Friday, November 14, 2014

Another palindrome milestone

I know that this is very silly, but the page view meter just turned over another palindrome, 92629.

This is personally amusing because it is also my ZIP code.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Gallop numbers on Creationism: 2 more years, and 3 more data points.

I last reviewed the Gallop organization poll on creationism two years ago in "On Reading a Graph."

There is new data from Gallop.

The question representing the Young Earth Creationists was, "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

This is a very "soft" question. Phrases like "pretty much" and "the last 10,000 years or so" don't pin down the response, particularly regarding the original human form. It allows the respondent to make arbitrary judgement of what is "human." It also excluded a faith group known as "old earth creationists."

The "old earth creationist" was supposed to be captured in the statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process." But, this misses the majority of "old earth creationists" who believe that the earth and universe were as old as the sciences indicate, but that their god "inserted" modern humans at an appropriate time as per the biblical chronologies. The statement comes closest to the "theistic evolution" position. This might be paraphrased as, "Creation, and Evolution have occurred as discovered by science, but it is God's will that this is so."

The "young earth" data (percent agree "God created ...") 44, 47, 44, 47, 45, 45, 46, 43, 44, 40, 46, 42; mean 44.4, s.d. 2.06. This is a small data set, but we see that the most recent data are a full standard deviation lower than the mean. At the same time, the last time the poll hit the mean was 2008. Since then the data are very volatile running 2 s.d. down, or 1 up. More interestingly, the trend is toward the negative variation showing a probable weakening of support.

Compare this with the "theistic evolution" data; 38,35,39,40,37,38,36,38,36,38,32,31; mean 36.5, s.d. 2.7. Here the scores have rarely ever been low until the last two surveys. As an alternative with small data sets, we drop the extreme high and low scores and get a mean of 36.7, and a s.d. of 2.05. This suggests that the most recent years have seen an actual drop in support for the "theistic evolution" position.

Compare these both with the data for the secular position. First the cue statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process." There is nothing that distinguishes it from the "Theistic Evolution" position other than the phrase, "God had no part in this process."
Percent agree; 9,11,10,9,12,13,13,14,14,16,15,19; mean 12.9 s.d. 2.96. Trimmed, m. 12.7, s.d. 2.2.
There is a nearly perfect "hinge" in the data when they switch from a negative, to a positive trend. This was first securely seen in 2004.

What about the "no opinion" group. They are often ignored in substantive terms. (Percent agree) 9,7,7,4,5,4,5,4,5,6,7,8; mean 5.9, s.d. 1.67. Trimming the extremes gives; mean 5.8, s.d. 1.4. The combined data shows an interestingly strong parochial trend with "no opinion" numbers below the mean between 1999 - 2008. They then move slightly above the long term average in 2010 with that trend increasing.

The Theistic Evolution population has also declined just over a standard deviation. Obviously there is no difference between the secular and theistic evolution position on many of the more contentious aspects of creationism - denial of evolution, denial of geology, denial of chemistry, or physics - when compared with the YEC. If we combine the data, there are ~58% of the American public able to face the fact that life has evolved over the last 4.5 billion years since the origin of the solar system. A narrow majority, but a majority.

The apparent declines in the creationist numbers I suspected 2 years ago seem real, and to have shifted strongly toward the secular, or weakly toward the "no opinion" positions.

I forgot to mention two books that give a historical perspective on creationism in America;

Numbers, Ronald L.
2006 "The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism" Berkeley: University of California Press

Scott, Eugenie C.,
2005 "Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction" University of California Press

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Institute for Creation Research and their dupes, v.1.0.

The Dallas News recently ran a puff-piece lauding the Institute for Creation Research. The major reason to avoid public face-to-face debates with creationists is that they practice the technique called the “Gish Gallop” named after the late Institute for Creation Research master-debator Duane Gish. The method is to lie as rapidly as possible about as many possible things that the real scientist is overwhelmed. It was known before Duane Gish perfected it as the, “BuryThemInBullshit” method. However, in a written format this method typically falls apart. Sadly, I'll show that even in a supposedly public forum creationists cheat and lie with impunity.

During a protracted discussion in the Dallas News website a "bull-creato" emerged. A particularly outrageous false claim was made by creationist Paul Koepp, "Unfossilized organic soft tissue is found all through the geo column, found even in the Cambrian and dino DNA (small pieces of it) exist and have been documented."

He has consistently asserted this and obviously never consulted any reliable sources. I requested actual valid references which I knew don’t exist. Koepp replied with a number of vague claims about scientific papers, and more links to creationist websites. He then boasted, "Am I the one lying and being dishonest, or is there a learning curve going on here?"

It took a while to actually find and read the science journal papers alluded to, or cited in his creationist websites. My colleague Prof. James Hoffman provided some of the more difficult to find. (That link was to a very solid resource that anyone opposing the creationist anti-reality campaign should bookmark.) The creationists are lying again. What a surprise that must be!

I certainly never expected Mr. Koepp to admit he had lied. I actually doubt he is capable of recognizing his falsehoods. But the flagrant incompetence and/or dishonesty in the claim, “dino DNA (small pieces of it) exist and have been documented" should be sufficiently obviously false that any sane, rational person will see the error. The specific argument in support of his falsehood was some links to creationist websites, and one scientific article published in 1994. That article was, S. R. Woodward, N. J. Weyand, M. Bunnell, “DNA sequence from Cretaceous period bone fragments” Science 18 November 1994: 1229-1232.

In less than one year after the Woodward et al publication, their entire claim was debunked by four teams of paleontologists. One team that correctly identified Woodward’s “dino DNA” as modern human had Mr. Koepp’s favorite paleontologist, Mary Schweitzer, as a member.

SB Hedges and MH Schweitzer Science 26 May 1995: 1191-1192.

S Henikoff, Science 26 May 1995: 1192.

MW Allard, D Young, and Y Huyen, Science 26 May 1995: 1192.

H Zischler, M Hoss, O Handt, A von Haeseler, AC van der Kuyl, and J Goudsmit, Science 26 May 1995: 1192-1193.

The unknown sequences “like nothing we’ve seen before” according to Woodward were positively identified as, “the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, accession number X56291) and to human cytochrome b genes (Homo sapiens, accession number V00662) by Allard et al. Woodward thought his own cell’s DNA was from dinosaurs. Zischler et al sarcastically wondered maybe their human DNA had been contaminated with mysterious unknown dinosaur DNA. They concluded that in fact, Woodward had merely failed to use good lab procedure and had analyzed his laboratory's human contamination.

Here we are 20 years later, and Institute for Creation Research frauds, and their creationist dupes are still spewing lies about the discovery of "Dino DNA."

Why did these lies by Mr. Koepp go uncorrected? Because the Dallas News repeatedly banned, and deleted the correct information from their website.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kent Hovind still in the slammer

There are many new developments that I'll try to get to soon. In the mean time, here is an interesting link on "the evolution of Kent Hovind."

Kent Hovind was sentenced to 10 years for 12 tax fraud offenses, one count of obstructing federal agents, and 45 counts of illegally structuring cash transactions. The minimum term he could have served was 8 years with the last 6 months in a half-way house, or home detention. Under that scenario he would have left prison February of 2015 with "time off for good behavior," and parole.

However it seem there are other plans for Hovind, Prisoner #06452-017.

According his son Eric, Kent Hovind was transferred August 13 to the Santa Rosa County Jail in Milton, Florida. There he was charged with contempt of court for violating an injunction contained in the 2012 civil case associated with the Federal settlement that seized the "Dinosaur Adventure Land" and other real property. If the question is "contempt of court," then Kent Hovind has shown nothing but contempt. What other than contempt has he shown? I thought his telephone conversations before his trial were extremely revealing (and funny as any comedy routine). Knowing he was being recorded, "Dr. Dino" made threats against the judge, and instructed his family on how to hide assets."

His court date is set for September 8, 2014 rescheduled for November, 2014. The timing here seems to me obviously intended to stop his early release in 2015, see that he serves his full 10 year sentence, and maybe give Hovind a little extra time to think this through.

I am not a lawyer, but I'll offer a guess that Kent Hovind won't be going home in February 2015.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What I have been doing this summer

For 7 weeks now I have not left the house except to go to a doctor appointment, or to a hospital.

June 25 I got slammed in the R eye with a fishing weight. A tourist ripped his torpedo sinker out of a kelp stringer and into my eye 15 feet behind him. This caused major damage to just about every part of the eye. Bleeding and swelling raised the eye pressure (intraocular pressure) to over 70 mm. Normal IOP is 15 mm. Blood, and vitreous was forced past the lens into the anterior chamber and incidentally further damaging the lens. This pressure also damaged the optic nerve, and collapsed the channels that normally drain the eye and regulate pressure. I was on a sport fishing boat here in Dana Point and we were a few miles from the harbor. The skipper, and his first mate were on the job from the start. They got me a medical evacuation by the Orange County Harbor Patrol within 15 minutes. The Emergency Room docs, and the consulting ophthalmologist all agreed that if I had been delayed even another 1/2 hour from medical attention, I would have lost the eye.

I was hospitalized for 3 days. We then tried for 3 weeks to control the eye pressure medically.

As the massive blood clot broke up over the next few weeks, the MDs could see the damage better. The muscles that control the eye's orientation were damaged, but have recovered function recently. The extent of permanent damage to the optic nerve was fortunately minor, and the retina is still working well. The cornea was scarred, and traumatic cataracts started growing within days. The iris muscles were paralyzed by nerve damage, and then died as pressure blocked their blood supply. The lens was destabilized when a large number of the fibers (called zonules) that hold the lens in place were snapped. It will eventually break free which will require surgery as will the cornea cataracts and scarring. All in all, this sucks. I took 5 meds on various dosing schedules between 6 AM to 10 PM. The main goal was to stabilize my eye pressure back at the normal 15mm.

The purely medical approach failed. Even when the IOP would return to nearly normal, it would next spike back to 2 or 3 times normal. What had happened was that the extreme pressure, and the blow itself had collapsed the eye ducts so badly they could not recover. Finally with my IOP back over 48 mm, we did an emergency surgery on July 16th. The cornea was lifted to clean the anterior chamber, and a shunt was put in to mechanically replace the drain system destroyed by the injury. The recovery time for that surgery is 4 to 6 weeks. We are into the 5th week now, and there has been considerable improvement. However even with additional surgeries my R eye will never regain full normal functioning.

We have maxed out the medical suppression of the eye pressure while the surgery heals. This means various kinds of eye drops - 13 each day administered by my wife every hour or two between 6AM and 10PM. Plus, I have varied between 1,500 and 500 mg of Diamox- one of the weirder drugs in terms of side-effects I have ever had. What we are not using is pain medication since pain is an important clue to the IOP. In fact, it is really the only one readily available without a lot of medical hardware.

The next time I get injured I want better drugs!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The lie that Charles Darwin was a racist.

We should do away with the scurrilous lie that Darwin was a racist, or that evolutionary biology induces racism or bigotry. Darwin in the 1850s wrote in what could be called a dated academic style which without practice can be rather thick reading. Ignorant creationists like to draw sinister conclusions from the title of Darwin's opus, "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life." They are apparently clueless that “Race” in Darwin’s use meant formally a grouping below subspecies which is how it is used by botanists today for local variations found in plants growing in slightly different soils, or varied amounts of sunlight. As there are no extant human subspecies, there is no scientific reference intended by Darwin to human races.

Darwin made virtually no mention of humans at all in "The Origin of Species" Further, popular political writing 150 years ago and even later commonly used "race" to mean nationality; we read from those times about the "Irish race" and the "English race." In fact, Darwin considered all human biological variation he observed in his worldwide travels merely due to differences in climate and diet. For example Charles Darwin, wrote in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (John Murray, London, 1871), "It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant."

Note that this is at a time when many Christians argued that non-Europeans were not even human! The American slave owners were assured by the "preAdamites" that God had created the Negro with the "beasts of the field" and that the sons of Adam (of course all Whites) was only exercising his God ordained right to dominate these sub-humans. Christian racists in America even to this day maintain that nonwhites are subhuman, cite biblical support for slavery, and/or allege that Blacks are descended from Ham, the son of Noah who was cursed to be a mere servant.

Darwin's attitude toward Africans was shaped in part by his early friendship with a Negro man he became friends with in Edinburgh. Darwin learned the art of taxidermy from him and whom he mentioned in his autobiography; "By the way, a Negro lived in Edinburgh, who had traveled with Waterton and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently; he gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man." -- Charles Darwin, Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882 (restored edition)(1958), Nora Barlow editor, p.51. Darwin also mentioned this in his 1871 book, “The Descent of Man;”

“The Races of Men”
Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet if their whole organisation be taken into consideration they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these points are of so unimportant or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans differ as much from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Fuegians on board the “Beagle,” with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate.


“Now when naturalists observe a close agreement in numerous small details of habits, tastes and dispositions between two or more domestic races, or between nearly-allied natural forms, they use this fact as an argument that all are descended from a common progenitor who was thus endowed; and consequently that all should be classed under the same species. The same argument may be applied with much force to the races of man.” (London: John Murray, 2nd Ed. 1874:179)

I want to emphasize that Darwin's anti-slavery, and anti-racism was 40 years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Further, Charles Darwin was an ardent abolitionist at a time when many used the Bible to justify slavery. In 1833 he wrote, "I have watched how steadily the general feeling, as shown at elections, has been rising against Slavery. What a proud thing for England, if she is the first European nation which utterly abolishes it. I was told before leaving England, that after living in slave countries: all my options would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the Negro's character." Charles Darwin to Catherine Darwin (May 22 - July 14 1833) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Vol. 1 1821-1836 (1985), pp. 312-313

Abolitionists William Wilberforce, and Thomas Clarkson were funded by Charles R. Darwin’s Grandfathers; Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin, through the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Wedgwood and Darwin were founding members in 1787, and served on the London Committee. It was Clarkson who in 1791 conceived the British boycott against slave labor sugar. But it was Wedgwood money that paid for the thousands of pamphlets used to promote the campaign.

The Darwin and Wedgwood opposition to slavery spanned generations. In 1824 the family provided significant financial support to the Anti-Slavery Society run by W. Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton (Wilberforce’s successor to the House of Commons in 1818). The anti-slavery slogan, “The Universal Father has made of one blood all nations” was coined by a Shrewsbury Unitarian and prefaced anti-slavery resolutions introduced to Parliament.

So young Charles R. Darwin was raised in the center of anti-slavery and anti-racist activism.

I want anyone confused by the creationist propaganda to read;

Daly, John Patrick
2002 "When Slavery Was Called Freedom: Evangelism, Proslavery, and the Causes of the Civil War" Kentucky University Press

Desmond, Adrian and James More
2009 “Darwin’s Sacred Cause” New York: Penguin Books

Consider The Rev. John Bachman (February 4, 1790 – February 24, 1874). He was an American Lutheran minister, social activist and naturalist who collaborated with J.J. Audubon, Co-founder of Newberry College, and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Bachman published in 1850 “The Doctrine of the Unity of the Human Race Examined on the Principles of Science,” and in 1855 “Characteristics of Genera and Species, as Applicable to the Doctrine of Unity in the Human Race.” Bachman was liberal of his place and time. He accepted that the African, and Caucasian races were of the same species. However, he also wrote that the African were of such "an inferior, and debased nature" that it was the Christian Duty of Whites to enslave the Africans “for their own good.”

There is a long tradition of racism in the American Christian churches, especially the Southern Baptists who split from the Northern Baptists and supported slavery. See for example;

Marvin Wheat
1862 “Proof of Slavery From the First Chapter of Genesis” Publisher unknown

Haberman, Fredrick
1934 "Tracing Our White Ancestors: White Roots" (1962 ed. Phoenix, Az: Lord's Covenant Church) and 2009 reprinted as "Tracing Our Ancestors: Traces the European American Back to Father Abraham and Beyond" Muskogee, Ok: Artisan Publishers.

Heschel, Susannah
2008 “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany” Princeton University Press

Modern creationist Henry Morris's (founder of the Institute for Creation Research) wrote in "The Beginning Of the World, Second Edition (1991), pp. 147-148:
"The descendants of Ham were marked especially for secular service to mankind. Indeed they were to be 'servants of servants,' that is 'servants extraordinary!' Although only Canaan is mentioned specifically (possibly because the branch of Ham's family through Canaan would later come into most direct contact with Israel), the whole family of Ham is in view. The prophecy is worldwide in scope and, since Shem and Japheth are covered, all Ham's descendants must be also. These include all nations which are neither Semitic nor Japhetic. Thus, all of the earth's 'colored' races,--yellow, red, brown, and black--essentially the Afro-Asian group of peoples, including the American Indians--are possibly Hamitic in origin and included within the scope of the Canaanitic prophecy, as well as the Egyptians, Sumerians, Hittites, and Phoenicians of antiquity."

So, Christians and modern creationists support racism, and slavery as "biblical."

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Wayne Lusvardi is a nit wit

Wayne Lusvardi "writes on water policy," and if his recent article, "Drought: Tearing up lawns is short-sighted" is a typical example, he should write about something else. Mr. Lusvardi want's us to all keep watering the lawns here in California because in a few places this wasted water will be recaptured. He thinks that in the few places that this might happen up to 15% of wasted lawn water could be recovered. Oh, he added that without lawns poor urban people will park their cars on bare dirt.

I have had an all native California yard landscape for over 12 years. I have used no domestic water on it for 11 years. Additionally, eliminating lawns and replacing them with native plants has many more benefits than water savings. Just reducing the use of water polluting pesticides, and fertilizers saves money and helps the environment. Other wildlife needs native plants, most obviously lepidoptera, and birds. Fourth, more lawn irrigation water runs off from sidewalks, and driveways that his fantasy 15% recovery to ground water. Fifth, I have no need to waste months of my days weeding, or mowing lawns.

But the fundamentally stupid bit is Mr. Lusvardi's notion that the extremely limited "recovery" thinks might be gained (15%) can match the minimum 50% of annual water saved by replacing lawns with regionally native plants. This is even if we use his doubtfully accurate numbers.

I cannot avoid the stench of racism in Lusvardi's assertion that all "we’re going to end up with is low income neighborhoods tearing out lawns and residents using the bare dirt for parking cars."

Over the years I had a lot of fights with the city (Dana Point) code enforcement officers (AKA Lawn Nazis) about having a native garden. This was apparently a training exercise for new hires. I finally ended it with this little sign. Now everybody is happy:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pastor Jim Mumme is an idiot

In a guest editorial, Pastor Jim Mumme made some of the more gross misunderstandings of physical science I recall reading. What is sad is that I suspect Pastor Jim thinks he is advancing a reconciliation between science and religion.

"Pastor" Jim claims to love "science, and ... Christianity’s doctrine of creation." Yet he showed very little understanding of either. His scientific errors begin almost immediately when he wrote, "Energy is defined as the capacity to do work." That would be a crude definition of "entropy." He goes on to say, "Energy is actually invisible, and only its use or result can be seen." Just what does Pastor Jim think his eyes see with? The rest of us use photons which are a form of energy. In fact they are the "pure light" he confused with a weird unorthodox doctrine conflating light and the Divine. When Pastor Jim wrote, "Man can change matter to energy, and an example would be burning gasoline to run an automobile or coal to warm a building," his 'scientific' credibility left the room entirely. Burning gas, or coal does not convert mass into energy; burning releases chemical energy stored in the fuel.

Mr. Mumme weirdly links the notion that mankind cannot generate matter from light, that Genesis opens with a command "let there be light," and concluded that God "actually made the material world out of His personal energy."

We can create matter from energy. One way used massive particles and one could quibble that this was not "pure light" energy. But a new paper published just today (Pike, Mackenroth, Hill & Rose) shows how we can actualize the experimental results predicted in 1934 by Breit and Wheeler. This is the direct generation of electrons from photons; matter from pure light. This also reduces "Pastor" Jim's theology to rubble.

Breit, G. & Wheeler, J. A.
1934 "Collision of two light quanta" Phys. Rev. 46, 1087–1091

Pike O. J., Mackenroth F., Hill E. G., Rose S. J.,
2014 “A photon-photon collider in a vacuum hohlraum” Nature Photon

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Carl Baugh Page Views

I must admit that I like to watch the stats change on Stones and Bones.

I always know when Carl Baugh had been on some preacher's TV show because the hits on Baugh's fake fossils spike. Over the years, they have generated about 10% of my total viewers.