OK, I’ll bite

A creationist on twitter is pestering me to ‘debate’ her. Here’s a sampling of her arguments and style.

No way can we have a conversation about that in a 140 character limit. So I’m telling her to come here and expand on her ideas, if she can.

But first, I’d like her to answer a little quiz to see if she’s worth wasting time on.

  1. What is a typical mutation rate? (be specific about the units!)

  2. Are most mutations deleterious, neutral, or beneficial?

  3. What is the difference between phenotype and genotype?

  4. What is the difference between mutation and “deformity”?

  5. What is “elephant disease”?

That’s a start. I’m going to tell her on Twitter to come here and address these very simple questions. Anyone want to take bets on whether she bothers?

Happy Blasphemy Day!

I hope you’ve been spending your Blasphemy Day thinking irreverent thoughts and committing sacrilegious acts. I’ve been at a humanist conference where we damned religion to heck, and I’m about to board an airplane where I will spend the flight putting finishing touches on a profane pro-science and anti-religion (anti-moderate religion, even) column for Free Inquiry, and I’ll try to find a few minutes to cuss out the non-existent angels who are not holding my airplane up in the sky.

But also, this is serious business. Consider the young Greek man who has been arrested for mocking a cleric; Alexander Aan, arrested in Indonesia for denying the existence of god; Alber Saber, arrested in Egypt for linking to a stupid movie that mocked Mohammed; Rimsah Masih, accused of desecrating the Quran and facing hateful death threats; Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan; and too many others to list. Consider that the European Union has just called for “full respect of religion” and “the importance of respecting all prophets” — blasphemy laws are spreading.

So blaspheme today! Assert your right to deny bullshit loudly and honestly!

Cyanobacteria, the desert soil, and you

Cryptobiotic soil

Cryptobiotic soil crust in Utah | J. Brew photo

The Palm Springs library talk last week went well: reasonable crowd given the venue, lots of good questions, and though they weren’t set up for video there’s some talk of my doing a repeat even more local and I’ll make sure we get video of that, if it happens.

One of the questions that came up was about something that was related to the topic of my talk but worthy of its whole own presentation: cryptobiotic soil crusts. I was instructed to come up with an hour-long presentation on the topic and come back. I think they may have been kidding.

Cryptobiotic soil crusts, also referred to as cryptogamic soils, or just plain “crypto,” are pretty common in arid lands that haven’t been disturbed for a while. They’re alive, as indicated by the  suffix “biotic”: living communities of half a dozen different kinds of organisms: cyanobacteria, green and brown algae, fungi, lichens, mosses and liverworts. The “crypto” part means that when conditions are less than optimal, the organisms that make up the crust can go dormant, seeming to die off — “hiding” their life. Cryptobiotic.

[Read more…]

I guess the Secular Coalition for America will let just anyone volunteer

Come on, SCA. Exercise some care and vet your volunteers better. After Edwina Rogers, we need some confidence-builders in the organization, and learning that they’ve made this awfully stupid appointment does NOT fill me with confidence. Why would you want a guy who posted an op-ed on AVoiceForMen, a hate site, and who posts the home addresses of a woman he dislikes on another hate site, as a candidate to represent a state organization?

Of course, it could just be that the organization is so desperate for volunteer help that they’ll take the dregs. That’s not a confidence builder, either.

There’s a petition. Unfortunately, it’s already full of trolls using fake names — change.org really needs to tighten up their procedures. These petitions already reek of uselessness, and the fact that they’re so easily gamed makes them totally pointless.

For the Youtube commenters

I finally had to disable comments on two of my youtube videos, one on Atheism+ and another on the Thunderf00t affair. Why? Because the commenters were just too stupid and far too repetitive. Seriously, if youtube commenters don’t bother to read each others comments, and therefore say exactly the same idiotic comments over and over again, why should I bother to read them myself? And in most of the cases, it was just people reciting their knee-jerk hatred while clearly not even paying any attention to what was actually said in the video (to blame: Thunderf00t linked to those videos, told everyone a distorted version of their content, and then his followers jumped in to regurgitate the Asshole Approved commentary.)

So I finally got bored with the pile of stupid and shut them down. I’m not going to allow comments on any future youtube videos, either — instead, I’ll redirect them to the comments section Pharyngula and let them try to babble here. I’m going to add links to this post to each of the videos; either they’ll ignore it, because it takes too much effort to puke up something on a blog, or we’re about to experience an inundation of inanity. I’m expecting the former; really, these gomers are not the brightest lot.