These guys really hate science

McCain once again whined about studying bear DNA, and it’s clear that the decrepit old man doesn’t have a clue about the value of biological research. But the other interesting revelation is that while denouncing earmarks for studying bear DNA, overhead projectors, or fruit fly research, the complaint is not about earmarks, but about funding science.

How can we tell? It turns out that Sarah Palin was happy to lobby for earmarks to study recreational halibut fishing, the mating habits of crabs, and harbor seal DNA. Those all sound like legitimate science projects to me, but I doubt that Palin recognized that — all she cares about is diverting money to her bailiwick. This is a different kind of abuse of science, where it’s seen only as a tool for local profit … and you just know that she would not support even local science that interfered with her plans.


I’m going to be in Toronto this weekend, and everyone wants a piece of me. I’ll tell you right now that I’m letting Larry Moran referee some of my time. I’m getting into Toronto in the early afternoon, checking into my hotel, and going off with Larry and a few other people for dinner before my talk. And then there’s a catered reception at 6, the talk, and then free time afterwards — go ahead, drag me off somewhere nearby and force me to drink that dangerous Canadian beer.

On Saturday afternoon, I’ll be at the University of Guelph for an informal discussion, so you can ask me questions there. Once again, afterwards I believe is fairly wide open, although I do want to spend some time with the Gregory lab…but I’m sure we can arrange something for the evening.

By the way, Skatje will be with me, and will be there at Guelph for the Q&A. I think the students at those universities might have plans for her, but you can also meet up with the godless daughter at these events.

Hey, Bellingham, you still have time!

Gordy Slack is going to be doing a reading from his book on the Dover trial today, at 4:00, on the Western Washington University campus.

If you want more drama, there will also be a panel discussion tomorrow, Wednesday, at 6pm. Slack, will be there, as will Josh Rosenau of the NCSE and TfK, and for hilarious comedy relief…Casey Luskin, mindless attack mouse of the Discovery Institute. Don’t miss it for the laughs.

I just got word that you get a third shot at Slack. He’s speaking in 234 Biology at 4pm on 29 October on “Do Neo-Creationists get anything right?” I’m guessing the answer will be “no”, I hope.

Short takes

Stuff is accumulating in my mailbox far faster than I can put it out here with commentary, so I’m just going to dump the recent pile of links here rather than my usual tactic of simply letting them disappear by neglect.

At last, I know what heaven looks like

There’s some weird video game coming out, called Heaven: the Game. It has a fairly elaborate web site, but it fails to say how you play the silly thing (I suspect you don’t get to form an army and assault the throne of heaven…). It does have lots of shots of the scenery, which finally reveals the Christian vision of paradise.

It looks a lot like an even more opulent version of the Vatican, populated with flexible, dewy porn stars. It’s actually not bad.

How low can Norm Coleman’s campaign sink?

Really low. Here’s an anti-Al Franken brochure that’s being mailed around here in Minnesota—that’s aimed at kids, with childish illustrations, while accusing Franken of some contemptible acts.

“Come on in, kids… Senator Franken’s going to tell a few jokes!”
“We shouldn’t have to be ashamed of Minnesota’s senator!”
Al Franked tackled a protestor at a political rally- and bragged about it
“We shouldn’t have to wonder what he will say…”
Al Franken wrote a pornographic column in Playboy- and thought it was funny.
“We shouldn’t have to apologize for his actions…”
Al Franken has written so-called comedy routines about raping women.
Al Franken: A bad example for our kids; completely unfit for public office

Charming. Man, but I hope Coleman sinks into the sewage permanently next week — but apparently this is still a very close race.

What word is missing in this story?

I’m sure everyone has already heard about the plot to murder Obama and many others:

Two white supremacists allegedly plotted to go on a national killing spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, federal authorities said Monday.

In all, the two men whom officials described as neo-Nazi skinheads planned to kill 88 people – 14 by beheading, according to documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tenn.

It’s a horrible and sordid story of idiots with guns, but in scanning the various news sources, there is a curious but obvious word missing — a word that normally our media and government fling about with unscrupulous abandon.

That word is “terrorism”.

Doesn’t it strike you as peculiar that white homegrown right-wing fascist killers are somehow exempt from being called what they are — terrorists?

This test is much easier than the one my students will get on Thursday

Imagine that you are running for the State Board of Education, and you receive a questionnaire from a science organization trying to get a feel for your positions on issues important to them. Here’s the first question:

1. As a State Board of Education member, which of the following organizations would you trust to inform your decision-making in regards to science? Check all that apply.

  1. American Association for the Advancement of Science _____
  2. The Intelligent Design Network ____
  3. The National Academies of Science _____
  4. The Discovery Institute ____
  5. The American Institute of Biological Sciences _____
  6. Answers in Genesis ____
  7. The National Science Teachers Association _____
  8. The Institute for Creation Research _____

This shouldn’t be at all hard. Take your time.

Now if you’re anything like me, you would have checked off a, c, e, and g.

Compare your answers against those given by candidates for the Kansas State Board of Education. I don’t think I would want to vote for Kathy Martin or Dennis Hedke.


The Anchorage Daily News has just endorsed…Barack Obama for president. Say, wasn’t there a favorite daughter of the fine state of Alaska on that ticket?

Bora has several videos of some fruit fly researchers defending their work. Of course, if you really want to get into the details, here’s the progress report of the very same specific research project that Caribou Barbie dissed.

Walker A Jones

2007 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Explore for natural enemies (pathogens, parasites and predators) in the native range of insect pests identified as high priority targets by the ARS National Program Staff. Identify, colonize and evaluate the most promising natural enemies and ship to U.S. cooperators. Results of laboratory and field studies will be used to improve the ability to predict key factors for application to future programs. Key target pests include the Asian longhorned beetle(Anoplophora glabripennis), emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), wheat stem sawfly (Cephus cinctus), olive fly (Bactrocera oleae), Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus), and plant bugs (several species).

NP304, Component V: Pest Control Technologies. A key natural enemy of the olive fruit fly in Africa is discovered and shipped to California. The olive fruit fly threatens olive production in California. Long known in the Old World, it invaded California without its co-evolved natural enemies. Among several parasitic wasps discovered from Eurasia and Africa, one from Kenya, and southern Africa was showed to be specific to olive fruit fly. Extensive collections in Kenya, South Africa and Namibia yielded several thousand olive fruit flies which were shipped to the ARS laboratory in France for processing. Seventeen shipments containing over 13,000 parasitic wasps (Psyttalia lounsburyi) were subsequently shipped to California for evaluation and release. If successfully established, it is highly likely that pesticide use and associated costs will be substantially reduced. This activity was accomplished in cooperation with USDA-APHIS, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the University of California, Berkeley.

But of course the Republican party opposes that project. It’s one that actually worked.