Fourteen year old gives an incredible speech

A fourteen year old student came to the defense of his teacher who was suspended for kicking two students out of class. One of the kids that was kicked out was wearing a Confederate flag. The other one made anti-gay remarks. Both clearly have a lot of growing up to do and clearly required discipline. The student who stood up and made an amazing speech was Graeme Taylor and he did it at a school board meeting. It’s worth it to watch the video.

(If anyone knows how to get the embedding code, I would appreciate it.)

Be careful not to define your terms

That’s how the religious git’cha.

Butchering science

Creationists hate science. They hate its conclusions, they hate its methods, they hate that it doesn’t support their silly beliefs. It’s that hatred that motivates them to butcher scientific articles and papers.

One recent butchering comes from Jack Hudson. I’m sure regulars here remember him. If not, it isn’t important. He’s a creationist with a background in introductory biology courses from 20 years ago. It’s doubtful he has much experience reading scientific papers, but that doesn’t stop him from trying.

In his post he butchers two articles. I’m going to focus on the first one, but I’ll briefly mention the second one. In that one researchers found that some negative mutations don’t change the protein sequence yet they are still negative. This one is simple. The entire sequence of a gene is not devoted to just the protein sequence. A mutation can therefore change one aspect of a gene without changing another – but it can still change another process that is important in forming proteins. Alter shape in one place and you have a good chance of seeing change somewhere else as a result. Biology is still all about shape.

The second paper, though. Woo. What a doozy of a butchering. First let me summarize the paper.

In asexual populations alleles can become fixed rather quickly. Their evolution is more straight forward because they aren’t mixing and matching genes. They produce offspring with the exact same genome, less there be a mutation. If there is a mutation, it can become fixed because things are generally less complicated with asexual populations and thus more black and white. Is this mutation good or bad? As the paper says and as Jack repeats upon hearing the term for the first time, alleles sweep through a population.

But when it comes to sexually reproducing populations, things become more complicated. And this is what the paper is about. The question is, do alleles sweep through populations in sexually reproducing populations like they do in asexual populations? The answer is no.

Now, if we’re to believe Jack, this means that evolution has failed because, why, evolution predicts an advantageous allele to reach 100% fixation, of course. Except it isn’t so black and white with sexually reproducing populations. (Nor does evolution predict that anyway.)

What the researchers did was study over 600 generations of fruit flies. They let them breed naturally, but then selected out the eggs which were produced the most quickly. This led to significantly faster reproducing populations. They then tracked specific alleles to see if they would become fixed. What they found was that they don’t.

Signatures of selection are qualitatively different than what has been observed in asexual species; in our sexual populations, adaptation is not associated with ‘classic’ sweeps whereby newly arising, unconditionally advantageous mutations become fixed. More parsimonious explanations include ‘incomplete’ sweep models, in which mutations have not had enough time to fix, and ‘soft’ sweep models, in which selection acts on pre-existing, common genetic variants. We conclude that, at least for life history characters such as development time, unconditionally advantageous alleles rarely arise, are associated with small net fitness gains or cannot fix because selection coefficients change over time.

The conclusion here is that selection for a particular trait in sexually reproducing populations acts upon many different aspects and genetic variants within the genome, not merely a single gene or SNP.

This suggests that selection does not readily expunge genetic variation in sexual populations, a finding which in turn should motivate efforts to discover why this is seemingly the case.

This is the actual conclusion of the paper. To put it another way (and to repeat myself), advantageous variants do not wipe out other genetic variants in a sexually reproducing population, instead acting on variation in a more subtle and complicated way. The big conclusion here is that there is a difference in how genes become fixed (or not fixed) in asexual populations versus sexually reproducing populations.

And Jack’s conclusion?

In short, if the activity failed to occur in the lab under optimal conditions, it is unlikely that traits are going to be transmitted this way in nature.

The traits are still being transmitted through natural selection working on variation. Jack’s conclusion has little to no connection to anything from the paper. In fact, it is abundantly clear that he read an article somewhere, figured out how to butcher it, and then went and read a few lines from the original paper.

I’ve said in the past that what takes a creationist 30 seconds to say takes an educated person 3 hours to correct. This post and the research required for it didn’t take that long, but the sentiment remains true – it’s a real hassle to untangle the carelessly mushed writings of a creationist.

Why, thank you for the faux concern

Christopher Hitchens has been talking about his cancer, what he’s going through, the response he has been getting, etc. One of the questions that interviewers always ask is how he feels about people who say they will pray for him. Hitchens responds that the sentiment is touching, but he clearly is not appreciative when the motivation is to appease some god. If the person doing the praying is genuine and would like to see Hitchens regain full health, that’s wonderful. But if the person only hopes to convert him out of a sense of blind duty to some god, then that’s just petty and silly.

With that in mind, I would like to thank whoever sent out emails to Need Him Ministries and First Baptist Church of Covington. I received 9 emails today which were either subscriptions to religious newsletters from these groups (or their affiliates) or were direct responses from a few individuals. It looks like all the subscriptions came from one of the responding individuals signing me up for them, not from whoever sent the original emails, but I’m not entirely sure. At any rate, the basis for the emails was this post.

I’m still waiting for someone, anyone!, to offer me even some evidence for God.

I’m still waiting.

The person who signed up the email account attached to this site (it isn’t my regular email, in case anyone bothered to wonder) apparently went online and got my address and phone number to send to these people as well. That raises a few issues. First, I don’t live at that address anymore. Second, that address doesn’t actually exist anymore. Third, the phone number is to a land line I don’t think even exists anymore. But I think my favorite issue here is that whoever sent the emails sent them to at least two organizations: Need Him Ministries and First Baptists Church of Covington. The first group appears to be directed towards reaching anyone it can. But the second group is specifically based out of Augusta…Augusta, Georgia. That’s close to my hometown of Augusta – only about 1100 miles off.

It doesn’t really matter if I get spam sent to my email; it isn’t hard to delete or block unwanted junk. But I do feel somewhat bad. I had to send an apology to one person for her time being wasted. Granted, she believes in superstitious nonsense and time away from that is probably time well spent, but that doesn’t mean I want to waste her time.

But what I don’t feel bad about is the 1400+ word response I got from David Shelton. It was, of course, filled with nonsense and logical fallacies, but that isn’t the worst of it. It was all just canned bullshit. How do I know? Well, this.

Although a brain injury and resulting dementia has taken David off the stage, we are encouraged to hear how his ministry still blesses others.

Yeah, somehow I don’t think the email was personalized.

But I know you’re all dying to get a look at some of the bullshit.

I can see that you are struggling with the whole concept of God, yet I know that in your mind you struggle with who is God, yet you have a keen awareness that there is a God who created all the order and intelligence, since the very existence of such knowledge reveals that a higher being must exist.

I have a pretty clear concept of God based upon how believers define him – that is, how they define him until someone bothers to ask any question. Then it’s just evade, evade, evade! Perhaps it is believers who need to get through their struggles with the whole concept of God. And order and intelligence? Those two facts reveal that 1) there are physical laws and 2) the power of evolution.

Now evidence for God exists everywhere, even evidence that this God is the very God spoken of in the Bible. If I had the time I could write multiple text books on this matter. As a matter of fact many people already have, yet most who don’t really want to discover God but continue on with their heads in the sand denying the truths of God which are plain and simple to them.

Ah, this ol’ chestnut. If someone doesn’t believe in God, it’s because of a desire not to discover. And why wouldn’t someone want to discover God?

Yet for one who doesn’t want to know God, because of their fears of not wanting any being to put any kind of demands upon their lives, they will never know God, or truly follow Him. Cowardice and pride is the greatest enemy of most who claim to be atheists or agnostics, because they truly do not like even the idea of God, much less are they willing to look at the evidence without reservation with an open mind….and heart.

Yes, yes, of course. Atheists just don’t want to feel like they have any holy obligations. Of course, this whole argument is premised on the idea that it is plausible that God might exist and for that reason we think, oh boy, we better stick our heads in the sand. Except the whole idea behind being an atheist is that most of us don’t think God is plausible. We aren’t rejecting God because we don’t like what he has to say; that suggests atheists secretly believe in God but just prefer a more hedonistic and selfish path. In fact, we don’t believe in God, we don’t believe in God, we don’t believe in God.

Try this. Seriously pray and say to God. “God, I don’t know if you exist or if Jesus was who he claimed to be, your Son who died for us, but if you are real and if this is true, will you please help me to see you and to come to know you. Reveal yourself to me while I read, study and seek you and help me to overcome my doubts.”

This is my favorite. The magic-believer asks the rational person to pray…and be serious! The hope here is that the rational person will fall for the trick and actually start believing; it would be the only way to satisfy the request. Of course, if the person really is rational, then none of this is going to happen.

I omitted quite a bit of the email since it is quite long, but there are several times when it is claimed that there is good evidence for belief in God. At no point is a single shred presented. No, no, of course not. Instead, it is hoped that veiled threats of being away from good and near evil will persuade me. Unfortunately for desperate believers, I see anyone who tries to get people to believe something based upon the threat of eternal punishment to be perpetuating evil themselves.