Commentary on the so-called Creation/Evolution/Intelligent Design Debate and Right-Wing nuttery in general - and please ignore the typos (I make lots!)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What happens when matter and anti-matter collide?

Or, in this case, what happens when two of the most clueless yet supremely arrogant and bombastically overconfident anti-'darwinists' on the Internet turn on each other?

Comedy ensues, starting in this thread!

A klassic klaim from that klown 'Ilion' (Troy D. Hailey):

"(*) Though, not every thing he says is inherently silly, any more than is everything you 'modern evolutionary theorists' say. LE's silliness arises from the same source as yours (plural): a prior committment to scientism rather than to logical reasoning."

So, Troy really thinks that HE engages in logical reasoning???? Anyone who has read more than a few of his posts will realize how utterly preposterous such a notion is...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Red America (?)

While doing some Googling for Tammy Bruce, I was reminded of the claims of 'Red America' after the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Electoral maps like this 2000 one from the official website of the Electoral College (red and blue reversed):

and this one from 2004:

were widely touted as 'proof' that America is truly Conservative. That in America, conservative Republicans are the mainstream. Maps like this one from the 2004 election:

from ( a site endorsed by Brit Hume and David Brooks, among others) can be found scattered throughout the right-wing blogosphere as well as having been discussed on FOX news and all over talk radio. I distinctly remember Mary Matalin gushing on one of the Sunday news shows about the number of counties that went for Bush (as seen above).

Interestingly, few if any of the pundits like to mention that in 2004, for instance, Bush won by but 34 electoral votes (286 to Kerry's 252). If America is a red as the pundits want us all to believe, why wasn't the margin of victory something like, oh I don't know, maybe a 220 vote margin (as in Clinton's 1996 victory over Bob Dole, 379 to 159)? Neocons were apparently too busy telling us that Bush's 34 electoral vote, 3% popular vote win was a 'clear mandate' to notice that the actual numbers undercut their propagandistic rhetoric...

But what do these maps really tell us? Is it true that all those counties were 100% pro-Bush? Is it true that "AMERICA" is almost totally conservative, with 'librals' only found in a few hold-out rural cesspools?

Well, Mary Matalin and the neocons might be proud of the acreage of dirt and nothingness that went for Bush, but I find color-coded maps that actually portray the numbers of votes - from actual people - far more interesting. Like this one:

Not quite as 'clear-cut' as those maps hawked by right-wing pundits and absolutist knownothings, eh?

I also like this one, which takes actual numbers of votes into account:

Or perhaps the following very informative histogram of 2004 presidential election results will shed some light on the heat. It graphs out results by county for each candidate:

We see something far more interesting there than we do in those bland 'red state' maps. Looking at the actual votes by county, we see that there are relatively few 'pure red' ones or 'pure blue' ones. While there are more 'red' counties overall than blue ones, there are clearly more blue voters in the major population areas of the country. And in the end, it is people that vote, not plots of land.

What does this tell us? Well, I am not claiming that the country is liberal, for that would be as wrong as claiming it is conservative. But I think it shows that the coutry is clearly not one extreme or the other, with many so-called 'swing voters'. The last two presidential and congressional elections - the 2004 one in particular - were pretty clearly won on fear-based rhetoric and a base of single issue voters (indicating to me that the 'swing voters' are fairly gullible when it comes to being scared), but that over time, even they will grow tired of the punditry and being taken advantage of, if this 2006 congressional election map is any indicator:

Tammy Bruce's recurring theme

Flicking through the channels last night, I stumbled across a talk being given by Tammy Bruce on 'Youth and Conservatism' at, perhaps, the Reagan Library (I only watched about 10 minutes of it and the location was mentioned, but I did not take note of it, though she did mention the 'several beautiful' pictures of Reagan in the room). I usually don't stop to watch the 'talks' on CSPAN, but I heard something that caught my attention - something about how 'professors' were trying to intimidate conservative students into keeping quiet.

Being a professor, and knowing that in none of my classes does anything political typically come up and knowing that I certainly wish MORE students would speak up during discussions, I thought I'd give this 'talk' more than my usual 30 seconds. The talk was a bit rambling and disjointed, but the gist was that 'liberal' professors were trying to quash conservative ideas; socialism is responsible for all genocides in history; liberals have a deep self-loathing and hatred for this country and all people, including themselves; conservatives are really the majority in this country; liberals want to force conformity on everyone; liberals want to silence those with differing views; etc. OH, and if you didn't think socialism was bad enough already, she took great pains to point out that Hitler was in the National SOCIALIST Worker's Party, therefore, Hitler was clearly a leftist.

And that was just in the 10 minutes or so that I could stomach. I found a number of the claims contradictory, wholly unsupportable by facts, and, frankly, pretty stupid and not at all reflective of anything I have experienced. It seems a common theme for conservatives to attack academia like they do - they don't want their conservative youth to actually realize that not everyone conforms to their ideology, after all - claiming that professors are intolerant liberals and the like. And so many conservatives claim to have been victims of this. Now, I can certainly see that there are classes in which the professor might be a liberal and might express their beliefs, say, certain English classes, Political Science classes, maybe some Philosophy or History classes. But I think in general, one's political philosophy does not really enter into what one's area of research or teaching is, at least not in my experience. I had one adjunct instructor - in an American Government class - who came right out and stated that he was a liberal and that he had worked with various Democratic politicians and the like, so we all knew exactly where he came from. At the beginning of each class, we had about a 15-20 minute 'current events' discussion (these were classes that met twice a week for about 90 minutes), during which he would bring up an issue and let the class discuss it. He tried at every turn to instill his liberalsim into the class, berating conservative students and embarrassing them into submission... Oh, wait, no he didn't. At worst, he brought up counter-points to the conservative students' typically poorly thought out statements (the class, like society in general, was roughly 30% conservative, 30% liberal, the rest in the middle). Most students said very little. There was one non-traditional (i.e., older) female student that sat in the front row and always had some angry conservative retort to anything said, and two 20-something right-wingers that sat in the back next to me. They always had some snide irrelevant barbs to toss out. I distinctly remember one issue that came up - tax-funded abortions. I believe it was a case in which the military would not pay for an abortion (or would, I don't remember the specifics of that issue), and the non-traditional female student was vehemently opposed to her tax money being used to pay for something she did not believe in. The instructor, playing Devil's Advocate, said, "Well what if I'm a pacifist and I don't want my tax money being spent on the B-1 bomber?" (I think I just dated myself there...). Non-trad just clenched her jaw and stared at him - she had no comeback.. Classic...

So, back to the topic - Tammy Bruce then claimed that she has had atheists come up to her and say that considering the beauty and grandeur of everything around us, it is hard to deny that there is something greater than us out there. Yeah, I'm sure that atheists just walk right up to Tammy Bruce all the time and say such things. Anyway, Bruce was busily spewing her 'people on the left hate themselves' gibberish to a sparsely populated hall - which seemed to be about the size of my living room - when I had had enough. I popped in the newest George Carlin DVD that I had rented and laughed for an hour. The contrast was incredible...

This morning, I got to thinking about this person, whom I had never heard of before, yet supposedly has a syndicated radio talk show (don't they all?) on 160 stations, according to the blurb on the CSPAN screen. So, I did some googling and was amazed to discover her history - lesbian, former NOW president, feminist, that, darn it, just seems to have a problem with minorities... and liberals...

And that is not all - she claims (or at least did in 2003) to be a progressive Democrat! And it seems her 'they hate themselves' schtick is old-hat, too. IN 2003, she was claiming that it was black America that hated itself:

According to Bruce, Cosby and Mfume are part of the Black Elite—people who are “motivated, whether consciously or unconsciously, by a deep-rooted hatred for their country and themselves, which leads them to attempt to destroy the future of their own people and, indeed, everyone else.”
These people have no ethics, no morals, and no sense... And ALL of them seem to have a radio talk show.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Casey Luskin and the junk DNA conspiracy

Creationist lawyer and Discovery Institute propagandist Casey Luskin recently wrote yet another standard conspiracy theory hack-job, this time concerning 'Junk DNA.'
This time, he seems to have a compatriot - an actual researcher who claims to be experiencing suppression at the pro-evolution website The Panda's Thumb. This scientist, Dr. Andras J. Pellionisz, claims that The Panda's Thumb is refusing to print his stories about how "he has personally witnessed how the Darwinian consensus rejected suggestions that "junk" DNA had function" and that "suggestions that "junk"-DNA had function were ignored or rejected by most Darwinian scientists. " Pellionisz alludes to a supposed 'confrontation' of sorts between fellow 'junk DNA' denier Malcolm Simons and some unnamed pro-junk DNA 'darwinists':

How do you think his fellow-Darwinist scientists received his assertion (1987) that "Junk DNA" had a function?

"When I showed the professional geneticists the data, which indicated to me that the 95% non-coding region wasn't junk, and was ordered…The reaction was smiling disbelief at best - you're off your friggin' head and if you're any good at squash - stick to your day job [MJS]"

Note the date - 1987 - it is important.

If we are to believe Luskin and Pellionisz and Simons, 'darwinists' prevented any research from being done on junk DNA and are therefore somehow responsible for the people that have 'junk DNA'-related diseases.

Has the making of a good story. Has the making of spreading all sorts of angry feelings in the populace regarding those wicked 'darwinists' whose mind-schackling worldview prevented groundbreaking research from going forth in order to prop up their ideology.

The problem is - it is utter and total bullshit.

It seems that the whole story is one of self-promotion (primarily by Simons, but not too much less by Pellionisz) and a tendency to gloss over some basic facts. Simons, for example, has the following claim on his company's home page:

Dr Simons pioneered the concept that 'Junk' non-coding DNA could not be 'Junk' because the DNA sequence differences were ordered, and were conserved between humans of the same coding gene type. The ordered sequence patterns marked lengths of chromosomes, including adjacent and remote genes.

Simons pioneered that concept? Not likely... Got a patent onit, yes. Pioneered it? Not so sure.

An uneducated media is no help - in a story in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002 (at least this is what is claimed at the 'junkDNA' site linked to above) the following statement can be found:

"In a provisional patent application filed July 31, Pellionisz claims to have unlocked a key to the hidden role junk DNA plays in growth -- and in life itself."

So, what does that imply? It implies that it was not until July, 2002, did anyone think 'junkDNA' did anything. That nobody thought there was a role for 'junk DNA' in 'growth and life' - and that it Andras Pellionisz and his radical bunch of compatriots that found it all out. Let's forget, for the moment, that Simons was trying to wear the mantle of 'genius of Junk DNA' for some time prior to that.
Again, this all makes for a wonderful story and plays very well into the hands of the anti-evolution crowd - the suppression of the maverick truth-seeking scientists by the darwinian orthodoxy, poor fellows just looking for the truth and the big, bad, evolutionist machine tells them NO!. But they soldier on in obscurity until they - and they alone - amass such evidence that cannot be ignored anymore, and the Establishment STILL will not give them their due!

But the media like controversey, and by doing such a smidgen of digging, I discovered that this sort of story - that everyone thought junk DNA was all just junk and that anyone daring to suggest it had a function was at best scoffed at - has been around a while. I found an interview with Francis Collins in 2003 in which he was asked about patents involving genes and the like. This exchange is most telling, any emphases mine:

What was known in your view about the non-coding genes, the so called junk DNA back in the early to mid 1980s, was it regarded by most geneticists as mere junk, as meaningless?

Collins: We've known for as long as we've had a decent grasp on human DNA by methods that came along, even before we could sequence it, that there was a lot of repetitive information in the human genome, perhaps half of it was consisting of the bland material that didn't seem to be very information laden. When sequencing came along, we got a much better fix on that and so certainly by 1980 it was quite clear that vast stretches of the human genome were not involved in coding for protein. Furthermore we knew that that could still be useful because information along a chromosome is in fact not independent of its neighbours and way back in 1978, W. Y. Kahn showed that you could measure a place in the non-coding DNA, look at its spelling, and predict whether there was a cycle mutation up stream of that, quite a number of thousands of base-pairs away indicating that while the non-coding DNA might seem not so interesting, it could still carry marker information that told you about what was next door that could be very interesting. And that was generalised by general advances made over the next two or three years by people like David
Botstein, published in distinguished journals and Alec Jeffries in the United Kingdom showed us in 1981 that in fact there was a lot of variation out there between individuals, maybe two or three places every thousand letters in the code where people would differ and that could be useful in terms of tracking what was happening, not necessarily of that particular spelling change but what was downstream or upstream from it that might have a medical consequence. So all of that information was well understood by the mid 1980s.

Did the discoveries made by Malcolm Simons which gave rise to the patents now held by Genetic Technologies, are they widely acknowledged, widely read, widely referred to in the genetic world today?

I don't believe most people were aware of Malcolm Simons' work until fairly recently because of the attention now focussed on this patent application and of course the patent was filed in 1990 and 13 years have really passed before much of anybody that I know was aware of the content of that particular patent which of course was disclosed as soon as the patent issued. So no I don't think scientifically there has been broad recognition of Dr Simons' contribution.

Does that mean that in your view his work was not especially significant, I mean we would have got by without it, would that be fair to say?

It's hard to judge the scientific contribution from reading a patent application, certainly when one looks at the claims of this patent, they are very broad and certainly when one considers the context of the work of many others over the preceding 20 years that breadth appears to many people somewhat surprising. To the extent that Dr Simons published his work in the scientific literature it did not attract a lot of attention which is the usual standard by which we evaluate the contribution to a particular body of scientific knowledge.

It is not like the reporter was convinced of the 'truth' of the spin that Simons and what I think can be called his worshippers has put on it, not at all. It is not like the reporter is asking leading questions, no sir. What it appears to boil down to is that Simons applied for and received a patent regarding 'junk DNA', and because nobody else had done such a thing, he is for some reason seen as a major player in the field and is receiving all manner of recognition that is not really warranted. He was certainly not the only one that thought junk DNA does something. And this can be proven by merely looking here, for just one example:

Cell. 1975

The general affinity of lac repressor for E. coli DNA: implications for gene regulation in procaryotes and eucaryotes.

By equilibrium competition experiments, the dissociation constant (K(RD)) of lac repressor for E. coli DNA carrying a deletion of the lac operon was measured at a variety of salt concentrations. These data are used in the consideration of several aspects of protein-DNA interaction: Quantitative estimates of specificity are made. Specificity changes only slightly with salt concentration. We calculate that in vivo, 98 percent or more of repressor is bound to DNA predominately at sites other than the lac operator. Inducers shift repressor from operator to nonoperator DNA, but do not free it from DNA. The general affinity of repressor for E. coli DNA is sufficient to support a model where repressor slides along DNA for significant distances. The effective dissociation constant of repressor for operator (K(eff)) is very sensitive to the total DNA concentration. We propose that "junk" DNA in eucaryotes functions to maintain total DNA at an optimum concentration. We consider the lac operon in the nucleus of a lymphocyte, point out that severe difficulties would be encountered, and suggest possible solutions.

Note the date. 1975. A full 12 years prior to Simons' supposed confrontation with genetics researchers who supposedly told him to 'stick to his day job' for suggesting that junk DNA did something as reported by Pellionisz. It is irrelevant as to whether or not the authors were correct in their proposal - the fact is they were considering functions for it in 1975, 3 years after Ohno coined the term 'junk DNA'. It should also be noted that Ohno did not appear to think 'junk DNA' did nothing, rather he was just attempting to describe how he thought it came to be, and he was referring to a particular type of noncoding DNA, not all of it. But don't tell Luskin and pals!

But let us do a quick search to see if Simons deserves the title 'genius of Junk.' A Pubmed search [for "Simons MJ"] reveals a rich publication history going back to the 1960s.
Now Ohno supposedly coined the term 'junk DNA' in 1972 (there is some scuttlebutt that someone else said it at a conference preceding Ohno's claims), and this was the date at which, supposedly, orthodox darwinism shut down research on noncoding DNA. Let's take a look at Simons' post-1972 publications and see which ones reveal his insights into 'junk DNA'...

The first paper I can identify which seems to have anything to do with DNA at all came out in 1984 - 9 years after the paper I cite above (there were earlier ones, but that was the first one with an available abstract), and judging from the abstract, it does not appear to be concerned with junk DNA. The first one I can find that appears to have any implication for functional noncoding DNA, again judging by the abtract, is this one published in 1989, 2 years after his supposed run-in with the orthodoxy-protecting geneticists who insited that junk DNA has no function (there was one other mentioning noncoding DNA, but it was in the context of describing a newly sequenced gene).

Can it still be that Simons is the genius of Junk? That he was the one that proposed/discovered that junk DNA controls things and regulates things and such?

If so, his discovery must have been cryptic, as it seems that Zuckerkandl scooped him, publication-wise, in 1981:

It is proposed that a general function of noncoding DNA and RNA sequences in higher organisms (intergenic and intervening sequences) is to provide multiple binding sites over long stretches of polynucleotide for certain types of regulatory proteins. Through the building up or abolishing of high-order structures, these proteins either sequester sites for the control of, e.g., transcription or make the sites available to local molecular signals. If this is to take place, the existence of a c-value paradox becomes a requirement. Multiple binding sites for a given protein may recur in the form of a sequence motif that is variable within certain limits. Noncoding sequences of the chicken ovalbumin gene furnish an appropriate example of a sequence motif, GAAAATT. Its improbably high frequency and significant periodicity are both absent from the coding sequences of the same gene and from the noncoding sequences of a differently controlled gene in the same organism, the preproinsulin gene. This distribution of a sequence motif is in keeping with the concepts outlined. Low specificity of sequences that bind protein is likely to be compatible with highly specific conformational changes.

Seems Zuckerkandl scooped all the IDcreationists who claim to have 'predicted' function in junk DNA as well...

So, anyway, back to Luskin and his disinformation campaign...

Pellionisz seems to have found a pal in the IDcreationist movement, as he has been cited by Salvador Cordova as an ally. No wonder he decided to confide in Luskin regarding his supposed 'suppression' at Panda's Thumb.

Of course, reality does not stop the ID creationists from, well, lying (or at least embellishing) about the history of junk DNA. In fact, on their slick disinformation site 'researchintelligentdesign' (which, by the way, contains no research), we see claims that it was ID creationists that "predicted" functions for junk DNA that were borne out by research done by... well, not any of them. This page indicates that ID 'theorists' were 'predicting' functions for junk DNA as far back as - get this - 1986! YEARS after there were already publications 'predicting' (and demonstrating) junk DNA functions by evolutionists! Boy, those IDers don't miss a trick! Making predictions in the present about things that had already come to pass - incredible!

Luskin and pals remind me of the castle guard in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who, after watching Sir Lancelot run across an open field and kill the other guard then proceeds to run through the castle gate, which the guard was supposed to be, well, guarding, calls after him "Hey!"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Troy D. Hailey - another labeling creationist!

Poor old Troy D. Hailey. We remember him - the internet creationist computer programmer that thinks he is smarter than everyone else...

Seems he found out I posted about him, and he's labeled me a stalker.

Not just any kind of stalker - but a psychopathic virtual one! Pretty cool!

Because, afterall, viewing the 'source' of a photograph that HE posted and following the trail is 'stalking'. Which is odd, since he is a super-smart computer programmer and all, you'd think that he would at least try to cover his tracks, if he was so concerned about it. Surley, he knows how? Creationists like to label people. Weird...

But old Troy is right about one thing - he is, most certainly, a "no one."

Or is he? Look at this amazing proclamation:

This attitude explains why ID is eating your (plural) lunch ... I mean, even aside from the painfully obvious fact that at no time going back to 1859 did you 'modern evolutionary theorists' ever have a real scientific theory in the first place. You people seem actually to imagine that you can use governmental force to silence criticism of your anti-rational pretend theory.

WoW! He got us! No scientific theory according to an internet creationist computer programmer! Who else would we ever go to to hear such truths? And the bit about 'governmental force' - gut punch! Because the government should allow religion to be presented as science, that is for sure!

And this lunch-eating... He must be referring to the fact that ID's own journal is chock full of irrefutable science supportive of creationism/ID!
Old Troy, what a card...

And I am so flattered - I am Troy's favorite psychopath!

Do you actually imagine that I am somehow intimidated because you're apparently in contact with my favorite "Darwinist"


What a fella...


It seems that ARN is preventing direct links (or something), so try this:

**UPDATE 7/25**

It seems that Troy "Ilion" Hailey just can't help himself... [scroll about 1/4 way down page 1, also on the second page]

What a great ambassador for Christ, he is...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Speaking of craziness and stupidity

May I introduce:

Ann Coulter

This one is something - Coulter addresses (I think) the Family Research Council's Washington Meeting. Note what passes for 'comedy' in the backwards world of these people. Also note Coulter's revisionism and laughable interpretations re: the constitution... Amazing:

A treasure trove of Ann Coulter stupidity and grotesqueness can be found here.

And one of my favorites:

To put things into perspective

Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about gettingh a blow job from an intern.

Ronald Reagan, for whom it has been claimed - with nearly homoerotic adulation - deserves a spot on Mt.Rushmore, is lauded as the greatest president ever by many despite his and his administration's damage to the American Democracy:

Another Red State Chickenhawk

Courtesy of Crook and Liars:

A good ol' southern boy who "loves" George W. Bush so much that he claims that he would like to be related to him, who unabashedly thinks the war is great, who:

did not serve

claims he is too old to serve (at 31, he still has 9 years)

claims that if we needed more men, he would sign up (the army did not meet its recruiting goals again this month)

thinks, apparently, that he is helping the war effort by accosting a woman whose son was killed in Iraq...

How typical...

Isn't it ironic that a blue state - my adopted home state of Vermont - a commie (Bernie Sanders), gay (civil unions), liberal (Howard Dean), tree-hugger (Ben and Jerry's) state has the highest Iraq war casualty rate per capita in the nation?

Behind only 3 U.S. territories?

Red State home of Bush is down there at #25?

I'm not sure how to describe people like the fellow in the video - those who worship at the altar of Bush, those who think the war is great and necessary and support the invasion of Iran and any other nation that upsets G.W. Bush, yet has not served and will not serve.

Coward seems a bit trite - after all, they are brave enough to accost single moms with combat killed sons and put 'Support the Troops' stickers on their SUVs and call 'librals' "pussies." . Chickenhawk is certainly fitting, but does not convey my real disgust. Any suggestions?

To see more right-wing hypocrisy:

More Right-Wing ChickenHawkism:

Here, 24 year old right-wing punk Ben Ferguson tries to equate his love of the Yankees and not playing baseball with his support for the war but not serving:

There are many more examples, but I think I will end with this:

And, as is almost always the case, Bill Mahar gets it right: