Creationism fading in Minnesota?

The Twin Cities Creation Science Fair has been suspended due to low participation.

Considering that belief in creationism is waning, particularly among young people, I guess I’m not too surprised. The last time I attended, too, most of the exhibits were just plain student science, with a pro forma Bible verse attached as required by the organizers, and it may also be that the home schooling parents would rather not be associated with an event hosted by the Twin Cities Creation Science Association. There is an MHA Science Fair, held in February as well, and their guidelines (pdf) are entirely secular.

Maybe for a change science is outcompeting religion.

It’s probably a conspiracy by the Republican party to condition voters

I learned something heartbreaking this weekend. Despite thinking that I had raised her right, my daughter came right out and told me the horrible truth: she likes to watch football. She appreciates the strategy, she says. I tried to explain that it’s so boring, that it’s brief flurries of burly men bashing each other in between long sessions of inane “color commentary”, but she would have none of it. She’s too far gone.

And now I discover that Rebecca Watson is also a fan! What is this? A whole generation of young women corrupted?But at least she has a good argument against football.

The paper she cites is damning.

Public schools should end their football programs because of the high prevalence of concussions. Five to twenty percent of students experience at least one concussion in a season of play. Nine to twelve year old players experience an average of 240 head impacts per season; high school players average 650 head impacts per season. An initial football concussion increases the risk of a subsequent concussion three or four fold not simply for the balance of that season but for the following season as well. Catastrophic brain injuries, though rare, are far more common in high school and college players who have experienced a previous non-catastrophic concussion. The brains of children are more susceptible to long-term damage from concussion than adults. Although the frequency of concussion in football is about the same as in hockey, fifty times as many students play football than hockey; football causes far more brain injuries. The brain is an irreplaceable organ, the health of which is foundational for the ability to learn, socialize and for fully realizing life’s physical and vocational opportunities.

Time for the slippery slope game. If we’re going to end football programs for kids under 18, why are we going to support college football? That should go, too. And if we kill college football, there goes the farm that raises brain-damaged blocks of meat to batter each other in professional football. And if pro football dies, Texas will secede from the union!

And hey, this is true heresy around Minnesota, that fewer players play hockey is not an excuse to tolerate an equally brain-damaging sport. We’ll tear the country apart.

So, clearly, thousands of children with cognitive dysfunction, neuron injury, and lifelong cognitive impairment are a small price to pay.

…school football concussions are often followed by weeks of impaired school academic performance, memory disturbances, headaches and absenteeism. High school cheerleaders have impaired cognition for at least days after a single concussion even when claiming to be asymptomatic. Cognitive dysfunction or neuron injury occurs after repetitive mild to moderate athletic concussions; catastrophic injuries or instances of prolonged loss of consciousness are not required to cause such harm. Even when measured cognition returns to baseline, symptoms of concussion often persist. A season of collegiate play leads to persistent cognitive dysfunction that is roughly proportional to the magnitude of head impact. One study shows that greater later-life cognitive impairment in NFL players is correlated with exposure to competitive football before twelve years of age. Evidence about the effect of youth football is evolving but is sufficient to show that school football is likely to adversely affecting school performance in the short term and may, if the trauma is not stopped, may proceed to permanent cognitive dysfunction over the long term.

Valerie Tarico isn’t afraid to use the word “terrorism”

She knows what’s up.

On November 27, a mass shooting left three dead and nine wounded at a Planned Parenthood clinic just miles from the headquarters of the Religious Right flagship, Focus on the Family. Was the shooting exactly what conservative Christian presidential candidates and members of congress wanted? Maybe, maybe not. But it is what they asked for. Republican members of the Religious Right incited violence as predictably as if they had issued a call for Christian abortion foes to take up arms. Inciting violence this way is called stochastic terrorism:

“Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. In short, remote-control murder by lone wolf.”

In an incident of stochastic terrorism, the person who pulls the trigger gets the blame. He—I use the male pronoun deliberately because the triggerman is almost always male—may go to jail or even be killed during his act of violence. Meanwhile, the person or persons who have triggered the triggerman, in other words, the actual stochastic terrorists, often go free, protected by plausible deniability.

She’s also not afraid to name names.

We can be confident that communications teams for Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and others are scrambling at this very moment to figure out the nuances of plausible deniability—weighing how best to distance themselves from the violence that killed a police officer and two others without making their protestations of surprised dismay sound as hollow as they actually are—without actually denouncing the disgust and dehumanization of women who have abortions and those who provide them.

But of course they’re going to get away with it. They’ve got obedient masses who were trained in the churches to obey authorities.

Well, that’s all right then

The man who murdered people in a Planned Parenthood clinic was a “gentle itinerant loner”, accorded to the New York Times. He went to church, read the Bible cover to cover, and had an assortment of guns, so I guess he couldn’t have been that bad. He just wanted to be left alone.


At least they don’t say he’s crazy, the usual go-to excuse when a white man goes on a misogynistic murder spree. Progress! But they still don’t take that necessary next step of noting that someone who tries to intimidate people with violence is, of course, a terrorist. Terrorism is only a word to be deployed against Muslims, it seems.

But still, you can read between the lines. You know how after a psychopath is caught, there’s usually a litany of interviews with former neighbors saying how he was such a perfectly normal, ordinary guy? Not with Robert L. Dear.

Mr. Davis said he was unsurprised to see Mr. Dear, whom he described as “a pretty poorly adjusted guy,” emerge as the suspect in the Colorado shooting.

“I think I would have thought he was a guy who would go on a rampage,” he said. “We were very wary.”

The most chilling line to me was just a few words from Dear:

On, the writer said in December 2005: “AIDS, hurricanes, we are in the end times. Accept the LORD JESUS while you can.”

Have you ever noticed that while Americans will freak out over Muslims praying on an airplane, we think nothing of the huge army of death-cultists in our midst, people who are certain the world is going to end soon (and welcome its destruction!) and who want to steer our representatives and policy towards Armageddon? No big deal. A bunch of smiling used car salesmen live among us, own whole television networks, serve in congress, and they grin and assure us that our death is imminent and well-deserved, and we shrug and ignore them until one snaps and opens fire with his constitutionally protected semi-automatic rifle.

It’s so reassuring to know that the New York Times will report our demise in its blandly neutral tone, as long as the shooter is good white Christian.

Louise Mensch gets smacked down again

According to Louise Mensch, the Korea Federation of Women’s Science and Technology (KOFWST), the organization that hosted Tim Hunt’s now notorious speech at a luncheon, the Korean scientists at the event were not at all offended by his jokes about same-sex labs and women crying and falling in love all the time. Unfortunately for her, the Menschian deluge of excuses hand now been strongly repudiated by the federation. They have posted a statement publicly and also directly addressed to Mensch a request that she read it.

In light of this, KOFWST issues a warning about the ongoing serious distortion of facts by foreign commentators, suggesting that KOFWST has lied, or that KOFWST’s request to Sir Hunt was influenced by foreign journalists. Such allegations ignore undeniable facts and evidence and demonstrate a lack of regard for KOFWST’s autonomy and integrity.

They clearly don’t know Mensch at all. This is going to prompt a whole new series of conspiracy theories: obviously, the Anti-Tim-Hunt-Syndicate has bought out all of Korean science just to get Louise Mensch. And Tim Hunt, that goes without saying.

No Darwin for Turkey

In 2009, Turkey censored the cover of a science magazine because it portrayed Darwin.

TÜBITAK [the Turkish science agency] vice-president Ömer Cebeci, who sits on the magazine’s editorial board, pulled the plug on Darwin. He denied censorship, charging that Atakuman had secretly changed an issue intended to cover global warming. Not true, says Atakuman, who says Cebeci told her that the Darwin cover was a “provocation” at a time of imminent local elections. One editorial-board member of Bilim ve Teknik has resigned in protest at what he, at least, considers censorship.

This row has brought into focus two issues that plague Turkish science. One is political interference in the scientific civil service; the other is high levels of public support for creationism.

It happened again in 2011, when, under the guise of filtering porn, the government blocked all mention of Darwin or evolution on the internet.

So this is old news, but Turkey has done it again: they’ve blocked the sale of books about evolution.

The Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) has put a stop to the publication and sale of all books in its archives that support the theory of evolution, daily Radikal has reported.

The evolutionist books, previously available through TÜBİTAK’s Popular Science Publications’ List, will no longer be provided by the council.

The books have long been listed as “out of stock” on TÜBİTAK’s website, but their further publication is now slated to be stopped permanently.

The poor citizens of Turkey. First they were lied to by Christians about evolution — proselytizers have been streaming into the country for at least 50 years, searching for Noah’s Ark, and leaving a trail of ignorance behind them. I suspect they’re currently very tense about the situation with Russia, so Darwin is a convenient distraction that will have a lot of popular support.

Atheists should not condemn any culture

We atheists don’t need better leaders; we need leaders who are willing to step back and stop dominating the conversation, and dominating badly. Once again, Richard Dawkins has bungled the big conversation we ought to be having. Once again, he seems obsessed with a 15 year old kid who made a clock.

Don’t call him “clock boy” since he never made a clock. Hoax Boy, having hoaxed his way into the White House, now wants $15M in addition!

[Read more…]

A fabulous feast

Like many of you, we just finished a fine vegan meal assembled by my daughter, Skatje. Except most of you didn’t have the vegan part. And really, no one else had my daughter cooking for them. So we just have the meal part in common, but that’s enough, right?


I tried to start up that other fine Thanksgiving tradition, the fight over politics or religion at the dinner table, but was completely stymied by the fact that my entire family agrees on everything. No grace, and ugh Trump ick talk about anything else OK we hate him but this pumpkin pie is delicious.

I thought we’d avoid that other Thanksgiving tradition of the football game in the background, but for some reason, Skatje has gotten into handegg and has told me we must watch Green Bay vs. Chicago tonight. So that’s ahead of us.