What Do You Think – Did Bill Nye Smoke Some Ham?

I only got to watch bits of the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, and caught the gist of it from the Pharyngula live blog and comments there. It was enough to realize that I’m going to be able to debate that little shit just as soon as I finish with these Christianist textbooks, because he’s regurgitating most of the same bullshit I’m finding there. I’ll be watching the debate later and going over the geology bits in some detail. Well, as much as I can stand – I don’t think I’ll be able to take much of that pompous windbag at a time. Which means, actually, I won’t be able to debate him, ever – I’d end up pouncing on him, slapping duct tape over his cake socket whilst screaming “The Bible is not science you dipshit!”

Y’all would pay to see that, and then pay to get me out of jail, right?

Anyway, if you wish to torture yourselves, the debate is supposed to be available here for a short time. Let me know about any bits you want me to pay particular attention to. I want my Ham smoked, cured, and sliced. Heh.

While you wait for me to get crack-a-lackin’, feel free to suggest captions for this excellent image Hemant caught:

Image is Bill giving Ken a profound WTF stare as Ken arranges something on his podium without meeting Bill's eyes.

[Your Caption Here]

Oh, and Bill?

Learn some bloody geology. Sheesh. From what I understand, that’s the topic he flubbed the worst, and it’s ridiculous – doesn’t everyone realize geology is the creationists’ favorite target just after evolution? I know folks kinda disregard the earth sciences whilst lusting after physics and biology, but for fuck’s sake…

I Love the Smell of a Scam Crashing and Burning In the Morning

The Internet Age has been kind to scammers, who have used the toobz to find all sorts of hapless victims. But worms can turn. A little bit of Google-fu can turn you from potential victim to fraudbuster.

Case in point: Sai posted this awesome hunt for a fraudster on Google+. This shit’s like potato chips for me – I’m not satisfied after one little bite, I’ve gotta have the whole bag. So I clicked the link over to Popehat, and found myself vastly entertained for a half-hour. Upshot: if you receive an invoice from UST Development, US Telecom, or similar, research before you assume you owe. They’re a big ol’ scummy scam.

More importantly, however, this series of posts shows you how you can protect yourself by not assuming an invoice means someone in your company actually ordered a service just because there’s a slightly-odd invoice landing on your desk, and by doing a few Google searches to check things out. Don’t have a company? Doesn’t mean you won’t get scammed. Research anyone attempting to part you from your cash, or offering you unexpected money, or asking you weird questions.

I actually love this stuff. I think it goes back to the days when I used to watch all the cheesy 80s PI shows, and had a brief desire to become a private investigator. I gave up that dream early on, but still lap up true crime stories. One of my favorites was The Cuckoo’s Egg, which almost had me in college learning all I could of computers and networks just for the sheer joy of tracking cybercriminals, before I decided I should just focus on my writing instead. I’ve read Kevin Mitnick’s The Art of Deception, which opened my eyes to social engineering and has served me in good stead in my current job.

That book also helped me impress the pants off our fraud department.

Not long after I joined my current company, they threw a big job fair, where I got to meet really real FBI agents for the first time (they were super-nice and for some silly reason encouraged me to join the Bureau despite my lack of any useful degree, or indeed, any degree whatsoever. They have civilian positions, they said). And there was this booth, all tarted up with balloons and things, prize bags, clipboards, and a nice gentleman foisting a clipboard on me and saying all I had to do was fill out a survey to win.

I don’t remember what the banner said – something innocuous. They had a few books displayed. One of them was The Art of Deception.

“Sure,” I said, and took the clipboard. I looked at the questions. Mind you, I was already suspicious – with that book sitting there and these folks not saying what company or department within our own company they represented, I figured they were up to something. A glance down the list of questions confirmed it. Mother’s maiden name? Name of your first pet? Favorite color? And others, salted with a few questions that might distract you from what they were actually asking.

I laughed, handed back the clipboard without a single pen mark on the “survey,” and said, “No thanks.”

“Why not?” the squeaky-clean gentleman who’d handed me the survey asked.

“Because these questions are designed to get my passwords.”

He broke into a great big gleaming grin, and said, “You’re the only person who’s gotten that.” Which I found super-sad, considering all the classic signs of a fraud were there, combined with that bloody book. I’d thought it was blindingly obvious what was up.

The proprietors of the booth were from our fraud department, and I’ve still got the calculator in the shape of a cell phone they awarded me for being able to spot the bleedin’ obvious. If they’re ever hiring again over there, I might give it a go. There’s nothing I love better in my current job than getting a whiff o’ fraud, doing a bit of account research to confirm my suspicion, and then sending them a referral so they can do a proper investigation. That kind of thing leaves me glowing for days.

Wait, there was a moral to this story. It’s not just “look at me, I am awesome.” It’s this: scammers are clever, but you are more clever. You’ve got instincts you can hone. Pay attention to what people are taking from you when they’re offering you something for free. Are they asking the sorts of questions that often come up on those security questions thingies for password resets? Are they playing on your emotions, whether fear or compassion, a little too heavily in order to get you to give them money or answers? Is a bit of your brain screaming, “Hey, something’s not right!”?

If so, take the time to do some research, even if they’re all up in your face howling that you’ll miss the opportunity of a lifetime or kiddies will die if you don’t donate right now or threaten to set the law on you for not paying what they swear you owe them even though you can’t remember ever doing business with them. Decline to answer invasive questions. Use Google. Listen to that part of your brain that says, “This doesn’t pass the smell test,” but can’t quite articulate why.

And if some dude claims he needs you to send him money so he can send you a bunch of money from Nigeria, just say no. Unless, of course, you want to have a little fun fucking with the fucktards. In which case, go mad.

Is There Anything More Pathetic Than Flood Geologists at GSA Meetings?

Yup. Actually, there is. And this is why the announcement that Flood geologists, those poor dumb souls who are so besotted with a Bronze Age work of fiction, are once again coming to the GSA’s annual meeting should have you rubbing your hands with glee. Because, you see, the only thing more pathetic than Flood geologists is the fact that their own research has disproved their inane flood hypothesis.

Oh, yes, my darlings. That’s delicious, isn’t it? Tuck your napkin under your chin and go sink your teeth in to this bit of yum: “The defeat of Flood geology by Flood geology.” It’s eleven meaty pages of pure, savory, gourmet geo-goodness.

Really, all you need to do is grab Figure 1 and print it. Carry it with you. It’s got everything neatly laid out, with little icons showing what bit of evidence says that the whole entire earth couldn’t have been underwater at that time. And remember, this is evidence creationist geologists have found through their own research.

Here’s my own quick-and-dirty summary:

Subaerial deposits – raindrop impressions, dessication cracks, continental basalts, in-situ root beds, dinosaur eggs, glaciation, fossil charcoal, eolian dunes, paleosol, trackways.

Low- energy deposits and long pass ages of time: Cretaceous chalk, algal growths, various sea critter beds, reefs, lacrustine (lake) deposits, fluvial (stream or river) deposits.

Diversification of terrestrial animals: “Because such speciation cannot occur during a single year when the entire planet is underwater and during most of which the relevant animals are dead, [flood geologist S.J. Robinson] argued that the entire post-Carboniferous portion of the geologic column must be post-Flood.”

The Mountains of Ararat: can’t have Noah landing there if they don’t exist, and any flood deposits would have to be on top of them, so, uh, y’know, it was some other mountains of Ararat!

When you plot where examples of all of the above are found on a handy geologic timescale, you end up eliminating every bit of it, except for the Hadean Eon. It just doesn’t work. It can’t work.

And some of them know it:

In the words of Flood geologist Max Hunter (2009:88), “It is somewhat ironic…that, almost a half century after publication of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris in 1961, the geologic record attributed to the Genesis Flood is currently being assailed on all sides by diluvialists…[and] there remains not one square kilometer of rock at the earth’s surface that is indisputably Flood deposited.”

So what’s a Flood geologist to do?

The continued denial of the implications of their own findings is an example of what I call the gorilla mindset: the attitude that if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but religious dogma says it is a gorilla, then it is a gorilla.

According to Flood geologists, this is a gorilla.

Yup. Pretty much. And these poor inane souls are going to be at GSA, shouting “Gorilla! It’s a gorilla!” every time you show them a duck.

Show them Figure 1, and they might just cry.

So You Know Exactly How God Did It, Then?

You know, sometimes it seems like USA has come to stand for “United States of Appalling Ignorance.”  A lot of people in this country need to read an improving book.  And I’m not talking about the Bible.  That one only seems to improve people’s ability to be smug about their appalling ignorance.


MTHellfire found this bit of outstanding fuckwittery spouted by Bill O’Reilly and took him to the woodshed over it (h/t):

“Tide goes in and tide goes out…you can’t explain that.” Bill O’Reilly recently told Dave Silverman of American Atheists, during a recent airing on Fox News as they debated the integrity of religion.

After her head hit her desk, she went on to advise that, yes, actually, Billo, we can explain how the tide goes in and out.  I’d just like to add that Billo needs to avail himself of a book I recently read, Beyond the Moon.  We are so able to explain tides that entire pop sci books can be written on the subject.

MTHellfire went on to quote, in its full misspelled glory, a screed she’d been subjected to on Facebook, wherein the correspondent (and I use this term loosely) advised that the reason people don’t trust scientists is that they can’t explain where the first speck of dirt came from, but they can tell you how life was created.

Wrong wrong wrong, and not just because the original had enough grammatical errors to make an English teacher contemplate a home lobotomy in an effort to escape the pain.  Scientists can explain how life evolved.  They’re not yet sure how it originated, but they’ve got some promising ideas.  They’re pretty certain it did not include a large bearded deity poofing the whole thing into existence.

As far as the speck of dirt goes, any decent book on cosmology can clue you in.  Dirt is formed of elements.  Elements are forged in stars.  And so on, all the way back to the Big Bang.  So yes, Facebook babbler, scientists can explain where the first speck of dirt came from.  At length, and with equations, if you like.

But it’s not like the “God did it” crowd is likely to listen to the evidence.  If they do, their eyes will all too likely glaze over, and they will take this as a sign: they cannot understand it, therefore scientists don’t really understand it, ergo Jesus!  So let me just turn this around a bit.  I like turning tables.  It adds interest to a room.

Here’s my reply to the “Scientists can’t explain every single detail exactly, so God, so there!” crowd:

Do you know every last detail of how, precisely, God created the universe?  I mean, precisely how he spoke the whole thing into existence?  The complete and excruciating details of how, exactly, God did it, from the first photon to the last squidgy bit on Eve?

No?

Deary me.  Guess I’ll have to just stick with science, then.

Why We Need Science Bloggers

Two exhibits shall suffice, methinks.

Exhibit A: The Strange Case of the Oldest Homo Sapiens That Weren’t

The world went haywire last week with breathless reports that ZOMG ALL UR HOOMIN EVOLUSHUNS HAZ CHANGED!!1!11!!  Back in the bad old days when all I had access to was the MSM, I might have gotten sucked in by the hype.  After years of reading science blogs, though, I just sat back and waited.

And, sure enough, on December 28th, there was Brian Switek on Twitter, on the case:

Scientists claim 400,000 year old Homo sapiens teeth found in Israel cave, older than African H. sapiens http://bit.ly/gblFEl BUT… [1/2]

… paper abstract http://bit.ly/fgZQKz draws closer comparison to Neanderthals and indeterminate types like the Skhul/Qafzeh hominins [2/2]

Then:

Haven’t read full paper – no access – but I have to wonder if the popular presentation is hyped beyond paper’s conclusions #notthe1sttime

Scicurious took care of the “no access” problem.   And, within hours, Brian had taken a gargantuan pin to a very over-inflated balloon:

A handful of fossil teeth found in Israel’s Qesem Cave, described in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and attributed to 400,000 year old members of our own species in multiple news reports, are said to rewrite the story of human evolution. This discovery doubles the antiquity of Homo sapiens, the articles say, and identify a new point of origin for our species. “Find in Israeli cave may change evolution story” proclaims The Australian, while the Daily Mail asks and answers “Did first humans come out of Middle East and not Africa? Israeli discovery forces scientists to re-examine evolution of modern man.” (The Jerusalem Post, by comparison, went with the tamer “Homo sapiens lived in Eretz Yisrael 400,000 years ago.”) As is often the case, though, the hype surrounding this find far outstrips its actual significance.


Then, for good measure, Carl Zimmer piled on.  I’m sure plenty of others leaped into the fray, but those were the first two I read, and suffice to prove my point.  We bloody well need science bloggers.  Why?  Because science journalists, the supposed professionals, are so fucking busy misreading, misleading, and giving science repeated black eyes by taking carefully-hedged papers filled with cautions and bet-hedging and warnings against jumping to conclusions and hyping them out of all proportion.  Carl called it “journalistic vaporware,” which rings true.  It’s disgusting is what it is.

And it used to be a person had three choices: accept, discount, or pay out the nose to access the original scientific papers and then try to wrangle sense from things not written in layman’s language.


Now we have science bloggers, who know science, love science, speak its lingo, and have the access and the tools to investigate and report back to the rest of us.  Because of them, I’ve learned not to believe the hype, and to refrain from hyperventilating until one of them weighs in.

Which brings me to Exhibit B:  The “Placebo Effect” Effect



Twitter absolutely blew up with links to various and sundry about some paper claiming the placebo effect worked even when people knew they were taking a placebo.  I can’t report on how some of the sources Bora linked were reporting it, because I was busy getting me arse kicked by other links (I’ve been busy, damn it).  But I saw other babble floating around that seemed to take it at face value.  Meh.  It was either a solid study or it wasn’t, I wasn’t too fussed about it, and knew that if it either had merit or sucked leper donkey dick, it would eventually land on one of the medical sites that are part of my regular reading schedule.


I love it when I’m right:

Dr. Gorski eviscerates both study and breathless hype.  Yes, the study showed some interesting things.  No, it didn’t prove that placebo works sans deception.  Rather a fatal flaw:

No, the reason I say this is because, all their claims otherwise notwithstanding, this study doesn’t really tell us anything new about placebo effects. The reason is that, even though they did tell their subjects that the sugar pills they were being given were inert, the investigators also used suggestion to convince their subjects that these pills could nonetheless induce powerful “mind-body” effects. In other words, the investigators did the very thing they claimed they weren’t doing; they deceived their subjects to induce placebo effects by exaggerating the strength of the evidence for placebo effects and using rather woo-ish terminology (“self-healing,” for instance). Here’s how the investigators describe what they told their patients:

Patients who gave informed consent and fulfilled the inclusion and exclusion criteria were randomized into two groups: 1) placebo pill twice daily or 2) no-treatment. Before randomization and during the screening, the placebo pills were truthfully described as inert or inactive pills, like sugar pills, without any medication in it. Additionally, patients were told that “placebo pills, something like sugar pills, have been shown in rigorous clinical testing to produce significant mind-body self-healing processes.” The patient-provider relationship and contact time was similar in both groups. Study visits occurred at baseline (Day 1), midpoint (Day 11) and completion (Day 21). Assessment questionnaires were completed by patients with the assistance of a blinded assessor at study visits.

This is a description of the script that practitioners were to use when discussing these pills with subjects recruited to the study:

Patients were randomly assigned either to open-label placebo treatment or to the no-treatment control. Prior to randomization, patients from both groups met either a physician (AJL) or nurse-practitioner (EF) and were asked whether they had heard of the “placebo effect.” Assignment was determined by practitioner availability. The provider clearly explained that the placebo pill was an inactive (i.e., “inert”) substance like a sugar pill that contained no medication and then explained in an approximately fifteen minute a priori script the following “four discussion points:” 1) the placebo effect is powerful, 2) the body can automatically respond to taking placebo pills like Pavlov’s dogs who salivated when they heard a bell, 3) a positive attitude helps but is not necessary, and 4) taking the pills faithfully is critical. Patients were told that half would be assigned to an open-label placebo group and the other half to a no-treatment control group. Our rationale had a positive framing with the aim of optimizing placebo response.

How is this any different from what is known about placebo responses? I, for one, couldn’t find anything different. It’s right there in the Methods section: The authors might well have told subjects that they were receiving a sugar pill, but they also told them that this sugar pill would do wonderful things through the power of “mind-body” effects, as though it was entirely scientifically clear-cut that it would.

That, my darlings, is deception.  That’s telling folks the sugar pill is magic.  And we all know that when you hand people a pill and tell them it’s magic, a subset will believe, and heal themselves.  The only real difference was that in this study, the bottles of sugar pills actually said “PLACEBO” on them.

POP goes another overinflated response to a study that didn’t merit the hype.  Thing is, without science bloggers, us regular joes wouldn’t know any better.  And without science bloggers, us regular joes would be pissed next week or next month or next year when future studies are breathlessly hyped as saying these studies were completely fucking wrong.  Science bloggers bring us back down to earth.  They help us understand what the science was really saying, analyze the studies for flaws that might cast doubt on sensational conclusions, and show us how good science (and good science reporting!) is actually done.


That, my darlings, is why we so desperately need science bloggers.  And to all of you science bloggers in the audience: thank you, thank you, a million times, thank you.

Hey! I Practice Alt Med, Too!

Kimball Atwood’s been kicking the arses of all those who like to babble that because alt med’s popular, even the most implausible, most wootastic woo should be studied.  We’re talking folks who think that homeopathy should be studied, despite the fact the basic science isn’t behind it at all – you’d have to overturn pretty much all of physics and chemistry for it to qualify as anything remotely possible to actually work as more than a placebo mixed with willful idiocy.  The people who back randomized, double-blind, clinical trial after clinical trial for the wooiest of woo despite assloads of evidence already available showing it doesn’t, can’t, and will never work are the same ones who would probably demand said trials for butt reflexology if enough dumbfucks fall for a hoax.

But I digress.  I was about to tell you about the fact that I, too, practice complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM).  I found this out while reading Kimball’s lovely smackdown.  Here’s the passage that revealed all to me:

In addition to the ethical fallacy just discussed, there is another fallacy having to do with popularity: the methods in question aren’t very popular. In the medical literature, the typical article about an implausible health claim begins with the irrelevant and erroneous assertion that “34%” or “40%” or even “62%” (if you count prayer!) of Americans use ‘CAM’ each year. This is irrelevant because at issue is the claim in question, not ‘CAM’ in general. It is erroneous because ‘CAM’ in general is so vaguely defined that its imputed popularity has been inflated to the point of absurdity, as exemplified by the NCCAM’s attempt, in 2002, to include prayer (which it quietly dropped from the subsequent, 2007 survey results).

By these standards, I so totally do practice CAM!  Yep, it’s that slippery of a definition.  Y’see, sometimes, when I feel like I might be coming down with a cold, but it might just be allergies or too much smoking instead, I run this little litany through my head: “I hope I’m not getting sick!  I hope I’m not getting sick!  I hope I’m not getting sick!”  And sometimes, when I wish really hard I won’t get sick, sometimes I don’t get sick!!!

So imagine me getting surveyed:

Survey Person: Do you pray for wellness or healing?

Me [sarcastically]: Well, I’m an atheist, but I sometimes hope really hard.

SP: Great!  We’ve got you down for prayer, then, you alt-med lover you!

Me: Wait, what?  Hey!  Come back here and erase that right now, you fucking bastard!

SP: [vanishes into the distance at a brisk run]

And that, my darlings, is one of the great many reasons why you should always treat the argumentum ad populum with grave suspicion.

Just like you should butt reflexology.  Or is that butt-print astrology (ass-trology!)?  It’s so hard to keep all this butt-related woo straight!

Unchaining Ourselves

The Great Chain of Being needs breaking.  Brian Switek took bolt cutters to it in a SciAm guest post last week, and my, how the creationists howled.  Got so bad that Bora called in the cavalry.  Did my duty, registered so I could comment, and laughed my arse off because these silly little nitwits howling their protests got me to thinking a lot more seriously on the subject.  What follows is an expanded version of the comment I left.

First, an explanatory image, taken from a wonderful lecture by evolutionary biologist Lindell Bromham:



On this depiction of the great chain of being you can see that plants are higher than inorganic things, animals are higher than plants, humans are better than animals, angels are above humans and so on. You might say, ‘Oh, we don’t believe in that any more.’ Yet, if you pick up any evolution textbook or even a popular science evolution book, you will often find something that looks very similar to this.

And creationists apparently can’t stand it when somebody like Brian comes along and says this:

At the beginning of the 20th century, American fundamentalism was gaining momentum and the public circus that was the Scopes trial turned the teaching of evolution into a controversial public issue. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, anti-scientific opposition to evolution remains a prominent cultural force. Be it straight-up young-Earth creationism or its insidious sibling intelligent design, fundamentalism-fueled views of science and nature abound. Groups such as the National Center for Science Education are continually tracking the spread of anti-evolution agendas which would further erode the quality of scientific understanding. Perhaps this is why we keep returning to the March of Progress. When the fossils and stratigraphy are laid out so plainly, how can any reasonable person deny that evolution is a reality? Yet, by preferring this antiquated mode of imagery, we may have hamstrung ourselves. Given all that we have gleaned about evolution from the fossil record—especially the major pattern of contingent radiations cut back by extinction before bursting into numerous splendid forms all over again—why not bring this wonderful “tangled bank” imagery to the public?

Yes!  Having come out of a march-of-progress, great-chain education, I can give you plenty of reasons why it’s well past time to break the chain and go to the bank.  And don’t tell me it’s too complicated for kiddies and laypeople to understand, and that a nice, neat line is the best way to introduce folks to evolution.  It’s not.  Far from it.

Ultimately, that linear way of explaining evolution set me back several years.  Yeah, it may be simple, but it’s too simple.  It doesn’t leave room for all the side trips, dead ends, and scenic routes, and it doesn’t give a person room to think outside of a destination.  That confused the hell out of me, because there are plenty of things that didn’t reach the supposed destination, but were there for a good part of the journey.  It’s like supposing several cars worth of people can only travel between Phoenix and Flagstaff: you can’t explain then why some of them buggered off sideways to Prescott instead.

View Larger Map

Handy map illustrating the concept for those who aren’t from the area.

Then I started reading books on evolution.  And there was this tree:

Darwin’s Sketch

Once I saw the tree, started thinking not in chains but in trees and bushes, it started to make sense.  Not every branch goes “up.”  The top of the tree isn’t the only place to be.  It’s still a simple model, but it’s one that leaves plenty of room for all the bits that don’t fit when you chain yourself to the Great Chain.

That’s true in a lot of things about life.  It’s time to let go of the black/white either/or thinking and embrace the world as it is: fuzzy, chaotic, contingent, and far more interesting than mere lines from A to B.

So grab your bolt cutters, my darlings, and join Brian Switek in cutting those chains.

I Shall Never Look At a Catalog The Same Way Ever Again

Dr. Crislip’s outdone himself.  He very nearly got me in trouble at work – riotous laughter in the call center isn’t strictly forbidden, but it draws attention.

I dare you to read this title without at least a chuckle: “Sky Maul.”

It’s the best takedown of the products in the SkyMall catalog I’ve ever read in my life, and that’s not just because I haven’t read many.  Even if I read thousands after this, it shall always be among the top 5.  It’s full of tasty bits, but here are the two I forced upon my coworker because they were just too good not to share.

After the segue into a truly hideous Lancet paper babbling about tattoos on ancient mummies and their correlation to acupuncture points, Dr. Crislip says,

“I think they all have it wrong. Look carefully at the location of the tattoo points. There mark the intersections of the webbing on Spiderman’s costume. These are not acupuncture points, but rather reflect the ability of both Ötzi and the Peruvian mummy to see into the future imaginings of Stan Lee. I think it makes as much sense based on the data.”

My darlings, no comic book geek and connoisseur of fine woo can read that and not die laughing.

And while I usually avoid quoting a writer’s closing remarks, preferring to leave those delights for the reader to discover, I cannot as a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fan refrain from quoting his close in full:

I was originally going to discuss the Head Spa Massager, the X5 HairLaser and others, but the Aculife took me down many unexpected pathways and I am the slowest writer at SBM. They did have numerous cool gadgets and products on SkyMall. Me? I really want Voldemort’s wand and the One ring. Both work using the same mechanism as acupuncture and mummy medical tattoo’s. I have ordered them and soon I will be invincible.

I welcome our future Science-Based Medicine overlord! 

Why Talking to Idiots Gets You Nowhere

Finally finished this paper that’s been in my tabs for days: “Irreducible Incoherence and Intelligent Design: A Look into the Conceptual Toolbox of a Pseudoscience.”  Stumbled across it playing on The Panda’s Thumb, and while it took me forever to read because I’ve had the attention span of a spastic on caffeine pills lately, I got quite a lot out of it.  Namely: if one goes about disproving IDiotic blathering about how evolutionary theory can’t explain X, they’d better not be doing it in order to convert the cretins.  May as well spend your time trying to convince me that curling is an exciting and dramatic sport to watch – you’d have better luck making a conversion.  Mind you – I find nearly every sport in the universe dead boring.

No, the only time the IDiots become useful IDiots is when they inspire evolutionary biologists to figure things out and demolish IDiotic arguments from the foundations up – not because any amount of evidence will make these dumbshits realize they’re wrong (none will), but because of the ricochets.  Knocking down an IDiot’s argument is a fantastic way to teach ordinary folk like me about biology.  It makes it more interesting, what with the controversy and the smart people vs. the Dumbskis sorta thing.  It’s also a good idea to have a refutation ready so that innocent bystanders don’t get snookered. 

Besides, it’s fun.  Especially when the poor howling IDiots snivel and have to rush out to move their goalposts.

Anyway.  There’s my thoughts.  It’s an entertaining paper, too, so you lot may enjoy reading it yourselves.  Which you should go do now, because I’m off to watch another Harry Potter film.

Explaining Monkeys and Uncles to Christine O’Donnell

Yes, I know the election is old news.  Yes, I know Christine O’Donnell lost.  But she speaks for a hefty ignorant chunk of the population when she spouts that snide “Then why are there still monkeys?!” line at the slightest whiff of evolution.

Brian Switek explains a few things about monkeys, uncles, and why your cousins don’t vanish merely because you survived:

In any family tree you care to draw – whether from a broad evolutionary perspective or a narrowed genealogy of close relatives – each point among the branches is going to fall into one of two categories: linear relatives and collateral relatives. Your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. are all linear relatives, while cousins, uncles, and aunts are collateral relatives who are more closely related to you than most other people but are not direct ancestors or descendants. That’s simple enough, and the same sort of logic can be applied to evolutionary relationships.

Read the whole thing, and you’ll be well-prepared the next time some ignoramus thinks he or she has stymied you with the monkey schtick.