Friday, November 30, 2012


If Montana Won't Come To ...

Well, well, a freshly minted Montana Republican State Representative named Clayton Fiscus (if that isn't the name of a character out of a Coen brothers movie, it soon will be) has asked, even before he is sworn in, for a bill to be drafted entitled "Require public schools to teach intelligent design along with evolution."

The Discovery [sic] Institute, ever mindful of the "Disaster in Dover" is already panicking:
However well intentioned this draft bill request, the best place for mulling intelligent design is in the labs and lecture halls that host the scientific community and its activity, and in books and journals read by scientists and non-scientists alike -- not in public schools, statehouses or courtrooms, as these tend to turn science into politics. Our priority is to see intelligent design advance as a science, as well as to promote unhindered public discussion on the issue. None of this is to say that we think intelligent design is unconstitutional -- hardly. Rather, we think that intelligent design should not be pushed into public schools because that would politicize the debate and prevent ID from gaining a fair hearing in the scientific community.
Riiight! After all, the political (social, religious, etc.) debate for 150+ years after Darwin published the Origin has prevented evolution from being seen as science and hindered public discussion of it!
There is, however, always room for more critical thinking about scientific controversy within public school science class. To that end, we urge lawmakers in statehouses across the country, including Montana, to consider following the recent example of Tennessee. ...

[T]eachers in Tennessee can without interference or fear of termination or sanction now teach more about evolution than before academic freedom became state law, more than just one narrow view of what it is, how it works, what it can do, etc. This is provided that the discussion stays within the confines of state-mandated curricular standards and does not veer into religion or personal views.
This is, of course, the "teach the controversy" ploy, at least the fourth incarnation of religious attacks against the teaching of evolution in public schools. There was the "ban evolution in public schools" ploy, slapped down in Epperson v. Arkansas. Then, there was the "equal time for creation science" gambit, ended by Edwards v. Aguillard. Then the "cdesign proponentsists" begat Intelligent Design Creationism only to see it go down in flames in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

So religious opposition to the teaching of evolution has gone from an outright ban because the Book of Genesis must be the exclusive source of doctrine as to the origin of man, to claiming that science supports Genesis, to stripping out mention of God in favor of an unknown and unknowable (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) "Designer" (strangely often capitalized, given the professed ignorance of who or what he, she or it may be), to stripping out the Designer but leaving all the supposed "evidences" against evolution that go back as far as George McCready Price before the Scopes trial.

But they're not afraid of ID being declared unconstitutional, nosiree bob!
Lawmakers: expect more from your state's students. Push for academic freedom in your schools.
Translation from Discoveryspeak: 'Hopefully your kids won't be as dense about the nudge, nudge, wink, wink as their parents have been!'

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Tom the Dancing Bug Dancing on BillyO

The ever ridiculous Bill O'Reilly thinks (apply all appropriate scare quotes) "that the mass turnout of voters of color signaled an end to 'traditional American voters'."

Despite the great temptation to say "amen," Tom the Dancing Bug points out how untraditional O'Reilly's notion of "traditional" is.

Friday, November 23, 2012


I Doan Understanz Scienz ...

This is an amusing aftermath of Nate Silver denialism:
I've already written a couple of meandering posts on the topic of why I was never a Nate Silver skeptic but nevertheless found Nate Silver skepticism a respectable position. ... But the occasion of his elevation to sainthood by liberals over the last 48 hours, combined with their usual, empty, ritualistic signification of "math!" and "science!" in celebration of him, leaves me with one more thing to say. ...

[T]he crap that Silver took from a lot of conservatives being held up as evidence of the supposed mass delusion and anti-empiricism of the Right makes little sense. I think a lot of conservatives with humanities degrees (myself included) instinctively thought that all the decimal places were too cute by half – just like a lot of liberals with humanities degrees instinctively thought every additional decimal place meant MOAR SCIENCE. (Aside: This is a longstanding bugaboo of mine. The "I Swear to Science!" and "Science Bless You! Haha Lolz" crowd are often in the same epistemic position vis-à-vis statements they take on bald authority as are cult members. The fact that journalists writing dire warnings about global warming, or activists campaigning against intelligent design could learn about long-term climate modeling or the mechanisms of natural selection if they wanted to doesn't change the fact most of them don't.)

- Daniel Foster, "On the Beatification of Nate Silver," National Review Online, November 8, 2012
Riiight! Your instinctive distrust of decimal points, from a statistician no less, would be a "respectable" ground for skepticism of Silver's results. And please give a list of the people who thought that, just because Silver gave decimal points, his model was more scientific, as opposed to the rather extensive discussion he gave over months of what his model was doing.

And are people who listen to the scientific consensus on a technical scientific issue really in the same epistemic position as someone who accepts the bald authority of a single person or book? Do I really need to be an expert in climate change or evolutionary theory to investigate the broad outlines of those subjects, to learn what the majority of scientists who are experts in those subjects think and to make a judgment superior to some layman who "learns" by blundering about (sans the education and expertise of those who have spent a significant part of their life studying the subject) the technical literature?

Rationally accepting the expertise of a broad base of experts is epistemologically far superior to listening to people whose arguments are based on "feelings" and "impressions."

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Have a Happy ...

It's time again for that great American holiday ...


Oh, yeah ... it is also ...


... when everyone overdoses on L-tryptophan and sleeps through half of the football games.

Not to mention it is ...


... with too many cooks in the kitchen and people rooting for different football teams.

A good time will be had by all!

Monday, November 19, 2012


Seeing Things

I'd be surprised if this is an original thought but are the IDers suffering from a form of pareidolia?

There is a small study from Finland that suggests that:
[R]eligious people and paranormal believers perceived more face-like areas when some were present compared to non-religious individuals and skeptics. But believers also saw more face-like patterns in pictures when none were there.
One of the IDers' favorite examples of just being able to recognize design when you see it is Mount Rushmore. But then again ...

It seems to me a small enough step to go from seeing familiar figures on toast or even dog butts to seeing intelligently designed machines everywhere.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Uh Oh ... Break Out the Plastic Sheets!

The wingnut brigade has been losing its fight to retain any semblance of sanity since the reelection of President Obama.

But this is going to set so many heads exploding that the end of a Gallagher concert will seem positively tidy!

It seems that, according to Nate Silver (already lighting the fuse), the crucial votes for the president came from ... wait for it ... the GAYZ!
Mr. Obama's more than three-to-one edge in exit polls among the 5 percent of voters who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual was more than enough to give him the ultimate advantage, according to the study, by Gary J. Gates of the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law, in conjunction with Gallup.
Oh, NOS! We iz being ruled by da SISSIES!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



This is cute:
[I]ntelligent designers can make machines that bear the imprint of design, even though the machines and the engineers are not "supernatural" (whatever that overly abused word means). An objective observer would be justified in inferring design when seeing this "tiny engine" harvesting random energy to do work.
The Discovery [sic] Institute is talking about a book, Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos, by Peter Hoffman. The book and the DI's arguments as to what it means is not what interests me. It's this:
Indeed, the growing appreciation of "machines more amazing than can be found in any science fiction novel" leaves naturalism wholly inadequate to explain their origin.
So, if "supernatural" is an "overly abused word," what exactly is the alternative to "naturalism" that can explain the existence and shape of life?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, November 12, 2012



Screaming headline, et al.:
Buying the Election

Liberal Super PACs spend $200M to secure Democratic victories

Liberal Super PACs spent roughly $200 million during the 2012 election cycle on behalf of Democratic President Barack Obama's reelection effort.

Priorities USA Action alone spent more than $67 million. Super PACs overseen by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Majority PAC) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (House Majority PAC) spent a combined $68 million.
Um ... Karl Rove's American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS alone spent some $300 million. Conservative PACs spent approximately $716 million as compared to liberal PACs $292 million.

So, just who was trying to buy the election?

But the amuse part:
Despite Obama's professed disdain for the Citizens United ruling, for which he publicly chastised the Supreme Court justices during his 2010 State of the Union address, he ultimately embraced Super PACs in a stunning reversal.
Riiight! If I'm against private gun ownership but it's still legal, I'm supposed to stand still so the other guy can shoot me, without shooting back?

There is something stunning about that ... but not what they think!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


The Good News of Christie

At least certain segments of the Radical Right have it in for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Take, for example, Robert Stacy McCain,* writing at The American Spectator:
The list of fools who have brought this disaster upon us certainly also will include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the gelatinous clown who (a) hogged up a prime time spot at the Republican convention to sing his own praises; (b) embraced Obama as the hero of Hurricane Sandy; and (c) then refused to appear at campaign events in support of Romney's presidential campaign. Good luck with the remainder of your political future, governor. It is unlikely Republicans shall soon forget your perfidious betrayal.
Of course, thanking the President for helping the people of the state Christie leads is "perfidious betrayal." No doubt he should have turned down all that "big government" FEMA money and let the victims of Sandy prove that they aren't part of the "47 percent."

Chris Christie is, I think, at this early date, the most formidable candidate the Republicans have for 2016. If the Radical Right blocks his way to the nomination, the Republicans are likely to nominate a weaker candidate.

Don't get me wrong. From across the Hudson River, Christie appears to be a rational Republican who would probably make a decent president. The good news is that, if he gets the nomination, he likely won't be beholding to the wingnuts and could even begin the process of rescuing the Republican Party from being the John Birch Society 2.0.

There is a long way to go, of course, and Christie could start pandering to the knuckle draggers. But he is not the chameleon that Romney was and, in the worst case scenario, the Republicans will be depriving themselves of their best chance to win.

* What might make me think McCain is radical? Well ...
The American people -- or, at the very least, a sufficient plurality of them -- decided that they want another four years of clumsy policy failures and vengeful "progressivism," as Democrats nowadays describe their agenda for wrecking what remains of our constitutional republic. Even before the unmitigated political disaster of November 6, 2012, a date that will live in infamy, the prospects of salvaging the United States were not particularly hopeful. Now, however, we are permanently and irretrievably screwed.
It's a good thing he isn't hysterical.



De-defining Marriage Bashes Bible Believers? That is the wingnut who blamed Hurricane Sandy on New York's marriage equality law.

Let's see how this works:

De-defining acceptable food as not including pork and shellfish bashes Bible believers ...

De-defining acceptable clothing as not including mixed fiber cloth bashes Bible believers ...

De-defining parental rights as not including a right to kill disrespectful children bashes Bible believers ...

Feel free to add examples ...


P.S. Kudos Cuomo!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Election Fraud

In a case of chutzpah cum irony cum arrogance too thick to cut, Karl Rove has said that President Obama won reelection "by suppressing the vote."

No, really!

This from a pillar of the Republican party, which has been trying its darndest to pass voter ID laws to prevent nonexistent polling place fraud but which will make it hard for the poor, minorities, the elderly and the disabled to vote because, after all, they aren't reliably Republican white males. And that's not to mention dirtier tricks.

But, then again, this is just a bit of Rovian Newspeak. You see, this is what amounts to "voter suppression" to Rove:
He succeeded by suppressing the vote, by saying to people, 'you may not like who I am, and I know you can't bring yourself to vote for me, but I'm going to paint this other guy as simply a rich guy who only cares about himself.'
First of all, I don't think Mitt "47 percent" Romney needed any help in that regard. But even if the Democrats gave him a boost in that direction, what else is that but politics as practiced in America today?

Can you say "Swift Boat Veterans" or "Willie Horton" boys and girls?


Then Came the Nor'easter

I had done okay in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. I only lost power for about 10 hours and the house was all right.

Then Wednesday we got hit with a nor'easter that dropped about 4 inches of very wet heavy snow on parts of Long Island and, naturally, brought down more trees and power lines. Add another 50,000+ outages to the 200,000+ households and businesses still without power after Sandy ... my house included.

The local power company has "estimated" that my power will be back today but I ain't counting on it.

I fortunately have been able to stay with a friend and am better off than many around here. But life's still topsy-turvy and posting may remain spotty.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Conspiracy-O-Bama ... Next Four Years' Edition

Let the Games Begin!


America ...

Monday, November 05, 2012


And So We Say: Evolve!

A thought:
While geological thought has evolved over the past several centuries, Christianity has too—to the point where several varieties of creationists now argue bitterly amongst themselves. Young-Earth creationists believe the world is fewer than 10,000 years old and that Noah's Flood remodeled it into the topography we know today in one fell swoop a few thousand years ago. Old-Earth creationists accept geological evidence and endorse ideas such as the gap or day-age theories and progressive creationism (also known as theistic evolution), through which God guided evolution in creating the diversity of life. The latest step in the evolution of creationism is based on repackaging as intelligent design the inherently untestable assertion that God designed the world with a particular purpose or goal in mind. Today, after losing repeated court battles over efforts to teach creationist views in science classrooms, the creationist strategy appears to have shifted to promoting efforts to question evolution.

Generally left out of the resulting "debates" is the simple fact that creationists lack any independently supported geological evidence to support their views. The late Harvard paleontologist Stephen J. Gould described a global flood as "the only specific and testable theory the creationists have offered," noting that "the claim that creationism is a science rests above all on the plausibility of the biblical flood" (Gould, 1982, p. 12, 10). And yet, the geological case for a global flood that creationists offer as an alternative to evolution was discredited before Darwin set foot aboard The Beagle.

Geologists assess theories by how well they fit data, and creationists evaluate facts by how well they fit their theories. This simple distinction frames an unbridgeable intellectual rift. Nowhere is this divide deeper than over how to interpret the story of Noah's Flood, for the ideas invoked to explain such an event have been refuted time and again, and there is no geologic evidence of a global deluge. Following Whitcomb and Morris, today's creationists continue to pick and choose evidence to support beliefs their faith inspires. Given the ongoing conflict over what to teach in science classrooms, perhaps teaching the historical evolution of creationism offers a fresh way for students to learn about the history of geology, and thereby our knowledge of the world and how it works. How many creationists today know that modern creationism arose from abandoning faith that the study of nature would reveal God's grand design for the world?

-David R. Montgomery, "The evolution of creationism," GSA Today, Volume 22 Issue 11 (November 2012), pp. 4-9

Saturday, November 03, 2012


Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Sometimes you just have to repeat yourself. Forrest Gump is just too applicable to so much of American "thought" today not to be referenced. Here's an example:
Rabbi Noson Leiter of Torah Jews for Decency is blaming Hurricane Sandy on gays and lesbians ...

Leiter asserted that the "the Great Flood in the time of Noah was triggered by the recognition of same-gender marriages," adding that there are similar "messages in this particular storm for us." "The Lord will not bring another flood to destroy the entire world but He could punish particular areas with a flood, and if we look at the same-gender marriage recognition movement that's occurring, that certainly is a message for us to learn," he said. "We have to learn that the Lord does watch what we do and if we don't shape up He will deliver divine justice." Leiter also suggested that God flooded Lower Manhattan because it is "one of the national centers of homosexuality."
So ... you're stupid enough to think that there was a flood of the entire world "in the time of Noah." But, tell me, how many of the 109 people who died in the storm were homosexuals? Statistics suggest that most weren't but your God has always been a bad bow man, hasn't he?

The very fact that you use the term "decency" is enough to make anyone who understands the word spit.

Via the ashamed Brian Leiter.

Friday, November 02, 2012


A Slight Interruption

There seems there was a little storm ...

The internet ran away and hid.

It just came back.

More or less regular business will resume shortly.

Kith and kin are all well and safe ... if a little wet and having to steer around a lot of lost trees.

The Ents will be in mourning for a while.

Wishing all as happy an outcome!

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