Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Creationist By Another Name

The comments to an article on the Freshwater lawsuit included a post by someone who, while not supporting Freshwater and identifying himself (I suspect it was a him) as an atheist, insisted that scientific thought was ideological dogma and that scientists practiced "Copernicanism". I left a comment based on my knowledge of the region and the articles I have read, then addressed the above person's comment, saying something defending scientific method and suggesting that I didn't get the point he was trying to make.

The person responded that I didn't get it because I was blinded by my "ideological righteousness" and questioned whether peer reviewed papers would get published if they were reviewed by right-wing fundamentalists instead of left-wing liberals. Then he said I'd never learn and left a link to a website. This person appeared to have issues, but I checked out the link anyway.

The link was to an article by Richard Ryals about the "anthropic principle". Since some of the phrases were very similar to the above comments I suspect they were the same person. The article is about how there's proof that the anthropic principle is valid and people are refusing to acknowledge the evidence.

As I understand the anthropic principle, the proponents believe that the universe is evolving like life on Earth, that there is a "Goldilocks zone" in the universe that has evolved especially to develop intelligent lifeforms and that the universe was predisposed to create intelligent lifeforms as its inevitable goal.

To me it sounds like creationism without the deity, but instead of a god existing to create people, the universe exists to create people and other equally intelligent life. I might have missed an issue of "Scientific American" but I don't remember hearing about proof of extraterrestrial life or a Goldilocks zone in the universe so currently this is untestable and unobservable which would make belief in it, to quote the commenter, "ideological dogma". Nonetheless, the commenter apparently thinks that the anthropic principal should be part of the eighth grade science curriculum.

I think the most important part of science education is to teach students to use scientific method to think objectively and throw out personal biases. Only those things observable, testable and reproducible should be considered in a science class. Gods and anthropic principals can be added when objective evidence can be presented, until then, they don't belong in a science class.

If insisting on factual evidence as a prerequisite to inclusion in science class and peer reviewed publications identifies me as a left-wing liberal, so be it. I think it's a lot better than believing in 6000 year old planets or predestined aliens.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Failure is the Best Option

Some conservative Republicans are advocating a boycott of all General Motors products to protest the Obama administration's management of the failing car maker. The boycotters have made it clear that they want GM to fail so the administration will look bad. I think I sense bathwater and a baby flying toward a window. The conservatives involved have assured the workers that they have nothing against them, but if the boycott succeeds, the auto workers and employees of all the supporting industries will be just as unemployed. I don't think this is a very well thought out plan because:

1. The Obama admin. stepped in at the request of GM and both parties agreed that the collapse of the automaker would cause an economic catastrophy in the US.

2. These Republicans hate Obama's plan, but, as far as I know, nobody, especially these guys, has come up with an alternative plan, so if the administration stops helping, we'll all just stand around watching the barn burn down.

3. The boycott plan is being broadcast on radio and television shows, making it clear who is behind the scheme so if it's successful and hundreds of thousands of people loose their jobs and the economy collapses, who do you think will be blamed? Will people blame the govt. that's making an honest effort to help or the conservative activists whose declared goal is to cause GM to fail?

I sure hope this is as obvious to everyone else as it is to me, because if these reactionary morons continue to be perceived as the spokespersons for the GOP, the Republican party is headed for extinction, and Jon Stewart will have nothing to talk about.

Fix it if it is broke

I went to the doctor's office today to get prescriptions to refill my meds for depression and ADD and it got me thinking. I think it's cool as hell that I can swallow a few pills in the morning and have a brain that functions better as a result, but I've known people that flatly refuse to even discuss with a doctor the possibility that they might benefit from such medication (even though they have obvious symptoms). I mean, if some one told me that there was a simple way to improve the performance of my motorcycle, I sure wouldn't stand around denying that the bike had a performance problem. Some people just seem to prefer being miserable and making life miserable for everyone around them, and I suspect their motorcycles run rough too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Freshwater Hates Real Education

John Freshwater is back in the news. It wasn't enough that for the last 20 years or so he has taught 8th graders to distrust and misunderstand science by teaching creationist propaganda, or that he burned a cross into a student's arm with a tesla coil and then accused the victim of lying, or that when he was fired, he insisted on a hearing even though the evidence against him was overwhelming and that has cost the school district at least $300,000 and still counting. Now he has filed a federal lawsuit for $1,000,000 in damages and his teaching job back.

This guy is more self-absorbed than an ingrown sponge. At the hearing they have presented pictures of the student's injury, examples of the creationist handouts that he passed out in class, examples of the posters with bible quotes he displayed in the classroom, and testimony from students, teachers and administrators that he was still teaching creationism after being specifically ordered to stop. So Freshwater's lawsuit claims that he has been defamed, misrepresented and has had his constitutional rights violated. Then he expects the people of Mount Vernon OH to forget about him bankrupting the school system, defaming his coworkers and students, practically causing a religious war, and just let him go back to his old classroom to teach whatever he damn well pleases for as long as he wants. If he cared one iota about educating kids he'd have shut up and gone home last June, but he's so convinced the he's always right and anyone who disagrees should be punished that he will probably keep fighting until he destroys the educational system of all Ohio.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

History Through a Glass Darkly

The well informed and objective folks at World Net Daily (aka Whirled Nut Daily) have come up with this thought-provoking, ignorant, crap, bumper sticker:

At the time of the American Revolution, our founding fathers would not have even known what this meant. Right and left political labels were the product of the French Revolution a few years later and then those that were said to be on the right were the Royalists and on the left were the Revolutionaries. The counterparts in the American Revolution would have been the Tories, those loyal to the King, on the right and the founding fathers of the United States on the left. I suspect they would have resented being called extremists as well since their goal was to create a well-reasoned representative government without any of the irrational emotionalism associated with extremists.

This is one of those things that really gripes my cookies. Politicians and pundits are always projecting their own attitudes and opinions onto iconic historical figures and then declaring them as historical fact. If George Washington knew all nonsense that people have said he represented, he'd come back and kick their butts.

When I have encouraged people to study more history, they frequently ask what value all those boring facts have in their life. The answer is simple. If you know the real historical facts, then you know when devious politicians and wind-bag pundits are trying to manipulate you into believing absurdities.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DHS is Right and Conservatives are Confused

DHS are my initials so I may be biased, but last month the Department of Homeland Security released a report saying that they expect an increase in violence from right wing extremists who are frustrated by illegal immigration, the bad economy, and a black president. The DHS was referring to extremists like an anti-abortion wacko who might kill a doctor (like last week) or a white supremacist wacko who might start shooting at the Holocaust Museum (like earlier today), but conservative common taters are convinced, for no apparent reason, that the evil communist-fascist Obama conspiracy is out to get them.

Six months ago conservative journalists and friends were the most vocal supports of DHS and frequently reassured those concerned about the department's sweeping powers that they had nothing to fear unless they were doing something wrong. Now conservatives are concerned. Hmmm. The weirdest thing is they've all decided they are right wing extremists.

I think that they think that the Obama administration is labeling all conservatives as right wing extremists so they are adopting the term as a badge of pride and printing bumper stickers to reflect that. Of course, what the DHS is worried about is the real lunatic fringe that does seem to be coming out from under their rocks. The result is a bunch of good, law-abiding people plastering their vehicles with signs that suggest that they are avid supporters of Adolph Hitler, white supremacists and the Oklahoma City bombing. Do these guys think that will attract more people to the Republican Party?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Newt and Huck Channel Pilgrims

In an interesting parallel to my last post about Pilgrims, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee spoke at a Rediscovering God in America rally in Virginia last Friday. Newt said in his address that Christians in the U.S. today are "surrounded by paganism" This sounds kind of like the Pilgrims when they were seeking religious isolation by moving to a place already populated by people who's religions included nature worship.

Not to be outdone, Huck said that the CA proposition that made gay marriage illegal again was "a miracle from God's hands" completely ignoring the Mormons who rallied to vote for the proposition. This sounds a lot like the Puritans, when they gave god credit for the help that the Indians provided.

Most importantly, both politicians insisted that the US belongs to the (conservative evangelical) christians. They, like their Pilgrim forefathers, demonstrate and advocate complete intolerance to anyone whose beliefs are different. Furthermore, the rally took place at Rock Church which is connected to a group that advocates armed insurrection and martyrdom for their cause. So they, like the Pilgrims, may want all Americans either to follow their religion or they will be banished, jailed, or executed.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Enough with the Pilgrims

Just about every time some one argues that the US is a christian nation they bring up the Pilgrims. Because the Pilgrims were christians of the puritan denomination that, according to legend, came to America for religious freedom, they somehow had something to do with the US Constitution about 160 years later. I think the proponents of a christian nation need to read more.

First of all, the Pilgrims were not the first North American colonists. It should be remembered that Native Americans with their own perfectly good religions were here for thousands of years before any of the usual suspects arrived. Then there were Norse, French traders, Spanish conquistadors, abandoned African slaves, and English colonists in Virginia, just to name a few, before the Pilgrims.

Second, they didn't come for religious freedom; they came for religious isolation. They had freedom to practice their religion in Holland, but what they really wanted was to get rid of the Church of England so they used the Dutch printing industry to print anti-C of E pamphlets which they smuggled into England. This naturally did not sit well with the head of the English Church, who also was King of England, James I. That made advocating the ouster of the head of the church sound remarkably like treason against the crown, because it was. Furthermore, they didn't much care for Holland with all those less pure christians running around practicing religious freedom too.

Third, when they got to America, they acted like a bunch of narrow-minded, intolerant jerks. The Native Americans in the region were helpful and tolerant, except when the Pilgrims stole food or desecrated their graves, and when the local tribes frequently saved the Pilgrims from starvation and death, the Pilgrims thanked their god rather than the people who actually did the work and provided the food. When any new English colonists arrived, they either had to follow the Puritan religion or they were banished, jailed, or, in at least on case, executed.

These are the great forefathers that advocates of a christian nation want to hold up as examples; people who would not have tolerated the religious beliefs of any of their modern admirers, who would have abhorred the kind of religious freedom advocated in the Constitution, and who were the kind of bores you would never invite to a party.

Only Sperm is Sacred

The murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas and subsequent comments from anti-abortion people have made it very clear that they care nothing about any post-partum human, the sanctity of the church, or the constitution and laws of the United States, and, since they murder lawful citizens and blow up buildings, they really are indistinguishable from other terrorists. While I'd like to see all the supporters of anti-abortion violence hauled of to Gitmo, what I find most disturbing is that the so-called pro-life advocates obviously don't give a crap about what happens to any life after it has left the womb.
An on-line forum my wife follows contained a thread about abortion attitudes and after a lot of the usual back and forth some one posted this:

"In every abortion thread I've ever been apart of I always ask the same questions and get ignored...

If you are anti-abortion how many children have you adopted or will you adopt? Do you donate money to helping children who have been given up by their parents?

Does anyone know the statistics of how many anti-abortion people adopt children in the US every year?

If you are going to offer no solution to the problem...

Because really, who is going to take care of these unwanted children? The already overburdened system?"

As predicted, all those previously chatty pro-lifers suddenly forgot how to use a keyboard and I don't think it was because they all rushed off to adopt a child. Most of them just want to spit venom and brag about their moral superiority but when the living, breathing children that their actions created needs help, they're too busy picketing clinics and threatening staff to step up to the plate.

A little post-script: My wife has a cousin who actually walks the walk. He and his family are pro-life evangelicals who have adopted a lot of these unwanted children, so they're not all hypocrites, but this cousin is obviously a rare exception to norm.