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.)

Apr 16 2014

As promised, Fox News is whining about me

I told you some guy called me for an interview about the horrible crime committed on the UMM campus: the presumed ‘theft’ of some free newspapers from a conservative organization. They say I now advocate censorship of conservative student newspaper, which is a fine twist on the affair.

Their description of the newspaper was particularly enlightening about Fox dishonesty.

That particular edition included a satire on affirmative action. The professor said the paper was mocking minority students.

Not quite accurate. I pointed out that their mockery crossed a rather nasty line; it had gone beyond mere ‘satire’ into the realm of advocating racism. It included direct accusations that faculty and administrators were racist because they endorsed affirmative action and were committed to correcting historical injustices. And this was the final straw for me, that it included:

…a crime scene photo of Trayvon Martin’s dead face, with the caption Trayvon Martin, victim of racism and fascism, and what does [administrator] have to say about it? Nothing. Not a single thing.

And with that, they have crossed a line. Free speech is one thing, making light of murder and claiming that our chancellor of student affairs excuses it is another. Using dead black boys to “satirize” equality is contemptible. I would advocate the disposal of their flyers if the Ku Klux Klan started papering our campus, and likewise, the North Star has worn out its welcome and must go. Treat their scattered papers as hate-filled trash and dispose of it appropriately.

If Todd Starnes thinks old-fashioned race-baiting, libel against faculty and staff, flaunting the face of murdered black people to intimidate and horrify students, and lying about crimes is merely an implicit part of the conservative agenda, then yes, I advocate kicking such behavior off campus altogether. But then, I guess that’s what conservativism has become nowadays.

We had an incident a while back in which racist signs were posted in one of the dorms; there was no question but that they were disposed of and an effort made to discover who was responsible. The North Star newspaper is simply the fancier version of those crudities, and should be removed from campus in the same way; and we already, in this case, know who was responsible.

Two other points: I can find old copies of the North Star in the science building hallways, still — copies from several months ago. The University Register, which is the official campus paper, gets routinely cleaned up each week — I don’t think I’d be able to find a copy of last week’s paper anywhere. I question whether this ‘theft’ even occurred, and wonder whether this is just a publicity stunt for self-martyred Breitbart wanna-bes; I also wonder whether their threats are inhibiting people from doing standard clean up around campus.

Finally, just a hint to the North Star: if you have to slap a great big warning on every issue and just about every page that your newspaper may contain satire, you aren’t doing satire right.

Apr 15 2014

I’ve never crashed an Estonian poll before

Kas toetate sooneutraalset kooseluseadust?

Jah 51.58%
Ei 47.3%
Puudub arvamus 1.12%

You know what to do.

(Oh, you want a hint? “Do you support gender-neutral cohabitation law?” Jah, yes; Ei, No: Puudub arvamus, no opinion. You’ll have to figure out your opinion on your own. Hääleta!)

Apr 15 2014

Here’s something else oppressing Ken Ham

He hates Tiktaalik. He hates it so much he even has a hard time spelling its name correctly.

Tikaalik is again being popularized through the new PBS series "Your Inner Fish.” it’s really a desperate con job on the part of evolutionists who can’t defend their evolutionary fictional story.

He actually surprises me a little bit: one of his arguments that it can’t possibly be a transitional form is that it is only a fossil. That’s one I hadn’t heard before. So extinct species can’t be evidence for evolution anymore, because only living species count?

Because it belongs to the group of lobe finned fishes (like Coelacanth /lung fish), and is only found as a fossil, the secularists force their evolutionary worldview onto this fossil in their desperate need to try to convince the world they have found a transitional form (when in reality such transitional forms should be abundant both fossilized and living).

I have heard creationists tell me, though, that extant forms can’t be ancestral (obviously), therefore living examples of intermediate forms can’t be used as evidence for evolution, either. That leads to perfect, irrefutable arguments for creationists.

Evilutionist: “The shared expression of Sonic Hedgehog and it’s homologous role in limb development in the limbs of different forms is evidence of common desc…”

Creationist: Doesn’t count. It’s alive. Are you trying to pretend that modern limbs are ancestral forms? God clearly created it that way.

Evilutionist: “OK, here’s Tiktaalik with limbs that exhibit a bony core of homologous…”

Creationist: Doesn’t count. It’s dead. Transitional forms have to be living creatures.

Evilutionist: <stunned into silence by the stupidity>

Seriously, reading anything by Ken Ham is discombobulating.

They claim that Tiktaalik is the link between fish and “terrestrial tetrapods”—four legged animals that walk on land. Tiktaalik’s discoverer Neil Shubin even calls his big fish a “fishapod” to emphasize his belief that it is a transitional form. (Most people hearing about Tiktaalik even think it had limbs, but it didn’t—it just had fins, like fish do. Having a special kind of fins with bones in them—as lobe-finned fish do—did not mean they were legs or limbs.)

Having a special kind of fins with bones in them…but, but, but — that’s what makes them transitional. They have a combination of characteristics of the fins of fish and the limbs of tetrapods, being neither quite one of the other. Once again, we enter the realm of Catch-22.


Evilutionist: “Here’s the Tiktaalik limb. It’s got these internal bones, unlike a fish fin, that are similar in organization to our limb bones…”

Creationist: Then it’s a land animal. Case closed.

Evilutionist: “But it wasn’t strong enough or anatomically capable of actually walking on land, and it’s got traces of membranous fins…”

Creationist: Then it’s a fish. Case closed. It’s got to be one or the other, because transitional forms don’t exist, therefore I say it’s all fish.

Evilutionist: <wondering why she is wasting time with this idiot>

It wouldn’t be a Ken Ham rationalization if it didn’t drag out his usual claim that both the evilutionist and the creationist are using the same data, and only differ in the worldview they use to interpret it.

All this talk about Tiktaalik is also a reminder that the battle is not ultimately about evidence–Liz Mitchell and the evolutionists are looking at the same fossil. It’s not the fossil that’s different–it’s the worldview one has (and the starting point it is built from–God’s Word or man’s word) the determines how one interprets this fossil in regard to the past. But looking at the fossil, one can see it won’t directly fit into an evolutionary worldview–but it does fit directly into a worldview based on the Bible, as it is a particular type of fish for which we have similar types of living examples (e.g. Coelacanth ).

But we aren’t using the same data. The scientist is using the totality of the data, looking at both similarities and differences, to try and account for its place in history and biology. The creationist, as Ham has just clearly demonstrated, handwaves away all the unique characters of the fossil to claim it’s just like a coelacanth or a lungfish — he is explicitly ignoring any datum that contradicts his presupposition that it must be just another fish.

And then to take it that extra step further, and argue that his naive vision of what Tiktaalik was, stripped of all of its significant and unique characters, is somehow evidence for creationism that contradicts its clear evolutionary niche…

Evilutionist: “Holy crap…you’re an idiot, Creationist. Go away.”

Apr 15 2014

Ken Ham gets his wish

Poor ol’ Ken has been feeling oppressed lately — there was that Noah movie (unbiblical!) and this Cosmos series (godless!), and it was so unfair. Where was the Cosmos show that gave equal time to the one true Biblical story of the universe?

He gets his wish at last. Here it is, Creationist Cosmos.

I hope he’s satisfied now.

Apr 15 2014

Science conspires to make me feel really old now

Virginia Hughes tells us about techniques to look inside the zebrafish brain. The gang at HHMI are using two photon imaging and clever image analysis to get very clear, sharp images of fluorescent neurons.

Oy, that’s pretty. This old codger did some of that stuff, many years ago, but you know what we had to do? Point injections of tracer dyes, followed by serial sectioning and reconstruction. Early on we use injections of horseradish peroxidase into, for instance, the muscle, so that neurons in transit through the lesion site would pick up the enzyme…and then we’d have to fix and process the animals with a series of reagents to visualize the stuff. Then you’d have to section the animal — I think I spent most of my graduate years hunched over either a vibratome or an ultramicrotome. This technique was hit-or-miss, so you’d only get a subset of neurons labeled, and you’d have to do it over and over hundreds or thousands of times to get a good sampling. Later we started using lineage tracer dyes like rhodamine dextran, and later still lipophilic dyes like Di-I, to get fluorescent images that allowed us to skip the tedium of sectioning, but it was still haphazard labeling. If you tried to label everything, you got a glowing blob with no ability to sort out the fibers and cells.

And even then, we used early generation intensified cameras to pick it up! Imagine those grainy images from the night-vision cameras CNN would use during the Gulf War, all stored on VHS tapes. That’s what we had. None of these lasers and all digital storage at high resolution, and computers that automatically optically scan through to produce a 3D image.

It’s like seeing a few years of your work reproduced in an afternoon by some cocky young whippersnapper with a fancy machine, all a bit John Henry.

Being really close to the work sometimes helps, though. Hughes recites a number, that there are 300,000 neurons in the zebrafish brain. I did some of that work, too — I did counts of cells in the spinal cord, which involved doing many sections and counting and measuring cells in each, to get an estimate of average cell volume, and then measuring the dimensions of the organ in question, so you could calculate the number of cells present. I did the spinal cord measurements: there were about 100,000 cells in there. That number is an overestimate of the number of neurons, though, because I know that many of the cells I was counting were neuroblasts and glia and other oddments, and we didn’t have a robust way of distinguishing neuronal elements from others.

Give me a two-photon scope, a big computer, and a collection of molecular probes for various cell types, though, and I’d be happy to re-analyze that data. It would probably take a few days. OK, and a few months of learning how to use the complicated new toys.

Apr 15 2014

Know any philatelic homophobes?

You can blow their minds now. The US has released a commemorative stamp honoring Harvey Milk, which is a great step forward.

But we’ve been totally eclipsed by Finland, which has just created Tom of Finland stamps.

I have to say, though, that Tom of Finland makes me vaguely uncomfortable — not because of the open homosexuality, but because his drawings of men are so objectifying and sexually idealized, and I know that I can not, have not, do not, and never will look anything like them. They are the masculinized version of the airbrushed/photoshopped women’s magazine cover, and I can see how if these kinds of men were as ubiquitous as the plasticized-sexified images of women in advertising, I might feel a bit intimidated.

Apr 15 2014

What will you do with a biology Ph.D.?

This chart of the distribution of the biology workforce is a bit complicated, but somehow dismaying and reassuring at the same time.

As it points out, over half of all biology grad students hope for that tenure-track research position, but only a small fraction will get it. That’s the depressing part. But at the same time, it shows all the alternative career paths: getting a biology Ph.D. does not doom you to becoming a drunken hobo, and not getting a tenure-track position is not a mark of failure.

It’s also a little misleading. “Current non-tenure track academic positions” ought to be relabeled “Serfdom”.

Apr 15 2014

That’s a terrible chart

I wish I’d had this a few weeks ago, when I was telling students how not to present their data. This is a chart illustrating the effects of stand-your-ground-laws on murder in Florida.


I glanced at that and thought, “Whoa, surprise: the stand-your-ground-laws had a pretty dramatic effect in reducing murder. I did not expect that at all.”

And then I was a bit disappointed: “But they really should have set the Y axis at zero. It’s a bit misleading and magnifies the apparent effect, otherwise.”

And then I did a double-take: “They inverted the freaking Y axis!”

That’s right. It doesn’t show a decline, it shows a dramatic spike in murder after the law was passed. The text in the article actually says that clearly, but the chart was actively selling the opposite message. They’ve since added a corrected chart that actually makes the point clearly, instead of obscuring it.


I took away two points. It’s really easy to lie with graphics, and shouldn’t any evidence-based legal system recognize the consequences of passing a bad law and correct itself?

More from a data visualization expert.

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