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Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Yellowstone Earthquakes and the Importance of Science

Posted by dystressed on December 30, 2008

Earthquakes have been swarming in Yellowstone. The significance? Possible future volcanic activity. Though not an immediate threat, this is a good illustration of why we need good, rational science.

…[T]he Yellowstone Caldera, formed in a giant volcanic eruption 640,000 years ago that blasted 240 cubic miles (1,000 km3) of molten rock (magma) into the atmosphere-more than 1,000 times the volume erupted at Mount St. Helens in 1980. Later eruptions largely filled the caldera and pushed up two resurgent domes within it—the Sour Creek and Mallard Lake Domes. No actual volcanic eruption has occurred in the Yellowstone region for about 70,000 years. [USGS Fact Sheet 100-03]

Get that picture? 240 CUBIC MILES of molten rock. That’s 5,280 feet by 5,280 feet by 5,280 feet. Of molten rock. Honey, this ain’t a barbecue, it’s the apocalypse.

According to a section on the PBS NOVA website “Mystery of the Mega Volcano,” that would mean as much as a third of the U.S. would be uninhabitable (and no one would probably want to live in the rest). More than that, other mega volcanoes in history are believed to have brought on Ice Age(s). Well that’s comforting. At least we wouldn’t totally screw up the planet all by ourselves, we can blame the mega volcano that will kill millions of people and make life on earth a literal hell.

Now I’m not out to preach for reckless hedonism in the face of possible disaster. I would rather you take away a desire to learn more about what science can and should do to prepare us for this. In fact, earthquakes are not new to Yellowstone, but they are scary when they happen in a “swarm.” Theories abound as to whether the next Yellowstone eruption would be as big as the formative eruption 640,000 years ago, but an eruption of some magnitude could be coming around the corner.

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory collects tremendous amounts of data to help monitor the caldera and keep watch for major eruption dangers. Though their jobs must be very uneventful most days, these people have to properly analyze the data and come up with risk reports which tell us what’s next.

Intelligent Designers take note: Humans aren’t designed to survive volcanoes. If the human race is to survive, we must teach good science. If you believe in an intelligent designer, that’s fine, but you cannot ignore the threat of destruction and wait for divine intervention. Please don’t stand in the way of real science.

This photograph shows a horizontal view of the 2 May 2000 eruption of Steamboat Geyser. Photograph courtesy of Tom Cawley, NPS.
This photograph shows a horizontal view of the 2 May 2000 eruption of Steamboat Geyser. Photograph courtesy of Tom Cawley, NPS.
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Posted in Events, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Congressman Mark Souder says his highlight of the year was being on Ben Stein’s “Expelled.”

Posted by Andy D. on December 27, 2008

Sylvia Smith interviewed Congressman Mark Souder for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in which Souder states his “personal highlight of the year.”  The highlight is none other than being in Ben Stein’s anti-evolution propaganda movie, “Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed.”

You appeared on the big screen this year. What was that experience like?
The biggest single moment was (that) the movie “Expelled” came out on intelligent design. (The documentary about intelligent design – also called creationism – hosted by Ben Stein describes how some educational professionals have been blacklisted from universities and journals because they disagree with the theory of evolution.)

Rep. Souder just admitted that intelligent design is creationism.  The Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard concluded creation science is religion and not science! Intelligent design is the latest failed evolution of trying to get religion into the science classroom starting with outright religion, creation science, intelligent design; and now it is academic freedom.  Intelligent Design was shown to be religion in Kitzmiller v. Dover in 2004.  The Discovery Institute which is the Seattle based ID think-tank tries not to mention who this mysterious intelligent “agent” designer is to avoid entanglement with the First Amendment.  Ben Stein walks all over that premise that ID isn’t really religion in “Expelled.”

Rep. Souder doesn’t say anything about the movie’s deceitful logical fallacy in which the movie attempted to blame evolutionary science for the Holocaust. I watched the movie “Valkyrie” starring Tom Cruise last night in which the opening contained the written oath swearing under God one’s support of Hitler. The people committing those horrible killings were mostly religious.  There is a big difference between artificial selection which was around long before the theory of natural selection.  Note, I am not saying religion caused the Holocaust.  Religion was the original source of the division and the extension of Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic zeitgeist; moreover, there was extreme hyperinflation, unemployment, WWI repercussions, shame due to false propaganda, extreme nationalism, rapid industrialization, anti-communism, secret police, and many more variables to make the times uncertain.  Religious and scientific institutions are used in these types of totalitarian movements and are manipulated.  In fact, the Anti-defamation League released a statement against Expelled’s premise.  Moreover, it is a non sequitur to say: if evolutionary theory caused the Holocaust (which it didn’t),  it disproves the authenticity of natural selection and common ancestry of all life.  Ben Stein and/or his producers blatantly quote-mined Darwin, not unlike the negative politics Joseph Goebbels used.

How did your role come about?
Ben Stein’s producer contacted our office about being in a movie off of the subcommittee report we had done on a researcher we believed had been persecuted and pushed around at the Smithsonian Institution because of his views on intelligent design.
He lost his office. He lost his keys. He lost his sponsorship. We were able, over a period of years, to get the e-mails behind this. This was a three-year fight.

First of all, Richard Sternberg was not a paid employee of the Smithsonian and he purposefully abused the scientific peer review process .  He waited until he was leaving the position of editor to release a pro-ID paper by the Discovery Institute’s own Stephen C. Meyer.  The paper was later unpublished and one may see why it wasn’t actual science here.
The lost keys and office are much to do about nothing, as it was part of a pre-planned event at the Smithsonian for bureaucratic reasons in which many people switched keys and offices including Sternberg.  For more on Souder, Sternberg, and the others involved go here and here.  Worst of all, most of this information is in the appendix of Souder’s own report!!!  Souder should know better and is most likely playing politics, as you will soon see.  See NCSE’s Expelled Exposed to see the complete story on all the manufactured “expelled-IDers.”

Was it the highlight of your year?
I personally believe that there is no issue more important to our society than intelligent design. I believe that if there wasn’t a purpose in designing you – regardless of who you view the designer as being – then, from my perspective, you can’t be fallen from that design. If you can’t be fallen from that design, there’s no point to evangelism.

Do you see Rep. Souder squirm on “who” the designer is?  Here Souder admits his religious biases.  His personal beliefs should be private and not be involved in science or politics.  It is a simple as that.  Souder needs to represent people of all faiths and those of no faith in his district.  This is extremely disturbing.  If he had his way, he would help turn America into a theocracy.

As an evangelical Christian, I believe the premise of a fall being at the core of reforming lives. I believe the concept of grace and forgiveness comes from having fallen from something.

Again, Mark Souder’s religious beliefs are off limits due to the “no religious test” in Article 6 of the constitution.  However, I am waiting to see if a non-religious person can take his place some day.  It seems there is a religious test for office.  Grace and forgiveness are not only evangelical ideals. They are ideals for everyone including secularists.  We should all appreciate honesty and full scientific inquiry free from meddling of religiously motivated politicians.  The scientific marketplace of ideas has spoken on intelligent design.  Scientific knowledge has to go through testing, hypothesis, must be falsifiable, peer reviewed, and repeatable with more testing before it gets anywhere near science school text books.  Telling students there is scientific alternative to the evolutionary theory is an outright lie.

Now, how that occurred – whether you believe in the young earth theory, gradual evolution, or whatever – is disputed. Those become religious. But whether there was a fundamental designer who developed a complex DNA molecular structure is critical. Since I view that as the most important thing in the world, yes, being in a movie that advanced that cause was the personal highlight of the year.

Rep. Souder thinks that young earth creation or old earth creationism is up to religious belief.  I somewhat agree.  One is entitled to his or her beliefs; however, one is not entitled to their own scientific facts.  The facts are the earth is close to 4.6 billions years old with roughly 4 billion years of evolution and common descent.  There are many religions that have accepted evolution and made their peace with it and one does not have to be an atheist to appreciate it.  Scientists state openly they don’t know how life was originally started and we may never know.  However,  science is much stronger here then Souder or Stein could even try to understand.  See the evolution of RNA into DNA.  Abiogenesis , the study of how the first life began, is technically not part of The Theory of Evolution by natural selection.  Mountains of evidence have been pouring in for a 150 years from many scientific disciplines.  The theory has never been stronger and a scientific theory is not a hunch, but it is the highest form of scientific knowledge.

Why didn’t you call more attention to being in a movie?
I thought this might be the hottest issue in my (re-election) race and that I would be so attacked, and it would bring out the social conservative base in ways we’d never seen.
From the time 2008 started, we could tell this was going to be a difficult political year. We went through a huge immigration debate. Then you moved to the $4 gas debate. Then the economy’s collapsing.

Mark Souder was counting on a culture war backlash to muster up support. The Republican ticket had the political winds against them;  Souder, therefore, was manufacturing a controversy to be reelected.  This is Machiavellian ugliness that Karl Rove played, and I think Americans are sick of it.   It turns out there was a very effective response to Stein’s propaganda film by NCSE and it was so effective there was no social conservative base backlash.  Souder won without it.  Most likely, the reason was he ran a better campaign against someone with little experience; and more likely this is just a Republican stronghold.  FreeThought Fort Wayne is the only group in Fort Wayne that has said anything about Souder’s involvement in Expelled and we are nobody compared to Souder’s influence.  The movie wasn’t very big either and it received horrible reviews by everyone who is not Rush Limbaugh or has a religious political agenda.  Of course, Souder was at the Sarah Palin rally in Fort Wayne that was all about anti-intellectualism and Souder sure knows his base.  “Expelled” is circulating in church basements as I write.  I am getting very sick of religion in politics.  I am pretty sure that this Jesus fellow who everyone keeps talking about would feel the same.

It is disappointing that Souder didn’t stick with helping the Veteran’s Hospital as the interview started with as his highlight of the year.  I congratulate him and want the best for our veterans, too.  Souder’s priorities are out of whack for bringing up his contribution to the tired culture war as his highlight of 2008,  the year that Republican became a dirty word.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Facts, Values and a Place for the Profound: A conversation with Sam Harris

Posted by Andy D. on December 16, 2008

This is from The Science Network (TSN) and was a prelude before the Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark conference.  I am glad they added economics and  psychology sections to the usual science and religion topics.  Bookmark the site and take your time with the lectures.  Enjoy.

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Truth v. Facts: The Reality-Based Community

Posted by dystressed on November 9, 2008

Sharon Begley at Newsweek has another article on what she hopes for the new Obama Administration: Reality-based Science.

We have lost so much due to misinterpretation (or perhaps dis-interpretation) of the facts. We have lost ground in the fight against global warming, stem cell research and other life sciences.

The truly poisonous legacy of the past eight years is one that spread to much of society and will therefore be much harder to undo: the utter contempt with which those in power viewed inconvenient facts, empiricism and science in general.

I would also contend that the ugly stepchild of this practice is the crass anti-intellectualism that has pervaded society in recent years. We need intelligence to lead our nation. Just because we would rather have a beer with John McCain or Sarah Palin, that doesn’t really qualify them for the White House more than a lawyer from Harvard.

Without a drastic change, we will continue to be mired down by anti-achievers and naysayers. We must embrace science and progress in order to overcome the ever mounting problems facing society.

Posted in Politics, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Newsweek Science Article Discusses the Biology of Belief

Posted by dystressed on November 2, 2008

There’s something to be said for the workhorse journalistic methods of print media. This in-depth article fascinated me because it really puts the science in very accessible terms, which is something that the masses need. I try to read Pharyngula and other science blogs, but there is only so much I can take before I just sort of give up.

The Newsweek story had me wanting more, which I think is really good for readers on the cusp of skepticism and rationality. It’s not perfect, of course and there are some things I don’t understand, particularly why a doctor would believe in reincarnation.

Posted in Science | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Dobson’s Fib Factory

Posted by dystressed on October 25, 2008

I found this column on 365gay.com. I know Andy has blogged about this blithering idiot before, so I thought I would point this out. Dobson is getting inducted into the radio hall of fame.

Posted in Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Change is Gonna Come

Posted by Andy D. on October 21, 2008

Seal released a timely new video cover of the 60’s civil rights theme of Sam Cooke’s, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

For you freethinkers, there is a great agnostic line in the lyrics: “It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die. I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky.”

Here is today’s up-to-date polling from a fascinating and fun website intrade. Yes, you may trade the election.

I wouldn’t bet on Sen. McCain and yet I am saddened that we probably won’t be giving Indiana’s 11 electoral votes to Sen. Barack Obama.  I do remember a couple weeks back that Indiana was leaning blue which surprised the heck out of me so maybe it is tighter than this.  Who knows?

What I am certain of is that I will not underestimate the right-wing talk radio for the rest of the election.  I bet it gets very ugly because they are desperate and McCain/Palin are not running a consistent message.  The ad hominem unpatriotic attacks are all around and I think this may be the year that America has had enough of swift boating and voter scandals.  Palin is saying there are pro-America types of states and small towns.  So city people in blue states are not American?  America is smarter than that.  McCain’s choice of Palin is what took my vote off the table.  If McCain had chosen Sen. Joe Lieberman that would have been “mavericky” and impressed me.  Instead he chose Palin’s decisiveness and it is politics as usual.  McCain made a deal with the religous right to give them their judges even though I don’t think he is all that religious. Could you image if it was Thompson or Huckabee running now?  Even McCain would be an improvement over Bush and his anti-science politics.  Yet, could you imagine Palin as President?  Yikes!

One can be pro-business, pro-science, pro-civil liberties and be a moderate Republican.  Science education is the most important tool for innovation and we need to invest in it and fight the Religious Right’s anti-intellectualism campaign.  We need another space race like what happened when Sputnik launched which killed the creation science movement.  It is one thing to be ignorant but it is something much worse to be proud of it.

Fiscal conservatives are great such as Sandra Day O’Connor and Barry Goldwater.   These types need to take the Republican party back from these power hungry religious types who want to legislate their beliefs on everyone if they ever want to get my vote again.  How unpatriotic!  Too many of our young men and women have died for all of us to have freedom of conscience.  We need to deal with the “actual” problems on this material earth.  You know the one we all agree exists!  Let’s send a message to the far right kooks that America is not going to take it anymore.  Even if we cannot win Indiana (which there is still a chance) let’s send a LOUD message through the popular vote to the James Dobsons (who surprise, surprise, flip-flopped  on McCain) that enough is enough.

I will say Barack is an interesting mix between JFK and Barry Goldwater and he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago which is Milton Friedman’s shareholder is everything economics.  He knows how important the market is.  He ran the Harvard Law Review with Federalist Society people (who think the post-Civil War 14th Amendment was a mistake and most decisions should be state’s rights) and he survived.  He didn’t play favorites in that position like others thought he would.  That is 180 degrees different than Bush or Palin and he doesn’t surround himself with yes men.  He has left and right leaning economic policies and here is a great article explaining it.  For you fiscal conservative moderate Republicans, it’s Ok, the water is fine. The economy will be fine under Democrats.  It certainly cannot do as bad as Bush and his failed kingdom presidency.  Please, get out and vote!

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Science and the future of the free World

Posted by dystressed on September 17, 2008

BBC had an opinion piece regarding the importance of science in politics.

Posted in Science | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Interview with John W. Loftus and Robert M. Price (Video)

Posted by Andy D. on August 17, 2008

It was a great pleasure to speak with two ex-ministers about a wide range of secular topics on Episodes 11 and 12 of “The Enlightenment Show.” They both have  preaching backgrounds and are still preaching but their message has changed.

Robert M. Price is author of “Top Secret: The Truth Behind Today’s Pop Mysticisms.” He is a Fellow at The Jesus Seminar and professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies at the Johnnie Coleman Theological Seminary. He is the author of many other books. See his website.

John W. Loftus is author of “Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.” He is the founder of the blog Debunking Christianity. John grew up in Fort Wayne and formerly preached in Angola, IN.

Part 1 (29 min)[blip.tv ?posts_id=1185080&dest=-1]

Part 2 (30 min)[blip.tv ?posts_id=1185102&dest=-1]

Posted in Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Focus on Your Own Darn Family

Posted by Andy D. on July 1, 2008

Hopefully, our promotion of critical thinking and science training will help protect our community from nuts like James Dobson. Here are three examples of the Reverend quote mining research and science to promote his ideological position against homosexual families and gay marriage. This confirms Christopher Hitchens’ statement that one may commit any crime or say anything under the title reverend; moreover, we are enlightened own how certain religious thinking may lead to complete immoral and bigoted behavior. Dobson must think it is ethical to lie for Jesus. (We saw Ben Stein lie for Yahweh).

Here are the scientists own comments from truth wins outs:

and

and

There are very good and powerful. I think most people ignore Dobson but I rarely hear him challenged. I am going to contact truths wins out and see if I can download a higher resolution version and ask for permission to play them on The Enlightenment television show.

As long as we are on the topic of homosexual rights and the right wing agenda. PZ Meyers blogged about yet another copy and replace error from far right groups. I am sure most of us are familiar with the Discovery Institute “Cdesignpropendtsists” copy and paste mistake from creation to design proponents in “Of Panda’s and People.” (BTW that book is dead due to the Dover trial. The next evolution in propaganda books is “Explore Evolution.” You can google it. I don’t want to link to that website.)

The new copy mistake is from The American Family Association and takes the word “gay” and replaces it with “homosexual.” That does funny things when someone’s last name is Gay. Take a look at the article it is worth a laugh. I wonder why they replace gay with homosexual. Is that more scholarly or politically correct?

Posted in Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »