davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Liff)
Its been a slow day at work, so I've been watching the Grauniad's feed of the debate in the House of Commons. Mainly because I heard Charles Moore on the Today programme being mind-bogglingly stupid, and I had to check that he wasn't just a complete idiot they'd dragged off the street, and those opposing the bill actually had some sensible reasons for opposing the bill.

Apparently for Charles marriage is all about shagging and having kids. So anyone who can't have kids, or doesn't want them shouldn't be married. Nor should people who don't like sex be allowed to get married. Except they should because it would be "open to the possibility", but same-sex marriage isn't. Unless of course the woman has had a hysterectomy, so that argument doesn't work either. I do see his point that marriage these days may be more about the wedding than the actual relationship. But that says far more about the willingness of individuals to enter into agreements without due consideration than it does about what shape genitals they have. In which case Las Vegas has probably done more to harm the institution of marriage than the homosexuals will.

So far I've been disappointed.

"Sir Tony Gale: There is a way forward. It has been suggested but it has been ignored. I do not subscribe to it myself but I recognise the merit in the argument, and that is this; if the government is serious about this, take it away, abolish the civil partnerships bill, abolish civil marriage, and create a civil union bill that applies to all people, irrespective of their sexuality or their relationships, and that means brother and brothers, sisters and sisters and brothers and sisters as well. That would be a way forward. This is not."

I've thought for a long time that it would be a good idea for some sort of civil union that allows two people in a mutually caring relationship to form some sort of legal partnership, so that, for instance, they can defer paying inheritance tax, so one doesn't lose the house they were living in when the other dies, such as in the recent case of the two unmarried sisters who lost their appeal to the European Court. Should they be exempt from inheritance tax? Perhaps not, but I see no reason why, as long-term mutual dependents, they shouldn't be able to defer payment."The absence of ... a legally binding agreement between the applicants renders their relationship of cohabitation, despite its long duration, fundamentally different to that of a married or civil partnership couple," I am not aware of any legally binding agreement the two women could have entered into.

Sadly I suspect this is not what Sir Tony had in mind.

"Craig Whittaker, a Conservative, said it would be better for the government to create a new category of marriage called state marriage. That could replace civil partnerships, and it would allow gay people to be married without undermining religious marriage"

Given that the CofE and the Anglican Church in Wales are expressly forbidden from marrying same sex couples and no religious institution or minister has to marry a same-sex couple if they don't want to, then I'd say that's not far off what we've got. We just haven't given them the same names. Alternatively, perhaps we should have state and religious marriages, and only state ones confer the legal benefits. Allegedly this is the situation in France. Again, I don't quite think that's what he was getting at.

Nadine Dorries continues to be an utterly vile and completely clueless individual.

"This bill in no way makes a requirement of faithfulness from same-sex couples. In fact, it does the opposite. In a heterosexual marriage a couple can divorce for adultery, and adultery is if you have sex with a member of the opposite sex. In a heterosexual marriage a couple vow to forsake all others ... A gay couple have no obligation to make that vow because they do not have to forsake all others because they cannot divorce for adultery. There is no requirement of faithfulness. And if there is no requirement of faithfulness, what is a marriage? "

I'm pretty sure a heterosexual couple don't have to vow to forsake all others if they don't want to. Plenty of people are in open marriages, and of course because adultery is defined as having sex with a member of the opposite sex that you aren't married to you can't sue for divorce on the grounds of adultery if your husband leaves you for another man. So its a pretty restrictive requirement of faithfulness, even if only the straights can get married isn't it? Of course most sensible people would be suing on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. But then Mad Nad hasn't made a career out of being sensible. I was hoping that someone would have tabled an amendment to redefine adultery so that it does apply to people sleeping with members of the same sex, which would handily shut these people up, but that doesn't seem to have happened.

"Stewart Jackson, the Conservative MP for Peterborough, said he was opposed to the bill. And he said he objected to David Lammy implying that those opposed to gay marriage were similar to those who opposed civil rights for blacks in America in the 1950s."

Poor little mite. Did the nasty opposition MP hurt your feelings? Tough. Because the people who are opposing this bill are similar to those who opposed the Civil Rights movement. Specifically the ones who wanted to keep the miscegenation laws.

"David Burrowes, the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, said the bill was about redefining marriage. It was a redefinition that downgraded marriage, he said.
He said he had been subject to death threats because of his stance on this. MPs who oppose the bill have been called homophobes, Nazis or bigots, he said."

I deplore the death threats, but the description of MPs opposing the bill as homophobes and bigots is perfectly accurate. Also, I'm pretty sure we started downgrading marriage when we allowed people to get divorced, stopped putting people to death for adultery, stopped thinking of women as property, that sort of thing.

"Matthew Offord, the Conservative MP for Hendon, said all previous attempts to allow gay marriage have led to marriage being defined. He suggested that this could lead to marriage being redefined to include polygamy. In the Netherlands three-way relationships were now acknowledged under cohabitation agreements, he said."
And what's so bad about that pray Matthew?
davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
     Conservapaedia, that bastion of idiocy got its arse handed to it when trying to pick fights with scientists over the Long Term Evolutionary Experiment . This is a multi-million generation breeding experiment involving bacteria, that turned up all sorts of interesting things, including some novel characters of the sort the average creationist claims can't exist. Knowing where to pick its fights its gone after that well-known shaky theory, beloved of Liberals, Relativity.

Andrew Schafly & Co. vs. Physics. Fight! FIght! Fight!

I'm not a physicist, but even I can see most of this is bollocks, and if a physicist can point out to me where I'm going wrong I'd be very grateful.

"The theory of relativity is a mathematical system that allows no exceptions. It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.[1] Here is a list of 29 counterexamples: any one of them shows that the theory is incorrect."

Now I'm no physicist, but at a cursory glance even I can tell half of this is just crap.
  • The Pioneer anomaly.
  • Anomalies in the locations of spacecraft that have flown by Earth ("flybys").[2]
And how large are these anomalies? I have no idea what caused this- but it could be something to do with the spacecraft itself, unobserved bodies, etc. Its interesting its not been seen with the other probes or indeed planets
  • Increasingly precise measurements of the advance of the perihelion of Mercury show a shift greater than predicted by relativity, well beyond the margin of error.[3]
  • The discontinuity in momentum as velocity approaches "c" for infinitesimal mass, compared to the momentum of light.
  • The logical problem of a force which is applied at a right angle to the velocity of a relativistic mass - does this act on the rest mass or the relativistic mass?
I've no idea. I was never very good at physics. Perhaps the physicists have worked this out? Have you asked them?
  • The observed lack of curvature in overall space.[4]
Space is really, really big. You won't believe how mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you might think its a long way to the shops, but you can't see the curvature of the Earth at that scale, and that's peanuts compared to space.
  • The universe shortly after its creation, when quantum effects dominated and contradicted Relativity.
We know that QM and relativity don't mesh together. Just because at the very small it doesn't work doesn't mean its not a good theory. it explains lots of things at the very big.
  • The action-at-a-distance of quantum entanglement.[5]
  • The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54.
1. This is another QM vs GR argument. 2. You're taking the word of a book that thinks locusts have four legs against that of mathematics?
  • The failure to discover gravitons, despite wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayer money in searching.
We can't find it therefore it doesn't exist. Gravitons are really had to see. Hell, gravitational waves are really hard to see- you need huge laser beams and supernovae to detect any sign of them. I'm not surprised they're elusive. And aren't gravitons a QM thing anyway? Does relativity require that they exist?
  • The inability of the theory to lead to other insights, contrary to every verified theory of physics.
Well, mainly the things it explains are really big, and really far away. Just because 20th Century physics got obsessed over atoms doesn't mean there aren't things being done with relativity. And are you seriously suggesting that "Not been helpful = Not true" Seriously?
  • The change in mass over time of standard kilograms preserved under ideal conditions.[6]
I think that has rather more to say about what the standard kilogram is made of than it does about black holes, etc, etc.
  • The uniformity in temperature throughout the universe.[7]
Isn't the CMB data a prediction of relativity? Isn't that why this was written?
  • "The snag is that in quantum mechanics, time retains its Newtonian aloofness, providing the stage against which matter dances but never being affected by its presence. These two [QM and Relativity] conceptions of time don’t gel."[8]
Either relativity is wrong or QM is wrong. Which would you rather. (I'm going to ask this question again later).
  • The theory predicts wormholes just as it predicts black holes, but wormholes violate causality and permit absurd time travel.[9]
Just because something is absurd, doesn't mean it isn't true. QM comes up with some ridiculous predictions. And we've seen them happen.
  • The theory predicts natural formation of highly ordered (and thus low entropy) black holes despite the increase in entropy required by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.[10]
2nd law only applies to closed systems. Black holes are not a closed system- stuff falls in, and Hawking Radiation means that stuff falls out. You've tried arguing this one with biologists against evolution. What makes you think physicists will roll over? When you lose to biologists about physics don't pick fights with physicists on the same turf...
  • Data from the PSR B1913+16 increasingly diverge from predictions of the General Theory of Relativity such that, despite a Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded for early work on this pulsar, no data at all have been released about it for over five years.
According to Wikipedia "In 2004, Taylor and Joel M. Weisburg published a new analysis of the experimental data to date, concluding that the 0.2% disparity between the data and the predicted results is due to poorly known galactic constants, and that tighter bounds will be difficult to attain with current knowledge of these figures." So perhaps because there are some things we haven't got nailed down quite so accurately as we'd like (including "g", the gravitational constant) the data doesn't fit the predictions. Predictions which are presumably based on constants which aren't as accurate as we'd like leading to... Predictions that don't quite fit the data perhaps?
  • The lack of useful devices developed based on any insights provided by the theory; no lives have been saved or helped, and the theory has not led to other useful theories and may have interfered with scientific progress.[11] This stands in stark contrast with every verified theory of science.
Really? What about GPS?  And how many peoples lives have been saved by heliocentrism?
  • Relativity requires different values for the inertia of a moving object: in its direction of motion, and perpendicular to that direction. This contradicts the logical principle that the laws of physics are the same in all directions.
  • Relativity requires that anything traveling at the speed of light must have mass zero, so it must have momentum zero. But the laws of electrodynamics require that light have nonzero momentum.
  • Unlike most well-tested fundamental physical theories, the theory of relativity violates conditions of a conservative field. Path independence, for example, is lacking under the theory of relativity, as in the "twin paradox" whereby the age of each twin under the theory is dependent on the path he traveled.[12]
  • The Ehrenfest Paradox: Consider a spinning hoop, where the tangential velocity is near the speed of light. In this case, the circumference (2πR) is length-contracted. However, since R is always perpendicular to the motion, it is not contracted. This leads to an apparent paradox: does the radius of the accelerating hoop equal R, or is it less than R?
I have no idea. But there's all kinds of weird stuff predicted by QM too. Though I'd be interested to see what explanation a physicist has for this. I'm sure there is one.
  • The Twin Paradox: Consider twins who are separated with one traveling at a very high speed such that his "clock" (age) slows down, so that when he returns he has a younger age than the twin; this violates Relativity because both twins should expect the other to be younger, if motion is relative. Einstein himself admitted that this contradicts Relativity.[13]
As I understood it the twin who travels very fast is the one who doesn't age. Time for him has slowed down relative to the other one. I could be wrong, but just because it makes your head hurt to think about it doesn't mean its wrong.
  • Based on Relativity, Einstein predicted in 1905 that clocks at the Earth's equator would be slower than clocks at the North Pole, due to different velocities; in fact, all clocks at sea level measure time at the same rate, and Relativists made new assumptions about the Earth's shape to justify this contradiction of the theory; they also make the implausible claim that relativistic effects from gravitation precisely offset the effects from differences in velocity.[14]
Do they? Do they really? And what shape is the Earth? Precisely?
  • Based on Relativity, Einstein claimed in 1909 that the aether does not exist, but in order to make subatomic physics work right, theorists had to introduce the aether-like concept of the Higgs field, which fills all of space and breaks symmetries.
Even I know that the aether was predicted to exist as something for light to travel through. Its not like the Higgs field. Which might not exist anyway. Not every model of QM needs a Higgs Boson.
  • Minkowski space is predicated on the idea of four-dimensional vectors of which one component is time. However, one of the properties of a vector space is that every vector have an inverse. Time cannot be a vector because it has no inverse.
I find it hard to believe that Minkowski would have got published if he couldn't account for this.
  • It is impossible to perform an experiment to determine whether Einstein's theory of relativity is correct, or the older Lorentz aether theory is correct. Believing one over the other is a matter of faith.
Michelson and Morely would disagree I think.
  • In Genesis 1:6-8, we are told that one of God's first creations was a firmament in the heavens. This likely refers to the creation of the luminiferous aether.
Does it now. Because as I understood it the Israelites believed that the heavesn were a dome and the stars were nailed on. Perhaps thats what the "Firmament" is?
  • Despite a century of wasting billions of dollars in work on the theory, "No one knows how to solve completely the equations of general relativity that describe gravity; they are simply beyond current understanding."[15}
No-one knows how to solve the Navier-Stokes equations. No-one knows if the Riemann Hypothesis is true. No-one knows if super-symmetry is correct. "There's stuff we don't know! It must be wrong!" This is, frankly anti-intellectualism and anti-knowledge at its most sickening.
Comments, especially welcome, as I've cobbled this together after a pint or three, and have, frankly no idea what I'm talking about. Although I have listened to more episodes of "In Our Time", so I'd like to think I had a layman's idea of roughly what these scientist fellows are talking about.
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davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
Apparently this bunch of clowns has won a Quality Badge for "Learning Outside The Classroom". Except, as noted by several people, its got a somewhat questionable attitude to science. Its a creationist zoo. You have to dig fairly deep to get to the creationist stuff, and its probably something they aren't allowed to mention too much in their school visits, the worksheet on "Adaptation" doesn't mention evolution, but at KS2 (7-12 year olds) you wouldn't really expect it to. However there's no mention of evolution or classification as subjects in either the GCSE (15-16 year olds) or AS/A-Level (17-18) workshops. Animal welfare, conservation, genetics and farming all get mentioned, but not evolution or biodiversity. I wonder why.

Of course by the time you've got to this section you'll have noticed the red section marked "Evolution and Creation". Guess which side of the fence they sit on. Taking their stance on the difference between reptiles and mammals we can see that they're both factually incorrect, and creationist (I know, I know, hardly unusual), but they wouldn't be demanding that mammals and reptiles were so radically different if they weren't trying to push their agenda. SO I'll push mine back a little.

1. Reptiles have horny or scaly skin. Mammals have fur or hair.

True. Fur is one of the defining features of mammals. But fur and scales are both made from keratin. (Alpha and Beta keratin in the case of reptiles. Alpha keratin only in the case of mammals)

2. Mammals have a single type of skin cell for colour. Reptiles have 3 types of skin cell for colour.

Well, given that they have different skin structures- reptiles having scales and mammals a glandular skin I'm not surprised. But these are modern mammals, and modern reptiles we're talking about here. The last common ancestor between the two groups would have been about 300 million years ago. (Although Noah's Ark don't accept this dating methodology).

3. Reptiles have low metabolism and require less energy. Mammals have high metabolism.

4. The body temperature of reptiles varies according to their environment (they are 'cold-blooded'). Mammals are able to maintain a constant temperature (they are 'warm-blooded').

Birds also have a high metabolism. And beta keratin. And not all reptiles are cold-blooded. Leatherback turtles can maintain a body temperature above that of their environment. So do Tuna and Great White Sharks. There was a nice paper in Science that showed that the mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and pliosaurs were very probably warm-blooded.

5. Reptiles (but not tortoise/turtles, snakes or crocodilians) have a "third eye", known as a parietal or pineal eye. It has a cornea, lens and photoreceptors. Mammals have only a parietal gland, used for endocrine production.

So that's the Tuatara, and the lizards that aren't snakes then. If its been lost in crocs, turtles and snakes why not mammals? Lineages lose features through evolution all the time. Whales don't have external back legs. Stellar's Sea Cow didn't have any fingers. So what?

6. Reptiles have small, relatively even teeth with single roots; they are replaced often. Mammals have different types of teeth with multiple roots - incisors, canines, premolars and molars - and replace their teeth only once.

And we have a sequence of fossils that show how this feature was acquired. And while reptiles don't have quite the variety of tooth morphology in their jaws that mammals do there's still a fair amount going on. Look at a T. rex jaw, there are big teeth and little teeth, and they're in different parts of the jaw doing different things. But the main reason this is important is because mammals, and their more reptilian ancestors evolved chewing. Most reptiles don't chew. And you need to have your teeth occluding properly to be able to chew effectively. To do that you can't be replacing teeth continuously, you'd have gaps all over the place. So continuous replacement doesn't become an option, but diversification of tooth morphology is suddenly a very real proposition.

7. Reptiles have 3 bones in the lower jaw: the dentary (holding the teeth), the quadrate and the articular. Mammals have only one lower jaw bone.

8. Reptiles' ears have only one bone, the stapes. Mammals have 3 bones, (stapes, malleus, incus), and the very complicated organ of Corti.

These two are again closely related. The malleus and the incus are the quadrate and the articular. Again there's a whole series of fossils that you can follow showing how the jaw joint became involved in hearing and the dentary enlarged and a new jaw joint evolved. One lovely name for an early mammaliaform (now sunk into synonomy more's the pity) was Diarthrognathus or "Two Jointed Jaw", because that's exactly what it had, a quadrate/articular joint and a dentary/squamosal one.

9. The reproductive system of male reptiles includes a hemi- penis. This consists of two penises, which are used singly and repeatedly to fertilise several of a female's eggs.

And most birds don't have penises at all (ducks are an occasionally quite frightening exception). Penises come and go, grow bones and lose them, are co-opted from all sorts of different tissues and structures.

10. Most reptiles lay eggs. Mammals do not.

ALERT! ALERT! TAXONOMY FAIL! One word. Monotremes. Platypuses and Echidnas lay eggs.

11. Reptiles do not usually guard their eggs or care for their young. Mammals all have milk glands and suckle their young.

Again milk production is one of the defining features of mammals. Its in the name! Sadly we can't see how it appeared, because the tissues don't fossilise. I don't see how its a problem. Birds have feathers.But they're still vertebrates.

12. The sex of the unborn young of reptiles is determined by external temperature. Hot temperatures result in more females.

Only in some reptiles. In others it is determined by genes. And in birds its a gene. Interestingly there are some similarities between the sex determining genes of birds and monotremes. Evidence (along with the egg thing) of shared ancestry between the two groups.

13. Mammals breathe by way of a diaphragm in their chest (the thorax). Reptiles have no diaphragm and breathe very differently, with their cheeks and mouth.

And in the case of alligators and crocodiles with a through-flow system like that of birds.

14. Reptiles have a 3-chambered heart, except crocodilians which, like mammals, have a 4-chambered heart. Since their hearts cannot pump blood far upwards, reptiles move close to the ground (they 'creep').

Eh? I wouldn't describe a Komodo Dragon as "creeping". But as reptiles don't have a high metabolism they don't need so much oxygen, so they don't need to separate the two halves of the heart (and very little mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood actually goes on thanks to complex valves). Even with their more inefficient hearts reptiles can be pretty active when they want to be.

15. The legs of reptile are splayed out from the body. The legs of mammals are positioned under the body.

Except for dinosaurs (including birds), lots of early crocodiles, modern crocs in a hurry. Oh, and Platypuses and Echidnas. They have a sprawling gait too. But aren't they mammals?

I've actually been trying to work out what kind of creationists the Noah's Ark Zoo people are. They don't seem to accept that the world is 6,000 years old, like AiG do. But they certainly don't like the answer radiometric dating gives. And most bizarre of all is their take on the fossil record- it records the recolonisation of the world after the flood with animals and plants, and as each group became abundant enough to fossilise that's when it turned up in the rock record, despite always having been there. Its a hideous fudge that isn't obviously your typical YEC stuff, and as such means I'm sure these guys are vilified by the AiG crowd. And yet its also at odds with reality. As someone on Pharyngula said "halfway between right and wrong is still wrong".

Oh and that cool new paper on hot-blooded mosasaurs? Your reference is:

Bernard, A. et al. (2010) Regulation of Body Temperature by Some Mesozoic Marine Reptiles. Science, 328, 1379 - 1382

Oh, and you know what really sticks in my craw? The Horniman Museum doesn't have a badge. Bastards.
davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
Yes. I admit it. I watched a BNP Party Election Broadcast. Its OK I've had a shower.

Its all rather unpleasant to be perfectly honest (I think you knew that). Lots of stock footage of WWII, photos of Winston Churchill on Nick Griffin's desk, etc. (I didn't check if the Spitfire was Polish, and I can't bring myself to watch it again). Its got all the usual crap about how great Britain is, and how much Nick loves his country, interspersed with some really nasty graphics. Universally aimed at the Muslim community. There's the "Immigration Open your eyes" union flag, and the cartoon of a woman in a burkha next to a map of the UK covered in minarets.

Architecturally speaking I like minarets. I'm less enamoured of Islam, but that's got rather more to do with my dislike of all organised religion, and the various brands of extremists who make the average believer hold their head in their hands. (Steven Green, I'm looking at you.) I'm not overly keen of the burkha either, but that has rather more to do with whether or not the woman in question has a free choice to wear it or not. Speaking to various Muslim friends over the years there's certainly nothing in the Koran that states its compulsory, its very much a cultural thing. And when it is a free choice I do not find it the least surprising that first, second or third generation immigrants choose to wear it, in order to identify more closely with their faith and ancestral culture. Especially when faced with the consistent islamophobic, anti-immigration rhetoric of the Daily Mail and co.

I like immigration. Immigration is a good thing, My grandfather's family came from Poland and Lithuania, via Canada. (I don't have a UK passport, but a Canadian one for this reason). In the wke of the leader's debate twitter is currently full of people pointing out why #iloveimmigration (I'll just repeat [livejournal.com profile] miss_s_b - "Freddie Mercury. 'Nuff said"). Our culture, cuisine, scientific progress, history, etc, etc would be very much poorer without it. The Huguenots came in as refugees, and within a generation had strongly influenced the lands they settled in. Wikipedia has a list of people who can trace their ancestry back to the Huguenots. Oh look. Winston Churchill's on it.

The broadcast asks what would our veterans think of multicultural "politically correct" Britain? Well as many WWII veterans were conscripts I think their views would be very diverse. I'm sure some thought Hitler was right about the Jews. Equally many others would have volunteered for the International Brigade and gone off to fight Franco in Spain had they been old enough, and of course there would have been all points between the two.

As for "Political Correctness" well, yes perhaps people go a bit too far in trying to avoid offending groups, who, had they been asked would probably wonder what the fuss was about. Mostly however what is reported to have happened, and what actually happened are usually rather different. Ultimately its about recognising that not everyone is a straight, white, cis-sexual, Christian male. And I think the country would be rather better if more people lived by that maxim, rather than any of the strange ideas they have about what constitutes "British Culture".

Ultimately were the BNP to get in virtually everyone I know and value as a friend or colleague would be made to feel unwelcome in the country that either they were born in, or have chosen to call home.
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davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
I went top the pub to wave a colleague off to another job and I come back to this.

No. Not the presidential inauguration. (Tho' I hope Obama and his team does a better job than GW- then again he can't be much worse. surely? surely?)

Nope. It was the news via Pharyngula that Sylvia Olona of the Presbyterian Health Services Rio Rancho Family Health Center in New Mexico removes her patients IUDs. Without their consent.

"Everyone in the office always laughs and tells me I pull these out on purpose because I am against them, but it's not true, they accidentally come out when I tug."

Now I don't know much about IUDs, but I'd assume that they don't just "accidentally come out when I tug". Or indeed, that in order to adjust one that much tugging is involved. She's being sued for removing one without consent. And it isn't the first time. Until now I didn't know entirely how IUDs worked. (I'd been told that it was an anti-implantation technique- which, it turns out, is wrong). But I'm not a nurse. I'm not expected to know exactly how individual methods of contraception work as part of my day-to-day job. This woman's career is based on the fact that she has this kind of information at her fingertips. And she's this ignorant of her own specialism? And uses her ignorance to determine the course of other women's lives?

If these allegations are true this woman should lose her licence. If half the allegations are true she should be struck off.

If Obama does nothing else in his first 100 days, I'll be glad if he removes the "provider conscience rule" that means people like this can ride roughshod over someone else because their personal (and clearly ill-informed) beliefs somehow trump someone else's decisions about their own body. The most frightening thing is that this kind of crap is already affecting people.


Nov. 9th, 2008 08:03 pm
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
No! Just no. You can take some liberties. Just. Not. That. One.

Congratulations, you've just broken Arthurian legend.

davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
Remember Michael Medved? The chap who thought that slavery "wasn't so bad" and that the Native Americans weren't the victims of genocide?

He's at it again folks. This time, America is awesome because of its DNA. According to Peter C. Whybrow "immigrants to the United States and their descendents seemed to possess a distinctive makeup of their “dopamine receptor system – the pathway in the brain that figures centrally in boldness and novelty seeking.”" John D. Gartner adds that the laissez-faire capitalism with minimal or ineffectual governmental controls "sustains the influence of immigrant genetics."

On its own this is stupid. It's a classic example of when evolutionary psychology runs away with itself and gets it completely wrong. I don't know exactly how a particular version of your dopamine receptors controls preferring to move to a different continent to dying of famine, but I'm fairly sure the psychiatrists (or does he mean psychologists?) don't either. But this is Medved. The stupid doesn't stop there.

"The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide – between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S."

Now I wonder which group he's talking about here? But its not all doom and gloom. There have been 3 million immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean to help mitigate the effect of the descendants of all those unselected people. Dare I mention the problems involving Native Americans? And what of the issues facing the Hispanics? A good proportion of their ancestors came from Spain, so its not as if they should be lacking in the "immigrant gene".

Medved's point, when he finally gets to it in the last paragraph, is that imposing a European-style welfare state "not only contradicts our proudest political and economic traditions, but the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature."

Yeah. Because society is genetic. The Inca's? Predisposed to ridiculous amounts of polygamy, human sacrifice, and not using the wheel.

ETA: (Hat tip to Pharyngula again. Some of the comments are worth reading too. (Cue lots of people [including Americans] pointing out that by this logic Canada, India and New Zealand shouldn't have welfare states, or the alternative hypothesis- America is full of cowards who didn't want to stay and sort out their problems so legged it.)
davegodfrey: Hello Cthulhu! (Cthulhu!)
Jerry O'Connell has a sense of humour, and clearly agrees with the rest of the world's opinion of Tom Cruise as a total bloody loony.

His video is here, and for background research this is Tom Cruise's seriously creepy original. Apparently when he drives past an accident "he knows he's the only one who can truly help". Does releasing your thetans automatically give you training in field medicine? When I sign up do you give me a free set of the jaws of life? Oh and Tom people are turning to you to laugh. They don't want advice.

I was amused. then I watched the video. Now I'm scared.

As a totally irrelevant aside Jerry O'Connell is married to Mystique. Lucky git. ;)
davegodfrey: Flying Spaghetti Monster : Touched by his noodly appendage (FSM)
Via [profile] maureenlycaon
Michael Medved. I've never heard of him until now. Frankly I wish I hadn't. He was a film critic. Now he blogs. Its nauseating. Sadlyno has an article on a recent entry, dissecting it far more eleoquently than I can. Basically Medved says that slavery wasn't that bad because:


So the greeks did it. So what? And France and the UK had banned it on home soil before the founding of the US anyway.


In the history of the republic perhaps. In the history of the colonies? Rather longer I venture. And the majority of African-Americans have slaves as their ancestors. 


Er? One of the commenters on SadlyNo points to this painting, "The Slave Ship" by JMW Turner. Says it all really. And as slaves were cargo the traders could claim on the insurance. Profitsss all  round.

"Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of these voyages involves the fact that no slave traders wanted to see this level of deadly suffering: they benefited only from delivering (and selling) live slaves, not from tossing corpses into the ocean."

WHAT?!!!!!????????!!!???!?!?!?! Did I just mention the insurance? Did you look at the pretty picture?

(Sadly No interrupts their blog for puppies. I suggest you look at Ugly Overload. They have cute centipedes.)


Actually the slave owning states were one of the most wealthy at the time beacuse of the Triangle Trade. And the ones that freed their slaves were industrialised. Places producing raw materials tend not to be massively wealthy anyway.


Except that the US needed a civil war before slavery could be stopped, and the UK didn't, over 30 years earlier. Plenty of other places had banned slavery long before the US did it. (But at least they did it before Saudi Arabia in 1960! So that's all right then.)


True. But their ancestors being transported would have. Slavery is wrong. Just because 200 years down the line your descendants have a walkman and nice shoes doesn't make it right here and now (or there and then.)

Then again it turns out the the man has form. After all the Native Americans weren't the victims of genocide.

Best of all Pharyngula notes that Medved is now a fellow of the Discovery Institute! Are they trying to discredit themselves? Its almost as if we don't need to bother any more.
davegodfrey: Marvin: ...and me with a terrible pain in all the diodes down my left hand side... (Marvin)

Via Feministing and ACSBlog

Lawrence vs. Texas was the 2003 case that legalized consensual homosexual (and probably heterosexual) sodomy. The crux of the ruling being that  "the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice . . . ."

However the Eleventh Circuit court for appeals has upheld an Alabama Law prohibiting the sale of sex toys. According to them the Lawrence case was limited to private activities. The sale of sex toys being public, does not therefore apply. It seems that because sale is more akin to prostitution then the law can stay. Now I happen to think that prostitution should be legalised and carefully regulated (if only for the safety of the women involved), but I really can't see how buying a lump of silicone for one's private use is anything like the same as "buying" a human.

Having said that, from my non-existant knowledge of any part of US Law, I can understand the argument that the Lawrence case doesn't quite apply- after all if it did then you could make a case for legalizing weed, and that would never do. ;)

Fortunately the statute does exempt sales "for a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purpose."

So that's all right then...

davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
As I'm sure you all know there is no theory of evolution, just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live. It turns out that Mr Norris is under the impression that there is no theory of evolution, just a list of animals God allows to live. Apparantly his tears don't cure cancer. Jesus' blood does.

If anyones got a vial of the stuff somewhere I'm sure GlaxoSmithkline would like to know.


davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
The Evil Atheist Your Mother Warned You About

November 2013

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