All it takes to refute something…

…is for some journalist to say you did. According to the headline on that article, James Perloff refuted evolution at some half-baked meeting.

Perloff tried to draw parallels throughout history, attempting to connect individuals such as Andrew Carnegie, Karl Marx, Josef Stalin and Adolph Hitler with the teachings and rationales of Charles Darwin. He also told of his own life’s inner conflict, saying he was briefly turned into an atheist at a young age due to Darwin’s theory.

Perloff went on to say, “Survival of the fittest does not explain arrival of the fittest,” and that, “[the theory of] evolution is just speculation on the past and should not been seen as scientific fact.”

There you go. EVILution has been defeated. Good job, Perloff. Honestly. It should be clear to everyone. If someone can make bogus, tinsel thin connections between ideas and people Real America loathes, then the idea must be false. Just pretend that logical fallacies don’t exist and the argument is air-tight.

The event was held in front of a small gathering and was kicked off with a prayer along with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Harold Shurtleff of West Roxbury, regional field director for the John Birch Society.

I remember as a very young kid playing Street Fighter. When the levels got too hard or my older brother beat me a bunch of times in a row, I’d start up a game just by myself. I would have a Player 2 set up, but no one was controlling it. I’d just wail all my 32 bits on that character. It made me feel good. Does anyone get the feeling that conservatives have the same frustration? I mean, the exact same frustration – one born out of immaturity and a lack of rationale. These people are kicking and screaming their prayers and flag-based prayers all over the place because it makes them feel good. Of course, I was a child when I did it. What excuse do these people have? There are more examples.

Take Sean Hannity. He’s a huge idiot. (I heard him say in the middle of a broadcast, and I paraphrase, “…that isn’t an arrogant statement. America saved the world from Totalitarianism. It did this multiple times. The world has us to thank. That isn’t an arrogant statement.”) He refuses to refer to Obama as “President Obama” in virtually every instance. He insists on calling him “The Annointed One”, or “The One” for short. You can feel his anger and immature frustration. People very rarely identify whining correctly (they tend to conflate it with active disagreement). This is not one of those cases. Sean Hannity and the new breed of ultra-radical conservatives are big, fat whiners.

Conservapedia is another great example of a bunch of crybabies. Their page on evolution (which is just a page on creationism) has a section titled “Creation Scientists Tend to Win the Creation-Evolution Debates“. I kid you not. This is their version of 32-bit wailing. They absolutely cannot win. Rather than to accept reality, they set up these conversations in their own heads where they win every time. Sean Hannity does it. John McCain did it. Dubya definitely did it. This is the path of conservatives in America. Yell and whine and if that doesn’t work, beat the crap out of Blanka.

Women and science

The mooks over at Conservapedia love to parade out old studies that show statistically insignificant leads for boy over girls in math and science. Despite this heavy dose of misogynistic idiocy, it’s no secret men outnumber women in science. Go one step further: famous men outnumber famous women by a longshot. In thinking of just 10 scientists, Lynn Margulis is the only female that comes to mind.

So when commenters focused on the looks of Sheril Kirshenbaum, she became understandably annoyed.

Now folks, I’m not naive. I recognize everyone forms preconceived notions based on visual and nonverbal cues. As it happens, my next book deals with science and sexuality, so this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately off the blog. Naturally, attention to physical appearance has been hardwired into our neural circuitry over a few millenia, however, you better believe it’s never acceptable judge anyone based on appearances and number of X chromosomes. And of course I’ve noticed the science blogosphere is buzzing over some neanderthal comments from Monday about my photo. After Phil was kind enough to welcome Chris and I to Discover Blogs, I was disappointed to read several of the responses. For example:

    as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.

Or even less articulate:

    mmmmmmmm……….. wo-man

Okay, I get it. People are focusing on her looks rather than her credentials. But let’s take a look at that first quote. In full.

Having not read any of their material, I am supremely unqualified to comment on any of their writings.

But, as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.

That’s just bad practice. While Kirshenbaum has a valid overall point, she misquotes a person. I thought reasoned people had left that up to creationists and other stupid conservatives.

Let’s keep in mind what the original post was all about. It was an introduction. Is there a specific, pre-approved, politically correct response expected? I see an intro to a new blog, a short description, and a picture – the most prominent thing about the post – and not much else. It is entirely reasonable to comment on the picture. Naturally, some level of respect should be given. The above, misquoted commenter did that. He wasn’t vulgar, he noted that he cannot speak of Kirshenbaum’s science credentials, and only then did he say, “Hey, she’s pretty”. Kirshenbaum extends this to a broader point.

I doubt any of the aforementioned anecdotes–or the now infamous comments–were intended to be insulting, but they each highlight a broader social issue. Several female colleagues have similar stories of receiving sexually explicit emails and poetry, while I’ve yet to hear the fellows complain of unwanted advances (though surely that happens occasionally too). This is not an isolated problem, nor is it specific to me as an individual, rather it demonstrates that no matter how much the nature of science has changed, it continues to be very much a ‘boys club.’

This is somewhat inappropriate. Of course, science is a “boys club”. It is a field that is dominated by men, shown to the public through male spokespeople, and probably has a good deal of misogyny running amok. That cannot be extrapolated from a few posts that say “I am attracted to this person”. Let’s drive this home. Here’s another quote from that original post.

Is it just me, or do they look YOUNG? It must just be me getting old I guess. I look forward to reading what they post.

WHOA! WHOA! What’s with all the ageism? Come on, people! Science is such an ‘old persons club’. It’s ridiculous. How about some common respect for the young members of the field?

Don’t miss the point. Please.

Kirshenbaum has valid points and she makes them shine through her other anecdotes. The comments about her being attractive, however, do not illustrate her point. If they do, then I just equally illustrated a point about ageism.

From Kirshenbaum:

Now folks, I’m not naive. I recognize everyone forms preconceived notions based on visual and nonverbal cues. As it happens, my next book deals with science and sexuality, so this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately off the blog. Naturally, attention to physical appearance has been hardwired into our neural circuitry over a few millenia, however, you better believe it’s never acceptable [to] judge anyone based on appearances and number of X chromosomes.

First of all, I prefer accuracy so let’s augment that last statement a tad. It’s never acceptable to judge anyone based on appearances and number X chromosomes, in most instances. If I’m looking for someone to date, I’m definitely going to find a person to whom I am attracted. If that isn’t physical judgement, I don’t know what is. Second, from the comments I read, there was judgement being passed on Kirshenbaum’s looks, not her quality of science. One cannot necessarily take such comments to be outright ignoring her scientific credentials. The prettiest creationist in the world can open up a blog, but I’m not going to give it any praise for that reason. If I say, “Hey, that creationist is sure pretty, but she’s also pretty dumb”, the first part of my comment may be irrelevant, but it is not harmful and it says nothing of the creationists’ credentials – the latter part of the comment does that. Take out that latter part, and no comment was made on scientific credentials. In other words, no credentials were demeaned. If the post was about Kirshenbaum’s research on a particular topic and people focused on her looks, then, yes, that would be inappropriate and demeaning.

Hell, take the mook Sean Hannity. Torture yourself with just a few interviews. Women will often make the point that while he is attractive, his points are awful and misguided. In other words, “here’s a compliment, but it has no bearing on what I think about what you’re saying.”

Of course, not everyone is so innocent with their compliments. Some people are just saying it for the sake of saying it. If that’s all they’re saying, give ‘em hell. If they’re saying it in response to a picture accompanied by little more than a generic intro, it’s difficult to see a problem.

I really want to drive this home and I keep coming up with examples how. Take, for instance, a blogger who has a butt-ugly blog layout. Maybe some gross looking color scheme or whathaveyou. Even simply an ugly avatar. Would it be unreasonable for someone to say “I don’t know anything about John Doe’s science, but that is one ugly avatar/layout/whatever he has”?

Oh, Conservapedia

It’s well known that Conservapedia is filled with a large contigent of dumb people. I mean, not just ignorant people. They’re outright stupid. Take this from their “news” section on the front page.

Conservapedia

For those who cannot see the text, it reads:

An overweight and over-the-hill Bruce Springsteen is performing songs from the 1980s at the Super Bowl halftime. Wonder why? He supports the liberal agenda hook, line and sinker. But he hasn’t yet performed his “Born in the U.S.A.” … perhaps Obama types wouldn’t like that one???

Apparently, Conservapedians believe “Born in the U.S.A.” is a patriotic song, or at least in someway anti-liberal. On an aside, they also believe multiple question marks make good writing. They are wrong on both counts.

The Springsteen classic is about a young man who goes from his small town to killing people in a foreign country. Upon return, the man is given the crap we all know (except the morons at Conservapedia) was common for returning war vets.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “Son, don’t you understand”

The song goes on to deride the war for being so meaningless and costly. The cost in the case being human life.

I had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Far from being a song about how crazy, awesome, cool the U.S.A. is, it’s about working-class people who lost their lives during a pointless war. Conservapedia is composed of idiots who are repeatedly shown as idiots. Nothing more.

John Lott is wrong again

It has been well-documented that John Lott is a big, fat liar. He writes slanted pieces to pursue his own agenda, not truth. So it comes as no surprise that he would post an article on his blog which claims that an Obama advisor is “wacky” for being concerned about global warming. Okay, so no big deal. Just another ignorant mook that cites non-scientific sources in order to pursue lies. Sure, it’d be nice if he would just go and post at Conservapedia, FOX News, or WorldNetDaily, but the whole concept of free speech does allow for anyone to speak his mind, even if the thoughts within said mind are utterly ignorant. Ignorant how? As is so common (especially among conservatives – extra-especially among FOX News conservatives), John Lott is ignorant in science. In this case, it’s sun spots.

First let’s note how Lott cites an article from Investor’s Business Daily (that highly regarded scientific organizati…business newspaper). He excludes eight grafs on his blog. Three of the grafs are either introductory or conclusion grafs. The other five are as follows.

The Little Ice Age has been a problem for global warmers because it serves as a reminder of how the earth warms and cools naturally over time. It had to be ignored in the calculations that produced the infamous and since-discredited hockey stick graph that showed a sharp rise in warming alleged to be caused by man.

The answer to this dilemma has supposedly been found by two Stanford researchers, Richard Nevle and Dennis Bird, who announced their “findings” at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. According to them, man not only is causing contemporary warming. He also caused the cooling that preceded it.

According to Bird and Nevle, before Columbus ruined paradise, native Americans had deforested a significant portion of the continent and converted the land to agricultural purposes. Less CO2 was then absorbed from the atmosphere, and the earth was toasty.

Then a bunch of nasty old white guys arrived and depopulated the native populations through war and the diseases they brought with them. This led to the large-scale abandonment of agricultural lands. The subsequent reforestation of the continent caused temperatures to drop enough to bring on the Little Ice Age.

Implicit in this research is that the world would be fine if man wasn’t in the way. We either make the world too cold or too hot, a view held by many in high places.

Given the derisive nature of these grafs, it may actually may have made sense for Lott to publish them, but two of them contain some contradictory science to his silly dogma. That just doesn’t fly for these global warming denialists. I’m beginning to think Lott maybe does visit Conservapedia.

So now that we have Lott’s continued dishonesty out of the way, let’s tackle the main issue: sun spots. The unscientific, babbling article the unscientific, babbling Lott cites tries to stake a claim that all this hoo-hah about global warming is really just scientists misinterpreting data because they never considered sun spots.

When the sun is active, it’s not uncommon to see sunspot numbers of 100 or more in a single month. Every 11 years, activity slows, and numbers briefly drop near zero. Normally sunspots return very quickly, as a new cycle begins. But this year, the start of a new cycle, the sun has been eerily quiet.

The first seven months averaged a sunspot count of only three and in August there were no sunspots at all — zero — something that has not occurred since 1913.

According to the publication Daily Tech, in the past 1,000 years, three previous such events — what are called the Dalton, Maunder and Sporer Minimums — have all led to rapid cooling. One was large enough to be called the Little Ice Age (1500-1750).

(Don’t worry, Lott posted that part).

Okay, so because there are few sun spots to be seen toward the end of this current solar cycle and global temperatures have dropped in 2008, global warming is due to that. There are so many things wrong with this it makes me mad.

First of all, this horrific article cites the first seven months of this year. Guess what? Those months correspond to the end of the last solar cycle. It wasn’t until the past three months that the new 11-year cycle was detected (Hey, John, that’s a scientific citation; use it sometime).

Of course, it’s possible to go so far as to use the misleading information provided by this business newspaper and still show it to be wrong. Let’s assume this solar cycle does correspond with the change in global temperature. It would necessarily follow because there was a rise in temperature in the first seven years of this century that there was also a rise in solar activity. In truth, this past 11-year solar cycle peaked in 2000 and has been decaying ever since. Wow! The wonder of slight research and knowledge! Oh, how it destroys ignorance so quickly. It’s too bad John Lott isn’t interested in doing that.

What’s more, this article cites the Little Ice Age, as if it was entirely and decidely caused by solar activity. The issue is far more nuanced than that – and certainly too nuanced for such an unqualified business newspaper.

Global thermometers stopped rising after 1998, and have plummeted in the last two years by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius. The 2007-2008 temperature drop was not predicted by global climate models. But it was predictable by a decline in sunspot activity since 2000.

Wow. This is just so fucking wrong that it just made me go and fucking swear at its wrongness. Global temperatures have been rising since 1998. From 1995-2006, 11 of the 12 warmest years on record were recorded. As far as this past year goes, it was a decline over the first years of this century – of course, that doesn’t really matter when it was still the 10th warmest year on record. In fact, part of the reason it was cooler than other years was the moderation experienced from La Niña. As is well known (except by John Lott, in all likelihood), water is tremendously useful for retaining temperature. Since La Niña shrinks the warm pool of water in parts of the Pacific, it can make a noticable difference in global temperatures. Still, because of man-made pollution and deforestation, La Niña was not strong enough to prevent 2008 from being the 10th warmest year on record.

It’s unsurprising that John Lott would make a post like this. He has a history of making posts concerning things on which he has no knowledge. Take a look at his posts on evolution. They’re disparate, sometimes contradictory, often with no commentary to give some context. Granted, he shouldn’t be giving commentary on anything, but he also shouldn’t be making posts first concerned with human evolution accelerating and then subsequent posts concerned with human evolution slowing down. Bah. I don’t know why I continue to expect more out of these far-right, a-science mooks.

Einsteinian Religion

There are these perverse notions floating around about what Einstein believed or didn’t believe regarding religion and god(s). The page at Conservapedia – which deserves no link – will give the impression that Einstein believed in some sort of conscious, higher power. Any research will show this is highly unlikely. Einstein believed in ordering physical principles to the Universe which are ultimately far beyond the understanding of humans. This is not a god at all, which is why it’s somewhat unfortunate that he used the term “god” to describe these ordering principles. On the one hand, it’s misleading and it tends to invite people to attempt to associate a brilliant thinker with their own positions, as if appeals to authority confer truth to a statement or thought or idea. On the other hand, there’s a certain poetry to his language; we should all appreciate personification in our literature.

Ultimately, Einstein was an agnostic. Precisely where he stood on, say, Richard Dawkins’ Scale of Religiosity is unclear. I suspect he may be slightly to the left of someone like Carl Sagan (physically assuming “1” is left and “7” is right – see scale video). That may place him as a 4, as I would place Sagan as a 5. Unfortunately, neither man can clarify at this point. However, it is quite clear that neither one believed in any personal god – the seeming indifference of Nature to our plights, our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, it all indicates a lack of personality, of personalization, no matter how much poetic personification we like to use.

No, science only has a bias toward reality.

Apparently, some people think science can be either conservative or liberal. Well, it can’t. So why do the nuts over at Conservapedia think otherwise? What’s more, why do they think creationists tend to win debates with ‘evolutionists’?

Morris also said regarding the creation scientist Duane Gish (who had over 300 formal debates): “At least in our judgment and that of most in the audiences, he always wins.”

You may be wondering, who the fuck is that guy? Well, that’s Henry Morris, one of the founders of the Institute for Creation Research – an organization which does nothing but undermine science. Apparently, Conservapedians believes if they cite the opinion of a creationist on the issue of debating evolution that they have an air-tight case that creationists tend to defeat those EVILutionists in debates. This is about as valuable as those text polls FOX News took after the presidential debates where McCain apparently destroyed Obama, winning roughly 90% of the votes. What’s more, the fact that even if there were some empirical way to measure debate winningness*, it wouldn’t matter since, just as Hitler has no bearing on the truth value of evolution, the random opinions of anti-science mooks is rather irrelevant.

*Creationist would likely reject such a measure were it possible since they believe science to only be science when it gives them results they already like.

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