Or we could all just move to New Zealand

This is Maurice Williamson, a member of the New Zealand parliament, speaking in defense of marriage equality.

I would like him to leave New Zealand, move to anywhere in the US, run for the Senate or House, win, and bring some sense and humor to American politics. If he’s not willing to do that, can we at least have a few more Americans with that attitude replacing the pious nitwits we’ve got now?


And then the bill passes, and…everyone stands up and starts singing?

Damn. It’s so weird to see politics working and doing good. The equivalent over here would be a session opening with some loud stupid prayer, the majority of the politicians napping or skipping out, a few ludicrous bureaucrats droning pro forma over whether we should torture distant brown people or drop bombs on them, or tweaking a bill to give more money to the rich.

Then they don’t sing or express any joy at what they’ve done. I could imagine them standing up and maybe singing some grim dolorous hymn, or better yet, humming the Imperial March from Star Wars, but that’s about it.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have politicians who were pursuing their career because they wanted to make the world a better place?

Bobby Jindal opened his mouth again

He was asked about education. He replied with a tired creationist excuse.

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Bottom line, at the end of the day, we want our kids to be exposed to the best facts. Let’s teach them about the big bang theory, let’s teach them about evolution, let’s teach them — I’ve got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that people, some people, have these beliefs as well, let’s teach them about ‘intelligent design.’

The first sentence is sort of OK — yes, let’s teach the best ideas, the best evidence, the best science, the facts as we know them, and that includes good science like evolution and the big bang. But what Jindal then throws up as examples are bad science, claims without evidence, bad ideas that are contradicted by the evidence. Creationism and Intelligent Design Creationism are not the “best facts”, they don’t even cut it as “adequate facts” — they are bad and they are non-facts.

Can Jindal not tell the difference?

And since when is good education about teaching kids what their less-well-educated parents want them to know? How about if we teach them the truth, instead?

Around FtB

Whatcha doin’, readers? There’s stuff on FtB, like always.

  • Miri is writing about beauty.

  • Avicenna makes an interesting observation about American news coverage of terrorist violence: if it’s foreign, it’s bloodless, if it’s domestic, we stare at the victims.

  • Taslima is advertising sex tourism for married men.

  • Kate questions the dogma about MPD.

  • Mano notes that churches are two-faced about keeping government from meddling in religion. Privileges OK, responsibility…not so much.

  • Brianne is gazing upon children and getting all judgmental.

  • Sikivu will be at the LA Times Festival of Books.

  • Maryam defends outspoken freethinkers.

  • Ian is highly qualified to discuss pride.

  • Karen is finding fault.

  • Greta has written a book.

  • Comrade, I am hungry. Feed me!

  • Stephen is advising the Commies.

  • Ed has gone to Louisiana and eaten all the food!

  • The Digital Cuttlefish flings rhymes at the blamers.

Baghdad Bob is alive and well and living in Seattle

I’m on the Discovery Institute’s mailing list, and they send me lots of crap. The latest was dunning me for money like most of them, and also promoting some bogus seminar series for “cultural leaders”, but what was most striking was how delusional they’re getting. I’ve highlighted a few telling phrases.

As our faithful followers know, over the past few years we have seen an enormous amount of evidence that the Darwinian scientific paradigm is crumbling. 2012 brought about advancements in science that have left Darwin enthusiasts scrambling for a response. One of the hardest blows to Darwinian evolution came from the ENCODE project, which destroyed the myth of “junk” DNA. Noted atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel even commented in his new book Mind and Cosmos that the Darwinian worldview is “ripe for displacement.”

As Darwinism loses both its scientific and cultural power, it is important to have up-and-coming leaders who are adequately prepared to influence society towards an analytical mindset of following the evidence wherever it leads. That’s why Discovery Institute is continuing our expanded Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design this coming July. Focused on cultivating future scientists and cultural leaders, these seminars seek to influence and inform the next generation, not only in the hard sciences, but also in the humanities.

As someone who reads extensively in the scientific literature, as someone who knows many researchers in evolutionary biology, I can tell you that all those claims of evolution’s imminent demise are total bullshit. Go to your university libraries, and look for yourselves; I don’t know anyone who isn’t a crackpot or a religious fanatic or a blithering ignoramus who is trumpeting the failure of evolutionary biology.

But wow is it revealing how desperately the creationists will lie.

Hey, “cultural leaders”: I don’t recommend that you take a cruise on a sinking ship. Skip the DI’s summer parade of pretense.

In case you ever doubted that Dr Oz was a quack…

Take a look at the “advertorial” featuring Oz. Just the word “advertorial” should chill you, but there’s more! “Fat-busting”. Seriously, if ever there’s a phrase that should make you recognize that a diet pill is garbage, it’s that one. Then, in the video, Oz promises that this dietary supplement will make you lose weight with “no exercise, no dieting, no effort”, and to prove it all, he has his assistant pour a pitcher of milk and sugar into a balloon, and then he prances in front of a video wall which has animations of blobby cartoon fat cells shriveling away.

The man has no shame at all. He’s a quack pitchman for fat pills now.

The Ice Age in the Bible

Every time I despair at the dreadful nonsense from the Discovery Institute, I can reliably turn to Answers in Genesis and despair harder. They’ve just announced that “after two centuries of research”, they’ve finally determined the dates of the Ice Age. They’ve even announced that they’re going to have a chat on their facebook page at 2pm ET today if you really want to learn more. They have figured out the dates of the Ice Age (singular) from reading their Bibles closely.

You might quibble and say that the Bible doesn’t say anything about glaciers or ice sheets or changes in climate, so how could they possibly determine anything about Ice Age(s) from that book? Easy. They make shit up.

First step: build everything around a chronology derived from the catalog of patriarchs in Genesis.

The Bible gives us an inerrant chronology for marking historical events. It tells exactly how many human generations passed from the Flood to Abraham’s birth: eight.1 God’s judgment occurred at Babel sometime during the days of Peleg, who was the fourth generation after the Flood.

Second: reject all of the science that says the Ice Ages occurred between roughly 3 million and 10 thousand years ago.

Though this range is clearly not accurate because it lies outside the Bible’s total timeline of 6,000 years, several lines of evidence support the choice of the Pleistocene layers for the Ice Age.

Pay attention to that last line. They’re accepting that the Ice Ages and the Pleistocene occurred concurrently. But the third step is a devious one: reject the dates set by the radiometric and other data, and simply compress and shift the entirety of the Pleistocene into a Biblical window: it started in 2250BCE, and instead of lasting 2½ million years, it was only 250 years long. They’re only off by four orders of magnitude.

Wait. That puts the Pleistocene smack in the middle of the Bronze Age. How can they do that? Fourth: by ignoring the actual dates and making sweeping, simplified claims about human technology.

Knowing these things, how can we use the human history described in the Bible to shed light on the Ice Age’s beginning? Well, for one thing, no human tools or fossils appear anywhere on the earth until found in deposits from the beginning of the Ice Age.8 (God appears to have wiped away all remains of pre-Flood man; see Genesis 6:7.) Since their earliest remains suddenly appear throughout the Old World (Asia, Africa, and Europe), it appears that these are the people who scattered from Babel.

It’s not true: the earliest stone tools are found in the late Pliocene. But setting that aside, it’s a cunning game they’re playing. They can say that they accept the science, that modern humans appeared in the Pleistocene and that they built stone tools, and make the case that they accept the evidence real scientists have uncovered. It’s just that they’ve redefined the Pleistocene to be a brief sliver of time in a window that occured only about 4,000 years ago.

It’s a bit like saying I believe the historians when they say Charlemagne existed, and I think the primary documents and accounts they have are just nifty, but they read the dates wrong, because I had a burger with him at White Castle last week. Only worse.

Fifth: that old reliable standby, the argument from incredulity. They point to stone tools, and say it’s absurd that human beings would use such crude and ugly things for millions of years. We’re smarter than that! Doesn’t it make much more sense that the Stone Age only lasted for a few decades?

same-tools-different-views

Huh. I look at the Bible, and see how stupid it is, and wonder how it stayed popular for thousands of years instead of being laughed at and discarded after a few minutes. Maybe people are often willing to stay with what works for them for a long period of time?

Sixth: Polish the turd. They’ve come out with a fancy poster with a map and timeline to illustrate their glorious theory, which is theirs (pdf). I’m sure it will be going up on walls at homeschools and bible colleges everywhere. Here’s just the timeline part.

ice-age-timeline

Let’s ignore all of history. Let’s take various peoples with rich and elaborate histories preserved in cuneiform tablets and weathered monuments scattered all over the centers of human civilization. Erase the entire Egyptian 6th dynasty; obliterate Sargon of Akkad; ignore the civilizations thriving in the Indus or Yellow River valleys; delete the entirety of humanity except eight mythical figures living on an impossible boat with an impossible zoo.

They’ve plopped their ridiculous timeline right on top of known, documented historical events. They don’t care. They claim to accept the scientific evidence, except the stuff that contradicts their fairy tale…which is all of it. They’re unconcerned. These bozos are anti-science, anti-history, and anti-knowledge, all because they’ve decided that their holy book is the only arbiter of truth. But they are serenely confident in their ignorance, and many people will accept that as a reason to believe.


Another amusing perspective: if the creationists really accept all the data, what happens if you try to cram the Pleistocene climate record into 250 years?

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Ol’ Three-Eyes

It’s a frog tadpole with an eye surgically grafted to its trunk!

ol3eyes

Wait, this is an old story — similar experiments were done at least 20 years ago. You can transplant developing eyes to the tadpole, but the cool thing is that the donor optic nerves will grow into the sensory tracts of the dorsal spinal cord and grow anteriorly to the optic tectum, where they will make functional connections. Not, as I recall, adequate for image formation, but at least good enough that the tadpole will startle if a light is flashed at the eye in its tail.

I did kind of go “ugh” at the spin the story put on it, though: that it could lead to a medical breakthrough that would allow blind people to see! Nope. Frogs already readily accept eye grafts and regrow the connections; there are lots of experiments where, for instance, you cut out the adult frog eye, severing the optic nerve, and reinsert it upside down, and the nerves grow back and build new, functional connections. That’s the hard part, getting operational regrowth. Planting ectopic eyes is trivial.