Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Still Here...

Hey everyone, just wanted to post a quick note.

I was fired from the ol' jobby-poo (for completely assinine reasons) on Jan. 12 and that was my only connection to teh internets. I look forward to maybe jumping headlong into the 1990's by actually purchasing a home computer, but till new employment is found, that idea's in the pisser.

Nah, didn't get married or kidnapped. But I might have to retire from blogging for a little while. But I'll be back strong with a report on Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution VS. Creationism. It should be good; you all know how much I fucking love Creationists...

Basically I've been looking for a job and LABELED finished it's new album that drops on March 4. Keep up the reporting guys!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Wow! I Might Actually be Wrong. This is Exciting!

Got in a comment war on Skeptico with a guy named slavo. (Hey, that rhymes! ... sorta.) It went much like any other, except hiding among the bull[corn], (subtypes: Straw men, red herrings, anecdotes, hubris, you know the drill) were a few shiny pieces of yellow metal which may or may not be gold. It seems some breathing technique called "Buteyko" might actually show some promise for improving the lives of people with asthma. (Though it's apparently still not a cure, despite protestations to the contrary.)

A series of "Of course" statements:

Of course, I may have overlooked some fatal flaw in the linked studies. Those of you with more experience at interpreting medical studies have full permission to employ the Rolled-up Newspaper of Doom on me, at least after you tell me my oversight.

Of course, I'd recommend more research before we accept it as genuine evidence-based medicine. You know what they say: Replication, replication, replication! I'm pretty sure that four studies don't justify a revolution of even the smallest sort. Let's hope they can get more, better, and bigger ones while keeping the positive results.

Of course, I'm not going to give any creedence to the non-arguments slavo made alongside this one apparently good argument. Finding one piece of shiny metal does not a gold miner make.

Of course, I'm not about to condone the use of logical fallacies or propaganda techniques or give up skepticism. I've been wrong before, and I've even been wrong about being wrong before. It comes with the territory since science and skepticism (Fresh from the department of redundancy department) is about sticking with null hypotheses but trying to falsify them.

---The Dog is hogging the blog. But I suppose it's okay, since Ryan's MIA. I hope he's not stuck behind enemy lines.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Enemy Reinforcements Identified as Another Rant of the Same Type

Just felt the need again. It's an old bit of nonsense, but Creationists* are still repeating it, and getting more annoying each time: That evolution is the root of slavery, war, racism, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, even though it seems their deity invented the stuff millennia before Charles Darwin came into the world.

An annoying tangent of this nonsense is the idea that atheists/Biblical non-literalists/evolutionists can't be moral because evolution eliminates the need for deities or messes up the whole Original Sin thing. I continually fail to understand how the leap from "This is my well-developed theory of how the world works" to "I'm going to be a short-sighted sociopath" occurs. Evolution, like all of science, is descriptive: It tells us how the world is. Morality, not to be confused with religion, is about how the world should be: It's proscriptive.

Another annoying canard: That because us evilutionists perceive human beings as being descended from animals, we are animals, and should be treated as such. First off, which animals? If I thought people should be "treated like animals," would that mean I should go around trying to give people tummy rubs and kibble ('n bits 'n bits 'n bits)? Does it mean I should grab them with a Puffs-brand tissue and drop them in the garbage or out the door? Does it mean that I should run in terror, for fear of being gobbled down like those people in Jurassic Park? "Animal" is a very broad term. It's also meaningless to me, since I don't base my morality on trivial taxonomic labels. Lieutenant Commander Data is a machine. If he were to walk into my room right now (after I got over being starstruck), I'd treat him the same way I'd treat a biological human being: He's sapient, sentient, and even though he spends a lot of time denying it, emotional. It doesn't matter if he's powered by the consumption of other organisms, photosynthesis, or a super-compact fusion generator.

I find it kind of ironic that I base my morality on abstract, possibly subjective concepts like sentience, intelligence, and emotion, while something trivial and physical like arbitrary taxonomic grouping is apparently so central to these Creationists' views.

*The literal Biblical kind of Creationist

P.S.: A cookie for whoever can guess the source of the title of this entry. It's probably a little more obscure than most of these sorts of thing, so I might just order you a real cookie.

The Millenium Project Gets a Trim

It seems things didn't go well for Peter Bowditch in his struggle with the Australian Communications Network. The ACN is likely a pyramid scheme, and at one time the judges agreed. I would be peppering this upcoming text with links to stuff other than a bunch of Homestar Runner cartoons, but since Peter was forced to take down his copious amounts of information on them, I'll have to make do with my memory until I can improve my search-fu to find alternate sources or mirror sites. (Thanks go to Skeptico for reminding me about Wayback, though they don't seem to have recent enough version to include ACN's specific complaints.) Some of the activities ACN engaged in:

They dressed up a photo of an office building, removing a logo, hinting that they owned the entire building, while the company actually worked in one small piece of that building. When Peter showed a picture of the building next to an unedited photo, ACN got him to take off the modified photo, claiming that the editing process made it an original and copywrited piece of art, effectively confessing to their dishonesty.

When legal threats about the content of Peter's articles came in, he offered them several opportunities to provide him with corrections for any factual errors, they apparently never responded in a civilized manner (which would mean providing corrections), preferring to stick with their SLAPP in the face.

The legal climate of Australia seemed to benefit ACN (as well as any fraud currently being exposed), since apparently there is no explicit freedom of speech in Australia, and current libel laws seem to carry a presumption of guilt. I'm glad I live in some place vaguely resembling the United States of America they taught us about in school.

If anyone knows of a mirror site that has kept Peter's original articles, or someone else who's been standing up to ACN, please tell me... While you're at it, you might want to mirror this blog entry, just in case. I'll try to update as I get more stuff to refer to.

P.S.: Before anyone accuses either me or Peter of misspelling: His blog isn't about a thousand years. That's why he's an "n" short.

EDIT: Some comments have been deleted, so no, I wasn't debating a figment of my imagination. Hopefully, that anonymous commenter is washing his mouth (typing fingers?) out with soap, and writing up the math behind a viable ACN business model. I'm not against dissent, but I don't like posts that don't contribute in any meaningful way.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Because I Feel Like Spreading A Meme... and Ranting

To the left, you should see Propeller Head Michael Behe, of the Church of the Butt Propeller, currently wearing his ceremonial white robe. For those of you just tuning in, Michael Behe is one of the leading figures in the Intelligent Design movement, known for bringing up the non-issue of "Irreducible Complexity," which he claims cannot evolve. He usually cites the flagellum as an IC structure, making a bad machinery analogies, such as comparing it to Mazda engines.

One of the inherent problems with Intelligent Design is that it's an argument from ignorance or lack of imagination. Just because we may not know how something works, doesn't mean it's magic.

Another favorite bad analogy of Behe's is the mousetrap, considered "Irreducibly Complex" because it won't operate if any part is removed. Though this might seem like a problem for evolution, it really isn't: There are many different ways to make irreducibly complex structures.

Reduction of Function: Build up a new, helpful trait B that complements an existing trait A. Once B is commonplace, A could wind up being diminished until it can't function without B. An improvement becomes a necessity.

Loss of Scaffolding: Build traits up, and then take down the original supporting traits.

Duplication Mutations: Make a copy of an existing trait, and then change one or both into components of an irreducibly complex function.

There are probably plenty more mechanisms I haven't read, remembered, or dreamed up yet.

It's not that difficult to conceptualize. Ryan (Where are you?) was able to "evolve" an irreducibly complex song that way, just as I did with my AC, Longbow. Behe's imagination must be broke. But even if we fixed it, I doubt he'd listen... Yeah, listening is one of the talents ID proponents aren't known for.

Another big problem with Intelligent Design: It doesn't make predictions.

Evolution can take a look at a series of fossils and make educated guesses about what sorts of fossils we can expect to find later. Evolution can make predictions about the outcome of a simulation. Evolution's history also syncs up well with the history of geology, astronomy, and cosmology.

Intelligent Design can't do anything like that, because they have no hypotheses about the designer's abilities or basic nature. Where's the divine toolbox it used to make the flagellum? Without knowing anything about the designer, you can't make predictions about its actions.

If we knew what the (hypothetical) purpose of the universe was, we might also be able to make predictions from that. But, alas, we don't know, and people like me see plenty of reason to doubt the existence of such a purpose.

As nutty as they get, I have more respect (less disrespect?) for astrologers than I do for IDers. Astrologers are usually in the business of making predictions. They're wrong, but at least they can give science something to measure.

A third problem with ID: It's unfalsifiable. Any evidence we gather can be interpreted as supporting ID, and any seeming flaws in the design can be ignored by essentially making the designer say "I meant to do that [for reasons you can't comprehend]!"

A fourth problem with ID: It often involves a false dilemma: Even if evolution fails to explain something, it doesn't mean that ID is the explanation. Even if evolution were outright falsified tomorrow, ID wouldn't become any more credible. A theory has to stand on its own, and ID can't do that.

A fifth problem with ID: It's unproductive. We can't use ID to do anything. We can use evolutionary programs to "design" stuff for us. Evolution also gives us some promising insights into disease, psychology, and other fields. I've never seen ID do that.

Hopefully, that demonstrates all the problems the Church of the Butt Propeller is facing. So, remember, even though ID cloaks itself in a shell of sciency-sounding words and ideas, it's not science, or even logical.

Disclaimer: For the theists who choose remain quiet about their beliefs until they can properly test them, or openly acknowledge their unfalsifiability (and recognize that it's a fault): You're okay by me, and don't deserve to be associated with the ID blowhards. Just keep trying to think of ways to test your belief. Who knows? You might just find something useful or at least interesting while your evil twins are busy (in the Whitehouse) doing nothing (in the lab).

Disclaimer Part Two: Lots of comics I shamelessly direct-linked to are from the Perry Bible Fellowship. (Warning: Many aren't work safe.)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

[Appeal_to_Ridicule] #1.1

Time for a little more [Appeal]. Fore Sam, also known as John Best, apparently a man of a thousand pseudonyms and great notoriety among skeptical bloggers, continues his nonsense on Respectful Insolence. This time, although he swears he's talking about autism, he expresses a great deal of interest in my employment and investment portfolio. Wish I had a financial consultant who was that interested in my money. This fetish grows to the point that he decides to withhold fundamental information about the (alleged) mercury-autism link (specifically how the Hg2+ cation separates itself from the thimerosal molecule, since my quick Google search came up with nothing) unless I satisfy his need to know. One wonders if he'll give me real proof of ghosts if I give him my social security, credit card, and personal identification numbers. Anyway, I've given him a little bite, and he may just give me that particular answer. Time will tell.

Anyway, enough with slightly exaggerating. On to XTREEEEME Xaggeration... I didn't just do that, did I? I'm going to sentence myself to a thousand baps with a rolled-up newspaper.


Fore Sam: There's no time! You have to listen to me because there are lots of children suffering from autism right now! If we don't act now, they'll be condemned to a life of banging their head on the wall.

Bronze Dog: Woah, let's not be too hasty. I know we have to act, but we can't be rash to accept an unproven treatment based on an unproven cause working on a mechanism we don't know.

Fore Sam: That's not important, now! I'll tell you my plan after you answer my question: Do you have any stock in pharmaceutical companies?

Bronze Dog: Huh? What's this got to do with autism?

Fore Sam: I was thinking you might want to sell some of that stock and diversify your portfolio. Can't stay in one industry. You were there for the dot com bubble, weren't you?

Bronze Dog: I'm still not clear on how this relates to autism.

Fore Sam: Have you thought about interest rates, lately? You might also think about taking some equity out on your home or something.

Bronze Dog: Why aren't you talking about autism? I'm not the subject.

Fore Sam: Stonewalling the truth will get you nowhere. Now stop running away from the subject.

Bronze Dog: I don't own any stock.

Fore Sam: Oh.

To be continued . . . ?


So, question I asked the Rockstar groupies last time, but didn't get an answer to: Would this be considered a reducto ad absurdum instead? I'd love it if I had a flimsy pretense to do shrink gun jokes. Back off!

You know, all of this could have been avoided if chelators spent a little of their money on simple, proper double-blind control studies.

[Appeal_to_Ridicule] #1.0
[Appeal_to_Ridicule] #1.1