Apr 18 2014

Teaching confidence rather than knowledge

Dunning-Krueger strikes again! A survey of Oklahoma students showed that their high school biology course caused a net reduction in their knowledge of evolution.

The study, conducted by Tony Yates and Edmund Marek, tested biology teachers and students in 32 Oklahoma public high schools via a survey the pair called “the Biological Evolution Literacy Survey.” The survey was administered to the teachers first, to get a benchmark of their grasp of evolutionary theory. The survey was then administered twice to the students — once before they took the required Biology I course, and once after they had completed it.

Yates and Marek found that prior to instruction, students possessed 4,812 misconceptions about evolutionary theory; after they completed the Biology I course, they possessed 5,072. Of the 475 students surveyed, only 216 decreased the number of misconceptions they believed, as opposed to 259 who had more of them when they finished the course than before they took it.

The scary part is that the students were more confident of their knowledge, despite being even more muddled than when they started.

How could this be? One contributor:

This may be because “about one-fourth of Oklahoma public school life-science teachers place moderate or strong emphasis on creationism.” In fact, two students scored higher initially on the Biological Evolution Literacy Survey than their respective teachers.

We clearly need to do a better job teaching the teachers.

Apr 18 2014

Friday Cephalopod: Sparkle magic!

Apr 18 2014

That doesn’t fit my definition of ‘decent’

A few years ago, a Canadian teenager, Amanda Todd, killed herself after being harassed and extorted online. A man used flattery to get her to flash her breasts…and then used the photo he took to demand more, backed up by incessant threats online, revealing the photo to Todd’s friends, and promising to make her life hell forever. In at least one bit of justice, though, the Dutch police have now tracked down and charged the 35 year old man who preyed on teenagers worldwide through the internet. Do watch the video; the anger rush you’ll feel when you hear the jerk’s lawyer say that his client is “a decent man and a nice man” will make it worth it.

I pointed out back then that some members of the atheist community have a vile lack of empathy. I will mention it again. Miri rages against the online idiots who insist that internet activity can’t really do psychological harm — they diagnose freely over the internet, and claim that you can’t possibly develop stress disorders from the bullying tactics of the usual slymey suspects — Miri tears that argument up with basic scientific facts from the field of psychology (remember the days when skeptics at least paid lip service to science?)

I’m just going to point to Amanda Todd. Her death wasn’t virtual.

I’m also baffled by the reasoning: if it’s not ‘real’, if the only activities that can have a direct effect on someone’s sense of well-being are face-to-face, a punch in the nose, a bomb going off…then what the hell are you doing harassing people on the internet in the first place? Smart people who find themselves doing things over and over that they sincerely believe don’t work will stop doing them. I am compelled to believe that either they’re very stupid, or they are lying when they claim that their activities can’t possibly have an effect. Or both.

Apr 18 2014

Pay attention

“I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.”

Apr 17 2014

More perks of the tenure track

Now Todd Starnes has republished his hit piece on Town Hall — he seems to be dumping it on lower and lower levels of the self-devouring far right internet. Although, I do have to say that the comments are becoming even more entertaining.

Yes, there are conservative students at Morris. And Myers thinks he should be entitled to hunt them down and kill them. Talk about a sanctimonious jerk.

I want to hunt conservative students? Do I need to get a license, is there a specific season, and is there a bag limit?

Alas, once again, we have a rabid commenter who didn’t bother to read my article. Why should he, when Todd Starnes has told him what’s in it?

He’s a pompous fool, a bully, a merciless self-promoter, and a lousy excuse for a human being. He’s also a state employee who should be terminated immediately and barred from further public. . .um. . .service. Indeed, he should’ve been fired six years ago, when, in another act of scientific inquiry, he desecrated the Eucharist. But as an associate professor, he’s tenured, and absolutely no one would touch him if he strolled into the North Star offices, shot the editor between the eyes, and posted the video on YouTube.

I CAN DO THAT? When I get home, I’m going to have to check my employment contract — I don’t remember seeing that in there. Maybe it’s in the fine print.

Never let it be said that the fever swamp of the right wing has any connection with reality at all.

Apr 17 2014

Connect the dots

Start here. Andrew Breibart attended a white nationalist conference in 2006, with panels by Jared Taylor and John Derbyshire.

He was attending with his protege, James O’Keefe.

O’Keefe has acquired some notoriety for dishonest stunts in the name of far right wingnuttiness. Among them was the Landrieu break-in.

According to reports, on January 25, 2010, O’Keefe and his friends Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan visited the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu. Basel and Flanagan disguised themselves as repairmen, and attempted to access the office’s telephone system by saying there was something wrong with the phone lines. O’Keefe was in the office and videotaped the some of the events with his cell phone camera. Office workers smelled a rat and called the authorities. The three of them were arrested, along with a fourth man Stan Dai, and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.


Notice the guy on the right? That’s Joe Basel. It’s a bit embarrassing, but he attended UMM a few years ago — we did not get along. I do find it amusing that one of his complaints was that the university ought to remove all reference to me from its website, because I offended him. So if O’Keefe was Breitbart’s protege, Basel was O’Keefe’s — I guess he’s kind of a third rate Breibart imitator, which is not something to be proud of.

Basel previously was the editor (or some such role) at the Counterweight, the conservative alternative newspaper here at Morris a few years ago. He is now the CEO of something called the American Phoenix Foundation, which is yet another wingnut ‘thinktank’ with a mission.

The mission of the American Phoenix Foundation is to protect the American Republic through ethical, innovative, and technologically driven journalism.

A descendant of Breitbart/O’Keefe/Basel is protecting ethical journalism? OK. I’m laughing, but OK.

Thankfully, Basel is now gone from UMM, and the Counterweight is defunct. Unfortunately, its successor is that rather nasty racist rag, The North Star. It’s editor, John Geiger, was named a Phoenix Fellow by the foundation last year.

Breitbart → O’Keefe → Basel → Geiger, all with a nice infusion of racism throughout. It’s all kind of ugly and incestuous, isn’t it?

Apr 17 2014

Into the heart of Morridor

It’s just been a fun day — we’re having a dreadful nasty snowstorm (it’s April! It’s Minnesota!), so we had to drive in last night, lest we get snowed in and to remove any temptation to rush, and after a harrowing 5 hour drive I’ve been stashed in a motel. Next up is a quick hop to the airport, and then…Salt Lake City!

Maybe I’ll convert. <snort>

Apr 17 2014

College football, entitled athletes, and rape

A young woman is raped after a night drinking at a bar, tearfully reports it to the police the next day, and then this happens.

The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.

The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.

Jameis Winston was the star quarterback at Florida State. That makes him a very important person.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of football to Florida State and its hometown. In Tallahassee, rooting for the Seminoles is a matter of identity and economy. The 2013 championship season generated millions of dollars for the athletic department and city businesses, and favorable publicity beyond measure.

Patricia A. Carroll, a lawyer for Mr. Winston’s accuser, said the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, told her that because Tallahassee was a big football town, her client would be “raked over the coals” if she pursued the case.

Apparently, part of the recruiting package at Florida State is rape privileges.

Isn’t it about time we ended the corrupting influence of high end college sports?

Apr 16 2014

I drink your tears!

The tasty sweet tears of rage and frustration. Oh, I am so enjoying the current flood of email into my in-box. It’s not fair to keep it to myself, so I thought I’d share a sample.

Young Republicans

Sad little man, calling kids names . . . There is so much more hate and intolerance on the left it simply isn’t funny.

Look below.


Professor Myers,

Have you forgotten that it’s your job to help students learn how to think, and not to bias them to think only like you? Also your demonization of those who don’t share your political views, as shown by the words you choose to describe them (“assholes”), reflects poorly on your education. Scientists never justify their work via fallacious Argumentum ad hominem, which is usually based on emotion, not on facts.

The only reason someone wants to destroy or suppress written information that doesn’t echo their views is that they don’t have any facts to refute it. If you strongly believe in your political views, why don’t you participate in moderated debates and let the students decide for themselves?

You haven’t read the North Star, have you? I’m not the only one shocked at the overt racism in it.

Scientists also do not deny facts clearly in evidence. The students behind the racist rag are young assholes. Are we seriously supposed to debate whether black people are discriminated against? Really?

yes to ends justifies the means

Those on the left these days clearly believe the “ends justifies the means” for liberals everywhere think nothing of physically attacking and physically destroying anyone and any idea they “think” is wrong. Free speech was once an ideal of those on the left – no longer.

It is. But you do understand that free speech has limits, right? Or why are you upset with me exercising my free speech…which is all I’ve done?

Tolerance and diversity.

You sir are a hypocrite. You call conservatives assholes. And conservative youngsters assholes in training. You also compared the north star paper to KKK And yet you have the hypocrisy to say ” treat their scattered papers as hate-filled trash and dispose of it appropriately. ” you are an asshole, communist who preaches hate. You liberals assholes preach tolerance and diversity, and yet you have none for anyone who disagrees with your opinion. You might not be criminally liable for the theft of the North Star papers but you sure as hell are personally responsible. You are not only a pathetic pitiful excuse for a human being but also a scum sucking, hate preaching hypocrite. How many young men and women have you brainwashed by preaching hate and intolerance? Haters like you should not be allowed anywhere near a classroom. People like you have destroyed this country. After listening to you insult people with differing opinions and attacking freedom of speech it’s obvious you would be much happier in a country like North Korea. I can only pray that the university of Minnesota Morris shits cans you out of your cushy little job in academia. And then you would actually have to work for a living. Until such a blessing to humanity occurs you need to shut your fucking mouth until you learn tolerance for other people.

Shut up until you learn to tolerate speech you disagree with! I think we’re done here.

You are a BITCH!

hey you little man…grow up! what a sad excuse for a human you are…you and OBAMA are both pieces of shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Did I just get compared to the president of the United States?

I looked up your picture – that’s what an intolerant bigot looks like

Typical of your ideology – free speech only for those who comply with the bigots.

Wait…the conservatives you’re defending are white racists, and I’m the bigot? OK.


Just read a story about how you view conservatives as ‘ass-holes’ and that you think that people should not read the campus conservative newspaper at your school.

Nice job being tolerance of people with opposing points of view from your own. Good example to set as an educator.

I guess you are just another one of those liberals who is for free speech as long as it agrees with your views.
And if teaching does not work out for you maybe you might try a different line of work – IRS or BLM agent might be perfect choices for you.

Conservative viewpoints: fine. I might disagree with them, but I agree that they should be allowed to be expressed. Why are you so freely associating “conservative” and “racist”?

Liberals and their hypocrisy

Mr. Meyers:

I saw your comments online regarding conservatives, republicans and Fox News, etc….

You do have a right to say what you think, but to call conservatives “uneducated”, when you must resort to profanities when describing them, shows who lacks an educated mind.

I find it alarming how liberals like yourself feel they have the right to say and do whatever is necessary to advance their views, but won’t tolerate someone that disagrees with them.

Again, another person who hasn’t read the North Star. I’d really be interested to hear from somebody who had, who still wants to claim it as a voice for conservatives.


U are on the wrong side of history and life. U must Undo the terrible wrong committed when you were born. U must for the sake of justice abort yourself immediately for Barack’s glory. Be a hero, do not delay.

That doesn’t even make sense.

Piece of shit

That’s all he had. A subject line, and then he was too intellectually exhausted to continue.


You call conservatives assholes but you are the one filled with hate.

I didn’t use Trayvon Martin’s dead face as a prop in a crusade against racial diversity.

Being an Alumni of the U of M…

I am 100% offended by your actions against the Morris North Star paper!!!

I read about it initially from this link:


Your criticism of the paper apparently is that it was mocking minority students…Well, you sir went way beyond mocking!!!

Some day I wish folks like you would look in the mirror…I can dream, right?

I won’t return your hate speech with more hate speech (so I won’t call you names), but with a prayer that you can find it in yourself to rise se to a level equal to your education.

I went beyond mocking? The response to that paper has been universal: it is deplorable.


So, you think you’re pretty smart!? From the things I’ve read, it sounds like you’re well on your way to setting your pompous liberal ass out for a good kicking. Do a favor for the rest of us in the real sciences – keep your frickin’, misguided political opinions to yourself!

Will you do the same?



There’s always one who loves his capslock key.

Why don’t you move to a country that suits your totalitarian ideological worldview?

It’s shameful that you and your pathetic so-called ‘university’ share more in common with Herbert Marcuse and Gramsci than with the intellectual tradition of western liberalism. It’s shameful that your opinion of democracy and liberty is virtually indistinguishable from the perfidious view of Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan. What you have in common with the aforementioned is an illiberal, intolerant, and tyrannical ideology advanced, in Machiavellian and Orwellian fashion, under the label of democracy and liberalism. Once liberalism has served its purpose, facilitating “the long march,” the left’s true ideological bent towards totalitarianism is revealed. And you are quite the exemplar, perched in one of the institutions Gramsci targeted, a western university, preaching a jihad against free speech and intellectual freedom, the very vehicles that delivered you and your ilk to a position of influence in society.

But just think that there are countries fully committed to your worldview. You could move to Cuba, Red China, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia, and Belarus, to name a few. You could trash all manner of authentic, classical western liberal literature and, instead of being taunted, you could be praised and revered by your fellow travelers on the “shining path.” Imagine yourself in the middle of a frenzied crowd of kindred “souls” (yes, we know your religion is atheism) in some Middle East anti-western Shangri-La burning an American flag and a cheap Chinese reproduction of the U.S. Constitution. A true left-wing oasis. No dissent. Lot’s of stupid and pliant drones ready to receive your illiberal instruction and light up the night sky with huge bonfires of western literature. Come to think of it, it’s a lot like the University of Minnesota-Morris.

There’s also always the pretentious one, who drags out obscure figures from history and calls atheism a religion and while complaining about defending free speech, wants me to move to North Korea.

A different view point

Has any conservative ever provided a view point that was contrary to yours yet remained valid in your eyes? If yes, how far off was it? If no, what made yours the most valid? Must students always agree with your viewpoint or do you encourage them to do the research, and reach their own conclusion?

Libel and dead black boys are not points to be argued.

I’m sure there’ll be more. It’s not very interesting, though: they clearly haven’t read either what I wrote, or what the North Star wrote, and are just parroting the twists Fox News made…which actually justifies my comments about Fox News.

Apr 16 2014

“Coming Out Atheist” is coming out now

Greta Christina’s new book, “Coming Out Atheist”, is now available. Get yourself a copy!

I’m hoping there will be some at the American Atheists convention this weekend in Salt Lake City. I’ll be speaking there, Greta will be speaking there (as will Sikivu, Matt, and Maryam) so I should be able to track one down, right? And get it signed?

And everyone else is going too, I presume? I’ll see you all in Salt Lake City, I arrive tomorrow afternoon!

(Warning: I’m doing one of my science talks. Don’t get too bored.)

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