Jack Chick is dead


There will be no rejoicing at his death, because his poison and lies and ignorance live on. I just really can’t care much — it doesn’t help that I just got home after a 13 hour day — and I think he’s just been a malignant goofball with a team of believers doing the work for him, and the absence of one foolish man won’t make a lick of difference.

He has ceased to exist and won’t even know that he’s not going to meet a faceless glowing giant on a throne, or a horned Jewish caricature with a pitchfork. He’s just dead meat.

Further travels, to Cincinnati & beyond!

I’m planning to attend the 2017 Midwest Zebrafish Meeting in mid-June, which is, unfortunately, being held in Cincinnati. It’s only unfortunate because I’ll be tempted to make a side-trip to…Ken Ham’s goddamn Ark Park. There’s an excellent overview by Dan Phelps of what I can expect to see. I’ll also leave $40 poorer.


Just looking at that makes my brain poorer.

I am sadly lacking in Atlantean or alien ancestors

Did you know that PEOPLE WITH RH NEGATIVE BLOOD MAY BE DESCENDENTS OF EXTRATERRESTRIALS OR ATLANTEANS? I learned it on a site called Spirit Science, so it must be true. And their logic is impeccable: the Rh- phenotype is rarer than the Rh+ phenotype, therefore it must be specialer, therefore it must have been inserted into the genome by aliens, and implicitly those aliens love sticking things in people, so QED.

There are also some curious assertions.

So, if all mankind evolved from the same ancestor, their blood should be compatible. Do you get what I’m saying? If we had all evolved from the same ancestor, we would all have the same blood.

Continuing with that logic, if we had all evolved from the same ancestor, we would all have the same hair. I have thin, straight, weakly pigmented hair, unlike the majority of humans on this planet, therefore I must be an Atlantean. My beard has been slowly turning grey over the last 20 years, which my wife can use in the divorce proceedings as proof of my ongoing affair with an alien.

Where does this person think all human diversity comes from? Somehow the species has this mad jumble of varying alleles; one hypothesis would be that each difference is the product of a recent coupling between a human and a pure breeding, cross fertile creature from another planet, but it seems to me more likely (and readily demonstrated) that spontaneous mutations within individuals within our species produces variation. Evolution does not predict genetic uniformity.

The author has more “evidence”, though.

We don’t! RH Positive blood can be traced back to the Rhesus monkey and all other primates, but RH negative blood CANNOT. In fact, it cannot be traced anywhere else in nature.

This is simply not true. The author doesn’t understand Rh genetics.

We bear two closely linked, closely related genes, RHD and RHCE. The RHD gene produces the protein antigen D. RHCE has four common alleles that produce the antigens ce, cE, Ce, and CE. Individuals with Rh- blood are lacking the products of the RHD gene.

Get it? Rh- is caused by the absence of a specific antigen on blood cells. It doesn’t even make sense to say that it’s some kind of evidence for your alien hypothesis that Rh factor D isn’t present in some people, and it isn’t present in monkeys. It isn’t present in frogs, either, or in mushrooms or in paramecia. You’d also have to argue that these alien interbreedings weren’t adding a magic Rh factor, they were removing one.

Also, of course the Rh factor can be found elsewhere in nature. It’s present in all primates, as far as I know. Humans carry the results of a gene duplication event — our RHD and RHCE genes are copies of one another, about 92% identical in their coding sequence, and this duplication occurred sometime before the last common ancestor of humans, gorillas, and chimpanzees. I guess the star-man must have showed up about 10 million years ago to screw a monkey, and the shock was so great it duplicated a gene it already had.

It’s just nonsense and errors through and through, but let’s skip even more crap and go straight to the important stuff: the magical properties of being Rh-.

RH Negatives also tend to have strange characteristics about themselves that are uncommon to most other people in society, such as:

  • A feeling of not belonging
  • Truth seekers
  • Sense of a “Mission” in life
  • Empathy & Compassion for Mankind
  • An extra rib or vertebra
  • Higher than average IQ
  • ESP Ability
  • Love of Space & Science
  • More sensitive vision & other senses.
  • Increased of psychic/intuitive abilities
  • Lower body temperature
  • Higher blood pressure (some say lower)
  • Predominantly blue, green, or Hazel eyes
  • Red or reddish tint to hair color
  • Increased sensitivity to heat & sunlight
  • Unexplained Scars
  • Empathetic Illnesses
  • Ability to disrupt electrical devices
  • Experience strange unexplained phenomenon
  • Psychic Dreams
  • Prone to Alien Abductions
  • Cannot be cloned

Well now I’m curious. I have O+ blood, the most common and mundane type, which explains why I’m so easily cloned and why my laptop seems to be working just fine, but it also means I’m missing out on all these supranormal abilities. I’d like to hear from my Rh- readers. So tell me: do you have higher or lower blood pressure? Are your eyes a color other than brown? Are you responsible for the disruptions of world wide web services that occurred yesterday?

I suppose you boring Rh+ positive people could chime in with stories about how you hate the truth and lack ESP and despise science and have a low IQ and have a blood pressure that’s neither higher nor lower (OMG, that’s exactly describing me!), and maybe you’ve had the experience of an alien showing up in your bedroom late at night and saying, “Oooh, ick, not that one.”

Open thread, except every statement must be somehow related to your blood type.

DANGER DANGER DANGER — 2500 milliHovinds of stupidity ahead


You know you’ve got a live one when a creationist post begins with The Most Abused Quote in Creationism:

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. – Charles Darwin

They never bother to quote the pages and pages that follow in which Darwin explains how that “seems” is misleading, because here are all the intermediates and mechanisms that are extant in nature right now. Trust me on this: when a creationist starts that way, you can just stop reading.

But I kept going anyway. I’ve got years of experience dealing with toxic levels of stupid. But here, even I was challenged. It was a bit like stumbling across Chernobyl’s “Elephant’s Foot”. It’s a post titled X-Men and the Theory of Evolution, and yes, it actually tries to use comic book science to argue against the theory of evolution.

You see, if evolution were actually true, we’d all evolve into Wolverine because, somehow, mutations are supposed to be able to defy entropy.

The entire living organic system is in a constant fight for survival. Unfortunately, there is nothing in its intrinsic composition powerful enough that would enable it to suppress the inevitable and fateful pull toward its own dissolution or death.

Otherwise, it would divert all of its energy into overcoming said fate by “evolving” out of it, exactly like X-Men’s Wolverine manages to do. Why? Because the survival instinct is the most dominant one. Said evolving characteristic – if it were possible – would in turn be uniformly present in all of creation, and entropy would be nothing but a bad memory.

Then we get a dictionary definition of evolution, which is not how scientists use the term at all, and another argumentum ad comicbook.

If according to evolution, mankind is the end result of animals evolving into a better species – hence the word evolution which Webster defines as “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state” – how come many of the X-Men, like Wolverine, devolve into beasts?

Because…comic book? It’s fiction, and fiction that is nonsensically unscientific at that?

I had to just stop, because I left my lead-lined suit at home. These were lethal levels of idiocy. I got a brief glimpse of a diagram that’s somehow supposed to show life would have billions of…lines?…(I don’t understand) if evolution were true, and that everything in nature is supposed to go in cycles, and since evolution isn’t cyclic, it must be false, and then I had to flee. I’m trying to detoxify myself with massive coffee doses right now. It’s not helping.

Maybe I need to switch to alcohol. It’s Friday, it would make my last class of the day entertaining, anyway.

Terrifying tales of anti-medical delusions

An anti-vaccination site recently polled its members about the health of their unvaccinated children, and Orac has extracted some of their comments. They are horrifyingly ignorant. Most of them are talking about how much healthier their kids are than all of their vaccinated peers, which is nonsense. It doesn’t even work as a poll question. If you didn’t vaccinate, and your kids started having terrible infectious diseases compared to their vaccinated school kids, wouldn’t your first rational response to get them medical help to prevent the problem, and stop being anti-vax? There has been no wave of distinctive child deaths among anti-vax children because they’re taking advantage of herd immunity. I also know enough psychology to realize that if these people did have an afflicted child, and they remained committed to their anti-medicine ideology, they’d be even more frantically rationalizing their beliefs.

Online polls. When will people learn?

(By the way, we had three kids, all healthy, no particularly debilitating diseases, and no chronic conditions. They were vaccinated. Therefore, vaccines are totally safe! No, that’s not how the evaluation of medical procedures work.)

Take a look at the comments Orac has pulled out, though. They are amazingly goofy! And dangerous. Here’s just one that leapt out at me.

1 out of 2 of mine are vaccine free. That one is super healthy, never had a concern except for colds and a couple ear infections as a toddler, which I attribute to the antibiotics she was given as a newborn. Chiropractic fixed that. My partially vaccinated one has had developmental delays, sensory processing issues, gastrointestinal trouble, tics… But he’s coming back around with good nutrition and avoiding toxic junk.

There are several comments that do this kind of in-family comparison: we didn’t vaccinate child #1, and they’re now working as a superhero in the Justice League; we gave child #2 one little shot, and now they’re crippled, damaged, bleeding from the left lung, their right ear turned inside out, and we like ’em less than the other kid. Please, people, don’t judge your children by your own self-fulfilling prophecies. I’m reading these and feeling dismayed at the ugly family dynamics on naked display, and feeling pity for the kids who, through no fault of their own, get a childhood illness or even get a poor report card and are used as evidence for their parents’ awful ideology and nonsensical beliefs.

But the worst part is that their daughter had ear infections, a very common thing, and they blame them on antibiotics (What? Our kids had them, too, and antibiotics were effective at clearing them up), and thinks Chiropractic fixed that. They have a baby with an ear infection, and they took them to a chiropractor?

They took them to a chiropractor for an ear infection?

I have no words.

You may have heard the news about Katie May, who was apparently a very popular person on Snapchat, and who recently died suddenly at a too young age. What killed her? Neck manipulation by a chiropractor tore an artery. Never let a chiropractor go anywhere near your neck. For that matter, never go near those quacks, period.

She got “adjusted”. And now she’s dead.

But now I’m wondering…what kind of vertebral diddling do chiropractors do that they imagine could correct an ear infection? No, don’t tell me. I’m trying to suppress thoughts of what those frauds do to children.

That’s a non-response

One of Montana’s candidates for governor, Greg Gianforte, is being brutally attacked by paleontologist Jack Horner.

A new television ad features former Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner saying candidate Greg Gianforte thinks the Earth is only a few thousand years old. Horner says Gianforte supports using taxpayer money to fund “private schools that obscure the truth about dinosaurs and the age of the Earth.”

“He’ll say I’m attacking his religion — I’m not,” Horner says in the ad. “We just need to make sure that our kids learn the truth. I’d think twice about voting for Greg Gianforte.”

Gianforte, a Bozeman technology entrepreneur who is making his first run for political office, is in a tight race against incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Gianforte campaign spokesman Aaron Flint on Wednesday called the ad silly and said it misrepresents Gianforte’s strong support of public schools and teachers.

Oh, it’s “silly”. OK. But the question is whether Gianforte is a creationist who denies basic biology. Is he?

“From his personal support of CodeMontana, computer science in every high school, support for more trades education and more — Greg is proposing increasing investments in our public schools once he’s elected governor,” Flint said.

Gianforte does not have an opinion on the Earth’s age, Flint said. Regarding Gianforte’s views on evolution, Flint forwarded a comment made last year by Gianforte in which he said, “I believe young people should be taught how to think, not what to think, and a diversity of views are what should be presented.”

Yes, I guess he is. Point to Jack Horner.

Wait, there’s more?

Gianforte has steadfastly refused to talk about his religion, and it has not emerged as a major issue in the campaign. He attends and helped build an expansion to Grace Bible Church in Bozeman and has donated millions of dollars to religious organizations in the U.S. and in Africa, according to tax records released by Gianforte last year.

He also funded an expansion to the Christian school his children attended, Petra Academy, and his foundation has donated at least $2.3 million to help students afford tuition at Montana private schools.

OK, OK, point made. He’s a religious creationist. Why are public school teachers supporting him, if they are, as he claims?

The tax records show Gianforte’s foundation also donated $290,000 to a museum that holds the creationist view that humans and dinosaurs coexisted.

Alright already! Case closed! How can anyone who supports science possibly vote for this Gianforte clown?

So who’s going to Skepticon?

I’m all booked and registered for Skepticon on 11-13 November, so who all is joining me there? I am not going to be an official speaker, but I am leading a workshop on Friday at noon on how to deal with creationist misconceptions (note: I know the difference between a workshop and a lecture, so I will not be lecturing away at attendees…I have a little exercise planned where I will make you work at figuring out how to address common claims). It should be fun. And then I see that Rebecca Watson is speaking on Friday evening, so you even have a reason to show up on the first day of the con, and then if nothing else, we can kill some time together until the big show starts.

Springfield, Missouri beckons. How can you possibly spurn its siren call? Especially since pretty much all the attendees will be liberal/progressive types, and I am currently expecting that the post-election celebrations will be awesome, even for a con with a reputation for late night conversations and parties.

Bad reasons to colonize Mars


I presume you all already know about my deep antipathy to Elon Musk’s stupid lifeboat rationale for going to Mars — I’m still getting hate mail for not worshipping Musk. In my defense, though, allow me to pull out Kim Stanley Robinson to say exactly the same thing.

What needs to happen for the Mars colony to live sustainably and give humanity the lifeboat Musk envisions?

It’s important to say that the idea of Mars as a lifeboat is wrong, in both a practical and a moral sense.

There is no Planet B, and it’s very likely that we require the conditions here on earth for our long-term health. When you don’t take these new biological discoveries into your imagined future, you are doing bad science fiction.

In a culture so rife with scientism and wish fulfillment, a culture that’s still coming to grips with the massive crisis of climate change, a culture that’s inflicting a sixth mass-extinction event on earth and itself, it’s important to try to pull your science fiction into the present, to make it a useful tool of human thought, a matter of serious planning as well as thrilling entertainment.

This is why Musk’s science fiction story needs some updating, some real imagination using current findings from biology and ecology.

But I’m not posting this to flog Musk some more. I’ve found a rationale even worse than Musk’s — we’re supposed to colonize Mars to expand the sacred worship of gods. James Poulos uses some ridiculously bad history to suggest that a religious impulse ought to drive our colonization.

The traditions of humanism and religion we’ve inherited from ancient Athens and Jerusalem also treat the natural world as a type of “base reality” against which our collective history can take place. Those traditions allow old myths and social orders to be honored and new ones to be founded — fresh starts, but by no means blank slates, where the best of what came before can be retained and given promise on new soil. In this sweeping journey of civilizations, what was begun with the exodus from Egypt and the founding of Rome continued, more or less, right up through the Pilgrims’ arrival on Plymouth Rock, Abraham Lincoln’s “new birth of freedom,” and on, perhaps, to the present day. You don’t have to be pious to think of human history in these essentially religious terms — as a multimillennial journey that is far from over (perennial panic over the literal End Times notwithstanding), and that in its totality can only be fully conceived of and known by a consciousness beyond what our human nature affords.

I must point out that the Biblical Exodus is a myth — it didn’t happen. That’s a very weird justification for a huge secular enterprise, to cite a self-serving and false story. Rome was founded by bandits and rapists who had a poor reputation among their neighbors, and likewise the religious gloss on their founding myth was added after the fact. The Pilgrims? Jesus. Horrible awful religious fanatics who contributed a deplorable Puritan sanctimony to American history. The Gettysburg Address mentions “God” only once, and even that is questioned — there are multiple drafts and transcripts, and they don’t all include the “under God” phrase, which is a peculiar focus to use to claim that the consecration of a graveyard is analogous to colonizing Mars. This guy is really reaching to claim a religious drive behind all of human history.

And that last sentence — can only be fully conceived of and known by a consciousness beyond what our human nature affords — total bullshit. You can imagine all kinds of nonsense, their irrationality does not mean that there must exist a cosmic intelligence that can make sense of it all.

The babble continues.

From this standpoint, the exciting thing about colonizing Mars (and tomorrow, the galaxy!) is not the prospect of accelerating humanity past the point of humanity. Instead, it’s continuing the grand journey of humankind, wherein sacred traditions can be imitatively repeated and re-founded. A colony on Mars, then, is not like a personal trainer, pushing us through some artificial but valuable exercises that end up taking us to a higher plane of aliveness otherwise unavailable to us. Humanity’s achievement of interplanetary life wouldn’t allow us to break with the past and level us up into a new reality. It would humble us in recognition of a newfound, enduring mission — to create new ways to honor our human essence and praise what has allowed it to be sustained over time, whether we call that nature, nature’s God, or something else.

You know what? That’s just noise. Religion is really good at generating well-meaning phrases that can be strung together into a happy collection of sounds that resonate because they’re familiar and often repeated to believers, but to anyone outside the belief, it’s just word salad.

He just keeps going!

Such an act of providence would be restorative for humanity — and there’s reason to think we now require a Mars colony to allow for it. What’s clear is that Earth no longer invites us to contemplate, much less renew, our deepest spiritual needs. It has filled up so much with people, discoveries, information, and sheer stuff that it’s maddening to find what F. Scott Fitzgerald called a fresh green breast of a new world — the experience of truly open horizons and an open but specific future. That’s a problem that does suggest a terrible calamity, if not exactly an imminent apocalypse. But by making a fresh pilgrimage to a literally new world — say, red-breasted Mars — we could mark our pilgrims’ progress from the shadows of ignorance and apartness from God.

Oh, he’s done with Earth. It’s got nothing lovely anymore. So let’s go to a place that isn’t ruined for good Christians!

He thinks we might need a religious litmus test for the Mars colony ship — maybe they should all be religious, with no atheists to pollute the contemplative theology of Mars.

That means asking and answering initially awkward questions, like, would we be best off if our first Martian colonists were religious observers? Especially today, nature and freedom won’t defend themselves, and they’re certainly not taken as a given by some of Earth’s more powerful people. But it turns out that even today, and in the far-flung future, many of those who see our cosmos as supernaturally real are still their best defenders. There may not be much to recommend for life on Mars if we don’t clear a path for Christ on Mars.

Now I’m torn. I’m horrified at the idea of spawning a space colony that is a home to religious zealots, but at the same time, I expect the colony to fail, especially if it is entirely crewed by babbling Jesus freaks. And then I’m further torn by the dilemma of whether to cheer at shipping out fanatics to their inevitable doom, or to mourn the loss of human life, or to regret that the tiny numbers of ‘colonists’ will make no dent in the population of idiots remaining here on earth.

Gets me right in the feels, it does.