Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Manson Letters

This is a little departure from my normal topics, but I've always found Charles Manson interesting, and here is a fellow who apparently had a very bizarre exchange of letters with the former cult leader. I found it to be an entertaining read of a highly disturbed mind. I'm sure psychiatrists would have a field day with this guy. Let's hope Charlie stays where he is until the end of his days.

= = = = = = = =

To: Billy
From: Charles Manson
Received: December 15, 1998

Find out why the L.A. Times hasn't sent my newspaper —Charles Manson.
Easy easy EASSY

(Manson also attached the mysterious picture of a barn, above.)

I bet you don't remember this —you dont [sic] even know where its [sic] at. HAHA. I got you there.
Charles Manson

To: Billy
From: Charles Manson
Received: January 7, 2008

Hay Lo Soul,
Good To Too Two 2 here from you. I thought things got so good for you that you just 4 GOT WHAT you could of remembered or could remember what you don't forgit. Where is your mind—must you watch TV all day to go to night school to be a D.A. JUST to forgit I didn't take your money when I had ALL your credit cards locked up in [continued on second page] my dreams—Rife with Con Va Lution due 2 subjewgashen. My spelling got better—see when you go to school you learn to spell—oh well I'm just playing clown words to say I didn't forgit Hellbilly—Bill we always had good days + I'm glad your gonna be a D.A. Be one who works for justice + not one who wants to win win + and don't care if people didn't do rong—anyway be as good as you are when you git a job + don't let the job make you bad you make the JOB good.
Easy Charles Manson

Letter Marginalia:
You even typing now—Cool. A HILLBILLY that can type—FAR OUT.
I know if you payed what you owe you would be brok brok in like broak ones a panter brock + that they is a crook

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Revealing IDer Subterfuge through the Basics of Blackjack Counting

Over at Uncommon Descent, Sal Cordova wrote a masterpiece of fallacies and flaws concerning the relation of the gambler's ruin and supposed limits of evolution. I dissected that article here. Displeased with my treatment, particularly of his error concerning what it means to have a 1% advantage, Sal responded. However, in doing so, he merely dug his hole of ignorance deeper, and more importantly, gave us a nice example of how IDers attempt to hide their lack of knowledge behind cut-n-pasted jargon.

The mistake I jumped on appears early in Sal's essay, and reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of statistics and gambling:

"If he has a 1% statistical advantage, that means he has a 50.5% chance of winning and a 49.5% chance of losing."

My original response will still suffice:

"No, that isn't what it means. That would be the case only in a game that resembled coin flipping, with a win paying the amount of the wager. However, in most Vegas games, such as blackjack, there are several plays, such as splitting hands, doubling down, or getting a blackjack, which pay far more than the wager. The same can be said for craps, the other game Cordova mentions. A player in such games with a 1% edge can expect to win, on average, 1% of the amount of his wager, per play. He will most certainly NOT expect to win 50.5% of his plays as Cordova suggests."

Sal then went through many wild girations trying to defend this error common to basic statistics classes. At first he claimed that my argument was invalid because I was assuming a single play, but as I explained on PT, that makes no difference. 1 play or 1,000, a 1% edge still does not mean a 50.5% chance of winning.

But his main tactic was to fling as much technical sounding, but irrelevant, verbage and terminology my way. Unfortunately, when you don't understand the subject, doing so will only lead to more errors, and reveal one's ignorance more starkly. His final effort was quite illuminating in this regard. I informed him that I had been a card counter (using an old system known as the Uston Advanced Point Count). To this he retorted:

"Oh, really, then answer my question. While you’re at it, provide count values yielding an advantage of 1% for the other systems such as :


Silver Fox

Uston APC

It should be pretty easy if you really know what you’re talking about."

Sorry about the irony meters folks, because all Sal has done by asking this question is reveal beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has no idea what he is talking about. To show why, it will be necessary to give a quick Readers' Digest version of blackjack counting systems.

Blackjack is one of the few gambling games where the probability of victory changes one play to the next. This is because 1) used cards are set to the side, and new hands played from the remaining cards in the "shoe", until an arbitrary point is reached and they are all reshuffled, and 2) some cards are more valuable to the player (10's, A's), and others to the dealer (4's, 5's, and 6's). Counting systems place numerical values on the cards (say +3 for 5's, -3 for 10's), and the player keeps a running total of this "count" in his head, adjusting in some systems for decks remaining and/or aces. This count is used to determine bet size, and also when to vary one's play from Basic Strategy (the optimal play given no knowledge of previous cards played). For example, Basic Strategy says to stand with two 10's against a dealers 6. However, if the count rises high enough, the optimal play can be to split the 10's. Counting systems have a grid of all possible player and dealer scenarios, and what counts warrant variation from Basic Strategy, which a successful player must memorize.

One thing that should be obvious at this point is that counting cards in blackjack is no picnic. It takes a great deal of training and dedication to be able to keep the count accurately, make whatever adjustments your system demands, and bet and play accordingly, all without raising the suspicions of the pit bosses or even the other players. What also should be obvious is that counters do not learn all systems. They tend to pick one and stick to it, for that is more than enough challenge. And since each system assigns different values to different cards, and has different adjustments to be made, it is clear that a counter will have little knowledge of the details of a system that he doesn't play. And finally, in many systems it is not necessary to know what % advantage one has in various situations. One simply makes the systems calculations and makes the appropriate bets and plays.

So, all that in tow, let's look at Sal's question again:

"Oh, really, then answer my question. While you’re at it, provide count values yielding an advantage of 1% for the other systems such as :


Silver Fox

Uston APC

It should be pretty easy if you really know what you’re talking about."

It should be clear now that Sal is talking out of his hat. Never mind the complete irrelevancy of his questions to the matter at hand: whether an edge of 1% implies a winning percentage of 50.5%. Never mind that he doesn't even seem to know that Uston APC is the system I played (he lists it under "other systems"). No one knowledgeable about counting would ask such a question, nor would likely have the answer, since no one would know all three systems he lists. It also is a completely irrelevant question to the Uston APC system I played, which did not require this knowledge. And as an added bonus, Sal's question doesn't even make sense, because the % advantage for a player with a given count in the Uston APC system is not constant, but instead varies by remaining decks. From table 9-2 of Ken Uston's "Million Dollar Blackjack", page 128 of my 1981 copy:


UPC True count of +3:

1 deck remaining: +1.0%
2 decks remaining: +0.7%
3 decks remaining: +0.6%

the values lay out in similar declining pattern for other counts and decks remaining.

So we see here clearly that Sal has no idea what he is talking about, and is simply cutting and pasting impressive-looking technical information in an attempt to hide his ignorance. No one who understands card counting would have asked this question.
This is worth being on the lookout for when listening to IDer/creationist arguments. If it seems impossible to grasp their line of argument, don't blame yourself. It is likely they are doing what Sal did above.

Einstein on Religion: Putting the Nonsense to Rest

In case you missed the news, this letter of Einstein's finally puts to rest the notion that he was in any way a traditional believer in gods. On the Bible:

"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

That pretty much squares with my opinion as well. On the Jews being the chosen people:

"For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

Keep these in mind the next time some believer tries to claim Einstein as one of his own.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Worst Misrepresentation of the Global Warming Science Ever

Just when you thought Bill Dembski's little band of denialist sycophants could't sink any lower, check out this little piece of other-worldly ignorance:

"Before spending trillions of dollars trying to control climate change, shouldn’t we get a second opinion on both the science and policy options?"

A second opinion? SECOND? So the thousands of articles in the peer-reviewed literature all count as ONE opinion? There's "fair and balanced" for you: millions of scientists on this side, one crank on the other.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Youth Voters Ignorant? More Speculation Paraded as Evidence

Suzanne Fields treats us to yet another case of Republicans substituting speculation for facts.
Obama's appeal is to the educated voters, not the ignorant ones (Hillary got those). And it isn't young Obama voters getting on the air and revealing that they don't know their history, such as what Neville Chamberlain did, or what the Cuban missile crisis was about. No, those were Republicans.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Great Illusions

For a fun look at what a great psychological understanding can produce, check out the amazing illusions here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Cdesign Proponentists Video

Every school board, and every board of education, should see this video before falling for the latest creationist scam. It reveals the smoking gun that Inteligent Design is creationism, just as "academic freedom", and whatever new name they come up for it in the future. A pig with a hat on it is still a pig, and smells just as bad.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

10 Commandments the Foundation of Law? Where?

The Religious Freedom Coalition, led by Bill Murray (son of Madelyn), is pushing for a Ten Commandments Weekend, in order to "recognize the Ten Commandments as the foundation of law in this country".

"But with Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House and Harry Reid in charge of the Senate, we can't have a voice. We can't get these out and open and celebrate the Ten Commandments," he contends.

What do you mean you don't have a voice? You just used your voice didn't you? You can organize all the 10C celebrating you can stand and no one will lift a finger to stop you. Did jackbooted thugs come drag you away? Of course not.

Now if there were a Truth Police, THEY might come drag you away for uttering such nonsense, since the 10C are in no way, shape, or form, the foundation of law in this country. Our foundation is the constitution, which was based in part on English common law and the writings of John Locke. The 10C appear nowhere, directly or otherwise, in the constitution, nor do they have any relevance to most of the laws we have in this country.

Don't believe me? Let's review the 10C:

1) No gods but Yahweh
2) No idols
3) No Lord's name in vain
4) Keep the Sabbath Holy
5) Honor parents
6) No murder
7) No adultery
8) No theft
9) No bearing false witness
10) No coveting others' goods

Now compare this to American society. We have a constitutional right to worship any gods or no gods, can make any idol we care to, say whatever name of whatever gods in whatever fashion we choose, and keep or not keep any holy day we choose, or none. So not only do Commandments 1-4 not form the basis for our laws, they actually are ILLEGAL according to the first amendment the founders chose to make to the constitution.

Honoring our parents, avoiding adultery, and not coveting others' goods might be good ideas, but they are rarely made into law. It also hardly taxes our imaginative limits to conceive of scenarios where it would be wise to do otherwise. Should abusive parents be honored? Life is rarely so simple.

That leaves murder, theft and bearing false witness. While these are common in our laws, and rightly so, the 10C can hardly take credit for them. They exist in practically every society, though with a notably wide range of interpretation: who one can kill lawfully in one society can be very different than in another. And judging from the incessantly dishonest nature of the creationists and their quotemining (ie lying), bearing false witness doesn't mch form the basis for their behavior either. So, far from being the basis of our laws, the bulk of the 10C would be illegal to put into law, and the few parts worthy of that are so universal that one would have to be truly blinkered to give the 10C credit for them. The 10C is outdated and irrelevant to modern life.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Look Out: The Ant of All Ants

In other news worthy of rankling those who wonder why evolution isn't happening now, I give you the raspberry ant:

"Look out, Texas Gulf Coast, here comes Paratrechina pubens, or something like that. Tom Rasberry, an exterminator, is said to have discovered the ants in 2002. He offered to lend his name to the pest.

Scientists do not quite know what to call them, they are so new. But folks in the damp coastal belt south of Houston have their own names (some of them printable) for the little invaders now seemingly everywhere: on the move underfoot; infesting woodlands, yards and gardens; nesting in electrical boxes and causing shorts; and even raising anxiety at Hobby Airport and the Johnson Space Center.

The ant is a previously unknown variety with a staggering propensity to reproduce and no known enemies. The species, which bites but does not sting, was first identified here in 2002 by a Pearland exterminator, Tom Rasberry, who quickly lent his name to the find: the crazy rasberry ant."

But it gets even better. How about taking down livestock, and even fire ants:

"“They’re the ant of all ants,” said Dr. Nester, who said they had infested five coastal counties, “and are moving about half a mile a year.” But he said broad areas of Texas and beyond were probably not threatened because the ants preferred the warmth and moistness of the coast.

Variants of the species found in Colombia have been known to asphyxiate chickens and even attack cattle by swarming over their eyes, nasal passages and hooves, according to the Center for Urban and Structural Entomology at Texas A&M, which is conducting much of the research on the ants. It lists some of the findings on its Web site: The ants often eat fire ants, with which they are sometimes compared, and they “outcompete” fire ants for the food supply and reproduce far faster, Mr. Meyers said. "

They also have multiple queens, and are not attracted to any effective exterminants. Resistence is futile, at least until something evolves an appetite for the little prolific critters. Given their extremely high growth rate, it seems a nice niche to fill.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Selling Obama to Republicans

Here's an interesting article on selling Obama to the Republicans who feel disenfranchised by McCain. The author, a former lifetime and Goldwater Republican, has some good bullet points, and they are fleshed
out in detail in his article. I'll give you the short version:

1) Don't waste time on Democratic cornerstone issues like health care, education, and jobs. Republicans have other priorities.

2) Don't bash Bush. He's not in this election.

3) Do not try to change Republican sensibilities against higher taxes.

4)Obama was cosponser of a bill in the Illinois State Senate that resulted in the largest tax cut in state history. McCain was highly critical of Bush's tax cuts before flipping and supporting them.

5) Despite their rhetoric, the last five Republican presidents have grown government spending considerably, resulting in large deficits. Much of this is due to untrackable pork. Obama has passed legislation to make government spending public and transparent, resulting in this website.

6) Obama is the one that has engaged free market, nongovernmental solutions to problems personally. McCain's wealth comes entirely from the public trough and his heiress wife.

7) McCain defends the intrusive and unconstitutional expansion of executive power that has occurred over the last 8 years.

8) Obama is more willing to attack Al Quaeda wherever they are, whereas McCain is going to continue the policy of leaving them safe in places like Pakistan.

9) McCain, the child of privledge, and having a father who was an admiral, still only finished 894th out of 899 cadets at Annapolis. Obama, the rugged individual, came from a home on food stamps and earned academic scholarships to Harvard, and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

It will be interesting to see how much crossover there is. It is also interesting to see that the Republican party has drifted so far from its conservative roots (as embodied by Jefferson, not Robertson) that a Democrat could actually outscore them on their issues.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Mainstream Media is Catching onto the ID Scam, DI Fumes

The mainstream press has finally caught onto the ID scam and its underhanded tactics with the phony "academic freedom" bills. Here's a nice article in the Washington Post that pretty much nails it:

"What's insidious about these measures is that at first blush they appear so harmless. Isn't everyone in favor of academic freedom? What's so wrong about allowing all sides of an issue to be heard? Why should teachers be punished for speaking their minds? Those arguments might have standing if there were any doubt about the reality of evolution, but, as an official with the National Academy of Sciences told the Wall Street Journal, 'There's no controversy.' Consider, also, that there really is no such thing as academic freedom in elementary and secondary education. A teacher can't deviate from the accepted curriculum to present alternative lesson plans or to offer his or her own notions. The Florida teachers association opposed the bills, though ostensibly they are meant to benefit educators. Clearly, the strategy is to devise an end run around legal decisions -- going all the way to the Supreme Court -- that restrict the teaching of creationism in public classrooms."

Right on the money. Yet John West of The Discovery Institute, keeps up the con and whines that the Post reporter just wasn't interested in the facts and that it's all just pro-Darwinist spin:

"Predictably, the Post asserts that the academic freedom bills are about “inviting creationism back into the classroom.” Except that they aren’t. In fact, the bills repeatedly and explicitly state that they only protect the presentation of scientific information, and that they don’t authorize the promotion of any religious doctrine."

Of course they don't, because the creationists lost that fight, so now they try to pretend that what they are pushing is the "science of Intelligent Design". Since ID is not religion, they would argue, it can properly be a part of the science curriculum, right next to evolution. And since Intelligent Design is creationism by a different name, dressed up in new legally palatable tux (they hoped), these bills do in fact invite creationism back into the classroom.

"I pointed this out to Ms. Armao in some detail. But it now turns out that the actual language of the bills didn’t matter to Ms. Armao. She already had the line she was going to take, and if the facts didn’t substantiate it, she obviously didn’t care."

Oh but the facts do substantiate it. The fact is that the people promoting these bills are creationists, and the only subject they seem to be concerned about is evolution. The fact is when asked if these bills would allow the discussion of ID in science classes, the backers of these bills are strangely silent. The fact is these people have associated themselves with Ben Stein's Expelled, which argues for Intelligent Design. And as that dying slagheap of a crockumentary, their behavior at the Dover trial, and most any other engagement with the ID crew demonstrates, they are not above misdirection and outright lying to accomplish their goals. If the only evidence you have on your side is your word, and your word has proven worthless, you don't have much of a case.

West is so desperate at being exposed that he even drags out that tired old "700 dissenting scientists against Darwin" canard, which research has revealed exaggerates the academic accomplishments and current positions of the listees, most of which are not educated in biology (the largest group is computer programmers). Further, many of them do not think they should be on the list, and felt very misled, and have actually asked to be removed from the list! And West wonders why "the actual language" the IDers use is not too relevant to people interested in reality.

And in a final indication of just how drained the DI crew is of substance, and revealing their creationist roots the just a few moments ago they were denying, West whines about the reporter being unimpressed by his:

"...list of scientific controversies involving key aspects of biological and chemical evolution, including the origin of the first life, the role of mutations, the limits of natural selection, and the origination of animal body plans during the Cambrian Explosion some 500 million years ago".

That should look familiar. It is a nice summary of all the standard creationist fallacies: how did abiogenesis happen, mutations are bad, selection only destroys, Cambrian creatures appear fully formed. Same old shit.

So far, the creationists have lost the battle of the "Academic Freedom Bills" in Florida, Alabama, and Missouri, with one dying in South Carolina. The wording of these bills is almost identical. Clearly there is a group behind the scenes behind this effort, and it shouldn't take one long to discern who it is. The guilty dog barks the loudest. So does the frustrated defeated one.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dennis Prager's Gay Marriage Hysteria

We knew the reaction would be hysterical when the California Supreme Court ruled that gays had the right to marry (each other). We knew we'd see irrationality extraordinaire. But even I was amazed at the histrionic, totally out-of-touch reaction from Dennis Prager. If you thought they couldn't get loopier than the contention that the terrorists pose a worse threat to the US than did the Soviet Union, you are in for a bunch of "you ain't seen nothing yet".

The basic problem Prager and the other opponents of gay marriage have is that they think homosexuality is morally wrong, per se. They may sincerely care about the supposed damage it causes, but that does not motivate their position. And they know that doesn't hold water in modern society, so they try to dress up their objections in a rational cloak of pragmatic concern, hoping no one will notice that the core of their complaint is religious, ie, baseless. Their true colors show in their inability to sustain the argument long enough to make a convincing pragmatic case, similar to what happens to them when they attempt to argue against porn. Their arguments all end up amounting to "allowing porn will lead to more porn", as if such an argument is going to move anyone who doesn't think there is something wrong with porn in the first place. This is why they are so utterly unpersuasive, and why they end up sounding as silly as Prager does. Right out of the chutes he's off in his own little world:

"Nothing imaginable -- leftward or rightward -- would constitute as radical a change in the way society is structured as this redefining of marriage for the first time in history: Not another Prohibition, not government taking over all health care, not changing all public education to private schools, not America leaving the United Nations, not rescinding the income tax and replacing it with a consumption tax. Nothing.

Unless California voters amend the California Constitution or Congress amends the U.S. Constitution, four justices of the California Supreme Court will have changed American society more than any four individuals since Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison."

Imagine for a minute you didn't know what Prager was talking about, and what possibilities you'd entertain as being worthy of such a description. A return to slavery perhaps? Maybe elimination of property rights? The invention of small, affordable, private, flying machines? Finding a cure for old age? But allowing people to marry those with matching naughty bits? Change the society more than removing the income tax or reinstating prohibition? What on earth does Prager think is going to occur? Best not to drink your cokes while you read the earth shattering implications Prager envisions for our future. We'll skip over Prager's projections of the supposed arrogance of those who would tell others what is moral, or his amusing astonishment that we don't consider the religions of antiquity relevant in determining the morality of today. We'll also ignore the common red herring of "compassion", which along with phantom problems with people's feelings, are the favorite straw men trotted out by social conservatives when they don't want to honestly deal with what the other side has to say. No, let's get right into the meat of what horrible consequences await us in a pluralistically oriented marriage society:

"Outside of the privacy of their homes, young girls will be discouraged from imagining one day marrying their prince charming -- to do so would be declared 'heterosexist,' morally equivalent to racist. Rather, they will be told to imagine a prince or a princess. Schoolbooks will not be allowed to describe marriage in male-female ways alone. Little girls will be asked by other girls and by teachers if they want one day to marry a man or a woman."

Oh, the HORROR! A little girl will be asked who she wants to marry, and she'll say which it is. This is going to cause society to collapse? The rest of those scenarios are typical projection. People like Prager only see the world two ways: him telling you what to do, or you telling him what to do. The notion that people might be left to make their own choices is anathema to him. Thus he can't see that the message of this ruling is that homosexuals can be who they are. There is nothing here about discouraging heterosexuals from being who they are.

"The sexual confusion that same-sex marriage will create among young people is not fully measurable. Suffice it to say that, contrary to the sexual know-nothings who believe that sexual orientation is fixed from birth and permanent, the fact is that sexual orientation is more of a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality."

Classic non sequitor. Prager acts as if sexuality fixed from birth is necessarily binary, and anything on a continuum must be socially constructed. Of course the evidence supporting any of this, as well as his assertion that allowing homosexual marriage will cause sexual confusion, is a big fat goose egg. He's apparently still under the impression that people can be influenced to be gay.

"Much of humanity -- especially females -- can enjoy homosexual sex. It is up to society to channel polymorphous human sexuality into an exclusively heterosexual direction -- until now, accomplished through marriage. But that of course is 'heterosexism,' a bigoted preference for man-woman erotic love, and therefore to be extirpated from society."

Yes Dennis, because that forces some people to deny who they are. And notice the subtle circularity we spoke of earlier. WHY is it up to society to turn homos into heteros? No answer of course. God said it, Prager believes it, and that settles it.

"Any advocacy of man-woman marriage alone will be regarded morally as hate speech, and shortly thereafter it will be deemed so in law."

Yes Dennis, the same way any advocacy of same-race marriage is regarded as hate speech. Again, the threat that this poses to society is? The damage this does to heterosexual marriages is?

"Companies that advertise engagement rings will have to show a man putting a ring on a man's finger -- if they show only women fingers, they will be boycotted just as a company having racist ads would be now. Films that only show man-woman married couples will be regarded as antisocial and as morally irresponsible as films that show people smoking have become."

This is complete claptrap. We allow interracial marriages, but there is no boycotting of ring companies showing same-race couples, ditto for films. Prager is simply making shit up here.

"Traditional Jews and Christians -- i.e. those who believe in a divine scripture -- will be marginalized. Already Catholic groups in Massachusetts have abandoned adoption work since they will only allow a child to be adopted by a married couple as the Bible defines it -- a man and a woman."

It's called freedom of religion Dennis, you should try it sometime. Again, the threat this poses for society is what again?

And in case that isn't all absurd enough, Prager goes where even I could imagine he'd go. He actually thinks allowing gay marriage will, well, you just have to read it to believe it:

"Indeed -- and this is the ultimate goal of many of the same-sex marriage activists -- the terms "male" and "female," "man" and "woman" will gradually lose their significance. They already are. On the intellectual and cultural left, "male" and "female" are deemed social constructs that have little meaning. That is why same-sex marriage advocates argue that children have no need for both a mother and a father -- the sexes are interchangeable. Whatever a father can do a second mother can do. Whatever a mother can do, a second father can do. Genitalia are the only real differences between the sexes, and even they can be switched at will."

While no one is going to claim that the sexes are entirely socially interchangeable, it has been made clear over the last few decades of female equality under the law that many of the differences thought to be intrinsic to men and women turn out to be largely socially constructed. This is not something we needed some California judges to tell us. Prager is lost in a time warp, where only women can be nurturing, and only men can work grimy jobs. And believe it or not, homosexuals have a solid sexual identity as males and females. Allowing homosexual marriage does not magically make us all hermaphrodites.

Now where again is the explanation of what exactly this is going to do to society? How again is it going to so radically change it? Prager has no idea. Every one of his concerns is either 1) a lack of understanding of the difference between allowing something and mandating it, 2) totally dependent on religious assumptions, and 3) based on gross ignorance of the basis of homosexuality and the identities such people have. There is not a shred of science behind anything Prager, or anyone else fighting gay marriage, has to say. They are simply this generation's version of those who resisted the shift from horses to cars, or who thought blacks could never be equal citizens to whites, or that women can't handle the right to vote, or that the slaves couldn't be freed. Time will pass them by, as it did all those groups.

The Empty Arguments Against Gay Marriage Come rolling In

As expected, the ruling in California allowing gay marriage has produced responses from the anti-gay marriage crowd. Unfortunately they consist of the same, tired, inconsistent, question-begging we've come to expect on this issue.

First comes Dinesh D'Souza, arguing, by mere assertion, that the government has a right to mandate who can marry, but not how one should raise one's children. Having dismissed the right to marry who one wants by fiat, he then attacks the ruling's basis, the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment:

"In issuing its ruling the California court appealed to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The basic logic is that gays have a right to be treated like everyone else. But just like everyone else, gays do have the right to marry. They have the right to marry adult members of the opposite sex! What gay activists want is something else: the right to marry members of the same sex. This is not a right currently enjoyed by anyone. What these gay activists seek is not equal treatment but rather to change the definition of marriage. "

Interesting. Not so long ago, there were laws forbidding interracial marriage, and it does not take much imagination to see how someone supporting those laws might have argued exactly as D'Souza does:

"The basic logic is that these people in interracial relationships have a right to be treated like everyone else. But just like everyone else, they do have the right to marry. They have the right to marry adult members of the same race! What these activists want is something else: the right to marry members of a different race. This is not a right currently enjoyed by anyone. What these activists seek is not equal treatment but rather to change the definition of marriage. "

There is not a dime's difference between the two arguments. All that changes is who's ox is getting gored. D'Souza does get one thing right. This is about changing the legal definition of marriage. However, as the Loving vs Virginia case that ended the laws against interracial marriage illustrates, as well as the laws previous to that in human history that allowed polygamous marriages attest, we have a rich history of changing the rules as it suits our society. D'Souza's argument is either arbitrary, disallowing gay marriage simply because he doesn't care for it, or circular, amounting to arguing that gay marriage should be illegal because the law says it is wrong.

The rest of D'Souza's article is the usual "activist judges going against the will of the people" tripe we've come to expect from the civically challenged right, and is unworthy of further response.

Worse yet is Carol Platt Liebau. In rich irony, Ms. Liebau waxes melancholy about the lack of persuasive arguments from "traditionalists" opposed to gay marriage, while offering none of her own. She lays out a fairly cogent summary of how our society, through medical advances like birth control, and the associated social changes, separated the act of sex from both procreation and marriage. Yet she fails to understand how this negates all the arguments one would make for returning to the good old days. One cannot put the genie back in the bottle, and why would we? Sex is, after all, a wonderful experience. Why should we wish to put it back in the married-only box, insofar as it ever was there. Liebau has no answer.

It certainly isn't this pathetic effort from William Murchison, filled with brillant gems of reasoning like this:

"Marriage it ain't. That's between people of opposite but complementary attributes and physiologies. The merger, so to speak, of those attributes and physiologies is what we call marriage. Flap your arms and attempt to try an aerial passage across the Grand Canyon: You'll have as much luck at that as at same-sex marriage. Can't do it. Period."

In other words, you can't change the definition of marriage because it isn't defined that way. Nice circle Bill.

Liebau is right about one thing. Those opposed to gay marriage are going to have to do a lot better than this. The kinds of arguments proffered by her and D'Souza are the kind that only play to the choir, and that choir is getting smaller every day.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Real Man? Yeah, maybe in 1808

For the latest evidence of how social conservatives are stuck in a time warp, check out the latest article from John Hawkins. While his general theme is a good one (who can argue that we need less responsibility), his perspective is so warped it is hard not to laugh:

"We human beings are born savages, not much different than highly intelligent wolves. It's only because we have been socialized, civilized, taught better, and bathed in the grace of God that we have the wherewithal to live together respectfully in a civilized society."

I've been over this with Hawkins before. We are naturally social beings, and don't need to be taught not to kill each other and otherwise act civilized. Most of us simply lack the urge to act differently, especially those of us unpolluted with god thoughts. But as outdated as that is, check out this humdinger:

"To begin with, a real man should be able to shoot a gun, catch a fish, hunt, take and throw a punch, know what to do if a tornado or hurricane hits, cook a steak, jump-start a car, change a tire, drive a stick shift, give a firm handshake, read a map, handle a budget, swim, tie a tie, give a 5 minute speech, comfort someone who has just had a loved one die, negotiate a raise or a price on something he's going to buy, and tell a pushy salesman 'no.'"

What year does Hawkins think it is? 1808? While I'm not one to down another person's choice of entertainment, in 2008 that's all shooting, fishing, hunting, and boxing are. In our modern society, they are no more relevant to being a real man than are horsemanship and ableness with a sword. Hunting and fishing went out of style with the invention of grocery stores.

Unfortunately, this attitude is prevalent among social conservatives. They argue as if nothing has changed about society in the last 200 years.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Atheists Need Religion? An Empty Argument

For a good example of just how empty the argument that atheists need religion, check out the recent article from David Stokes, where he teases us into thinking he is going to make some sort of argument, and instead he treats us to two pages of, well, not much of anything, except unanswered questions and baseless assertions. If this is the best the religionists can do, we atheists have little to fear.

After prattling on about Thomas Beckett for no apparent reason, he hits us with this nice little assertion:

"Freedom of religion is a very good thing. Freedom FROM religion, though promoted by some as the wave of the future, is not."

This is a common refrain among those who favor more religious meddling in state affairs, but they never defend it with reason or evidence, and such is the case here. The argument is obviously logically flawed at its core: in order for me to have religious freedom, I must be free from all religions that don't suit me. Thus, if I am an atheist, I must be free from religion, period. The 1st amendment was created to give us freedom of conscience in religious matters. It was not to say we have freedom of religion, so long as we pick one. That would put our religious freedom on the same level as the bartender in The Blues Brothers who, when asked what sort of music they played there, responded with "We've got both kinds. We've got country, and western."

Stokes obviously disagrees. His evidence? France's revolution was more violent than ours, and ended with the Despotism of Napoleon. No, I'm not kidding. This is his idea of a case study. OK David, let me give you another case study. Which part of the world has been more violent, both with enemies abroad and perceived enemies within, the religious states of the middle East, and the US, or the relatively secular states of Europe? The answer is obvious. So if we have a dramatic and broad general difference between religious and nonreligious states right now, why on earth would Stokes run back to the 18th century for evidence to bolster his case?

First, his case is so absurd he had to go back that far to find anything that looked to support him. Second, just like the scientific cranks, it is a lot easier to make shit up going way back in history, where the average reader may not have the knowledge or initiative to get it, to understand how flawed your argument is. It is easier to lie about ancient France than modern France because the ancient French are dead and cannot defend themselves. One should always be wary of someone making an argument who goes way back in history for his evidence when evidence in the here and now should be abundant. You are being conned.

Stokes' next assertion is the old no-morals-without-religion canard:

"Anti-theists notwithstanding, we need religion as part of the glue that holds civilized society together."

Yes, except that most of the modern world lacks that glue, and yet has civilizations that are, in some ways, more together than we are. They are certainly more together than the religious nations of the middle east. How does Stokes explain this? He can't, which is why he doesn't bring them up. The basic problem with the argument above is that it conflates religion with ethics and morals, and they are not the same thing at all. As most of the modern world shows us daily, people can be moral and irreligious. Some of us even find that easier than the pious morality Stokes would have us embrace.

"Yes, there are some predominately secular nations in Europe functioning as democracies. But they tend to have that socialist quirk that makes the state itself a religion. Let’s see how it looks over there in twenty-five years."

Socialist quirks make the state a religion? I'm sure the people in Germany, France, and Sweden would be shocked, if not bemused, to hear that having more state services than the US makes their government their religion. Needless to say, this assertion by Stokes is self-serving nonsense, without a shred of supporting evidence. His 25-year parting shot makes that clear. He knows his case doesn't hold now, so he's going to substitute speculation of the state of those nations in 25 years for real evidence of their supposedly sorry state now. In other words, he's making shit up...again.

Within that discussion he also made an assertion that had me sitting bolt upright in my chair:

"when religion and the state are “one” tyranny can happen. No thinking non-Muslim religionist wants that kind of thing for America."

They don't? Where was Stokes when Mike Huckabee was saying to cheering crowd that the constitution needs to be changed to be more like the Bible? Has he missed all the battles over science education in this country where religionists are trying to get the state to teach their creation myths (however politically disguised) as science? Is he not aware of all the battles over abortion, stem cell research, and same sex marriage, in which one side draws their argumentation entirely from religion?

Now if Stokes wants to dismiss all those people as "nonthinking", I won't argue the point. But the argument that there is no drive to turn the US into a theocracy by a large segment of the populace is simply ignorant of what is going on. The argument that religion makes for a more peaceful open society is absurd on its face, and contradicted by essentially the entire modern world. That Stokes has to keep going back to ancient history to make his case proves he has none. That he quotes John Adams, as if his opinion means anything in the modern world, reveals that his is an authoritarian view, rather than a scientific, evidence-based one. If the last 200 years have proved anything, it is that the latter is far better at getting at the truth.

We'll be out of Iraq by 2013? Hey, it's Better than 2108!

John McCain has announced that he believes we can win the Iraq war by 2013. 2013. That's 5 years from now.

McCain certainly deserves credit for honesty. If this isn't straight talk, then what is? But I fail to see how we can take any comfort from his claim. 5 more years in Iraq means thousands more American soldiers killed in battle, more military suicides (which are already at an all-time high since 1990), and longer, more frequent tours of duty. Oh, and let's not forget the near $1 TRILLION price tag. This country simply cannot afford 5 more years of war, especially with such dubious benefits. Granted, it is an improvement over 100 years, but not by much.

It be irrelevant however, because the voting public is not in the mood for such a message, and really never was. Polls suggest pretty clearly that had President Bush told the public exactly what the Iraq war was going to entail, rather than the picture of being greeted as liberators after an easy victory that was painted, this war would never have happened. And now with nearly 70% of Americans wanting us out of Iraq within 6 months, such an announcement by McCain cannot bode well for his candidacy.

I suggest a more straightforward aproach. The goal in invading Iraq was to take down Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. We did that. Declare victory and come home.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

UD's BS on Miller

Ken Miller is the bane of cdesign proponentsists, a devout Catholic who sees through the BS of Intelligent Design as readily as the most rabid atheist. But their atheist-tainting-evolution strategy is impotent against him, which is why he and other scientists like him were not part of the mockumentary Expelled, which Miller rightly eviscerated.

You would think in the face of such a potent opponent, and one who has made them look like fools in many a debate, the IDers would tread carefully. Guess again. However, we in the reality-based community often note that the best weapon against a creationist is his own mouth, and the rebuttal to Miller is a shining example of that. In it we see all that is wrong with ID, bundled together in a nice little package:

"CLAIM 1: He starts by calling intelligent design “repackaged creationism” that “can’t seem to produce any evidence”: “No data, no science, no experiments, just an attempt to sneak a narrow set of religious views into US classrooms.”

REALITY 1: How does science explain the origin of first life — the cell, which is the only life we know? Does Miller have an evolutionary explanation that requires no recourse to intelligence? The cell contains high-tech machinery. Why isn’t this evidence for design? Is the RNA World about to explain the origin of life? Hardly. Of course there’s evidence for intelligent design — if there weren’t, Miller wouldn’t be spending so much time denying it."

Leave it to the muddled mind of a creationist to ask questions in answer to an evidenciary challenge. This is SOP for them: when challenged to present your evidence, attack science for not having every answer to every question and hope no one notices that you dodged the challenge. Sorry guys, I noticed.

The reasons the "high-tech machinery" of the cell isn’t evidence for design is are legion. First, it is not, strictly speaking, machinery, but rather an arrangement that RESEMBLES machinery in some very limited ways. This is why IDers use doctored illustrations of their favorite "machine", the flagellum, instead of actual photos. The flagellum is not, nor does it look like, a machine. Second, this argument puts the cart of design in front of the horse of a designer. In all legitimate scientific fields which use a design inference, such as forensics and archaeology, knowledge of the designer is a must for identifying design. Third, the IDers have yet to develop an argument, rigorous enough to pass the test of peer review, as to why the mechanisms of evolution are insufficient to account for these machine-like items. Fourth, the slapdash, inefficient, often bafflingly bad (from a design perspective) design we see in nature implies strongly that unintelligent forces were responsible.

"CLAIM 2: “Neither Steinberg [sic — Sternberg?] nor any of the other people featured as martyrs in ‘Expelled’ lost jobs as a result of their advocacy of Intelligent Design.”

REALITY 2: What planet does Miller inhabit? The NCSE and Sternberg’s colleagues at the Smithsonian tried to get his research associate position revoked. They took away his office. They created a hostile work environment. Firing would have been easier than what Sternberg endured (click here). And what about Guillermo Gonzalez — does it count as losing a job not to get tenure when your research deserves it? Does it count not to have your contract renewed — as in the case of Caroline Crocker and William Dembski?"

Notice again the dodge of Miller's claim. Was anyone fired? Apparently not, so Miller is correct. That one might subjectively decide that what did happen was as bad is irrelevant. As it is,
Sternberg abused his position, and slid the ID paper through the process in a subtle, but dishonest manner to allow it to avoid objective peer review. The UD author reveals his lack of familiarity with scientific procedures if he thinks this doesn't warrant a strong reaction. And no, not getting tenure, or having one's contract nonrenewed, both of which happen frequently, does not count. Words mean things.

"CLAIM 3: Miller complains that the movie avoided interviewing all those good evolutionists who also believe in God because “showing a scientist who accepts both God and evolution would have confused their story line.”

REALITY 3: Eugenie Scott of the NCSE is interviewed in the movie, where she touts that religious supporters of evolution are her biggest asset...Yes, it would have confused matters to interview Miller in the film — but only because he is deliberately confusing."

The only person confused here is the UD author. Again, notice the complete dodge of Miller's claim. The person who said inclusion of people like Miller in the film would confuse it was none other than the Expelled Ass. Prod. himself, Mark Mathis. The reason is obvious: Expelled's whole theme is evolution = atheism. Having the Millers and Coynes and Collins of the world in the film would have revealed their lie.

The rest of the piece is similarly dishonest and dodgy, repeating the historically indefensible, absurdly baseless claim that Hitler's Nazis and the extermination of the Jews was all based on Darwin, despite the fact that neither Darwin, nor evolution, appear anywhere in Mein Kampf, that murderous anti-Jewish sentiment predated Darwin by centuries (Luther), and of course that little detail that there is nothing in what Darwin wrote that suggests one should commit genocide. A Darwinian society would simply let the weak perish of their own unfitness, not murder them all.

Oh there's a lot of BS in this article all right, but as usual, it belongs to the cdesign proponentsists, not the targets of their dishonest rhetoric.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chris Matthews Skewers Kevin James

It's bad enough to be thought an ignoramus who is just parroting talking points but really has no idea what he's talking about. It's quite another to be exposed as such in as dramatic and undeniable a way as Chris Matthews does to radio host Kevin James. If you prefer a written account, you can read a transcript here.

Basically, Kevin James wants to be indignant about Barak Obama's foreign policy positions, and tries to defend a comment George Bush made referencing Neville Chamberlain. The problem is that Chris Matthews jumps on him about what exactly Neville Chamberlain did wrong, and all James can do for three excruciating minutes is parrot "appeasement!", "appeasement!" like some demented political Polly. Jason Rosenhouse summed it up perfectly:

"This is right-wingerism laid bare. It's all about parroting mindless venom. James doesn't have the faintest idea what Neville Chamberlain actually did to earn his reputation, but he knows that appeasement is a bad thing and that it's something he can use to tar Barack Obama. Calling someone an appeaser is something he's learned how to say, in precisely the same way that your average dog can be taught to respond to basic commands. It probably never even occurred to him that he would ever be called on his ignorance of basic history."

For those who wonder why I've become so disenchanted with Republicans, here is Exhibit A: a loudmouthed know nothing chanting political slogans while having not the faintest knowledge of what he's talking about. And what is it with conservatives these days screaming every word? Ever listen to Mark Levine? How about Dinesh D'Souza's debates? It's as if they think whoever speaks the loudest wins, regardless of how contentless what they are saying is. People like that deserve zero intellectual respect, which is why that is exactly what they get from me.

California Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Gay Marriage: Could be Trouble for Obama

The California Supreme Court has overturned a ban on gay marriage. But it isn't over yet:

"Same-sex couples could tie the knot in as little as a month. But the window could close soon after — religious and social conservatives are pressing to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would undo the Supreme Court ruling and ban gay marriage."

The court went further than just saying gay people may marry each other. It puts the onus on those who argue that gays should be deprived of various rights, as opposed to the previous standard that put the onus on gays to prove they qualified for whatever benefit or right was in dispute. And most significantly:

"Unlike Massachusetts, California has no residency requirement for obtaining a marriage license, meaning gays from around the country are likely to flock to the state to be wed, said Jennifer Pizer, a gay-rights attorney who worked on the case.

The ultimate reach of the ruling could be limited, however, since most states do not recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. Nor does the federal government."

The ruling could be an ironic boon to Republicans, who have been without an issue around which to rally for the upcoming elections. John McCain joins the majority of Voters in opposing gay marriages, while Barak Obama supports civil unions and mostly believes the issue should be left to the states. If conservatives coalesce around this issue, it could play big for McCain.

I remain convinced that gay marriage is inevitable, and that 500 years from now, the average citizen will look back at this battle the same way we look back at slavery, wondering how people could be so unenlightened. I also remain convinced that of all the political arguments, even more than the evolution-deniers, those opposed to gay marriage have the most intellectually and factually vapid of arguments. They prattle on and on about how gay marriage is going to destroy society, but they never get around to explaining exactly how. They write shrill articles with dubious titles like "California Supremes Order Homosexual ‘Marriage’ – Will Citizens Submit?". It will be interesting to see if they can sustain these arguments in the lengthy national debate this is liable to become without coming off as complete nut jobs to those of us mostly dispassionate about the issue.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bob Barr: Libertarian

As if the Republicans didn't have enough problems going into November, here comes Bob Barr, noted conservative, running for President as a Libertarian. In an election where the margin is liable to be razor thin, this is not good news for the GOP. With also-ran Ralph Nadar as the only equivalent, Barr could change the course of the election with a mere 1% of the vote.

Taking Apart the DI's List of Dissenters

For an idea of how dishonest these lists of dissenters are, take a look at this video which researches the backgrounds of the scientists on the Discovery Institute's dissenters list, as well as attempts to contact the scientists to see if they truly doubt evolution. The figures:

101 people on the list, including park rangers, mathematicians, people who work for law schools, and the single largest group, computer scientists.

39 biologists and people in biology-related fields

16 responded

2 truly doubt evolution

So on a list proporting to be scientists that doubt evolution, a whopping 2% were confirmed to be both in biologicially related fields and truly doubted evolution. That's about what should be expected from the Discovery Institute: 2% reality, 98% bullshit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The North Pole Was Here

Here is an interesting story about the moving melting ice at the North Pole. While the denialists deny, the ice just keeps disappearing. Arctic researchers are investing in floating buoys to study polar ocean dynamics now. But here's my favorite line from the article:

"...the ice is not a uniform cap, as it might appear on a chart, but a milling mass of floes that are in near constant motion. While we were there, the ice beneath our feet was moving about 400 yards an hour. That’s why the sign that the team set up had to be changed from “North Pole Is Here” to “North Pole Was Here” after a couple of days."

Let's hope it doesn't say "polar bears once lived here" any time soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Who is Travis Childers? An Indication of Just How Much Change November Might Bring

The most dramatic evidence that we could be looking at a major political shift in November has happened in Mississippi, where Democrat Travis Childers has won a congressional seat considered safe for Republicans. He is now the third Democrat to do so in special elections to fill vacated seats. The other two were in Dennis Hastert's seat in Illinois, and another seat in Lousiana.

"Childers took on Davis for a Mississippi seat that has been held by the GOP since 1994. Both will run against two other candidates in the Nov. 4 general election for the full term, so the winner will likely gain name recognition and a fundraising edge.

The race has attracted national attention, with Vice President Dick Cheney campaigning for Davis on Monday, and Davis running ads trying to tie Childers to Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi."

Sure its not the end of the world, the seats could switch back in November. But it is just another of the many many trends that indicate a bluer America come 2009.

Clinton Wins Meaningless West Virginia

Hillary Clinton won West Virginia, almost exactly by the margin predicted by the polls. It was no surprise, as Hillary has done well in all the elections with the old and the lesser educated, and West Virginia has a shockingly large amount of both.

Yet there is Hillary, giving this triumphant speech, Churchillian according to some. How? This is all meaningless unless the super delegates decide to fall on their swords and overrule the elected delegates and make Hillary a sure-losing nominee.

By my calculations, Hillary would have to outperform her latest poll numbers by 34% in every remaining state to pass Obama in elected delegates. That puts her at 100% in Kentucky and 97% of the vote in Montana. This is kneedown time in football terms. The game is over, the clock just hasn't run out yet.

And a request for the media: please stop wasting everyone's time talking about Hillary having the right to keep running. That is an argument against no one. The dicussion is whether it is right for her to keep this up, not whether she has the right to do so. This is America, where you have the right to be wrong (just ask the creationists), and others have the right to criticize you for it.

Time for Superdelegates to Do Their Job

In the wake of embarrassing defeats in the presidential elections, the Democratic party enacted its own version of the electoral college to help steer their nomination process more towards party interests and less towards what one might call naive democracy. In short, it was made for exactly the situation that exists today.

The Democrats have one candidate, Barak Obama, who leads in every metric, states won, popular vote, and most importantly, the one that is supposed to count, committed delegates. Barring an untimely death or catastrophic scandal, he will be the Democratic nominee for president.

But then there is this other candidate, Hillary Clinton, who has decided that her interests are more important than the parties, and who has made it clear that she will pursue any argument, any strategy, and attack the inevitable candidate in any way that might give her the slightest chance of victory.

It is time for the super delegates to do the job they were created to do, pretend they have some balls, and end the Clinton charade right now. They should make a public announcement in support of Obama, the inevitable candidate, in their party's interests. This is not about who is the better candidate between the two. That argument is moot. The voters have spoken, and Obama has won the fight. Yes Hillary is a great fighter, but sometimes a great fighter cannot admit defeat and needs the referee to step in and end the fight for their sake, and the sake of others. In this case, that's the super delegates. Those that refuse to are reneging on their responsibilities, and ought to be stripped of them for future elections.

McCain Recognizes Global Warming

Apparently there is at least one Republican who acknowledges science, as John McCain comes out supporting action to stem the greenhouse gases at the core of global warming.

They've got a candidate that recognizes both evolution (albeit with "hand of god" poetry added on for show) and global warming. No wonder the fundamentalists are threatening to sit this one out.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Odessa School Board Supports Bible Class, Gets Voted Out

In a story sure to warm every good atheist's heart, as well as all those who believe in seperation of church and state, all four of the incumbants who supported the dubious Bible studies class were voted out of office.

This, and the many many similar stories across America, particularly in Dover after the famous trial, show once again that the main weapon of those working to tear down the wall of church and state is stealth. The strongest poll is at the ballot box, and voters consistently vote out those that would tear down that wall in the school curriculum.

The Evangelical Base is Cracking

Many wondered, given his lack of popularity with the Christian conservative base, what a McCain nomination would do the Republican party. We are starting to get an answer.

"According to a September 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 15 percent of white evangelicals between 18 and 29, a group traditionally a shoo-in for the GOP, say they no longer identify with the Republican Party. Older evangelicals are also questioning their traditional allegiance, but not at the same rate."

Young people are really the place to look for the direction of social change. As much as we'd like to think of our own open-mindedness and persuasiveness, minds change less and less as we get older. As one scientist put it "we make progress because old scientists die". Given the subjective nature of politics, it is even more so. So this is an ominous sign for the GOP, and even moreso when it doesn't seem to be all McCain's fault. The New Christians just don't relate to "old Christian Right" leaders like James Dobson as they once did, and have broader concerns like "AIDs in Africa, or poverty or social justice", or Iraq. They are also catching on to the way they have been played by politicians, "manipulated by those that know the game or use it as their sole agenda."

They also have not gone straight over to the Democrats. 2/3 of the defectors merely moved to the undecided column. There is also considerable skepticism of whether they will translate into votes for Obama given his record on issues like gay marriage and gun control. But in an election year where the Republicans have 20 incumbant senate seats in play to 4 for the Democrats, and where the general trend in the population is away from the Republicans (mostly to the middle), cracks in the base are hardly the order of the day. Keep your eye on the vice presidential nominees. If the Republicans don't get a bigger boom than the Democrats on that one, it is going to be a really long Fall for the GOP. They can't win if this attitude becomes a trend:

"I just keep thinking, if Jesus were alive now, he wouldn't necessarily be voting Republican"

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Doug Giles' Testament to Truthiness, or How to Assure Your Children Fall for all the Same BS You Did

For those of us battling the culture wars against ignorance, anti-science puffery, and fundamentalist indignation of all stripes, it can sometimes feel like we are an alien species. You would think after the scientists have explained the first 1,000 items that they would gain credibility with the creationists, but experience shows that "What about item #1,001?" is right around the corner.

Enter Doug Giles, Ann Coulter with a penis (insert trannie joke here), to clear it all up for us in this laugher of an article. In it, Giles reveals the fundamentalist mindset in all its truthiness and glory. Here are his three steps to spot BS:

1) Become a skeptic. Of course, to Giles this doesn't mean demanding evidence and logical coherence. It means "with their arms crossed and one eyebrow raised, look down their nose and say, “yeah, right” in a sarcastic tone". And people say Giles favors style over substance!

2) Trust your gut, which God has hardwired to alert us to danger and BS.

3) Hang out with mature, sharp and successful people like your parents, grandparents, and...wait for it... your pastors!

The next time you find yourself arguing with a creationist, or with someone who thinks a blastocyst is a person, or that abstinence-only sex ed works, and it seems no matter how much evidence you provide it has no effect, think of Giles' three rules above? Where is the evidence? Where is the logic? None to be found! To understand why, consider the rules in reverse order, and then it becomes clear.

After all, one cannot be skeptical of everything. There has to be a base of assumptions about the world to even get out of bed. Whence come those assumptions? Why, from our parents, grandparents and pastors according to Giles' rules. They help shape part of the gut, perhaps the part that hates fags, or thinks taxes have to be low no matter what. The gut will take it from there, rejecting evolution, quantum physics, modern statistics and economics, anything that it cannot immediately recognize. And when it rejects absurdities like the trinity, your pastors will be quick to tell you that believing anyway is the highest virtue.

That's why evidence doesn't work in these debates. Evidence effects the brain, not the gut. The only way to sway such minds is to do the one thing people like Giles fear: applying his first rule to the other two. Be skeptical of the gut. Be skeptical of authority figures. Giles and his ilk want you to be skeptical of everything except that, because their core beliefs cannot withstand it. Thus they reject Evolution as absurd, but accept a talking burning bush foretelling of a virgin giving birth to a guy who'll lay dead for three days and them come back to life raising all the dead saints and darkening the entire earth in the process, as reasonable.

This is why the approach of fundamentalists to science is so flawed at its core. It is also why they project as they do. To people like Giles, there is that part of the world your gut recognizes, and that part too complicated for your gut that you accept on faith from authorities. The concept of independent skeptical investigation, indeed, of objective reality at all, doesn't exist. Thus people like him, Ann Coulter, and most evolution-deniers, can't see scientific organizations as anything more than priests in different robes and different faiths.

Giles BS detector is nothing of the sort. It is a recipe for a mind closed to all but the simplest and most traditional of knowledge. Anything cutting edge or unintuitive will be rejected, and with no more substance than "Yeah right". For from being a way to help children avoid bullshit, it is the surest way to assure they fall for all the same bullshit their elders fell for.

One Third of Commercial Bee Hives Lost Last Year

In news that should get more attention than it has, 36.1 percent of the nation's commercially managed hives were lost last year.

They are being attacked by parasites, diseases, and a strange event known as Colony Collapse Disorder, where adult bees abandon their hive. We are highly dependent on honey bees for pollination of our crops and for honey in many of our foods. We cannot have too many more years like this.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What a Dying Movement Looks Like: Intelligent Design's Google History

Go here for a peek at Intelligent Design's Google history. The big spike at the end of 2005 is the Dover trial. And that tiny little spike at the far right? That's the influence, if we may elevate it with such a term, of Expelled. Do a comparison of "Intelligent Design" with "The God Delusion" and you find a far match: one book against an entire movement.

ID is a dying movement.

Miller on Expelled

As Expelled dies on the vine, falling far short of the goals set for it by its makers, Ken Miller offers his views, and given that he is one of the 40% of religious scientists that provide absolute refutation to Expelled's lies, his deserves to be the final word:

"The movie also uses interviews with avowed atheists like Richard Dawkins, author of 'The God Delusion,' to argue that scientific establishment is vehemently anti-God. Never mind that 40 percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science profess belief in a personal God. Stein, avoiding these 50,000 people, tells viewers that 'Darwinists' don't allow scientists to even think of God.

Puzzled, the editors of Scientific American asked Mark Mathis, the film's co-producer, why he and Stein didn't interview such people, like Francis Collins (head of the Human Genome Project), Francisco Ayala, or myself. Mathis cited me by name, saying 'Ken Miller would have confused the film unnecessarily.' In other words, showing a scientist who accepts both God and evolution would have confused their story line.

'Expelled' is a shoddy piece of propaganda that props up the failures of Intelligent Design by playing the victim card. It deceives its audiences, slanders the scientific community, and contributes mightily to a climate of hostility to science itself. Stein is doing nothing less than helping turn a generation of American youth away from science. If we actually come to believe that science leads to murder, then we deserve to lose world leadership in science. In that sense, the word 'expelled' may have a different and more tragic connotation for our country than Stein intended."

Amen Ken. Expelled now languishes at 60% of its opening screens, averaging an anemic $120 per screen, with total revenues around $7M. Compare this to the goals of the producers of some $12-$15M just on opening weekend. Consider also that the recent spate of "academic freedom" bills, which were clearly intended to ride Expelled's coattails, failed to become law in Alabama, and Florida.

Expelled was a flop scientifically, politically, and financially. Hopefully it will end what was left of Ben Stein's career, and serve to expose the ID movement for the con game it is.

Friday, May 9, 2008

How not to Analyze Political Results

Just when I think Ben Shapiro has hit bottom with ridiculous arguments, he comes up with one even worse. Speaking of Barak Obama, he says:

"What do you call a candidate who wins 90 percent of the African-American vote, between 30 percent and 50 percent of the Hispanic vote and 40 percent of the white vote in a tight Democratic primary race? A general election loser. Apply those percentages to the general election, and the candidate will bomb."

Every sports fan knows you can't take a team's stats against one opponent and apply them to the next opponent. Different teams have different strengths and weaknesses. It you think the Patriots are going to score 42 against the Giants because they scored 42 against the Raiders, you are going to be very disappointed. Likewise, one cannot apply primary percentages to general elections. Yet that is exactly what Shapiro is doing here. To make comparisons that make sense, they need to be apples to apples, or in this case Republican vs Republican, and Democrat vs Democrat. One cannot do this:

"In 2004, President Bush won 43 percent of the Hispanic vote, 58 percent of the white vote and 11 percent of the African-American vote. That means that John Kerry did better among Hispanics than Barack Obama has done in the Democratic primaries; better among whites than Obama has done in the Democratic primaries; and almost as well among African-Americans. Obama's coalition is Kerry's, but weaker."

This analysis is so bad it is comical. Of course Kerry did better among Hispanics against Bush than Obama did against Hillary Clinton. Practically any Democrat would. As for the whites, one cannot compare % of Democratic whites to % of total whites, especially with the proportion of whites, and voters in general, who consider themselves Democrats vs Republicans, growing rapidly. One get more votes with a smaller percentage of the pie if the pie grows. And it is not the least bit clear that Obama's percentage of the pie will be smaller against McCain.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

UD Shows its True Colors

Only on a site as loony as Uncommon Descent would one get an article entitled "Is Murdering Babies Ever Good?", or something very close to that. It ended up being retitled "Is There at Least One Self-Evident Moral Truth", a comical position made even more so by the complete lack of any argument aside from fist pounding:

"There are certain things that, as Dr. J. Budziszewski says, ”you can’t not know.” You can’t not know that ripping babies from their mother’s arms, throwing them in the air and catching them on a bayonet is evil. Everyone reading this post knows this to be true without the slightest doubt or reservation. Jack is simply and obviously wrong when he says a soldier is free to choose moral standards in which such an act is good. There is no such freedom. Anyone who says that it is not self-evident that the soldier’s act was evil is lying. It is quite literally unthinkable to imagine a moral system in which such an act is good."

Funny, I have no trouble whatever imagining such a moral system. I have no desire to live in such a society, but there have been societies that killed babies in various contexts throughout history. Here we see the IDer mindset laid bare: if I can't imagine it, it can't be true. To Hell with facts or logic, if something seems true to me, than it is true. Whether it is irreducible complexity or the absolute immorality of baby killing, facts don't matter. Those who claim to disagree are part of some evil conspiracy. Never mind that in fact the soldier in question did choose moral standards that made the act good to him, however much the rest of us condemn it. The facts be damned when they collide with ideology. Simply assert The Truth (tm) and it is so:

"Just as the statement “two plus two equals eight” is wrong in an absolute sense, the soldier’s act was evil in an absolute sense."

Can it be any surprise that we can't get these people to understand the difference between science and pseudoscience when they don't even understand the difference between an arbitrary moral judgement and a provable mathematical fact?

Walter Williams Illustrates The Denialist Obsession with Ancient Data

One sure sign that you are dealing with a crank is their use of outdated information. In cutting edge science, anything older than 10 years is going to be suspect, and 20 years is really pushing it unless you are talking about something really basic. So if you see someone constantly quoting scientists from 50+ years ago, your bullshit alarms should be screaming.

Enter Walter Williams, economist, explaining to us why we shouldn't believe the worldwide consensus of science on global warming. Funny, I haven't heard of Williams submitting papers on his alternate theories to the peer-reviewed literature. Funny how the denialists yap on about how they can win the game, but refuse to step on the playing field.

Williams' reasoning runs roughly as follows: Paul Erlich was a mentor to Al Gore, and made some incorrect predictions, and some other scientists and government bodies have made incorrect statements as far back as 1885, therefore the scientific consensus is wrong on global warming. I'm not kidding.

Don't believe me? Check out the article. Here are the dates and people/organizations he quotes:

1969, environmentalist Nigel Calder
1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich
1972, a report was written for the Club of Rome
1970, Gordon Taylor
1975, the Environmental Fund
1970, Harvard University biologist George Wald
1970, Sen. Gaylord Nelson
1885, the U.S. Geological Survey
1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior
1949, the Secretary of the Interior
1974, the U.S. Geological Survey

So, in summary, Walter Williams is asking you to reject the views of the climate scientists based on the fact that 4 scientists, 2 environmentalist groups, 2 politicians, and 3 government agencies said incorrect things, anywhere from 33 to 123 years ago. That's right, the most recent example Williams gives us is so long ago that most of the scientists he says we should doubt about climate change weren't even born yet! And finally, notice that there is not a single scientific organization mentioned in Williams crimped history. So what relevance does any of this have to the current global warming problem? That's right, not a damned thing.

This is why you shouldn't get your science from economists, especially those who moonlight as political hacks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Warming Ocean Threatens Sea Life

In more dire news, the earth's warming trend is increasing low oxygen zones in the ocean where much sea life cannot survive. Surprisingly (to me anyway), cold water can hold considerably more oxygen than warm water, so the warmer the seas, the fewer livable zones for the life there:

"Continued expansion of these zones could have dramatic consequences for both sea life and coastal economies, said the team led by Lothar Stramma of the University of Kiel in Germany.

The finding was not surprising, Stramma said, because computer climate models had predicted a decline in dissolved oxygen in the oceans under warmer conditions.

Frank A. Whitney of Canada's Institute of Ocean Sciences said, "As oceans lose oxygen, this will reduce habitat for many organisms."

And before anyone dismisses these changes as trivial, note the extreme differences in oxygen that can occur:

"In cold surface water, oxygen levels can reach as high as 300 to 400 micromols per kilogram, Johnson said. A mol of a gas such as oxygen occupies a volume of just under six gallons and a micromol is one-thousandth of that. A kilogram of water is the amount that would weigh 2.2 pounds.

Dissolved oxygen varies widely in the oceans, and sea life becomes stressed when it reaches between 60 and 120 micromols per kilogram.

The researchers found concentrations as low as 10 in parts of the eastern Pacific and the northern Indian Ocean and larger areas in the Atlantic and Pacific were below 150."

Imagine trying to get by on air that had 1/2 to 1/30th of the oxygen you are used to.
I guess we'd all better enjoy our seafood while we can. And notice that climate models predicted these changes in the ocean's oxygen. What did the denialist's models say? Oh that's right, they don't do any.

Creationists think "Scientific Evidence" Means "Scientists Talking"

It is often said in the reality-based community that all one need do to reveal the scientific illiteracy of ID creationists is let them talk. Here comes Casey Luskin with today's example:

"Bailey charges that "the film is entirely free of scientific content—no scientific evidence against biological evolution and none for 'intelligent design' (ID) theory is given." But last time I saw the film, it featured well-credentialed scientists arguing that natural selection lacks information-generative power and arguing the digitally-encoded information in DNA and highly efficient micromachines and factories in the cell strongly indicate an intelligent cause."

Apparently, to Luskin "scientific evidence" means "scientists talking". No wonder these guys think ID is the scientific equivalent of evolution, and that writing their screeds qualifies as science. They are apparently unaware that scientific evidence is falsifiable replicable evidenciary testing of a hypothesis. Well-credentialed scientists can argue anything they want, claim anything indicates anything they please. Until they get into the lab and, you know, actually put their musings to the test, it's not science.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Obama, Wright, McCain, Hagee, and Religious Double Standards

As I watch the Obama/Wright flap, I find myself engulfed in mixed emotions. I always enjoy seeing a fool grilled for his foolishness, and the good reverend has certainly provided plenty of that. I've gotten to where I expect a good dose of it from anyone with that title. Who can forget Pat Robertson blaming 9/11 on gays and the ACLU, or claiming he prayed for God to kill people with a hurricane in another state? And yet Robertson's voice is still given considerable respect in our political matters. Ditto for the late ingrate Jerry Falwell, and of course, recent John McCain endorsor, John Hagee, who calls the Catholic Church "The Great Whore", and claimed Yahweh sent Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins.

Why is that? It's been suggested by some that this is just a small piece of a larger puzzle of racism, particularly with regard to Republicans. It certainly came as a shock to me to learn that there is not a single black Republican congressman or Senator. My shock is not moral, but political. The black population of the US is 12.5% or so and climbing. No black politicians means not much black support, and it's got to be tough to compete with that much of the electorate universally against you. They've had plenty of former congressmen, so what has changed? It is an interesting question.

However, I don't think that this is an issue of racism. The reason the Wright endorsement is a problem for Obama, but the Hagee endorsement isn't a problem for McCain, is because Americans have a great tolerance of lunacy coming from ministers, so long as it is a particular brand of lunacy. Hagee's just happens to the acceptable variety, and Wright's isn't. What's the difference? Wright left out the intermediary: God. He forgot the Golden Rule of American society: statements with "God" in them should be tolerated.

The most absurd statement made in American life today is not that the earth is 6,000 years old, or that zygotes are people. It's that Christians are the persecuted group in society. Fact is, you can pretty much get away with saying anything as long as you blame it on Jesus. Thanking Jesus for winning a boxing match never ever gets the "You think Jesus would help you beat the shit out of someone else" retort it deserves. Praising the same God who apparently decided to destroy your town with a tornado for deciding not to kill YOUR child today is seen as somehow loving and sweet. Deciding that the solution to crime in your city is to wear a sack and have ashes tossed on you is considered sane. So why not Hagee's claim that Yahweh hates fags and New Orleans, or Robertson's claim that Gawd hates the ACLU. After all, none of us are divine, so who knows? Those claims are certainly not MORE deranged than thinking the creater of the universe helped your kick hook inside the uprights for the game-winning football game.

Wright made the mistake of attacking the United States directly, accusing it of being responsible for 9/11, and really, in a basic, animalistic evalaution of the facts, it's the most reasonable (or least loony if you like) thing he said. But you don't do that in our society, not without giving the gods the blame. Nor do you claim government scientists created AIDS to commit genocide. That's real demented thing about all of this. God is supposed to be so omnibenevolent and perfect, whereas the US government has a host of flaws and sins on its record. Yet it is deemed OK,by the most pious and anti-government among us,to blame God for people dying, but not the US government.

Personally I think all the looniness ought to be treated the same. I'd like to see every politician be held accountable for every goofy thing any preacher says in his presence. Let's have a national debate about religious goofiness in politics. Maybe then these politicians will decide that it isn't worth the risk to publicly seek the endorsement of any religious figure. Let's pin every politician down on what he thinks about the anti-evolutionary views of Brother Bubba. If the politicians are going to pander to these nutjobs, let them put their opinions on the public record for all to see. Do you or do you not think the government created AIDS Senator? Do you or do you not think Katrina was divine punishment for New Orleans' sins Senator?

One thing I gave Mike Huckabee credit for was being completely up front about his reality-averse views on evolution. But it surely didn't help his campaign, and I'd like to see every politician who holds equally goofy views, or pretends to do so to gain political support, be forced to say so and share the same fate.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Phyllis Schlafly and the No Criticisms Lie

Well, Phyllis Schlafly has come out and revealed herself to be a Stein sycophant, without the energy to do even basic research behind the claims of Stein and Expelled, we she just parrots uncritically. There's really no point in going through all the lies again, but there was one new one that caught my eye:

"Stein's critics fail to effectively refute anything in 'Expelled'; they just use epithets to ridicule it and hope they can make it go away."

Excuse me? Has Schlafly missed the blogospheric landslide this film caused? The many many negative reviews, even from conservatives at Fox News and Reason? Can she not find Expelled Exposed, which goes through and refutes, in detail, all of the major claims in the film?

It never ceases to amaze me that conservatives who supposedly support family values, honesty no doubt among them, can lie so shamelessly. Like Ann Coulter before her, Schlafly just turns a blind eye to the substantive criticism out there, proclaims it does not exist, and hopes no one will notice. Do they really think people are this stupid? Are they?

Evolution, 21, the Gamblers Ruin, and Zero Sum Games

One of the favorite fallacious arguments of the evolution deniers is to claim that statistics somehow make it impossible for evolutionary mechanisms to work. Invariably however, their arguments contain fundamental flaws in their assumptions. The most common of these is the assumption that all evolutionary events are independent (Hoyle's 747 in a junkyard), when they are in fact extremely dependent. It can be very tiresome seeing these same lame arguments over and over again, so it is somewhat refreshing to see Sal Cordova make some brand new mistakes in his newest article called Gambler's Ruin is Darwin's Ruin. Unfortunately, it is a tiresomely long piece, containing several subtle errors, the most important being that evolution proceeds in an unwavering, unfailing, line of ascent, instead of one with many failures, and as a zero-sum game. Once one understands this, Cordova's argument collapses.

He attempts to draw an analogy between counting cards in blackjack, as depicted in the Movie "21" and the evolution of species. However, his knowledge of gambling is apparently quite limited, and prone to making ridiculous statements like this:

"The real story behind the movie began with an associate of Claude Shannon by the name of Dr. Edward O. Thorp of MIT. In the Early 60’s, Thorp published a landmark mathematical treatise on how to beat casinos. His research was so successful that Las Vegas casinos shut down many of their card tables for an entire year until they could devise counter measures to impede Thorp’s mathematics."

As a former card counter, I can say this is complete nonsense. Thorpe's system, while no doubt groundbreaking and ingenious, received considerable criticism from other mathematicians, and even at the hyped 5% edge, would still not allow just anyone to walk into a casino and leave a winner on a consistent basis. All the casinos did was move the "cut" in the "shoe" of cards used for play, further from the end of the deck, where the counter's advantage is maximized. They could also "shuffle up" on suspected counters (thus nullifying the count), and as a last resort, being private clubs, they could simply bar the counter from playing. Thorp did not cause Las Vegas card tables to come to a stop.

Cordova further illustrates his ignorance when attempting to explain what a statistical advantage in gambling means:

"If he has a 1% statistical advantage, that means he has a 50.5% chance of winning and a 49.5% chance of losing."

No, that isn't what it means. That would be the case only in a game that resembled coin flipping, with a win paying the amount of the wager. However, in most Vegas games, such as blackjack, there are several plays, such as splitting hands, doubling down, or getting a blackjack, which pay far more than the wager. The same can be said for craps, the other game Cordova mentions. A player in such games with a 1% edge can expect to win, on average, 1% of the amount of his wager, per play. He will most certainly NOT expect to win 50.5% of his plays as Cordova suggests.

So right away Cordova reveals that he doesn't understand the basics of the subject of his article. He also doesn't seem to understand the concept of Gambler's Ruin, which he also tries to tie to evolution. The Gambler's Ruin refers to when a gambler loses the last of his stake, goes broke, and can no longer gamble. This comes into play for professional gamblers because no matter what advantage you have, there is still a nonzero possibility that you will run into a long enough streak of bad luck or mistakes to exhaust your funds, or "bank". Thus, such gamblers use statistical analysis to determine the size of a bank they need to keep their probability of ruin sufficiently low given the edge they have and the wagers they will place. For example, a blackjack player with a 3% edge and wagering $5 a hand would need a bank of about $275 for a probability of ruin of 5%.

How does any of this apply to evolution you ask? Well, Cordova attempts to draw an analogy between the gambler's bankroll and the population of biological organisms with new genetic variation:

"The problem is that a selectively-advantaged traits are still subject to random events. The most basic random event is with whether a parent will even pass down a gene to a child in the first place! Added to that problem is the nature of random events in general. A genetically advantaged individual may die by accident, get consumed by a predator, etc.

And the problem gets worse. Even if selectively advantage traits get spread to a small percentage of the population, it still has a strong chance of being wiped out by the sum total of random events. The mathematics of gambler’s ruin helped clarify the effect of random “selection” on natural selection...Darwin was absolutely wrong to suggest that the emergence of a novel trait will be preserved in most cases."

But Darwin never suggested that, and modern evolutionary theory certainly does not say that. Cordova is criticizing the old, flawed, single unbroken line version of evolution, which no one supports today. In doing so, he is erroneously applying the ruin theories of gambling to a single evolutionary line, rather than the entirety of life. In his view, showing one line would die out disproves the entire theory. But in evolutionary terms, everything that is alive is part of the genetic "bank". Cordova's analogy is to a single session of a gambler's day, which could, of course, be a loser, not the entire bank.

Evolution is a giant bush with many branches and twigs that did in fact hit their ruin, just as population genetics predicts. Cordova's representations of the views of Darwin, as well as Thorp and Fisher, are simply inaccurate. None of them believed that 100% of creatures born with beneficial mutations would survive.

From there Cordova runs completely off the rails and shows once again that his understanding of evolution is little better than his understanding of gambling:

"A further constraint on selective advantage of a given trait is the problem of selection interference and dilution of selective advantage if numerous traits are involved. If one has a population of 1000 individuals and each has a unique, novel, selectively-advantaged trait that emerged via mutation, one can see this leads to an impasse – selection can’t possibly work in such a situation since all the individuals effectively cancel out each other’s selective advantage."

This contains so many errors it is difficult to know where to start. Most basically, a trait cannot be called "selectively advantaged" in a situation where "selection can't possibly work". This is just basic logic. It is either selectively advantaged or it isn't. Secondly, the selection on these individuals is done by many features of nature, not just each other. Sure, if every individual evolves to be a bit faster, that doesn't do much to change who gets to sleep where in the cave. But it sure does effect who outruns the wolves to the cave in the first place. If you and I both evolve traits that make us outrun the wolves where we couldn't before, there is no "cancelling out". We both win.

Third, and most damningly, his analysis has an implicit assumption of stasis with regard to the environment and the new niches the individuals might fill. This is a common mistake creationists make. If I may go all X-men for a moment, some of these 1,000 individuals evolve the ability to fly, others the ability to exist on less food by processing sunlight, and others develop the ability to breath underwater, there will be no "cancelling out". They will simple go live in places, and under conditions where they couldn't before. Everyone wins.

Extending Cordova's argument to gambling shows the zero-sum flaw inherent in it. It is as if he is saying "If all of you at the poker table improve your skills, it all cancels out, and no one will win any more than they did before." And yes, that is true, but only if they remain at that table, or never go play a different game. The players might take their improved skills and move to play Omaha, or craps, or blackjack.

Evolution is not a zero-sum game, and on that faulty premise lie all of Cordova's shoddy arguments. As usual, we see that the evolution-deniers do not understand the subjects they raise, and are too lazy to research them.