Carnivalia and an open thread

We need an open thread! Here are a few carnivals to prime the pump.


  1. says

    Well, probably most know this already, but Phoenix landed live on Mars. It could see micro-organisms, reportedly, but mainly was launched in order to check out the conditions for life on Mars.

    Good luck to it, and the scientists and engineers involved with it.

    Glen D

  2. says

    Somewhat changed from a post on Talkorigins:

    What I’d like to ask, as I have at other times in different places, is
    why do creationists who try to present themselves as scientific (like IDists) often have no problem with
    believing that Russian, Greek, and English all came naturally from a
    single language that existed between 6000 and 10000 years ago, and yet
    will deny that birds came from dinosaurs without a miraculous poof?

    It’s language evolution that usually lacks direct contemporaneous
    evidence for macroscopic changes, not biological evolution (to be
    fair, in many lineages, fossil evidence for evolution is not
    apparent. But where taphonomy allows, particularly in the vertebrate
    lines, there is much fossil evidence for evolution). Only Greek,
    Latin, Sanskrit, Chinese, and some Semitic languages (perhaps there
    are others, this list is what occurred to me in a few seconds), of the
    ancient languages with living descendents, seem to have really good
    evidence for their evolution from a kind of written “fossil record” of
    language, and this isn’t the kind of change that had to occur in the
    evolution from Indo-European. One might consider the documented
    changes in languages to be merely “microevolution”, with as much (as
    little) rigor as creationists and IDists divvy up “natural evolution”
    from the magical kind, or from special creation.

    We have great snapshots from rather large-scale evolutionary changes
    (which nearly all creationists and IDCreationsts consider poof
    territory), by contrast, which are just what would be expected from
    “natural evolution.” Archaeopteryx remains probably the best one to
    use as an example, a “poorly designed” bird which is “poorly designed”
    because of retained dinosaur traits. Bird genomes show basically the
    same pattern of evolution that the fossils do, of course, but the
    archaeopteryx fossil is the “written record” of “natural evolution”
    that is lacking in the evolution of a large family of languages from

    Indeed, we have no record of Indo-European, except in the languages
    that evolved from it. Even without archaeopteryx, otoh, we would
    still have dinosaurs as candidate ancestors of birds. Yet the IDists
    have no problem with the natural evolution of a large variety of
    languages evolving from Indo-European, since they use the same
    inferences in language that they and we use in determining phylogeny
    (until they simply decide not to do so, that is), and are content to
    believe in an otherwise unevidenced language due solely to the
    phylogeny of language. And of course they’re not going to invoke
    miraculous language evolution, because miracles simply would not be
    expected to produce the same phylogenies as “natural evolution” does.

    Yet with life documenting both dinosaur ancestors, and transitional
    forms like archaeopteryx, all highly consistent with the predictions
    of non-teleological evolution, they will not accept “natural
    evolution” of birds from dinosaurs.

    And of course nobody has ever shown how Russian could arise
    “naturally” in step-by-step fashion from Indo-European. Maybe the
    changes were irreducibly complex? They don’t know, they don’t care,
    because they’re simply willing to infer that one thing descended from
    another thing where language is concerned. They’ll even accept an
    ancestor for which no evidence exists except for the descendents when
    the issue is language. But when you have both ancestor (close
    relative of the ancestor in most or all cases, in fact) and descendent
    in life, and one or two transitional forms consistent with non-
    teleological evolution in the bargain, they deny “natural evolution”
    in that case.

    Their acceptance of language evolution and not biological evolution is
    perhaps the most glaring instance of how completely anti-science they
    really are. They demand what cannot (for good reasons, like
    taphonomical ones) be supplied for one, and accept far less evidence
    for language evolution than exists for biological evolution. Indeed,
    it is because the evidence of biological evolution is so much more
    complete than that for language evolution that knowledge discovered in
    the evolution of life is being applied to language evolution. For
    instance, we have absolute dates in biological evolution, and no
    absolute dates for language evolution, save a few languages with
    ancient written records.

    There is no question that they accept language evolution simply
    because they have no objection to the usual scientific methods in that
    case, and they fault biological evolution merely because they are
    unwilling or unable to accept reasonable conclusions in science in the
    matter of life.

    Glen D

  3. truthteller says

    Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God.
    Our faith is the victory.
    God gave to us eternal life and this life is in His Son.

  4. Richbank says

    Congrats to the entire team over at U of A, NASA, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Incredible success! Within .25% degrees of straight is mind blowing, and the images are rolling in :).

  5. says

    That’s not the funniest thing, Glen. The funniest thing is that they accept descent with modification as the best way to track versions of the books of the bible. Changes, additions, elaborations, “corrections,” new stories, errors, etc. are tracked from their appearance down through various editions.

    For example, the whole of the “eye-witness” story of Jesus ascending into Heaven was tacked on at a later date; it’s not in the earliest versions. Indeed, the names of his mother and father did not enter the scriptures until about 3 generations into the Christian movement — indicating, I think, that he’s as real as George Washington’s cherry tree or Paul Bunyan’s blue ox.

  6. says

    I watched the Mars Polar Lander landing both on CNN and on NASA TV and live-blogged it. The only real problem was with the headphones back on earth, which kept emitting loud squeals so that the people in the control room kept snatching them off. Oh, and the burn was something like 7 seconds late. Aaamazing!

    No code bug this time.

  7. AlanWCan says

    Hey is the Greasemonkey kill file no longer working for anyone else? I just upgraded a bunch of things, so I’m not sure if something’s blocked it at my end. Just wanted to add #5 fo good measure…

  8. BoxerShorts says

    Yay for the Phoenix!

    I watched it on CNN. It was surprisingly tense. I knew it was going to be tense for the guys in Mission Control, but I wasn’t expecting the tension to extend all the way to my living room.

    Whenever religious whackjobs threaten to permanently destroy my faith in humanity, I’ll try very very hard to remember triumphs of human genius (and science!) like this. Hopefully, that will keep me sane.

  9. Yoink says

    I hope it didn’t land splat on top of some poor alien.
    It’s accidents like that that start interplanetary wars.

  10. SteveC says

    truthteller: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God. Our faith is the victory. God gave to us eternal life and this life is in His Son.”

    Translation: We rock, everybody else sucks.

    Truthteller, what is the point of such a post? Do you imagine that your words convince people by magic, like it’s a Harry Potter spell, or something?

  11. MTran says

    There’s an article about the brain and the experience of spirituality in the New York Times online edition for May 25th.

    A Stroke Leads a Brain Scientist to a New Spirituality: A Superhighway to Bliss

    Regarding neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s experience of “Nirvana” during –and after– a stroke that effected the left lobe of her brain.

    According to the article:

    Religious ecstatics who claim to see angels have asked her to appear on their radio and television programs.

    She has declined these offers. Although her father is an Episcopal minister and she was raised in his church, she cannot be counted among the traditionally faithful. “Religion is a story that the left brain tells the right brain,” she said.

    Stroke of Spirituality

  12. themadlolscientist says

    I got a tremendous kick out of the way everyone went a little nuts and cheered every announcement the communications guy made as Phoenix was landing.

    Do you imagine that your words convince people by magic, like it’s a Harry Potter spell, or something?

    Bite thy tongue, thou Sinful Idolatrous Wicked Evil Unrighteous Nasty Heathen Unbeliever! Hast thou not heard: Harry Potter is TEH EVOL!!!!11!!! (For behold, mine brother is a Fundy Dementorist, and he hath told it unto me. And I disagreedeth with him, and behold, he spaketh not unto me for much time thereafter.)

    “Religion is a story that the left brain tells the right brain,” she said.

    I’d have thought it was the other way around.

  13. clinteas says

    I agree with madlol No 16 : Should be the right brain telling a story to the left brain shouldnt it?

    From a quick google search:
    //One (the right brain) is visual and processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous way, looking first at the whole picture then the details. The other (the left brain) is verbal and processes information in an analytical and sequential way, looking first at the pieces then putting them together//

    Not sure about this whole spiritual thing she says she is experiencing now,but it confirms what I had suspected for a long time: That the experience of religion/spirituality is based on some brain malfunction or damage,although I thought the flaw was genetic and inherent rather than caused by actual acquired damage.

  14. Stephen says

    Neil Shubin came to the Netherlands to do a talk at the University of Leiden on Saturday. He attracted an audience of the best part of 500 people.

    I went out on a limb and took my 12-year old son along (bear in mind that English is not his mother tongue) as he is interested in animals. As far as we could see he was the only school student there, which in retrospect was rather a shame.

    Shubin proved to be as good a speaker as his Pharyngula reputation indicated – indeed if it wasn’t for Pharyngula it wouldn’t have occurred to me to go, so many thanks for that. My son said he could follow nearly all of it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  15. RayCeeYa says

    Jesus Glen, you hit the nail on the head there and drove it home.

    The Bible that young earther’s hold so dearly has gone through at least several translations, two instances of recompilation of various esoteric texts (I’m talking about both the old and new testament here) and multiple major revisions and modifications done entirely for political (i.e Henry the 8th) or social reasons (like the protestant reformation).

    And yet it’s still accepted as the “absolute” word of god.

    I want to get my hands on some very, very old versions of the bible and pick out a few choice verses just to get ready for the next time I meet a creationist robot. I mean if the Bible is as blatantly and heinously aggressive as it is now (what with the passages condemning to death homosexuals AND disobedient children), I want to see how bad it was during the middle ages.

    Frankly I was raised Catholic. So I wouldn’t be surprised to find a passage about putting to death anyone who wasn’t fasting during lent.

  16. Nick Gotts says

    RE #16, 17 Should be the right brain telling a story to the left brain shouldnt it?

    No, I don’t think so: the right brain generates the “mystical” holistic feelings, but the verbal left brain makes up a story (religion) to account for them.

  17. clinteas says

    Good point Nick,Im not sure what the answer is lol,got to get my old and weathered Lurija out and have a look i reckon…..

  18. shilpa says

    @20 I am not sure about “left brain makes up a story”. Although language is mainly localized to the left hemisphere, as far as I know, some aspects like discourse processing involve the right hemisphere too. I know that understanding a story is different from making up a story, but can we state definitively that it is the left hemisphere that makes up the story?

  19. says

    Since this is an open thread, I’ll say that I’m more concerned right now about the Bill Henson debate here in Australia, where a distinguished artistic photographer is currently under threat of being charged with crimes related to child pornography. From what has been seen of the images concerned, they are not pornographic except to nasty minds.

    Yes, folks, the prudes and panic-merchants are alive and well, and some of them are living in Sydney. Naturally enough, god-bothering clowns such as our new prime minister, smiling Kevin, are involved in this debacle.

    If this were happening in an illiterate backwater somewhere, it would be bad enough. Instead, it’s happening in a sophisticated international city (the city where I was born, for whatever that’s worth).

    Hopefully, reason will prevail. Meanwhile, this about the biggest topic of the week in the Australian blogosphere.

  20. JeffreyD says

    Since this is an open thread, those of us in the US should take at least a moment to remember it is Memorial Day. No matter your thoughts on the politics, the wars, the reasons, the uselessness of one war or another, please take a moment to just remember that people died in service to this country and that many of them were trying to preserve our basic freedoms by placing their bodies between our homes and the desolation of war.

    Will hit the bar later today for a drink or two and some serious memories.

    Ciao, y’all

  21. clinteas says


    i was thinking about posting this,but didnt dare lol….
    What pisses me off most is the response of all the f***ing bigots in denial who havent even seen the pics,and our new PM tops it off with his moronic rant,what an utter loser he is !
    The people that think those pics are pedophilia are the ones that should have a good look at themselves and try to figure out why they think that way,talk about denial.
    How are we going with the Melbourne PZombie meeting btw??

  22. Nick Gotts says

    Shilpa @22 – Yes, I’m sure you’re right, both hemispheres are involved; I should have made it clear that I wasn’t endorsing the division of functions between hemispheres suggested, just noting that it was internally consistent. As a member of the oppressed sinistral minority, I am aware that the popular left-brain/right-brain stereotype is inaccurate ;-), but I’m not up-to-date with the relevant literature. This case sounds like one that could advance the science considerably.

  23. says

    “Religion is a story that the left brain tells the right brain,” she said.

    I’d have thought it was the other way around.

    No, only left-handed people are in their right minds :o)

  24. themadlolscientist says

    @20: True, the left brain puts the words to it. But if the right brain didn’t come up with the idea in the first place, would the left brain have thought of it?

    Whatever the case, our two brains sure do hold some interesting conversations sometimes!

  25. says

    J. Random Godbot sez:

    Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God.
    Our faith is the victory.
    God gave to us eternal life and this life is in His Son.

    Actuall, JRG, I’m begotten of my parents, neither of whom are god, or goddess. And if your faith is victory, then you’ve won, by default and definition, for the very little it’s worth. And you have to be inside jeebus to get this alleged eternal life? Isn’t it dark in there?

    re: comb jellies:
    Scenario 1: evolution of tissues & nervous system happened twice in two branches of life.

    Scenario 2: evolution of tissues & nervous system happened once, with one subsequent branch losing them.
    Isn’t the most parsimonious view, then, scenario 1? Can they test, say, the genes involved in nervous system development between a comb jelly and, say a lobster, and see how they compare?

    and re: sexually transmitted debt, was I the only one who’s first thought was kids?

  26. Screechy Monkey says

    Glen, I don’t know why you’re wasting your time typing about the evolution of language. Everyone knows our modern languages sprung fully formed from the Tower of Babel.

  27. themadlolscientist says

    @23: Some things never change. People got incensed over Lewis Carroll’s photos of Alice and her sisters back in the day.

    Fast forward to 15 or so years ago, when a big tempest in a teapot broke out over David Hamiton’s The Age of Innocence, a collection of artistic photographs of nude pre-teen and young teen girls. The usual gang of prudes called it “child pornography” and wanted it pulled off the shelves.

    Fortunately they didn’t succeed. In fact, their silliness led to more sales. If the prudes hadn’t raised a stink, most people wouldn’t even have known the book existed.

    When I saw the book, I wasn’t surprised that the prude gang had gotten so crazy about it. But I also thought, more girls ought to see this. They get such crappy ideas about their body image at that age, they could use some affirmation that girls their age really are beautiful.

    Just 2 brass farthings’ worth from a middle-aged broad who somehow managed to survive her adolescence with a pretty good body image……

  28. David Marjanović, OM says

    Ctenophores are the Ancient Ones.

    I rather think the ctenophores are the long-branched ones, who have evolved fast and far away from everything else. This invites the artefact called long-branch attraction, which leads to the longest branches (one of which tends to be the root of the tree) teaming up. The whole tree has plenty of oddities that may indicate there’s long-branch attraction all over it.

    I want to get my hands on some very, very old versions of the bible and pick out a few choice verses just to get ready for the next time I meet a creationist robot. I mean if the Bible is as blatantly and heinously aggressive as it is now (what with the passages condemning to death homosexuals AND disobedient children), I want to see how bad it was during the middle ages.

    Nah. All the chaos happened before the 5th century, and most of it much earlier.

  29. themadashelllolscientist says

    Once again, Fox fsck Faux fdisk Fucks News does what it does best!

    Liz Trotta steps in it, big time:

    “Now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, ummm ahh Obama, well both if we could. =LOL=”

    Video clip here

    Pitch a bitch to the FCC here

    Pitch a bitch to Fucks News here

  30. says

    Rich (#34),

    Are you thinking Sid Schwab’s SurgeXperiences?

    Posted by: Sili

    Actually, I was referring to my site.

    Most of the limericks I have composed were posted to Pharyngula first.

  31. says

    Awhile ago, someone here brought up the idea of doing an Expelled spoof based on the substitute teacher fired for “wizardry.”

    Whoever you are, your wish is my command. I present “Hexpelled! No Wizardry Allowed” Enjoy, and you probably shouldn’t be drinking something when you watch this. :)

    Part 1


  32. themadlolscientist says

    ROFL =snort= MAO =gasp= !!!1! A masterpiece. Absolutely love the username too.