Texas has state-sanctioned murder

The story of Cameron Todd Willingham (via Digby) ought to be read by everyone. Willingham seems to have been a kind of Texan dumbass, an uneducated, wife-beating piece of work, but he was also the father of three children, who he, by all accounts, loved. Those kids died in a house fire. Forensic ‘experts’ declared the fire an arson, Willingham was arrested, tried, and convicted of murder, and was executed.

Only problem: he didn’t do it. The fire experts were good ol’ boys who were operating on folklore and fairy tales about how fires propagated; real experts have looked at the scene and since declared that it was an accidental fire. Nobody killed those little girls, but their father was killed for their deaths.

That’s not the most disturbing part of the story to me. You have to watch these videos of Judge John Jackson (he was prosecutor in the case, and is now a judge). He openly admits that the evidence for arson was weak, and that he looked at the circumstances to determine Willingham’s guilt. Those circumstances? Willingham was a low-class ruffian with tattoos of skulls who like heavy metal music. Therefore, he was probably a satanist. Therefore, he probably killed his children.

I’m not joking. That was the basis for this smug cracker’s determination of guilt, that led directly to his execution. Why not just criminalize tattoos and Metallica? It would make it easy to round up the riff-raff and exterminate them.

The state of Texas murdered an innocent man, and we can see the whole chain of incompetence, bigotry, and cowardice that led to the tragedy, from this ass of a prosecutor to Governor Perry, who refused to heed the evidence of malfeasance. Why aren’t all of them being impeached or fired, and facing criminal charges in a court of law? Is it because they don’t have any tattoos and listen to patriotic tripe from Lee Greenwood, Brooks & Dunn, and Tim McGraw?

End the death penalty everywhere. Drum the red-necked blundering boobs out of office, at the very least.

I didn’t even know there was a reporter there!

My appearance at Bates made it to the Lewiston Sun Journal.

They did get a little piece of one point I tried to make. I don’t think religion makes people do wicked things, and that’s not my gripe with it. What it does is cut an intellectual brake line, making them incapable of dealing with certain situations rationally — they may do what is right, or they may do something that’s just nuts, but you just can’t rely on them doing what is reasonable.

An entirely appropriate summary of Stephen Meyer’s talk in Oklahoma

It was very simple: DIRP.

I knew ahead of time exactly what it was going to be: complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, therefore, DESIGN. It doesn’t follow. The logic is nonexistent. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect a competent person with a Ph.D. in philosophy to recognize, but no, it’s the same ol’ thing, trotted out every time they get up to speak.

COMPLEXITY DOES NOT IMPLY DESIGN. You can build up an awesome mess of complexity by accident, so you need to demonstrate something other than complexity to demonstrate intent.

Happy Blasphemy Day!

It’s that day when you’re supposed to express your irreverence (hey, wait a minute, isn’t that every day and every minute?), and if you think there is something you should do that’s better than just wandering around uttering foul imprecations against gods and their priests, try supporting the Irish campaign to get their blasphemy law off the books.

But whatever is done in the spirit of weakening religious dogma is fine with me. I had some plans, but I may have to do a belated blasphemy…it’s another day of travel for me.

Godless gang of Maine!

We had a fine evening here at Bates College in Maine, and here’s our group photo of the elites who gathered for calamari, Maine food, and beer afterwards. Note satanic red glowing eyes.

You may notice that some of us are wearing an interesting orange necklace. That’s a cephalopod from Noadi. Not only are they pretty, but I can guarantee that they ward off vampires.

Oh, and you can get an account of the talk here. It was all about blasphemy.

Maybe the media should interview this guy for “interesting” science

Since the mere majesty and grandeur of the natural world are insufficient to provide entertainment, perhaps science coverage in the media should become something like the Weekly World News. Arthur David Horn could be a major media star.

He now advocates the theory that modern man is not the result of a natural process of evolution, but that evolution was artificially aided by reptilian extraterrestrials. The reptilians bred mankind as servants and continue to rule the planet today, Horn said.

Reptilians have manipulated perceptions of world history and hold power over humankind through their influence over an elite and powerful group of humans, known as the Illuminati, Arthur said. Throughout human history, the reptilian beings have been recorded as dragons or gods.

I don’t think that was an example of media quote mangling, either. He was speaking at a meeting called a “Galactic Gathering,” organized by The Institute for the Study of Galactic Civilizations.

A plus on his side: there’s also a nice human interest story there.

The shift in Arthur’s focus came shortly after meeting Lynette, who was then a metaphysical healer, he said. After many conversations over the telephone, Arthur and Lynette finally met face-to-face in July of 1988 when they spent a week in Northern California’s Trinity Mountains searching for Sasquatch, commonly known as Bigfoot.

The couple never spotted the mythic creature, but fell in love, Lynette said. Only a few months later, they were married in the chapel on the CSU campus.

Awww. Woo Love.

Somebody pass his name on to Sharon Begley, who is manufacturing pseudo-controversies this week. She’s defending Lamarckism now, based on some work that suggests a plausible basis for multi-generation responses to the environment, a justification for some of the observations made by Kammerer on toads.

Genes for living on land seem to get “environmentally silenced in early embryos exposed to water,” says Vargas, who combed through Kammerer’s lab notes and whose analysis appears in the Journal of Experimental Zoology. “It has taken a painfully long time to properly acknowledge that environment can influence inheritance,” he told me. “I think academia has discouraged experiments testing environmental modification of inheritance,” because the inheritance of acquired characteristics—Lamarckism—drives the self-appointed evolution police crazy.

They might want to spend more time reading studies and less energy manning the barricades.

Aaaargh! Epigenetics is not Lamarckism! Also, Begley doesn’t seem to understand that the institution of science is extremely conservative, and rightly so: we ‘man the barricades’ because science isn’t like the Huffington Post, letting any wacky idea sail through unchallenged. There is a demand for rigor: show us the data, do the experiments, repeat until you’ve got a case that can’t be shot down by a lone skeptical first year grad student. Postulating reptoids guiding human evolution isn’t going to be credible until someone shoots one and writes a paper about the dissection, and Lamarckism is going to be sneered at until someone does the experiment that shows it.

I don’t think academia has been neglecting this field because of dogma, either. Epigenetics is hot right now (and again, it’s NOT Lamarckism!), and there’s some interesting work going on in the field of eco-devo. I also think that a replication of Kammerer’s work that demonstrated an actual effect would be easily publishable — I’d be interested in reading it, for sure.

We’re all the evolution police. It isn’t as sinister as Begley seems to imply: we just demand a little more evidence than speculation.