Do we really care what the Pope says anymore?

Many people have been sending me links to the latest comments by our charming Catholic pontiff, and I don’t know, I’m just finding the old boy increasingly irrelevant as he continues his reactionary slide into medieval thinking. More and more it’s like hearing reports of what some random homeless man in a Philadelphia subway station ranted about — it’s amusing and appalling, but it’s hard to work up the outrage to care any more. Yes, you can argue that the Pope is influential, but even there, how many self-identified Catholics pay any attention at all to what he says about contraception, for instance? But alright, once more unto the breach, etc.

So here’s what the pope babbled recently.

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I keep telling them that I have a voice and face for blogging

It’s a bit of a switch from doing the Minnesota Atheists radio show last Sunday to what I’ll be doing on Thursday: I’ll be on the Jeff and Lee Christian talk radio program (they told me 4pm, but their schedule says 3; somewhere around there, anyway). Their guest is Geoffrey Simmons, and I’m supposed to “debate” him — he gets 5 minutes to present the evidence for ID, then I get 5 minutes to present the evidence for evolution, and then follows a 50 minute free-for-all.

I already told them the format wasn’t fair. I need weeks of air time just to summarize the evidence for evolution, while Simmons only needs nanoseconds of silence to cover the absence of evidence for his side. But we take what we can get.

By the way, the online poll you scamps ransacked is still up, and Hillary Clinton is still winning.

NCSE has a wishlist?

I didn’t know this until just now, but the National Center for Science Education has an Amazon Wish List. It’s interesting to see what dark corners they’re poking around in, so have a browse.

And of course, if anyone wanted to make a little contribution to that worthy organization, you could always click on “Add to Cart” and help them out by sending them a copy. These are resources they use to understand the opposition (and their own side) and to help make informed arguments … so give the gift of knowledge!

Fly thoughts

On Tuesdays, I have back-to-back labs from noon until six…in genetics. I’ve been juggling flies since early December, prepping stocks for our crosses, so when I saw this cartoon I was surprised. Does Darby Conley have a background in fly genetics? It’s perfect!


Cafe Scientifique tonight

Come on out to Morris this evening — at 6:00, at the Common Cup Coffeehouse, Van Gooch of the biology discipline will be talking about bioluminescence and other phenomena in our Cafe Scientifique. The title of his talk is “Light Giving Life: Real and Artificial,” and I know he’s planning to bring sample organisms to hand out to the attendees.

He turns everything he touches to dross

Ben Stein must be on a campaign to make himself look stupid. Everyone here knows about his association with creationism, but it turns out this former student of economics at Yale is clueless about everything…but he still gets published in The New York Times.

First, let me begin with a first. I have never warned readers away from any one columnist or journalist, but after reading his column this weekend in The New York Times , I feel obligated to tell readers to never read Ben Stein again.

In indicting traders and lackeys in the press for the subprime selloff, Stein offers not one shred of evidence. Moreover, his implication that traders would purposefully tank the subprime market because they are short stock belies the reality that almost every Wall Street firm is getting creamed because they were not short. And traders are getting laid off left and right. Again: because they were not short.

He speaks about a wise brother-in-law who apparently once explained the legal system to him. He mentions a trader he once spoke to about a movement in the price of IBM. And that’s it.

He goes on to raise an eyebrow about the spread between the size of the write-offs and size of the market losses, without mentioning that part of the market losses have to do with the fact that no one knows where these securities should be priced (unknown is the greatest market fear) and, uh, there has been a concern or six about the economy besides subprime taking down prices.

I have seen a lot of bad business journalism in my day, but nothing as irresponsible and so wholly unsupported by facts. Actually, by even a single fact. This is his last line:

“And one thing’s for sure: With the traders running things, it won’t be a good time for amateurs until the traders cry “Switch!” and the market starts to rise.”

Read it (if you promise me it’ll be the last of his work you read) and tell me if this effort is any better than the braying on conspiracy Web sites. It was a shameful effort.

Bad satire

I’ve remarked before how difficult it is to satirize creationists — they’re already so absurd that any mockery is often overtaken by the reality. There is a corollary: creationists shouldn’t try to do satire. They really, really suck at it. This fellow from Sebring, Florida, William Dailey, Jr., has created a web site called the First Church of Evolution, for instance. There’s not much to it; he seems to have simply vented his spleen in a few text pages, but while he may think he was cleverly making fun of evolutionists, but all he really accomplished was to parade his own misconceptions. Here’s a sample:

Statement Of Faith


We believe Natural Selection is a God to many, with the power of chance to form all things. This unseen, unknown force is the power for those who truly believe they have ascended from lower animals.


We believe Charles Darwin is the prophet of Natural Selection. Having been chosen by Natural Selection, he has evolved to the most high prophet, having visualized through imagination the formation of all living things.


The belief in positive mutation of living things which have descended from a common ancester, through millions of years in time and gazillions of transitions is a matter of faith.


We believe that each of the written words of the Prophet Charles Darwin are as holy scripture among those who by faith believe they have evolved from lower animals.


We believe change above or below species such as frog to dog, pig or monkey to man is a matter of unquestionable faith.


Not even close. Look, a good satire needs a germ of truth to it. You need to take an actual attitude prevalent in the group you are making and just give it a little twist, enough that your target can recognize themselves and be made a bit uncomfortable. This is at best a satire of creationists, because it reflects their attitudes about faith more than ours.

Sorry, Bill. Go back to the drawing board, and aim for a little subtlety. This effort reminds me of a second-grader’s attempt at mockery, the kind of thing where a kid tries to make fun of someone else by making a funny face and announcing, “Durrr, I’m Suzy. I’m a poopy-head. Durrr.” I cringe when I see it, not because it’s struck anywhere near the mark, but because the poor dope doing it looks so foolish.