Taking a phylogenetic approach to the law


Nick Matzke has just published a very amusing analysis of American anti-evolution efforts. Evolutionary biology has all these tools that allow one to, for instance, assemble trees demonstrating lines of descent for molecular characters, which are ultimately just strings of letters. And what is a law but a string of letters? We can relatively easily map out patterns of similarities and differences, and catalog which bill was modeled after which other bill.

So Matzke put together the history of creationist efforts to adapt their legal strategies.

The analysis of dozens of bills introduced in state legislatures around the country reveals how a single innovation from a small Louisiana parish (population 156,325) was incorporated into 32 subsequent bills through a process the study describes as “descent with modification.” Two of those 32 bills became law and now “negatively affect science education” for students throughout Louisiana (population 4.7 million) and Tennessee (population 6.5 million).

It’s also being discussed on the Panda’s Thumb.

Oh, but most entertainingly, you can tell that the Discovery Institute is furious. They’re trying to claim now that it was a criminal misuse of NSF funds.

A more serious issue is whether Matzke misappropriated taxpayer funds in order to write his article. Matzke discloses in the article’s acknowledgements that his research was funded by two National Science Foundation grants. But if you look up those grants, they appear to have nothing to do with the article he published.

Indeed, NSF Grant 0919124 is a $422,000 grant intended to “develop bivalve molluscs as a preeminent model for evolutionary studies….” And NSF Grant DBI-1300426 is a $12 million+ grant for the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, which told the NSF it would “provide scientific insights into problems such as the control of invasive species, limiting impacts of infectious diseases, and suggesting new methods for drug design.”

Neither of those awards are directly to Matzke. The larger funds an institute, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, which by its nature would support diverse projects. The smaller one includes citations to 5 papers with Matzke as an author, all relevant to the grant, so there’s certainly no evidence that he’s been neglecting his responsibilities.

Creationists: science doesn’t currently endorse slavery. A grant award buys you a piece of a person’s time and effort, but does not give you full-time ownership of their brain. In fact, granting institutions encourage awardees to explore new ideas creatively, because that’s what will lead to the next research proposal. That a scientist has found a way to use his skills and his tools in a novel way, without compromising the funded specifics of a grant, is always a big plus.

So once again the Discovery Institute reveals their total ignorance of how science works while reaching for excuses for their own failure. No surprise there at all.

Social Justice Warriors for Trump

Guess whose fault it is that Trump is running for president, and has some popular support? It’s not the mobs of bigoted known-nothings who cheer his every simplistic solutions. It’s not the right-wingers who have been feasting on a steady diet of Fox News. It’s not the beady-eyed monomaniacal fanatics who love their guns and god.

Nope. It’s all the fault of the leftists who oppose every single thing Trump stands for.

[Read more…]

It’s not a big deal. It just reveals the default bigotry Erickson was brought up with.

Erick Erickson, flaming wingnut, posted this amazingly revealing tweet this morning.

Growing up, I remember my parents never letting us have Asian food on December 7th. They were children of WWII.

So that’s how Republicans get made, boys and girls — by learning that nonsensical associations are truth. There are more Asians than just the Japanese, you know: the Chinese were our allies in that war. We were also at war with the Germans and the Italians…no word on whether the Erickson family also boycotted sausage and spaghetti. And, of course, the “Asian” food his family would have bought would have been grown and cooked by Americans.

It’s silly. With a name like his, his family should have refused instead to drink Guinness on the anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf (23 April 1014), like all of us good Scandinavian-Americans.

Erickson followed up with an accusation that we’re upset.

Leftists upset my parents wanted us to avoid Asian food on Pearl Harbor Day when we were growing up. Didn’t realize it was that big a deal

We’re not upset. We’re very appreciative of this insight into your poisonous upbringing, Erick! It helps us understand where you came from.

I am so sorry.

A meeting of the minds

Brian Kilmeade interviews Donald Trump. You can stop right there, you say. That is just too much stupid to be borne. You would be right to stop reading now. Don’t click to go on to the next page. Do not click that link.

You’ll regret it if you do.

Last chance! Turn back now! You’ll be happier if you just go read some webcomics instead.

No, really. I like The Non-Adventures of Wonderella. Questionable Content is always good. Maki Naro? Trust me. Anything. Well, not Dilbert. Almost anything.

You’re still reading? What the fuck is wrong with you?

OK, as long as you understand the principle of informed consent, you may continue. The safeword is any kind of gurgled, choking scream.

[Read more…]

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 Cannabis.com, 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.

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.