Good call, Jerry

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has joined the good fight.

Brown, a former California Democratic governor, said the California court’s summer ruling allowing gay marriage led the way to his argument.

“The right of same-sex couples to marry is protected by the liberty interests of the constitution,” Brown said by telephone, referring to the ruling. “If a fundamental right can be take away without any particular justification, then what kind of a right is it?”

The fact that California has a simple majority of bigots is not reason enough to take away the right of a minority. The reason it takes 38 states to ratify an amendment to the U.S. constitution is that it’s quite possible that 26 states could impose highly disagreeable rule over the other 24 – imagine if 25 southern states could have banded together and banned interracial marriage. (Unsurprisingly, it would likely be mostly southern states, again, voting in favor of bigotry if an amendment banning gay marriage ever came to a vote at the state level.)


Coy Creationists

Have you ever noticed that creationists are getting more and more coy and more and more dishonest? From repeating claims about evolution that are blatantly false even after the real answer has been explained to them to coming up with the hooey that is intelligent design (as if it isn’t a repackaging of creationism), so many have turned to flat out lying. They’re liars. They’re immoral charlatans and mountebanks, peddling lies to society, especially children. Why they are given even a modicum of respect is beyond me.

More snails

I love me some snail.

Biologists have tracked down genes that control the handedness of snail shells, and they turn out to be similar to the genes used by humans to set up the left and right sides of the body.

The finding, reported online in advance of publication in Nature by University of California, Berkeley, researchers, indicates that the same genes have been responsible for establishing the left-right asymmetry of animals for 500-650 million years, originating in the last common ancestor of all animals with bilateral body organization, creatures that include everything from worms to humans.

“Previous studies indicated that the methods for breaking left-right symmetry in animals seem to differ widely, so there was nothing suggesting that the common ancestor of humans, snails and other bilateral organisms had a common strategy for left-right asymmetry,” said Nipam H. Patel, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and of molecular and cell biology, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“Indeed, scientists thought that one of the genes that is critical for setting up left-right asymmetry in vertebrates was only present in vertebrates and related groups and not in any other animals,” said UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Cristina Grande. “But we found that gene in snails, which has a lot of evolutionary implications. This cellular pathway was present already in the ancestors of most animals.”

There isn’t much I have to add to this right now. It’s just another good piece of evolutionary study. Pretty.

Simply lovely

While I love to see the bare geological history of a mountain in the summer, Shawnee Peak will be quite lovely tomorrow, especially since there’s a convenient chair to bring me to the top.


Credit to for the image.

Dumb parents

Quebec has a program of study which entails learning about different religions. It does not say “This is right. That is wrong.” It makes no endorsement of religion. It is simply a well-tailored course which educates students about what others believe, the culture surrounding those beliefs, and the diversity that is entailed in the world, with an obvious focus on Quebec’s diversity.

Of course, it comes as no surpise that some dogmatic mooks do not recognize the point of the class.

The course “is forcing children to learn the content of other religions,” Jean Morse-Chevrier, president of the Quebec Association of Catholic Parents, said yesterday. “Therefore it is the state deciding what religious content will be learned, at what age, and that is totally overriding the parents’ authority and role.”

The new course is the final step in a secularization of Quebec schooling that began with a 1997 constitutional amendment replacing the province’s denominational school boards with linguistic ones.

The notion that parents should have the authority to shelter their children from knowledge is obscene. The course is about learning how other people think and why. It offers insight, not harm. What these parents want to do is have the right to abuse their children by keeping them locked in an intellectual cage of uniformity and dogma.

A 2005 law changed Quebec’s Education Act and its Charter of Rights to eliminate parents’ right to choose a course in Catholic, Protestant or moral instruction, and the changes came into effect last June.

Am I reading this right? Students had to attend some form of “moral instruction”? Even with the options offered, this is inane. Looking beyond the oxymoron of Christian morality, at what point did Canada think it a good idea to indoctrinate children with particular notions of right and wrong beyond perhaps some basics (i.e., no fighting)? I thought you were better than that, O Canada.

Of course, such an article would not be complete without an example of the topic.

For Diane Gagne and her 16-year-old son Jonathan, evangelical Christians in Granby, the course teaches values that run counter to their religion.

Jonathan has been sitting out the course this fall, which is taught for about two hours a week. Last Friday he was told by J-H-Leclerc secondary school that he had been suspended for the day.

If he continues to skip the class, school rules could eventually lead to expulsion.

Ms. Gagne said her son remains determined despite the suspension. “He told me, ‘Mom, I am still standing, and I’m going to keep standing and fight this to the end.’ We’re prepared to go right to expulsion.”

Dear Ms. Gagne,

    Your son is a moron.

    Best wishes.

Puh-lease. This is just sad. This kid is so indoctrinated in his mother’s particular brand of inanity that he is unwilling to so much as listen to what someone else believes. Such action is not the mark of an intelligent individual.

Obama: Science to be at top of agenda

The beauty that is science has suffered horribly in the past 8 years thanks to the idiocy of the Republicans. It’s such a relief to know that Jesus H. Obama is going to bring the United States up to code with the rest of the sane world and, again, put science at the top.

CHICAGO – Seeking to draw a distinction with President George W. Bush, Barack Obama named his top science and technology advisers Saturday and pledged to “once again put science at the top of our agenda.”

And what a distinction it is. From denying global warming for so many years, to having the gall to suggest that intelligent design is somehow related to science in any way, Bush’s level of interest in science and truth is about equal to Bobby Jindal’s.

Obama said history has shown that the greatest scientific discoveries – from landing on the moon to inventing the Internet – didn’t happen without support from the government and its leaders.

We love our toilet paper, but we don’t want to learn about the path that led to it. (I have to be fair here. It wasn’t simply science – necessity played its fair role.)

Taking a veiled jab at Bush, Obama said the scientific process is about evidence and facts that “are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology.”

“It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient,” Obama said. “Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as president of the United States – and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.”

He announced Dr. John Holdren, a Harvard University professor, as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Jane Lubchenco, an environmental scientist and marine ecologist at Oregon State University, is Obama’s choice for administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Obama also named co-chairs of the Council of Advisers on Science and Technology: Harold Varmus, a Nobel Prize winner, and Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard.

It’s so nice to see a president who is making his appointments based upon the candidates actually being, I don’t know, qualified. No former International Arabian Horse Association commissioner for this administration.

Aversion to education (rant)

I find myself wondering why the aversion to education from so many. It has become a popular thing to say “Well, such-and-such told me this about Subject X, so I’m not really interested in learning about it.” Well, that isn’t a good reason, is it? It’s no more than an Appeal to Authority. Basically, a person who is held in some modicum of respect declares this or that to be true and so others take it to be true and worthwhile.

I specifically want to take this down the road of science (of course). There is a massive aversion to this subject, almost to the point where it’s popular to play up one’s ignorance of this powerful, powerful tool. It’s a shame. A big, fucking shame. What’s tragically ironic is that many of these same people fully embrace their Internet, cars, toilet paper, inexpensive food, iPods, mass-produced (and inexpensive) clothing, and so many other things which are the result of science and technology. Science is within nearly every moment of our lives, yet few realize this because it is applied science, not research or theoretical science. Instead, we embrace the pseudosciences of acupuncture, intelligent design, and astrology.

To bring this to my favorite subject, it is of course important to wonder aloud why so many people have been taught that it is okay to be told by a pastor, priest, minister or other authority figure that evolution is untrue and that that person’s opinion on such a topic is worth its weight in salt. It isn’t. In fact, most Appeals to Authority are useless. It seems to me that if one is actually, genuinely interested in a topic that there would be a certain level of necessary inquiry that would be taken. That is, so many people reject evolution on the flimsy basis that because it contradicts their pre-held beliefs, it must be wrong. In other words, they recognize that if evolution is true, at best they can become theistic evolutionists, but even then they must recognize that such a god is superfluous. That means whether evolution is true or not is wholly central to the belief system of anyone that realizes the importance of the issue. If we can agree that this is the case, then shouldn’t we also agree that an aversion to education about evolution comes across as rather silly?