Creationist castle

The Creation “Museum” is losing money, so Answers in Genesis is going to try and shore up profits with a renovation. It’s not looking good.

They’re going to upgrade the theater with 3-D projection. This is the theater where they currently show Men in White, a short movie that is so bad that when I visited the “museum” I only lasted 30 seconds before concluding that I wouldn’t be able to sit through it, or the gimmicky shaky seats and water sprays. Now they’re going to have plesiosaurs looming out at you as an excuse to drip water.

But the big deal they’re bragging about is that they’re going to redesign the entrance to include…new displays! Static displays with no evidence! More apologetics! I’m not feeling the urge to visit it a second time.

Wait, what’s that in the center of the exhibits? Those red balls? That looks familiar.

It is familiar! I’ve seen that so many times. It’s the centerpiece of many of Ham’s droning talks.

They have taken this cartoon, and plan to turn it into a 3D diorama.

You know, this doesn’t suddenly make it more true or believable. It does discredit the “museum” even more that they think it a noteworthy addition to create a sculpture of an old cartoon by a creationist hack. Why? Was Ben Garrison unavailable?

Oh, gosh, what can Matt Lauer do to redeem himself in our eyes?

I guess Matt Lauer is full of regret and is soul-searching and wants to repair the damage he has done, so he is weeping to the press.

There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions, Lauer said in the statement released to the network. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry.

Lauer said that some of what he has been accused of is untrue and mischaracterized but said, there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.

Translation: he’s sorry he was caught, can he get back on the gravy train now, please?

I’m sure he is embarrassed now. But the man had a trapping button installed in his desk — you came in to meet the boss, he’d press his secret button, and click, you were trapped in there with him and couldn’t get out until he let you. Not only is that creepy as hell, but required forethought and intent and planning and assistance to install. Was that one of the incidents he now claims was mischaracterized?

Here’s the deal, Matt. You screwed yourself while trying to screw others, and no one feels any particular reason to redeem you. You were a dime-a-dozen talent who was paid $25 million a year, doing a job that any of thousands of women could have done better, with more class and insight than you ever demonstrated…and they wouldn’t be leaving a trail of slime everywhere they went. You’ve got millions of dollars socked away, I’m sure, and can just go sink out of sight, to everyone’s relief. Disappearing without a fuss would be in your interest, too, because all you’re doing now is reminding us that you have a fat bank account full of undeserved loot, and a trail of women whose careers were stunted by your selfish actions.

Vanish, little man. Your deflation has only just begun.

Gilded Ages are not times of human flourishing

Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are, together, richer than the half of the population of the United States. Bezos was the fortunate recipient of an abrupt surge in the value of Amazon stock that has given him a net worth of over 100 billion dollars. Which makes this comment particularly appropriate:

One of the best soundbites I’ve heard about modern economics is (paraphrased)) “It’s not possible to earn a billion dollars. It is possible to steal a billion dollars.”

There is nobody smart enough, hardworking enough, trained enough and dedicated enough to earn a billion dollars without leveraging corrupt systems and exploiting people.

The poverty threshold in America is $11,490 for one person. If someone has a billion dollars, that is 87,032 times the poverty line.

It’s possible for someone to be twice as smart as another worker. It’s possible for them to be four or five times as hardworking. It’s possible for one person to have ten times the training of another person. So if you have one person that is half as smart, a fifth as hardworking, and a tenth as trained, they should reasonably earn one percent of the other. That’s the very outside figure. But anyone who takes in more than a million dollars per year did not earn that, they stole it. They found a vulnerable system to exploit or they found a group of people to cheat. Maybe they did it legally. Maybe they paid someone to make it legal to do that. It happens. But “earn”? Actually -deserving- that much money because of their merits and efforts? No.

I don’t mind some inequities in wealth — I buy into capitalism just enough to think that a motivating reward system for human behavior is a good thing — but we’re well beyond what is fair or reasonable. I can live with some people making a million dollars a year, but only if we’re also making sure that no one has to live in rank poverty. But someone “earning” billions while huge numbers can barely keep food on the table, can’t afford rent, can’t go to a doctor when they need to, and their children have no opportunities for a good education…that is an obscenity.

woke up got out of bed dragged a comb across my head

My phone chirped at me that Matt Lauer has been fired for sexual misconduct. Donald Trump is re-tweeting bigotry and hate from Britain First. This isn’t how the song goes.

Fed the cat, took a shower, made the coffee. I guess the whole pot is for me today, since my wife is flying off to Syracuse right now.

Checked my email — only 3 hate-o-grams that I’m a faggot who deserves to have his head cut off by ISIS? Delete, delete, delete. At least that’s a good start. Pulled up my file of review questions for my class today. Gotta edit ’em down to a reasonable subset that we can get through in an hour. They can cope with amino-acyl T-RNA synthetases and spliceosomes and Cro/CI regulation, right? Sure. They’re smart.

Second cup of coffee. Doing good.

Jordan Peterson is such an ass.

Remember to bring in the stack of assignments I’m returning in the cell biology lab today. Also printed out the list of interview questions the search committee is going over this evening — we’re beginning phone interviews tonight. I’m not getting home until after 8pm.

Hmm. I may not be able to get away for dinner today. Ate a banana. Just in case.

Uh-oh, what should I post to the blog this morning? I got nothin’. This long crowded full day ahead of me is ballooning up inside my cranium, squeezing everything else thinly against the walls of my skull, and then it pops and everything lofts loose and drifts outward and upward, through the windows and past the skeleton trees clawing at it, upwards and away, bobbing and floating.

Northwest, I see. that’s a good direction. If I were free, that’s the way I would go, too.

Jordan Peterson is peddling IQ myths and fallacies

Jordan Peterson is notorious for his desire to annihilate a liberal arts education, wanting to throw out the humanities and social sciences (except psychology, apparently) as tainted by post-modernism. We’re supposed to fire all those bad professors who teach bad ideas, false facts, and unacceptable interpretations of the evidence.

I guess that means we can fire Peterson, then.

This article correctly identifies him as The Professor of Piffle. In addition to his intolerance and failure to understand modern literary criticism, it turns out that he, a professor of psychology, doesn’t understand how the brain works.

To fully grasp the depth of Peterson’s belief in power hierarchies, take his commitment to IQ testing: “If you don’t buy IQ research,” he has told his students, “then you might as well throw away all of psychology.” Peterson rejects the theory of multiple intelligences (emotional intelligence, musical intelligence, and so on) and insists that all of human intelligence is biologically determined, essentially unalterable, and expressed in a single number that can be ranked. Your IQ, he says, will govern where you end up in life: with an IQ of 130, you can be an attorney or an editor; at 115, you can be a nurse or a sales manager; at 100, you can be a receptionist or a police officer; at 90, you can be a janitor.

Peterson’s defence of IQ rests on shaky foundations. While he tells students that IQ was empirically established through Charles Spearman’s factor analysis, he does not share the well-known critique of that method: factor analysis supports both of the contradictory causal explanations of intelligence (intelligence as innate versus intelligence as the product of environmental advantage). Peterson then stacks the deck in favour of biology, citing brain size and neural conduction velocity (essentially, the speed at which an electrical pulse moves through tissue) as the determinants of IQ. Again, he does not tell students that both explanations were discredited by later research.

In the tradition of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century pseudo-scientists, phrenologists, quacks, and scientific racists, Peterson’s commitment to IQ is simply the reflection of his commitment to an unalterable hierarchy of human beings. And this is why his dismissal of “unnatural” and “made up” gender pronouns, alongside his casual sexism—his belief that women would be better served by having babies than careers and that male feminists are “creepy”—turns out to be central to his intellectual project, which seeks to resurrect the conventional patriarchal pecking order. For Peterson, transgender people and powerful women upset the “male dominance hierarchy” that forms the centerpiece of his thought. His world view is predicated on the promise of restoring authority to those who feel disempowered by the globalism, feminism, and social-justice movements he derides.

I have to object to the phrase “stacks the deck in favour of biology”, because no sensible biologist would accept that load of crap as in any way valid. It is not good that “the most famous professor in Canada”, as the article calls him, is promoting bad science.

Our movie theatre needs help!

This tiny town of Morris, Minnesota has one single-screen theater that was built in the 1940s — it’s a classic and historic building, where I’ve spent many hours. Two of my kids worked there through high school and part of college. It has struggled a bit, though, and several years ago there was a worrisome struggle when the owner sold it, and one of the buyers intended to turn into a goddamned church. Morris has over 15 churches, but only one theater, so that would have been a wasteful catastrophe. Fortunately, it was instead bought up by a coalition of community members committed to preserving it, and it’s now a coop. I’m a member, and I’ve actually just volunteered to work in the theater maybe once a week, starting in January. Come on out some evening, maybe I’ll sell you some popcorn.

There is an exhibit on the history of the theatre opening at the county historical museum today, and there is a video about the community efforts.

One catch, though: movie distribution has changed, and it’s really tough to book for a single-screen theater anymore.

Our next great challenge: the movie business itself. Regrettably movie studios are becoming our enemy. Studios are insisting that even small single screen theatres, like ourselves, must keep first run movies for three weeks. This means no other movie can be shown on our one screen while the first run movie is in town, which is a significant problem because our audience drops off dramatically in subsequent weeks. To keep showing first run movies we need a smaller, second screen. This will allow us to move first run movies to the smaller screen after two weeks, and bring in a new movie on the big screen. We can also use the small screen for quirky films and special events while a first run film is showing on the main screen.

That necessary second screen is in the works. The room is there. There’s all kinds of carpentry going on. But it needs more money to finish the work and get the projection equipment — once we’ve gotten over that hurdle, we can achieve a major leap in revenues, which will allow further renovation. There is a GoFundMe to raise money to complete the second screen — donate if you love movies and classy old art deco theaters! And if you do donate, next time you’re in Morris I’ll take you to the movies, my treat.

How to throw your life away and piss on your own reputation

The atheist community is buzzing about this story: a popular host of the Recovering From Religion podcast, Scott Smith, has died. I have briefly met Smith but didn’t know him at all well; the founders of Recovering From Religion, Darrel Ray, Nathan Phelps, and Jerry DeWitt are very well known. Most of what I’m seeing about his death is shock and dismay and testimonials about what a good guy he was. I didn’t know him well enough to say whether he was a good guy or not, but the facts of the story tell me that he was NOT a good guy at all. This is a terrible story of an awful person who apparently had a lot of people fooled.

Authorities have identified the man and woman who were found dead in a North Side San Antonio home after a suspected murder-suicide shooting.

William Scott Smith, 54, is believed to have fatally shot his wife, 46-year-old Jennifer Smith, before turning the gun on himself. Their three young children were at school during the killing.

Though William Smith’s motive is still unclear, court records indicate that Jennifer had filed for divorce earlier this month.

Let’s get this straight. This man was facing a divorce, and his wife wanted to be free of him.

So he murdered his wife.

He murdered a woman, full stop. Because she wanted to be free of him.

He murdered someone for the crime of wanting her independence.

There is nothing that Smith could have done in his life that could possibly atone for the criminality and inhumanity and selfishness of the circumstances of his death. His behavior was reprehensible and unforgivable. That he killed himself afterwards was not an act of atonement, but of cowardice.

Further, he orphaned three children, who get a life’s dose of trauma and grief right now. This, too, is unforgivable and irresponsible.

Don’t grieve for Scott Smith. Grieve for his victims.

His facebook page now has a brief memorial note at the top:

We hope people who love Scott will find comfort in visiting his profile to remember and celebrate his life.

Nope. Don’t celebrate the life of anyone who ended it with the murder of his wife, the mother of his children. Jennifer Smith is the one who should be remembered.

Only a fool would think they found the tomb of Jesus

Perhaps the only good result of the dissolution of Scienceblogs is that I’m no longer even distantly associated with National Geographic. I say this because, as usual, the magazine is indulging in religious pandering to the old people who still subscribe to it.

They are reporting on the age of “Jesus’ tomb”. That is, they found some mortar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that dates back to Roman times…which is not news. Jerusalem was a Roman city in Roman times, it contains many ancient buildings, and finding Roman structures is not evidence that this particular hole in the ground is the specific tomb of a specific executed criminal in 33AD, nor that a slab of rock is specifically where Jesus was laid out after death. The mortar was dated to 345AD, which compounds the confusion — how is the erection of a temple 300 years after the purported execution evidence that this is Jesus’ hole in the ground?

Also, the identity of this particular spot was generated by a Christian zealot, Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, who went swanning about Jerusalem around 325AD, pointing at rocks and sticks and random plots of ground and declaring them to be sacred Christian treasures. She claimed to have found the True Cross™, the True Ropes™ that bound Jesus to the cross, the True Nails™ that staked him to the cross, the True Tunic™ that Jesus wore, and the True Tomb™ where he was buried, purportedly briefly. It’s all nonsense and not credible, but NatGeo makes it a big feature in their magazine, and it’s also going to be the subject of a documentary on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday.

It’s part of the tradition. Helena and Constantine contrived a set of fake holy sites to fleece the ancient and medieval rubes, and NatGeo regularly contrives phony stories about Jesus to fleece the more modern, but still equally gullible, rubes.