Whoa. John Edwards just got a big boost

He must be a smart guy: he just picked Amanda Marcotte to run the John Edwards blog. And since Amanda will be slightly distracted, she’s brought in five (it takes five people to take Amanda’s place?) new people to keep Pandagon humming…and one of them is Chris Clarke. Everything’s shuffling around! I’m getting confused! I think I’m willing to vote for Edwards so far, as long as Amanda keeps him in line and makes sure he doesn’t start pumping up the war talk or professing for creationism.

Hovind rots in jail while Barney Frank walks free

Don Boys is not happy that Kent Hovind has been sent to jail.

Kent’s enemies are painting him as a greedy tax resister when he has said repeatedly that he will pay all the taxes he owes. He could not get any response from the IRS nor did the judge, prosecutor, or anyone else inform him why his ministry was not exempt from taxes as are hundreds of thousands of similar organizations. Therefore, he spends ten years in the Big House. That’s where they send killers, traitors, rapists, child molesters, armed robbers, and other Very Bad Guys.

I think that what painted him as a greedy tax resister were his own words and actions, Don. He is a greedy tax resister. Oh, and paying back the taxes he owes doesn’t help; if a bank robber is caught, would you suggest letting him go free if he gives all the money back?

The real hysterics in Boys’ article, though, come when he starts listing all the people he thinks ought to be in jail instead of Hovind. Most of his outrage is directed at ‘perverts’ and feminists.

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, an admitted pervert, confirmed that his Washington apartment had been used as a callboy headquarters by a male prostitute for a year and a half until late 1987. So, Barney’s lover-boy was using his apartment as a callboy ring to make a little money on the side. Barney did not go to jail, did not lose his seat in Congress. I’m not sure if he passed go and collected $200.00. Maybe his lover can tell us that. However, Kent Hovind sits in prison while Barney sits in Congress making laws that we are expected to obey.

What injustice! How can someone who bilks money out of people in the name of god be sent to jail, while people who do things with their genitals that Don Boys doesn’t like get to walk around free, thinking thoughts that agitate Don Boys?

Texas, you’ve lost the better part of your state

Molly Ivins has died.

I’m surprised at how this affects me. She was a wonderful woman, wise and funny, and this is a great loss to the nation. Whenever I’m tempted to just write off the whole state of Texas (thanks to a few of its rather prominent representatives), I just remind myself, “Molly Ivins,” and know that I’m being unfair.

Kevin Hayden has put together a sweet tribute to Molly Ivins. We’re all going to miss her.

The more ignorant you are, the easier it is to disprove evolution

Uh-oh. Evolution has just been refuted by a very sophisticated simulation. Try it; you’ll quickly discover how frustratingly boring evolution can be, and you’ll give up on it.

The ‘simulation’ is simple: put some random text in a box, click on a button, it randomly substitutes a random letter for some other letter, and whoa…you’ll notice that your excerpt from the libretto of Figaro hasn’t been transformed into the Gettysburg address. Therefore, evolution is false.

Seriously, it’s that bad, and the author actually does think he has accomplished something significant. It’s a simulation that requires the user to make multiple clicks per trial; by sheer clumsiness of the interface it reduces the number of trials that can be done. It ignores fitness functions, synonymy, ranges of functionality, multiple functions, etc., etc., etc., all in the name of slavishly and crudely mapping English to protein evolution, and doing it all with a program that looks like something a sixth grader would slap together. Oh, but it is so much better than Avida or Tierra.

Read through the writeup—it’s appalling how ignorant the fellow is of basic biology. This kid really needs to read the Evolution and Chance FAQ, the Evolution Proceeds by Random Chance FAQ, and Musgrave’s ripping apart of bogus abiogenesis calculations. It’s probably good enough to convince your standard issue clueless creationist, though.

(hat tip to Tobasco da Gama)

A defining issue

James Trumm has a single issue, one that trumps all the others in the election booth, and I have to agree with him. It’s a kind of signal flare that says the person advocating it is a total loon and not to be trusted on anything.

That issue is creationism.

I will never vote for anyone who favors creationism, no matter how commendable their position on other matters. Trumm makes a good case:

Evolution is the canary in the coal mine of enlightenment, of science, of reality itself. When it finds it hard to breathe, that is a clear sign that the atmosphere has become toxic. Again, Chris Hedges, from his new book, American Fascists:

The goal of creationism is not to offer an alternative. Its goal is the destruction of the core values of the open society–the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense tell you something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to advocate for change and to accept that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable.

This, then, is my single issue, and why Mike Huckabee will only get scorn from me.

Don’t get me wrong—no one is going to get my vote simply because they accept evolution—but someone who does not is suffering from the rot of ignorance, and they won’t be getting my support.

Now this is nerdiness

Since I got ribbed a bit for my antique D&D lore in a previous comment, I have to defend myself from charges of extreme nerdlitude by distracting you all with a real nerdfest: a discussion of who would win in hand-to-hand combat between a first level magic-user and a housecat, complete with computer simulations.

The answer: under the modern rules, the cat usually wins. (When I played, if you said something like “I whack the cat with my staff”, there might be a quick check to see if the cat dodged, and otherwise, we’d just say, “OK, you killed the cat. Now what?” Dang rules lawyers and proliferating nit-pickery.)

Miss Prism has a brilliant idea

You all recall the Beagle Project that I recently mentioned was trying to raise money to reconstruct the Beagle and sail off to Patagonia (with me hiding belowdecks, of course). Miss Prism had a terrific idea: she’s knitting a Darwin puppet that she’ll sell off to some lucky commenter on Darwin’s birthday, with all the proceeds sent off to build the Beagle.

I should get in on this, although I have no talent for knitting. Any suggestions? Is there some little personal Pharyngula tchotchke I could convince people to bid on, knowing that their pennies would go to the construction of a boat? I was thinking that one possibility would be to draw a cartoon about the lovable character, Squidbert, and get the Dilbonians lining up to buy it so they could put it on the web for mocking/savaging purposes (since I have no talent for cartooning, either, that would be easy to do.) It seems a little unfair to give those baying hounds a bit of red meat to sate their appetites, when others here are more deserving of reward. Make suggestions, and I’ll see what I can do.

Will Scott Adams never learn?

We went round and round on this well over a year ago. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, wrote a shallow and ignorant argument that sort of shilly-shallied over a pro-creationist argument; I pointed out how stupid his reasoning was. The response was insane; criticize Adams, and his horde of Dilbert fans will descend on you like a cloud of pea-brained locusts. Adams took a stab at the subject again, proposing that at least we ought to teach it as an alternative to evolution, an old and tiresome argument that I thoroughly despise. Basically, Adams just outed himself as a feeble hack making tepid arguments that only a creationist could believe.

Oh, and the most common lame defense: Scott Adams shouldn’t ever be taken seriously, because he’s always just joking to get a rise out of people. That would be acceptable, if ever he’d said anything intelligent on the subject, if his whole argument wasn’t based on common creationist canards, and if his fanbase weren’t taking his every word so damned seriously, as if he’d given them some deep insight.

That’s the history. I hadn’t read the Dilbert blog in ages, so I don’t know if Adams has since continued his wishy-washy creationism. Now I see on OmniBrain that yes, Scott Adams has written another post on intelligent design, and yes, if anything, Scott Adams has become even more stupid in the intervening months Here’s his key argument for assigning intelligence to the universe.

I take the practical approach — that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity.

It’s a wee bit circular, don’t you think? He’s defining intelligence by assuming that the only process that can create intelligence is driven by intelligence; I’d simply rebut him by challenging his assumption, and say that the process that created the being who wrote Moby Dick did not require intelligent guidance (as we already know—the processes that drive evolution do not require active intervention by any intelligent agent), therefore there is no reason to call a prior process like the Big Bang “intelligent”. He’s also managed to put together an argument for an intelligent designer that requires us to conclude that everything in the universe is intelligent: phosphorylation is intelligent, sperm are intelligent, carrots are intelligent, bacteria are intelligent, interstellar dust is intelligent. I suspect that there’s a self-serving motive involved—he had to really reach to come up with a definition that would allow him to claim that Scott Adams is intelligent.

It’s nice to see that one constant on the internet is that Scott Adams is still a babbling idiot. If any of his defenders want to claim that “hey, he’s just being funny!” that’s fine, as long as you’re willing to admit that his chosen style of humor is to pretend to be a colossal boob…and that he’s suckered many of his readers into thinking that his intentionally absurd ideas are brilliant.

So predictable…

Here’s a lesson for you: criticize Scott Adams, and you will receive a deluge of Dilbonian hate mail. Virtually all of it is saying exactly the same thing: “You failed the humor test”; “Adams was being ironic”; “Adams isn’t a creationist, he’s pulling your chain”. Part of it is taking a different, overtly creationist tack: “The Big Bang didn’t happen, so you ought to be able to tell it’s a joke”; “You professors don’t understand anything”; and then there are the long-winded discourses on why Adams is exactly right, and that he has seen the mind of God, and his argument is irrefutable.

Listen, Dilbonians: you can stop telling me I have no sense of humor. I know it already. I also know that Scott Adams has a piss-poor sense of humor, too. I’d be more inclined to believe that he was mocking creationist thinking if a) everything he has written on evolution, creation, and science hadn’t had exactly the same tone and advanced the same point of view, which seems to be, basically, that Scott Adams knows better than every scientist on the planet, and b) his fans were a little less enthusiastic in supporting every turd of faux-wisdom that drips from his mouth. Read the comments; his readers aren’t treating this as a hilarious send-up of religious thinking. Maybe Adams is a true cynic who has purposely cultivated a collection of acolytes who are stupid enough to believe the amazingly stupid things he writes, but I don’t think that is an accomplishment that would insulate him from criticism.

Oh, and those of you complaining that Adams is not a creationist: look up David Berlinski. There is a lot in common there: the same supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth, the same mocking tone, the same knee-jerk rejection of anyone else’s expertise, as if the fact that some people know much more in some discipline than he does is a personal insult. He’s an anti-science hack who probably also rejects authorities on the creationist side because they do not defer to his superior intelligence, either.