Monthly Archives: November 2007

John West can Play the Violin But Not the Fiddle

The 1920s. It was a sad, sad time in America. All the biologists got together and, inspired by Darwinian writings, embarked on a campaign to sterilize those they perceived as unfit, the campaign known to us as Eugenics. From Eugenics grew other evils, such as Planned Parenthood, Modern Evolutionary Biology, and The Nazis. Continue reading John West can Play the Violin But Not the Fiddle

The Bible as Ethnography ~ 04 ~ Agricultural Transitions

In Genesis 4, we see specific reference to herdsmen and farmers as distinct groups, represented by Abel and Cain, respectively. God indicates a preference for the results of herding over planting, and the sibling troubles that ensue result in the world becoming a difficult place to farm, and humans becoming more nomadic, as herders. This is interesting, because it seems like a dramatic shift from reference to irrigation agriculture to herding. Given the usual role of origin stories, we may be seeing a layering of blame in this case. If this is the origin story of cattle keeping nomadic pastoral people, one has to explain the distinction from farming, and if possible, develop a disdain for the practice of farming, typical at least in Africa of herding cultures.
Continue reading The Bible as Ethnography ~ 04 ~ Agricultural Transitions

Ancient Jade Exchange in Southeast Asia

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research
Hot off the presses from PNAS, we have a paper on ancient jade exchange in Southeast Asia. From the abstract:

We have used electron probe microanalysis to examine Southeast Asian nephrite (jade) artifacts, many archeologically excavated, dating from 3000 B.C. through the first millennium A.D. The research has revealed the existence of one of the most extensive sea-based trade networks of a single geological material in the prehistoric world. Green nephrite from a source in eastern Taiwan was used to make two very specific forms of ear pendant that were distributed, between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D., through the Philippines, East Malaysia, southern Vietnam, and peninsular Thailand, forming a 3,000-km-diameter halo around the southern and eastern coastlines of the South China Sea. Other Taiwan nephrite artifacts, especially beads and bracelets, were distributed earlier during Neolithic times throughout Taiwan and from Taiwan into the Philippines.

Continue reading Ancient Jade Exchange in Southeast Asia

Is religion a form of child abuse? Part II

PZ Myers at Pharyngula examines this question in an entirely different case. This is the case of 14 year old Jehovah Witness Dennis Linberg. Dennis died on Wednesday night at a Seattle area hospital because he refused to accept a life saving transfusion on religious grounds.

This is, indeed, a parent’s worse nightmare. Your child finds religion, in this case from some crazy religious aunt, and that religion leads the child to his death.

[ADDED: Go see this commentary by Orac]
Continue reading Is religion a form of child abuse? Part II

Don’t be a Closed Source Moron

Morons are so annoying. Even the ones that are just passing by, the ones you don’t really have to talk to.

These days I often have lunch in a public dining area where most of the patrons are scientists or geeks, or students learning to become scientists or geeks. The other day two geeky scientist guys were walking by my table talking to each other too loudly for me to ignore. So one guy, he says: “You know we can solve this problem. I have a lot of faith in our Open Source solutions.” (hmm, cool, I thought). The other guy responded:

Continue reading Don’t be a Closed Source Moron

Wikipedia: Bad for ID, DI

The blog Afarensis brings us an amusing yet at the same time disturbing discussion of the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin concerns about the reliability of Wikipedia as a source of information for students.

This is hysterically funny because of the fact that Casey Luskin and all the others at the Discover Institute are a pack of bald faced liars.

Or is it simply the case that the Discovery Institute does not fare well on Wikipedia.

Continue reading Wikipedia: Bad for ID, DI

The Bible as Ethnography ~ 03 ~ Sometimes a Snake is Just a Snake. But not in this case….

Genesis 2 ends with Adam and Eve being naked yet not ashamed. In Genesis 3, the Serpent, who is wiser than average, tricks Eve into partaking of the forbidden fruit of one of god’s two magic trees. This results in Adam and Eve recognizing their own nakedness, and compelling them to produce the first clothing. The word “naked” in the original Hebrew is either eromim or arumim. The former means naked (no clothes) and the latter means exposure as in exposing lies. The original Hebrew for the “clothing” that they put together, “chagowr” probably means “belt.” The parallel (and probably older) Babylonian/Sumerian story explicitly tells of “sexual knowledge.” Remember, the tree providing the forbidden fruit is the tree of knowledge. The only thing that is clear about this story is that it, the story, is heavily clothed in euphemism.

Origin stories sometimes refer to origins of sexual relations, sometimes prescribing and sometimes proscribing certain practices. The origin story for the Efe (Pygmies) and Lese (horticulturalists) of the Ituri Forest has the first Efe man teaching the first Lese man about sex. He does this by having sex with the first Lese woman. That is an incredibly outrageous concept. Efe men are not allowed to have carnal relationships with Lese women under any circumstances (though Efe women can marry Lese men). This, the Efe/Lese origin story is a kind of beginning and a kind of end for a certain sort of relationship.
Continue reading The Bible as Ethnography ~ 03 ~ Sometimes a Snake is Just a Snake. But not in this case….

Something is Rotten in the State of Texas

The Texas Education Agency’s director of science cirriculum is resigning. Check this out:

In documents obtained Wednesday through the Texas Public Information Act, agency officials said they recommended firing Comer for repeated acts of misconduct and insubordination. But Comer said she thinks political concerns about the teaching of creationism in schools were behind what she describes as a forced resignation.Agency officials declined to comment, saying it was a personnel issue.[source]

Continue reading Something is Rotten in the State of Texas

A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

One of my best friends, who shall remain nameless for the present, a scientist, an atheist, a heavily decorated soldier in the war on Christmas, raised two wonderful, brilliant children, on of which being a devote catholic now in training to be a very devote catholic. Like a priest or something.

I am a committed and fairly activist atheist, but I find it astounding that both my wife and daughter are much more militant than I am… I come from a long line of priests and nuns, and have a lot of exposure to religious stuff, I was an alter boy planning to be a priest when I grew up … in other words, the whole nine yards.
Continue reading A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Climate Change Matters

There are still climate change deniers out there, and if you are one, I’d like to take a moment to annoy you with the following story:

Nearly 300 cases of chikungunya fever, a virus that previously has been common only in Africa and Asia, were reported in Italy – where only isolated cases of the disease had been seen in the past.”We were quite surprised,” said Stefania Salmaso, director of Italy’s Center for Epidemiology at the National Health Institute. “Nobody was expecting that such an unusual event was going to happen.”While the outbreak was largely the result of stronger trade and travel ties, some experts believe it is a sign of how global warming is creating new breeding grounds for diseases long confined to subtropical climates.Officials at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the particularly mild winter in Italy allowed mosquitoes to start breeding earlier than usual, giving the insect population a boost.”This outbreak is most important as a warning signal,” said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a climate change expert at the World Health Organization. “Climate change affects the breeding of every mosquito on earth.”More mosquitoes will mean more disease. With warmer temperatures in the future, Europe and North America might be hit by outbreaks of diseases usually confined to southern continents.

Get your details here.