Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cal Thomas’ Article in the Spokesman-Review

Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist, had an opinion piece in the Spokesman-Review today concerning the current health-care fracas. I’ve only posted a few paragraphs from the article, head over to the Spokesman to read the whole thing. The article definitely has a “the sky is falling” ring to it. Here’s what he had to say:

But this is about none of that. This is about liberal Democrats realizing their decades-old dream of complete control of our lives. Every move you make, every breath you take, they’ll be watching you. Except, of course, when it comes to terrorists who want to destroy America faster than the liberals do. A different standard is applied to them.

Now, if you substituted “government” with “liberal Democrats” I’d be right with him. But Republicans have done their fair share of trying to control people’s lives. Regan’s ratcheting up of the war on drugs, Dubya’s Patriot Act and Republicans seem forever concerned with what’s happening in people’s bedrooms.

“This is how I see health care reform working: If you are a doctor who has spent a lot of money and time becoming a responsible and caring physician, the government will tell you how much to charge your patients and, in fact, whether you will be allowed to treat them at all. Bureaucrats, having given themselves the power of God, will decide whether a patient is worth the cost of treatment, thereby deciding who lives and who dies.”

Don’t insurance companies already tell doctors how to treat patients? I’ve heard a lot of how we’ll be in trouble if bureaucrats run health care, but they already do, they just happen to work for insurance companies and hospitals and not for the government.

Despite the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, somewhere down the line taxpayers will be forced to underwrite abortions in violation of the consciences and faith of the majority.”

Two problems with this. Firstly, plenty of Americans are forced to pay for government projects they are morally opposed to. There are a lot of liberals who are morally opposed to the Iraq War, should they not have to pay taxes for it? Secondly, the country is evenly split over abortion, I’m not sure you could say a majority oppose it. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll asked “On the issue of abortion, would you say you are more pro-life or more pro-choice?”. Forty-seven percent said pro-life, forty-four percent said pro-choice and six percent said both. When you factor in the margin of error, almost all of these polls come out statistically even.

“This is the triumph of the humanistic, atheistic worldview. We are all to be regarded as products of evolution in which the fit and the powerful will decide our survival and worth.”

Yeah and I heard atheists eat babies, torture kittens and pee in the water supply too, ridiculous. As you can imagine this was the paragraph that really caught my attention. I don’t know what type of humanists or atheists he has been talking to but he should really find some new friends. Richard Dawkins, who, if the atheists had or wanted one, could be considered the atheist pope had this to say on the subject:

“I hear the bleak sermon of the Devil's Chaplain as a call to arms. As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs. My previous books, such as The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, extol the inescapable factual correctness of the Devil's Chaplain (had Darwin decided to extend the list of melancholy adjectives in the Chaplain's indictment, he would very probably have chosen both 'selfish' and 'blind'). At the same time I have always held true to the closing words of my first book, 'We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.'”

This is from the beginning of the Humanist Manifesto III:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

If Cal Thomas took a second to actually read some atheist and humanist literature he would think twice before writing such close-minded, dim statements.

I completely agree with the following statement. There is a lot of hypocrisy going on in the Democrat party over the deficit. When Bush was in they couldn't stop talking about it and how great Clinton was for keeping it under control and now that they're back in office they can't seem to put the credit card away.

"When Republicans were in the majority, deficits mattered to Democrats. Now we see that expressed concern was a sham, because if deficits meant something when they were relatively small, they ought to mean something more when we are in hock up to the necks of our Chinese-made clothes."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mobius Science Center in Trouble

It looks like Mobius Spokane went back to the Park Board with a revised contract and this has caused a bit of a problem.  Hopefully all parties will come to an agreement.  It sounds like it would be a great addition to Spokane.  Here’s the full story at the Spokesman.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Darwin’s New Finch

A very interesting research paper has been published.  No reason for me to rewrite it when other people have already done a much better job than I could hope to.  Here’s the short version on Wired, I went to the PNAS website, but you can’t review the article for free, so I’m unable to post it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ben is sick again….

Anybody who gets the title is already in good company.  I just want to take a moment to promote two of the best podcasts around.  Hardcore History and Common Sense, both produced by Dan Carlin.

In Hardcore History Dan takes an in-depth look into past world-making/shaking events.  The great part about HH is that it’s not a gloss job, he generally spends a good one to two hours covering each event and sometimes devotes multiple shows to a single topic (for example three shows on the Punic Wars and four shows on the Eastern Front during WWII).

In Common Sense Dan looks at current events.  Carlin is not the normal tv talking head you’re used to (i.e. Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, etc.).  He actually studies the subject and forms his opinions on the facts, not whether or not it’s liberal or conservative approved.  Chances are you’ll disagree with him on half of what he says, but it’s a good type of disagree, not an angry throw a beer bottle at Bill O’Reilly on the tv type of disagree.

Please check out both shows, I’m not sure there are any better.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christian Nation

I try to keep up with as many of the local blogs as possible. One I check out pretty regularly is called Mark In Spokane. Mark and I are politically very much at opposite ends. I do have to admit though that I really like the fact that he’s a history buff. I love everything history, I can never get enough books or documentaries. He seems to stick to right-wing topics and religion. pretty much can boil it down to “Obama sucks, GO GOD!” (IN FAIRNESS TO MARK, THIS WAS MY ATTEMPT AT A BAD JOKE, CHECK OUT HIS SITE), really there's more than that, but it seemed funny to write. Here’s a topic in particular that I have a problem with:

“An interesting observation, built upon the expression of the idea that while America is a secular polity, that polity is built upon the bedrock of an essentially Christian culture:

America is a Christian nation; this is a matter of fact, not of opinion. Whether America will remain a Christian nation is matter for argument, perhaps: the creation of special rights for pathics, for instance, indicates that Christian morals are going by the board; and the prevalence of abortion, the deliberate destruction of one's offspring, is another suggestion that both Christian belief and Christian morals have begun to succumb to total religious indifference, if not yet to atheism. But if Christian faith and morals will be generally rejected by the coming of the twenty-first century, then probably the whole culture will disintegrate, the material culture as well as the intellectual and moral culture; and human existence here will become poor, nasty, brutish, and short: unless some quite new culture, which as yet nobody can imagine, should rise up. Any such unnameable innovative culture, to endure, would require some transcendent sanction, perhaps some theophanic event -- something more enduring than mere Marxist ideology, which was a violent attempt at a new faith and a new culture.

- Russell Kirk, Renewing a Shaken Culture (1992).”

Let’s go down this piece by piece. I have to admit that I had to look up what a pathic is, it’s basically a guy who takes it up the butt from another guy. I’d like to know what special rights homosexual men have received. The only thing I can figure is that by special rights he meant we no longer beat them to death in abandoned fields late at night. Of course if he wants a return to Christian morals, he may want a return to executing gays, along with atheists, adulterers, and people who don’t observe the Sabbath. Jesus did have a couple of good (but not original) moral ideas, love they neighbor, do unto others…, etc. But do we really need a 2,000 year old glorified book of Aesop's Fables to tell us how to live our lives?

He then suggests that everything will probably go downhill without a Christian or some other type of theist culture. He (Russell Kirk) thinks multiculturalism (the fraud as he says), the endeavor of militant secular humanists and the (again as Kirk says) heresy of democracy, or assuming that one man is equal to another will lead to this great calamity. I don’t understand his problem with multiculturalism, being as we were formed by different races in a country stolen from another people. I think people tend to forget that black people have been here almost as long as we have and that American Indians were originally here. So if we really want to be faithful to the American culture we should revert to the Indians culture. His problem with those dangerous, militant secular humanists comes back to atheism which I’ll get to. Then he has a problem with democracy and everyone being considered equal. I’ll give it to him that not everyone is equal. But who would decide everyone’s worth? There would be no practical way because everyone will have a different idea of how to decide someone’s worth. So it’s an impractical idea and therefore not worth bitching about.

I’m not sure why atheism is such a horrible thing. Mr. Kirk prattles on about how we need God (he seems to favor the Christian God, Zeus apparently won’t cut it) to be good and secularism leads to all types of naughty activities. Mark may know his history, but Mr. Kirk obviously skipped that class as a kid. He must have at least missed the part about witch burnings, crusades, executing homosexuals, imprisoning Galileo and other thinkers and all the other fun stuff that went along with Christianity. Of course, after only having read a little about Russell Kirk, I think he might have favored torture and killing, as long as the Bible says it’s okay. Mr. Kirk never really seems to get around to giving specific reasons or data that proves atheism leads to depravity. He alludes to Stanlinist Russia. The thing I’d point out here is that the Russian commies believed in complete, unquestioning faith in communism and their leader and basically turned it into a religion or personality cult. One thing most atheists will agree on (there’s not much) is that we all dislike unquestioning faith, regardless of where the faith is being placed.

I had to show you this brilliant line in crazy Kirk’s lecture.

“Religion restrains the passions and the appetites: and sensate natures flout restraints.”

I think it’s possible that Mr. Kirk occasionally got doped out of his mind before writing. In what ways does religion restrain the passions. If fondling little boys, blowing up oneself in large crowds and murdering doctors is them showing restraint I think we might need to buy an island for atheists where we can escape when they really lose it. Now I’m no Christopher Hitchens to say that religion has never done any good, which it has and does, but come on, the list of religions misdeeds would fill up a library.

To sum it up, Russell Kirk seems to have been a teensie bit racist, Bible thumper. Of course that’s not a good reason to dismiss his ideas, but I think his lack of evidence gives us the reason we need. I haven’t read a lot of Kirk, so if anyone does know of any evidence he gives for his atheism=bad equation please email me. Unlike theists, I place importance in data and evidence.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Laura Carder Loses Election

More than enough votes are in now to see that Laura Carder has lost the election for Spokane School District board, position 4. According to the Spokane County elections website there are only 250 uncounted ballots. The final totals for school board position 4 are Rocky Treppiedi 51.88% and Laura Carder 48.12%.

Before anyone goes out drinking though, we need to realize that this is a fairly hollow victory. We may have kept somebody off the board who wanted to brainwash kids with Genesis, but we end up with Treppiedi, who shouldn’t be anyone’s first choice. Our only hope is that he gets impeached and they appoint someone else.

I will admit though, I’m going to miss Carder a little bit. Her crazy rants on her website provided hours of entertainment.

New Dinosaur Discovered

Down in South Africa they’ve discovered a new dinosaur that they think is a transitional species from two legged to four legged dinosaurs.  Here’s the article from the Boston Globe (they have a cool graphic of the dinosaur).

“JOHANNESBURG—A newly discovered dinosaur species that roamed the Earth about 200 million years ago may help explain how the creatures evolved into the largest animals on land, scientists in South Africa said Wednesday.

The Aardonyx celestae was a 23-foot- (7-meter-) long small-headed herbivore with a huge barrel of a chest. It walked on its hind legs but also could drop to all fours, and scientists told reporters that could prove to be a missing evolutionary link.

This is a species "that no one has seen before and one that has a very significant position in the family tree of dinosaurs," said Australian paleontologist Adam Yates.

Yates, who is based at the University of the Witwatersrand's Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research, led the research with a number of other local and international scientists.

Their findings were published Wednesday in the Proceedings of The Royal Society B, a London-based peer-reviewed journal.

The Aardonyx celestae species dates back to the early Jurassic period. Yates said the creature found in South Africa stood nearly 6 feet (about 1.7 meters) high at the hip and weighed about 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms). It was about 10 years old when it died, and its death may have been caused by drought.

The newly discovered species shares many characteristics with the plant-eating herbivores that walked on two legs, Yates said. But the new species also has similar attributes to dinosaurs known as sauropods, or brontosaurs, that grew to massive sizes and went about on all fours with long necks and whip-like tails.

"The discovery of Aardonyx helps to fill a marked gap in our knowledge of sauropod evolution, showing how a primarily two-legged animal could start to acquire the specific features necessary for a life spent on all-fours," said Paul Barrett, a paleontologist at the British Natural History Museum who assisted on the dig that led to the finding but was not directly involved in the research.

Why and how dinosaurs grew into such massive creatures is a question that scientists have been trying to answer for a long time.

Walking on all fours allowed animals to carry more weight, and size was often their only defense against sharp-toothed carnivores, said one of the report's co-authors, Matthew Bonnan of Western Illinois University, by video conference from the United States.

The discovery of the new species was made by postgraduate student Marc Blackbeard, who was excavating two sites in central South Africa about five years ago.

It was a site that had been largely ignored by scientists who felt the bone fragments found there would prove to be a common dinosaur species found across the country. On the first day of excavation, a bone too large to belong to this ordinary species was found.

"We knew we had something new, something very, very exciting," Yates said.

The scattered bones were collected and cleaned of the heavy cement-like rock that clung to them. Scientists then began the slow process of studying the bones and trying to order them.

They were pleased with how much of the skeleton they could reconstruct and especially that a large part of the skull was found.

Bonnan said he also was thrilled to be part of this discovery: "It has been a childhood dream to discover a new dinosaur," he said.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Open Mindedness

Klitaka posted the url for this down in the comments and I thought it was a wonderful video. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ken at Creation Outreach

I was checking out some different Spokane websites and came across this wonder of wonders called Creation Outreach, written by Ken Clark.  Since I’m still waiting for election results (although thankfully it looks like Laura Carder is going to lose) I need something to write about.  So I thought I would occasionally pick apart one of Mr. Clarks arguments when there’s nothing else going on. 

I though I’d start with his article titled “Seven Powerful Evidences Confirming Creation”.   If you check out his article you’ll notice I haven’t written about everything but it’s a long article and my IQ drops by about 5 points for every minute I read, so I have to do it sparingly.

He claims that the first and second laws of thermodynamics prove creation.  He must of been in a rush because he doesn’t even offer a single sentence on how the first law proves creation.  He says this about the second “The Second Law says whenever energy changes forms, though no energy is lost, it becomes more random and less useful. Or put another way, any physical system left to itself tends to move spontaneously toward disorganization. That is, entropy increases. But, evolution requires the opposite of this, a spontaneous decrease in randomness and an escalating complexity of life”.

Now I’m not a chemist or physicist and have spent little time studying these subject.  So I went to the experts at Occidental College in L.A. and found this great article.

“There are millions of compounds that have less energy in them than the elements of which they are composed. That sentence is a quiet bombshell. It means that the second law energetically FAVORS — yes, predicts firmly — the spontaneous formation of complex, geometrically ordered molecules from utterly simple atoms of elements. Popular statements such as "the second law says that all systems fundamentally tend toward disorder and randomness" are wrong when they refer to chemistry, and chemistry precisely deals with the structure and behavior of all types of matter.

To summarize this important conclusion that is known by very few who are not chemists: Energetically, the second law of thermodynamics favors the formation of the majority of all known complex and ordered chemical compounds directly from their simpler elements. Thus, contrary to popular opinion, the second law does not dictate the decrease of ordered structure by its predictions. It only demands a "spreading out" of energy when such ordered compounds are formed spontaneously”.

This ringleader of senselessness then has the gall to say that there is no fossil evidence for evolution.  That’s only true if you’re reading a textbook from the early nineteenth century.  How do you explain the complete lack of human/rabbit/dog/etc. fossils during the time of dinosaurs?  Of course, the only way to explain it is evolution.  Here’s Richard Dawkins with a little evidence:

He then throws in this gem of silliness “IN LESS THAN 10,000 YEARS Almost all dating methods favor a young Earth. Evolution requires billions of years to achieve even a ghost of a chance. And it is only that, a ghost.”   I guess he’s trying to say that the Earth is only 10,000 years old.  I like the fact that earlier he was perfectly happy to throw around science terms and now he spits in its face.  There’s absolutely no proof for a 10,000 year old Earth (which is of course why he provides none).  I don’t know what dating methods he’s speaking of, I imagine he read about them in the bottom of a beer can, because alcohol is needed to believe this.  The fact is that if the Earth was only 10,000 years old, all the continents would be attached and the Grand Canyon wouldn’t exist.

To prove his lunacy he then said the world was created by God because the bible said so!!!!  Why did nobody tell me this, now we have the answer, no more reason for science.  What an idiot.  If you want to believe in the Bible and ignore reason that’s all good, but to try to hold it up as some sort of proof for anything is ridiculous.  I’m curious why out of all the gods and creation myths in the world how does he come to the conclusion that the Bible is the correct one.  Could it be because he was raised to believe?  Which makes it sort of funny when he’s constantly going on about keeping an open-mind.  I’m not sure he knows the definition.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

American Family Association of Spokane Are Nutters

So I stumbled across this nest of crazies while looking over a list of R-71 opponents. Their website is pretty sparse, but they make the most of the crazy in the little they write.

This is what they say in their header:

  • Decency in the media
  • Sanctity of human life
  • Supporting traditional marriage
  • America’s Christian heritage

There are only two issues though where they have elucidated on their positions:

Starting with their “Protect Our Children and Families”, they basically say porn and violent material is bad for children and families. Now, not too many people are going to disagree with that, but some of their points are pretty shaky.

First they say:

“The report from the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography linked exposure to obscene material with sexual deviancy, promiscuity, affiliation with criminal groups and more.”

If they’re speaking of the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography started by President Johnson in 1969 their statement is so false that they’re either liars or stupid. Here are the conclusions drawn by the commission (I can’t find a full copy online that I could link to):

  • That there was "no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior among youths or adults."
  • That "a majority of American adults believe that adults should be allowed to read or see any sexual materials they wish."
  • That "there is no reason to suppose that elimination of governmental prohibitions upon the sexual materials which may be made available to adults would adversely affect the availability to the public of other books, magazines, or films."
  • That there was no "evidence that exposure to explicit sexual materials adversely affects character or moral attitudes regarding sex and sexual conduct."
  • That "Federal, State, and Local legislation prohibiting the sale, exhibition, or distribution of sexual materials to consenting adults should be repealed."

So as you can see the findings of the report are the exact opposite of what The American Family Association of Spokane claims.

Next they say this:

“The US Constitution permits communities to regulate pornographic and indecent material, just as it regulates consumer fraud, conspiracy, libel, slander or falsely shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater.”

Communities may be allowed in public, but the Supreme Court said that states could not regulate materials kept in a private home in the case of Stanley v Georgia.

Here is a list of their facts, I haven’t listed most of them because they don’t provide any references, which makes it hard to refute their facts:

  • 86% of all rapists admit to regular use of pornography, with 75% admitting actual imitation of pornographic scenes in commission of sex crimes.

Now I can’t disprove that their numbers are correct, but I can point out that it’s hard to show a causal link. Let’s say that 80% of rapists have brown eyes, does that mean having brown eyes causes you to rape people?

  • 85% of revenue from pornographic magazines and videos goes into the pockets of organized crime, much of it untaxed.

The only other place I can find this figure is on other religious websites. The main reason I’m skeptical of this (besides that AFA doesn’t provide a reference) is that the government is pretty serious about getting their taxes. It’s hard to imagine that Uncle Sam would allow a multi-billion dollar industry to skirt paying taxes.

  • In a study of 43 pedophiles, the Los Angeles Police Department found adult or child pornography (magazines, photos, or videos) involved in 100% of the cases investigated.

Firstly that’s a very small number of people to try to find statistical significance in. Secondly, I already mentioned above about causal links.

Concerning freedom of public religious expression they say that the first amendment doesn’t specifically state “separation of church and state”, but the supreme court has consistently interpreted it to mean that. Then they just quote a lot of the founding fathers, which I will also do here to prove that quoting people is normally pointless as most people contradict themselves at one point or another throughout life.

Thomas Jefferson - “State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights…Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”

Benjamin Franklin - “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

George Washington - “The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.”

James Madison - “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”

Abraham Lincoln - “It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to infidelity.”

I think that’s enough quotes. As you can see these people are off their rockers. I hope to hear from them about why they quote that study when it so obviously leads to the opposite conclusions that they claim.


It's been over a month since I wrote to the American Family Association of Spokane and have heard nothing back from them. Can't say I'm surprised.

Humanist Billboard Defaced…Again



The billboard that the American Humanist Association put up in Moscow, Idaho was vandalized again.  You can see in the picture above that they painted over the “out”.

There’s no evidence, but I think we can assume that this was done by a religious person.  What a sad belief system you must have if the only way for you to get your point across is to destroy other peoples property.

Check the full story out at KREM.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spokane Diocese Sued…Again

So it looks like the Catholic Diocese has been slammed with another 21 claims.  I’ve never studied law so I have no idea what this will mean for their bankruptcy claim. 

I admit to being very curious why there seems (I say seems because I haven’t seen the raw data) to be such high number of sexual abuse going on in the Catholic church.   I find it especially interesting considering they’re so sexually conservative.   The way a lot of Christians talk about Atheist morals you think this would be going on in our community, not theirs.  Yet it doesn’t.  Interesting. 

It would be nice to see a study done on the subject.  And if anyone knows of one please email it to me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Book Review


I just finished Evolution – What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Don Prothero. Dr. Prothero is a professor of geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He is also a lecturer of geobiology at the California Institute of Technology. Please visit his website if you would like to know more about him.

Here’s what Michael Shermer (founder of the Skeptic Society) had to say about this book:

The claims of the Intelligent Design creationists are brilliantly encapsulated and devastatingly dismantled by the geologist and paleontologist Donald Prothero in the best book ever produced on the subject. I’ve known Don since the early 1990s when I took an active role investigating the claims of the creationists and publicly airing them in numerous forums, including in articles, essays, opinion editorials, books, lectures, and debates. Throughout this odyssey Don has been my co-pilot, directing my efforts, focusing my concentration, checking my facts, and guiding me through the labyrinth of scientific sources, of which he is the master. I am delighted beyond words that Dr. Prothero has taken time away from his primary paleontological research to put down on paper all he knows about this multifarious movement. It’s a thankless job but someone has to do it, and the world is a better place for Don’s efforts. In particular, Prothero’s visual presentation of the fossil and genetic evidence for evolution is so unmistakably powerful that I venture to say that no one could read this book and still deny the reality of evolution. It happened. Deal with it.

Personally, I really enjoyed the book. There are a lot of books out there on evolution but this is the first I have read that deals strictly with what the fossil record tells us. At times it was technical and I had to read a chapter more than once to really comprehend what was being said. Nonetheless, anybody who has ever heard or said “Show me just one transitional fossil”, should read this book.