Carnival of the Liberals #10


I received 45 submissions for this edition of The Carnival of the Liberals, and the carnival rules required me to select only a final ten. That was harsh; there were many excellent links sent in, and I struggled with the need to reject so many. Ultimately, I just had to let my own biases rule my decision, so if you sent in a submission and I didn’t use it, it’s nothing personal and it says nothing about a lack of quality in your work—it just means it didn’t fit my narrow criteria for what I wanted to read this time around. As you’ll see, I tend to promote godless secularism and grappling with real world issues in science, and so some fascinating and worthy articles on war and economics and labor just didn’t make the cut this time around.

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Education and Invasion

A Carnival of Education is up! I don’t know that the plague theme is entirely encouraging, but as we creep towards the end of the term, it feels like it is entirely appropriate.

Also, tomorrow is the Invasive Species Weblog‘s fourth birthday (I know, she’s really, really old), and Jennifer Forman Orth is celebrating with a contest—send her a link to an invasive species-related post by midnight Thursday and you might just win a prize.

Good thing we’re moving to faith-based initiatives, huh?

After all, the churches are charitable institutions, with a higher calling to help the sick and weak in the name of a loving God. They have a role model in Jesus, who reached out to those rejected by society. Turn away the needy? That would be unchristian.

Unless, of course, the needy were some sick pervert. Then it’s OK to kick her to the door; in fact, you’re obligated to reject her, even if it costs you lots of money.

Read the charming story of faith-based discrimination in a Minnesota church. Trinity Lutheran Church had a sweet deal with county social services, getting remunerated for caring for disabled seniors, until the county pulled a fast one and tried to trick them into caring for a damned minion of the devil transsexual. They signed her up, showed her around, and then she mentioned that she’d had an operation, and the good reverend had to wield his deep personal knowledge of god’s mind to smack her down.

The church declined to accept her. It said its staff wasn’t trained to deal with such a person. It feared discomfort among members and other clients, not least over use of the bathroom. And it pointed to its own theological beliefs. What she has done, Maxfield said, runs totally “contrary to God’s revealed will.”

Hallelujah! And this is exactly why I will always oppose any attempt to draft the godly into the business of supporting the social safety net. It is this pretense of knowing the will of an invisible being, which they freely use to give their bigotry the deity’s imprimatur, which makes them untrustworthy. Anyone who makes untestable claims of a god’s will, claims that can’t be verified by anyone else, is suspect—it’s simply too convenient an out. And when it’s used to make an innocent suffer, it’s simply contemptible.

Godless physiology?

The “neurotheologist” Michael Persinger is a fellow with an interesting idea: that the sensation of god is a product of activity in the brain. He induces activity in the brain with electromagnetic fields, and some people feel a sense of oneness with the universe or that aliens are peering over their shoulder.

Richard Dawkins is an infamous atheist who needs no introduction here.

Put the two together, have Persinger strap his electromagnetic helmet on Dawkins’ head and stimulate the temporal lobes, the apparent seat of spiritual sensation, and what happens?


Horizon introduced Dr Persinger to one of Britain’s most renowned atheists, Prof Richard Dawkins. He agreed to try his techniques on Dawkins to see if he could give him a moment of religious feeling. During a session that lasted 40 minutes, Dawkins found that the magnetic fields around his temporal lobes affected his breathing and his limbs. He did not find god.

I guess some people are more resistant to the god delusion than others, even when spirituality is injected directly into their brains on a wire. It makes me wish I could try this gadget out.

(via Amused Muse)

Sharing the wealth

Yikes…while all these new people are reading here, I should be sending them off to other good science sites. Quick, here are a few links:

The gang at—lots of sciencey stuff there.

The Panda’s Thumb.

A few more: De Rerum Natura, Evolving Thoughts, Evolution 101, Thoughts from Kansas, The Austringer, Deep-Sea News, FrinkTank, Good Math, Bad Math.

More! I know, the more I mention, the more I dilute the effect, and I feel like I ought to dump the whole humongous blogroll here. Try Mike the Mad Biologist, Red State Rabble, The Lancelet, Muton, Newton’s Binomium, Dharma Bums, Science And Politics, Creek Running North.

That’s some of that real world, science-style stuff. If you’re here for the sex, I don’t have much: there’s One Good Thing and Diablo Cody.

Move along, move along. There’s lots more good reading out there.

OK, Phil wants your eyeballs, too. There are more I could add…my blogroll is obscenely large.

Oh, and Gary Farber! No one pays enough attention to Gary!

She’s Judy Garland; I’m James Mason

My wife is one of those statistical people who analyzes data for a local college, and she spends much more time poking around figuring out website traffic than I do. I just kind of wing it and follow my urges, she casts a calculating eye on the whole thing. So the other day, she tells me I ought to bring back that old Sex in the MRI article; it will be hot, she says, it’ll draw in a lot of new traffic. So specifically at her urging, I did.

I’m getting about 20,000 visits per hour right now.

It feels a bit eery, being married to a prophetess…although I suppose anyone could tell you that sex is always a draw. I just found it striking that I obey her this once on the weblog thing, and boom, she’s dramatically correct. Fortunately, I’m not doing this for the big traffic numbers, or I’d have to be her slave forevermore.

If any big time corporate types are looking to hire a skilled web prognosticator and analyzer and statistician, she’ll settle for nothing less than $100K/year, and she must be able to work from home (OK, that last bit is my requirement; she might be willing to negotiate that).