Archive for: September, 2007

McCain: Just when you thought he couldn't go any further around the bend

Sep 30 2007 Published by under Church/State, Religion, Religion in Politics

It's hard to believe, but there was once a time when I had some respect - even admiration - for John McCain. Now, all I have is pity. The guy sold his soul to the Christian Right, but they haven't paid up. So what does he do? He tries to get them to take the last pitiful shreds of his intellectual integrity, too. He just did an interview with Beliefnet, and tried his best to make sure that he said all of the things that they wanted to hear. I just hope - more for his sake than anyone else's - that he doesn't actually believe them himself.

Beliefnet questions are in bold; McCain's drivel is not:

Has the candidates' personal faith become too big an issue in the presidential race?

...But I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is, 'Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'"

OK. McCain is obviously trying to see how many trite phrases he can pack into a single answer, and given that he's talking to Beliefnet we probably shouldn't expect him to say that religion is too big an issue. But that was the fluff question. Let's see how he does with what passes for real questions:

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8 responses so far

Sneak Attack in the War on Christmas

Sep 29 2007 Published by under Humor, Misc, Religion

Those tricky Culture Warriors - they've gone and launched the latest assault in the War on Christmas early this year, denying the Evil Secularist Conspiracy the chance to properly prepare for battle. They didn't wait until Thanksgiving this year, or even until Halloween. They're in the stores and fighting now:


7 responses so far

More Changes

Sep 29 2007 Published by under Personal, The Blog

A couple of weeks ago, I started making some changes to the blog. I had hoped to get all of them done that weekend, but the weather interfered with that plan. (It was nice; I went swimming.) This weekend, it's pouring rain out, so I've managed to get a little bit done. If you look at the sidebar, you'll see that the old categories have disappeared, and new ones have taken their place. As of this minute, I've only gone back and assigned new categories to a handful of posts, so only a few categories are currently live. The number will increase over the next few hours, as I continue to go back through the older material.

The new category arrangement should be somewhat self-explanitory, but I'll probably post something explaining it once I've re-categorized the majority of the posts. That's probably going to take a day or two - I've got over 350 posts up now, so even if I manage to do one per minute, I'm still looking at a few hours of work.

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More Bob Jones "Biology for Christian Schools" Howlers

A couple of weeks ago, I posted two ridiculous quotes that are found in the Bob Jones textbook that's involved in the California Creationism lawsuit. I'm still wading through these texts and Behe's report explaining why it's really a very good book for high school students to use to learn biology. It's a slow process, and a painful one, but I've found another couple of outstanding quotes to share with you.

This time, I'm including three different types of quote. There are a couple where the authors say things have absolutely nothing to do with science of any kind (and are totally out to lunch even by the standards of a lot of religious people I know). There's one where the book takes a brief detour into right-wingnuttery. I've also got one quote that I'm including as a special treat for those of you who might still want to claim that the book's fine if you just overlook the insane religious stuff - an example of a case where the authors manage to mangle a very basic concept from genetics.

We'll start with the insane, and move from there to the political, then conclude with the merely wrong.

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78 responses so far

Friday Arthropod - Can You Identify This Spider?

Sep 28 2007 Published by under Animals, Arthropods, Picture Posts

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some pictures of some large spiders and asked for help in identifying one of them. Jerry Cates of Bugs In The News got back to me quite quickly, and identified the mystery spider as Nephila clavipes - the same species as the other ones shown in that post.

I took some more spider pictures this week. I've identified the species. Can you? The pictures are below the fold, along with some information about the size and where it was spotted. I'll post my identification on Monday.

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10 responses so far

William Dembski: It was done unto him, so don't complain if it's done unto you.

Today's New York Times has a story up on the upcoming Ben Stein "documentary" on the alleged persecution that ID proponents face in the academic world. The NYT article quotes a number of scientists who were interviewed for the movie (including Scienceblogs own PZ Myers) as saying that they were told that the interview was going to be for an entirely different movie.

Bill Dembski posted something about the article, with a brief comment of his own:

I can't say I feel sorry for these atheistic scientists in agreeing to interview for EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED. When the BBC interviewed me for their Horizon documentary on ID (Horizon = the UK version of PBS Nova), they gave the ID side no warning that the program would be titled A WAR ON SCIENCE (I wouldn't have agreed to be interviewed had I known that was going to be its title). What goes around comes around.

They shouldn't complain about what was done unto them because somebody once did something like that unto you. Way to show that good old Christian attitude, Bill.

14 responses so far

Dinosaurs, Birds, Feathers, and Conodonts (Oh, My!)

Most of the readers of this blog are intelligent, interested, scientifically literate individuals, but I'm guessing that at least a few of you aren't familiar with one of the nouns in the title. Those of you who do know what a conodont is are probably wondering what it has to do with the others. If you bear with me for a little bit, the connection will be clear shortly. It has to do with fossils, fossilization, and the latest spectacular misunderstanding of those two things at Uncommon Descent.

Conodonts are (or, rather, were) an interesting group of animals. They were around from late in the Cambrian period until the end of the Triassic, and were quite common during most of the period. They're not well known to most people outside of geology because the vast bulk of the evidence we have for them consists of very tiny tooth-like fossils. Most are only a millimeter or two in size, and are very hard to see without a microscope. They've received a lot of attention from paleontologists over the years because they're very useful little critters, particularly for geologists who work in the oil and gas industry. The thing is, for a long time nobody knew just what sort of critters they actually were.

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24 responses so far

Paying Forward My Debt to Mr. Preda.

Sep 24 2007 Published by under An Incomplete Autobiography, Personal

When I was a kid, baseball was very important to me. It was very important to most of the boys growing up in my neighborhood. Almost all of the boys (and a handful of the girls) at my school signed up for Little League most years. The season started with a parade - and what kid doesn't like to be in a parade - and ended with everyone getting a trophy. It was great.

The only problem was that I wasn't very good at baseball. That wasn't much of a handicap the first couple of years, but as games got more competitive I found myself spending less time playing, and more time sitting. And sitting takes a lot of the fun out of the game. Little league went from being something I loved to something I didn't care about. But then I wound up on Mr. Preda's team.

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12 responses so far

Luskin's Latest Lie

If you love predictability, you've got to love the Discovery Institute. Whenever someone publishes a paper about human evolution, it's a pretty safe bet that someone there will soon take the time to explain how having learned something new means that we somehow know less than we did before. You can set your watch by it, almost.

The latest example comes from Casey Luskin. He "discusses" a paper that came out in Nature this week that reported on some fossils from Dmanisi, Georgia. Several skulls have been described from this site already, and the current paper focuses on post-cranial (less technically, non-skull) remains.

I'm not going to bother with a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal of Casey's claims. (See this post by Afarensis for that.) Instead, I'm just going to look at one of the more glaringly dishonest tactics that Casey used this time.

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19 responses so far

The Senate: We Can't Get The Votes To Do Anything Useful, But We Can Tell MoveOn They Were Bad

Gotta love it. The Senate today took a break from being paralyzed by Republican "No Up-Or-Down-Vote For You" obstructionists. They had to. You see, it's important for people to understand that the Senate isn't going to stand still when big mean Democrat netroots activists call a general a mean name. So they took time away from their busy schedule to pass a "sense of the Senate" resolution that reads:

To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

That's nicely worded, especially the "deserves the full support of the Senate" bit. Call me a cynic, but I'm going to bet that in two or three weeks, after the ad that sparked all this fades in the gnat-like memory of the media, we're going to hear a talking point that goes something like this:

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9 responses so far

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