Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
OK, I'd seen references to this elsewhere, but not the actual video. Just in case you too happened to miss it, here it is:
The creep of creationism in Texas is not limited to the public school system, which is often held intellectual hostage by backward members its Board of Education, as was discussed in other posts of mine. No, it doesn't end there, for Texas State Rep. Leo Berman wishes to give full scientific legitimacy to biblical literalism at the graduate level. Berman has introduced House Bill 2800 (PDF), which would exempt purely private, nonprofit schools from the authority of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board when it comes to the certification of master's degrees. While the legislation is actually quite sweeping it its implications, Berman's purpose is to allow "schools" such as the Institute for Creation Research to offer Master of Science degrees in, yes, creation science.
Per Nora Zimmett of Fox News, I'm going to let Berman speak for himself here, for he does it better than I could paraphrase:
Things are getting really scary in Texas. I'm not kidding. Something is bubbling in the Lone Star State, and it has the stink of 100 percent pure crazy.
First, science communicator Bill Nye was booed during a lecture in Waco for insisting that the Moon reflected light from the Sun. Then we have Chuck Norris advocating for secession and installing himself as president of Texas, presumably as part of Glenn Beck's lunatic "let's bring back the utter terror we all felt after 9/11" faux-movement ("We surround them" he assures his nitwit followers).
But you already knew about that, right?
Tonight I discovered a couple more things that scared the hell out of me. This post will cover the first, because I don't want to give anyone any ulcers.
A report from the Pew Forum on belief in evolution is remarkable not only for its parsing of the various faiths' perceptions of evolution, but for what it says about how many atheists/naturalists/brights we actually have in America, and indeed, what it says about its own methods of categorization.
Take a look at their handy little graph (h/t Andrew Sullivan) showing what percentage of each religious group thinks evolution is the best explanation for humanity's origins:
Do you agree with Darwin’s theory of human evolution?
Does Parade's readership consist entirely of biologists? Are those that frequent its website all taking graduate-level courses in genetics? Are they sporting lab coats as they click the little radio buttons on the poll, having just put down this week's edition of Science?
Darwin's 200th birthday is coming up this Feb. 12, the same day the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln is taking place.
How wonderful a coincidence that two such great men were born on the exact same day!
(... And on the flip side, how dreary that idiots like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are still spouting racist crap, and idiots like Ken Ham and Ben Stein are still spouting creationist crap.)
Do check your local Calendar of Events to see if a Darwin Day event is happening at a museum or college near you. If not, at least go out and raise a glass to our beloved old mentor and friend, Charles Robert Darwin. And don't forget Honest Abe either.
I have bragging rights to knowing Carl Buell, that coolest of natural history illustrators, and I got to watch him paint a beautiful portrait of Darwin over the past several days. You'll probably see it all over the blog-o-verse, but I've posted a version of it at Earthman's Notebook for all to see.
So, an item on NPR this morning examined how biology may play a large part in politics. From the piece:
Hibbing and his colleagues found that they could predict what a person's political beliefs would be based on how strongly the person's body responded to the alarming images and sounds, according to a report in the journal Science.
"Those people who seemed to have a stronger reaction to threat were more likely to favor things like military spending, the death penalty, the Patriot Act," says Hibbing.
OK, I'm not sure I buy it, because a person's startle reflex (what the tests actually measured) can be influenced by a lot of different factors - general stress level, speed of reflex, tolerance for noise, visual processing, and exposure to images/sounds used. But it did get me to thinking: What do I fear?
So, a fascinating interview with Douglas Richard Hofstadter last year, now translated into English. In it, he makes the following comments concerning Ray Kurzweil's notion of achieving effective immortality by 'uploading' a personality into a machine hardware:
I think Ray Kurzweil is terrified by his own mortality and deeply longs to avoid death. I understand this obsession of his and am even somehow touched by its ferocious intensity, but I think it badly distorts his vision. As I see it, Kurzweil's desperate hopes seriously cloud his scientific objectivity.
OK, just in case you haven't seen this over at PZ's or elsewhere, here's a hilarious and brilliantly done satire:
It takes some deconstructing, but the consensus is that it is indeed pro-science/skepticism.
Has anyone bothered to go see the new movie 10,000 BC? I know some people have because it's the #1 box office movie of the weekend, but that doesn't mean it's any good. I can't decide if it's worth the $67 ($9 for the ticket, $58 for the popcorn, snocaps and softdrink).
I wonder how many creationists have their panties in a wad over the title? After all, wouldn't that be like 6,000 years before gawd created the earth? How come Bill Donohue isn't protesting this movie?
Wooly Mammoths and Saber-Toothed Tigers in Egypt, huh? Going to movies like this is a little like believing in a religion, a willing suspension of disbelief is required. Doing this for a few hours is alright, but your whole life?
My good buddy Carl Buell was on NPR this morning.
The biotech industry inserted a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is responsible for creating a toxic protein into cotton to protect it against the bollworm moth. So now we have fields of human genetically modified cotton in fields across the south. Talk about putting pressure on the bollworm moth caterpillars. In response they have evolved a resistance to the Bt protein!
1. God is taking time out of controlling world affairs and answering prayers to mess with the genetics of the bollworm moth so they can live to destroy the US cotton crop. (Maybe God really wants to break out his polyester from the 70's again.)
2. We have some more compelling evidence to add to the evolution "debate".
Back in 2005, Stephen Darksyde published a fantastic article here at UTI called "Ancestral Magnitudes". It used the metaphor of the "generation", and colorfully described human evolution in terms of our ancestors.
[DarkSyde] If the idea of a flat-earth or the Sun-god is a part of that faith then you either ignore the science and live in willful ignorance-at least in regard to that conflict-and trust to faith, or you adjust your theology. Those really are your only two choices as far as I can see.
What your objection more than likely reveals is that you don't like the idea of being the product of 'random' physics and biochemistry, that you feel there is no room for a Creator in such a scenario. I cannot imagine greater natural evidence for the Brilliance of a Creator than complex process unfolding over billions of years through countless steps in exquisite order spanning the entire Cosmos. The technical skill and artistic vision of such is to be admired in awe, and in that context evolution should be worthy of your devotion, not your disdain.
I encourage you to read the whole thing if you haven't already. It'll blow your mind.
A few days ago, Xavier Onassis from the blog "Doubting Faith" published the same sort of mind-blowingly cool article about our universe, and it puts our place in that universe into stark, unflinching perspective.
[Xavier Onassis] Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that a universe this vast, and this spectacular could not be a random occurrence. Personally, I don't have a problem with it being one big coincidence. But, let's just say it's not.
Do you really think that a hypothetical all-powerful, all-knowing God, responsible for the creation of EVERYTHING in this incredibly vast universe would really give a flying fuck how you voted in the last election? Whether or not a couple of gay guys get married? Whether or not you keep Kosher or go on The Hajj?
Get over yourselves. You're not that fucking important. You need to look at the Big Picture and put things in perspective.
Just excellent. Highly recommended. Great job, Xavier.
In Detroit, a 41-year-old man got stuck and drowned in two feet of water after squeezing head first through an 18-inch-wide sewer grate while trying to retrieve his car keys.
A 49-year-old San Francisco stockbroker -- who often bragged he was "totally-zoned when he ran" -- accidentally jogged off a 100-foot high cliff on his daily workout.
While at the beach, Daniel Jones, 21, dug an 8-foot hole for protection from the wind and had been sitting in a beach chair at the bottom when it collapsed, burying him beneath 5 feet of sand. People on the beach used their hands and shovels trying to get him out but could not reach him. It took rescue workers using heavy equipment almost an hour to free him. Jones was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed as he fell through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death was caused when the long flashlight he had placed in his mouth to keep his hands free rammed into the base of his skull as he hit the floor.
I hate Democrats. I don't want to hear another effing word from Democrats complaining about the war or the lack of health care or the big oil companies or torture or any other stupid-ass complaint Democrats have about our government.
NH Primary Results
In yesterday's primary the only two candidates who are convincingly anti-war got 1% of the vote. Kucinich got 3,845 votes and Gravel got 397 votes. Are you kidding me? To all registered Dems, please STFU from now on. I just don't want to hear it.
Dems: You overwhelmingly cast your votes for Hillary Clinton (110,550). The same Hillary Clinton who voted for us to get into this war. The same Hillary Clinton who didn't bother to read the NIE before voting to go to war over Saddam's non-existent WMDs. The same Hillary Clinton who will not apologize and admit a mistake for that vote. The same Hillary Clinton who just recently cast a vote to classify Iran's Republican Guard as a terrorist organization (which is just another gold plated invitation for Bush to start another war).
I wrote this personal item for my blog this morning, but then realized that it was in many ways a perfect summation of how I see the world. Feel free to ignore.
I commented via email to a close friend yesterday about the persistent fever my MIL has been running, 2 to 2.5 degrees above her normal. We'd seen fevers come and go for the last several months, but this one seems to have settled in for a while. I got back this:
Any particular reason for it, or is she just being like a star that's going into its final flameout?
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Yes it's true. Is anyone really that surprised? Why is it that the most famous people to endorse Ron Paul are Vox Day (of WorldNutDaily) and Tucker Carlson? Oh, I almost forgot about the John Birch Society.
PZ needs to travel more. Living as he does in rural Minnesota, he has absolutely no idea how migration - not immigration - is completely destroying civilized cultures everywhere from Scandinavia to San Antonio.
Let me be clear. I don't think our current border control policies amount to anything more than lip service, but Vox is suffering from a severe bout of xenophobia. Completely destroying civilized cultures? Yes, illegal immigration should be an issue to be concerned about but let's try to keep the hysteria under control. More ranting about PZ:
Back in September my friend Carl Buell accidentally let it slip that he was working on a super secret painting of an early ancestor of whales for Nature magazine. I was intrigued, but no matter how much I wheedled him about it, he wouldn't give up any more details.
Well, in today's issue of Nature, the details have arrived - and how!
[link] Although the first ten million years of whale evolution are documented by a remarkable series of fossil skeletons, the link to the ancestor of cetaceans has been missing. It was known that whales are related to even-toed ungulates (artiodactyls), but until now no artiodactyls were morphologically close to early whales. Here we show that the Eocene south Asian raoellid artiodactyls are the sister group to whales. The raoellid Indohyus is similar to whales, and unlike other artiodactyls, in the structure of its ears and premolars, in the density of its limb bones and in the stable-oxygen-isotope composition of its teeth. We also show that a major dietary change occurred during the transition from artiodactyls to whales and that raoellids were aquatic waders. This indicates that aquatic life in this lineage occurred before the origin of the order Cetacea.
Florida State Board Of Education member Donna Callaway gets it so wrong that it's painful to read.
[link] Donna Callaway, a former middle school principal from Tallahassee, told the Florida Baptist Witness that evolution "should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origins of life."
She also said she hoped Christians would pray over the issue. "As a SBOE member, I want those prayers," Callaway said. "I want God to be part of this."
Evolution is not a "theory of origins of life", number one, and number two, the Christian God cannot, by law, "be a part of" the Florida State Board Of Education - unless you rescind the United States Constitution, or secede from the union.
But you've all heard this before, time and time again. It's been said, over and over, a thousand times or more. The facts are always the same; ignorant Christian creationist who does not understand what evolution is, or what science is gets elected to the school board. Then they convince other ignorant Christian creationists on the school board to "teach the (nonexistent) controversy" by reading the religious tracts put out by the Discovery Institute, WoTM, or Dr. Dino. Overworked civil-rights defenders like the ACLU and FFRF take the school board to court and win. Many indignant news stories and op-ed columns are written about the evil atheist plot to persecute innocent Christians by teaching science instead of Christian mythology in - ahem - science classes. Overwrought email chain letters get forwarded to everyone and their grandmother shouting about the nasty atheists and their evil plan to barbecue all the Christian children in the public school system for the crime of being Christian.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Things like this make me tired. It feels like we're bailing out a leaky boat with plastic beer cups. I mean, were doing something, going through the motions, making a lot of noise and fuss, but the reality of the situation is that the boat is filling up too fast. I fear that we are sinking, and that there is not a lot we can do to prevent it.
Still, we'll keep on bailing because what else can we do?