Who Says You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

If you don’t recognize the name John A. Davison, see here for the backstory. Basically, he has a history of not understanding the difference between posts and comments, and of starting blogs with one post and hundreds of comments.

So you understand why I was surprised to see that his new blog has a whole seven posts. Seven!

Then I realized that each post is about one topic, and the older ones have hundreds of comments.

In other words, he’s still confused. But this time, he’s confusing posts with categories.

But that’s okay. I guess I’ll be laughing out of the other side of my mouth when his lone paper on the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis overturns 150 years of biological research.

Continuity at the Onion?

Today’s Onion includes the story
Spider Eggs Hatch In Bush’s Brain“.
This would be unremarkable, except for the fact that last week, the
Onion Radio News had the story
Vice President Cheney Seen Dragging Egg Sac Through West Wing“.

Is the Onion introducing continuity between stories? Has this formerly
resolutely short-attention-span publication yielded to pressure to
introduce story arcs? Stay tuned. Unless this turns out to be a
coincidence, in which case just forget it and go about your business.

What? Protests Change Minds?

When I
earlier about participating in the “No on Prop 8” demonstration at the
National Mall, I was rather dismissive of the notion that it might
affect anyone’s opinion.

However, SurveyUSA published a
about Prop 8 with an interesting result. People who voted for Prop 8
were asked “Have the protesters changed your opinion on Prop 8?”. 8%
of them said yes.

Read More

Language Peeve

this episode
of the John Cleese podcast, he takes on a pet peeve of mine, and
explains with graphs and charts exactly why it’s wrong to say “I could
care less”.

Oh, and for those who didn’t know that John Cleese has a podcast:

John Cleese has a

Great Christina

Allow me to pimp Greta Christina’s Blog, for no other reason than that she’s worth reading, including a few articles that I wanted to write, but she beat me to it:

Why Religion Is Like Fanfic compares religious apologetics (why does the Bible say that Judas hanged himself in one passage, but that he exploded in another?) to fans coming up with explanations for incongruities in their favorite TV shows and book series.

On The Amazingness of Atheists… And Why It’s Doomed is about why the contemporary atheist movement will blow over, and why this is a good thing.

Go and show her some love.

Airport Security: Annoying or Pointless?

First, here’s an opinion piece by Patrick Smith at the NYT’s “Jet Lagged” weblog, pointing out a lot of the problems with airport security procedures.

At every concourse checkpoint you’ll see a bin or barrel brimming with contraband containers taken from passengers for having exceeded the volume limit. Now, the assumption has to be that the materials in those containers are potentially hazardous. If not, why were they seized in the first place? But if so, why are they dumped unceremoniously into the trash? They are not quarantined or handed over to the bomb squad; they are simply thrown away.

We are not fighting materials, we are fighting the imagination and cleverness of the would-be saboteur.

If you’ve read that and gotten your blood pressure up, you won’t be doing your cardiovascular system any favors by reading this article by the always-excellent Bruce Schneier about a study (well, a meta-study, really) by the Harvard School of Public Health that went looking for evidence of the effectiveness of TSA screening procedures.

I’m going to disagree with Schneier on one point: he summarizes the study as

Surprising nobody, a new study concludes that airport security isn’t helping

From the articles he links to, I’d say it’d be more fair to say “Airport security procedures are costing us a lot, and we don’t even know whether they’re doing any good.”

But he’s right when he says:

The goal isn’t to confiscate prohibited items. The goal is to prevent terrorism on airplanes. When the TSA confiscates millions of lighters from innocent people, that’s a security failure. The TSA is reacting to non-threats. The TSA is reacting to false alarms. Now you can argue that this level of failures is necessary to make people safer, but it’s certainly not evidence that people are safer.

(Update: Punkwalrus imagines the future of air travel, in grainy black and white, with cheesy upbeat music.)

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Atheism-Friendly Editorial in the Post

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s speech, the Washington Post has an editorial that makes some of the same points that I did.

Where Mr. Romney most fell short, though, was in his failure to recognize that America is composed of citizens not only of different faiths but of no faith at all and that the genius of America is to treat them all with equal dignity. “Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom,” Mr. Romney said. But societies can be both secular and free. The magnificent cathedrals of Europe may be empty, as Mr. Romney said, but the democracies of Europe are thriving.


It doesn’t happen here very often this early in the season, but it’s currently snowing! See this artist’s rendition:


(Artist’s rendition may not be 100% accurate.)

This isn’t prairie winter, mind you: this is Washington area snow, the kind where even a quarter-inch is enough to close schools and send panicked citizens scurrying to buy up all remaining supplies of milk and toilet paper. There’ll be mile-long backups on the Beltway before this is over.

I’m glad to be sitting quietly in a warm office, and I think I’ll make some hot chocolate. Later, when it dies down, though… comes dealing with traffic, and morons who won’t go above 20 mph even though they’ve lived here all their life and it snows at least once every single year. At least it isn’t sticking to the roads.

(Yes, I’m gently poking fun at PZ. Pompous Minesotan. Who does he think he is, lording it over us with his weather?)

I ♥ Mike Argento

…because he wrote:

Petraeus is apparently Greek for Westmoreland

Carnival of the Dembski

Bill “The Isaac Newton of Information Science” Dembski gave a talk at Oklahoma University in Norman, entitled “Why Atheism is no Longer Intellectually Fulfilling: The Challenge of Intelligent Design to Unintelligent Evolution”. But it appears that instead of the usual audience bussed in from local churches, the talk was attended by a lot of OU faculty and students. From all accounts, he gave a pretty standard presentation, but was ripped to shreds in the Q&A session.

Start by reading Golfvixen’s liveblogging of the talk. Then proceed to ERV’s account (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and/or this summary at Further Thoughts (or better yet, this
roundup of coverage of the event[1]).

And finally, a Christian who didn’t manage to get into the talk, but describes the Q& A and the goings-on outside.

Oh, and I would have liked to link to Dembski’s own account of how the evening went, but I can’t find one.

[1] Yes, he links here. When two carnivals link to each other, does it form a merry-go-round?

(Updated Sep. 21 to add another link to Further Thoughts.)