Ignorance thy name is (3/07)

7 03 2009

Guess who’s back, back again, Hoover’s back…

This week’s winner(s): just about everyone at the head of the Republican party. You see, the top Republican in the house is calling for a spending freeze.

If your first reaction to the above was something to the effect of “???????????????????” then I’m right there with you.

Apparently the reasoning goes like this: the New Deal had spending. The Depression was not better during the New Deal than before. Therefore, spending money damages the economy. The fact that it was going to get worse whatever FDR did, and that the New Deal cushioned it somewhat seems to be lost on the Right. Yeah, WWII helped finally pull us out completely. But why? Oh yeah, because it meant enormous amounts of spending.

The most elementary principles economics and, quite frankly, coherent thought are ignored here. Let’s break it down. A capitalist economic system requires a high flow of money to sustain itself. A recession or depression occurs when money is not flowing. So to counteract the feedback loop that keeps a recession worsening (less flow -> layoffs -> less flow -> layoffs, etc) the government spends money to artificially keep things moving.

Now, the cult of tax cuts. You see, Ronald Chri…Reagan was in favor of tax cuts. The Republican Party worships Ronald. Therefore they religiously follow the doctrine of tax cuts. Only problem? People tend to save the money from tax cuts, whereas government spending is, by definition, keeping money flowing in the economy. Not exactly difficult to understand, is it?

So yeah, we’ve reached the point where the Republicans now believe that Hoover acted in the best possible way, and that we should imitate him.

Ignorance, thy name is… (2/25)

25 02 2009

Bobby Jindal.

Mr. Bobby Jindal, among other blunders in his speech, claimed that there was $140,000,000 in the stimulus bill for volcano monitoring. Not only is this not true (it’s much more general, it’s for seismic, volcanic, etc monitoring improvements and repairs), but even if it were, it would be a good thing.

You see, volcanos kill people. Monitoring them allows for early evacuation to escape. It even sometimes allows time to prepare ways to divert lava flows away from homes, saving huge sums of money. So Jindal’s argument is two pronged: saving large numbers of lives and large amounts of property are bad, and unstimulative.

I predict a bright future for him in far right American politics.

Awesomeness, thy name is…

13 02 2009

(No “Ignorance…” this week. This week’s winners are too awesome)

The U.S. Court of Claims. As you’ve probably seen, they recently ruled that there was no evidence whatsoever for a link between autism and vaccines, throwing out the three test cases, and by extension making it clear what the decision would be for the remaining 5,000 cases.

The special master in the Cedillo case said that,

“After a thorough review, I find that the evidence offered by respondent is substantially more persuasive concerning this issue.  I find that the evidence falls far short of demonstrating that it is “more probable than not” that thimerosal-containing vaccines can damage infants’ immune systems.”

Regarding the expert testimony of Dr. Jeffrey Brent,

“Dr. Brent did not dispute that mercury in some of its forms, at certain dosages, can be toxic, or even fatal, to humans.  But he stressed that Dr. Aposhian was inappropriately relying on instances of mercury toxicity involving mercury in forms quite different from the ethylmercury found in thimerosal, and  on instances involving exposure to vastly greater amounts of mercury than the small amounts used as preservatives in vaccines.

As to the forms of mercury, Dr. Brent explained that the many different types of mercury have toxological properties quite different from one another, so that it is inappropriate to generalize, as Dr. Aposhian does, from one form of mercury to another.


Dr. Brent also testified that Dr. Aposhian’s causation theory erroneously ignored the “dose- response” principle, a foundation of medical toxicology.  Dr. Brent explained that almost any substance can be toxic if administered in high enough quantities, while substances that are toxic at high doses can be harmless or even beneficial at low doses.”

Regarding “genetic hypersuceptibility” :

Petitioners have suggested that there may exist a group of humans who, unlike most humans,are genetically “hypersusceptible” to mercury, leaving them vulnerable to immune system damage when exposed to ethylmercury.  Dr. Aposhian’s testimony seemed to assert this theory.  (Tr. 92, 115, 129-131.)  After review, however, I find that petitioners have failed to demonstrate that this theory has any validity. First, neither Dr. Aposhian nor any other of petitioners’ experts pointed to any scientific research  that even suggests that such “hypersusceptibility” exists.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ignorance, thy name is… (2/07)

7 02 2009

…Jeni (yes, another one) Barnett.

She is the latest person in the UK dispensing disinformation about medicine and suing Ben Goldacre. She’s a DJ, and she used her radio show to spread antivaccine claims

I am not a scientist, I would not claim to be a scientist. When tested on the contents of the MMR vaccine I told the truth. I did not have the facts to hand. Was I ill informed? Yes.As a responsible broadcaster I should have been better prepared. As a parent, however, I can fight my corner.

Ok, this seems reasonably…wait, WHAT? Did she just say that a broadcaster should act based on information, but that a parent doesn’t have to?!? I really don’t think I need to say anything about that.

I don’t know everything that goes into cigarettes but I do know they are harmful.

But cigarettes are known to be bad because of well conducted studies, not because of their individual components (although those also provide evidence). The well conducted studies about vaccines, on the other hand, have shown no evidence of severe reactions to routine vaccination at rates higher than about 1 in 100,000.

I find it interesting that the vitriol that comes out of the pro MMR lobby is precisely why Allopathic medicine is struggling. Most of us who seek alternatives allow others their position but often the ‘others’ have a real problem allowing us ours.

It’s called reality, madam. Those who live in it object to others causing harm by inhabiting some other plane. Scientists rip antiscience because that’s how they treat science too, and that’s what keeps science working. They hold ignorant people such as you to a high standard too. Oh no!

Doesn’t change my mind though. The fact that I decided not to have my child jabbed was my decision alone. And it is a lonely decision. To be singled out and held totally responsible for a measles, mumps or rubella ‘epidemic’ is clearly ludicrous.

And to single your child out to be a potential victim of and conduit for these is dispicable. You do not have the right to cause irreperable harm to your child simply because you spat him or her out, madam.

Injecting tiny babies with substances that may compromise their immune system needs to be looked at not shouted down.

I guess it’s a good thing that we don’t do that, isn’t it?

Ladies and gentlemen, Jeni Barnett,  your ignorant fool of the week.

(via Respectful Insolence)

Ignorance, thy name is… (1/31)

31 01 2009

Ross Douthat.

His ill fated attempt to refute Russell’s Teapot begins thus:

This analogy – like its modern descendant, the Flying Spaghetti Monster – makes a great deal of sense if you believe that the idea of God is an absurdity dreamed up by crafty clerics in darkest antiquity and subsequently imposed on the human mind by force and fear, and that it only survives for want of brave souls willing to note how inherently absurd the whole thing is. As you might expect, I see the genesis of religion rather differently: An intuitive belief in some sort of presiding Agent seems to be an extremely common, albeit hardly universal, feature of human nature; this intuition has intersected, historically, with an enormous amount of subjective religious experience;

I smell burning straw man. Where did he get the idea that atheists think that god was invented purposefully by some shadowy cabal for purposes of control? Sure, it’s been used for control, but even Christians admit that.

And as for his defense of religion (as opposed to attack on atheism), well, it doesn’t work very well. “Intuitive” doesn’t provide a shred of evidence. Quantum physics aren’t intuitive, but they’re also essentially correct. That solid objects are not mostly empty space is intuitive. It’s also dead wrong. And the plural of “anecdotes” is not data.

The story of our civilization, in particular, is a story in which an extremely large circle of non-insane human beings have perceived themselves to be experiencing an interaction with a being who seems recognizable as the Judeo-Christian God (here I do feel comfortable using the term), rather than merely being taught about Him in Sunday School. I am unaware of anything similar holding true for orbiting pots or flying noodle beasts.

Delusion has nothing to do with sanity. Perfectly sane people delude themselves all the time. Even Ross, if he had stopped to think for, well, actually, if he had stopped to think at all, would agree with that. After all, he presumably does not think that all atheists are insane, but he also seems to think that we are victims of a delusion.

And without the persistence of this perceived interaction (and beneath it, the intuitive belief in some kind of God), it’s difficult to imagine religious belief playing anything like the role it does in human affairs, no matter how many ancient scriptures there were propping the whole thing up.

Um…the interactions happen. But as his own sentence says, it is only a perceived interaction, not an actual interaction.

This is not to say that humanity’s religious experiences and intuitions are anything like a dispositive argument for the existence of God. Certainly, there are all sorts of interesting efforts to explain them without recourse to the hypothesis that they correspond to anything real, and all kinds of reasons to choose atheism over faith. But it is one thing to disbelieve in God; it is quite another to never feel a twinge of doubt about one’s own disbelief.

If they are easily explained by other things apart from god, and we already know these things to be real, why is he even bothering treating them as evidence?

And just as the Christian who has never entertained doubts about his faith probably hasn’t thought hard enough about the matter, the atheist who perceives the Christian God and the flying spaghetti monster as equally ridiculous hypotheses really needs to get out more often.

And now we see the true color of his (and all) apologetics: it’s true because I say so. There is quite literally no reason that the FSM is less ridiculous than Yahweh. Not one. The two are, in every component of the evidence for their existence, equal.

(via PZ)

Ignorance, thy name is… 1/24

24 01 2009

…Comfort. Yes, Ray Comfort has done it again. He has challenged PZ regarding this post.

He begins his post with the most hilariously stupid creationist argument short of invoking the second law to refute evolution. He says (I’m going to quote him and hope that the concentrated stupid doesn’t break the blog),

The statement is a huge dilemma for the professor, because he knows that only a fool could believe the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything. He can’t say that the universe is eternal, because he knows that it’s not. So he is left with the predicament of having to admit that something created everything. Professor Myers believes in a Creator of some sort; he just doesn’t know its identity. He may be a professor of atheism, but he is in truth just an agnostic.

Where do I even start? A quantum fluctuation “creates,” but it’s not a creator. It’s taking something that already exists (you know, like creationists claim God already exists?) Well, the universe could have spontaneously appeared out of background energy that already existed. Or maybe (and it’s possible) the universe is actually a net energy/matter of 0, so that it could form without violation of any sort of law. Or maybe outside the universe the laws of thermodynamics aren’t applicable.

And why can’t the universe be eternal? Because Ray says so? There’s no reason to believe that it isn’t, and plenty to believe that it is. And, since he appears be confusing the terms “theist,” “atheist,” “agnostic,” and “biology,” I’ll correct his last sentence. It should read “He may be a professor of biology, but he is in truth just a theist.” Which still doesn’t make sense, because one can be both. But Ray’s not the brightest, so that’s pretty much par for the course.

“And of course, he doesn’t bother with this problem: who made God? I can guess how he’d respond: there was no ‘who,’ and God wasn’t ‘made.’ At which time we do a little judo move and point out that the universe wasn’t ‘made’ by a ‘who,’ either.”

So, going to answer that now that you’ve quoted it?


Here now is a big mystery. He doesn’t know how the universe got here, but he somehow knows that the Creator wasn’t a “who.” How does he know that? Does he have some inside information? I would like to hear it. Bring it on Professor Myers. How do you know that a “who” wasn’t involved in creation? Explain yourself.

Ray ignores PZ’s point entirely, and starts reciting to himself “there is a god there is a god there is a god.” I know that my great great grandfather was not a tablecloth even though I do not know who my great great grandfather was. No attempt is made here to explain why the universe can’t be eternal and without creator but god can. He just brushes aside the entire quote and continues his assertion that god exists because.

He closes with this gem forged in the heart of a burning hypernova of stupidity:

I’m calling your bluff. Even Richard Dawkins knows better. He’s a little more careful with his wording, with his: “Why There Almost Certainly is no God.”

Both think the same thing. Dawkins was being precise in his wording, and PZ was assuming that his audience had the intelligence of the average algal growth.

Ignorance, thy name is… (01/15/09)

15 01 2009

…Frank Melton

The City Council voted 4-2 against a plan Tuesday that would have made it unlawful for people to wear pants below the waistline exposing their underwear.

The council members who voted against the saggy-pants ban said it likely was unconstitutional.

But Mayor Frank Melton, who joined the council meeting via telephone from Texas, said he will issue an executive order instituting the dress code.

“I certainly respect the Constitution,” Melton said, “but we have some issues that are much bigger than the Constitution.”

Mayor Melton believes that baggy pants are a greater threat to American society than the erosion of the Constitution, the document that structures our government and protects our citizens from governmental abuse of power.

…Yeah. Baggy pants, Constitution, baggy pants, CONSTI FREAKING TUTION.

I can’t really say much else. Some things are immune to parody.

(Once again via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)