Earlier this month, Sam Brownback (a Republican presidential wannabe senator from Kansas) raised his hand when a reporter asked the potential Republican candidates if any of them “didn’t believe in” evolution. Now he is back, with a New York Times op-ed, trying to clarify his point. Funnily, his attempt at damage control sounds even more ridiculous, mealy-mouthed, and irrationally pathetic than his original response. This is the intellectual level allowed for a potential candidate for themost powerful office in the world? Mind-boggling.

Let’s take some of his statements:

Brownback: “The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two.”

This, of course, is a statement of faith and does not have a single shred of reason—in intent or execution. And the Bible is an inerrant word of God, then? What about Biblical claims about the age of the earth; its cosmological claims; its ridiculous biological claims (rabbits chewing cud (Leviticus 11:6) springs to mind, funnily)–that completely contradict the whole body of scientific evidence?

Brownback: “Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose.”

Of course, this statement can only satisfy the most hardcore believer completely ignorant of advances in modern science (such as evolutionary psychology) and non-theistic ethical systems (there are many more of those than there are of “goddy” ones).

Brownback: “If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.”

Well, that is plain bullshit. The statement about microevolution highlights the standard Creationist false dichotomy: there is no qualitative difference between micro- and macro-evolution; the latter involves quantitatively more significant changes than the former, but the process working on both is the same; really, the two terms are so confusing and misused by now that we should probably stop using them altogether (together with the whole concept of species for non-taxonomic purposes? hmm…that’s an idea). In any case, the second sentence does not even talk about “evolution” per se, but rather an extremely cartoonish view of standard philosophical materialism. So Brownback apparently does not know what the word evolution, as used by science, means.

Brownback: “There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today.”

What monumental ignorance! Punk-eek and standard adaptationism are not two different theories. The underlying mechanism–natural selection–is the same in both of them. The arguments are about contingency, rate and tempo, not about the basics. But I suppose the point is too subtle for Brownback to understand.

Brownback: “Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table.”

Oh? And what is it? New religion-based dating methods? Hot-air theories unfounded on any empirical evidence? And he dares claim that evolutionary biologists go “beyond empirical evidence”?

I am skipping over much of what he has to say; he is diggin his own pit, and I do not have time to address the logical fallacies and misinterpretations of reality that wave their Cthulhoid tentacles from each sentence. However, here is the last paragraph:

Brownback: “While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.”

Okay, then. 1.If “no stone should be left unturned” in our research, how can we know anything with certainty? This idiotic sentence demonstrates three things: that Brownback has no clue about the way science works, that he does not let simple logic interfere with his sentence construction and that he has a dangerous certainty—known to some as self-righteousness—about certain aspects of reality that is a far cry from both the humility of the majority of scientists and the supposed humility of religionists.

2.The very last two sentences are truly frightening. He is saying that religion should trump science in certain questions decided a priori and that scientific process itself should be subject to religious censorship. This is not only scary, as all theocracies are scary, it is unconstitutional as well, as—also—all theocracies are.

Luckily this fundamentalist moron is not likely to even get the Republican nomination; however, just the fact that somebody of such dubious intelligence, education missing in action and ridiculous beliefs can even be considered for the office of the President of the USA bodes ill for the future of this country.

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H.G. Wells

The first major literary talent to make himself at home in the science fiction field, greatly expanding its popularity.

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(including images)
In my quest for idiocy on this planet, I occasionally stumble upon truly staggering sites. Like this one: Heliocentrism is an Atheistic Doctrine. I mean…what do I mean? Words fail. Since this is a blog in support of Brownback’s presidency, I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. Please, somebody tell me this is an elaborate joke

The fact that this blog is powered by wordpress proves my long-held suspicion that even bags of hammers can learn to use good software and imitate human behaviour almost perfectly. But ye shall know them by the rocks in their heads that fall out all over the page!

Pshaw. It’s got to be a troll..a spoof…a parody…the alternatives are truly horrifying to contemplate…

Since the murder of Du’a Khalil Aswad a couple of weeks ago, at least 12 more women were killed “in the name of honour” in Kurdistan. For more on the increase in violence against women in “liberated” Iraq, see here. Even a hardcore pacifist like me wants to destroy the bastards responsible. We cannot tolerate intolerance.

On an entirely lighter side, for those of you working on research papers, I give you a beautifully hilarious guide to Using the Passive Voice in Scientific Writing! Weep with laughter; I am.

Since you are already weeping, consider this: lately, Islamic countries have been at the forefront of…eh…backwardness, having had the torch passed to them by Christianity somewhat embarrassed about the failure of its own metaphysical and epistemological claims (not that they’d ever admit it…). Still…Islamic bicycles?

Yet another newsite in the immortal tradition of The Onion (yeah yeah yeah! Intelligent Falling theory!!!) and Wonkette: NewsBiscuit. My current favourite is Russua and Estonia “pretending to have computers”.

Insane asylum, late night.

First inmate (shouting): “I am Napoleon!”
Second inmate: “How do you know?”
First Inmate: “Because God told me!”
Third inmate (from another room): “I did NOT!”

***
“I just don’t have faith. Sorry. Can’t fake it. But I’m no more angry, purposeless or immoral than the next guy. And if God invented free will then this is all His fault anyway.”
–John Moore

***

Awesomeness of the week: the eruption of Tvashtar on Io:

***

New emotions identified barely in time for Summer:
requiapathy: the combination of relief and guilt that comes with the sudden realization that you no longer miss a dead loved one.

seprudity: the feeling of appreciating a coworker’s dedication without fully understanding his or her job function.

trepatiousness: a synthesis of rage and jealousy, though more muted and often accompanied by a sensation of weightlessness.

(from The Onion, of course)

When I get to Mars, I’m going spelunking: Possible cave entrances on Mars
Seven dark spots seen in Mars Odyssey THEMIS images could be the entrances to underground caves on Mars. The researchers who identified these caves have given them the following names:
Dena (-6.084 N, 239.061 E)
Chloe (-4.926 N, 239.193 E)
Wendy (-8.099 N, 240.242 E)
Annie (-6.267 N, 240.005 E)
Abbey & Nikki (-8.498 N, 240.349 E)
Jeanne (-5.636 N, 241.259 E)
Credit: NASA / JPL / U. Arizona / G. Cushing et al. 2007

Also, All (known) objects in the Solar System larger than 200 miles in diameter. (Yes, I live in the USA, it’s 321.8688 km…;))

Dumbo Octopus: naturally, with a name like that, it is fittingly and thoroughly lovable:

Did you know that GoogleMaps has a Mars option? I didn’t, but now I do, and am happy.;)

Some sheer brilliance from GrrlScientist: To Be a Good Republican You Must Believe…

And, finally, a short and insignificant list of the very few minor, innocent and irrelevant mistakes made by the Bush administration. Enjoy!

…and the winner is…Educate-Yourself: the most ludicrous collection of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo I have seen in a long time. From the “global warming myth”–to “monoatomic gold” (as opposed to what? complex gold molecules?;))–to “chemtrails”–to anti-vaccination propaganda–this site has it all, stated with absolute certainty which is always a sign of an idiotic charlatan. I was especially impressed with the ongoing appeals to the education of its readers. Apparently, all those evil governmental conspiracies can only convince those sadly lacking the knowledge of science (physics, biology, etc). By that measure, I must be a victim of mind-control, since the subjects that I am familiar with–mainly evolutionary biology, planetary science and physics in general (astrophysics in particular)–are so mangled as to appear unrecognizable in all the drivel.

Indeed, we live in a democracy, and the WWW has no rules, which is a good thing. But I wonder about people duped by this freakish and dangerous bullshit: what happens if somebody denies the benefits of polio vaccination to their child because they were convinced by this site that it–far from helping–will increase their child’s risk of cancer? Can they sue when the said child is crippled by the disease? I hope so.

I certainly have not seen that much m/disinformation and bullshit all stuck together in one location in a long time. After half an hour, I gave up in disgust, finding not a single word of veracity here. I wonder if I should charge them for my time…;)