It’s the wind, you know

Yesterday, some of you jeered at the small amount of snow we were getting. It’s a fair cop; here in Western Minnesota, we’re a little dryer than the eastern part of the state, and we get measurably less snow. Where we make up for that is that we’re also colder and much, much windier. We get a small amount of powdery snow and then the wind keeps picking it up and blowing it around. Yesterday, our driveway was completely clear. This is how it looks this morning.

There is a car under the snow on the left side of the top picture.

We don’t go anywhere anymore, but there have been a few occasions when we were unable to travel on Highway 28, the main connecting route from Morris to I94, because drifting snow has completely covered the road to a depth of 8′-10′ in some spots.

I do find the swooping curves of our snow dunes quite pretty, though.

Texas is racing Florida to the bottom of the slime pit

While Florida is eager to out vulnerable kids, the Texas Attorney General has decided to deny them health care.

Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued a new interpretation of state law that says medical care for transgender children is abuse, a dramatic change contrary to medical standards that could make Texas one of the most aggressive states in targeting trans youth access to health care.

On Monday, Paxton issued an opinion stating his office believes gender-affirming health care for transgender youth – including common treatments like hormone therapy and puberty blockers – is a form of child abuse. The move comes despite opposition from the top medical and child welfare groups, who for months have urged Paxton not to take this step.

That last bit…yes, all the doctors and experts say this is a bad move, but Texas Republicans are going to go ahead and do it anyway. Why? It’s politics.

Paxton’s opinion comes as Republican politicians, jockeying for power ahead of one of the most competitive re-election seasons in years, increasingly put transgender children under the spotlight.

How else can Republicans demonstrate their evil bona fides other than by torturing small children who are a little bit different from their aryan Christian ideal? They’ve got to make sure they keep the hater voter focused on supporting them.

Why is Florida so awful?

I don’t get it. What is the secret ingredient that makes Florida politics so toxic? The worst stuff seems to emerge from Florida (and Texas, to be fair), and I don’t understand what makes a few Southern states such stewpots of bad ideas.

The latest is Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill.

Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which is scheduled for a floor vote in the Florida House today, would create a hostile environment for LGBTQ students. The bill prohibits any discussion of “sexual orientation or gender identity” through the third grade and any discussion “that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” in other grades. This would prohibit younger students with same-sex parents from discussing their families in class and make it difficult for any student to learn about the Stonewall Riots or Supreme Court cases like Obergefell v. Hodges.

The bill, as it is currently drafted, also requires schools to out LGBTQ students to their parents in most cases. The bill would require schools to “adopt procedures for notifying a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student.” This would include information school officials learn, through counseling or other programs, about sexual orientation or gender identity.

Let’s keep the kids as ignorant as possible, so they’ll continue to elect stupid representatives like this one. Is that it? Because that bill, as bad as it was, wasn’t evil enough, so the Republicans are amending it.

The original bill, however, has one nod to the well-being of LGBTQ students. It would allow schools to “withhold such information from a parent if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect.”

But now, the sponsor of the bill in the House, Florida Representative Joe Harding (R), has offered an amendment. The proposed amendment would require schools to out LGBTQ students, even in cases where school officials believe it would result in “abuse, abandonment, or neglect.”

The school principal or his or her designee shall develop a plan, using all available governmental resources, to disclose such information within 6 weeks after the decision to withhold such information from the parent. The plan must facilitate disclosure between the student and parent through an open dialogue in a safe, supportive, and judgment-free environment that respects the parent-child relationship and protects the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of the student.

I’m impressed with the double-speak. They’re going to safely, supportively, and without judgment protect the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of students by exposing their sexual orientation. Kids are going to die thanks to this bill; others are going to be tormented and bullied and abused. What’s important, though, is that the information about kids be made public, while the information that might make kids better informed is to be withheld.

Joe Harding, by the way, is the hypocrite who campaigned on gun rights and denying women choice. He claims Our most vulnerable citizens – the preborn, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled – deserve the dignity of equal personhood, unless, of course they’re LGBTQ. Then it’s fair to strip them of dignity and equality.

Resist the temptation to retaliate, please

It’s not Cthulhu, but Russia is getting aggressive, moving troops into regions of Ukraine and declaring that they recognize those regions as independent states. It’s a game they’re playing; no one is fooled. They’re nibbling at the country, breaking off pieces to be absorbed by the Russian state.

Russia said Tuesday that its recognition of separatist areas in eastern Ukraine includes territory now held by Ukrainian forces, raising Western fears that Moscow intends to invade more of Ukraine’s territory after sending troops into the rebel-held region.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia has recognized the independence of rebel-held regions within borders that the separatists originally proclaimed when they broke away from Ukraine in 2014. Because large parts of those regions have since been reclaimed by Ukrainian forces during their eight-year war, Russia’s declaration could lead to attempts to expand the breakaway region by force.

No, it’s not time for the US to move our troops into other regions. You don’t counter one country’s imperialism by advancing imperialisms of your own.

I appreciate the Kenyan ambassador’s statement to the UN. He draws on his own country’s experiences with colonialism to urge “respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine”, because of Africa’s history. That continent got carved up by imperial powers that drew borders with little respect for the cultures of the peoples they were dividing — but if they’d fought over lines on a map they’d still be squabbling. Instead, they settled for the boundaries imposed on them and are working for “something greater forged in peace”, which is ultimately the only way to make a lasting nation.

I don’t think Putin appreciates the pain he’s going to suffer. He’s creating an everlasting smoldering fire on the border of Russia and Ukraine, and even if he gets his way now, it will be temporary and will cost his country more.

Note that he also says “we further strongly condemn the trend in the last few decades of powerful states, including members of the security council, breaching international law with little regard.” Hmm. Who could he be talking about there?


Another meaningless date that will get more attention than it deserves. It’s numerology, people, it’s an arbitrary pattern with no intrinsic meaning.

So what if it also happens to be the day the stars are in alignment and Cthulhu rises to swallow us all? It’s just a coincidence!

How to tell where you stand in the hierarchy

We’re in the middle of a major snowstorm, with maybe 6cm dumped on us overnight, and another 10cm on the way. The city has declared a snow emergency, which mainly means you can’t park on the roads so they can get the snowplows through.

I woke up this morning to a flurry of emails on the campus mail announcing that this office or that office is closed due to the weather, and they even closed one of the major food service venues on campus. We’re also not getting any campus mail delivery. I don’t blame them. It was even hazardous for me, a guy who walks half a block to get to work. So yeah, shut ’em down for safety’s sake.

Except, you know, classes aren’t canceled, so students and faculty still have to somehow get here (I’m sending an announcement to my students that attendance is optional today, I’ll post a recording of today’s lecture). I guess the life and health of administrators are more important than faculty & students. Although I suppose you could also argue that that means we’re more essential to the functioning of the university.

Also more essential: custodians and groundskeepers. I noticed that the sidewalks were all cleared well before I got here, and that our custodians were working hard to mop up the mess we were all tracking in.

Doctrinal drift — are you for it or against it?

Drowning money concept. Computer generated image simulating sinking money.

We don’t usually talk about doctrinal drift within the sciences — it’s kind of an alien category. It certainly does occur, for example the acceptance of plate tectonics, or in biology the increasing awareness of the importance of nearly-neutral genetic drift. There were many people who resisted the concepts, but the inexorable accumulation of data tends to eventually stabilize on a new paradigm. And it’s a good thing! Scientists tend to welcome new ideas, as long as they’re backed up by evidence and are productive in generating new hypotheses.

Religion, though, is a different story. Doctrinal drift is a horror that must be stopped — we must be rigid and unwavering in our fixed beliefs now and forevermore! It seems to be giving Ken Ham nightmares. He has written a lengthy post about all the things Answers in Genesis does to prevent doctrinal drift. It’s a bit amusing, because his entire ministry is the product of a significant doctrinal shift that occurred (after decades of evolution in various sects) in the 1960s. His version of the Christian faith is transient and will change again in the future. All he has to maintain it is authoritarianism.

It seems to me from all I’ve read and observed that within two to three generations of their founding, the majority of Christian institutions move away from their intended beliefs, mission, and purpose. There are many and varied reasons for this, including: employing someone who is great in one area but doesn’t take the right stand in other areas; not having a detailed-enough statement of faith, resulting in it being interpreted in different ways; allowing too much so-called “academic freedom”; using textbooks that compromise God’s Word in many areas; having a weak leader who won’t enforce the right standards; and compromising one’s position for the sake of financial support.

Interesting justification for having a “strong leader” running his show…I’m sure he thinks of himself as the protector of his version of the faith. I wonder who he’s grooming to run the show after his inevitable death? His son-in-law, Bodie Hodge, who seems like an amiable doofus to me? Or Georgia Purdom, who is often mentioned in this document? It’s a bit like Kremlin-watching at this point, and it’s going to be a decision that is definitely important to the future of AiG. It’s something Ken Ham is clearly thinking about.

A few years ago, I considered the future for AiG and recognized we are now getting closer to the next generation leading this ministry in all its various components. I pondered this and thought about how many institutions go off the rails when the founders are gone. I have thought and prayed through what to do at AiG to implement as many levels of protection as possible. Also, I recognize a great responsibility to our supporters. You are a part of the AiG family. You have invested (or may be considering investing) in this ministry financially and in other ways, and it’s important that we steward your investment so it will continue to be used to boldly proclaim and defend the authority of God’s Word and the gospel from the very first verse, as you likely intended.

Wait, what was that earlier bit about compromising one’s position for the sake of financial support? Keeping donors happy is a major concern for this outfit.

Authoritarian groups have to plan for the succession as much as Roman emperors did. It’s clear that Ken Ham is the Brian Cox of AiG.

He lists the layers of rules that he uses to lock in his interpretation of the Bible.

Statement of Faith
Our Statement of Faith is very detailed, and every full-time employee must sign agreement to and adherence to this statement of faith which is included in our handbook (along with our mission and vision). Each year we require staff to re-sign this document to ensure they haven’t strayed from it in any way.

Is that creepy or what?

Then all their content is screened before publication.

Editorial Review Board (ERB)
The content we teach and disseminate is a key element in all we do at the ministry. To ensure we never waiver in regard to content, I set up the Editorial Review Board (ERB), headed by Dr. Georgia Purdom, who I know has a passion to ensure AiG will never drift in the wrong direction or compromise God’s Word.

Purdom is an unimpressive follower. We’ll have to see where she ends up — it’s often been the case that women end up heading evangelical organizations, but they’re usually rather more ferocious than Purdom. There could be a fanatic lurking under her weird hairdo, though.

AiG Oversight Council
I also set up the AiG Oversight Council chaired by Bodie Hodge, who also has a passion for ensuring the ministry never gets off track.

I find it hard to believe that Bodie Hodge could ever be the iron will behind AiG. He’s too goofy.

Answers Research Journal Editorial Review Committee
Now in its fourteenth year of publication, I have added a layer of protection to ARJ and AiG by the formation of the ARJ Editorial Review Committee. This committee will be chaired by Dr. Terry Mortenson, and members will include Dr. Snelling and all members of AiG’s research department.

Yeesh. Two of the most dull, uncharismatic pseudoscientists in the AiG stable. They’re also old. However, evolution into a gerontocracy is not uncommon, so maybe…

Here’s the bottom line for his explanation of how they will make sure no one drifts from the absolute truth of Young Earth creationism.

Would you prayerfully consider making a generous gift to our core ministry as we get ready for what we believe will be a very busy year ahead? I’m grateful for your partnership with us in ministry—it is vital to our ministry outreaches and their impact in reaching people for Christ!

It’s money. Money money money. What they have now works, and the goal is to make sure the money flows forever.

Unfortunately for them, doctrinal drift, like evolution, is inevitable. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s slow. I just hope I live long enough to watch the power struggle.

Monday is going to be tricky

Our student body is fairly liberal and open-minded, but I still have to address a somewhat fraught topic in genetics tomorrow. We’ll be talking about sex determination, and this is a subject in which the science is clear, but also contrary to the conventional wisdom among non-scientists. I’ll be starting with the early 20th century idea that sex was entirely chromosomal and binary and work them up to the modern understanding that it’s bimodal, but non-binary, and a heck of a lot more complex than a single chromosome throwing a switch. I’m either going to get some pushback from more conservative students (which I will welcome!), or everyone is going to just shrug and tell me they already knew that, boomer.

Also, may I say that I really detest this explanation that I see all over the internet?

That’s also wrong. Sex varies on more than a single dimension, and we ought not to lump everyone with a variation from the stereotypical category as “intersex”. A lot of the older sources and some of the newer ones seem to be fond of calling everything that doesn’t fit their narrow binary “abnormal” or “deviant”.

Now I have to explain all that in a one hour lecture on the genetics of sex. Wheee.

OK, back to fussing over this lecture. That’s my day, that and putting together a summary of this week’s lab.