Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teabaggers are officially crazy!!!!!!!! EVERYONE VOTE - STOP THEM!

The horror! This fills me with remorse that this is part of the country we share.

This land is your land this land is my land.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD WAKE UP AMERICA!!!

Biochemistry of Halloween: Vampires!!!

This is a RE-POST from the Halloween series. Highly relevant as fellow graduate student Nick Clark and I will be presenting this along with discussions of witches and zombies TODAY at the Park Hill Library in Denver. We were asked to give this presentation by the CSU Alumni Association almost a year ago. It is a free event with a raffle for some CSU garb and other treats. Nick ad I will be providing the tricks :) This whole thing was born out of a conversation Nick and I were having in the lab one October morning 3 years ago. Glad to see it grow into such an event!

We've even got some MSM buzz going on here here and here!


"A Candle in the Dark"

Teeth lengthened by receding gums glow in the shaded valleys of the Carpathian basin. The genetic milieu of the Visigoths, Huns, Carpians, and Slavic peoples have swirled over centuries as granite crags pushed populations into shallow gene pools. A ghoulish thing of legend emerged from Transylvania and has since soaked literature and pop-culture with a reddish froth. Science and medicine have given us reason not to fear for our necks in a story that is truly stranger than fiction...

The glowing teeth mentioned earlier occur because of an accumulation of light sensitive molecules called porphyrins in victims of a rare genetic disease. Porphyria affects one of the steps in heme production. A heme is the chemical group that holds iron atoms in their proper position in hemoglobin (the protein of blood). The name "porphyria" came from the Greek words for purple and pigment. Victims of this disease have an uncanny similarity to historical descriptions of vampires and phenotypes of this disease have been suggested as possible explanation for the origin of vampire legends.

Mal-formed porphyrin molecules accumulate in affected people's skin and teeth. When activated by light these molecules activate oxygen molecules into destructive radicals that can wreak havoc on surrounding tissue. When exposed to light individuals appear to be burned with caustic lesions left on their skin. Enter: Nosferatu's pale countenance shrieking in terror as the sun rises.

Though no blood-lust is reported by sufferers some historians speculate that drinking the blood of animals may have been attempted as a folk remedy in treating the disease. It has since been proven that the heme molecule is in fact robust enough to survive digestion indicating that replenishing mal-formed blood molecules by drinking blood may indeed help those that happen to exhibit anemia in conjunction with porphyria. When watching vampire movies the whole garlic premise never made any sense to me. Why couldn't you use mushrooms, or cinnamon, or toothbrushes to scare away vampires? What was it about garlic. With the Porphyria hypothesis in mind it makes sense however. Garlic has vasso-dilator chemicals and is reported to exacerbate the affects of porphyria. Sufferers may have learned to avoid it indeed!

In the genetically secluded valleys of Transylvania it is not hard to imagine disorders like these occurring more than expected in a diverse population. Before the renaissance and the spread of the scientific revolution a vampire myth may have grown from accounts of these individuals with their glowing long teeth, aversion to sun and garlic, and maybe even sucking blood in the night!

Thanks Nick for your help with this!!! stay tuned for the next installment of the Biochemistry of Halloween when we talk about Haitian Zombies!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Things You Think

Friday, October 22, 2010

Brian Jones presents a huge TESLA COIL



I am Iron Man. Thanks for the heads up on this one Jared!


Monday, October 18, 2010

darwin deez - DNA

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Guest Post: Gandhi was right about Christians

I attended my first meeting for Freethinkers of Northern Colorado today at the Dazbog coffee shop on North Mason Street in Fort Collins, CO.  They meet there the third Sunday of each month at 10 AM. An invigorating conversation was had by all. During the discourse the Loveland Art Hoopla was discussed at length. I speak of the unfortunate incident in which a Mz. Kathleen Folden from  Kalispell, Montana waltzed into the Loveland Museum Gallery, took out a crowbar and smashed open a display containing a print composed by Stanford University professor Enrique Chagoya. The print, titled "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals" depicts the head of jesus on the body of a clothed prostitute who has a young man pressing his head on her thigh with his tongue out. You can see the print here. 

To me, the most entertaining aspect of the media coverage of this fiasco has been the apparent inability of certain news correspondents to look at and consider art for themselves, let alone place it in any societal context. I find it incredibly funny and sad that all the people complaining about this art (FOX news correspondents especially) have apparently not looked at the entire piece with their own eyes but are merely going off of hearsay. In their report that aired before the art was attacked they bemoaned the piece saying - "I wonder what would have happened to the art were it Mohammed depicted in a sex act?"

Funny they should say this. If you look at the bottom row of panels you see Mohammed knelt and praying at the foot of a bed where two pigs in bikinis are dancing. I'm quite sure this means Chagoya is an equal opportunity blasphemer and probably will be called an artistic genius for this!   

A fellow first-time attendee to the meeting spoke up and said he had written an op-ed piece that had yet to be printed in the local paper. I offered to put it up here at Tom Paine's Ghost. So here you go.  A guest post from a fellow free-thinker of Northern Colorado.


Gandhi was right about Christians

By  Joe Martin

Mahatma Gandhi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Kathleen Folden is a perfect example of what he meant.

While I don't expect the average bumpkin to understand abstractions such as artistically expressed messages about society or its institutions, neither do I expect them to start swinging a crowbar to express their indignation at a less than flattering depiction of their religion's sacred cow.

Freedom of speech is fine for religious nutjobs like Folden as long as they don't find that expression to be offensive, in which case you find equally unstable zealots in Washington, attempting to smash the Plexiglas protecting the Constitution. Protection of offensive speech is the very reason for that clause of the First Amendment. Nobody hacks to pieces artistic expressions that they like.

Sadly, this is well within the range of crimes against the greater society of which modern activist Christians are capable on their march to turn America into a theocracy.  It is no less reprehensible than the Muslim riots that happened in reaction to the Danish newspaper cartoon.

It has been suggested that similar art depicting Mohammed or more contemporary figures in the same manner would not have been considered for display. I can’t speak for what the museum would or would not accept for display; but I know I would welcome such work.

Religion does not deserve special protection against offensive artistic expression. Nobody has an inalienable right to not be offended.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scary Data Contest!

Do you have Frightful Data?
Enter it and win prizes !!

Entry Deadline:  Friday, October 29th – NOON

Send your data to kristopherhite@gmail.com

Prizes will be awarded for:
Best Costume * Creepiest Gel * Genius Mad Scientist Award
 * Best in Show *
Refreshments will be served

 Sponsored by your friends at Planet Protein
Decision of the Judges is Final

BARP Goes the Weasel!

By Kristopher Hite


Looking back at discoveries of the past year the one that sticks out above all others to me was the identification of a single protein; a bacterial actin homologue dubbed BARP - Bacterial Actin Related Protein. The brilliance of this discovery comes from its directly contributing to our understanding of evolution, overturning decades of dogma, and providing a shiny new teaching tool.  The discovery was published in late 2009 as part of a massive sequencing project to fill in gaps of knowledge among bacterial and archael genomes.

With all the other sexy and more controversial stories about evolution - Ardi, Ida and so on, why do I pick this one? Aside from my biochemical inclination I thought this little piece of biological hardware deserved more exposure.  Though the paper was covered and lead author Jonathan Eisen interviewed for the nature podcast, it received relatively little coverage on the science blogs. Yes, the prolific science writer Carl Zimmer wrote a nice summary for the New York Times but the BARP bit is mentioned only briefly. I don't know if anyone realized what a great tool this discovery is to hammer even more nails in the coffin of the "irreducible complexity" argument for intelligent design. 

In January 2010 I had the pleasure to sit down and interview Eugenie Scott - executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NSCE).  As she explained the history of science education in the United States we came to an agreement on what one "take home" message should be for the average high school student - that all living things on earth share common ancestors, that all species have a common descent. This point may not seem earth-shattering to comprehend but I think many in America fail to realize the significance of this fact. The procession of science has uncovered an armory of teaching tools - fossilized trilobites, floating whale hip bones, and common DNA sequences. The more is known about the inner workings of the natural world the easier it should be for students to see and accept the facts. What then is the barrier to getting students to accept take-home messages like common descent? I would posit that fundamentalist opposition to evolution and the idea of the rapture have more than a little to do with it. Proponents of intelligent design often use a phrase coined by Lehigh University professor Michael Behe - irreducible complexity - in their defense of a necessary designer. This was a large part of Behe's arguments against teaching evolution as fact in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover, PA landmark court case.

Behe defines an irreducibly complex system as one "composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning." Brown University Biology Professor Ken Miller uses the analogy of a mouse trap to explain away irreducible complexity. Yes, all components of a mouse trap are necessary for overall function but each component can be have alternate uses.

In the logical chronology of evolution complexity emerges incrementally by the acquisition of functional structures that appear by chance and remain due to conferred advantage. Behe has tried over and over to use the molecular structure of the bacterial flagellum as an example of an irreducibly complex system.  In response Ken Miller did an excellent job explaining how the components of bacterial flagella could emerge incrementally.

So what IS actin and how does its showing up in a bacterial specimen add to the arsenal of teaching tools against irreducible complexity?

actin filament

As you move your cursor around this page your muscles are contracting and relaxing, your brain is sending signals along tiny electrified strands called axons guiding these contractions. Among the myriad things that make this possible is the little protein called actin.  Deriving its name from the word "activating" actin enables muscular motion, provides train tracks inside each cell for directional transportation of other tools, and gives shape to most cells in your body.  Like oddly shaped legos these tiny building blocks bind to each other and form long filaments that grow and shrink.  A mesh-work of actin filaments push on the perimeter of each cell establishing shape.  Those long axons I mentioned before are extensions of brain cells (neurons). During development neurons send out these long extensions and it is the mesh-work of actin that leads the charge enabling all those millions of electronic connections between brain and body to form. 

The gene that codes for this little protein exists without much variation in all eukaryotic organisms. Eukaryote means simply "true nucleus." The distinction is made because the more ancient but still surviving bacteria do not have "true nuclei" they are therefore dubbed prokaryotes. The moment at which the first eukaryote appeared on earth marked the beginning of an explosion of diversity, and a fundamental branch point in the phylogenetic tree of life.

(Haliangium ochraceum)
 Unlike the carefully crafted nuts and bolts you can pick up at the hardware store cellular machinery is not designed for a purpose, it just appears by duplication, mutation, or other spontaneous variations of genetic material.  If it works it is retained, if its merely eating up metabolic resources it usually goes extinct.  This represents an important variation on pure chance that the process of evolution carries with it.  Richard Dawkins has illustrated the power of evolving systems to accumulate positive variation in his classic "Weseal" thought experiment. Self-replicating systems have the ability to retain random variation in their code by copying themselves. When a variation carries a positive effect for the code carrier (organism) then that carrier is more likely to make more copies of that advantageous variation.  New variation is possible because there are usually redundant bits of cellular machinery.  This is exactly what we see in the case of BARP.

If you asked any professor of cell biology any time prior to a year ago "Do bacteria contain a gene for actin?" they would, without hesitation, say "of course not." It was understood that the gene for actin was one that separated eukaryote from prokaryote. Bacteria have an unrelated gene  - MreB - that has a scaffolding function. They don't need actin.   Now it is shown that the gene for actin may have shown up in  marine bacteria (specifically the one named Haliangium ochraceum) prior to the evolutionary branch-point. If this is the case it means that actin was later recruited to its now prolific function giving shape and motion to eukaryote cells. Actin was not designed then implemented like machined parts in human created contraptions. According to this research it probably appeared by chance in marine bacteria, served some other unknown function, then just happened to work later on in evolution.  This, I think, is why many mechanical engineers have an aversion to studying the slimy, oozing, organic structures in nature. They are inherently messy and imperfect.  This is because they are not designed! They are the result of chance events captured inside self-replicating systems - us included.



This post has been submitted to the NESCent competition for a travel award for the ScienceOnline 2011 un-conference January 13-15 in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.




  




Wu, D., Hugenholtz, P., Mavromatis, K., Pukall, R., Dalin, E., Ivanova, N., Kunin, V., Goodwin, L., Wu, M., Tindall, B., Hooper, S., Pati, A., Lykidis, A., Spring, S., Anderson, I., D’haeseleer, P., Zemla, A., Singer, M., Lapidus, A., Nolan, M., Copeland, A., Han, C., Chen, F., Cheng, J., Lucas, S., Kerfeld, C., Lang, E., Gronow, S., Chain, P., Bruce, D., Rubin, E., Kyrpides, N., Klenk, H., & Eisen, J. (2009). A phylogeny-driven genomic encyclopaedia of Bacteria and Archaea Nature, 462 (7276), 1056-1060 DOI: 10.1038/nature08656

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Success of the Smelliest"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals"

Montana Woman Destroys Controversial Art. 

[Loveland, Colorado] The woman has been identified as 56-year-old Kathleen Folden - a truck driver from Kalispell, Montana.   One of the frantic museum curators told me she smuggled a crowbar into the museum wrapped in her sweater.  The panel on the lower right of the series pictured below was the piece that moved her to vandalism. Entitled - "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals" the piece was composed by Enrique Chagoya while master print maker Bud Shark produced this iteration. Though the damaged art was removed by police there are many other pieces still on display at the Gallery Museum on the North West Corner of Lincoln and 5th Street in Loveland.  Many prints are arranged in three dimensions and are extremely engaging.  My favorite is a piece entitled "Frontier Justice."


Exhibit A:  The display after Kathleen Folden made her "modification."

When asked by Fox News about  the vandalism of his art Enrique Chagoya responded eloquently.
"Should we as artists, or any free-thinking people, have to be subjected to fear of violent attacks for expressing our sincere concerns? I made a collage with a comic book and an illustration of a religious icon to express the corruption of something precious and spiritual.
There is no nudity, or genitals, or explicit sexual contact shown in the image. There is a dressed woman, a religious icon's head, a man showing his tongue, and a skull of a Pope in the upper right corner of the controversial page. I did not make a picture of Christ. I used symbols as one would use words in a sentence to critique corruption of the sacred by religious institutions."




Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez stands with a local police officer in the lobby of the Museum Gallery. He had a nervous look on his face as he texted frantically.  For me it was a happy introduction to this place there is an amazing sculpture mimicking Picasso's tormented "Guernica"  made from old car hoods in the lobby as well. I would not have been aware of the deep significance of Guernica were it not my philosophical experience discussing this piece while blogging about the World Science Festival in New York City this past June.



I purchased a free-expression souvenir!

Evolutiuon of Morality - a facebook thread

The following lines were composed by Jake - a person I have never met other than through a random facebook friend. These thoughts were provoked by a comment thread.  I will highlight his argument in crimson. My rebuttals are in black.
Jake: I want to argue why Natural selection (NS) cannot be the product of morality. In the following, I will not attempt to defend my own views on the source of morality – though I will later if anyone is interested.

If NS is the driving force ...behind the theory of evolution, meaning that Darwinists must confine their arguments and your view of humans, human actions, and human motivation to that of NS. I agree that NS exists in many species, but humans do not operate SOLELY on NS. Here is why.
I'd like to be civil here. Please Jake don't call me a "Darwinist."  You don't call someone a Newtonist when they accept the theory of gravity so please, though you may think it a appropriate, do not do this. It is mildly offensive.  One does not have to agree with every word a person from history ever uttered to accept some of their ideas.  

Jake:  Cannot Define Culture:
Kristopher, you argued that morality has evolved in order to preserve culture, which helps individual survival. The problem with that argument is that if we even attempt to define culture, Darwinism breaks down. 1) If we define culture on a small scale (My son and I), then no one will care, due to NS, if I kill the bullies that pick on him at school. Because of NS and my duty to survive my little culture, then it’s ok for me to eliminate ANY competition or harm that my son may face. I think it’s safe to assume however, that most people on this thread will not support me on my endeavor to keep my son out of harm’s way by killing off my son’s peers.

I apologize for my choice of words. The way I phrased it it does sound like I am  saying there is some higher purpose to evolution.  There is none, not even preservation of culture.  Thinking that evolution has an ultimate goal, an apex, a mountain top it is striving to summit, is the most common misconception about evolution. This misconception may seem harmless but is actually the same misconception that Nazis had thinking that they could in fact breed a superior race.  Their certainty in the "ascending nature of evolution"  guided them. There is NO ascension, only a series of equilibria.

You are simplifying in your above paragraph Jake.  But I will entertain your scenario and maintain that NS would eventually select against your "ruthless" proposal.  By killing any being that threatens your child you are actually endangering both yourself and your child based on the inevitable enemies you would make. 
Jake: But Darwinists are restricted to NS and laws of survival and thus cannot argue against their own mode of operation. That would contradict Darwinism. 2) If we define culture on a large scale (humanity), NS as humanity’s mechanism for survival also falls apart – it’s contradictory. If I care more about humanity’s survival over my own, then I am denying my own pursuit to survive by working against the very mechanism that makes me human.
The scale at which NS operates is NOT the species as a group, it is not even the individual organism, it is the individual genes within said organism.  Genes are shared among family. Our organism-operating  instincts for immediate altruism derive from our shared genes. Though your neighbor may share very few genes with you you will still feel altruistic towards him or her because of these default programs operating constitutively.    Oh yeah, genes are also shared between species!
Jake: If I allow other humans to survive over myself, then I am clearly not operating from NS or survival of the fittest, but I am operating according to some unexplainable greater good. Also, what would be the point in caring for other species? Why not take all the dogs at the pound, who take up time and resources, behind the building and shoot them in the head? Why sacrifice our resources for the survival of other species? But I once read an atheist’s approval of Kant’s quote, “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” 3) If we go more moderately and define culture as race or nation, then none within each culture, race, or nation should care if another culture, race, or nation is blown off the map. But most people do! I will also assume that most people on this thread are opposed to racism, genocide, and eugenics - But Darwinists are restricted to NS and laws of survival and thus cannot operate against their own mode of operation. That would contradict Darwinism.
"Why not take all the dogs at the pound, who take up time and resources, behind the building and shoot them in the head? "  

Jake!  Are you kidding?  Dogs are domesticated animals!  Meaning they have been going through human guided selection.  See how long a grizzly bear would last in an average household with babies present!  We DO shoot millions of dogs in the head in the US and around the world every day, if they happen to be born with a few too many of those aggressive genes showing up in their phenotype.  This is human guided selection because we like dogs for companionship, exercise, relaxation,  and the list goes on. But if a dog were to kill a human baby you bet that dog would be put down and their genes removed from the pool! There is a great chapter in the " the Greatest Show on Earth" that lays out the co-evolution of dogs with humans from the time they were simply curious wolves.    
Jake: Darwinism Cannot Explain:
Compassion: How is compassion explained by Darwinian evolution when life is all about the survival of the fittest? Most of us clearly see, understand, and give compassion, but compassion contradicts NS and survival of the fittest because why would a “fit” human sacrifice time, energy, resources, and sometimes their own life for the survival of the “unfit?”
Please desist with the "survival of the fittest" -  social-Darwinism propaganda!  It is 2010 not 1890!!!


Compassion does NOT contradict natural selection! The more up-to-date terminology you are groping for here is "survival of the most well adapted to specific environmental niches" we have seen this over and over in the observation of compassionate creatures all over the globe and testing different survival strategies in computer simulation.  If you want your genes to endure down through the generations being nasty is NOT a long term option. 
Jake: Monogamy: If most species are polygamists, then why are many humans (I recognize not all) monogamists? By Darwinian definition, we should all be polygamists. Is any girl out there cool with their boyfriend having multiple girlfriends? If we are a product of Darwinian evolution, you shouldn’t care.
Please list for me all the families you know where not one parent, grandparent, great grandparent or great-great grandparent did not produce offspring with more than one mate?   Human society is in polygamy denial along with overall biological denial brought on by religious guilt. Humans currently mask polygamous mating strategies by practicing serial monogamy!  So God can still love them :) There are some clear biological benefits to monogamy, namely that you know your energy in child rearing is actually being devoted to your genetic offspring and not some genetic freeloader.  But that happens too :(. 
Jake: Why survival is good in the first place: Darwinists see that all of life can be described and explained through science, but science can only explain the way things ARE. Science, Darwinism, and NS cannot account for the way things SHOULD BE. Why then, is survival a “good” thing in the first place? Why should we survive? 

This is a really good question, the best one in your series.  I think defining the answer to this question is up to US as critically thinking people able to communicate.  It is TOO EASY to assign the answer to some uncommunicative deity. It is up to humans to answer this question not imaginary sky-fathers!
Jake: A world where NS is the primary working mechanism for humans, would look like…? If we only operate from NS, as Darwinism defines us, then what would our world look like? People obviously do bad things and people obviously do good things, but if we were rooted in NS, then humans would be at their worst.
That is your opinion!  With your late 19th century definition of NS, yeah maybe people would be at their worst. But collective understanding of NS has come to encompass compassion and altruism and will be essential to implement if we as a global community are going to hope to make it through times of resources scarcity, as I think we are rapidly approaching. 
Jake: Polygamy: Is anyone ok with polygamy? Most species are polygamists, but many humans are not, so what makes us different? Polygamy would give me more offspring, and thus would give my offspring the best chance for survival, so why are many people opposed to it? If we are all rooted in NS, then we should all, by definition and like most other species, be polygamists.
See above critique of monogamy.
Jake:  Infanticide: Killing off unwanted offspring; deformed or female offspring. This was a common practice in ancient cultures, but most people are against it these days, but by definition, we should all be participants in infanticide. If all species are rooted in NS, then we should be like Hive-bees and not think twice, but how many people would think it ok to be like bees who “kill their brothers, and mothers… (and) strive to kill their fertile daughters.” Or what about Lions? When taking over a foreign pride, they kill off the fertile males to eliminate competition for survival and offspring. But why are most people not ok when it happens among humans? But aren’t we all rooted in survival of the fittest and NS?
Again compassion is beneficial to a single gene's survival! Reducing human suffering is ultimately compassionate. This is where major disagreements on human morality happen. Not with infanticide because at an early stage it is hard to tell if a certain genetic condition is causing severe suffering or not.  If a human can get to an age of reason and decide that their life is just way too painful and hard they should be allowed to take their own life in my opinion.  But it should be THEIR decision.  Have you seen the film "the sea inside?" As a society we have plenty of resources to go around to keep people healthy and alive until age or chance takes them out. other people should have nothing to do with those decisions.  I.E. Terri Schiavo. 
Jake:  Racism/Genocide/Eugenics: Darwin was a racist – read Descent of Man, a very embarrassing work for Darwinists. I quote an article: “Darwin tried to determine whether human races should be considered distinct species. In the end, he was unsure whether to rank the races ‘as species or sub-species’ but finally asserted that ‘the latter term appears the most appropriate…’ Whether races are species or sub-species, it is easy to see how such reasoning allowed Darwin to rank the races on an evolutionary scale. Because natural selection must be the cause of the existence of different races, Darwin argued that the various races would necessarily have varying intellectual and moral capacities. So that, for example, the ‘American aborigines, Negroes, and Europeans differ as much from each other in mind as any three races that can be named.’ As we have seen, the Europeans came out on top… ‘The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes . . . will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope . . . the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.’” Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot all thought along the lines of “Survival of the Fittest,” and that cannot be argued. They were the “fit” and they were taking out the competition for survival, ie the “unfit.” In a Darwinist society, genocide should have no moral opponents.
Darwin was born the exact year and date as Abraham Lincoln - February 12th 1809.

Listen to what our great President Lincoln said on September 18th 1858 (the year before Darwin published on the Origin of Species) 
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything."
Yes I agree with you, Darwin can be considered a racist by modern definitions. But we are talking about a mind that was born 200 years ago!   Unlike "religionists" I do not take everything someone says and consider it "sacred" I scrutinize what they said, take it in the context of the time-period they were speaking, and accept what remains my own tests.   I can accept the Pythagorean theorem and not believe humans come from pea pods as Pythagoras and his numbers-cult asserted!

As for the frontal lobe argument, there certainly are connections with biology and the ability to perform/recognize right and wrong. However, not being able to separate the two does not negate the existence of right and wrong. If I have facial aphasia (a condition when a person cannot recognize faces and facial features), just because I might not be able to recognize Adrienne’s face does not mean that Adrienne isn’t there. The same is true with objective morality.

Morality cannot be an evolutionary product. There are too many holes in its proposition and even when it does not hurt us (and even when it would benefit our survival) we squirm with discomfort when someone does something immoral.
Yes, I squirm too but it is by INSTINCT! :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Michael Steele Promotes GOP Gerrymandering

Yes, I ventured into the belly of the beast!

Arriving in a giant red tour bus with the words "Need a job? Fire Peolsi" painted on the side, Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele spoke at the GOP "victory center" in Fort Collins, CO Thursday September 30th, 2010.

Though Steele repeated how happy he was to see such "young" energy at headquarters the handful of teens and twenty-something college republicans were outnumbered ten-to-one by straw-hat, "don't tread on me" t-shirt-wearing retirees. Not more than one hundred folks showed up for the rally. Here is a clip of Steele stumping for local candidates, most of whom physically distanced themselves from the controversial Chairman.




In case you missed that button!

Coordinating the event was Chelsey Penoyer - Press Aide & Office Manager to the Colorado Republican Committee.


I've run into this cast of characters before. Below is Ed Haynes. Ironic that he is here cheering for Steele while he was forced to resign as Larimer County GOP chair after using a racial slur during a public opinion hearing regarding freedom of the press in the fall of 2007.  Start watching this video at 52 minutes in to see what I'm talking about.


To me the scariest character, at this meeting was Scott Gessler - currently running for Secretary of State for Colorado.  I personally spoke with Scott for about 10 minutes before Steele began his pep talk.  Gessler frightens me because it seems that he wants to redraw the electoral districts to favor republicans. As secretary of State he would have this power.  He has also made it his mission to keep Acorn OUT of Colorado.  Yeah that's just what this state needs - to keep disenfranchised voters disenfranchised.  Gessler was one of two candidates that physically positioned himself near the Chairman during the event. 
The other was Sue Sharky, pictured below. She is running to be elected to the board of regents.  She railed against the high cost of higher education in Colorado while simultaneously advocating tax cuts and, in turn, budget cuts for higher education in Colorado.  She made a point of decrying the fact that 90% of professors at CU are registered Democrats. Coincidence? 


Friday, October 1, 2010

PhD TV - Hot Research

PHD Tales from the Road - NMSU's Chile Pepper Institute from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Nature Podcast - River Controversy

This week's Nature podcast is EXCELLENT! The segment starting at 8:24 in is highly relevant to those arguing to stop the Glade reservoir project in Larimer County, CO. See Save the Poudre.