Friday, December 28, 2012


Irony and Deafness

Sometimes you just have to wonder if people listen to themselves:
For biblical believers, the identity of that intelligent designer is pretty clear: the God of the Bible. As we are reminded by the world around us, that Creator has intervened in the world in a remarkable way.

Now, if the biblical account of Christmas is to be believed, God intervened in humanity in a still more astonishing way. Without letting go of his divinity, God, in the person of Jesus Christ, became a human being. The same God who created the Earth, the Sun, the farthest stars and who invented whales, sunflowers and people, took on flesh and became that infant human being in first-century Palestine.

Wow. That utterly boggles the mind.

- George Berkin, "How Christmas supports Intelligent Design"
Uh ... okay!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Joy To the World ...

Via the better angels of Jerry Coyne's nature.

And, yes, despite recent developments, I remain and always will be a "cat person."


Merry ...

In case you haven't finished shopping ... it is now Christmas Day.

I'm sure you'll work it out!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Who Is That Designer?

David Klinghoffer is letting cats out of the bag again (where does he live? ... maybe it was his cat that bit me).

It seems that Klinghoffer is exercised about a proposal that:
It is entirely plausible, says University of Washington physics professor Martin Savage, that our universe and everything in it is one huge computer simulation being run by our descendants.
The Sensuous Curmudgeon has already dealt with this.

Now, Professor Savage and I might have rather different definitions of "entirely plausible" but how does Klinghoffer get off calling the proposal "the premise of a creepy science-fiction movie"? After all, as the estimable Tom S notes at the Curmudgeon's place, no less a Discovery [sic] Institute stalwart than Michael Behe has stated that:
Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel–fallen or not; Plato's demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being.
Klinghoffer seems to think it unfair that people, including the scientific community, might think that Savage's proposal is legitimate while ID isn't. Again, I'm doubtful of how "legitimate" the scientific community views Savage's proposal as, but, at the least, Savage has proposed a way of empirically testing his proposal by differentiating how the highest-energy cosmic rays would travel in a simulation as opposed to how they would travel in a "real" universe.

In comparison, Willaim Dembski has said that "design can accommodate all the results of Darwinism." In other words, even if ID is true, it will look exactly the same as if evolution occurred. There is no critical test of ID that would show that it is a better explanation than evolution.

Now, the IDers might feel that it is unfair that evolution is considered the "base line" that they have to overturn in order to become the reigning scientific paradigm, but that is how science works. Evolution has proved to be a very fertile means of increasing our knowledge of the world and, therefore, deserves its place, a fact that Dembski tacitly admits by trying to avoid just such a critical test. Just so, the view that the universe is real has been very fertile and it would take a lot for science to accept that it is just a computer simulation. But Savage's test, if it indicated that it was, would at least require attention.

The important thing is that Savage is willing to propose the identity, means and methods of his designer, while the IDers are not. As Casey Luskin has said:
[I]dentifying the designer can't be done by science. It is a strictly theological question, and thus for the theory of ID to try to identify the designer would be to inappropriately conflate science with religion.
That's why it is no surprise that Klinghoffer admits the real intent of the Intelligent Design Movement:
[Y]ou have to understand that ID is plausible and testable only where it excludes a designer that overlaps with any theistic conception.
In other words, ID Creationism is out to pretend that theistic conceptions are scientific. But, like Philip Henry Gosse's Omphalos, it fails because there is no empiric evidence that could ever distinguish it from the kind of naturalism that has so enhanced our understanding of the world.

Of course, Klinghoffer and his compatriots are free to believe as they do. They just don't have the right to call it "science."

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Saturday, December 22, 2012


The Xmas Gift

Last night a stray/roaming cat got into my garage and, in an attempt to get it out, I managed to get fairly soundly bitten before it decided to exit on its own.

I'm sure it was not a total stray ... it was pretty sleek and well fed and I think I've seen it around the neighborhood before. But there is no way I can be sure that it wasn't sick at the time or might become sick in the near future.

So, I went to the emergency room, where they and the local health department decided I have to get treatment for rabies.

The actual vaccine shots are not bad and are given in the arm. But the immediate treatment is to inject large amounts of human rabies immunoglobulin at the site of the wound. I had been bitten in the fat part of my palm below my thumb, so, using a needle that seemed about the size of a fire hose, they pumped 9ml of immunoglobulin into my hand and wrist and upper arm.

That hurt.

My hand swelled up and was quite sore thereafter, though it is easing up now.

Now much of this was my fault. I should have known better than to try and grab the cat but it seemed fairly calm, though alarmed. It even cautiously let me pet it without violent reaction.

But the real cause is careless owners who let pets roam, where they are bound to get in trouble.

Well, that or, because I don't pray to the Xian god, he arranged for me to be bitten. I suppose I should count myself lucky that he didn't decide to send someone with an assault rifle.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


No, Really?

The Mohave (Arizona) County Republican Men's Club had a guest speaker.
The club invited Russ Miller from Creation Ministries (actually, Creation, Evolution & Science Ministries) to give a presentation on Intelligent Design at Monday's meeting. ...
As we all know, because the Discoveryless Institute keeps telling us so, ID is science, not religion.
Miller also derided evolution, the widely accepted scientific view of biological life that grew out of Charles Darwin's work in the 1800s. Miller claimed that evolution has no scientific basis and said that without God's hand in the mix, all living beings on the planet would now be extinct.
Oh, well ... just another one of those fallacious and confrontational statements that could have been scripted by the adversaries of ID if they were looking for ways to make it look bad. (Miller is a young-Earth creationist, after all!)

Or maybe it's just bleeding obvious:
Kingman Mayor John Salem said he was impressed with Miller's speech.

"I think the goal of the party as well as our society as a whole is to let God back into our schools and into classrooms," he wrote in an email. "It sure did help and not hurt when I was growing up."
Ummm ... it didn't make you any brighter, Mayor!

Once again, the rubes just can't get the hang of the DI's wink, wink, nudge, nudge strategy.

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Hilariously Appropriate

Richard B. Hoppe at The Panda's Thumb has discovered that the Discovery [sic] Institute posted a video of Ann Gauger ... drum roll ... Ph.D., in which she mangles phylogenetics and population genetics.

But the icing on the cake is that she is doing her fake science in a fake laboratory ... "green screened" over a stock photograph of a "Biological Science Laboratory at Night."

Sometimes, no matter how much you'd like to, you just can't make this shit up.

Update: Larry Moran on the predictable response of the DI.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Behe's God


Monday, December 17, 2012


Whom the Gods Would Destroy ...

... they first make gun nuts:
A gun store owner near Austin, Texas — who has previously refused to do business with Muslims or Obama-voting liberals — is offering teachers a discount on training for conceal-carry permits because he believes the solution to mass shootings is to have more guns in schools. ...

But Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon told the station that the idea of arming teachers was crazy.

"I knew this would come up at some point, there would be people who think the answer is to put guns on campus," Fallon explained. "Frankly, I think it's absurd."

"In a lot of cases, the perpetrator is a kid. Look at Columbine, it was a 14-year-old kid. You tell me a teacher is going to look in the eyes of a 14-year-old and pull the trigger — it's not in their emotional make up." ...

Republican Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert on Sunday also said that schools would be safer if the principal at Sandy Hook had been armed with an M4 carbine assault rifle designed for urban warfare.

"I wish to God she had had an M4 in her office locked up," Gohmert opined. "So, when she heard gunfire she pulls it out and she didn't have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids."
Of course ... because, after all, a grade school teacher with a concealed handgun is likely to have a chance going up against a crazed person with an assault rifle. And grade school principals are all like Rambo. Naturally, there wouldn't be any collateral damage with these amateur soldiers on the job.

But if you want real crazy, count on religion:
Old Paths Baptist Church Pastor Sam Morris began speaking about last week's school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut by warning that "this sermon will not be pleasant." ...

Morris asserted that equal rights was a "sham" because it's "equal immorality" and that authorities should take the body of the suspected shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, "and string him up in public and set his body on fire and leave it out there to let the birds pick his bones." ...

"Why do you still send your kids to the governmental schools?" the pastor asked the congregation. "What's behind this shooting that we saw on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Connecticut and the other one's like it? What's going on. Well, number one, deception… I got news for you, when you kicked God out of schools, you're going to be judged for that."

Morris insisted that "humanism" in schools taught Lanza that he was God and "he can just go blow away anybody he wants."

"When I got in high school, man, I started learning all this kingdom, phylum stuff, all this junk about evolution," he recalled. "And I want to tell you what evolution teaches — here's the bottom line — that you're an animal. That's what it teaches. So, you're an animal, you can act like an animal. Amen."

"So, here you are, you're an animal and you're a god! So, what are we going to teach you about in school? Well, we can teach you about sex, we can teach you how to rebel to you parents, we can teach you how to be a homo! But we're definitely not going to teach you about the word of God! Amen."

He added: "They think homeschoolers are a bunch of crazies, man. But I'm going to tell you something, I've never seen a police officer or a medal [sic] detector at a home school. Never. Amen. Now, there's plenty of guns at my home school. Amen. I guarantee you we're not going to have a mass shooting at any of the schools that are represented in this building today. I guarantee you, if there is a shooting, it won't last very long. Amen."

"I guarantee you there's at least six or seven guns in this place right now. Amen."
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Gunsmith, Amen!

Friday, December 14, 2012


Unfriendly Fire

The reports of the Connecticut school massacre indicate that a .223 Bushmaster rifle was found at the scene and was, presumably, the weapon used to kill twenty kindergarten children and six teachers. Bushmaster makes a version of what was known as the AR-15, a supposedly "civilian" version of the M-16, long used by the military. The main difference between the AR-15 and the M-16 is that the latter has a switch that converts it from semiautomatic to automatic operation. However, there are kits readily available that will convert the AR-15 to automatic.

I fired the M-16 on numerous occasions while I was in the Army. While I was never a combat officer, I did earn several expert marksman badges and I lettered in target shooting in college.

Frankly, there is not all that much difference between the semiautomatic and automatic mode for this weapon. In fact, in Army training, we were basically told not to use the automatic mode because it used up the magazines (standard issue in the Army was 20 round magazines) too fast with too little accuracy. Even with larger magazines (60 or 100 round versions can be found on the internet) you could probably empty the magazine in under a minute in semiautomatic mode.

My experience is that there is no "sporting" use for such a weapon, except, perhaps, for the tumescent experience certain juvenile personalities undergo by putting a large number of rounds downrange in short-lived, but apparently satisfying to them, spurts.

For target shooting, AR-15s suck. This is what a great target shooting rifle looks like, a single shot bolt action Anschütz:

Nor are they hunting rifles. The .223 round (essentially a 22 caliber bullet, though longer than the standard 22, with a larger powder charge) does not have the "stopping power" to bring down most large game. And the long but thin profile of the bullet causes it to tumble once it hits a twig or a body, giving it much the characteristic of a "dum-dum" round. Even if you managed to bring down, say, a deer with it, it would ruin a lot of the meat. Hit a rabbit with it and you'll blow it apart.

There is only one reason to use an AR-15 and its kin ... to maim or kill people.

In a civilized society, no one who hasn't any business killing or maiming people should be allowed to own them.

Sunday, December 09, 2012


Lenny Rules!

As Lenny Flank famously said, allow creationists to talk long enough and they will hang themselves. Here is yet another example:

The website of the Lafayette Indiana News ( is reporting the following about Indiana state senator Dennis Kruse's plan to introduce a bill that allows students to challenge teachers on issues (notably evolution) and force them to provide evidence to back up their lessons:
In November, Kruse told the J&C: "I'd guess 80 percent of Indiana would be oriented with the Bible and creation. Where you're at, at Purdue or IU, you might have more who are for evolution. But once you get out away from there, out into the hinterlands, I think you'll see a lot more people receptive to it."
In other words, the bill is a sham, a ploy, a lie, attempting to evade, to undermine, to violate, Sen. Kruse's solemnly sworn, no doubt on a Bible, duty to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

That Sen. Kruse is a domestic enemy of the Constitution should come as no surprise, since last year he declared himself as much by introducing a bill that would permit "the governing body of a school corporation [to] require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science."

What's more, Kruse actually boasted to the IndyStar back then that he knew what he was doing was illegal:
Indiana State Sen. Dennis Kruse, the bill's author, knows a creation science bill violates the principles of the Edwards vs. Aguillard decision. He knows it could bring a court challenge.

"This is a different Supreme Court," he told me this afternoon. "This Supreme Court could rule differently."
He went on to say:
I believe in creation and I believe it deserves to be taught in our public schools.
In other words, Kruse thinks he is above the Constitution.

So much for the vaunted "morals" of the Religious Right. Oaths, even sworn on a Bible, mean nothing to them.



Okay, so I'm watching Doom ... based loosely on the video game series.

It stars The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) as Sergeant Asher, Karl Urban (of the new Star Trek and The Chronicles of Riddick) as Sergeant John "Reaper" Grimm and Rosamund Pike as Grimm's sister, Dr. Samantha Grimm.

Very briefly, there is some sort of ancient teleporter found on Earth that takes you to Mars ... but there be monsters! ...

So in come the Marines ...

Standard stuff.

The Grimms are the children of scientists employed by Union Aerospace Corporation who died at the facility. Brother and sister have been estranged since she decided to remain at the facility to do sciencey things and he decided to go off to do Mariney things.

When they reunite, they have this kind of family moment when Dr. Sam explains that they have found humanoid fossils (and DNA) on Mars. After Sgt. Grimm basically says 'So what?' the dialogue goes (roughly) as follows:
Dr. Sam: Look at this! [Dialing up a computer display]

Sgt. Grimm: I'm not a geneticist.

Dr. Sam: What did our parents always say? ... 'Look for the differences ...'

Sgt. Grimm: They have 24 chromosome pairs ...

Dr. Sam: That makes them genetically perfect ... without disease or deformity ... and stronger, faster, smarter than humans.
Ummm ... no. It makes them chimpanzees or gorillas or orangutans or gibbons.

Needless to say, the willing suspension of disbelief kinda died at that moment.

Friday, December 07, 2012


Keeping On Evolvin'

Ed Brayton makes a good point.

Not long ago, I pointed out that there have been at least four incarnations of anti-evolutionism: "ban evolution in public schools," "equal time for creation science," "Intelligent Design Creationism" and "teach the controversy/academic freedom laws."

As Ed points out, the anti-evolution movement continues to evolve at a very rapid pace, and we may now have a fifth (or sixth, depending on how you count) species. The NCSE is reporting:
The expected antievolution bill in Indiana appears to have mutated. As NCSE previously reported, state senator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) told the Lafayette Journal and Courier (November 10, 2012) that he planned to introduce a bill drafted by the Discovery Institute, presumably along the lines of the bills enacted in Tennessee in 2012 and Louisiana in 2008, encouraging teachers to misrepresent evolution as controversial. But now the Indianapolis Star (December 4, 2002) reports that Kruse plans "to pursue legislation that allows students to challenge teachers on issues, forcing them to provide evidence to back up their lessons." ...

Describing his new idea as "a different approach," Kruse explained to the Star, "I would call it 'truth in education' to make sure that what is being taught is true ... And if a student thinks something isn't true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true." He added that the bill would delegate the exact implementation of the process to local school districts: "It's going to be written in kind of a broad way." Although Kruse was not quoted as mentioning evolution in particular, the Star seemed convinced that it was in his sights.
There is a kind of low cunning to the plan. Imagine being a science teacher in an elementary or high school, who probably doesn't have all that much knowledge of biology or evolutionary theory to begin with, outside the text you are teaching from, and who, in most curriculums, is trying to cram the idea of evolution into a week or two of instruction, when you are confronted by a student with something like Jonathan Wells' "Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution."* What do you do? Spend hours out of an already full day trying to track down the answers and provide "research" to support the lesson plan? Or, after being burned once or twice, do you deemphasize evolution of even arrange it so that there is no time to get to that block of instruction.

The surest way to prevent something from being taught in a public school is to make it as painful as possible for the teacher.

* Fortunately, there is help for that, if the teacher realizes what the source of the questions are.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


The Faces of Evil

These are the faces of the evil gay agenda that the Religious Right keeps warning us about.

That's Jane Abbot Lighty (77), left, and her partner Pete-e Petersen (85) taking an oath while receiving the first same-sex marriage license issued in King County, Washington. They have been together for 35 years.

But, damn it, they're going to destroy marriage!


Clowns in Court

The Occidental Weekly, the student newspaper of Occidental College, has a hilarious account of Orly Taitz's latest foray out of her fantasyland into the reality-based legal world. Her latest hobbyhorse is an attempt to compel the college to release President Barack Obama's college records, including his application.

You may remember Donald Trump's 'election-changing' October surprise, where he offered to donate $5 million to the President's favorite charity if he released all of his college records and applications. No doubt inspired by that ... er ... stroke of genius, Taitz served the college with a motion to compel production of the President's records:
The paperwork was then passed to General Counsel Carl Botterud, who decided to show up in court to present the college's case, and the court hearing occurred shortly afterward.

"I decided that out of abundance of caution, since I wasn't familiar with the judge, that it would be better to show up than not," Botterud said. "It was a 99 percent probability in my estimation that it would go nowhere and get denied."

Botterud called and emailed Taitz to notify her that he would appear in court to oppose the motion.

"It is the college's position that your application is without merit, frivolous, and warrants sanctions," Botterud wrote to Taitz, according to legal filings which included the email correspondence.

Taitz responded forcefully and personally to Botterud in an email that was part of the court filing for the case.

"Your opposition will constitute Obstruction of Justice, Aiding and Abetting in the elections fraud in forgery and treason in allowing a foreign citizen to usurp the U.S. Presidency with an aid of forged IDs and usurp the civil rights of the U.S. citizens," she wrote. "At any rate your opposition and your attempt of intimidation and your allegiance or lack of allegiance to the United States of America is duly noted. Just make sure not to forget to bring with you Mr. Obama's application, registration, and financial aid application."
Well, as long as you're going to be reasonable about it Orly ...
When Botterud arrived in the courtroom, he was approached by Taitz and asked if he had the President's records with him, according to a court observer's report. The report noted that Botterud was "obviously amused," when he replied, "No."

"It was a ridiculous question," Botterud said in an interview with The Occidental Weekly. Botterud did say that the college would comply with any legitimate court order to release any student's information, including President Obama's. In absence of a court order, the college is required to follow privacy laws for all students and alumni that prohibit the release of most student records.
Privacy laws? Orly don't need no steenkin' privacy laws!
Judge Charles Margines gave Taitz the opportunity to present her points. ...

However, the judge agreed with Occidental that the subpoena and motion to compel were riddled with fundamental procedural errors and denied Taitz's motion with prejudice. According to the court observer, Judge Margines did comment on Taitz's quality of evidence when she presented a folder of it to the judge.

"You should know that evidence is not stuff printed from the internet," Margines said ...
Taitz had her usual measured response (caps in original):
This about sums it up:
Jay Ritt, a friend of Botterud's who was brought on to assist Occidental defend its position, commented on Taitz's legal skills.

"I would like to take credit for a spectacular job preparing papers and going down to the Orange County Superior Court and arguing this case and getting sanctions, but I honestly believe a rhesus monkey could have beaten Ms. Taitz ..."
The upshot: Taitz was ordered to pay $4,000 in sanctions to compensate the college for time and resources spent dealing with the subpoena.

Monday, December 03, 2012


Mutual Masturbation

Brian Leiter uses the more academically seemly term "log rolling" but I am not so constrained. Leiter points to the comments of Mohan Matthen, a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, about Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga trading laudatory reviews of their recent books attacking naturalism and evolution. Here's Nagel [cough] on Plantinga and vice versa.

As Leiter says, "Nagel and Plantinga are capable philosophers, who have done high quality professional work." That makes Matthen's observation all the more pathetic:
Plantinga writes, "Nagel supports the commonsense view that the probability of [life evolving by natural selection] in the time available is extremely low." And this, he says, is "right on target." This is an extremely substantive scientific claim—and given Plantinga's mention of "genetic mutation", "time available," etc., it would seem that he recognizes this. So you might hope that he and Nagel had examined the scientific evidence in some detail, for nothing else would justify their assertions on this point. Sadly, neither produces anything resembling an argument for their venturesome conclusion, nor even any substantial citation of the scientific evidence. They seem to think that the estimation of such probabilities is well within the domain of a priori philosophical thought. (Just to be clear: it isn't.)
As already noted, by his own admission, Nagel relied only on popular science writing. And Plantinga has not displayed particularly cogent thought about science.

Really, guys ... get a room!

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