Archive for the 'Humor' category

Egnor shoots! He scores!

(another own goal, of course.)

There he goes again. Creationist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor's latest post over at the Discovery Institute's Why's Everybody Always Picking On Me blog may have actually reached a new standard for missing the point. And, as both my loyal regular readers know, that's not an easy mark for Egnor to hit.

The current contender is his latest post in a back-and-forth that he's been having with PZ and Orac. Once again, Egnor is attempting to argue that evolutionary biology has not provided any useful insights to the field of medicine. That much is familiar ground. What's new this time is the hypothetical that he's dredged up in an attempt to prove his point. His hypothetical is long and involved, which should provide you with your first warning that the argument is perhaps not as sound as he believes:

What I'm arguing is that the truth or falsehood of Darwinian stories is of no tangible value to medicine. Consider the following example.

I would suspect that careful epidemiological studies of the British population would show that the prevalence and incidence of spina bifida increased following World War One. To my knowledge, this has not been investigated, but it would make sense if it were true, for the following reasons:

Britain suffered enormous casualties during the Great War, as did many other European nations. (I'm just using Britain as an example). It has been said, with asperity, that Britain lost a generation of men on the Western Front. Britain suffered 2,300,000 war casualties -- forty four percent of mobilized men, with 703,000 men killed in battle or by disease. On just one day -- July 1,1916 -- 19,240 British soldiers died in the battle of the Somme. The young men who died were the best of their generation -- healthy, and by definition capable of meeting the rigorous physical standards required for military service.

Of course, other British men with debilitating genetic disorders, such as men with spina bifida (which renders the afflicted congenitally paralyzed), were not in the trenches that day, because they were physically unfit for military service, or at least service on the front lines as infantrymen. It's safe to say that military age British men without spinal bifida were at greater risk of death in the war than were military age British men with spina bifida. Whatever the impediments faced by people with spina bifida -- and they face many impediments -- they were not called to serve and die in the trenches.

Spina bifida would then be a fine example of an environmental adaptation; it was protective against "acute lead poisoning" -- protective against being mowed down by German machine gun fire on the Western Front. So, assuming for argument's sake that my hypothesis about the post-war epidemiology of spina bifida is true, the genes that give rise to spina bifida conferred a selective advantage on young British men in the period 1914 to 1918, and the differential survival (and reproduction) of that age cohort would explain a (hypothetical) increase in the incidence and prevalence of spina bifida in England in the post war period.

Where to begin?

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46 responses so far

Sam The Eagle Rocks.

Jul 04 2008 Published by under Humor

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

(via GeekDad)

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"Soldiers", "Troops", and an Unreasoning American

The anticipation of reading is almost always wonderful, but the actual reading is often frustrating. You can spend hours enjoying the wonderful indecision of the bookstore before you walk away with the comforting weight of a new release hardcover in your hand. The book can sit on the coffee table for days, weeks, or months before you finally find the time to sit down with it. At some point, you finally find time some quiet evening to pick up the book, sit yourself down with a nice glass of the beverage of your choice, and open the cover. And by page six, you're wondering what on earth the author could possibly have been thinking.

That's what happened to me last night. I get home from work, get a glass of scotch, sit back, put my feet up, and pick up that book that I've been anticipating getting to for the last week. (I'm not going to tell you the title just yet, for reasons that will be clear shortly.) The introduction was good, but very shortly into the first chapter, I was treated to a display of the author's willingness to substitute her assumptions and prejudices for rational thinking and research. The topic of her little excursion from rationality involves the military, politicians, the media, and the use of language. Specifically, it involves the question of just how corruptive the use of the word "troops" can be:

It is difficult to determine exactly how, why, or when this locution began to enter the common language. Soldiers were almost never described as troops during the Second World War, except when a large military operation (like the Allied landing on D-Day) was being discussed, and the term remained extremely uncommon throughout the Vietnam era. My guess is that some dimwits in the military and the media (perhaps the military media) decided, at some point in the 1980s, that the word "soldier" implied the masculine gender and that all soldiers, out of respect for the growing presence of women in the military, must henceforth be called troops. Like the unremitting appeals to folks, the victory of troops over soldiers offers an impressive illustration of the relationship between fuzzy thinking and the debasement of everyday speech.

I can definitely see the involvement of fuzzy thinking here, and it's possible that a dimwit was involved. But I'm not looking in the same place as the author. She's looking at the military, the media, (perhaps the military media), and politicians. I'm looking at her.

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16 responses so far

Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark.

Mar 21 2008 Published by under Accidental, Flaming Small-Minded Stupidity, Humor

PZ Myers got expelled from the line to see the movie Expelled tonight, apparently for the crime of actually being PZ Myers. That's definitely ironic, and possibly hypocritical. His family and his guest were allowed to go in and watch the movie. His guest was Richard Dawkins. Yes, that Richard Dawkins. That particular move was so amazingly stupid that they're gonna need to come up with a new word for it.

No, I'm not kidding. No, this isn't a premature April Fools joke. No, it's not an attempt at satire.

It's just creationists managing to shoot an own-goal hat trick.

4 responses so far

Here's a "Man Bites Dog" story for you: "Lightning Strikes God"

Feb 13 2008 Published by under Accidental, Humor

The Daily Mail has a picture of the massive crucifix statue in Rio getting hit by lightning. And it happened on a Sunday, no less.

(ht; Shakesville)

One response so far

An Election Day Observation

Feb 05 2008 Published by under Accidental, Family, Humor, Politics, Presidential

It's Super Tuesday, but the primaries aren't the only political action in town. My kids came up with an election of their own. They created, and are both running for, the position of "President of the House." Both of them have been putting up posters, and each of them has independently discovered a common political strategy. My daughter managed, in just a couple of hours, to master the fine art of the meaningless slogan ("Vote for me and do what is right"). My son has mastered the tactic of slapping his posters directly on top of his opponent's. They're ten and eight respectively. I think this says a lot about the state of American politics.

3 responses so far

Somewhere, Yossarian is Laughing. Or: How Not to Fund Stem Cell Research at the NIH

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

The Bush Administration has once again managed to reach new levels of self-parody. This time, the subject is embryonic stem cell research, and they've taken a position on funding that quite literally incorporates a classic Catch-22 problem. Sadly, though, the Catch-22 lacks anything that bears the faintest resemblance to humor when it's used to block funding for potentially lifesaving research.

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12 responses so far

Discovery Institute to Ames Tribune: Report what we say, not what we do!!

Dec 06 2007 Published by under Accidental, Humor, Religion

Poor Rob Crowther seems to be having a bad week. First, his big Iowa press conference turned out to be a total non-event. Then, it turned out that some of the people who did mention the press conference didn't quite manage to spin it the way he was hoping for. The Ames Tribune, in particular, seems to have sparked his ire. His response to them is well worth the read - the first sentence, in particular, is quite simply one of the most (unintentionally, of course) funny things I've seen in a long time:

The Ames Tribune editorial today tries to make out that Discovery Institute is more interested in headlines than in truth.

In other news, they also reported that the sky is blue, the ocean is wet, and the sun is big.

3 responses so far

Well, I guess it's something

Nov 09 2007 Published by under Accidental, Humor

I was just watching the Today Show a couple of minutes ago. They're getting ready to set up the Christmas Tree, and someone from the Center was just talking about their new, environmentally-friendly approach to the tree. Apparently, this year they used a handsaw to trim up the base instead of a power saw. They're also going to be stringing the tree with power-saving LED lighting instead of the usual bulbs. And they were discussing all of this right next to the 84-foot high tree that they cut down to use as a holiday decoration.

7 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

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