27 June 2009
Had a couple of nice surprises though. My daughter did this very cool slide-show, and then my wife got a lady by the name of Phyllis Hasty to sing the National Anthem (she used to perform on Broadway). And my shadow box totally kicked ass! All I can say is that I am glad it's all over with.
Now to worry about finding a job in this economy... Wish me luck. Oh, I had promised to post my retirement speech. This is what I had written up before I went in to the ceremony. I didn't go too far off script, and obviously I didn't just read this, so the words may have come out a little bit different, but the gist is there:
Thank you very much for your words Col Dantzler, and for dusting off your uniform once again to perform a retirement ceremony.
I would first like to start off by giving my most sincere and heartfelt thanks to all of you for showing up here to celebrate this transition in my life. I know this is high season for such events, and the demands on your time are many. I would especially like to thank my co-workers for putting in the time and effort to make this a memorable event. We all do important work up there in XR, and this was probably the last thing you wanted add to your plate. I’d like to thank the folks from around the base and community who are here as well. It means a lot to me to see you here. Especially those of you who traveled from far away, and had to deal with getting on the base.
I do want to make a special thank you to my wife and daughter. To my lovely wife of 17 years (although I was only home for 12 of those), Brooke. You are my best friend, and the reason I even managed to get to where I did. Words actually fail me in describing all you have done as the foundation of our family. Your service has been much more difficult than mine, since I was the one who volunteered for this life, and I dragged you along. It is for you that I am so excited about this next phase of our life.
Megan, like for mom, I just haven’t been around as much as I wanted to. I was doing what needed to be done; but now I hope we’ll be able to share more times like we did that weekend at Disney. You are smart, pretty, and just a lot of fun to hang out with, and I look forward to time that we’ll be able to spend together.
I know that we have kept you here for quite a while with all the letters, medals, Col Dantzler revealing my deep dark secrets, and the like, so I’ll try to be brief. As is normal at an occasion like this, I have reflected back on my career and am proud and humbled by this chapter in my life. Those who know me, are aware that I have aired frustrations with the Air Force’s ability to manage their rated officers, but I’d rather focus on how I served. If I had to sum it up in one phrase, I guess it would be, “Doing what needed to be done.”
Not for glory, or because it was the most strategic thing for my career, but because I felt that with my enthusiasm, skills, and personality I could have an effect on the direction of this world. Very few people want to be Protocol Officers, but it needs doing. I can’t think of a lot of people who actually wanted to be Tanker Toads, but it absolutely needs doing. Even flying C-21s, while probably a little more for me, let me do things that needed to be done, such as training younger pilots in the skills and techniques I managed to pick up in my career, allowing them to then pass those things on to others.
The last few years I’ve been involved in acquisitions. If there is any field that is far removed from war stories and glory, I would have to say this is it, but it is also the foundation of everything that the warfighter is ABLE to do. Sure, a lot of people are out there doing what needs to be done, but without this aspect, they would just be people with no tools. While the guys getting the medals and the heroes get the press coverage, and they humbly say, “I was just doing what needed to be done.” Remember that it is all of you who really make that possible. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many people from many countries and services, and while we pride ourselves in the training and education of our people, we must realize we’re all humans with the same basic skills and abilities, but the tools you all provide to the United States Armed Forces is truly and honestly what sets us apart.
And with that, I want to say that it has been my distinct honor, privilege, and most heartfelt duty to work with all of you. So, in closing, I just want to say thank you, and I hope that our paths will keep crossing so that I can keep working with all the folks who really are doing what needed to be done.
22 June 2009
Do the Republicans WANT to be a tool for the hardline government? Do they ENJOY being played like some ten cent banjo? Do they have no understanding of the history we have in that country that stretches back sixy years? When a statesman like Henry Kissinger says you are handling things correctly, don't you think the retards with an (R) after their name can listen?
I was particularly dismayed at the comparison one congresscritter had with President Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, that wall is none of our business." mental drivel. Does he really thing that the situations are even on the same planet of comparison? Is he so daft as to think that the history is remotely the same? Again, if the GOP wants to be a viable party, they need to find people who have IQs higher than room temperature to represent them (I'm not saying that Rebuplicans actually ARE retarded, but they are acting like it!).
Again, I urge all to support the Demonstrators in Iran, and we should hope for some sort of regime change. However, UNDERSTAND that it is not the place of the President of the United States (no matter who) to really take sides. He's screwed either way, but the sure fire way to give material support to the hardliners is to issue unequivocal support for the reformists. Read that again. Now think about it for a while, and maybe you can understand the staesmanship actualy involved here.
No matter how this turns out, also keep in mind that we have the spectre of a nuclear Iran to deal with. When the dust settles, no matter who is in power, we will still need to deal with them. Again, but interfereing or even taking sides, we potentially cut off any opportunity to tackle this issue. And the reformists are smarter than the Republicans apparently, and understand this. Iran is an intensely proud nation, and they understand that their revolution needs to come wholly at their own hands. And if we lend aid, we're just repeating the fiascos we seem to cause on a regular basis in that region.
Tell the congresscritters and talking heads that are criticizing President Obama to shut the fuck up and let the grown ups do real work, okay?
19 June 2009
I also have a couple items about subjects that I have been blogging on a lot at the Facts, not Fantasy site, so I wanted to add them here.
Somehow I missed this article in the Skeptic eNewsletter. It's a great rundown. Here is a brief excerpt:
During a question and answer session after a talk I recently gave, I was asked for my opinion about the vaccine/autism controversy. That was easy: my opinion is that there is no controversy. The evidence is in. The scientific community has reached a clear consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism. There is no controversy.
There is, however, a manufactroversy — a manufactured controversy — created by junk science, dishonest researchers, professional misconduct, outright fraud, lies, misrepresentations, irresponsible reporting, unfortunate media publicity, poor judgment, celebrities who think they are wiser than the whole of medical science, and a few maverick doctors who ought to know better. Thousands of parents have been frightened into rejecting or delaying immunizations for their children. The immunization rate has dropped, resulting in the return of endemic measles in the U.K. and various outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. children have died. Herd immunity has been lost. The public health consequences are serious and are likely to get worse before they get better — a load of unscientific nonsense has put us all at risk.
And it would probably be a good idea to read the article that preceded this one as well. Between these two articles, I still can't understand how people buy into the lies and deceit of the anti-vax pro-disease brigade, but they do. We still have a lot of work to do!
For today, I wanted to have a more lighthearted bit of news. The Florida Citizens for Science sponsored a contest where you could draw a stick figure comic talking about some classic mistakes people make in thinking about science. My wife and I both entered the contest, and we both placed in the top ten (although I hear her entry beat mine, how humiliating!). Please head over to the page and check out the comics, I think some are indeed much more worthy than mine and I am glad they beat me.
Okay, that's all I have for today. I may end up being a bit quite over the next few days as I have job interviews and things like that to take care of.
18 June 2009
Here is an interview/book review where they discuss the eradication of Smallpox. Can you imagine if this effort had been fighting today's anti-vax pro-disease movement? Would countless deaths and the opportunity to make something just a distant memory be enough to get them to understand that in science, there is always a weighing of risk versus benefits? Or are they so self centered and craving attention, that they would rather put millions at risk?
Here is an OpEd piece discussing how emotions are horrible guides when it comes to the scientific. Particularly addressing the non-existent link between autism and vaccines. Well worth the read.
One handicap of the autism spectrum disorders is being able to put names and faces together. That is why I found this article interesting. Especially the implications to the many other aspects of how people deal with others as well as objects even.
While the generally accepted view of autism is as a handicap, keep in mind that quite often it manifests as a narrow focus, or even a hyper focus. This has manifested in some research regarding problem solving. The key take away though is that there are still so many things that we just don't understand about autism and how it truly affects the individual.
First of all, I wish that there was a better way to bring pay journals to the public. In my daily search on articles, I ran into some very interesting stories that not only highlighted the interconnectedness of genetics and evolution, but also gave a great understanding to the complexity and wonder of it! Sadly, the journals are probably beyond the reach of most citizens.
Again, while abiogenesis isn't evolution, just the starting point, I found this article particularly fun and entertaining to read. I must say that it is pretty speculative, but if the speculations have any data to support them, they are worthy of pursuit. However, should the data not support the speculation, then the theory needs to be shelved (you know, that stuff that science does).
In tracking the amazing evolution of humans, the University of Leeds has tracked down some interesting information on how our behavioural and physical traits evolved. I am particularly interested in where else this REST protein shows up.
16 June 2009
And again, for that anonymous asshole that can't seem to read, the above paragraph is mine, and below from the linked blog...
Well, antiscience is taking major body blows the past week or so, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing to see. It started with Newsweek taking down the quackery promoted by Oprah Winfrey, and has taken off from there:
1) Reader’s Digest jumped on the anti-Oprah ride… and when the milquetoast middle-of-the-road offend no one RD takes you on, it’s time to rethink your very existence.
2) Deepak Chopra — who couldn’t find reality with both hands, a compass and, evidently, the aid of centuries of scientific advancement — ran to Oprah’s defense, and, as usual, mangled more logic in one essay than can be humanly possible without the aid of quantum healing. Massimo Pigliucci magnificently takes him down, as did JREF’s Jeff Wagg at the Swift blog.
3) The Australian government has ruled that Arnica Montana, a homeopathy company, falsely advertised the efficacy of its product — which, in the case of homeopathy is everything they advertise — and they had to post a humiliating retraction. I weep non-diluted tears for them. Dr. Rachie has more info. Also, Steve Novella has written a lengthy and complete destruction of homeopathy on his NeuroLogica blog. If you are a homeopathic believer and feel you must spout your undiluted nonsense in the comments below, read his essay first, because if you make any of the claims he debunks I will allow everyone free reign to mock you. Because that’s better than allowing babies to die due to homeopathy.
4) Simon Singh is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association because he wrote about their "bogus" claims. BCA vice-president Richard Brown then posted a flailing essay titled In Defence of Chiropractic in New Scientist magazine, a piece laden to the hilt with astonishingly poorly thought-out logic. Apgaylard thoroughy dismantles the claims from Brown, leaving the emperor looking a little naked out there.
This kind of antiscience antireality antihealth garbage will always be with us, but I can hope to help amplify the chorus of voices being raised against them. It’s important, as I have been hammering home for months. They will never rest as long as people credulously accept their claims, so we need to make sure as many people as possible examine their claims as critically as possible.
15 June 2009
I am still surprised and disappointed that the Eglin folks thought they could low ball me like this... I always felt that I was underutilized there, so it's probably a good thing that I am just getting away from this provincial and bureaucratic regime and out into the so called "real world". I am not so naive to thing that everything will be different, but it will be a change of pace, and I am looking forward to new challenges.
While looking for a job, and being about as busy as one human can be, I am also running that Facts, not Fantasy website. I am finding myself disappointed with the lack of news that is really relevant and interesting in the arena of evolution, autism, or vaccines. The H1N1 thing has pretty much googlespammed the net on anything to do with vaccines, the Age of Autism fucktards are prolific in their missinfomration campaign, and the creationist nuts are out in force as well. Sometimes I feel like I am fighting a losing battle with ignorance and idiocy. I suppose that geting into any debate with these mental midgets ends up with them dragging me down to their level (i.e. no discernible brain activity) and then behaving like innanimate matter in defiance of the mountains of evidence stacked against them... Hopefully I can get the word out more about that website. At least there I don't call them the fucking idiots that they are...
Okay, I'm off. See you all later.
12 June 2009
So far, no one has died, but I would like to quote Dr. Plait from one of his blogs about a baby that DID DIE. Will the anti-vax pro-disease fucktards not be satisifed until babies are dying all around them?
In America, people who claim vaccines cause autism are a major health threat. Some of these folks are just parents, people concerned about their kids, people desperately looking for a cause for a devastating illness. Others are vocal advocates of nonsense, saying things that are proven beyond reasonable doubt to be untrue.
The end result? Kids, including infants, are getting sick, and some of them are dying. Never, ever forget that, no matter how loudly these people yell, and no matter what garbage they spout (including, inevitably, in the comments that will follow this very post). Babies are dying.
In Australia, this movement is taking root as well. Calling the alarm to this, a TV program in Oz called "Sunday Night" aired an excellent exposé of what happens when parents don’t vaccinate their kids: they risk their children’s lives, and those of others. In the case shown on the TV show, a four-week-old baby, Dana McCaffery, died of whooping cough. This innocent infant wasn’t eligible for vaccination yet, but the lack of herd immunity — that region has lower-than-average vaccination rates — sealed her fate. The fact that other parents didn’t vaccinate their kids gave that little girl a death sentence.
Here’s the segment from that program. Warning (and I’m serious): if you are a parent, or any kind of feeling human being, this segment is seriously disturbing. I could barely watch it.
If you aren't tearing up after watching that, I seriously doubt your humanity. And to thing, this was totally preventable.
11 June 2009
So, if you have any leads, I'd appreciate that though. Especially in the local area.
10 June 2009
by Richard Bradshaw (Rev.)
Mental Health Chaplain (September 2007), Teesside, England.
Creationism is a curious phenomenon which calls for an explanation. Some would say that applies to all religious belief and maybe so, but there can be few philosophies in the modern West that display such intense irrationality; that require devotees to set their faces against such a vast body of modern knowledge – cosmological, biological, geological, anthropological. I was warned early on in my attempts to understand creationists that any attempt at debating with them is futile, and my experience confirms this, although I have had some perfectly civilised exchanges, verbal and written.
It is rather like dealing with anorexics: thin people who are convinced [that] they need to lose weight, to the point of putting themselves at risk. Plonk them on scales and the scales are wrong. Show them their emaciated reflection in a mirror and they will still see a plump person. [Try to reason] with them and you are part of the conspiracy to make them obese. While anorexia is normally referred to as an eating disorder it is also, clearly, a form of mental illness, whose victims can be sectioned and force-fed to keep them alive – which they will interpret as cruelty. Anorexia is something that happens to other people; they are perfectly normal.
The parallels with creationism are as obvious to anyone who has engaged with it as [the notion] will seem outrageous to creationists themselves -- which proves my point. Anorexics, victims of an eating disorder, cannot always be helped because the very condition leads to denial of what's wrong with them; creationism we might say is a thinking disorder which also generates denial about its own irrationality. In their own eyes, [it is the] creationists [who] are sane and impartial; the competent scientists; the faithful interpreters of scripture, and the true Christians. [As for] everyone else, [it is] their science [that is] worthless and their religion deviant, [but] they can't see it, so they're crazy; they have a religious disability. You can do the equivalent of holding a mirror up to the anorexic, which is to quote the immense body of scientific and theological expertise proving their errors; [however], to the creationist, this simply proves that you are part of a Satanic conspiracy to undermine the true faith.
Pursuing the parallel further, I think it follows that certain approaches to creationism should be avoided. You do not arrange debates between anorexics and people with a properly adjusted body image; you call sickness by its name and attempt to treat it. They are mentally ill, so they're not fully aware of what's wrong with them; you make allowances for this. Humour them, up to a point. So with creationists: their thinking is disordered; they're in denial about it; they're convinced you're out to get them, so to debate with them is not only futile, it's actually inappropriate, because it treats them as equal partners in a search for truth and insight – which they are not. It will not help their recovery. Books and pamphlets that put both sides of the case, as though there are arguments for and against creationism worthy of equal consideration, are similarly misguided. This would be like publishing the anorexic's argument for starving herself to death and weighing it respectfully against her consultant's view that she's a very ill person.
You do not, you cannot, respect an anorexic's beliefs; you respect her as a person, which of course is quite different. Ditto with creationists; ridiculous though their beliefs are, it's important to respect them as people. This will not be reciprocated. You may treat the creationist as a Christian, but he will not so regard you [as one] unless you buy into his world-view, which you can't. (If you don't profess to be a Christian anyway, you don't have the same problem.) [Furthermore], you do not put the anorexic in charge of the food counter at Wal-Mart, because she doesn't understand what a normal diet is; likewise, you don't let creationists anywhere near a school curriculum because they don't understand what education is, certainly not what science is. You don't discuss this with them, because they [will] think [that] your intentions are sinister; [they] can't grasp that [your intentions] might be honourable. That's what having a disorder implies. [Anorexics think they are] an overweight blob. [Creationists think that] evolution really is an atheistic ["fairy tale"] with no evidence to support it. Sure. Time for your medication.
There are really two issues worth discussing here and I think that those who are trying to cure the creationist disorder should concentrate on them, rather than on sterile debates about radiometric dating and imaginary subjects like "flood geology". The first has to do with protection. Anorexics need protection from themselves; schools need protection from creationists. The debate was over long ago. The question to be asked is not whether creationism can be taught, but simply how we can ensure that it isn't taught. Anywhere, ever.
The second really interests me. Anorexia is a condition with causes, typically in the patient's dysfunctional family circumstances. Understanding these can help towards a cure of existing victims and preventing the illness from flaring up in others. What are the conditions that give rise to the disorder of creationism? It's not just the decadence and insularity of American fundamentalism, with its focus on Biblical inerrancy; although this doesn't help, not all inerrantists are YE creationists. I think it's a combination of fundamentalist culture, a particular personality profile, the politicisation of American religion and the polarisation of its popular culture. These streams feed the swamp in which the malarial mosquitoes of creationism breed. How can we drain it?
For God's sake, for humanity's sake if you don't believe in God, isn't it obvious? Rational thinkers of the world, unite! The open, pluralist society which guarantees every one's freedom – including that of creationists themselves -- is under threat here. What does rational thinking mean if not shouting from the roof tops: Beware [of] absolutes!; Beware [of] who know they're right!; Beware [of] those who can't cope with shades of grey and who insist that everything is either black or white!; Beware [of] those who would send you to hell if you don't believe in their God!
There is more than one point of view on any subject and it's a pretty boring subject on which there are only two!
Fundamentalists, creationists, [and] sectarians in general, can be perfectly charming people; [however], their underlying position is unavoidably arrogant, and that's the great danger. They know they're right. Rational thinking is, or should be, about humility, but it doesn't preclude conviction. It doesn't have to be woolly. I know what I think, you know what you think, but we could both be wrong, or only partly right; let's talk about it and by discussing what divides us arrive at a truth greater than either of us understood before. I believe in one God, you believe in another God, and she doesn't believe in God at all. Isn't that interesting? Let's discuss it and see where we get. It might be that we all finish up believing in something none of us do just at the moment: such as (and how many creationists dare play with this thought), whether or not there is a God; whether God can sensibly be said either to exist or not to exist, may not be the issue. Perhaps the question really is: how does "God" language work for me, and how does her "no God" language work for her? Do we perhaps have more values in common than we realise?
Rational thought is a precondition of cultural health. Rational thought provides for the flourishing of science. Absolutist positions, whether rooted in religious or secular ideology, lead to totalitarianism. Call it the Taliban, call it Stalinism, call it creationism, call it the Spanish Inquisition, any mindset that believes it alone has the truth and damns all opposition to hell, is the enemy of the free society. As someone once said, we need seekers after the truth, but protection from anyone who is dead certain he's found it.
For the evil of creationism to triumph, it is only necessary that all the good rational thinkers do nothing. [Also], perhaps, with Ken Ham's new museum drawing crowds, not all of whom can have paid their entrance fee just to have a laugh, now is the hour for rational thinkers to gird their loins.
Though I could, of course, be quite wrong about that.
09 June 2009
Now, why am I writing about other people's blogs on this subject? Well, for the most part I have been posting in my local fishwrapper (Northwest Florida Daily News) on various subjects, making comments on sotries, etc. The thing that really gets me is that these people are so incredibly provincial and for the most part have a version of groupthink going that is frightening. One of the posters there offered a bit of feedback that I come off arrogant. I will admit that I do. It's hard not to when you read ignorant statements, and are nearly able to predict with 100% accuracy what people will say about specific subjects.
How's this relate to skepticism? Well, this area is full of denialists of evolution, global warming, and even the legitimacy of Obama's Presidency... They do accuse me of not having a skeptical bone in my body because I worship science and evolution (their words obviously). So this is just an attempt at setting a few things straight for them, not that they will read it.
08 June 2009
So, on my Facts, not Fantasy page, I quoted the UBS Freethinkers on a blog post, and they have decided to talk to me about that in a podcast. I think this is my first podcast ever! Kind of cool really. Hopefully I can get more traffic an information out about the site. I did see that IVAN3MAN put up a couple of news stories in the blog as I was in the land of mouse, and that was very nice of him. I still am looking for more folks to assist in this web site project. I'd like to see this become a frequently utilized resource by students and laypeople around the world. Please spread the news about Facts, not Fantasy!
Okay, all I got for today. Still catching up from playing hookie this weekend!
04 June 2009
Hmm, actually quite a bit to talk about today, so not really sure where to start. I will say that I had the opportunity to read the transcript of President Obama's speech at Cairo University. I would have preferred to see it since he is a great orator, but I did get to read the transcript. The content was great (even though I personally could do without all the god stuff, but hey, you gotta know your audience). I was amused that one of my favorite treatys was mentioned (Treaty of Tripoli), although not my favorite article from it (Article 11). Anyway, great speech, let's hope it starts to undo the past 8 years as well as many other long histories.
About Oprah... I was thrilled to see that Newsweek bitch slapped her a bit. I wasn't the only one glad about it. Okay, Oprah is probably a really nice lady, and she has tons of empathy, but that is no excuse for abusing her position as shepperd of the sheeple by endorsing things she has absolutely no knowledge about. I am always wondering why we listen to celebrities when they talk about stuff that they have no expertise in. If you think about it, most celebrities are actors, and acting is basically an endorsed form of lying about who you are, so these people are expert liars and manipulators in a sense. If anything, we need to make an extra effort to examine anything they say. And just for fun, click on the graph, it's so true!
And yes, it's that time of year when Mars will apparently be as big as the moon in this once in a millennium opportunity (NOT!). Please discount that you have seen this email for the past 6 years, or that it's just plain impossible, or a host of other things... Again, I suppose it's applicable to that graph! Just wait, Oprah will probably fall for it, I know my sister will.
03 June 2009
I was stuck by this in particular when I was watching the news one time and saw some religious ritual going on. It even looks so hokey that I can't imagine that some alien anthropologist would think it's a joke the human subjects were playing on it...
Anyway, here is an article from Austin Cline on that as well (probably more respectful than my tone):
Is there a real connection between religion and superstition? Some, particular adherents of various religious faiths, will often argue that the two are fundamentally different types of beliefs. Those who stand outside of religion, however, will notice some very important and fundamental similarities which bear closer consideration.
Obviously, not everyone who is religious is also superstitious and not everyone who is superstitious is also religious. A person can faithfully attend church services all their life without giving a second thought to a black cat walking in front of them. On the other hand, a person who completely rejects any religion whatsoever may consciously or unconsciously avoid walking under a ladder — even if there is no one on the ladder who might drop something.
If neither necessarily leads to the other, it might be easy to conclude that they are different types of beliefs. Moreover, because the very label “superstition” seems to include a negative judgment of irrationality, childishness, or primitiveness, it is understandable of religious believers wouldn’t want their own faiths to be categorized with superstitions.
We must, nevertheless, acknowledge that the similarities are not superficial. For one thing, both superstition and traditional religions are non-materialistic in nature. They do not conceive of the world as a place controlled by sequences of cause and effect between matter and energy. Instead, they presume the added presence of immaterial forces which influence or control the course of our lives.
Furthermore, there is also the appearance of a desire to provide meaning and coherence to otherwise random and chaotic events. If we get hurt in an accident, it is might be attributed to a black cat, to spilling salt, to failing to pay sufficient honor to our ancestors, to performing the appropriate sacrifices to the sprits, etc. There seems to be a genuine continuum between what we tend to call “superstition” and the ideas in animistic religions.
In both cases, people are expected to avoid certain actions and perform other actions in order to ensure that they do not fall victim to the unseen forces at work in our world. In both cases, the very idea that such unseen forces are at work seems to stem (at least in part) both from a desire to explain otherwise random events and from a desire to have some means of affecting those events.These are all important psychological benefits often used to explain the reason why religion exists and why religion persists. They are also reasons for the existence and persistence of superstition. It seems reasonable to argue, then, that while superstition may not be a form of religion, it does spring from some of the same basic human needs and desires as religion does. Thus, a greater understanding of how and why superstition develops can be useful in gaining a better understanding and appreciation of religion.
02 June 2009
Oh, and The Beatles Rock Band... Me want!
Oh, and sorry for the lack of silly pictures. I have just been doing drive by blogging as of late (as if you couldn't already tell). I have just been incredibly busy!