Thursday, April 26, 2012 do know that you said that out loud right?

Mississippi Gov. Says Democrats ‘One Mission in Life Is to Abort Children

I will honestly acknowledge being a liberal, though like most liberals I don't always agree with the democratic party...but this, I am honestly speechless.  I get the abortion is a controversial issue but suggesting that the goal of your opponents is to entirely eliminate the human race is just insane.

Of course I know that is is political rhetoric meant to engender an emotional response not a logical one, but it seriously amazes me that they believe their constituency would take this kind of nonsense seriously, it sounds like a conspiracy theory right up there with people who claim 9/11 was an inside job or big pharma wants to keep you sick.  (of course there are people who actually believe those things too)

The governor is selling the bill in question as necessary for the safety women. However, the bill that is being creates a set of rules governing abortion clinics which would cause the one clinic in the entire state to shut down, which would, in effect, eliminate abortion as an option for most women.  Which is, of course, the point of the bill, and the smoke screen about women's health is just a thin veneer to cover up their goal.

The argument that the bill's requirement that the abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital is about women's safety doesn't even make sense.  Are there any cases where a doctors lack of admitting privileges in a hospital resulted in a serious problem for a person being admitted?  I certainly don't know of any case where that has been an issue.  The goal seems to be much the same as the dozens of other bills that have been passed over the past several years on abortion.  Since Roe V. Wade prevents states from outright banning abortions they are trying to pass laws that make it nearly impossible to get one.  

News reports finally live up to my childhood expectations of what the future would be like.

So this is going on:

Company plans to mine asteroids orbiting near the Earth

Planetary Resources is building ships for asteroid mining, and even making long term plans for building orbital fuel depots that can break down water extracted from asteroids for the hydrogen.

I remember going to science museums when I was a child back in the 1980's, (yes I'm old) and seeing all these dioramas of what our moon colonies and space stations would look like.  We were told this stuff was in the works, lots of people thought we would have a moon base by the beginning of the 21st century.  

Our country was just coming off of two decades (60's and 70's) of increasing space exploration. Then in the 1990's we started cutting back on our focus on space exploration.  There are several reasons for this but one of the main reasons is that the cold war ended.  Don't get me wrong the collapse of communism in eastern Europe was a good thing, but it seems that most of our governments motivation in space exploration was just an attempt to one up Russia.  Without that motivation our space exploration has floundered for the last two decades.
I wasn't the only one disappointed, From 

This came to a head a couple of years ago when the Obama administration cut funding to NASA.  Part of their explanation for this was that the government wanted to encourage private enterprise to take over space exploration.  I remember being skeptical that this would happen and being rather disappointed in the decision.  

I appears, however, that I may have been wrong.  It remains to be seen if they will be able to get this venture off the ground, but with major companies like Google backing this and many former NASA engineers employed by the company it seems likely that they will make it happen.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don McLeroy is NOT a skeptic

So last night Don McLeroy was on Colbert Report and I happened to catch the episode this morning on Hulu.  McLeroy is the former member of the Texas state board of education that used his position to foist his beliefs about evolution and American history on children.  He is a young earth creationist and worked to change the science standards in Texas to weaken science standards.

Could get the video to insert so I just linked to it.

He makes the audacious statement that his position against evolution is because he is a skeptic.  This is absurd.  He honestly believes that the scientific support for evolution is based upon a liberal conspiracy with the goal of getting rid of his religion.  There is a difference between being a skeptic and a conspiracy theorist, and if you listen to anything he has to say on the topic of evolution it is clear he is ignorant about the most basic principles in it.

Here is a great video of him showing how little he understands while he argues that the Cambrian explosion is a problem for evolution because of how quickly animals appeared.  Apparently he couldn't be bothered with doing a Google search to find out that the Cambrian explosion lasted 60 to 70 million years.  This is because, in evolution, faster than expected is still pretty damn slow.

He also tried to argue that Thomas Jefferson was a conservative Christian.  I think he somehow missed that he was only brought on so that Colbert could make fun of him, every time Colbert asked him a question which would make him look crazy he would simply move on and say something even more ignorant.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The post in which I am a huge nerd.

So my weekly hikes with the local atheist group have been making me feel a bit out of shape and I thought I should maybe exercise a bit more.  This left me a bit of a conundrum though.  See I am a huge nerd and so as a rule I am at least 2.38 times more likely to do something if it involves a high score.  (I did the math) 

The resolution I came up with was to start playing Dance Dance Revolution again.  The problem with that is that the dance pads you need for it are not only hard to come in electronics stores these days, but the cheep 20 to 30 dollar pads wear out in about in a few weeks of hard use, and usually slip around so much that neck breakage is a serious risk, and I really like my neck unbroken.

Enter this monstrosity I order over the internet:

Its solid metal, about 3 inches thick, and has a bar to hold onto to protect my precious neck.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Abstinence only education is a joke.

Let me first apologize for what is going to be a very statistics heavy post.  Well I would say that except statistics are awesome.  Science, YAY!

I have a religious family so I hear the line about abstinence education every time the topic of human sexuality comes up.  (this is more often than you might think with my parents for some weird reason)  The last time it came up I got to thinking I should do some more research on the topic, since as a skeptic I don't like saying things without clear facts to back them up.

I have read articles stating that birth rates have been falling for teens, and are generally higher in abstinence only states, but hadn't really researched the particular numbers and thought it was high time I looked into those.  Amazingly just about the time I was thinking about looking into this I saw some news articles posted in reference to some new figures that had just come out.

Basically the article is showing that average birth rate of women in their teens (15 to 19) is 34.3 per 1,000 women.  This was about a 9 point drop from the year before.  This seemed pretty significant to me but I wondered exactly how this compared to other years.  A short Google search later I found this link:

So, the CDC has been collecting statistics on birth rates since 1940 so we have a pretty large data set to judge from.  The firs thing I noticed was that the record high for teen births was in 1957 at a whopping 96.3 births per 1,000.  I also noticed that it has been on the decline almost every year since except for a small increase in early 90's. 

I found this rather interesting since the the 50's are often heralded as the sort of society we want to return too, at least in regards to sexual mores, and the sexual revolution that began in the 60's is heralded as the start of all of problems our society faces regarding sexual behavior. 

Another part of the statistics were telling as well.  The 2010 statistics show that states which favor abstinence only education have much higher teen pregnancy rates than those who favor more comprehensive sex-ed.  In Mississippi the rate is 55 out of 1,000 while New Hampshire peaked at 15.7.

Of course the common attack that fundamentalist will throw out at this point is that the rates have dropped because more of these pregnancies have been aborted, however this seems fairly unlikely since, as you can see here, the rate of abortions has fallen by about 33% since the early 80's while teen pregnancy also fell by about 18 per 1,000 in that same time frame.

It should also been noted that despite the drops in birth rates we are still one of the higher in the developed world.  For instance the very secular country of Sweden has a teen pregnancy rate of only 13 in 1,000.

In short the religious rights arguments for abstinence only education are complete nonsense, despite the common perception that teen pregnancy is at an all time high in this society.  The figures show that this perception is not the case, comprehensive sex ed is working. 

This begs an interesting question, why are these political leaders promoting something so contrary to the evidence?  These figures were gathered by the CDC, not just some fly by night organization.  It should not be hard for these politicians to find these numbers.  Do I conclude that these politicians are so blinded by ideology that they are unable to see these figures for what they are?  Do I conclude they are simply too stupid to understand them?  Or is it something more insidious?  Perhaps they know that abstinence only education doesn't work and they simply care more about promoting their own beliefs than they care about the lives they are actively harming with this nonsense.   I don't know what the reason is, but none of the reasons I can think of paint them in a very positive light.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cancer Vaccine will magically make us all live forever.

I've read quite a bit about this so called cancer vaccine ImMucin in the news the last several days because it is starting human trials and thought I would comment a bit.

First, let me say that I am most certainly not a biologist and my understanding of the science limited, but it seems the vaccine is designed to get the bodies immune system to to react to molecule called MUC1 which exists in about 90% of all cancers.  Typically cancer is not attacked by the immune system since it is seen as part of the body so it seems like the vaccine is essentially giving the immune system a way to differentiate the cancer from healthy cells.

Also, thanks to the shake weight,
we will all look like this at 90
...yes the men too.
It seems promising as far as I can tell, but the media is far over  hyping this.  Don't get me wrong, I really hope this treatment pans out because it sounds pretty damn amazing, but they have just barely started human trials, it may turn out to work on far few than the potential 90% of all cancers, or it may turn out to have some horrible side effects in large groups of people.  As usual there are lots of potential problems that most of the news articles seem to largely ignore.

Of course the comment sections of lots of these articles, like this one here, have quickly filled up with the typical conspiracy nut jobs who are claiming that "big pharma" will suppress the vaccine since they only make money off of sick people.  Here is just an example:
If an injection could cure cancer then all those hundreds of thousands of people who work in radiotherapy/chemotherapy department will need to be looking for other jobs. Many thousands of nurses and oncologists will also be jobless....and all the thousands who work for cancer 'charities'.And all the manufacturers of the machinery of radiotherapy/chemotherapty will also go job losses there too! I have a feeling that this injection will be disappearing....and never heard of again.
It is mostly nuts, since the company who is researching the vaccine is part of big pharma, but it won't stop them from saying I told you so if the treatment ends up being less effective than the news is selling it as being right now.  You just know that somehow it will be the fault of the scientists for not living up the hype the media created.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Zombie Jesus day.

Today is the day that Christians everywhere celebrate Jesus rising from the grave.

We should all remember that if he tried that kind of shit today nerds would break out the shotguns and chainsaw arms and put Jesus back. 

A guy with a chainsaw arm, now there is a guy worth worshiping.