Carnivalia and an open thread

Carnivals for this week:

A call has been put out for Darwin Day posts. Get it together and put up something celebrating Darwin Day. I’ll try, but my schedule is once again bubbling over chaotically — I’m giving a short talk to an education conference on Monday, and I volunteered to do a talk here at UMM on Darwin Day — I’ll have to see if I can maybe wring something out of that.

My Darwin Day talk isn’t so much about Darwin, though, as it is about the contemporary fruits of his theory, and an attempt to explain evo-devo to a diverse audience.


  1. raven says

    McCain flunked his first ballot tests since becoming the Republican nominee-in-waiting. He lost Kansas caucuses to Mike Huckabee, gaining less than 24 percent of the vote. Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, got nearly 60 percent of the vote a few hours after saying, “I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them.” He won all 36 delegates at stake.
    Huckabee also won the Louisiana primary, but fell short of 50 percent, the threshold necessary to pocket the 20 delegates that were available. Instead, they will be awarded at a state convention next weekend.

    Huckabee the Theocrat is one of the most deranged candidates since Pat Robertson. Unlike Robertson, he managed to win in a few states. Amazing that there are so many theocrats in some states just waiting to create the next Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, or Somalia. In North America.

    The Huckster won two more states, Louisiana and Kansas. Why do weird things always happen in Kansas?

    Huckabee has to be one of the scariest demagogues to seek the presidency for a while. Stiff competition for the bottom of the barrel and he is winning that contest.

    As far as I can tell, a vote for Huckabee is a vote for a new Dark Ages and the destruction of US civilization. The good news is that only 15% of the electorate voted for him. The bad enws is that 15% of the electorate voted for him.

  2. says

    Another account of the Hitchens-Richards debate

    I think it interesting that an atheist said that Richards won. It just goes to show (if it’s exemplary of the effect on the audience) that there’s an advantage in being able to raise doubts and throw out pseudoscience, vs. maintaining an intellectually defensible position without the crutch of religious myth where questions persist.

    Stanford Review’s interview with Hitchens

    Stanford Review’s interview with Richards

    Glen D

  3. Owlmirror says

    I just thought I’d point again at the seriously wacky 400KB current comment #222 on the post “Can your respect for Geoffrey Simmons plummet a little lower?”, which looks to be yet another reformulation of Gnosticism, with a hint of racism for that modern feel.

    The gods have used their clone host tools to create the perception of evil rewarded (Italians, Japanese, etc) and then corrupted the disfavored with it. (Expect Asian Westernization is met with a European-style short memory span, allowing the gods to use their historical enemy, the Japanese, to corrupt Asians as they used the Italians to corrupt us).

    The author seems to really like the word “corrupt”.

    If you are a young parent you STILL HAVE A CHANCE!!! It is IMPERITIVE you teach your children decency, the right way to live BEFORE THEY ARE CORRUPTED BY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. You must then endure the trials and tribulations the gods will inflict upon the righteous.

    I’m wondering if it’s a sort of Discordian *fnord* hoax, or the writer really believes it. Or perhaps both; among Discordians, there are no doubt at least some who sadly suffer from schizophrenia or some related condition.

  4. Owlmirror says

    Just to clarify that last – I meant that perhaps some Discordian started out writing this as a quasi-hoax, and then, due to latent mental instability, came to believe in it.

    Hm. Now I’m thinking of Foucault’s Pendulum

  5. says

    Info for North Suburban Chicago Brights Darwin Day event, for more info or to RSVP check the North Suburban Brights Chicago meetup page here:

    Where: Byron Colby Barn
    SW corner of Rt. 45 and Jones Point Road
    Grayslake , IL 60030

    Organized by: Matthew Lowry

    Details: Darwin Day 2008 at Prairie Crossing!
    Tuesday, February 12th at 7:00 PM

    Event location: Byron Colby Barn
    SW corner of Rt. 45 and Jones Point Road,
    (about 35 miles N of O’Hare Airport)
    Grayslake, IL

    This free-to-the-public event is a video presentation
    followed by a panel discussion. It is a BYOB event and
    you are invited to bring your favorite beverage and
    enjoy it responsibly.

    Sponsored by the Darwin’s Bulldogs?

  6. says

    Thought some of you might find this interesting… A couple of local filmmakers are working on a documentary about Jack Chick. I can’t quite make out from the article if the film is more complimentary or more critical, but either way it sounds bizarre. My favorite line from the story: About half way through “God’s Cartoonist,” the discussion takes a side road into Chick’s personal war on Masons, the Catholics, the pope, the Druids (!), assorted demon-worshippers and on and on.

  7. raven says

    I`m sure nobody here still needs to be convinced that understanding evolution has any practical benefits, but just in case, check out.

    Link didn’t work. 404 error. Could you summarize what it said?

  8. Alec says

    Link didn’t work. 404 error. Could you summarize what it said?

    Looks like it’s working now, but just in case, here’s another release on the same study,
    and the original paper is open access (hooray!) at PNAS here. .

    Basically they found that a single gene that originated in the common ancestor of the grasses is responsible for one form of disease resistance in all cereal crops. So if you learn more about how that resistance works in one crop, you can predict that it should work the same way in all the others.

  9. says

    I think it’s best to keep apprised of Expelled and the careful exposure of it to mindless dolt bloggers. Someone linked to “Captain’s Quarters,” which I believe was fairly well answered in the comment section. Here’s the full text of another blogger dumb enough to think that the movie is on to something (do they screen out anyone with an IQ above 90, and having an above high school education?)?

    Anyway, it does tell of some details in the movie, including Reagan’s invocation “Tear down this wall.” That will play well to right-wingers, and I suppose most any simpleton. The text:

    Last month, I was able to watch a screening of Ben Stein’s upcoming movie, Expelled (… Stein was there at the presentation too, so I got to sit through a little Q&A with him. At the time, all viewers had to sign a confidentiality agreement that precluded us from writing reviews about the movie. That restriction was lifted yesterday, however, so today I bring you my review of Expelled.

    For those who know absolutely nothing about the film, Expelled is Stein’s look at Intelligent Design and the way that ID proponents are expelled from the “academy” via academic censorship. The basic goal of the film is to publicize the fact that there are professors who question Darwinistic dogma who are then censured for it, who cannot get tenure, who are fired from their jobs, etc. Therefore, on a broad issue, the film is designed simply to publicize the suppression of free-thought by Darwinists and not to provide an apologetic for ID as such.

    Since I knew this was the motivation, I watched the film intentionally thinking of what Darwinists would say in response to it. Because of that, when I watched it I found the movie does have some weaknesses. The main drawback to it from the intellectual standpoint is that it relied on a heavy emotional link to Social Darwinism, especially manifest by Hitler’s Darwinism; thus the “intellectual” Darwinist will most certainly respond: “It’s nothing but emotive propaganda with no substance” (which isn’t true, but the emotive aspect was emphasized enough that it did sometimes feel that way even to this ID proponent).

    By the way, I should also point out that I don’t think it’s bad in and of itself for the movie to play on the Social Darwinistic evils that have come about; atheists harp on the Crusades enough that they deserve this. And frankly most people are unaware of the links between Eugenics and Darwinism and Planned Parenthood, which are also mentioned in the film along with Hitler and the Communists.

    Throughout the film is the metaphor of the Berlin Wall, and Stein ends the film by paralleling Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech. The attempt is to get people to know the wall exists so that others will be able to work at chipping it away. The rallying cry is: “We need academic freedom, and that includes the freedom to believe contra-Darwin about origins of life.” I do believe the film captures this goal, and so it succeeds at what it attempts to do.

    So to review it, it definitely would get a solid A in my book. And while the movie is only 97 minutes long in the form I saw, Stein told us the DVD is going to have tons more footage and extra features in it, including what will probably become one of the most famous Dawkins interviews, at least for the IDers.

    In fact, that interview remains the most memorable portion of the film if, for no other reason, than the fact that I have read so much of Dawkins materials beforehand. Stein had Dawkins looking absolutely flummoxed. During Stein’s interview, Dawkins stated that it was impossible that there is an Intelligent Designer. Stein asked him for a percentage on how sure he is of that idea. Dawkins refuses to give an exact number, then finally decided on 99%. Stein asked: “Couldn’t it be 49% instead?” Dawkins responded with his typical: “No, the probability of a designer is nowhere near half” etc. Then, Stein pressed Dawkins on how the first cell was created, and in the end Dawkins actually acknowledged that he could accept the theory of panspermia (aliens did it). Everyone in the theater laughed, because after just saying it was impossible for intelligent design to have created life on Earth, Dawkins admits that aliens that were “more intellectually advanced than we are” (as close to a direct quote as I can recall from memory of something I saw only once) could have done it after all.

    As a funny aside, one of the questions Stein was asked during our forum was: “Do you think you treated Dawkins fairly in the movie?” To which Stein responded (accurately, as those of you who have read Dawkins already know): “I think we treated him charitably. There were many hostile responses he gave that we edited out, where his response was basically, ‘I’m Richard Dawkins and you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m Richard Dawkins!'” It remains to be seen how much of the entire interview will be in the DVD version of the film.

    Naturally, this film will not convince any Darwinist to look at ID…but then, no film could do that. It will hopefully be enough to pry open the door a bit for some so that others can come along with more detailed explanations in the future.

    Obviously, the audience wasn’t the brightest. I have no idea why panspermia is supposed to be a problem for evolution, because in any reasonable scenario it’s only the start of life, and there’s no reason to suppose that aliens would have actually created the life (though perhaps not an impossibility).

    It appears that the film deliberately, and most likely dishonestly, shows Stein getting the best of Dawkins. Did Stein even interview Dawkins?

    Well anyhow, it’s obviously as dishonest as the trailers and promotions have suggested heretofore, and is intended for fairly stupid people. Unfortunately, there are not a few of those.

    Glen D

  10. says

    Another, small review, by someone who knows something about science:

    At some point I sneak into a screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a Michael Mooreian abortion by Watergate apologist/novelty actor Ben Stein. An exciting tour through a number of major logical fallacies, Expelled features the wooden-souled Stein attempting to illustrate how the Stalinist mandarins of academia have systematically excluded the teaching of intelligent design from our universities just because it’s completely unscientific nonsense. Stein soft-peddles this idea, of course, choosing instead to focus on the fact that Richard Dawkins is kind of a jerk (and who among us would not be, if we were constantly being pestered by game show hosts about why voodoo isn’t taught in school?). Dawkin’s quasi-aristocratic hostility makes him look bad, to be sure, which would be relevant if atheism had anything whatsoever to do with the fact that ID is not science. Which it doesn’t. The fact that ID is not science has everything to do with the fact that it is not taught in university science classes, however, a point that seems not to have occurred to anyone in the crowd who hisses when those evil poindexters of academia won’t answer Ben’s questions about how come why for no they teach it. Ben would have gotten the same snippy, defensive answers if he had asked why Lawsonomy is not taught in physics classes, or why the teachings of Trofim Lysenko are not the focus of biology classes, but those questions remained unasked: Ben’s concept of “academic freedom” requires only that his favored brand of buncombe gets equal time. I attempt to wrap my thoughts around the notion that a movement that considers itself the only sane and reasonable guide to the challenges of the post-modern world is gleeful about the idea of demanding academic equal time for ideologically driven pseudoscience, but there isn’t time.

    There you are, some of the questions that the “rebels” of Expelled have assiduously avoided as they have been asked across the web, and at their own blog. Apparently, it is important to be able to ask questions, so long as Stein & co. control the questions.

    Glen D

  11. says

    It appears that the last one has already been posted to one thread on Pharyngula.

    Anyway, I just wanted to disagree a bit with Dawkins, as portrayed in #17:

    During Stein’s interview, Dawkins stated that it was impossible that there is an Intelligent Designer. Stein asked him for a percentage on how sure he is of that idea. Dawkins refuses to give an exact number, then finally decided on 99%

    The fact is that it all depends on context, but in just about any context the percentage that there might have been an intelligent designer is “none.” Not zero, it’s none. There simply are no data suggesting that the evolution of life involved input of intelligence (aside from mate selection in some organisms, and our few manipulations of life). So you can’t put a figure on the chance of there being an “intelligent designer,” even at the stage of abiogenesis, simply because we have no reason to suspect it at all.

    And this is where the IDiots fail, at the starting gate, at epistemology, for it is illegitimate even to “hypothesize” about a “designer” for which no real counterpart or analogy exists. If they had been honest, they’d have included someone who would point this out.

    Then again, if they were honest they’d have included religious evolutionists, which would immediately give the lie to their claim that people leading anti-creationists “would not allow a scientist who merely believed in the possibilitry of an intelligent designer/creator to work for him…”. Of course the fact that Dawkins himself allows for the possibility (though I do not think it a legitimate scientific possibility as such) of intelligent design also gives the lie to those words.

    Unfortunately, the aim (their motivation, if perhaps not their “intention”) of Expelled is to tell so many lies that it’s impossible to debunk them all in a short enough time to hold the attention of the morons that they’re targeting. Hence many of these will have unanswered questions–no matter that the answers are available to them–and will nurse the doubts that they always wished to maintain.

    Glen D

  12. SEF says

    I’ve no idea if anyone has previously posted this here but: octopus cam (I haven’t figured out yet what the best viewing times are from its US base to my UK GMT time-zone).

  13. SEF says

    It’s not fair – my computer keyboard doesn’t even have one of these pirate keys on it. Wouldn’t the authorities just love it if people were that easily identified though.

  14. mgarelick says

    This is priceless. It’s a paragraph from a bit of hysteria from Salvo Magazine called “How Scientists Are Easing Away Opposition to Animal-Human Hybrids” :

    How about human dignity? I suspect that neither the HFEA [Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, in Britain] nor stem-cell scientists believe that “human dignity” is a meaningful concept. “Moral rejections tend to rely upon a species distinction between animals and humans, but it is unclear whether such a distinction can be maintained,” said the HFEA. Skepticism about human dignity sounds odd in a government document, as most people in a democracy regard this as the foundation of human rights. Surely a bright line between humans and animals is what keeps guinea pigs from voting.
    (I added the italics)