, but that seems unlikely to me. Also, I'm not going into detail about the specific cases mentioned in the press release, which have already been discussed at length and will be discussed in much more detail once the film is out. Instead I'm going to talk more generally about the persecution claims being made.
The promotional materials for the movie are heavy on rhetoric and light on substance, so it's hard to disentangle all the nonsense and get to the heart of what the filmmakers are actually saying. I'm going to start with Stein's blog post. As I see it, there are basically three issues at stake here, which are in descending order of craziness, about what supposed "persecution" that ID advocates may have suffered. I will address them in order, starting with a straight-forward reading of this passage:
Do you realize that some of the leading lights of “anti-intelligent design” would not allow a scientist who merely believed in the possibility of an intelligent designer/creator to work for him… EVEN IF HE NEVER MENTIONED the possibility of intelligent design in the universe? EVEN FOR HIS VERY THOUGHTS… HE WOULD BE BANNED.
Under a new anti-religious dogmatism, scientists and educators are not allowed to even think thoughts that involve an intelligent creator. In today’s world, at least in America, an Einstein or a Newton or a Galileo would probably not be allowed to receive grants to study or to publish his research.
They cannot even mention the possibility that–as Newton or Galileo believed–these laws were created by God or a higher being. They could get fired, lose tenure, have their grants cut off. This can happen. It has happened.
[Foaming at the mouth emphasis original]
Okay, so question one: Are the above statements correct, as they appear? At the risk of stating the obvious... goodness gracious no. These are in fact extremely stupid claims. First of all, how would it even be possible to ban1 a scientist who merely thought about ID but never voiced his opinion? Do we have mind-reading devices? Secondly, just what the heck is up with the qualifier about not being able to believe in the possibility of ID/God? It appears three separate times in that short screed. This is a nonsensical descriptor, given that nearly everyone believes in the possibility that God might have created... whatever it is the IDists think was created (they're not exactly consistent on this). Mainstream scientists simply believe either that such claims are untrue, that they might be true but are without evidence, or that they are true but do not constitute scientific claims. Or any number of variants along those lines. IDists on the other hand don't merely believe in the "possibility" that God waved his magic wand, they dogmatically and inflexibly believe that it's true, and more importantly, they assert that it's a scientific fact. That's a mite bit different than the description above, and has everything to do with mainstream science's attitude toward ID.
And finally, there are a massive number of scientists who believe in God, many of them quite devout, most if not all of them believing that God created the universe and the laws of physics that govern it (among other things), yet they haven't all been fired, lost tenure, or had their grants cut off. The very notion is insane. If you think about it for five seconds, if someone were subject to that kind of treatment based on their religious beliefs, it would be extremely strong grounds for a lawsuit. Are we to believe that the ID movement, which spends most of its time screaming at the top of its collective voice that its being discriminated against, wouldn't jump at the chance to win an anti-discrimination suit? The reason that no such suits have been filed, much less actually won, is pretty obvious. There's no religious discrimination going on here. The claim that scientists "cannot even mention the possibility that... these laws were created by God or a higher being," simply has nothing to do with reality.
Now Stein might claim that it was their supposedly scientific beliefs, and not their religion, that was the basis of the discrimination. But that's not what he wrote. The anti-evolution arguments that constitute the sum total of ID's presumed scientific content go unmentioned. It's all about God, a higher being, the Creator -- pure theological constructs. What makes this especially ironic is that in any other context, the ID people would vehemently deny that ID was a religious belief. I'll say more about this hypocritical bait-and-switch later.
Okay, now for the second issue: Given that Ben Stein's words are little more than irresponsible hyperbole, would a more milder form of the claim be correct? Are scientists getting fired, losing tenure, or having their grants stripped away because they are outspoken ID advocates? Again, the answer is no. Of course the film will try to convince you otherwise, but I've seen all their martyrdom claims before, at least all the ones mentioned in their press release (which one imagines are the best ones they've got), and none of them actually fit that description. The IDists have flogged a small handful of cases in which they allege discrimination, but none of them have featured a firing, a loss of tenure, or grant stripping as far as I know2. What's worse is that upon closer inspection, it turns out that these allegations are gross exaggerations. Their most celebrated case of persecution, that of Richard von Sternberg, turned out to be an almost complete fabrication. These isolated and dubious cases are then used to make a sweeping generalization that discrimination occurs all over the place, that there are literally hundreds of pro-ID scientists who are being mistreated.
They never give any evidence for this wild claim of course. And when pressed for evidence, they intimate that none can be provided because it would further jeopardize the careers of those who are being attacked -- a closed-loop conspiracy theory that, like ID itself, is impervious to empirical testing. The very idea however seriously strains credulity. The IDists have shown a penchant for trumpeting as loudly as possible a number of exceptionally weak cases, without any apparent concern for the supposed victims' future careers3, yet they expect us to believe that there are actually hundreds of genuine cases that they refuse to tell us about? It doesn't even pass the smell test.
And finally, the last issue: If IDists aren't really being "persecuted" as such, having their careers deliberately destroyed, are they at least suffering from a loss of reputation? Do scientists think less of someone who is an ID advocate? Does this have negative consequences for them? The answer is, you're damned right. One thing that really baffles me about this film and its antecedents is that for all their talk of free speech and academic freedom, the IDists seem to think it completely out-of-bounds that anyone would dare express a negative thought about them. Take the Sternberg affair for example. After all the material claims about Sternberg's suffering turned out to be unsubstantiated, the IDists and the politicians who maliciously attacked the Smithsonian kept going on about the loss of reputation that was hurting poor Sternberg -- their evidence being that his colleagues said mean things about him in private emails. Apparently, merely having a negative opinion about Sternberg was an act of persecution. This just stuns me.
Like everyone else in a free society, scientists have a right to think you're a moron. If you are making ostensibly scientific claims -- whether it's saying that the Earth is 6000 years old, new genetic information can't evolve, or that airplanes can't fly -- your colleagues have not only a right, but a duty to evaluate your claims and pass judgment on them. That is what scientific discourse is all about. Scientists have heated debates all the time, and the ones who eventually lose those debates inevitably pay a price by losing esteem in the eyes of their peers. And those who cling to false beliefs long after they've been debunked... why they really lose esteem. How could it be any other way? Without a doubt a bad reputation is unhelpful to one's career prospects, but the ultimate responsibility for this rests with those who earned the bad reputation to begin with. ID has simply failed to gain any traction in the scientific arena because it is poorly reasoned, contrary to established fact, and in many cases downright incoherent. The ID movement has thus responded4 by pouring all of its resources into their political machinations and highly dishonest propaganda campaign. Unsurprisingly this makes ID look even less legitimate in the eyes of the scientific community. If Ben Stein wants to a good example of why scientists think very poorly of ID advocates, this silly film he's starring in ranks right at the top.
The ID movement can't have it both ways on this. They can't demand to be taken seriously by the scientific establishment and then throw a tantrum when scientists actually do take them seriously. And that's exactly why they engage in the bait-and-switch I mentioned earlier. The actual merits of ID as a supposedly scientific theory are glaringly absent from the Expelled website. I don't doubt that they'll be absent from the film as well. They are taking ID's presumed intellectual merits for granted and are appealing instead to supposedly anti-religious sentiment as the reason why ID is being roughly treated. In doing so, they side-step the very issue that's at stake as far as science is concerned. Moreover, scientists as a group are actually quite tolerant of religious diversity -- much more so than the fundamentalist Christians who make up the base of the ID movement. But if you start claiming that your religious beliefs are scientific, and if you start demanding that they be taught in science class, scientists are going to respond. Don't start crying if the response is negative.
1. Lacking a rudimentary understanding of what the scientific community is like, Ben Stein apparently thinks it's something you can be "banned" from. Like the Tour de France.
2. The Gonzalez case for example involved not being granted tenure (and for good reason as it turned out), which is very different from having tenure taken away. Likewise, whatever happened with Crocker she wasn't fired; she's still at George Mason. As for taking away grant money, it's a mystery as to what Ben Stein is talking about. Anyone? Bueller?
3. Case in point, whatever harm Richard von Sternberg's reputation may have suffered as a result of his unethical practices in publishing the Meyer paper, the Discovery Institute made it a thousand times worse by turning him into their poster child. Much the same can be said of Gonzalez.
4. As most non-lobotomized readers will note, it's not as if the ID movement really gave it the old college try in the scientific realm, and then suddenly switched to crass political maneuvering after all else failed. It was always a political movement.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/26/2007 05:23:00 PM
Friday, August 24, 2007
This is amusing.
Mother Teresa's diary reveals her crisis of faith
Mother Teresa, who was put on the fast track to sainthood by the Pope after her death five years ago, was tormented by a crisis of belief for 50 years, her writings reveal.
"In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really exist."
Il Messeggero, Rome's popular daily newspaper, said: "The real Mother Teresa was one who for one year had visions and who for the next 50 had doubts - up until her death."
Her years of doubt coincided with the period when, after having visions, she decided to leave her teaching post at a privileged Calcutta school to help India's poor.
It's a good thing she began having doubts about religion, otherwise she would have never started helping the poor.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/24/2007 11:52:00 AM
Here is a lizard I spotted on a camping trip:
He's a member of the genus Sceloporus, most likely the prairie/plateau lizard Sceloporus undulatus. I found him (and legions of his conspecifics) while hiking in the beautiful Cheeseman Canyon, pictured below:
(Don't forget to visit the Friday Ark!)
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/24/2007 08:35:00 AM
Monday, August 20, 2007
It's about time someone did it.
C-list crank Stuart Pivar, author of Lifecode, is suing PZ (and apparently ScienceBlogs as well) for having the nerve to write a negative review of his book. Since the review was obviously unfair and actionable, you absolutely should not read it here. Nor should you read the earlier review concerning the first edition. And to help avoid being exposed to the other mean things that PZ said about Pivar, I will advise you not to go here, here, or here and read any of the contents. Can you imagine what would happen if, as a result of Pivar's lawsuit, everyone went and started reading the criticisms?
Both PZ and ScienceBlogs will likely be unable to discuss the case until after it's been laughed out of court, so I will definitely point out any future developments so as to help you avoid hearing any more negative things about Pivar.
Update: Jim Lippard has found the actual complaint that Pivar filed. He's suing for only $15 million, which wouldn't even put a dent in Myer's massive empire. Here's the money shot from the complaint:
Myers has publicly described himself on his web log as a "cruel and insensitive person".
Clearly someone deserving of a harassment suit. That kind of reasoning, combined with numerous grammatical and spelling errors, makes me wonder if Pivar even bothered consulting with a lawyer.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/20/2007 02:57:00 PM
Friday, August 10, 2007
Swim Team edition.
Okay, I'm a little late on this, but I've got massive amounts of animals that haven't been blogged.
First and foremost is the Swim Team. When I bought my new house, the previous owners had dug a pond (pretentiously: Water Garden) in the back yard, though it was covered and disused. The previous owners were people who apparently cared greatly about their house, until they mysteriously became dead-beats and lost it all; the HOA later covered up the pond to keep mosquitoes from breeding. So I had no idea what was going to be under those plywood planks. Luckily, there was a nice little pond that had great potential, and with the help of my parents who were visiting at the time, I was able to turn it into a great koi pond.
Koi, a domesticated vareity of Cyprinus carpio, are very hearty fish and make for excellent pond specimens. I stocked my pond (which is I'm guessing about 700 gallons) with four small fish for starters, figuring that this would be safely within the limits of what the pond could handle. I named them Otter, Pinto, Flounder, and Boon (bonus points for guessing where the names come from), and set them loose. Sadly, Otter, who was the boldest of the four, mysteriously disappeared, perhaps killed by a cat or a bird. The other three remain however, and they've probably tripled in size over the 2.5 months I've had them. Here is their home:
And here's a close-up of the waterfall, which they love:
Note that there are a couple of water hyacinths there. The hyacinths, along with the water lettuce, have since exploded all over the pond, which the fish really like, since they frolic among them. It's a sign of a healthy pond. And here is the Team:
Pictured clockwise from upper left are Pinto, Boon, and Flounder. Flounder, like his namesake, is the fat one. He always the first to the dinner table. Boon is a butterfly koi, which means he has long, flowing fins (not readily visible in this picture). Here they are again:
These pictures are a few weeks old; the fish have grown remarkably since then. They eat a lot. I feed them a couple of small handfuls of high protein koi food everyday, and when they're not eating that, they're nibbling on algae and plants and anything unfortunate enough to fall in the pond. Here they are at feeding time:
In the second picture, you can see the pump that powers the waterfall, which normally can't be seen thanks to the bridge and a lack of camera flash.
I'll post more pictures of the Swim Team once the members are big enough to swallow Coors Field. It shouldn't take long at this rate.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/10/2007 08:34:00 PM
And summer camp used to be such a fun place, until the fundies got a hold of it:
Arrest warrants have been issued for two officials at a Christian boot camp accused of dragging a 15-year-old girl behind a van after she fell behind the group during a morning run, authorities said.
Charles Eugene Flowers and Stephanie Bassitt of San Antonio-based Love Demonstrated Ministries, a 32-day boot camp, are facing aggravated assault charges for the alleged June 12 incident.
The two were accused of tying the girl to the van with a rope then dragging her, according to an arrest affidavit filed Wednesday by the Nueces County Sheriff's Department. Arrest affidavits for Flowers and Bassitt list a $100,000 bond. [...]
Flowers, the camp's director, allegedly ordered Bassitt to run alongside the girl after she fell behind, the affidavit said. When the girl stopped running, Bassitt allegedly yelled at her and pinned her to the ground while Flowers tied the rope to her, according to the affidavit.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/10/2007 02:37:00 PM
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
This doesn't need any comment:
State lawmakers shot down a request for extra financial help for low-income students who will attend South Carolina's public colleges and universities next year.
Meanwhile, they approved $2.5 million to help low-income students attend Bob Jones University, a private school in Greenville. [...]
The bill to include Bob Jones University was sponsored by Sens. Michael Fair, R-Greenville, and Darrell Jackson, D-Hopkins.
Shannon said that although the bill didn't specifically mention Bob Jones University, "it happens to be the only new one that qualifies."
Before the legislation was passed, Shannon said, private colleges had to be nonprofit organizations, have a major campus and headquarters in South Carolina and be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Under the new legislation, a private college can meet those criteria or it can simply be a bachelor's level institution chartered before 1962 with a major campus and headquarters in South Carolina, the latter of which allows Bob Jones to qualify.Bob Jones University is not accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Mike Fair, if you'll recall, is the guy who teamed up with the Discovery Institute to block the state science standards until pro-creationist language could be inserted. This move failed, which naturally prompted the DI to declare victory anyway.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 8/01/2007 02:15:00 PM
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Friday, July 06, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
Easley's new library has a summer reading program with a pizza party afterwards.
Some parents, apparently of the religious nutball persuasion, object to one weekly session because it is advertised as such: “Get to know your inner cosmic being through astrology, palmistry, numberology [sic]. Partner up to practice palm-reading, or try your hand at tarot cards.” Obviously a bunch of superstitious nonsense, but as long as it's presented as such, it's completely harmless. But no, according to those parents, it was indoctrinating kids into the dreaded occult.
As a result, the library drops the reading program.
But still has the pizza party.
Read more about it here.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 6/11/2007 02:54:00 PM
Friday, June 01, 2007
My mom sent me some pictures of my cat, Fluffy, who still resides in South Carolina.
Here she is peering down from a perch:
Rolling on the patio:
Under the shadow of the enemy:
Experiments with pot:
(Don't forget to visit the Friday Ark.)
Posted by Steve Reuland at 6/01/2007 09:05:00 AM
Thursday, May 31, 2007
An article in Slate lists some of history's all-time worst "bubble-blowers" -- people who help create unsustainable economic bubbles through their relentless promotion, over-optimism, and snake-oil salesmanship. Upon seeing the article, my first thought was, I bet I know at least one person who will definitely make the list. I was right:
George Gilder (1939-present)
Noteworthy bubble-blowing role: Newsletter writer and futurist foresaw a world of infinite wealth because of infinite bandwidth. Book published in 2000 promoted soon-to-be-worthless stocks like WorldCom and Global Crossing.
Catchphrase: "The investor who never acts until the financials affirm his choice is doomed to mediocrity by trust in spurious rationality."
Bonus catchphrase: Of WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers, he said: "He is a hero of the dimensions of Rockefeller and Milken."
Posted by Steve Reuland at 5/31/2007 02:27:00 PM
A worker from Rome's Biopark zoo holds a Testudo Kleinmanni hatchling, an endangered species also known as an Egyptian tortoise, in Rome May 22, 2007. The offspring is the hatchling of several Egyptian tortoises that were rescued from a smuggler's suitcase in 2005 at Naples airport, southern Italy, by Italy's forestry police and were entrusted to Rome's main zoo.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 5/31/2007 10:38:00 AM
Presidential candidate Sam Brownback was one of three Republican candidates who raised their hands when asked if they didn't believe in evolution.
Today he has an op-ed piece in the New York Times wherein he explains his stance. If you're looking for something original, meaningful, or interesting, it's not for you. It's your standard "I'm a creationist but am too cagey to come out and say it so I'm going to dance around the issue and exude platitudes about faith..." There's a fair chance it was ghost written by a member of the Discovery Institute. Consider this:
The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
And what if evolution means what it really means, namely that various species (say, humans and great apes) share common ancestry? Brownback totally dodges that one.
The great thing about the internets though is that new-fangled things call blogs allow people to let it all out and say what they really think, the kinds of things they would never publish in the New York Times. You know, unhinged, stream-of-consciousness rantings. Things like this:
Senator Brownback is among a tiny handful of 2008 potential Presidential candidates who understand that ANNUIT COEPTIS is what makes America great. Senator Brownback's belief in a Higher Power goes far beyond reasonable belief. We know beyond any and all possible doubt that gravity had to have come from somewhere and by inference that this "Intelligent Designer" has favored our undertakings.
Brownback apparently didn't get the message that the "Intelligent Designer" is an unknown entity that might well be an evil space monster, because ID is not a religious belief no sir it's not, but he's hardly unique in that regard. Putting that aside, what the heck was that about gravity? Here it is again:
It would take a miracle from God himself to convince non-believers that patterns statistically beyond random chance that prove an "Intelligent Designer" to be behind the creation of gravity. Maybe this miracle, or series of miracles has already happened. Belief in a Higher Power taught to our school children will increase discipline in our public schools, thus increase our economy. Reasonable belief that gravity had to have come from an "Intelligent Designer" is just the kind of miracle that America needs.
Brownback is a proponent of Intelligent Falling! We knew there had to be one out there somewhere. And apparently gravity is coming in for quite a shellacking, because they've even created their own category for it on the blog:
Tags : Gravity, Higher Power, ID, ethics, morals
Sadly, this is the only post under "Gravity" for now.
(Cross-posted to the Panda's Thumb.)
Posted by Steve Reuland at 5/31/2007 09:53:00 AM
Friday, May 25, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Okay, here's a follow-up to yesterday's post. This one is about PZ Myer's claim that the presence of TEs somehow harms the legal case against creationism. Let me repeat in full his comments on that here:
Try to imagine the next big court case to get ID out of the schools.
The lawyer says, "Mr Matzke (you know Nick will be there, right?), you've brilliantly dissected this textbook the Discovery Institute is using, and shown that despite the absence of any overt mention of god or religion, it's antecedents are derived from the creationist movement, and its authors are all strongly religious and have made statements outside the context of this particular book that strongly imply intent to promote religion. We should not be fooled by the absence of obvious religious advocacy in the book itself, but recognize instead its duplicitous nature and the bad faith arguments of its proponents?"
Nick will humbly reply, "Yes, sir."
And the DI lawyer will then say, "But half your witnesses are "theistic" evolutionists, and proud of it. They say openly that they believe a God, the Christian God, not even an ambiguous supernatural force, was involved in the creation of human beings. They write books about DNA as the "language of God". They lecture with considerable force that science and religion are compatible, and more, that science strengthens their faith in the Christian God. Proponents of the evolution position blithely call these people who insert a god into their explanations of origins 'pro-science'. Your side ignores or even derides scientists who insist on purely natural explanations of our evolution, and promotes those who use religion to sell science to the public."
"I'm baffled. On what basis are you arguing that this case involves a violation of the separation of church and state when I can scarcely tell the two of you apart, and when it's your side that more openly embraces religious ideas—when the Intelligent Design proponents show a history of nominally moving away from their religious roots, while your side shows a history of increasing recruitment of church leaders, theologians, and lay advocates of god-involvement in science?"
And Nick will say … I have no idea how Nick would reply. I'm sure it will be clever and devastating, and I'm sure it will explain how the statement that "I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation" is pro-science while "I do not believe in the sufficiency of random mutation and natural selection to explain the history of life on earth" is anti-science. I'd like to hear an explanation for how "theistic evolution" is less religious than "intelligent design".
This belief, to me, seems based upon some serious ignorance about what the actual legal issues are concerning creationism. Here I'm going to delimit what the legal issues are really about, and part of that is going to include some examples of what they are not about:
1. ID/Creationism is not unconstitutional because its adherents are religious.
This may seem obvious, but PZ seems to think that the mere fact that TEs are religious creates the possibility that they'll be seen as indistinguishable from IDists in a court setting. But their religiosity is not an issue. After all, if being religious were enough to condemn one's ideas, 90% of the country would have to remain silent.
2. ID/Creationism is not unconstitutional because its adherents are motivated by religion.
This is not obvious to most people. But it's important to realize that religious motivation per se is not enough to violate church-state separation. Lots of legislators and public servants do things that are motivated by their religious beliefs. Opening orphanages, feeding the poor, passing anti-gay laws, etc. Some of these things are exemplary and some are not, but none of them has ever been found unconstitutional on church-state grounds. Motivation is only an issue to the extent that it provides evidence for what's really at stake...
3. ID/Creationism is unconstitutional because it has the primary effect of advancing religion and has no secular purpose.
This is why the courts have consistently ruled against creationism. Not because its adherents are religiously motivated, but because the policies they put in place have the primary effect of advancing religion. That's the distinction between someone who pushes anti-poverty laws because his religion tells him to, and someone who pushes prayer in school (to pick a random example) in order to get more believers. The former does nothing to advance religion while the latter most certainly does. The evidence that ID is intended to advance religion is quite overwhelming; one needs merely to read any of the ID movement's foundational books or documents.
That the government is not allowed to advance (or inhibit) religion is one of the three prongs of the so-called Lemon Test, which is the courts' current precedent for deciding church-state separation cases. Another prong is that the government's actions must have a legitimate secular purpose. ID/Creationism fails this prong too. The courts have ruled that since ID/Creationism isn't science, there's no secular purpose for teaching it in science class. Contrast that with anti-poverty laws, which have an obvious secular purpose. (The third prong of the Lemon Test is that there cannot be excessive entanglement between church and state -- to the best of my knowledge this has never been an issue in creationism cases, and it's not clear to me that it's a useful prong to begin with.)
So considering what church-state jurisprudence is actually based upon, what effect does the presence of TEs have in fighting creationism? It doesn't violate the effect prong because TEs are not arguing to have their religious views included in science classes -- quite the opposite in fact. Nor does it violate the purpose prong because what TEs do want taught (plain old everyday evolution) has an obvious secular purpose. And it does nothing to change how the effect and purpose prongs are applied to the IDists. Yes, the IDists will continue to get sneakier and try to make it look as if their claims aren't religion masquerading as science, but the presence or absence of TEs isn't going to have any effect on that. That's why TEs have testified in every creationism court case that we've had, and yet we've still won all of those cases.
There is however one major way in which TEs have had an effect on the courts. Creationists have long argued that evolution is the same thing as atheism, or that it at least strongly promotes atheism. Therefore, they say, in order for the government to be religiously neutral, it has to give equal time to religious ideas such as creationism. The courts have soundly rejected this argument. One reason is that the creationists contradict themselves when they say that creationism is religiously neutral yet is necessary to counterbalance an anti-religious idea. Another reason is that the plaintiffs can drag out all of these witnesses who say that evolution doesn't conflict with their religion, and that they're comfortable believing in both evolution and the existence of God. We call those people theistic evolutionists. And they destroy the creationists' case for portraying evolution as necessarily atheistic.
PZ's apparent belief that TEs need to be purged (or swept under the rug, or whatever) not only isn't going to help our case, it has the potential to severely damage it. If the courts were to rule that the primary effect of evolution was to inhibit religion -- and this ruling would be much easier for them if evolutionists automatically excluded anyone with religious beliefs -- then it would be toast. That's not to say that you have to think that evolution and religion compatible. You can personally think that they aren't, but the proper legal strategy is to acknowledge that there are people who believe that religion and evolution are compatible, and that therefore evolution is not in essence an anti-religious theory.
P.S. Wesley Elsberry has more.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 5/15/2007 05:14:00 PM
Monday, May 14, 2007
This was entirely predictable. After I wrote my post about Romney's position on evolution, calling it "essentially pro-science", PZ Myers writes a post griping about it. According to PZ, anyone who believes in both God and evolution must be anti-science or something. He never really quite explains how it is that a large fraction of scientists, some of them notable evolutionary biologists, are anti-science according to his own criteria. If asked, these scientists would say pretty much the same thing that Romney said -- i.e. there's a God behind everything, but mainstream evolutionary theory is correct. One might criticize them for having incoherent or contradictory metaphysical beliefs about the world, but to call them anti-science when they are 100% the same as the rest of us concerning scientific matters is asinine.
Jason Rosenhouse, who also provoked PZ's ire when he dared suggest that Romney's stance is actually a good thing, wrote a reply that I think is pretty spot on. And like Jason, it simply boggles my mind that that PZ cannot understand the difference between theistic evolution and ID. That's like being unable to understand the difference between a pot smoker and an axe murderer. They don't make distinctions much more obvious than that.
PZ wrote a reply to Jason in which he reaffirms the fact that he can't tell the difference between the two:
The second big issue is the complaint that I can't tell the difference between a theistic evolutionist and an intelligent design creationist.
That's a fair complaint, actually. I can't.Pretend I'm a Martian (not hard to do, I suppose; to a lot of people, my complete rejection of "faith" as a reason for believing in something seems to make me alien, anyway). Explain it to me. I even explicitly laid that out as a question at the end of my post; no one seems to have tried. At best, what Jason and poke do is point out that there is a difference in tactics—the theistic evolutionists are willing to move their god out of gaps in our knowledge as they are closed and place them in other gaps; the IDists want to fight to keep the gaps open, usually by misrepresenting the science that threatens them.
What he really shows is that he doesn't know what theistic evolution is. The vast majority of TE's reject god-of-the-gaps arguments. To be fair, there are some who use that style of reasoning, like Francis Collins who made the exceptionally lame argument that there's no natural basis for morality, but this is the exception to the rule. Most TE's believe that God acts through natural law, not supernatural intervention. They know good and well that god-of-the-gaps is a losing argument, so they place God outside of any gaps where He becomes all-pervasive and in charge of everything. Again, I'm not saying I agree with this -- I sympathize with people who dismiss TE as being self-contradictory or meaningless, because I myself can't quite figure out how to reconcile a meaningful concept of God with a universe that operates through purely natural means -- but it's definitely not the same as being anti-science. Those scientists who are TEs agree with the rest of us concerning what science is, the methods that it can reliably employ, and what its established results have been. Additionally, they uphold the general integrity of the scientific community and believe that religion has no place in science class. In other words, in every single detail concerning the creation/evolution debate (except the existence of God itself, which absent any scientific claims is a non-issue), they are on the exact same page as I am. Romney scored a perfect 10 as far as scientific and educational issues were concerned. If he had claimed that his religious views were scientific and should be taught in science class, I'd be denouncing him too. Yet according to PZ, merely having religious views mark him as anti-science. What was Romney supposed to do, renounce his faith?
Now let's look as what the ID movement believes. They emphatically do not agree with the rest of us concerning what science is, what methods it reliably employs, or what its results have been. They routinely denounce the scientific community as corrupt, dogmatic, elitist, and repressive. They lie about everything, even those things that can be easily exposed as such. And they have spent the bulk of their time and resources trying to get their so-called scientific claims -- pretty much all of them factually incorrect, grossly misleading, or badly reasoned -- taught to primary and secondary school children. If PZ cannot understand the difference between these guys and TEs like Romney, then he hasn't been paying attention. Or, more likely, his notorious disdain for theism has clouded his thinking. Me, personally, I don't care about theism vs. atheism war, so the contrast sticks out like a big red thumb against a green background.
Ultimately, this is not about whether TEs are right or wrong, or whether we should "enthusiastically embrace" TEs, which neither Jason nor I did. It's about tolerance. It's about forming alliances against the people who are really anti-science, and then recognizing that people like Mitt Romney are on the correct side of the divide. PZ's only excuse for his rejection of all theists is a bizarre belief that when the next court case comes around, the views of people like Romney are somehow going to hurt our side. This is if anything even worse than his failure to see a distinction between the Ken Millers of the world and the Phillip Johnsons. Is he not aware that TEs have testified in every creationism trial in the country, and that this somehow didn't make us lose? Does he know what our prospects for winning would be if judges were persuaded that you couldn't believe in evolution and theism at the same time? Not very good at all. But that's a subject for another post.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 5/14/2007 02:18:00 PM
Friday, May 11, 2007
Well, I'm not really slacking. I haven't been updating the blog much because of the exact opposite of slacking. I just bought a house and moved into it, and it's in need of some amount of fixing up. At work my research is going well for a change, which gives me little time to sit in front of the computer and find silly news items to make fun of. Maybe once my house is in order I'll at least have time in the evenings to blog.
Today I made a post on the Panda's Thumb, Mitt Romney, Theistic Evolutionist. My previous posts on Romney have all focused on the fact that he's a MORMON which doesn't sit well with religious right crazies. His stance on evolution is just more evidence that he's trying to center himself and appear moderate. Ironically, this may placate the wingnuts rather than rile them up. Romney is basically saying, "See, my Mormonism doesn't rule every facet of my life -- I am definitely a normal person, normal I say -- so there's no need for you to worry about it."
We'll see how this plays out.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 5/11/2007 11:42:00 AM
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Larry Moran has posted a picture which purports to demonstrate "unintelligent design" in the human anatomy. Unfortunately, I think he misses some of the real screw-ups that are apparent from the diagram. Below I'll post an improved version of the picture with the real flaws highlighted:
Posted by Steve Reuland at 4/25/2007 01:54:00 PM
A two-month old Amur baby tiger sits by his mother at Tama Zoo in Tokyo October 23, 2004. The Amur tiger, the world's biggest wild cat, has pounced back from the brink of extinction to hit its highest population level for at least 100 years, the WWF said on Thursday.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 4/25/2007 10:50:00 AM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Remember Scott Bloch, head of the OSC? Remember how his office produced a report on L'Affaire Sternberg that was an obvious political hatchet job, filled with inaccuracies, exaggerations, and outright lies?
Good news: He's about to launch an investigation of Karl Rove's political interference with the executive branch. Yes, the only guy who might possibly contend with Rove for the title of worst political hack ever is going to investigate charges of political hackery. Not to worry though, Bloch says he'll be objective:
"We will take the evidence where it leads us," Scott J. Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee, said in an interview Monday.
Hm, where have I head that aphorism before? If past behavior is any guide, the purpose of this investigation is to whitewash Rove's unsavory deeds. But maybe Bloch will prove me wrong.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 4/24/2007 05:59:00 PM
Monday, April 16, 2007
The village of Castrillo de Murcia (Burgos) held its traditional Baby-Jumping Festival at the weekend as part of its Corpus Christi celebrations.
Since the 17th century, on the Sunday of Corpus Christi, "El Colacho," a personification of diabolical evil, has been jumping over babies born in the village during the previous twelve months thus cleansing their souls of evil.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 4/16/2007 02:24:00 PM
Monday, April 09, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Via Gristmill, I found this cool site that allows you to see what any point on Earth is going to look like when sea levels rise due to global warming. Below is Charleston with a 1 meter sea level rise, which is near the high end of IPCC predictions for the year 2095:
And here's Folly Beach, where I used to live:
It doesn't look good. Fortunately, sea levels may not rise this much. One meter is the upper bound; at the low end it could be as little as a tenth as much. Unfortunately, they won't stop rising by 2095. Sea levels could rise as much as several meters over the next few centuries if nothing is done to turn warming around. If you want to see what that looks like, change the number in the top left corner to 7 and be amazed.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/28/2007 04:15:00 PM
The Tigers took on and beat Air Force last night to advance to the NIT championship game against West Virginia. It wasn't a pretty win, but Clemson pulled it out.
Of course most people's attention this time of year is focused solely on the NCAA tournament, but this is what you get when you're a Tiger fan. Clemson has an almost unparalleled ability to choke, to start out with a good season full of promise and then to screw things up and fall just short of good. It's the same with basketball as it is with football. Clemson jumped off to a 17-0 start, looking for all the world like a serious contender... until they went 2-9 over the next 11 games. But they picked up a couple of ACC wins to end the season, keeping them in contention for an invite to the Big Dance. All they really had to do was beat Florida State in the opening round of the ACC tournament, a team which they had beaten twice in the regular season. Of course they choked. They lost by one point, thanks to a last second foul of all things.
Now we'll see if they can redeem themselves with an NIT championship. Although given the Tigers' history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, I'd feel pretty good if I were a West Virginia fan.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/28/2007 01:39:00 PM
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Thumbelina, a five year old dwarf miniature horse, slides underneath the pasture fencing at Goose Creek Farms in St. Louis, MO on Fri. October 3, 2006. At 17.5 inches, she is the smallest living horse in the world, and holds the record for the smallest horse in history
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/22/2007 01:38:00 PM
Friday, March 16, 2007
A man accused of drunk-driving and crashing his truck into a lamp post told police a unicorn had been at the wheel when it careered off the road, local media reported Wednesday. [...]
His March 7 crash in Billings was witnessed by two police officers, said prosecutor Ingrid Rosenquist, but Holliday still insisted a unicorn was driving when he slammed into the street lighting, shortly after jumping a red light
I bet he gets off.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/16/2007 10:25:00 AM
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Way back in the heady days of September 2006, I mentioned that nascent presidential candidate Mitt Romney's status as a Mormon isn't going to go over well with the religious right, especially in South Carolina where they've kind of doubled-down on the whole wacky religion thing. Lots of conservatives have tried to downplay the religious bigotry inherent in "the base" and pretend as if Romney's religion is no big deal to the tolerant, open-minded Republican primary voters. Except of course for that little incident where a party leader accosted him about his religion.
Now there's another example in Monday's Greenville News. For balance, of course, the News feels the need to lead off with an example of that famed Republican tolerance:
Bob Leach, a Republican legislator from Greenville, got right to the point with Mitt Romney on one of the presidential candidate's early stops in South Carolina late last year.
"Who was Jesus Christ?" he asked Romney, a devout Mormon.
"My personal Lord and Savior," Leach recalled Romney saying.Leach, a Baptist and House Republican Caucus chaplain, was so taken with the response that he soon endorsed Romney.
Leach is so tolerant, he didn't really need to know anything about Romney other than the fact that he accepts Jesus as his lord and savior. Just so long as he isn't, you know, like a Jew or something.
But not everyone is as ecumenical as Bob Leach:
But Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, didn't sway fellow Republican Rep. Gloria Haskins of Greenville, who attended Bob Jones University.
"Mormonism is a cult, and you can't paint it any other way," she said recently. Haskins is supporting the candidacy of Arizona Sen. John McCain.
So says the graduate from BJU. Here's another:
The Rev. David Kay, associate pastor, said it [the how-to-convert-a-Mormon seminar] wasn't triggered by Romney's visits, but by his own increasing awareness of growing Mormon missionary work. Mormonism, he believes, is a cult rather than a Christian religion.
Kay describes Mormonism's martyred founder, Joseph Smith, as "just a nut case" and said "anybody who would believe the teachings of Joseph Smith is misled."
Yeah, Smith's teachings are pretty nutty. They're almost as nutty as believing that Adam and Eve frolicked with dinosaurs, that the Pope is the Anti-Christ, that a one-world government run by the UN will trigger the end times, that all kangaroos are descended from a pair that hopped to Australian from the Middle East after getting off of a boat they had been on for a year, and other things that no rational person could ever, ever believe.
But Romney's religion isn't the religious right's only hang-up. That terrible evil known as divorce also has them up in arms:
They're not reluctant to weigh in, as frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani learned last week when a top Southern Baptist Convention official said the thrice-married former New York City mayor's tangled personal life may be too much for evangelicals to accept, The Associated Press reported from Nashville.
I really think that a guy who's been married three times isn't that big of a deal considering some recent revelations about the lifestyles of prominent evangelicals. Sometimes I wonder if they shouldn't just get it over with and choose leaders who are openly gay pedophile gambling drug addicts. It would would probably be less embarrassing that way.
Anyway, the whole point here is that of course Romney's Mormonism is a huge issue among the religious right, and anyone who thinks that it'll go away by focusing on Romeny's conservative credentials, or the fact that he's never been divorced (very important when formulating foreign policy you know), is deluding themselves. Romney will lose the primary, and part of it will be due to the fact that we do not live in a religiously tolerant society.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/14/2007 04:30:00 PM
Monday, March 12, 2007
There's a great article in American Scientist about plug-in hybrids. These are cars that work just like hybrid cars do today (i.e. they use a gas engine to charge batteries, and then use the batteries to run an electric motor during those times when the gas engine is most inefficient), but you can also plug them in and charge the batteries directly. That way you can run the car completely on electricity if you so desire, but in those situations where you can't pause for several hours to recharge, you can just use gasoline.
In particular, they are far and away a better option than hydrogen, which I have previously groused about here, here, and here. The American Scientist piece explains the obvious and straightforward benefit of electricity over hydrogen:
Indeed, one of the great advantages of plug-ins (and purely electric cars) is that they can directly use solar- and wind-generated electricity for transportation, a process that is three to four times more efficient than converting such renewable energy to hydrogen for vehicular use.
As I've said many times, hydrogen is not a source of energy, it is a particular means of storing and delivering energy. It just so happens to be a terrible means of storing and delivering energy, because it requires a lot of waste and creates all sorts of technical difficulties. As such, I simply can't see any future for it.
The real future of the automobile will be the electric car, with plug-in hybrids as the transitional species. Anyway, the entire article is well worth the read, so hop to it.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/12/2007 08:01:00 PM
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I guess I'll have to pile on. Over on Panda's Thumb, Burt Humburg wrote an excellent take-down of the latest nonsense to come out of Dr. Michael Egnor, a neurosurgeon who has managed to spout some unbelievably dumb things about evolution. Naturally, this makes him the Discovery Institute's new darling, not because he's said anything original or profound (he's just recycled old ID talking points, some of which are so bad that the other ID guys won't go near them), but because he's a brain surgeon and therefore must know what he's talking about. More on that in a bit.
Something that PZ wrote awhile back has kind of stuck with me, and that is that the biggest problem with creationists isn't that they're dumb or ignorant. Many of them are certainly not dumb (Egnor surely is not), and ignorance itself is not necessarily a problem. We all start off in a state of ignorance after all, and one thing that you learn when studying a given subject in depth is that no matter how much you know, it's only a tiny smidgen of all that there is to know. So we all carry some degree of ignorance. The important thing is that you're aware of it and that you adopt the requisite level of humility so that you can keep learning more.
And therein lies the problem with creationists: It's neither ignorance nor stupidity, it's arrogance. They think they already know everything, so therefore they can refute a large and complex body of scientific thought without bothering to familiarize themselves with the basics, much less mastering the details. The most jaw-dropping example of this I think I've ever seen is here, at the blog that William Dembski set up for high school kids, where some poster who is incapable of understanding technical scientific writing (which is forgivable) has been so infected with the arrogance of the ID movement that he actually believes that a section he quotes from an essay that appeared on Panda's Thumb was made up out of thin air (which is not forgivable), and then goes on to ask where those "so-called facts" came from when the citations are right there within the text he quoted (which is pathetic to the point of comedy). This is how the ID movement rots young minds. The level of arrogance is so extreme that a high school student is eager to believe that a senior pharmacologist must be making something up simply because he, the high schooler, can't understand the material. Arrogance of this kind breeds ignorance, which leads itself to more arrogance still. It is a defining characteristic not only of ID/creationism, but of anti-intellectualism in general.
Now back to Dr. Egnor. Egnor is just like the above high school kid but without the excuse of being young and foolish. He doesn't really know what he's talking about, but he doesn't feel he needs to. After all, when you already have all the answers, what's the point in understanding that which you deign to critique? Heck, ignorance should be worn like a badge of honor. All the better to disdain those hoity-toity experts who've spent their lives studying a subject that you won't debase yourself to learn anything about.
In spite of Dr. Humburg's quality refutation of Egnor's ignorant statements, there's something that I think has been missed. And that is what Egnor has told us about what he, and by extension the Discovery Institute which has seen fit to make him one of their spokespersons (an honor bestowed only upon those meeting the highest standards, such as Ann Coulter), have told us about just how seriously he deserves to be taken. Below is the meat and potatoes of Egnor's argument:
Doctors don't study evolution. Doctors never study it in medical school, and they never use evolutionary biology in their practice. There are no courses in medical school on evolution. There are no 'professors of evolution' in medical schools. There are no departments of evolutionary biology in medical schools.
As Burt shows, the above claims are untrue. In fact, most of them are untrue even for the medical school at which Egnor teaches! But while they are untrue in a general sense, they are probably perfectly true for Egnor himself, who -- as is so often the case with these guys -- can understand the world only through the lens of his own personal experience. I'll amend the above quote, slightly, to reflect what Egnor is actually telling us:
I don't study evolution. I never studied it in medical school, and I never use evolutionary biology in my practice. I never took courses in medical school on evolution. I studied under no 'professors of evolution' in medical school. I have no familiarity with departments of evolutionary biology.
Egnor just pulled the rug out from under himself. He freely admits that he knows nothing about evolution, and he's proud of it. And now he wants us to think that doctors in general are similarly ignorant. The DI has welcomed Egnor as a new commentator for their Media Complaints Division blog, but strangely enough, they didn't quite get the message that doctors are not qualified to comment on evolution. Doctors such as Egnor, according to Egnor, are never taught anything about the subject. They don't use the subject. They don't know anything about those who do. They're awash in a sea of ignorance.
By Egnor's own reasoning, he should be ignored. And on that narrow point, at least, I think he's right.
Update: I have a post up at the Panda's Thumb concerning a survey that Egnor and the Discovery Institute twisted beyond all reason. If you haven't read it already, go there and do so.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/11/2007 12:27:00 PM
Friday, March 09, 2007
It's not as good as the voodoo guy who tried to jinx Bush with dead animal blood, but at least they're trying:
Priests to Purify Site After Bush Visit
Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday. [...]
Tiney said the "spirit guides of the Mayan community" decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of "bad spirits" after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace. He also said the rites -- which entail chanting and burning incense, herbs and candles -- would prepare the site for the third summit of Latin American Indians March 26-30.
Bush just gets no respect. No respect I tells ya.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/09/2007 12:16:00 PM
We have all been commanded by Satan's representative on Earth, PZ Myers, to write him a poem for his 50th birthday. Here's the best I can do on short notice:
There once was a man from Morris,
Who led the atheist chorus.
He was easily charmed,
By things with eight arms,
So his writing would never bore us.
Happy birthday you old curmudgeon.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/09/2007 09:55:00 AM
Monday, March 05, 2007
I had to think long and hard before posting this. At any given moment, I probably have 10-15 pages open in my browser. Some are things that I check often, like email, but others are just random news items and various junk that I figure I'll get around to reading eventually, so I leave them open so as not to lose them. Occasionally I go through and cull the pages that I know I'll never read or write about in order to reduce the clutter, but then there are always those pages that I just can't decide what to do with. This page sat open for about a week and half:
A Shreveport surgeon was released on bond Thursday after being accused of trying to solicit sex in a Shreveport park.
Dr. Milton Moore Slocum, of the 500 block of Waterford Drive just southeast of the city limits, was booked Tuesday night into the Caddo Correctional Center.
The sheriff's office has accused him of trying to solicit someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl over the Internet.
So far, no big deal in terms of newsworthiness. But here's the part that caught my eye:
Slocum was recently in the news for serving as a panelist during the local Darwin Day celebration at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. Slocum, a self-described "old-Earth creationist," said he interprets the Bible to mean God created the Earth over millions of years.
This guy who was caught soliciting sex from an underage girl is a creationist. Not just any creationist, but a creationist with an M.D. who felt strongly enough about his beliefs that he showed up to a Darwin Day event to argue them in front of a panel. In other words, he was the kind of person that creationists strongly look up to and count on to be their standard bearers.
Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, the point here is not that creationism somehow causes pedophilia. The point is that creationists have a nauseating habit of loudly proclaiming their moral superiority. They roundly accuse evolutionists of being responsible for the breakdown of society's moral fiber. And as a corollary, they say that creationism is supposed to cause people to lead more virtuous lives, so therefore it needs to be taught in public schools. There is of course never any evidence given for these assertions, they are simply taken a priori. It just makes sense to the creationists that having more "godly" beliefs makes you virtuous. They can't conceive of things being otherwise.
However, what we see in real life is that being a creationist is no guarantee of good behavior. The innumerable ethical breaches that creationists commit on a routine basis are one thing, but crimes that prey on the most vulnerable members of society cannot be dismissed as mere "lapses". If creationism can't even dissuade this kind of behavior, why should we to expect it to have any positive effect on morality?
Now I don't want to overgeneralize, which is exactly why I was hesitant to post this in the first place. Slocum hasn't even had his day in court, and it's possible that he was wrongly accused. Or it may be that he's just a bad apple and is for some reason immune to the wonderful virtues of creationist belief. Or maybe he would have been even worse without his religious beliefs, which is pretty hard to believe, but not impossible. Certainly we can say with confidence that the vast majority of creationists would never commit such behavior. But the same is true with the vast majority of any given group.
What the creationists need to do is account for why there are so many examples of bad behavior among their ranks. (Admittedly, recent examples such as Kent Hovind or Ted Haggard are nowhere near as bad as this.) My own explanation is that the creationist cause has little to do with advancing morality and everything to do with advancing the cultural and political influence that right-wing Christians have over society. Otherwise we would see more emphasis on the importance of leading a moral life and less about maintaining proper theological beliefs.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/05/2007 01:37:00 PM
No, not MC Hammer. I'm talking about someone who's even more clownish and pathetic. Before he left Congress in disgrace, Tom DeLay earned himself the nickname "The Hammer" because he was such an asshole. It appears now that he's trying to stage a comeback of sorts:
No Retreat, and a Plan to Get Even
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is joining the activist world with a plan to return conservatives to dominance. DeLay calls his new group the Coalition for a Conservative Majority, and it has one mission: recruiting and electing conservatives in all 50 states. He plans to begin building it during an April book tour to promote No Retreat, No Surrender, his blueprint for victory. Ironically, DeLay was inspired by Democrats who followed their loss to President Bush in 2000 with what he calls a liberal shadow party that ousted the gop last year and is aimed at installing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the White House.
DeLay is pimping his new book titled, No Retreat, No Surrender, a subject he's very familiar with since he resigned from Congress and then stupidly remained on the ballot which allowed the Democrats to take his seat.
I'd say his chances of a successful comeback are roughly the same as those of Vanilla Ice. Then again, this is Republican Party we're talking about.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/05/2007 12:06:00 PM
Friday, March 02, 2007
You know who really hates our troops? The troops, that's who. A recent poll published in the Military Times (part of the liberal MSM no doubt) shows us how our treasonous our soldiers truly are:
For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president’s handling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war, ac cording to the 2006 Military Times Poll.
When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war — in 2004 — 83 percent of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50 percent.
It is obvious that the 50% of our troops are giving aid and comfort to the enemy by suggesting that our mission in Iraq may not be a success. Just think of the effect on the troops' morale when they hear what their traitorous selves are saying. And on top of it, 2/3rds are questioning our Commander in Chief during a time of war. All of those troops should be brought up on treason charges immediately. Only then will our military be strong enough to win the war on terror.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/02/2007 04:43:00 PM
Name that bird!
I found this gorgeous bird the other day when I was out watching prairie varmints. It's probably a common bird around here, but I've never seen one before. If anyone can identify it I'd be greatly appreciated. For whatever reason, I can't find a good guide online.
Don't forget to visit the Friday Ark.
Posted by Steve Reuland at 3/02/2007 09:12:00 AM