The incompetence is stunning. Richard Dawkins makes the Time 100 list, and who do they commission to write up his profile?

Michael Fucking Behe.

That’s not just stupid, it’s a slap in the face. It would have been no problem to find a smart biologist, even one who might be critical of Dawkins’ message, to write something that expressed some measure of respect from the editorial staff. But to dig up a pseudoscientific fraud whose sole claim to fame is that he has led the charge to corrupt American science education for over a decade is shameful.

I’m sure there’s an editor at Time sniggering over his cleverness.

True confessions

Oh, I hate these difficult questions.

If you’re a professor and you want to change the world, what do you do? In 1993–quit and become an activist. In 2007—start a blog.

Or so it seems. PZ Myers blogging at Pharyngula is probably doing more for evolution than PZ Myers publishing papers in scientific journals. Is that true PZ?


Hmmm, I guess it wasn’t so difficult after all!

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Information must be free

My little trip distracted me with the perfect timing to miss the amazing fair-use flare-up — I’m back just in time to catch the happy resolution. I guess I’ll say something anyway, but I’ll be brief.

The general question is whether blogs should be restrained from using figures and data published in scientific journals. My position is that we should use them — scientific information should be freely and widely disseminated, anything else is antithetical to the advancement of science. The only constraints I think are fair is that all material taken from a journal should be acknowledged and formally cited, and that dumping whole articles to the web should not be done. It wouldn’t be appropriate for our audiences anyway; we should be explaining and synthesizing, not blindly replicating.

I’m glad it has blown over for now, at least. Let’s hope journals continue to be sensible about letting blogs excerpt portions of published work—they have a specialized audience, we have a more general audience, and we hope that blogging about science will lead to more scientists, which will increase the market for the science journals. Everyone will be happy!

Buy Tostitos Flour Tortilla Chips!

Commercials baffle me, but this one for Tostitos more than others. It’s a little trite, using the scenario of the little kid who asks “why?” to every explanation as a transparent excuse to drive exposition about why you should try their product, but it has an odd conclusion.

We’re all made from different DNA.
So we can adapt and survive.

It’s a bit clumsy, but there it is: biology used to sell snack food.


I know we evilutionists are a minority—why would there be a commercial to target such a narrow slice of the market? Could it be a test, to see if the ad generates a little buzz (I’m doing my part here, see!), or are they looking to see if they can tap into a market segment that is otherwise ignored? Maybe we need to have Mexican for dinner tonight.

Conflict sells. Use it.

Larry Moran listened to Nisbet’s podcast on Point of Inquiry. No surprise—he didn’t like it at all. I finally listened to it last night, too, and I have to crown Larry the King of the Curmudgeons, because I disagreed with fundamental pieces of his story, but I’ll at least grant Nisbet that there aspects of communication theory scientists would benefit from knowing. So why does he ignore those aspects in his own talks?

I want to focus on one thing: conflict. The podcast revealed another unfortunate inconsistency in the framing approach.

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Fraggin’ … frickin’ … frackin’ … oh, that f-word again

I’ve tried a different tack now — I’ve left several comments on Matt Nisbet’s very own blog, in the fading hope that he’ll actually pay attention to what I’m saying, rather than what he imagines I’m saying, or what other people tell him that they imagine I’m saying. Comments there are held up for moderation, so in case you really want fast feedback, I’ve tossed my comments below the fold here where you can savage them instantly … or you can head on over to Framing Science and state your piece there.

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The Crucifixion of St PZ

Many people have noticed the ad for the ghastly Jesus documentary at the top of the pages here. I’m not thrilled, as you might guess—I think this is almost certainly a load of pseudoscientific fluff. Since it is so prominently promenaded across the pages, I’m now feeling obligated to watch the silly thing, so the ad has won them one viewer, at the cost of personal pain to me.

Since I am taking on the sins of our advertiser, however, I will suggest to you readers that you can consider yourselves redeemed and should feel no compulsion to watch it yourselves. If you want to, you may, of course…or you can just wait for my summary on the day after.

Also, since our family TV is in the basement which gets awfully cold this time of year, I’ll probably watch it on Skatje‘s TV, so she’ll probably see it, too. Maybe I’ll have her pass judgement as well. (Maybe the metaphor would be more apt if Skatje is Jesus, and I can be her father who forces her to experience torment to relieve the rest of the world of sin? Ah, it doesn’t matter, the whole story makes no sense anyway.)

As long as we’re confessing…

In response to this crazy attempt to smear Mitt Romney with the sins of his fathers literally, a few people are disqualifying themselves from future runs for the presidency with similar confessions. I have to admit there’s a skeleton in my family tree, too: apparently, one of my ancestors was hanged as a witch in 17th century Massachusetts.

No one will be surprised at that, I suppose. Especially since if your family can trace its roots in this country back almost 400 years, you might well be related to her, too.