Monday, January 30, 2006

Reporting the Amaz!ng
Thanks to Jody Wheeler for giving us a minute-by-minute report from The Amaz!ng Meeting 4, James Randi's annual get-together of pseudo-science debunkers and magicians (Penn Jillette, Michael Shermer, etc.). Good stuff!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Truth remains stranger than fiction, right Mr. President?

The Palestinians have overwhelmingly voted for Hamas, throwing not only the peace timetable to the dogs but George Bush's simple, simplistic, and overly-simplified cliches about "democracy." The man ought to be shivering in his cowboy boots, but instead he continues to drivel about how "interesting" he finds the vote and that he "likes" that a party tells the people: we'll do this for you so vote for us.

I'm convinced he never graduated third grade social studies.

Like it or not, George, you got what you prayed for, buster crab! And Hamas proves quite the pain in youras. "Democracies are peaceful" eh, Georgie?

While you're bullying the world with the smallest vocabulary, the tiniest brain, and the most overly gigantic military in global history, be careful who you lecture with grade school American drivel, Mr. President.

Nobody's listening, sir.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

You've Gotta Be Kidding Me, Comrade!
Is this fricken' Russia?? According to Pudentilla's post on Skippy, Dubya wants to create a secret police force, empowered to arrest anyone at anytime:

rasbobbo at dkos via talk left points us to awol’s proposal for the “patriot” act. the house version provides in section 605:

"a permanent police force, to be known as the 'the united states secret service uniformed division'" empowered "to make arrests without warrant for any offense against the united states committed in their presence"..."or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the united states if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony"

funny, fdr didn’t need to trash the constitution to defeat hitler. but awol, who still can’t catch osama, now wants his own sicherheitspolizei. bonus historical allusion for all you history fans: when augustus set about creating a monarchy, he kept reassuring romans that he was simply restoring the republic.

Jesus H. Christ!! This is incredible stuff......it's as if these guys have never picked up a copy of "1984."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"For the Love of Money"
You all know that great song by The O'Jays.....if not, go to iTunes or whatever music service you use and go buy it and listen to it. Great, great song, and quite appropriate in this world of Abramoff scandals. I have always wondered whether or not the abuse of office and lust for power happen to anyone that gets in those positions, or is it that these positions of potential power attract the personalities that are more prone to abuse their position? What an absolute bonehead Clinton was for his abuse of power (and I still feel that swayed enough of the 2000 election with "anti-Clinton" sentiment to cripple Gore), and how can the current group of Republicans that took Abramoff's dollars even justify payoffs at any level?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Mad as Hell!
Well, mad scientist hell, anyway.......long overdue is the addition of Pharyngula to the blogroll on the right. A great science blog, it's a must-read for those of us constantly amazed by the survival of creationism in all of its forms. Take a look at a small bit of this interview with Dr. Paul Myers (PZ) by DarkSyde (DS) of Daily Kos:

DS: I think it's fair to note you're also pretty liberal, and that academics such as yourself are often criticized for being 'too liberal'. How do you respond to that charge? What would you say to your more conservative scientific colleagues regarding the current political dynamic?

PZ: What conservative scientific colleagues? I don't know of any. Sure, there are some more conservative than I am on social and economic issues, but one thing the Republican administration has done is draw us all together--this administration is so anti-science that it has united us all, as far as I know.

 As far as the charge of being too liberal -- no one can be too liberal. We can only be not liberal enough. Being liberal means one is for civil liberties, equality, social justice, fairness. We work to improve the world, not maintain the status quo, and especially not to enrich those who already have too much. How can someone be too liberal?

DS: You're also unabashedly skeptical of super natural claims or the value of such ideas, be it Wahhibism or the more homegrown Neo-Christian right-wing variety. Is there room for compromise between religion and science in your view?

PZ: Sure. When religious superstition dissipates and wafts away before reason like a fog in the noonday sun, then we will have achieved an appropriate balance.

DS: Holy smokes, I can already see the angry e-mails coming in on this one ... You serious?

PZ: Seriously, that's the compromise. Religion is a clumsy farrago of myths and wishful thinking and old traditions which is irrelevant to our understanding of reality, and in fact often impedes our understanding. We lose nothing if it goes away. As people recognize its lack of utility, something that often (but not necessarily) happens as we learn more about science, it fades away. It's like Santa Claus -- as we learned more about how the real world works and how our parents fulfill all the roles of the fat old myth, we don't mind seeing it go away.

 Creationists know this, and that is why they're afraid of science. I don't need to preach atheism -- all I need to do is point out the palpable structure of reality in the growing detail science provides for us, and those who are awake and aware will notice the disparity between the world around them and the clumsy, sterile, ludicrous fantasies of religion, and they'll eventually abandon faith. Or, at least, they'll throw away dogma and retire faith to a smaller, private part of their lives.

 The Universe: it's the Anti-Religion.

DS: You have a Ph.D. in a life science, many creationists such as Jonathan Wells or Michael Behe have a Ph.D. in the same thing. What makes your point of view any more credible than theirs?

PZ: Nothing. I hope no one believes me because of some work I finished in 1985 that earned me a piece of paper. This is not about dueling credentials; it's about our relative accuracy in describing how the world works. My ideas are representative of those of the majority of scientists, which provide an excellent working framework for understanding a vast body of information, observation, and experiment, and are also productive in guiding new research. Wells' and Behe's ideas are just the latest excrescence of a 200+ year old primitive theology, are compatible with one old book of mythology, are a dead end for research. By their fruits ye shall know them, and their fruits are scabby, withered, and nasty. It really doesn't matter how many degrees we each have on our side.


DS: One of the big claims made by IDCists involves a concept called Irreducible Complexity which means, as I understand it, that there are structures at many levels in living organisms in which each component is critical. Remove any component and the entire system fails catastrophically. And so, the claim goes that such a system could not develop in a step by step fashion required by natural selection because the transitory stages would have either have no adaptive value or result in the death of the owner. What's wrong with that?

PZ: This is the same logic that would say it is impossible to build an arch, because removing one piece would cause the whole thing to tumble down. Yet arches are built every day -- bridges must be miracles!

 The answer, of course, is that arches are supported by a scaffold during their assembly, and similarly, "irreducibly complex" pathways were supported by duplications and redundancy during their evolution. I've explained this in a little detail here. Simply put, there are two broad explanations for how IC systems could evolve. One is that intermediate steps can be added by gene duplication that do not interfere and can even enhance the effectiveness of the pathway, and subsequent loss of redundancy makes them essential and unremovable. The other explanation is that it is a mistake to assume loss of a piece would cause failure; it may not function for the role you think it should, but it may function in some other capacity. Biological systems tend to be highly multifunctional and rich with redundancies, so none of this is surprising.

 You asked earlier why people should think me more credible than Behe. One reason is that he has rested his career on this untenable nonsense of "irreducible complexity", which is so trivially false that it implies a deep misunderstanding of basic concepts of molecular evolution.

There's more of this interview....go and read it at the link above! Good, unapologetic stuff that needs to be stated more often....

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Party of Irony
Perhaps one of the greatest services the web provides is the ease of researching prior statements made by politicians that smack them in the face like a rake. From Sirotablog:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is facing a major ethics investigation into his past lavish, lobbyist-paid trips. DeLay has so far refused to offer any details into his activities. Maybe DeLay should take his own advice from 1995 and follow his own standards in 2005:

"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know...I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation." - U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, 11/16/95

Amazing. You know, you always hear that true character is revealed under stress and bad times, but I think true character is revealed when you have power and control handed to you.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

An Intelligent Decision
Perhaps the most clearly stated argument against intelligent design (creationsism) having a seat in science classes came not from any 'ol liberal tree-hugger, but from a Bush-appointed Republican Judge. Let's listen in on what Judge Jones has to say:

The school board argued they had sought to improve science education by exposing pupils to alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

But Judge Jones said he had determined that ID was not science and "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents".

In a 139-page written ruling, the judge said: "Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Simple. Intelligent design is not science, and while it is an interesting portion of a history or sociology course, it does not belong in a science classroom. Now will all you creationists use your energy on something else, like solving the energy crisis?? By the way, speaking of energy, the geological dating techniques used to age rock layers (which tie in nicely with evolutionary theories) are also used by every major oil company to find and extract oil from this planet.......

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