That’s what I’m wondering, too

Chris Mooney sets up an interesting dilemma:

It’s hard to decide what’s the bigger outrage here: 1) That Bush didn’t tell the public his real “dissenter” view on global warming; or 2) that Karl Rove set up a secret science advisory session for the president with a novelist.

Hmmm. Lying and misrepresenting his views, vs. wallowing stupidly in ignorance…which is more damning? Fortunately, since he’s guilty of both, we don’t have to make a decision and can just spit and curse with a little extra disgust.

Facts never get in the way of a good myth

I used to live in Utah, I’ve read parts of the Book of Mormon, and I’ve always been baffled about how such a cockamamie story that is contradicted by all of the evidence could possibly be so popular. Facts don’t matter to a religion, of course, and the LDS Church has its own answer: it’s a conspiracy by scientists to attack their True Version of History.

Officially, the Mormon Church says that nothing in the Mormon scriptures is incompatible with DNA evidence, and that the genetic studies are being twisted to attack the church.

Uh, I think that whole business of Native Americans being descended from the lost tribe of Israel is pretty much blown away by the genetic evidence.

The growing irrelevancy of Behe


Michael Behe’s reputation is spiraling down the drain a little more. He denies the ongoing research on his favorite scientific examples, the flagellum and the immune system, and I think Les Lane has the right idea—his favorite icon, Mt Rushmore, needs a little more undermining, too.

That first link above includes an excellent quote from the prescient and thorough Charles Darwin; he had the Behes pegged over a century ago.

[I]gnorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

Beckwith misses the point

You can always trust Francis Beckwith to get it all wrong. He’s arguing against the Dover decision on false premises.

Should religious motivations of a theory’s proponents disqualify that theory from receiving a hearing in the public square? It’s a point that has become a central issue in the Intelligent Design-evolution debate.

Francis J. Beckwith, associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and associate professor of church-state studies at Baylor University, told a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary forum that the striking down of a policy based solely on the religious motives of its adherents is “logically fallacious and constitutionally suspect.”

You know me—I’m brutally materialistic and uncompromisingly atheistic—and even so, I don’t think the quality of a science teacher is determined by whether they go to church on Sunday or not. The Dover decision slammed the creationists hard, not because the backers were religious, but because they had no scientific basis for their arguments and their goals were clearly religious. It didn’t help their case at all that their primary advocates so clearly demonstrated the intellectually vacuous nature of Intelligent Design creationism. It wasn’t shot down because its proponents were Christian, but because they were unscientific and had allowed their faith to mislead and misrepresent their dogma as science.

One more thing from that Beckwith article:

“Intelligent design is not stealth creationism,” Beckwith said.

Rather, ID is a name for a cluster of arguments that reasons the universe to be the result of intelligent agency rather than of unguided matter, Beckwith explained. The theory lacks the accompaniment of religious authority or sacred Scripture.

Renaming the “Creator” as an “intelligent agency” fools no one—it’s saying the same thing with different words. As Judge Jones could see, the theory lacks the religious component because the authors had consciously stripped out the overt religious references to skirt the letter of the law…it is stealth creationism. As we all could see, too, with no religious authority and no scientific evidence, there is absolutely nothing holding Intelligent Design creationism up.

The bottom line: show me the evidence. The ID advocates can’t and don’t, therefore their religious beliefs are irrelevant, and Beckwith is merely trying to refocus the complaints about the Dover decision on a trivial red herring.

Who’s “dorky”?

Take a group of seventh graders and ask them to draw pictures of and describe scientists: as you might expect, you get a bunch of pictures of lab coats and adjectives like “dorky”. Take those same seventh graders and introduce them to some real scientists, and the descriptions change.

OK, if I had been one of the scientists they might still use the word “dorky”, but in general, it’s true that meeting scientists will almost always change people’s perceptions of them.

Sir Oolius makes a good point: some of these cartoons of scientists suggest we ought to be rioting. I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of calling for a jihad against 7th graders, though.

No thanks, MPR

I often listen to Minnesota Public Radio on my drives to Minneapolis and back—I’ve got the 3 stations memorized (88.5, 88.9, and 91.1), and know where each one cuts out and I need to switch to the closer transmitter. My only complaint is the annoying, chirpy fund drives, which always drive me to fumble for some ‘foreign’ station…and that’s difficult. Here in the western part of the state most of what you find are country western and gospel and horrid pop rock stuff.

Now I have another reason to be irritated at those repetitive pleas for me to fork over a hundred bucks for a travel mug and the undying love of a radio executive. I’m with Jambo, who isn’t going to cough up a dime to them.

On the 2004 tax return, MPR listed the names and salaries of 13 officers or trustees, 12 of whom earned more than $100,000. [President and CEO, William] Kling received $326,700 in salary, pension and benefits, and incentive compensation at MPR. He earns roughly an additional $218,000 from American Public Media Group, the parent company of MPR.

A salary of half a million dollars? At a non-profit?

Welcome, toad overlords


In yet another example of evolution in action, investigators have documented morphological changes in the cane toads (Bufo marinus) that infest parts of Australia. They’re an invasive species that was introduced in a misbegotten attempt to control beetles that were damaging the sugar cane crop; as it turns out, they are aggressive predators that eat lots of other native fauna, and they secrete toxins that kill animals that try to eat them.

Another feature that contributes to their unwanted success is their rapid dispersal. Individuals can move up to 1.8km per night, occupying new territory at a distressing pace. In the 70 years since they were introduced, they’ve taken over a million square kilometers of Australia. Since dispersal into virgin territories is a significant advantage for the toads, it was predicted that there would be selection for faster migration rates in the population. The authors have several lines of evidence to show that this is the case.

[Read more…]

As long as I’m feeling sick, let’s make everyone miserable

Just a suggestion: don’t browse weblogs when you’re trying to perk yourself up with a little cheery good news.


P.S. As you’ll see in the comments, the sources for those last statistics aren’t just wobbly, they’re downright dishonest. Never mind.