You are either for us or agin us

The global climate change debate has something in common with the evolution “debate”. (As an aside, I’d call the former an actual debate. The latter is only a debate in the minds of the deluded.) The thing in common is that in both cases you have one side arguing against scientific consensus and the other side defending scientific consensus.

Generally people who are arguing against scientific consensus point to past failed hypotheses to indicate that science can be wrong, has been wrong in the past and should not be treated as infallible. They are right about this, of course, but they miss a very, very, very important point: it was science itself that corrected these mistakes. It was not op-ed pieces or vague conjectures by untrained people, it was “big science” that found the correct answer.

So people who defend scientific consensus are not defending a particular conclusion, they are defending the processes that make such conclusions possible at all. Without science we can’t debate global climate change or evolution.

The people who argue against scientific consensus often say, “We’re not anti-science, we are against the squashing of debate perpetrated by ‘big science’. They get a theory and everyone jumps on the bandwagon at the expense of other valid scientific explanations.”

They are wrong about this. Global climate change and evolution, to stick with my two examples, are under constant attack by scientists. There are a million mundane (and perhaps a couple profound) controversies that are debated within the scientific community constantly. Literally, it never ends. That is what science is.

If we assume that we have 10 competent, honest scientists in a room and 8 of them agree with hypothesis A and 2 of them agree with hypothesis B, we call hypothesis A the scientific consensus. It does not mean that A is true and B is false, it means that the arguments of A convince more scientists than the arguments of B.

I’m personally not an expert at climate science or evolution. I can’t really make up my own mind based on the scientific data — I don’t have the training. Chances are, neither do you. My problem with the “anti-science crowd” is that their disagreement with scientific consensus is not based on the science but instead based on other factors such as their political leanings or their religion. Those are piss-poor reasons to take a view radically different from scientific consensus.

The bottom line is, either you trust the scientific process or you don’t. The only people capable of creating more successful theories are scientists. Unless you are personally an expert on the scientific matters at hand, your only rational alternative is to defer to scientific consensus.

You are either for us or agin us

The bizarre agenda of the "Minnesota Majority"

A Right Wing group was recently brought to my attention, the Minnesota Majority. They have an agenda just like the now defunct Moral Majority, as the name would suggest. It’s rich in idiocy, homophobia, xenophobia and irony. This is from their About Us page:

Are you tired of allowing a well-funded vocal minority:

[1] Dictating what we can say, do or think?
[2] Suppressing our freedoms of religion and speech?
[3] Having more rights than the rest of us?
[4] Telling us that they are offended by what we say or do?
[5] Preaching tolerance while demonstrating utter contempt for anyone with a different view than their own?
[6] Exploiting our legal system to advance their agendas at the expense of our rights?
[7] Destroying our nation’s traditional values?

Then do something about it by joining Minnesota Majority. We are a non-partisan issue advocacy group seeking to restore traditional values to Minnesota’s public policy.

I added the numbers so I could address the sins of the “well-funded vocal minority” in order.

1. Dictating what we can say, do or think?

Give me one example of this, anybody. The only examples I can think of are related to things like hate crimes. I doubt they are pro-hate crime. So WTF are they talking about? Laws? Are they against laws? Yes, we have laws that say you can’t ejaculate into someone’s milkshake. Do they have a problem with that?

2. Suppressing our freedoms of religion and speech?

Again, one example please. The Right has always been too stupid shallow to realize that the separation of church and state is there to protect the religious! The fundamental issue that the founders were trying to protect was the freedom of religion. They were wise enough to understand that this meant a hard, bright line between the state and religions.

3. Having more rights than the rest of us?

Who can they be thinking of here? The only people I can think of with “more rights than the rest of us” are ridiculously rich people who buy influence in our government.

4. Telling us that they are offended by what we say or do?

So they are pro-freedom of speech but anti-freedom of speech?

5. Preaching tolerance while demonstrating utter contempt for anyone with a different view than their own?

I’m definitely sensing some contempt here. To me this is the ol’ “why aren’t you tolerant of bigots” argument. If you hate homosexuals, want to destroy the separation of church and state and seek to enforce your personal morality on me, you should expect some contempt and intolerance.

6. Exploiting our legal system to advance their agendas at the expense of our rights?

Again, the only people I know who have the resources to exploit our legal system are rich people. The fact that there is a independent judiciary was a stroke of brilliance by our founders and it is an important part of the balance of power with the executive and legislative branches of government. This point is major evidence of the bankruptcy of the Right Wing agenda — they don’t like the independent judiciary, something they share philosophically with fascists and dictators.

And if you want to talk about protecting our rights I assume you are a strong supporter of the ACLU and the EFF? Those are the organizations out there protecting our rights.

7. Destroying our nation’s traditional values?

I prefer to judge values today. I think the gains that minorities have made in the last century are a sign of the maturation of the USA. Ben Franklin warned us about the “tyranny of the majority“. That’s why our constitution was so carefully crafted with a balance of power and a fundamental right to equal opportunity. The implication that traditional values are better or more moral or more natural has never been proven. Why does a group that has as #1 on the list a disdain for people “dictating what we can say, do or think” also have on their list a desire to dictate what we can say, do or think!

Look — these people are probably nice, well-meaning and smart people. It’s not them I am attacking, it’s their ideas. Their agenda is misguided on virtually every count. I’ve tackled only their “About Us” page. On every page they reveal a nonsensical misinterpretation of the issues. It’s an agenda of the 1950’s, ridiculously out of place in 2008.

The bizarre agenda of the "Minnesota Majority"

Why Expelled is irrelevant

Some people might confuse this issue so let me be clear: the movie Expelled is irrelevant and Intelligent Design (ID) is irrelevant. They don’t matter at all and they are not a threat to actual, bona fide science in the slightest. Research continues unabated and it is not slowed down in any way by these religious kooks who are trying to create controversy where there is none.

So don’t confuse our passion for science, reason and rationality with any actual concern about the ID “movement”. It will have literally no impact on our scientific progress.

The reason we give so much attention to these kooks is because it is amusing. It is amusing what otherwise smart people will do while under the influence of religion. They pick and choose their science to accommodate their pre-determined conclusions. They believe so strongly in their mythology that they feel it trumps the time-proven work of thousands of scientists. They think that pointing out “holes” in the theory of natural selection gives weight to their mythology. Apparently they are desperate for proof of the creator they are so sure listens to their prayers every night. They just don’t want to live in a world that can be explained without such a deity.

That’s fine. I don’t need to change their minds. I don’t care what foolishness they teach their children. I don’t care what movies they go to or what movies they make. I don’t care if they think evolution is some big conspiracy of “big science” and I don’t care at all that religious kooks get fired for being incompetent scientists. I just think it is funny.

So keep it up, Ben Stein. Your career is soon to be pigeon-holed into speaking to churches about the evils of “big science”. While you are speaking in these mega-churches the A/C will be running, thanks to the ideal gas law, the PA system will work because of electromagnetism and quantum mechanics and you won’t be lifted bodily into heaven thanks to the universal law of gravitation.

Science delivers every day for the godless and the deluded alike.

Why Expelled is irrelevant

As if Michele Bachmann's credibility could get worse

The EFF exposes Bachmann for the lying hypocrite that she is:

On Friday, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) wrote an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that epitomizes the sort of unvarnished misrepresentations and scare tactics that the apologists for the President and the phone companies have increasingly resorted to in the fight over amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Click the link and you’ll see that the facts fully support this assertion.

As if Michele Bachmann's credibility could get worse

Support OLPC

lolife.com on OLPC

I decided to support the One Laptop Per Child project. You buy 2 and they send you 1 and the other they send to a child somewhere in the world who needs one. I think it is nice that I can make a donation of technology to the third world and still get a nice little toy for my own child.

The laptop arrived today and it is really, really cool. It’s small, capable and fun! I think Myles is going to have a lot of fun with it and I’m going to make sure he knows that there is another one out there somewhere with a child using it who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.

Support OLPC

Ferraro is wrong, but not a racist

Geraldine Ferraro said something fairly stupid, or at least something that could easily be construed as stupid. She said:

If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.

What she meant, from what I can tell, is that there is a strategic advantage to have a black Presidential candidate right now. That the times are right, from a political strategy standpoint, to capitalize on a candidate of color. She says her own candidacy for Vice President was specifically because of her gender.

That’s not a racist comment and I don’t believe she is a racist. I think she’s wrong, though. I don’t think Obama’s candidacy or popularity is because of his race in any way. For the more backwards-ass in this country, it’s actually in spite of his race. For most people, I think his race is irrelevant. It is for me.

I’m very happy, of course, that women and people of color are closer than ever to being President of the United States. I think the monopoly that white men have had in that office is unwarranted and largely because of historical bias. But that doesn’t mean I would support any candidate solely because of their gender or their race. Obama is smart. That’s why I like him.

Ferraro is wrong, but not a racist