The number of posts & comments on Pharyngula has roughly doubled today

It looks like Jason Thibeault has succeeded in bringing all of my old posts and your old comments over from Scienceblogs…just in time before it sinks into the abyss. So we now have 24,205 posts and 1,812,731 comments here on Freethoughtblogs Pharyngula, with archives going all the way back to 2006.

So that’s one bit of good news today.

Jeffrey Tomkins is up to his old dishonest tricks again

Tomkins is a creationist with a little bit of technical knowledge, and his usual game is to focus on one tiny detail of a story to claim an incompatibility with evolution, while ignoring the majority of the information, which is simply screaming in contradiction with him. I’ve dealt with his nonsense before, specifically his claim that human chromosome 2 can’t be the product of a chromosome fusion event because he can’t find perfectly intact telomeres or a complete second centromere in the chromosome. I tried pointing out that we wouldn’t expect an intact fossilized centromere, and that the real evidence lies in the synteny, or the concordant array of genes between chimpanzee and human chromosomes. He’s never acknowledged this. Instead, he just moves on to some other detail.

Larry Moran nails him on a bad pseudoscientific paper about the beta-globin pseudogene, which Tomkins claims is not a pseudogene, because it is functional (not true). It’s a very confused paper, which is typical for Tomkins, and the only place it could have been published is in one of those hothouse fake creationist journals.

Then Moran slams him again for claiming that the GULO pseudogene was independently disabled in multiple primate lineages. It’s got to get tiresome. This is what Tomkins and most creationists do — ignore the consilience of the whole data set to zero in on some tiny, irrelevant point that is incompletely explained. It’s the neglect of the big picture that is so annoying.

Before addressing the specific criticisms in this article it’s important to not lose sight of the bigger issue. Creationists tend to focus on particular examples while ignoring the big picture. In this case, there is abundant evidence of gene duplicationS in all species and there’s abundant evidence that the fate of one duplicated copy of a gene is often to become inactivated rendering it a pseudogene. This has given rise to a robust explanation of multigene families referred to as Birth-and-Death Evolution [The Evolution of Gene Families] [On the evolution of duplicated genes: subfunctionalization vs neofunctionalization]. In order for Young Earth Creationists to mount a serious challenge to evolution they need to provide a better explanation for all this data and they need to provide solid evidence that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

I think Larry has him pegged.

What is The Jewish Question, anyway?

Speaking of YouTube atheism, they aren’t even hiding it any more. A subset of those goons are now pondering…The Jewish Question. Here’s Sargon of Akkad aka Carl of Benjamin promising to do a video series on The Jewish Question, inspired by another series of videos by a guy named Mouthy Buddha.

I skimmed through a few of those videos by Mouthy Buddha — they are impressively and professionally done! The subject, however, is repugnant. He’s openly questioning the existence of the Holocaust; he shows a few still photos of Jews putting on a cabaret show in a concentration camp, therefore these were all happy places. He goes on and on about how Hitler wasn’t a bad man, he was an honorable gentleman and a distinguished leader. You get the idea. They’re outright Nazi apologetics using bad arguments. And there’s Carl Benjamin declaring that they’re not wrong, that he’s going to make videos along this line himself, and suggesting that Mouthy Buddha was making the pro-Nazi arguments stronger.

In case you’re wondering — the YouTube crowd is apparently shy about stating what it is outright — the Jewish question is about the status and treatment of Jews in a country. The correct answer, clearly, is that they are equal citizens who must be treated with the same respect that all residents of a country, all human beings on Earth, should be treated. In the mouths of Nazis, though, the Jewish question is about how best to deprive them of their lives and property and rights, and to them, the proper answer was called the Final Solution.

But once again, there are people trying to make this a respectable debate, and useful idiots who are complaining about calling people who haven’t personally murdered millions “Nazis”.

There are atheists who don’t belong in the reality-based community

I thought this meme was a comical exaggeration. It’s obvious that gender is much more complex than a simple distinction between two categories, that there is a great deal of scientific support for that observation, and no one would be deluded enough to deny the science.

But then I read the comments. Apparently there are a lot of assholes out there who are eager to line up behind the asshole statement and flatly assert a) there are only two genders, men and women, and b) there is no scientific evidence otherwise.

So the author throws comment after comment at them, each one citing the scientific literature; she cites Science and Nature. You’d think just the obvious fact that there are human beings who don’t fit neatly into the stereotypical male and female pigeonholes would be sufficient to tell you that this binary model is inadequate.

But no. Commenters continue to assert that assert a) there are only two genders, men and women, and b) there is no scientific evidence otherwise.

I’ve been dealing with this phenomenon for decades, and you’d think I’d be used to it by now. I’ve dealt with it with my own binary thinking: there are people who arrive at conclusions by following the evidence, and they are the secular, pro-science community; and there are people who deny evidence to accept conclusions based on dogma, and they are the conservative religious, poorly educated masses. Some of those deniers in that facebook thread are certainly going to be conservatively religious, but as has become increasingly apparent, there are a lot of secular atheists who also engage in this behavior on certain issues. YouTube atheists, for instance, are dominated by looney-tunes dogmatists who assert that feminism is a cancer, who deny the significance, even the utility, of sociology and psychology and philosophy, and who have a simplistic and ultimately racist and misogynistic worldview that denies basic realities of the equality of all members of our species to prop up uncompromising doctrinaire notions of White Nationalism or Western Superiority or Manly Virtues.

They’re everywhere. They’re attending Mass and they’re going to atheist meetups. And there are egalitarians in churches and signing up for lifetime memberships in American Atheists.

If you want to understand what’s behind the erosion of support for the “New Atheists” and the Deep Rifts in our godless groups, all you have to realize is that the evidence-based community is looking at the evidence and seeing that assholes populate both the atheist and religious side of the pigeonholes, so the labels aren’t aligning well with our actual, substantial goals. And if your priority is following the evidence honestly where ever it leads, slapping the atheist label on someone does a piss-poor job of identifying your fellow travelers.

Science matters to me and it should matter to everyone. There are far too many obnoxious incompetents who think atheism is an acceptable substitution for science. It is not sufficient.

Ugh, Taibbi, that doesn’t make it all better

You know all that dreadful ghastly misogynistic crap Matt Taibbi wrote about his time in Russia? Where he and his co-conspirator bragged about raping and harassing young women? He’s claiming now that it was a work of fiction, despite the clear statement in the book that all of the characters and events depicted in this book are real.

Even if it was all a lurid, revolting fantasy with no basis in fact, I have a tough time forgiving him for it. It was a glimpse into his mind, and it’s an ugly nest of snakes in there. I said this past summer that I’d never read Taibbi again, and that resolve is unchanged, even if he is now changing his story. And if he is changing his story now, that makes him a liar, and why should I trust a journalist who publishes books he retroactively claims are all lies?

A warehouse is burning in West Virginia

It’s been burning for almost a week. It’s owned by a “waste management company”, IEI, with a concept of “management” that involves stashing tons of old chemical waste in poorly maintained buildings with almost no documentation for Dupont. It’s basically producing a vast cloud of toxic fumes wafting over the state, and West Virginia is praying that the EPA will save them. Right. Scott Pruitt’s EPA. Although it can’t really be blamed on Pruitt, this is a situation that has been allowed to fester for decades — but you also can’t expect an incompetent know-nothing who favors the kind of laissez-faire corporate management practices that led to this situation to actually do anything about it.

There’s a terrifying collection of photos of the fire.

The warehouse used to be the Ames Factory (I think they made shovels there), but for years has been a dump for things that Dupont can’t legally get rid of. The state doesn’t know what was in there, but there is possibilities of any number of these products being stored there – PVC, Nylon, Carbon black, Titanium dioxide, Fiberglass, Maleic Anhydride TLV 0.1 ppm, Formaldehyde, PTFE (Teflon), Styrene, Acrylonitrile, Polybutylene Terephthalate, and/or Acrylic Sheet all of which are not good things when burned.

Edit: Update from Reddit “There is also an underground storage tank from when it was ames that is full of trichloroethyene, lead, ethylbenzene, and toluene that is leaking. The fire suppression system for the warehouse failed last winter because one of the pipes froze and busted. They never had it fixed.”

Edit 2: Another update from an insider that used to work for Dupont. IEI, who owns the building is a shell company owned by Dupont. Also, from a different insider “Saurabh Naik (Ed Note: The official owner of IEI) has dozens of LLC Shell companies like IEI that he funnels stuff through. He makes everyone that works from him sign an NDA. You’d be Shocked at some of the stuff that gets stored in his warehouses. You get everything from polymers to toxic Dust to drums of acid all thrown into the same sections of buildings. I’ve personally seen warehouses wall-to-wall with this stuff with literally no room to walk around in. If a Fire breaks out in one of his buildings then there is no way to put it out short of letting the entire thing Burn to the ground. Apparently this old AMES building was one of his worst and he’s already received many citations and Warnings about how things are stored and the general maintenance of the facility. Expect shutdowns of satellite warehouses soon and probably a couple bankruptcies declared as Well.”

Once again, West Virginia has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to our water, air, and land. And because of this, our citizens are suffering and our fire fighters are risking their lives to help fight the fire.