The Complaints Department

Oh, look! Bugs and broken ugly stuff!

I know. Here you are in this new place, and it’s homely. There are glitches. There are clearly things that Myers guy doesn’t know how to do yet, and he clearly doesn’t grasp WordPress. Some stuff is just different, and you hate it.

This is your thread.

Tell me what sucks, and if you can, tell me how to fix it. I will listen humbly and take recommendations and advice. Implementation of your suggestions might be slow as I creep up the learning curve, and also because this is a new network of blogs and I can’t charge in and risk breaking things for everyone else, but it will improve.

We will make it sleek and beautiful and efficient together.

Welcome to the new digs!

You may be wondering why I had to change my address, why I’m cruelly forcing you to update your RSS feeds, why I’m breaking your familiar habits, why I’m making you read this awkward site with the plaster and lath showing and the ugly paint job and the stuff that doesn’t work very well, as I’m sure we’ll discover. Those are good questions, and here are my answers.

Hey, I’m an atheist, you know. You’re uncomfortable? Tough. I’m writing on this blog for me, not you.

As an outlet for self-expression, this move was necessary. National Geographic will be taking a more active role in hosting the ScienceBlogs stable, which is a good thing, since they’ll be bringing their prestige, better support, and some welcome changes to the site as a whole. They’ll also be bringing their standards & practices, which are different from the more freewheeling policies of Seed Media…and it was clear that there was going to be a culture clash in the transition.

NatGeo and I have worked out an acceptable compromise. This site on Freethoughtblogs is mine and only mine, and none of the content is in any way associated with National Geographic. Yay freedom! I can say whatever I want here! At the same time, whatever I write that I feel is compatible with the more conservative ethos of National Geographic will also appear over there — so less liberal, more religious readers can read the sciencey stuff without getting their staid world rocked. One qualifier: anti-creationism is well within the NatGeo brief, so  young-earth creationists and intelligent design cretins aren’t going to like either site. There are limits, you know.

So, if you liked the old Pharyngula exactly as it was, this is the place you want to be: update your blogrolls, change your bookmarks, redirect your RSS feeds. Other than the address, nothing has changed. This is Pharyngula Unfiltered, double espresso Pharyngula.

If you’ve been wishing Pharyngula was a little less rude and offensive, if you were constantly annoyed by the challenges to your cherished and foolish religious dogmas, do nothing at all and stick with the old site.  That will be Cool Menthol Pharyngula, or de-caf Pharyngula.

Easy choice, right? Take your pick. The only unfortunate catch is that de-caf Pharyngula is also old established Pharyngula, with most of the bugs in the software hammered out and everything already working the way you’re used to. This new Pharyngula is going to be a rough work in progress for a while, so you’re going to have to bear with us for a while, and there might be sudden abrupt changes or downtime glitches or who knows, the occasional catastrophic failure. But we’ll get better over time.

For now, if you find bugs and annoyances, go to the Complaints Department and leave a comment.

Rebecca Watson at CFI

We’ve been missing one piece of information in all the condemning and howling and insanity of the Rebeccapocalypse: the notorious talk at CFI in which Watson hatefully and viciously tore into a poor innocent student and ripped her to shreds in public…or, at least, that’s how it’s been characterized by some people. Omission corrected: here’s the youtube video of the infamous talk:

Wow. Excellent talk, and guess what? The poor student was discussed civilly and without victimization. She didn’t even make up an insulting name for her.

It’s rather clear that the focus of her talk was presenting the evidence for anti-woman craziness that the people at CFI could use, not on attacking anyone at CFI.

(via Furious Purpose)

Episode CCXXXVII: Belatedly Anti-Caturday

It’s been one of those days. I gave my talk at #ssa2011, and unfortunately…my flash drive turned out to be unreadable on all of the machines there, so I had to do it without any visual aids. I ended up at several points waving at a blank screen and asking everyone to imagine what was up there. Oh well.

Now here, something much more interesting than any ol’ cat; charming friendly cooperative vampire bats.

(Last edition of TET; Current totals: 12,835 entries with 1,456,176 comments.)

An entirely predictable outcome

We all knew this was coming. Xiaotingia, the newly described feathered dinosaur, suggests a reevaluation of the taxonomic status of Archaeopteryx, so the creationists are stumbling all over each other to crow about the failure of science…which doesn’t make any sense, since reconsidering hypotheses in the light of new evidence is exactly what science is supposed to do.

David Menton and Ken Ham appear in WhirledNutDaily to say that 1) it’s all a lie anyway, so this evidence can’t teach us anything new, and 2) forget Archaeopteryx! It’s just another dinosaur!

Uncommon Descent, the intelligent design creationist blog, has a couple of posts on Xiaotingia. One claims that a big hole has just been blown in an icon of evolution, but that the “tenured Darwin bores” are all flapping their hands and telling everyone to ignore the damage. Another claims that evolutionary biology was looking for a simple linear trajectory in avian evolution, and now it’s shown to be a complex mess, therefore…what? Because creationists have a misconception about what was expected, evolution is wrong?

Ho hum. Science will keep on strengthening our understanding of the past with new evidence avidly sought, creationists will just keep on clamping their eyes even more tightly shut.

What the f&#* is wrong with Chris Hedges?

Hedges has been totally nuts for the last few years: he’s got this crazy irrational hysteria about atheists that makes him utterly unhinged whenever he writes about us. His latest is of a piece with his mania:

The gravest threat we face from terrorism, as the killings in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik underscore, comes not from the Islamic world but the radical Christian right and the secular fundamentalists who propagate the bigoted, hateful caricatures of observant Muslims and those defined as our internal enemies. The caricature and fear are spread as diligently by the Christian right as they are by atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Our religious and secular fundamentalists all peddle the same racist filth and intolerance that infected Breivik. This filth has poisoned and degraded our civil discourse. The looming economic and environmental collapse will provide sparks and tinder to transform this coarse language of fundamentalist hatred into, I fear, the murderous rampages experienced by Norway. I worry more about the Anders Breiviks than the Mohammed Attas.

What? Muslims riot over cartoons, Breivik massacres young people in the name of reactionary Christian nationalism, and Hedges blames the atheists? Madness. Pure madness.

Don’t read Hedges. Read Sam Harris, who as calmly as is possible when you’ve been slimed by a lunatic, tears Hedges to pieces. It’s a lovely read.

I disagree with him, slightly, on one point. Harris is concerned about a jihadist regime getting their hands on nuclear weapons, because they will lack the ethical restraint to hold back from using them. I have another worry: a crusading regime in the US military. Our men and women who are trained to use nuclear weapons are getting instructions…from Christians.

Reports show the mandatory Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare session, which takes place during a missile officer’s first week in training, is led by Air Force chaplains and includes a discussion on St. Augustine’s Christian “Just War Theory.” Also included in the PowerPoint presentation is a slide containing a passage from the Book of Revelation that attempts to explain how Jesus Christ, as the “mighty warrior,” believed war to be “just.”

The presentation goes on to say that there are “many examples of believers [who] engaged in wars in [the] Old Testament” in a “righteous way” and notes there is “no pacifistic sentiment in mainstream Jewish history.”

Now that’s chilling. Perhaps Hedges should take note that it isn’t atheists telling soldiers that it is just to annihilate your enemy by all means possible.

Use your littler words, Bill!

Oh, this is beautiful. Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) is being interviewed by a Fox News talking head who asks a surprisingly dumb question: Nye is talking about a volcano found on the moon, so he asks, “Does it go anywhere close to the climate change debate on earth?…we haven’t been up there burning fossil fuels.”. Bill Nye’s eyebrows shoot up, he pauses very briefly, and you can see him recalibrating his brain so he can answer as he would to a perky little 5 year old. It’s wonderfully amusing, and he does give a very good answer.