Archive for August, 2009

The God Hypothesis

August 31, 2009

You can read a chapter from The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan called The God Hypothesis by clicking on the picture of the author’s gravestone below. The book is mostly transcripts of the Gifford Lectures Sagan gave in 1985, along with some Q&A and more up-to-date pictures of what he was talking about when it came to astronomy.


You should read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt of his conclusion, after brilliantly disecting and dismissing popular arguments for the existence of God, and I wanted to quote it because I’ve already seen people try to paint him as a theist or even as an “Intelligent Design proponent” (aka creationist):

So if I then run through these arguments, the cosmological argument, the argument from design, the moral argument, the argument from consciousness, and the argument from experience, I must say that the net result is not very impressive. It is very much as if we are seeking a rational justification for something that we otherwise hope will be true.

Putting that in a less polite way, religious apologists are lying, and they know it.



August 31, 2009

Tubas are only 6,000 years old! A Missouri high school band gave out T-shirts with this design to their students:

and there was a backlash from evolution deniers who believed it was “controversial.” Students were forced to return the shirts.

JROTC student yells at a Muslim in class who wasn’t standing for the pledge. She also told her to “take that thing off your head.” Really.

Florida man building hovercraft, plans to live in it. No word yet on whether or not it is full of eels, but this reminds me of the Kilgore Trout story in a Vonnegut book where public property was abolished and everyone put up No Trespassing signs on everything. So the government gave people without property balloons.

Glenn Greenwald on meritocracy.

Monday Music Recommendation

August 31, 2009

Intro5pect – Record Profits (2009)

This band was originally described to me as oi punk meets Atari Teenage Riot, which isn’t too far off. They are definitely closer to the former than the latter. If I’m ever annoyed by them, it’s because they’re drifting off to far into 1980s synthpop rather than because they’re destroying the fabric of space-time with their Digital Hardcore noise machine a la ATR.

This EP just came out last week. It’s about 20 or so minutes long. It follows their 2007 EP Realpolitik! and is meant to precede an anticipated 2010 full length release, which would be their first since their 2003 self-titled release. I am not sure if the two EPs are going to be included in it along with another EP’s worth of new material, but that is what I am assuming so that I won’t be disappointed. And if it’s all new material, then I’ll be pleasantly surprised. You can download it by clicking on the album artwork above. And here is a video of them covering Operation Ivy:

Similar: Bomb the Music Industry! – Scrambles

Canadian scientist aims to turn chickens into dinosaurs, destroy and/or enslave all humans.

August 30, 2009

So here’s the plan:

  1. Be Canadian.
  2. Be a scientist.
  3. Get a chicken embryo.
  4. Turn it into a dinosaur.
  5. ????????????????????
  6. PROFIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the lede from PhysOrg (8/25):

“After years spent hunting for the buried remains of prehistoric animals, a Canadian paleontologist now plans to manipulate chicken embryos to show he can create a dinosaur.”

Read MOAR and MOAR and MOAR!

So this guy’s name is Hans Larsson. That’s his real name. No word yet on whether or not he wears all black, speaks in an Eastern European accent, and shows no human emotion – although judging from his name and what he is up to, all of these things most definitely must be absolutely true. Just look at what he looks like probably looks like I think he might look like based on a quick google images search:

My understanding of this stuff is really crude, but I’ll give it a shot. Basically what happens is that when an embryo of any species is developing, its genome starts to be regulated mostly by Hox genes. Here is a rap video about Hox genes. You may listen to the music while reading the rest of this post with my permission.

So for example, since we share a common ancestry with other apes, the capacity to grow a tail is in our genes. It’s just that for most of us, outside of places like Kentucky and India, that gene gets regulated so that we don’t actually grow a tail. At least, not usually:

But if you wanted a human to grow a tail, theoretically you could go into the genome of a developing embryo and tinker around with the Hox genes so that they don’t inhibit that particular part of our genome as it normally would. I’m sure it’s a bit more difficult than that sounds since it would need to be done at a specific developmental period and in the right way, but that’s the gist of evo-devo (evolutionary development) as I understand it.

So this Hans Larsson character is doing this with chickens now, trying to deregulate old genetic material shared with the common ancestor of chickens and dinosaurs. This kind of thing has sort of already been done specifically in the form of developing chickens with teeth. Yeah, that’s right: Chickens with fucking teeth.

Unfortunately this doesn’t mean we can create our own army of unholy chickenosauruses to wreak havoc on Ken Ham’s Creationist “Museum” or to perform some other worthy endeavor. It’s probably going to be very inexact and application-free, at least for a while now. But hang in there – with any luck, Hans and his assistant Igor Ivan Ivanovich (that is very likely his name) will soon be facepalming or shouting up to the nighttime sky something like, “Nooooes! What have I done?” as mobs of the townsfolk with torches and pitchforks scramble in a futile effort to stop the madness before THE CHICKENOSAURS SLAUGHTER US ALL AND SKULLFUCK OUR CORPSES OMG OMG WTF WTF EVERYBODY PANIC RUN FOR YOUR LIVES NOW!!!!!!!!!

Kook of the Week

August 29, 2009

This guy is running for city council in Livonia, MI. I have never been there and know nobody from that region, but I feel very sorry for all of them if this guy wins. That will probably not happen for reasons which should be all too apparent from watching his little announcement here. Watch the whole thing too, because the last few seconds are just amazing.

John McCain’s hypothetical foreign policy = Obama’s actual foreign policy

August 28, 2009

Transcript from This Week With George Stephanolokolopopuloukopopolous:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would we be fighting these two wars any differently if you were president now?

MCCAIN: Not now, but it’s very obvious that, for at least three years, we conducted the war in Iraq in the wrong fashion. And we paid a very heavy price in American blood and treasure. And we developed a strategy that worked. That strategy is adopted to the different conditions in Afghanistan.

So in other words, here we have John McCain admitting to both his base and Obama’s, that his foreign policy in regards to Iraq and Afghanistan would have been identical to what Obama has done by escalating the war in Afghanistan while ever-so-gradually pulling out of Iraq.

And since Obama is actually following through on his campaign promises in these matters, this proves that any of the alleged differences in foreign policy during the campaign were simply manufactured – from the Obama supporters making a fuss over McCain’s 100 years in Iraq to McCain supporters hysterically claiming that Obama was going to dissolve the military or something retarded like that.

Pre-emptive detention

August 28, 2009

From the Washington Independent (via Dispatches From the Culture Wars):

On Monday a federal court judge ordered the Department of Defense to release a 47-year-old father of two with a heart condition who it has imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for the past seven years without justification. But like the other Yemeni men cleared for release but still held at the detention facility, it’s not clear when or even if Mohammed al-Adahi will get to go free.

Obama administration officials on Wednesday boasted that they’d secured agreements from six European countries to accept Guantanamo detainees, although the United States itself has still refused to free any Guantanamo prisoners on U.S. soil. But since President Obama’s inauguration in January, the administration has not released a single prisoner to Yemen, although that country is willing to have them back and many would be happy to go there. (Some prisoners from other countries, such as the Uighurs from China, cannot be returned to their home countries for fear of persecution.) The administration has not stated its reasons, but said only that the State Department is negotiating with the Yemeni government over the prisoners’ return. At least three Yemeni prisoners since April have won their petitions for habeas corpus in federal court — meaning a judge has ordered that the government must let them go. (The government has cleared for release an unknown number of others.) So far, though, the Obama administration has not complied with those court rulings.

The United States has long been reluctant to return Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, where al-Qaeda is believed to be active. As a result, of about 550 prisoners released from Guantanamo by Bush officials, only 14 were from Yemen. But that trickle has slowed to a complete halt under the Obama administration, despite court rulings that the government hasn’t shown the men have done anything wrong or present any security risk.

Nearly 100 of the remaining 223 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are from Yemen. A government official on Wednesday said that negotiations are ongoing. Now that two U.S. federal courts have ordered at least three Yemeni prisoners freed, however, it’s not clear under what power the United States can continue to hold them.

“We appreciate that the United States has security concerns about Yemen, but continuing to hold these men without charge is morally wrong, is in violation of court orders, and it’s handing al-Qaeda a recruiting tool,” said Letta Taylor, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who wrote a report on the Yemeni detainees’ situation in March. “It creates its own sets of risks.”

I live in Buffalo, NY, which at one time not too long ago, was also a place “where al-Qaeda was believed to be active.” So if I were wrongfully arrested, should I have been held indefinitely instead of releasing me back into the dangerous recruiting grounds of Buffalo?

This is a very strange mix of pre-emptive action, based on the idea that we should prevent hypothetical crimes which have not yet been committed but might or might not be in the future; and good old fashioned collective punishment. Since somewhere in Yemen al-Qaeda might be active, everyone who happens to have been born there apparently can not be released from detention regardless of whether or not they’ve actually committed any crime at all.

Marital Rape

August 19, 2009

New law in “liberated” Afghanitan allows Shia men to starve their wives who refuse to fuck them. ReutersLondon Times

The Bahamas going the other way: Bill to outlaw marital rape stirs controversy. The Bahama Journal

It is ridiculous for them to try to make that a law, because I don’t think a man can rape his own wife. After two people get married, the Bible says that they become one – one flesh. How is it possible to rape what is yours?

It is ridiculous for them to try to make that a law, because I don’t think a man can rape his own wife. After two people get married, the Bible says that they become one – one flesh. How is it possible to rape what is yours?

And the worst part: That last one – well, it’s from a woman.


August 8, 2009

Teh guv-ment’s takin’ Kent Hovind’s land! Pensacola News Journal

So called “Christian Civil Liberties Union” wants to burn books. Salon

Inside the Great American Bubble Machine: Matt Taibbi on how Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression. Rolling Stone

Paul Krugman on the Town Hall Mobs. NY Times

Victorian Psychiatrists Upset at Wikipedia for Exposing their Voodoo Secrets. Gawker

“Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.” James A Haught, Free Inquiry

100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About. Wired

HuffPo’s medical woo exposed. Salon

Oprah’s medical woo exposed. Newsweek

Bush considered using the military to invade Buffalo. NY Times

American Stonehenge: Monumental Instructions For the Post-Apocalypse. Wired

People Unsure of their Beliefs are More Close-Minded. LiveScience

How a Conspiracy Theorist Who Thought I Was the Zodiac Killer Almost Ruined My Life. AlterNet

Harvard Psychologist Explains Zombie Neurobiology. i09

Awesome Baby Destruction Game.

Abbie Smith vs. Charles Jackson Debate. ERV

Five Pathetic Groups That People Think Rule the World. Cracked

Amazing ISS Pics

The Blue and The Green, Bad Astronomy

Public Options Live! Big Fat Whale