Tag Archives: evolution

how we got here, and how some people are in DENIAL

the eternal verities of fashion preferences

christ what a crock: The London Times reports that:

We all know that women like pink and men prefer blue, but we have never really known why. Now it emerges that parents who dress their boys in blue and girls in pink may not just be following tradition but some deep-seated evolutionary instinct.

I guess “evolution” waxes and wanes with the fashion trends of the centuries, because in the US in the 19th & early 20th centuries pink was the boys’ color (because it was a type of red, a strong masculine color!) and blue was the girls’ color.

So many possible responses to this utter blithering idiocy. I don’t know whether I’m madder at the Times (and other press) for reporting this crap uncritically, or whether I’m madder at the evolutionary psychologists who, in all seriousness, confirm their own social prejudices as eagerly as did the phrenologists and racist European skull-measurers of the 19th century.
update: of course, the bloggers & commenters of the world have already hit this one: the comments on the London Times article are largely insightful; bad science.net is snarky & gives historical context also; broadsheet @ salon.com had a little detail & a lot of commentary, but surprisingly, didn’t jump on the stupidity quite as much as they really could have.

religious in Turkey block wordpress.com

Pharyngula said it well: “Turkish ass shuts down a slice of the Internet” (well, as far as Turkey is concerned, anyway). Muslim creationist was unhappy with some critical blog commentary so he got a judge to block the entire domain.

Best comment from Pharyngula thread:

Wonder Twin powers activate. Form of A Google Bomb

Kent “Dino” Hovind arrested on tax fraud

Despite being firmly warned to not post on blogs this week but to focus on my deadline, I found this too delicious to not post:

On July 13, 2006, Kent Hovind was arrested and indicted in federal court on 58 charges. Of the charges filed, there is one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws, including falsifying bankruptcy documents, filing a false and frivolous lawsuit and complaints against the IRS, destroying records, and threatening to harm IRS investigators. 12 of the charges are for failing to pay employee-related taxes, totaling $473,818, and 45 charges of evading reporting requirements by making multiple cash withdrawals just under the $10,000 reporting requirement (smurfing). The withdrawals, totaling $430,500, were placed in 2001 and 2002.

Hovind has maintained his innocence. “I still don’t understand what I’m being charged for and who is charging me,” he said. [23] Magistrate Miles Davis asked Hovind if he wrote and spoke English, to which Hovind responded “To some degree”. Davis replied that the government adequately explained the allegations and the defendant understands the charges “whether you want to admit it or not.”[24] A September 5 trial date has been set for Kent Hovind and his co-defendant wife, Jo, who faces 44 charges. Hovind stated that he did not recognize the government’s right to try him on tax-fraud charges and entered a not guilty plea “under duress” when the judge offered to enter a plea for him.[25]

Alas it’s a forward of a forward so I don’t have the original cite. (update: apparently it’s from the latest updates to the wikipedia entry on Hovind)

crossposted @ sivacracy

today is his birthday … happy birthday to him

pharyngula posts the funniest portrait of Chuck that I’ve seen. (I’ve been told that my sense of humor is obscure.) Compare with his earlier mutton-chop look over at Wikipedia. The iconic image is still available in ready-to-stick form @ Swarthmore’s Chaz Has a Posse.

Go forth and evolve. (Or, at my house in Boston, surrounded by two-foot snow drifts, stay in and surf.)

PZ Myers speaks for me*

David Klinghoffer @ the National Review is confused, perhaps willfully, about the Kitzmiller decision. He describes the decision thusly:

If ID is bogus because many of its theorists have religious beliefs to which the controversial critique of Darwinism lends support, then what should we say about Darwinism itself? After all, many proponents of Darwinian evolution have philosophical beliefs to which Darwin lends support.

Well, see, right there is the problem. If Klinghoffer is wondering about Kitzmiller‘s statement as to religion — a statement which Judge Jones repeatedly said he was not making — then he needs to frame his question correctly. The court did not say that ID is bogus because its theorists have religious beliefs, or because it lends support to its followers’ religious beliefs, as Klinghoffer would have it. Rather, according to the court, ID is bogus science because it is not conducted scientifically and has nothing scientific to say.

Klinghoffer was trying to frame the question in this inaccurate way so that he could then analogize to the atheism of “Darwinists”, implying an unequal favoring of atheistic godless secular humanism on the part of Judge Jones. He thus implies that the examination of the role of religion in this case was somehow inappropriate.**

Since his initial framing of the question is completely inaccurate, his follow-up analogy to “Darwinism” is completely meaningless.

I was going to thoroughly fisk every part of this really irritatingly stupid article, but PZ Myers and What Culture War have already looked into the article. In particular, I urge you to read PZ Myers’ post at all costs. In his post, he effectively rolls his eyes at the specifics of the Klinghoffer article, and then addresses the faith-science question that the Klinghoffer article so badly misconstrued. I really think I am going to print this post out and possibly frame it.


* Non-Bay Area folks may not be aware of the popular Bay Area bumper sticker, “Barbara Lee speaks for me“, which proliferated after she was the only vote against HJ Res 64.

** Okay, I couldn’t entirely resist responding to the specifics in the article. Klinghoffer seems offended that religion was brought up at all. Another instance of irony. “Intelligent design theory” was developed, not by scientists, but by religious adherents who wanted to sneak creationism back into the schools. Creationism was an avowedly religious belief, and teaching it in public schools therefore violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishments of religion.

Since plaintiffs alleged that ID proponents were trying to disguise their religious belief as science, the court had to evaluate it to see whether or not it was actual science (no) and if not, was it religion because that would violate the First Amendment. Courts regular evaluate the quality of science in Daubert hearings and voir dires so this is nothing new.

Religion was relevant because if it’s religion then teaching it as fact in public schools violates the First Amendment. In fact, the religious background of ID proponents was scarcely mentioned. Although the backgrounds and beliefs of the witnesses and parties was rarely discussed in the discussion, the court did rely upon statements made by the School Board, the publishers of Of Pandas and People and other relevant figures. Statements by those people expressing an intent to foster religious belief were significant evidence — exactly as they should be in an Establishment Clause case. ID followers’ stated religious beliefs and affiliations were relevant to the following determinations: 1. Evaluating the intent and knowledge of the School Board, for the Lemon test’s purpose prong; 2. Tracking the historical evolution (ahem) of the specific text Of Pandas and People to assess whether or not the text was a religious text presented deceptively to appear nonreligious; 3. Likewise, tracking the scholarly foundation and historical evolution of the “theory” and the phrase “intelligent design”, to determine whether ID truly is a legitimate scientific theory, or whether it is actually a deceptive attempt to portray a particular religious doctrine as science. (The latter, as was obvious to all.)

Intelligent design is a sham theory devised to get around the First Amendment’s prohibition of state establishment of religion, so that some religious adherents might have the opportunity to indoctrinate children in their particular religious belief. What I find interesting is how persons ostensibly dedicated both to the law and to a religion which forbids bearing false witness — such as Phillip E. Johnson, Boalt Professor of Law — rationalize to themselves this elaborate deception. Do they really believe in a science with less support among scientists than, say, psychic abilities and UFOs? Or have they adopted for themselves an ends-justify-the-means philosophy which says that God won’t mind a little lying if it spreads the Gospel? Very strange.

happy holidays in dover

Happy holidays and merry xmas to rational Christians: Judge Jones (a Bush 43 appointee) has not only found the obvious religious motivation in the Dover School Board’s actions, but also found the obvious religious motivation in the development of the intelligent design curriculum.

[decision available @ MD PA court website and also @ msnbc. News coverage at nyt 11/20; significant commentary at pharyngula and panda's thumb; commentary roundup @ questionable authority] Additional commentary, added as I come across it: Ann Althouse had a great potential headline for the story: School Board in the Hands of an Angry Judge. Chortle. Timothy Sandefur laid out ten responses to complaints about Kitzmiller‘s legal analysis, authority, etc. Jasen Rosenhouse @ CSICoP offers a point-by-point summary.

This was nothing less than a judicial smackdown. Judge Jones, “out of an abundance of caution and in the exercise of completeness” (p.71), covered all possible arguments for ID as science — and frankly decimated them. Demolished? Destroyed? Devastated? So many verbs from which to choose. My take on the principal takehome points are this (1) ID is religion not science; (2) the Dover School Board intended to offer it as religion; (3) this is an establishment under both the endorsement test and the Lemon test no matter how you read them. I’m highlighting my favorite parts in that order, below the fold.

Continue reading

best commentary on right-wing frothing about Paul Mirecki

Love this quote on the right-wing frothing about Prof. Mirecki’s email [from The Panda's Thumb]:

[T]hey hate “Hate Crime” legislation, driven to rabid frothing at the mere mention of “politically correct” language. They are such fierce opponents (they say) of limits to free speech intended particularly to block racist speech; the term “PC” in the mouths of the far right is an epithet. …

However, … we see that a minor slight of the American religious right by an obscure professor has provoked an event of international outrage.

If you don’t already know about the Paul Mirecki Incident, this is the short summary: Mirecki, a University of Kansas professor of Religious Studies, designed a course on “intelligent design as mythology” in response to the brouhaha about intelligent design “theory” in Kansas primary schools. He then sent an email to a closed list, discussing the course, and including this opinionated line:

The fundies want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category “mythology.”

and signing the email “Doing my part to piss of [sic] the religious right, Evil Dr. P.”

The religious right were indeed pissed off: Dr. Mirecki was physically assaulted shortly after this incident, and political and religious readers freaked out. (I previously quoted a Kansas State Senator whose response to the Incident was: “We have to set a standard that it’s not culturally acceptable to mock Christianity in America.”)

update 12/21: PZ Myers didn’t like the general commentary (or lack thereof) on Panda’s Thumb and points instead to evolve thought (more and more) and orcinus. Some quite pointed commentary on PT’s failure to strongly defend someone who wasn’t wholly politically correct on the topic of religion:

The Panda’s Thumb is a great resource for science and focused critiques of creationism, and everyone should keep reading it, but we should also be clear on what it is not. It is not ever going to address the root causes of creationism in our country: the virulent, pathological brands of fundamentalism that are growing in our midst. That would be…rude.

a few choice ID-related quotes

Eric Rothschild, representing the Kitzmiller plaintiffs, in Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendants’ Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law:

Defendants spend 898 paragraphs of proposed factual findings and 52 proposed legal conclusions avoiding the mountain of inconvenient evidence demonstrating that the Dover Area School Board’s change to the biology curriculum was done for religious reasons, and that intelligent design is inherently religious. At bottom, their defense depends on three unsustainable contentions: (1) It doesn’t matter that intelligent design’s designers describe their movement as a religious one. (2) It doesn’t matter what the Board members said about creationism or religion generally because intelligent design is not religious. And therefore (3) this Court should not base its decision in this case on the types of evidence that were dispositive in Edwards and McLean. But defendants’ position cannot be squared with either the evidence or the Supreme Court’s and the Third Circuit’s settled Establishment Clause jurisprudence. For the record is clear that intelligent design is a religious view; that defendants latched onto it because they wanted to impart that religious view to Dover’s ninth-graders; and that defendants succeeded in their goal. No reasonable observer could draw any other conclusions.

and — this is too good, I have to include it:

On the hotly contested issue whether board members who eventually voted for the change to the biology curriculum were discussing creationism at the June 2004 board meetings, defendants again suggest facts that can co-exist only in parallel universes. Defendants admit that William Buckingham discussed creationism at the June board meetings (Defs.’ FF 244, 267), but then insist that “one of the inaccuracies in the press reporting on board meetings was that the reporters were referring to ID as creationism.” Defs.’ FF 248. While arguments can exist in the alternative, facts cannot. Either the Board was promoting creationism at the June meetings (and the reporters described events correctly) or it was not. The evidence – and defendants’ admissions in paragraphs 244 and 267 – make clear which account is correct.

(Emphasis added. The referenced Defendants’ Factual Findings and other post-trial docs available online, courtesy NCSE.)

William Dembski, quoted by Panda’s Thumb (12/5):

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But …

Paul Mirecki, quoted in God, Science, and the Kooky Kansans Who Love Them Both! (12/5):

You’ll often hear fundamentalists say, ‘Science is a religion, Darwin is the high priest, and you have to have faith to believe in evolution.’ This is just nonsense. I don’t believe in evolution. I accept the findings of scientists. There’s a big difference between the two.

Kansas State Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, quoted in Lawrence Journal-World (11/24):

We have to set a standard that it’s not culturally acceptable to mock Christianity in America.

potential evidence for intelligent design

questionable authority reviews a pro-’intelligent design theory’ entry that describes a future history of the fabulous medical and scientific breakthroughs generated by ‘intelligent design theory’ and the abandonment of ‘Darwinism’. While the whole post is highly recommended, it was one of the commentors who really tickled my fancy. Responding to the future history’s assertion that ‘Darwinist’ scientists ignore ‘junk DNA’*, commentator Stephen Stralka adds:

It also occurs to me that no matter how much functionality we ultimately discover in junk DNA, none of it will be any better evidence for ID than what we currently know about DNA.

The kind of thing that would be evidence of design would be if the junk DNA turned out to contain stuff like copyright notices and license agreements.

Or copy protection. DRM-protected genomes that prevent unauthorized replications, derivative works, jumping genes & species hopping diseases? Or maybe when you have a baby, a rootkit installs itself on the parents’ reproductive organs, preventing them from further replications. I do indeed see a great future for ‘intelligent design theory’.

(Another commenter followed up:

Oh, man. “If you agree to the terms of this pregnancy, click Agree. Otherwise, click Abort.”

Except that he’s missing about 5 screens’ worth of finely printed legal verbiage about restrictions on the pregnancy and abortion process. Luckily Frontline has got it covered.)


* According to the ‘future history of intelligent design’, ‘Darwinian’ scientists don’t do research on ‘junk DNA’. really? in this future history, will my partner’s dissertation & ongoing postdoc work on various aspects of gene regulation turn out to have all just been a terrible and poorly-compensated decade-long dream?

morning tea round-up

  • Yahoo!’s historically less-than-stellar track record of protecting user privacy is made much, much worse by this news: Yahoo! turned over a user’s identity information to the Chinese government, and now journalist Shi Tao has been sentenced to ten years for “e-mailing a government’s plan to restrict media coverage around the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre”. [SJ Merc 10/2 editorial; see also Xeni Jardin in the LAT 10/9; and Open Letter to Jerry Yang, Yahoo!, from Liu Xiaobo, 2005 Oct. 7. ] The Merc thinks it’s “hard to blame Yahoo!” for this but wants them to more aggressively lobby on behalf of human rights. Me, I don’t find it hard to “blame” Yahoo! for what they did. The individuals at Yahoo! who made the decision to hand over accurate information made a choice: company profits and business model over the freedom of a journalist. I guess they were just doing what they were told. [link from ping]

  • The Bush Admin. has never really had a sense of humor about parodies. The latest brouhaha is about The Onion’s use of the presidential seal. [cnn 10/26] White House spokesperson Trent Duffy:

    “When any official sign or seal is being used inappropriately the party is notified. … You cannot pick and choose where to enforce that rule. It’s important that the seal or any White House insignia not be used inappropriately.”

    The Onion editor-in-chief, Scott Dikkers:

    “I’ve been seeing the presidential seal used in comedy programs most of my life and to my knowledge none of them have been asked not to use it by the White House. … I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama … rather than comedians. I don’t think we pose much of a threat.”

  • George Takei - Live Queer and Prosper

    George Takei (“Mr.
    Sulu”) vamps it up.

    Mr. Sulu George Takei is gay! His new role in “Equus” apparently “inspire[d] him” to come out. I have to say, I am deeply gratified to finally have some queer representation on Star Trek. Although looking at this picture, it seems like the official coming out was, well, redundant. [Jason Schultz has a nice photo for Sulu fans, and SFGate 11/10 has a lot more details.]

    Between Mr. Sulu Takei and WNBA triple-MVP winner Sheryl Swoopes, National Coming Out Day came out a little late, but strong. [Women's Hoops blog links to lots of Swoopes coverage.]

  • Research about five years ago showed that even as women athletes were setting records and breaking into new fields, sports photographers were increasingly minimizing and downplaying women’s athleticism. (Also at Women’s eNews. See also Womens Sports Foundation. That was in 2000, and a flurry of scholarship around that time evaluated that phenomena. A year or so later, the Smithsonian launched a traveling tour of sports photography of female athletes, Game Face (which I caught in DC at the time). Women’s ascendance in sports in the last five years has continued apace, and I wonder if there have been follow-up studies….

  • Chinese women bloggers are doing the sex blog thing. (This is at least the second or third such similar article on Asian women bloggers and sexuality that I’ve seen in the last year or so. News coverage about the Chinese government frowning or cracking down on this or that is fairly routine, I know. But I can’t help but wonder how much of the coverage is due to the starting! shocking! news that Asian women bloggers are blogging about sex, and how much of it is because white Western journalists are surprised to see such goings-on. Hey, I’m told that even in Boston, beans do it.)

  • Speaking of blogging, the NYT is trying to get “hip” to this newfangled “blogging” thing, and you can really see the results. In one article recently, the Times “jazzed up” their content with “hyperlinks”: the article included one link on the name of a state to NYT coverage about that state. And yesterday & today the coverage of the Scooter Libby resignation made me snigger with this bullet point: “Reactions: Bush. Cheney. Bloggers.” But I shouldn’t make fun, because the NYT also gave me a happy moment with its briefly-posted blurb for the Scooter Libby thing, which went something like this: “Scooter Libby indicted; steps down; Bush-Cheney no comment; Karl Rove not indicted.” The mere fact that Karl Rove’s non-indictment is news sends a warm glow all the way down to my toes, and I thank the NYT for that little moment of joy.

  • National science standards groups are registering their disapproval of Kansas’ new “science plus! religion” standards. Unfortunately, they’re using copyright to do so. [nyt 10/28]

  • The Washington Post trashes the E-Rate, the telecomm. tax-funded grant to schools & libraries for Internet access. [WPost 10/27]

morning tea reading

  • The Rude Pundit tears it up on comparisons between the Clinton Whitewater-MonicaGate scandal, and the Bush-Cheney Fraudulently-Induced-Then-Bungled-Iraq-War-PlameGate scandal. [link from sideshow]

  • debate over intelligent design: the abstract factory points out that intelligent design advocates, like pretty much every other human being, work within a science-based framework when it really matters to them personally. [link from sideshow]

  • Fafblog: damn you grover norquist, for accepting money from the gays:

    Yes, as all right-thinking Gibletsians know, gays are not merely plotting to destroy the family. They are plotting to corrupt the global economy with mass monetary queerosity! Even now they are introducing creeping fruitism into our proudly heterosexual stock market and pansying up our once-butch interest rate! They even handle the same money we do, getting microscopic particles of gay all over our precious national currency! Did Abraham Lincoln just wink at Giblets from the five dollar bill? Get away from me, Honest Abe! Giblets doesn’t need your mincey forfathery leering and your log cabin jokes!

non-katrina

yet more depressing news:

  • iraq: where people keep dying. A friend recently met with her family who lives in Baghdad, who reported a) her elderly aunties regularly have laser sightings trained on them by US soldiers; b) her cousin’s cousin was recently shot & killed by US soldiers; c) they still don’t have power & clean water most of the time. The situation is worse than it was a year ago. They were impressed to hear that an American woman would camp outside Bush’s home, since they thought there was no dissent in the US. …

  • declining science literacy, increasing religious belief, and increasing poverty in the US. See creationism survey (NYT) and the widely reported new poverty statistics from the Census Bureau, available at http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf; press briefing.

  • the FDA decided to hold off approving emergency contraception, AGAIN, despite promises by new commissioner to have decided by today (9/1). The FDA Director of the Office of Women’s Health resigned in response. See feministe; prnewswire.

  • and i just heard that the 8th Circuit affirmed the lower court ruling in Bnetd. [opinion @ 8th Cir] A big loss for consumers and tinkerers.

but still there is light shed:

  • the NYT recently published a supremely arrogant, sexist, and stupid editorial / piece by Keith Ablow. Ablow suggested that women should think twice before letting their husbands watch childbirth, since it might destroy the man’s sexual attraction to his female partner. a number of commentators have given that article the trashing it deserved. see belle waring 8/31, for example; see also belle waring 8/23; pandagon; slate; crooked timber on women’s culture (and by negative implication what men’s culture is failing to do).

    me, i couldn’t help remembering how sensible, non-sexist people handle the issue in a way that recognizes human realities, sexuality, and needs of all parties: In The Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy and Birth, the authors straightforwardly noted that after pregnancy & birth, some non-birth-parents might have difficulty feeling sexual toward the birth-parent. The authors didn’t try some reductive pop-psych “oh my god I’ve seen her insides” explanation, but pointed out that it could happen for a variety of reasons: birthing-related, parenting-related, the efforts of adjusting to a new lifestyle, new roles, and new family configurations. the answer? give it time, and work on having adult time together.

  • orcinus posted on right-wing bloggers decrying the motes in left-wing eyes (“all our extremists is belong to you”) [link from sideshow]

  • Reading A1 posted on the suggestion from right-wingers (apparently frustrated that their ideas suck) that left-wingers can’t criticize unless they come up with fully-formed strategic responses themselves. i feel like excerpting:

    [W]ho exactly is the audience for this sort of policy wanking supposed to be? Other than a tiny community of Beltway or Beltway-oriented intellectuals, or wannabes. The anti-war left is nowhere near the seat of power. Power is held, in fact, by a gang that regards opposition in general, and opposition to the war in particular, as tantamount to treason. … Even if we had detailed, rational and realistic policy advice to give, they wouldn’t listen to it. … It’s not “unserious” or “immature” or whatever other bullshit terms are favored by the Beltway types to advocate the simple message Out Now. On the contrary—advocating such messages is the only real political space within which we have to operate. Our job is not to pretend we’re living under a different regime than we are, one that takes policy proposals seriously. Our job is to do the only thing we really can do, namely cause as much domestic pain as possible for Bush over the war. … You want to have a real effect on Iraq policy? Drive Bush’s numbers down, drive the GOP’s numbers down, take their Congressional majority away from them, take the White House back. That’s not done with policy prescriptions—which (again, has Cooper been paying attention these last few years?) the vast majority of the American public will never hear, or hear an honest version of, anyway.

    I’ve got a rant, somewhere inside, about labels, actions, and correctly identifying your own politics & where they fit on the historical spectrum. Something in response to the right-wingers who try to claim the higher ground created by the left-wing civil rights movement, the left-wing anti-fascist movements, and so on. But it’ll have to wait.

new yorker on bush on science

In The New Yorker, The Talk of the Town, posted 2005/8/15, Hendrik Hertzberg had this to say about Bush & his recent comments on intelligent design:

If the President’s musings on [intelligent design] were an isolated crotchet, they would hardly be worth noting, let alone getting exercised about. But they’re not. They reflect an attitude toward science that has infected every corner of his Administration. From the beginning, the Bush White House has treated science as a nuisance and scientists as an interest group—one that, because it lies outside the governing conservative coalition, need not be indulged. That’s why the White House—sometimes in the service of political Christianism or ideological fetishism, more often in obeisance to baser interests like the petroleum, pharmaceutical, and defense industries—has altered, suppressed, or overriden scientific findings on global warming; missile defense; H.I.V./ AIDS; pollution from industrial farming and oil drilling; forest management and endangered species; environmental health, including lead and mercury poisoning in children and safety standards for drinking water; and non-abstinence methods of birth control and sexually-transmitted-disease prevention. It has grossly misled the public on the number of stem-cell lines available for research. It has appointed unqualified ideologues to scientific advisory committees and has forced out scientists who persist in pointing out inconvenient facts. All this and more has been amply documented in reports from congressional Democrats and the Union of Concerned Scientists, in such leading scientific publications as Nature, Scientific American, Science, and The Lancet, and in a new book, “The Republican War on Science,” by the science journalist Chris Mooney.

linked from chris mooney 8/15

interesting reading, early saturday morning

Up early for my spouse who caught a red-eye. Now she’s resting peacefully and I of course can’t get back to sleep. But that’s okay, because there’s the Internet!

  • Positive outcomes of BlogHer: Mary Hodder at Napsterization is establishing a Speakers’ Wiki.

  • In response to publisher anxieties & thinly-veiled threats of litigation, Google is implementing an opt-out provision in its scan-copyrighted-library-books program, and delaying scans of copyrighted books until November. [google blog] This has been widely reported as Google backing down. See, e.g., “Chilled by Publishers” (BoingBoing), “Google Sells Out Users” (Copyfight). I agree, sell-out, chill, yes, yes, but am taking a moment to appreciate the sweetness of the opt-out option as default.

    Siva Vaidhyanathan had a different take, predicated largely (it seems to me) on the fact that Google is a for-profit corporation. For once, I disagree with Siva, and on two grounds: both with library exceptionalism in this instance and the take on American Geophysical Union.

  • Ed Felten on Freedom to Tinker [8/9] talked about the DRM in Microsoft’s Longhorn-cum-Vista. Copyfight (8/9) summed it up and added this pithy observation: “[T]his isn’t about stopping mass copyright infringement or pleasing Hollywood. It’s about keeping “consumers” locked in and people who develop potentially competing products locked out.” See also Derek Slater at EFF Deeplinks (8/9).

  • On Balkinization, Brian Tamanaha ponders intelligent design, reminding us that the whole kerfluffle is not about debates between religion and science, but about debates between a few modern religious leaders who are picking issues:

    Darwin’s 1859 publication of The Origin of Species incited a wicked backlash from religious quarters in the United States, pitting science directly against religion. But within three decades an accommodation had been achieved, as Richard Hofstadter described in Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944):

    Science, [Le Conte] urged, should be looked upon not as the foe of religion, but rather as a complementary study of the ways in which the First Cause operated in the natural world. Whatever science might learn, the existence of God as First Cause could always be assumed.

    This raises the question: why has a sensible way to reconcile faith and science that has worked for so long become unacceptable to many religious leaders in this country? This is not like the other ongoing battles over religion in the public sphere and the separation between state and church (school prayer, Decalogue displays, funding for parochial schools), all of which raise debatable issues of public and private values.

    Putting it this way helps keep the focus on the small set of religious leaders who are sowing all this unnecessary discord.

    I feel I must document the provenance of this observation: I’m quoting Brian Tamanaha who’s quoting Richard Hofstadter who’s citing Joseph Le Conte who “followed” Asa Gray. I’m just tickled by the lengthy chain, but the observation stands on its own regardless of sources.

  • fafblog has been brilliant recently: two on intelligent design: creation science, creation technology! [fafnir 8/10] and overwhelming scientific proof [giblets 8/2]. Then more on torture: claustrophobic techniques [medium lobster 8/4] … in the kingdom of the one-eyed man, the best wars are blind [medium lobster, 7/28]. Segueing nicely from torture, the democrats: the great divorce [fafnir 8/3] . Last but not least, response to some recent efforts by the American Family Assn to provide gay checklists for childrearing: how to tell how gay your gay son is [giblets 8/9]. How despicable is this fear-mongering checklist in the light of this fearful Christian response? [See queerday 7/18, Tampa Bay Online 7/13] Too much anger. That’s why I read fafblog. I could just do a blog indexing fafblog. And still keep the title, ‘derivative work’.

  • A wretched decision out of the NLRB, restricting employees’ off-duty fraternization. Guardsmark, LLC, 334 NLRB No. 97 (2005) (decision in pdf); more info at american rights at work; linked from tom tomorrow. A bit more from me on this case.

Of course, two hours later, the spouse is still sleeping like a baby, and now “Adelaide’s Lament” is going through my head. It’s my own fault for putting iTunes on random shuffle through my entire 80+G music library last week, but still, I last heard that song over a week ago. Probably at some point this morning I had a low-level meditation on my own minor cold and it triggered a “Guys & Dolls” flashback. Unlike LSD, perhaps “Guys & Dolls” really does hang out in your fat cells waiting to be re-triggered.

ID advocate admits it ‘has no content’

”I’m not pushing to have [ID] taught as an ‘alternative’ to Darwin, and neither are they,” he says in response to one question about Discovery’s agenda. ”What’s being pushed is to have Darwinism critiqued, to teach there’s a controversy. Intelligent design itself does not have any content.”

The evolution of George Gilder Boston Globe, 7/27 [linked from pharyngula]

It’s refreshing to see an ID advocate admit that there is no content to intelligent design.

As for their claim that they all they want to do is teach the controversy — great. Teach the controversy. Teach scientific controversies in science class. Since there’s no content to ID, there’s no scientific controversy. So what kind of controversy is it? It’s a political & social controversy. Political & social controversies absolutely should be taught in schools, in history, social science, current issues type classes. Heck, even comparative religion classes — why not? I’d love to see kids learning about other political & social controversies about children’s education: the controversy over sex ed, for instance, and how right-wingers want to teach abstinence & sexual ethics instead of sexual and reproductive healthcare. Or hey, how about we ‘teach the controversy’ regarding going to war on disputed evidence?

charles darwin’s posse

A friend passed me this stamp along with the following message for ‘pro-science subversives’:

Charles Darwin has a posse.

These stickers are being introduced to increase awareness and appreciation of Charles Darwin. His theory of natural selection provided a simple, non-supernatural explanation for how life on earth had evolved and continues to evolve. Although scientists worldwide view evolution and natural selection as completely uncontroversial, popular support in the United States is waning, especially with respect to the origin of humans. Without more public displays of affection for the theories of natural selection and evolution, it is likely that more and more schools will allow or even promote the teaching of evolution “alternatives” that invoke dabbling by supernatural entities. To provide some of the needed visible support for science and reason, please consider stickering something with his image. Sure, these efforts are probably completely futile, but wouldn’t you sleep better tonight knowing that you’ve done your part to delay our slip into Dark Ages II? Instructions and tips can be found below. Thanks!

http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/evolk12/posse/chazhasaposse.htm

… And in keeping with my passion for noting cultural begats, I note that designer Colin Purrington says of the image that

The overall design shamelessly emulates the “Andre The Giant Has A Posse” art project that I got to witness when I was a youth in Providence.

“André the Giant Has a Posse” was conceived by Frank Shepard Fairey and “at least one other unidentified person”. The WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] threatened a lawsuit (presumably right of publicity?) and the image mutated into a more iconic image with the words “OBEY” or “DISOBEY”. More info at obeygiant.com and Wikipedia.