Monthly Archives: February 2012

Controversial Ads in Pennsylvania

Free speech is an important right, but are there limits? Should there be limits? Can a billboard ad be so controversial or offensive that it should be rejected?

I’m about to show you an ad that was submitted to be displayed on buses in the County of Lackawanna Transit System. It was rejected based on the advertising policy that they do not run ads “which could be deemed controversial or otherwise spark public debate.”

Read the rest of this entry

Objecting to Science Education 2 (Religious Boogaloo?)

Ok, so we have creationists claiming that evolution is a lie and that their religion’s creation story is an accurate & factual account of the beginnings of life, the universe, and everything. Let’s talk a bit about some of the things that they do with this idea.

“Intellectual freedom” is a phrase found on many bills working their way through many state legislatures right now. Almost without exception, these bills are designed to either bring some form of creationism into classrooms or to muddy up science education by suggesting that evolution is somehow optional. (Evolution’s about as optional to biology as gravity is to physics.) The idea here is that teachers are having their freedom restricted by being expected to teach science in science classes.

I suppose in the strictest sense, that’s true. Teachers would have more freedom if they could teach anything they felt like without having to consider the truth or accuracy of their lessons. But I have trouble getting behind the idea of the freedom for state-sponsored institutions to lie to children. Read the rest of this entry

Objecting to science education

So now that I have a workable, if simplistic, outline for what evolution is, let’s talk a bit about some of the groups and people out there opposing it as a scientific theory, especially those who are trying to have the teaching of it banned from public schools.

The most common objections I’ve seen to the theory of evolution are on religious grounds. The more honest ones are open about that, but you also get the occasional liar for Jesus. Perhaps the most famous example is “Intelligent Design”, which was a poorly executed attempt to camouflage religion as science and sneak it into classrooms. The resulting trial is the subject of a NOVA documentary which is well worth checking out. It also gave us the term “cdesign proponentsists”, possibly the clearest indicator of the dishonesty of the ID movement, certainly the funniest.

The Intelligent Design advocates are still out there, but they seem to be much diminished now. In recent years, they have apparently given up trying to pretend that they’re promoting a scientific theory without a religious agenda and openly refer to Jesus & the Bible on their websites. Since I’ve already written about their hypothesis here, I’ll move on to more typical (even generic) creationism. Read the rest of this entry

Evolution for drunk people

From U.C. Berkeley’s Understanding Evolution site:

Biological evolution, simply put, is descent with modification. This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations).

I had a drunken hot tub conversation the other night about evolution. It was the kind of discussion that would probably have been a lot more interesting if it had started much earlier, but it was still fun trying to hang on to a train of thought.

People get funny about evolution. Some people will claim that it doesn’t happen, but they will freely accept that, for example, we each get a random mix of traits from our parents. Given this premise, it’s impossible for populations not to evolve. People will be different, and those who thrive better will pass on their traits to more children so that their genetic legacy will have a stronger influence on the future population than those who are less successful. You really can’t have sexual reproduction without evolution. Read the rest of this entry

Well, damn

In all the crazy busy rush yesterday I totally forgot to blog. I actually have reminders set up, but they can’t help if I’m away from the desk all day.

I will try to catch up with proper posts, but if not this will have to count for one.

Because pointing to cool stuff doesn’t take long.

Running out of time here, so instead of the big post I had in mind here’s a link to Girl Genius, one of the best comics ever made. It’s so good it got through my usual distaste of comic books. You can read it for free on the web, or you can buy books to curl up with or as gifts for your friends, loved ones, and me.

They call it a “gaslamp fantasy” series, but most people would call it “steampunk”. Set in a demented version of Europe in a world ruled(poorly) by mad science, Girl Genius follows the adventures of a large cast of larger-than-life characters as they try to survive the escalating chaos. The plot is thick and tangled and darts around like a crazed beast.

The art is so good that it’s a little shocking to look back at the beginning. It wasn’t bad then, it just looks that way compared to now. There are lots of neat little extras all over the website too, so be sure to explore. And apparently they made a novel while I wasn’t looking.

Out of time now, have a great day everyone.

The end is nigh?

I’d read the blog post, and was skimming the comments when I saw a link to this Wikipedia page. That is a really long list of end of the world predictions. If you worry about the Mayan calendar or Nibiru or some other scenario happening soon, perhaps you can take some comfort in seeing that the vast majority of those predictions are already in the past.

The next one on that list, which is also the next I’ve heard of, is Ronald Weinland’s prediction of May 27 of this year. I’m not especially concerned about this, not because of my lack of piety, but because at this point there have been so many predictions that I can’t believe Jesus would take the trouble to issue a warning. I mean, why bother when pretty much everyone is going to ignore it for very sensible reasons?

The sad truth is that an actual end of the world event would probably be beyond our ability to do anything about. But there are cataclysmic events worth thinking about and planning for. Earthquakes, cyclones, volcanoes and tsunamis are all very real, and it’s certainly worthwhile to plan for them.

And then there’s something in between. Read the rest of this entry

Home Sweet Home

Bad Astronomy featured this pic today, which came from the ESA spacecraft Rosetta.

Stunning image of planet Earth

Crescent Earth from 633,000 km away.

Breathtaking, isn’t it? For all the wonders of this vast universe, there are few sights as beautiful as our home. The little water world that’s named, with seeming irony, after dirt, and is home to all the life we’ve ever found. It’s lovely to see it as a place with phases like the moon, to challenge our usual perception. Read the rest of this entry

Making others live by your rules

I’d meant to just toss that video up with a short paragraph and call it a day for blogging, but I foolishly clicked a link I saw on Twitter. I’m going to quote the bit that made me too angry to do anything more productive than this.

Asserting conscientious objections, nurses in New Jersey have said they would not check the vital signs of patients recovering from abortions.

I want to make it crystal fucking clear what I’m seeing here. I’m seeing that nurses, people who are well-trained professionals in taking care of sick or injured people, will not make the basic checks necessary for the safety and well-being of their patient if they don’t like the procedure that patient is in for. And they’re calling it a decision of “conscience”, apparently without irony.

How dare you call that conscience? The word should die on your tongue. Read the rest of this entry

In the interest of fairness…

I love it.

When I was grabbing the embed code, I noticed a comment on YouTube that it wasn’t about birth control, it was about whether the president had the right to tell businesses what to do. If the context is whether or not that business has to obey the law, the answer really should be “yes”. The idea that a business’s rights are being infringed by not letting them ignore the law, or not letting them force their employees’ personal lives in the way they want, should be laughed out of any worthwhile conversation.

Healthy

I saw an article on the front page of the Fresno Bee today from California Watch about preventable hospitalizations. 335,000 in California, I’m guessing in 2011, though the article doesn’t specify. These are cases where someone went to the hospital for something that wouldn’t have been an issue if they’d been getting preventative care, or stuff that would have been dealt with if they’d seen a doctor recently.

The reason there are so many is simple enough, medical care is expensive, and lots of Americans don’t have health insurance. Why that is the case is less clear to me. Read the rest of this entry

I think it’s safe to say that the party of Lincoln is gone now.

This video of Rick Santorum has been circulating recently, and it led me to this, which then led me to this.

Ladies and gentlemen, this person is one of the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination.

I’ve heard it said that both parties have strings being pulled by the same big money interests, and this is the sort of thing that makes that look really plausible. Put on a show to keep the voters distracted, have one side try to take away various civil rights so that people have to fight them, and have the other side “compromise” on various money deals. It just keeps looking less and less like a crazy conspiracy theory.

It’s also depressing as all hell, so here’s a wild west mardi gras zombie attacking me.

Well, I suck.

So apparently if I take one day off, that means I’m useless the next day. Not feeling great right now. Try to do better tomorrow.

Goodnight.

Storytime

As promised, here’s a bedtime story I wrote a couple days ago. Like all my bedtime stories, it was written with no planning to speak of. And like all truly heartwarming stories, the protagonist plots the perfect murder at one point. Read the rest of this entry

Brief vacation.

I’m taking today off. Technically I could leave it at that and fulfill my quota for the day, but that feels a little cheap. So tune in tonight at 9:00pm (US Pacific time) for a bedtime story.

Isn’t that cute?

A friend shared this and I had to say something about it. The gist of that link is that when a boy pulls a girl’s hair or something and adults say, “Oh that just means he likes you”, they are teaching her to accept abuse and bullying as expressions of affection. Somehow, “I agree with every part of this” doesn’t quite cut it. So I’ll add some of my thoughts, and maybe expand on it a bit.

Boys are being taught that this is acceptable, normal, even desirable behavior. Seriously. I doubt many of them are being told “if you like her, go pull her hair” or anything, but that’s still the message they get when they do something like that and adults respond with, “Oh that’s so cute!”

I don’t think many of the boys who do this are proto-abusers, certainly they aren’t necessarily so. I think the reasons are complicated, and probably require more study than I have time for to properly blog about. But it should be discouraged. You don’t have to come down on the kid like a ton of bricks or anything, in fact I think you shouldn’t, but it should absolutely be made clear that it’s not acceptable.

Look, if you think it’s cute, that’s fine. It can be cute when a kid doesn’t know how to deal with something and does something strange. But that doesn’t mean you should let them off the hook. It’s not ok to tell kids, “Well, you broke the rules, but you’re so cute I’m going to overlook it.” Really, I’d prefer you didn’t even let them see that you thought it was cute at all.

I only skimmed the comments on that link, but I liked the idea of practicing yelling out. That strikes me as an excellent idea. I can think of several situations in my childhood when that would have been useful.

You know, I really thought I’d have more to say about this, but honestly I can boil it all down to “teach your sons not to do this, your daughters not to put up with it, and don’t let their teachers brush it off.” It’s not the kind of thing that should be acceptable, and it’s not a precedent we want people growing up with.

We search for things. Things to make us blog.

It’s the 15th again, so today we’ll be looking at my search stats for the last month. Haven’t you always wondered what people type into Google that might lead them here? Now you’ll know!

As usual, the search terms are in bold while my commentary is italic. Read the rest of this entry

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