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Apr 05 2014

The result of an unbelievably convoluted trail…

With luck, I will eventually be able to tell you. But since it may never happen, I do want to share the eventual destination…

Apr 04 2014

“A Greater Fool Than The Atheist”

There’s fools and then, there’s greater fools
Like those who went to fancy schools
For silly stuff like Kepler’s rules
And other science stuff

The planetary hows and whys
Show God at work—that’s no surprise.
You need to back your case with lies?
The bible is enough

So my aggregator threw a site at me I had not seen before. It put me in mind of arguments I have not heard since grade school (about which, more below). It began by slapping two groups with the same bible verse (how economical!):

In the Bible, Psalm 53:1 says “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good”. We last spoke of the willful blindness of the atheist, who refuses to acknowledge his Creator. They believe in the ridiculous concept of evolution, which has no explanation for the beginning of life, and how fruits, nuts, vegetables, vitamins, minerals, and herbs for our health were provided. As foolish as the atheist may be, there is a group that’s even more foolish: they are the Muslims.

So, yeah, we’re fools. This guy is gonna teach us.

Let’s start with the Moon, for it is what the Muslims worship. It is the largest relative satellite in the solar system. From when the renewed Moon (lower crescent) is sighted in Jerusalem, to the next sighting of the renewed Moon, is about 29.53+ days. During the months of October to March, the Moon is closer to the Earth, and has a shorter (smaller) orbit around the Earth.
During April to October, the Moon is farther away from the Earth, and has a longer (larger) orbit around the Earth, and increases its velocity. It does this in order to remain in sync with the Earth’s distance from the Sun,maintaining its apparent equal size with the Sun, as viewed from Earth. The Atheist thinks that happened by random chance. [italics mine]

No, the atheist thinks what you just said is not true. It reminds me a bit of a bit of God-evidence I heard as a small child. We could trust the Genesis account of Eden, you know, because of biology; it is a medical fact that men have one fewer ribs than do women.

Now, this was easily checkable, thought not so much for a pre-internet kid. Encyclopedias did not actually outright say that men and women had the same number of ribs (because their writers evidently never considered the possibility that someone might actually need that bit of information spelled out for them!), and the claim was verified by at least one teacher (who, in hindsight, I can see was more religious than scientific in background)

And Mr. Cummings’s claim about the moon’s orbit is likewise wrong. Not only is it wrong, it actually contradicts observations that had been made since well before Christianity began. The moon and stars were important; they were carefully observed. The moon was larger and smaller, the planets moved, sometimes apparently slowing down and speeding up, even moving backward (as observed by us, anyway–thus “mars in retrograde”–a claim that the moon goes faster the further it is from earth would not be made based on the observed moon. Rather, the attempt to have the moon prove God’s existence has actually forced us (well, Mr. Cummings, anyway) to actively ignore evidence and make shit up.

My comment there, just in case…

Mr Cummings, you might want to check your science.

Any satellite (including the moon) in its elliptical orbit does not move faster when it is at its apogee (furthest distance); its fastest speed is actually at its perigee (closest distance). This is, you will note, the exact opposite of what you claim here. So… which is wrong? Science, or you?

You might also want to take a look at the beautiful phenomenon of the annular eclipse, in comparison to the total eclipse. The sun and moon do not, as you claim, maintain an apparent equal size, but vary enough for a spectacular variation in eclipses, depending on whether the sun or the moon appears larger (for annular and total eclipses, respectively). Again, you will note, this is the exact opposite of what you have written here. Will you change your claim? Or will you deny the evidence of the very sun and moon themselves?

If I cannot trust you to speak the truth about these simple, obvious things, why on earth should I trust you on anything else? For instance, it is easy to check your “I have been told” story about Obama (http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/weddingring.asp). If you are so gullible when the evidence is easy to see, is there something about 2,000-year-old information that somehow makes it *more* reliable?

If I sound harsh or impolite here, please understand, I am responding to a post that A) calls me a fool, and B) does so based on clearly false information, which C) is very easily checkable.

The title of the post is The Truth of Genesis: The Muslim Is A Greater Fool Than The Atheist – Part 1B No, really.

Two days late to be an April Fools Day joke.

Apr 02 2014

As Read By The Author…

So, yeah… April is (US) National Poetry Month. And I have a potential project, which may or may not see fruition this month or ever (simply because grading has to take a higher priority at this point), for which I could really use your input.

No promises–I try very hard not to make promises I can’t keep–but… which of my silly verses might you want to hear read by the author? Long-time readers may have their choices–I would ask new readers to feel free to speak as well, but also to feel free to look over to the left side of this page where there is an “archives” tab, and have fun exploring the early Cuttlefish offerings.

Now, I’ll say right up front that there are verses I have outgrown–there are some I would not recite even if they were the favorite of every other reader here–and there are some that I would decline because they need to be sung (others, I might actually sing), or require two-part harmony (for one, at least) or four-part harmony (for another).

But if you ever wondered what a particular verse sounded like to me… this would be your chance to point that out. Cos it’s part of my master plan for taking over FtB, and eventually the world. Or maybe I just want to show people how the verses sound to me. And I can’t very well just do them all.

No hurry–take your time. Look through the archives; try reciting them yourselves. The one thing about rhymed and metered verse is, it is intended to be read and heard aloud. There are hidden treasures there that will never be appreciated by those who read them silently, I promise you.

Anyway… I have grading to do. Dive deep, look around, and let me know. (New readers, you can start from the very first months if you like–the archives go back to 2007, and it astonishes me how many of my own favorites are among the earliest!)

ok, back to the salt mines… later…

Apr 02 2014

There Will Be Light

One of the great things about today’s technological infrastructure (well, until the whole thing collapses and we revert to banging rocks together) is that you can have your favorite local radio station somewhere on the opposite side of the planet. Which is the case for me. Which means I get to hear stuff that will likely never make it to American radio (which still exists) or my students’ mp3 players or phones (my other source of new music recommendations).

I liked this one enough to buy it, to support the band. I recommend listening late at night, in some deserted parking lot or seldom-travelled back road. Extra points if you have someone there to dance with.

Mar 31 2014

PZ Gets Demoted

You should make a major issue
Of incinerating tissue
If you don’t, we’ll make you wissue
Had a different point of view!
Cos abortion can’t be easy
And the doctors must be sleazy
So the comments made by PZ
Are a special sort of woo!

If his scientific training
Contradicts what we’re maintaining
Does it really need explaining?
Why, the scientist is wrong!
When the issue is abortion
Then we must preserve proportion—
Give his title some distortion
Just a “blogger” all along

That’s right–PZ Myers got demoted from “Atheist scientist” to “blogger”. By a bunch of people who disagree with him but can’t actually argue with what he says.

Demoted? Yes! See, my aggregator alerted me to this post, but when I clicked, it told me there was no such file! This is what it used to look like…
Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 5.55.48 PM

See? “Atheist Scientist”. But if you look at the comments (protip: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!!!), you’ll see that they quickly start with ad hom attacks on PZ. And at some point, the post itself changes. Now, if you look, PZ’s description has changed:

~ Blogger P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula, March 26, responding to news that the bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated at UK hospitals, some to provide heat –

Now, I’m not saying the description changed to minimize PZ’s credentials and to hype the actual story (despite the actual information in PZ’s post that exposed the hype as a lie)… ok, actually, I *am* saying that. Because, intentionally or not, that’s exactly what happened.

Now… just a thought… I’ve seen a handful of different numbers cited as the “average times a journal article is read”. I honestly have no idea which is correct (which is why I’m linking to none, rather than to a dozen that differ). I do know that every single one of them is shockingly smaller than I would have hoped (not smaller than I realize after thinking about it–many of these articles are of such hair-splitting particularity that I really can’t expect more than a handful or two of people to really care–but those are the people who should and do read them!). PZ’s blog gets more hits daily than the vast majority of academic journal articles. If we limit PZ only to the times he blogs on scientific topics, I suspect his blog is at least an order of magnitude greater exposure than the average paper he writes about. Different audience, certainly–different function. Still terribly important. (and yeah, thus far none of the commenters on that piece seem remotely willing to put their own publication records up against his.)

So, yeah, the commenters are wrong on that… and still, it doesn’t matter. They don’t address what he actually says. Their comments make that clear. But when you don’t have a good argument… rule of thumb… attack the presenter. That is, Atheist Scientist blogger PZ Myers.

Mar 29 2014

The Best Advice I Ever Got

I would write it in letters, eleven feet tall—
And how they would shine; they would glisten!—
The advice I once got, the most useful of all:
“Just shut the fuck up… and listen.

and hey, it applies across any number of different contexts!

Mar 29 2014

There Are Miracles, And Then There Are Miracles

Be careful what you pray for.

Mar 28 2014

Looking Under The Hood…

I just love statistics, and numbers, and such
Whether icy abstractions or warm to the touch
I’ve been told that, perhaps, I adore them too much—
That my feelings are more-or-less “weird”

Ok, “weird” I can see, but I have to confess
I’m put off by the too-imprecise “more or less”—
Is it greater, or smaller? And so, I obsess—
Which is pretty much just what they feared.

“Pretty much”? I shall have to do better than this!
My obsession compels me; there’s something amiss!
Like cars to the Germans or clocks to the Swiss
Are numbers to people like me

There’s too much to do, so I’ll finish up fast
“It’s the last verse”, I’ll say, so I’m strapped to the mast
I will want to write more, but that moment has passed
And—precisely—I’m now out to sea.

I won’t tell you what prompted this verse–I can’t; I don’t have time. I saw a comment, when I shouldn’t have been looking. I was (and am) grading; I have too much to do to be reading non-essential stuff, let alone writing.

But then, someone made a bad statistical argument. And it physically hurt to read.

It’s pretty much the same reaction that bad grammar or spelling gives me, except that it is rarer, so I have built up less immunity.

Anyway, I couldn’t get back to work until I addressed the situation. So… back to work. Right, then, as you were, move along, nothing to see here!

Or… do you have your own obsessions like this? Do you correct the grammar and/or spelling of signs? (I do) Do you physically feel it when you see a mathematical error? Do you turn the radio off (as I did yesterday) when someone starts reciting poetry that does not quite rhyme, or does not quite follow the appropriate meter?

Do you consider your obsession to be a blessing or a curse?

Mar 27 2014

“Noah” As A Stealth Climate Change Movie?

Could “Noah” be a metaphor
For global climate change?
At first, the claim is ludicrous–
At second, merely strange
The people didn’t listen,
And the global waters rose:

Replacing “God” with “Scientists”,
The story likewise goes.
Our sins will lead to flooding,
That plot, too, remains the same–
A global warming metaphor
That dare not speak its name!

It seems odd, given that more than one US congressman has cited the Noah story as proof that anthropogenic global climate change cannot possibly be happening, but the cinematographer for Noah reveals in a Daily Beast interview that the new Noah movie is actually a Global Warming Epic, a movie with a strong environmentalist, pro-science message:

That was the largest theme of the film: environmentalism. In the marketing of the film they shy away from it. I don’t know why it’s a taboo thing to say “environmentalism” cause you’re going to scare off half the population because they’ve been told “environmentalism” is a bad thing? The idea that we have to stay away from the issue because we’re going to polarize half the audience speaks to how fucking dysfunctional we are.

We also find out that Superstorm Sandy caused serious damage to the ark set, on Long Island–of course, a true global flood in the time scale of of the Noachian story would dwarf Sandy, so I guess they just don’t build arks like they used to. Or never did, or whatever.

I have not been paying attention to the reviews of Noah–indeed, this interview is the first I have heard the environmental angle spoken of.

You?

Mar 25 2014

Money To Burn

There’s a lesson here, somewhere,
If only we’d learn it
Yes, people love money,
But working to earn it?
Much better to win some
Why, no one would spurn it—
With no guarantee, though…
You might as well burn it.

A radio station in Calgary has been (and, currently, still is) conducting an experiment of sorts. They are asking the citizens of Calgary to vote:

Over the next couple of weeks there’s $15,000 that could be yours…But the money could also be BURNT. Set on fire. Completely destroyed.
Should the money go into someone’s BANK or should we BURN it! YOU DECIDE!

This is entirely up to the people of Calgary to decide whether we give the money away or if we burn it…let’s make the right decision together. All you have to do is vote #BURN if you want to see it destroyed or #BANK & what you would do with the money.

If #BANK wins, then everyone who voted for that with all their info is in to win…but if #BURN wins, then we will live up to our promise and completely destroy the cash!

By all accounts, they did not expect people to vote to burn the money. After all, a small chance is better than no chance at all, isn’t it? Who would vote to deny themselves a chance, just to deny everybody else that chance?

54% of the voters, that’s who. So, true to their word, the DJs burned $5,000 (and posted the cremation on youtube). They’ve gotten a *lot* of flak for it, though they probably would have gotten shit for not following through, even if they had given the cash to a perfect charity.

And now, there is another $10,000 on the line. Voters, this time, know the station is not bluffing; will that change the vote? Or is the first result going to be replicated?

I could use that money. I know how I’d vote if I were in Calgary.

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