Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mark Morford's column today pins Bush precisely:

Bush's is not the hero's journey. It is the lackey's shuffle, the imposter's grope, the alcoholic's blind stumble over the curb of human progress.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Here's a depressing story about how evolution is taught at two community colleges in Texas. The creationist teacher interviewed was so obtuse that I felt compelled to respond:


I read the story about you in Friday's Jacksonville Daily Progress and I have a few comments. I have listed each of your quotes, followed by my comments.

“I teach that the universe was created in six literal days. We believe that the Genesis account refers to literal 24-hour periods. You wouldn’t have the words morning and evening if it was referring to an indefinite time period,”
I agree that the Genesis account refers to 24-hour periods, but why do you assume that a 5000-year-old book contains absolute truth?

“People accept either theory just by their beliefs and what they have been taught — "
No. Scientists accept evolution on the basis of converging lines of evidence, not belief or dogma. Notice that many creationists realize their mistake and eventually accept evolution, but the reverse is not true. Biologists do not transform into creationists.

"...we really can’t prove either one.”
This is misleading, because science does not "prove" anything. We cannot "prove" that we were not created last Thursday with false memories of the past. We cannot prove that the universe is not an illusion created in our minds by some unknown entity. We don't entertain these hypotheses because it's not productive to do so. Instead, we build a framework of knowledge based on objective, repeatable observations of nature. We have a self-consistent framework comprising geology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, genetics, astronomy, and cosmology. They all agree with each other, and with what we can observe, with a few exceptions. Evolution fits into the established scientific framework very well. The Genesis account does not.

“At the time of the Big Bang, evolutionists believe there was all this matter out there, where did that matter come from?"
As you should know, this question is outside the scope of science. But if you tell me that God created everything, then answer this: Who or what created God? This question is as unanswerable as yours.

"At the time of the Big Bang, how did the Earth end up getting all of the water and the air and the life-forms? Everything from as simple as bacteria to as complicated as people — no life-forms have ever been found anywhere else,”
Oh come on. We already know that water is abundant in the universe. For example, see this site. And, of course, there is no reason to assume that there are not life forms on other planets. We have not found them because we are unable to travel to any other planets, except for a few probes within the solar system. There are billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, so there's plenty of opportunity for life.

“We hear that all life-forms are progressing from one life-form to another, but yet in the world we do not have any life-forms that are between forms."
Wrong. How about ring species, which exist as a continuum of differing forms? Also, there is no reason to assume that existing species will not undergo change in the future, as they have in the past.

"The fossil record has never shown anything to be in a transition state, going from this form to that form.”
Wrong again. Here's a site that shows transitional forms of the horse and here are a couple of sites that give more explanation:
Understanding Evolution
Transitional Fossils

“There’s a lot of questions right now that I can’t answer. What holds the clouds up? If we throw a whole bucket of water in the air, the whole bucket is going to come right back down, but when it rains, all these little raindrops fall,”
If you had searched for a few moments on the internet you would have found the answer. It's because cloud droplets are very tiny, like mist, and fall very slowly. Rising air keeps them up. See:

“There are still many unanswered things out there. Cell differentiation in human reproduction is something we don’t understand. Back when we are just a small cluster of cells, how do some of our cells know to become blood, brains, muscles, bones or something else. We don’t have an answer for that.”
Ok, sure.

“When you consider all of the ‘random’ events that have taken place for our benefit; the element we need more than anything else is oxygen — that’s what we’ve got the most of. The compound we need the most is water — that’s what we’ve got the most of. Trees give us oxygen, and we give them carbon dioxide. The odds of any of those taking place is incredibly low, and when you add them all on top of each other, it just makes it all the less likely still,”
What are the chances of winning the lottery? Very, very small. But a small number of people do win every day. See: Argument from Probability And, without the elements of oxygen, water, etc. we would not be here having this discussion. So all the elements and structures necessary for life have to already be there if we are alive and conversing. Your argument is circular.

In conclusion, what I see here is a "professor" who does not spend even a few minutes looking on the internet before posing stupid rhetorical questions to a newspaper, and teaches concepts that are contrary to the established body of scientific knowledge. Your arrogance is astonishing. Please, do us a favor and take some basic science classes at a real university, or maybe you should go back to high school. If you are concerned about your religious belief then maybe you should take a look at Why Won't God Heal Amputees

Really, I am just a computer programmer in northern California, who took some biology classes in college, and look how easy it was for me to rip your arguments apart. You're embarassing yourself with these outlandish public statements.

Ted Treadwell

To my surprise, he replied, with a polite but simplistic response. I'm not going to publish it here for the purpose of internet etiquette. Let's just say that I didn't sway him in the slightest, and neither did he influence my irreligious scientism. One quote from his reply sums up his obstinateness nicely:

I am glad that my argument is circular as you state.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Here's something to reflect upon: conservatives giving up on the Republican party. Doesn't surprise me at all, because the current illegitimate regime does not adhere to any of the traditional conservative values of fiscal responsibility, small government, or personal liberty. They shouldn't be called "conservatives" -- after all, what are they "conserving"? Not government monies. Not US stature in the world. Not the planet. Not our educational system. Nothing, in fact, except the riches and political supremacy of a few billionaires.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Chris Mooney's new book, The Republican War on Science, is now in paperback, and the author is doing a tour. I'm not sure if I'll make it to his talk, but from the excerpt I've read of the book, and Chris's other online writings, this seems to be an important, well-substantiated book.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

For this first blog entry I'll point out some movies I've seen recently that have impressed me. These are among the best films I've ever seen and all are highly recommended.

Fireworks (Hana-bi) is a Japanese film about a police detective and his campaign of revenge against the Yakuza (mafia) for the death of his partner. Somewhat reminiscent of the Death Wish films, but with a far superior depth and complexity. This film has a very spare editing style that I like a lot.

A Beautiful Mind examines the life of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician who won the Nobel Prize despite suffering from schizophrenia. It is a true story that makes one think about the nature of reality and human experience.

Once Were Warriors is about a Maori family strugging to survive in modern-day Auckland. It's a story about identity, family and culture admist a chaos of violence and poverty.
V For Vendetta is a political science-fiction tale reminiscent of 1984 or Brazil. It's set in the not-too-distant future of Britain, which has devolved into a totalitarian state with a Hitler-like leader. The main character, 'V', played brilliantly by Hugo Weaving, is a terrorist determined to bring punishment to the fascist leaders who have caused many to suffer terribly.