September 30, 2005

Lives on the line

from - Buck

The next time somebody gives you the line about how dangerous it is to be a law enforcement officer have them take a look at this.

When is the last time you saw a taxpayer funded funeral for a logger?

Posted by Buck at 08:32 AM | Comments (1)

All Animal Friday

from - smijer

Doggies in Dreamland:


dreams.jpg


I love these doggies.

Primates are fun, too. Read about your clever cousins.

Fishy Eggs? If you can no longer get the Caspian kind, then maybe it's time to switch to Chattanooga Beluga... Or not.

And I sure have been seeing a lot of these things about lately...

mantis.JPG


More animals, two by two, at the Friday Ark.

Posted by smijer at 07:52 AM | Comments (4)

September 29, 2005

Please God

from - Buck

Just give me the opportunity to prove to You that lots of money will not change me.

Take a look at the homes of billionaires.

Can you even imagine?

Posted by Buck at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

Restoring Honor and Integrity?

from - Buck

Delay, Frist, Abramoff, Safavian... Wasn't this the crowd that was going to "restore honor and integrity" to Washington? If this is what integrity looks like, let's bring back Oval Office blow jobs.

Arianna Huffington

Posted by Buck at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

The Difference Between the ACLU and its Detractors

from - smijer

Via US Chatter:

The ACLU understands and respects the difference between an individual and the state.

link.

Posted by smijer at 07:43 AM | Comments (8)

September 28, 2005

Thursday's Entry, 5 Minutes Early

from - smijer

It's on the pocast page. Don't miss this one.

Posted by smijer at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)

And the answer is?

from - Buck

Well, it looks like feisty Jack Cafferty has gotten his answer.

Posted by Buck at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

So Simple

from - Buck

The Situation.jpg

Even a child should understand it. And spending hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild New Orleans won't change anything.

Posted by Buck at 10:42 AM | Comments (1)

St. John the Guru

from - smijer

I'm not sure the Beloved Disciple was quite so 80's. But, it is certainly an interesting exe- or eisegesis.

And the underlying question is a big one to me - how do you find common ground with people taught by their tradition that common ground, theologically speaking, is a bad thing?

I mentioned to a relatively open-minded Evangelical once that her nerves my be helped by some practice of zazen. "No," she said... "if it comes from another religion", she isn't interested. So maybe zazen really was or maybe zazen wasn't a good idea for her. But, assuming for the moment that it really could help - and she had no way of knowing that it couldn't... what kind of barrier is it that causes one to refuse a helpful - to themselves - practice because it is associated with a competing religious tradition?

How do you remove blinders when the blinders themselves are considered Holy?

Posted by smijer at 07:45 AM | Comments (1)

September 27, 2005

Ready, Aim, Fire!

from - Buck

If you are looking for companies to invest in the demand for ammo has increased dramatically.

If you read this and wonder why just watch this and find out.

Posted by Buck at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

Bredesen: Keep Squeezing the Roots

from - smijer

Phil Bredesen says there's plenty of blood left in the turnip roots - he has no desire to harvest any of the greens. Doesn't he know that we turnip roots are about dry?

Posted by smijer at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005

Take me to your leader

from - Buck

While watching one of the Sunday morning talking heads programs I caught a few seconds of an interview with John “if-you-like-the-war-you-will-love-me” McCain.

The discussion was about how to pay for the Katrina and Rita disasters. McCain was shown a poll which showed that 54% of Americans thought that cutting spending in Iraq was the answer while 6% thought that cutting domestic spending was the answer.

Of course McCain is not going to advocate cutting spending in Iraq and was all for cutting the "pork" out of domestic spending. When asked how he could justify that position considering the position of the citizenry he said, “well, that is why we are called leaders”.

Lead on John. We are right behind you.


Posted by Buck at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

September, October

from - smijer

Hi again, everybody. This Monday morning will be my first day back at work after a week of anything but vacation. Cars in and out of the shop. Church web-site business still not caught up, but progress made. Kids run hither & yon. A day spent with the American Red Cross service center for Hurricane Katrina evacuees - activating debit cards, mainly. Almost no time to call my own.

The high point of the week was the Autumnal Equinox concert at the church. The Lovell Sisters Band was so much more than I expected. These young women, if they choose to pursue that path, will be rich and famous one day, and deservedly so. Their strong, clear voices blend in the richest and closest of harmonies and are complemented by virtuouso instrumental work. The mandolin was on fire.

Sorry you missed them? Good. You have some second chances. They open for King Wilke this Friday at Nightfall. They perform this Sunday, Oct. 2, in the Chattanooga Bluegrass Experience at Chattanooga Market in the First Tennessee Pavilion (formerly the Cricket Pavilion). Finally, they open for Spatial Effects at the Dalton Little Theatre on Oct. 14 & 15.

The week also carried several low points, but I'm not about being all negative here & now. Just let that go.

Part of what kept me busy and away from blogging, and will continue to keep me busy through the end of next month, is preparation for the late October presentation of The Exonerated by the church. Even with nearly microscopic parts, the demands of rehearsal are pretty high. I feel for the individuals that play the Exonerees. I beseech anyone who is able to attend one of these performances. Even with a mostly amateur or volunteer cast, the script alone carries enough force to blow you away. That's not to knock the acting - in fact I feel that my amateur ass doesn't belong on stage with a couple of these folks. Tenesseans outside Chattanooga: we will be repeating this performance in March in Suwanee, at Southern College, and will likely be bringing it to venues in or around Knoxville / Oak Ridge, Nashville, and possibly Memphis.

Now that I'm back at work for 50 hrs a week, maybe I can slow down enough to give a few moments' attention to this blog in the morning each day. I'll try to stay in touch. I hope everyone reading is doing OK or better.

Posted by smijer at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2005

TGIF

from - Buck

Well, here it is Friday and no doggies. Will our lives ever return to normal?

The best news I have seen in a long time is the fact that the Tennessee / LSU game has been postponed until Monday night.

Thank God. That gives me a real football game to watch as opposed to the boring Monday Night Football professional offering. Kansas City vs. Denver? I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, the world deals with floods, famines, pestilences and plagues just as it always has and it always will.

But at least we do it with an element of humor

Ya’ll have a good weekend.

Posted by Buck at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

Bill Frist

from - Buck

In leg irons?

Posted by Buck at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

Not a bad idea

from - Buck

It might be wise to get a copy while they last.

But, you say, censorship does not exist in America.

Nah

Posted by Buck at 01:03 PM | Comments (2)

Atta Boy George!

from - Buck

I don’t believe that Mr. Bush is a Christian. Christians believe in the prophets, peace be upon them. Bush believes in profits and how to get a piece of them.

George Galloway

I am a huge fan of Galloway. His speech is well worth the listen if you have the time and inclination.

Posted by Buck at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2005

Can't get fooled again...

from - Buck

Harlan McCraney, Presidential Speechalist, explains it all.

Posted by Buck at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

2 + 2 = 4

from - Buck

And that is about the extent of my mathematical abilities.

But I figured some of you math/science wizards might be entertained by this article.

Instead of distance, Wildberger's trigonometry uses a concept called "quandrance", the square of distance. Instead of angle, he uses the concept of "spread", calculated by dividing one quadrance by another. The spread between two lines is a number between zero (representing parallel lines) and one (representing lines at right angles).

Whatever you say Professor.

Posted by Buck at 09:20 AM | Comments (2)

September 20, 2005

Tea in the Sahara

from - Buck

I was watching the news about the four soldiers killed in Iraq which put the number of total American soldiers killed to 1,904 when I heard the narrator mention the name of Muhammad al-Mahdi.

There is preparation for a great celebration in the city of Karbala to recognize his birthday. Not having a clue as to who the guy was I googled him and found out some fascinating information.

See if this sounds familiar.

Muhammad al-Mahdi (Arabic: محمد المهدى )
(868 - ?) is the twelfth and final Imam of the Shi'a. He is the person believed by Shi'as to be the Mahdi; a figure considered by both Sunnis and Shias to be the eventual saviour of humankind. Shias and Sunnis differ on the identity of the Mahdi; with Shias believing that he was born in 868 and has been hidden by God to later emerge to establish justice; whereas Sunnis believe that he is yet to be born. Both divisions however, believe that he will bring absolute peace and justice throughout the world by establishing Islam as the global religion. As such, the personality and account of Muhammad al-Mahdi in this article is one that is believed only by Shias. For a general overview of the Mahdi as accepted by the various divisions in Islam, see Mahdi.

Sometimes it seems that no matter what religion there are always some who are waiting on somebody and others who think that he has already come and gone and is coming back.

Fascinating.

Posted by Buck at 02:07 PM | Comments (1)

Foreign Aid?

from - Buck

I read somewhere that foreign aid is the process by which rich people living in a poor country get money from poor people that live in a rich country”.

I guess there is some truth to that.

Posted by Buck at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)

In Search Of.....

from - Buck

the Rosetta mop!

Posted by Buck at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

Where is Smijkins?

from - smijer

Where is he? Where could he be? No! Not taking an early afternoon nap! I need something else to read.

Posted by smijer at 12:04 PM | Comments (3)

Eating the dead

from - Buck

When I look back on Katrina and remember all of the reports and news stories pouring out of New Orleans at the time I guess the most outlandish was the allegation of cannibalism after only four days.

When any person will resort to eating the neighbors after only four days and there is a Walmart just up the road with the doors kicked in let’s face it. That person has always wondered what humans taste like and figures now is the chance to find out. (probably tastes like chicken)

Randall Robinson helped spread the rumor and my initial reaction was “what an idiot”. But look at his bio

He is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Twenty-one universities have bestowed upon him honorary Ph.D's in recognition of the impact he has had on U.S. foreign policy.

I have been wondering what impacted our foreign policy and now I know.

The last reports I read showed that 77% of blacks felt like the government abandoned the people of New Orleans because they were poor and black.

This is sad but with prominent blacks like Randall Robinson helping to spread this ludicrous allegation it is not surprising.

My hand shakes with anger as I write. I, the formerly un-jaundiced human rights advocate, have finally come to see my country for what it really is. A monstrous fraud.

No Randall. You can see the real fraud everytime you shave.

Posted by Buck at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2005

Forget Katrina...

from - Buck

Scared-stiff astronomers have detected a mysterious mass they've dubbed a "chaos cloud" that dissolves everything in its path, including comets, asteroids, planets and entire stars -- and it's headed directly toward Earth!

Exactly how does a story like this wind up in the Entertainment News and Gossip section?

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, a senior White House official said the president's top science advisors are taking the findings in stride.

"This is a lot like global warming, where the jury is still out on whether it's real or not," said the official.

"The existence of this so called chaos cloud is only a theory. Americans shouldn't panic until all the facts are in."


I guess I'll never understand theories.

Posted by Buck at 11:19 AM | Comments (4)

Storm Warning

from - Buck

Only 97 shopping days until Christmas!

Posted by Buck at 07:57 AM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2005

Makes sense to me

from - Buck

"If a country develops an economic system that is based on how to pay for the war, and if the amounts of fixed capital investment that are apparent are tied up in armaments, and if that country is a major exporter of arms, and its industrial fabric is dependent on them, then it would be in that country's interests to ensure that it always had a market. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is clearly in the interests of the world's leading arms exporters to make sure that there is always a war going on somewhere."

Marilyn Waring - Source:
Documentary 'Who's Counting', based on her book 'Counting for Nothing'.

Three guesses as to who leads the world in the exportation of arms...


Posted by Buck at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

Friday

from - smijer

I know: I'm slacking. I don't have any critters to share this Friday. Thankfully, others have succeeded where I have failed.

And lately, one thought chases out another... what you get from me is whatever fleeting fragments of thought that happen to be accessible to me when I sit down to blog. I've had all kinds of things tumbling around in this noggin for the last couple of weeks: more reasons why Unitarianism and the gentle perspectives behind it are good for people and the body politic; why generally idiotic and mutual recriminations about the gulf coast disaster just add another dimension to the catastrophe, at least as far as I'm concerned; why the Daily Show and it's Evolution Schmevolution series rocks, but Vonnegut really is (finally) starting to show his age; blah blah blah blah blah... But life keeps happening to me while I'm busy making other plans, as someone once said.

Anyhoo, here are my random fragmented thoughts for today. Grim as it is, I can't help taking some private amusement from watching the heads of right-wingers explode over a court ruling that the government can't keep using the McCarthy era version of the pledge of allegiance to tease lip-service to the American Deity out of the school-kids any more. Clicky, and dodge the flying bits of cranium and grey matter. Side note: I really love the name of this news organization. I forget which hate group they are associated with, but they name themselves "Agape" Press. For you folks who were denied an upbringing with a fundamentalist preacher that just knew enough greek to be dangerous; and those who didn't happen to study Greek in school - that isn't the english word that describes a dropped-jaw. It is an ancient Greek word that means non-sexual love. At least they got the non-sexual part right...

Simultaneously, while railing about how "The Left" (meaning everybody left of Rick Santorum) doesn't want "God" (meaning sectarian religion) in the "political discourse" (meaning used as a tool of the government), more heads are exploding over what - to the paranoid mind - seems to be a reference to their (evil) "God" in the "political discourse" that is the Pennsylvania Memorial to 9/11 flight 93. And here, I reference Right Wing News. I guess that's the reason Agape Press was forced to resort to irony in naming itsself - the name most descriptive of their efforts was already taken by this other blog.

Meanwhile, Texas - continuing the George W. Bush tradition from his gubernatorial days - has killed Francis Newton in an obvious effort to lay moral claim to the term "culture of life". Hippy Dave asks why we are OK with this. My answer is that I'm not OK with it.

Posted by smijer at 07:45 AM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2005

Slower than the government

from - Buck


It may have taken 5 days to rescue New Orleans but it took me 10 days to stumble upon this post over on Daily Kos.

It is a fascinating look at the response time to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake in comparison to the 2005 New Orleans response time.

Don’t miss the comments. They are both as usual thought-provoking and hilarious.

Posted by Buck at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

The Agenda in a nutshell...

from - Buck

"Let me put it to you bluntly. In a changing world, we want more people to have control over your own life." —George W. Bush, Annandale, VA, Aug. 9, 2004

Posted by Buck at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2005

No Fat Left to cut

from - Buck

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.

After reading this one I had to double check and be sure it did not come from The Onion.

My God. Delay is delusional.

But I guess that goes without saying.

Posted by Buck at 04:27 PM | Comments (2)

Not surprised...

from - Buck

and I am still wondering whether or not I am disappointed by this

I mean, it would take 4 years to do the study and at the end you would just have a worthless and expensive study.

But it sure makes the Republicans look like they are trying to hide something. It seems to me that if this was primarily a massive failure of government at the local and state levels the Republicans would have been all over an independent commission to study what went wrong.

After a complete meltdown of government at all levels maybe government investigating government is not such a good idea.

Posted by Buck at 02:40 PM | Comments (1)

September 13, 2005

My Conversation with a Developmental Biologist About Evolution

from - smijer

Is evolution a theory in crisis? Is Intelligent Design the coming paradigm?

We all have our opinions about this, but opinions are like you-know-what. And most of them do stink. But what about a professional? Via Jeff Blogworthy, I discovered that an enterprising blogger supportive of the Intelligent Design movement had found and interviewed a scientist friendly to the cause. So, I found one, too, to speak in favor of science. He asked me to keep his identity confidential due to his covert activity for the Evil Atheist Conspiracy. But I can tell you this much: It is PZ Myers, currently of the University of Minnesota at Morris. He agreed to an interview, and here it is:

smijer: Thanks for speaking with me, Prof!

Myers: Any time.

smijer: So, is there any debate within the scientific community about the
general validity of the body of theory referred to generally as
neo-darwinian evolution? What about among the fringe crackpots in the
scientific community? Lawyers? Mechanical Engineers? Preachers?


Myers: There is general agreement among all informed scientists on the
validity of common descent, and that natural selection is one of the most
important processes in evolution. There are also many rather
fierce disagreements among many. For instance, here is debate on the
relative importance of neutral hanges (which some think of as mere noise,
while others reasonably regard as the major source of variation) vs.
selection (which all agree occurs, and is essential for adaptation...but
there is more to organisms than just adaptations.) Down at the base of the
tree of life, common descent gets messy and rather syncytial, with
opportunities for horizontal gene transfer that may have been very important. Many of us also think that the neo-Darwinian synthesis is showing signs of its age, is getting a bit creaky, and is failing to encompass many important processes in evolution. For instance, the synthesis says little about
development, my field, because relatively little was known about it at the
time Dobzhansky and Mayr and Simpson and many others were assembling it.
The combination of genetics, molecular biology, and development that has
occurred during the last several decades, though, is fueling a real
revolution in our thinking. The field of evo-devo is going to radically
change how scientists think about evolution (as far as I'm concerned, at
least. There are some who think evo-devo is a minor issue. This is one of
those things we're fighting about.) Scientists are constantly pushing at the
boundaries of what we know, and are always wrestling over something.

smijer: I hear it darkly whispered that "dissent", in any of its various forms,
is tantamount to career suicide. My cousin is a plumber and he says
evolution is a crock. Will he lose his job?


Myers: That's absurd. Bucking the status quo can be difficult, it's true -- pursuing unconventional ideas can make it difficult to get grants and get published, and that can kill a career -- but scientists are always trying something new. It's part of the job. They have strategies for doing this. There's always the project that's safe and generates a steady stream of interesting results and brings in funding for the lab, and some of that funding is used to run pilot experiments on new ideas. If they work out, they form the basis for new grants and an expanding investment. That's the key thing, though: something has to work out. There has to be some grounds for continuing a project.

Doing 'research' that is a dead end, gets no results, is poorly executed and based on flawed and unscholarly ideas...that is career suicide. As it should be. Incompetence is a skill rewarded with promotion only in the Republican party.

Your cousin the plumber is probably safe. I've never asked my plumber his views on evolution, and it's not relevant to his work. Now if he told me he didn't believe in water pressure, then I might stop calling him.

smijer: All due respect, prof, but didn't this dude, Richard Sternberg, get creamed by his colleagues at the Smithsonian just for publishing a paper on ID that, while very inept and in some ways ridiculous, still made it through a legitimate peer review process? This James McVay fellow from the Office of Special Counsel seems to think so... Since that happened to one guy, maybe that's what they mean about the "career suicide" thing. So, did Sternberg get a bum rap, or get what was coming to him? Hint - if you say he got a bum rap then you are confirming all the dark suspicions about the dogmatism of the Darwinist orthodoxy, but if you say he got what was coming to him, you're pegged as part of the conspiracy to repress scientific dissent.


Myers: It wasn't legitimate. It was an article published in a taxonomy journal not appropriate for its subject, shepherded through by a creationism-friendly acting editor (Sternberg). It was highly suspicious. Sternberg didn't get any kind of rap at all -- he's still working, he's still affiliated with the Smithsonian. I think he
didn't get what was coming to him; he's a creationist (oh, excuse me, a "baraminologist"), which brings his competence into question. I'd never trust anything he's written, and if I had the power, I certainly wouldn't ever hire him to teach students...but if are a repressive conspiracy, we're sure not very good at it.

Also, ultimately what counts in a publication is what your peers think of it. The article Sternberg slipped through is a forgettable and empty bit of vacuous fluff that would fade away uncited, except that the Discovery Institute sees it as a PR opportunity.

smijer: Is there sort of a whisper campaign going on? A sort of secret society of
dissenters? And, when I say "dissenters", do I really mean "creationists"?


Myers: Hah. No. Evolution is a topic that routinely comes up in our department, and believe me, there's no one who thinks there is any credibility to creationism. We teach aspects of evolutionary biology at all levels of our curriculum, and someone who dissented would stand out prominently. He or she would probably trigger even more discussions about the subject.

I think the reason we have no creationists in our department is that we don't hire crackpots or ignorant incompetents. Those kinds of policies do make it difficult for creationists to advance in academia, I will concede.

smijer: Would dissenting against evolution... ah hell... would being a creationist be most like dissenting against string theory, the standard model of quantum theory and relativity, classical newtonian physics, or the heliocentric model of the solar system? I apologize in advance for asking you questions about fields for which you don't claim professional expertise.


Myers: I would say that rejecting evolution is nearly equivalent to rejecting heliocentrism. It's an observation that has been reinforced over and over again, and only a real nutcase tries to argue with it anymore. The neo-Darwinian synthesis is sort of like classical Newtonian physics: something that put a set of observations on a sound mathematical basis and accounts for most of what we see in the world, but also has limitations that mean some aspects are not well
covered, and there are phenomena that need incorporation in a more complete theory. Biology hasn't yet had it's Einstein.

And no, our Einstein isn't going to come from the ranks of those clowns at the Discovery Institute.

smijer: Are you one of the Steves? (note, I'm referring to the document known as "Project Steve")


Myers: I'd have to be Psteve for that to work.

smijer: Aw, Pshaw. Apropos of nothing, can you tell me which is most useful to the average workaday scientist in his or her research, evolution, Intelligent Design, or black coffee?


Myers: Did you have to throw coffee into that list? Now the message is all
mangled, because coffee is awfully important. At least I can state
unambiguously that Intelligent Design is dead last. Nobody uses it --
it would be like postulating ghosts spitting in your reagents when
you weren't looking to explain some results.

smijer: One guy said that he had been told that the discovery of a fossil rabbit in the Precambrian would debunk descent with modification. Wasn't the original quote about (plural) rabbits, i.e. enough to rule out such possible errors as inaccurate dating of the strata? And don't you think he meant that it would debunk the evolutionary understanding of natural history more than just the mechanism of "descent with modification"? And, to the best of your knowledge has anyone ever found such a thing as a Precambrian rabbit? And do you think they would have still tasted like chicken?


Myers: I think he said just "rabbit", singular, but what is implied is a well-confirmed, unambiguous out-of-sequence specimen, which would require some level of verification by replication. Such a discovery would mess up a lot of things in biology, and would make a hypothesis about some kind of artificial intervention by an unknown agent tenable. No such anachronism has been found, although there are lots of dangling lineages where we don't have evidence of a beginning. Intelligent Design proponents like to point to those unknowns and
claim their designer is lurking there, but as we all know, it's actually the Flying Spaghetti Monster--he loves those tangled strands where the beginnings and ends are ambiguous.

If there were a pre-Cambrian rabbit, it would precede chickens, so we'd also have to revise our conventions and say that everything tastes like rabbit.

smijer: In your opinion, do Behe or others provide a falsifiable theory that can be "debunked"? If not, would it be proper to say they have been, or can be "debunked"?


Myers: Behe, in Darwin's Black Box, said that irreducible complexity was a property that could not evolve. That was debunked; of course it can. But if nothing else, the Intelligent Design creationism movement has proven itself oblivious to criticism. You will still find people who claim that Behe discovered some phenomenon that makes evolution impossible. The same is true of Dembski and his mangling of the "No Free Lunch" theorem.

So yes, they can and have been thoroughly debunked scientifically, and ID is a joke in the scientific community. However, their entire strategy is not about science -- it's about PR and politics.

smijer: Since, as you say, so much of this controversy lies outside the lab and in the media and popular publications, do you think books like Ken Miller's Finding Darwin's God bring much to the table? Why do you think that someone sympathetic to ID would be familiar with Behe's book but completely unfamiliar with Kenneth Miller?


Myers: Yes, I think we need much more outreach to people outside our narrow
disciplines. Miller's book is excellent, even if I did find the Christian apologetics insipid, personally.

It wouldn't be at all unusual to find a professional cell biologist who had not read Miller's book -- the professional is not in the target audience. However, it would be extremely unusual to find that same professional, who is remote from the popular press, reading Behe's tripe. Further, finding a professional who reviews Behe *approvingly* is stretching credibility to the breaking point. I'm tempted to invoke Dembski's "Universal Lower Bound" of 10-150 and say it couldn't possibly be, except that I know stupidity flourishes on both sides of the professional fence.


smijer: My personal knowledge of science is what I remember from a very instructive high school course some 15 years ago and what I've read on the internet. I pimp tractor trailers for a living. Nevertheless, I understand quite well why fossil rabbits from the Precambrian would falsify the evolutionary understanding of natural history. What do you think about the credibility of a person who holds a PhD in biochemistry from a Big Ten university, teaches cell biology for a living, and has been published in scientific journals, but who, when asked the question about the rabbits and the Precambrian answers, "that is a hard one. I honestly don't know"?


Myers: He's right: there are scientists out there who don't use evolution, who don't think about evolution, and who don't THINK, period. Every job (except maybe tractor trailer pimping, which I hear is a lively occupation held by no one other than the bright and well-informed [note: flattery will get you everywhere]) is populated with some number of placeholding deadwood, even biology, so it's never hard to find some few incompetents and get dumb answers out of them -- just don't hold them as representative.

Alternatively, your clueless biochemist could also be a fiction
invented by an equally clueless layman.

smijer: Once more, since I asked the question in a silly way before, approximately how often are core darwinistic principles - those disputed by most
creationists or even those not disputed by many, employed in doing new research in other fields of biology?


Myers: "Darwinistic" means something very specific -- it refers to a
particular mode of evolution, as described by Darwin. If one is a
population geneticist, then the tools of Darwin and the neo-Darwinian
synthesis get used all the time. Any time one looks at a population,
those models are implicit in the analysis.

In my own field of developmental biology, it's a little different. We rarely look at selection. However, rules of common descent are essential in any kind of comparative analysis. The theory of evolution is part of the background for any study. Years ago, when the lab I was in was just starting to use zebrafish as a model, we did so with considerable discussion and study of the fish's place in
phylogeny. We specifically pursued it because it was a vertebrate model system that would complement flies; Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, who won a Nobel for her work in Drosophila, apparently agreed with that, since she's now also doing a lot of work with zebrafish.

I take evolution for granted. In the past, I've tried assaying the evolutionary content of journal articles, and was surprised that explicit discussion of evolutionary relationships was fairly high, approaching 100% in a couple of the developmental journals I surveyed. It was much, much lower in clinical journals, which only discuss human cases, and also lower in a few neuroscience journals I
looked at, where the topics of the articles were sometimes clinical, and often focused on a single molecule. Basically, whenever your work involves two or more organisms, evolution is essential; if it's narrow enough to only deal with a single species, evolution may not come up.

smijer: If you think there is a place at all for it, how should Intelligent Design be taught in a responsible public school curriculum?


Myers: Not as a science, period. Preferably, it would be taught as history -- ancient history -- and regarded as brief, pathological aberration.

I'm not going to make the error of suggesting it be taught in comparative religion or philosophy courses, either. It's bad theology and even worse philosophy (and as biology, it's total crap). Unless it's being used as an example of laughably bad science, it shouldn't be used at all.

smijer: Is there anything you would care to add?


Myers: One of the important attributes of any good science class is that it
has to discuss the evidence. We teach evolution because it has good
evidence and has lead to productive research programs. The greatest
failure of ID is that it has no evidence and suggests no path to
obtaining any, and that's why it doesn't belong in the classroom.

smijer:: I can't say that I could not agree with you more. If I had some extensive training and practice in biology and sciences related to your field, I could express legitimate agreement. As it is, I can only say that an anonymous cell biologist who expresses disagreement with you has much more right to his opinion on the subject of evolution than I do to mine. And yet, somehow, I think my assent to the nearly-unanimous view is more correct than
his dissent from it. Thanks very much for your time.



Epilogue

What are the differences between the consensus set of scientists who have accepted the facts of evolution and have gotten on with trying to gain a better understanding of it and the diversity of life that has resulted from it, and those who are desperate to return to a TheoCentric model of biology?

Several differences stand out... One is that the first group is backed by mountains of well established data, and works from principles that are constantly being fleshed out and refined in the lab. From Darwin's Finches, to a magnificent fossil record of natural history; from the laboratories where fruit fly species diverged and the viral strains were seen to evolve to the analasys and sequencing of the genes and genomes of entire species, those who are dedicated to real science in biology have a vast reservoir of data to support their work. On the other side, Intelligent Design theorists have yet to produce one novel result in a lab, or discover a single bit of evidence that unequivocally supports their view.

Another is that the way scientists and IDists talk about themselves. Myers pointed out in his interview several areas where older Darwinian ideas are being challenged, and where the importance of Darwinian mechanisms for evolution are being questioned in many areas. Yet, these scientists are not making grandiose claims about the revolutionary new paradigm that will overthrow the dogma of the past 150 years. At least, mostly they are not. It seems to me that, with the the ID proponents, what is lacked in evidence is made up for in bluster. Relatively small slights to their cause from the scientific "establishment" are painted as a conspiracy to crush "dissent". They work the press relentlessly to create a favorable public opinion environment in which to advance their political agenda. And, they compare themselves favorably with such folks as Galileo.

The remaining difference is the composition of the groups. The pro-science crowd runs the gamut... you got your evil atheists, and your pious Christians, your Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Shintos, and everything else. ID is entirely composed of people with a religious investment in denying evolution.

I'm going to quote a little bit now from the epilogue that Mr. Dawn Treader included with the interview that inspired this one:

Good, old-fashioned pragmatism. If functioning under the rubric of design produces faster, scientific breakthroughs, from discoveries to cures, then I think we will see a faster adoption of design as a metascience. If not, then we will be left to slug out a debate about concepts in a tool-driven, results oriented world. (note: the question is, who will step up to create a research program that will permit research to flourish using a design framework?)

I have a hard time imagining this. ID at present exists as a large body of rhetoric. There is the argument that there are "Gaps" in our knowledge of the history of life that evolution cannot explain, even in principle, and that some sort of Intelligent Designer (God, of course) fills those gaps. There are the arguments that ID, or the "controversy" surrounding it, should be taught in public school. There are popular appeals meant to gain sympathy from Joe Sixpack (that's me & you). But there are no mechanisms with explanatory power. There is no data. There is no research program. How the heck can anyone use this body of rhetoric to guide research? I just don't see how it would be possible. If the Discovery Institute comes up with a plan for doing it... well more power to them. We'll see if their program produces useful results. And if it does... well then, maybe we'll start seeing the seeds of paradigm shift. I won't hold my breath.

To quote again:

What role will worldviews play? A huge one. Most Christian's think that naturalism is what keeps evolution alive. Naturalism (as a worldview), however, is on the way out, in my opinion. As Hugh Ross boldly predicts, naturalism is dying of natural causes. As James Herrick points out, in his book The Making of the New Spirituality, the void is being filled by what Herrick terms the New Religious Synthesis (basically religious syncretism). Herrick demonstrates how critical evolutionary theory is to many neo-religious thinkers. So, whether Ross and Herrick are right or wrong, worldviews will continue to play a vital role in keeping evolutionary thinking entrenched.

The very premise of this contention - that it is philosophical naturalism that keeps evolution alive - is vacuous, and excusable only because it comes from a layman who is unfamiliar with the science. It is the data that keeps evolution alive, and very healthy. If it were naturalism instead, well, then we wouldn't have an abundance of scientists who reject naturalism but still contribute to and support the science of evolution.

World-views are important - but more for life at large than just the practice of science. Again we hear the language of "God of the Gaps" theology: that naturalism leaves a "void" that can be filled with theological speculation. And, in my personal view, philosophical naturalism does provide an incomplete world-view. And for purposes of leading a fulfilling and useful life, one must supplement that view with values derived from culture and from a commitment to humanistic ideals, and one must explore the aesthetic of living - not just the mechanics of it. But, when we are talking about methodological naturalism rather than a world view that consists of or includes philosophical naturalism, we are talking about the one single tool that has been helpful to us for understanding the world we live in. So far, no one has found a replacement for it that produces anything close to the results that we have from science. And I won't hold my breath for that to happen, either.

Posted by smijer at 08:32 AM | Comments (5)

Bush Vacation

from - Buck

bushvacation_1.jpg

Okay, Okay.

I know you have all seen it already. I have received it a couple of times myself but the image says a lot about the power of perception.

George the Son does seem to have a "let 'em eat cake" mentality but I am sure it is not intentional.

He had a silver spoon in his mouth before he started inserting his silver foot.

Brownie. You did a heckuva job. The fishin' is great!


Posted by Buck at 08:27 AM | Comments (2)

September 12, 2005

After doing a heckuva job...

from - Buck

Brownie quits

I hope that before he left he authorized somebody to pick up this guys corpse.

Posted by Buck at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

Links with Your Eye Boogers Monday

from - smijer

A People So Bold talks about why so many UUs self-identify as Democrats, why maybe we shouldn't, and most importantly, why UU has kept its place while the GOP has drawn a circle and drawn us out.

Al Gore was a Tennessee Senator - and a vice president - before I really grew into any political awareness. As a matter of fact, the controversy surrounding the 2000 election is part of the thing that got me interested again, with my real surge in interest coming around the time the war plans for 2003 were being filtered through the media. But, it didn't take me long to fall in love with the fallen Gore. I like him because he's smart, and because he has a passion for the environment, and a passion for people. He's all heart and brain, and that's worth a whole lot.

Zionism. Look, Israel has a right to exist. They have a right to self-defense. They have a right to set their own policies on how they will buttress their defense against a hostile Arab world... but this is crap:

Historically, the international community has harshly criticized and censured Israeli anti-terror military activity, whether retaliatory or preemptive, and it regularly demands Israeli restraint in the face anti-Jewish Islamic terror.

And even more so:
Seeking to strike a positive note, Shalom said if Israel's recent withdrawal from Gaza resulted in the Arabs reciprocating with extended calm, the Jews would willingly surrender more of their biblical homeland.

Iraq != Midway. Maybe if, at Midway, the U.S. had sufferred major casualties abandoning the South Pacific to the Japanese and picking a "softer" target in the Carribean somewhere instead of suffering major casualties striking decisively to win a war...

Have a nice Monday.

Posted by smijer at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2005

Another Random Thought

from - smijer

I'm neither scientist nor ethicist enough to have a comment on this. But this quote in it tickles my funny-bone, and I'm certainly clown enough to share the laughs:

his decision is utterly unethical, abhorrent and contrary to public opinion. The HFEA is relentlessly imposing its libertarian agenda on the people of this country against their wishes.

This is straight out of Monty Python. And for the kicker:

The Government must act to disband it immediately.

Truth, fiction. I report. You decide which is stranger.

Posted by smijer at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

Funny

from - smijer

On the way out the door at work, I walked by a television set playing Fox News... and they were running clips from the Daily Show (I recognized the clip of Stewart making fun of Celine Dionne on the Larry King show)...

Funny that Fox is airing John Stewart. Funny that Larry King is inside the Daily Show, that's inside Fox News... Now, the Daily Show should play that clip and bring the circle to completion. heheh.

Posted by smijer at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

Thumbelina

from - smijer

I'm pretty sure this is the momma doggie... of at least one of the new babies, maybe both. She hasn't officially joined the family, but we put food out for her. I think I'll call her thumbelina.

thumbelina.JPG


I've examined her paws, and I can't say with any certainty that she is actually polydactyl, but the thumbs are there, whether they be finger 5 or finger 6. I think I love her just as much as the babies.

Update: I checked the front paws. The thumbs each consist of two digits, for a total of six on each front paw. So she's a sho' nuff polydactyl doggie.

Don't forget the Ark.

Posted by smijer at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

Still a beautiful world

from - Buck

Sunday marks the anniversary of the second day in our country that will “live in infamy”.

I encourage everyone to think about what happened that day and about our initial and ongoing reaction to it. Take a long, hard look at where we were then and where we are now.

We had an opportunity to show the world how a civilized people react to barbarians.

Did we?

Ya’ll have a great weekend. The sky has been as beautiful a September blue as I have seen in a long time.

And keep in mind that even

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Posted by Buck at 08:20 AM | Comments (1)

September 08, 2005

Why Actors Shouldn't Be Given Veto Authority

from - smijer

Here.

When will Californians learn about celebrity politicians?

Posted by smijer at 09:33 PM | Comments (2)

This Is Cool

from - smijer

I wondered why they were asking me to come in for so many tests... I guess this explains it. Now if I can just figure out what they meant telling me I was the "control"... sounds powerful, huh?

Posted by smijer at 09:31 PM | Comments (3)

Poor Neal.

from - Buck

His beloved President seems to be under constant attack and he feels it is his patriotic duty to defend him.

In todays Neal’s Nuze he says

Did you hear about the St. Rita's nursing home near New Orleans? The staff abandoned the nursing home, leaving the patients behind. The patients tried to barricade the doors using anything they could get their hands on, including wheelchairs. Rescuers found 30 bodies in that nursing home yesterday. Bush's fault, wasn't it?

Of course not Neal. Anybody with half a brain knows it was Mayor Nagin’s fault.

And then he takes his obligatory jab at the “poor”.

Survival often depends on resourcefulness, self-reliance and the ability (or willingness) to make tough decisions -- traits that aren't exactly evident in those we call poor.

If there are any in our society that know plenty about resourcefulness, self-reliance and who are forced many times to make tough decisions it is the poor. The choices they are forced to make are a little tougher than choices such as steak or seafood or buy or sell or do I go to Florida or Colorado this weekend.

And my personal favorite

Speaking of irrational ... how many fools do we still have running around unsupervised spouting that absurd "war for oil" line ... other than Cindy Sheehan of course.

He is partially right. It was not a war for oil. It was a war for oil companies. And I think they are doing okay right now. Don’t ya’ll?

Posted by Buck at 05:02 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2005

Blog Comments

from - smijer

I don't have enough time to be an internet junkie anymore... but that doesn't keep me from it - just slows me down a tad. I find that when I don't have the block of time it takes to do a post, I can still find a minute or two to post a reply elsewhere...

And a lot of time, my thoughts after posting that reply are, "wish I had said that on my page..."

I think its because the interaction forces me to think of things from different angles, and gives me a better shoving off point for getting my thoughts out. So, anyway, I have a minute or two now, and I want to quote my better, blog-commenting self a time or two.

smijer on ID:

No, I'm judging him on the basis of the egregious errors he makes in his essay. It's different. Behe would avoid the errors he makes being familiar with the science, despite the fact that he is committed to ID.

On the other hand, Michael Denton made one very egregious error in his quest to shore up the foundation of ID, and he is a trained molecular biologist. This proves that even trained biologists can screw up when they let the agenda lead as ID proponents do, instead of letting the evidence lead. Denton did, however, eventually admit his mistake and accept the validity of the evidence for common descent. Which is probably why you don't hear his name much at the Discovery Institute any more.

It's worth pointing out before I go on to explain why I wanted to quote this here that many or most ID proponents are not biologists. Matter of fact, that should be one of the things that the rest of us should be shouting from the rooftops about ID and other variations of creationism. Philip Johnson, chief architect of the ID Movement, is a lawyer. William Dembski, one of ID's best known popularizers, is a mathematician. Henry Schaefer, a chemist. David Berlinski, a philosopher. Roland Hirsch, chemist. In fact, in order to scrounge up a mere 400 names of "Scientists" who "are skeptical of" (the sufficiency of) evolution (to explain certain aspects of natural history) for its list, the Discovery Institute was willing to include such luminaries as:

Donald J. Harahan, PhD - electrical engineering
Theodore W. Geier, PhD - Forrest (sic) Hydrology
Karl Duff, ScD - mechanical engineering
James Thompson - Professor of Statistics
J.B. Lee - Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering
and, perhaps my favorite:
Perry Mason - Professor of Mathematics and Physical Science, Lubbock Christian University.

I'm impressed.

But seriously, only a tiny minority are actual, trained biologists. Some of them aren't even scientists (engineering ain't science). Yet, the DI headlines their announcement thusly: "Over 400 Scientists Convinced by New Scientific Evidence (sic) that Darwinian Evolution is Deficient". (The statement signed by these 400 luminaries actually says nothing about "new scientific evidence", and one of the most notable things about the DI is that they have yet to provide anything empirical in support of their claims. If ID is such a wonderful theory, why do they have to lie so much?)

Now that that is out of the way... the point: for the few actual biologists who entertain ID, it is universally the case that their theological axe to grind steers their opinions and research on the science. That's why Michael Denton made his big dumb error. And that's why, after Denton acknowledged his error and the fact of common descent, he became largely orphaned by the rest of the movement. And that's why, even the Movement who are actually trained biologists, we find evidence that their ideology precedes their evidence in sorting out their views. Take Jonathan Wells, for instance, who pursued his PhD for the purpose of furthering the Unification church's political goals.

And that's the point... whether it is the effects of tobacco, global warming, evolution, or whatever else - if your agenda isn't to best understand the evidence no matter where it leads, you are bound to produce mistakes and bad results. And that's the real problem with intelligent design.

A couple of other smijer quotes, with less commentary:

smijer on Gay Marriage:

It's of major social importance in the U.S. to build institutions which encourage monogamy and foster strong families... it's the most important thing in the world to the "Pro-Family" group... until you want to include gays. Suddently "pro-" turns into violently and hatefully "anti-"...

Fact is, it ain't "family" they are in love with - they can sing the praises of "family" or outlaw it with equal vigor... It's themselves and their pretty little holier-than-thou ideas about morality that they are in love with.

Now, why can't I sum it up so well when I'm posting cold?

On the same thread:

Will of Which People?

The people who actually have a stake in it? Their will is to be entitled to marry.

The will of the people who fear or hate the people who actually have a stake in it? Honestly, I don't see why their will should take precedence since it doesn't affect them in the least. Even if they happen to be in a majority currently.

So, I've said that here before. But it bears repeating.

I had other examples in mind when I started this post, but I'll have to pick them up later... The moral is - post some comments here, folks! Let's have some debate & dialogue!

Posted by smijer at 08:42 PM | Comments (5)

Speaking of Wine....

from - Buck

How about a bottle of this!

Ain't if funny that no matter how far back you go mankind has always known how to make happy liquids.

I have no idea how they figured out which plants to smoke or which mushrooms to eat.

We just seem to have a knack for that kind of thing.

Maybe it is as a friend once told me. The desire for an altered state of conciousness is innate. The only thing that varies is how one chooses to be altered.

Posted by Buck at 11:48 AM | Comments (1)

September 06, 2005

The Exonerated

from - smijer

It's well past my bedtime, but here I sit, blogging and sipping red, red wine, and trying to wind down. I'm very psyched. I just came home from our first read-through of The Exonerated. My part in it is negligibly small, but any part at all in a presentation like this is a priviledge. If you are a Chattanoogan and haven't seen this play before, I beseech you to plan to attend one of the showings.

I won't have time to write in the morning, because of a conference at the high school, so let this serve as my Wednesday morning post, and please don't begrudge me the recent slowdown. It seems like everything happens at once these days, and time just gets away.

Posted by smijer at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

Lack of perspective

from - Buck

I pulled an old Boortz out of the archive today.

Neal's Islamophobia is clear but his denial of the situation on the ground in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama is stunning

what we are seeing in New Orleans today is nothing compared to what we might see if Islamic terrorists ever manage to realize their dream of bringing a nuclear device into this country. We're seeing tremendous losses and devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This is nothing compared to what you might see if the radical adherents of the wonderful, peaceful religion of Islam realize their dreams.

Can a suitcase nuke really devastate 90,000 square miles?

Posted by Buck at 10:21 AM | Comments (3)

Talk About the Passion

from - smijer

Empty prayer, empty mouths, combien reaction Empty prayer, empty mouths, talk about the passion Not everyone can carry the weight of the world Not everyone can carry the weight of the world

Borrowed words. I still can't find any of my own. I don't have much time or inclination to chat about the devastation on the gulf coast. I hope that we will all do what we can to help.

I don't have much time or inclination to talk about anything else. I had a post or two prepared about trade relations with Canada and Christian Zionism, but they just don't seem to matter right now.

Please take care of yourself, whoever you are.

Posted by smijer at 07:48 AM | Comments (1)

September 02, 2005

Friday Doggies

from - smijer

To my everlasting shame, they remain nameless...

nameless2.JPG


nameless1.JPG

Would a doggie without any name at all, purr as sweet?

The Friday Ark

Posted by smijer at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

Speaking of God in a box...

from - Buck

My disc golf buddy Patrick, who is also a teacher of journalism at Clemson University sent me this link today.

I had never seen it even though he told me that it has been widely distributed in certain circles.

I found it absolutely fascinating. If you have never seen it, watch it. Twice.

Ain't it a great time to be alive.

Posted by Buck at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

Late Again

from - smijer

The Friday fun will have to wait until the afternoon, or sometime here, but the ark has plenty to keep your eyes full until then.

Posted by smijer at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005

God in a Box

from - Buck

If you’ll take a look over at Buck’s Daily Links you will notice that Smijer has added a couple of other sites.

Mongo’s Place is a local (locally for me anyway) Vent site where folks from my small hometown of Toccoa, Georgia get together and shout at one another. Some folks call it reasoned debate. Others see it as a lawsuit just waiting to happen. Feel free to wander in and look around. We have lots of fun over there. You will have to register to post to the main board but there is a place called “The Sounding Board” where you can come in and say “Buck Sucks” and then leave, anonymously. Like I say, we have lots of fun over there.

Empire Burlesque is the blogspot of Chris Floyd. I love to read the writings of Chris Floyd. He is well to the left of me politically but I love his style of writing and I find myself agreeing with him at least half of the time. I cannot wait until there is a Democrat in the Whitehouse so I can find out if Chris is really an objective critic or just a hater of all things Republican. That day will come.

I keep a copy of “Broken Light” on my computer and just read it from time to time. I think it is classic. It is politically neutral and beautifully written. If any of you guys know where Chris Floyd was born and raised I would love to know. His bio only says “his career began in the hills and valleys of Tennessee and down in the piney swamps of southern Mississippi” but nothing about where he was born.

Smijer I know you will like Chris Floyd much more than you like Fred Reed.

These are just a couple of other places that I wander around in. The Internet has so many fascinating places and is full of so much information that it can get overwhelming.

It is almost like having God in a box.

Posted by Buck at 06:54 PM | Comments (2)

National Nightmare

from - Buck

The situation in New Orleans is horrifying. I was stunned when I found out that people were actually shooting at the helicopters sent in to help try and relieve some of the suffering.

The real tragedy is that even though the vast majority of those stranded are decent people who find themselves trapped in a nightmare they will all be labeled as rabble and worthless welfare recipients who deserve to drown or starve since they are shooting at the rescuers.

No potable water. No electricity. Chaos in the streets.

New Orleans is experiencing the reality of a different and yet very similar version of shock and awe.

Posted by Buck at 10:36 AM | Comments (4)

Katrina

from - smijer

I've been a little bit out of the news loop for the last couple of days... It really only sunk in to me yesterday just what really happened on the Gulf Coast this week. There isn't much that hasn't already been said, so I will just repeat the words: my sympathy and best wishes to those affected.

No one reading this should have the least trouble finding on-line resources for sharing cash donations. I will do what I can through the inevitable special offering being taken up this Sunday at church. If you want to donate online, I expect you won't do much better than the American Red Cross. At the local level, a Red Cross Shelter is opening in Hixson, though I can't find instructions for assisting at this particular facility.

Peace.

Posted by smijer at 07:07 AM | Comments (0)