left biblioblography: February 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

And Now, More Children, More Pain, In Deepest Darkest Africa

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Be forewarned: the video is both heart-breaking and rage-inducing. Apparently, child sacrifice is the latest trend in Uganda. And truly, what other reason besides religious ritualism could be behind it?

And as if that wasn’t enough horrific news, there happens to be a major trend in the Congo:

Crisis in DR Congo

12 year-old, Henri, which is not his real name, points at a large fresh looking scar on his midriff.

"People accused me of sorcery and my mother believed them," he says.
"Look, here on my stomach. She tried to kill me with a knife. It really hurt and I cannot understand why my mother did it."
Henri, who is now being given help by a children's charity, had been playing outside his home in Goma, eastern Congo, when the accusations began.
His eyes begin to water as he remembers pleading with his mother, telling her that the claims were completely untrue. Not that this made any difference.
"She threw me out of the house and told me to go away," he says.
Henri was then forced to live on the streets until charity workers convinced his mother that the allegations were untrue.

Apparently, nobody’s passing out condoms in this country either. Because obviously Henri’s mother isn’t fit to take care of her own child.

Growing problem
His is just one of a fast growing number of children accused of sorcery to come to the attention of Unicef's head of child protection in Congo, Alessandra Dentice.
"Children accused of witchcraft is unfortunately one of the major increasing child protection issues in the country," she says.

Well, anyone accusing anyone of witchcraft in this day and age means that the hugest issue of all is education. Because obviously, witchcraft is bullshit.

Unicef's latest available statistics show that around one hundred cases of child sorcery allegations were referred to them in 2008 in the North Kivu province of Eastern Congo alone.
That number increased nearly fivefold to 450 in the same area last year.

Hard to believe in the 21st century, isn’t it?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but this sort of horse manure makes me grim with rage. It is yet another of millions of indictments against the bastions of belief, the spuriousness of superstition, the rottenness of religion. It signifies those predators upon the weak, the witch doctor, the shaman, the priest, the minister. It shows us that shadows have far too much grip upon feeble psyches, a fear passed down from ancient dead men with heads up their asses. It instructs us that the road to reason is an uphill battle of near Sisyphean proportions. It teaches us that others overvalue the afterlife far too highly above this one, an empty valueless existence then, for there is no life other than here.

It is to clench the fists whitely, gnash the teeth in snarls, and growl in rage and disappointment – for all that any religion teaches is to increase suffering in a life already complicated with enough of it.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Robot Chicken

Of course now, Robot Chicken is firmly embedded in the culture. However, clips from the show aren’t as ubiquitous as they were a few years back.



Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Unkind Cane – More Sharia Bullshit

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!caning

This is just the latest in the long line of nonsense we hear from one of the monolithic Big Three: Malaysia canes three women over extramarital sex

Three Malaysian women have been caned by the authorities for having extra-marital sex, say officials.

They are the first women to receive such a sentence under Islamic law in the country.

The punishments come as another Malaysian woman waits to hear whether her caning - for drinking beer - is carried out.

Yes, because women are cattle, dontcha know, how dare they even consider doing anything without consulting the menfolk first? (That is, of course, sarcasm.)

Malaysia's majority Malays are subject to Islamic laws, while the large Chinese and Indian minorities are not.

Like we don’t have enough divisions in any society, again, religion creates even more.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the punishments had been carried out in a prison outside the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on 9 February.

The women were each hit up to six times. One is reported to have since been released from prison.

Prison? Really? Really. Seriously.

Officials did not say how the canings were carried out, but analysts said such punishments were usually light for women, intended to be largely symbolic.

Regardless of whether it was ‘light’ or not, it shouldn’t have happened at all. Also, note the conspicuous absence of the men who had sex with them. More unnecessary divisions, only this time it’s about gender discrimination.

"Even though the caning did not injure them, they said it caused pain within them," the Reuters news agency quoted Mr Hishammuddin as saying.

He told state media he hoped the punishments would not be "misunderstood so much that it defiles the purity of Islam".

An irrational religion pushing an unrealistic standard? Forcing people to live by an anachronistic code that originated only from men? Obeisance to a Bronze Age standard that’s laughable by today’s views and knowledge? Would that this were a surprise. Sadly, it’s not.

This is something I know I’ve said before: the true yardstick by which we measure civilization, is how a society (any society) treats its women and children.  Sharia law is a throwback, which modern peoples should throw away.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Funny – It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

One of the shows I like is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, or as I like to call it, the Evil Seinfeld. Three guys, one woman, all of them truly irredeemable human beings. They’re all narcissists, self-involved nearly to the degree of being sociopaths, and (in my opinion) incredibly funny. Not sure why I enjoy this show so much (it’s low brow schadenfreude), but for some reason, I’m usually rolling and laughing till tears run down my cheek.

Along this vein, Youtube really sucks nowadays when searching for clips. It took me some time to find a reasonable clip for this show. Having worked at Google (who owns Youtube), I can guess why.

The economic downturn has slowed business for everyone. So, there’s plenty of people jockeying to keep their jobs, and one of these items is the enforcement of copyrights/trademarks. Now that it’s not quite so busy, the Youtube people are able to actually enforce the laws and/or rules. If you compare how easy it was to find Robot Chicken clips 1 or 2 years ago as compared to nowadays, or Family Guy, as examples, you’ll see what I mean.

Anyways, enjoy.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Marjoe – Confessions Of A Con Man

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

When I went to Professor Myers’ talk at De Anza College back in January, I met a few new people. One of them was an impossibly handsome young man (tall dark and a strong likelihood that women threw themselves at him when he walked down the street – I exaggerate not, folks), who brought up the film Marjoe (several times) as he was the son of Marjoe Gortner. He recommended it, so I put it on my Netflix queue when I finally remembered it.

It was really some kind of eye-opener. Gortner describes how he was coached in signals as a little boy (3 to 4 years old), and how, if he messed them up, mommy dearest would suffocate him with a pillow or hold his head underwater (she couldn’t leave a mark now, could she?). He toured with his parents until he was fourteen (when the novelty wore off), never seeing the millions his parents culled from his showmanship. Having few other options (child evangelist doesn’t look good on a resume, I bet), he spent some of his adulthood defrauding people using the embedded skills he’d been trained in. He suffered from a crisis of conscience, and took a film crew and filmed his last hurrah, exposing the revivalist evangelistos as the hucksters they truly are.

Gortner shares a multitude of techniques designed to lull the masses and get them to part with their hard-earned money. One part charisma, one part machine gun verbiage, and ten parts gullibility will make some serious bank.

(Special note: said film was never aired in the Southern US, for fear of the reaction of the bible belt.)

One of the items that truly stuck out, was the diversity of the crowds that would attend. Young, old, black, Hispanic and white, it was truly a melting pot. Old people afraid of death, with no one to press against their flesh, young people still struggling with identity formation, it’s easy to see the appeal. One relatively toothless fellow began bellowing ‘in tongues’ during one revivalist meeting. Easy answers, cheap entertainment. One fellow came up, old, thick glasses, a goiter on his bald head, and again, easy to see the appeal. One is promised not only eternal life, but ‘unconditional’ love (there really is no such thing), and really, who else would accept someone who obviously doesn’t fit  into the culture as a ‘beautiful person’ but an imaginary friend who is always accepting of all one’s faults and foibles?

I highly recommend it, that is on the proviso that you don’t suffer from high blood pressure. It’s insightful, it breaks down the techniques used by the snake oil salesmen that peddle that old black magic, and while it was made back in the early 70’s, it still has some relevance today.

Till the next post, then.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Slaughtering The Dissonance – Part Four

Another one of the examples that are supposed to illustrate why you should buy the book titled ‘Slaughter Of The Dissidents’ is the case of one Dean Kenyon:

Dean H. Kenyon is Professor Emeritus of Biology at San Francisco State University and well-known creationist and intelligent design proponent. He is also the author of Of Pandas and People, a controversial book on intelligent design.

Wait – I thought this guy’s career had been ruined? Hmmmm….

Kenyon received a BSc in physics from the University of Chicago in 1961 and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University in 1965. In 1965-1966 he was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Chemical Biodynamics at the University of California, Berkeley, a Research Associate at Ames Research Center. In 1966, he became Assistant Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University. He has been Emeritus at San Francisco State University since 2000.

And yes, he still works there.

Kenyon's views changed around 1976 after exposure to the work of young-earth creationists. In his own words,

"Then in 1976, a student gave me a book by A.E. Wilder-Smith, The Creation of Life: A Cybernetic Approach to Evolution. Many pages of that book deal with arguments against Biochemical Predestination, and I found myself hard-pressed to come up with a counter-rebuttal. Eventually, several other books and articles by neo-creationists came to my attention. I read some of Henry Morris' books, in particular, The Genesis Flood. I'm not a geologist, and I don't agree with everything in that book, but what stood out was that here was a scientific statement giving a very different view of earth history. Though the book doesn't deal with the subject of the origin of life per se, it had the effect of suggesting that it is possible to have a rational alternative explanation of the past."

General consensus is that young earthers are crazy as shithouse rats, so anyone that easily swayed by that craziness isn’t someone I have too much confidence, multiple degrees notwithstanding. This is why an appeal to authority is a logical fallacy.

In 1980, the San Francisco State University Department of Biology had a dispute over Kenyon's presentation of creationism, then called "scientific creationism" in Biology module 337 Evolution. At that time, Kenyon challenged anyone on the faculty to a debate on the merits of evolutionary theory versus "scientific creationism."

There’s multiple reasons why a debate like this is not a good thing. The rational explanations for the creationist caveats take far too long for the average audience, it could very well be that some of the faculty were afraid of him, or didn’t want to kick up any dust (in the interests of academic tranquility), etc.

According to SFSU biology professor John Hafernik, "There was much discussion in faculty meetings as well. Eventually the faculty voted (none opposed, seven abstentions) not to alter the description of Biology 337 to include creationism. The precedent set, in the context of the 1980 discussions, was that the Department did not support teaching creationism."

So it was handled rationally and accordingly. Now, here’s where it gets interesting:

In 1981, Kenyon was recruited to be an expert witness for the creationist side in the McLean vs. Arkansas case that tested the constitutionality of Arkansas' Equal Time Legislation that mandated equal time for "creation science" and "evolution science." Kenyon flew to Arkansas to be deposed and testify during the trial. However, apparently under the influence of creationist attorney Wendell Bird (who was displeased with the defense of the creationist position by the Arkansas attorney general Steve Clark), Kenyon left town just before he was to testify:

"The attorney general presented six science witnesses, two more than had testified for the ACLU, presumably on the grounds that quantity made up for evident lack of quality. There would have been more had not a serious case of disappearing witnesses set in as the second week wore on. Dean Kenyon, a biologist from San Francisco State University, fled town after watching the demolition of four of the state's witnesses on day 1 of the second week. And Henry Voss, a computer scientist from California, was rapidly withdrawn at the last minute when, in pretrial deposition, he too began to expound on things satanic and demonical."

Waitaminnit - ‘he too’? Apparently Dean had the good sense to see what a clusterfuck it was becoming, and decided not to get lumped in with the crazies. So he’s not completely daft after all.

The Arkansas attorney general apparently threatened to sue Bird after this interference:

There were other witnesses for the defense who did not show up. Several scientists who had been listed as potential witnesses for the state, backed out because of what Clark termed "peer pressure."

I think that can be translated loosely as ‘stop acting like nutters on the stand, stick to the point’.

Another state witness, Dr. Dean Kenyon, a biophysicist at San Francisco State University, mysteriously disappeared on the eve of his day in court. He had flown into Little Rock on a Sunday evening, but when one of Clark's assistants went to take his deposition he could not find him. Kenyon had checked out of the hotel and flown back home. Bird had encouraged Kenyon not to testify, although Kenyon taught evolution theory for 16 years until three years ago when he became a creationist. Bird, who is general counsel to ICR, said he attempted to get other defense witnesses not to testify after he perceived the trial as botched by Clark.
Bird said he was not trying to sabotage Clark's effort. He said he merely had told several witnesses for the state that "I don't think you should jeopardize your reputation with the way [the trial] is being handled." Clark stated he was considering legal action against Bird, whose actions, he said, were "tantamount to tampering with justice."

Wow, what an eye-roller. Not content with having the house of cards collapse on them, Bird and Kenyon tried to build another one:

Following the McLean ruling, which declared the teaching of "creation science" in public schools to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion, Louisiana's version of the "Equal Time" legislation was put to the test. This time, Wendell Bird was deputized by the state and ran the state's defense of the law. Dean Kenyon was advertised as the creationists' lead expert witness, however the case (which eventually became Edwards v. Aguillard when it reached the Supreme Court) was decided by summary judgment, and so never went to a full trial. Nevertheless, in written briefs and in his oral arguments, Bird relied heavily on an expert witness affidavit written by Kenyon. This affidavit is online at the TalkOrigins website. It was entered into evidence in the Kitzmiller case as evidence that Kenyon was explicitly defending "creation science"—and advocating that it be given equal time in public schools and textbooks as the "only" alternative to evolution—while at the same time working on a public school textbook, which eventually became the first "intelligent design" book, Of Pandas and People.

And the fun begins:

In 1987 in Edwards v. Aguillard the Supreme Court heard a case concerning a Louisiana Law that required "creation science" be taught on an equal basis with evolution in public schools. Anti-creationists argued that this was illegal on the basis that it violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. Kenyon issued an affidavit in that case, stating his support for creationism, and defining it thus:

Creation-science means origin through abrupt appearance in complex form, and includes biological creation, biochemical creation (or chemical creation), and cosmic creation. (...) Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.

The Supreme Court did find that the law violated the establishment clause and the teaching of creationism in America's public schools was henceforth declared illegal. However, it also noted that

Teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.

Around the same time, Kenyon was co-authoring with Percival Davis a creationist school textbook entitled Of Pandas and People. After the Edwards decision, all references to "creationism" were replaced with "intelligent design", with a reference to "creationists" being replaced by "design proponents", and in one case by "cdesign proponentsists". This is seen within the history of creationism as the origin of the term intelligent design and the "missing link" between creationism and intelligent design.

So there you have it – it was re-branding, re-framing, call it what you will.

In October 1992, Kenyon was told by the chair of the SFSU Biology Department to stop teaching creationism in introductory biology courses. This led to talks with what became the Discovery Institute, including Stephen C. Meyer, Phillip E. Johnson, William Dembski, and Michael Behe. Kenyon was eventually reinstated to teach, and he claimed his colleagues' objections rest on a positivist view of what constitutes legitimate science.

Kenyon co-authored a paper, "The RNA World: A Critique," which appears in the Winter 1996 issue of Origins and Design, a now defunct creationist journal where he was on the Editorial Advisory Board.

At one time, Kenyon was listed as an author of the forthcoming textbook The Design of Life, a retitled edition of Of Pandas and People. Kenyon is a Fellow of the Discovery Institute, the driving force behind the intelligent design movement.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, meine Damen und Herren – there was no ‘slaughter’, metaphorical or otherwise. More of a paper cut, really. Kenyon isn’t sleeping in a cardboard box or begging on a street corner, or even banned from teaching. So, there’s another one down. In fact, it’s getting less likely as I go along that I’d buy the book. File this one under YALTCT (Yet Another Lie The Christians Tell).


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Tuesday Funny - Calvin And Hobbes

I have to confess, I’ve always (somewhat) identified with Calvin. I was always drifting off in some imaginative dream  as a boy, I was terribly flaky, and had all the symptoms of ADHD. However, I never, ever had an imaginary friend or owned a stuffed animal. The real trick to being alone, I always say, is to get along with yourself, which I seem to have always been able to do.

I do believe in math, however, even if I’ve never been too good at it.



Saturday, February 06, 2010

More Proof That The ‘Religion Of Peace’ Isn’t Peaceful…

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

The madness that is Muhammad strikes, and strikes again. It induces a rabid frenzy in its followers, and rains horror upon believer and non-believer alike:

Thousands mourn Karachi bomb dead

Thousands of mourners have attended funerals for those killed in a double bomb attack targeting Shia Muslims in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

The death toll from Friday's bombings rose overnight to 33, with 165 injured.

A police official told AFP news agency more then 10,000 people had attended a funeral for 14 Muslim victims. Five Christians are to be buried later.

The attacks - the second at a hospital where victims of the first attack were being treated - targeted Shia pilgrims.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appealed for calm amid fears of growing tensions between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Security was tightened in Karachi as the mourners gathered.

Security in a predominantly Muslim country where all sorts of crazies are running about ready to kill and die for their ridiculous beliefs must be a nightmare. And especially in Pakistan, a country primarily founded on Islam.

And by all accounts, Pakistan is among some of the worst offenders when it comes down to any kind of tolerance whatsoever:

An old blasphemy law, which was written in 1927 during during colonial days, banned insults directed against any religion. In 1986, dictator General Zia-Ul Haw modified the law to protect only Islam. The law require a life imprisonment or a life sentence for anyone who defiled the name of Muhammad or committed other blasphemy. In 1990, a religious court ruled that the penalty for crimes under the law (Section 295-C of the country's Constitution) is execution. 6 The law states: "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by inputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy prophet Mohammed...shall be punished with death and shall be liable to a fine." The law is being used in Pakistan to discriminate against religious minorities: largely Christians, and Ahmadis. Under the present law, a Muslim may blaspheme Christianity with impunity. But a Christian doing the same against Islam can theoretically be executed.

Small wonder that these uglinesses continue, considering that Pakistan was a country born in the blood of its people. The body count continues, and the texts of alleged ‘holy books’ continue to cut swathes through the populace to this day.

Religion – it brings out the best in people? When? Never. It’s gotta go.

Till the next post, then.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Slaughtering The Dissonance – Part The Tres

As an ongoing examination of the alleged ‘Slaughter Of The Dissidents’, let’s examine the ‘slaughter’ of  one Roger Dehart, as per the CreationWiki:

For much of his career, he introduced challenges to Darwinism and the concept of intelligent design in his high school classes. DeHart assigned his students excerpts from the creationist supplemental biology textbook Of Pandas and People, he would also show the film Inherit the Wind, and draw upon articles from science journals that challenged evolution as a way of having students question evolutionary presuppositions.

Wait - ‘Of Pandas And People’? Wasn’t that the book that was edited to substitute ‘creationism’ for ‘intelligent design’? The same one thatKevin Padian, a biologist at University of California Berkeley reviewed the book and called it "a wholesale distortion of modern biology." Michael Ruse, a professor of philosophy and biology, reviewed it, saying "this book is worthless and dishonest." Gerald Skoog, Professor of Education at Texas Tech University, wrote it reflects the creationist strategy to "attack evolution," but the book does not contain a scientific theory or model to "balance" against evolution. And as for Inherit The Wind, that’s work of fiction.

He was the high school biology teacher at Burlington-Edison High School in Washington State for 14 years, when in June 1997 a parent of one of DeHart's students sent a complaint to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU quickly threatened to sue the Burlington-Edison School District if DeHart didn't stop teaching intelligent design. In response to the threats of impending lawsuit, the district took away the biology classes from his teaching load, and he was reassigned to earth sciences.

Yes, but he was teaching ID in the classroom for 11 years when someone actually spoke up about this nonsense. Here are some of the issues I have:

A. Intelligent design is not only NOT science, it’s a violation of church and state separation,
B. evolution is the backbone of biology,
C. high school is a completely inappropriate place to even raise the alleged ‘controversy’.

So what happened to our stalwart ‘martyr’?

DeHart later resigned and took a teaching job at Marysville Pilchuck High School where he taught for one year. He then transferred to Oaks Christian School located just outside Malibu, California where he taught Honors and AP Biology. Mr. DeHart currently resides in Florida.

So…no cross raised on Golgotha, no spikes through the hands? No pillory, being drawn and quartered, no strappado? They just re-assigned him, he resigned and took a job elsewhere, to ruin more young minds?

This is the third example advertised from the book that has all the earmarks of sour grapes.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Slaughtering The Dissonance – Part The Deux

I began researching the book, Slaughtering The Dissidents here, and began my step-by-step examination of some of the accusations that (I’m told) are in it. Part one is here. In part two, we’ll examine the claim that one of the big boys of the movement, one Guillermo Gonzalez, was in some way discriminated against.

Guillermo Gonzalez (born 1963 in Havana, Cuba) is an astrophysicist and notable proponent of intelligent design, and is a professor at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, considered the hub of the intelligent design movement, and a fellow with the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design, which also promotes intelligent design.

I’ll freely admit, not too crazy about any of his bylines, but as usual, instead of foraging about for interpretations I’d rather hear, we’ll just examine the hard cold facts, shall we?

Gonzalez obtained a BS in 1987 in Physics & Astronomy from University of Arizona and his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Washington in 1993 and has done post-doctoral work at the University of Texas, Austin and the University of Washington. He has received fellowships, grants and awards from NASA, the University of Washington, Sigma Xi, and the National Science Foundation. He is a proponent of the Galactic Habitable Zone concept. He currently teaches at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school, and was previously an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University until May 2008.

He has sufficient credentials – he’s obviously an expert in the field of astronomy.

Two years prior to his consideration for tenure, approximately 130 faculty of Iowa State University signed a statement co-authored by Hector Avalos, a professor of Religious Studies, opposing "all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor." Similar statements were issued by faculty at the University of Northern Iowa and at the University of Iowa. A total of approximately 400 professors signed the three petitions.

How on earth this would impact an astronomy professor is hard to see. Of course, somebody made a connection:

Although no mention of Gonzalez was made in these petitions, two years later at the time of his denial of tenure, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier called Gonzalez "the unnamed target" of the ISU petition.

An ‘unnamed target’? The eyes roll. Was there anyone else there who was an Intelligent Design advocate? (Shudder)

However, Hector Avalos has stated that this statement "was in no way targeted specifically at Gonzalez", that Tom Ingebritsen, an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, had been advocating, and teaching a course in, Intelligent Design at ISU for a number of years before Gonzales arrived, and that "[a]t that time [the] statement began to circulate, Dr. Gonzalez was not well-known as an ID advocate to most faculty even at ISU".

Well, my personal opinion is that ID shouldn’t even be within spitting distance of a science class, but who am I to dictate policy. Still, it tears a hole through the entire argument that one could drive a truck through.

Avalos also accused the Discovery Institute of "combining sentences from different sections of [the statement] in order create a fragmented syntax that appears to target Gonzalez":

Why is this unsurprising?

Denial of tenure and appeals

In April 2007 Iowa State University denied Gonzalez tenure.

On June 1, 2007, Gregory Geoffroy, President of Iowa State University, rejected Gonzalez's appeal and upheld the denial of tenure. In making this decision, Geoffroy states that he "specifically considered refereed publications, [Gonzalez's] level of success in attracting research funding and grants, the amount of telescope observing time he had been granted, the number of graduate students he had supervised, and most importantly, the overall evidence of future career promise in the field of astronomy" and that Gonzalez "simply did not show the trajectory of excellence that we expect in a candidate seeking tenure in physics and astronomy – one of our strongest academic programs." Geoffroy noted, "Over the past 10 years, four of the 12 candidates who came up for review in the physics and astronomy department were not granted tenure." Gonzalez appealed to the Iowa Board of Regents and the board affirmed the decision on February 7, 2008.

Skipping a paragraph:

The Chronicle of Higher Education said of Gonzalez and the Discovery Institute's claims of discrimination "At first glance, it seems like a clear-cut case of discrimination ... But a closer look at Mr. Gonzalez's case raises some questions about his recent scholarship and whether he has lived up to his early promise." The Chronicle observed that Gonzalez had no major grants during his seven years at ISU, had published no significant research during that time and had only one graduate student finish a dissertation. The Discovery Institute misrepresents an op-ed by John Hauptman, one of Gonzalez's colleagues in the physics department. Hauptman states clearly that Gonzalez's work falls far short of what scientists know to be science, containing not one single number, not one single measurement or test of any kind. "I believe that I fully met the requirements for tenure at ISU," said Gonzalez. On May 8, 2007 Gonzalez appealed the decision.

Gonzalez's failure to obtain research funding has been cited as a factor in the decision. "Essentially, he had no research funding," said Eli Rosenberg, chairman of Gonzalez's department. "That's one of the issues." According to the Des Moines Register, "Iowa State has sponsored $22,661 in outside grant money for Gonzalez since July 2001, records show. In that same time period, Gonzalez's peers in physics and astronomy secured an average of $1.3 million by the time they were granted tenure."On February 7, 2008, his appeal to the Board of Regents was denied.

I’m no college or university professor, but it’s pretty clear what actually happened here. The professor became so involved with his full-time hobby that his work suffered for it. And he’s gainfully employed at Grove City College, so it’s not as if he’s foraging food out of a MacDonald’s dumpster.

So, in a nutshell – it’s another episode of life slapping someone’s hand, that person blaming the people around him, the inability to look in the mirror and admit he’s made a mistake. Which is, in fact, simply one of the many ingredients of the stew that is the human condition.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Slaughtering The Dissonance – Part One

I’ve already bitched about the book ‘The Slaughter Of The Dissidents’ – I’ll dissect some of the more ridiculous claims of  the ‘dissidents’.

Aforementioned ‘dissidents’ are mentioned here. As I don’t own the book, I’ll start (and likely end) with the ones mentioned on the internet.

Let’s start with the alleged ‘inventor of the MRI’, Raymond Damadian:

Raymond Vahan Damadian (born March 16, 1936) is an American practitioner of magnetic resonance imaging. In 2001, the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program bestowed its $100,000 Lifetime Achievement Award on Damadian as "the man who invented the MRI scanner." He went on to collaborate with Wilson Greatbach, one early developer of the implantable pacemaker, to develop an MRI-compatible pacemaker. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia gave its recognition of Damadian's work on MRI with the Bower Award in Business Leadership. He was also named Knights of Vartan 2003 "Man of the Year". He received a National Medal of Technology in 1988 and was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1989.

Sounds interesting, no? The entry on his work says:

In a 1971 paper in the journal Science , SUNY Downstate Medical Center professor Damadian reported that tumors and normal tissue can be distinguished in vitro by nuclear magnetic resonance ("NMR"). He suggested that these differences could be used to diagnose cancer, though later research would find that these differences, while real, are too variable for diagnostic purposes. Damadian's initial methods were flawed for practical use, relying on a point-by-point scan of the entire body and using relaxation rates, which turned out to not be an effective indicator of cancerous tissue. Nonetheless, in 1974, he received the first patent in the field of MRI when he patented the concept of NMR for detecting cancer after filing an application in 1972. As the National Science Foundation notes, "The patent included the idea of using NMR to 'scan' the human body to locate cancerous tissue." However, it did not describe a method for generating pictures from such a scan or precisely how such a scan might be done. Raymond Damadian's "Apparatus and method for detecting cancer in tissue."

In the 1950s, Herman Carr reported  creating a one-dimensional MR image. Prompted by Damadian's report on the potential medical uses of NMR, Paul Lauterbur expanded on Carr's technique and developed a way to generate the first MRI images, in 2D and 3D, using gradients. Peter Mansfield from the University of Nottingham then developed a mathematical technique that would allow scans to take seconds rather than hours and produce clearer images than Lauterbur had. While Lauterbur and Mansfield focused on animals and human limbs, Damadian built the first full-body MRI machine[7] and produced the first full magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI") scan of the human body, albeit using a "focused field" technique that differs considerably from modern imaging.

In recording the history of MRI, Mattson and Simon (1996) credit Damadian with describing the concept of whole-body NMR scanning, as well as discovering the NMR tissue relaxation differences that made this feasible.

So, has the good professor been recognized at all? Why, yes he has:

Damadian received a National Medal of Technology in 1988 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1989. His original MRI full-body scanner was given to the Smithsonian Institution in the 1980s and is now on loan and on display at the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Ohio.

In 2001, the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program bestowed its $100,000 Lifetime Achievement Award on Damadian as "the man who invented the MRI scanner." The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia gave its recognition of Damadian's work on MRI with the Bower Award in Business Leadership. He was also named the Knights of Vartan 2003 "Man of the Year." In September 2003, he was honored with the Innovation Award in Bioscience from The Economist.

Thus far, on the up and up. Here’s where it gets ugly (and preposterous):

On July 3, 1977, the first MRI body exam was performed on a human being (the first human scan was performed by Sir Peter Mansfield's team in Nottingham a year earlier - but this was a cross-sectional image through a finger rather than a body scan).

It took almost five hours to produce one image. The images were, by modern standards, rudimentary. Dr. Raymond Damadian, a physician and scientist, along with colleagues Dr. Larry Minkoff and Dr. Michael Goldsmith, labored tirelessly for seven long years to reach this point. They named their original machine "Indomitable" to capture the spirit of their struggle to do what many said could not be done... but no systems would ever use Damadian's method however. His technique of imaging was never made a practically useable method and has never been used in what is considered MR imaging as we know it today and this is probably why the Nobel prize committee did not feel Damadian and his work deserved inclusion in the prize for physics when it was awarded to Lauterbur and Mansfield for "Inventing Magnetic Resonance Imaging" in 2003. His 1972 patent never described an imaging device but a method of "detecting" cancer... more of a Geiger counter approach for cancer 'detection'. Also, his patent followed on the heels of rumors already floating throughout the scientific community of Lauterbur's proposed idea of using NMR 'in vivo' (still in the human body... an imaging device) rather than Damadian's idea to use NMR as a 'in vitro' (or excised tissue) technique for differentiating cancerous from normal tissue. Damadian has continually argued that was what he meant but the truth is in the details. Damadian may have inspired Lauterbur's idea but Damadian did NOT invent MRI and careful review of Damadian's patent does not support his arguments (even the title of the patent states DETECTING); so, his 'FIRST body MRI' on July 3, 1977 is not actually the first MRI. It was his first attempt at a technique which was un-useable and ultimately abandoned even by him.

After Dr. Damadian's outrageous, numerous public tantrums over his exclusion, a New York Times columnist criticized Damadian's behavior by saying... "there is no Nobel Prize for whining".

None the less his 'machine', which could never be considered an actual MRI, is now in the Smithsonian Institution. As late as 1982, there were but a handful of MRI scanners in the entire United States. Today there are thousands. It is possible to image in seconds what used to take hours but not using any of Damadian's imaging methods of "field focused nuclear magnetic resonance".

So…Damadian was not the inventor of the MRI – contingent on whether one grants inventor status on the idea or the actual non-prototypical device itself. And the fact is, while the aforementioned trio did the pioneering work, the MRI is the result of many other scientists pitching in piecemeal. And from what I can extrapolate, it’s a combination of a few missed swings and a great deal of Damadian’s lack of people skills that denied him his part in the Nobel. Personally I think he should’ve gotten an honorable mention in the very least. However, he’s won a few awards and a great deal of recognition for his work.

To top it off, a quote from the professor:

Damadian himself said, "Before this happened, nobody ever said to me 'They will not give you the Nobel Prize for Medicine because you are a creation scientist.'... If people were actively campaigning against me because of that, I never knew it."

There’s absolutely no proof that this happened, not in the slightest. So I’m going to have to deem this YALTCT (Yet Another Lie The Christians Tell).


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Seinfeld

Seinfeld was always one of my favorite shows…oddly, an actual show about nothing, yet containing observational humor and context. The following clip is about George Costanza deciding to do the opposite. Watch and enjoy.