Archive for September, 2010
Note from George: I have been having a conversation with a creationist named Grant over at Tim Cooley’s blog. I am starting to understand Tim’s habit of just responding “Wow.” every time a creationist posts a dumb-ass response to one of his posts. It is so much easier to show them that you acknowledge their comment but know it to be worthless. I’m sure Tim is getting tired of me beating Grant up on his blog, so I’ll lay out my case here as well.
For the full context of my letter read the comment section of “Evolution is Wrong, because…” over at Tim Cooley’s Atheism.
I know you don’t want to admit that you were wrong to improperly attribute a quote to George Wald when it was clearly creationist propaganda. I know you would like to forget that you were absolutely wrong about beneficial human genetic mutations. I understand that you would like to avoid discussing why your probability calculations are fatally flawed or how you are entirely ignorant of the basics of evolutionary theory.
Just hear me out.
You do not need to cling to poor information when you have ample proof that it is wrong. The information available to you could all be wrong and you still might get the right conclusion from it. Good conclusions are aided by good evidence, but they are not dependent on it. It really does help make your case though. What does not help make your case is when you are clearly shown that your “facts” are wrong and you stick to them to the point of being made to look silly.
The quote you attributed to Wald is not in the text of either article it claims to be cited from. I have shown that there are no groupings of 5 consecutive words in common between your quote and the text of the article. You have been given multiple opportunities to show otherwise and you continue to “duck and weave”. Your quote contains 100 words and I’m only asking you to find 5 words in common, just 5%. If you can do this then I will drop the whole issue.
I think that I am being benevolent, given that there are so many other things wrong with the quote. It appears to be fabricated 25 years after the article was written with no attention paid to the glaring problem of two divergent dates used. 1860 was mentioned by Wald in the article as the date that Pasteur did his spontaneous generation experiments; 94 years before the article was written. Your fabricated quote says 120 years and clearly points to this quote being made around 1980. You are claiming that Wald gave the exact year of the experiment and then overshot the time elapsed by 26 years in the same article. You are doing this while not even pointing to where in his text he says it was 120 years. This makes you look particularly stupid.
(Edit: I found citeings of the same quote with the date changed to 100 years. Perhaps Grant could start changing that too.)
The quote itself conflates spontaneous generation and abiogenesis, which has been explained on numerous occasions to be incorrect. I let that error stand because it is clearly a conflation made by Wald in the original text, based on information and terminology available to a scientist more than 55 years ago. Spontaneous generation is not abiogenesis. Pasteur’s experiment did nothing to disprove abiogenesis, although that may not have been apparent to a biologist almost 60 years ago. There are many assumptions that were made more than half a century ago that have not stood the test of time. The great thing about science is it is self correcting, new discoveries and evidence discard old theories or take them from conjecture to fact. That of course is a weakness to creationists, but it is what makes science increasingly more relevant to informed people than your ancient holy book.
You have decided to pick one sentence from the link I provided you and disregard everything that is said after it because that one sentence removed of it’s context appears to vindicate you. As a homework project, perhaps you would like to address the other sentences in that link to show that you have reading comprehension.
When you brought up genetic mutations you claimed that sickle cell anemia was the only mildly positive genetic mutation in humans. When I offered you three other genetic mutations that had a far more positive effect in humans you ignored me. I have references for each of those studies. I want you to respond as to why they are not positive genetic mutations or admit that you were misinformed on that subject. It makes you look bad to make a claim that is proven wrong and refuse to address it. Here are the references for my three examples; lactose tolerance, atherosclerosis resistance, and HIV immunity:
1.Durham, William H. 1992. Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
2. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 1998 Apr;18(4):562-567. “PAI-1 plasma levels in a general population without clinical evidence of atherosclerosis: relation to environmental and genetic determinants,” by Margaglione M, Cappucci G, d’Addedda M, Colaizzo D, Giuliani N, Vecchione G, Mascolo G, Grandone E, Di Minno G; Unita’ di Trombosi e Aterosclerosi, IRCCS Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, San Giovanni Rotondo (FG), Italy.
3. American Journal of Human Genetics, 1998 Jun;62(6):1507-15. by JC Stephens et al.
On the subject of probability, I explained to you how attributing the creation of known proteins to chance was wrong. Evolution works by building upon existing forms. Just like in my Yatzee analogy, even if you required 1,000,000 dice to be 6’s to call a yatzee, with a near infinite amount of rolls at your disposal you will eventually get there. Even if you started with not one 6 in your first roll. Abiogenesis, let’s imagine it as 50 sixes in one roll, will eventually happen, and evolution allows you to build upon that over and over again. Your probability calculations are for a known protein, and this need not be the case. Science doesn’t even accept that as the case. Yet you attribute it as part of scientific dogma, then smack it down. That is what we call a “strawman”.
Your original tact was to take a poor metaphor and insist that it is proof of evolution. I hope I was able to convey to you that no scientist believes that DNA is a real “language” or “code” in the sense that you or I use those terms. Just as your definition of “theory” is very different from what science defines as a “theory”, words have different meanings and connotations in different circumstances. You don’t get to choose your definition, the definition is contextual. You are quite right to stand in awe of the complexity and seeming impossibility of life. It is wondrous. Yet science continues to shed new light on the intricacies and specifics of how life came to be as we know it. There are many questions that still need to be answered, but know that those answers are out there; with no need to resort to the supernatural.
Grant, you might yet be right about evolution. Unfortunately for you it would require disproving thousands of separate lines of evidence for the theory. There is the remotest of chances, perhaps even worse than the chances of spontaneous generation, that science has been horribly misled in physics, geology, dendrochronology, biology, genetics, and just about every other area of science that touches upon evolution. Yet clinging to arguments that are known to be false does nothing to help your case. You can still admit that you were misinformed; the quote was misattributed, that you were unaware of the latest information in genetics, that you misunderstood the probability and hypothesis of abiogenesis. You can admit all those things and I won’t say you are wrong just because of bad information. I might tell you that your apprehentions to evolution are unfounded; that if your belief in creationism is based on the shortcomings of evolution, then you need to get better information.
There is no shame in admitting when you are wrong. It does not make you perpetually wrong either. Continuing to lie when you know you have been caught just makes you look idiotic, and as fun as it has been to continue to do just that, I want you to know that you have a second option. Just admit that you had some of your facts wrong, admit that the information was wrong but that it doesn’t completely disprove your argument. Then go out and try to find the right information to back up your hypothesis. You may be surprised what you learn…..
P.S. – Just to show you what quote-mining is, here is a quote from this open letter. It is not even in the spirit of the text, it is taking rhetoric out of context and taking it to mean something it was not intended to:
Just hear me out. You might yet be right about evolution. You are quite right to stand in awe of the complexity and seeming impossibility of life. It is wondrous. Good conclusions are aided by good evidence, and science has been horribly misled in physics, geology, dendrochronology, biology, genetics, and just about every other area of science that touches upon evolution.
-George W., Atheist blogger, Misplaced Grace, “An Open Letter To Grant”, September 17th, 2010.
See what I mean?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )
Canadian politics can be hard to understand. A case could be easily made that most Canadians are woefully ignorant of the political system in their own country. I want to offer a crash course in the history and workings of our Canadian political system to help people understand how we got to where we are and how the system in Canada is both similar and different to other systems in modern Western democracies. The views I express here are my own and should be interpreted as such, all historical facts are correct to the best of my knowledge.
My first couple of posts will deal with the political parties and a brief overview of their history and policies. I wish to start today with the “right-wing” side of the spectrum.
What It Means To Be Right: A brief History
The Conservatives in Canada were one of the founding parties of our nation. They were modeled on the Whigs, or Tories, the Conservative party of our overseas overlords in Britain.
Our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald was a Tory, as well as a drunk, and his Victorian dislike of minorities and homosexuals is one of the few major policies that have remained unchanged in the party to this very day. Although the Conservatives can brag that they have had more sitting Prime Ministers than any other political party, 13 0f 22, they have only ruled over the House of Commons for 43% of our nation’s history, many years of which in minority governments, a testament to their general incompetence.
The Conservative Party, in all fairness, can also brag about having the two largest majorities in Canadian history, under the Diefenbaker and Mulroney Administrations.
The Conservative Party as we know it today has only the faintest pedigree of the traditional Conservative Party of yesteryear, as much as they claim otherwise. They essentially hi-jacked the name in the hopes of “tying roses to the cow’s tail”, re-branding their neo-conservative, xenophobic, and theocratic roots under the guise of historical relevance. Like buying Keds with a Nike logo on them, they hope to hide the fact that they have less quality control in their sweatshop of ideas. (more…)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
I want every Canadian to read the following story. It appeared in the Globe and Mail August 19th, 2010, and concerns Stephen Harper’s plan to bring a Fox News style channel to Canadian viewers by 2011.
Mr. Harper not only plans to create a right-wing Conservative-talking-points style network here in Canada, but he would like it to be a Category 1 digital station, meaning it will be a mandatory part of one of the digital cable packages and funded partly by every viewers cable television fees. There is currently a petition being prepared by Avaaz.org that will run in major Canadian Newspapers once 100,000 signatures are collected.
Most Americans are wise enough to realize that Fox News is a Republican propaganda machine that does little to offer unbiased coverage of domestic and world events. There is no competing stations in the market with such a singularly subjective view of the daily news, save perhaps a few segments on MSNBC. In Canada, we presently have our own national all news channels, CBC News Network and CTV NewsNet, as well as MSNBC, CNN, HNN, BBC World, and yes, Fox News. I suspect that the Canadian Fox News clone will be supported or partially owned by Rupert Murdoch, current owner of Fox News south of the border, as Stevie had a lunch meeting with both Murdoch and Roger Ailes, current president of that network.
If present bundling packages are any indication, Fox News North, as it has been dubbed, will be off to an early lead among Category 1 stations: In a list of extended cable packages offered by my own local provider, Fox News is one of only 2 channels that is bundled in more than one package.
The other problem that I can see is that if a broadcast license is issued to Fox News North, it would most certainly be able to make a case that as a national news network, it should be entitled to the same advantages offered CBC News Network and CTV NewsNet and be offered as part of all basic cable services nationwide; again giving it a larger chunk of cable dollars.
Do we need a Fox News clone in Canada? My trite answer would be no.
The bigger issue here is not whether Canadians want or need a right wing news agency. The issue is why a sitting Prime Minister is actively working to get a license for any network. Another good question is why a former spokesman for our Prime Minister should be in charge of the political coverage of Sun Media group, one of the largest media consortiums in our country.
Stephen Harper needs to focus on the task of running a country, not on building a conservative propaganda feedback loop. The network itself would also require a systematic dismantling of CRTC regulations regarding balanced coverage during our election cycle, something I can only imagine would make Little Stevie beam with joy.
Hat tip to Pharyngula for the heads up.
Note To My International Readers: If you don’t see what all the fuss is about, you clearly need a Stephen Harper history lesson. Start with this post over at Lousy Canuck regarding Little Stevie’s plan to make our long form census optional.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )