Racism and Society Week: The Unequal Opportunity Race

This past year saw a warranted wave of anger at white oppression, as the people of Ferguson, Missouri demanded justice for yet another unarmed black teenager murdered by police. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and far too many others didn’t get justice last year. But I hope history records 2014 as the changing of the tide.

It won’t happen unless we take a stand.

Image is the British crown on a red background atop the words "Stand up and fight racism."

[Read more…]

Reveal That Metazoan! Roadcut Reptile Edition

Oh, look, it’s a brand-new mystery series! Many of you seem to enjoy these puzzlers, and I’ve got pictures of animals other than birds and bugs, so I figured I’d expand a bit. Branch out to other metazoan families, donchaknow. And that’ll help break up the relentless onslaught of mystery flora. The sad truth is, plants stand still. Animals often don’t. Hence, we have a dearth of animals as it is. We cannot afford to ignore any of them just because they don’t fly or don’t have an exoskeleton.

Here to inaugurate our new series is a delightful lizard seen in that incredible rhyolite road cut near the Nevada-Oregon border.

Image shows a gray-brown lizard with horizontal black stripes on its tail clinging jauntily to an outcrop of rheamorphic rhyolite.

Mystery Metazoan I

Saucy, innit? And large! It was quite plump and long. I’m used to Arizona lizards, which were skinny little things about the length of a finger. This one was longer than my hand, and definitely looks like it’s found good eating, out there in the rocky wastes.

Image is a close-up of the lizard's face.

Mystery Metazoan II

Look at those arch eyebrow ridges or whatever you call ‘em on a lizard! I love their dear little faces. There’s something about a lizard’s expression that just screams superiority. It’s like they know they’re better than those warm-blooded young upstarts that went infesting the planet. They almost seem to remember a time when reptilia ruled the world, and they haven’t bloody forgotten it.

Image shows the lizard now on a different rock, facing down and to the left.

Mystery Metazoan III

This one seemed to be curious about us, and also quite pleased to show off the remarkable rocks that were its home. It posed here and posed there, and I snapped away frantically, wanting to get a few good photos in before it decided it had graced the uncouth mammals with its appearance quite long enough.

Image is a close-up view of the head, showing a dark charcoal strip beneath its eye and along its head.

Mystery Metazoan IV

So really look closely at that glorious animal. Note the subtle but gorgeous patterns in its earth-toned scales. Observe the insouciant ease with which it perches in impossible positions on its rocks. Drool on the rocks a little, by all means, but do please return to perusing the lizard.

Alas, it eventually tired of us, and swept away across a rhyolite boulder, vanishing into some rabbit brush.

Image shows the lizard clinging to a rhyolite boulder, about to dodge into some rabbit brush.

Mystery Metazoan V

Look at those toes! They’re so agile. Amazing little critters.

I’ve got more photos over on Flickr for ye. Good luck in your identifications, my darlings!

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education V: Wherein We Map for God

Honestly, you’d think something as prosaic as mapping could avoid Godification. SPC doesn’t even bother with a chapter on cartography: maps are maps, and they’ve nothing to say about them.

ES4, however, devotes a whole chapter to the subject. And yeah, it gets goddy.

Image is a pastel-colored hand-drawn map of Jerusalem from 1650. ZION is printed in the bottom center-right.

Yes, possibly even as goddy as the Thomas Fuller map of Jerusalem. Image courtesy Geographicus Rare Antique Maps via Wikimedia Commons.

The chapter starts out fine: instead of a creationist cartologist, we get a nice demonstration of the power of maps, using, of course, Dr. John Snow’s cholera map. And the BJU staffers who wrote this chapter, at least, aren’t completely anti-vax. They discuss how government agencies use maps to track down areas with high disease rates, and say that targeting vaccination programs toward “areas with high rates of infections” is “far more effective and costs less than vaccinating a whole population.” Which may be true with rare or not easily transmitted diseases, I suppose, but I do wish their emphasis had been on getting everyone vaccinated for the common stuff. Herd immunity is an important thing. Still. At least they’re not taking this opportunity to say never vaccinate. Small mercies.

They do a fine job explaining what maps are, and scale, and perspective. But for some reason, there’s a textbox on Progressive Creationism right smack in the middle. I have no idea why. It’s nothing to do with maps, and they don’t even try to relate it. They just yammer. And it’s obvious they don’t like those progressive creationists, no sir. You can tell from this question: [Read more…]

Liberty University Pumping Creationists Into Public Schools

Sometimes, I wonder if my obsession with debunking Christianist textbooks is rather ridiculous. After all, how many truly committed creationists are there, really? Aren’t there more important causes I should be investing my time in? Surely I could be doing more on the feminist front, f’r instance. I could be pouring my time and energy into meatier posts about the magnificent science of geology. And I feel vaguely guilty that I let myself get distracted by the latest creationist outrages in textbooks that are foisted upon a mere fraction of the world’s children.

But then, I read survivors’ stories, and yes, I do think of the children: all those bright and curious minds stunted by the ignorant adults around them. I hope at least a few of them stumble upon this series, and find themselves jolted out of the confining creationist box and launched on an epic adventure in the science of their choice (even if it’s not one of the geosciences, although of course I think those are the best).

And there’s the fact we all learn some things about the earth sciences along the way, in what I hope is an entertaining fashion.

Not an inconsiderable consideration for me is that I’ve found so few women* debunking creationist nonsense, so it helps me feel like I’m doing my bit for diversity in the creationist nonsense debunking community.

Besides, Jonny Scaramanga recently said why creationism and the debunking thereof matters, so that’s told me this quest is not quixotic.

But when it really comes down to it, the main reason why I feel it’s bloody damned important to keep you guys informed as to what creationists are teaching their kiddies is because their kiddies are growing up ignorant, and then spewing that ignorance all over our public schools: [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: The Story of Wallace’s Woeful Wager

Well, you knew I couldn’t resist doing up a post on that subject, right? Of course! I looked up some of Wallace’s writings on the subject, did some digging round inside Flat Earth and the net regarding his nemeses, and wrote you up a little something. All right, it’s not little, it’s actually a bit long. Not like novella length or anything, but nice and meaty. Settle yourselves in and enjoy the tale! [Read more…]

Flat Earth: An Astonishingly Good Book About a Very Bad Idea

When I’m reading creationist textbooks, one thing I’m grateful for is that they’re not written by flat-earthers. One wonders why they’re not: after all, a literal reading of the Bible points very much to the idea that the earth is, indeed, a plane rather than a sphere. But some ideas are so difficult to sustain in the face of plain scientific evidence that even people who, in all seriousness, claim that every living thing on Earth descends from the inmates of a single wooden boat which survived  a violent global flood, can’t bring themselves to believe it. Really, did anyone post-Renaissance ever seriously believe that nonsense? [Read more…]

Baker in Winter

I’ve got a treat for ye! You’ll have to look close, though, because the bloody trees everywhere:

Image shows Mount Baker just barely visible through the branches of bare-branched deciduous trees.

Mount Baker from Lord Hill.

There are several places at Lord Hill Regional Park marked as scenic views. And they probably were, back when the park was first created. However, it’s the Pacific Northwest, and trees love to grow very quickly. In summer, this isn’t a viewpoint at all. In winter, if you’re lucky, and find just the right position, and squint a little, you’ll see Baker peeking through the bare winter branches.

Image is similar to the above, cropped to show the mountain better.

Moar Mount Baker

There are places you can go on Lord Hill where you get magnificent views, but we didn’t make it there this time. We were tuckered by the time we reached this. But there’s plenty of winter left, and there will be sunny days with bare branches, and possibly less fog. The Skykomish River valley was still full of it even in the late afternoon, and my portion of Bothell pretty much remained socked-in. The Sammamish River valley here loves to fog up, and refuses to unfog. We’d actually planned to go to Discovery Park, but a webcam in the area assured me we were out of luck there, too. But Lord Hill’s high enough to pop above the fog, so there we went, and at least we got to see a bit of Baker.

I love Lord Hill. It’s a knob of basalt, and basalt is rather rare in this part of the Puget Sound lowland. I drool over it. I also noticed quarries I hadn’t seen before, but unfortunately, one was rather densely coated in plant life, and the other was not situated in a way that my camera would deal with well in low light conditions, so no photos of those. Sometime this summer, though, B and I will do the transect across the park from the riverside quarry, and see lots of sights, and show them to you properly.

And sometime soonish, we’ll make it back to Discovery Park. I’ve heard the view of the Olympics from there right now is mega-fantastic with all the snow on them. And perhaps we’ll even see a UFD or two.

The Charlie Hebdo Massacre and Free Speech

I want everyone to consider what Giliell said:

No, folks, please, we’re usually better than that.

No, the cartoonists didn’t “have it coming”. Nobody should be murdered for publishing their shit and suggesting that this is to be expected does nothing but paint muslims as irrational beasts who just cannpt control themselves. It’s just two sides of the same coin.
But this “you don’t have the right not to be offended nanana freeze peach” is the same bullshit we’re constantly getting when discussing feminism. And people here are usually better than that.

We usually understand quite clearly that “equal opportunity offense” usually means kicking down the ladder.

I stand for the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish their cartoons, I stand against the people who murdered them. I also stand to my opinion that their cartoons were racist and misogynist. This is not incompatible. My enemy’s enemy is NOT my friend.

She summed up a lot of my thinking over these past several days.

In looking for Charlie Hebdo covers for my post on the massacre the other day, I noticed themes that I don’t support. There’s a definite taste of racism. There’s homophobia, and some things swerving awfully close to rape. I think that’s lazy, using knee-jerk cultural distastes in order to outrage people. I don’t know what the magazine itself is like – I don’t read enough French to have followed any of its issues. Quite possibly, in different times, I might have criticized them, not for publishing offensive cartoons, but for hitting down rather than up.

But no matter what tropes they employed, even if they were utterly despicable, those artists and journalists didn’t deserve to die. [Read more…]