Congresswoman: Jesus = Apathetic Neglect

August 12, 2008

When it comes to environmental issues, I’m far from a PETA-pal or global warming groupie. I think massive factory meat production is bad, but I don’t think a few random people being a vegetarian helps stop it. And I think global warming is both a real and man-made effect, but I’m skeptical that we can seriously reduce our emissions enough to make a significant difference (developing directly counteractive climate-change technologies are likely the best hope for a solution, IMHO).

But I see all that as a form of practical realism, not an outright denial that human activity is destroying parts of the planet we should both care about (like the coral reefs) and which will ultimate come back to affect us negatively.

Realism, however, is not quite the strong-suit of many on the religious right. Case in point, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who had this to say about Democratic efforts to improve emission standards and other anti-pollution crusades:

“[Pelosi] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said that she’s just trying to save the planet,” Bachmann told the right-wing news site OneNewsNow. “We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago, they saved the planet — we didn’t need Nancy Pelosi to do that.”(emphasis added)

Yes, that’s right folks: no need to preserve things like coral reefs, coastlines, or cropland in Africa. No need to speak of doing good works in the world, or even not screwing over our fellow man by dumping poison into his atmosphere.

No no: all that matters in life is whether or not a bizarre, largely unintelligible ideology is true or not, thus “saving” us from the hypothetical insane rage of the very being peddling salvation from its own bizarre universe.

Sometimes you’ve just got to drop your jaw in awe that anyone could come up with this stuff, let alone believe it strongly enough to be so self-righteously smug about it.


The Creationist Claptrap Jindal Wants in Public Schools: Luskin’s Missed Wrist

July 15, 2008

As you are probably already aware, thanks to Republican Governor and sometime amatuer exorcist Bobby Jindal, the 4th wave of creationism is now officially underway in the great state of Louisiana.

As with every other wave, this movement involves simply recycling the usual stable of crappy creationist claims, but this time without any explicit title (not even “Intelligent Design”) or even any explicit unity between the arguments, let alone any hint of a specific alternative conclusion that they are all pointing towards. Instead, creationist standards are to be repackaged as “scientific criticisms,” divided up, and sprinkled liberally throughout textbooks and idiosyncratic classroom curricula. And politicians like Jindal are meant to abet the effort by passing “academic freedom” bills that curiously target the teaching of evolution, and only evolution, as needing special protection for the teaching of “critical views.”

The obvious trick inherent in all of these bills is that they never specify a standard of accuracy that such criticisms have to meet, and they are often vague as to who is going to evaluate or enforce that standard in any case.

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New Fish! Indonesian Waters Reveal…

April 3, 2008

You probably don’t know this about me yet… but I love fish. Not in a Troy MacClure sort of way, but pretty much everything else: eating them, watching them, reading about them. I should probably extend the love to most marine creatures, but fish came first.

It’s thus always a happy occasion when I get to recognize the discovery of yet another addition to the fabulous family of fish (which, by the way, is not a sensible or useful taxonomic group: there is no coherent monophyletic group that includes all things we call “fish” and their descendants, but then properly excludes things we don’t call fish: like people, dogs, and llamas).

And it is one awesome lookin’ fish. I don’t want to steal some poor divers’ hard work and traffic by taking and reposting his pics, so go check out all the pics over at StarkNakedFish.com, under “New Ambon Frogfish.”

There’s no doubt that the critter is a type of anglerfish (the order Lophiiformes), and the very first thought that comes to mind when seeing it definately is “frogfish” (the family Antennariidae). But it seems to lack the distinguishing head lumps, and that dinner-plate face and binocular eyes (the latter a real rarity) are definately intriguing. It’s probably a little too early to grant it its own taxonomic family, but I’ve certainly never seen a species quite like it before, and I’ve spent way too much time looking at fish.

The picture that MSNBC is using almost reminds me of a frilled lizard.