Daily Archives: February 14, 2009

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

Major Setback for Coleman

In his bid to Take The Senate No Matter What, Norm Coleman has been trying to get a very large number of previously rejected absentee ballots counted. Most of these ballots were not counted because they were truly borked. Folks, remember this: If you are going to vote absentee, keep in mind the fact that an envelope with a vote in it showing up at city hall is looked at only as a possible vote. It would be so easy to produce fraudulent votes (and goodness knows there are enough Republicans around to carry out such nefarious acts) that the rules have to be pretty strict. My recommendation is to just go and vote on voting day if you can.

Anyway, Coleman wanted a very large number of absentee ballots, which had been previously rejected, to be counted not because they should not have been rejected, and not because there was really any chance of these votes changing the outcome of the election already won by Coleman’s worthy opponent, Al Franken.

He wanted these counted for two reasons. One: If you recount enough ballots, maybe, just maybe, random chance will cause a different outcome than we have now. Two: The longer it takes to certify Franken as the winner, the longer the Democrats of Our Fine State are not represented by both of the duly elected Democratic senators.

Gee, thanks, Norm.

Anyway, the court that is currently hearing Coleman’s election challenge has rejected most of categories of absentee ballots that Coleman is arguing to be counted.

From the Minnesota Progressive Project:

The latest news from the MN election contest, in which former Sen. Norm Coleman is hoping to keep Al Franken from becoming our next Senator, is that Norm’s chances just got cut in half. The 3-judge panel ruled that they will not consider 13 categories of rejected ballots (The judges had previously asked that the contestants argue why or why not to consider ballots in 19 separate categories). They ruled that ballots in these 13 categories were legally rejected and Norm’s legal team wouldn’t be able to present ballots in these categories for consideration.

Noah Kunin of The Uptake speculated on AM950’s On The Uptake show that this could halve the universe of 4600 or so ballots that are still in contention. I would add that it could possibly be fewer than 2000 … we won’t know until guys like Noah get a chance to analyze things.

Read the rest here. Also, have a look at this: Minnesota Court Rules Election Process as Sound

Larry Moran Reread The Origin

It’s been a great pleasure to read the Origin of Specie … I had forgotten how clever Darwin was and how he carefully weighs his arguments for evolution.

I had also fallen prey to several myths about the book. For example, I didn’t realize that Origin of Species is all about speciation and the difference between species and varieties.

Go read all about it. Very much worth a look.

The Changing of the Guard, New Members of the Minnesota Atheists Board of Directors

Minnesota Atheists’ “Atheists Talk” radio show.
Sunday February 15, 2009, 9-10 a.m. Central Time

i-3f2f66a0b2d43a01afdc6acfdd6aa34b-mn_atheists.jpg The Minnesota Atheists have reached an important milestone. The new elections today will mark the changeover from the founding members who will be leaving the board but remaining active, and turning over in democratic fashion the leadership to new and enthusiastic talent. The Minnesota Atheists goal was to create an organization which fosters and encourages growth and new ideas, and it shows in our achievements.

August Berkshire and Steve Petersen will talk about the organization and how it has grown from the vision of the early years. Jeannette Watland and Crystal Dervetski will come in for the second half of the show to share their ideas for growth in the coming year. It’s a changing of the guard.

We welcome questions during the program at (952) 946-6205
or radio@MinnesotaAtheists.org.

image.jpgAtheists Talk” airs live on AM 950 KTNF in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

To stream live, go here.

Podcasts of past shows are available at Minnesota Atheists or
through iTunes. For all other podcast systems, such as one you might be running on Linux, use this feed.

Apple Feels It Owns You

If you buy an iPhone from Apple, you don’t own the iPhone. No. Apple owns you.

According to this item on Slashdot regarding this item from somewhere else on the intertubules.

So if you buy this thing, you can do whatever you want with it as long as whatever you want is what Apple wants. If you want to do something else with your thing, the Apple Police will come and get you.

Big brother, it turns out, is all about Oedipus.

Strong Ideas and Exclusionary Thinking: Obama, Palin and Greek Food in Minneapolis

Christos Greek Restaurant is one of three well-known Greek restaurants in Minneapolis. The other two are It’s Greek to Me and Gardens of Salonica. Which one you like may be a matter of cultural survival.

It turns out that Greek restaurants in Minneapolis are to the citizens of this area what operating systems and political candidates are to computer users and activists. You’ve got one you love, and the rest suck. Although I’ve lived here long enough to be mistaken at times for a native, this particular form of Greek love/hate is not one I’ve assimilated. I’ve been to all three of these restaurants a number of times, and in my view, they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Mostly strengths, actually. Even my friend Lizzie, who normally has a solidly rational view of the world, has a somewhat all or nothing view of the Greek Cuisine in the city. (The fact that she served at one of these restaurants for about a year may be a factor in this case. I’m not sure.)

…. read the rest here.

Innate Immune Response Defines Pathology and death in Those Infected by Highly Pathogenic Influenza

ResearchBlogging.orgFor the last couple of decades, perhaps beginning around the time of the publication of Laurie Garret’s excellent thesis (The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance) on disease and politics and continuting through Gina Kolata’s “Flu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic” there has been increased attention on the 1918 flu virus and pandemic, as well as subsequent outbreaks. This interest has probably been fueled by increased knowledge of (or incidence of?) tragic and highly newsworthy outbreaks of Ebola, SARS, and so on. More recently, the perception has grown that the Bird Flu is a’comin’ any time now to ultimately replace the Great Pandemic of 1918 as well as the mud shark in our mythology.

If you read the better done public-oriented literature of this period, you will learn that the nature, cause or origin, and pattern of the 1918 epidemic has been very mysterious. The same level of mystery (but with only a few victims) arose in connection with the Swine Flu threat of the 1970s (see expecially Garret’s book for how this event links to current attitudes as well as public policy regarding vaccines).

This brings us to some time last year or so, when key papers were published (and I presume presented at conferences) regarding what may ultimately be seen as the most important single step in the history of understanding the way the flu vaccine works, and thus, how to combat it. (See this to explore one of those key moments in research history.)

The new knowledge is essentially an improved evolutionarily and developmental understanding of how influenza virus strains change over time. To put it very simply, these viruses are made of chunks that come apart in the host and then recombine. If there are multiple ‘strains’ (think species, more or less) of influenza in an individual, these genetic chinks, each representing a huge percentage of the influenza genome, can and do re-combine to form entirely new strains.

That is in a sense macro-evolution of a pathogen in situ, in the host. What is an immune system to do!?!!?!?? Not much, really. This can be very fatal.

It is now understood that these epidemic or pandemic influenza outbreaks arise from these recombination events. If you now look back at the quirky data, the odd logic influenza seemed to be patterned by, the epidemiological dead ends that seemed to confound everyone through the lens of knowledge of these genetic chunks, called “reassortants,” things suddenly become much much clearer.

A paper has just come out in PNAS reporting research using a primate model to explore immune response and associated pathology under the influence of a recombinant influenza virus, and this research is a direct outcome of this new way of looking at the flu. I offer it here without comment largely because you can get the article yourself, since this one is an OpenAccess piece from the normally not OpenAccess PNAS. Here.

Continue reading Innate Immune Response Defines Pathology and death in Those Infected by Highly Pathogenic Influenza

Don’t miss the Twin Cities Creationist Science Fair!!!

This weekend at Har Mar Mall, in Roseville, just north of the Minneapolis – Saint Paul border.

I’ve been watching this event every year for few years now, and a couple of years ago it got quite interesting when the organizers of the event discovered that I had caught them is a lie and provided photographic evidence on my blog. That prompted them to make a public statement that I was an “Atheist abusing children.” (See this.)

The pot. The kettle. Whatever.

If you are in the vicinity, go to the science fair and do the Lewis Black thing!!!! Don’t forget to bring a fossil.

Darwin Year Panel Discussion, Sunday in the Twin Cities

Feb 15 – Darwin Year Panel Discussion Featuring Myers, Laden, Moore, Cotner and Phillips

2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origins of Species. In honor of this, we have assembled a distinguished panel of scientists to give us their thoughts on evolution, creationism, and Darwin. The panelists are: PZ Myers, Randy Moore, Greg Laden, Sehoya Cotner, and Jane Phillips.

The discussion will be moderated by Lynn Fellman. Lynn is a frequent science interviewer on our Atheists Talk radio program. She is also an independent artist and designer (FellmanStudio.com) who incorporates science into her work.

This event is free and open to the public.

Rondo Community Outreach Library
461 N Dale St
Saint Paul, MN 55103

Minnesota Atheists Feburary Membership Meeting

February 15, 2009

1:00-1:15 p.m. – Social time.
1:15-1:45 p.m. – MNA business meeting, including annual elections.
1:45-2:00 p.m. – Social time.
2:00-3:00 p.m. – Panel discussion.
3:00-3:30 p.m. – Social time.
4:00 p.m. – Dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Mn Atheist Web Site