Vaccines and the failure of doing research on the internet

Reality trumps any number of fallacious arguments made to support a preconceived position based on one or more lies. This is why I am a hard-core empiricist and reject the philosophical school of rationalism, which claims that human reason alone can produce truth. Instead, it has only produced conflict.

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Copyright abuse

First, read this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet[citation needed]. Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of on-line services for copyright infringement by their users.

The DMCA’s principal innovation in the field of copyright, the exemption from direct and indirect liability of internet service providers and other intermediaries, was adopted by the European Union in the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000. The Copyright Directive 2001 implemented the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty in the EU.

Takedown notice

Google asserted misuse of the DMCA in a filing concerning New Zealand’s copyright act,[25] quoting results from a 2005 study by Californian academics Laura Quilter and Jennifer Urban based on data from the Chilling Effects clearinghouse.[26] Takedown notices targeting a competing business made up over half (57%) of the notices Google has received, the company said, and more than one-third (37%), “were not valid copyright claims.”[27]

The original purpose of copyright laws was to protect creativity by allowing artists, both of visual arts and music, to make their fair share of money from selling their own creations. It is certainly unethical for anyone to claim another’s original work as his own and then make a profit from that work being sold.

Too often, however, what happens is that people wanting to censor a viewpoint they find offensive make claims based on their interpretation of the DMCA to claim copyright infringement that is not valid or, even if technically valid, really is not fair at all.

Here is a perfect example. Watch this video by YouTube user cdk007:

Did you enjoy it? Maybe if you were a younger person you were bored by the classical music track that was used for it. But in fact, that was not the original music that was used for the video. Instead, cdk007 used this music first:

That DOES sound 100% better, in my opinion. But soon after cdk007 posted the video about evolution, he was slapped with a DMCA takedown notice and he was forced to replace the soundtrack. But he never claimed the song “Jesus of Suburbia” was his creation, nor did he make money from that video. I doubt that Green Day, the artist that made the song, was to blame for what happened, it seems so unlike them!

What happened in this case was de facto censorship. The DMCA actually SUPPRESSES creativity and freedom of speech and it should be repealed.

The arrogance of Ken Ham

First, read what Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, wrote about Bill Nye, the Science Guy:

http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2012/09/26/my-challenge-to-bill-nye/

First, the AP article quotes Nye as saying the following:

If we raise a generation of students who don’t believe in the process of science, who think everything that we’ve come to know about nature and the universe can be dismissed by a few sentences translated into English from some ancient text, you’re not going to continue to innovate.

So, here is my challenge (one that I gave to the reporter a few times). I want Bill Nye to name one invention—one piece of technology—that would not have been able to be invented without the inventor believing in evolution. Just name one!

But Nye said nothing specific about man-made technology or invention relating to evolution in his quote, did he? I looked up the word “innovate” in an online dictionary.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/innovate

transitive verb
1
: to introduce as or as if new
2
archaic : to effect a change in <the dictates of my father were … not to be altered, innovated, or even discussed — Sir Walter Scott>
intransitive verb
: to make changes : do something in a new way

There are many ways to innovate, but the surest way to do so is to have a mind unfettered by dogma of any kind. Thus anything that limits free thinking limits innovation. It’s not just about Bible based religions. Communist states in the 20th Century also limited innovation and interfered directly with scientific advancement if it seemed to contradict Marxist dogmas.

Ken Ham continues:

Usually, when I have challenged an evolutionist to come up with one example of something invented for mankind that would not be possible without accepting evolution, I get the following response: “Understanding resistance in bacteria and thus being able to invent drugs.”

But as we have written on our website many times before, antibiotic resistance has nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution. Whether one is an evolutionist or a creationist, a researcher can observe the resistance and even understand issues of mutations and other things that can cause the resistance. Such research is dealing with observational science.

The bastard just does not get it, does he? Bill Nye was not merely talking about defending evolution, opposing Creationism, or even rejecting religious dogmas of any kind. He was talking about the dogmatic, bigoted thinking at the very root of Creationist and fundamentalist views.

antibiotic resistance has nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution.

Perhaps, but what about all those Bible verses that depict people as being demon possessed, when they could have merely suffered from mental diseases? Had we never looked harder at such people in the real world we all live in, we might not have found ways to treat brain disorders and we would still be in fear of demons. Indeed, we have found no evidence of demons, but we have clear evidence of mental disorders and have used science, with its INNOVATIVE thinking, to enable people with these disorders to enjoy productive lives. THAT is what Nye could have been talking about!

Screw you and your (bowel) movement, Ham! Your challenge is bogus!

An Explanation about Science

Science is an empirical enterprise and thus it works through the examination of the material universe and all that exists within it. Through detailed observation, experimentation, debate, and tentativeness, science advances one step at a time through producing more and more detailed and accurate portrayals of what exists in the universe. And it is precisely because of the principles of peer review and the willingness to reconsider long accepted ideas that errors made in science can be corrected and new findings revealed and confirmed that overthrow long accepted theories.

The problem arises when certain people, adhering to extremist dogmas whether of religion or political ideology, find the findings of modern science in conflict with their beliefs. They could do the seemingly obvious thing of abandoning or modifying their beliefs to fit the evidence that all can see. Sadly, some do not. Instead, they make claims that oppose the scientific consensus, and then to explain why most in the scientific community do not accept these claims, they make additional claims of a conspiracy theory that seems to involve a great many people, which is itself unlikely in the extreme.

There is nothing wrong with proposing alternative hypotheses to explain phenomenon in the universe, and we must encourage this as much as possible for science to advance. But what must not be allowed is the assertion as dogma of anything that claims to be scientific but has never been tested through the long and slow process of peer review and subsequent examination by independent observers.

The arrogance of those who would deny the value of scientific processes, often by those who themselves have little understanding of how science works, just illustrates the incredible power of the Dunning–Kruger effect, as described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect  We must understand that such is the danger of these attitudes that they should not be tolerated for long once they are fully exposed for what they really are.

Examples of a such unscientific and pseudo-scientific dogmas are Creationism, Global Warming Denialism, AIDS Denialism, and anti-Vaccinationism. Often, these stem from legitimate problems with a procedure, such as faulty vaccinations discovered to occationally cause problems in children, and are exaggerated far beyond rational bounds and turned into an absolute (“Vaccinations should no longer be given to children at all because a few became autistic a few months after their injections!”).  We must remember that the ONLY way for anything to advance in science is by the accumulation of empirical data, and repeated testing through peer review. Nothing else will ever suffice, because no other method has ever been consistently shown to work at revealing facts.

P Z Myers pushes Atheism, not science, in this talk.

Science is a methodology for studying the universe and everything in it, as well as the conclusions reached over time from repeated use of that methodology. That’s all it has ever been and ever should be.

The traditional view of God is of a Creator of the universe. He is not a part of the universe, otherwise he could not have been its Creator, therefore science can never study him. And what science cannot study, it has no business making judgements on.

That religion has wrongfully intruded on scientific matters with ancient creation myths means that science CAN rightfully debunk those myths. It does not follow, however, that Theism itself has been disproven by science, because science cannot do that. It can only show what dogmas in religion that relate to things in the universe are wrong, but not dogmas  about anything outside the universe!

And that is why P Z Myers’ assertion here that “if you’re not an Atheist, you aren’t doing science right” is really a case of arrogant dogmatism on his part and need not be taken seriously by anyone who knows what the real conception of God by most theistic religions is.

A question of incest

I just got a comment from someone named Sally. Rather than approve it where it was placed, I will copy and paste it here, along with the identifying information on it, and attempt to respond to its  points in red.

Sally
sallyfancy@hotmail.com
200.127.106.252

I have a question for you, please don’t consider that I’m attacking you.

Usually when someone opens with something like that, he is about to make a statement that really IS an attack. 

I like how you expose ignorants and bigots in this blog, but I fail to notice something important now you’re bringing up the subject of homophobia. As a bisexual woman myself in a same-sex long term relationship, I am definitely against homophobia, and as a liberal person I condemn any kind of discrimination. I’m also agnostic, so I don’t refrain from critizing religions. So far I guess we pretty much agree in our views, but I haven’t seen you (maybe you did and I’m not aware) critizing the criminalization of consensual incest between adults.

Of course, she would equate the prohibition of incest with the prohibition of homosexuality, since both were condemned in the Bible and in all Abrahamic religions. But just because the Bible condemns something doesn’t make that thing good for atheists to accept. Unless you think atheists should also accept stealing and murder.

Please note that I’m not talking about incestuous rape or incestuous abuse of minors, only consensual incest and between consenting adults. I’m sure you’re aware that consenting adults involved in consensual incestuous relationships are going to jail, punished by archaic laws because of a victimless crime like this.

I wonder if she saw my blog entries about prostitution. But even prostitution is not the same as incest, just as homosexuality is not the same as incest.

I’m not incestuous myself nor planning to ever be, but seeing how a good number of people is threatened with a long imprisonment (until 14 years in Canada, for example) only for loving a person of their family causes me too much indignation, even more noting that almost none of these self-avowed liberal activists seem to care or speak in their favour.

Loving a family member? Sorry, but in fact I do not equate “love” with having sex. If you do, I think you have some serious issues.

Please, if you really hate hypocrisy and bigotry this much, I encourage you to show support to consenting incestuous adults, they deserve to live and love in freedom.

Hypocrisy is when you profess a system of values that you fail to live up to in practice. Since I have never professed support for legalizing incest, I would not be a hypocrite. As for bigotry, that charge would make sense only if it could be proven that incest was something as fundamental to human nature as skin color. All the evidence indicates just the opposite. Unlike homosexuals, who are compelled by their nature to engage in sexual relations with members of their own gender, there is no evidence that people who practice incest are obeying some natural instinct. In most cases, there are plenty of other possible mates for the incestuous partners to avoid having sex with each other.

And I beg you not to perpetuate the offensive “deformed offspring” myth, deformed is NEVER an aceptable [sic] word to qualify a human being. 

Why not? It’s only descriptive of the person’s physical nature. It’s not a racial slur like the N-word is for black people of African descent.

Yes, disabled children may be born from incestuous couples, but most of consenting incestuous couples are NOT interested in having offspring and even if they can’t help loving a relative they’re consciously against inbreeding, besides sex is not longer only for procreation purposes (my partner and I are both women and still have sex, that’s pretty much self-explanatory), and contraceptives and sterilization exist for a good reason.

You earlier called the issue of “deformed offspring” a myth, then admitted it is not so. It seems interesting that you try to make incest more palatable by claiming that incestuous couples need not have children, but in fact there are cases of such couples who do, and often those children ARE deformed. Indeed, ONE such child resulting from such a union would be one too many!

Consensual incest between adults cause no harm to anybody, people shouldn’t be punished for loving or having sex with another consenting adult. Please, help us end the hatred and spread the tolerance, it’s very much appreciated.

Incest is harmful because it limits genetic diversity in the offspring that result from it, and thus it negates the most obvious evolutionary benefits of sexual reproduction, indeed making it pointless.  The accumulation of recessive genetic mutations results in a inbred line being weakened over time. Consider this sad case:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbreeding#Royalty_and_nobility

  • One of the most famous example of a genetic disorder aggravated by royal family intermarriage was the House of Habsburg, which inmarried particularly often. Famous in this case is the Habsburger (Unter) Lippe (Habsburg jaw/Habsburg lip/”Austrian lip”) (mandibular prognathism), typical for many Habsburg relatives over a period of six centuries.[24] The condition progressed through the generations to the point that the last of the Spanish Habsburgs, Charles II of Spain, could not properly chew his food.[25]
  • Besides the jaw deformity, Charles II also had a huge number of other genetic physical, intellectual, sexual, and emotional problems. It is speculated that the simultaneous occurrence in Charles II of two different genetic disorders: combined pituitary hormone deficiency and distal renal tubular acidosis could explain most of the complex clinical profile of this king, including his impotence/infertility which in the last instance led to the extinction of the dynasty.

And it’s not just humans that are affected badly by inbreeding. Animals like dogs in Japan have also suffered as well!

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/28/business/28dogs.html?pagewanted=all

Rare dogs are highly prized here, and can set buyers back more than $10,000. But the real problem is what often arrives in the same litter: genetically defective sister and brother puppies born with missing paws or faces lacking eyes and a nose.

There have been dogs with brain disorders so severe that they spent all day running in circles, and others with bones so frail they dissolved in their bodies. Many carry hidden diseases that crop up years later, veterinarians and breeders say.

Kiyomi Miyauchi was heartbroken to discover this after one of two Boston terriers she bought years ago suddenly collapsed last year into spasms on the living room floor and died. In March, one of its puppies died the same way; another went blind.

Ms. Miyauchi stumbled across a widespread problem here that is only starting to get attention. Rampant inbreeding has given Japanese dogs some of the highest rates of genetic defects in the world, sometimes four times higher than in the United States and Europe. 

<snip>

Hirofumi Sasaki, a pet store owner in the western city of Hiroshima, has seen so many defective dogs that last year he converted an old bar into a hospice to care for them. So far he has taken in 32 dogs, though only 12 have survived.

One is Keika, a deaf 1-year-old female dachshund with eyes that wander aimlessly. Her breeder was originally selling her for about $7,500 because she is half-white, a rare trait in dachshunds.

“That is an unnatural color, like a person with blue skin,” Mr. Sasaki said.

The breeder told Mr. Sasaki that he had bred a dog with three generations of offspring — in human terms, first with its daughter, then a granddaughter and then a great-granddaughter — until Keika was born. The other four puppies in the litter were so hideously deformed that they were killed right after birth. 

Therefore, my decision is that I will NOT support legalizing incest. I don’t want to see any more people like Charles II or those unfortunate puppies in the future.

What goes around comes around to climate denialists

The Heartland Institute (HI), a think tank devoted to “pro-business” policies and climate change denialism, has suffered its own embarrassing data breach, simular to what happened with Climategate to some climatologists. The results have been most amusing and show clearly the hypocritical nature of the HI.

http://www.desmogblog.com/heartland-institute-exposed-internal-documents-unmask-heart-climate-denial-machine

http://www.desmogblog.com/mashey-report-confirms-heartland-s-manipulation-exposes-singer-s-deception

http://www.desmogblog.com/climategate-victims-chide-heartland-double-standard

http://www.desmogblog.com/heartland-demands-desmogblog-remove-climate-strategy-document

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-h-gleick/-the-origin-of-the-heartl_b_1289669.html

BTW, we never did find out who leaked the stolen e-mails that started the Climategate uproar, did we?

Related articles

Climate “skeptic” attempting damage control after being discredited

It should have been obvious from the 1990s onward that global warming was indeed real and that human activities were chiefly to blame, but many who were entrenched in conservative or libertarian political positions found those conclusions offensive and a threat to their interests, hence the ever-present attacks by climate change “skeptics” who would do everything they could to cast doubt on the evidence regarding the issue. They did that instead of examining their political positions, which a true skeptic should have done!

Now one of them, Richard Muller, has changed sides, but is still trying to justify his earlier attitude. That’s an example of a “notpology“, which is dishonest.

http://news.yahoo.com/skeptic-finds-now-agrees-global-warming-real-142616605.html

WASHINGTON (AP) — A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming spent two years trying to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly.

The study of the world’s surface temperatures by Richard Muller was partially bankrolled by a foundation connected to global warming deniers. He pursued long-held skeptic theories in analyzing the data. He was spurred to action because of “Climategate,” a British scandal involving hacked emails of scientists.

<snip>

“The skeptics raised valid points and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago,” Muller said in a telephone interview. “And now we have confidence that the temperature rise that had previously been reported had been done without bias.”

Muller said that he came into the study “with a proper skepticism,” something scientists “should always have. I was somewhat bothered by the fact that there was not enough skepticism” before.  (Emphasis mine)

That is bullcrap. If Muller was wrong before, he was certainly wrong a decade ago, so why not just say that and leave his ego out of it? Scientists, including proponents of the man-made global warming hypothesis, have to be responsible skeptics to do their work at all and prove it by subjecting their findings to peer review, and it was the peer review process that made that hypothesis credible in the first place. Saying otherwise as Muller is doing is slander.

http://www.dictionaryslang.com/notpology

An apology that doesnt ACTUALLY apologise, but is simply given to make the evil person LOOK/feel better.

Science as a genuine source of spirituality

Science and religion are so often considered rivals that it doesn’t occur to many people that the deepest form of spirituality can be formed from modern scientific knowledge. This video by Symphony of Science illustrates that idea brilliantly:

Enough said! Just watch and enjoy this, then follow the link above to see more videos!

The ultimate blow to global warming denialism

Denialists are not interested in truth or consistency of any kind. Instead, they have a dogma and an agenda and will take advantage of any arguments that serve these things, even if those arguments don’t really fit together. Nowhere does this become more obvious than in the issue of global warming.

John Cook, who runs the website Skeptical Science, has assembled a long list of contradictions made by global warming denialists. With this, he and other contributers totally wreck what little credibility these political and pseudoscientific hacks ever had!

http://www.skepticalscience.com/contradictions.php

 

The ultimate take down of Intelligent Design

Intelligent design

Image via Wikipedia

At the Panda’s Thumb blog, a commenter asked a simple question:

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2011/07/design-and-fals.html#comment-265729

Does anyone have an example of something which is not “intelligently designed”? In Paley’s exposition of the “watchmaker” argument, he contrasts a watch with a stone. But the problem for a traditional theist is that God is the Creator of all things, including rocks. So, to be fair, I suppose that the request should include also unreal, hypothetical things. But the only unreal things that I can think of – centaurs, for example – are intelligently designed. (Which, by the way, shows that intelligent design is not sufficient to explain existence.)

So, what is the difference that intelligent design makes?

He got this reply:

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2011/07/design-and-fals.html#comment-265730

The designer herself is, presumably, not intelligently designed. Hence her existence disproves ID because a non-designed living thing exists. Of course, conversely, her non-existence would show that all living things are designed and hence that ID is true.

:)

rossum

Later, my seeing that hit me like a truck going 100 MPH. I then said:

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2011/07/design-and-fals.html#comment-265838

Amazing! If I weren’t already a non-theist, such a simple but profound argument would have probably converted me from any God-centered religion you could name! You show that Intelligent Design, already impossible to support empirically, can’t even be supported by reason. It is simply WORTHLESS!

Roy Spencer pulls another misleading stunt

Check out this story:

http://news.yahoo.com/nasa-data-blow-gaping-hold-global-warming-alarmism-192334971.html

New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism

Forbes
By James Taylor | Forbes – Wed, Jul 27, 2011

NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.

“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”

In addition to finding that far less heat is being trapped than alarmist computer models have predicted, the NASA satellite data show the atmosphere begins shedding heat into space long before United Nations computer models predicted.

The new findings are extremely important and should dramatically alter the global warming debate.

Scientists on all sides of the global warming debate are in general agreement about how much heat is being directly trapped by human emissions of carbon dioxide (the answer is “not much”). However, the single most important issue in the global warming debate is whether carbon dioxide emissions will indirectly trap far more heat by causing large increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds. Alarmist computer models assume human carbon dioxide emissions indirectly cause substantial increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds (each of which are very effective at trapping heat), but real-world data have long shown that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing as much atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds as the alarmist computer models have predicted.

The new NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA’s ERBS satellite showing far more longwave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted.

In short, the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth’s atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.

When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a “huge discrepancy” between alarmist climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice. Whether or not they do so will tell us a great deal about how honest the purveyors of global warming alarmism truly are.

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

The Heartland Institute is NOT a scientific organization affiliated with NASA at all, but a right-wing think tank.

{{{NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing.}}}

The greenhouse effect is NOT about how much heat is being released by the atmosphere into space, because that would be the same no matter what the composition of the atmosphere! It’s about how long the heat that is in the Earth’s atmosphere remains BEFORE it is released. If LESS heat was being released, the atmosphere would soon grow so hot that life would be impossible and then the oceans would completely boil away, and the temperature would just keep rising to infinity! No “alarmist” climate scientist has ever claimed that would happen. This article is one long strawman type fallacy!

Roy Spencer is a FRAUD! Not only is he a climate change denialist, he is also a CREATIONIST. He has NO business doing science if he doesn’t even support the theory of evolution, a basic concept of modern biology!

Not to mention that last year he was caught doing this to his own data presentations:

Another phony global warming denialist busted!

Dentists, sex dolls and pedophiles, oh my!

This story, and variations of it, are all over the web now:

http://www.cnngo.com/tokyo/life/japanese-turn-sex-doll-dental-training-robot-976056

Japanese turn sex doll into dental-training robot

Tokyo university reveals realistic synthi-patient, claims “root canal” gags play no part in its appeal
By Mark Hiratsuka 1 July, 2011

Tokyo frequently presents a story that’s borderline fiction — sex dolls for cavity-filling practice, puhlease — but the pedigree of the new Hanako Showa 2 dental training robot tells us this is no product of a fevered imagination.

We previously saw big sister, plain Jane Hanako Showa, in early 2010, noting that the synthetic patient was being used in the Showa University dental school for more than simple caries-evacuation practice on her plumbed-in dentures.

That model even incorporated the concept of being female simply so junior dentists could learn not to accidentally fondle her breasts. We kid you not.

Silicone sheath

So, a year and a half later, little sis makes her bow sheathed not in her sibling’s PVC skin, but lifelike silicone, and sporting a host of internal modifications besides.

Hanako 2 genuinely is based on a Dutch Wife-style love doll from Orient Industry in Tokyo’s Taito Ward — trust us, you don’t want to click that link at work — giving her a head start in the “realistic” stakes.

Aside from the human-feel skin on her face, mouth and tongue, she also contains robotics that allow her to mimic a range of motions, including sneezing and gagging when clumsy trainees dip their instruments too far into her gullet.

Talkative, ain’t she?

Hanako 2 also has the gift of the gab and can chat with her human companions about how she’s feeling, what ails her and, probably, how she can manage to speak with all that medical metal in her face.

Japan being Japan, there’s clearly no scope for the tried-and-trusted medical school technique of pulling passersby in off the street for a free “checkup.”

Rather, Tokyo’s finest would-be dentists get to grapple with a chimera created originally for self-gratification, but packed instead with cutting-edge robotics and put to work in the name of a nation’s oral health. It’s a beautiful thing.

My first reaction to this was, “Wow, here’s another example of Japanese technical wizardry being put to a good use! It’s certain better to train dentists with dolls that can react like real patients than with real patients that might be injured or infected due to a mistake.” Continue reading

Even worse than Conservapedia!

Wikipedia has become so immensely successful and useful that it has caused others to create competition to it. Some delusional people with extreme political views have even created alternatives to it, in the interest of countering Wikipedia’s supposed “left-wing bias”. Thus we have things like the laughingstock known as Conservapedia, founded and run by Andrew Schlafly, son of Phyllis Schlafly.

That is bad. But this is WORSE!

http://www.climatewiki.org/wiki/Main_Page

Welcome to ClimateWiki
The Definitive Climate Change Encyclopedia

Global warming is a complicated issue. It’s easy to get confused by all the scientific arguments and conflicting claims. We created this site to help everyone from high school students to scientists working in the field to quickly find the latest and most reliable information on this important topic.

ClimateWiki is an encyclopedia of climate change research organized by topic. If you are new to the issue, consider reading the Introduction to Global Warming. If you are already well versed in the issue, search the Featured Categories in the search box to the right or use some of the other navigation tools on this page.

ClimateWiki is moderated and edited by The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank with offices in Chicago and Washington, DC. Interested in becoming a contributor? Contact John Monaghan at jmonaghan@heartland.org

What kind of an idiot would take such an openly biased source at face value?

Look at this:

http://www.climatewiki.org/wiki/Category:Economics

“There is ample evidence that a warmer world is also a safer and healthier world, yet this fact is seldom mentioned in the debate over climate change. Economists can measure the impact of climate change on various measures of economic wellbeing and calculate, for example, the effect of warmer temperatures per-capita income, the price of food and other essentials, and even on life expectancy. They can also measure the loss of income and jobs that result from restricting access to inexpensive fossil fuels. “

Yeah, because the increasing spread of tropical diseases like malaria are very safe and healthy! NOT! Also, if this new web encyclopedia is really about climate, why mention economics at all? Need I also mention that since fossil fuels are non-renewable, the jobs they provide will eventually disappear anyway and as those resources become increasingly scarce, their price will skyrocket? We must break our dependence on fossil fuels before our world economies are broken in the next few centuries, whether or not we have to worry about climate change.

To show how worthless ClimateWiki really is, just look at this:

http://www.climatewiki.org/wiki/Vincent_Gray
Vincent Gray has had a long career in research laboratories in the United Kingdom, France, Canada, New Zealand, and China. He has specialized in climate science for the past 17 years. He has been an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports from the beginning and submitted 1,878 comments (16 percent of the total) on the 2007 report.

Gray has published widely on a variety of topics. His work on the climate includes The Greenhouse Delusion: A Critique of ‘Climate Change 2001.’ He was a visiting scholar at the Beijing Climate Center in 2006 and attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali.

I wrote about that bastard here:
http://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/a-fake-expert-vs-real-ones-on-global-warming/

But ClimateWiki goes even further than Conservapedia in making sure its claims are not challenged by anyone, at least not on site. When you click on what appears to be the discussion page on any entry and try to edit it, you get:

http://www.climatewiki.org/index.php?title=ClimateWiki%3AUsers&action=edit
You do not have permission to edit this page, for the following reason:
The action you have requested is limited to users in the group: Users.

On other words, the Heartland Institute, which is supposed to champion a free market, censors this site by not allowing any critics to post anything on it! HYPOCRITES!!!

Why the Space Shuttle failed

Texas Tech alumnus Rick Husband was the final ...

Image via Wikipedia

After nearly 31 years of dedicated service to NASA, the remaining space shuttles used by it are being retired. And it couldn’t be done soon enough, for the whole idea of the space shuttle as a means of slashing costs for space launches and making space more accessible was doomed from the start. The reason: the way those vehicles were made in the first place.

There were four parts to each space shuttle at launch: the orbiter that most people think about as THE Space Shuttle, the two Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) , and the External Fuel Tank (EFT) . After the shuttles  were launched, the SRBs would be jettisoned after a few minutes, and then the EFT, drained of its contents, would be jettisoned too just before the shuttle reached orbit. The SRBs would be recovered from the Atlantic Ocean by ships that would drag them back to Cape Canaveral to be used again; the EFT would simply fall back into the atmosphere to be burned up upon reentry.

Thus even though the space shuttle was supposed to be resuable, the actual largest part of it, the EFT, wasn’t! But no one seemed to notice that.

Of the five shuttle orbiters that were built (why so few?), TWO were destroyed! Those were the Challenger in 1986, and the Columbia in 2003.  The first disaster was caused by the launching of the shuttle under extremely low temperatures, resulting in a failure of one of the SRBs. Leaking and burning gas from one of them ignited the EFT, destroying the whole shuttle. The second disaster was caused by a small piece of the EFT hitting the wing of the orbiter, causing enough damage to make reentry too dangerous. In both cases, NASA administrators behaved so arrogantly that they ignored warnings made to them by engineers who knew the limits and risks of the shuttles. As a result of that stupidity, 14 people died needlessly.

If I had been the head of NASA in the 1970s, I would have rejected the proposed design that eventually came out. Instead, I would have insisted on the shuttle launching and landing as a single piece.  I also would have demanded that the shuttle have the potential for interplanetary flights. In all the flights the real shuttles made, they NEVER went beyond Earth orbit, not even to the moon! Manned flights back to the moon and then to Mars, which the shuttle could have made possible, were not even considered!

The space program of the United States was ultimately ruined by the vast sums we spent on the Space Shuttle projects. It’s perhaps the most massive disappointment in all of American history!

P. S.  I have a personal reason for writing this: I was told after the fact that Shuttle Commander Rick Husband, who died on the Columbia in 2003, was a distant cousin of mine, though I never met him. In any case I would have been proud to know him! But now it is too late.  :(

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Douglas_Husband

The New Atheists step up their campaign against the NCSE and the BCSE

This is the direct sequel to:

http://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/atheists-shrieking-about-the-aaas/

Once again, P Z Myers and Jerry Coyne have decided to push for the elimination of all mentioning of religion in scientific organizations, including the NCSE (National Center for Science Education, the American organization defending evolution) and the BCSE (British Centre for Science Education, the version of the NCSE in the United Kingdom).

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/a-bright-spot-at-the-chronicle-and-an-open-letter/

Open letter to the NCSE and BCSE
Dear comrades:

Although we may diverge in our philosophies and actions toward religion, we share a common goal: the promulgation of good science education in Britain and America—indeed, throughout the world.  Many of us, like myself and Richard Dawkins, spend a lot of time teaching evolution to the general public.  There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.  This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution.  I think this is misguided for several reasons, including a complete lack of evidence that your idea is true, but also your apparent failure to recognize that creationism is a symptom of religion (and not just fundamentalist religion), and will be with us until faith disappears. That is one reason—and, given the pernicious effect of religion, a minor one—for the fact that we choose to fight on both fronts.

The official policy of your organizations—certainly of the NCSE—is apparently to cozy up to religion.  You have “faith projects,” you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible.  Clearly you are going to continue with these activities, for you’ve done nothing to change them in the face of criticism.  And your employees, past and present, will continue to heap invective on New Atheists and tar people like Richard Dawkins with undeserved opprobrium.

We will continue to answer the misguided attacks by people like Josh Rosenau, Roger Stanyard, and Nick Matzke so long as they keep mounting those attacks.  I don’t expect them to abate, but I’d like your organizations to recognize this: you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism.  And I doubt that those attacks have converted many Christians or Muslims to the cause of evolution.  This is a shame, because we all recognize that the NCSE has done some great things in the past and, I hope, will—like the new BCSE—continue do great things in the future.

There is a double irony in this situation.  First, your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists.  Second, your assertion that only you have the requisite communication skills to promote evolution is belied by the observation that you have, by your own ham-handed communications, alienated many people who are on the side of good science and evolution.  You have lost your natural allies.  And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.

Sincerely,
Jerry Coyne

Let’s look at some excerpts from this open letter:

There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Note that Coyne does not specify that Dawkins has converted all these former evolution-deniers into atheists.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.

How so? By not openly supporting atheism?

you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism.

HA HA HA HA HA HA! So not affirming atheism is the same as attacking it? REALLY?! Show me ONE official statement by the NCSE or the BCSE that attacks or denies atheism. Just one!

your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists.

Coyne, you are alienated only because you are so convinced that only atheism is true. But that has nothing to do with teaching science. The fact remains that many children from Christian backgrounds will be learning evolution in schools and if they see a conflict between evolution and the Bible, they will remain Creationists rather than give up their faith and accept evolution. The efforts at accommodation by the NCSE and the BCSE are intended to show that you can choose to be religious and deal with science as it is also. It is YOU that is being intolerant, Coyne! It is YOU that choose to be alienated. You can still advocate atheism on your blog while promoting evolution too. No one in the NCSE or the BCSE is saying you cannot.  So what is the problem?

Then P Z says on his blog:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/the_bcse_blows_up.php

How often do we have to repeat ourselves? There is no goal of turning the NCSE or the BCSE into an atheist organization; we think having an organization that is honestly neutral on the religious issue is extremely useful in advancing the cause of good science education for all. We want the NCSE/BCSE to support neither atheism nor religion.

You know what? The atheists in this argument have a crystal-clear understanding of the difference between atheism and secularism, and are saying that the science education organizations should be secular. It’s these sloppy accommodationists who have allowed liberal christianity to become their default position who have violated the distinction.

First, no one is asking Myers and other atheists to repeat themselves, so that is just rhetorical crap. Second, the NCSE has made clear its own religious neutrality.

http://ncse.com/about/faq

What is NCSE’s religious position?

None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum. (Emphasis mine)

Sorry, but until atheists become the vast majority of American and British people, the screaming about accommodation by atheists is pointless. I just don’t accept it. If the atheists wish to have all science organizations never mention religions or treat any religious people with respect again,  they can push for that. And once they get their way, the political support for scientific organizations will most likely dry up.  And the only ones who gain from that would be Creationists. The atheist fanatics are giving them exactly the talking points they need to fight longer and harder the public relations war over science education!

Please support both the NCSE and the BCSE. Here are their websites:

http://ncse.com/

http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/

Making videos for YouTube, finally!

For years, I’ve had a YouTube channel, but lacking a webcam I was unable to make actual videos. So I was content to favorite videos by others and make comments. But that all changed when I finally bought a webcam after several months of hesitation and learned how to edit files on my computer to make videos too.

Here is my first, made purely to test the systems.

Satisfied with that result, I produced this one a couple of days later about one of my favorite topics:

And this will be just the beginning!

Allowing for error and uncertainty in real science.

Genuine science is always based on reality, never dogma. And there are two issues regarding reality:

  1. Nature gives consistent answers based on empirical analysis.  So those answers will tend to be reliable.
  2. Human beings are fallible. That means they make mistakes and do not always make precise measurements.

A contradiction? Not really. Look at these two charts:

http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_hist_few_hundred.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hockey_stick_chart_ipcc_large.jpg

The light blue areas in the first graph, and the grey areas in the second, are uncertainties resulting from the fact that there were fewer measurments relative to earlier time periods than later ones. There were far fewer tide gauges in the late 19th Century than in the late 20th Century. And there were far fewer proxies extending back to the Middle Ages than those which referred only to modern times. And in both charts, there are more precise measurements of sea level (from satellites) or of temperatures (from direct thermometer readings).

Scientists take pride in their honesty, so they allow for errors and uncertainty in their data, even while attempting to increase the accuracy and detail of their measurements. Even if the actual sea levels or temperatures centuries ago were not exactly known, we can still give approximate estimates that are better than knowing nothing at all.

Contrast these two charts with this one:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldeconaf/12/12we18.htm

Where is the uncertainty? This chart seems to depict EXACT measurements of sea levels from hundreds of years ago, which is really impossible! But those who are scientifically illiterate (like many members of the British House of Lords, I would guess), would not realize that!

Which explains why I commented on this chart and others here:

How the hell is it that denialists are willing to accuse the makers of the “hockey stick” graphs of faking data, yet they never noticed anything from their own people like THAT?!

Ironically, when you have no uncertainty allowed for in the data, THAT is a sign of fakery!

I feel like P Z Myers right now!

First, read this:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598

Japan’s most powerful earthquake since records began has struck the north-east coast, triggering a massive tsunami.

Cars, ships and buildings were swept away by a wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude tremor, which struck about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo.

A state of emergency has been declared at a nuclear power plant, where pressure has exceeded normal levels.

Officials say 350 people are dead and about 500 missing, but it is feared the final death toll will be much higher.

In one ward alone in Sendai, a port city in Miyagi prefecture, 200 to 300 bodies were found.

The quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900 and nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, said scientists.

Thousands of people living near the Fukushima nuclear power plant have been ordered to evacuate.

Japanese nuclear officials said pressure inside a boiling water reactor at the plant was running much higher than normal after the cooling system failed.

Ever ready to take advantage of opportunities to mislead the public with fallacious arguments, Answers in Genesis (AiG), the Creationist propaganda outlet, made this statement:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/03/11/japan-earthquake-tsunami

News stations worldwide are reeling at the devastation in Japan due to a massive earthquake—unequaled in the country’s recorded history—and the huge tsunami it produced, which has swept across cities and farmland leaving a trail of rubble and ruin in its wake. The death toll is still uncertain, but is expected to exceed 1,000.

In the face of such destruction, suffering, and death, many people question how a good and loving God could allow such evil to happen. However, this is just another painful reminder of how the curse of sin has affected our world. For biblical answers to this topic, please see the following resources:

Please join us in praying for the victims of this disaster, as well as the families of those affected by it. Also, take this opportunity to share with others the reason for death and suffering, and the answer to the problem of sin—salvation through Jesus Christ.

Seeing this, I was suddenly reminded of this incident on P Z Myers’ blog, Pharyngula.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/plonk.php

philos —- Being a demented fuckwit and world-class asshole —– In an unbelievable act of crass, vile smugness, this petty twerp rushed to my site after the fatal 35W bridge collapse to sneer at atheists. “Contemptible” isn’t a strong enough word for vermin like this, who use tragedy to push their lies on the bereaved. His kind are what make me despise religion.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/08/yikes.php

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/08/yikes.php#comment-520705

Posted by: philos | August 1, 2007 11:41 PM

n strk, w wld b bl t s hw
mch f tr thst y rlly r whn
cnfrntd wth th cryng, trfl
xclmtn frm smn whs kd ws
jst klld n ths brdg ccdnt,
“Wll, t lst thy’r wth Gd, nw.”, thy
sy t y.

Nw, thst, r y gng t tll thm
lk t s, tht thr s n Gd?

r, wll y wmpr wy, scrd t ffrm
yrslf nd lv thr cmfrtng thghts t
thmslvs?

Wht hppnd t th dggd dtrmntn t chng th wrld? Y cld vn thrw hr n f yr nw t-shrts
t wp th trs wy, t sprd yr mssg.

Why nw nd nt vry mnt f th dy, rgrdlss f
dth?

Why th snstvty nw?

S, y cn b nsnstv, ntrfrng sss
98% f th tm bt Dth, ntrl prcss,
wh, y hld ff?

N – y wldn’t sy nythng, y’d kp yr
thghts nd gnd t yrslvs.

Wsh t wr ll f th tm.
[filthy fucking scumbag, and typical goddamned despicable Christian, rushing to exploit a tragedy for his wretched beliefs. Philos is banned.]

Assuming Philos made a statement similar to the stunt AiG pulled, I would have banned the bastard too. Places dominated by Christians get hit by earthquakes and tsunamis (or bridge failures) too. There is NO reason whatsoever to think that following any particular religion makes us immune to disasters, or any other evil.

Indeed, the idea that human sin can override the power of a loving God actually proves that God (at least the kind preached about by AiG)  is unfit for anyone to worship, and that therefore we might as well be atheists or Satanists!

Finally, we are confident that human sin has nothing whatsoever to do with earthquakes and tsunamis, because modern science has explained them well enough. Earthquakes are caused by moving plates of Earth’s crust grinding against each other, those plates in turn driven by convection currents in the mantle, caused by Earth’s internal heat sources, such as radioactivity. And tsunamis are driven by earthquakes deep beneath the oceans driving water up to the land in a massive wave. These facts were discovered by people using the scientific method, which AiG doesn’t follow.

Response to the video “Evolution IS a Blind Watchmaker”

The YouTube member cdk007 is well-known for  making videos attacking Creationism/Intelligent Design, and promoting evolution. This is one of his early works and I consider it to be an masterpiece.

But after seeing it several times, I came up with ways to improve it further. Here are quotes from the video in red and my suggestions in blue on how to make the simulation of natural selection upon clocks even more realistic and consistent with how it works on populations of organisms.

Each clock organism consists of 30 gears, 1 ratchet, 7 hands, 1 spring, and one housing.

Each clock organism consists of a random number of  gears, ratchets, hands, springs, and one housing, determined by mutations of the organisms themselves . Reason: Mutations should be allowed to change the number of clock parts to make the process of natural selection even more difficult. Humans have two kidneys but can survive with one and it is perfectly possible that we could have evolved with only one.

Remove 3 at random and arrange them in order of their ability to accurately tell time. The better two clocks kill the worst clock. Mate the surviving two and produce an offspring.  Return all three clocks to the pool and repeat.

Remove 3 at random and arrange them in order of their ability to accurately tell time. The better two clocks kill the worst clock. Mate the surviving two and produce FOUR offspring. The remaining two older clocks are also killed off. Add the four new clocks to the pool and repeat. Reason: Represents the process of overproduction, which is an actual factor for populations of organisms to evolve over time, plus even the most successful organisms eventually die. As long as they are able to reproduce viable offspring first, they may be considered a success. After two “generations”, the population of clocks will have doubled, and so it will randomly split into two populations which will begin to evolve independently, simulating the process of speciation. Further splits occur every two generations. Finally, after TEN generations, all but two populations will be randomly wiped out, simulating a mass extinction. The cycles of two generations and ten generations continue indefinitely. As a result, the surviving populations of clocks diverge in form over time.

It would probably require a much more advanced computer system, with a lot more memory, than the one cdk007 used for his original simulations, but I still think it is worth a try.

Atheists shrieking about the AAAS

AAAS = The American Association for the Advancement of Science.

First, look at this:

http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2011/webprogram/Session2878.html

Evangelicals, Science, and Policy: Toward a Constructive Engagement

Evangelical Christians constitute approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population, and their influence on public policy is considerable. As a community with major concerns regarding science, ethics, and national priorities, its impact on science policy has been particularly significant, as in the case of stem cell research. Around such controversial issues, communication between science and evangelical Christianity has been hampered by limited appreciation of both the scientific facts and each others’ concerns. On the other hand, new models of positive engagement between these communities around global issues such as climate change is encouraging awareness and leading to science policies that benefit both science and society as a whole. As science progresses in other disciplines, evangelicals will continue to play a significant role, but their positions on many of these issues have not yet been fully formed. The opportunity thus exists to anticipate concerns and to develop a positive understanding that will benefit scientific advancement. One example is neuroscience, which has implications for both policy-making and religious understanding. Speakers will discuss their experiences with stem cell and climate change policy and explore how these experiences can inform engagement between the scientific and evangelical communities to benefit policies relating both to neuroscience and to science more generally.

Do you see ANYTHING there that attacks atheism or says that atheists have no business doing science?

Responses to this by atheist fanatics have been less than rational. Here is Jerry Coyne’s take on it:

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/the-aaas-sells-out-to-christians/

No—here are the real losers: abortion doctors who are shot by evangelical Christians, women forced to bear unwanted babies because abortion is seen as sinful, gays who are either marginalized or demonized because evangelicals consider their thoughts and behaviors as sinful, children who are terrorized—and infused with lifelong guilt—by the concepts of sin and hell, women who must accept their status as a second-class gender. Even believers like Francis Collins, surely on the liberal end of the evangelical Christian spectrum, hold profoundly antiscientific beliefs.  Collins, for example, can’t see how morality could have either evolved or developed in society unless it was a creation of God, and considers the “Moral Law” as profound evidence for the existence of God.  To anyone working in anthropology or neuroscience, that claim is simply embarrassing!

The sooner that religion goes away, the sooner these ills will abate.  “Dialoguing” with evangelical Christians (and granted, not all of them hold the beliefs I’ve just mentioned) only enables superstition—a superstition that, one would think, would be resolutely opposed by a scientific organization like the AAAS.  Remember that Leshner is the CEO of that organization and the executive publisher of one of the world’s two most prestigious scientific journals.

It is not evangelical Christianity that causes anyone to shoot abortion doctors, but the worst form of hypocrisy. That sort of hyperbole from Coyne is prejudicial and disturbing. Couldn’t it be possible that rather than corrupting science, the purpose of the conference is to inform evangelicals about how science can persuade them to moderate extreme positions they otherwise might have taken?

P Z Myers seems to be playing good cop to Jerry Coyle’s bad cop.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/02/when_will_the_aaas_stop_pander.php

I don’t think Nick Matzke can even imagine what a group of secularists would find useful at AAAS — he’s projecting quite a bit, and presuming that such a session would be as one-sided and blinkered as these sessions the evangelical Christians are running. They wouldn’t. I’m as antagonistic to religion as Coyne is, maybe more so (hey, there’s another session possibility: “Atheists Roast Christianity,” where we all vie with each other to insult religion the most), but unlike what the Matzkes of the world assume, we are actually aware of the political situation.

If I were in charge of organizing such a beast, here’s what I’d look for. I’d want to have an honest religionist or philosopher/historian of religion there to give a talk on key doctrinal conflicts: what are they? How do modern Christians and Muslims and Jews resolve them? They are there, of course: there are major points like teleology in the universe and mind-body dualism that are unsupported or even contradicted by science. He wouldn’t have to endorse or oppose any of those points, but simply, clearly, explain where the conflicts lie.

I’d want someone to discuss secular approaches to school and public education. These do NOT involve teaching atheism in the schools. I’m a big fat noisy atheist myself, but when I get into the classroom to teach one of those controversial topics like evolution, my atheism is not an issue, and I don’t tell the students they have to abandon their gods to be a scientist. What the attendees at AAAS do not need is someone telling them how wonderful Christianity is; what would be useful is someone explaining how to teach honest, evidence-based science without compromising their principles, no matter what they are.

I’d want someone with political and legal expertise to discuss what the law actually says about science education. The perfect person would be someone like Barry Lynn, or Sean Faircloth, or Eddie Tabash — a person who could lay out exactly what kind of political tack scientists should take with legislators to keep the taint of religious bias out of support for science.

Actually, the atheist-run version of such a session would be what a science organization should want: instead of some half-assed stab at rapprochement with clearly unscientific, irrational, traditional metaphysics, and instead of the tribal war council the accommodationists imagine, it would be a rational discussion of how secular scientists (which would include religious scientists who are committed to keeping their beliefs out of the lab and classroom) can get their jobs done in a crazily religious country. As long as these pious zealots are left in charge, though, that’s not what we’re getting.

I can go to atheist meetings to get my rah-rah on for godlessness; people like Leshner, the organizer of the currently planned come-to-Jebus meeting, can go to church and get their idiot-ology affirmed there. An AAAS symposium ought to be actually accomplishing something for all of the members of the organization, not just the atheists and especially not just the deluded apologists under loyalty oaths who want to Christianize science.

It would seem that the only thing atheists like Coyne and Myers want with the AAAS is for religion to be mentioned only to highlight its flaws. But that’s not what science is about! Science, in its pure form, ignores all religions and their beliefs. The problem is that scientists do not practice science in its pure form and indeed, no one does…..because they are human. A person who does science and nothing else wouldn’t be human at all, but a robot with no emotions or sense of appreciation for anything non-scientific.

Religion is non-scientific, but only some expressions of religion are anti-scientific. That Coyne and Myers do not seem to understand that distinction and paint anything non-scientific as unworthy of serious discussion in major science organizations only shows their prejudice. I’d hate to see them in an art museum.

Measuring the Universe Wrongly

Take a look at this interactive display of the relative sizes of things in the universe, going from subatomic levels all the way to the entire universe itself.

http://htwins.net/scale/index.html

Now, look at this alternative scenario:

http://htwins.net/scale/wrong.html

Look ridiculous, doesn’t it? And yet this claim is equally ridiculous: that the Earth, instead of being 4 1/2 billion years old, is probably about 10,000 years old.

How wrong is that? First review this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_time_scale

Then see this:

And this:

And this:

Here’s the YouTube channel those videos came from. There are many more!

Science is based on the idea that there is a definite order and consistency to the universe we live in. So if there are patterns to nature and laws to its operations, then we can investigate those patterns and laws, work out from them the nature of the universe itself, and thus increase our knowledge of it.

Creationists will deny this. They claim instead that the only “truth” that matters is what some ancient scriptures say, but that is an absurdity. Anyone can make up scriptures. But only God could have made the universe itself. If God is a consistent being, then the laws of physics and chemistry must be applicable to all of it, throughout space and time. Thus, even if you believe in God, you must conclude from the study of the universe that the timelines and descriptions of certain events given in the Book of Genesis cannot be literally true. Otherwise, if you don’t believe in a consistent God, then you might as well believe in a chaotic, senseless universe like the one in the second link I posted here.

And that is exactly why I call both Young-Earth Creationism and Biblical fundamentalism blasphemous dogmas.

Why Intelligent Design cannot be scientific

We can look at the faces of U S Presidents carved on Mount Rushmore and know they were designed because we can come up with precise explanations for how human beings could have done it. We know human beings exist and that they are capable of doing such work. Likewise, we can examine a crime scene, knowing that human beings exist and are capable of committing crimes like robbery and murder, and how such crimes can be committed. But we know NOTHING directly about the supposed Designer of life on Earth or how he could have operated in the design process. Without that knowledge, Intelligent Design has no real scientific applications. It is nothing more than an appeal to religious prejudices.

The “Health Ranger” attacks vaccines

Imagine the horror of giving a baby a vaccination to protect his health, only to have him become violently ill. Sadly, such things may happen if the vaccines are defective. But when a product is defective, the logical response is to stop using the product for a short time, do an investigation to determine what went wrong with the product, and then replace it with an improved version of the product, NOT ban the product completely and tell people to never use it! But that is exactly what anti-vaxxer loons in Australia are doing!

Continue reading

A denialist makes seductive, but hollow, claims

Check out this comment at the Intersection blog at the Discover Magazine website:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/08/18/will-you-shut-up-just-a-second-will-you-stop-shouting-hard-lessons-in-science-communication/#comment-67676

39.   Steve Says:
August 19th, 2010 at 4:52 pm

AGW proponents argue from a faith in models, implying that we can only postulate what will happen because a real experiment cannot be run. Sadly for AGW proponents, Earth has run the massive atmospheric CO2 experiment. Proxy data shows that atmospheric CO2 has been 10 – 20 times what it is today. The result? The planet survived. It even thrived. Was it warmer than today? For certain periods, yes, it was. But, for other periods, it was colder. These facts alone should be enough to educate an open mind that CO2 is NOT strongly correlated to temperature and catastrophic global warming is impossible.

Lest one think that the proxy data cannot be trusted, we have evidence within recent history of the same result. First, however, a primer. It is well known that temperature follows a logarithmic function in the presence of rising CO2 levels. That is, temperature rises more at a lower CO2 range increase (say, from 100ppm to 150ppm) than at a higher CO2 range increase (say, from 300ppm to 350ppm) . From roughly 1940 to present, CO2 has been increasing. If AGW theory is correct (i.e. CO2 is THE major variable controlling global temperature), then there should be a strong, logarithmic correlation between temperatures and rising CO2 levels after 1940. That is, a larger temperature increase between, say, 1940 – 1950 as opposed to 1990 – 2000. What we see, though, is that global temperature actually decreased slightly between roughly 1940 – 1970 (culminating in the ice age scare) before beginning a roughly 3 decade increase (culminating in the AGW scare). In addition, over half of the global temperature increase of the 20th century occurred BEFORE 1940, when CO2 levels were fairly constant. An open mind that follows data to arrive at a conclusion would rightly conclude that CO2 is NOT a major variable in global temperature.

Frankly, I don’t care if any kind of cap-and-trade system passes. Energy use will not dissipate. And since fossil fuel holds the most energy density, it will be used. Cap-and-trade will simply increase the cost of everything. People will either: 1) demand more money for their labor in order to maintain their standard of living or 2) get poorer. In the period of economic instability, several individuals and companies will get VERY rich.

By 2100, CO2 will have increased even more. If the trend of the past 200 years continues, global temperatures will increase steadily with 20 -40 year modulations that follow the warm and cold phases of the oceans. Our understanding of bioshpere mechanics will have increased immensely and enough data will have been gathered to know that CO2 is not the boogeyman that grant-seeking “scientists” thought it was. If fossil fuel usage is not declining, it will be much more costly (even in inflation-adjusted terms). If we are smart, nuclear energy will be much more abundant. If we are even smarter, we will have found a way to reprocess the waste for re-use. Energy storage technology will have increased to the point that wind and solar energy can provide a steady stream of power around the clock. They will, however, still be a niche technologies.

Our great-grandchildren will look back on this time and wonder what the f*#k we were thinking and curse us for putting politics ahead of common sense and sound science.

First, the models Steve refers to are based on the physical and chemical laws that govern all of matter. If you wish to debunk those models, you must show either that the models are incomplete or that the laws are incorrect. He has not.

Second, Steve does not specify when the CO2 levels were 10 or 20 times higher than today. Indeed, we can be certain that the Earth’s atmosphere was full of CO2 about four billion years ago, just as Venus’ atmosphere is today. The critical difference between the two planets is that Venus is closer to the Sun, and it has no oceans like Earth does to absorb some of the CO2 and lock it away. It also does not have life, including plants to absorb even more CO2. The reason the Sun did not burn us up hundreds of millions of years ago when the CO2 levels were much higher than today was because the Sun was also much less luminous, as you would expect with a star that had less helium and more hydrogen in its core (Helium is at least four times denser than hydrogen and helium is also what hydrogen fuses into to produce its sunlight. Denser concentrations of gas in the cores of stars will indeed be hotter. Strange that Steve overlooked that). And at most geologic periods,  Earth WAS warmer than today and the sea levels were much higher. But that was not a problem because our civilization did not exist. The concern today is that our civilization is so highly adapted to the specific global climate of the late 20th Century that ANY significant deviation from that will do great damage to that civilization.

Third, Steve ignores that fossil fuels are nonrenewable and when they begin to grow scarce, the price of them will skyrocket anyway. Indeed, the best way to lower the price of fossil fuels at present is to REDUCE DEMAND FOR THEM!  Which is a compelling reason to switch to renewable sources; the only reason we haven’t yet is because the fossil fuel companies have rigged our so-called “free market” economy to support their perpetual dominance. That has to be stopped, or we will end up with fossil fuel companies only getting richer and richer at the expense (literally) of the rest of us, global warming or no global warming. That’s why we need governments to step in and use some kind of force to stop them.

Fourth, CO2 is not THE only factor in climate change. The drop in global temperatures between 1940 and 1970 could have been a temporary halt in global warming, not a sign of cooling, due to factors such as the advent of nuclear energy which largely replaced fossil fuels for a time before accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl lessened public support for the use of nuclear fuels, making fossil fuels more popular once again. And since we have had reliable CO2 measurements only since the 1950s, we cannot say for certain what global CO2 levels were prior to that decade. So his claim that “over half of the global temperature increase of the 20th century occurred BEFORE 1940, when CO2 levels were fairly constant,” is unfounded.

Steve is not open-minded at all. He is an idiot who beleives the denialist claims without testing them, as I have.

The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism (via The Word of Me…)

Whenever you wish to appeal to popular prejudices, lie. And the bigger the lie, the better. The biggest lie of all being that evolution is a theory about to fail. It never has, actually.

The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism Copyright 2002  G.R. Morton. This can be freely distributed so long as no changes are made and no charges are made.  http://home.entouch.net/dmd/moreandmore.htm In recent reading of Dembski and other ID proponents I saw them make a claim which has been made for over 40 years.  This claim is one that the young-earthers have been making.  The claim is that the theory of evolution (or major supporting concepts for it) is increasingly being abandoned … Read More

via The Word of Me…

Is this really a science journal, or a Creationist front?

http://www.virologyj.com/

One has to wonder that after seeing this nonsense published within it:

http://www.virologyj.com/content/7/1/169

Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time

Kam LE Hon email, Pak C Ng email and Ting F Leung email

Department of Paediatrics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR, China

Virology Journal 2010, 7:169doi:10.1186/1743-422X-7-169

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.virologyj.com/content/7/1/169

Received: 16 June 2010
Accepted: 21 July 2010
Published: 21 July 2010

© 2010 Hon et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The Bible describes the case of a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ. Based on the information provided by the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, the diagnosis and the possible etiology of the febrile illness is discussed. Infectious diseases continue to be a threat to humanity, and influenza has been with us since the dawn of human history. If the postulation is indeed correct, the woman with fever in the Bible is among one of the very early description of human influenza disease.

Infectious diseases continue to be a threat to humanity, and influenza has been with us since the dawn of human history. We analysed a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time and discussed possible etiologies.

Case

The Bible descrbies the case of a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ. According to Mark 1:29 to 33 and Matthew 8:14-15, the mother-in-law of Simon Peter “lay sick” with a febrile illness [1]. When Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up, the fever immediately left. The lady began to serve the household and probably prepared a meal. The case is also described in the gospel by Luke (Luke 4:38-39), who was a physician in his days and he specifically mentioned that the fever was high [1].

The title alone is stupid, and reminds me of that classic line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To be or not to be…”

How the hell can you investigate scientifically something that happened 2000 years ago, when the ONLY evidence that it ever really happened was a written account that could have been made up?

It’s like those astronomers who waste their time arguing over what the star was that led the Magi to Bethlehem to see Jesus as an infant. Aside from the account in the Gospel of Matthew, there is no independent affirmation of such a star in secular literature.

And the authors give away their blatant lack of objectivity when they refer to “our Lord Jesus Christ”. They repeat one sentence in the Abstract and Case sections for no reason, and even misspell the word describes. Such sloppy editing is bad enough, but then they do not give ANY experimental or direct observational data whatsoever.

Others have already taken note of this absurd event:

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2010/08/biblical_fever_influenza_youre.php

http://scientopia.org/blogs/thisscientificlife/2010/08/10/the-virology-of-christ/

I made this comment at the first one:

People need to stop looking at accounts of miracles in the Bible and trying to find rational, naturalistic explanations for them. That in itself reveals a lack of faith. That goes not only for the writers of that totally rediculous paper, but for all those “scientific” Creationists out there. I too would blacklist that journal for accepting that nonsense.

UPDATE: The paper was retracted as promised by the editor of the journal, Robert Garry.

http://www.virologyj.com/content/1743-422X-7-190

Holding CNN accountable for phony “balance”

CNN published an article on its website about climate change. Two bloggers with a strong interest in the subject looked at it and quickly debunked its credibility.

http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/new-study-lays-out-11-indicators-of-a-warming-world-media-focuses-on-contrarian-views/

From time to time, journalists like Andy Revkin and Keith Kloor protest that the mainstream media doesn’t do an awful job covering the issue of climate change. They believe that the well-documented, systematic bias of undermining scientific conclusions by “balancing” them with contrarianism is behind us. Unfortunately, this is demonstrably false.

The above image is from the self-proclaimed “Most Trusted Name in News” CNN’s coverage of NOAA’s just-released 2009 State of the Climate Report, copy from The Financial Times. The State of the Climate report details how the planet is warming as captured by 11 different indices, from land surface temperature to glacial mass balance.

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/07/misleading_reporting_from_fion.php

Thingsbreak has produced a graphic illustration of how lazy journalists mislead in the name of “balance”. On right is his colour coding of her story on the NOAA report on the State of the Climate in 2009, with red marking coverage of “Climategate” and contrarians and green marking coverage of the report that the story is ostensibly about. This, from the red coverage, quite takes your breath away:

David Herro, the financier, who follows climate science as a hobby, said NOAA also “lacks credibility”.

Tim Lambert, the blogger, who follows climate journalism as a hobby, says Harvey lacks credibility.

Harvey’s story was so bad that even Keith Kloor said that it was “glaringly flawed”.

CNN must have noticed the criticism and acted on it. The article has now been REMOVED from its website! Another victory for honest reporting, as opposed to fake “balance” in reporting.

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/07/29/climate.change.noaa.ft/

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The bottleneck effect and the Genesis creation myth

According to the creation myths of the Book of Genesis, humankind is descended from two bottleneck or founder events. The first was when man was created as Adam and Eve (and even Eve was created from a tissue sample from Adam). They had thousands of descendants, including Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives. All of humanity after the flood depicted in Genesis at Noah’s time are thus said to be descended from five people at most (Noah, his wife and his sons’ wives, assuming none of the sons’ wives were closely related to Noah or his wife). But remember that they were ultimately descended from ONE PERSON, Adam, who lived only a dozen or so generations before them, so even their genetic diversity would have to have been lower than people living today.

The reduction of a population causes a loss of genetic diversity and makes inbreeding more likely, which itself limits genetic diversity among offspring until mutation and natural selection has had time to increase that diversity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founder_effect

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIID3Bottlenecks.shtml

Considering the diversity of humankind today, one would expect that humans evolved very rapidly after the flood, which would make rejection of evolution by believers in the Bible pointless. How is it that fundamentalists can beleive in rapid evolution within “kinds” over thousands of years, yet deny unlimited and slower evolution over many millions of years?

Because they reject science, of course. Dogma is everything to them, and that’s inexcusible in a society that depends on science for almost everything we have.

The dishonesty and ignorance of the Creationists becomes obvious here:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v17/i1/events.asp

By comparing DNA from different humans around the world, it has been found that all humans share roughly 99.9% of their genetic material—they are almost completely identical, genetically.7 This means that there is very little polymorphism, or variation. Much evidence of this genetic continuity has been found. 8 examined a 729-base pair intron (the DNA in the genome that is not read to make proteins) from a worldwide sample of 38 human males and reported no sequence variation.

These results are quite consistent with a recent human origin and a global flood. Evolutionary models of origins did not predict such low human genetic diversity. Mutations should have produced much more diversity than 0.1% over millions of years. And yet this is exactly what we would expect to find if all humans were closely related and experienced a relatively recent event in which only a few survived.

Bull$#it. If humans were NOT genetically almost identical, they would not be able to interbreed at all and would have already diversified into various species, like humans and chimps did several million years ago. The fossil record shows that species more closely related to us than chimps became extinct long ago and that our species is only a few hundred thousand years old, having evolved from older ones.

We should also seek to understand genetic evidence in the context of the tower of Babel event. 12 This too seems consistent with Biblical events in Genesis 11. Surely, much research is needed to expand ideas about such genetic evidence to determine its consistency with the Bible and its inconsistency with, for example, the various evolutionary out-of-Africa models. 13

When scientists debate issues, they start with the evidence they have and make their different hypotheses fit the evidence, then look for more evidence to rule out competing ideas. They don’t start with a creation myth that can never be ruled out and assume that any evidence must be forced to fit it!

It’s not a whitewash, you denialist bastards!

Remember when I noted the Climategate issue? I first mentioned Isaac Newton and how some of his ideas and actions were highly questionable, but since the ideas he got right proved useful enough, his wrongdoings were overlooked. No one today screams “WHITEWASH!” over that.

It was the e-mail hacker who committed a crime, remember?

http://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/climategate-what-it-really-means/

Thus we have now seen the depths the denialists will go to attack their targets; most of them are willing to commit crimes and/or condone those crimes committed by others to advance their cause. Yet they have the gall to demand that, on the basis of the stolen e-mails, the writers of the e-mails should by charged with fraud and imprisoned. That is sheer hypocrisy.

And as far as I know, no serious effort has been made to track down and jail whoever pulled that stunt.

Meanwhile, the scientists who were targeted have had to endure hearings on the issue. Their work has been scruntinized and their motives questioned. And the results have been as follows:

http://live.psu.edu/story/47378

http://www.essc.psu.edu/essc_web/news/MannInquiryStatement.html

http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/HC387-IUEAFinalEmbargoedv21.pdf

http://www.cce-review.org/pdf/FINAL%20REPORT.pdf

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/the-muir-russell-report/

So a few stolen e-mails were dissected last year, some statements within them were taken out of context and their meanings distorted and this was supposed to be the big scandal that would bring  down the movement against global warming? Such cherry picking is typical of denialists, but that is not the way science should ever be run. In the end, the climatologists have been let off the hook and allowed to resume their work. Hopefully, reforms will be made to make the process of sharing data more open and transparent, but that must be through legal means.

Climategate is a dead issue now. Let’s bury it and move on!