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Thought of the day

I just watched the so-called highlights of the World Cup match. It was amazing. Soccer is somehow able to be so boring that even its highlights make me want to shoot myself.

Prof Mike Adams mocks CLS decision

The Supreme Court recently said a university is not required to give its student groups the same First Amendment protections a private group would receive so long as it is treating the groups equally. It’s akin to a private employer allowing its employees to form groups while putting the restriction on them that no employee may be excluded from any given group for any reason. It’s entirely reasonable.

Now a professor – Mike Adams – has a column I suspect is tongue-in-cheek.

I can’t stand atheists. And I plan to do something about them. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court has given me a powerful tool to use in my war against the godless. Earlier this week, the Court ruled that a public university may require all student organizations to admit any student as a voting member or officer. The decision applies even to a student who is openly hostile to the group’s fundamental beliefs.

It’s perplexing why Adams is focusing on atheists. The decision was based upon the Christian group suing a university. Atheists had nothing to do with it. But whatever. He’s right, students hostile to the message of a group may still join that group – provided the school has an all-comers policy. I’m not sure Adams’ university, UNC, has that policy. If it doesn’t, his whole rant doesn’t apply.

Another site that picked up on Adams has pointed out another flaw in this DIABOLICAL PLAN!

The court’s decision pointed out that student groups could still, for example, expel members who didn’t pay dues, or restrict officer positions to those who had been members for a year or more. If his “young Christian warriors” wanted to disrupt an atheist club, they’d have to sit and wait for a year, paying to promote atheism the whole time, before they’d get their chance. I doubt many Christians would be willing to do that. Or an atheist law students’ club could just forgo official recognition, exactly as the court emphasized that they could, and restrict their membership to professing nonbelievers.

The final point is the primary problem with what Adams is saying. As so many angry, bitter, legally doltish Christians seem to do, Adams is conflating what private groups must be allowed to do versus what university endorsed groups must be allowed to do. As the Supreme Court noted, a student group can forgo official recognition by the university, thus becoming just another private group, allowed to exclude a great many people. In other words, the court said universities do not have to endorse bigotry.

But Adams continues.

The Court acknowledges that such “accept all comers” policies may not in fact be desirable for maintaining robust debate on public college campuses. I concur. And I like it that way. I do not seek robust debate. I seek power over the godless heathen dissident.

The article is tongue-in-cheek and I don’t foresee Adams actually following through, but this makes sense. I mean, the arguments of atheists have long frustrated theists who are unable to give coherent responses. (And by “frustrated theists” I mean all theists who have ever bothered to think.) The only reason Christians and other theists are able to maintain any power is through sheer numbers, not rationality or reason.

But sure, Adams can go ahead and invade other groups if he really wants. He might even succeed in making sure universities do not adopt all-comers policies. But he’ll still be wrong about this Supreme Court decision. And all because he is unable to differentiate between protections for private groups under the constitution and protections for what private groups may do within their own internal structure. It’s sad and intellectually pathetic.

Hubble captures fireworks

How a theist can look at all the fantastic images Hubble has offered humanity and somehow not feel insignificant in the Universe is one of the greatest feats of arrogance there is.

This gorgeous star cluster doesn’t need a holiday to set off fireworks. Officially called NGC 3603, the small community of young stars is located about 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.

Ultraviolet radiation and violent stellar winds from the cluster’s stars shoved away the cloud of gas and dust in which the stars formed, giving the Hubble Space Telescope’s new Wide Field Camera 3 a clear view. Hubble captured this image in August 2009 and December 2009, just a few months after the new camera was installed, in both visible and infrared light. The image shows a sharper view of the stars than an earlier image taken with Hubble’s NICMOS infrared camera in 2007, and traces sources of sulfur, hydrogen and iron.

Most of the stars in the cluster were born around the same time, but age differently depending on their masses. Clusters like NGC 3603 give astronomers a lab to study stars’ life cycles in detail, as well as a window into the origin of massive star formation in the distant universe. NGC 3603’s stars are among the most massive known. After they burn through their fuel, these stars will end their lives in spectacular supernova explosions.

Via Wired.

Cat imitates monkey

Ever since I first laid eyes on it, my favorite animal has been the Golden Lion Tamarin. It’s a beautiful new world monkey that’s pretty rare, but can be found in some zoos, including the one in Washington D.C. (And if I recall correctly, I believe I saw it at the Baltimore Aquarium, for some odd reason.)

Given just how stunning I find this primate, I was rather worried when I read this article about a feline, the Spotted Margay, vocally imitating tamarins as a predatory method.

Researchers first recorded the incident in 2005 when a group of eight pied tamarins were feeding in a ficus tree. They then observed a margay emitting calls similar to those made by tamarin babies. This attracted the attention of a tamarin “sentinel,” which climbed down from the tree to investigate the sounds coming from a tangle of vines called lianas. While the sentinel monkey started vocalizing to warn the rest of the group of the strange calls, the monkeys were clearly confounded by these familiar vocalizations, choosing to investigate rather than flee. Four other tamarins climbed down to assess the nature of the calls. At that moment, a margay emerged from the foliage walking down the trunk of a tree in a squirrel-like fashion, jumping down and then moving towards the monkeys. Realizing the ruse, the sentinel screamed an alarm and sent the other tamarins fleeing.

My heart raced. Everyone knows only cute animals are worthy of human sympathy, but I’ve never seen a pied tamarin. Was it as cute as a golden lion tamarin? Could this feline have been attacking something I would be willing to irresponsibly feed purely due to its cuteness?

Phew!

This encounter was actually unsuccessful, but it shows just how cunning evolution has made some cats. Locals have claimed that they have also observed this behavior in other members of the feline family, including jaguars, cougars, and ocelots. The next step will be to determine if this is true (and I suspect it is), and then do more research to determine if there is a genetic basis for these actions beyond the obvious basis of simply being feline. I lean towards the behavior being learned simply because it hasn’t been observed with captured specimens or with specimens living in vastly different areas, but also because agoutis (rodents) also find themselves a target of margay mimicry, and they make an entirely different sound from tamarins.

But the margay’s remarkable abilities are not limited to traditional feline characteristics and mimicry. Take a look at this video.