Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Hate Snow

It is snowing, hard. We are supposed to get up to 5 inches. We still have piles of the shit everywhere, much of it still left from the December blizzards. Every time it gets warm enough to melt some of it off, it soon gets below freezing and stays there. Then we get more snow. I hate snow.

I have been told by people who have lived here for 15 years that new snow never falls on old. It's usually very dry in the winter, so there's no more than an inch or two here and there, and it always melts off before the next snowfall appears. Not this year. I hate snow.

What's truly frightening is that March and April are supposed to be the snowiest months of the year. If true, we're really in for it. The only consolation is that by then, hopefully, temperatures will be warm enough to melt the old stuff off before new snow accumulates.

I hate snow.

Update: It stopped snowing and the sun is out in full force. I take it all back.

Update again: We're supposed to get 5 inches Thursday night, and Friday's highs will be 5 degrees. I hate snow.

Update yet again: We didn't get the projected 5 inches, although it is quite cold. We didn't get much of anything, just a light dusting yesterday. I take it all back again.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Price of Roast Chicken Falls in Upstate South Carolina

Chickens roast in truck fire after collision

A chicken truck was northbound on Pleasantburg just past Mauldin Road when a southbound pickup turned in front of it and was hit, Greenville police Sgt. Bob Gamble said.

The semi's cab caught fire and was "fully involved," he said, adding that "quite a bit" of diesel fuel also spilled in the road.

Treasurer Falls for Nigerian Scam

This just boggles the mind:

A public treasurer in the Michigan county of Alcona stands accused of embezzling tax payers out of more than $1.2m, at least part of which was used to cover costs he incurred falling for a Nigerian banking fraud. [...]

County officials first suspected something was amiss late last year, when bank employees informed them Katona had sent eight payments totaling $186,500 to overseas accounts, six of which were associated with peddlers of the Nigerian scheme. He stepped down in November as authorities commenced an investigation.

They found that bank employees had warned Katona that the investment was a sham, but the treasurer ignored the warnings. An audit eventually showed that more than $1.2m was missing from county coffers. It remains unclear how much of that was paid to the scammers.

Even if it wasn't obvious from the content of the emails that this was a scam, how can you have been living on planet Earth for the last several years and not heard about it? And the guy is an accountant of all things, you'd think he'd be a bit more cautious with his money.

Friday Animal Blogging

Cat stalks iguana.

I posted some pictures of this event once before, but these are different and possibly better pictures.

The hunter (Jackson) has spotted his prey (Death Machine).

The hunter makes his move.

Having caught the prey, the hunter has a Wile E. Coyote vs. Roadrunner moment: Now what do I do with him?

(Don't forget to visit the Friday Ark.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Darwin Day in Chuck Town

For anyone reading this blog from the Charleston area, Darwin Week is Feb. 12-18, with an extensive list of programs being sponsored by the College of Charleston and other organizations.

Up near Greenville, Furman is also hosting some events. I'll post more as I find them.

Update: Ken Miller will be speaking at Clemson on Feb. 19th.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The God Problem

Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, has a new movie out entitled, "Friends of God". That's not what I'm going to discuss. This article in Raw Story talks about the movie along with the jaw-droppingly hilarious statement by Ted Haggard that evangelicals have a better sex life. I'm not going to discuss that either. Rather, there is a statement from Pelosi that I thought I'd zero in on, because it's apparently a very common sentiment:

Pelosi came away from the experience with an understanding of how evangelicals affect the political sphere, particularly the presidential race.

"Evangelicals are the largest majority bloc in America. … I don't think you can win without them," she said. "I think if you unified, you'll lose if they go against you. John Kerry learned that. Al Gore learned that, and Hillary Clinton will learn it."

There's a lot of nonsense here. I don't know what is meant by "majority bloc"; it seems to me that this must be a misstatement of "minority bloc". Evangelicals definitely are not in the majority. Moreover, this idea that evangelicals are this mighty political force is badly overstated. Pelosi didn't exactly come up with this idea, it's one that's been circulating in the media for a long time. But it's one that needs to stop.

Let's look at some exit polls. In 2004, white evangelical/born again Christians made up 23% of voters. That's nothing to sneeze at, but it's nowhere close to a majority. They went overwhelmingly for Bush over Kerry, 78% to 21%. However -- and here's where things get interesting -- non-Christian voters (Jews, "Other", and "None") made up 20% of the voting population, and they went almost as overwhelmingly for Kerry over Bush, 70.5% vs. 27.3%. In other words, the non-Christian vote almost, but not quite, completely negated the evangelical vote. Yet how often do you hear about the importance of courting non-Christians? The importance of courting evangelicals has become so cliché that the Democrats have actually hired an evangelical consultant. Yet given the fact that evangelical obnoxiousness and hostility towards religious minorities is what helps drive non-Christian voters into the arms of the Democrats, this strategy would seem dubious. The evangelicals probably provide, at most, only a small net advantage for the Republicans.

Did courting evangelicals help the Democrats do better in 2006 than they did in 2004? Although the right-wing spinsters on the cable channels were floating that hypothesis the second the returns started showing a big Republican loss, the 2006 exit polls tell a more complex story. The breakdown by religion was statistically the same as in 2004 -- 24% white evangelical/born-again, and 19% non-Christian. The evangelical share going to the Democrats did improve, to 70%/28%, or about a 15 point swing. (Contra Pelosi, the evangelicals safely went against the Dems, yet the Dems still won.) But there was almost as large of a swing in the non-Christian vote as well. In 2006 non-Christians went for Democrats over Republicans 74.4% vs. 21.9%, which is a 9.3 points.

A major problem in comparing the two above polls is that the 2004 results are for the Presidential election whereas the 2006 results are for House elections. Exit polls based only on the House elections show that the swing among evangelicals was only 6 points. The swing among non-Christians in aggregate, however, was far larger: 22 points for Jews, 4 points for "other faiths", and 18 points for the unaffiliated.

So in conclusion what we can say is this: Evangelicals are an asset to the Republicans, but non-Christians are an almost equal asset to the Democrats. Evangelicals did swing towards the Democrats in '06, but so did everyone else. In House races, the evangelical swing was significantly less than that of the non-Christians, indicating that courting the evangelical vote per se had no discernible benefit.

One thing that really annoys me is the way in which the media have allowed evangelical self-importance to become conventional wisdom. Yes, evangelicals are a potent political force, but so too are non-Christians, and you never hear anything about them. To look at the polling data and then to breathlessly state that the Democrats have a "God problem" is to badly misrepresent the state of affairs. It would be just as accurate to say that the Republicans have a God problem, given that they do terrible among non-Christian voters, they're doing worse as time goes on, and non-Christians are a rapidly growing share of the populace.

Update on Kenya

The East African Standard has a new (well, a week and a half old, but new to me) article concerning the attempts by evangelicals to suppress the hominid fossils currently on display in Kenya’s National Museum. You may remember when this ruckus first began several months ago. We now learn that churches are planning on holding “major demonstrations to the museum to press for the removal of the bones.”

The ringleader of all this is Bishop Boniface Adoyo, the head of the Chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, which has roughly six million members. The article contains numerous quotes from Adoyo, which show him to be pretty much your standard creationist. The following lines, interspersed throughout the text, are particularly telling:

“I’m worried that children will believe we evolved from monkeys. Yet this is not the truth that’s killing our faith,” he says. […]

“When museums claim that man evolved from apes, they are actually hurting many Christians who believe that God created us,” Adoyo says. […]

“These people should know that palaeontology is an old science. Richard Leakey and his group are afraid that their only source of survival and fame is rightly being put into question,” Adoyo claims.

Note the irony. After expressing dismay at the possibility that his job will be rendered obsolete if children are exposed to science, he then goes on to accuse Richard Leakey of being the self-interested party.

And of course the good Bishop’s ranting wouldn’t be complete without reciting some creationist falsehoods:

“Even Darwin on his death bed expressed surprise that people believed his theory,” Adoyo says

The good old Lady Hope Story. Never was there a creationist claim so thoroughly refuted that it doesn’t keep resurfacing. Here is another one:

The advent of DNA testing has helped us to trace the origin of man to Adam and Eve,” he says. “Palaeontologists do not want to admit this because it will crumble their scientific edifice,” he says.

He is presumably referring to Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam. Prior to my interest in the evolution-creationism debate, if someone told me that M-Eve and Y-Adam would be used to argue in favor of the literal Adam and Eve story, I would have said no way. No one could be that ignorant.

Sadly, they are. You can read these links to get the low-down on what M-Eve and Y-Adam really mean. But the well known fact that M-Eve lived about 84,000 years before Y-Adam should make it obvious to even the dimmest of bulbs that this does not in any way support the literal Bible story.

The good news in is that the Kenyan government says that it won’t give into this garbage. The disturbing news is that the Evangelical Alliance has enlisted a number of “Western institutions” to aid them in their crusade against people looking at bones. One can only guess which American creationist groups that might include.

The ringleader of all this is Bishop Boniface Adoyo, the head of the Chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, which has roughly six million members. The article contains numerous quotes from Adoyo, which show him to be pretty much your standard creationist. The following lines, interspersed throughout the text, are particularly telling:

“I’m worried that children will believe we evolved from monkeys. Yet this is not the truth that’s killing our faith,” he says. […]

“When museums claim that man evolved from apes, they are actually hurting many Christians who believe that God created us,” Adoyo says. […]

“These people should know that palaeontology is an old science. Richard Leakey and his group are afraid that their only source of survival and fame is rightly being put into question,” Adoyo claims.

Note the irony. After expressing dismay at the possibility that his job will be rendered obsolete if children are exposed to science, he then goes on to accuse Richard Leakey of being the self-interested party.

And of course the good Bishop’s ranting wouldn’t be complete without reciting some creationist falsehoods:

“Even Darwin on his death bed expressed surprise that people believed his theory,” Adoyo says.

The good old Lady Hope Story. Never was there a creationist claim so thoroughly refuted that it doesn’t keep resurfacing. Here is another one:

The advent of DNA testing has helped us to trace the origin of man to Adam and Eve,” he says. “Palaeontologists do not want to admit this because it will crumble their scientific edifice,” he says.

He is presumably referring to Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam. Prior to my interest in the evolution-creationism debate, if someone told me that M-Eve and Y-Adam would be used to argue in favor of the literal Adam and Eve story, I would have said no way. No one could be that ignorant.

Sadly, they are. You can read these links to get the low-down on what M-Eve and Y-Adam really mean. But the well known fact that M-Eve lived about 84,000 years before Y-Adam should make it obvious to even the dimmest of bulbs that this does not in any way support the literal Bible story.

The good news in is that the Kenyan government says that it won’t give into this garbage. The disturbing news is that the Evangelical Alliance has enlisted a number of “Western institutions” to aid them in their crusade against people looking at bones. One can only guess which American creationist groups that might include.

(Hat-tip to Bartholomew’s notes on religion.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

The 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2006

I don't normally care for all of the superlative lists that you see at the end of each year, but this one is pure gold. Here are a few of my favorite entries:

26. Ann Coulter

Charges: It was a run of the mill year for Ann: openly calling for the murder of a Supreme Court justice and the entire staff of the New York Times, accusing 9/11 widows of "enjoying their husband’s deaths" and Bill Clinton of being a rapist. Coulter’s neck gained an amazing 3 vertical inches in 2006; inside sources attribute this to a strict regimen of deep-throating Satan’s scaly cock. It’s projected that by 2010 Coulter will be able to plagiarize the Illinois Right to Life Committee website more deftly than she did in this year’s ode to mindless intolerance of tolerance, Godless, simply by snaking her grotesque head-ladder through the ventilation ducts of their office and skulking away with their webmaster’s hard drive clenched firmly in her masculine jaw. Ann’s slipping, though; she’s become an unconvincing fascist parody, increasingly betraying herself in televised interviews, blushing at her own brazen idiocy. She’s faking it, and so are her tits.

Exhibit A: "Hi, I’m Ann Coulter."

Sentence: Most "controversial" statements redacted from "Exhibit A," as they’re a naked ploy for attention–-and Adam’s apple removed with a backhoe.

19. Steven Milloy

Charges: It’s a pretty fucked up world in which a falsified memoir of drug addiction can spark widespread outrage, but a lawyer and registered lobbyist posing as a science expert can take money from Exxon Mobil and Phillip Morris to spread blatant lies without repercussion. Milloy, writing under the ironically accurate title of "junk science expert" for and at his own website,, is in the business of dismissing any and all alarming scientific studies about, well, anything—global warming, secondhand smoke, livestock diseases, pollution, insecticides, guns—employing statistical sleight of hand and relying on the ignorance of his readers. Like fictional "climate expert" Michael Crichton, Milloy warns us against evil "environmental extremists" who deliberately trick us into fearing global warming just to increase their funding. The theory seems a little shaky, considering that there’s a lot more to be made lying for oil, tobacco and chemical firms like Milloy.

Exhibit A: Three days after 9/11, Milloy took the opportunity to argue that the buildings collapsed because of asbestos regulation.

Sentence: Fed alive to emaciated polar bears.

17. Tony Snow

Charges: A soft-spoken scoutmaster with the obfuscatory skill of a Jedi car salesman. After years defending the Bush administration’s worst excesses on "Fox News Sunday," Snow’s job transition to White House Spokesman consisted solely of getting directions to the new office. Very first answer at very first press briefing was a lie, containing that old stonewaller’s chestnut, "we will neither confirm nor deny." Snow’s vast ignorance greatly enhances his ability to appear to believe the bullshit he emits for a living—he thinks evolution "is pure hypothesis," that black/white disparity in America has "all but vanished," and that the Baker-Hamilton report is "partisan." This kind of willful denial of reality makes him a much more sophisticated protocol droid than his monotonous predecessor.

Exhibit A: "Helen, the President understands that you cannot win the war without public support."

Sentence: Hugging electrified tar baby.

8. David Horowitz

Charges: A former lefty radical who has devoted his life to prosecuting his former self, Horowitz now specializes in making enemies lists and persecuting intellectuals for "liberal bias," usually in the form of criticism of Israeli or American policy. Like most fascist converts, Horowitz sees disseminating information as an act of treason. His favorite targets are university professors he declares enemies of "academic freedom," because nothing is more dangerous to a neocon than someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. Horowitz also targets Hollywood’s nefarious scheme to craft entertainment that audiences find appealing, founding the Center for the Study of Popular Culture to push his brand of regressive revisionist propaganda on unsuspecting viewers. Apparently, for this Marxist-turned-Machiavellian, affirmative action is a great idea when applied to the media.

Exhibit A: In June, Horowitz warned his readers of a "grave threat to American security"—the New York Times travel section, for running a piece on Rumsfeld and Cheney’s summer homes, which was approved by the Secret Service.

Sentence: Drafted, shipped to Iraq, kidnapped by terrorists who convert him to Islam, released, captured and tortured to death by US contractors.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Name that Animal

The Pensacola News Journal has more on "Dr." Kent Hovind's sentencing. Hovind's behavior both before and during is highly entertaining:

Before his sentencing, a tearful Kent Hovind compared his situation to that of the lion and the mouse in Aesop's Fables.

"I feel like the mouse," Hovind told U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. "I stand here in great fear of the power of this court. Your decision can destroy my life, my ministry and my grandchildren."

Hovind's courtroom comments were in stark contrast to more-combative statements he made in recent telephone calls from Escambia County Jail.

In a recording of one of the telephone conversations played in court Friday, Hovind said the Internal Revenue Service, presiding judge and prosecutor broke the law by going after him, and there were things he could do "to make their lives miserable."

Comparing himself to a buffalo in a lion fight, Hovind's voice was heard saying "As long as I have some horns, I'm going to swing. As long as I have some hoofs, I'm going to kick. As long as I have some teeth, I'm going to fight. The lion's going to know he's been in a fight."

Apparently Kent does believe in Evolution. He evolved from a buffalo to a mouse in a mere matter of days. Of course it's not really evolution at all -- just changes within the jackass kind.

Friday, January 19, 2007

It's Going to be a Hovind-Free Decade

10 years for 'Dr. Dino'

Pensacola evangelist Kent Hovind was sentenced Friday afternoon to 10 years in prison on charges of tax fraud.

After a lengthy sentencing hearing that last 5 1/2 hours, U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers ordered Hovind also:

-- Pay $640,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

-- Pay the prosecution’s court costs of $7,078.

-- Serve three years parole once he is released from prison.

The funniest/saddest part:

Prior to his sentencing, a tearful Kent Hovind, also known as "Dr. Dino" asked for the court’s leniency.

After all of these years of willfully evading taxes and thumbing his nose at the IRS, after having had the gall to argue in front of a judge and jury that he is above the law, after having mounted a defense that insults the very basis of our judicial system... only now does he start showing signs of remorse. And I suppose it's just a coincidence that it's at the very moment when he's about to be sent up the river. Come on Kent, whatever happened to the courage of your convictions?

Say It Ain't So

U.S. detains mega-church founders over cash

Brazilian mega-church leaders Sonia Moraes Hernandes and Estevam Hernades-Filho spent the last two decades building one of Brazil's largest evangelical empires.

They're now spending their time at a federal detention center in Miami.

The couple was arrested at Miami International Airport last week on charges of currency smuggling and lying to customs officers after U.S. Immigration and Customs agents found they were carrying thousands of dollars more than the $10,000 they declared, investigators allege.

I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell ya. And the best part:

Agents found the first extra bundle of cash, $9,000, tucked into the cover of Sonia's Bible.

They don't call it the Good Book for nothing.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Return of the Living Dead

Via the LaurinLine, it appears that Rudy Giuliani is hiring a certain... someone to run his South Carolina campaign:

The Shot has received word from a very reliable source close to the situation that Team Giuliani has hired The Palladian Group, of Spartanburg, to handle political advising and fundraising in South Carolina. The Palladian Group is run by Karen Floyd, who was the Republican nominee for Superintendent of Education in the 2006 election cycle.

Karen Floyd? You mean that Karen Floyd? The one who did that and wrote that? Harder to kill than a zombie and twice as mean. If her recent political track record is any indication, Giuliani's campaign is doomed and his brains will be eaten.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bush to Eliminate Program that he Previously said was Absoultely Necessary to Stop Terrorism.

Bush won't reauthorize warrantless eavesdropping

I guess this puts paid to the claim that eavesdropping on suspected terrorists must be done without warrants and in violation of FISA. Either that, or Bush doesn't think there needs to be surveillance of terrorist suspects.

They Suck at Geography Too.

PZ Mayorzsh has been steadily mocking the new creationist "museum" set to open in northern Kentucky, and has noticed a rather strange claim that appears in all of the news articles written about it. Here is the original form of the claim, as recorded in this article in The Guardian:

It [the museum] is strategically placed, too - not in the middle of nowhere, but within six hours' drive of two-thirds of the entire population of the US.

So the museum is within a 6 hours' drive of 2/3rds of the population of the entire US? I don't think so.

Below is a map of the United States, upon which I drew a circle with a radius of approximately 360 miles with the creationist museum in the center. 360 miles is about the maximum one can drive in 6 hours, assuming that you drive in a straight line (no bends in the road), you maintain a constant 60 mph speed, and you don't make any stops.

The idea that 2/3rds of the population of the United States lives within that circle is absurd. Everything to the west and southwest of St. Louis is outside of it, including the entire states of California and Texas, plus the whole population of 20 other states (23 if you count Arkansas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin, whose borders just barely touch the circle). Everything to the south of Atlanta is outside of the circle, including the entire state of Florida. And everything to the northeast of mid-Pennsylvania sits outside of it, including Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston.

If you add the populations of California, Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, Washington, and New Jersey -- all states that are outside of the 6 hour radius -- that alone makes up more than 1/3rd of the country. Plus you've got an additional 24 states and several major cities. I mean, it's just not even close.

Now The Guardian is a UK paper, so its writers might be forgiven for knowing nothing about American geography. But they almost certainly didn't come up with this particular talking point -- instead it was fed to them by the creationists. It's not that getting their geography wrong is a major defect in and of itself, it's that it demonstrates a serious lack of knowledge or concern about even the most basic, easily checked facts. And that gives us a good idea of what's likely to be found in the museum.

Strangely enough, in spite of how easy it is to refute this claim, it hasn't gone away. Instead it has evolved. Now instead of the museum being within a 6 hour drive of 2/3rds of the country, it's within a "day's" drive of 2/3rds of the country. That's still awfully hard to swallow. Although in this case "day" has the virtue of being undefined, so they could take it to mean 24 hours of non-stop driving, in which case, yes, 2/3rds of the country probably falls within that range. So does Mexico. However, when we think of a "day's" trip, most people would be thinking about a maximum of about 600 miles, and of course this isn't going to be in a straight line. When I drove from South Carolina to Denver, it took me two and a half days, and that was some pretty hardcore driving. (I drove all day, stopped only when necessary, and didn't have any screaming kids in the car.) On my first day, I made it from around Greenville, SC to southern Illinois. On my second day, I made it from southern Illinois to the western edge of Kansas. Those distances are not much bigger than the radius of the circle I have drawn, so if we assume a realistic day of driving, we're just barely widening the circle and not adding that much more of the US population. It's still downright nuts to say that 2/3rds of the population lives within a day's drive of northern Kentucky.

A better question here is, how "strategically placed" is this creationist museum? In terms of nearby people, not very. You've got the populations of Ohio and Indiana nearby, plus a few major cities that are realistically within driving distance -- Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, etc. However, to the immediate south and east you've got the sparsely populated (and hard to drive through) region of Appalachia, and to the immediate west sits thinly populated farm country, and while these area may contain the creationists' prime constituency, the people living there may not be able to afford the admissions fee. If you wanted the museum to be close to a lot of people, shifting it to the northeast by a couple of hundred miles would have been the smart thing to do.

Friday, January 12, 2007

My Entry, Card Catalog

I am in the card catalog!

Maybe given that the card catalog is moribund, that's not such a good thing. Still, nice to see that librarians have taken note. (They make them here.)

Friday Animal Blogging

The watch-where-you-sit edition.

This is a place where you really don't want to sit. Chester, the green bird, has foolishly placed himself right in the cross-hairs of the blue bird. You can see a turd sitting right down by Chester's feet. As I watched this scene, several turds (parakeets crap at a ridiculously fast rate) came down and landed on Chester, but lucky for him they slid off like water off a duck's back.

Here is a bonus picture. The boys are hanging out on the chain that holds their cage. They always like climbing to the highest point they can, apparently in a vain attempt to escape the reach of their cruel, cruel master.

Don't forget to visit the Friday Ark.

Denver Weather

As I prepare to leave for work, the temperature outside is one below zero. The day before yesterday it was in the 50s. I do not like this weather. I do not like it Sam-I-Am.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

National Delurking Week

All of the cool kids are saying that this is National Delurking Week. For anyone who doesn't speak internet, "lurking" is when one reads material on a discussion forum or blog yet doesn't post comments. Hence his or her presence is unknown. To delurk means to post a comment and say hi. I know I don't have that many readers, but if anyone wants to delurk, this is the thread to do it on.


Democrats Pick Denver For 2008 Convention

Democrats have picked Denver for the 2008 convention, officials said Thursday.Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean made the announcement in Washington."I congratulate Governor Ritter, Mayor Hickenlooper, Senator Salzar and the members of the Denver Host Committee for assembling an outstanding bid that demonstrates the community's commitment to organizing a first-rate national convention that will put our nominee on the path to victory in 2008," Dean said in a statement. Click here to read his full statement.

Denver had been vying with New York City for the convention. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in recent weeks that he would not commit the city to underwrite the convention's costs.

I'm not sure if I'll still be here come fall 2008, but if I am I'll have to check out some of the hoopla. Anyway, this is a wise strategy for the Dems. The West and Southwest are areas where they can definitely make some gains -- Colorado for its part now has a Democratic legislature, a Democratic governor, and a majority Democratic Congressional delegation.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why Do So Many Doctors Accept Evolution?

Over at Uncommon Descent, Gil Dodgen asks the question of why so many engineers reject evolution. Dave Scott then asks a similar question about doctors. Not surprisingly, their answers to these questions are self-serving and backed up only by wishful thinking. Dodgen quotes Stephen Meyer as saying that because engineers know all about "design", they are therefore in a unique position to know about biology. (As a corollary, I suppose biologists must have special insight when it comes to designing bridges.) Even more amusing is Dave Scott's explanation for why doctors supposedly reject evolution. They are risk adverse. I'll let others ponder the logic of that one.

But all of this begs the question: How many doctors (or engineers) reject evolution, and why do they do so? I think the question is worth looking at, even if just for fun. So let's do something that the denizens of UD would consider totally alien -- let's look at some data.

Lucky for us, the Louis Finkelstein Institute recently conducted a survey on the beliefs that doctors have concerning evolution and "intelligent design". The headline for the survey was that a majority of doctors, 63%, preferred evolution over ID. Still, that leaves a fairly sizable minority, 34%, who agree with the ID position. Unfortunately, it's hard to know what to make of such numbers. Thanks in large part to the obscurantist tactics of its major proponents, "intelligent design" is a fuzzy concept that has any number of possible meanings among lay people. For example, a lot of people seem to think that ID is equivalent to theistic evolution, a position held in contempt by the leading ID advocates. It's also difficult to compare different surveys against each other, given that (especially for this issue) the answers tend to be extremely sensitive to the wording of the question. For example, any question that makes a reference to God or the Bible will tend to elicit a more positive response than one that doesn't, even when the questions are essentially the same.

Fortunately, the Finkelstein survey does contain one question that is directly comparable to that asked of the general public in a CBS News poll conducted around the same time. That question asks people about their views on evolution and gives them three choices: The first is that humans were created by God essentially as they are now; the second is that humans have evolved with God guiding the process; and the third is that humans have evolved without God's guidance. Although the wording differs slightly between the two surveys, the differences are trivial and shouldn't make any difference in how people respond. Thus I submit that this is the best comparison between surveys that we're likely to find. I've put the results together into a single chart:

We can see that the results are quite striking. Doctors are far less likely to believe in the explicitly creationist position than are the general public. They are also far more likely to believe that evolution occurred without divine guidance. Overall, the acceptance of evolution among doctors is around 80% (actually 78% when asked the question directly) whereas it's only around 45% for the general public. So contrary to the self-congratulatory beliefs of the UD folks, it is not the case that being a doctor somehow makes one more prone to being a IDist/creationist. In fact it makes one much less prone. While some of this may be due to the fact that more educated and affluent people are more likely to accept evolution, much of it is probably due to the medical training that doctors receive. That makes Dave Scott's remarks all the more ironic. (One quick note: The Gallup organization has been conducting a similar poll for a long time, though they include a 10,000 year age for the human species are part of question #1. Even still, the results for the general public are highly similar to those above. However, if I had included those results broken down by college education, the college educated would have sat somewhere in between the general public and doctors in the above chart. Because I couldn't find any data for this more recent than 1991, I left it out, but it supports the notion that there is more than just general education that leads doctors to accept evolution.)

It is true of course that doctors are more prone to being creationists than scientists in general and biologists in particular. This is to be fully expected, as it's unlikely that you're going to find any one group of people who are more convinced about evolution than biologists and other scientists. But the fact is, we see a steady increase in the acceptance of evolution when we move from the uneducated to the educated, and from those whose educations are irrelevant to evolution towards those who are more relevant. Thus, the prevalence (or rather paucity) of creationist doctors has a simple explanation.

Much the same can be said of engineers. The perception that there exists a large number of creationist engineers has actually spawned its own bit of internet folk wisdom, known as the Salem hypothesis. Although there are no survey data for engineers specifically as far as I know, I strongly suspect that the percentage of engineers who accept evolution is similar to (though probably somewhat less than) that of doctors. Which is to say, an engineer is far less likely to be a creationist than is a member of the general public, yet is more likely to be a creationist than is a scientist. Assuming this is the case, it doesn't really require any special explanation.

Ironically, ID/creationists are very keen on giving the impression that they have quality credentials, in spite of the fact that they are very quick to dismiss and vilify the vast majority of credentialed scientists. The propaganda put out by the Discovery Institute and other creationist organizations will always mention an advanced degree held by one of their own. This is true even when the degree is of highly questionable relevance. If it seems like there are a lot of engineers and doctors espousing ID, it's probably just a manifestation of this tactic.

(Cross-posted to the Panda's Thumb.)

Update: Dave Scot throws a childish temper tantrum over at UD, claiming that I “trots out a strawman - [that] ID and “evolution” are mutually exclusive”. Except of course I didn’t. Nowhere do I say that evolution and ID are mutually exclusive. The Finkelstein survey pits them that way, but that’s exactly why I used a question that gives people more than two choices. The fact is, no matter what flavor of IDism/creationism one espouses, the survey data make it abundantly clear that doctors are much less likely to buy into it than are the general public. If doctors are therefore considered to hold some sort of special insight into the evolution debate, this does not bode well for the IDists. That is the substance of the post, and naturally Dave Scot totally ignores it. It appears that in his intellectual dishonesty, he’s reduced to slaying strawmen. :)

Monday, January 08, 2007

On the Wonders of Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

Three of the bulbs pictured on the left draw 40 watts of electricity. One of them draws only 9 watts. Can you guess which one?

I've been a big fan of compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs for a couple of years now, but I was shocked to hear recently that only 6% of households in the US are using them. CF bulbs don't work for every application, but as I just discovered, even "aesthetic" bulbs can be replaced with CFs. And certainly most of your everyday bulbs can. A 100 W incandescent bulb, for example, can be replaced with a 23 W CF that produces the same amount of light. To my eye, at least, they appear completely identical. Not like those ugly whitish fluorescent things they tried to sell us 20 years ago, which for obvious reasons never caught on.

The economics on this are rather startling. If you replace 10 incandescent bulbs of 100 W each with comparable CF bulbs, that saves you 770 W for every hour they're on. If they're on for an average of 4 hours a day, that's just over 3 kilowatt-hours (kWh) saved per day. At about $0.10 per kWh of electricity, that'll save you around 30 cents a day. It may not sound like much, but over a year those savings add up to over $112. Just for changing light bulbs.

The CF bulbs are certainly more expensive. If you buy them individually, they cost about $5 each, though you can get them cheaper in bulk. But they're also guaranteed to last for 5 years, unlike incandescents which last only a matter of months, so it equals out in the end. (One hint though: save your receipts and UPC; you may buy a whole package that ends up going sour, which happened to me once.) But you don't have to wait for the bulbs to live out their full life-span in order to get your money back. Switching 10 bulbs will cost you at most $50, and assuming you use them regularly, you will have doubled your money in less than a year.

Another way to think about this is to assume that you're making an investment. $50 invested today will, within 5 years, return $560 in energy savings. Subtracting your original investment and assuming the interest is compounded annually, that's about a 60% annual return on your money over the life of the bulbs. I challenge anyone to find me an investment that guarantees a better than 60% return. I mean seriously, if you know of one please tell me.

Absent finding that magical guaranteed 60+% return, switching to CF bulbs is about the best investment that anyone can make. To be sure, CF bulbs aren't entirely without their drawbacks. The biggest is that they don't get up to full brightness for about 15 seconds after you turn them on. But that is at most a minor nuisance. Another drawback that most of the CF bulbs produced are ugly and you don't want to use them in situations where you have a naked bulb jutting out from a light fixture. But as in the case above with my bathroom lights, even this is no long an issue in most cases. Barring these trivialities, there is no reason why everyone shouldn't be switching to CF bulbs.

In addition to saving you some serious duckets, switching to CF bulbs is good for the environment. Were everyone to do so, using the above assumptions and given about 100 million households in the US, that would save over 112 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity per year. That's a lot. Unfortunately, the US generates over 4 billion MWh of electricity per year, so we're talking about only a small dent here. But it's a dent nonetheless. And you get paid for it.

And Millions of College Students Mourned...

Instant noodle inventor dies at 96.

GM Does Something Right, For Once

General Motors is that far-sighted car company who was completely blind-sided by the Japanese on fuel efficiency not once, but twice -- first during the oil crises back in the 70s and then again today. As a response, rather than figure that maybe they should invest in fuel efficient cars, they lobbied the government to relax CAFE standards and have dropped over 1 billion dollars into developing hydrogen vehicles. Hydrogen is perhaps the worst idea ever, meaning that this is all just money down the drain and a huge opportunity wasted. But at least GM gets to pretend as if they're doing something useful while selling gas-guzzling SUVs.

Now it looks like they're finally catching on. The electric car may be boring to futurists, but it almost certainly represents the future of automotive technology. And now GM has one :

Struggling auto giant General Motors Corp. on Sunday revived its once-failed idea of a mass-market electric car, unveiling a new "concept" car called the Volt designed to use little or no gasoline.

Introduced at the North American International Auto Show here, the Chevrolet Volt will draw power exclusively from a next-generation battery pack recharged by a small onboard engine -- if the technology is ready in two or three years. [...]

The Volt is designed to run for 40 miles on pure electric power, making it marketable for everyday family use.

For the average American driver who drives 40 miles a day, or 15,000 miles a year, the Volt will require no fuel and lead to an annual savings of 500 gallons of gasoline, GM said.

Unlike current gas-electric hybrids, which use a parallel system twinning battery power and a combustion engine, the Volt will be driven entirely by electric power.

So it appears to be a pure electric car, but one that carries an on-board gasoline engine to recharge the batteries so that the range can be extended indefinitely. I'm not entirely sure about the wisdom of that -- replacing the inefficient gas engine with more batteries might be better -- but the infinite range thing has its advantages. I sort of doubt however that if you ran it exclusively on gasoline that you would get good mileage. Still, it gives consumers the option of running purely on electricity for most of their travel, and assuming that the electricity is generated cleanly, this is a net gain for the environment. So credit where credit is due.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Many more where that came from here. In fact it gets worse; the deer and rabbit start snuggling and... well, you've been warned. Make sure you're wearing your cuteness dampening glasses. What I'm wondering is if these photographs are staged or if the photographer actually found them doing this in the wild.

Friday, January 05, 2007

That Liberal Media

There are some characters who, the more you know about them, the scarier they get. Rev. Moon is perhaps the best example of that kind of character.

Jaw, prepare to drop:

George Archibald, who describes himself “as the first reporter hired at the Washington Times outside the founding group” and author of a commemorative book on the Times’ first two decades, has now joined a long line of disillusioned conservative writers who departed and warned the public about extremism within the newspaper.

In an Internet essay on recent turmoil inside the Times, Archibald also confirmed claims by some former Moon insiders that the cult leader has continued to pour in $100 million a year or more to keep the newspaper afloat. Archibald put the price tag for the newspaper’s first 24 years at “more than $3 billion of cash.” [...]

Though best known as the founder of the Unification Church, Moon, now 86, has long worked with right-wing political forces linked to organized crime and international drug smuggling, including the Japanese yakuza gangs and South American cocaine traffickers.

Moon insiders, including his former daughter-in-law Nansook Hong, also have described Moon’s system for laundering cash into the United States and then funneling much of it into his businesses and influence-buying apparatus, led by the Washington Times.

The Times, in turn, has targeted American politicians of the center and left with journalistic attacks – sometimes questioning their sanity, as happened with Democratic presidential nominees Michael Dukakis and Al Gore. Those themes then resonate through the broader right-wing echo chamber and into the mainstream media. [...]

Besides the estimated $3 billion-plus invested in the Washington Times, Moon has spread money around to influential right-wingers, often coming to their rescue when they are facing financial ruin as happened with Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell in the mid-1990s.

And then there's the stuff about the sex rites in the Unification Church. And another article about where Moon gets all this money. Creepy.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Predictions for 2007

I don't normally do this, but it's customary these days to make predictions for the new year. So here goes:

  • There will be violence in the Middle East.

  • 2007 will be the hottest year on record, surpassing the previous record set in 2005, which itself surpassed the previous record set in 1998. "Climate contrarians" will point to what happened between August and December and insist that we are in a cooling trend.

  • Will Smith will star in a movie in which he uses the phrase "yo dog" at least 3 times.

  • Pat Robertson will make an ass out of himself by claiming that God spoke to him and informed him about some terrible catastrophe that ends up not happening. (Okay, I cheated somewhat -- the first part already came true.)

  • More of everything, everywhere. Less of nothing.

  • The Clemson Tigers will have an initially promising football team yet manage to lose two or three games that they should have won due to stupidity, resulting in a mediocre season.

  • The Discovery Institute or one of its close allies will claim that they've somehow been terribly wronged and persecuted by "dogmatic Darwinists", yet upon close scrutiny it will turn out that they've grossly distorted the facts and their complaint is entirely frivolous.

  • Gary Coleman will announce his candidacy for President of the United States. Not one person will notice.

  • The average American will continue to grow fatter. Sadly, this will no longer be correlated with increased jolliness.

  • George W. Bush will widely be recognized as one of America's greatest ever presidents, with clear vision, intellect, and strength to lead us through some of the most trying times in our history. At least according to Hugh Hewitt.

  • I will win. What exactly it is I'm going to win isn't clear, but I'm definitely going to win it.

  • Wednesday, January 03, 2007

    The Tale of the Victim Bully

    I recently ran across the term "victim bully". It's an excellent descriptor for a distressingly common creature, one who can be found in all walks of life but is most frequently sighted in the political sphere. Here is a brief description:

    Gunsalus distinguishes between traditional, assertive bullies, who throw their weight around with bluster and force, and 'victim bullies,' who use claims of having been wronged to gain leverage over others.(pp. 123-4) Unlike simple passive-aggression, victim bullies use accusations as weapons, and ramp up the accusations over time. Unlike a normal person, who would slink away in shame as the initial accusations are discredited, a victim bully lacks either guilt or shame, honestly believing that s/he has been so egregiously wronged in some cosmic way that anything s/he does or says is justified in the larger scheme of things. So when the initial accusations are dismissed, the victim bully's first move is a sort of double-or-nothing, raising the absurdity and the stakes even more.

    Or, if you want a more contemporary description keeping with recent events, this one will do too:

    Republican lawmakers held a press conference today to continue their push for a "Minority Bill of Rights" in the new Congress.

    "The Minority Bill of Rights gives [Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-CA)] a chance to lead with integrity instead of rule by force," Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) said, ignoring the Republican-controlled 109th Congress' reputation for strong-arm tactics.

    "Washington, D.C. has just enacted a smoking ban, yet somehow Nancy Pelosi and her liberal colleagues have found a way to lock themselves in a smoky backroom in the Capitol to make deals for the next two years,"
    Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) added.

    Even House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), who as one of the top Republican leaders in the past two congresses was as responsible as anyone for the Republican majority's penchant for backroom deals and hard-nosed legislating, got in on the act, issuing a separate statement on the Democrats' diabolical intent:

    In their first one hundred hours of governance, House Democrats will renege on a pledge to fully debate policy alternatives, denying the citizens of this country an open, honest discussion of the issues.

    Please note: the new session of Congress has not yet started, and the Republicans are already pretending to be the victims of Democratic meanness.

    By the way, if you want another, possibly even more absurd example of victim bullying, the Sternberg saga provides it in spades.

    Edited to add: Ed Brayton has a post on this and has argued that because Nancy Pelosi proposed a Minority Bill of Rights back in 2004, she is thus obligated in the name of consistency to cave in to this unseemly theatrical display. I disagree. One can both believe that a MBR is a good idea and still tell the Republicans to shove it as concerns their victim bullying. Here are the basics of my argument as I've laid them out in comments on Ed's blog:

    The Republicans are not doing this because they're actually afraid that the Democrats will mistreat them, but rather because the accusation itself serves as an attack on the Dem's integrity. The merits of a Minority Bill of Rights isn't even an issue. The issue is that the Republicans are playing victim bully. The absolute worst thing one can do in this situation is to tacitly agree with the accusers by giving them what they want. That just guarantees more of the same. (If you want a familiar example, remember Larry Caldwell and his frivolous lawsuit against the NCSE?) The proper thing to do is to dismiss faulty and irrational accusations as being faulty and irrational.

    A Minority Bill of Rights is a good idea in principle. The Democrats should pass one, but they should do so on their own terms and preferably with strong bipartisan support. But they absolutely should not pay any heed to this particular bit of chicanery.

    I will probably leave things at that.

    Edited to add again: This article in The Hill explains things further. While the Democrats completely rebuffed (and even laughed at) the Republican whine-fest, they instituted a number of rules changes that addressed the issues they raised back in 2004, including preventing the majority from holding votes open past their time limit and making sure that minority members are allowed to participate in conference committees. This was, as I argued, the proper thing for them to do.

    Monday, January 01, 2007

    Best. Lawsuit. Ever.

    This is one of those random things on the web I came across. It is a judge's decision from an actual lawsuit. Here's a small taste:

    Teri Smith TYLER, Plaintiff,


    James CARTER,
    William Clinton,
    Ross Perot,
    American Cyanamid,
    IronMountain Security Corporation,
    Defense Intelligence Agency,
    David Rockerfeller,
    Rockerfeller Fund,
    NASA, Defendants. [...]

    Plaintiff Teri Smith Tyler, appearing pro se, filed a complaint in December 1992 alleging a bizarre conspiracy involving the defendants to enslave and oppress certain segments of our society. Plaintiff contends she is a cyborg, and that she received most of the information which forms the basis for her complaint, through "proteus", which I read to be some silent, telepathic form of communication. See complaint, at 1, and Affidavit accompanying November 1993 Order to Show Cause, at P g. She asserts that the defendants are involved in the "Iron Mountain Plan", which provides for the reinstitutionalization of slavery and "bloodsports" (which she identifies as death-hunting [FN1] and witch-hunting), and the oppression of political dissidents, herself included. Plaintiff's complaint alleges a number of personal indignities visited upon her by defendants: "strafing of my dormitory room by planes and helicopters, the electronic bugging of my student rooms and apartments, deliberate noise harassment, blasting of loud rock music with lyrics designed for witch-hunts (music about social pariahs) ... students following me around to prevent me from studying, whispering campaigns and social ostrification ..." Complaint, at 1-2. Plaintiff also makes the following allegations against the defendants. Former President Jimmy Carter was the secret head of the Ku Klux Klan; Bill Clinton is the biological son of Jimmy Carter; President Clinton and Ross Perot have made fortunes in the death-hunting industry, and are responsible for the murder of at least 10 million black women in concentration camps, their bodies sold for meat and their skin turned into leather products. The defendants are also responsible for breeding farms, which turn out 2,000 black girls a year, who are then sold for recreational murder or as human pets. Additionally, the defendants utilize weather control and earthquake technology to threaten other countries that object to the Iron Mountain plan. [...]

    Plaintiff additionally contends that Gulf War against Iraq was undertaken so that America could restock its sexual slavery camps, which had been depleted. According to plaintiff, 40,000 Iraqi soldiers captured by the United States, selected for their physical attractiveness, have been brought to this country where they were "being beaten, forced to run gauntlets and homosexually gang- raped by American soldiers." Plaintiff claims to have confronted Secretary of Defense Cheney with evidence of this allegation. Cheney, through "proteus", purportedly told the plaintiff, "Well, we were so sick and tired of killing black girls. We just had to put some variety back into our death- hunting industry. And they [Persians] are incredibly beautiful. The beauty of the face heightens the pleasure of the kill. I know of no higher pleasure than the gang-rape of exceedingly beautiful people."

    Wow. And to think, the complaint was dismissed. That's an awful lot of wrongdoing the judge is turning a blind eye to.