All entries by this author

Why don’t any animals have wheels?

Aug 17th, 2014 12:30 pm | By

Here again is the video Dawkins linked to, in case you missed it. It’s very cool.

// the rest

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Twitter question time

Aug 17th, 2014 12:28 pm | By

Yes! There is a possible happy combination of Dawkins and Twitter, and earlier today he found it. This is what the two of them were always supposed to be doing. This is how to use Twitter if you’re a great science communicator.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · 11h
If our planet had been shrouded in perpetual fog, would eyes have evolved? In the sea, why not? But on land, what other sense organs?

Does evolution rely upon digital genetics? Could there be an analogue genetics? What features of life have to be true all over the universe?

Stuart Kauffman’s thought experiment: If evolution could be re-run 1000 times, would certain patterns predictably recur? Humanoids?

Why hasn’t biological (as opposed to

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Spreading the blood around the neighborhood

Aug 17th, 2014 10:42 am | By

Dear god. An Ebola quarantine center in Monrovia has been attacked by “protesters”; bloodstained bedding and mattresses were removed and at least 20 people who were being monitored have left the center.

The centre was set up to observe suspected Ebola patients and then transfer them to a main treatment centre if they prove positive, assistant health minister Tolbert Nyenswah told the BBC.

It is not known if those at the centre were infected with the virus, though one report suggested they had proved positive.

A senior police officer said blood-stained mattresses, beddings and medical equipment were taken from the centre.

“This is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in my life”, he said.

Lordy lordy … Read the rest

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She was not a human being with rights

Aug 17th, 2014 9:32 am | By

Carol Hunt expresses her outrage in the Independent.

It is with horror and not a little fear that I try to understand what happened to a young woman in our country recently. Faced with a crisis pregnancy and for reasons which we are not able to disclose, this young woman was not in a position (as so many thousands of Irish women have done, and continue to do, before her) to head to the UK or further afield to get the medical attention she wanted.

She only discovered that she was actually pregnant during her second trimester and consequently became suicidal. Under our new, much touted compassionate legislation – so hard fought for, so grudgingly given – this young

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Her abdomen belongs to the state

Aug 17th, 2014 8:52 am | By

You know that tweak to the Irish abortion law last summer, that was supposed to prevent another Savita Halappanavar case from happening?

Never mind.

The BBC reports the bare outline:

A “suicidal” woman has given birth by caesarean section in the Republic of Ireland after requesting a termination under the country’s new abortion law.

It is understood she requested an abortion late in her second trimester.

An expert panel assessed her as having suicidal thoughts but it was decided she should have a caesarean section.

She began a hunger strike and health authorities went to court to force her to end the fast. She later agreed to a caesarean and gave birth to a child.

So, in short, it … Read the rest

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The bible is mandatory

Aug 16th, 2014 4:58 pm | By

Another win for forced religion by the state.

In June, the U.S. Navy ordered housekeepers at thousands of Navy-owned guest lodges near U.S. and international bases to remove the Bibles and any other “religious materials” from their rooms. Scriptures would remain available on request.

But public outcry, prompted this week by a social media alert from the American Family Association and protests by the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, led the brass to reverse course Friday (Aug. 15).

Now, the Navy’s “religious accommodation policies with regard to the placement of religious materials are under review,” Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ryan Perry wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes, the daily military newspaper. Meanwhile, the Bibles (New Testament

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What we talk about outside the library

Aug 16th, 2014 4:45 pm | By

This actually happened. Earlier this afternoon.

I was walking past one side of the library – the local branch of the library, which is a nice old Carnegie one -

and I went around that corner you see there and approached a middle-aged couple hanging out at that brick wall you see, which around the corner is at the right height to sit on. The man was lighting a cigarette just as I got near them, which made me do my internal grumpy protest at the universe, but then I was distracted from that by what he was saying, in a loud brook-no-denial voice. “That’s the problem with women here in Washington.” Pause. I had just passed them so I … Read the rest

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After all, the rapist is also someone’s son

Aug 16th, 2014 3:44 pm | By

I never thought I would have anything good to say about Narendra Modi, but I guess I have to. In his first major address he spoke out about rape and violence against women.

In speaking out, Modi challenged citizens and government alike to change the way that rape is thought about. “Today as we hear about the incidents of rapes, our head hangs in shame,” he said in his wide-ranging address. “I want to ask parents when your daughter turns 10 or 12 years old, you ask, ‘Where are you going? When will you return?’ Do the parents dare to ask their sons, ‘Where are you going? Why are you going? Who are your friends?’ After all, the

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Onward Christian socialjusticewarriors

Aug 16th, 2014 2:58 pm | By

The nuns are still fighting back. Heidi Hall at RNS reports:

Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a theology professor at Fordham University, accepted the Leadership Conference of Women Religious’ top award and then lambasted bishops for criticism of her book “Quest for the Living God,” saying it appears they’ve never read it.

“To this day, no one, not myself or the theological community, the media or the general public knows what doctrinal issue is at stake,” she told the Nashville assembly of about about 900 sisters representing 80 percent of the nation’s nuns.

Omigod a room full of radical feminist nuns listening to a radical feminist nun. Be afraid.

In her 20-minute acceptance speech, followed by a standing ovation, Johnson suggested

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An Australian feminist

Aug 16th, 2014 11:27 am | By

Have a tv interview with Lt. General David Morrison, the head of the Australian army who last year made heads snap upright with an uncompromising talk on sexual harassment. “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”; remember that guy?

In this interview he talks to Annette Young of France 24. He starts off by talking about the necessity of empathy, which is not something I usually expect from military brass. Young asks him if he calls himself a feminist and he says, with speed and emphasis, “Yes. Proudly.”

I wish we had generals like him in the US military.

H/t Stewart… Read the rest

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Aug 16th, 2014 8:19 am | By

Christie Aschwanden in the NY Times a few days ago on sexual harassment in science.

She and some colleagues sent an online questionnaire to science writers.

We received responses from 502 writers, mostly women, and presented our results at M.I.T. in June during Solutions Summit 2014: Women in Science Writing, a conference funded by the National Association of Science Writers.

More than half of the female respondents said they weren’t taken seriously because of their gender, one in three had experienced delayed career advancement, and nearly half said they had not received credit for their ideas. Almost half said they had encountered flirtatious or sexual remarks, and one in five had experienced uninvited physical contact.

Obstacles, handicaps, impediments.… Read the rest

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What has no name cannot be acknowledged or shared

Aug 16th, 2014 7:55 am | By

Jessica Valenti talked to Rebecca Solnit a few weeks ago. She asked Solnit how she felt about being seen as the coiner of “mansplaining.”

A really smart young woman changed my mind about it. I used to be ambivalent, worrying primarily about typecasting men with the term. (I have spent most of my life tiptoeing around the delicate sensibilities of men, though of course the book Men Explain Things to Me is what happens when I set that exhausting, doomed project aside.) Then in March a PhD candidate said to me, No, you need to look at how much we needed this word, how this word let us describe an experience every woman has but we didn’t have language for.

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Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness

Aug 15th, 2014 6:14 pm | By

From Rebecca Solnit’s essay (which later became a book) “Men Explain Things to Me”:

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and

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The religious domination of the culture

Aug 15th, 2014 5:51 pm | By

A Georgia school district is letting coaches use the football program to promote religion to the students, so the American Humanist Association very properly told the district that’s a violation of the Establishment clause. Result? Accusations that the American Humanist Association is bullying the students. Oh yeah? What about the coaches?

Acting on behalf of an unnamed Hall County citizen, the AHA accused the county of violating the First Amendment by allowing Gainesville’s Chestatee High School football coaches to organize team prayers and promote biblical messages on team documents and pre-game banners.

“At times, the head coach has led the prayers, which is an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause,” the AHA alleged in a letter to school

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1,500 Yazidi and Christian persons may have been forced into sexual slavery

Aug 15th, 2014 5:33 pm | By

Two UN officials have condemned the avalanche of sexual violence that IS is perpetrating on Iraqi minorities.

13 August 2014 – Two senior United Nations officials today condemned in the strongest terms the “barbaric acts” of sexual violence and “savage rapes” the armed group Islamic State (IS) has perpetrated on minorities in areas under its control.

In a joint statement from Baghdad, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence (SRSG) in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov urged the immediate protection of civilians.

“We are gravely concerned by continued reports of acts of violence, including sexual violence against women and teenage girls and boys belonging to Iraqi minorities,” Ms.

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If you think this is new…you’re wrong

Aug 15th, 2014 4:32 pm | By

I got permission to quote a brilliantly shrewd Facebook comment on a long thread on Martin Wagner’s wall that was full of guys explaining at great length what’s wrong with feminism today. You already know what they said, because you’ve seen it many times before.

Here is that comment, by Justin Connelly:

1907: “Feminism? Bunch of men-hating women that don’t know their place. They don’t want equality, they want to be men”

1930s: “Feminism?! Pft. Ugly lesbians that just want to do men’s work if you ask me”

1960s: “Feminism? Bunch of ugly, man hating, bra burning hippies. Who needs it”

1990s: “Feminism? Radical man-hating liberal PC Police. Nothing more”

Today: “I just hate how feminism has been hijacked by

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The right to pick and choose

Aug 15th, 2014 3:18 pm | By

It’s not just Kenya that has nasty new legislation in the pipeline; we do too. (Well of course we do. Congress is full of terrible people.)

…a newly proposed bill from two GOP Senators would allow faith-based adoption agencies opposed to marriage equality to deny service to gay and lesbian couples.

The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014 was introduced last week by Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania because, apparently “some people in positions of power are essentially discriminating against people of faith.”

By “discriminating against” of course they mean “expecting to follow the law like everyone else.” But this is Hobby Lobby America, where the whole point is that People … Read the rest

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The archbishop is fussed

Aug 15th, 2014 1:54 pm | By

A Catholic archbishop in Oklahoma City, with the church’s usual unerring nose for what’s important, is all in a lather about the blasphemous misuse of a thin biscuit for something called a “black mass.” Dude…it’s just a thin biscuit. None of the magic makes it anything else, neither your magic nor the satanists’.

The purported use of a consecrated Host at a planned satanic black mass at an Oklahoma City civic center would be a “terrible sacrilege” that requires a prayerful response, the local archbishop emphasized.

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City in an Aug. 4 message lamented that the city-run Civic Center Music Hall was selling tickets for the event “as if it were merely some sort of dark

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The cherished culture

Aug 15th, 2014 11:20 am | By

Pink News reports that a new bill to allow gays to be stoned to death is under discussion in Kenya.

A new Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been submitted by the Republican Liberty Party in the National Assembly.

It would introduce harsh punishments for homosexuality, with life imprisonment or the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

The bill’s author, Edward Onwong’a Nyakeriga, said: “The petition aims at providing a comprehensive and enhanced legislation to protect the cherished culture of the people of Kenya, legal, religious and traditional family values against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on the people of Kenya.”

Damn I wish people would stop thinking it’s a cherished part of their … Read the rest

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We are not talking about isolated acts committed by a few priests

Aug 15th, 2014 10:33 am | By

A Catholic religious order in Quebec has approved settling a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of abuse victims at a school it ran. It’s a large settlement. Very large.

It’s twenty million dollars.

“This is a landmark case,” said Robert Kugler, a Montreal lawyer who represents the victims. “This is the highest amount that has ever been paid by a religious congregation in Quebec to settle a class action dealing with sexual abuse.”

The suit was launched by former student Frank Tremblay against the school, the Redemptorist order, and priest Raymond-Marie Lavoie. Mr. Tremblay recounted that as a 13-year-old student, he sought out Mr. Lavoie after feeling anxious and unable to sleep one night; he ended up being assaulted

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