Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

September, 2009:

I’m just sayin’…

I told my friend Mike…

If there was a zombie outbreak at the atheist convention this weekend, I think all the atheists would be sad… because we wouldn’t be able (in good conscience) to use the great line, “I’m sending you back to Hell!!!” as we killed the zombies.

He responded…

Some asshole will quote the movie and say “When Hell is full, the dead will walk the earth” and get berated by 500 screaming atheists and everyone will lose sight of the bigger picture and die horribly.

Touche.

Glenn Beck and the Key to the City

It seems that Glenn Beck has received the “key to the city” from the mayor of his hometown, Mount Vernon, Washington. Bud Norris (the mayor), evidently emphasized that “the honor was for his professional accomplishments, not his political views.”

There were about 800 demonstrators on hand, reportedly evenly split between supporters and detractors.

Beck gave an acceptance speech at the event. MSNBC reports (emphasis mine)…

Beck, 45, mostly stayed away from discussing politics. But he said he didn’t remember politics being so divisive when he was growing up. The country could count on a bright future if people would stop tearing each other apart, he said.

I’m not sure if that’s hypocrisy or irony coming from the guy who said that Obama is a racist and has a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” He’s also the guy who said “Everyone is Hitler, except for me!” and…

The Manchurian Candidate couldn’t destroy us faster than Barack Obama. If you were planning a sleeper to come in and become president of the United States, this is how he would do it.

(and that’s pretty mild compared to a lot of his stuff)

This buffoon of hatred, bigotry, and absurdism is the guy who says we should stop tearing each other apart? Well… actually, he didn’t say we should stop. He said that our country could count on a bright future if we would stop.

I guess he wants no part of that.

What’s Hasenpfeffer!?!

Hasenpfeffer?!? So, this morning I woke up from a dream that I was doing a ventriloquist act on-stage. For the record, I’ve never done a ventriloquist act in real life.

A man came up to the front of the stage and presented my dummy (which had somehow turned into a giant rolling wardrobe) with what he said was hasenpfeffer. It looked more like a small pile of chopped-up chicken, but it was a dream, so it all seemed perfectly normal.

My dummy replied (via my voice), “What’s hasenpfeffer?”

I, and the entire audience, in mock disbelief, shouted back “WHAT’S HASSENPFEFFER?!?!?” …which was followed by thunderous laughter and applause to end my act, and I took a bow and rolled the wardrobe/dummy offstage.

There was a little more after that, but it was just mundane stuff like freeing someone who got caught in the backstage curtains, avoiding a giant mechanical shark, surfing on metaphorical waves, and worrying about my math homework. No big deal.

Analyze THAT!!!

Newly added to my favorite blogs…

Yesterday, while searching for some information on climate change, I happened upon a blog called The Way Things Break and was delighted. Not only did I find the information I was looking for, but I found all kinds of content related to the shenanigans of the anti-science crowd.

Here is the post, titled The Land of Make Believe, that won my heart…

Science denialism involves a lot of make believe and pretending:

  • Pretend as though claims made by an individual, conclusions of a single paper, etc. are actually the underlying science, so as to hold up any disagreement or revision as though it is evidence that the core science is somehow incorrect; alternatively, pretend such ‘one offs’ are definitive rebuttals to the core science.
  • Pretend as though areas explicitly acknowledged to be in need of further study are actually the underlying science, so as to hold up any disagreement or revision as though it is evidence that the core science is somehow incorrect.
  • Pretend that a non-representative sample selected so as to give the appearance of disagreement with the conclusions of the core science is evidence that the core science is somehow incorrect.
  • Pretend that the mere presence, absence, or relative amount of a substance is somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the real world effects (if any) it has been demonstrated to have.
  • Pretend that the existence of media hype, past examples of pseudoscience, etc. are somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the science.
  • Pretend non-sequiturs [Evolution can’t explain how life started!] are somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the science.
  • Pretend lay misunderstanding of the science is somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the science.
  • Pretend that personal ignorance or disbelief of the science is somehow a legitimate rebuttal to the science.
  • Pretend that a scientific consensus is somehow akin to religious faith; similarly, pretend that there is an “orthodoxy” being enforced that amounts to religious or political “persecution”, silencing of “dissent” etc. for failing to understand/accept the science. [Bonus points for claiming such in a high-profile media outlet such as a newspaper or television show]

And perhaps most importantly of all:

  • Pretend to be “skeptical” rather than anti-science.

I think I’ve seen almost every one of those points used at one time or another, whether used to deny evolution, climate change, or vaccinations (among other things).

Pure awesome.

Assertions Are Easy

Vampire Bat Some people wonder why evolution isn’t more accepted than it is. Despite the monumental amount of evidence in multiple fields of scientific inquiry, those pesky creationists, bringing up the same tired arguments, sometimes seem like B-movie zombies. No matter how many times they get smacked down, they keep coming back to torment scientifically-minded, rational people with their brainless moaning and logic resistance.

It’s not that they have anything new. Oh, sure. Occasionally a new bit of scientific evidence will be discovered… a fossil, some DNA functionality, a new species in a remote location… and they’ll latch onto it and somehow manage to twist it into something they claim supports intelligent design or a young Earth, but it doesn’t. Aside from that, it’s the same old stuff. Why, then, won’t their arguments die?

Because assertions are easy.

For example…

Transylvania has the largest population of vampire bats in the world, which is why vampire legends originated there.

See how easy that was? Does it sound reasonable? Sure it does, as long as you don’t know anything about vampire bats (or vampire legends). It took me about 20 seconds to come up with that claim and type the sentence. How long would it take you, if you don’t actually know any data about vampire bats, to refute my statement?

The internet helps, but you have to have motivation. Wikipedia is an obvious and expedient place to visit. Here’s what you find out from the Wikipedia article

Vampire bats are bats whose food source is blood, a dietary trait called hematophagy. There are three bat species that feed solely on blood: the Common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), the Hairy-legged Vampire Bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the White-winged Vampire Bat (Diaemus youngi). All three species are native to the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.

There you go. All the known species of vampire bats are native to the Americas. What if you don’t know where Transylvania is? Another visit to Wikipedia lets you know it’s in Romania… which isn’t part of either of the Americas. So it would seem that my statement has been soundly refuted and put to rest.

Or has it?

Oh no, I say.

There used to be another species of vampire bat that was native to Romania, but it went extinct over 100 years ago. Vampire legends started well before the bats went extinct.

Now what? The Wikipedia article says nothing of an extinct species of vampire bat. There’s nothing in the Romania information that states anything about vampire bats being native to the country. If you want to do more research into debunking my claim, you’re going to have to spend a bunch of time searching the internet… to refute something that you’re 99% sure is completely bogus, anyway.

But how much time did I spend on my claim? Not much… perhaps under a minute… and if I really believe what I’m saying, I’m going to start making that statement all over the place to anyone who will give me 30 seconds of his time or to any place that will allow me to post my nonsense. By the time I’ve reached 1,000 people, you’d still be trying to confirm whether there actually was a species of vampire bat in Romania 100 years ago.

Then suddenly you’ll find that someone else is saying that vampire bats lived in Romania 100 years ago, but they’re saying that bones were found that prove it… and that the bats were as large as ravens… and a group of scientists is researching whether or not they preyed on human babies.

What… is… going… on?!?

Assertions are easy.

It’s what creationists do. They shovel on the assertions (Gish Gallop, anyone?) and then, when their assertions are left unchallenged, they declare victory… and spread the news. It takes very little time to make assertions, but gathering evidence and presenting a logical refutation takes quite a bit of time (in comparison). Even if you already know the evidence and the refutation, it generally takes more time and effort to deliver it.

It’s not just creationists, though. Politicians do it. So do their opponents… especially protestors. Scientology does it (Fair Game doctrine). Climate change deniers do it. Moon hoaxers do it. Obama birthers do it. Sometimes, to add to their pseudo credibility, they’ll actually add facts to back up their claims… but only the facts that support their arguments. They’ll leave out contradictory facts or simply leave their facts out of context. They’ll misquote an expert (or quote mine). They’ll twist words.

When moon hoaxers do it, it’s amusing (unless you’re Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin). Nobody really takes them seriously. When creationists do it, it’s more serious because they want to teach our children to believe their nonsense… and they frequently want it in our schools. When climate change deniers do it, it can be dangerous in the long term… and just irresponsible.

Am I doing it right now? Sort of… but not really. These are my opinions based on my observations. I’m sure plenty of examples can be found where creationists have provided valid scientific data to irrefutably support their arguments.

*snicker* …or not.

Reasonists

From Doonesbury. I found this amusing… and disturbingly accurate. It does seem that the US is becoming closer and closer to being the country with the highest number of crackpots.

Doonesbury

Click for the full comic strip.

Spooky Wave of Nostalgia!!!

I just saw a link from John Moltz that referenced this site. Like him, I had totally forgotten about owning this album! I had the orange version when I was around eight years old.

Front Cover Back Cover

Check out the site for larger versions. It even has scans of the record cover insert which had all kinds of party planning ideas. I remember making all the invitations, though I can’t remember if I actually had the party or not.

Good times. Good times.

Why take them seriously?

Here’s why it’s really hard to take the religious right seriously.

“I don’t believe in global warming,” said conservative activist Kim Simac, a horse trainer and mother of nine from Wisconsin who also believes that the teaching of creationism and prayer need to be brought back to public schools.

(via)

…and…

One delegate, Sue Phelps, drew comparisons between Barack Obama, Fidel Castro and Adolf Hitler – “they were good orators too” – and said the president’s nationality and religion were “unanswered questions”.

(via)

…and…

“Today in America, far too many young people enter adulthood unprepared for college, career, and life,” said Allan Golston, president of The Gates Foundation’s U.S. Program. [Drew] Dickens agrees and believes that “part of the problem is that we have removed prayer and the Ten Commandments from our schools and curriculum.”

(via)

I could go on. When people are that vocal, yet that oblivious to facts, that ignorant of the Constitution, and that eager to force their religious beliefs on others, they’ve really got no room to complain when they are ignored or mocked.

Cassini is teh awsum!

The Cassini spacecraft took this (these?) picture of Saturn on August 12th. It’s actually 75 separate pictures stitched together. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has more info.

If you check out an uber-sized version, you can see four of Saturn’s moons, too. The image below links to the 1-meg JPG version. There are higher resolution images at the link above. They’re all awesome.

Saturn imaged by Cassini

First Ammendment Wins in DC Protest

From John Moltz comes a link to an interesting perspective of the recent Washington, DC “Tea Party” protest march. He links to Matthew Yglesias’s website with the following quote.

As was the case with the bulk of the protesters, there was very little sense that anyone had any actual specific complaint with Obama’s health care proposals. That one woman loves the confederacy. This guy thinks guns are great and diversity is stupid. Many protesters feel that abortion is murder and/or that Barack Obama is in league with terrorists. But nobody had a sign urging the president to adopt more stringent cost control measures, or slamming the concept of regulations to require insurers to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions.

I don’t know if that’s valid criticism or not since protests (on pretty much any issue by any group) generally tend to be more about displaying slogans than offering solutions.

Photo via ABC News The signs I’ve been seeing in the photos I’ve viewed seem to express opinions on a pretty wide array of issues… including taxes, the deficit, ACORN, lies, socialism, Hitler, health care, and God. Some signs seemed to be well thought out by intelligent people. Some signs were obviously not. Some were absurd.

Again, I think that’s probably the case with almost any protest. You’ll find signs by sincere, intelligent, knowledgeable people alongside signs by folks who have good intentions, but are just running on pure emotion and don’t really know too much about the issues… alongside signs by people who are certifiable whack jobs. The signs will run the gamut from concern to anger to disgust to outrage to blind hate.

Most of the reports I’ve read about the protest this past weekend are saying that the crowd was exceptionally well-behaved. I haven’t read anything about any “incidents” occurring that would mar the gathering. That (in my book anyway) is a real plus for this protest.

Whether I agree with some or all of the protestors is another issue altogether, but I’m glad I live in a society where this kind of gathering is allowed to happen. There are some things about this country I think are wonderful and some things I think are pretty messed up, but freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are two of the great things.

I’m sure President Obama would agree with me.