Monday, October 27, 2008

Contempt For Science

Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies.

If you've been paying attention, I expect you will have no difficulty determining to whom this quote refers. If you know me, you can probably guess that it is by Christopher Hitchens.

I wanted to avoid being overtly political, because that is not this blog's subject. When politics cross with science and skepticism, however, it falls within my jurisdiction.

Firstly, the three million dollar overheard projector that McCain continually brings up is actually a star projector for a planetarium. You can't argue that we need more students entering scientific study and at the same time argue against the very things that inspire students to enter scientific study. That's not wasteful spending, that's investment.

Second, McCain likes to joke about the millions spent on research bear DNA, but if we can about preventing the species' extinction it's actually a pretty important matter.

Third, Palin made a joke about wasteful spending for fruit fly research. It's more important and useful than you might think. Fruit flies go through very quick generation cycles and have fairly high rates of mutation. For studies of DNA and evolution, they are excellent subjects. DNA studies are fairly important, as they give us things like flu vaccinations. You know, the kind that Jenny McCarthy says will give you autism.

Quite simply, this year isn't about political affiliations any longer. It's about fact versus rhetoric. It's science versus religion. Obama has time and again shown himself to be aware of even the nuances of the latest scientific information. Imagine that. A president who isn't hostile to scientific inquiry and will even adjust his policies to align with fact.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It Won't Stop.

Chances are that Barack Obama will win this election. That's fine by me, but a lot of people are very upset about this. Fortunately for some of these people, a number of them are very good at ignoring reality. Conspiracy theories about Barack Obama have proliferated on the Internet for a few months now, and this little article does a fantastic job of cataloging the most delusional.

I'll bet you didn't know that Obama's book, Dreams from My Father, was actually written by Bill Ayers and that Obama had a homosexual relationship with his father-figure "Frank" when he was 9 years old.

I assure you that these claims are all based on the soundest evidence. Go look for yourself.

Don't expect this sort of thing to end when the election season is over. The conspiracies will change from questionable history to questionable present as Obama takes the blame for every modern development. Even good results will be questioned as the insane, fringe conservatives imply that a devil's bargain was struck with the Illuminati, or terrorist cells, or potentially the actual devil. The Internet is a wonderful thing.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Blogger Harassed Into Anonymity

A mother, blogger and atheist, Possummomma was known for her popular blog "Atheist In A Minivan". Thanks to harassment from decent folk she closed down her blog. The stress of dealing with their harassment, both online and in real life, exacerbated the symptoms of her chronic disease. See the posted link for a more in-depth summary.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Friendly Atheists

This has been bugging me for a while, and it's something my own crowd is doing.

With greater frequency you see blogs springing up titled, in essence, "The Friendly Atheist". Often a synonym for friendly is used.

Look, your heart is in the right place, but you're not doing anyone any favors with a name like that. What do you think that says about the other atheists?

Let's compare. What are your reactions to the following fictional sites?

The Honest Republican
The Masculine Democrat
The Harmless African American
The Tolerant White Man
The Open-Minded Christian

All you're doing is taking a stereotype and reinforcing it by saying, "I'm the exception." Stop it. Most atheists are friendly. We're normal people.

We are perceived as unfriendly, or arrogant, because we ask uncomfortable questions. The questions themselves aren't that uncomfortable, but the answers that people know they have to give to be logically consistent are embarrassing. So, rather than recognize the belief for the silly thing it is, they assume criticism on our part and feel insulted.

The tone of the debate doesn't matter. You can do nothing but ask questions and still receive this reaction. That's a problem.

It's not because we're being mean.

Not always, anyway.

Monday, October 6, 2008

World Ending Tomorrow

Apparently, there's this thing called a Web Bot. This thing predicts the future by looking at web sites. It predicted a lot of things. Don't ask what those things are. I don't have to prove myself to you.

Yeah, it was important stuff. How important? Stuff like 9/11. Yeah, that's right. Bet you're sorry you questioned it now, huh?

Well, yes, of course it managed to predict that by scanning the web. It was in the collective unconcious, man. The collective unconcious knows its stuff.

Anyways, the collective unconcious, through the Web Bot, says something's going down tomorrow.

Something big.

Well, according to these guys it's going to be bigger than you can possibly imagine. Remember the first ten days after 9/11? Remember how you felt then? It's going to be like that, but it's going to last until late February.

Because the Web Bot says so, that's how I know!

So, anyways, when 10/8/08 rolls around expect to see headlines along the lines of:







Palin Only Survivor With Inexplicable Immunity

Also, you should go to the grocery store right now and buy water. Lots of water. And medicine. And close all your bank accounts. Seriously, if you know how to survive in the wilderness you might just want to leave now to beat traffic.

Jesus Is Missing.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Court To Moron: "You're a moron."

They told him to shut up and go home.

You are probably aware that a lot of people who don't really know what they're talking about keep saying that the Large Hadron Collider is going to devour everything (literally - everything) in a black hole.

It was everywhere just a few weeks ago when they were getting ready to power up the LHC to test it. Even in the grocery store I heard people talking about it. I resisted the urge to yell at them. Barely.

Scientists have said a lot about this. For instance, that the LHC doesn't have nearly the amount of power to create a black hole. Even if it did, such a black hole would be incredibly unstable and instantaneously vanish in a puff of Hawking radiation. Even if all that didn't happen, it would be so small that our sun would have turned into a red giant and obliterated the solar system well before the black hole could devour a single gram of matter.

The probability of this being an actual threat has been compared to the probability of your car spontaneously turning into a horse due to random quantum fluctuations.

What the LHC is likely to do is answer a lot of our questions about physics, and it will lead to incredibly advances in our technology. The LHC puts out over a gigabyte of data per second. Scientists created a new thing called the Grid to deal with that. Wonder if that'll find its way into the world at large.