You're Amelia!
You're late!
Amelia Pond! You're the little girl!
I'm Amelia, and you're late.

Friday, April 25

Cool

Why People Laugh At Creationists

Part 23, The Larch Ben Stein



Which reminds me - we need to add another letter to the Latin alphabet; either that, or standardize on duodecimal arithmetic.  At the moment, the upper and lower case letters plus the digits give us 62 symbols, which is not enough for handy base-64 encoding, which is what Youtube uses for their public IDs.  Which means a Youtube ID can begin with -, which is not exactly obvious when you're cutting and pasting.  (Not in this case, but in general.)

This article at Real Detroit Weekly includes some snippets from an interview with Expelled associate producer Mark Mathis (scroll down to the bottom to find the section titled Unevolved) who shows a depth of understanding of Evolutionary Theory rivalling Stein's.  True masochists can find an hour-long discussion betweent Mathis and the editors of Scientific America here.

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World

ANZAC Day


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
This is why.

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Geek

Of Cheetahs And Men

A little background is needed for this one.

I was recently arguing in the comments at LGF with someone who claimed that the Theory of Evolution provided the basis for the Holocaust, much as Ben Stein does in Expelled.

He (the commenter, not Stein) provided a blatantly racist quote from T. H. Huxley in support of this claim.  I countered that Huxley was morally and scientifically wrong; that such racism was endemic in the mid-19th century, even among abolitionists; and that the quote was taken from an essay Huxley wrote arguing for the abolition of slavery.  And I provided a similarly racist quote from a abolition speech by Abraham Lincoln.

So said commenter asked me - rather condescendingly - what grand change had taken place in Evolutionary Theory since Huxley's day to make him scientifically wrong in this.  And I pointed out that while race is a valid evolutionary concept, it doesn't apply to humans, because we lack sufficient genetic diversity.  We're all one race.

The response asked, don't I think that this is miraculous?  Clearly implying the hand of you-know-who.

And I said no; it just means we went through a genetic bottleneck in recent times, evolutionarily speaking.  Much like cheetahs, which almost went extinct.  But, I speculated, humans are more diverse than cheetahs, so we likely weren't as close to extinction as they.

But still too damn close for comfort.  Just 70,000 years ago, our species may have been reduced to as few as 2000 individuals.

(via Slashdot)

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Thursday, April 24

Rant

An Exemplar Of Exactitude

Not.

Ben Stein, quoting Charles Darwin in Expelled Exposed in an effort to tie Evolution to Nazism:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
And what Darwin actually said:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.
Quote mining is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Thanks to Scientific American, who go on to list five more things that Ben Stein doesn't want you to know.)

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Wednesday, April 23

Geek

Nonstandard Library

/images/new_pet.png

(xkcd, obvy.)

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World

On Comporting Oneself In The Arena Of Public Discourse

Matoko of Ghost Blog called Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit a "theocon shill" for linking to Captain Ed's (formerly of Captain's Quarters, now blogging at Hot Air) favourable review of Expelled without linking to any of the unfavourable reviews she'd emailed him.

The problem with this is that it's (a) rude and (b) inaccurate.  Mostly (b); as I said earlier, if you're going to be rude it helps to be right.

But here's the thing: In the film, Ben Stein blames the Holocaust on Charles Darwin.

That's beyond rude, beyond being idiotic bigoted ahistorical claptrap.  It's essentially a blood libel against science.

You can see how a scientist might be a little irked.

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Tuesday, April 22

Cool

The Early Internet

Real early.  Like 1901 early.

http://ai.mee.nu/images/1901EasternTelegraph.jpg

(Click to enlarge.)

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Cool

Not About Expelled. Really!

Okay, it's about Expelled.

Remember that wonderful video, Beware the Believers, featuring Richard "Dick to the Dawk" Dawkins and Pimp Dan Dennet?



There was considerable debate about the video's origins.  On the one hand, it refers to the film Expelled; there clearly was some connection.  On the other hand, it's witty and intelligent, and presents the case for science in a rather amusing way. As such, it appeared on quite a few science blogs.

So if it was produced by the Expelled people, it must be considered as something of an own goal for their cause, and yet a greater artistic and intellectual achievement than the main feature.  Some argued that because of all this, it couldn't have been produced by the humourless clods behind Expelled.

They were sort of right.

The producers of Expelled hired another studio to produce Beware the Believers:



(via The Panda's Thumb)

Update: Both the animator and the lyricist appear in this comments thread at Pharyngula to explain how the whole thing came about.  Pharyngula is the blog of biologist and cephalopod fancier PZ Meyers, who appears in both the film and this video.

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Rant

All Expelled, All The Time

Okay, probably not. wink

I haven't seen the film, and probably won't bother, and as soon as I get a chance to take a look at the new anime season I'll have something more interesting to talk about.

But the deceit and wilful ignorance displayed by the film, and the near-total lack of understanding of science displayed in the thread at LGF, have irked me.

So here's a review of the movie that takes director Nathan Frankowski and presenter and co-writer Ben Stein solidly to task, not just for being comprehensively dishonest, but also for producing a crappy film.

Be sure to stay for the surprise ending.  No, not the film, the review.

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Monday, April 21

Rant

The Stupid On Sunday

Like Glenn Reynolds, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has linked to Expelled Exposed, drawing the predictable ire of many of his readers in a thread that's 1600 comments and growing fast(Update: 2300 comments, and still growing.)

Let's be clear: Charles - again like Glenn - comes down firmly on the side of science.  And does so in the full knowledge of what will happen.  I can rant freely here and rarely get more than a handful of comments.  PZ Myers can point out Ben Stein's follies and be guaranteed a mostly supportive audience.  Charles knew he was going to ignite a flame war, but he waded in anyway, because this stuff matters.

Also because, hey, who doesn't love a flame war?

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