Measured Against Reality

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I'm going to Italy for ten days, we're leaving this afternoon. So there will be no updates or comment moderation for a week and a half. Not that anyone's even using the internet between Christmas and New Year's, but I thought I should make a note of it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

God To Use Powers For Evil

Check out this awesome Onion Audio clip, God To Use Powers For Evil. The gist is obvious, but I have to quibble with the part that declares this a change in policy, if there's a god he's been pretty evil for all time. I'd make my own statement, but I still think Epicurus said it best:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A heartwarming story

Go read this post. It's simply awesome, and it will bring a smile to the face of any friend of rationality.

Personally, I find it incredible that she was able to bring him around, I've never seen anyone convert before. I suppose it's a long and difficult process, and most people can't bear to separate themselves from their old delusions. This story gives me some hope that it's possible, perhaps I'll give some people tomes of rationality for Christmas (The Blind Watchmaker and The Demon-Haunted World

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hydrogen follies

This video of a solar-powered hydrogen generator got me thinking about something I've been wanting to write for a long time: why hydrogen is stupid.

It all comes back to one principle: everything is a battery. Any source of energy that we have is essentially just energy from the sun repackaged. Solar is obvious, but even biofuels, wind, oil and coal are (oil and coal are from plants, and wind is from pressure differences from heating, although some is probably from the earth's rotation). The only exceptions to this rule are geothermal and nuclear, (and geothermal is really nuclear, radioactive decay is what heats the earth), but neither of those can power the world.

Why does this matter? I think it matters because when you realize that no matter what we do, we're taking energy from the sun and storing it a battery of some form, certain types of fuels just stop making sense. Hydrogen has so many problems beyond this it hardly merits mentioning, but it's also the cleanest parallel. Hydrogen is a really bad battery, it stores about 40% of energy that comes into it (meaning if you use 100 J to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen, then burn the hydrogen to get water and energy, you'll get about 40 J back) (you might wonder where these numbers come from, which is a presentation I saw last year. I can't find them online, take them with a grain of salt. The point still stands that electrolysis will always be less efficient than a simple battery for energy returns, some other way of generating hydrogen may be better than electrolysis, but then all the other problems with it remain). Considering that current batteries are much, much better than that (and getting better), hydrogen just doesn't make any sense. Even more so when you consider that we'd still need to get energy from somewhere to separate the hydrogen from something (currently it comes from natural gas), and it's not an energy-generator, just a battery.

Biofuels are just as stupid. We're using plants as solar-cells, then chemically modifying them into batteries. Why not just use solar cells and batteries? Those can be placed anywhere, and we don't have take precious food out of the world's farms for fuel (which, by the way, is part of the reason food prices are at all-time highs). Biofuels may be promising in some regards, but I don't think we'll ever be able to generate appreciable amounts of fuel with them, simply because we'll run out of arable land, even if we turn the entire earth into a large farm (which would be beyond stupid).

My simple point is this: all of our energy ultimately comes from the sun, so we should collect it directly and store it in the best possible medium. We should still research and consider other methods, but I'm convinced that none of them will prove tenable.

Fecal Transplants, no joke

This has to be the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time: Fecal Transplants. Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like, transplanting poop from one person to another. You know you have to read that article.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Awesomely-stupid Infomercials

I'm watching the Science channel, and I've seen a couple of hilarious commercials.

The first was for a quit-smoking device called Zerosmoke, which is a "gold-plated" magnet you wear on your ear. It uses "auricular" technology to release dopamine in your brain! The best was as they said that in the commercial, little sparkles went from the magnet to a brain, as if it were magic! Except instead of magic, it's bullshit.

The second was for an "ancient Japanese" detox system called Kinoki, it removes toxins through your feet, just like a tree! Because humans are just like trees! And there are lab tests to prove it, complete with bad chemicals! They did a study! This one had the typical laundry-list of complaints that modern medicine isn't good at solving but tend to respond well to placebos, you know: headaches, back pain, etc.

Actually that reminds me, there was another one too. This one was a table that flipped you upside down, to "decompress" your spine. It gets rid of all those things too (back pain, headaches, etc), and makes you feel young again!

I really wonder if anyone buys this crap. I guess they must, but it's mind-boggling. Especially since it's on the Science channel, you'd think that people who specifically seek out science would be less inclined to believe in bullshit. Oh well, at least it provides me with some humor.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thank god they passed that bill, or Christmas would surely have been destroyed forever!

From The Economist blog, Christmas saved from near-certain doom (translated: that dumb "Save Christmas" bill passed the House").

I'm not entirely surprised, mostly because I think at this point the House will pass anything that doesn't actually improve the country in any way. I'd really like to see someone introduce the "Flags for Orphans" bill from The Simpsons just to see what would happen.

I don't feel that I need to give an extended opinion on this inanity to slay all inanities of a law. Christmas is doing just fine, and frankly I wish we would all just leave it the hell alone, stop whining about whether it's "too material" or fret about "the war on Christmas". It's stupid, it's pointless, and the people who say it and the people who believe it are morons.

Thank god they passed that bill, or Christmas would surely have been destroyed forever!

From The Economist blog, Christmas saved from near-certain doom (translated: that dumb "Save Christmas" bill passed the House").

I'm not entirely surprised, mostly because I think at this point the House will pass anything that doesn't actually improve the country in any way. I'd really like to see someone introduce the "Flags for Orphans" bill from The Simpsons just to see what would happen.

I don't feel that I need to give an extended opinion on this inanity to slay all inanities of a law. Christmas is doing just fine, and frankly I wish we would all just leave it the hell alone, stop whining about whether it's "too material" or fret about "the war on Christmas". It's stupid, it's pointless, and the people who say it and the people who believe it are morons.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I guess none of the abstinence-only people actually believe their own religion/rhetoric.


Philosophy Final: Creationism

I'm currently taking a Philosophy of Science course, and the final paper deals largely with creationism, including one large essay about whether or not it should be included in schools. I figured it would make a decent blog post, so here it is. The first part deals with quotes, what they mean and responding to them, the second is the proposition that ID should be taught in school.

1. “A scientific explanation must appeal to law and must show that what is being explained had to occur.”

In his piece Creation Science is not Science Michael Ruse argues that “Creation Science”, or creationism, fails to be scientific. He outlines several demarcation criteria, one of which is that a science must be explanatory, and those explanations must appeal to laws, or regularities, in nature. In order for an activity to be science, according to this criterion, it must at least attempt to explain phenomena in terms of underlying regularities. He gives the examples of Mendelian genetics explaining why two blue-eyed parents will have blue-eyed children (the trait is recessive), and of cannon balls travelling in parabolas (the differential equations of motion demand it).

However, creation science fails to do this. Creation is, by definition, an act that is outside of law, outside of regularities, outside of nature itself. Science cannot deal with the supernatural, and the supernatural cannot be science. This demarcation criterion alone is enough to disqualify creation science, the rest simply make the disqualification more convincing.
(From Ruse, 38-47)

2. “He points out that the flagellar motor depends upon the coordinated functioning of 30 protein parts. … Remove one of the necessary proteins (as scientists can do experimentally) and the rotary motor simply doesn’t work. The motor is, in Behe’s terminology, ‘irreducibly complex’.”

Here Stephen Meyer outlines Michael Behe’s argument, called “irreducible complexity” (IC). A system is IC if when one or more of its parts are removed, it ceases to function. Behe (and Meyer) use this terminology to suggest that Intelligent Design (ID) must be true, because the odds of an IC system coming together by chance are vanishingly small. The flagellum is one example that ID proponents frequently cite, but it is not the only one (others include the immune system and blood clotting systems). IC is an incredibly important argument to ID proponents, as it’s one of the few they have that has some grounding in modern science.

The problem with this argument (well, one of many) is that when a system has some part removed, it may not function for its original purpose but still be useful for something else. Another is that evolution doesn’t proceed only through addition of parts; parts may be modified, sometimes drastically. Piecing together an evolutionary history may be difficult, but just because we haven’t yet found a plausible history doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist or will never be found. Assuming a designer from IC alone is nothing more than an Argument from Ignorance, a classic logical fallacy.

(From Meyer, here).

3. “Such attempts to infer to the best explanation, where the explanation presupposes the reality of an unobservable entity, occur frequently in many fields already regarded as scientific, including physics, geology, geophysics, molecular biology, genetics, physical chemistry, cosmology, psychology, and, of course, evolutionary biology.”

Here again is Stephen Meyer, arguing that ID isn’t unscientific simply because it postulates an unobservable entity [apologies for the double-negative, but that’s what he’s arguing]. His reasoning is perfectly correct: a theory containing unobservable entities, even those that are unobservable in principle, can certainly be scientific (even the antirealists didn’t assert that the presence of unobservable entities automatically invalidates science). As he points out, nearly every branch of science contains unobservable entities, and yet they remain scientific.

The problem with his line of argument is that ID doesn’t just assert an unobservable entity, but one that acts outside of nature. All of those sciences may contain unobservable entities, but they also proscribe how those entities will behave in given situations, usually with strict, specific restrictions on that behavior. However, a Designer is outside of nature, and ID doesn’t even specify what the Designer is. That is what is unscientific, a supernatural, unpredictable, unobservable entity.

And that’s leaving aside the problem that ID usually isn’t the best explanation anyway, as was briefly mentioned above.

(From Meyer, Here)

4. “Creationists do, in short, change their minds from time to time. Doubtless they would credit these shifts to their efforts to adjust their views to newly emerging evidence.”

Larry Laudan disagrees with Ruse that creation science isn’t science, he argues that it’s scientific, but just plain wrong. Here he is arguing against the assertion (made by Judge Overton in the McLean v Arkansas opinion) that creationists don’t ever modify their arguments and beliefs in response to evidence. This falls into the rest of his argument that all of Judge Overton’s reasons for finding that creationism isn’t science were poor demarcation criteria, or that creationism actually meets those criteria. However, he takes the tack that creationism should be excluded because it’s wrong, not because it’s unscientific.

He is technically correct; the big-wigs of the creationist movement (those who are skilled in public relations and know what they’re up against in terms of getting creationism into science classrooms) do shift their positions. He’s wrong that it’s in response to evidence. For example, after the McLean decision, “Creation Science” rebranded into “Intelligent Design”, and all references to any designer were removed in an attempt to secularize the movement. Old arguments that had failed were dropped, and new, equally fallacious ones were taken up. But the same old tripe, such as “Evolution is just a theory” still gets thrown about, just as it did in McLean, and just as it was in Scopes. Creationism is still ideological, and that’s why it’s unscientific. Laudan’s argument ignores this fact, and that’s why it fails. He’s right about creationism being wrong, but he’s wrong about it being scientific.

(From Laudan, 48-53).

6. “If our choice among rivals is irreducibly comparative, …, then scientific methodology cannot guarantee (even on the most optimistic scenario) that the preferred theory is true—only that it is epistemically superior to the other actually available contenders.”

Here Okruhlik, taking on a similar problem to those examined by Longino in the section on Objectivity, explains that theories will always share the cultural baggage of their makers, and when all available theories were created in the same system, they will all share the same baggage. Thus, when theory choice is comparative (that is, which of the available theories best fits the data), the cultural baggage will inevitably come along for the ride. This means that we can’t be sure that the theory is true (in the scientific sense) because it may have some hidden, potentially invalid assumptions that we will never be able to examine.

She describes several instances of this, such as using only male rats as the model of rat-ness. It’s undeniable that this is a problem, especially in fields such as anthropology, where there are few quantitative measures. But as Longino described, there are ways to defeat this problem, such as open review of background assumptions and stringent peer review. All of Okruhlik’s points are valid, we can only hope that fields with strong potential for (and/or past history of) falling prey to these kinds of assumptions will encourage/require examination of shared values and hidden assumptions.

(From Okruhlik, 192-208).

B. Using the Ruse and Laudan essays, the selections from Stephen Meyer on CourseWork, and other essays in the section on Science and Pseudoscience, evaluate the proposition that Intelligent Design should be included in high school science curricula.

Should Intelligent Design be included in high school biology courses? That question has occupied school board, divided communities, gotten people fired, and been endlessly discussed. The answer varies depending on who you ask, but the divide falls largely between those who accept evolution and those who don’t, with the latter category populated mostly by people who reject evolution on religious grounds. One answer came on December 20, 2005, when Judge Jones handed down his opinion in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, but this hardly settled the matter. It’s difficult to argue, from a Philosophical perspective, that ID should be included in high school curricula, but it’s absolutely impossible to argue for it from a legal perspective.

Demarcation, deciding what is and what isn’t science, is a classic problem in the philosophy of science. From Popper’s falsifiability to Kuhn’s puzzle-solving, or the research programs of Lakatos and Thagard, this issue has been heavily discussed. While there is not absolute consensus, it is clear that some dividing line exists, and it can be drawn by examining what we consider science, then comparing unifying characteristics to enterprises with ambiguous status. That is the methodology Ruse uses, and his criteria are: it contains laws, the laws are used to effect explanation, it makes predictions, it is testable, it can be confirmed, it can be falsified, and it is tentative. Ruse then shows how creation science meets none of these criteria. Since ID is little more than creationism renamed, there is no need to rehash the whole argument. Suffice it to say that ID fails most of these counts (the first two are discussed above), and the remaining are satisfied in letter only, not in spirit. For example, ID is in principle falsifiable, but as an Argument from Ignorance only when all ignorance is dispelled, an unlikely scenario. By Ruse’s argumentation, ID is unscientific and should expelled from schools.

Laudan disagrees with Ruse, but for poor reasons. He argues that satisfying the letter of the demarcation criteria is enough, that creationism actually is a science, just one that has been shown to be false. The trouble is that one can make the exact same argument about astrology, the classic pseudoscience. If an endeavor that aspires to be called scientific has been shown to be false, but still lingers like some pseudoscientific spectre, then it is not science. Humility, the ability to admit that you were wrong and accept that others were right, is the cornerstone of science. True, it doesn’t always work that way, but science aspires to that ideal. However, with creationism and ID it never works that way. That utter lack of any ability to accept scientific defeat is what makes ID a pseudoscience, and Laudan’s arguments wrong. But this doesn’t matter, because Laudan argues that because creationism (ID for us) is wrong, it should be expelled from schools, the conclusion is the same even if the method is different.

There is little doubt, from a Philosophical perspective, that ID doesn’t belong in schools. But don’t take my word for it, take Barbara Forrest’s, a prominent anti-ID Philosopher of Science and chronicler of the various guises of creationism, who testified at the Dover trial (despite the Defendant’s attempts to keep her off the stand). Her scholarship shows beyond all doubt that ID is simply the new face of “Creation Science”, a religiously-motivated attack on evolution, and as such does not belong in schools. I would quote it if I had space, but unfortunately there are few pithy quotes, to truly capture her work would take several paragraphs, and they will have to be relinquished to a footnote (see here and here, for a taste).

It’s all well and good that ID should be kept out of schools from a Philosophical perspective, but the Culture Wars are not played out in Philosophical journals, they’re played in courts and on schools boards afraid of going to court. What does the court have to say about Intelligent Design? In late 2005, ID was tried, and it came up short, far short. Judge Jones found that ID was obviously religious in nature, wasn’t science, and had been shown to be false. But most importantly, he found that including it in the curriculum violated the “Purpose clause” of the Lemon Test. This means that the action has no “secular purpose”, and as such is unconstitutional. This is the crux of the matter. There simply is no secular reason for including ID in any science curriculum. The only reason for doing this is because of objections to evolution, which are always religious in nature. Those are two bold assertions, but the preponderance of the evidence shows their veracity. And courts have consistently ruled against ID, finding that, on both Philosophical and legal grounds, it deserves to be expelled from schools.

Finally, what do the ID proponents make of this? Why do they want to see ID put into schools? There are two answers to the latter question: the first is what they say in public, that evolution is lacking and their new theory is better (propositions we know to be false); the second is the real intention their actions and private words betray, that their ideological beliefs demand creationism be taught, or at least evolution not taught. As for the former question, they’re feeling the pain of defeat, but this was simply yet another setback. ID has reared its head in Florida and Texas in the past few months . That is the nature of the Culture Wars, win one battle and immediately prepare to fight more. Because when it comes to religiously-inspired ideological matters, no defeat is great enough to stop proponents from trying to inflict their views on others, no matter what common sense, good science, good Philosophy, or the law say. That is why the defenders of science remain vigilant, watching and waiting for the next attempt to sabotage some poor children’s education.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

When will the IDiots cite this case?

Via The Volokh Conspiracy comes this bit of news, that a Professor has been stripped of certain teaching assignments because of his views on evolution. But no, he's not an IDiot:

He’s a professor at Olivet Nazarene University, in Illinois, who has been barred from teaching general biology or having his book taught at the university that is his alma mater and the place where he has taught for 27 years. A biologist who is very much a person of faith, these punishments followed anger by some religious supporters of the college over the publication of his book in which he argues that it is possible to believe in God and still accept evolution.

“I thought I was doing the church a service,” Colling said in an interview. He believes that religious colleges that frame science and faith as incompatible will lose some of their best minds, and that his work has been devoted to helping faithful students maintain their religious devotion while learning science as science should be taught. . . .

Colling’s career at Olivet Nazarene was successful until the publication in 2004 of Random Designer, his attempt to offer a philosophy in which religious people can study evolution with scientific seriousness, and scientists can embrace faith. The central idea, in short, is that one can believe that God created the universe, and in so doing created the systems that would evolve into everything that exists today. Colling acknowledges that it is not possible to believe literally in the Bible’s creation of the world in six days but argues that this need not diminish the moral force of the Bible or belief in God.

I bet Demski isn't going to howl in outrage over this, but the firing of Gonzalez or the YEC who signed up for an Evo-Devo job? Those are outrageous! At least in the anti-ID cases the guys were legitimately fired, while this is purely ideological.

Not that the University acted wrongly, I can't really comment on that, but this is just further proof of the insanity that is the ID movement, and religion in general. Us secularists can tolerate entire deparments dedicated to religion, but they can't allow a professor to teach if he believes that evolution and religion are compatible.

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Newsflash: the religious are easily offended idiots

It just never ends.

Some atheists posted a sign with an image of the Twin Towers and the words, "Imagine No Religion" in a park in a Vermont town. The subsequent hullabaloo was entirely predictable:

This Christmas, Martha Chennelle and Amy Houser say Vernon could use a few prayers, considering the sign standing in front of town hall.

"We believe that Christ is the reason for Christmas," said Chennelle.

"I feel like this is an attack on my beliefs as a religious person," said Houser.

Well, your belief is wrong. Christmas comes from Yule/Saturnalia, both pagan holidays that were co-opted to convert pagans. Further showing that the religious utterly lack knowledge of their own damn history. Nonetheless, this is essentially a bunch of idiots standing around belly-aching that someone doesn't like them. Religion really does turn the believer into a kindergartener, at least mentally.

The best part is this:

"We ultimately believe that Christians have been persecuted throughout history," said Houser, "so this is nothing new."

Yeah, but in the past thousand years or so the people doing the persecuting were other Christians. It's laughably absurd that people who make up a vast majority and control nearly everything are so terrified of atheists. Literally, their idiocy makes me laugh.

I really want to know why it's so hard for the religious to coexist with others who don't agree. You'd be hard-pressed to find an atheist who objects to all the religious symbols we see (except when they're on government ground and endorsed over other symbolism), but the religious just can't tolerate expressions of atheism. It's just ridiculous. And I know, not all believers are like these people, but those people aren't vocal, and don't distance themselves from the lunies. Maybe if all the sane people in the world, no matter what their religion, united against the nutjobs, all would be fine. But as long as the so-called "moderates" stay lined up with the whack-jobs situations like this will keep occurring.

And that's why we need to shame these people. Once acting like a moron is embarrassing and people aren't doing it, things will be much better for everyone.

God's influence limited to touchdowns

From Fark:

"God did not cause this to happen," says Minister of Colorado church. God's influence limited to touchdowns, passing math quizzes, and the occasional Crusade

It's always confused me how believers can give god credit when good things happen, but always refuse to blame god when bad things happen. I've also never understood why people think that god actually cares about the minutiae of their lives, aren't the supposed to be humble? Do you really think your sports team winning is so important to god that he'll "make" them win over, say, feeding some of the thousands of children dying of starvation every minute?

It would just be nice if someone had the courage to give god blame and praise equally.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Great day for comics

If only they would actually admit that.


Read a book!

toothpaste for dinner

I think that's exactly what I'm going to say when people talk about gibberish from now on.


In fruit flies, homosexuality is biological but not hard-wired

Wow, take a look at this: In fruit flies, homosexuality is biological but not hard-wired. A group of researchers have found a specific gene that triggers homosexual (technically bisexual) behavior in fruit flies, and they can actually turn it on and off using drugs or genetic manipulation.

The gene is called "genderblind", and "it has the unusual ability to transport the neurotransmitter glutamate out of glial cells -- cells that support and nourish nerve cells but do not fire like neurons do. Previous work from his laboratory showed that changing the amount of glutamate outside cells can change the strength of nerve cell junctions, or synapses, which play a key role in human and animal behavior."

"Based on our previous work, we reasoned that GB mutants might show homosexual behavior because their glutamatergic synapses were altered in some way," said Featherstone. Specifically, the GB mutant synapses might be stronger.

"Homosexual courtship might be sort of an 'overreaction' to sexual stimuli," he explained.

To test this, he and his colleagues genetically altered synapse strength independent of GB, and also fed the flies drugs that can alter synapse strength. As predicted, they were able to turn fly homosexuality on and off -- and within hours.

"It was amazing. I never thought we'd be able to do that sort of thing, because sexual orientation is supposed to be hard-wired," he said. "This fundamentally changes how we think about this behavior."

Now, of course this isn't going to be an exact model for human sexuality, we're much more complicated psychologically than fruit flies, but it is quite interesting. And even if it does have some kind of analog in human sexuality, I very much doubt we'll some day be able to turn homosexuality on and off, as I said we're just too complicated. Although that raises some interesting questions about whether or not we would even want to, it seems to me like we wouldn't, but I suppose that would be an intensely personal decision. At the very least this is yet more evidence that homosexuality is biological, and not just "a choice" that can be made on a whim. Unfortunately the people who believe homosexuality is a choice will never be persuaded by evidence.

Another interesting aspect of this research is that fruit flies can show homosexual behavior. I didn't even realize that animals as simple as insects could show it at all, I guess homosexuality even more ingrained into nature than I thought. All the more reason to laugh at the bigots who call it unnatural and a sin. Idiots.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Prison Nation

I just watched Prison Nation, a National Geographic special on the state of prisons in the country. It started with all the great statistics, how we have 5% of the world's population but 25% of its prisoners, 2.2 million in prison, mostly minorities, mostly young men. Details the problems with overcrowding, racial tension, revolving door prisons, the dehumanization of boredom (and the system itself), and all that great stuff.

Here's some great quotes:

The most effective way to turn a non-violent person into a violent person is to send them to prison.

Several things flow from overcrowding. First is the potential for more violence.

Mixing young kids with hardened criminals is a recipe for disaster.

The rape of prisoners is probably the most frequent unreported crime in America today. No one involved wants to acknowledge it.

In many places, gangs virtually run the prisons.

In some jurisdictions a devil's bargain gets struck, "We'll turn a blind eye to you getting high, as long as you don't riot and as long as you don't kill our officers."

The reason for the explosion of drug use in prison is the mandatory sentencing laws as applied to low-level drug offenders. Thousands and thousands people are locked up for low-level drug offenses.

That kind of intensive segregation from all human interaction makes people crazy. It makes normal people crazy, and it makes crazy people even crazier.

Perfectly normal and mentally healthy individuals when subjected to conditions of complete isolation from ordinary sensory stimulation and social relations will start experiencing symptoms of mental illness... If our goal had been to try to create the conditions that most increase levels of crime and violence, we could hardly have come up with a better method.

25 Percent of all prison beds are filled by the mentally ill.

We know from all the research that the more education you have when you leave prison the better off you'll be, especially if you can get any kind of college education. But there's almost no college education in prison. "You want to take some of my taxes and give some guy, that robbed my kid, a free college education? Why should I do that?" And there's an answer that, and it's that you'll be safer.

The revolving door of justice just seems to be revolving faster and faster in the United States.

Prisoners come out much worse than when they went in. Part of this is that they have so many new criminal contacts.

I think we've really sold the public a bill of goods, saying that the corrections system can make them safe. The corrections system cannot make you safe.

One of the best things is how critical people involved in the system are of it. Current and ex-commissioners, guards, and academics all seem to agree that our system is terrible.

It's a great documentary, I highly recommend watching it if you get a chance. It does a fantastic job of showing the travesty of our criminal justice system for what it is. I just wish we could create a system that works, not the crapfest we currently have. It's too bad that will never happen.

Romney Blovulates

So, as you probably know Mitt Romney gave a speech about faith on Thursday. And of course, pundits ate it up. Pretty much every angle of this has been covered, from how absurd it is that religion matters at all when the constitution specifically says that there shall be no religious test for office, and how much better off we'd be if people used skepticism and rationality to make their decisions rather than holy writ, so I don't have much more to add. However, this isn't surprising, and it reminds me of Bush I saying that atheists aren't really citizens.

For my favorite take on this, see John Wilkins.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Aliens and mind control!

This is just too funny not to mention, a website with instructions on how to stop alien mind control. I really can't tell if it's just a joke or if it's serious, it could quite possibly be both. I like this part:

A Fluke Multimeter shows a voltage which proves that the thought screen helmet intercepts a microwave signal although the source of the signal cannot be determined. It also demonstrates that aliens are neither paranormal nor supernatural. Test made by a man with two helmets who was being abducted. See the development section for more information on this historic discovery.

I really love how it having a voltage instantly means it's getting signals. Induction from microwave frequencies wouldn't give much, but I can't read the picture anyway so it doesn't really matter. Besides, it could just from a battery.

I also want to know how microwaves control minds. Do we have antenna? I suppose we must! It's hardly worth pointing out the idiocy in that kind of thinking, so I won't.

Here's another funny part:

Throughout the history of the human race, wars were fought with bigger and better weapons. Muskets replaced bows and arrows, automatic rifles replaced single action ones, rockets replaced cannons, aircraft carriers replaced battleships, ballistic missiles replaced bombers, jet interceptors replaced propeller driven fighters. Weapons got more accurate, faster, with greater ranges of action and greater explosive power. In all of the wars until now, technology and numerical superiority determined victory. Superior technology, tactics and numerical strength were the key elements in warfare. All wars fought until now were "technology wars." Wars were technological superiority were decisive.

Since we are being invaded by an alien force from another world, we have a different kind of war. Our war with these beings is one of mind control, mind scan, and telepathic control, as reported by Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs and Raymond Fowler. I call this type of conflict "telepathic war" to differentiate if from a "technology war." A "telepathic war" uses telepathy as a weapon in addition to the machines of a "technology war." Until now, the creatures abducting us could do so at will: they could "switch off" people or render them powerless, manipulate people's thoughts and cause them to move against their will, project mental images to us, masquerade as a friendly or sexually attractive human, and scan our entire minds.

If you want to have some fun laughing at the absurd beliefs of others (and really, who doesn't?) p

Is Our Schools Failing?

Chad Orzel has a great post on the "declining" public education system. Basically, the furor over our poorly-performing schools has always been around, or at least has been around since the 1870's. Like pretty much every hysterical, over-hyped fear, this one is generational, just always around (declining morality of the youth is another).

That's not to say that we don't have problems that need to be addressed, serious ones at that, as Chad points out. But we can probably stop worrying about how we test against other countries, and start worrying about the scores of other problems we face.

Anyway, go read his post, he says it all as well as I ever could.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

External Delivery?

If you don't read Cectic, you should. It's a comic about freethought and science, it's quite good.

This week is even better, with an elaborate parody of ID called External Delivery, about the necessity of some outside force to explain present delivery on Christmas. The website has all the great references to ID/Creationism, even a cdesign pronentsist

Check it out, and the subscribe to the RSS, you won't regret it.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


The only problem is that time slows down as space warps, unless it's due to negative mass (velocity can't do it), which would be pretty crazy!