Seems like anyone who’d answer “yes” would be dead

“Is execution by lethal injection so likely to cause pain that it is unconstitutional?” That’s the poll question today on cnn.com. It doesn’t really have much to do with theism or atheism, but I think it says a lot about irrationalism in the media. There are only two answers allowed for you to choose, “yes” or “no.” Seems to me that, unless you’re an actual executioner and you’ve witnessed the process taking place, or have undergone the process yourself (in which case you’d hardly be in a position to respond to the poll), then how could you possibly know? You might as well ask, “Which hurts more: being shot with a .45 caliber hollow point or a 9mm caseless?”

I’ve seen similar polls all over websites, especially ones like CNN where they’d at least like to think there’s some respectability involved. Readers are asked to give an authoritative answer to a question to which they couldn’t possibly have any expertise either way. I took a phone poll once that was all about gasoline. I was asked which gas station I preferred to go to (I kept saying “whomever’s cheapest,” which didn’t go down well considering they wanted a company name), and who had the better gasoline. How, I asked, was I supposed to know whose gasoline was actually “better,” unless I were a chemical or petroleum engineer and could analyze samples in a lab? Hell, I put gas in my car, and if my car goes, then I guess it’s pretty good gas in my book. I have no expertise in this field. Why was I being asked to give some for a stupid poll?

This kind of thing, I think, is all part of the same climate of faux-intellectualism that allows creationists to flourish. People with no expertise in biology or any other science are preening around like they know all there is to know about the subject, and that the science (they haven’t studied) is wrong. And this attitude — perfect pig-ignorance validating and congratulating itself with arrogance — is openly encouraged. It’s all just one more sad little symptom of our culture’s war on reason.

Today on the show: Conspiracy theories

Rather than spend a lot of time today actually debunking those 9/11 conspiracies, I’m going to tackle an even less plausible one: the reptile people who live among us.

No, I’m not making this up. See the Wikipedia page on it. Also see pages by crackpots supreme, John Rhodes and David Icke. This interview with Icke is pretty priceless, not least because of the credulous tone of the interviewer.

The point, of course, is to talk about conspiracy theories in general, as well as phony skepticism and the nearly religious devotion to some nonreligious ideas. And yeah, that is a backhanded way of smirking about 9/11 conspiracy theories, but I am emphatically not going to bring that up unless a caller does.

But if that’s your thing, then here are a couple more hilarious 9/11 links for you to enjoy:

And for general skepticism:

Oh, and one last reptoid link:

Evolution video podcasts

An organization here with the slightly odd sounding name of Scientific Qualitative Research and Education, Inc., has a series of little Quicktime video podcasts you can view or download here or here, designed to give teachers and students the skinny on both the creo/evo “controversy” as well as an understanding of the scientific method itself and the ramifications of what may happen if religious ideas are actually allowed to be taught as science. Interviewees include the usual suspects of strong science supporters: Barbara Forrest, Eugenie Scott, Kenneth Miller, Kevin Padian, and others. Two dozen of these are up now. Worth checking out.

Iowa: so far, so good

Well, 2008 is looking less like a lost cause for the progressive side, with Obama’s decisive and most welcome win in the Iowa caucuses. I dislike Hillary intensely, though not for the same reasons conservatives do, of course; mainly for the fact that she’s a pure careerist who’ll do whatever she thinks is necessary to ensure her own advancement, such as repeatedly siding with BushCo on supporting the war. (Also, the fact that she didn’t promptly divorce Bill the minute he left office made it abundantly clear that she wanted to ride the coattails of the Clinton name to her own victory, despite ostentatiously adopting her maiden name — Hillary Rodham Clinton — in the early years of Bill’s administration.)

So the fact Hillary got her ass handed to her yesterday indicates to me that I may well be able to vote this year, and moreover, have someone to vote for, not simply against. I like both Obama and Edwards, though I think Obama has a huge charisma/honesty edge, whereas Edwards has his Kerry baggage to dump. And if it comes down to Obama vs. Huckabee in the general election, polls so far indicate it’d be Obama by a long chalk. So the next caucuses will be most interesting to follow. Here’s hoping Hillary’s opportunism and dishonesty aren’t overlooked by Democrats in New Hampshire, either.