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Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal
Updated: 19 hours 42 min ago

And now for some good news

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 11:41am

Here’s what I’ve been listening to today. I think Janelle Monae is what you’d get if Prince were resurrected as a woman.

I like this one even better. I want to visit that club, even though I fear I would not survive the experience.

Genius. But I have to wait until 27 April for the whole album to drop, which is cruel.

Categories: Science

Skeptic and atheist organizations suffer a failure of leadership

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 8:38am

In a total coincidence, I woke up this morning and notice a box of old magazines by the bedside that my wife was planning to throw out, and on the very top was the back cover of Free Inquiry, with this advertisement:

And then, this morning, this article appears: Science Organizations Cancel Lawrence Krauss Events After Sexual Harassment Allegations. Like lightning, within days of the big, thoroughly-sourced article documenting Krauss’s shenanigans, the speaking engagements are sublimating away, leaving nothing but a greasy smear on floor of his reputation. He’s lost the odd event with Sam Harris last night, NECSS has announced that they don’t plan to invite him to future events, MIT cancelled an event, the American Physical Society has dropped him from their annual meeting — he has been Harvey Weinsteined practically overnight.

There are a few exceptions. That infamous cruise:

The BuzzFeed piece also cites an alleged incident in 2011 involving Krauss that I previously detailed in a 2013 post I wrote for the Heresy Club, a now-defunct blog network of young writers in the skeptic community. The blog post, which was removed shortly after its publication following legal threats from Krauss, described a 2011 incident in which Krauss allegedly propositioned a woman to engage in a threesome with himself and another woman (the request was reportedly turned down). The woman was at the time a guest on a cruise sponsored by the Center for Inquiry, where Krauss was one of the featured speakers. I also wrote in my 2013 blog post—and the BuzzFeed article reiterates—that at least one CFI employee implored the then-president of CFI, Ron Lindsay, to not invite Krauss on a planned 2014 cruise, citing the “report of unwanted sexual attention” she had received from the woman and other past offensive behavior. The CFI nevertheless invited him.

CFI has known about these problems as long or longer than other organizations. Nevertheless, CFI has long supported him.

Once, Krauss was barred from making contact with an undergraduate student by his university or from entering the campus without permission, following her harassment complaint, the BuzzFeed article reports. In another instance, the article says, a prominent research institute placed Krauss on its do-not-invite list, following a complaint made during a 2009 event where he guest-spoke. The article also reported that another prominent secular and skeptical organization, the Center for Inquiry (CFI), continued to invite Krauss to events even after having been made aware of several allegations against him and CFI employees requesting that he not attend in light of them.

Universities, like Case Western Reserve, apparently dealt with him effectively after due process (universities are notoriously slow at handling these internal matters). Professional scientific organizations cut him off with remarkable swiftness. CFI, on the other hand, is still struggling to figure out how to cope at least 7 years after the problem first raised its ugly head. The Center for Inquiry doesn’t even have a comment on the matter on their website; neither does the Richard Dawkins Foundation, despite their long association with him.

It’s dismaying that the skeptical/atheist organizations still have their heads stuck up their butts while the rest of the world passes them by. It’s especially troubling because I know there are good people at CFI who are seething about all this, but management has them locked down.

Categories: Science

Time for some Secular Social Justice

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 6:32am

I’ve managed to eke out enough frequent flyer miles that I can afford to fly off to Secular Social Justice on 7 April. Also, as usual, all it takes is reading a little Sikivu Hutchinson to get me fired up for it.

In April, the American Humanist Association is sponsoring the semi-annual Secular Social Justice (SSJ) conference in Washington, D.C. This first of its kind conference is designed to spotlight the intersectional, anti-racist organizing, activism and cultural work of secular people of color. When my comrade Donald Wright (founder of the National Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers) and I organized the first SSJ conference two years ago at Rice University in Houston, non-believers of color were struggling with the very same visibility and platform issues that they grapple with today. The majority often navigate between a white mainstream atheist world that has been hostile to intersectionality, black feminism and people of color, and socially conservative religious communities of color that view atheism as inauthentically black or tantamount to devil worship.

Sincere Kirabo, lead organizer for this year’s SSJ conference notes that SSJ “was developed as a direct response to pervasive complacency within the secular community that considers focus on matters of social justice issues unnecessary or a “distraction.” Countering that view, the conference will feature speakers and presenters from racial justice, law, public policy, queer, trans and immigrant rights activism, educational equity and humanist activism.

Finally, SSJ also speaks to a critical leadership vacuum in the mainstream atheist, humanist and secular movements. There are currently few to no people of color in executive management positions in major secular organizations (i.e., the Center for Inquiry, Secular Student Alliance, American Humanist Association, etc.). As a result, it is precisely because of anti-atheist religious bigotry, white atheist racism and the lack of culturally responsive secular organizations that the vast majority of non-believers of color do not feel comfortable openly identifying as atheist. And, until this shifts, the much-ballyhooed rise of the nones will only be a footnote for segregated communities of color.

This is the direction movement atheism has to take if it wants to survive and be meaningful. If I can help in any way, that’s where I want to make my contributions.

Now, one other little thing: the conference is taking place at All-Souls Unitarian Church, but does anyone know if there is an associated hotel for the event? Otherwise, I’m just going to book the nearest, cheapest hotel in the area.

Categories: Science

I guess it’ll be another IMDB credit for me

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 6:11am

I was informed yesterday that I am the ☆STAR☆ of yet another movie, a movie that I was not told about and just sort of stumbled into. I’m losing all respect for movie celebrities, though: apparently, the way a movie star works is to have some guy with a camera record you talking for a bit, and then they all go away, and you don’t even think about it for five years, and then suddenly this thing is available online and you see it and say “Oh crap, I was in that piece of shit?” and you never get paid. I’m beginning to wonder how those other movie stars can afford their beach houses in Malibu.

So here, you can watch my fabulous movie, Origins of the Universe: The Great Debate on Amazon Prime.

Oh, yeah, they also misspell my name, because of course they always do.

You don’t really want to watch it.

As I was watching it, I remembered the circumstances. I think it was a conference in Winnipeg; this guy asked me nicely if I’d answer some questions on camera, and I said sure, so I end up in this oddly lit hotel room with a stranger (I hate how that happens) and he starts firing questions at me, for about an hour. I had no idea it was a debate, but I guess that after the fact, it was. And then I literally went away and completely forgot about it.

The interviewer, Todd Cantelon, then spliced me in with other footage of such luminaries as Ken Ham and Terry Mortenson and David Menton and Jason Lisle and Georgia Purdom and PZ Meyers (oh, wait, that was me). It’s weird to be retroactively ganged up on, but I’m unconcerned, they were all idiots.

There’s also a woman named Mary P. Winsor who was interviewed, so I wasn’t alone on my side. She’s a historian of biology, and has written criticisms of Mayr’s claims about pre-Darwinian essentialism. I don’t know much about her work, but if she’s been opposing some of the ahistorical BS that Ernst Mayr spent a long lifetime injecting into the discourse, she and I are on the same side.

Anyway, it’s a long boring set of spliced-together clips of me saying a sentence or two, then Ken Ham babbling out his fallacious canned spiel about “observational science” and then more creationists talking, then another sentence or two by me or Mary Winsor followed by more nonsense from creationists.

Also, to spice it up, the creationists were recorded at the Creation “Museum” in some place where dinosaur roars and honks occasionally drown them out. Todd Cantelon pretends to be a moderator, but all of his segments were filmed in some spectacular red rock canyon somewhere. It’s kind of unfair that all I got was a grey Winnipeg hotel room.

Categories: Science

Doing the right thing

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 1:31pm

Lawrence Krauss was scheduled to speak at an event with Harris and Dillahunty tonight: Krauss has withdrawn from it, which is rather interesting. This is part of a series of events assembled by this impresario I never heard of before named Travis Pangburn, who mainly seems to be focused on pandering to the old guard regressive atheists, pushing Sam Harris at every opportunity, so you’d think this would have been the friendliest possible venue for Krauss to push back. I guess he doesn’t think he can.

It is nice to see someone lose status within the atheist movement for being an asshole to women. It’s usually the other way around.

Also note that the American Humanists have spoken out.

“As humanists, we positively affirm a woman’s bodily autonomy and support those women who speak up and hold men accountable for misogyny and bad behavior. We encourage women to be empowered,” said Rebecca Hale, president of the AHA. “Sexual misconduct violates humanist concerns for equality and compassion.”

“Many have voiced concern that there will be little response to these allegations within our movement, and I want to assure them as a leader of the humanist community, that the AHA will not ignore these assertions,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of AHA.

The AHA works actively for gender equality and against harassment through its advocacy programs and with a special emphasis from the AHA’s Feminist Humanist Alliance. “Men benefit from a patriarchal culture that encourages male entitlement and predatory behavior,” said Sincere Kirabo, social justice coordinator at AHA. “Atheists aren’t exempt. It’s our job to work against this programming, to divest from it, and to actively challenge it.”

That’s the right tone. Now let’s see it applied to all the abusers.

And now…another Krauss cancellation.

Categories: Science

These kids know how to deliver a good burn

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:34am

Ouch, scorching:

We should change the names of AR-15s to “Marco Rubio” because they are so easy to buy.

— Sarah Chadwick// #NEVERAGAIN (@sarahchad_) February 23, 2018

Remember that one when he runs for re-election.

Oh lord, she has a series of riffs on right-wing idiots. I’m impressed.

Categories: Science

Do you really want to give me a gun?

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 5:18am

It suddenly sunk in with all this talk about arming school teachers to prevent mass shootings — hey, that’s me! I teach! What kind of gun do I get? A big one? I want something intimidating, you know, like that monster handgun Dirty Harry waves around.

Then I want to know the rules of engagement here. Do I get to shoot students for just carrying a gun, or do I have to wait for them to kill someone first? Do I get the same benefit of the doubt that cops get –like, if I see a student reach inside their coat, or move their hand down towards their belt, is it OK if I shoot them? Just in case?

Also important: if I aim to shoot a suspicious-looking student, and miss and kill some other student in the crowd, I won’t be blamed for it, will I? It’s just collateral damage to protect our precious students, these things happen, it’s just part of the cost of maintaining the peace.

If I murder a student while teaching, I would like to have at least 30 days paid leave, so that I can recover from the emotional trauma. A medal for bravery would be nice, too. I think we should add a section to our yearly tenure and promotion review in which we tally up our confirmed kills, and all the faculty applaud our brave teachers who have shot someone in the performance of their teaching duties.

You can trust me! For sure, I wouldn’t be like that Utah teacher who shot herself by accident. I’d be safe. I’d have the safety on at all time, and no bullets in the chamber, until, that is, it was time for me to intentionally shoot a student, a responsibility I would take very, very seriously.

I am concerned, though, that we have a 14:1 student:faculty ratio here, and I see a lot of my colleagues in the community spaces with students milling about. There’s going to be some intense competition to bag students, and I’m going to have to be quick on the draw if I want to be first. Maybe I need a bigger gun? Or two guns? Or maybe a hand grenade? I wouldn’t want the chemistry department to get a higher score than the biology department, you know.

Categories: Science

Extortion and revenge porn are illegal in Missouri? Who knew?

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 2:34pm

Missouri governor Eric Greitens has been indicted and taken into custody for felony invasion of privacy. I am shocked. I thought it was OK if you’re a Republican.

Lock him up! Lock him up!

In other cheerful news, Oregon just passed a bill prohibiting domestic violence perpetrators from owning a gun. Hooray!

Categories: Science

Our glorious Trumpian educational future

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 12:16pm

At least they’ll be safe from bears!

Categories: Science

Homo sapiens is going to go extinct soon, aren’t we?

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 10:57am

No comment.

After last night's rant about measles and vaccines, can I now ask that you DON'T PUT WEEK-OLD PISS IN YOUR EYES? Thank you. pic.twitter.com/Uwmot7GlLz

— Alistair Coleman (@alistaircoleman) February 20, 2018

Dooooomed. Dooomed, I tells you.

Categories: Science

Brace yourself for more allegations against a prominent atheist: Lawrence Krauss

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 9:39am

I knew this was coming; in fact, I was interviewed several times for this article about misconduct by Lawrence Krauss. I had to tell the journalist that at most I’d gotten some second-hand echoes from the whisper network, but that I knew nothing directly about any accusations against him. But then, I’m a guy — I wasn’t at risk for being groped, so no one was going to pull me aside and warn me. Also, as a guy who was hanging out with Krauss now and then, there was no way to trust me not to spread the word to the accused…and whoa, but a lot of women were terrified of being alone with him, and of the effect he could have on their career.

Go read their stories. I believe them.

It’s a shame, too, because in theory, he’s an ally. He just seems to fall short in practice.

But Krauss says his movement is getting more diverse, not less. He is politically liberal, decrying sexism, racism, and “the fear of people who are different,” and is a vocal critic of Donald Trump. And yet, he’s not always politically correct, whether saying that religion drives xenophobia, dismissing burka-clad Muslims as “women in bags,” announcing that a statue looks like “Jesus on the toilet,” or tweeting articles arguing that #MeToo has gone too far.

And in his private life, according to a number of women in his orbit, Krauss exhibits some of the sexist behavior that he denounces in public. Now that these accusations are coming out in the open, some women have doubts that the skeptics will acknowledge the body of evidence about his behavior, and confront their own preconceived beliefs.

Once again, skeptics are afflicted with a curious blindness. There’s a psychology study waiting to happen here.

“Skeptics and atheists like to think they are above human foibles like celebrity worship,” Rebecca Watson, a prominent feminist skeptic, told BuzzFeed News. “In a way, that makes them particularly susceptible to being abused by their heroes. I think we see that over and over again.”

Women at skeptics meetings would often warn each other to avoid Krauss, she added, but conference organizers seemed reluctant to act. “He was a popular speaker,” Watson said. “None of them were interested in doing anything about what was happening.”

Krauss hasn’t done himself any favors, either.

But Krauss’s reputation took a hit in April 2011, after he publicly defended Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier who was convicted of soliciting prostitution from an underage girl and spent 13 months in a Florida jail.

Epstein was one of the Origins Project’s major donors. But Krauss told the Daily Beast his support of the financier was based purely on the facts: “As a scientist I always judge things on empirical evidence and he always has women ages 19 to 23 around him, but I’ve never seen anything else, so as a scientist, my presumption is that whatever the problems were I would believe him over other people.”

Oh, well, the cynic in me knows exactly how all this will turn out. Krauss will face no consequences, his popularity in the skeptic/atheist movement will be undimmed, and all the women who spoke out in that article will face an increase in the torrent of abuse they already get. It took a lot of courage for them to go on record, for which I know they will be punished.

Categories: Science

Whatever happened to the Furbies of yesteryear?

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:39am

They’ve been enslaved and wires shoved into their brains and shackled to a machine to make nightmare music.

This is the end result of all that biohacking, you know.

Categories: Science

James O’Brien sees right through them

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:13am

Hate solves nothing, but as it fails, its proponents can only respond by escalating the hatred.

Florida school shooting survivors are being abused on social media. @mrjamesob's response is a must-watch. pic.twitter.com/pNBdSWe36Z

— LBC (@LBC) February 22, 2018

Just to add the cherry on top, there’s Marco Rubio pretending he hasn’t been bought.

Then the student closed in. “So, Senator Rubio,” he said casually, “can you tell me you won’t be accepting a single penny from the NRA?”

The crowd cheered like it was a slam dunkfest.

“People buy into my agenda,” insisted Rubio, ignoring the public disgust with buying and selling politics.

“So you won’t take more NRA money?” Kasky pressed on.

“That’s the wrong way to look at it,” Rubio said. “People buy into my agenda.”

OK, Rubio, so your agenda aligns with that of a radical terrorist organization, the NRA.

Categories: Science

I could take up surfing!

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:59am

I believe that the University of Minnesota, Morris is an ideal learning environment: small classes, good teachers, a real commitment to education. But I also have to be honest and tell you that it has one flaw — location. We really are on the edge of nowhere. I suppose I could spin it and say it has a kind of monastic atmosphere, free of distractions, but I often pine for a place that is a little closer to a real airport, maybe has some public transportation that can take me to someplace other than a grocery store, and has some of the amenities of a larger city.

Now I discover there is a solution. Invent a place! Alireza Heidari is an amazingly prolific ‘scientist’ who has published hundreds of papers and is on the editorial board of countless journals, and he does it all from his institution, California South University.

What? You’ve never heard of it? It’s just down the road from UC Irvine; it takes up 50 city blocks, has 39,000 students, and is one of the top 50 universities in the United States! I don’t know how you missed it.

Well, actually, Heidari has carried out the most extreme job of résumé padding ever. He invented a whole fictitious university, and built an entire web site to document its existence. Although, really, he simply stole the University of Alberta’s website, and through the power of search and replace, changed “Canada” to the US, and “Edmonton” to southern California. It’s a good trick. I’m sure Edmontonians are confused and uncertain whether to celebrate the better climate or be horrified to find themselves under President Trump.

I’m going to suggest to the administration that we edit our web page to say we’re the University of Hawaii, Morris, and relocate the campus to Kauai. I’m tired of being so cold all the time, and we could also fix up our ocean beach deficit at the same time.

Categories: Science

I guess I just can’t be happy with bad data

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:34am

I used to be a fan of Steven Pinker’s work. He speaks fluent academese, he just sounds so reasonable, and his message of optimism is something I want to be true. I’d love to be able to go to my grave thinking the world was going to be a better place for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all the children of the world. I wanted to believe.

O sweet irony, that an atheist could be tempted by hope and faith.

But as I read more, I became disenchanted. Hope is great, but it has to be backed by reason and evidence, and as I read more, it became obvious that Pinker is kind of the Norman Vincent Peale of atheism, and that there wasn’t any substance to him — he starts with a happy belief and works to fill in the gaps in the evidence with cherry-picked data and his own indefensible interpretations.

So now he’s written a book about the Enlightenment, reviewed by Peter Harrison. It is not a good review.

The Enlightenment may seem an ambitious topic for a cognitive psychologist to take up from scratch. Numerous historians have dedicated entire careers to it, and there remains a considerable diversity of opinion about what it was and what its impact has been. But from this and previous work we get intimations of why Pinker thinks he is the person for the job. Historians have laboured under the misapprehension that the key figures of the Enlightenment were mostly philosophers of one stripe or another. Pinker has made the anachronistic determination that, in fact, they were all really scientists – indeed, “cognitive neuroscientists” and “evolutionary psychologists.”

In short, he thinks that they are people like him and that he is thus possessed of privileged insights into their thought denied to mere historians. The latter must resort to careful reading and fraught interpretation in lieu of being able directly to channel what Enlightenment thinkers really thought.

Uh-oh. This reminds me of that ghastly essay Pinker wrote that made me recoil in horror, it was so bad, so egocentric, so ignorant of the humanities and social sciences, I bet it was the foundation of his new book. The book that gets this summary:

For the sceptical reader the whole strategy of the book looks like this. Take a highly selective, historically contentious and anachronistic view of the Enlightenment. Don’t be too scrupulous in surveying the range of positions held by Enlightenment thinkers – just attribute your own views to them all. Find a great many things that happened after the Enlightenment that you really like. Illustrate these with graphs. Repeat. Attribute all these good things your version of the Enlightenment. Conclude that we should emulate this Enlightenment if we want the trend lines to keep heading in the right direction. If challenged at any point, do not mount a counter-argument that appeals to actual history, but choose one of the following labels for your critic: religious reactionary, delusional romantic, relativist, postmodernist, paid up member of the Foucault fan club.

For their part, historians have found the task of tracing the legacy of the Enlightenment more difficult, not least because even characterising what the Enlightenment was has proven challenging. It is now commonplace to speak of multiple Enlightenments and hence multiple and sometime conflicting legacies. Obviously, moreover, not everything that came after the Enlightenment has been sweetness and, well, light. Edmund Burke and G.W.F. Hegel, for example, drew direct connexions between the French Enlightenment and the reign of terror. In the twentieth century the German-Jewish philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer described what they called “the dialectic of the Enlightenment” – a mixed inheritance that included the technical mastery of nature along with a conspicuous absence of the moral insights that would prevent that mastery being turned to barbarous ends. In their view, this led ultimately to the horrors of Nazism.

That bit about picking things you like and stuffing them into graphs reminds me of someone else: maybe Pinker is actually the hybridized clone of Norman Vincent Peale and Ray Kurzweil.

I think, to be a good honest atheist and scientist, I have to respect the work of philosophers and historians and all those people who have deep domains of expertise that I lack, and recognize that when people who say things I wish were true, yet disrespect and don’t even acknowledge the historical breadth of humanity’s thought, they are probably full of shit. Or at least the living personification of the Alexander Pope poem:

A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

A little humility would help, and you don’t approach the Pierian spring with a sippy straw.

Categories: Science

Oughta be better than Sharknado

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 4:12pm

Amazon is going to make a movie of Iain Banks’ Consider Phlebas. That’s going to be tough. Not only would I consider much of it impossible to film, but The Culture isn’t exactly capitalism-friendly, and it will be interesting to see how a mega-corp can develop a movie that is counter to its own ethos without mangling it.

Also, it’s kind of a downer of a story, don’t you know? There isn’t going to be a sequel or a series with the cocky, devil-may-care hero, and I don’t think they’ll sell many t-shirts or video games of Bora Horza Gobuchul.

At least they’re not trying to make Use of Weapons. I don’t think that one would be popular with the happy-clappy space hero crowd.

Categories: Science

Well, that got icky fast

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:04am

A doctor has lost his license to practice medicine after he was found guilty of fondling the breasts of patients during examinations. He was not, however, found guilty of pressing his penis against their legs because, as he himself argued, he was too fat to get that close to them. You might be wondering how that was determined. No. You’re not wondering that, because that’s kind of the last thing you want to know about this case. I didn’t want to know, either, but the article goes ahead and tells us.

Urological experts were hired by both the college and the doctor’s defence team to chemically induce erections in Kunynetz and then simulate patient examinations to determine if indeed his penis could be felt against a patient’s leg.

After conflicting results from the two experts and after consulting photographic evidence from one of the procedures, the discipline panel could only conclude “that the impossibility of contact between the doctor’s penis and a patient’s skin (through clothing) was not established.”

TMI! TMI! I don’t even understand why they needed to get to this level of detail, since he’d already been found guilty of sexual abuse and professional misconduct. Why should precisely determining which patch of skin touched which other patch of skin even matter, since the general violation of ethical conduct had already been determined?

Oh, well. The important thing is that he won’t be practicing medicine anymore, he has lost his appointment with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, he’s facing some massive fines, and he has still another court date at which he may be convicted of assault.

Categories: Science

There are six of them?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 8:28am

I saw the first Sharknado movie — it failed to reach the low, low standard of being so bad it was entertaining. But now I learn that there have been multiple sequels, and they’re working on a sixth? I think they’re reaching. I didn’t watch 2, 3, 4, or 5 — didn’t even know they existed — and the synopsis of #6 doesn’t appeal at all.

After losing his family to the deadly sharknados, Fin (played by Ian Ziering) discovers the ability to travel through time using the sharknados as a sort of portal. His mission is to bring his family back to life through the powers of time travel and/or prevent the threat of the terrifying fish funnels altogether. In a new spin on Sharknado 5‘s world-traveling plot, Fin’s time traveling will bring him in contact with all manner of legends and historical figures. You can read the full synopsis below:

“All is lost, or is it? Fin unlocks the time-traveling power of the SHARKNADOS in order to save the world and resurrect his family. In his quest, Fin fights Nazis, dinosaurs, knights, and even takes a ride on Noah’s Ark. This time, it’s not how to stop the sharknados, it’s when.”

The movie poster shows the hero holding a chainsaw. There must always be a chainsaw.

I hear there’s a Fifty Shades of Grey sequel. The concept makes my stomach churn, but I think I’d rather see that. Or maybe I’d rather give in to a masochistic urge to bleach my eyeballs. So many choices!

Categories: Science

Billy Graham is dead

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:06am

Y’all remember Billy Graham, right?

On the account of James Warren in the Chicago Tribune, who has filed excellent stories down the years on Nixon’s tapes, in this 1972 Oval Office session between Nixon, Haldeman and Graham, the President raises a topic about which “we can’t talk about it publicly,” namely Jewish influence in Hollywood and the media.

Nixon cites Paul Keyes, a political conservative who was executive producer of the NBC hit, “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” as telling him that “11 of the 12 writers are Jewish.”

“That right?” says Graham, prompting Nixon to claim that Life magazine, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and others, are “totally dominated by the Jews.”

Nixon says network TV anchors Howard K. Smith, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite “front men who may not be of that persuasion,” but that their writers are “95 percent Jewish.”

“This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,” the nation’s best-known preacher declares.

“You believe that?” Nixon says.

“Yes, sir,” Graham says.

“Oh, boy,” replies Nixon.

“So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it.”

“No, but if you get elected a second time, then we might be able to do something,” Graham replies.

Magnanimously Nixon concedes that this does not mean “that all the Jews are bad,” but that most are left-wing radicals who want “peace at any price except where support for Israel is concerned. The best Jews are actually the Israeli Jews.”

“That’s right,” agrees Graham, who later concurs with a Nixon assertion that a “powerful bloc” of Jews confronts Nixon in the media.

“And they’re the ones putting out the pornographic stuff,” Graham adds.

Later Graham says that “a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.”

After Graham’s departure Nixon says to Haldeman, “You know it was good we got this point about the Jews across.”

“It’s a shocking point,” Haldeman replies.

“Well,” says Nixon, “It’s also, the Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.”

Now look at how the cookie-cutter obituaries in the major news media are translating this:

The skinny preacher with the booming voice evangelized to nearly 215 million people over six decades and prayed with US presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

Several presidents, including Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, relied closely on his spiritual counsel.

Let’s not mention what his ‘counsel’ was, mmm-kay? Might expose the dishonesty of the phrase “Judeo-Christian” that evangelicals love to tout.

But now he’s dead. Good. Wish it had happened a few decades earlier.

Categories: Science

Biohackers: irresponsible showboats trusting homeostasis to keep them alive

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 5:42am

Look. When this guy thinks maybe biohacking has gone too far, you know biohacking has gone too far.

Zayner is no stranger to stunts in biohacking—loosely defined as experiments, often on the self, that take place outside of traditional lab spaces. You might say he invented their latest incarnation: He’s sterilized his body to “transplant” his entire microbiome in front of a reporter. He’s squabbled with the FDA about selling a kit to make glow-in-the-dark beer. He’s extensively documented attempts to genetically engineer the color of his skin. And most notoriously, he injected his arm with DNA encoding for CRISPR that could theoretically enhance his muscles—in between taking swigs of Scotch at a live-streamed event during an October conference. (Experts say—and even Zayner himself in the live-stream conceded—it’s unlikely to work.)

Josiah Zayner has done lots of stupid stunts. Now he calls himself a “social activist”, which apparently in his mind means someone who does irresponsible and ineffective stunts to provoke the public to be similarly irresponsible. Now he’s waking up, a little bit, to what he’s been doing.

I didn’t realize what my actions could result in. I’m just starting to come to grips with that.

Biology is really, really complicated, minor changes can have radical consequences, and we don’t understand 90% of it. OK, 95%. Maybe 99%. When people’s lives are at stake, you poke at it very, very cautiously, because you don’t know what kind of cascading systems failure you’re going to trigger. The system does exhibit a lot of resilience that helps maintain equilibrium, which means these showboats can play games that mostly do nothing, giving the misleading idea that they’re harmless, but all it takes is one accident to set everyone back. Responsibility is an important concept in science.

Categories: Science

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