Saturday, December 6, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
This access is crucial for journalists and for citizen scientists who want to read the primary literature and judge results on their merit rather than relying on brief abstracts. Most researchers have little access outside of their narrow field. For instance, a virologist might have subscriptions to major virology journals but might have a hard time gaining access to a paper in a cell or molecular biology journal, even though that paper might be quite similar to what s/he is working on.
The free access of information, especially information based on research funded by taxpayer money, is essential to research and to society. I hope Congress does not stymie the NIH's gallant attempt to spread knowledge.
Original article from Science Magazine: http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/911/1
TK Kenyon, http://www.tkkenyon.com/
Some members of Congress would like to overturn a controversial new policy that
requires scientists with grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health
(NIH) to post their papers in a free online database. Today, an important House
committee grilled NIH about the policy and floated a proposal that scientific
publishers say is needed to protect their products.
Three years ago, NIH
began asking grantees to send the agency a copy of their accepted, peer-reviewed
papers so that it can make them freely accessible in its PubMed Central archive
within 12 months after they are published. But compliance was so poor that
proponents of the idea persuaded the House and Senate panels that set NIH's
budget to tell the agency to make the policy mandatory (ScienceNOW,
NIH says compliance has risen to 56%, or about 3300 papers
submitted each month, since the rule took effect in April. (The agency could
potentially suspend the grant of an investigator who ignores the policy but is
so far relying on less punitive measures, such as reminders). Meanwhile, some
commercial and society publishers, such as the American Physiological Society
(APS), have complained that the policy infringes on their copyrights and will
put them out of business by cutting into their subscription base.
publishers have found allies on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, chaired
by Representative John Conyers (D–MI). At a 2-hour hearing of the Subcommittee
on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, Conyers and others
questioned the need for the policy when the public can already obtain the papers
through a subscription or at a library. Moreover, most journals make their
content free after 12 months.
NIH Director Elias Zerhouni defended the
policy. He argued that PubMed Central is enhancing the papers by linking to
molecular databases and other papers. "The real value is the connectivity,"
Zerhouni said. He also claimed that "there is no evidence that this has been
harmful" to publishers. In response, APS Executive Director Martin Frank, whose
society publishes 14 journals, disagrees, telling Science that some journal
editors believe the new policy is leading to "fewer eyeballs coming to their
A bill introduced today by Conyers and two other members would bar
any federal agency from requiring "the transfer or license" to the government of
a paper that has been produced in part with nongovernment funds--a reference to
the publisher's costs for peer review and production. The Fair Copyright in
Research Works Act (HR 6845) would mean that neither NIH nor any other federal
agency could require grantees to submit accepted papers to a free archive.
There is no companion bill in the Senate, and Congress is not expected to
act on the legislation before it adjourns later this month. Jonathan Band, a
Washington, D.C., attorney who represents the American Library Association,
which favors open access, says the bill's sweeping provisions are a fatal flaw.
"It goes far beyond the NIH policy. It limits a lot of what the federal
government can do," he says. But the keen interest the House Judiciary Committee
showed today in the topic suggests that the debate is not over.
Author of RABID and CALLOUS: Two novels about science, faith, and humanity, with some sex and murder.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Kunati Book Publishers was honored with the INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR AWARD at BookExpo America in Los Angeles, California on May 30, 2008, by FOREWORD MAGAZINE, one of the five dominant trade magazines in the book publishing field. Joshua Corin, a Kunati author, accepted at BEA on Kunati's behalf.
The new honor was created to celebrate ForeWord's tenth anniversary and to recognize Kunati's innovation and fearlessness. Kunati, a year-old publisher, produces book trailers for every new release, maintains a blog, and encourages its authors to blog and actively participate in marketing their books. The publisher currently has several movie deals in the works, and its roster of authors includes Pulitzer Prize winner John E. Mack.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
-- Albert Einstein, in a letter written to philosopher Eric Gutkind in January 1954.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I would not argue that atheism = immorality, but rather
non-morality. That is, conceptually. However practically, because atheism =
non-morality, it leads to immorality. If a Cardinal abuses small children, then
only a theist can hold the Cardinal accountable and say what he did was really
wrong. An atheist cannot consistently do this simply because they do not have a
standard of right, thereby knowing what is wrong.
As the Peanut's Bible would say: Oh, goodeth griefeth.
Atheism is neither immoral nor amoral. Morals and ethics exist independently of whether or not you believe in a Deity or Deities who will smite thou with a stick if thou does something immoral. That's not morality. That's just fear of retribution.
Indeed, most atheists or other seculars that I know are more moral and ethical than theists, because they have thought about whether an act is inherently immoral or unethical, rather than worrying about whether it conforms to a set of laws set down a heck of a long time ago by men who who heard voices.
Indeed, moral or immoral?: I read an article in, IIRC, The Atlantic written by a guy who was a secular Jew. As a kid, he had gone to a yeshiva and argued Talmudic law with the best. At one seminar, an observant Jew who was also a medical doctor treated non-Jewish patients on the Sabbath if it was an emergency. He said that he thought it was moral to do so because, although a Jew is prohibited from working on the Sabbath, God's injunction to save life is more important than not working on the Sabbath.
A rabbi stood up and berated him for treating Goyim on the Sabbath under the admonition to save life, because a Goyim's life is not as important as a Jew's life. (I kid you not. I remember the arguement very well.) However, one could treat a Goy patient on the Sabbath if one did it because one did not want to damage Goy-Jew relations.
Later, the rabbi apologized for his statement because, and again I kid you not, there were Goyim present at the seminar, and his statement was damaging to Goy-Jew relations, and because Goyim are not supposed to know the laws of God that a Jew follows so well. The rabbi should have berated the doctor in private.
Now, is that rabbi moral or ethical? Beyond his quibbling about why one should save the life of a Goyim who is, after all, only a Goyim, how about his attitude toward all of us who are not Jews? Is that moral?
Again, like too much baseless self-esteem leads to bullying, I think too much self-aggrandizing religion leads to immorality by inculcating a callous and uncaring attitude.
Author of CALLOUS: A Novel, a story about free will, neuroscience, fate, Schrodinger's Cat, and the End of Days.
Monday, April 28, 2008
If you want to read CALLOUS any time soon, muscle your way to the head of the line and snatch a copy from some milquetoast's virtual shopping cart now!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The following press release by SNAP (Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests) today listed the following five cardinals as the most complicit in concealing child sex abuse by the religious. In this, they are accessories after the fact because they concealed a crime rather than reported it to authorities.
Five Worst Catholic Cardinals
- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago
- Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles
- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston
- Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston
- Cardinal Edward Egan of New York
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago
-- In August 2005, Fr. Daniel McCormack was questioned by the police because of abuse allegations. Two months later, the Chicago lay review board recommended that George suspend McCormack. George refused, kept silent and let his chancellor promote McCormack. Three months later, police arrested McCormack again. During those last few months of his active parish ministry in Chicago's inner city, McCormack molested at least three boys, the district attorney said. (One of the children, prosecutors say, had been assaulted "on an almost daily" basis.)
McCormack has pled guilty to child molestation.
Later, records obtained by victims' attorneys showed that in 1999, a school principal reported accusations against McCormack to archdiocesan officials. Nothing was done.
Adding insult to injury, five high ranking church officials closely involved in this fiasco have since been promoted. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/01_02/2008_01_24_Hogan_TheCardinal.htm
The female veteran school principal (who was the only archdiocesan staffer to call the police) has, however, been fired. Church authorities refuse to say why. http://reform-network.net/?p=606
-- While the McCormack case has received some attention, George has displayed shocking callousness, recklessness and secrecy in other, post-2002 cases. Perhaps most notably, within months of the adoption of the so-called 'reforms' in Dallas,
George knowingly and secretly let a convicted predator priest (Fr. Kenneth
Martin) work in the archdiocese and live, part-time, with George in George's
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles
In 2005 or 2006, LA church and school officials were questioned by police about current child sex abuse allegations against John Malburg. Malburg was a Catholic high school principal from a politically prominent family. The archdiocese didn't suspend him. They told no one about the investigation. Six months later, Malburg was arrested and criminally charged. Parents asked church officials "Why didn't you tell us? Why didn't you suspend him?" Cardinal Mahony's PR man told the LA Times "Law enforcement told us to keep quiet." The next day, in the LA Times, prosecutors said they never made any such request. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/11_12/2006_11_19_NBC4_ArchdioceseChurch.htm , http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2006_11_17_Hong_CorruptionTarget.htmCardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston
In just nine months, police say, Fr. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera, sexually assaulted at least 26 boys in Los Angeles.
In August 2007, long-secret church records about Aguilar were publicly disclosed. According to the New York Times, the documents showed that then-Msgr. Thomas Curry "tipped off" the accused pedophile priest who then fled to Mexico to avoid criminal prosecution.(An LA district attorney said Curry "facilitated" Aguilar's flight.) Aguilar went on to molest kids in Mexico later. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/09_10/2006_10_21_McKinley_AccusedPriests.htm
Curry is now one of Mahony's auxiliary bishops. Despite public pleas to discipline Curry, or at least speak out about Curry's irresponsible secrecy, Mahony said and did nothing.
· For years, Mahony stayed secretly let an admitted child-molesting cleric live in his archdiocese (in a picturesque religious complex overlooking the ocean), despite the cleric's being wanted on criminal charges in Canada. In 2005, when SNAP and others demanded that Mahony and his colleagues turn Franciscan friar Gerald Chumik to law enforcement, he let Chumik move from Santa Barbara Mission Church in Santa Barbara to Missouri.
For 14 years, Chumik has been a fugitive from his native Canada.
SNAP leaders believe this needlessly put children at risk and is a clear violation of the much-touted Dallas Charter which all American bishops adopted in June of 2002.
Elected district attorneys rarely feud in public with powerful religious figures. But in October 2005, (more than three years after Mahony pledged "openness" about child sex abuse and cover ups), Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said "Three years ago, I urged Cardinal Mahony to provide the fullest possible disclosure of evidence of sexual abuse by clergy. Despite two court rulings ordering full disclosure, Cardinal Mahony continues to claim 'confidentiality privileges' that no court has recognized." http://da.co.la.ca.us/mr/archive/2005/101205a.htm?zoom_highlight=clergy
In November 2007, a victim reported having been sexually abused by Fr. Stephen Horn between 1989 and 1993. DiNardo found him credible and suspended Horn. The Cardinal, however, kept the allegation and his determination secret from parishioners, police and the public for two months, despite US bishops' repeated pledges to act quickly and openly with credibly sex abuse allegations. Finally, in mid-January, DiNardo disclosed his action. (The delay gave Horn, a credibly accused molester, ample opportunity to fabricate alibis, destroy evidence, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, or even flee the country, as some pedophile priests have done.)Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston
Part of DiNardo's secrecy and delay occurred in the weeks between when the Pope announced that DiNardo would be named a Cardinal (October 2007) and when DiNardo was promoted amid much pageantry (November 24). Some Houston Catholics have speculated that DiNardo didn't want the news of Horn's crimes to 'rain on (DiNardo's) parade.'
Weeks ago, SNAP wrote DiNardo, urging him to explain and apologize for his secrecy. SNAP has urged the cardinal to visit parishes where Horn worked and emphatically beg victims and witnesses to come forward, get help and call the police. He has not responded to either the letter or the request.
When he was a bishop in Sioux City Iowa, DiNardo similarly mishandled the Fr. George McFadden case in Iowa, only disclosing the allegations against this predator priest long afterwards.)
Beginning in the 1990s (and likely longer), Sioux City church officials knew of repeated charges of child molestation against McFadden, an admitted abuser, dating back into the 1960s. (DiNardo was Sioux City bishop starting in 1997.) For at least five years (and even later), DiNardo had the chance to disclose McFadden's hurtful actions to police, prosecutors, parishioners, and the public, and to keep McFadden from other vulnerable children. He stayed silent.
According to the Des Moines Register, "The confessed child molester continued to hear confession and say Mass daily over the past decade at the Cathedral of the Epiphany, Sioux City's largest Catholic church.) http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/2002_06_23_Rood_ChurchSecrecy.htm
McFadden is accused of abusing more than 25 girls and boys in dozens of civil lawsuits. Despite his alleged 'treatment' and 'retirement' in the 1990s, he continued to function as priest until 2002. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2008_01_14_Kever_PriestRemoved.htm , http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/01_02/2008_01_14_Quinn_ChurchOfficials.htm
Cardinal Edward Egan of New York
Last month church officials disclosed that, for the second year in a row, O'Malley is in violation of the US bishops' child sex abuse prevention policy. Much in the policy is meaningless public relations, SNAP is convinced. But O'Malley's breaking one of the proven, practical requirements that help prevent abuse: training kids how to avoid or stop being victimized.
Roughly one in five Boston Catholic children is not receiving this training. Every child is supposed to receive it. Worse, O'Malley tries to dodge responsibility for this clear, egregious refusal by blaming pastors and parishioners.
But O'Malley's had six years to persuade colleagues to weaken the national abuse policy, devise alternative programs, or get on board (and get his employees on board). He's done none of these three steps.
Nor has he disciplined a single individual for flaunting this national requirement. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/03_04/2008_04_11_Hamm_AbuseVictims.htm
In a 2006 case with disturbing parallels to many of the hundreds of Boston pedophile priest cases, O'Malley moved very slowly and gingerly against a prominent Catholic hospital official who faces multiple allegations of sexually harassing employees.
A high ranking human resources official at the hospital "accused O'Malley of improperly interceding in the investigation to help (the accused), giving him advance notice of the probe, providing him with an adviser, and telling of the reprimand before consulting with the board," according to the Boston Globe.
The cardinal's actions ''have made a mockery of the investigation. It is nothing short of shameful," she wrote. "Perhaps most troubling" was what she called the ''near absence" of concern for the women complainants that she said was shown by the church hierarchy. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/05/21/omalley_reprimands_caritas_chief/
Less than two months ago, the New York Post reported "The former principal of a prestigious Catholic high school who resigned amid allegations of inappropriate images on his work computer was allowed to stay on the job for nearly five months after a priest wrote the New York Archdiocese accusing him of serious misconduct."
In 2003, Egan became the first US prelate to refuse to say mass for the devoutly Catholic, hand-picked, distinguished lay panel chosen by bishops to look at the church's child sex abuse crisis. According to the New York Times, Egan also "interfered with" and prevented the US bishops' 'watchdog' on clergy sex cases from speaking in his archdiocese.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
A major theme of Pope Benedict's papacy has been the importance of reason and
faith coexisting. Reason without faith, he has said, leads to empty materialism, while faith without reason leads to extremism, as in parts of the Middle East.
Pope Benedict also has spoken out against intolerance in the Islamic world, provoking a violent backlash in the Muslim world with a 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany. On Easter he baptized a well-known Italian Muslim in a ceremony that drew renewed criticism from parts of the Middle East. "The pope understands the danger of radical Islam," said a former Bush administration aide.
The Pope is right. (And there's a sentence I thought I might never write.) He's taking a huge personal risk of angering the Islamists by telling them that it is wrong to kill people merely because they are angry.
I support Pope Benedict XVI in his valiant stance against irrational extremism.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Illness can be caused by pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi, each eking out their own existence in this world, or it can be a natural by-product of the fact that our bodies are mortal animals, evolved from other animals, and are still links in the evolutionary chain.
Mutations, the cause of genetic illnesses, are also the source of variability. If your particular mutation had given you the ability to jump extra-high to escape predators, or nowadays to sit in an office chair for 15 hours without developing blood clots, then your genes may have been more represented in the next generation.
It's unfortunate when one person is damaged by deleterious mutations, but one must remember that evolution does not work on an individual level. Evolution works on the population level and is defined as the change in gene frequencies in a population over time.
Some genes that were previously very adaptive are now less so and even damaging. Examples: the cystic fibrosis gene, if you have two of them, causes CF. If you have one CF gene, you do not have CF, but you are freakishly resilient to typhoid and cholera. Having one sickle cell anemia gene does not cause sickle cell trait but does confer resistence to malaria. Personally, the genes that control my immune system are especially vigilant, and this was probably beneficial even a century ago. Now, however, with the advent of antibiotics to cure whatever bacteria ail me, my white blood cells are bored, and they tend to pick out random proteins in my body and produce antibodies to them, causing various autoimmune diseases.
Pain is an adaptive response to the environment. Fire is pretty, but playing with it hurts. Thus, people do not play with fire and cause large, open sores on their body. These breaches of the skin would soon by colonized by bacteria and the organism would die. People with genetic mutations that render them unable to feel pain sustain damage to their bodies, terrible damage, and generally die young. Thus, pain is an excellent adaptation and protective mechanism and is highly selected for.
Suffering, on the other hand, is a more intricate subject. We suffer because we are smart enough to. We recognize problems and ideal situations that do not or cannot exist.
Even suffering and depression may be evolutionarily adaptive. I've read papers (here's one, http://www.biopsychiatry.com/depression/evolution.html , though this is not the one I read previously,) that noted that depression is not unique to humans and may be a catalyst for changing maladaptive behavior. I have had some depression problems in my life, and I note that at the end of these I either was hit with a new autoimmune disease (and there's excellent evidence for an biochemical basis for depression mediated by inflammatory cytokines, so this makes sense, and see above for examples of biology and disease,) or I changed my life in major ways. The depressions were responsible for very positive changes that have ultimately made me very happy and helped me contribute to the world. I would not consider changing any of the decisions that were based in depression that have led me to my life, now.
On a personal philosophical note, while it may be difficult to remember at the time, suffering and obstacles are a chance to learn and to grow. You can choose what you want your life to be and how to react.
In a previous workplace, a particular woman was nasty to me while I was dealing with a major autoimmune thing, sniping behind my back, silent treatment, everything you would expect from a 13-year-old girl, not a 26-year-old woman. I thought about it, and I realized that she was a very sad person and had significant maturity problems. I exercised compassion. On a day-to-day basis, it was difficult to maintain equilibrium and be compassionate toward her, realizing that she was quite nuts, but I had chosen to deal with my autoimmune thing as quietly and privately as possible and I didn't want to compromise that, either.
Dealing with the autoimmune thing itself was easier: it's just something that happened. It was not personal. It's just a factor that I deal with as expediently as possible without recriminations toward myself or others. I'm also short. These are merely facets of my human body. They are not a punishment. I had no choice in the matter. I have a great choice, however, in my reaction to them and how I allow them to impact my life and my happiness.
Grief is another issue, especially grief caused by the death of a person that you loved. Grief is directly proportional to love. Serial killers feel no grief because they feel no love for other people.
Without getting too Tennyson on you, grief must be borne to have love in your life, and love for friends and family is worth the grief that comes afterward. As we are mortal, you have two choices: experience grief or die first.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
From the Daily Mail:
A British terror gang plotted to use liquid explosives to blow up transatlantic passenger jets in mid-flight, a court heard today.
Eight men planned to smuggle bombs disguised as soft drinks on to flights from Heathrow to the United States and Canada and detonate them on board, Woolwich crown court was told.
It would have caused a civilian death toll on an "almost unprecedented scale" and a "global impact".
The gang allegedly targeted seven flights operated by Air Canada, United Airlines and American Airlines. [...]
Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said they had planned, "all in the name of Islam", to carry out a "series of coordinated and deadly explosions" and were "indifferent to the carnage" that would have been caused. [...]
"At the very least" seven planes would have been targeted, Mr Wright said.
The jury heard that the gang planned to smuggle components of the homemade bombs on to the flights as "innocuous hand luggage".
The court heard the bombers intended to use hydrogen peroxide and mix it with a product called Tang, used in soft drinks, to turn it into an explosive.
They intended to carry it on board disguised as 500ml bottles of Oasis or Lucozade by using food dye to recreate the drinks' distinctive colour.
The detonator would have been disguised as AA 1.5 batteries. The contents of the batteries would have been removed and an electric element such as a light bulb or wiring would have been inserted.
A disposable camera would have provided a power source.
"These items would have the capability of being detonated with devastating consequences," said Mr Wright....
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
The explosion occurred at night and no one was injured or killed, this time.
Wouldn't want those little girls to get an education. They might start to think for themselves.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Christianity isn't the only pack of lies (or, as I tend to think of it, pack of rather interesting philosophy and human psychology masquerading as revealed truth.) Other religions are as screwed up or even more so.
For those of you who haven't seen the South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet," (watch the full episode here) the so-called Church of Scientology believes that (quoted from ExScientologyKids.com, this is a paraphrase of the "OTIII" materials from the CoS. As such, this material is not copyrighted by the Church of Scientology.)
"75 million years ago, an evil being named Xenu decided to solve a population problem on his galactic colony by exiling a bunch of people to Earth. Xenu then did a ton of horrible things to these people, like drugging them, placing their bodies around a volcano, and blowing them up with H-bombs.
But that really only took care of the physical problem - Xenu didn't just want the bodies gone, he wanted to make sure the 'thetans' (spirits / souls) of those people didn't come back and reincarnate on his colony. So when the souls started leaving the bodies, he captured the souls and forced them into a huge implant station that was kind of like a movie theatre. There, he made them watch movies that 'implanted' them with false pictures of Christ, and other historical events that Hubbard says didn't actually happen.
The souls were so screwed up from this implanting that they roamed aimlessly around Earth for millions of years. When human beings started evolving, the thetans started entering their bodies and inhabiting them, and thus these thetans are called 'body thetans'. And body thetans, says Hubbard, are the source of all human misery.
But that's just the theory portion of OT3. The practical portion of OT3 involves getting rid of these body thetans. The PC uses the Emeter to locate body thetans that are stuck to his body, and talk to them, auditing them until they blow (go away)."
The volcano on the cover of the Dianetics book (above) refers to Xenu using volcanoes in his reign of terror.
I generally think of religions as interesting philosophy and very clear insights into the human condition, and Scientology is no exception. This is an excellent example of the old saw that it is possible to make people believe absolutely anything.
When one is trapped in an echo chamber of wild beliefs, acceptance is common.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
A personal visitation from a Deity or some Deities, followed by a negative CAT scan for epilepsy, and the revisitation of that Deity despite the camel-sized doses of anti-psychotics that I would be taking for the hallucinations, followed by a significant change in my neurochemistry that can only be described as brain damage that would allow me to mistake the impossible for the merely implausible.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
From an interview in Popular Science, 2004, with Arthur C. Clarke.
Mind you, Clarke was friends with C.S. Lewis, who said of Clarke, "I think you are very wicked people, but wouldn't the world be a dull place if everyone was good?"
Monday, March 24, 2008
Okay, that's the short answer. Here's the debate:
First, PZ Myers, noted and eminent science blogger and professor, was not admitted to a pre-screening of the film Expelled!, an ID drive-by documentary on evolution, and blogged about how he was thrown out at the whim of the producers. (Previous post: here.)
Myers's guest, Richard Dawkins, was admitted without fuss (as the producers probably did not recognize him, and when asked to show identification, he produced his British passport under his legal name, "Clinton Richard Dawkins.")
It must be noted that both Myers and Dawkins appear in the film Expelled!, for which they were interviewed under false pretenses, and the piecemeal editing of their interviews was journalistically unethical.
After some brouhaha, Matthew Nesbit, a professor of communications, blogged:
"As long as Dawkins and PZ continue to be the representative voices from the
pro-science side in this debate, it is really bad for those of us who care about
promoting public trust in science and science education. Dawkins and PZ need to
lay low as Expelled hits theaters. Let others play the role of communicator,
most importantly the National Center for Science Education, AAAS, the National
Academies or scientists such as Francis Ayala or Ken Miller. When called up by
reporters or asked to comment, Dawkins and PZ should refer journalists to these
organizations and individuals."
At the risk here of being arch, isn't "communications" what people who flunk out of business major in?
More to the point, Nesbit is utterly wrong. He compares the evolution vs. ID debate to politics, comparing Myers and Dawkins to, "Samantha Power, Geraldine Ferraro and so many other political operatives who through misstatements and polarizing rhetoric have ended up being liabilities to the causes and campaigns that they support."
This comparison is a fallacy.
Science is not politics, which is convincing a majority of the people that your political theory is the correct one to vote for on the day of elections in the majority of the voting districts. Politics seeks to create consensus.
Science is the truth. Myers and Dawkins should not be compared to Power and Ferraro, but to Galileo, Darwin, and Copernicus. No matter what the ID guys believe, they're wrong. Convincing more people that creationism is valid will not make it less wrong. Religionists' balking at evolution is just another example of irrational, superstitious flailing.
Nesbit's whole philosophy, "Framing Science," in which mostly non-scientists try to reconcile science with religion, which are several systems of contradictory and unsubstantiated beliefs, is a waste of time.
Yes, we should try to break it gently to religionists that they've been utterly wrong all these years, but eventually, the obvious truth of science will prevail. It's only a matter of time, another scientific concept.
I admit, when I saw Nesbit's blog and its title, "Framing Science," I thought it was a provocative anti-science blog, like when the cops "frame" someone for a crime. Perhaps that wasn't the best moniker for their movement. You would think that a communications major might have thought of that.
Another non-scientist "framing" guy, Chris Mooney, blogged that the PZ Myers controversy is giving the film loads of free publicty, is thus counter-productive, and also suggested that Myers should refrain from more discussion.
Nesbit's post led PZ Myers to this sputtering reply, which is perhaps less eloquent than his usual posts but heartfelt, in which he said in part, "Fuck you very much, Matt. You know where you can stick your advice."
Again, scientists are not politicians, who strive to form consensus or convince voters, or religionists, who seek to silence the opposing viewpoint.
People should go see that film and laugh at it for the dreck it is. The public should understand that Dawkins and Myers were interviewed under false presenses (the film makers told them it was a documentary about science and education, not a religion drive-by of evolution,) and with shoddy journalistic ethics (including the old trick of setting the camera and the interviewer at 90 degrees to each other, and thus the subject looks back and forth between the camera and the interviewer, producing a "shify-eyed" effect that is associated with lying or unreliability.)
Scientists seek the truth, and when we find it, we tell other people the truth. If there are contrary opinions, we debate the evidence and logically decide whose model is more accurate.
That's the problem with non-scientists like Mooney and Nesbit. They're operating in the rhelm of opinion, not truth. They're seeking to sway people with propaganda, not evidence and logic. They're using the enemy's faulty weapons against the enemy, who designed them, have the blueprints, and know where the weak points are.
Evolution is model with huge amounts of scientific evidence backing it up.
Sure, all models are wrong, but some models are useful.
Evolution is a useful model. It explains the past and, contrary to what ID guys will tell you, it accurately predicts future results.
ID and creationism in general do not accurately predict future results, except perhaps that creationists lie to themselves and others and will continue to do so.
Mooney and Nesbit are in the wrong on this issue.
Myers and Dawkins should not shut up.
Scientists tell the truth. Politicians and religionists seek create consensus or to silence the opposition. Pandering to their illogical and ignorant views will only endow them with a false sense of superiority, to go along with their false view of the universe and their false beliefs.
To PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins: Once more into the breach!
Sunday, March 23, 2008
"rejected all forms of theocracy, but emphasized the danger posed by the Islamic state and argued for the destruction of its most obvious manifestation, the regime in Iran. I was prepared for opposition to the idea of war with Iran, and I acknowledged up front that those who recognize that religious law is wrong might disagree with my conclusion that a war against the Iranian state is necessary. But I was not prepared for the strident defense of Islamic law and jihad—and for the condemnation of me for even raising the issue of Islamic jihad—that was to come."
After Dr. Lewis gave his speech, a young man, assumedly Muslim, stood up and harangued him for fifteen minutes that:
"(1) There is a long separation of church and state in Islam; (2) Islamic law is
good; (3) whenever imposed, Islamic law has brought peace; (4) jihad is a
“wonderful idea” and does not mean war; (5) Islamic Totalitarianism poses no
threat, since 500 million Muslims reject terrorism; (6) the tax leveled against
subjugated peoples is just, because they are protected by Muslims in return; (7)
I am “ignorant of history” if I do not acknowledge the “truth” of these claims."
Eventually, as the two men debated, the Islamist heckler in the audience said that Dr. Lewis had a "criminal mind," and condemned him for reading quotes from Islamists jihadists that refuted the man's views. Essentially, Dr. Lewis was accused of thought crime.
The rest of the exchange shows that Dr. Lewis is intellectually honest and that the man in the audience is brainwashed. The heckler's attitude is frightening in that it details sentiments that many, many Islamists share.
All theocracies repress freedom. We can't be tolerant of those who oppose freedom, for they will not be tolerant of freedom if they are in charge.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, performed a series of studies on, admittedly, small groups to determine what contributes more to happiness: giving money away or spending it on yourself. She gave people money, told them to either donate it or splurge with it, and then quantified happiness levels.
In the spirit of Christmas cheer (even though this is Easter weekend,) either donating the money to charity or buying a gift for others produced more happiness than keeping it or spending it on oneself.
This empirically tested and quantified altruism is a lovely addition to the study of ethics. The studies should be replicated with larger sample sizes, but they are worth reading.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
A cop pulled him out of line and told him that he couldn't go in and that he had to leave the premises immediately, or he would be arrested.
But wait! There's more. There's so much more. I laughed so hard that I had an asthma attack. A bad one. And then I read it again.
Read THE REST OF THE STORY at Pharyngula.
Oh, man, I wish I had been there.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
This is just another example of the hypocrisy of the Church, and all atheists should stand up and laugh at them in unison, preferably with some pointing and hooting thrown in for good measure. These men are worried about people slacking on recycling when their own parishes have had to pay out (by some accounts) half a billion dollars because their all-male priest caste diddles little boys?
You know, I made that sound funny. It’s not. The Catholic priesthood is rife with pedophiles who sexually abuse children. Pedophilia is not about sex, any more than rape is about sex. It’s about power and an aberrant and evil psychopathy that refuses to understand why children should not enjoy being raped.
The New Mortal Sins
1.) genetic modification
2.) carrying out experiments on humans
3.) polluting the environment
4.) causing social injustice
5.) causing poverty
6.) becoming obscenely wealthy
7.) taking drugs
And as for “becoming obscenely wealthy,” let us not forget that the Catholic Church is the world’s second largest land owner (passed about a decade ago by McDonald’s.) The Vatican is the world’s largest repository of wealth and art. They’re obscenely rich, while they wheedle money out of impoverished superstitious folk who believe their impossible snake-oil promises. Thus, the Church committed #5 and #6 a thousand times over during the press conference.
As for pollution, do we really believe that the Vatican gives a hoot what its "carbon footprint" is, so long as people give them money?
The most obvious sin that the Church committed is that religion as mind control is the most terrible experiment ever visited upon humanity, not to mention uncontrolled population growth and refusing to condone condom use to reduce the transmission of HIV. That's a truly heinous experiment: to determine whether the poor believers die of HIV faster than they can reproduce due to unprotected sex.
More Science: http://science4non-majors.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The first issue includes an unflinching look at the field of neuroethics (as distinct from Bioethics,) and the way that the brain determines ethics and morality. http://www.springerlink.com/content/120989/?p=ff72daa10e7b435fa42eb31b7bcd5e20&pi=0
In the first issue, editor Dr. Neil Levy has written an elegent overview of the field, including a neuroethicist's view of the notorious Trolley Problem, namely, if a trolley is hurtling toward five people on a track, and you hold a lever that will change the track so that the trolley is shuttled onto a track where it kills only one person, should you pull the lever.
Most ethicists and ordinary folks say "yes," for the greater welfare is at stake.
However, if the problem is changed subtly so that your choice is between allowing the trolley to crush the five people or pushing a large, beefy man onto the track to obstruct and stop the trolley, most ethicists and ordinary people will say no, that this violates the man's rights, and you should allow the trolley to slaughter the five people.
Neuroethicists have identified where the real problem is: the difference between these two scenarios is not merely “action,” as the Kantian folks dissemble, but emotion. We do not want to be actively responsible for the death of a human being, and a particular human being (the large, beefy man) at that.
The real problem is: since it is emotion that informs our ethical choices, ethical choices are not rational.
The journal also has a lovely article on “The Popular New Genre of Neurosexism” by Dr. Cordelia Fine, comparing recent mommy-brain books to the painfully terrible science of the 1800’s, in which eminent scientists actually promulgated that women’s education should not be too rigorous because it would divert energy to their brains and away from their ovaries, rendering them sterile. (Testicles, apparently, had an independent energy source.)
This excellent new journal deserves bookmarking. Do it now to avoid the rush.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
But Science makes good on its promises.
A hundred years ago, when the Ingalls family got sick with scarlet fever, Laura Ingalls (Wilder) prayed to God to spare her family. God didn't help much. The fever "settled in Mary's eyes," and Mary went blind.
Now, the Ingalls family could go to the doctor for a scrip for an antibiotic to cure the disseminated strep infection before anyone died or went blind.
Religion makes false promises to the gullible.
The Rabid Atheists Blog seeks to expose religious nuts for the callous snake oil salesmen that they are.