Daily Archives: February 4, 2009

A most diabolical plot

This is why all religion should simply not be allowed. Even if the basic tenets of a religion are not too objectionable, its pieces … which consist of brainwashed people and the powerful ideas making up the framework of a culture … can be knitted together like household items into a pipe bomb or personal greed and gullibility into a felonious scam.

Samira Jassam of Iraq arranged for the rape of about 80 different women. She then convinced these women that, since they were raped, the best life they could hope for would involve strapping a bomb onto themselves, making themselves into human weapons.

Details here.

Hat tip Pharyngula.

The Voyage of the Beagle

Of his time on the Beagle (1832 – 1836), Darwin wrote, “The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life and has determined my whole career.” Of the manuscript describing that voyage, he wrote, “The success of this my first literary child always tickles my vanity more than that of any of my other books.”

Taking a cue from these reflections, I’d like to spend some time with this book, in celebration of Darwin’s 200th birthday, coming up in just a few days.
Continue reading The Voyage of the Beagle

Ben Stein Shunned by Academy

And by “academy” I mean THE academy.

Comedian, economist, speechwriter and game show host Ben Stein withdrew as speaker at the University of Vermont’s spring commencement ceremonies Monday after concerns arose about his opinions on evolutionary theory, intelligent design and the role of science in the Holocaust.

UVM President Dan Fogel said people on and off campus were unhappy with the university giving Stein an honorary degree and when Fogel expressed those concerns to Stein, he immediately declined the invitation to speak.


The most important part of this story is the following: It turns out that Stein’s speaking fee was to be $7,500. That makes him pretty small time for a guy who’s been in so many films. He’d already lost his grip. Now, he’s losing his status.

Good bye, ben:

Neanderthal Genome Will Be Released

The complete genome of a Neanderthal dating to about 38,000 years ago has been sequenced by the team lead by Svante Paabo. The genome will be announced on Darwin’s Birthay, Feb 12.

“We are working like crazy at the moment,” says Pääbo, adding that his Max Planck colleague, computational biologist Richard Green, is coordinating the analysis of the genome’s 3 billion base pairs.

Comparisons with the human genome may uncover evidence of interbreeding between Neanderthals and humans, the genomes of which overlap by more than 99%. They certainly had enough time for fraternization — Homo sapiens emerged as a separate species by about 400,000 years ago, and Neanderthals became extinct just 30,000 years ago. Their last common ancestor lived about 660,000 years ago, give or take 140,000 years.


Despite the remarks made in the Nature coverage about interbreeding, Svante has indicated in previous discussions about this genome that there is nothing to indicate this in the present analysis.

School Prayer Case Being Heard in Federal Court

A Texas Law makes it easy for religious teachers and school administers to force kids to pray in public schools. Although this is said to be a “moment of silence” it is known that some school employees are explicit about this event being for prayer. One child was told to be quite and pray a couple years back, and this case was taken into the courts, where last year a federal district judge upheld the law.

That ruling is now being appealed, and yesterday a panel of judges from the fifth Circuit (New Orleans) heard arguments regarding the case. There has as yet not been a ruling.

Details here.

US News and World Reports Screws The Pooch

With an absurd opinion piece by Henry Morris III.

You can’t comment on the piece, so I’ll just tel lyou that it is in the current web edition of the paper and you can go dig it up if you want. (Blog policy: No logic, no links. Unless I feel like it.)

Henry Morris is the guy from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). The publication of this opinion piece by USNWR is roughly like, say, the New York Times Science Section publishing a piece on Large Mammal Conservation by those guys who sold the frozen bigfoot last year. Utterly stupid and irresponsible editorial policy on the part of USNWR.

Who’s editors can be contacted here.

Religious Cult Uses Secret Weapon Against Government

Teenager told to act like teenager when confronting government agents!

A 14-year-old thought to be the youngest bride of jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was advised through text messages to “please stay angry” and to “keep crying, pout, sleep in” in an attempt to manipulate Texas caseworkers, according to a report filed with a San Angelo court.

Surly, this is against the Geneva Convention! Why, I don’t think they are even using the Teenager Torture gambit at Gitmo!

It turns out she was armed as well!

In a report to state District Judge Barbara Walther, filed Jan. 27 in San Angelo, the girl’s guardian ad-litem reported that a prepaid cell phone was given to the girl by her biological mother, Barbara Jessop.

Holy crap!!!

Read the rest here.