Weapon of choice?

Is this how it’s going to be, mass murder by rental truck? It’s another terror attack in NY, with a guy plowing at high speed down a bike lane in Manhattan, killing at least 8.

I do notice that officials were very quick to declare this an attack of terrorism — the driver is reported to have shouted “Allah Akbar” as he took off. Curious, isn’t it, that everyone was slow to call the same behavior in Charlottesville an act of terror…I guess “MAGA” isn’t enough of a sign.

The end of Scienceblogs. Long live Scienceblogs!

Let the countdown begin.

(you might not want to click on that — it’s loud)

The self-destruct sequence for Scienceblogs has begun. If you head over there on this last day of existence, you’ll find that the last post on most of the blogs is an announcement that they’ve jumped into their escape pods and are jetting off to new worlds of discovery.

It’s a shame. Scienceblogs really was revolutionary in its time — the idea was to bring in all these people who were writing about science as a hobby, give them a little profit from their work, and harness them to generate lots of continuous online content as part of a larger science communication strategy by Seed Media. It worked! Sorta. Unfortunately, the blog network was about the only part of the media empire that was running in the black, and the big projects — Seed magazine, a popular science glossy, and ideas about data visualization — didn’t last. And then online ad revenue started to get ugly (and still is!) as the ad companies cannibalized their readership with increasingly aggressive and off-putting ads (see freethoughtblogs now for example). Management tried to make it work with a few terrible missteps, like selling a blog to Pepsi, blurring the lines between commercialism and science content. But otherwise, it was a great, fun, contentious, interesting community.

The beginning of the end came when National Geographic bought up the network. It was clear in discussions with the new management that they had no idea what they’d bought — their concerns were all about bottling it up and constraining the beast by imposing conservative standards and practices on a diverse collection of independent bloggers. People started to leave. It didn’t help that one of their first acts was upgrading everyone to new software, botching the process (I lost about a third of my comments) and leaving us with rather drab, vanilla-ish appearances. And then neglecting everything. It was clear that they didn’t care, there were caretakers put in place to just reign over the decay, and there was to be no improvement, no growth, no excitement. So many of us drifted away.

And today is the day they nuke it from orbit.

One last fond look backwards at the main Sb page…

Gosh, I sure hope no hostile alien life forms have smuggled themselves aboard the escape pods.

Another attempt to divorce atheism from the asswaffles

I don’t want to be part of a movement that includes racists, sexists, and shitlords, which makes being part of atheism problematic right now. Philip Rose feels likewise, and has a proposal: Atheism Minus.

He’s introducing the idea on YouTube, which might be a mistake — already, the shitlords are flocking to attack it, and the comments are a horror show of the usual dorks with their revisionist history and dogmatic denial of the importance of social justice causes to a social movement. They just want their privileges extended. I’m not in total agreement with everything Philip says, but goddamn, his shallow, stupid, asshole critics are repellent.

However, I am going to pluck out one of their comments as a relevant example of all that is wrong with these nitwits.

The community went south precisely when the feminism/SJW nonsense [dogmatic rejection of feminism noted. I don’t want to associate with anyone who thinks equality of women and minorities is nonsense] got injected into it [Incorrect. There were feminists and anti-feminists in it all along. What happened is that the anti-SJWs rejected some of us rather vehemently (remember, “guys, don’t do that”? That triggered a mob) with harassment campaigns]. It was obvious to a great number that it was some kind of social shaming cult [You know, that happens when you have standards for ethical behavior. People who don’t meet some minimal expectations of civil social interaction get shamed. Do you really think /pol is a great finishing school for young gentlemen?] , so we walked away from it [Lie. You did not. Instead, you babbled a lot of dogmatic bullshit about how atheism isn’t allowed to have any moral expectations, and hounded women out of the movement. I wish you’d just left.] – and, as expected, we got ‘shamed’ by the group for not agreeing 110% with their superficially worthy, yet significantly flawed causes [flawed…how? Just the mention of feminism causes a knee-jerk response from you guys — FEMINISM IS CANCER. You can’t make a coherent critique.]. Philip attempted to turn the + of added social justice to a – of added social justice in a rather clumsy bait and switch that won’t fool those of us that rejected it the first time. [Then reject it. Walk away. Just fuck off, you regressive turds.]

Just because we’re agagainst the intersectional SJW nonsense [Social Justice: The concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges. Intersectionality: the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. You object? Why?], doesn’t mean we hate women or folks of other ethnicities [Actually, it means you regard the goals of those groups as irrelevant and unimportant. Equal pay and fair treatment under the law for others are less important to you than that white men might have to back up their entitlement with responsibility] – it’s the inevitable victimhood cult and anti white male rhetoric that does that…. [And there it is: the big problem in society is that white men might get called mean names. A black man might fear getting shot by the police, a woman might fear getting raped or passed over for promotion, but the great American crisis is that white men are being told that they benefit from injustice.]

Let the shitlords rage. They dominate the discourse in areas of social media where they’re allowed to be totally anonymous and spew crap without any accountability, like YouTube, but out here in reality the major atheist organizations all recognize that that nihilistic, movement-without-meaning attitude doesn’t work, and as Philip points out, you can’t fight for the rights of an atheist minority while denying the rights of far more oppressed groups.

I do have one objection to the idea of Atheism Minus. The onus shouldn’t be on civil, normal, healthy members of a community to separate themselves from the rotten apples. We should recognize that Atheism Plus or Atheism Minus or whatever we call it isn’t the weird subset — it’s the standard. We need to just reclaim the title of Atheism as our own.

Ominous hallway

This is the second floor office wing of the science building where I work. You may notice how well kept-up it is, the floors clean and shiny — our custodians do an excellent job. But notice the line of ceiling lights marching off into the distance, with their bright reflections in the shiny floor, one aligned with each office door…except one. One office sits in a pool of relative darkness. One where the lights don’t shine, where the resident lurks in perpetual gloom.

Can you guess who dwells there, in room 2390? Who has crouched there in the room haunted by gloaming murk for years?

Hey, my old high school is in the news!

That’s rarely a good thing anymore, and it isn’t good news. Someone went into the girls’ restroom and scrawled hateful graffiti on the walls: swastikas, death threats against Muslims, and of course, the universal shorthand of American assholes everywhere, “MAGA”.

These people are effectively tarring their own slogans by association. I see “Make America Great Again” on a hat, and it’s as bad as if they have a swastika, a Confederate flag, or racial slur proudly displayed on their clothes.

Money laundering, tax evasion and conspiracy against the United States

The first indictments have come down, and the targets are Paul Manafort and his crony, Richard Gates. I suspect it’s the money charges — money laundering and tax evasion — that are really going to hurt Manafort and Gates. If conspiracy and treason could get you in trouble, we’d have to arrest most of the members of the Republican party.

Let’s hope these two are just the start.

Guess who’s going to visit the Ark Park?

Other than hordes of gullible Jesusoids, that is.


Yes! The mastermind behind the JFK assassination and father of the Zodiac Killer is going to be roaming about the Big Gay Wooden Boat. I notice they don’t mention when the murderous Christian Dominionist (uh-oh, I sound like Dan Brown) is going to be prowling, so everyone better play it safe and avoid the place for a while. Like forever.

They must be getting desperate when Rafael Cruz is their ‘celebrity’ attendee.

Skepticon 10 is coming up soon

After Mythcon ended, they were deep in the hole, and hadn’t covered the cost of putting on their crappy, divisive, fashy show, despite the fact that attendees had to pay to see it — so they had a fundraiser, and gathered about $12,000 practically overnight, out of the pockets of horrible little internet trolls.

Are you going to let them put us progressives to shame?

Skepticon is having a fundraiser right now. This is a free three-day conference held every year in Springfield, Missouri, with a fabulous roster of speakers, not a single shitlord among them, and with workshops and talks and a prom and a game night and lots of happy, hopeful people. I mentioned that it’s totally free — but someone has to pay for it, so they look to the more affluent members of the community to donate. And right now, all the way through the end of the conference on 12 November, a charitable benefactor is offering matching funds. Donate now and your gift is automatically doubled!

I donated. I’m attending, too. It really is one of the best conferences around — they always get diverse speakers with challenging things to say. It’s less than two weeks away, too!

A little video about sex determination

I read this paper:

Bachtrog D, Mank JE, Peichel CL, Kirkpatrick M, Otto SP, Ashman TL, Hahn MW, Kitano J, Mayrose I, Ming R, Perrin N, Ross L, Valenzuela N, Vamosi JC (2014) Sex determination: why so many ways of doing it? PLoS Biol. 12(7):e1001899.

And now I give you a quick summary of a couple of figures that I know you’ll find useful if you’re teaching genetics.

[Read more…]