Thought of the day

One of the biggest whines I hear about science blogs is that they are not enough about science. Of course, this whine only arises when the focus of the blog is pro-atheism. This leads me to conclude two things:

  • This is just another way for people tell atheists to shut; it’s disingenuous.
  • People do not understand any of the arguments being put forth by these pro-atheist blogs.

The reason a lot of pro-atheist science blogs focus on issues which, at least at first glance, do not appear to be very science-y is that conveying the latest research is not the only way to defend and promote science. For instance, having a wider appeal is going to gain a wider audience. If PZ only wrote about research like this, how many people would read about it? The reason more than a handful of individuals even know it exists is that they are already reading Pharyngula for a lot of the other content.

Another way to defend and therefore promote science is to attack religion. It is a fact that religious thinking harms science on the whole. (Please note “on the whole”. I have little doubt that something like “A-ha! But what about Excellent Scientist X? He’s religious!” just popped through at least a couple heads.) We have people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. We have those who deny the fact of evolution. We have parents who believe faith healing is okay. We have restrictions on research for bogus ethical concerns. All these things are a direct result of religion. For anyone who believes science deserves the highest mantle, talking about the harms of religion is one extremely effective method towards bringing science up to its proper place.

President Obama praises Michael Vick

And I love it.

NBC’s Peter King reports that Barack Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie earlier this week to congratulate him for giving Vick a second chance after his release from prison. According to King, the president said that released prisoners rarely receive a level playing field and that Vick’s story could begin to change that.

The reason I like this so much isn’t that I’m a big fan of Michael Vick as a player – though I am – and it isn’t that I’m a big fan of the Eagles – I’m definitely not; every team that has ever been anywhere near Pennsylvania, and especially those in Philly, can go to hell. It’s that people are irrationally harsh towards released convicts. We have this whole system set up where we say, “Okay, you did these wrong things, so we need to fix the situation”, and the way we fix things is to come up with sentences of certain periods. If anyone thought for a damn minute about what we’re doing, they would realize that by agreeing to the very idea of releasing people after certain periods of time, we’re saying, “Okay, we can call the situation fixed after X days/weeks/months/years.” We may not considere it entirely fixed (hence probation), but we are, as an obvious matter of fact, considering the bulk of the situation resolved. But emotion gets in the way.

From sports shows to articles to conversations, I have heard people say again and again that Vick ought to be banned from ever playing in the NFL again. All that does is ignore everything we’re saying as a society about the very idea of prison sentences that result in release. He has served his time. Even though prison should not be about punishment (because that’s plainly petty), the pro-revenge/punishment crowd ought to be satisfied by the fact that Vick has completed his sentence. More so, for reasonable people (who aren’t usually American), the fact that Vick’s time in prison has made it virtually certain he will never again abuse animals ought to be satisfying. In this case, we can say he went to a correction facility – and we’ll be honest when we say it.

So I am very happy to read the President’s words on Vick. If we’re just out to make the lives of people terrible because they did a terrible thing, we’re just hypocrites. And more importantly, we aren’t improving anything. I would think with such a large Christian population that we might do a little more turning of the cheek. (Unless people are just picking and choosing their morality from their religion…) I cannot say I am overly hopeful that Obama’s praise of Vick is going to radically change things for the better, but it is a step in the right direction.

Common sense driving

Look, things don’t always work out the way we want when it snows.

But this was coming into my driveway. I had a small shot of nestling my car into its spot if I could just get by a drift or two. Obviously it didn’t work out. And that’s okay because, even though it sucks for me, it only matters for me. I’m not causing other people on the road to be in any more or less danger.

With that in mind, I have this advice for people who have to drive in snowy weather: When approaching a hill, DON’T go 20 mph. That’s horseshit driving. I just don’t understand why people don’t have this utterly minor foresight. And it happens every snowstorm. Sure enough, today was no exception. I waited for the car in front of me to finish fishtailing its way to the top of a hill before I even bothered to begin my non-tailing, common-fucking-sense drive up the snowy, slippery hill. And how did I do it? I got a moderate amount of speed beforehand. It was not difficult; it was not dangerous – in fact, the car in front of me was the most reckless driver on that stretch of road for quite some time. There’s such a thing as being overcautious. And it is far from safe.

Jackasses.