Daily Archives: September 10, 2010

If your finger falls off, grab it before the dog gets it!

We were standing behind my friend Andre’s store in Isiro, Zaire, waiting for Andre to finish receiving some orders so we could sit down for some tea, or may be some beer, and do a little black market trading.

A big truck with a canvas top stretched over an iron frame was backing up to the loading dock. These loading docks had solid concrete bases set at the approximate height of a freight truck’s bed, and with a large concrete and steel canopy over the top to provide shade and protection from the rain. All this concrete and steal is normal for the region: Most houses are made of either wattle and daub or steal reinforced concrete slabbery, with nothing in between.

As it backed up, one of the workers who came along with the truck casually held the iron frame with one hand as he signaled the driver via the side view mirror to keep going, going, slower, slower, going, and just as he was about to signal for the driver to stop, the iron frame contacted the concrete overhang at exactly the point where the man’s middle finger rested.

When he looked at his hand, that finger was gone. When the truck lurched forward with the break set, the finger fell from where it was squished above him and he caught it.

He stepped off the truck onto the loading dock, down the nearby concrete steps and onto the street, and wandered, looking at his finger in his cupped hand and spewing small bits of blood, in circles.

My colleague and I spent the next several minutes doing the Bazungu thing … being efficient, concerned, active Americans among the slower moving seemingly uninterested locals. As everyone else stood virtually still, we got a bandage, got pressure on the wound, got ice (which was no small accomplishment, and in fact, I still can’t believe we managed that), and got the man a ride, sending him, and his finger (on ice) off to the clinic.

Then, we sat down and did our business with Andre.
Continue reading If your finger falls off, grab it before the dog gets it!

The problem with appeasement of creationists is …

..that even when you try diligently to separate the politics of religion vs. creationism and to say again and again that religion can go along its merry way as long as it stays out of the science classroom, people like Casey Luskin will still find the words in your rhetoric to accuse you of attacking religion.

A while back, Genie Scott appeared with me and Lynn Fellman on Atheist Talk Radio, where we discussed science education. Genie is the director of the National Center for Science Education.

Subsequently, in a posting on the Discovery Institute web site, Casey Luskin makes the contrast between the National Center for Science Education’s stance, and thus of Genie Scott’s philosophy (in that she is the director) on one hand vs. what she said in this radio interview.

Luskin specifically contrasts Genie’s statement that the NCSE’s goals are “not to promote disbelief” but rather to “help people understand evolution and hopefully accept it.” Hey, folks, that is is indeed what Genie pushes, and what the NCSE promotes, and it is classic middle-ground nice-guy, don’t be a dick science education. This is as good as it gets from the point of view of “appeasement” because it says let the religion go its own way, as long at it does not go into the classroom (see this: Accommodationists and New Atheists Sail in the Same Boat)

Luskin then contrasts that position with this quote from the same interview:

“Evolution is the scientific explanation that has the most repercussions, shall we say, for people’s worldview and religious perspective. Evolution tells you that humans share kinship with all other creatures. For some, that’s a very liberating and exciting idea, and it makes them feel one with nature and it’s empowering and so forth. For others, it’s threatening. If your view is a human exceptionalism kind of view, that humans are separate from nature and special — especially if they are special to God as in some Christian traditions, then evolution is going to be threatening to you.”

This quote was Genie’s answer to Lynn Fellman‘s question: “[A caller has asked] Why is it always evolution that seems to be under siege?”

Genie’s answer is correctly quoted above but with the last part of the quote bolded to emphasize the “threat” language, and Luskin further emphasizes the part about evolution being threatening:

Did you catch that? She just stated that evolution is “threatening to you” if you believe that humans “are special to God as in some Christian traditions.”

And, I should mention, the title of Luskin’s essay is: Eugenie Scott Claims Evolution Is Threatening to Certain Christian Traditions

OK folks, listen. There is no significant national organization involved in the evolution-creation debate that bends over backwards more to be “nice” to religion than the National Center for Science Education. But here, in Luskin’s critique, we see two important things:

1) It is not good enough. In order for Genie’s philosophy or the position of the NCSE to be considered “ok” by the Discovery Institute, the contrast that Genie talks about in her quote would have to go away. Human exceptionalism would have to be incorporated into the science or the science teaching. Evolution would have to be taught along side creationism in the classroom.

2) Luskin practices out of context interpretation and quote mining here. Strangely, he is providing the fuller context and the quote mined in the same place, so we see Genie’s de facto statement of the relationship between religion and science being converted before our very eyes as “Religious people, Evolution is threatening to you!!!”

It is hard to say that one can win under these circumstances. It is hard to support a be nice to the creationists philosophy under these circumstances. Genie Scott must be some kind of saint.

(A repost)

X + Y = WHAT???

i-2264eed4b8649f4530e6a2e10091cde6-complete_idiots_guide_pre-algebra.jpgThat depends … on what X and Y are!

And if that does not come naturally to you, perhaps you should read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pre-Algebra by Amy Szczepanski and Andrew Kositsky.

The CIG to PA is built just like the other books in the Idiot’s series, using familiar conventions to keep the flow of the book smooth while providing additional ancillary information, and in the case of this text, practice problems (answers provided in the back). This book reminds me of a tired old reference I’ve got on my shelf called Technical Mathematics. Sometimes you just need a place to look up the formula for the volume of a cone.

Continue reading X + Y = WHAT???

The September 11th Quran Burning is Cancelled, and No Mosque will be Built!

Everyone who went out and purchaced Islamic Holy Books for the big burning on September 11th needs to just take it down a notch, put the Qurans on the book shelf next to the Bhagavad Gita and that copy of Catcher in the Rye you’ve always planed to read and switch to plan B for celebrating the defeat of Western Culture by the Mossleman bin Laden. (No relation.) Because the nutjob in Florida who caused all this fuss has backed down.

According to “Reverend” Terry Jones, the Islamic Center Rec/Mosque to have been built at Ground Zero will not be built on that site, and according to Jones, these to cancellations are part of a deal struck between the leader of the Islamic Center’s community and the reverend himself. None of this has been confirmed, but it is being reported by National Public Radio.

Continue reading The September 11th Quran Burning is Cancelled, and No Mosque will be Built!