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I am a former middle and high school science teacher pursuing a doctorate in Science Ed. at George Mason University, with a concentration in cognitive science and the evolution of cognition and learning. Postings on this blog represent my own views, not those of my employer or school. All writing displayed on this page is original work unless otherwise noted, and thus copyrighted.

27 April 2009

Case and point?


So, according to the editorial, a case against conservative Christianity was its stance that environmental problems aren't worth being concerned over, what with the Rapture and such right around the corner. I take issue with their use of the word was, but yes, that's a pretty strong condemnation of any religious group: "Hey, don't worry about the planet, our imaginary friend is going to blow it all up soon (with some help from his faithful followers and nuke-yoo-ler bombs)".
In support of their use of the past tense, the N&O posts this little gem
So it's good news not only that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest is going out of its way to conserve energy on campus, but also that it hosted (with its L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture) a Creation Care Symposium over the past weekend.

Oh, yes.. that's spectacular. They've decided they want a lower power bill, so they'll save some energy. Creation Care Symposium?! Yes, why would we ever admit that it might not have been created in our effort to pretend that we're going to help slow the denigration of the planet.

The comments betray a far more accurate view of conservative Xian views:

cackcon wrote on April, 27 7:29 AM:
Oh, and I hope y'all realize that "faith in the earth" would constitute paganism. You can keep "Mother Earth"; I'll take Father God any day!
Recommend (1) Report abuse

cackcon wrote on April, 27 7:24 AM:
So y'all are theologians now, eh?There are so many untruths tangled together in this Editorial to unpack within this comment box. But what I would like to suggest, simply, is that your tongue-in-cheek praise for a denomination of the Christian faith is rather appalling, dripping as it does with politically-motivated insincerity.If the Southern Baptists cared at all for what you Editors thought, they would have long ago succumbed to the panic attack that is environmentalism. Kudos to them for not diving off the cliff just because everyone else (and every other denomination, it seems) has done so already.

At least they'll go along with the rest of the human race when they do something abysmally stupid... It's not as if the planet needs us here.

Damned brick houses...

I knew someone should've taken out that last pig.


Ok, so the nursery rhyme reference was rather childish... so is the chicken little nonsense going on in the press over 20 cases of influenza. Yes, 1400 cases in Mexico could be cause for concern, maybe a little tightening of borders, some travels restrictions (or advisories), that sort of thing. Releasing 25% of our nationwide stock of emergency flu drugs for this few cases seems rather premature to me, however. Even more, as flu cases drop precipitously during the late spring and summer (there's a strong correlation between blood circulation to the nose via being chilled and rate of cold/flu infection), meaning that this particular outbreak picked the wrong time of year to get going, statistically speaking.
Is it possible that this is actually something that should create concern? Well, the only indicator I can see for that is that it originated in Mexico, meaning it may not need the typical American winter sniffles to spread. Anyone dying of a disease makes people freak out, but I don't see 103/1400 as especially virulent. Perhaps my view of that would be different with a weaker immune system or very young/old relatives... but this isn't aerosol Ebola here folks, it's the freakin' flu, and not the 1918 variety.

20 April 2009

If it would get their religious views out of the curriculum...

I'd be all for it. That's right, the NC legislature has proposed a third option for sex-ed in this state, as reported by the N&O here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/education/story/1476957.html

For a state the promotes abstinence-only sex education, this might not be a bad thing. If and only if they allow the opt-out on a curriculum that teaches the students about STD's, birth control, and responsible decision-making without all the lovely Bible Belt influence that is currently present. I'd like to make the following proposal to the NC Legislature:

1). Change the sex-ed curriculum to align with NIH guidelines. (I'd tell them to try matching that of a more progressive state, but they get a bit shirty about such things)

2.) Allow students to opt out of that curriculum at the parent's behest.

3) Educate the parents about the rates of teen sexual activity, pregnancy, and disease, including all the factors that predispose teens to each of those. (Fundies tend not to remember the birth control in their rush of guilt, and trends like saddlebacking spread STD's more rapidly. Unprotected anal sex with multiple partners isn't a good idea.)

4) If a child who has been opted out of the curriculum is later reported to have contracted an STD or becomes a parent, while still under their parents' care, charge the parent with neglect for failing to provide the information needed for the teen to make a responsible decision.

14 April 2009

Dead, but not buried

I had the pleasure of catching the opening night of the Dead's latest tour on Sunday... if you're a fan, check it out. Warren Haynes did a nice job of pulling back his usual style, and fit into the overall groove of the band. He's not Jerry, but he's not bad either.

Audience recordings available here: http://www.archive.org/details/thedead2009-04-12

Soundboard recordings are on dead.net, supposedly, but I can't find them.

Set list:
Set 1
Music Never Stopped>Jack Straw>Estimated Prophet >He’s Gone >Touch of Gray>I Need a Miracle >Truckin’

Set 2
Shakedown Street>All Along The Watchtower>Caution>Jam>Drums>Space>Cosmic Charlie>New Potato Caboose>Help on the Way >Slipknot! >Franklin’s Tower

Donor Rap

Samson and Delilah

06 April 2009

Stress-Impaired Brain Development?

taken from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/05/AR2009040501719.html

Researchers at Cornell have found a correlational link between high levels of stress during childhood, such as those caused by living in poverty, and reduced working memory in late adolescence and adulthood. This sounds interesting, but the implications are far less that the article above would like them to be.

Now, research is providing what could be crucial clues to explain how childhood poverty translates into dimmer chances of success: Chronic stress from growing up poor appears to have a direct impact on the brain, leaving children with impairment in at least one key area -- working memory.

Hey , hold on there buddy... you quoted the actual author of the study as saying:
"What this data raises is the possibility that it's also related to cognitive development."

hmm... suddenly I'm far less than impressed with the quality of the journalism.

The bottom line here is that the Post's science writer took the opportunity to heap blame for a problem with multiple probable causes on an environmental factor that happens to tie-in well with the rest of the news. That's great and all, it probably sells newspapers, but I would prefer something more objective from a good science writer... perhaps a fair analysis that accounts for the following:

1) the researcher isn't saying this is anything more than correlational data
2) there is a causal relationship here: Parents living in poverty have kids who live in poverty.
3) (2) sounds ridiculous until you consider that there's a reason the parents are living in poverty, some of that reason is indeed genetic, and these are still their children.
4) The environmental factors that shape a child's social and cognitive development most profoundly are found outside the home (see Dawkins and Pinker, among others, for that one).

It may be convenient to hand out the excuses along with the welfare, but only the 2nd need be distributed. Whether the child (or adolescent) is not-so-bright because mom and dad are also a bit dim, or because his/her mental development was stunted because his/her brain was marinating in too much cortisol is immaterial. If the kids are dumb, find them something they can do for wages instead of allowing them to collect a goverment check for free because you chose to pretend they were college bound with a room temperature IQ.

03 April 2009

SIWOTI isn't all bad..

I feel that I owe a brief thank you to the denizens of Pharyngula and RD.net... The hours of reading and contributing to the various and sundry arguments on those sites certainly helped hone my critical writing and argumentative skills.... which may have contributed to blowing the top off of the critical writing section of the GRE. So, sadly disguised attempt at bravado aside, if anyone who's participated in those happens to read this, thank you.
A second credit is probably due to the one current follower of the blog and numerous "matches on the bar". Thanks shithead, let's drink a Guinness and be elitist assholes in public again soon.

01 April 2009

Wow, they must be DUMB

This may as well be a tweet instead of a blog, but: I'm giving midterms today. 3 of my genius students, all in one class, had their study guides out underneath their tests, as if I wouldn't notice the constant shuffling of papers. Since I waited until they went to lunch to take the papers (and shred them into the recycling bin), one of them actually had the gall to insist that she had only taken the study guide out during lunch. These kids don't need lessons in Physical Science, they need lessons in lying.