Transparent fakery

What do you think of this “fossil”?


It’s supposed to be a human footprint with that of an Acrocanthosaurus on top of it, showing that dinosaurs walked the earth after human beings.

Unfortunately, they both look ridiculously fake. The human print has toes like tubes and a wierdly dug-in big toe, and looks ridiculously fake. The dino print is even worse — it’s basically a three-pronged flat plate, looking like it was modeled after the smooth bottoms of a plastic dinosaur toy. Here, for instance is a photo of a cast of an actual dinosaur print.


A fellow named Alvis Delk “discovered” this rock in Texas, and is now, naturally enough, trying to sell it.

A domestic fall from a ladder eight months ago nearly crippled Delk, resulting in surgeries, a long recovery and expensive medical bills. He decided to try and sell some of his archeological treasurers, so he turned to the large piece of limestone, thinking he could clean it up some and sell it to the Creation Evidence Museum located adjacent to Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose.

Heh. Right. He’s also found a sucker — Carl Baugh, who is falling all over himself praising the authenticity of this blatant fake.

The only way this could be considered evidence for Baugh’s godly vision is in the sense of that well-known quote from Voltaire: “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” And he keeps on granting it — religious explanations for the world are everlastingly ridiculous.

I have never been a fashion model before

So many people are asking where I got my “Knowledge is Power, Power Corrupts, Study Hard, Be Evil” t-shirt, as modeled here, and I wish I could help you, but I don’t know where you could order your own. I can tell you exactly where I got it: in Detroit, at Moonbase ConFusion, from one of the many vendors in the dealer’s room. I know, that doesn’t help much. Sorry.

Someone could always go to Cryptic ConFusion in January and hope that the same t-shirts are available then…it’s a great con, even if this particular shirt isn’t always available.

Hooray! ElfPirateMonarch found that identical t-shirt design!

Medblogger alert

The Kaiser network is hosting a live webcast to discuss the influence of the blogosphere on health policy — the panel is tilted towards right wing bushites who prioritize money over health, so a more progressive contribution from the audience would be desirable. It’s going to be on tomorrow, Tuesday, at 1pm Eastern.

Oh, and if you worry about the future of health care, get a load of this: nurses in California can get continuing education credit by attending a Catholic conference full of woo. This is not reassuring. I don’t think a lecture on sex ed by a nun reciting papal dogma should count as education.

The Casey Luskin Graduate Award

It is another mark of the incompetence of the ID movement that they actually hand out an award named after Casey Luskin. Pick the most ineffectual, uninformed, pathetic loser on the creationist side, and use his name to inspire the next generation of IDiots. It’s actually amusingly appropriate.

I note that the latest awardee is keeping his name anonymous. That’s hopeful — at least some of them can still retain a sense of shame and embarrassment.

Conservative confederate killer

People keep writing to me about this wretched scumbag who shot up a Unitarian church in Tennessee, killing two people there to watch a children’s play. I don’t know what happened, but despite it happening in a church, I don’t get the impression that it’s a consequence of a conflict between Christians and an atheist. It was a Unitarian church, full of secular humanists and deists and non-specific theists, not exactly a prime target for a psychotic atheist. More likely issues are that the place had a sign out front saying “Gays welcome”, that he was a Confederate South sympathizer, that he was insane, and that he “was motivated by frustration over being unable to obtain a job and hatred for the liberal movement.” At least, that’s the word that has leaked out of a long note he left behind.

So until we know more specifics, it sounds to me like this is the work of a far right-wing nut who targeted a particular church not because it was religious, but because this is the kind of church where you’ll find the highest concentration of bleeding heart liberals. We’ll have to wait until more details are made available, though, to know for sure.

New reports: “He disliked blacks, gays, anyone who was a different color or just different from him”, and his ex-wife was a member of the church he targeted. There’s a whole bunch of crazy motives behind these actions, I suspect.

Hitchens : Luskin :: Lion : Mouse

Christopher Hitchens was impressed by the existence of blind cave organisms, and wrote that they argue against a linear progression in evolution. He’s quite right; creationism doesn’t explain why their god tossed in to salamanders and fish a collection of complex developmental mechanisms that the animals simply throw away and do not use. Evolution does — descent from a sighted ancestor explains how blind cave animals can still possess the machinery for a lost organ.

Do you think the Discovery Institute would let this challenge pass by? Of course not. They put their top man on the job, so Casey Luskin wrote a rebuttal. After a long weekend and before a busy day of work, it always makes me happy to find a new Luskin screed — they’re so dang easy to shred. Here’s his devastating critique:

Hitchens, Dawkins and Carroll can have all the evidence they want that the neo-Darwinian mechanism can mess things up, turn genes off, and cause “loss-of-function.” No one on any side of this debate doubts that random mutations are quite good at destroying complex features. Us folks on the ID side suspect that random mutation and natural selection aren’t good at doing very much more than that. And the constant citations by Darwinists of “loss of function” examples as alleged refutations of ID only strengthens our argument.

The claim that evolution can’t create new features is one of the oldest and most tired fables in the creationist playbook — note that that link cites the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and Henry Morris. It’s false. In this case, their superficial knowledge also trips them up. The loss of eyes seems like a clear-cut case of degeneration…but when you look deeper, it’s not.

The best studied case is the comparison of blind and sighted forms of Astyanax, a fish that has species that live in surface waters and have eyes, and others that live in caves and have lost them.


The Jeffery lab has worked out the molecular details of eye loss, and it isn’t as simple as messing things up, turning genes off, and causing loss-of-function mutations. To the contrary, all the genes for eyes are there and functional in the blind species. Simply transplanting small bits of organizing tissue from species with eyes to embryos of the blind forms can recruit host tissue to build a complete functional eye — that tells you the genes are still there. A comparison of gene expression patterns between the two also reveals that the blind species actually upregulates a majority of its developmental genes. Contrary to what Luskin claims, this is a positive change in development, not a loss, but an active suppression of eye expression.

What’s actually going on is that there is an increased expression of a gene called Sonic hedgehog, which causes an expansion of jaw tissue, including both the bones of the jaw and the array of sensory structures on the ventral surface — this is an adaptation that produces stronger jaws and more sensitive skin, what the fish finds useful when rooting about in the dark at the bottom of underground rivers to find food. The expansion of Shh has a side effect of inhibiting expression of another gene, Pax-6, which is the master regulator of eye development. Loss of eyes is a harmless (if you’re living in the dark) consequence of selection for better tactile reception.

Pathetic, isn’t it, how abysmally wrong Luskin can be? His conclusion is even sillier.

Meanwhile, ID proponents seek to explain a far more interesting aspect of biological history: the origin of new complex biological features. Despite his quotation of Michael Shermer on the evolution of the eye, Hitchens has yet to do that.

Actually, despite claiming that ID proponents are trying to explain the origin of biological features, Luskin hasn’t used this opportunity to even try. He can’t; “Designer did it” is not an explanation.

Carnival of the Elitist Bastards #3

This is supposed to be the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards, a celebration of excessive arrogance and bare-knuckle commentary, where smart-assed brutes with swords for tongues receive their rightful acknowledgment. I have received two dozen requests for inclusion in the rolls of the Elitist Bastards.

Alas, not one has met my standards. This is the empty carnival, with nothing to celebrate. At least it makes for short work on my part, leaving more time to bounce the Trophy Wench on my knee and guzzle down a few pints with gusto. Now go away. I’ve got better things to do.

But wait…

What would a black-hearted bastard enjoy more than an opportunity to knout the knaves who have disturbed his rest? And what would an elitist find more satisfying than making his inferiors grovel while he delivers instruction? Read on, and I shall chastise those impudent supplicants who are not quite as elite and definitely not as bastardly as yours truly.

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