Wednesday, November 25, 2009

They Never Give Up

Just for fun, pharyngula poll crashes Educate Truth. That was the group I wrote about earlier regarding the biology department at La Sierra University teaching evolution.

Fear of the Beast

Despite their claims to have the 'truth', confidence of salvation and hope in the soon return of Jesus, Adventists are still terrified of the Catholic Church and end time events. This is of course a puzzling contradiction. Are you looking forward to the end of the earth or not? I don't really expect it to make sense, nor do I feel like dwelling on it. I was forwarded an email with the latest chapter that is fueling the conspiracy fears. Of course President Obama is involved.

Apparently when President Obama met with the Pope at the time of the G-8 summit he mentioned his latest encyclical which is was summarized by Hope TV as follows:

1. A Global Government. The pope is calling for a "true world political authority" to fix the problems that plague the world. (page 67)

2. Church and State. The pope says this new political authority will make its decisions based on spiritual values. (Chapter 5)

3. The Papacy at the Head. These spiritual values cannot be derived from just any religion, since not "all religions are equal." (p 55)

4. Religion, Politics and the Economy. The church must influence all areas of society since God must have "a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions." (56)

5. Power to Enforce Law. This "political authority" must have real teeth" and "be vested with the effective power" to enforce its laws around the world. (67)

6. Control Buying and Selling. The new world governing power will institute socialistic policies for government to redistribute wealth. (chapter 3)

7. Resurgence of Labor Unions. Labor Unions are to be empowered to "play a decisive role" in the new world order. (23)

8. The Church's Goal. Pope Benedict says that this encyclical is to help achieve "The goal of the history of the human family" - to build "the universal city of God ." (7)

9. Redefining Religious Liberty. While claiming not "to interfere in any way in the politics of States," the pope redefined "liberty" as happening when the world obeys laws shaped by the Roman Church's spiritual values. According to the pope, as the church influences states to enforce its view of "truth" on others, people are set "free." "This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce." (9)

10. Immortal Souls. The non-biblical belief that man has an immortal soul helps to insure the pope's global agenda. "Man is ... God's creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul." (29)
Better start stockpiling your food and guns now. This is clearly a more dire warning of the end times than all the previous 'sure' signs /end snark/.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SDA Creationism: The Origin of Young Earth Creationism in the USA.

Last weekend there was a big Evolutionary Biology conference at the University of Chicago. Among the speakers was Ron Numbers a former Seventh-Day Adventist. (Summary of his talk on Pharyngula) He mentioned something I had not known before. According to the talk the old earth creationism ideas of day/age and gap theory were the standard positions in the United States outside of Adventism until the 1960's. At the time there was a book written called The Genesis Flood which borrowed the SDA idea developed by Ellen White follower George MacReady Price - the Noah's flood was responsible for the entire geologic column. Since most of Christianity regarded Adventism as a cult, the SDA notion of a young earth wasn't widely accepted until introduced to mainstream Christianity by the non-Adventist who wrote The Genesis Flood.

Maybe this is common knowledge and I wasn't aware due to the fact that I was on the inside of the Adventist system. I just had know idea that the SDA church was the lone reservoir of special pseudo-science for so long.

On a related note there was a special Creation Sabbath sermon here on October, 24. I didn't get to stay and listen, but I was hoping the audio would get posted. Looks like maybe I'll never get to see what I missed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yes on R-71

Awhile back there was a law passed in Washington State (SB 5688) that would give same-sex partners the same basic civil rights as other married people just not the name 'marriage'. There was really scandalous and disturbing stuff in this law. Things like inheritance rights and visitation rights {eyes rolling}. Obviously it was met with heated opposition by bigots terrified by the fading power of their patriarchy. The law was supposed to have gone into effect in July 2009, but the haters managed to get enough signature - due in part to dubious tactics - to put it back on the ballot for the November election.

My voters guide came in the mail last week. I read the arguments for and against R-71. I found it interesting tough not surprising that the only organizations listed as being in opposition are religious.

I'm mailing my ballot today marked Yes on R-71.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Atheism is Complete

So, for a shot time this weekend I thought there was a chance I had a serious medical condition. I had some indeterminate symptoms that could have indicated something serious or been nothing much at all. Fortunately, it appears to be nothing, but for a few minutes I found myself contemplating my mortality in ways more seriously than I've done before. I've done the normal mortality facing that happens when you are 30 years old. And the things you think about when you have kids, but this was a little more personal.

I was pleased to notice that not once did I fear for my soul. I wasn't afraid that maybe I was wrong and I'd end up in hell after all. I didn't worry that maybe I should try to get right with Jesus just in case. I didn't even feel the need to meditate and align my chakras. I didn't waste any calories thinking about any make believe magic stuff. I did think about my family and my hope and dream and goals in life. These are things that I consider important and useful. In fact the only time anything religious came to mind was when Lori told me that I'd better be okay because she didn't want to deal with all the people that would tell her "that is terrible . . . it's so sad he turned away from the Lord".

If anyone is curious, I was having lots of muscle pain and trouble using my hands. The closest it got to a serious condition was when I couldn't get my pants off to go to the bathroom. Had a blood test and the diagnosis was Rhabdomyolysis. I must have exerted myself too much at the gym this week. The other thing I'm proud of here - besides my lack of religious guilt - was my ability to combine my major themes of atheism and body building into one post.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SDA Creationism gets Wider Notice

I've always believed that I got a quality science education at Walla Walla College, an Seventh-Day Adventist school. That is because I was fortunate to have some excellent professors that honestly thought science. Recently principled faculty members at some other SDA schools have been getting heat from the fundamentalist from their honesty. I stumbled across one of these crackpots awhile back.

Now, this little internal doctrinal squabble is getting some wider exposure. Since this whole thing was thoroughly covered on Pharyngula, I don't need to say more. I'm off to find that fresh topic I hope to write about someday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Belief #6: Reality is Fatal to Fundamental Adventist Beliefs

I feel like I've been stuck on one topic for awhile. I'm not exactly sure why that is. It might be just because I have less time to write on things that are only sort of interesting to me. That the Seventh-Day Adventist church has chosen to highlight creationism this year has definitely provided plenty of material. In the future I'll try to diversify, but this is just too easy.

This month's topic in The Adventist World's series on fundamental beliefs is belief number six - creation. The official position is stated as:
6. Creation:
God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the
authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made
"the heaven and the earth" and all living things upon the earth, and
rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the
Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The
first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work
of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with
responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was ``very
good,'' declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1; 2; Ex. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6;
33:6, 9; 104; Heb. 11:3.)

Which leaves a slight bit wiggle room, to adapt to scientific reality. You know, the moderate Christian position of symbolic time periods with a special 'ensoulment' of humans at some point in the recent past. However, fundamental Adventism cannot accept a moderate interpretation -
even of this easily falsifiable claim. The reason is probably clear to almost everyone, but for some reason only came into sharp focus for me after reading this article. It is this: young earth creationism is like a keystone. If it slips, it starts a cascade of failing fundamental beliefs and dearly held doctrines.
"Special creation preserves the integrity of Scripture, safeguards the loving, praiseworthy character of God, establishes the reality of the atonement and redemption, and the soundness of the seventh-day Sabbath. These reasons, and more, show why a special creation worldview matters so deeply to the Adventist message and mission."

Most important is the seventh day Sabbath, which is the nearly the entire identity of Seventh-Day Adventism. The other beliefs specifically mentioned in the article that are threatened by reality are "authority and inspiration of Scripture", "the biblical teaching of the
loving character of the Creator" and the "literal fall" of man.

This last is significant because absent a literal fall and a historical Adam who transfers sin to humanity, we no longer require atonement and redemption. No need to for Jesus to die, no need for Christianity. Clearly no religion is going to acknowledge and embrace its own obsolescence.

Although creationism is demonstrably false, I'm sort of in favor of the SDA position of holding firm. It seems to be fairly benign in practice. I don't think my science education was irreparably damaged. But, it serves to underline the ridiculousness of the religion and hopefully decrease its influence and relevance in the culture. As PZ Myers eloquently put it.

"When fundamentalists tie their faith absolutely to a claim that is easily refuted, that contradicts the evidence, and that requires them to constantly escalate their denial and delusions in order to sustain their belief, it makes it really easy for atheists to demolish their religion. We don't even need to attack religion in the classroom at all - we just calmly lay out the facts, let the students work out the conclusions, and's epiphany time! They realize their pastor lied to them, or was just really ignorant, and suddenly their respect for Christian authority begins to crumble away. It's not the atheist's fault, though. The lesson should be, "Don't lie to your kids,"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Even More SDA Creationism

I was poking around the internet to see if I could find some info on the new pastor here when I came an interesting group working hard to destroy good biology instruction in Adventist Schools. I always thought I got pretty good education in the SDA system, in every area but biology. Hopefully their little petition (which the new pastor here signed) doesn't get much attention.

Not that the general conference needs any help focusing on creationism. Two articles in the latest Adventist World are devoted to focusing on literal biblical creationism. In addition to the links I posted earlier. This one is especially disturbing. It encourages parents to confront teachers and report them to the administration if they disagree with the things they teach. This could be ugly.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Oooo Fairies

I'm surprised I'd never heard of this before, but I guess I'd essentially moved out of the area before this got started. I had no idea that Twisp, WA was where "veil between dimensions is said to be thinnest". Though I guess I do remember that the area was popular with the hippies.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

SDAs: Creationism emphasized

It was my intent to post some links while they were relatively new, but I guess I've been too busy. Now I'm still to busy to write anything to go with them.

Nothing surprising just the usual anti-scientific creationist stuff of the literalist six day variety. This is of course the official position of the SDA church. It just seems like we'd be getting to the point where it would be considered wise to sort of stick that sort of thing in the back corner rather than emphasize it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

An Exersice in Frustration

Over the last month we've had a lot of family visiting to help with the new baby. It has been really nice to have so much help, and now that we are on our own again we are doing are best to keep up with everything. When the family finally did leave they 'forgot' and left a book behind even though we kept reminding them not to forget it.

Any way I'm trying to be fair and so I've been reading Science Discovers God by Ariel Roth in some of my free time. First off, the book has been very predictable. All the usual subjects: Issac Newton was a brilliant scientist and a christian, living things are very complicated, some bad statistics, a few Albert Einstein quote mines and a really horrible understanding of evolution. Really nothing new. I can't decided if I'm going to feel sorry for the author or angry at him. This is a new book (2008) but he is still beating the 'irreducible complexity' of cellular flagella and the eye into the ground. Now Darwin's Black Box came out in 1995, and maybe some of these things could have been taken seriously at the time. But in the last 15 years the whole idea has been thoroughly debunked. That is in addition to the inexplicably bad explanations of how evolution is supposed to work. So, either Dr. Roth is decidedly ignorant and out of date or he is lying to influence those who don't know any better or would rather ignore what they do know. I'm leaning towards the latter explanation. Dr. Roth earned a Ph.D in Zoology. Even if it was over 50 years ago, I'm sure he had to demonstrate an understanding that surpass my slight self-directed learning. Based on that I'm convinced he is a lying scumbag. I'm also sure he is thoroughly deluded, but I do not think that excuses his deceit. Still nothing surprising here.

What is a little more interesting is the motivation for 'forgetting' the book here in the first place. I think I understand very well why it was left, and I can't blame those responsible for trying to do what they think is right. However, I also know that those that left us the book have not read it. Said it was 'over their heads' etc. So, since they aren't really sure what they are trying to convince me of and aren't interested in discussing, how do they think this is going to lead me where they want me to go?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Home on the Web

This is a quick post that follows from a discussion Lori and I had this morning. Yes, Brewster does have a Wikipedia entry.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Expelled Rant

It feels a little self indulgent to whine and complain in public, but I don't think I'm the first person with a blog to vent. So here I am crying, "OMG someone wasn't nice to me on the internet."

I'm facebook friends with some people I went to school with, but who I don't know that well. For some reason this last week I got several status updates and associated comments appreciating the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The timing is kind of strange since the theatrical release was over a year ago and the DVD was released last October. In the interest of full disclosure I admit I haven't seen the movie and I'm not sure I will. I do feel like I have a pretty good idea of the content from reading many blogs and reviews, including opinions from several of the people interviewed for the movie and from reputable mainstream sources like Scientific American, Roger Ebert and the New York Times. I'm also aware of some of the entertaining events that occurred at a screening. Anyway, back to the story . . . As I normally do when encounter some Expelled love, I posted a link to Expelled Exposed. Nothing more. A person that I don't know but somehow connected in the facebook universe replies with:
Seriously. Every thinking person should watch this film. Here is a pretty good collection of rebuttals to Expelled Exposed:

While it really wasn't anything to get excited about, I resent the baseless assertion that I am not a thinking person. I may not be a thinking person, but that is not evidence by the fact that I don't agree with this stranger's appreciation for dishonest and inflammatory film making. I did not reply, but I did go to the link provided to see the 'refutation' of Expelled Exposed. What do I find? Casey Luskin. Oh well, at least now I know which of the two of us debaters has bothered
to learn a little something about science.

End of rant. Hopefully both my readers will help my fragile ego and tell me I'm really not an unthinking Darwin worshiping Nazi so I can regain my confidence and carry on the good fight for good science.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

TAM 7: Getting Closer

I'm getting really excited for TAM 7. The JREF has advertisements on several podcasts I listen too, Penn did a Penn Says about it and I just got a flier in the mail. I've got my registration completed and my airline tickets booked. I just need to order a few books to get signed and I'll be all set.

I'm having a hard time figuring out what I enjoy the most about TAM. It is really fun to be around so many people who are rational thinking and pro-science. It is such a positive atmosphere. I know a lot of people who aren't aware of the skeptical movement view skepticism as a negative world view. They think all it is, is people sitting around saying 'moon landing hoaxers are morons, 9/11 truthers are idiots, etc.' Skeptics to generally hold those positions, but it is a secondary result of a skeptical outlook. In general skepticism is focused on understanding how the world works based on evidence and the scientific method. This is a positive stance that encourages learning all sorts of exciting things and is free from superstition and irrational guilt and fear.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Some SDA Anti-Science

2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species". The occasion is being marked by a year long celebration of science and reason around the world. It is also being used as an opportunity for promoting creationism.

Apparently the SDA church is planning a Sabbath for special emphasis on creation in October. Not much detail at this point, but it looks like they will be consciously avoiding uncomfortable details like facts and evidence.
"This isn't to enter into a debate on evolution versus creation, but to emphasize God as our creator"
I'll have to see if the local church gets involved with this. It might be worth checking out. I'm probably to timid to actually say anything though, but somebody should. In promoting their anti-scientific agenda they distort reality to an astonishing degree. "
The major influence of Darwin's work was to separate God from the world"
Spoken like someone who has little concept of evolution. I think that Darwin's work has had a major influence on modern medicine and agriculture, but it seems that those things are not significant.

In another example (scroll down) we see Adventist again misunderstanding or misrepresenting evolution.
"Evolutionism is not a physical science where you ... observe data and you come up with a hypothesis to explain what you have observed."
There is an extensive list of examples to
contradict this statement. Tiktaalik is just one. There are probably better ones I'm not aware of as a non-biologist. Just another instance of people changing definitions around fit their beliefs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Surprise, More Religious Hate

There was a plane crash over the weekend in Montana. A tragedy where 14 people died. A number of them were Seventh-Day Adventist, which brings the events somewhat close to home for me, but isn't really motivation to blog about it. What is somewhat interesting is the ridiculous about of religious hate and self-superiority that has come in the aftermath. Some smug, self-righteous, sad excuse for a human in Hanford, CA (also a location that hits close to home) is reveling is the horrible loss suffered by one family in particular. Irving M. "Bud" Feldkamp III an Adventist Dentist and businessman lost 7 children and grandchildren in the crash. The trigger for the hatred was that Dr. Feldkamp may be the owner of a chain of abortion clinics. His ownership is alleged by those rejoicing in his misfortune, but I couldn't confirm his exact involvement by what I considered to be a reputable source.

This is one flavor of Christianity raging against another somewhat different flavor. Add this episode to your file, for when someone makes claims for religion's benefit to society.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TAM 6 Review: Dr. Novella - Dualism and Creationism

I've been meaning to do some TAM 6 blogs basically since last summer, and just never got inspired. But last night I wasn't sleeping or I was dreaming about TAM 7 in July so I guess I'm inspired now. Being the good little nerd that I am I took some pretty good notes during the talks last year, so I flipped through them and thought I'd recap Dr. Steve Novella's talk.

Dr. Novella is a neurologist and has spent a lot of time on his blog dealing with dualism. Dualism is a philosophy of the mind, that asserts that some properties of consciousness are not due to physical phenomena. This is known as Cartesian Dualism. Naturalistic Dualism holds that it is the brain that causes conscientiousness, but we don't know how.

Neuroscience supports the position that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain.
  • there is no mind with no brain.
  • brain development correlates with mental development
  • if you damage the brain you damage the mind
  • different states of consciousness correlate with different brain states
  • able to provoke specific mental effects by stimulating the brain (MEG)
So far the material model of consciousness is working fairly well as a description of the mind. Dualism is basically a 'god of the gaps' type argument. It is invoked to explain uncertainties in scientific understanding of the brain and mind. The purpose of dualism like creationism is to provide ideological cover for a belief system not to advance human knowledge.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Just for Fun

If you are one of those people that is immune to detecting sarcasm, you
probably shouldn't follow this link to 50 Reason I Reject Evolution.
(yes, I stole this from pharyngula)

Friday, March 6, 2009


Last spring I was chatting with my buddy, Herb, who lives in Las Vegas. I hadn't seen him in awhile and wanted to visit. I also mentioned that I'd like to make it to a TAM someday. I was thinking it was just a wild idea, but Herb is better at pulling the trigger on those sorts of things than I am. I'm glad because attending TAM 6 turned out to be one of the coolest things I've done in awhile.

Now I'm looking forward to and making plans for this years TAM 7. This year's meeting will be July 9-12 at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. There is going to be a good mix of returning and new speakers. Dr. Phil Plait, Lt. Col Hal Bidlack, Adam Savage, Dr. Michael Shermer and Dr. Steve Novella are returning presenters and I couldn't be more excited to see them again. The keynote speaker this year is Bill Prady, creator of the TV show The Big Bang Theory. This should be good though it will be incredibly difficult to equal Dr. Tyson's talk from last year. Overall it looks like a great mix of scientist, educators, journalist and entertainers.

This year I'm looking forward to knowing a few more people there, being a shameless fanboi getting books autographed and maybe getting in on some more of the afterhours programs like the Penn & Teller show.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Everyone Should Read the Bible

For awhile now David Plotz has been writing a series for Slate called Blogging the Bible. From time to time I'd check in on it because I enjoyed his revulsion at some new atrocity that he had discovered. I also really like the honest searching that he, as a non-religious Jew, was doing into his heritage. I respected his hope for something noble to be found in the powerful cultural force that is the Bible.

Now that he has completed the project, he is releasing a book about it. Could be interesting. In the Slate article about the book, Plotz also makes a good argument for everyone reading the Bible. The Bible has had a profound and far reaching influence on western culture. It is
pervasive. We get everything form figures of speech "the writing on the wall" to a deep seated fear and loathing of homosexuality from the Bible. For those who are Biblically illiterate (this includes a huge number of nominal Christian) it could be enlightening to discover where these cultural features are derived from. If everyone was familiar with the details of the Bible it may even help to clear up the misguided notion that it is all beautiful, noble, lofty and ultimately moral.

This is one of the reasons that I don't resent my religious education. I'm no great bible reader, but I rarely come across something that I had no idea was in there. Because I spent so much time in church school I know the facts of the Bible better than lots of people who believe but have only a passing familiarity with what they say they base their beliefs on.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seventh-Day Darwinists

I found an entertaining blog post this morning. By entertaining I mean it consists entirely of the familiar rejection of science that I was raised around. Science is great as long as it isn't evolution. There are so many things that can only be true in the religious fantasy land that I won't bother to comment on them but I did find this interesting:

We see a significant number of professed Adventists denying Bible truth so foundational that nearly all Christendom agrees upon it.

Things like a literal six-day creation (seven if you count the Sabbath) or the literal worldwide flood of Noah's day.
I don't think that the majority of Christians these days are obsessed with a literal 6 day creation and world wide flood, and that is even for those who don't consider catholics Christian. This is a good sign that some realism is penetrating religion.

I did agree with the main point of the article however. I also think that Adventism and evolution are incompatible. I also agree wholeheartedly with his admonition to
Keep seeking with a fervent and honest heart
What I reject is the condition he put up on honest seeking for truth.
As long as you stick to the Bible (and Ellen White's books and articles) you will not go wrong.
I suppose if you already know the answer you want to get it is okay to limit the data you are willing to consider, but there is absolutely no way you can call that honest seeking. I thought I'd try to be unemotional about this post, but this pisses me off.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Goodbye Lucy

It looks like Lucy is about to pack up and head out of town after a rather disappointing exhibition and the Pacific Science Center. It is a shame that more people didn't support this exhibit. As a result of the poor turnout here in Seattle, Chicago has canceled their scheduled display.

I'm really glad that I made the effort to visit as it looks like there may not be another chance here in the US. What a shame and embarrassment for Americans that one of the great scientific discoveries of our time can't even get 200,000 visitors in six months in one of the countries most pro-science cities. It was an amazing experience for me. I wish more could have shared it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reverted has a New Post

Okay, I'm a few weeks late noticing, but Reverted is always worth a look when he posts something new.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Some SDA Anti-Science

While I was flipping through the Gleaner (Feb. 2009) yesterday, looking to see if I knew anyone in the pictures or articles, I noticed an article about a Moscow, ID creationism series. The series was hosted by Stan Hudson, whose sole qualification is that he was briefly a geology major before switching to theology. He has hosted a program on LifeTalk Radio called Sink the Beagle. I wasn't able to find the program on the schedule currently, but it seems to be the typical creationist fare. Due to the utter lack of any positive evidence they are forced to flail futilely against legitimate threats to their emotionally help opinions. The creationist is left with nothing more than wishing that Charles Darwin had been lost at sea. However reliance on wishing rather than thinking frees them from having to understand any science. This is evidenced by the title of the first lecture in the series In the Beginning, God or Hydrogen which is purported to have "addressed the theory of evolution via natural selection." I'm uncertain what hydrogen has to do with natural selection specifically.

On a positive note, they gave out free dinosaur teeth at the second meeting, which has the potential to spur honest interest in science.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thinking about Evolution

I have absolutely no formal training in biology, and because of that there are tons of basic things I don't know. However, lately I've really enjoyed being a biology nerd and doing lots of reading mostly on genetics and development. Also, the Theory of Evolution is a major piece of my atheistic worldview, so the more understanding I can gain the better I can support my position.

Recently I was involved in a discussion with a creationist, which is why I ended up watching the Boonstra movie. One of the major portions of the Boonstra argument (and I think this is a standard creationist position) was that the theory of evolution doesn't explain the origin of life therefore god did it. In my discussion I repeatedly demanded that a distinction be made between evolution and abiogenesis. My point was that evolution works if life developed spontaneously, was seeded by an advanced alien race or was sneezed into existence by the Great Green Arkleseizure. I still believe that this is a correct understanding, but I need to be careful how I phrase the statement. For rhetorical purposes it is useful to make a distinction between origins and evolution, but based on the some recent research on chemical replicators (the the biology nerd in me gets really excited about) it would probably be false to say that natural selection had no part in the origin of biological life.

In the study reviewed on pharyngula and neurologica some enzymes were able to assemble themselves spontaneously from simpler chemicals. The researchers relied on natural selection to optimize the reaction. From PZ Myers:

"They started with a very rough sequence, one that inefficiently catalyzed an A + B E sort of reaction, but that not only worked slowly, but also produced faulty products that eventually killed the reaction after a few cycles. Then they tweaked it to form a minus-strand enzyme, and then they subjected both the plus and minus strand forms to natural selection! They made copies with mutagenic PCR (so they had a range of random variants), ran it through several cycles of in vitro selection for more efficient forms, and ended up with two RNA enzymes that were good at building copies of each other."

And from Steven Novella:

"Specifically, what they found was that when they added different versions of their self-replicating RNA with limited raw material to the same test tube, the different RNA “species’ competed with each other. The more “fit” RNA species, those better able to compete for raw material and replicate, dominated the resulting brew of RNA. Further, different RNA species combined together to form new versions of RNA - the molecules evolved - with more fit molecules being selected for."

While this is almost certainly not how life started on this planet, this is a nice proof of concept that more complex chemical structures can build themselves from simpler components.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shawn Boonstra is a Slimy Liar for Jesus

I confess. I couldn't leave well enough alone. The Out of Thin Air DVD was sitting on my TV and I watched the remaining 3 sessions during dinner last night. Not much to report. Just the expected quote-mining, logical fallacies and lies. And of course Goodwin's Law was confirmed. Dr. Timothy Standish was less slimy and more knowledgeable, but did nothing to stop Boonstra's lying. Nothing new was presented as I expected, and now I'm done with it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's Hard Out There for a Christian

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say
all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad,
because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12
I have to admit I'm a sucker for Top 10 Lists and Countdowns, so of
course I couldn't let this list of the Top Ten Instances of Christian
Bashing in America, 2008
pass without comment. The list includes the
YouTube video "Prop 8 The Musical" where Jack Black plays Jesus,
Crackergate and Barack Obama defaming Christianity by not being
'Christian enough'.

In a country that won't elect an atheist to high public office, modified
a state's constitution to ban gay marriage, and has a healthy government
funded faith based initiatives program it seem to be a stretch to claim
that Christians are "treated like second-class citizens". Christians
have the majority, hold positions of power and are treated with undue
levels of deference, yet if anyone should want to disagree with them
they claim they are being persecuted or subjected to hate speech. I
guess I can see why Christians are desperate to be persecuted. That is
how they know that they are doing what Jesus wants them too. I just
have no sympathy for them and their over sensitive persecution complex
when it seem like they are the ones doing most of the discrimination.