Furious at a breach of ethical behavior…by an evolutionist

I thought it was simple plagiarism, but it turned out to be so much worse. Commenter A. Noyd discovered that anti-creationist arguments posted here were being regularly parroted elsewhere, on a site called debate.org, without attribution. Jon Milne was in a debate with a creationist named Iredia, and he was getting handy rebuttals straight from me and various other regular commenters here, including Nerd of Redhead, Amphiox, a_ray_in_dilbert_space, and David Marjanović, which he’d simply copy and paste straight from here into comments there, under his name.

That’s disgraceful. I was shocked to hear of it: we often accuse creationists of this game, of simply pasting together quotes without understanding them, and here was someone acting as a debater for evolution doing the same thing. It was patent plagiarism, and ethically wrong.

But then it turned into something else altogether, something even more contemptible. From his confession, it turns out that he’d been doing something truly dishonest. He had a second account here. When a creationist gave him an argument on another site, he would copy it, word for word, come over to Pharyngula, pose as a creationist (“biasevolution”), and paste it into a comment, to trigger a response from us.

He was plagiarizing creationists.

He then used a sockpuppet account to parrot their words.

He would then plagiarize us in his replies on this other site.

He was simply shuttling arguments from one site to another, providing no creative input of his own other than to carefully remove any evidence of the origin of arguments. Why? I don’t know. Maybe he wanted to look really clever. But all I know is that his every argument on debate.org is now tainted, and he’s managed to discredit a lot of people with seriously damaging behavior that reflects poorly on the science side of these arguments.

He has been banned, along with his “biasevolution” creationist sockpuppet. And I’m really pissed off.

Aaargh. Stephanie tells me he’s been doing this for a good long while.

He’s been plagiarizing for a couple of years, too. His email address brings up a short-lived LJ account where he bragged about bringing the “epic smackdown” on a creationist.

His material? Lifted from Rational Wiki.

And the Iron Chariots Wiki.

And Rational Wiki again.

Yeah? This is my angry Viking face.


Isn’t public masturbation illegal?

A gun isn’t just a tool, it’s a sex aid for the terminally inadequate. A gun fondler in Georgia wandered about exposing his toy to children.

A Georgia man panicked parents and children at a local park and baseball field by randomly walking around and displaying his gun to anyone he encountered in the parking lot.

According to witnesses who spoke with WSB-TV, the man wandered around the Forsythe County park last Tuesday night showing his gun to strangers, telling them “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

He was right. There was nothing anyone could do about it. The police came, talked to him, he had a permit, so there was absolutely nothing illegal about strutting aimlessly through a park, smugly waving his gun at people.

Maybe there ought to be a law, though. And maybe the NRA should support it, being fans of responsible gun ownership and all that.

Ha ha, I made a funny.

But seriously, people like that will help make a change as more and more voters realized that these gun fanatics are dangerous idiots.

They’re closing the Smithsonian’s dinosaur hall for five years!

Every time I go to Washington DC I try to find time to visit the fossil hall, which is damn good (not quite as good as the AMNH’s, though, which gets my highest marks for an informative dino experience). But now the bad news: it’s being closed for five long years. The good news, though, is it will reopen with a complete renovation and a new and very complete T. rex skeleton.

Now I guess I have to stay alive for five more years to see if DC can have a better exhibit than New York. One more reason to not die…

Just when I thought I was out, @BlakeStacey pulls me back in

I’ve been Salon-free for a whole week, and then Blake Stacey has to link to the newest tactic in Salon’s courting of the woo demographic. I’m used to the idiot apologists; I can mock the gooey soft religion of the liberal theists; but what they’d done this time is flaunt an incompetent atheist. Yes, it’s an article by an atheist, but it’s so badly written and so waffly and so reliant on stereotypes that I want to just back away slowly and pretend he’s not there.

The author is W.R. Klemm, a neuroscientist who, every time I’ve heard of him previously, has been terribly incoherent. What does this mean?

“Many polls show that most scientists are atheists,” said Dr. W.R. Klemm, a senior professor of neuroscience at the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, in explaining why he created the course. “I think that is unfortunate to say the least.”

I think it just means he’s a full-of-himself contrarian.

His article in Salon is far worse — for one thing, it meanders along forever, saying next to nothing. His premise seems to be that biologists and physicists are “two cultures” (and he cites C.P. Snow!) that don’t get along and don’t understand each other, because physicists are too mathy.

It’s hard for biologists to argue with physicists. Often physicists listen with detached bemusement because biologists can’t explain life with mathematics. Physics could not exist without math. Sometimes I think physicists get too enamored with math. I get the impression that they think that describing and predicting phenomena with equations is the same as explaining why and how such phenomena occur. Take the most famous equation of all, E = mc2. Just what does that equal sign mean? It implies that the variables on each side are the same. But is mass really identical to energy? True, mass can be converted to energy, as atom bombs prove, and energy can even be turned into mass. Still, they are not the same things. Not only are the units of measurement different, but the equation is only descriptive and predictive. It does not explain how mass converts to energy or vice versa.

I am embarrassed. Physicists, I swear, not all biologists are this stupid. Really, we aren’t.

Then, after telling us that he hates it when physicists write about biology, and muddily explaining that the mind has a material, biological basis, and sorta rejecting the silliness of The Spiritual Brain, he proceeds to explain to us that ‘spirit’ might be lurking in physics.

To me, other possibilities for discovering material attributes of “spirit” seem more likely. Modern physics, especially quantum mechanics and the theories of relativity, dark matter, and dark energy, has already shown that not even physicists understand what “material” is. I will now summarize the more likely possibilities for hidden realities of mind.

And then the neuroscientist writes about physics: quantum mechanics, relativity, dark matter, dark energy, string theory, parallel universes, etc., each with a little potted summary to explain how maybe there is a source for spirits within them. For example, bugger thermodynamics:

Also, what about the energy generated as electrons whip through protein chains in mitochondria? Only some of the energy is trapped in phosphate bonds of adenosine triphosphate. We assume that all the other energy is lost as heat. How can we be sure relativity is irrelevant to energy capture? Energy is well established as crucial for consciousness.

Oh, jebus. I am so eagerly anticipating the first creationist to come along and tell me that God is fueled by energy losses in biochemical pathways…because relativity. Or that dark energy is diddling our thoughts.

So what about dark energy? To push galaxies apart, it must impart some of its energy to the cluster of stars and planets to give them a push. What must dark energy be doing to us? Obviously, its push is not greater than the gravity that keeps us fixed to earth. But if that energy is absorbed by the galaxy, surely some of it must be absorbed in us. But what could such absorption do? Would such dark energy interact with the regular energy that we know about—like the energy in our brain? Could it act on consciousness?

Hey, and maybe the gravitational perturbations caused by the motion of the planets affects our brains, too, and astrology is true! Could it act on consciousness? is such a cheap and meaningless question — replace “it” with anything (frying pans, neutrinos, water, fluttering butterflies in the Amazon rain forest, the color orange, cosmic clouds of sentient formaldehyde, whatever) and it’s just as empty and just as thought-provoking as that noise.

I feel like I have to apologize to all the physicists in the world right now. Please, please, please don’t think all neuroscientists are like that. Neuroscience is a field that actually does use a lot of math and biochemistry and physical chemistry and physics, and it doesn’t usually lead to crania full of drivel.

The Catholic Church has always been a machine for greed

I really don’t get it. Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII are about to be canonized as saints, which is awfully peculiar: they weren’t particularly magical in their life, just relatively popular, and nobody has any insight into what’s going on in their heaven — which seems to be entirely imaginary anyway.

But the Church is having a gigantic gala event in Rome, with swarms of tourists, and big money corporate sponsorship from banks and oil companies…Oh. Right.

Never mind, there isn’t any mystery at all here. Just the con being briefly exposed.

Next: we think neutering your children would better prepare them for the labor market, too

An elementary school in New York canceled their yearly Kindergarten art show, and they sent out a letter explaining why they had to do it.

Dear Kindergarten parents and guardians:

We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools and, more specifically, to clarify misconceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.

The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.

Reading between the lines here…

Art will not get your children a job. They are five years old, and it is about time they started learning necessary job skills…and art will never be necessary. Art may make people happy and it may teach them about the world outside the narrow window of their daily drudgery, but it also makes them imaginative and restless and creative and non-complacent.

Look at us, your school administrators. We don’t believe in art. We have a job to do, and that job is to train a generation of workers, just like us, who will apply themselves to their tasks. The flowering of the human mind is undesirable when what we want is a flat uniform lawn of the human workforce. We shall achieve that flatness and uniformity, even if we have to snatch the crayons and glue and sparkles out of your child’s hands.

Your children have more important things to do.


The prophet who couldn’t shoot straight

Read about the real goings-on at the Bundy Ranch. Racism is just one of the lunacies on parade. GOOGLE DOCTORS THAT REMOVE MICROCHIPS. The summary:

Welfare negroes, the United Nations, sexually devious lawyers, satan, a Chinese solar farm, microchips, secret-agent NPS, a Muslim-Kenyan president, hippies, illegals. Take your pick.

Also revealing, and very Mormon: Bundy cast himself as a divinely inspired prophet of god who was delivering instructions to his people, instructing them in the prophecies they were supposed to follow, and chastising them for failing.

He goes on to explain that, although they managed to deter the BLM, they failed to do it “within one hour,” as the revelation had prophesied. So when an hour passes, he decides to get in his bulldozer and march on the BLM himself. The dozer gets stuck in the mud and he receives another revelation.

“It come to my mind real plain — the good Lord said, ‘Bundy, it’s not your job, it’s THEIR job.’ So we come back over here and heard that they had brought some cattle back. So I want you to understand,” addressing the crowd, “This is not my job, it’s YOUR job.

It’s a real comic opera. It’s too bad these kinds of clowns have successfully inserted themselves into American politics.