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Dogs v. Wolves May 7, 2012

Posted by Administrator in Education, Mechanistic Relativism, Science.
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The Scientific American examines a study on the social adaptation differences between dogs and wolves.  The question being asked is this: Are social adaptations made by the species a function of genetics (nature) or environmental learning (nurture).

Researchers took two cohorts of dogs and wolves at four to six days after birth, and had them hand-raised by humans.  The human “parents” had  a protocol to follow that insured the subject animals were fed, carried and cared for by “parents”, and were regularly exposed to new humans to acclimate them to the presence of them.

Then at six weeks, a series of experiments were run to determine if, given a situation where interaction with a human were advantageous to the subject animals:

In one simple task, a plate of food was presented to the wolf pups (at 9 weeks) or to the dog puppies (both at 5 weeks and at 9 weeks). However, the food was inaccessible to the animals; human help would be required to access it. The trick to getting the food was simple: all the animals had to do was make eye contact with the experimenter, and he or she would reward the dog with the food from the plate. Initially, all the animals attempted in vain to reach the food. However, by the second minute of testing, dogs began to look towards the humans. This increased over time and by the fourth minute there was a statistical difference. Dogs were more likely to initiate eye contact with the human experimenter than the wolves were. This is no small feat; initiating eye contact with the experimenter requires that the animal refocus its attention from the food to the human. Not only did the wolf pups not spontaneously initiate eye contact with the human experimenter, but they also failed to learn that eye contact was the key to solving their problem.

(The table in the original article shows quite clearly the difference.  This was not a mere statistical significance.  There is no question there is a difference between species.)

The long and the short of this is that it seems there is a genetic difference in social interactions.  Wolves will NOT interact with humans, while dogs will.

My one beef with this article is this:  “In one sense, this is a remarkable example of tool use.”  And of course, the title of the article refers to this as well, when in fact this study says NOTHING about tool use, but draws the distinction between social preferences in wolves and dogs.  The term tool use is fraught with political intrigue.  Goes against that idea, once again, that humans are unique.  I cannot see dogs viewing us as “tools”.  A tool is a passive object, capable of nothing on its own till activated by the user.  (Think of ANY workshop tool, or the twigs chimps use to prize termites out of their mounds.  Without the animated force of the tool user, the tool just sits there.).  So, to view humans as tools for dogs to use is, in my mind, a gross misuse of the term.

Damned funny April 7, 2008

Posted by Administrator in atheism, Humor, Idiots, Pharyngulism, Science.
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I mean, gut-bustingly so.

But here’s the funny part:  It is Pythonesque in its approach.  Meaning, it’s poking fun at both science and religion.

Now, the ironic part is that the Brights just don’t get what it’s really about.

Look, you fools, go re-watch the first part of the video, before the rap.  You clowns are being schooled.  The rap then schools both camps.

Mark Shea has a great takedown on this.

If I could find a way to host videos on this blog, this is the first one I’d put up.  It’s devastating.

Shorter Myers January 12, 2008

Posted by Administrator in Idiots, Pharyngulism, Science.
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“Biology isn’t what YOU say it is, it is what I say it is.”

Biology does not advocate killing the stupid and weak; it does not preach some kind of objective superiority of one class of people over another; it merely describes what happens in the natural world.

Um, right. It describes the eventual destruction of the stupid and the weak, and illustrates a cosmos where there is no room for compassion.

But nevermind all that. The Prophet Myers has spoken. If he tells you that Natural Selection favors compassion, then you better believe him.

Have faith in the Prophet Myers.

A GOOD ScienceBlog August 18, 2007

Posted by Administrator in Blogging, Science.

I spend a great deal of time in here slamming PZ Myers and his faith-based reliance upon science and his equally faith-based hatred of all things faith-based.  Ironic, and twisted, I know.  Myers’ wretched blog is found within the greater domain of scienceblogs.com.  A quick perusal of the place will find many sundry blogs, some good, some bad, and some wretched.  Myers fits in the wretched.

In the good category -based on one series of visits- is Dave and Greta Munger’s Cognitive Daily. It appears to be just chock full of goosies, reasonable reports and insights, and (hopefully) is devoid of the lock-step, fundamentalist materialism that plagues PZ.  The Mungers do eat with PZ, which causes a bit of concern (joke).  We’ll keep looking at it, but from what I  have seen, science readers out there need to drink this little blog in.

When Pharyngula seems to get it right. . . May 4, 2007

Posted by Administrator in Cultural Pessimism, Pharyngulism, Science.
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. . .it makes for fascinating reading.

Way back in the early 19th century, Geoffroy St. Hilaire argued for a radical idea, that vertebrates and most invertebrates were inverted copies of each other. Vertebrates have a dorsal nerve cord and ventral heart, while an insect has a ventral nerve cord and dorsal heart. Could it be that there was a common plan, and that one difference is simply that one is upside down relative to the other? It was an interesting idea, but it didn’t hold up at the time; critics could just enumerate the multitude of differences observable between arthropods and vertebrates and drown out an apparent similarity in a flood of documented differences. Picking out a few superficial similarities and proposing that something just looks like it ought to be so is not a persuasive argument in science.

Something has changed in the almost 200 years since Geoffroy made his suggestion, though: there has been a new flood of molecular data that shows that Geoffroy was right. We’re finding that all animals seem to use the same early molecular signals to define the orientation of the body axis, and that the dorsal-ventral axis is defined by a molecule in the Bmp (Bone Morphogenetic Protein) family. In vertebrates, Bmp is high in concentration along the ventral side of the embryo, opposite the developing nervous system. In arthropods, Bmp (the homolog in insects is called decapentaplegic, or dpp) is high on the dorsal side, which is still opposite the nervous system. At this point, the question of whether the dorsal-ventral axis of the vertebrate and invertebrate body plans have a common origin and whether one is inverted relative to the other has been settled, and the answer is yes.

The article continues on for some time, spouting arcane yet fascinating biological data to support the idea that arthropods and vertebrates once shared a common ancestor, and that the altereation took place when one set of worms decided to orient itself upside down in relation to the other set of worms.

Which leads to the hilarious title, in which PZ suggests we all have the brains of worms.

Maybe you, PZ. . .

But that is to wander from the point. Science is loaded with fascinating and instructive material such as this. Where Myers falls down, is that he insists that when one has a connection to religion (such as Francis Collins), it hampers their ability to do good science.. I cannot agree with him. Scientific discovery is akin to wandering through some magnificent and heretofore-unknown palace, containing architectural wonders never before seen. And we then get the chance to look at this building and gain some insight into how it was built; showing the same wonder and joy a mechanically inclined 8 year old is fascinated by the workings of a dismantled watch.

The difference is that PZ says the watch -or house- was constructed by random events. Collins and I say that it was made by an architect or watchmaker. Either source of creation need not prevent us from discovering how it works. And that is all science is supposed to do.

If you want to know the who/what/why it came about, that is the realm of the philosopher.

PZ is a fine scientist, and a perfectly disastrous philosopher.

Compare and Contrast March 7, 2007

Posted by Administrator in Blogging, Humor, Idiots, Pandamansanity, Science.
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One the one hand, this pathologically hysterical (that word was chosen carefully) screed by Amanda defending the tiresome play The Vagina Monologues.

Her title mutters something about the “firm resolve of young men.”

How ironic then to contrast that with this hilarious MythBusters video, (that link is dead, try this one instead) where a huge column of methane bubbles -that looks like the absolute antithesis of Amanda’s beloved organ- is set aflame.

My question: If Amanda were to watch the video, would she watch in rapture or dread at the creation of the methane phallus; and would she then cheer in delight or horror at its incineration?

Interesting Quote. . March 7, 2007

Posted by Administrator in Liberal Hypocrisy, Science, Smart People.
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. . .I found from Lynn Margulis, a noted biologist and something of a maverick within her field.  She is currently being plugged by PZ Myers as part of a “weblog tour”.

I find this quote rather intriguing, and wonder why Myers would agree with her, as he is a de facto neo-Darwinist:

 She does, however, hold a negative view of Neo-Darwinism, as she believes that history will ultimately judge the theory as a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon Biology.”[6] She also believes that proponents of the standard theory “wallow in their zoological, capitalistic, competitive, cost-benefit interpretation of Darwin – having mistaken him… Neo-Darwinism, which insists on (the slow accrual of mutations), is a complete funk.” (Bold text by hoody)

Hm.  Biology as religion.   What a concept.

An illustration of faith in the sciences. November 4, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Cultural Pessimism, Education, Faith, Science.
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OPENING CAVEAT: I hold no brief and very little interest in whether or not Sasquatch exists. In the end, I really could not care less if the hirsute monster exists or not.
Seems this fellow named Meldrum, a Ph. D in anatomical sciences, has been gathering data on Bigfoot for the past ten years, and has been publishing papers on the creature, has come to the point of claiming that the big guy actually exists.

For the past 10 years, he has added his scholarly sounding research to a field full of sham videos and supermarket tabloid exposes. And he is convinced he has produced a body of evidence that proves there is a Bigfoot.

“It used to be you went to a bookstore and asked for a book on Bigfoot and you’d be directed to the occult section, right between the Bermuda Triangle and UFOs,” Meldrum said. “Now you can find some in the natural science section.”

A number of his colleagues, whom I suspect bear a spiritual resemblance to their philosophical master in foolishness PZ Myers, are rumbling their discontent and suggesting that Meldrum have his tenured position at Idaho State University revoked.

Martin Hackworth, a senior lecturer in the physics department, called Meldrum’s research a “joke.”

“Do I cringe when I see the Discovery Channel and I see Idaho State University, Jeff Meldrum? Yes, I do,” Hackworth said. “He believes he’s taken up the cause of people who have been shut out by the scientific community. He’s lionized there. He’s worshipped. He walks on water. It’s embarrassing.”


. . .many (ISU) scientists are embarrassed by what they call Meldrum’s “pseudo-academic” pursuits and have called on the university to review his work with an eye toward revoking his tenure. One physics professor, D.P. Wells, wonders whether Meldrum plans to research Santa Claus, too.

Despite this, Meldrum has some supporters, including his dean,

“He’s a bona fide scientist,” Kijinski said. “I think he helps this university. He provides a form of open discussion and dissenting viewpoints that may not be popular with the scientific community, but that’s what academics all about.”

and naturalist Jane Goodall,

Her blurb on the jacket of Meldrum’s new book, “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science,” lauds him for bringing “a much-needed level of scientific analysis” to the Bigfoot debate.

“As a scientist, she’s very curious and she keeps an open mind,” said Goodall spokeswoman Nona Gandelman. “She’s fascinated by it.”

Now, I could well be wrong, but suspect that PZ would be clamoring for the removal of Dr. Meldrum’s tenure in that it does not fit the established mantra of acceptable science. For years, Bigfoot has been equivalent to the Loch Ness monster and the Abominable Snowman; rural legends designed to chill the blood of exurban housewives and gullible schoolchildren.

Yet, Dr. Meldrum has persistently explored this phenomenom based on one incident:

Meldrum said it was a decade ago in Walla Walla, Wash., that he first discovered flat 15-inch footprints in the woods. He said he thought initially that they were a hoax, but noticed locked joints and a narrow arch – traits he came to believe could only belong to Bigfoot.

That’s what set the hook,” Meldrum said. “I resolved at this point, this was a question I’d get to the bottom of.”

This lone discovery, aided I am sure by not a little FAITH in the possibility that the smelly brute exists, caused him to go against the entrenched FAITH of the acceptable scientific community and pursue this line of inquiry.

I’ll admit, I may be wrong in saying that PZ might have no problem with this research; save for this caveat: If I told PZ initially that Meldrum was a Christian, you may well bet that he would dismiss Meldrum’s Bigfoot mania as a direct symptom of his religious gullibility. But if I told Myers that Meldrum was atheist, or even agnostic, Myers would be much more open to Meldrum’s indulgence in this line of inquiry.

Hence, Myers’ own faith would reveal itself.

There is concept in philosophy, known as the Aristotle’s “Three Acts of the Mind.” Science restricts itself-and rightfully- to the third act of the mind, that of what may be known by reason alone. The difficulty is that we have other knowledge that comes about from beyond reason; emotion, hunches, instincts (beyond simple reflexes). Meldrum, in indulging in these hunches, has also used his reason to cause the scientific community to reconsider its notions of truth. But many scientists, and PZ is forefront among them, cling too much to their own faith in the Third Act of the Mind as the sole arbiter of truth, rendering them incapable of interpreting more subtle -and sometimes not so subtle- truths that are right in front of them.

And in hewing to that Third Act as a gospel route to Truth, render their truths immediately suspect. They hold to faith, without ever admitting that faith may exist.

An intellectual oxymoron of breathtaking simplicity, yet powerfully damaging.




AIDS Prevention: Condoms v. Abstinence November 15, 2005

Posted by Administrator in Catholicism, Cultural Pessimism, Mechanistic Relativism, Politics, Science.
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A never-ending source of head-shaking amusement can be found reading some of the MoonBat Left blogs. One recent lurker took me to task for being “ignorant”, simply because this little blog is certainly not left-of-center, and I have had the foolish habit of decrying the problems of homosexuality here. So, to gain the banner of “enlightened”, all I need to is say that the untrammeled practice of homosexuality is a good thing, and voila! You have your wits about you again.

So saith the Cluebat Left.

This is NOT to say that the Left is insensitive to the trials and tribulations of their fellow man. A recent comment I read on a rather batty Left blog recently gave me pause:

For the record, kudos to you for your extensive helping nature that you gratiouitsly wax on about above. But before your very easy to predict response of “what have you done for humanity”, I will tell you. Among many things, I normally take two to three months a year, unpaid, to practice medicine in Africa, as the HIV crisis is just a little bit of a health concern in a continent that has over 50% infection rate.

You may even do things to help there too. Like push for abstinence only education, condoms as a last resort, and “social teaching”, re. religious indoctrination. Well that sounds very cute, but I’ve seen it in action. How is the thirteen year old hooker who supports her siblings as her parents are both dead of HIV (current staistics support that assertion 9/10 times), and sells her body, in any way gaining a benifit by abstinence education or lack of condom availabiltiy? Oh, right! Silly me. She doesn’t count does she?

Brenda this may be a bitter little pill to swallow, but in Africa women don’t often have sexual autonomy. In fact most who get HIV, get it through unchoiced sex. Please apply your paradigms here and show us your “logic”.

Set aside the gratuitous slams (not to mention the gratuitous self-backslapping) and the poor spelling. Clearly, this person (NOT a doctor) is rightfully appalled at the monstrous infection rate in Africa, and the fact that most women in that region have little to no autonomy of person that women in the West enjoy.

The author claims that out of mercy and expediency that condom usage needs to be done to save the lives of these women.

After doing a bit of research, I was forced to pause and consider for a moment that the Cluebat may actually have a point; that maybe Proportionality comes into play here, and just maybe a smaller sin is needed to prevent the larger evil. After all there are bishops in Africa (not speaking ex cathedra) that seem to insinuate that the Church needs to revisit its position on condoms in Africa, given the horrendous epidemic it suffers under.

But, then I did a little more research. And what do you know, but little old Science, that “evil” discpline that I am suppoed to be foursquare against, came to the defense of -you’ll never guess it- the proponents of abstinence programs!!!

Uganda provides the clearest example that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is preventable if populations are mobilized to avoid risk. Despite limited resources, Uganda has shown a 70% decline in HIV prevalence since the early 1990s, linked to a 60% reduction in casual sex. The response in Uganda appears to be distinctively associated with communication about acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) through social networks. Despite substantial condom use and promotion of biomedical approaches, other African countries have shown neither similar behavioral responses nor HIV prevalence declines of the same scale. The Ugandan success is equivalent to a vaccine of 80% effectiveness. Its replication will require changes in global HIV/AIDS intervention policies and their evaluation.

Population Health Evaluation Unit, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK.

(here is the link for the abstract.)

Oopsie. Both science (as in the discipline) and Science magazine (sponsored by the AAAS -The American Association for the Advancement of Science- one of the more rigorous scientific organizations out there) seem to be saying that abstinence programs DO work. By golly.

Science set aside, let us wander into the realm of philosophy for a moment. (of which empirical science is but a branch of, but that is another topic, another time)

Briefly, let us look at the basic expectations that the liberal mindset has placed upon sexuality since the ’60s. “It’s good. Everyone is going to Do It. So, to prevent pregnancy/STDs/AIDS, we need to make sure that condoms/abortion et al are easily available.”

Now, while no one will disagree with the idea that sex is a Good Thing (when used as the manufacturer intended), let’s look at what lurks behind Curtain #2, “Everyone is going to Do It.” Implicit in that statement is the belief that we as humans are no different than monkeys. That we cannot Help Ourselves. We are helpless before the god Orgasm, and must make sure that we enjoy the fruits of that god without the attendant responsibilities. Because once again, “We Can’t Help Ourselves.”

Sorry. It ain’t that simple. And you aren’t off the old hook of Responsibility that easily.

The Ugandans seem to be providing factual evidence that another element may be at work here. That in fact, with a bit of education and intestinal fortitude, it would seem that people CAN control their urges.

And I recognize from the above quote that much of the human misery that contributes to the AIDS epidemic in Africa stems from local governments -in all likelihood steeped in corruption- being unable/unwilling to make the policy decisions necessary to change conditions so that those desperate 13 year olds might escape their plight.

But we let those governments off too easily by throwing condoms at them. We say in part: “The problem is insoluble. Here is a slight panacea.”

Sorry. That won’t do it either. The problem IS fixable, humans CAN control their appetites.

But liberal cluebats, -deep down- believe that humans are no better than animals. That we cannot help ourselve. That we really can’t manage heroic actions to answer huge problems. They prefer to say, “Poor child. Let is comfort you in your misery.”

Whereas the correct thing to do, the truly humanistic (and Christian, what a coincidence) action is to say; “Poor child. Let me help you up so that you may teach you and your children to never know this misery again.”

Which worldview is truly more honoring to the human? What really strives for more in terms of human excellence -in ALL things-? American liberalism circa 2005 A.D.?

I think not.