Tag Archives: Glenn Beck

Creationist Hides Behind Boy Genius

First, a cutesy news story appears about an autistic boy genius named Jacob Barnett, who possesses a precocious knowledge of mathematics and who disagrees with aspects of the Big Bang Theory.  Then, Glenn Beck latched on to him like he’s a sign from god. In turn, a website — The New American— parasitically clings to the story in a way only a conservative rag could –it declares that Jacob’s work is somehow going to prove Biblical creation by disproving the Big Bang. And apparently, there’s no need for writer Raven Clabough to check her facts as to who first proposed the idea for an expanding universe. She just likes to shoot from the hip.

Christians worldwide should applaud Jacob’s intent to disprove one of the many theories put forth by atheists to explain away the Biblical creation. According to astronomer Paul Steidl, “The big bang was invented specifically for the purpose of doing away with the creation event. An astronomer would laugh at the naivety of anyone who chose to equate the two events.” [my emphasis]

I think Monsignor George Lemaitre, the Catholic priest and astrophysicist who first put forth the “hypothesis of the primeval atom”, which became the Big Bang Theory, would disagree about atheism’s contribution. And Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who gave the Big Bang its pejorative name, would also have to object on the grounds that one of the reasons he and some of his colleagues disliked the Big Bang Theory was because it sounded too much like a creation myth.

(And I was unable to find any source for an astronomer named Paul Steidl. I did, however, find the name linked with The Creation Research Society and its numerous, pseudo-scientific booklets on why astrophysics “supports” Biblical creation.)

A creationist like Raven Clabough pinning her hopes on a child by twisting his words and misinterpreting his intentions is pretty pathetic. A creationist having to rewrite history to do it makes it doubly so. And she shouldn’t bank on Jacob disproving the Big Bang just yet. In his own words he makes an obvious error:

“Otherwise, the carbon would have to be coming out of the stars and hence the Earth, made mostly of carbon, we wouldn’t be here. So I calculated, the time it would take to create 2 percent of the carbon in the universe, it would actually have to be several micro-seconds. Or a couple of nano-seconds, or something like that. An extremely small period of time. Like faster than a snap. That isn’t gonna happen.” [my emphasis]

If I remember correctly, less than one tenth of a percent of the Earth’s crust is carbon. Sorry, but as brainy as Jacob is, his parents should know better than to place this kind of pressure on him or to let him be around creeps like Glenn Beck.  They should take a lesson from Fleischmann and Pons, the two chemists who prematurely announced to the world in 1989 their “discovery of cold fusion.” Boasting before the evidence is in equals colossal embarrassment.

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Creationist Of The Month Club

My Vision Of Hell

Christians regularly tell me I’m headed for hell for being a freethinker. But when I try to imagine this fiery underworld, my mind falls short, and all I see is spending an eternity with them  –an army of pious brain-dead conservative robots, dressed in matching polyester outfits, oafishly shuffling about under twinkling chandeliers and gaudy lighting, to the most insidious, elevator music ever conceived. It’s an intellectually barren world where the only shape is a square. I’m afraid even considering its existence. Now, peer into my hell, if you dare.

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Culture Warfare

Health Care CEO Misleads Using Numbers

Many opponents of health care reform are throwing numbers around, making it sound like the health care industry is barely profitable. They claim a 2-3% profit margin. It’s a half-truth –that 2-3% is, in fact, the percentage of total revenue, which is different from net return on investment. For example, CNN Business lists fortune 500 industries by profit margin of total revenue.

If I make $2 for every $100 I collect in revenue that’s 2%. But if I make $2 million for every $100 million I collect that also 2%.  If my operating costs are 20% of my gross profit (the insurance company average is about 17%), then in the former example my net profit is $1.60, a 400% return on my $0.40 investment. In the latter example it would be $1.6 million, also a 400% return. In both I keep 80% of the gross. In other words, the health care industry’s revenue is ginormous, and its operating costs are low. There’s tons of wiggle room for profit even with having to pay out medical claims.

No one would stay in any business with a 2-3% net return on investment when CD bank rates are 2.85% for a 5 year certificate. With those numbers a business might as well invest its money and do nothing. The real numbers show that the health care industry’s return on share holder equity is 16%. Not a bad return at all. But if you accept the profit margin lie, then the health care companies must be operating at a major loss, which we know isn’t true.

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Scientists vs. Weathermen

A string of TV weathermen has appeared on various Fox News shows over the past few months to deny climate change. The producers at Fox News sure know how to bypass the best and the brightest for the mediocre. I mean why call up an actual researcher with years of climatological experience to give you the global assessment, when an annoying, local TV, blow-hard can reduce a complex subject into anecdotal bite-sized nuggets? It’s cool and breezy at the beach today, as compared to last year at the same time, so global warming must be a liberal, socialist lie. Now back to you, Tom Tucker.

At least some people are speaking up against the stupidity. And others have made insightful videos.

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When Economists Twist Biology

A site called KansasCity.com posts a column called Midwest Voices, and a professor emeritus of economics from the University of Notre Dame –Larry Marsh–has written an absurd piece insisting that if one accepts evolution then it follows that one must accept free-market economics, and therefore reject socialism; forget that the former is a science and the latter is a social policy.

Marsh begins with:

Is life fundamentally bottom-up and randomly designed or top-down and intentionally designed? Are you a socialist-creationist or a free-market evolutionist? If you reject this dichotomy and instead view yourself as a socialist-evolutionist, how can you justify arguing for the power of self-organization and unintentional, benevolent design in biology and against it in economics?

The gist of his column is that he thinks living under the umbrella of a free-market economy naturally benefits all individuals, which he sees as analogous to individual ants benefiting from being part of a colony –which is actually organized from bottom up rather from the top down (i.e. government). As Marsh says, “The queen ant is not a commander ant. The colony just consists of individual ants instinctively following their nature”.

I suppose he’s saying it’s our nature to be capitalistic. And by following our nature we all profit. Oh, but what a magnificently lame philosophy it is. Invoking Adam Smith and Charles Darwin, as Marsh does, and setting them up against socialist Karl Marx and creationist William Paley may sound good on paper, while sitting in the comfy chair inside a professor’s air-conditioned office, but reality isn’t so pretty.

Hasn’t Marsh heard the estimate that 99.9% of all species that have ever lived have gone extinct? Or that historically the average rates of extinction and speciation have been about equal? (Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck by David Raup) Or that most offspring in the wild don’t make it to adulthood? The female Clownfish (anemone fish), for example, lays up to 1000 eggs in a clutch, but predation, genetic misfortune, and physical mishaps will likely destroy all but a tiny fraction. Mother Nature may recycle, but she’s a wasteful and inefficient bitch.

Should our economy be run in this fashion? Do we want General Motors using this model? Say for every one car it produces 100 will be junked. Or for every profitable loan Bank Of America makes, 100 will be bad debt. How long would the economy last?

That ‘radical’ Richard Dawkins has often said evolution is not a template for society; he likes to quote Tennyson –“nature, red in tooth and claw”. But through Marsh’s naive non-biologist eyes, evolution is not just an explanation for the origin and diversification of new species, it’s an instructive manual on how to live one’s life.

Marsh sounds like he accepts evolution, and as an academic he may well think he’s performing a double-whammy service by conflating it with capitalism, but he’s only cherry picking the parts of evolution that fit in with his economic views.

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Filed under Evolution, Politics

Torture Gets Us What We Want

Supporters of waterboarding, or “enhanced interrogation”, or plain old, let’s-get-medieval-on-your-ass torture –if they’re willing to call it what it is– often put forth the argument that causing pain and discomfort to a terrorist will save lives by preventing an imminent attack. They might say something along the lines of “What if a terrorist knew the location of a soon-to-be-detonated dirty bomb. Wouldn’t torture be OK then?” But while they may be sincere in their belief, their little scenario is self-serving and false in the extreme.

The proponent here presumes to know what the suspect knows before the torture has even commenced. Well, they don’t know the mind of the suspect; he may, in fact, be completely innocent. This hardened thinking reminds me of Bill O’Reilly when he said all the prisoners at Guantanamo should have been shot. Did he mean to include the ones that were eventually released?

Terrorists also tend to work in groups. I don’t know about you, but if I were a terrorist, my planned attack would be postponed if one of my brethren suddenly went missing or were captured by the authorities. And I’d hit the road and look for a new headquarters. The CIA has already admitted that none of the information gained by torture thwarted an actual attack. Most of it was about the structure of Al-Qaeda’s as an organization.

Life isn’t a TV melodrama. Jack Bauer isn’t going to save the day by beating the crap out of Nina, no matter how much we despise her. Presuming to know the mind of a suspect only leads to repeatedly asking the suspect the same question, over and over again, and torturing them for the “correct” answer, whatever that may be.

In the 1990’s there was an infamous case in California of a teenage boy who was questioned for hours by police in the murder of his sister. He confessed and was convicted, even though it was later determined with compelling DNA evidence that a stranger had committed the horrible crime. Pressuring a person for the answer you want usually gets you what you want; it doesn’t get you what you need.

The ambiguities of real life make torture seem cartoonish and black-and-white, and part of a worldview credulous conservatives can get behind.

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Stop Torturing Me With American Stupidity

Only a cold heart wouldn’t admire Christopher Hitchens for his willingness to experience water-boarding firsthand. He broke quickly, but who the hell wants to endure drowning, “simulated” or otherwise?

The past week has left me feeling sick to my stomach. It’s when many of my fellow Americans abandoned their warmbloodness by adamantly defining water-boarding as not torture, but as an acceptable method of “enhanced interrogation”. Forget that there’s a long legal and moral precedent calling it torture.

But there are two points on this subject that I haven’t yet heard anyone bring up. First off, if water-boarding is not to be called torture, then we’re creating a ready-made legal defense for those who water-board. An American citizen held in any foreign land could be treated to this method of interrogation, and we could not stand on any moral, or legal, high ground because we deprived ourselves of that privilege. And our own law enforcement (police, FBI, DEA, etc.) could not be held fully accountable if they chose to water-board prisoners. A defense lawyer could easily argue that the venue of the interrogation makes no difference to the definition of water-boarding. If it’s not torture in the military, it’s not torture in civilian life. Perhaps it’s simply a form of assault. Criminals of all sorts would certainly find a new legal definition advantageous.

The second point is that not calling water-boarding torture shifts the whole scale. equally unpleasant techniques could be redefined, too. Water-boarding deprives a person of oxygen and is called simulated drowning. So, should choking or dunking a person under water or placing a plastic bag over someone’s head for a prolonged period not to be called torture? They’re all as dangerous and as horrible as water-boarding. One could make the case.

This discussion makes me feel like I ‘ve been dragged back in time to a more morally ambiguous era.

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