Monday, February 23, 2015

Big-Time Damage Control at Uncommon Descent

When Islamic terror group ISIS came out against the teaching of evolution the good folks at our favorite creationist blog, Uncommon Descent, started getting very nervous. Why?

Because they did the same thing recently.

Now it's time for damage control. You can practically see the sweat dripping down Denyse "Sneery" O'Leary's face as she struggles to explain why intelligent design creationists have nothing, nothing at all in common with the totalitarian murdererers of ISIS. But her "explanation" consists of nothing but mangled bafflegab.

Since Denyse has a long history of making invidious comparisons, it's a pleasure to see her hoist by her own petard.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Local Measles Talk: Only Anti-Vaxers Welcome!

This is pretty funny. According to some photos posted on twitter, local chiropractor Jeff Winchester posted an announcement of a measles talk to be held on March 3 on the portable sign outside his Waterloo office. It says

Measles Talk
Tues Mar 3
Anti Vaxxers
Only Please

But apparently he got some pushback because the sign later was changed to

Measles Talk
Cancled [sic]

Of course anti-vaxers have to control their audience, because they're afraid of the truth. In this respect, they're very much like creationists.

Hat tip: Terry Polevoy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

They Have to Lie -- It's Not Just Creationists

It's not just creationists who have to lie because the evidence is so much against them; it's also a wide swath of the Christian Right. Not only do they lie, they lie shamelessly.

Here's an example: here we have "journalist and author" Robert Knight at 1:41 of the excerpt from the anti-gay documentary "Light Wins" claiming, about allowing gays to join the Boy Scouts, that

"It won't just change them, it'll destroy them. It's destroyed the Boy Scouts in Canada. They're down from maybe half a million boys to 70,000 after ten years of this. 'Cause what parent in their right mind would say, `Yeah, go camping with a homosexual leader...'"

This is all complete and utter nonsense, of course. There have never ever been "half a million boys" in the Boy Scouts in Canada. The largest enrollment was 50 years ago, in 1965, when there were 288,000 boys enrolled. Since then, enrollment has dropped steeply to about 67,000. The decline in membership has been fairly constant since 1965, and there is no evidence that allowing gay scouts or scoutmasters has anything to do with it at all. Membership decline was already a concern in 2002, before the "ten years of this" that Knight claims, and is almost certainly due to a wide variety of factors, including increased urbanization.

They have to lie, because they have nothing else.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

High Quality Journalism Continues at Creationist Blog

You remember Thomas Nagel, the aging overrated philosopher who published a silly anti-evolution book in 2012 that was widely panned. Unhinged defenders of Nagel then resorted to overheated rhetoric, likening Nagel's critics to "punks, bullies, and hangers-on of the philosophical underworld" and a "lynch mob" and a "mass attack of killer hyenas".

That was a while ago.

In keeping with the persecution fantasy so common to creationists (they criticized us! They're exactly like Nazis!), the World's Worst Journalist™ -- aka Denyse O'Leary -- is apparently under the delusion that scientists want Nagel to "recant". (Not true, Denyse, those few scientists who know who he is mostly just laughed.) But -- she informs us proudly -- this has not happened! And she cites as evidence an article that Nagel published in 2008, four years before his book appeared.

I've read the article in question ("Public Education and Intelligent Design"), and I read it when it came out 7 years ago. It's not very good. Nagel has a lot of misunderstandings about Kitzmiller v. Dover, about the intelligent design movement, about evolutionary biology, and about the nature of science in general, and these are all abundantly on display in his work. As usual for Nagel, he appeals to "common sense" and pretends this is an argument.

Denyse O'Leary also mutters darkly about how expensive it is to get a copy of Nagel's article. She writes, It’s hard to believe someone has the guts to say this stuff in a world of well-funded Darwin rubbish – but note how much one must pay to see a rebuttal – whereas we must all fund the rubbish through tax dollars at schools. Our moral and intellectual superiors have so ruled.

Poor Denyse seems to have no understanding about how academic publishing works. Publishers like Wiley often charge for copies of academic articles; it's how they make money. She also seems to have no understanding that one can easily get a copy of an article like this through interlibrary loan -- usually for free. She also seems to have no understanding that it is routine to write to the author of the article and ask for a copy. Authors are usually glad to provide this service.

But, you know, all that would be actual work, the stuff that real journalists do. Too hard for Denyse, I guess.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Expelled" and "Religulous"

I had a bit of free time, so I watched the "documentaries" Expelled and Religulous. They're both terrible, but one is terribler than the other.

I'm not sure there's much I can say about Expelled that hasn't already been said: the phony posturing of pimply Ben Stein pretending to be on a quest for truth, the truly awful soundtrack, the use of stock photos of Nazis and Communists, the absurdity of suggesting that evolutionary biology is like both Fascist Germany and Communist Russia, the elevation of Richard von Sternberg as a creationist faux martyr, and so forth. Still, there were some classic moments:

  • Schlubby Michael Egnor complaining about the "viciousness" of criticism he received. Really? Is that the same Michael Egnor who called a teenage girl who wanted to defend the separation of church and state a "pubescent brownshirt" ? Still, the NCSE got in the best line already, observing drily that "Michael Egnor had apparently never been on the Internet before."
  • The reptilian David Berlinski calling Richard Dawkins a "reptile". Isn't that a bit like a skunk complaining about how badly someone else stinks?
  • Pamela Winnick complaining that her lousy work was "scrutinized". Oh, the horror! What's next, crucifixion?
  • Creepy Maciej Giertych (who, ironically, has been accused of publishing an anti-semitic brochure) getting all mystified about the source of "information" in DNA, when the answer is staring him in the face (it's mutation and recombination, duh)
Then it was on to Religulous. It wasn't that much better, frankly. Anti-vaccine loon Bill Maher is occasionally funny, but not as funny as he thinks he is. And then he goes and cites, in support of the Founding Fathers being anti-religious, a famous quote of John Adams:

"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it."

What Maher didn't provide was the context. Here it is:

"Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion at all!!!” But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell."

Completely changes the meaning of the quote, doesn't it? This kind of intellectual dishonesty makes Maher as bad as the producers of Expelled.

So, no, I don't recommend either of those films.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Denyse O'Leary Cites Wackaloon Website to Make Her Point

Just when you thought the ID creationist website, Uncommon Descent, could not stoop any lower than it already has, you get surprised.

In a recent comment, Denyse "Sneery" O'Leary, the World's Worst Reporter™, implies that "Sweden pass[ed] a law to last year criminalize any criticism of immigration and politicians". (Ignore, for the moment, O'Leary's mangled syntax, which is one of the distinguishing features of her alleged journalistic talents.) Of course, Sweden didn't do any such thing.

The really special thing about O'Leary's comment is the link she added to support her implication. Here it is.

Yes, that's right, O'Leary cites the delightful "European Daily News", a website whose other headlines today read as follows:

  • "New anti European propaganda film by Jew Steven Spielberg and African Oprah Winfrey"
  • "New Zealand’s Jewish prime minister’s campaign billboard defaced"
  • "Jew Claims `Ebola-like plague of anti-Semitism sweeping the West'"
  • "The Jewish Talmud and what it says about non Jews"
Lovely company, Denyse.

Now I don't believe Denyse O'Leary is an anti-semite. But this kind of shoddy journalism is typical of her reportage. Who else thinks she made no effort at all to check whether her source is reliable, or just another wackaloon site filled with barely literate fulminations about Jews and blacks?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Must Be a Different Definition of "News"

Denyse O'Leary, the World's Worst Reporter™, posts a ten-year-old article from The Guardian and labels it "news".

Well, it might be news to anyone who wasn't paying attention.

Victoria Park Frost

Here's Victoria Park, in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, this morning. The temperature was -16 C. In the night an ice fog moved in and coated everything in extremely fine, hairlike ice crystals.

The World's Not "Broken"

Ah, Uncommon Descent -- the flagship blog of the intelligent design movement. You know, the one where they talk about all the science done by ID creationists?

But there's precious little science done by ID creationists, so what to do to fill the space? Ranting about materialism, global warming, a few sneers by Denyse O'Leary (the World's Worst reporter™) about things she doesn't understand, and a bit of good ol' fashioned evangelism -- that's what.

In their latest, lawyer and CPA Barry Arrington proclaims that "In fact, the whole world and everyone in it is broken. We recognize that there is the way things are and there is the way things should be and the two are not the same."

What does "broken" mean here? It has many different meanings. It can mean "no longer in one piece". If a rock has been cleaved in two by a meteorite strike, we might say "this rock was broken by the impact". But I don't think that's the sense Barry has in mind.

It can also mean "no longer in working order". I'm guessing that's the sense Barry has in mind. But I reject the metaphor. If the claim is that the "whole world" is broken, how universal is it? What would it mean to point to an cloud, for example, and say it is "broken"? Most of the clouds I see are doing just fine.

How about when you apply it to people? Well, I'm certainly broken in this sense: I have asthma and other health problems. But how about a healthy newborn baby? In what sense is he/she "no longer in working order"? It seems that in this sense, Barry's claim is wrong.

Barry goes on to say that what he means by "broken" is that "there is the way things are and there is the way things should be and the two are not the same". Well, that's not the usually-understood sense of the word. After all, I think people shouldn't lie about science and scientists the way the Discovery Institute routinely does. But I wouldn't say that the world or Seattle or even Discovery is "broken" because I find their behavior reprehensible.

Barry's not content to insist on "broken" as a good description. He also insists that there is "universal awareness of our own brokenness in particular and the world’s brokenness in general". Not so. I reject the metaphor entirely.

But let me be more charitable than I usually am. Let's say Barry is really talking about moral or ethical rules and how we know them and why we follow them. He seems to think there is a universal and unchanging moral code. I don't. And neither do most Christians, because their god also once prohibited wearing clothes made of two different fabrics, and eating pork, and eating oysters -- all things that most Christians either don't follow or think no longer apply.

Barry also seems to think our knowledge of moral rules represents some insuperable difficulty for materialists. But, of course, it doesn't. There are good popular books (such as The Moral Animal) and more technical books (such as Darwinism and Human Affairs) that explain why. Barry, I suppose, could read them, but like most creationists, simply prefers to bluster.

Anyway, I don't need to say much more, since a commenter called "Learned Hand" is dissecting Barry's stupidities in more detail and more eloquently than I can. And in making Barry and self-satisfied, puffed-up commenters such as "StephenB" appear so foolish -- how long before he/she is banned?