I wish we didn’t have atheists saying this

It’s enraging that we have blinkered, stupid Christians declaring that a shooting spree is caused by evolution, or liberals, or atheism. Why? Because there’s the obvious fact that the perpetrators of such crimes are usually not biologists, liberals, or atheists, but also because it is logically fallacious and offensive: the majority of atheists are not committing crimes, and there’s nothing in the principles of atheism that even implies we should be freely slaughtering other members of our communities. It is also the fallacy of mistaking a specific particular for the general properties of the whole; it’s like arguing that one cold day means the climate isn’t warming.

Atheists wouldn’t make such a stupid mistake, though, would they? The killer in Colorado was a church-going Presbyterian — we’re not going to see atheists crowing in triumph and saying that that shows the Christianity turns you into a mass-murderer, are we? That would be just as false as blaming it on evolutionists — the overwhelming majority of Christians feel no compulsion to murder, so it seems to be a rather ineffective ideology for encouraging killing sprees. One could argue that it does short-circuit critical thinking, and that at least the American version seems to endorse destructive policies, but pinning the actions of one unusual individual on the teachings of a religion? We wouldn’t be dumb enough to make that mistake.

I’m disappointed to see that we do have stupid atheists. Witness Why James Holmes’ Rampage is the Result of the Teachings of Christianity. I hang my head in shame. That’s no different than what Rick Warren or the American Patriarchy Association or any of a thousand other ideologues playing the blame game have done.

Christianity is piss-poor at doing more than providing lip-service against violence, but it’s at best a passive enabler. Blame it on the real causes: a culture that glorifies violence, easy availability of deadly weapons, and mostly James Fucking Holmes. Anything else is a distraction from correcting the real causes.

Aargh, I can’t unsee it now!

The London Olympics 2012 has a logo. It’s hideous.

I don’t quite understand why a jumble of jagged shapes is supposed to be welcoming, and somehow, this set of shapes is supposed to evoke “2012”. But even worse, I then saw this interpretation and now that’s all I see.

Iran is complaining that all they see is the word Zion. I suggest we tell them about the Simpsons interpretation, and their complaints will immediately evaporate.

Also, the Olympics mascots are one-eyed trouser snakes. It’s the perviest Olympics ever.

Creationist FUD refuted

If you’re looking for a meaty weekend read, look no further than Paul McBride’s thorough dismantling of Science and Human Origins, the new bad book from the Discovery Institute, by Gauger, Axe, and Luskin. It’s in 6 parts, taking on each chapter one by one: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, a prediction about what will be in chapter 4 before reading it, Part 4 (prediction confirmed!), and Part 5.

The creationists are howling. McBride’s evisceration, with Carl Zimmer’s detailed description of the evidence for chromosome fusion, all discrediting what they thought would be a hot new text on the scientific evidence for creation, has made them so furious that they’re even lashing out at me in email — I just linked to the evidence, so I imagine Zimmer and McBride must be seeing some entertaining spectacles in their inboxes. I do so love to see the creationists dancing in the flames of their own immolation.

I will say this, though: I did get one very polite email from a creationist, who told me that he was not a scientist, but that he’d read a couple of articles that sounded impressively sciencey to him, and asked if they didn’t represent a legitimate criticism of the chromosome fusion idea? And he very nicely sent along the two papers for me to read. Here they are:

Bergman J, Tomkins J (2011) The chromosome 2 fusion model of human evolution—part 1: re-evaluating the evidence. Journal of Creation 25(2):106-110.

Tomkins J, Bergman J (2011) The chromosome 2 fusion model of human evolution—part 1: re-evaluating the evidence. Journal of Creation 25(2):111-117.

Two things jumped out at me: it’s by batty Jerry Bergman, no credible source at all, and it’s published in the inbred in-house journal of the Institute for Creation Research. These are not legitimate science papers, although they do throw around enough science terms and techniques, and follow the form of a real science paper, to generate confusion in the mind of the naive reader. They’re beautiful examples of cargo cult science by creationists. Would you like to read them, or use them as bad examples? Here you go, download it for entertainment purposes only.

I read them anyway. I’m not going to bother with a detailed refutation, but I’ll give you the gist. The fundamental confusion in both papers is the nature of the evidence for an ancestral chromosome fusion, and a focus on irrelevant details that are not central to the argument.

The story is this. At some time after the separation of the human and chimpanzee lineages, two ancestral chromosomes, #12 and #13 in the chimpanzee, fused end-to-end to form a single chromosome, #2, in humans. Chimpanzee chromosome 13 forms the short arm (2p) and part of the long arm (2q) of human chromosome 2, while chimpanzee chromosome 12 forms most of the long arm (2q) of chromosome 2.

The primary evidence for this fusion is the comparative genetic content of these chromosomes. That is, most of the genes in chimpanzee chromosome 13 are found in human 2p, and most of the genes in chimpanzee chromosome 12 are in human 2q. The chromatin binding patterns line up, the sequence analysis confirms, and there have been some lovely FISH studies that show the correspondence.

What has since been done is that a prediction was made that there ought to be fragments of telomeres (the end caps of chromosomes) in the middle of chromosome 2, at the fusion site. Which has been examined. And the prediction has been confirmed.

Bergman and Tomkins ignore every single bit of that. Instead, what they do is focus on just the region of the fusion, and complain that it is a tangled mess and hard to interpret — that it is a degenerate telomeric region, rather than a complete and intact telomere, which is what they demand be present. This is an unrealistic expectation, given that every paper on the structure of the fusion region makes the point that it is degenerate.

An analogy: imagine a red Ford Mustang and a blue BMW X6 are in a head-on collision, and both have totally wrecked front ends, with bumpers and radiators and headlights interlocked and everything about their grilles in tangled confusion, and with bits and pieces torn loose and flung about. You’d be able to look at the crash and still tell by everything in and behind the engine compartment that Car #1 was a Mustang and Car #2 was an X6.

Bergman and Tomkins are the bewildered and incompetent investigators who ignore every other factor in the crash, look at a few particularly mangled bits of the wreckage, and declare that they can’t identify it, therefore…the two vehicles were assembled at the factory in this particular configuration, and no crash occurred. But they use lots of sciencey language to explain this at tendentious length, which is sufficient to convince non-scientists that the interpretation of an obvious historical event has been refuted. And that’s all they need to do to accomplish their goals: fling about unfounded fear, uncertainty, and doubt to win over the ignorant.

In case you’ve been wondering who to blame…

The American Patriarchy Association has all the answers! The list of causes for the recent theater shooting is long and predictable.

  • We aren’t sufficiently afraid of god

  • We aren’t afraid enough of hell

  • The ACLU

  • Godless public schools

  • Liberals

  • Movies

  • The Internet

  • Gays

  • Lesbians

  • Professors

  • Liberal churches

Mankind is shaking its fist at the authority of God! And God will not be silent when he’s mocked!

So he’ll scramble the brains of a random person and have him go out and murder something less than a hundred entirely random people who are only united in a common interest in Batman movies. He doesn’t seem to have a very coherent or comprehensible way of enforcing his desires.

Hey! They left one out! Maybe god just hates Batman.

Why I am an atheist – Don from Delaware

Why am I an atheist?  A year or two ago I had to find a concise answer to this question when my wife mentioned my atheism in passing at a family gathering.  I haven’t hidden my non-belief, but I haven’t invited trouble by going out of my way to bring it up, either.  My mother was in the room, though, and apparently she had never even suspected.  (Apparently my refusal to send the kids to church with her and the “Blessed are the Lesbians” speech she’s heard me launch into in the presence of a homophobe were not sufficient clues.)
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Rick Warren is a lying ghoul

Rick Warren has just weighed in on the Aurora shooting, and of course it is predictable inanity.

When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it.

Right. Because it’s only the lies of Jesus that keep people from waking up to reality and going on shooting sprees.

It’s simply a fact that Rick Warren is an animal, like all the rest of us. And what’s with the bum rap on animals? Puppy dogs don’t go on a murderous rampage, you know.

Australian PM will answer questions soon!

We won a poll to determine what questions Julia Gillard would have to answer — or try to slickly dodge — and she’s going to be doing it live on the web at 11am AEST … which is in about a half hour! Go to the Deakins University channel for live streaming.

Oh, by the way — while we voted entirely fairly and within the parameters of the poll, I am still getting a lot of hate mail and a few tweets from wingnuts bitterly complaining about how we “stacked the vote” (I think that means “outvoted”) and how it was more American imperialism. Sorry, guys, we voted on an atheist issue, and we atheists are global, and besides, atheists are a larger percentage of the Australian population than the American. So suck it up.

Also, your pal Andrew Bolt is an inflamed dingleberry denialist, so scientists (another international community) were quite happy to see his global warming denial FUD squeezed out of the victory circle. Ha ha and all that. Stuff it, pseudoscientists.