Antarctic marine bonanza

What’s happening in the Antarctic? Researchers are looking at seabed changes that result from global warming.

The researchers catalogued about 1,000 species in an area of the Antarctic seabed where warming temperatures are believed to have caused the collapse of overlying ice shelves, affecting the marine life below.

“This is virgin geography,” said expedition member Gauthier Chapelle. “If we don’t find out what this area is like now following the collapse of the ice shelf, and what species are there, we won’t have any basis to know in 20 years’ time what has changed and how global warming has altered the marine ecosystem.”

Here’s what’s cool: lots of photos of these creatures.

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As long as we’re confessing…

In response to this crazy attempt to smear Mitt Romney with the sins of his fathers literally, a few people are disqualifying themselves from future runs for the presidency with similar confessions. I have to admit there’s a skeleton in my family tree, too: apparently, one of my ancestors was hanged as a witch in 17th century Massachusetts.

No one will be surprised at that, I suppose. Especially since if your family can trace its roots in this country back almost 400 years, you might well be related to her, too.

Mine eyes have seen the glory

Tired of the sanctimonious appropriation of all that is good in American history by the Christian right? Roger Ailes delivers a magnificent denunciation of the WSJ’s attempt to claim the abolitionist movement as a blessedly Christian endeavor by quoting Frederick Douglass.

Revivals in religion, and revivals in the slave trade, go hand in hand together. (Cheers.) The church and the slave prison stand next to each other; the groans and cries of the heartbroken slave are often drowned in the pious devotions of his religious master. (Hear, hear.) The church-going bell and the auctioneer’s bell chime in with each other; the pulpit and the auctioneer’s block stand in the same neighbourhood; while the blood-stained gold goes to support the pulpit, the pulpit covers the infernal business with the garb of Christianity. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support missionaries, and babies sold to buy Bibles and communion services for the churches.

Now that is a fine Sunday sermon.

I fully understand that many individual Christians were active in the abolition and civil rights movements; I assert that their virtues lie in their recognition of the humanity of their fellows, and had absolutely nothing to do with the institution of their religion. Some of our finest moments in history have been those times when people defy the dogma and superstition with which they are smothered from an early age.

(hat tip to Hillary)

The Smithsonian is a political bauble?

The Smithsonian has been sending mixed signals for a while now. They allowed the Discovery Institute to use their halls to promote an ID movie (at least they later disavowed any association), but refused to have anything to do with Flock of Dodos, and they aren’t going to endorse any Darwin events for 2009, the bicentennial of his birth…and then there was the whole ghastly Sternberg affair, in which we learned that a research associate there was a baraminologist, helping IDists get articles published. I love the museum, but something weird has been going on in the administration.

Get ready for more disillusionment. The director is a Republican appointee, and he’s been pursuing the Republican dream for a while now: no accountability, padding expense accounts, cronyism, junkets, wholesale looting. And getting paid almost $1 million per year in salary. Scientists don’t get paid that much—it almost makes one wish there were a way to get a Ph.D. in Bureaucracy.

Errm, what?

So these media people are making a movie about some tombs discovered in Jerusalem—bearing the names Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua—and getting all this hype about discovering the final resting place of the family of the spiritual founder of Christianity. I’m more than a little dubious; they prattle unconvincingly about their evidence.

But film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family.

Wait, DNA tests? What did they do, knock on god’s door with a court order in hand and demand a blood sample? Since the only thing unique about that Jesus dude was his paternity claim, I don’t see how else they could verify the identity of whatever remains they have. And from the description, it doesn’t sound like they have any scraps of human tissue anyway—they’ve got some stone caskets, that’s it.

I say it’s BS all the way down.

Michael Egnor comes back for another helping of whup-ass

He’s baaaack. That creationist surgeon, Michael Egnor, keeps flaunting his ignorance — and his verbosity — in the comments.

Your assertion that you answered my challenge ‘perfectly’ is, well, not perfect. I asked for a measurement of new information, not anecdotes about new functions. You and Nick have managed to generate molecular ‘just-so’ stories, anecdotes without actual quantitative measurement, for your central hypothesis that Darwinism can account for biological complexity. I guess ‘just-so’ stories are in your genes.

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A learned fool

It seems to be a theme here lately: people with serious credentials in science and medicine who then profess their belief in gods and magic and make public asses of themselves. Next up: Brad Harrub.

Dr Harrub has a Ph.D. in neurobiology and anatomy from the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee. He is a member of the Church of Christ, director and founder of Focus Press, Inc., co-editor of ‘Think’ magazine, and a featured writer in various Christian journals. Books he has co-authored include ‘Diamonds in the Rough: Nuggets of Truth from God’s Word’, ‘Investigating Christian Evidences’, and ‘The Truth About Human Origins’.

Now listen to an interview with him on Radio NZ. He’s a young earth creationist of the most pathetic kind, believing in a literal world wide flood (with dinosaurs on the ark!), that the earth is less than ten thousand years old, that mammals evolved from dinosaurs (therefore the fossils prove evolution false), and a whole succession of silly ideas. The interviewer, Kim Hill, does an excellent job of drawing out all the nonsense from this degreed clown.

Obey God — Kill!

Researchers compared levels of aggression (measured in a test where participants get to blast each other with loud noises) between students at Brigham Young University (99% True Believers) and Vrije University in Amsterdam (50% God-Wallopers). They also compared aggression after reading a quotation that enjoined them to “take arms against their brothers and chasten them before the LORD”. The results: getting God’s permission increases levels of aggression.

The research sheds light on the possible origins of violent religious fundamentalism and falls in line with theories proposed by scholars of religious terrorism, who hypothesize that exposure to violent scriptures may induce extremists to engage in aggressive actions. “To the extent religious extremists engage in prolonged, selective reading of the scriptures, focusing on violent retribution toward unbelievers instead of the overall message of acceptance and understanding,” writes Bushman “one might expect to see increased brutality.”

Well, OK, but I’ve read substantial parts of the bible, and there is no overall message of acceptance and understanding. The overall message is that you will be rewarded for obedience and the Other will be tormented brutally. And at least in American religion, the poetry and bits about tolerance are downplayed to give more time to the hellfire and worldly imperialism bits.