RSSCategory: Education

How to Keep Up with the Denialists

May 14, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
How to Keep Up with the Denialists

Pharyngula linked over to this YouTube channel dedicated to debunking each piece of Climate Denialism as it comes up. Here’s a sample:

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Bobby McFerrin illustrates the simple beauty of the pentatonic scale

May 8, 2010 | By | Reply More
Bobby McFerrin illustrates the simple beauty of the pentatonic scale

This is fun–actually delightful. Bobby McFerrin plays the audience, and they produce a pentatonic baseline for McFerrin’s improvising.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

For more of McFerrin’s magic, watch the video below:

World Science Festival 2009: Notes & Neurons, Part 1 of 5 from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

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Peabody Coal Company argues that coal is “green coal” and “clean coal”

May 8, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More
Peabody Coal Company argues that coal is “green coal” and “clean coal”

A few months ago one of my neighbors, a proudly conservative man, saw me carrying a package of high-efficiency light bulbs into my house. He gave me a disappointed look loudly said: “Buy some real light bulbs, Erich.” This neighbor has repeatedly made it known that that liberal concerns and proposals regarding energy are unnecessary because there is plenty of oil and coal, and we should make it our national priority to keep digging and burning these resources.

I know that my Republican neighbor is not the only “conservative” in the U.S. willing to scoff at conservation. I previously argued that this anti-energy-efficiency climate–science-denial attitude like my neighbor’s outlook has become a badge of group membership among conservatives. It has become a salient display that one believes, above all, in the alleged power and wisdom of the “Free Market,” an unsubstantiated leap of faith so incredibly bold that I once termed it the Fourth Person of the Holy Trinity (and see here and here). These free-market fundamentalists are contemptuous at well-informed suggestions for using energy resources more efficiently and for reducing our reliance on dirty and dangerous fossil fuels. Many of them consider national policy aimed at energy conservation to be totally unnecessary and ridiculously expensive. Proposals that we should be smarter consumers of energy annoy and anger them and they offer no evidence-based alternatives for peak oil (and see here and here and here ). They refuse to consider the damage being done to our environment, our health and our budget (especially our military budget) as a result of our reliance on fossil fuels .

My neighbor displays a startling lack of curiosity regarding the ramifications for continuing to attempt to drill and dig our way to energy independence. This same attitude is found in many conservative politicians, the most prominent being Sarah Palin. Based on an extraordinary video of a recent debate at Washington University in Saint Louis, this same attitude is also embraced by of the executives at the largest private coal company in the United States, Peabody Coal Company.

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How are Humans Better?

May 8, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
How are Humans Better?

A new comment thread on an old post discusses the precept that humans are somehow “better” than all other creatures. Sure, as a member of our team, I’d like to think that we are Number One. We’ve even written books attributed to deities that prove that we are the reason for creation, that the octillions of stars in the universe were all put there just for our amusement. Therefore, the book and its believers maintain, we must be the best thing ever. But as an educated human raised by scientists to find first sources and question suppositions, I wonder: “How are we better?”

I have posted before on some of the ways in which our Creator (to use that paradigm) has short changed us. Name any characteristic of which we are proud, and it is easy to find another creature that exceeds our ability. I can only think of one exception: Communicating in persistent symbols.

Unlike cetaceans, birds, fellow primates, and others who communicate fairly precisely with sounds, gestures, or chemical signals, we can detach communication from ourselves and transport or even delay it via layers of uncomprehending media (paper, wires, illiterate couriers, etc). We can create physical objects that abstract ideas from one individual and allow the idea to be absorbed by another individual at a later time. It also allows widely separated groups to share a single culture, at least in part.

This learned behavior is based on our apparently unique ability to abstract in multiple layers and to abstract to a time well beyond the immediate future. We can take an idea to a series of sounds to a series of static symbols, and back again. Our relatively modern ability to reason abstractly (math, science) evolved from our ability to abstract communications. Even Einstein couldn’t hold the proof of E=MC2 in his head.

But is this unique ability really sufficient to declare ourselves overall inherently “better”?

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How you own the Red Roof Inn and why we need to audit the Federal Reserve

May 7, 2010 | By | Reply More
How you own the Red Roof Inn and why we need to audit the Federal Reserve

Representative Alan Grayson explains how it is that the American public now owns the Red Roof Inn and why we desperately need to audit the Federal Reserve. These are closely related questions, as Grayson dramatically details. The Federal Reserve Bank needs to be audited because it excels at magically “make money out of nothing,” just by making notations on its books. We have no way of knowing how it is that the Federal Reserve assumed liability for other large chains of hotels too. The Fed has also put up half a trillion dollars in mortgage-backed securities. Therefore, we, the People, are “owners” of massive amounts of real estate, which means that the Fed owns our homes when the mortgages go bad. This is “stealth” socialism, says Grayson, because we don’t audit the Federal Reserve.

Grayson, a progressive, is thus calling on conservatives to join in the call to audit the Fed “before it all comes crashing down on us.” Every time the Fed creates money out of thin air, “they’re taking that dollar that’s in your pocket and they’re making it cheaper–worth less.”

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Why You Can’t Fail a Bible Quiz

May 1, 2010 | By | 11 Replies More
Why You Can’t Fail a Bible Quiz

Here is a humorous/snarky look at some of the continuity problems inherent in an absolutely infallable text:

It even gives the chapter and verse so we can confirm the true and inerrant details of this quiz

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Another Musing on Our Evolving Ability to Perceive

April 27, 2010 | By | Reply More
Another Musing on Our Evolving Ability to Perceive

I have occasionally ruminated our improved ability to see and understand the universe around us. On this blog, it usually is in terms of comparing the Young Earth view with what we’ve learned in the last few hundred years. Posts such as The Universe is not Specified to Human Scale and My limited vision make the point.

But I’ve started another blog that focuses less on politics and culture, yet found that one of my first posts again addresses the issue of how we’ve improved our vision of the world around us in the last few dozen generations. Please peruse The Object At Hand: Light Lens a Hand, to Help us Understand and see if I am off the beam.

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Tea Party: A House Divided

April 25, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More
Tea Party: A House Divided

Yes, friends, the Tea Party is split down the middle. On one side, Ron Paul and his anti-government clique. On the other, Sarah Palin and her theocracy coven.

What of the Christian Nation side? Here’s an analysis:

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Ross Perot, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin?

April 22, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More
Ross Perot, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin?

I’m perforce following the antics of the Tea Party movement. This organization couldn’t have snowballed without the Web 2.0 social networking system to enable it. Perot didn’t have any access to such power in 1992. Ron Paul tried, but it hadn’t yet reached critical mass.

This is probably the answer to a question I recently posted as a response on (facepalm) FaceBook:

Where was that Tea Party 7 years ago, after the president declared “Mission Accomplished” in that elective war? That excursion from reality was a significant factor in converting the budget surplus he inherited into record debt. As was his creation of the largest government bureaucracy ever (Homeland Security) nominally to do what other agencies were already supposed to be doing. Then his decision to roll back those pesky banking regulations established in the 1930’s to prevent lenders from packaging bad debts as good bets, sure has worked out well.

But now there is a coordinated effort to undermine the legacy political process by uniting people of disparate intentions under a single banner. Anarchists, Libertarians, Christian-nationists, assault-rifles-for-the-kids, and anti-taxers now gather together in front of cameras from every corner of the nation. Who is the current figurehead of the movement? Sarah Palin.

Not that Ron Paul is yet out of the running. But certain faith-based reports count him out of Tea Party support.

Maybe I’m just confused, but I’d really like to see an actual Tea Party party in the next big election. This would be a true referendum on how much support they have.

But as near as I can tell from my casual reading, the Tea Party goal is not to take responsibility, but rather to sink candidates from the other parties who disagree with their very particular simple positions on complex issues.

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