Christian Compassion

Well, this is horrifying:

MOSCOW –  A Russian mother told witnesses she threw her two young sons to their deaths from a 15th-floor balcony because she was “fed up” with them, RT News reported Monday.

Galina Ryabkova, 30, allegedly tossed her sons, ages 4 and 7, from the Moscow apartment building where she lived with her husband.

Ryabkova reportedly later told witnesses she was “fed up with children” and “decided to get rid of them.”

You know, some people say that if there were more religion in the world, we’d be better people, but…
She later told investigators that her children were now “angels in heaven,” RIA Novosti reported.
Why am I not surprised?
Advertisements

Calling the kettle black…

My YouTube comrade, comedian Joe Dixon, recently tweeted about an Obama radio spot, posted to YouTube, that has attracted a bunch of what I will kindly call semi-retarded, racist, white trash assholes. The radio ad itself, which is targeted to African Americans, is silly and pandering, as one should expect political ads to be, regardless of candidate or party. But in the right wing alternate universe, it’s proof that Obama hates white people. The video was posted by a “news” outlet calling itself “The Right Newz“. They do not allow comments on the “story” about this ad on their website. And it’s no wonder why not, when you see the kind of followers they have on YouTube. Observe:

It is in the interests of blacks to vote for Obama. Obama stands for wealth transfers from white people to black people. Black people want the money of white people. Admittedly intelligence isn’t a trait black people are known for but they’re smart enough to know which politician will most likely guarantee them more freebies paid for by white people.

Grimgerde

Admittedly, intelligence isn’t a trait racist assholes are known for, but the people who pander to them are smart enough to prevent them from commenting on their main website. Grimgerde isn’t done yet, either:

So basically he promises more welfare. Makes sense for an ad intended to appeal to negroes.

Grimgerde

Thank you for demonstrating that leftist mulattoes aren’t any more capable of logical rebuttals than leftist negroes.

Grimgerde

What does that even mean? Who are these blacks out of touch with? “bigoted” is a leftist buzzword used to shame white people from making any valid or intelligent observations about race in any way. There is no contradiction between leftists accusing white people of being horrible racists while using supposed stereotypes to appeal to blacks.

At-any-rate, Obama being half black is a huge reason why blacks overwhelmingly support him over the white guy, so your point is moot.

Grimgerde

At-any-rate, usually-intelligent-people don’t-randomly-hyphenate-words. Oh, and fuck-you. “Bigot” (a word that’s over 400 years old) is only a buzzword to people who say things like “Admittedly intelligence isn’t a trait black people are known for…”

OMG….this guy has lost it !! He truely scares the hell ou of me….!! We can’t afford pay for everyone to have a “free” education, he needs to go over to Greece & see what went wrong because he’s trying to destroy our Capitalist Society that worked well for 200 years…Congress is corrupt too, they line their own pockets every day !!

heypaulaa22

OMG… Reading your comment makes me think that, just maybe, more education wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Ugh, let’s move on to another comment…

NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS NIGGERS

doitMAGGOT

Sigh…

Don’t worry Obongo, 100% of the mindless nigger animals will vote for you anyway.

RedStormCommingIn

Romney voter.

This what happens when you let Shaft create a presidential marketing video.

ManicMambo

This is what happens when right wing youtube channels let their viewers speak their minds.

Imagine Romney running a white voter ad. The real racism comes from the left

WhoisJohn1773

Who is John Galt? Much like his creator, Ayn Rand, he’s apparently utterly oblivious, self-righteous, and downright stupid.

I voted against little Barry in 2008 ’cause he was a Marxist Muslim Liar from a fucked up family. Now, I’ll vote against him ’cause he’s a fucking lying nigger!

govetter

Yup, the real racism comes from the left. This is because “real racism” means “any discussion of race that wouldn’t be out of place in the bathroom at a Toby Keith concert.”

More than any other emotion I feel when I listen to this add I feel….sorrow! Obama, is using his race to curry favor with a small segment of this countries diverse fabric! The truly sad part, is that it will work and be accepted by the black community without question! They will vote for him at a 95% rate without every studying his background or his innumerable failures while in the Presidency! They will vote solely on skin color. So freaking sad how gullible and malleable Americans are!

IruleOverProgressive

But the obviously more intelligent white people would never fall for blatantly obvious race baiting and pandering! Thanks for posting this video!

Wow. Really? Can he get any more racist? Playing Soul Train in the back ground?

Is Barack Obama promising fried chicken and watermelon if he gets re-elected?

Timasion

No, I can’t imagine how anyone could be more racist. Nothing comes to mind at all.

ROFLMAO!

When you have black friends and family members, you can see through all the racist, stereotypical BS of this ad.

InctChick

ROFLMAO! It’s even easier to see through the “I have black friends” gambit! LOL!

In summary, racists are inbred, ignorant, redneck, uneducated pieces of shit who project their own failure, stupidity and inadequacy onto people of different color because they are too pathetic, deluded and retarded to live their own lives and focus on their own god damn selves. But I don’t mean that in a hateful way. I have racist friends.

Asian-Americans Rock!

Now this is a title that I like to see:

My Take: Asian immigration is making U.S. less religious

It’s interesting that while immigration debates usually focus on Hispanic Americans (and the bigotry against them that is unfortunately so common today), a recent Pew study found that Asians are immigrating here in larger numbers. And then there’s this:

Of all the Asian Americans surveyed by Pew, 26% are unaffiliated, 22% are Protestant, 19% are Catholic, 14% are Buddhist, 10% are Hindu, 4% are Muslim and 1% are Sikh. And when asked whether religion is very important in their lives, only 39% of Asian Americans say yes, well below the 58% figure for the U.S. public as a whole.

Woohoo! And is anyone shocked by the following?

This study also informed us that Asian Americans are wealthier and more highly educated than the U.S. population as a whole, and more likely to identify with the Democratic Party.

I would say if that does shock you, then either you haven’t been paying attention, or you’re a religious nut who will just ignore reality anyways. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Sociologists of religion have observed that immigrants often become more religious after arriving in the United States. So it could be that Chinese Americans, who are roughly half unaffiliated, will become more Christian or more Buddhist over time. But for now it seems that Asian immigration is doing more than making America wealthier, more educated, and more liberal.

It may also be making the United States less religious.

That first part shouldn’t be surprising. America as a whole is more religious, and has plenty of religious organizations that specifically target immigrants for conversion. Resist, my rational-minded Asian brothers and sisters! Don’t let them get their hooks on you! Remember, they don’t care about you as a person. They just want your money, your vote, and your precious, precious soul. And, in the case of the Catholics, your children.

This is great news all around, though. Hopefully an increase in secular-thinking Asian Americans can help blunt the effects of the religious right in this endlessly confused country. At the very last it increases the voting block of people who don’t want to hear politicians babble about what Jesus thinks is the best fiscal policy. (While ignoring that Jesus’ fiscal advice included things like “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor,” and “It is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”)

But, since this article appeared at CNN.com, it of course attracted some racist bigoted Christians to the comment section. I still can’t believe people consider CNN to be a “liberal” news source. They’re readership certainly doesn’t seem very liberal. Take this guy who calls himself “HeavenSent”, for instance:

HeavenSent

Figures you would be a zipperhead lover. Non-believers not so smart and bad taste.

Amen.

June 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm

HeavenSent

We are losing our Christian values due to zipperheads, nigs and sp i cs.

Amen.

June 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm

HeavenSent

I don’t hate. I just know where their role and place is.

Amen.

June 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Charming. And really, “Zipperhead”? I didn’t even realize people still used that racist slur. Are we back in 1970 all over again? But, then, I’m “not so smart and bad taste,” so maybe I’m just not hip to the most sophisticated, fashionable bigoted stupidity out there.

And then there’s Stone Age Fred, whose thinking might have seemed out of touch even to cavemen:

stone age fred

Atheists are powerless and they know they are thats why they hide.Troll the internet too

June 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I’ve long been of the opinion that disorganized, incoherent writing and speech reflect disorganized thinking. And I can’t help but notice that they often correlate with worldviews like this guy’s.

But the really nice part about this is that there’s nothing shitheads like HeavenSent and Stone Age Fred can do to stop the gradual secularization of society, to which Asian Americans are providing a wonderful contribution. They can throw their temper tantrums and toss their bah-bahs to the floor, but it will have no effect at all.

And it’s fun to mock them while they squirm and cry. 🙂

The Sad State of Science Journalism

One thing that really annoys me is very bad science journalism, and boy oh boy is there a lot of it out there. When I saw PZ Myers’ take down of Danny Vendramini’s positively ludicrous Neanderthal theory, I went to Google to find out more about this crackpot, and found a sterling example of bad science journalism at its worst. It’s an older article (2006), but still worth taking a look at since it has so many diagnostic features of Lazy Science Writing. There’s the cookie-cutter “This changes everything” narrative, the refusal to do any research other than a few interviews, the lionization of the “maverick”, the obnoxious and misleading attempt at “balance” through “he said/she said” reporting, etc etc. It’s all there.

The stupid starts up the moment the article begins. Here’s the title, byline and first paragraph:

Origin of a Big Idea

Crackpot or genius? Danny Vendramini may be labelled both. The anti-religious amateur biological theorist is challenging mainstream evolutionary thought. By Andrew Dodd.

Danny Vendramini didn’t wake up one morning and say to himself: “Today, I’ll shatter half of the accepted beliefs about evolutionary biology.” It has been more gradual than that. In fact, his theory, that a second evolutionary process is at work alongside natural selection, has been percolating away for quite some time, emerging from the primordial soup of the subconscious and slowly taking form over several years.

Jesus Christ. Kissing ass much? You keep this up, Mr. Dodd, and people will start calling you Shit Lips McGee. There’s lionizing the “maverick”, and then there’s giving John McCain a colonoscopy with your face.

And right off the bat, the author shows his complete ignorance of evolutionary biology. We already know of other evolutionary processes that work alongside natural selection. There’s genetic mutation, genetic drift, evolutionary byproducts and horizontal gene transfer resulting in reticulate evolution just to give a few examples. No scientist today thinks that natural selection is the only process in evolution.

Additionally, this is just a matter of style, but one trend in modern journalism (not just science journalism) that annoys me more and more every day is the heavy reliance on easy, obvious puns and wordplay to “spice up” the article. The title of the piece in question, “The Origin of a Big Idea”, and the reference to the theory arising “gradually” “from the primordial soup” are just so lame and lazy that they cannot be passed over without criticism.

Why do people write this way? You immediately know if you see something about evolution and, oh I don’t know, golf, there’s going to be a joking about teeing up on the “missing links”. Or if someone has a new theory about cosmology, it’ll be described as making a “big bang” in the scientific community. Do journalism schools actually offer courses in Lame Wordplay 101?

Anyways, back to this guy’s “theory”.

Could his evolutionary process – known as “teemosis” – really explain the explosion of new species 543 million years ago? Does it really provide a plausible means for environmental information to be passed on to offspring? Does it truly describe the evolutionary purpose for the “junk DNA” that makes up 98.5 per cent of our genome?

Wait, wait, wait. “Teemosis”? You have got to be shitting me. And this process, all by itself, will explain the Cambrian explosion, inheritance of adaptation, and “junk” DNA all at once? If your theory’s really that powerful, you should give it a more mellifluous name. How about “enfuckulation”?

And, even if it all ends up as discredited hocus, there’s another equally fascinating question. What’s it like to generate a brand new theory that challenges many of the big assumptions about the origins of living organisms? How does an amateur without any formal training in biology pull off a feat like that without getting locked up, or, perhaps worse, completely ignored?

As a grad student in history and philosophy of science, how theories come to be is a very important facet of my studies. And I can assure you that the huge amount of stuff you need to know to have even an adequate (much less groundbreaking) understanding of science vastly  exceeds the abilities of almost any amateur. There’s a reason scientists have to go through 7 to 10 years of training with more experienced scientists before they start making a real impact.

As for that last question, I’m pretty sure he’ll be ignored. Call it a hunch. I don’t see “teemosis” finding its way into textbooks any time soon.

Well, according to the infectiously enthusiastic Vendramini, the solution is to read a lot – about 8000 academic papers to be precise-— on anything to do with the human genome, NeoDarwinism and even palaeontology. Initially, his mission was to decipher the gobbledegook but later, as his theory took shape, his task was to find anything that disproves the ideas underpinning his theory.

So he’s a dilettante. Nothing wrong with that. I was too before I decided to go to grad school. But one thing I’ve learned in grad school is that without guidance from more experienced people you make all kinds of errors in your studies that you don’t even know you’re making.

And it’s nice that he (at least claims to be) is looking for potential evidence that contradicts him. The problem is, as we shall see, he doesn’t understand the topic well enough to understand what kind of evidence might contradict him.

So far, he says, he hasn’t found anything.

Not surprising. But that doesn’t increase my confidence in his theory at all given the considerations above.

In fact, Vendramini’s website, thesecondevolution.com, lists supportive comments from a range of academics, including Noam Chomsky of MIT.

Okay, now this is just ludicrous. Who gives a shit if he got some out-of-context praise from Noam Chomsky, who’s a linguist and not an evolutionary biologist? Worst of all, since the journalist doesn’t bother to reproduce some examples of the supposed praise heaped upon him, this is just downright misleading.  Here are a few quotes from the sidebar on the main page of Vendramini’s website:

“I think TEEM theory is all very scientifically addressable, and can rely on standard genetic techniques.”
Professor David Featherstone,
Department of Biological Sciences.
University of Illinois at Chicago

“If you are right, nearly everything I know about genetics and development is wrong.”
Professor Robert Trivers

“I will certainly look forward to seeing the publication of your book, not least because of some recently developed interests of my own on the evolution (and inevitability) of sensory mechanisms.”
Professor Simon Conway Morris.
Cambridge University

“Your theory is very novel and interesting.”
Professor Kirk Winemiller, Texas A&M University

Notice anything? For one thing, most are addressed in the second person.  These are likely culled from email conversations he’s had while shilling his theory out to scientists. Another is that they all seem to be polite ways to avoid the topic. Along the lines of, “Yes, that’s nice dear, now run along and play.” Most of the endorsements on the page are of this nature. They don’t really amount to much and certainly don’t lend any credence to his theory. But our journalist Shit Lips McGee seems oblivious to this.

We’re sitting under the veranda of a cafe as he explains all this. He has made a day-trip to Melbourne from his home in Sydney and he knows he’s in for a long chat. Somehow, he has to outline the evolutionary process of both his idea and every multicellular species on earth. And, along the way, he’s going to have to distance himself from all those crackpot anti-evolutionists by stressing he’s not a Christian, has little time for creationists and reveres Darwin deeply.

For the 57-year-old sculptor, scriptwriter and all-round Renaissance man, this is an important chat. After six long years developing his ideas, the time has come for some mainstream exposure. So the chinotti are ordered as he takes a deep breath and starts at the beginning.

But because Vendramini’s theory questions some aspects of Darwin, he says he is often befriended by creationists. So the time has come to shatter that illusion. When I ask him about intelligent design – the stream of creationism that is sweeping the US and claims life is too complicated to be left to chance – he reacts impulsively, jerking his hand forwards and knocking over a pepper shaker. It’s as if his own fear-of-religion teem has reacted violently to this external threat.

“There is absolutely no need for an intelligent designer. It’s all a lot of crap,” he fires off before sitting back to reflect, “Yeah, that’ll stir ‘em up.”

I’m always somewhat amazed when someone shows that they are perfectly capable of recognizing bullshit, then they turn around and offer up their own bullshit that’s just as bad.

But anyways, this has been going on for a while and we still haven’t heard just what the fuck his “theory” is. Tell us, please, what this “teemosis” crap is.

We’re not talking about the Big Bang. Instead, Vendramini chooses the moment when he first started thinking that Darwin might have missed something and that perhaps there was an evolutionary process working in tandem with natural selection. He came to this conclusion after thinking about myths and the way so many cultures have sagas in which catastrophic floods are meted out as God’s retribution for bad behaviour. He became curious about the way different nations have the same epic stories about monsters, dragons, good and evil.

“It’s as if they’re hard-wired into our genes,” he says. So he looked for the scientific literature to explain this and, apart from some “esoteric stuff by mythologists”, he says he found a “nothingness”. Eventually, he came up with the hypothesis that it may have something to do with the inheritance of emotional memories.

Vendramini believes that environmental factors, if powerful enough, can trigger changes in non-coding or “junk” DNA, which in turn are passed on to offspring and govern their behaviour. He calls these “teems” or Trauma Encoded Emotional Memories and he believes they’re triggered by lifethreatening events such as attacks by predators or profound emotions such as sexual arousal.

When these emotions are encrypted into an animal’s noncoding DNA, they can be passed on so that subsequent generations begin life with that teem already archived in its emotional memory.

Okay, this is the part where Shit Lips McGee should have started asking some really obvious questions. Like, “How does getting scared rewrite your DNA?” or “How does the TEEM on the junk DNA affect the phenotype if the DNA doesn’t code for anything?” or “How does it get passed on at all?”

Think about it. Each of us is formed from two gametes — an egg and a sperm. These are produced in the gonads of our parents, and each has one half of their DNA. The DNA, then, comes from these cells in that part of the body. In order for “teemosis” to work, a dude’s testicles would have to have both a memory of emotions and a method for *somehow* writing that emotion into the DNA of the sperm. Let’s call this the Nutbag Memory Theory.

How the fuck is this supposed to work? There is no mechanism for it. He doesn’t even attempt to give one. There’s no organ in the body that rewrites the DNA in the gametes. The testes certainly can’t do it. And even if there were one, it’s supposedly being written into the non-coding DNA, so it won’t do anything. And beyond even that, there’s no way to write a very specific experience into DNA. DNA is a chemical that sets off a series of chemical reactions that lead to development. It doesn’t store episodic memories like the brain does. None of this makes any sense. But Shit Lips McGee just blithely passes it on like it’s big news in science and continues to finger Vendramini’s teem hole.

Also, I can’t help but notice that TEEMs sound quite a bit like L. Ron Hubbard’s bullshit theory of “body thetans”, which are also emotional traumas that build up in our system and can be passed on from one generation to the next. Maybe Vendramini just needs to go to his local Scientology center and get an e-meter reading. I’ll get John Travolta on the phone. Just, whatever you do, don’t give him a back rub.

But this works only in certain life forms. To experience a teem you’ll need not only non-coding DNA but also a central nervous system and sensory organs. Vendramini says these are important because it’s the central nervous system – not the brain — that is the real emotion-producing organ and because sensory organs are the means of collecting the data that generates the emotion.

Evidence, please? The central nervous system includes the brain and the spine. So if it’s not just the brain, then the spine plays a role too? Does that mean if someone severs their spine they won’t be able to generate emotions? If not, then what the fuck do you mean and what evidence do you have for it?

Vendramini then goes a step further, proposing that teemosis helps explain something Darwin could not, namely the rapid profusion of species, especially multicellular organisms, during the period palaeontologists describe as the Cambrian Explosion, about 543 million years ago. It was at the moment he made this link that Vendramini reckoned his theory started feeling good because, suddenly, organisms had some control over their destiny and weren’t completely dependent on random mutations for evolutionary success.

He believes Darwin explains incremental or microevolution whereas teem theory explains the complexity of creatures, biodiversity and behavioural evolution.

And he wonders why creationists like him so much. This is standard creationist claptrap, and it’s just as wrong when it’s being peddled for a materialistic theory as it is when it’s peddled for a supernatural theory.

And how the fuck does emotional trauma building up in DNA give animals “control over their destiny”?

There’s a maverick streak in Vendramini. He calls himself a theoretical biologist, but happily tells you his only qualification is this theory.

So all it takes to be a scientist is to make up your own bullshit theory. Gotcha.

He says he relishes his amateur status because it has allowed him to escape the shackles that bind professionals.

“Being an amateur is usually a disadvantage, but, for me, it was fortunate because I didn’t have the normal respect for the paradigms that scientists work within.”

He says established scientists won’t leap at his theory because “if they’ve been teaching a certain paradigm all their lives and then discover that Darwin needs updating, it would be a violation of their core beliefs”.

Ugh. Is there a single crank in the universe who doesn’t abuse Thomas Kuhn’s philosophy in order to justify having no expertise in his purported field?

Look, crackpots. Kuhn never argued that you can be a scientist without expertise. He never claimed that paradigms are so rigidly dogmatic that scientists are incapable of even considering other ideas. He certainly never claimed that just any ludicrous idea with no connection to the existing body of scientific knowledge could cause a paradigm shift.

But one thing that Kuhn did say was that paradigms rarely shift back. That is, once a paradigm has been abandoned, it usually stays that way. And Vendramini’s “theory” sounds a lot like one of those abandoned paradigms. Lamarckism, a theory of evolution by acquired characteristics, had quite a following among biologists before it was rendered pretty much impossible by genetics. “Teemosis” is also inheritance of acquired characteristics, and has the same problem: How the fuck does the DNA get “rewritten”? There isn’t an organ in the body that does that.

So I went in search of academics to make a comment on the theory. The first port of call – a leading biologist in one of our prominent universities – appeared to vindicate Vendramini’s pessimism.

Fuck you, Shit Lips.

After offering the scientist a potted overview of teemosis, he replied in a derisive tone. “It sounds to me like the second cousin to the flying saucer. I’d prefer not to run with it. There’s enough genuine stuff based on natural history and, if it’s coming off a website rather than proper scientific study, I’d prefer not to be quoted. It sounds like a great Doctor Who story,” he concluded.

When I explained that Vendramini had published his work in the British journal Medical Hypotheses, there was a haughty laugh down the phone. “Well the name says it all,” he scoffed. Would you like to have a look at the website,” I inquired?

“No, I’d rather not run with it.”

Medical Hypotheses will publish anything. Shit Lips didn’t even bother to check what kind of journal they are. They publish highly speculative work by scientists with almost no peer review, and publishing there does not in anyway entail anything about the quality of the work.

If Shit Lips had done any independent research, any at all, he would have known this. But instead he’s a typical science  journalist, getting his information entirely from interviews, taking everything said at face value, interviewing an “opposing view” for “balance”, then working it all into a narrative about a lone wolf scientist who changed everything. Cast the working scientists (you know, the ones who actually know what they’re doing) as cartoon mustache-twirling villains and the subject of the piece as the brave David going up against the scientific Goliath, and you’ve got a “story”. *Grrrr*

Dr Martin Burd of Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences was more accommodating and, after reading Vendramini’s paper and navigating his way round his website, he concluded that he was “very sceptical” about the theory for at least two reasons. The first is that plants have as much repetitive non-coding DNA in their genomes as animals, a fact not explained by Vendramini. He hints that Vendramini might be tempted to argue that repetitive non-coding DNA serves a different function in plants than the teem function in animals. But, according to Burd, this would amount to “special pleading” – something scientists frown upon.

Okay, this shit should have been brought up MUCH earlier in the article. These are really, really obvious questions for which Vendramini has no answers.

And it’s not just scientists that frown on special pleading. Any rational person should. It’s a logical fallacy for crying out loud. I’m not a scientist, but I sure as fuck frown on special pleading. And why is it in scare quotes? Is Shit Lips trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of special pleading as an objection to an argument?

He also accuses Vendramini of failing to explain the mechanics of it all adequately. He concludes it’s “not very convincing” because Vendramini doesn’t reveal how teems are actually written into non-coding DNA and how that affects emotions or creates instincts.

Yes! Yes yes yes! Why did it take this fucking long to bring this up?

Vendramini responds to this criticism with characteristic optimism. “Given that the history of science shows that radical new scientific ideas are initially almost universally disparaged, these comments seem quite moderate. I’m encouraged.”

I knew we’d see the Galileo Gambit at some point. And of course Shit Lips passes it along without even a hint of skepticism or any critical analysis. I mean, there’s already a stock response to this: “Yes, they laughed at Galileo, but they also laughed at Bozo the clown.” Shit Lips would barely have to exert himself at all to demonstrate at least a modicum of journalist integrity here. But no. Twas not to be.

So now the maverick Vendramini is seeking acceptance – or at least the courtesy of having his ideas tested to assess whether they have anything to offer. And, as he braces for the reviews, he has taken heart from Darwin himself: “Darwin loved to have his mistakes pointed out. I’d have an enormous sense of pride if my theory adds just a little to his noble edifice, but if I see evidence that it’s wrong, I just have to admit it.”

And that’s the final paragraph of the article. It should be obvious by now that I see Shit Lips as the villain in this. Vendramini is certainly a quack and a bozo, but he seems mostly harmless to me. At least he’s creative–his ideas might make for a good sci-fi series, if not for good science. I’d be willing to read a comic book about a superhero group called T.E.E.M who can control their own DNA with their emotions and give themselves superpowers. That might be cool. As long as Joe Quesada and Jeph Loeb don’t get involved with it.

Shit Lips, on the other hand, is a shitty fucking journalist. This article is little more than a puff piece, and it’s structured to mislead the public on just about every topic it “reports” on. This is certainly due more to laziness and incompetence than to malice on Shit Lips’ part. But that’s no excuse.

This is the shoddy state of science journalism in today’s media. It might be better than it was 50 years ago, but it’s still horrible. And while a single crank can do little more on his own than annoy the scientists he continually emails his self-published book to, a lazy/incompetent journalist at a large publication can legitimize his bogus views to thousands or even millions of consumers who don’t know enough about science to differentiate between the real thing and the Asylum Films style knock-off. This is the equivalent of Roger Ebert reviewing Alien Origin but telling people it’s a review for Prometheus. (Ebert would never do that, but I wouldn’t put it past Armond White…)

But, hey, at least it’s “balanced” and “open-minded,” right?

Poe’s Law at work…

LZ Granderson has a good op-ed at CNN.com.  He doesn’t say anything surprising. Just the standard, sensible reasons why gays should have equal rights. You know, the kind of thing that people who use their brains all believe. I won’t rehash what he says, since I’m sure anyone who doesn’t have mashed potatoes between their ears has already said all the same things themselves a million times only to have it glance off the skulls of whatever bigot they’re trying to have a conversation with.

What caught my eye, though, was in the comments section. I honestly can’t tell if this is serious or not:

Homosexuals are disgusting. I know a guy who was driving to Florida and he stopped on the side of the road to take a leak. He stumbled upon a gay sex party and tripped over some guys doing it. Then the cops came and arrested everyone. He wasn’t even part of the gay party but they still brought him in. Like I said, homosexuals are disgusting

I…I’m speechless. The story clearly can’t be true. I mean, why would he stick around to get arrested rather than, you know, get back in his car and leave immediately? I mean, did he just see the gay party by the side of the road and decide to stick around for a while just for shits and giggles? How did he not see two people buttfucking each other until he was tripping over them? And who has “gay sex parties” by the side of the road? And the guy pissing by the side of the road isn’t the disgusting one in this story?

But as stupid and obviously false as it all is, I still can’t shake the uncomfortable and depressing feeling that there are plenty of people out there who are stupid enough to say something like this in all seriousness. In fact, the fact that it’s so stupid and so obviously false is exactly what makes me think that it’s just the kind of thing that some right wing bigot out there actually believes. Stupidity and falsity are exactly the kind of qualities they look for in beliefs when they’re hammering out a worldview.

Why Evolution Matters

Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones (a publication that, I admit, I rarely read) has said something rather dumb about evolution. Not that he’s a creationist (I’d be using the word “douchebucket” a lot more if he were). Rather, he’s concerned about how we, as people with functioning brains, should view the importance of the evolution/creation battle in America. According to Drum, it’s not all that important and has little relevance to the political issues that matter today.

He’s wrong. And he clearly knows very little about the anti-evolution movement in America and what their agenda really is. Simply put, if you support things like equality based on gender and sexual orientation, responsible economic policy (as opposed to slash-and-burn capitalism), religious freedom and secularism, and the all important task of trying to keep the American populace at least un-stupid, then the unending onslaught against facts and reality in America’s public schools should be on your radar.

Drum is responding to an article by Andrew Sullivan, who after lamenting the fact that polls consistently show that roughly 45% of Americans believe Jesus had a pet velociraptor, argues that this is perhaps not an issue of deeply held belief, but that instead creationism functions as a sort of “cultural signifier” demarcating “us” (good Christians) from “them” (Commie Muslim liberal fags). I think he’s probably at least partially right about this. My guess is that a sizable portion of American creationists don’t care about the theory of evolution in biology any more than they do about string theory in physics or dynamical systems theory in cognitive science. But they adhere to it because it has become a calling card that differentiates their tribe from the atheists and “socialists” (they typically don’t understand socialism any better than they do biology). Sullivan rightly asks how we could ever hope to have a productive dialogue when such a large chunk of he population decides even the most basic facts about reality based solely on tribal affiliation. (Although I also agree with Ed Brayton, who points out that Sullivan somewhat misses the mark by making this about “bring[ing] our country together.”)

Enter Drum. He thinks this is all a bunch of hooey:

Come on. This 46% number has barely budged over the past three decades, and I’m willing to bet it was at least as high back in the 50s and early 60s, that supposed golden age of comity and bipartisanship. It simply has nothing to do with whether we can all get along and nothing to do with whether we can construct a civil discourse.

If you’ve ever tried to argue with a creationist, you know what kind of “discourse” you’re in for. Civility will be the least of your problems. Intellectual honesty, logical reasoning, and the facts are going to suffer a lot more.

Honestly, I don’t much care for all the babble about “civility”.  If Drum wants to claim that the unchanging nature of American creationism shows that it is irrelevant, I would like to point out to him that American political discourse has never been civil. Read Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, written in 1832, for evidence of that. American political discourse has always been noisy, rude, loud and unruly. Really, nothing has changed in the day of teabaggers and fundamentalists except that they now have the internet amplifying their barking lunacy.

The fact is that belief in evolution has virtually no real-life impact on anything. That’s why 46% of the country can safely choose not to believe it: their lack of belief has precisely zero effect on their lives. Sure, it’s a handy way of saying that they’re God-fearing Christians — a “cultural signifier,” as Andrew puts it — but our lives are jam-packed with cultural signifiers. This is just one of thousands, one whose importance probably barely cracks America’s top 100 list.

I’m not so sure of this. The Gallup poll found that there is a strong negative correlation between education attainment and rejection of evolution:

December 2010 Views of Human Origins (Humans Evolved, With God Guiding; Humans Evolved Without God's Involvment; God Created Humans in Present Form) -- by Education

Now, this probably has a lot to do with the fact that the more pig ignorant you are, the more likely you are to believe that Jesus personally sculpted out the human rectal orifice. However, we should also consider the possibility that accepting bogus science might hinder one’s ability to think critically and achieve higher levels of education. Regardless, I don’t think one can just flippantly claim that belief in evolution has nothing to do with real life when it correlates so strongly with something so important.

And after making that highly dubious claim, Drum really goes off the rails with this:

And the reason it doesn’t is that even creationists don’t take their own views seriously. How do I know this? Well, creationists like to fight over whether we should teach evolution in high school, but they never go much beyond that. Nobody wants to remove it from university biology departments. Nobody wants to shut down actual medical research that depends on the workings of evolution. In short, almost nobody wants to fight evolution except at the purely symbolic level of high school curricula, the one place where it barely matters in the first place. The dirty truth is that a 10th grade knowledge of evolution adds only slightly to a 10th grade understanding of biology.

Okay, several points:

1.) There are people who would love to remove evolution from the universities, but they know it will never happen. Unlike local school boards and state legislatures, universities have a lot of smart people in them. You can sell your bullshit pseudoscience to a bunch of rubes at the local PTA meeting much more easily than you can at a university biology department (where people know stuff about, you know, science and all that).

2.) I think that the existence of a $20 million creation museum in Kentucky should disabuse us of the notion that creationist don’t take their beliefs seriously. Some don’t, but some most certainly do.

3.) Most importantly, the push to teach creationism in public high schools is not “purely symbolic”, and this is where it really matters. Also, this is where Drum shows his complete ignorance of what’s at stake in this battle.

Kevin Drum needs to read the Wedge Document and get a taste of what the creationists (currently playing dress up as “Intelligent Design Proponents”) are up to. He’s right that they don’t really take their beliefs in creationism very seriously (the document barely even talks about science). But there is something that they do take very seriously: Infiltrating the public school system and turning it into a tool for training up conservative religious freaks who will take over the country and institute biblical law over the rest of us.

Believe it or not, the people pushing creationism today are not stupid (their followers, on the other hand…).  They’re savvy. They know that once people reach adulthood, their outlook on life and their beliefs are basically set. If you want to turn people into mindless Godbots, you gotta start young. The younger the better, in fact.

Intelligent design creationism is not an end in itself to them. It’s a tool, a “wedge” as they call it, that (if they succeed) will be used to usher a whole slew of right wing nincompoopery into the school system, where it will be taught as fact. Would you like for your children (or anyone’s children for that matter) to be taught that our Founding Fathers were religious fundamentalists who founded a Christian nation, that gays can be cured, that relentless laissez-faire capitalism is the only economic policy endorsed by God, that AIDS is a punishment for gays, that America has been on the side of good in every war it fought, that atheists caused the Holocaust and slavery, that welfare only makes people lazy, that abortion causes breast cancer, that “secular humanism” is equivalent to Marxism, and a whole slew of other demonstrably false and ludicrous right wing fantasies that get spewed daily on talk radio and from pulpits? Well, that’s kinda what they’re going for.

The problem is that since creationism, in most people’s minds, serves merely as a cultural marker, they will vote in the person who promises “balance” in the biology classroom without realizing that they are voting in all this other stuff as well. Since so many people accept creationism, savvy (and cynical) politicians who want to radically alter our current system to favor white, wealthy Christians over everyone else can use it as a wedge issue.

So, yes, the creationism issue is very important, even if it’s merely a cultural signifier that most people don’t take very seriously. And this is why Drum completely misses the mark in his conclusion:

Now, I think evolution should remain in high school texts anyway. Why? Because it’s true. Biology is a science, and evolution is one of the pillars of modern science. For me, that’s a cultural signifier every bit as much as a literal reading of the Bible is for 46% of the country. But you know what? I could spend an entire day arguing politics and economics and culture with a conservative and never so much as mention evolution. It’s just not that important, and it doesn’t tell us much of anything about our widening political polarization. We should keep up the fight, but at the same time we shouldn’t pretend it has an epic significance that it doesn’t. I’m not optimistic about anyone or anything “bringing the country together,” but not because lots of people choose to deny evolution. Frankly, that’s one of the least of our problems.

I’m not optimistic about “bringing our country together” either, but that’s just fucking irrelevant. The importance of evolution isn’t in whether it can bring us all around the campfire where we can sing and roast marshmallows. It’s in the fact that its advocates have a much broader agenda, with creationism being the first step in infiltrating the schools. Simply put, if they succeed, we’re all kinda fucked, as future prosperity and progress depend pretty heavily on having a well-educated population.

I find it hard to believe that a liberal like Kevin Drum could be so dismissive about the importance of education. Does he really think that the ongoing attempts to put pseudoscience in public school curriculum is “one of the least of our problems”?  Does he really think that we can just ignore pedagogical concerns about what’s being taught in our schools and expect to be able to solve economic or social problems with an uneducated population?

My guess would be that he doesn’t think these things. He probably just didn’t think at all when he said it. And that’s kinda the problem with these types of issues.