Matters vegetable, animal, and mineral.
kitten   January 31, 2004

Ignorance abounds.

State superintendent Kathy Cox is now proposing that the word "evolution" be stricken from science textbooks and curricula, and replaced with the phrase "biological changes over time". Her justification for this is that evolution is "too controversial", and so - along with the disclaimer stickers already present on most high school textbooks - she feels it would be better for students to learn happy, inoffensive euphemisms instead of actual scientific nomenclature.

She'd rather have it not taught at all, or have "alternative theories" taught alongside it, but since that won't happen, she offers this as a "compromise".

Most of you are probably aware of my stance, but what really gets me is the criteria and input that the state is using to support this idea, which seems to come along in one form or another every single year. They'll poll high school students, who come back with such gems as "I did my term paper on Darwin, and even I could see there were a lot of problems with it... I don't think my little brother should be taught this stuff as if it were a fact."

Oh, a high school term paper! Who among us can argue with such a magnum opus of educated dissertation? Not to mention the fact that Darwin's ideas came along 150 years ago, and was merely the groundwork for today's thinking. Still, the state accepts this sort of inane criticism, from self-styled experts in high school who wrote crappy term papers, as valid arguments, while ignoring the advice of people such as actual scientists, educators, even Jimmy Carter.

The bottom line is, of course, that Creationism deserves zero consideration whatsoever in schools. Period. It is not, nor has it ever been, a valid academic pursuit. It does not, nor has it ever, provided evidence or even arguments for its own position - it relies entirely on knocking down evolution and assuming that the only alternative is divine Creation.

Creations start with a conclusion and then look for observations to support it, and their hypothesis will never change. Darwin didn't say "Hey, I bet organisms change over time. I wonder if I can find any evidence of that." No, he went out to look at the organisms and came to that conclusion based on the observations - which is how science works, and is the exact opposite of how Creationism works. It's interesting to note that the ICR, founded by Duane Gish, makes it's professors take an oath that no matter what they find, they will not revoke their belief in Genesis. Does that sound like a productive inquiry into truth? It sounds to me like an agenda push.

The two approaches are wildly different. One is valid, and the other is not:

Evolutionist: We think $stuff. We think it because of this, this, that, and that over there. Also this and this. Our best guess as to how it all fits together is this theory here, which we call 'evolution'.

Creationist: Well, we think $other_stuff. See, you're wrong about this, and that other thing might be wrong also, but nobody knows. And we're pretty sure you're on the wrong track with that over there, too. Anyway, what we're saying here is, your theory isn't perfect, because of the flaws we just mentioned. Since it isn't perfect, it isn't true. And since it isn't true, the only other option is Genesis. Therefore Genesis is true.

Evolutionist: Hey, we never said our theory was perfect. We know there's problems with it. That's why we've got evolutionary scientists who continue to study it. We've only been doing this for 150 years, and since then we've gained knowledge of extinction, genetics, the human genome, fossil records, understanding of climatic and environmental pressures, mutations, ecology, etc etc etc. What have you come up with?

Creationist: Well, like we said, your fossil stuff might be wrong, if we assume there's a God who could have--

Evolutionist: "could have"? "might be"? "if we assume"?

Creationist: Don't be rude, just listen. Yeah, it could be wrong, and so could your nonsense about environmental pressures and adaptation. Some of your other stuff could be wrong too.

Evolutionist: And?

Creationist: And, that's it. We think you're wrong.

Evolutionist: That doesn't answer the question. I've told you what information we've gathered. I asked what you've come up with.

Creationist: We've looked at your data and we think you're wrong about it.

Evolutionist: Yes yes, you said that already - but haven't you come up with anything to support your idea?

Creationist: I don't understand your question. I'm trying to show that evolution has problems.

Evolutionist: "A is wrong" doesn't automatically mean "B is right". Do you have any evidence to support your own theory, or is everything you've got just attacking our side?

Creationist: I think you're looking at this the wrong way...

Evolutionist: Then I'll make it simple. If we're wrong, how does that make your side right?

Creationist: Well, we've got this book, you see? It was written a long time ago.

Evolutionist: Who wrote it?

Creationist: Lots of different people. Some of it, we're not sure.

Evolutionist: And who are these people? Did they know what they're talking about?

Creationist: Quiet, I'm getting to that. So this book, we're not really sure who wrote it, and a lot of it was translated numerous times, or edited, or censored politically, and some of it wasn't written down at all for a while, just passed along verbally down the generations.

Evolutionist: ...so?

Creationist: Well, the book says it's the word of God, so it must be. And this book tells us that we're right.

Evolutionist: Forget it. Just nevermind. You've as much as stated that you're not interested in examining data, making observations, or using logic or science. You're just arguing that your book is right, and you can't come up with anything to prove it.

Creationist: That isn't true. We have no problem with science. Evolution isn't a science, though. It's a theory. That's all. In fact, we love science. We use it as much as you do, to show how we're right. For example, you know relativity? Well, it might help solve the issue of why we can see light from stars that are 12 billion light years away.

Evolutionist: How is that an "issue"?

Creationist: Because how can we see things 12 billion light years away if the universe is only 6000 years old?

Evolutionist: Where did you get the idea that the universe is 6000 years old?

Creationist: Honestly, don't you listen? It says so in our book. So the starlight thing is an issue, because it doesn't agree with our book. And we just used science to maybe explain why.

Evolutionist: Relativity is just a theory.

Creationist: Yeah, well. It's a good theory, and it supports what we already know, so it works.

Evolutionist: What do you mean "what we already know"?

Creationist: Like I said before. This book.

Evolutionist: So you started with the book's "answer", assumed it must be true, and then you're looking for the evidence?

Creationist: What's wrong with that? You start with your evolution theory.

Evolutionist: Evolution isn't the "theory". Evolution is the observation. Things like natural selection, mutation, ecological pressures, and so on, are the theories that explain the observation. We didn't pull evolution out of thin air or from a book. It's what we saw happening. Like gravity is what we observed, and we came up with a theory to explain how it happens - space bending around matter. You're confusing "observation" with "theory", and "theory" with "hypothesis". The three aren't at all the same.

Creationist: It's all just theory. You're twisting words.

Evolutionist: Go away. You still haven't said what's right about your own position. All you've done is criticize another position, and you haven't even done a good job at that.

Creationist: You'll burn in Hell!

Evolutionist: I'll save you a seat.

And now I leave you with the words of MC Hawking:

They call their bullshit 'science' like the word could give them cred
If them bitches be scientists, then cap me in the head

The truth will set you free.
kitten   January 24, 2004

First, twenty minutes of this:


* kitten nods.
* Torka nods.
* kitten nods.
* Torka nods.
* kitten nods.
* Torka nods.
* kitten nods.
* Torka nods.
And then this commentary:

< sknight> wtf
< sknight> you peopl e just hit up-enter for 20 minutes?
< kitten> It's so much more than that.
< sknight> wtf is the MATTER with you?!
< kitten> It's a ritual. A competition.
< kitten> It's a dance.
< sknight> ...
< kitten> A haunting ballet of intricate timing.
< sknight> you both need girlfriends
< kitten> ...yeah.

I don't care if Monday's blue.
Think of me, think of me fondly When we've said goodbye. Remember me once in a while - please promise me you'll try.

When you find that, once again, you long to take your heart back and be free -
If you ever find a moment, spare a thought for me.

Ein Volk, ein President, und ein Reich.
kitten   January 16, 2004

By now most of you are probably aware of the media uproar surrounding MoveOn.org. For those that aren't, MoveOn.org sponsored a contest for people, mostly amateur filmmakers, to come up with 30-second anti-Bush commercials. The winner would be selected and MoveOn.org would try to get the commercial on the Superbowl.

One of the commercials (transcript here) compares Bush's foreign policy to Hitler's war campaign.

The gist of the commercial suggests that Bush, like Hitler, tells lies (which he does) in order to keep the citizens afraid (also true) so they'll support military action against anyone the government declares is a thread (sound familiar yet?), and that these things, viewed as war crimes in 1943, are somehow acceptable foreign policy today (debatable - I despise Bush and his policies but I don't consider them war crimes).

So the Republicans are in a state of hysteria over this. EVIL LIBERALS comparing their precious "leader" to Adolf Hitler! Terrible!

They've advanced only two arguments regarding it, though. The first, and what they consider the "clever" one, is to accuse the makers of the commercial of anti-Semitism.

The argument is that any comparision to Hitler, by implication, is a comparision to the Holocaust, which is not necessarily the case. One can easily draw useful comparisions to the policies of the Nazi Party in instituting a police state, for example, and this is not at all connected to their genocide. Anyway, so the argument runs, comparing Bush to Hitler thereby "diminishes" the Holocaust and makes it seem like a trivial thing. Therefore the creators of the ad think the Holocaust is a big joke.

This "logic" is specious at best and outright insane at worst, but there is an even more obvious counterargument. Specifically, in order for the ad to be effective, the creators had to have an understanding of the horrors of the Nazi regime, and they had to bet that their viewers would, too. Whether you agree with the ad's analogy or not, the ad only makes sense if Hitler's practices are understood to be monstrosities - otherwise it would be literally incoherent.

So you could say that the ad actually encourages people to understand the evils of Hitler, so that the intended analogy works.

The comparision may be an exaggerated one, but in many ways it is valid. The constant talk of "terror levels" and so forth keeps the population in fear, while legislation like the PATRIOT Act gives the federal government broad police powers with zero judicial oversight whatsoever, all in the name of "security", which is being placed at a higher priority than civil liberty. There are dozens more examples; these are only two.

The other main argument trotted out is barely worth mentioning - it is the typical conservative tactic, championed by Rush and Sean Hannity, of accusing anyone who criticises the president of being "unpatriotic". It's bad to lambast the president during this "time of crisis", they assert, even though there is no immediate crisis, and even if there were, that does not mean we should turn our brains off and become mindless jingoistic drones, supporting whoever is in charge no matter what they do or say. Patriotism is using the freedoms granted to us by being Americans - and that includes the first amendment. Those who speak out against Bush are, in a way, more patriotic than those who delcare such speech to be "unpatriotic", implying that certain types of speech (specifically, the type that says things they don't want to hear) should be disregarded or condemned on the basis of popularity, not of content.

Now I have a question for the Bush-supporting people who have their panties in a twist: Can you explain this to us? Isn't comparing Hillary Clinton to Hitler also "diminishing" the Holocaust? Oh, you evil anti-Semites, how dare you make a joke out of the horror of the Nazi Party!

Exhibits A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, just to name a few.

Here's some more. Republicans and other right-wing types have been making comparisions between Hitler and various Democratic figures for ages. Democrats have been doing the same, of course. The point is that this is nothing new. Godwin's Law will always be invoked, but sometimes, the comparision is a valid one. Bush is using terrorism as a means of keeping Americans in fear, and he is supporting legislation that comes dangerously close to creating a police state as a result of that fear. He is invading other countries and occupying them - not in the same way the Nazis were, but the comparision can still be usefully made in order to illustrate certain points.

I freely acknowledge that most of the Bush-Hitler analogy is exaggerated, but that doesn't mean there is not a grain of truth and warning within it, and in any case, acting as though this is some sort of gross injustice to the president or a diminishing of the Holocaust just shows how illogical, not to mention completely hypocritical, conservatives can be, attacking straw men they've created when they've run out of anything meaninful to say, which is most of the time.

No one wants to be defeated.

Five years out of high school and I'm rejoining the world of education. By now some of you are aware that this ends my first week of classes at a post-secondary institution, and for the most part it seems to be going well, with the exception of remedial (sorry, "Learning Supported") algebra, which I got stuck in after it was determined that I don't know a variable from a fraction.

The rest of my classes, oddly, are honors courses.

First up is an English composition course, which is largely essay writing. Suits me just fine, seeing as this is what I do in my free time anyway. Small class, good professor. I have no issues here.

I've also got US History, which is an incredibly boring subject, but it being an honors class, the style is more debate and arguing than lecture and note-taking. Already we have to prepare and present arguments based on two essays as to whether or not Columbus was an imperialist - a topic that interests me not in the slightest, but I do like to argue with people.

Political science, which I find utterly fascinating, at least, once we get past the Greeks and Romans and move into more modern systems and focus on the issues of today. On the schedule is an optional panel discussion featuring Bob Barr (who is an idiot) regarding the Patrot Act. I look forward to this class.

Finally, algebra, wherein I get to learn all sorts of useful things that will help me later in life, such as graphing nonlinear equations and factoring polynomials, things that are very very important for people who aren't pursuing any math-related field to know, I'm sure.

I have never understood why such an emphasis is placed on mathematics, especially when schools themselves admit that most people must be placed in remedial courses. And why must they be placed in remedial courses? Because they don't know this stuff. Why don't they know this stuff - didn't they learn it in high school? Well, yes, but they haven't used it in a while, so they've forgotten it. And why haven't they used it in a while? Because it is a fundamentally useless skill to 90% of the population, that's why. Most people will never need or use anything beyond basic arithmetic and percentages.

Anyway.

Thank the small gods for "kitten getting lost" being factored into everything I do. I missed the freeway exit twice the first day, and once I arrived, I was faced with the impossible task of finding a parking space, and then attempting to find my classroom. Logic would suggest that if classrooms are numbered, they will be numbered in some sort of sequential order, but such is not the case here - room 370 is next to 480, and then 220. There is no rhyme or reason to anything, at least not that I've been able to determine.

My overall impression so far is that college is a lot like high school except with a more idiotic system of book distribution, and they don't care if you smoke outside. Whether this is because I am taking the basic core classes right now, or not, remains to be seen.

The power is yours!
kitten   January 5, 2004

2004 is upon us and, besides being a leap year, it is also election year in America, which means it's time for Americans to start thinking about who to vote for to administrate the federal government for the next four years. I want to draw attention to the fact that I said "administrate the federal government", rather than "lead the country", since leading is not nor has it ever been the role of the president, contrary to what the right will tell you.

Here at mirrorshades.org we recognize that there are many complex issues facing the nation. As we all know, George Bush is the incumbent seeking re-election on the Republican side. The Democratic party has yet to finalize their candidate, although currently it appears that Howard Dean is the strongest contender.

I have always felt that this two-party system is, to put it mildly, rather silly. Bipartisan bickering prevents anything productive from ever getting done, and anything with the potential to improve the nation gets mired down in a series of committees, subcomittees, bill riders, gerrymandering, carpetbagging, filibustering, scalawagging, and lollygagging. Each party spends more time sniping at the other party than doing anything useful, and although both sides pretend to have diametrically opposed positions and viewpoints on any given issue, the truth is that no matter which party has power, nothing ever changes: The rich get more rich, taxes increase, government power expands, corporate and focus-group interests are placed ahead of the general citizenry, and in the end, the only real difference is a minor, almost imperceptable shift in federal spending.

Many Americans feel that on election day, their options are limited to voting for a Republican moron, a Democrat idiot, or throwing their vote away on a third-party pinhead.

For your convenience, and to facilitate consideration and discussion, I have prepared a helpful, though by no means comprehensive, guide which may assist our readers in their decision.


Things to vote for instead of George Bush:

A plank of wood. A plank of wood will not waste money on unconstitutional faith-based initiatives fuelled by theocratic fervor and a fundamentalist mentality.

A rock. A rock will generally not use national tragedies as excuses to increase police powers of the state and reduce citizens' privacy and liberty.

A pile of modelling clay. Clay is unlikely to blow one hundred billion dollars invading a country that posed no threat to us, nor will it lie about the reasons for the invasion. Modelling clay will not accuse nations of being eager to use weapons, and then conveniently look the other way when those nations don't use the alleged weapons even against an invading army.

A herring sandwich. A herring sandwich, being just a bit of dead fish between two slices of bread, is marginally more aware of the concept of civil liberties than George Bush.

A desert tortoise. A tortoise will probably not veto any federal spending bills, but then, neither has Bush. Ever. On the other hand, tortoises are also not known for their vicious, homophobic attitudes.

A can of Coke. A soda can will not create the largest government beaurocracy in living memory, an agency which serves no purpose other than to spend billions in taxpayer dollars and keep everyone as afraid as possible so they'll ignore all of the above issues.

A tree frog. Tree frogs do not provide 38 billion dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest 1% during a time of economic recession and a hundred billion dollar war effort.


So remember, inanimate objects such as carrots, animals such as lemurs, or even unicellular organisms such as e. coli bacteria, are all better choices in the coming election than George Bush. In 2004, if it runs against Bush, it has my vote.

From Atlanta, good evening.