Friday, May 30, 2008

Sir Jason Beghe and Anonymous 5-26-08

Goon: Excuse me, look, look, go over to the other side of the street.

Jason: What do you mean? I'm not allowed to stand here?

Goon: No.

Jason: Why not? Who says I can't stand here? Besides you?

Goon: ...silence...

Jason: You have any law behind that?

Goon: ...looks away...

Jason: I didn't think so.

Jason: ...looks off camera... I'm supposed to take orders from this guy?

Jason: ...mimics goon... Go on the other side of the street!

Jason: ...turns to goon... I can talk loud too.

Jason: ...tries to engage second goon who won't talk, then turns back to first goon...

Jason: Nice to meet you tough guy.

Jason: ...walks a few steps away then...

Jason: I smell pussy.

It's not always about you

Does a fish know he's wet? If water is all the fish has ever known, perhaps not.

Does a creationist recognize when he's anthropomorphizing? Does he consider that human ideas and heuristics such as purpose, order, benefit, or progress may not have any meaning from the vantage point of some other being or impersonal entity?

Here's a comment from a creationist posting at RichardDawkins.net, followed by my response:
I believe things are in descent having begun in perfection. Evolution is trying to say that organisms have ascended to where they are now from a single cell by way of mutations. I believe living organisms are in a downward spiral.
Biologists may speak of the ascent of man or other species. But this is poetry. There is no ascent or descent per se. There is simply a sea of replicators replicating.

To get the hang of biology you must lose your anthrocentrism. Have a look at the world from the vantage of a bird, a fish, a spider, a bacterium, a mitochondrian, or a gene. Would T Rex feel that this era of mammalianism is an improvement compared to the age of reptiles? In terms of the menu, maybe.

Approximately 90 percent of the cells within your body belong to various non-human species. They call your body "ours" just as you call it "mine." Your arms, legs, and brain work for these others as much as for yourself.

Of those cells within you which are human you'll note no loyalty oaths. They generally cooperate with the rest of you, clearly. But they do murder their brothers with some frequency. These fratricides are often to your benefit but not always.

Even within that which is most you --your own genome-- you are overrun with foreigners. Your chromosomes are chock-a-block with endogenous retroviruses and fragments of genes once useful to other species but of no use to you.

Now that you have shrugged off your speciesism you can answer this question: Who conquered the New World, the European or his parasites?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Neurons Red in Tooth and Claw

There's an article summarizing recent brain development research at Johns Hopkins. We've known that neurons exposed to Nerve Growth Factor survive while their neighbors who might not be sucking up enough NGF die off. This article introduces another element: strong neurons actually harming weaker neighbors.
To test this idea they plugged these three additional genes into their computer model, assuming that the stronger connected nerve cell punishes its neighbors by releasing the two proteins capable of killing. The computer model showed again, that half the nerve cells die over time, but this time the death occurred over two to three days rather than 100 days, just as in living animals.

Online Textbook: Behavioral Neuroscience

The Rice University web site offers the Multimedia Textbook in Behavioral Neuroscience

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Language by Lesley Inglis, Mary Newsome, Zhihua Tang, and Randi Martin
Introduction
Speech Perception
Word Comprehension
Sentence Comprehension (I)
Sentence Comprehension (II)
Word Production (I)
Word Production (II): PDP Model
Sentence Production
References

Attention and Perception by Deborah Pearson, Geofrey Potts, and James Pomerantz
Visual System
Shape Constancy
Attention
Attentional Deficit Disorder
References

Thinking by Daniel Osherson
Thinking
References

Autism by Elizabeth N. Bartmess-LeVasseur and Kathryn Loveland. Internet links: David Lane
Introduction
Theory of Autism
References

Monday, May 19, 2008

The North Pacific Gyre

This story has been around a few years, but still I meet a lot of people who haven't heard about the Texas-sized plastic dump in the Pacific Ocean.

Below is the result of someone's discarded plastic soda can rings:



Plastic is an unbelievable problem. Plastic only seems cheap, because the associated disposal and clean up costs aren't included in the product price.

Go watch this: Garbage Island *

Then for something a little happier: Canvas Bags (thanks Steve Zara!).

A few minutes into episode 3 of Garbage Island, a crew member says, "You go to Subway for a sandwich. They always put it in a plastic bag. How long do you use that bag for? One minute?"

That's a significant point. We're blind to the plastic waste we create because it all goes someplace else. How will this ever change?

Garbage Island suffers from a lack of aggressive editing. There's some great material in there that won't be seen because it's surrounded by stuff that's reduntant or paced too slowly.

*Updated link here: Garbage Island I haven't watched the updated version all the way through. I notice the piece has been renamed "Toxic Garbage Island," which I find unfortunate as the word "toxic" adds the "scary" but comes with pseudoscience baggage that might be off-putting to smart people.

Science Fair

Over on Sciencewomen you can read about the winners of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair:

Three talented, hard working, and lucky students are the recipients of the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award, which includes a $50,000 college scholarship. This year's winners are:

Efficient Hydrogen Production Using Cu-Zn-Al Catalysts Prepared by Homogeneous Precipitation Method by Yi-Han Su, 17 from Taipei Municipal First Girls' Senior High School in Taipei.

Development of Biosensors for Detecting Hazardous Chemicals by Natalie Saranga Omattage, 17, from The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus.

Computation of the Alexander-Conway Polynomial on the Chord Diagrams of Singular Knots by Sana Raoof, 17 of Jericho High School in Jericho, New York.

Three girls!

And now for something, ah, a bit more ordinary yet far more hilarious...(click me for teh lulz)

Crap

I fell and broke the scaphoid bone in my right wrist yesterday while doing yard work. Typing and mousing is a bitch. So I won't be as active on teh web tubes for a while.

I might pick up one of those voice recognition programs. Any suggestions?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

In US, Religion Picks You!

Click the pic to go to an article about the US religion map.

When I was a kid, the Catholics were Democrats and the Baptists got abortions. Once the right-to-life movement pulled in the born-agains, a natural alliance between the Catholics and southern Protestants emerged (see map for why this alliance kicks ass).

In addition to the bloody red Baptists, the Religious Right has the Mormons, the Latino Catholics, and a lot of the working class Catholics in New England who resonate to the family values stuff even though they're not interested in the Rapture business.

The Catholic Church has watched the growth of happy-clappy fundamentalism in the US while more liberal flavors of Christianity have been dying away. I think they want some of that market share. So they've moved right. They've toughened up the rules. They got a pre-Vatican II Pope and brought back the Latin Mass for the elites. Woo to follow, I reckon. You need Holy Spirit woo to keep the peoples turned on and tuning in.

But this crazy, dominionist, when-can-we-bomb-Iran voting block has to be stopped. It's not good for anyone in the long run, including the Church.

It's possible the Church might take the high road, skipping the mysticism and authoritarianism in favor of a more rational, anti-poverty and pro-social justice message. This likely will disrupt the current alliance between Catholics and the Republicans... and so save us all.

Peer Review



What would the male-female ratio look like in a photo of today's top physicists?

Here's another story that might be about girl power. I dunno.

For some strange reason when I was in my teens, my brain liked math. I taught myself eighth grade algebra at the start of seventh grade and soon reached a point where I needed a ride to the high school across town for geometry.

The school counselor called me into his office. He said that interacting with my peers was just as important as book learning. He recommended that I take a year off from math. "You like to draw. why don't you take another art class?"

So I spent a year as a li'l helper to a math teacher, grading papers and decorating bulletin boards.

Memories evolve with time. As an easily intimidated thirteen-year-old, I heard the counselor saying, in essence, "Miss Titmouse you quirky geek, don't be such a freak!"

Now I believe he was saying, "Miss Titmouse, the school district doesn't want to pay for transportation."

The Game

Congratulations. You are now playing the game (if you weren't already).

The Game is very simple:

1. You are always playing the game.
2. You cannot win. You can only lose.
3. You lose whenever you remember the game.
4. Whenever you remember the game, you have to announce out loud, "I lose."
5. After you lose you have 30 minutes during which you can remember the game without losing.
6. As soon as you mention the game to anyone, they begin playing as well.
7. The goal of the game is to have everyone on Earth playing.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What do men want?

Thinking about girl power reminded me of something recently posted on RichardDawkins.net by Christopher Davis:

Tomorrow I will roll out in a convoy of up-armored HUMVEES heading to a small town in Afghanistan to witness the opening of a school constructed by the Afghan government along with the help of coalition forces. En route, we will see dozens of small children and they will run to the edge of the road and smile and wave. We will wave back and our gunners will toss out small bags containing candy, shoes, pencils, pens, toothbrushes etc. Many of these children will be girls...these little girls break my heart and remind me why I am an atheist.

You see, the school we are opening is for boys only. The Pashtun culture places very little value on women, much less the education of women. So when I see these little girls laughing and smiling, it saddens me because I know I am seeing them at possibly the happiest time in their life. I know that in ten or twelve years they will be someone's property.

They will be wed to some man who will treat them only slightly better than he does his livestock and feel no remorse in doing so. A man who has been taught since he was a little boy that such is the way of the world and such is a woman's place in it...and he has been taught this as part of his religion.

Now I know some wise-ass is going to read this and say "That's not what Islam teaches! Those behaviours are derived from tribal customs, not from the Koran!" I concede that may be true. But for those little girls who will wave at my convoy tomorrow, that bleak future is most likely the only Islam they will ever know.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Power to the X2

On my fourth grade report card I remember reading the comment, "Miss Titmouse should try to be more lady-like!"

Ah the good ol' days, when men were astronauts, doctors, warriors, and scientists while women were nurses, teachers, and secretaries.

Where were things like this when I was seven? Why was I denied some schooling in the ways of power? What kind of horrid, unjust society cripples half its citizens?

It's very warming to see young women now unselfconciously slicing and dicing through that which must be defeated. I refer to such mighty beings as the beloved ERV.

ERV aka Abbie Smith is a grad student studying HIV and epigenetic control of endogenous retroviruses. She's also a founding member of the Justice League. Together with her trusty companion, Arnold Schwarzenegger, she sniffs out evil pseudoscientists, liars, and witless 'tards. Then she noms upon them heartily for the sake of science and all humankind.

Kittehs Groovin'

I Will Survive

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dear Denialists

What's with calling me a "liberal" and hating all over me if I happen to use the words "Al Gore" or "carbon footprint" in a sentence? Are you so convinced that global warming is nothing to worry about?

Listen, if I feel a lump in my breast, I'm going to inconvenience myself with a doctor's appointment and a few tests, even though I know the odds of any lump being cancer are quite low. Low probability disasters still merit some attention and preparation, just in case.

We can do a number of things to reduce greenhouse gasses that won't tank our economy. Surely we ought to begin reversing this trend toward ever greater CO2 emissions, even if climate predictions aren't certain.

Consider the potential risks and benefits of your denialist position: on the one hand, if global warming does not cause any major headaches, many will thank you for opposing the imposition of needless sacrifice. On the other, if you're wrong, if drought and famine overwhelm large parts of the planet, you will bear some responsibility for that outcome. Do you think you won't be held to account?

I confess I lack your courage. I say, "I'm not an expert so I'll listen to the experts." With the stakes so high, there's no way I'm putting my ass on the line.

Imagine your potential futures: beyond, "I told you so," will a win taste sweet? I'm not so sure. However I am confident that losing will suck the dog's balls. If you're wrong, the echoes of your denials will haunt you everywhere you go. No one will take you seriously. Many will want to shit all over you and your memory for getting in the way of people who might have done something before it was too late.

So denialist, do you feel lucky?

Ding Dong!

Punked!

Hey Ben Stein, Walt Ruloff, Discovery Institute, et al. I have a question for you: How are you going to deal with the evangelicals once they realize they've been punked?

You've used these people. You've appropriated the mantle of Judeo-Christian righteousness and played upon fears of the anti-Christ to make a buck. Maybe you also had some hope of rallying the faithful politically, as these "Academic Freedom" bills in several states seem to indicate.

But the evangelicals may not be as dim as you imagine. They may notice that your rhetoric doesn't match reality.

Gene sequencing technology is starting to change the practice of medicine. Soon we'll routinely sequence patients' liver enzymes, in order to better select drug dosages. Popular awareness of the genetic code shared among all living things is bound to increase.

People do not enjoy being manipulated.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Newtonists hate kids

In 1687 Isaac Newton published his PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. This revolutionary work outlines a theory of gravitation capable of explaining the motion of apples falling from trees and planets moving around the sun.

Newton's theory has dominated the teaching of science in our schools and universities to such a degree, that alternate theories about mass and force are hardly given any consideration. Newtonists will admit that their theory isn't perfect. Yet few academics openly question or criticize Newtonism, as any dissent from the status quo is generally met with ridicule and worse. Try asking a Newtonist about some of the problems with Newton's theory, and you'll soon find yourself ... EXPELLED!

I've met several people who didn't particularly enjoy their high school physics experience. These creative souls just happened to see things a little differently. But were they given equal time to express their opinions? Sadly, no.

In fact these questioners suffered discrimination and humiliation. Their Newtonist classmates would receive comments on their homework like, "good job!" whereas the non-Newtonists would read statements like, "see me after class." The dissenters were warned that if they didn't start towing the Newtonist party line, they'd flunk out.

Hey Newtonists, what happened to free speech? What happened to America?

Very few faculty members at our leading institutions openly admit the problems with Newtonism. For example, Newtonism says nothing about where life came from, or what caused the Big Bang, or what happens when we die. With so many holes in their theory, it's surprising how arrogant and intolerant the Newtonists behave toward anyone who simply wants to hear other points of view.

Newtonists have been teaching our children that larger objects exert more force than smaller objects. A brief visit to any classroom in the US reveals what happens when these ideas are taught without criticism: the average child today weighs a lot more than the average child of a few decades past.

Yes, there's a terrible obesity epidemic in this country. Obesity is associated with diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, early death, and social stigma. Is this what we want for our kids?

Newtonists are forever going on about matter and energy as if nothing else existed. Ask a Newtonist about God or love or morality and you'll notice how quickly they try to change the subject. Many leading Newtonists even describe themselves as materialists! Shocking yes, but all too true.

Materialism and the culture of constant consumption are driving this obesity epidemic. I'm not saying Newtonism alone is making us fat. But I don't think we'd have this obesity problem today were it not for Newton's ideas of mass and inertia.

Anyone willing to question the Newtonist dogma can easily see the dangerous, slippery slope these people want us to walk: Newtonism leads to materialism leads to obesity leads to a whole lot of kids dying.

Hey, I don't have all the answers. But neither do the Newtonists. What right have they to call the rest of us ignorant fools? At least we care about the children.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I science; you science; he sciences

In his article, "Evolution: what's the real controversy?" Josh Timmer compares the manufactroversy of intelligent design v evolution to some bona fide debates among scientists today. Would "teach the controversy" make sense for any of these genuine disputes? His conclusion: no.

I can't argue.

Science is a method for assigning an appropriate level of confidence to claims about the world. It's a skill, like math or cooking. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

You can learn a fair amount of history from TV documentaries. But you won't learn much science while sitting on the couch. Yes, you can absorb a number of interesting facts from well-written science shows. But a collection of sciency facts does not a science make.

Science, like math, is a skill that benefits from frequent practice. Lectures and readings only take you so far. To really get the hang of it, you have to knuckle down and work your way through some problems on your own.

I hear the word "scientific" used to suggest a fashion or style evocative of test tubes, chemicals, blackboards, equations, conservative attire, monotone voice, and mechanical mannerisms. With respect to style, I prefer "sciency" to "scientific." I'd like to save "scientific" for something more useful, i.e. "defensible per accepted rules of evidence."

If I say that a claim is scientific, the onus is upon me to defend that claim using evidence and reasoned argument. But if I say, "well that's what I was taught in science class," I've actually demonstrated a non-scientific basis. This is not to say that a scientific basis doesn't exist; just that my basis is not scientific.

High school students, with rare exception, haven't developed the skills needed to independently critique or defend most basic scientific claims. Discussion of conjectures on the frontiers of current scientific understanding certainly won't grant them an opportunity to do the maths for themselves --i.e., to independently weigh the arguments and evidence forming the basis of each rival position.

When you can't double-check the maths, what's your basis for accepting what you're told? A vague hope that the teacher's got things right? Gosh, isn't that an appeal to authority --the basis for nearly everything that isn't science?

If we confuse kids about the nature of science, if we lead them to believe that knowing science means knowing a lot of sciency facts rather than knowing how to do science, we'll wind up with a generation of gullibles who can be made to believe a claim is "scientific" simply because someone sciency said so.

Oh wait. We've got that already.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Is there an "F" in Moron?

Steve Zara has started a conversation about whether Intelligent Design is science or not on his blog.

Someone pointed out that a specific claim that some biological structure is "irreducibly complex" can be falsified. Therefore, the common assertion that ID is non-falsifiable is wrong.

But hold on. Don't you smell something kinda fishy about this notion of "irreducible complexity"? Perhaps we ought to stop and take a closer look.

When someone declares that a natural structure is irreducibly complex, he's saying effectively, "I have no idea how the hell that got like that." Phrased thusly, it's easy to recognize an old friend: the argument from ignorance.

Notice that the argument from ignorance says something about the speaker, but actually nothing about the object of his remarks.

So yes, I concede that the statement: "I am an effin' moron" is falsifiable.

But I ask, dear reader, does the effort to challenge this hypothesis advance the cause of science?

Hmm. I think not.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

I'm adding Richard Mellon Scaife to my list of wealthy men responsible for the stupifying of America with prolefeed and pseudo-scandal.

Scaife is heir to the Mellon family's banking, oil, and aluminum fortunes. In 1970 he bought the The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He also owns 7.2% of NewsMax Media, a news-based website with conservative political content.

During President Clinton's tenure in the White House, Scaife funded The Arkansas Project, which had as its objective the unearthing of damaging information about President Clinton.

Remember those wacky conspiracy theories about the Clintons --e.g., how the Clintons worked with the CIA to run a drug smuggling operation in Arkansas, and how Clinton had White House aide Vince Foster murdered as part of a cover up regarding a land deal called "Whitewater"? That stuff originated in Sciafe's newspaper.

In 1996 Sciafe endowed a new school of public policy at Pepperdine University. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was named the first dean of this school. Yes, that Ken Starr, the Clinton ankle-biter.

Did Ken's appointment by Sciafe look like a quid pro quo for a job well done? Oh yes it did. The controversy over the appointment prevented Starr from taking the position, and in 1998 he finally declined the job.

But time heals all, as they say. In 2004, Ken Starr was picked to head Pepperdine's law school. Woot!

Pepperdine. Say, isn't that where Ben Stein filmed his fake lecture before an audience of fake students in that dreadful Expelled flick? Hmm.

A couple of weeks ago something very curious happened. Two days before Pennsylvania's presidential primary, where the race between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama seemed too close to call, Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune Review gave its endorsement to Hillary Clinton.

Now you say, whaa?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Following the Money

Howard Ahmanson, like Sun Myung Moon, has a lot of money and he's not afraid to spend it on political favors and media time. I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with this, provided the objective was, at minimum, reality-friendly.

But Ahmanson is living in a theological castle built within his own head, a rather strange place where there's nothing wrong with, say, stoning adulterers and homosexuals.

I think when you become a little too rich, people stop telling you that your breath stinks, or your joke isn't funny, or you're boring the crap out of everyone. And thus you slowly morph from something basically recognizable as human into something more like Tom Cruise.

Following the Money is a report published by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, where apparently not everyone is happy with Ahmanson.
Since the 1970s, charitable foundations established by families with politically conservative views have donated billions of dollars to what the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group, has called "an extraordinary effort to reshape politics and public policy priorities at the national, state and local level."
There's too much there to summarize here. But I'll mention one bit which illustrates a familiar deception: guilt by association.
CEPAD ran a network of medical clinics for the poor, as well as a successful literacy campaign, according to Fred Clark, an editor of Prism , the magazine of Evangelicals for Social Action. "That literacy work had won the admiration and support of Nicaragua 's president, Daniel Ortega, and his Sandinista regime. Ortega's praise of CEPAD gave [Diane] Knippers [ed: Ahmanson funded] what she saw as an opening," Clark wrote in a 2003 account.

Although the evangelical churches did not support the Sandinistas, Clark wrote, "Knippers portrayed CEPAD -- and therefore the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society -- as 'guilty' by association. She wrote of CEPAD as a communist front, part of a supposed Soviet beachhead in Nicaragua . No one in this country paid much attention, but the contras did. CEPAD's clinics became targets for their paramilitary terrorists."
Humans are naturally associative thinkers. Rational thought, which is rule-based, impersonal, and self-skeptical, is more difficult. So yes, it is possible to sell nonsense to people simply by associating positive or negative values with the nonsense.

That's what Expelled is all about: associate Hitler, Stalin, smugness, elitism, and black-hearted cruelty with science, and people will feel wary of scientists. Rather convenient if the scientists might challenge something you'd like to say.

The King of America

The King of America is John Gorenfeld's short film about Washington Times publisher Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Moon is one of several uber-rich men effectively inserting propaganda into our news outlets, in order to manipulate the emotions of the general public toward a variety of issues.

Apparently there are plenty of politicians and journalists happy to take this man's money. Look upon the crazy and despair, my fellow Americans.

Ye Olde Sweets

Once upon a time, there was a candy factory making something called "Ye Olde Sweets." Over 90% of the candies were fairly good. A few made certain people sick, and occasional pieces caused a strange reaction in some that resulted in an irrisistible urge to kill someone.

Then a new factory sprang up that made something called Reason's Pieces. It was tasty stuff. Absolutely no mass murders in any box.

Sadly, many chocolate lovers had grown attached to Ye Olde Sweets and resisted making a change. They pointed to all the delicious bon bons that never did anyone any harm. They were angry with the Reason's Pieces supporters, who "want to condemn all Ye Olde Sweets confections, when only a very few cause any problems."

One Day I'll Be Pope!

Why Richard Dawkins No Debate Me?

Theist: Dawkins is in there, isn't he.
Reason: Yep.
Theist: Ask him to come out to debate me.
Reason: I'm sure he'd prefer for you to meet him inside.
Theist: Great! (steps toward door)
Reason: Hang on, where's your ticket?
Theist: I've got it.
Reason: Let me see it.
Theist: That's what the debate is for. I'll prove I have a ticket.
Reason: I'm not letting you in without a ticket.
Theist: Oh alright. Give me a second.... (pulls out a slip of paper) There you go.
Reason: This isn't a ticket.
Theist: Of course it is.
Reason: It says, "teeket."
Theist: Your point?
Reason: That's not a proper spelling.
Theist: (chuckles) Goodness, my young lad. Have you never been in love?
Reason: Eh?
Theist: Have you never felt an ocean breeze against your skin?
Reason: (lifts an eyebrow)
Theist: This thing you call "spelling" cannot contain the laughter of a child.
Reason: Oh, will you quit this wanking.
Theist: Look I gave you my ticket; let me in!
Reason: You made this using a crayon.
Theist: Philistine!

Ticket Please

Reason stands at the door to the movie saying, "ticket please."

Theist: Oh, give me a minute and I'll show you my ticket.
Reason: OK, I'll wait...
Theist: Say, how 'bout the Redsox this year? inches toward door
Reason: Hang on, I didn't see your ticket.
Theist: I showed it to you. In fact, I showed you several times.
Reason: Show me again then.
Theist: You just don't want to see it.
Reason: I'd love to see your ticket.
Theist: Ha! You called me a 'wanker' last time. You don't 'love' anything, hater!
Reason: Ticket please.
Theist: You are so repetitive and boring. My life is filled with joy. Don't you want joy?
Reason: No getting in without a ticket.
Theist: That's not true! Loads of people in there now didn't show you their ticket.
Reason: I haven't seen your ticket.
Theist: And I haven't seen your ticket. Show me yours first.
Reason: That's not how things work.
Theist: Things have to be your way, do they? Know what you are? You're a bigot! You're a fundamentalist!
Reason: Look, you wouldn't want Lord Xenu getting in without his ticket. The rules are the same for everyone.
Theist: There's more to life than your precious "rules." Take, for example, this apple I just finished. And look at this puppy. How can you resist such a cute puppy?
Reason: Nice puppy. Ticket, please.
Theist: Oh, so you like the puppy! That means that deep down, you know I'm right.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ephesians 5: LOLCat Bible translation project

Ceiling Cat haz teh Whup Ass
1 Be liek Ceiling Cat, cuz u noes he luvs u.2 and luv teh uthr kittehs leik Jebus luv u. Membr Jebus gaeb hiz laif an eben all hiz cheezburgerz fur u. Dat nice prezent froom Jebus smelt leik fresh cookies outta de oven to Ceiling Cat.

3 Now wen I sais "luv" I'z not talkin bout goin in heetz! An I'z not talkin bout luvin cookies sos u taekz em wid out askin! Ceiling Cat's kittehs not liek dat.4 Dun sai liek teh Tom cats, "Hai secksy puss, show me sum ur tail..." DAT BE UBSEEN! Ceiling Cat NO WANT UBSEEN TALK!

5 Iz tellin u teh troof: no nasteh, greedeh kittehz gonna get cookies frum Jebus oor Ceiling Cat.6 Kittehs sain, "Iz not nasteh; iz natral" iz lyin. Ceilin Cat dun wanna heer dat kind uf tawk. An Ceilin Cat got big can whup ass redeh fur kittehs who dun do wut He sai.7 So dun hangout wid teh slutteh kittehs.

Lite. U haz it now
8 Yooz kitteh of teh Lite, metafurklee speekin. So live leik kitteh uf teh Lite, k?9 Lite haz froots, mix-metafurkleh speekin. Dat froot iz goodnis, raichoosnis, an troof.

10 Wut maekz teh Loard happi?11 If u sai, "lite frootz," u iz correct. If u sai "dark frootz," u failz! "Dark" iz nuther metafur. Means stuf Ceiling Cat no wantz.

If u see a kitteh wid dark froot, go tell uthr kittehs bout him.12 Srsly, iz totly embarasin wut bad kittehs do wen dey finks no wunz lookin, LOLs!13 If u see bad kitteh doin bad, tell uthr kittehs to go see. If u haz camera, maek YouTube video.14 All teh kittehs lookin will maek bad kitteh feel totly embairesd. Derz paipr sais, "Waik up, sleepeh kitteh! Uz not dead. Jebus shines a lite on u an taekz pix, hahaha!"

15 So don be stoopid.16 Time coems u cud do gud, u bettr do gud an not ebil liek teh stinkeh kittehs.17 An don be silli. Fink bout wut teh Loard wantz.18 Dun roll in teh catnipz, wot maeks u act retarded an getz u in trubbles. U shud let Hovr Cat mark u wid hiz scent.

19 Dun maek secksy talk, srsly! Iz moar bettr u sing all teh tiem bout how awsum Ceiling Cat iz, liek dis: "Awsum Awsum iz teh Loard!"20 An sai thx to ur Daddy in de Ceiling for efry think, an thx to Jebus, liek dis: "kthx, kthx, no whupass plz, kthx!"21 No fites nether, cuz u respect Jebus, k?

Wimmins an teh mens
22 Wimmins, u do what ur mens sai, liek u do wut Ceiling Cat sais.23 Teh mens pwns teh wimmins liek Jebus pwns teh kittehs he went an gots from de bushes nstuff.24 Teh kittehs do wut Jebus sais, an u wimmins got to do wut ur mens sai. Mens is teh boss of teh wimmins, an teh mens no want back talk, srsly.

25 Now mens shud luv teh wimmins, liek Jebus luv de lil kits.26 Mens shud cleen teh wimmins up an wash teh wimmins brains wid words.27 Den u see teh wimmins iz all cleend an glowin an eyez iz glazed liek nethin goin on inside.28 Den mens gonna luvs teh wimmins leik dey iz a body part.

29 D00ds, u feedz an caerz for yersefs, rite? Well dats how u caerz fur teh wimmins. Iz liek Jebus carin for teh lil kits, puttin down plate uf milk an noms.30 Laidys membr iz not bad bein pwned. We all iz pwned by Jebus.31 Der iz paper sais, "A mens moevz out teh moms basement wen him gets a wimminz, but he don eated her."32 Wai iz liek dis? Wai? I dunno. Iz leik Jebus, he don nom de kittehs nether.33 So mens don nom de wimmins. But wimmins do what u iz told, kthx.

Ephesians 4: LOLCat Bible translation project

No fites in Jebus tairtory
1 Uz marked wid Ceiling Cats sent. Evr bodeh noes uz totly pwnd by Him. So dun be embarasin Ceiling Cat!2 U gotz be humble leik lil kit. No fites. No meows if u haz to wait fer stufz, or if uthr kittehs gettin on ur nerves. U gotz te act leik u don mind.3 Even if kittehz askin fer it, dun fite, srsly.4 All kittehs in Ceiling Cats tairtory no fites.

Membr wunz u wuz out, now uz in. Same fer all Ceiling Cats kittehs.5 We all gotz 1 Loard who pwns us wid Hiz sent.6 We all gotz 1 Daddy, an Hez de boss uf uz.7 But all kitteh getz cookie froom Jebus.8

Der iz paipr sais, "When Jebus climed up teh ceiling, him carried teh kittehs, an gived teh kittehs cookie."9 Now, if Jebus goed up teh ceiling, he gots get back downd teh floor. Dat jes commin sentz.10 Jebus goed up an caem down, so he been boef plaisez.11

Jebus gived sum cookies to teh ol kittehs12 so dey kin halp de new kittehs13 an all kittehs kin be groed up kittehs noin bout Jebus an Ceiling Cat.14 Den weez not itteh bitteh babeh kittehs no moer, all fraid uf scairy noises nstuffs, an totly gulbal an lettin meen kittehs taik ar cheezburgers.15 Stead, weez leik pride uf big, roarin lions wid Jebus teh King.16 An allo Jebus kittehs luvs teh uther an halps teh uther. An each do him job, maekin de pride strong.

Don act leik teh stinkeh kittehs!
17 K, if u driftin off, wake up an lisen now. Dis imortant: don act leik teh stinkeh kittehs!18 Stinky kittehs no haz lite. Lite iz metafur, means nawlege uf teh Ceiling Cat an Jebus.19 Stinky kittehs jes do watevr dey wantz cuz dey don care bout Ceiling Cat. Dey alwais goen heetz, eat all teh cheezburgers, an fites.

20 But u noes Jebus don act leik dat.21 U noes troof bout Jebus, k?22 U iz not spose te fites, an yowls, nom all teh cheezbugers, an go crazy in heetz liek u uzed to.23 Jebus no wantz an u iz leik him now.24 Ceiling Cat changed u into gud kitteh inside.25

So don BS uthr kittehs (i noes contraidikshin uz gud but still need me tellin u don lie; don worri bout it, kthx!).26 If uthr kitteh piss u off, be caerful u don make invisbl err. An stop bein pissed if teh sun is goen down.27 When u iz pissed, debil kitteh can taek ovr ur mind.28

An WTF is wid kittehs bogarten all teh cheezburgers?!! Dat sheetz gotta stop, srsl. U shud hunt and bringz back noms fer de lil kitz or de sick kittehs.29 I dun wanna heer no moer trash talk from u kittehs nether, even if iz funneh. Dat bad fer kitteh self esteem.30 Don make Hovr Cat crai. Membr, he marked u so Ceiling Cat noes uz Hiz.31 U ragers an haters got to chill, srsly.32 Be nice to each udder, jes liek Jebus be nice to u, k?

Ephesians 2: LOLCat Bible translation project

A moar betteh laif. We haz it.
1 B4, yu wuz bad kitteh, srsly.2 U no smell gud.3 Wuz alwais goin in heets, LOLs. Ttly embaresin. An all time u fite fite fites. Ceiling Cat not want.4 But Ceiling Cat lovded yu newayz.5 Even tho yu not gud kitteh, Ceiling Cat tell Jebus bout u. Jebus go finded u, even tho u wuz vereh stinkeh kitteh.6 Jebus washed u off an maded u smell gud.7 Now you iz speshul an can haz RESPECT! An Jebus give yu best cookie EVAH!

8 U can haz cookie not cuz u earnded it, but cuz iz preznt frum Ceiling Cat.9 Kittehs braggin "See teh cookie? Maded it mah selfz!" got to STFU, srsly.10 Ceiling Cat maded kittehs cuz He wantz kittehs keepin Him compny an watch Him make cookies nstuf.

Jebus maded teh kitteh door
11 Membr wunz u wuz stuck outside Ceiling Cats houz.12 U no haz cheezburger, no haz cookie, no LOLs, an u wuz liek WTF?? Cud mai life sux smores?!!1!13 But Jebus opended teh door an sais, "O hai keete keete! Wanna coem in mah houz?"

14 Jebus maded teh kitteh door sos kittehs cud be inside wid Him when dey wantz.15 At first Ceiling cat wus liek, "Hey Jebus, WTF?!!! Wair all deez stinky kittehs coem from!!!" But Jebus sais, "Kittehs wid me, k?" Den Ceiling Cat wuz liek, "k."

16 Kittehs wunz wuz fraid Ceiling Cat. He wuz alwais liek, "Hey U, GTF off Mai lawn!!!" an throwded stuf.17 Den Jebus went out to find kittehs, Dey wuz hidin in teh bushes an sum wuz kinda far. Jebus wuz liek, "Heeer kitteh, kitteh..."18 An he tooked teh kittehs into Ceiling Cats houz.19

First kittehs wuz liek, "Oh noes! Halp! Halp!" But Jebus petted teh kittehs an shareded sum his cheezburgers. Den kittehs wuz fraid Ceiling Cats place no moer.20 Soz new kittehs met old kittehs, an all kittehs wuz gettin nice rubs frum Jebus while Ceiling Cat maded teh cookies. Wuz no fites, just purrs.21 Srsly, Jebus and kittehs an Ceiling Cat maded happy famly.22 Den Hovr Cat marked evrboodi wid Hiz scent.

A Moment of Awesome

Hustle on over to Scientific American for this: A Conversation with Expelled's Associate Producer Mark Mathis. Download both parts of the interview, kickback, and enjoy. The SciAm team, including John Rennie, Steve Mirsky, Phil Yam, Dan Schlenoff, and Aaron Fagan, open a big can o' smart on a whole lotta toopid.

My offering among the comments there:
As Chuck Norris is to the roundhouse kick, John Rennie is to critical analysis.

John Rennie eliminates wooliness so effectively, he's a danger to sweaters.

John Rennie has a special "spidey sense" for impending bullshit.

If Tops released a line of "Good Guy" cards for kids to trade and collect, John Rennie would be the Hank Aaron of the set.

Way to go SciAm!

I am so proud of you guys.
Hope my reaction gave the boys some lulz.

Oh Noes! Judge Sai STFU to teh Gheys!

People are upset over at INSIDE HIGHER ED. A federal court ruled that a Georgia Institute of Technology GLBT student support group, the Safe Spot, was handing out unconstitutional literature. The materials in question described certain religious groups as more gay friendly than others and expressed a bit of disdain for fundamentalism.

Federal District Judge J. Owen Forrester concluded that these materials violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Some bloggers are troubled by the ruling. Inside Higher Ed views the matter as "Gay Rights vs. Religious Rights." PZ Myers wonders whether church-state separation causes more harm than good:
"...because we have to mindlessly avoid any perception of preference for one over another at any official level, the more enlightened faiths must be lumped with the dumbest, vilest, crudest kinds of religions, and you are not allowed to distinguish between them. I've said it before: church-state separation is a principle that protects and privileges religious belief in the United States, and furthermore as we can see here, it isolates pathological, dangerous beliefs from valid criticism."
In my opinion, the judge did the right thing. Two factors created the establishment clause challenge:

1. The dean had editorial power over the literature in question, creating state entanglement with its content.

2. The literature used a theological justification for the notion that homosexuality is not immoral.

It's not okay for the government to do stuff like that. We don't need the state telling us how to correctly interpret the Bible or when some verse has been "taken out of context." Read the judge's ruling and you'll appreciate how far the Safe Spot literature strayed over into Bible opinion land. Here's a taste:
Is homosexuality immoral?

Many religious traditions have taught, and some continue to teach, that homosexuality is immoral. These condemnations are based primarily on a few isolated passages from the Bible. Historically, Biblical passages taken out of context have been used to justify such things as slavery, the inferior status of women, and the persecution of religious minorities. In recent years, many theologians and clergy have begun to look at sexual relationships in terms of the love, mutual support, commitment, and the responsibility of the partners rather than the sex of the individuals involved. Currently, there are many gay and lesbian religious groups and religious congregations that are open, accepting, and supportive of the gay community.
The Safe Spot Training Manual, created to guide staff in their efforts to support gay and lesbian students, has a section entitled, "What does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?" Judge Forrester quotes some of the questions and answers listed:
Q. Some TV Evangelists act as if homosexuality among men were the worst sin. What Biblical texts do they base this on? Is their approach legitimate?

A. The supposedly sweeping Biblical condemnation of homosexuality rests almost exclusively on only eight (brief) passages in the Bible...

Q. When homophobic people start using the Bible to attack me, how can I verbally defend myself? Are there any passages in the Bible that seem to support gay relationships, or at least indicate that perhaps marrying and having children is not the ultimate Christian duty?

A. There seems to be little point in arguing with people who still believe the earth was created in 4,004 B.C.; this doesn’t mean that you have to accept their interpretation of the Bible. Remember: these people are not homophobic because of the Bible; they hurl these passages at gays and lesbians because they were homophobic to begin with. (You might chide them for wearing mixed fabric or ask them if Jim Bakker must be 'put to death' – if you really enjoy arguing). You might familiarize yourself with the many Biblical passages (Too numerous to mention here) that stress love, compassion, forgiveness of sins, not judging others, etc. Remember: Jesus himself never married nor had children! Other parts of the Bible simply can’t be forced into the 'family values' obsession of the Fundamentalists.
I'm surprised the matter went to court. The dean should have recognized the problems in the handouts and requested that they be revised. A simple list of gay friendly churches in the area would have sufficed. No theology necessary.

So please everybody, be happy!

State schools can continue to create free speech forums for both faculty and students. Administrators simply need to avoid:

1. Asserting editorial influence or control over the speech expressed in those forums;

2. Offering theological opinions.

Someone is Wrong on the Internet!


Keeping up with Expelled! chatter is eating into my relax time. The latest skirmish can be seen here: How science gets swiftboated , an MSNBC piece by Alan Boyle. Excerpts from the comments section, including my two cents, below:
Rob Crowther Seattle WA: Expelled is not a film about Intelligent Design. Rather, it's about Academic Freedom.
Talk of "freedom" apart from the rules that define its limits is nothing more than pandering and feel-good-speak.
Joe, Michigan: For too long elitists have swiftboarded anyone who dared challenge Darwin. Wouldn't it be fair if MSNBC offered a counterpoint to this opinion? That's really the thesis of the movie, that those who dare question Darwin get excommunicated. [ed: clarity]
ID never met the admission requirements for science, so it can't be "Expelled":

1. ID proponents have offered no corroborative evidence that stands up to review.

2. ID proponents have not formulated their ideas in a manner that can be subjected to falsification or testing.

Saying "God created the world" isn't science. That doesn't mean people can't say this or think about this.
Gene: The point of Mr. Stein is that our children and the people who teach them are not allowed to consider certain evidence or theories. Only Darwinian/Naturalist models are allowed, which even scientists admit are flawed as we gain more knowledge of our physical world (e.g., the cell as 'simple'). Any 3rd grade science student knows that you can't find answers if you're not allowed to look at all the facts. And evolution is not a proven fact by any measure. This ongoing debate involves some of the smartest men and women. It's just that one side wants to quiet the other. What science book is that in? [ed: clarity]
If your car won't start, you'll try to figure out why. Maybe it's the battery. Will the lights go on? Maybe it's the starter. Maybe there's no gas.

As you puzzle over the problem, you'll stick to material, testable explanations. You won't bother with supernatural ideas. Does your exclusion of God from the problem make you an atheist? Of course not.

Natural selection is a well established, fundamental biological principle. Yes, it says nothing about God. But that doesn't mean it's something evil.

Expelled! is thinly disguised propaganda designed to manipulate the emotions of religious Americans. By associating images of Stalin and Hitler with science, the film undermines the public's trust in the scientific establishment.

Who stands to gain? Anyone promoting policies or selling products with associated risks and benefits that can't be fully appreciated without a strong scientific background. Poisoning public opinion toward genuine scientists makes the pseudoscientist's job a lot easier --and more profitable.
Joe, Chicago, IL: The “facts” don’t speak for themselves, but must be interpreted. That is, there aren’t separate sets of “evidences” for evolution without design and ID—we all deal with the same evidence (i.e., we all live on the same earth, have the same fossils, observe the same animals, etc.). The difference lies in how we interpret what we study.
A common pro-ID argument. It's true that we filter facts through pre-existing expectations or biases. To some extent, we see what we imagine we ought to see.

Yet science doesn't end here. If it did, we'd never make any intellectual progress.

After one cycle of looking at facts and creating an explanatory hypothesis, another cycle begins. We use our hypothesis to make predictions. Then we check to see how well our predictions match observed reality. The record of our observations becomes a new set of facts to explain. These facts may cause us to refine or abandon our original hypothesis in favor of some alternate explanation. But whatever the status of our explanatory model at that point, we will again subject it to some test. That test will produce new facts. Those new facts will be used to further refine our hypothesis. And on and on the cycle will repeat.

Thus we gradually bootstrap our way from superstition and guesswork toward a more realistic understanding of this world we share.

Tell me, ID proponents, what does your hypothesis predict? When will you subject your hypothesis to some test?
T. L. W. Hood, Wildomar, CA: Why are evolutionists so defensive?
Because, without a basic understanding of the scientific method among the general population, the enterprise of science becomes vulnerable to corruption.

We humans are fragile creatures at the mercy of our hopes and fears. Our needs are constantly getting in the way of our understanding of how things work.

Modern, controlled research is a relatively recent development in human history (post WWII for medicine, just to give some perspective). Every inch forward has been a battle. We could lose the whole, fragile system of scientific progress in a very short period of time. Superstition and pseudoscience are far more natural for us than rigorous, rule-based methods of analysis.

The fact that a well-educated person like Ben Stein cannot distinguish rhetoric from rational argument is concerning. The fact that millions of Americans will take this bad movie seriously scares the crap out of me.

If the day arrives when we can no longer respect and trust the opinions of mainstream scientists in their fields of expertise, we've lost our democracy. Once truth becomes a political commodity... then Hello 1984.