February 2005 Archives

Political Compass

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I recently decided to look at where I stand politically, using the Political Compass. I’m not surprised by the results. I was scored as being economically left by 3.13 and socially libertarian by 5.18. I say that makes me a moderately left libertarian. I guess it’s because I tend to be libertarian, but I strongly support public education and am not a tax-protestor.

I’m curious where people on my blog roll score. (Hint. Hint.)

Outage

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I’m sorry about the server being down most of the day. I’ve been playing with the Freebsd firewall.

PZ has already commented on one piece of biological lunacy from Power Line and got nasty phone calls because of it.

I want to add one small comment to the lunacy of Power Line.

The great fault line in our society is not economic. It is cultural, and specifically, religious. What motivates liberals to launch their increasingly wild and intemperate assaults on conservatives is, in most cases, their fear and hatred of the “religious right. … .

Unfortunately for the left, religious people in this country, as in Latin America, Africa and Asia–everywhere but western Europe–aren’t going away. And to a degree that frustrates and confounds the left, they frequently aren’t stupid.

The irony of this is that Power Line was complaining about Michael Dini, a the Texas Tech professor who not only was raised a devout Roman Catholic and educated almost entirely at Roman Catholic schools, but also spent fourteen years as a Brother of the Christian Schools (a religious teaching order in the Roman Catholic Church).

Someone, who spent a good portion of his professional career as a Catholic Brother teaching in Catholic schools, is a silly and ignorant example of “the left” not liking “religious people.”

Redistricting

Well Republicans are continuing their campaign against tradition. In Georgia, the Republicans, who are in power for the first time since reconstruction, have begun a process of redrawing the states 13 congressional districts. Unlike in Texas, Georgia’s districts were drawn by the legislature and have passed a court challenge.

The districts are horribly drawn, but that is not the point.

Georgia Republicans are spitting at tradition by redistricting between censuses. This sets a bad precedence for redistricting whenever the political power changes in Atlanta. If the Democrats manage to regain power in two or four years from now then they will have every right to redraw the districts again to their liking. Heck if the Republicans go down this road, nothing is to prevent the legislature from redrawing districts every two years to accommodate the wishes of new legislators.

The Republican claim to be taking the politics out of drawing Georgia’s congressional districts, but redistricting between censuses will introduces more politics into the procedure than the Democrats ever did.

The maps proposed by the Republicans sound wonderful. I live in the smallest county in the state, yet the GA House still managed to propose to split it into two separate congressional districts. The GA Senate keeps the county intact, but places it on the edge of a district stretching from Tennessee and South Carolina. The problem that my county has with the current map is that we do not have a congressional district centered on us even though we are the fifth largest urban area in the state. Neither of these maps solves our problem.

The Joys of Marriage

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I feel the need to quote a passage from my wife’s blog.

I felt so smart! Of course, this is probably the only bird on the planet that I know that much about—but I don’t care! My inner know-it-all was so pleased. Gosh, don’t you wish that there were people all day long who just wanted to listen to what you knew? I’m really good at telling people random bits of information—unfortunately, I run into two problems. One, no one cares about the random bits of information. Two, some people, whose name we shall not mention, but whose intials are RA, already know what you are talking about—and heres the kicker—if not MORE about the subject. Arrrgg. There are actually mini-celebrations when I can tell RA about something he hasn’t heard of before that he’s interested in.

Hehe.

PropaGannon

I ran into something today that I had not been aware of.

Apparently an individual, “Jeff Gannon,” using a fake name and working for a fake new agency was able to obtain daily press passes from the White House for over a year. This might not be that bad except that he was also known for giving softball questions to the White House spokespeople when the other reporters had backed them into the corner. On top of that he has ties the Texas GOP.

This fake reporter was even able to obtain classified documents revealing that the wife of a critic of the President was a deep-cover CIA agent. This fake reporter also appears to have boasted about involvement in the revelations about CBS’s story on the President’s service in the National Guard. And ensuring that this is totally messed up, the fake reporter even has ties to gay military “escort” websites.

Given recent revelations that the Bush administration paid conservative reporters to promote their policies, it is probably not unwarranted to conclude that someone in the administration planted “Jeff Gannon” in the White House press corps to help spread the administration’s propaganda.

This also brings up the old issue of whether the CBS story on Dubya’s guard service and its subsequent refutation were organized by the White House to discredit already well founded accusations against the President. Although the memos used by CBS were faked, a secretary connected with Dubya’s Air National Guard service confirmed that the memos represented actual documents that existed at one point. It is possible that the forgeries were based on originals or knowledge of originals. On top of this the first exposure of CBS’s story came only hours after the story first aired and relied on technical typographical arguments. However, the person making the exposure was not a typographical expert, but was highly connected to the GOP. Based on these things, some have wondered if the White House faked the memos by retyping originals and then set out to expose their own fakes. It’s an interesting thought, but one that will probably never have any meat behind it.

If a fake reporter, who has now been exposed as a White House plant, was connected with the exposure of the CBS memos, should we reconsider the possibility that the administration had some role in the memo controversy?

Koufax Award

The Panda’s Thumb, a group blog I help administer, is a finalist for the Koufax Award for Best Group blog.

If you are a fan of evolution, leave a comment and vote for Panda’s Thumb.

Google Monkey

This is an interesting idea, auction off naming rights for a new species.

Ordinarily, the person who discovers a species has the right to name it, and species have often been named for people who supported research or financed an expedition. In this case, Dr. Wallace said in a telephone interview from Bolivia, the discoverers decided to seek a benefactor after the fact, in an online auction that would both raise interest in Madidi park and funds to help manage it.

I like “Google Monkey.”

I’m Free

This week was my week to have jury duty. Of course it comes at the busiest time of the year, when I have to apply for financial aid from the department, apply for a grant, do student recruitment, finish a paper, etc.

On Monday, I was a potential juror for a civil case. The events that led to the case made a lot of headlines a few years ago. Essentially a mobile home park was sold to a developer for building apartments for students. The trailers were sold to the residents; however, city ordinances prevented the trailers from being moved. (They were too old.) The residents got screwed to some degree (how severe depended on whom you asked). The question before the court was whether the (former?) owners of the park were liable for any monetary damage the residents may have received.

The case is locally important because it is at the center of a debate over the developing of our town. On one side are developers like my father, and on the other are Greens like a few professors and community activists I know. Between my family connection, my prior knowledge of the case, and my wife being in law school, I tried my best to give them reasons why I shouldn’t be selected to the jury. I even said that I studied evolution, in case there were any creationist lawyers. Whatever I said worked, and I was passed over for serving on the jury. That was Monday.

On Tuesday, we were excused from duty. On Wednesday we were supposed to report to court at 9:00AM. However, at 8:00AM I got a call telling me to report to court at 1:00PM. Another jury was being selected for a case involving a young African American man, who was charged with obstruction and battery. From the questions being asked, the defense was going to argue that the officers made a mistake and confused a bystander with someone involved in the fight. They also appeared to be planning to argue that the officers used derogatory language. Four letter words were going to be a major part of the case. Sounded like a he-said, he-said case. I apparently answered the questions correctly and wasn’t selected again today. No more court cases this week so I am free.

I got to talk with a few other jurors. One was a grad student in psychology who is interested in evolutionary psychology, to the disagreement of his department. He had a lot of questions to ask of me, specifically about the evolutionary biology resources on campus and my research. Another juror, who used to be an editor with the local paper, asked me if I used to write letters. I responded that I had one in the paper over the weekend. She said that the letters that they get a steady stream of letters against evolution and for a Christian America, and would only publish them where there were relevant to something in the news. She wondered if such people could ever write something different or original. She thanked me for my letters, which she said were well written.

Over all it was an interesting time, I made $50, and can count on not having jury duty for the next six months. In fact I got to catch up with my college roommate (nephew of one judge) and a girl I dated in high school (daughter of the other).

Breast Cancer 3 Day

My wife, Tiffany, is planning on doing a 3 day, 60 mile walk to raise money for breast cancer research research, education, screening, and treatment.

She needs to raise $2,100 to participate. If you would like to help her with her goal, you can visit this website.

A few days ago a creationist wrote a letter to the local paper about Piltdown Man.

Piltdown hoax means others are possible

It’s fondly to be hoped that proponents of creationism are aware of the Piltdown Man hoax of 1912.

The leading paleontologist at the British Museum accepted an adulterated human skeleton, with a simian jaw filed down to fit a human skull, in order to produce a missing link in the evolutionary development of modern man.

In addition, there were political implications to proving that Britain had older ancestors than, say, Germany or France.

I don’t have access to high school textbooks from 1912-1953, but I can imagine Piltdown Man, which overly eager scientists of the period tried to use as a “proof” of the much vaunted “theory of evolution,” was included in them.

Having warning labels about the provisional nature of evolutionary research in students’ textbooks, as happened in Cobb County, wasn’t such a bad idea, after all.

Who knows what hoax purportedly objective workers in the field will pop up with next?

Then, more sections of high school textbooks will have to be revised in the desperate effort to disprove creation by design or by a higher being.

Gerald Gene Granroth

My response was published today.

Piltdown Man hoax had little impact

Gerald Gene Granroth’s Feb. 2 letter on Piltdown Man needs correction, because anti-evolutionists have a habit of distorting the history surrounding the faked remains.

There is no evidence anyone faked the remains to create evidence for our relationship with other primates. The remains were more than likely created for press and profit. Piltdown Man was only popular in Britain and hardly noticed by biology elsewhere.

Piltdown Man had very little effect on American textbooks because it was never popular with American biology. Besides, evolution was not really taught to American schoolchildren. It still isn’t in many areas of our country, although tougher standards for education are slowly changing that.

Piltdown Man was not exposed as a hoax by creationists, but by evolutionists who determined it did not fit with the rest of the hominid fossil record and tested its authenticity using techniques developed after World War II. Evolution became stronger, not weaker, after the hoax was exposed.

Creationism is rife with hoaxed fossils. The difference is it takes evolutionists to correct them, and yet creationists continue to use them. Examples include the Paluxy footprints, the Calaveras skull, Moab Man and Malachite Man.

Unlike creationism, evolution does not need to fake evidence to find support. Evolution is the grand unifying concept of biology, explaining the nature of nature, and is supported by centuries of biological research. Its utility and power can be found in all fields of science dealing with biology and then some. There is nothing provisional about the foundation of modern biology that deserves a textbook disclaimer.

Reed A. Cartwright

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