Tyrannosaurus Rex Protein Proves Evolution into Birds

If only Ben Stein read newspapers.

“Analysis of a shred of 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex protein – along with the proteins of 21 modern species – confirms that dinosaurs share common ancestry with chickens, ostriches and, to a lesser extent, alligators”

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You can chalk this up as another nail in ID’s coffin, no matter what Expelled has to say on the subject.

Six other things Ben Stein doesn’t want you to know about Expelled (From SciAm):

  1. Expelled quotes Charles Darwin selectively to connect his ideas to eugenics and the Holocaust.
  2. Ben Stein’s speech to a crowded auditorium in the film was a setup.
  3. Scientists in the film thought they were being interviewed for a different movie.
  4. The ID-sympathetic researcher whom the film paints as having lost his job at the Smithsonian Institution was never an employee there.
  5. Science does not reject religious or “design-based” explanations because of dogmatic atheism.
  6. Many evolutionary biologists are religious and many religious people accept evolution.

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I could go on, but the subject of factual dinosaur evolution is more interesting than belief systems that have proven to be erroneous; otherwise I’d be gushing about Jurassic Park right now, which has it’s own baggage of belief (or Disbelief) to carry, and is far more interesting than the subject of Intelligent Design.

I should give a nod to Michael Crichton for introducing me to the concept of birds evolving from dinosaurs. Proves the value of reading widely, especially in the SF field.

FFrF Radio: John Allen Paulos Archive: First Episode Aired

Podcast Link.
April 26, 2008Guest: John Allen Paulos

Theocracy Alert; National Day of Prayer, National Prayer Breakfast.

Nothing Fails like Prayer.

Segment from Room With a View on Masterpiece. Phone calls.

John Allen Paulos, Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up. Complexity developing from simple rules; the market, for example. A free marketeer should, by default, accept evolution as valid.

It goes on from there. A very good interview.

2007 Archive episode.
April 28, 2007Special Guest: Author Rob Boston

First anniversary Episode.

Theocracy Alert features Jay Sekulow (fast talker. With all the baggage that entails) and Annie Laurie Gaylor on The O’Reilly Factor.

Rob Boston is the guest. Not only a writer, he represents a ‘competing’ separation of church and state group. His group has been part of several cases (two in Texas that he talked about, as well as the Dover case and the Prison Fellowship case) before the court concerning religion’s intrusion into government.

Piety & Politics Reverend Barry W. Lynn.
Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State

Freethinker’s Almanac finishes out the episode; Edward Gibbon, Mary Wollstonecraft and US Grant.

2006 Archive episode.
April 29, 2006Somewhere Over the Rainbow . . . Rhymes for the Irreverent

This is the first episode of Freethought Radio that was broadcast at The Mic 92.1. Thanks to whoever it was at “Madison’s Progressive Talk” that thought to put this show on the air.

Theocracy Alert (before they started calling it that) Concerns the VA establishment of a spiritual/faith assessment as part of it’s health care practices. Religious belief has nothing to do with faith, no matter what Christian Scientists say otherwise. FFrF is suing over this practice.

Yip Harburg’s son Ernie is the first guest. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is one of my favorite showtunes, written by Yip Harburg. It was the right way to start the archives (and the program) to start with a show featuring well-known American icons like the songs for The Wizard of Oz, written by an almost unknown composer who was also a freethinker.

Rhymes for the Irreverent. Chad Mitchell Trio.

The second guest Penny Edgell conducted a study concerning the acceptance of various groups within the American society. Not surprisingly, Atheists finished last. (PDF of study)

Re-Branding Gone Wrong, or Too Much Truth in Advertising?

The UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is undergoing a re-branding effort. I happen to think the new logo represents a good grip on the actual efforts of most government organizations.

I especially like the response from the spokesman for OGC:

“The proposed version, which you have sent over, has been shared with staff, and is now going through final technical stages. It is true that it caused a few titters among some staff when viewed on its side, but on consideration we concluded that the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters ‘OGC’ – and is not inappropriate to an organisation that’s looking to have a firm grip on government spend!”

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Keith Olbermann featured this in Thursday’s (4/23) oddball.

No really, Mary Ruwart for President

Another Polling Point poll today. They still can’t figure out that politics, like reality itself, isn’t confined to a single plane of opinion. Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative definitions of political views will only serve to keep the citizens at each others throats. If you can narrow the range of opinion down to two valid views, then everyone who doesn’t agree with you is wrong, obviously.

The “Who would you vote for as President” questions were at least not a total waste of time. Given a range of 5 options, including other and not voting, they asked us to pick which candidate we would vote for contrasting first Barak Obama and John McCain, and then Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

My choice, in both instances? Mary Ruwart. I might feel a bit of ambivalence about Barack Obama and his goals for the presidency; but ambivalence isn’t informed opinion. I’ve read enough of Ms. Ruwart’s writings to know she would make a better candidate than any of the chosen front runners.

Neither Hillary Clinton or John McCain can be trusted to run the country; their behavior in the campaigns so far has proven this.

And while I’m a supporter of Ron Paul, I can’t see the Republicans giving him the nomination over McCain, no matter how much the conservatives within the party despise McCain. Dr. Paul has stated repeatedly that he has no intention of running as a third party candidate.

So it’s Mary Ruwart for President, hands down.

SciFi on the horizon: Avatar

I went looking for information on one of my favorite directors, James Cameron, recently; because a podcast I listen to mentioned some of his work. It’s a shame that the director whom I have a great respect for, the director of The Abyss, Terminator, and Aliens

[and no matter what anyone else says, there are only two films in the Alien saga. As far as I’m concerned Ripley, Newt and Hicks made it back home, where they set up shop in a small quiet corner of the planet and lived happily ever after. None of the sequel films after Aliens rates a viewing. I wish I’d never seen them]

…is now known for grandiose melodrama like Titanic (yes, it made tons of money. It’s not a good film; or more correctly, not his best) Documentaries like Ghosts of the Abyss (and the related plundering of the Titanic shipwreck site that has followed in it’s wake) or complete wastes of time like The Lost Tomb of Jesus, and a television series featuring an actress who was clearly discovered in a horizontal position (I say that because Jessica Alba can’t act. In any of the films I’ve watched her in. At all. Wooden describes her performance, and the related parts of the men who enjoy watching her) The guy worked for John Carpenter on Escape From New York, another one of my all-time favorite films, for crying out loud. Where did he go so wrong?

[Want some fun? Contrast Prince of Darkness (later Carpenter film) with The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Is your head spinning yet?]

So here we are in 2008, and James Cameron wants to get back into cutting edge SciFi with his latest film Avatar. Sigourney Weaver is in it, along with several other recognizable names. It looks like it could be quite promising. The technology is cutting edge, just like his underwater filming techniques were cutting edge in The Abyss.

Using a new digital 3D format, Avatar and the technology behind it could revolutionise the industry, making 2D films seem as outdated as silent films. (From SFF media)

If you go to some of the sites talking about the film, you can find the usual gushing of fans giving away way more information than you really want to know this early in the game (the film is not due for release until 2009) When all I want to know is, should we get our hopes up? Can the man who co-hosts a two-hour special about a religious figure be trusted to produce gritty, cutting edge movies any more?

Sigourney Weaver seems to think so.

“I’m playing very much a leader in this [film] Someone who gets the job done. Someone very very driven and smart and yet funny. The only person I could think of that was like this at all was Jim Cameron,” Weaver said, echoing statements she made to MTV in February. “Jim Cameron is an amazing person. First of all he knows everything in an unobnoxious way. He just wants to get on with it so he has a great deal of leadership.”

She’s come a long way from the actress who played Ripley back in the 70’s and 80’s. I’ve liked a lot of the work she’s done, even the recent (wait, I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything since Galaxy Quest. Can 8 years ago be recent?) work, but…

James Cameron is responsible for tripe like Piranha 2 as well as great cutting edge films like The Abyss. I’ve seen 99% of it, and I’ve watched a good part of it just because his name was on it. I’m not going to lose my head dreaming about how great this film just has to be. I’m approaching this film with the same cautious air that I’ve learned from experience yields the best outcome for me; whether it’s a new group with a new idea, or someone I know producing a sequel to something I love (J.J. Abrams and ST XI for example) It’s a SciFi film, so I’m going to see it at some point. Will it be good? Won’t know that until I’ve sat through it. See you in December of 2009.

FFrF Radio: Matthew LaClair Archive: The Dover “ID” Case

Podcast Link.
April 19, 2008Guest: Matthew LaClair, High School State/Church Activist

Theocracy Alert. The Pope is here!
Democrat candidates continue to pander to the religious Reich. All of the questions that I heard were specifically designed to appeal to fundamentalists (6 day creation, real presence of the holy spirit, etc) the least rational, least populous christian group. Why on earth should the rest of us care what the religious Reich think of our candidates?

This is the second time that Matthew LaClair has been on the program. The first time he made the news, I had to admit he had a case (especially after hearing this program) however, this time I think he’s looking for a reason to get in the news. Both CFI and FFrF have taken up this cause, and I really don’t see the textbook errors as being worth a national case (don’t buy textbooks written by (neo-)conservatives if you don’t want their bias in the classroom.

Members of the religious Reich are going to lament, in print, the separation of church and state; that’s a given. Textbook or not. But the subject of global warming and it’s validity (as discussed in a politics textbook) is hardly an equivalent issue.

True, the scientific community has recently rallied round the data concerning global warming, and there is even data that appears to show that global warming is due to man’s impact on the environment (never mind that CATO’s expert on the subject, a climatoligist himself, points out that there hasn’t been any global warming in the last 20 years, based on the scientific record) but that is completely beside the point of including the subject in a political textbook, where the subject is going to be political/government action on specific environmental concerns.

And when it comes to what the government should do to combat global warming, the scientists are indeed at odds as to what the proper course might be. I don’t call myself an environmentalist anymore, even though I was recylcing back when only hippies recycled. The move to politicize the environmental movement has alienated me from those who now want to wear the mantle of environmetalism.

This was the second worst interview of the program, Right after the Rothschild interview, and before the third worst (to date) Sumners interview. It shows a fair amount of political dogma about issues that are outside the scope of separation of church and state, the purpose of Freethought Radio.

2007 Archive episode.
April 21, 2007“Monkey Girl”: The Dover “ID” Case

Theocracy Alert. Partial birth abortion ban passes Supreme Court, all five justices who support the constitutionality of the law are practicing Roman Catholics. Coincidence?

…and then comes the dogma. Gun control isn’t banning guns? Bullshit, Dan Barker.

The only way to control guns is to control access to them, and that is banning guns of some type from some or all groups. If professors had been allowed to carry guns; if students could get concealed carry permits, there would have been a realistic deterrent in place to keep the killings at Virginia Tech from occurring. As long as schools remain gun free zones, they will remain tantalizing targets for crazy people with guns (guns purchased legally with waiting periods and other forms of gun control in place) who will always be able to obtain weapons, because laws only affect the law-abiding. More thoughts on gun control.

Edward Humes, author Monkey Girl was the guest in this episode. A book about the case against the Dover Pennsylvania School Board over their intentions to teach Intelligent Design. Illuminating discussion on the facts of the Creation vs. Evolution debate.

Freethinkers Almanac rounds out the episode. Shakespeare is featured, as well as Mary Crisp.

From Crossroads to Expelled; Creation (of) Propaganda

As the release hype for Expelled heats up, a little reminder of the dishonest methods used to get interviews from evolution supporters.

From PZ Myers’ blog Pharyngula:

Why were they so dishonest about it? If Mathis had said outright that he wants to interview an atheist and outspoken critic of Intelligent Design for a film he was making about how ID is unfairly excluded from academe, I would have said, “bring it on!” We would have had a good, pugnacious argument on tape that directly addresses the claims of his movie, and it would have been a better (at least, more honest and more relevant) sequence. He would have also been more likely to get that good ol’ wild-haired, bulgy-eyed furious John Brown of the Godless vision than the usual mild-mannered professor that he did tape. And I probably would have been more aggressive with a plainly stated disagreement between us.

I mean, seriously, not telling one of the sides in a debate about what the subject might be and then leading him around randomly to various topics, with the intent of later editing it down to the parts that just make the points you want, is the video version of quote-mining and is fundamentally dishonest.

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The article goes to the detail necessary to prove that he (and others) were tricked into participating in a film different from the one they had agreed to be interviewed for.

Having now been accosted on several occasions by the obnoxious mug of Ben Stein on Science Channel programming that I just happened to be watching (although I’m not quite as militant about it as the Bad Astronomer is, I do agree with his sentiment. I’m not surprised though. Watching The History Channel for any length of time removes any illusions about what kind of history is important there) I decided to track down more on the subject of this pro-ID propaganda piece.

Suffice it to say, I won’t be paying to see this film. If I do see it, I’ll be watching it in much the same way I saw Sicko, another propaganda piece not worthy of a monetary investment.

I don’t think it’s possible to make too much fun of those who take ID seriously:

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It just about equates on the reality meter. Ben Stein is an ignorant fool.

FFrF Radio: Scott Dikkers & David Randolph

April 12, 2008Special Guest: Scott Dikkers, editor of The Onion

Theocracy Alert details the bill before congress (SR 483) that creates a 10 Commandments Weekend and then digs into the problems with the 10 commandments of the bible, including the fact that the list varies from translation to translation. (the US is not a christian nation. I’m hoping anyone reading this already knows this fact) commandment 3 and the very real monuments that violate it. Commandment 4 and Blue Laws.

[I personally have a fondness for Amendments nine and 10 of the completely different & secular Bill of Rights to the US Constitution.
Amendment nine: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment ten:
powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Since the 14th amendment applies the Bill of Rights to the states as well as the federal government (and if the federal government could be convinced to acknowledge the existence of the tenth amendment in the first place; concede that there is a limitation on federal power) the Ninth & Tenth Amendments could be wielded by the individual as a lever to reduce all levels of government to those functions detailed in their respective enabling documents. Yeah, I know, it’s a dream. John Lennon has his dream, I have mine.

The damage done by the ignorant attempting to impose biblical law in lieu of civil law has already been significant. To more closely align civil law with the bible would be catastrophic. bills like SR 483 should be opposed, because of the damage they appear to promote. Contact you Senators here.

Scott Dikkers and the faux news outlet (not to be confused with Fox News, which is also false, but not funny) The Onion wouldn’t have been guests that I would have anticipated. (America’s finest news source. Gotta love it) I laugh every time I run across an article from The Onion, but I always wonder how many people believe that the news is real and credible. Then I remember The Enquirer and The Star, and stop worrying about it.

“I’ve never met a satirist who was an ideologue”

The most hate mail that the Onion has ever gotten was over a Mary-Kate and Ashley spoof, not the many, many religious spoofs that the paper has contained. Goes to show you where most people’s priorities lie.

The secret to The Onion’s success? Hiring funny people and teach them how to write news stories. Thoroughly enjoyable interview.

“Ignore the man behind the curtain. The Great Oz has spoken.”The Wizard of Oz

2007 Archive episode.
April 14, 2007David Randolph, Conductor

The show starts with a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, who died that week. Back when I used to listen to Selected Shorts on KUT, Vonnegut’s stories were some of my favorites.

Theocracy Alert goes into one of the many problems with the Bush administration, his obsession with religious causes and their promotion within the federal government. A change in Presidents can’t come soon enough. Unfortunately, none of the front runners offer much of a change.

David Randolph the famous conductor of the St. Cecilia Chorus (a secular, non-profit group) also wrote the book This Is Music: A Guide to the Pleasures of Listening. He discusses at length his deep love of music, in spite of the fact that he has been a lifelong non-theist. A revealing interview for those who think that there is something essentially spiritual about music.

The list of composers who were non-believers includes a good number of recognizable names.

“God is a concept by which we measure our pain” -John Lennon

Gas at the Price Advertised

I don’t know about North Carolina, but in Texas if you advertise a price, you have to sell for that price.

Drivers Flood Station for 35 Cent Gas

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Traffic was backed up and police were called to control the crowd after a Wilmington gas station accidentally set the pump price at 35 cents a gallon.

The Wilmington Star-News reported Friday that hundreds of drivers flooded a BP station for the cheap gas after the price dropped around 9 a.m. Thursday.

Station employee Shane Weller said the price for premium gasoline was supposed to be $3.35 a gallon. He complained that customers paid the cheaper price all day without saying a word.

It was all the extra traffic that led station employees to the mistake around 6 p.m. They found it after calling their district manager, looking for permission to changing the price as a way of stemming the flow of customers.

Information from: The Star-News, http://starnewsonline.com

Jeff Ward, Austin’s local talk show deity…

[Deity because he was credited with being omnipotent in the same hour this discussion took place; he apparently canceled the Olympics, tax day, and a number of other things just by saying it was so. I never knew he had that kind of power]

…took calls on the subject for most of this afternoon. I especially like the caller who said he would not only fill up his car, but come back with his RV and his cigarette boat and top them off as well.

Would I fill up the tank? Sure, if I didn’t have to wait in line. Seeing the line, I would have gone somewhere else. Unlike the customers of that store, however, I would have stuck my head in after filling up and let the clerks know that the price was probably wrong on the pump. There is no crime involved in paying the advertised price for something.

That they didn’t notice the error till the end of the day speaks more to the relative intelligence of the store operators than it does to the morals of their customers.

El Dorado Not Quite the Paradise Envisioned?

Or perhaps the headline should read City of Gold not so Golden these days.

The massive religious compound just outside of El Dorado, Texas was raided earlier this week. The site belongs to a recently made infamous separatist group of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I might have more sympathy for these polygamists if they weren’t consciously warping the minds of female children, and then having sex with them.

Most annoying feature of this story? They housed the people they removed from this backwater in the best restored frontier fort in the region, Fort Concho in San Angelo, forever branding my former home town as associated in some fashion with weirdos who should more rightly be located around Waco rather than way out West.

Seriously, just put the child rapists into the regular prison population and let the prisoners deal with them. That should serve as sufficient warning to the rest of these types of perverts.