All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…and Krauss wept and released a dove

Buzzfeed has published a summary of the investigation by ASU into Lawrence Krauss’s behavior. You can read all the details there, but in summary of a summary…

Commenting on these incidents, Searle wrote: “It is inconceivable how a faculty member in the course of carrying out his work responsibilities could believe that the conduct would ever be appropriate.”

Searle described how Krauss discussed strip clubs with employees, encouraged staff to view fan mails including nude photos, and showed them a cartoon of a person bent over with their pants down, revealing their bare buttocks.

The report also described how Krauss and an employee, whose name is redacted, “engaged in conduct towards one another — hugging, touching, kissing — in the presence of staff, giving the impression they were involved in an intimate relationship.” Krauss and the employee denied there was an intimate relationship, and that the interactions were “a form of greeting.”

University investigators concluded that Krauss’s comments “created an offensive environment for some staff members.” Searle agreed that Krauss “was unprofessional and failed as a leader by contributing to and permitting his employees to engage in this behavior and create this type of environment.”

By voluntarily retiring, he has cunningly arranged to have the whole report tossed in a metaphorical trash can, to be ignored forever. He can now go on tour claiming that he was exonerated, because the findings were abandoned and never acted on.

No one can ever claim that Krauss isn’t an intelligent man.

Boom, they all died

An analysis of sedimentary deposits laid down in the times bracketing the Permian extinction reveals something a bit unsettling: the Earth’s biota was thriving and doing just fine right up to the sudden end, and then almost all species abruptly kicked the bucket in a geological flash.

The end-Permian mass extinction, which took place 251.9 million years ago, killed off more than 96 percent of the planet’s marine species and 70 percent of its terrestrial life—a global annihilation that marked the end of the Permian Period.

The new study, published today in the GSA Bulletin, reports that in the approximately 30,000 years leading up to the end-Permian extinction, there is no geologic evidence of species starting to die out. The researchers also found no signs of any big swings in ocean temperature or dramatic fluxes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When ocean and land species did die out, they did so en masse, over a period that was geologically instantaneous.

So what could have caused the sudden, global wipeout? The leading hypothesis is that the end-Permian extinction was caused by massive volcanic eruptions that spewed more than 4 million cubic kilometers of lava over what is now known as the Siberian Traps, in Siberia, Russia. Such immense and sustained eruptions likely released huge amounts of sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the air, heating the atmosphere and acidifying the oceans.

Complicating matters, though, is that these eruptions proceeded for a long time before, during, and after the mass extinction, so it seems that life persevered until it reached an abrupt breaking point, and then ecosystems collapsed.

“We can say there was extensive volcanic activity before and after the extinction, which could have caused some environmental stress and ecologic instability. But the global ecologic collapse came with a sudden blow, and we cannot see its smoking gun in the sediments that record extinction,” Ramezani says. “The key in this paper is the abruptness of the extinction. Any hypothesis that says the extinction was caused by gradual environmental change during the late Permian—all those slow processes, we can rule out. It looks like a sudden punch comes in, and we’re still trying to figure out what it meant and what exactly caused it.”

“This study adds very much to the growing evidence that Earth’s major extinction events occur on very short timescales, geologically speaking,” says Jonathan Payne, professor of geological sciences and biology at Stanford University, who was not involved in the research. “It is even possible that the main pulse of Permian extinction occurred in just a few centuries. If it turns out to reflect an environmental tipping point within a longer interval of ongoing environmental change, that should make us particularly concerned about potential parallels to global change happening in the world around us right now.”

This is why we need a big-picture perspective of our planetary environment. It’s like a game of Jenga — we keep knocking out little bits and pieces (or species or biomes) and congratulating ourselves that the tower is still standing, but eventually we’ll reach the point where one last insult causes everything to topple. Then, I’m sure, there will be people lying in the rubble, wondering why they’re starving or dying of disease or watching the natural catastrophe rolling in their direction, and they’ll be totally surprised by it all.

Don’t you worry your pretty little head about Lawrence Krauss

He’ll be fine. Amidst a flurry of protestations that he did nothing wrong, he has announced his departure from academia.

In a statement, Krauss said he submitted a request to retire as an ASU professor at the end of the academic year, which is May 16, 2019. The university accepted the request and closed the review process, Krauss said.ASU confirmed it has accepted Krauss’ request to retire.

Isn’t that neat? He gets to retire with his pension, and no further investigation will occur, and he gets to claim vindication, because no accusations will be examined. Everyone who wants to keep him going on the ol’ lecture circuit can now claim that he was found innocent by default.

If you’d asked me before what the most likely outcome would be, this is it. The system is set up this way to protect everyone from their actions in a nice sheltering womb.

Well, “everyone” being a privileged elite who are guaranteed to never suffer any consequences. It’s great.

Look for Lawrence Krauss to be headlining atheist/skeptical conferences all over the country next year, as if nothing had happened!

What does it mean to live like a socialist, or a capitalist?

This was a strange incident at a recent convention. There was a debate between Hasan Piker, on the Left, and Charlie Kirk, the Turning Point USA guy on the far, far Right, and at one point Kirk asks Piker what his salary was…which, apparently, Piker answered, although I haven’t seen any video of that exchange. But then someone in the audience (Cenk Uygar) asks Kirk the same question, and he just exploded in a ranting fury. I guess it was a sensitive question for him. That bit has been caught on video.

He tells Piker to go live like a socialist, and he yells at Uygur, I live like a capitalist every single day, Cenk. I live as a capitalist, OK. I live what I believe, as he gets up and marches across the stage, pointing and shouting. Aside from the fact that it’s an odd thing to get so upset about, especially after you’ve just asked the same question of someone else, I have to wonder…what does that mean? Kirk uses the words like some people would use “Christian” and “Atheist”, as if there is some deeper moral meaning to living as a capitalist, and he’s a noble, upright figure for following the way of the prophetess Ayn Rand. I don’t get it.

I live as a capitalist, I guess, because I’m imbedded deep in a capitalist society, and the same is true for everyone at that event, including Hasan Piker. Kirk’s rant wasn’t even sensible, because it’s a statement about a system, not an individual.

But let’s play the game. What would it mean to live as a socialist? I think, in my imaginary ideal, it would mean living as part of a larger community where everyone has equal rights and equal shared opportunity. I would have less money — in a perfect socialist society, which doesn’t exist, I’d have no money — but my needs would be met, and I would be freed from a lot of worries. Do I have to panic about what I’m going to live on in retirement? Can I be bankrupted by a medical emergency? Will my neighbors starve if they lose their jobs? All of that worry would be nonexistent. I’d still have to be concerned about maintaining that society and contributing to its survival, but the individual existential fears would be gone.

It’s all a bit murky and idealistic, because I don’t live in a socialist culture, so I have to rely on a rose-colored imagination.

I do know what it’s like to live as a capitalist, because in live in that society. What that means is that some of us — like me — live in a reasonably prosperous and stable state, are an overall beneficiary of inequity. We’re doing mostly OK, but there is that dread that we’re one heartbeat away from total financial ruin (need I mention that a bozo exists who wants to destroy me and my friends with a ridiculous lawsuit? And the system allows that?) At the same time, many people are living in extremes of poverty, and others are living in extremes of undeserved wealth. There is no economic justice in this country.

This is not something to be proud of.

But we could focus a little more narrowly. What does it mean that Charlie Kirk lives as a capitalist? We can just look at him as an exemplar.

As it turns out, Charlie Kirk lives rent-free with his wealthy parents in a million dollar home. He claims his salary comes from grass-roots donations, but that is a lie. The tax forms for his non-profit (wait, how capitalist is that?) organization tell the true story.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, TPUSA is not required to disclose its donors. But based on public tax records and some reporting by other outlets, IBT has identified the sources of over $900,000 in funding for TPUSA. Republican mega-donor families, GOP politicians and other wealthy individuals have provided large amounts of money so the organization can spread free-market principles — from which the donors benefit — among young people, the majority of whom, overall, lean liberal.

Working to appeal to millennials, TPUSA is funded by a substantial number of older, wealthy individuals whose economic views the group promotes. IBT identified 17 donors to TPUSA, including nine from publicly available Internal Revenue Service records. The documented donations came mostly in 2014 and 2015, as tax records from many of the foundational donors are not yet available for 2016.

Well, now we know what it means to live as an ideal capitalist. It means living as a parasite and a pawn of plutocrats.

I wouldn’t be bragging about that, Charlie Kirk.

If it’s Monday, it must be spider feeding day

Mondays are usually awful, but now at least I have one thing to look forward to: it’s feeding day down on the spider ranch. The adults get a nice chewy cricket each, while I go through the spiderlings’ chambers and toss them a fruit fly each. Since Vera was so avidly hungry today, I recorded her trapping her prey and then picking at it for an extended period of time.

This one is only for spider obsessives who can enjoy staring at close-ups of arachnids doing strange things with their jaws for 15 minutes or more. Are you one? Let me know, and we can start a club.

[Read more…]

Simple logic escapes them

Some of you old-timers may recall the days of yore when creationists would show up and make their sad little arguments in the comments here, and get thrashed around rudely until they squealed. Maybe you wonder where they went. Maybe you wish you had more opportunities to bash your head against a brick wall. Well, I can tell you: they’re on YouTube. The comments sections there are so much friendlier to fools.

I have an example for you, from one of my videos. Let’s see if you can figure out who is the creationist, and which one is me.

Is the space shuttle an example of intelligent design ?
Well a single living cell encompasses far more integrated functional complexity….so much so that after 150 years and billion dollar labs we still haven’t reverse engineered a single cell, much less duplicated even a single one of its proteins abinitio.

Thats intelligent design.

I could have gone after the low-hanging fruit of his bad examples and mentioned Craig Venter’s minimal synthetic cell, or maybe, you know, insulin, but I tried to get to the core of his logic. It was a painful exercise in head-butting.

If there is one stupid argument that I could get out of the heads of creationists, it’s this one.

The argument is whether organisms were produced by design or by natural processes. We have natural processes that generate complexity, no design needed, so complexity is not a factor in discriminating between the two hypotheses. You want to know whether A or B is the cause for an orange being orange, and both A and B are capable of producing orange pigments, then announcing that the object being examined is orange in color does not allow you to say whether it whether it was produced by A or B. Do you even understand that elementary logic?

But there’s always the dull, dumb yokels who proudly declare “duh, the space shuttle is complicated, and it’s designed, therefore because cells are complicated, they are designed.” THIS IS NOT A VALID ARGUMENT.

But you guys keep trotting it out. I’m embarrassed for you.

PZ Myers
“The argument is whether organisms were produced by design or by natural processes. We have natural processes that generate complexity, no design needed, so complexity is not a factor in discriminating between the two hypotheses. ”

Thats a straw-man PZ.
I said “integrated functional complexity” not merely complexity.
Living organisms and space shuttles are analogous in that both are machines requiring well defined integrated functional complexity to utilize an external energy source to preform their mechanical function.

“You want to know whether A or B is the cause for an orange being orange, and both A and B are capable of producing orange pigments, then announcing that the object being examined is orange in color does not
allow you to say whether it whether it was produced by A or B. Do you even understand that elementary logic?”

Circular reasoning.
Pigmentation is a property of a functionally complex thing you are trying to say arrived by random chance.

You don’t get it. Adding more words doesn’t change the problem.

The space shuttle has “integrated functional complexity”, and is designed.

Organisms have “integrated functional complexity”, and are evolved.

You don’t get to use “integrated functional complexity” as a criterion for distinguishing designed from evolved.

“You don’t get it. Adding more words doesn’t change the problem.”

If ” I don’t get it “, explain it with logic rather than insults.

_

“The space shuttle has “integrated functional complexity”, and is designed.”

That’s correct.

_

“Organisms have “integrated functional complexity”, and are evolved.”

That’s what you need to justify with blind chance.

_

You don’t get to use “integrated functional complexity” as a criterion for distinguishing designed from evolved.

I am not, I am stating “integrated functional complexity is indeed a property of design, not natural process based on repeated observation.

If you can show an example of a system of integrated functional complexity, a unique property of machines produced by natural process, then I can take you seriously.

The question is whether “integrated functional complexity” is solely a product of design. You cannot demonstrate it by merely noting the existence of “integrated functional complexity”.

You are stating “integrated functional complexity is a property of design”. That’s the point in contention. The existence of “integrated functional complexity” (which, I note you haven’t even defined) is not sufficient evidence for its origin.

But if there’s anything I know about creationists, it’s that you won’t be able to comprehend the circularity of your claim and will just keep going around and around.

And that’s where I gave up. If any of you want to practice educating the uneducable, you know where to find them now.

All out of sorts now

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I go into my local Snap Fitness for a little workout — no, I’m not getting buff, I’m just trying to stave off my inevitable decline into decrepitude. This is supposed to be a good experience, right? It never is, and it’s getting worse.

This morning pretty much all of the flat screens on the wall were tuned to Fucking Fox News, with nothing but Republican attack ads against state democrats (there must be a lot of toxic cash flooding the state right now). OK, I can change the channels, especially when we’re the only people there, but it does make me question whether I want to be associated with the regular clientele of this place.

Even worse, though, they pipe in horrible music from Sirius FM, curated by a trio of the worst, loudest, shrillest, most obnoxious DJs in broadcast history. I deal with this by going in with my earbuds and drowning them out with music I like, sans howling baboons shrieking about contests and trivia. It didn’t work today, because the goddamned music was turned up so loud that even Roger Waters and Joe Cocker Annie Lennox and cranked up to the max couldn’t be heard over them, and I was killing my ears trying to escape. It was intolerable and I finally had to leave.

So when I finally collapse into an even more out of shape, flabby, breathless blob of amuscular goo, I want you all to blame (or thank) Snap Fitness of Morris for driving me away.

And you wonder why I’m cranky all the time.