Science has nothing to do with conservation or technology

At least that’s according to another Teabagger at AsMaineGoes who was responding to my posts about Libby Mitchell being great for education.

Notice the circular and vacuous arguments. He gratuitously pronounces the falsehoods that “LePage and the Republican party is [sic] hostile towards science” and that LePage has “precisely suggested” “to just give away degrees”, misrepresents “science” and its purpose to be “areas of conservation and new technology (especially for clean energy)”, and claims that “LePage and Republicans aren’t hostile towards science because they disagree with Libby Mitchell” but because “they’re hostile towards science”.

I think this is a case of a blindly angry Teabagger (apologies for the redundancy) hearing the word “conservation” and making a lot of assumptions from ignorance. Take, for example, this part of his post.

Not only does this a) have nothing whatsoever to do with “science”, b) misrepresent science as ideological environmentalism…

He goes on, but (b) is the important point. He heard “conservation” and assumed evil, anti-business environmentalism. I was actually referring to a wide array of concerns all Mainers share regardless of their party or ideological affiliation. For example, like every other state to my knowledge, Maine has a wide range of hunting restrictions that are important to maintaining the health of whatever the given population is. An insane conservative with insane ideology might object on immature libertarian grounds that this is mere “ideological environmentalism”, but it remains a fact that in order to be sure hunting is a worthwhile endeavor in Maine, we need to deploy the tools of science.

Take the common place event of someone killing two deer when a limit of one has been imposed (or however many constitutes more than the given limit). There’s no way to know something illegal has happened after the fact by looking into someone’s freezer filled with cut-up meat – unless we have the right people with the right background in science. Qualified biologists need to compare DNA sequences in order to determine if there are two individuals in a given freezer (or whatever the location may be).

Or take the issue of microsatellites and Atlantic cod. Research was conducted that was important in determining the spatial and temporal population structure over a range of several banks (or, if you’re anal retentive, two banks and one shoal). This matters because it isn’t in anyone’s interest to manage any stock in a way that doesn’t reflect the way genetic information is being passed around.

Call me crazy, but I think this is pretty important conservation – no matter the reason one wants to maintain a given animal population. But maybe I should avoid buzzwords like “conservation” so I don’t get the conservatives twitching. (On second thought, nah.)

But let’s go back to that first paragraph I quoted.

…and claims that “LePage and Republicans aren’t hostile towards science because they disagree with Libby Mitchell” but because “they’re hostile towards science”.

I want to give this guy credit for pointing out a typo on my part (where I said “is” instead of “are” – I originally had written the sentence with just LePage), but then he goes and displays some rather sloppy reading comprehension. I didn’t say anyone is hostile towards science because they’re hostile towards science. I actually said this:

They just disagree with Libby Mitchell because they’re hostile towards science.

I’m not even making a claim as to why LePage or the Republicans are hostile towards science. I’m claiming – rightly – that they are hostile and as a result they disagree with Mitchell.

This isn’t that hard.

Thought of the day

‘AsMaineGoes’ user gets it wrong

From time to time I find that someone links to FTSOS from some right-wing, teabagging, anti-common sense site called AsMaineGoes.com. I usually just ignore it because there isn’t really any substance being added; the user will just link back here because he* can safely assume that everyone will agree that whatever I’ve said is disagreeable. But now someone has made a thread based on my post about Libby Mitchell being great for education, and while he basically just does the standard practice of quoting me with the assumption that all his right-wing friends are on board with what he thinks, he did have to make a thread title.

Disagree wtih (sic) Libby? You’re ‘Hostile Towards Science’

Why, Michael, you say, do you really believe people are hostile towards science for disagreeing with Libby Mitchell? No. Here’s what I actually said (and even what this guy actually quoted):

Whereas LePage and the Republican party are hostile towards science, Mitchell recognizes its crucial importance to the future of the state.

It isn’t that hard to get. LePage and Republicans aren’t hostile towards science because they disagree with Libby Mitchell. That would be ridiculous. They just disagree with Libby Mitchell because they’re hostile towards science.

*I normally use “he” in my writing when I could use either gender (or both – “he or she”) because I’m not usually looking to make a point about gender equality, at least not in a way that constitutes a literary distraction for most people. But I think in this case of using “he” for users at AsMaineGoes, I have pretty high odds of using the correct pronoun.

Libby Mitchell would be great for education

In deep contrast to creationist Paul LePage, Libby Mitchell would be excellent for education in Maine.

Mitchell said Maine schools need to emphasize science curriculum more.

“(We) need to make sure they get it and know that there’s a future for them,” she said. “Maine has a school of math and science, which has been very successful, but all of our curriculum needs to focus on that.”

Whereas LePage and the Republican party are hostile towards science, Mitchell recognizes its crucial importance to the future of the state. She knows that in areas of conservation and new technology (especially for clean energy) it’s going to take a lot of quality education. Maine, just like every single place in the entire world, needs a strong core of people who have highly specialized scientific knowledge.

Mitchell also knows that the answer isn’t to just give away degrees – which is precisely what LePage has suggested we do. It’s obvious to anyone remotely intelligent that the biggest obstacle to students gaining the knowledge they need to get high quality jobs is money: people can’t afford to go to college. Mitchell, seeing this overwhelmingly obvious fact, has a solution.

Maine has far too few citizens with a college degree: only 37% of Maine citizens aged 25 to 64 hold a college degree compared with the New England average of 47%. Creating a public/private partnership for a matching grant program to guarantee tuition for the first year at the university system, community colleges, or Maine Maritime Academy will expand access to higher education and degree completion. This will also help lifelong learners by giving people looking to make job transitions help in getting the education and re-training they need.

Rather than make it easier for people to gain degrees, Mitchell is going to make it easier for people to gain knowledge. If you’re a Maine citizen and you don’t want your degree to mean less and less because absolutely everyone can get one for virtually nothing, vote Libby Mitchell.

LePage would be awful for education

Creationist Republican candidate for Maine governor Paul LePage has some terrible ideas on education. Last week he made this risible suggestion:

“Our program is going to offer high school students a choice — you can go four years at high school and get a diploma or go five years and get an (associate’s) degree,” he said. “We’re going to raise the standard for education in the state of Maine. We need to get our best and brightest out there and educated at the lowest possible cost.”

If I may – lol.

Right. Let’s just give away associate’s degrees. I mean, compressing two years worth of courses – most of which need to be taught by those with specialized, esoteric knowledge (not high school teachers) – into one year would totally raise the standard for education in the state of Maine. Or when a Maine high school student goes to take his terrible high school associate’s degree to an actual college or university and he asks if he can get credit towards a bachelor’s, he’s going to find that he suffered an extra year of low-level schooling for nothing. That’s because every other school in the nation (and I would hope even post-secondary schools in Maine) are going to laugh at that useless piece of paper.

LePage obviously hasn’t thought any of this through, unfortunately. But on the bright side, his lack of foresight and of general intelligence helps to explain why he’s now saying something different and superfluous.

LePage said the state needs to toughen its educational standards.

“We want to give our students an option — four years, you get a diploma or you can earn your associate’s degree with collaboration between the community college system and the University of Maine system,” he said. “It’s going to be tough; the kids are going to have to work harder.”

…wwwwhat? Community colleges and the UMaine system do work together – accredited schools tend to do that. Under LePage’s first plan from just a week ago (which I guess he has abandoned?), these two systems would have to lose a lot of credibility to work with high schools to just give away associate’s degrees. But right now it is perfectly possible to gain an associate’s degree at a community college which holds water when transferred into the UMaine system; the systems are already intertwined.

I highly doubt LePage actually thinks before he says anything.

Judge orders military to reinstate gay soldier

There are a number of nations whose military allows gay soldiers to serve openly with straight soldiers. The obvious reason is that being gay does not make someone a sex-crazed rapist whose only interest is to cause irreparable moral harm to other people by giving them gay. Recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans realize this. In fact, the U.S. military largely realizes this, dismissing fewer gay soldiers per year than they did prior to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; they may as well be saying, ‘Okay, there’s a lot of hatred for gays out there and, really, that’s our motivation, but when it comes down to it, we need good service members.’

Fortunately, in addition to the other recent positive rulings, a judge has declared the military must reinstate a lesbian soldier it dismissed under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. He cites the lack of constitutionality of the law due to its uselessness.

“The application of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ to Major Margaret Witt does not significantly further the government’s interest in promoting military readiness, unit morale and cohesion,” he wrote.

If it did any of these things, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would have some validity within its scope. Unfortunately for all the bigots out there, judges are increasingly recognizing that sexual orientation is irrelevant to the effectiveness of military members.

But I think it’s worth pointing out that calling ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ a failure would be a mistake. The law was a compromise that marked a major step in terms of equal rights for gays. This is in a similar vein to when Jefferson put an end to the slave trade in 1808. That point was pivotal in the effort to end slavery, but it was also virtually all that could be done politically. Learning from his earlier days in Virginia politics, he knew any effort to end slavery was premature in his lifetime, lest he lose all political capital and ability to govern in any other area. A similar tale can be told of Clinton. Outright ending the unjustified discrimination against gays in the military was virtually impossible at the time (and it’s still proving to be difficult). But by getting the best deal he could for gay service members, Clinton made the first big step in ending the discrimination they face in the military. The fortunate difference here is that it won’t take us 57 years to reach Clinton’s goal.

Hitchens on Christianity

This is utterly excellent.

Thought of the day

Andreas Moritz deleted

But only from Wikipedia.

I’ve said it again and again to these quacks that just won’t crawl away: they can’t make it better, only not worse. Once rational people of scientific mindsets take notice, quacks don’t tend to do so well. That’s the case with Moritz. If he only thought about it for a moment’s time, he would realize that I didn’t really care about putting him up for deletion (though another user beat me to the punch). I wanted to add some fair criticism, but since he can’t take the truth, he insisted on deleting it over and over. He can do that, but I’m afraid I’m unable to stand by while a stupid, dangerous man tries to build up a deceptive reputation that could cost people their health. I don’t much care if he has a page for whatever, but I want to make sure everyone knows that whatever he creates is going to be filled with lies.

Anti-vax crowd causing deaths

Anti-vaccine people are a significant danger. They encourage a state ignorance or fear, or both. There’s hardly a discernible reason why they want to advocate against something that has saved so many lives without once causing autism or any of the other horrible conditions they falsely attribute to vaccinations. Perhaps it’s a hatred of “Big Pharma” or maybe it’s a general anti-science attitude. I’m not entirely sure. But whatever the reason, the results are deadly.

State health officials reported Thursday that California is on track to break a 55-year record for whooping cough infections in an epidemic that has already claimed the lives of nine infants.

At least 4,017 cases of the highly contagious illness have been reported in California, according to the state. Data from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control show 11,466 cases nationwide, though the federal numbers are known to lag behind local reporting.

Vaccinations would have almost certainly saved all those infants. Even if they didn’t get the vaccines themselves, if roughly 95% of all other members of at-risk groups were vaccinated, they probably wouldn’t have faced any illness.

And there’s more.

A measles outbreak has claimed the lives of 70 children in Zimbabwe over the past two weeks, mostly among families from apostolic sects that shun vaccinations, state media said Thursday.

This is both unnecessary and an extension of the anti-vax movement that is taking place in the United States and Europe. We should know better.

It isn’t surprising that religion is involved. Few religious groups overtly advocate against modern medicine based upon their religion, but many of them are hostile towards all the advances human society has made because they’re hostile towards science. There is an unresolvable conflict between science and religion so long as both exist, and this is an extension of that, just as the anti-vax movement in the U.S. and Europe can be partially labeled an extension the conflict. (All the causes, though, are perplexing, and as I said earlier, I just don’t know all the motivations.)

Children aren’t getting autism or any other disease or condition from vaccines. They’re only gaining protection needed for the stability and strength of their health.

Vaccinate.

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