Carnival of the Elitist Bastards X: HC SVNT DRACONES


Once again, the HMS Elitist Bastard sails into waters filled with the dragons of ignorance and the serpents of stupidity. Greenpeace may protest, the Sierra Club may condemn, but Elitist Bastards know that some creatures are better off extinct. We’ve loaded our ship with the provisions of knowledge. We’ve primed our guns with the weapons of wisdom. We’ve heaved most of the naysayers overboard and used the rest for ballast. We hoist our sail and steer a course through the dark, choppy waters, ready for battle.


As we pass the rocks of the harbor, we hear a siren song. Nonsense at first, we slowly start to hear in it words, phrases, a semblance of a sentence. Is it a hidden message? Barbara from ICBS Everywhere scoffs. “You remember ‘Naughty Elmo’?” she asks as we sail past, and discover we’ve only been hearing the wind whistling between the rocks. “It’s all a matter of top-down processing. Like I told the Skeptics’ Circle last month,

“There have been many claims of evil in toyland. You might remember a few years ago, when the Teletubbies were under fire because a talking Po doll seemed to say, “Faggot, Faggot”. So, Po is a bigot even though, according to Reverend Jerry Falwell, his buddy Tinky Winky is gay.”

Paradolia strikes again. Laughing at the foibles of the human brain, we sail on.

Our first destination is Atlantis – and for this, we have refitted the ship so that it may dive beneath the waves. Holocine Hominoid promises us quite the adventure with ‘The non-discovery of Atlantis great debunk.’ We strike the sails, close the hatches, and sink beneath the sea, where we immediately notice a discrepency between what we’d been told we’d see and what we observe:


Atlantis?

Um.

Not so much.

“So, if it’s not the lost city of Atlantis, whatever could it be? After all, as the discoverer declares, “It looks like an aerial map of Milton Keynes. It must be man-made.” Forgetting the logical fallacy made by this imbecile, it turns out he is correct, though not in the manner he supposes. What we see in the photo is indeed the result of human ingenuity,”

H.H. says, and when we learn the truth, we rock the boat with our guffaws.

A fish swims by one of the portholes, bearing unwanted passengers. We turn to our freshly-acquired resident parasitologist (not parapsychologist, thanks ever so much) from Parasites Never Sleep for an “Introduction.” He begins with a caveat:

“To some of you the topic will mostly consist of nothing but things that are “icky” and “gross.” I’m okay with that but I hope that at least a few of you can find beauty, albeit a kind of twisted beauty, in some of the topics I present.”

We’re Elitist Bastards. We can handle a little icky and gross.

Dolphins peek into the portholes, causing most of the crew to melt into puddles of goo. Which, of course, causes the Southern Fried Scientist to heave a vexed sigh before he launches into a rant against dogmatic dolphin worship. He tells us we need to be “Getting a sense of porpoise.”


“The fact is, we protect what we love, and if dolphin worship is bringing people closer to the ocean, that’s great. But if we’re drawing people closer to the ocean, should we not be educating them about it as well?”

We all agree, of course. And this is the cue for Southern Fried Scientist’s partner to educate us about “The ecological disaster that is dolphin safe tuna.”

“If you work out the math on this (and you don’t have to, because the environmental justice foundation did) , you find that 1 dolphin saved costs 382 mahi-mahi, 188 wahoo, 82 yellowtail and other large fish, 27 sharks, and almost 1,200 small fish.

By trying to help dolphins, groups like Greenpeace caused one of the worst marine ecological disasters of all time. “

By the time he is finished, most of us have resolved never to eat tuna again.

Once more to the surface, where we hoist sail and set a course for the Galapagos. This is Darwin’s Year. We mean to celebrate it. John Pieret helps us along with an excellent performance entitled “Charles Darwin Superstar.”

“Safina is right that there is much danger in hagiography but there is a different, but equally pernicious, hagiography to be had in the notion that our knowledge of the world would end up in the same place no matter who made what discoveries when. If Stephen Jay Gould is right that, if we could “replay the tape of life,” we would wind up in a very different place, there is no reason to believe that if we replayed the history of science what we’d wind up with would look very much like what we have now. Darwin should be honored because he really mattered.”

Oh, and we do honor him – so much so that we’re late weighing anchor the next morning.


As we leave port, remembering (vaguely) ripping good times we’ve had in dockside taverns, Z proceeds to give us “My two cents on tipping.”

“It seems to me that this is the restaurant’s way of achieving two things: having artificially low prices in their menu, and paying their wait staff less than they deserve (often less than minimum wage). Both of those goals are stupid.”

That we can all agree on.

As we sail past the last of the Galapagos Islands, their educational nature turns our thoughts most naturally to education. Marcus becomes “The Fountain of Knowledge,” reminding us of the most important thing we can teach.

“More important than 100% accuracy in school assignments is the need to teach critical thinking. Understanding that information on UFO and Bigfoot sites is likely to be rather specious, and developing the skills and mindset to filter and weigh the veracity of the information is more important than getting all the facts right in a K-12 assignment. The lessons learned in discovering the intentional errors or slanted views promulgated by the authors are critical life skills.”

To us, of course, that’s self-evident. But we’re a little taken aback when NP bursts onto the deck, demanding to know “What’s Going On?” Her meaning becomes clear as she goes on.

“Even if you don’t believe that the stories in the Bible are true, they have become like the ancient myths that serve as a jumping-off point for many other stories. The characters in the stories have become standards by which other characters are measured. “Think about it. What comes to mind when I say someone’s life is Job-like? What do you think of when I call someone “a Jezebel”? “If you have no familiarity with the Bible, these character references mean nothing, and how can you understand the image I’m trying to portray?”

Of course, the atheists on board have no trouble understanding her images. They do say the Devil can quote Scripture, we all chortle with a wink.

Talk of literature somehow brings us to the agony of equation rendering on the intertoobz. Blake Stacey waxes full Elitist Bastard as he explains “How We (Don’t) Write Mathematics on the Web.”

“I often joke that the technology for typesetting equations on the Web is of all-consuming interest to about twelve people. This is, of course, th
e kind of joke I make out of bitterness: it’s a joyous day indeed when I meet one of the other eleven!”

His day becomes joyous indeed, because on the HMS Elitist Bastard, there’s always at least one or two of them. And the Admiral is pleased she once again got to see Paul Tize’s beautiful page.

Night falls over the sea, bringing with it a chance to break open the rum, and vent our frustrations. The Last Hussar expounds “In support of elitism.”

“I am sick of a culture that says ‘too middle class’, ‘not accessable’, ‘too highbrow’. Well some of us want something to think about, not soaps, ‘celebs’ and ‘gossip’.”

Yes, we do! Yes, we do!

And, Efrique reminds us, we’d best take the proclamations of the media with an ocean of salt. After all, they “Will Lie for $$$.”

“There’s a major case in point on income tax. And it’s not just the cable news and finance guys that you have to watch out for – networks and the newspapers are doing it too. They’re exploiting dumb people. They want you to be dumb too.”

Where Elitist Bastards are concerned, they shall continue to want.

This brings us, of course, to talk of conspiracies, seeing as how so many of the people who fall for the media’s misinformation seem to love them so. Cujo359 tells us how “Dr. Gotelli Explains the Difference” between genuine science and pathetic imitations. Afterward, he notes,

“Conspiracy theories about scientific cabals suppressing embarrassing new hypotheses are no doubt satisfying to a certain segment of the public, but I have yet to encounter such a hypothesis that actually can stand the light of day.”

John Pieret has a little something to add. After all, he’s just read some “Rave Reviews” of the Intelligent Design movement by way of debunking some ridiculous claims that scientists support it. He dismisses that “support” with a devastating observation:

“ID as driving us back towards the dark ages hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement.”

Not so much, no.

In fact, the claims that science support particular narrow views are rather ridiculus on their face. PalMD asks a rhetorical question – “Right is right, right?” – and gets anything but a rhetorical answer. But even arguing over whether science supports a particular culture war claim is missing the point by a wide margin.

“The “biology of gay” debate is, and has always been a steaming bucket of crap designed to allow people to be bigots.”

With that, the Gordian Knot of nature or nurture? lies severed on the deck.

It’s a good thing he cut through that so quickly. We do, after all, have to get back to port. Dana’s taking us to see Neil DeGrasse Tyson for Sunday Sensational Science.

After that, we’ll set our course for the stars, where there also be dragons.

But hopefully not of the species Dracones ignoramii.