Friday, April 30, 2010

Poetry in Truth

Normally poetry gets classified along with ballet and opera to me. It's not that I don't get the story or emotions being conveyed, but the whole rhyme and rhythm thing seems to me that it should be set to music. For some reason the impact of it being poetry seems to get lost on my ear. My loss no one else's and I recognize that.

But once in a while a poem transcends the medium to me and the message is so clear that I want to keep a copy of it. Here is one a new friend over on Topix posted and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So with a sincere Thank You to Lissa Marie who posted these words of Richard Bamford, here it is for you to enjoy.

My god can beat up your god.

Do you know his name? Sure you do. He talks to you every day. You could not live a normal life without him. You believe in him, whether you like it or not. Unless you abandon him completely, you cannot deny he exists.

My god is a more personal god than yours can ever be, for if you have enough sense to understand these words, my god lives within you. He lives within us all, to some degree. A heartbreaking few cannot understand him, but this is not their fault. The real tragedy is the multitudes who ignore much of his counsel, particularly when he questions your god too deeply.

My god has been around longer than your god. He was here before the many other gods that preceded your god. Though you will likely scoff at the notion, my god was the father of your god, as he was to all gods. But that was long ago when he was young and not yet sure of himself. Though many of your god's followers try to hold him down, my god grows stronger and more independent each day.

When your god expelled us from paradise for eating an apple, my god taught us to grow our own fruit.

When your god forbade knowledge, demanding we live in ignorance, my god created books.

When your god smote cities like a tantrum-prone child, my god helped to rebuild them.

When your god insisted the world was flat, my god showed his followers it was round, to their peril at the hands of your god's followers.

While your god watched in silence as children sickened and died, my god created medicines to make them well.

When your god winked and nodded at slavery, my god argued passionately against it.

While your god represses half the human race, my god considers woman to be the equal of man.

When your god only helps those who help themselves, my god rolls up his sleeves and actually does help until your god decides to join in, and then steals all the credit.

When your god inspired great buildings and great art, my god made them possible.

While your god says we are all born sinners, tainted before we even draw breath, my god says we are all born innocent; a clean slate with limitless potential.

While your god offers dubious allusions of an afterlife, my god provides for us here in this life.

While your god makes amazing promises, but offers not a shred of proof, my god performs amazing deeds, and the proof is there to be seen by all.

While your god demands blind faith and obsequious obedience, my god encourages questions, even about himself.

When your god says "Thou shalt not," my god says "You can do anything."

My god is reason. He does more in a day than your god will ever do.

I enjoyed it and I hope you did as well. Lissa Marie also sent me this link on Richard Bamford's work if you are interested. He has a few thought provoking limerick's on there as well.

As for the Ballet and Opera, I think it's more a matter of taste. I like to watch dancing, but the old fashioned me prefers something more classic than classical. The sheer athleticism in ballet dancers is incredible, but the dancing just doesn't move me. Opera is the same way. the talent is impressive, but the medium just sends shivers down my spine, the nails on a blackboard variety. My wife loves it, but I would rather watch an old movie musical than ballet or opera. It drives my wife nuts because she knows I love classical music and even ice skating. but prance out in the ballet slippers or take the deep breath of a soprano and I would rather be listening to Linda Eder or Brad Paisley!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Noah's Ark

Most of us are familiar with the tale of Noah's Ark and how one small family built a ship longer than a football field capable of carrying two of every life form while the rest of the world was covered in water and all other life eradicated. It's a common Young Earth Creationist (YEC) myth and like most of their beliefs there is not one shred of evidence.

YEC'ers are also one of the more vocal evangelical groups opposing things like evolution for religious reasons. One of the more lunatic YEC'ers is a favorite target of opportunity named little kennie ham who rips folks off every day by feeding their beliefs.

Well little kennie is probably jumping for joy because Noah's Ark has been found . . . again. Another evangelical group, called by some strange coincidence the Noah's Ark Ministries International, claims to have found it in some mountains in Turkey. Now normally I wouldn't pay much attention to such announcements but something really funny caught my eye. How do they 'know' it's Noah's Ark? Well they do claim not to be 100% certain, only 99.9%. So why are they so sure? Carbon dating!

Does this strike your funny bone the way it struck mine? OK, just in case I am just being my usual weird self let me explain. What is one of the most common methods for dating fossils and other geological evidence that goes completely against YEC'ers main contention that the Earth is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old? Yup, Radiological dating. They love to complain that it's inaccurate, misleading, and impossible to use reliably.

Now do you get it? One of the methods used most often by science to disprove their ideas is OK to use as long as it supports their preconceived notions. Gotta love double-standards.

Friday, April 23, 2010

James Randi's fiery takedown of psychic fraud | Video on

Here is something fun to hear and thought provoking as well. Introducing the Amazing Randi! James Randi's fiery takedown of psychic fraud | Video on

I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's from a talk in 2007. i had heard of james Randi before and his foundation -- and also his million dollar prize. So far still no takers :-)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ID is not religious . . . yet . . .

Being anti-intelligent design is a form of religious discrimination. How ID'iotic is that?

So what's going on. Well it seems that am employee of Jet Propulsion Labs, JPL, was demoted for, what he claims, is handing out ID videos to co-workers. He is suing for, among other things, religious discrimination.

If this is true, then it does sound more like a free speech issue. But there are two things that make it more than a little suspect. First of all The Discovery Institute has responded and typically they are painting him as some sort of martyr. Just like the way they keep trying to paint Gonzales, Abraham, and Sternberg. That immediately makes me suspicious!

However, since JPL has not responded to the lawsuit, others have. According to the Auburn Journal not only was Coppedge handing out these videos. he was asked to stop -- which he refused. OK, now his actions sound more like harassment. It also sounds like any action taken, like a demotion, might be well justified.

One other side-note . . . He sits on the board of directors of Illustra Media, the group that publishes the DVDs that he distributed to JPL employees. Things are starting to smell real bad! Not that the truth would stop the DI from rallying their toothless sharks for his 'defense'.

Let's just say that any empathy I might have felt for Coppedge is out the window. I expect the DI rallying to his defense will be just as effective as it was for Gonzales, Abraham, and Sternberg.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Promiscuity causes . . . Earthquakes?

News to me. While I can think of many things promiscuity might impact, never thought it was the crust of the Earth. Well that is if you pay attention to a certain Iranian cleric. So let us not forget everyone's favorite Christian religious . . . well it would be less than polite to use the words I am thinking. So let's just say Pat Robertson and forget the adjectives. Remember his remarks about the Earthquake in Haiti. We won't even remind you of his comments about Dover Pa. You can Google that one for yourself.

OK, so let's look at the facts. Since 2000 Iran, a country you might not think as a bastion of promiscuous women, has had 7 major quakes with a death toll of over 32,000 people. Let's compare that to a few other countries. How about Great Britain? The UK had 2 . . . that's it, 2 and let's see how many fatalities? None! So based on Pat Robertson and Kazem Sedighi that means Great Britain is a more moral place than Iran. Nice to know.

Let's really annoy some folks. How many earthquakes has Israel had since 2000? Believe it or now, just one, and no fatalities. So I wonder how the Sedighi and even the Iranian President, Ahmadinejad, realizes how morally superior Israel is . . . based on their own words! That's gotta hurt :-)

Of course you should realize that this whole idea is nothing but the 'night soil of a well fed bull'. A little science education might go a long way. While we might not be to the point of predicting the time and date of earthquakes, but even a basic understanding of Geology makes more sense than these . . . people. I am not even talking a high school understanding, but by the 6th grade kids have a better understanding than them. Of course most 6th graders aren't trying to use a well understood and NATURAL event stir up fear. That's these guys stock in trade, fear not education. Pretty sad commentary.

The appearance of Design is not the fact of Design

And neither is it support for the Discovery Institute's intelligent Design concept. I am quite disappointed in this Huffington post by Ervin Laszlo. Not only does he repeat the ridiculous comment by Sir Fred Hoyle:

[the odds of evolution are the] "same as the probability that a hurricane blowing through a scrap-yard assembles a working airplane."

But then Laszlo does exactly what many intelligent design proponents do and change the definition of things to suit himself. He doesn't address the DI's concept of Intelligent Design, but changes Design to mean something different entirely. Then he continues with the usual "And our fine-tuned universe is entirely unlikely to have come about by chance." Yet does not offer any support for this idea.

The idea that Evolution is not following a deterministic path but conforming to the environment in ways that follow atomic and molecular interactions is not a new idea. But to slap a label of 'Design' on it is going too far. All he is doing to raising the level of the argument from the origin of life to the origin of the Universe. He hasn’t settled anything. He’s simply reverse the recent direction of anti-evolutionists trying to use molecular mechanisms to justify barely defined concepts like specified and irreducible complexity. Years ago it was complete organisms, like Man. Then moved to biological items, like the Eye. Lately it's bacterial flagellum and clotting factors that are the current rage. All equally unsupported by any evidence.

He’s raised the concept of physical properties into some sort of deliberate design. There is still no proof of a designer, no support that anything is actually designed, just wishful thinking. Design is not a necessary assumption, just as blind chance has not been an explanation of evolution for decade.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why argue against Creationism?

This question is put to me in various ways for a while now. I've put together several answers around a central theme of the damage pushing Creationism, whatever its guise, as science can do to science education. Michael Zimmerman takes it a step further in another article over on the Huffington Post "The Dangers of Ignoring Creationism" which everyone should read!

Folks like Ken Ham, and his Creation 'Museum', the whole Discovery Institute and its minions, the Access Research 'Network', for example, are dangerous! Plain words from Michael Zimmerman lay it out clearly. This debate is NOT one pitting religion against science. It is pitting zealots, extremists, and snake-oil salesmen against reality! Their tactics include lies, misrepresentations of science, and writing marketing material advertised as science. Why in the world should any of us consider letting them determine what should be taught to all our children?

The answer is we should not! And with the exception of Louisiana, the current crop of anti-evolution bills is not finding very fertile ground. Even in Louisiana there seems to be issues implementing the law in a way that won't result in lawsuits. This next school year will be interesting there. I think only South Carolina and Missouri have legislation is committee. But we can't let down our guard. I mean the sponsor of the two bills in South Carolina, Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6), are simply the latest after he failed in 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007 -- if memory serves me. Since they refuse to stop, neither should we!

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Wife warned me not to read Dilbert today!

Since she believes in certain pseudo-science things like psychics and ghosts, I can see why she might not want me to read it. Actually she knew I would read it sooner or later, she just made sure it was sooner. Here, take a look:

It always does lead to discussions on the value of homeopathy, the validity of psychic powers, the role of man in climate change, and this time even the original of AIDs. She launched into that one to disparage science in general. That one was new. Apparently the entire scientific community is banned together to prevent the world from finding out AIDs and HIV is a result of a failed Polio vaccine done with chimpanzee tissues. This is officially called the "OPV AIDS hypothesis".

Of course she doesn't seem to accept that science isn't some big club where everyone teams up and toes some party line. When that idea was floated it was INVESTIGATED by a number of separate scientific groups -- groups separated by geography and nationalities -- the evidence from medicine, biology, and epidemiology says the odds of this being true are pretty slim. In fact here are the words of evolutionary biologist Edward Holmes of Oxford University:

"The new data may not convince the hardened conspiracy theorist who thinks that contamination of OPV by chimpanzee virus was subsequently and deliberately covered up. But those of us who were formerly willing to give some credence to the OPV hypothesis will now consider that the matter has been laid to rest."
It won't make much headway, I know, but it's fun shooting holes in pseudo-scientific ideas. Thank God she isn't an anti-evolutionist! There are some things even avowed pseudo-scientist won't stomach :-)

Eye Surgery #2

Had the Right Eye done yesterday! Cataract removed and the new lens put in. Doc is real happy with the progress so far. After two weeks my left eye is testing at 20/25 distance vision. After just 24 hours the right is at 20/30. yea! I do notice a difference in near vision, the left being much better than the right. I am hoping as the right eye heals that improves as well. I will still need reading glasses, but hopefully can get away with cheaters rather than prescription. Right now cheaters work great on the left eye, but the right is blurry.

Yea, another positive review for Science and Science education.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Anti-science may also equate to Death!

Caught a link off of CNN, a talk by Michael Specter is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of "Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens our Lives.". I haven't read his book, yet, but the talk was certainly interesting. It meshes well with what I have been thinking and provides grist for the mill.

I hadn't really thought about one of the reasons behind the anti-vaccination 'movement', but it really does fit all to well with one of the worst parts of human nature. It's easy to deny what isn't in your face. It sounds silly expressed that way, but it happens all the time. how often have you heard "What have you done for me lately?" I was living in Las Vegas back in the 80's. One year we had severe flooding, including the basement of one of the larger hotels on the Strip flooding. I had 6 inches of water going down the middle of my street. At the time everyone was all up in arms over flood control . . . but when the time came for devoting resources toward it -- summer had come, the ground was dry, and the immediate threat of flooding was gone. Needless to say you know what happened, little money for flood control. You have no idea how often I heard someone say "We're in the desert, it doesn't flood in the desert!" What annoyed me was some of those same folks were whining just a few months ago about the water.

Diseases like polio, measles, and rubella are nearly non-existent here in the US. So it makes it easy for people to ignore the evidence, ignore the facts, and ignore the science and believe anecdotes, fairy tales, and utter nonsense. It also explains many peoples' reluctance to understand the theory of Evolution. It's not something you can easily see and understand without considerable scholarship. It's easy to fall prey to careful marketing, appeals to authority, and lies! But it's not just a matter of personal choice, its impact goes far beyond individual opinion. One of the things I had learned years ago I had forgotten. A vaccination program is only as good as the numbers of people who receive the vaccination. If the percentage falls to low, these diseases we haven't faced in more than a generation will be back. Our medical knowledge isn't perfect, but it's certainly light years beyond where we were 50 years ago!

What annoys me more than anything is not just how easily some folks fall for the marketing, but their complete inability to realize how they are being used. Their fears are being preyed upon! That's exactly what is happening when someone tells you that it's either Science or Religion. When they tell you they 'have a theory' or that 'acceptance of science is the same thing as belief in a religion'. When you swallow Jenn McCarthy's line, or the crap flowing from the Discovery Institute, or fail to see how funny Ken Ham's pseudo-belief system is, you are not just exercising your right to think what you wish, but you are impacting the health and welfare of the people around you. When you vote pseudo-science into the classroom, you are negatively impacting the education for the future!

Well you might take a view of his presentation and read the article associated with it. I'm going to take a look at his book the next time I am in the bookstore since it's not yet available as an e-book. Fear

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Anti-science equates to . . . insanity!

Since I have been touting my eye surgery as a very positive example of science and science education, how about an example of anti-science having a negative impact on folks. I heard a short story on National Public Radio . . . yes folks, I do listen to things other than country music . . . and hit the website to follow-up. "Measles Resurgence tied to Parents' Vaccination Fears" makes it pretty clear. There has been a lot of hysteria over vaccinations, but if you step back from being hysterical and get the facts you would find that the benefits FAR outweigh any potential risks. But because some people take counsel of their fears and listen to attention-grabbing, fact-deficient folks like Jenny McCarthy, they have not been getting their kids vaccinated. This is not just being irresponsible, but pretty damn foolish! Even though the 'doctor' who published the original study supposedly linking a specific vaccine to autism has been found to be an unethical fool (Andrew Wakefield), folks like McCarthy spout foolishness and too many people are listening.

My advice is to not listen to McCarthy or even to me. Do the research for yourself on the benefits vs the risks of vaccinations. It's easy to find and pretty simple to understand. Here is a 1985 article that took me all of 1 second to find. There are tons of supporting literature. Now the question is how much scientifically valid literature opposes childhood vaccinations? None . . at least nothing I can find. I find opinion pieces, lots of web sites by anti-vaccination groups. But what I do not see is any actual research into the supposed problem. Again, don't take my word for it, do the research for yourself.

Science isn't perfect, but do we want to take a step backwards in time and lose the benefits we have gained through science? I know I am very thankful for my sight and every time I look at my granddaughter I am very glad she is properly vaccinated! I really have no idea how a parent who refuses vaccination for their children will be able to live with themselves if their kids become ill from a preventable illness. It's one thing to not have a vaccination program available to you, but to have one and refuse to use it based on the word of someone like Jenny McCarthy? There is the new definition of insanity!

While writing this I was found a reference to one of my favorite bloggers, Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, who discusses Jenny also . . . and not in a very flattering light. I don't know if he would agree with my new definition for insanity, but he sure doesn't think much of Jenn and her anti-vax campaign.

Lastest Eye update

Saw the eye doc for a scheduled follow-up and things are great! While I need to wear glasses to protect the eye, they are not helping my vision, in fact with my old prescription on, I have trouble seeing. So I am wearing cheaters to help reading small print and non-prescription sunglasses when outdoors.

According to the Doc I could pass my driving eye test right now without glasses! Yea! It's healing up fine and I am scheduled for my right eye on April 15. I can't wait!

A couple of folks have emailed me, mentioning a concern about cataracts surgery. I even spent an hour on the phone talking to my nephew's mother-in-law who is having it done and has some apprehensions. All I can say is that when cataracts comes on so quickly, in less than a year for me, the surgery is well worth it!

One thing that did surprise me is how many folks I know had no idea what cataracts are. In a nutshell the lens of your eye, the one inside behind the pupil, becomes spotty and then cloudy. It happens slowly for most. A parallel way to look at it. Imagine trying to drive while your front window has a thin layer of frost. Oh you can see through it, but everything it fuzzy and washed out. That pretty well is how I was looking at things. But even with how quickly it came on me, I still wasn't aware of just how bad my sight had gotten.

As I have said before, this is a perfect, and very personal, example of the value of science and science education!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lies, Damned lies, and Statistics

I think we need a new category of . . . well shall we say 'untruths'? Now I think it's 'Lies, damned lies, statistics, and anything Casey Luskin says'. No, that's a bit to long. How about 'Lies, damned lies, statistics, and Luskinisms.' That sounds better. I guess I should tell you why I feel this way. Well other than the other many times I have posted about Casey's foolishness, he really sank to a new level of idiocy.

In April 3 post on his usual place, the poorly names Discovery Institute 'news' site, he tried to take Michael Zimmerman to task. As usual he failed. The post was titled "Right for the wrong reasons" started off sort of well. But then took a right turn that set up the usual Luskin misdirection. OK, if you are not familiar with Michael Zimmerman, he's the brains behind the Clergy Letter Project, something I know I have mentioned numerous times. Well he posted an interesting article on the Huffington Post that you might want to read. His main point was:

"The evolution/creation controversy is really a struggle between alternative religious worldviews and has precious little to do with science. But, because of the way it has been cast for all these years, science education has suffered significantly."
I can only agree with him because, as I have repeatedly said, anti-evolutionists make many scientific-ish claims, but have yet to actually provide any supporting evidence. Their anti-evolution comments always seem to trace back to a religious viewpoint.

Well little casey responds to the article and then makes a typically bold claim:
"What if it’s science that challenges neo-Darwinism?"
While it is phrased as a question, it makes you think that Michael Zimmerman is wrong because there are scientific challenges to evolution? I mean normally once you make a statement such as this -- you then support it. Is that such a hard thing to do? You make statements and then you SUPPORT them. That seems to be the part of any communication that little casey doesn't get. Because after making that statement, he doesn't address any science challenges to evolutionary theory. he would rather mislead than than lead in the purely political debate about evolution.

Actually I wrote part of the last paragraph a little tongue-in-cheek because casey has to be misleading. There is no scientific challenge to the Theory of Evolution, so he really couldn't go any other direction. I just wish he would at least make more of an effort. Because then I can quote the Dover articles and transcripts of their school board meetings and see the religious viewpoint. You can look at the Wedge Document, the strategy document governing casey's own Discovery Institute and see it's religious underpinnings. Hell, just read anything by Phillip E. Johnson, the daddy rabbit of said DI and also hear all about the need to return science to a more theocratic-friendly attitude. Here in Ohio you can also read about Deborah Owens Fink who went from pushing Creationism into schools to supporting Intelligent Design. Go to South Carolina and read about the now defunct Kristin Maguire and read about her religious support for anything anti-evolution. Let's shift to Texas and Don McLeroy -- who made no bones about his religious opposition to science. The list goes on!

Seems like there is plenty of support for Zimmerman's position and nothing supporting little casey's . . .as usual.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tennesee delays its choice

And while it is the right one, I also happen to agree with something Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, said, "But I can hope that in the future, everyone will know that we won’t teach creationism because it’s wrong."

Now I know some are going to argue with me, but the bottom line is Creationism is not science. You can dress it up in whatever you wish, but that still not science. While the Establishment Clause has all sorts of reasons why religion should not be promoted by the government, none of that really matters. Creationism is not science and therefore does not deserve a place in the science classroom.

If you hadn't heard a parent asked that an Honors Biology Textbook be banned for calling Creationism a 'myth'. He claimed this indicated a bias against Christianity and would prefer a 'non-biased book' be used instead. I wonder what an 'unbiased book' would actually look like?

Here is my problem. While on the surface the parent's issue sounds pretty innocuous and reasonable, I disagree. What is wrong with the word 'myth'? It's not prejudicial, unless you read that into it -- which is what I believe the parent did. It doesn't matter what words you choose, nearly anyone can find a reason to object. Creationism, Noah, Adam and Eve are stories, non-evidence-based stories passed down through many generations of SOME of the world's religions. If that doesn't meet the definition, I have no idea what does. What other term explains that better in a text about science?

Well Tennessee has a chance to do the smart thing. We shall see if they can follow through next month. Here, you can read a report on their recent meeting.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

FYI: Eye Surgery went well

Had the left eye done this AM and according to the Doc things went well. it was pretty weird, but nothing overly taxing. The eye patch is annoying and the lack of depth perception is hilarious, at least to the family. More tomorrow after follow-up appointment and the removal of the patch.

I know this may seem like off my normal topic, but it is a very personal example of the benefits of science.