This just in: American’s knowledge of science still sucks.

introspective-catYou don’t have to look very hard to see that science literacy in America is pretty dismal, but it’s still disheartening when a new survey is released showing that it’s even worse than you thought.

Quarter of Americans Convinced Sun Revolves Around Earth, Survey Finds – ABC News.

A survey of 2,200 people that was released Friday revealed some alarming truths about the state of science education across the country, with many failing to an answer even the most basic astronomy and science questions, according to a release about the survey.

Out of nine questions in the survey, participants scored an average 6.5.

Only 39 percent answered correctly with “true” when asked if “The universe began with a huge explosion,” while only 48 percent knew that “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,” according to the statement.

It’s hard to estimate how much of this ignorance is willful because it conflicts with religious belief. It boggles the mind that in 2015 less than half of Americans understand and/or accept the theory of evolution.

Worse, most folks don’t think science is worthy of increased government spending:

Asked whether there needed to be more government funding for science, 30 percent said there should be.

These weren’t difficult questions. Anyone who made it through high school should be able to answer them without difficulty. A good part of the reason America has risen to the position its in is because of our mastery of science and the benefits that come with it.

I suppose we could chalk this up to the topics not being something that most folks deal with day to day, but they seem like the sort of thing you’d know just by paying a little attention to what’s going on around you.

Happy New Year 2015!

It’s a brand spanking new year! A time for hope, optimism, and resolutions to be better people that we’ll break before the month is over. I stopped making new year resolutions long ago because I’m a terrible person and have little hope of ever maintaining them, but when I did try to make promises I knew I couldn’t keep I’d often resolve to have a higher opinion of my fellow man.

Then I’d go on Twitter and see tweets like this:

And my resolution would be broken instantly. You can’t have a worldwide population of 7,285,099,800 (as of two seconds ago) and not have a few folks out there who are, to put it politely, clueless about certain things like the age of the world. In case you thought David was an isolated case, well, nope:

There’s tons more of these tweets out there and it’s clear that many of them are meant to be jokes or are simply attempts at getting retweeted for the attention it’ll garner them. (Some folks will take whatever Twitter fame they can get no matter how stupid it makes them look.) The ones I posted above I couldn’t confirm for certain weren’t jokes, but there wasn’t anything to indicate that they were. Indubitably there are certainly some folks out there who are this clueless and the fact that it’s often difficult to tell the jokers from the serious ones makes the number of folks who really think this is true uncomfortably large for maintaining faith in mankind.

In short, my cynicism is pumped up yet again. There’s a part of me that hopes that all of these folks are just yanking our collective chain and no one really thinks the Earth is a mere 2015 years old, but given how common lazy thinking is I’m sure that there are some out there who do. On the bright side, it gives me something to blog about in the new year.

Kid kicked out of high school and arrested for writing about shooting his neighbor’s pet dinosaur.

OK this is just getting stupid now:

High school student says he was arrested for killing dinosaur in class assignment – NBC12.com – Richmond, VA News

Alex Stone said he and his classmates were told in class to write a few sentences about themselves, and a “status” as if it was a Facebook page.

Stone said in his “status” he wrote a fictional story that involved the words “gun” and “take care of business.”

“I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur, and, then, in the next status I said I bought the gun to take care of the business,” Stone said.

Holy Sweet Flying Fuck!I wouldn’t make it through high school these days if this is the norm. As a freshman I once wrote a short story about an unnamed student who might have shot himself in the head in the boy’s bathroom (the ending is somewhat vague) one afternoon because I was bored. It wasn’t even part of an assignment, I just was struck with inspiration and wrote it. Showed it to a couple of friends and it got handed off to a teacher.

Do you know what that teacher did? She encouraged me to submit it along with a couple of other creative efforts I had done to the school district’s creative writing contest. I won a bronze medal for that bit and a gold one for a short reimagining of the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

In my version of the tale, Goldilocks stumbles upon the cabin of the Three U.S. Government workers where she tries all three computer terminals until she finds one that’s “just right” and ends up launching our nuclear payload at Russia setting off WWIII. The story ends with one of the government workers shooting her in the head just as the missiles scream out of their silos. The moral of the story was: “Just because a terminal is just right, doesn’t mean it’s just right. It could be terminal.”

Yeah, I thought that was clever at the ripe old age of 14.

Anyway, I can only imagine the trouble I’d be in if I were in high school and wrote something like that today. It’s bad enough he was suspended for a week, but did he really have to be arrested too?

According to police, when Stone was asked by school officials about the comment written on the assignment, he said it was a joke.

Summerville police officials say Stone was disruptive and was told that he was being detained for disturbing schools.

Stone was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. District officials say the student has been suspended.

You can be arrested for being disruptive at school? Holy shit! Had this been the practice back in the day I’d have a criminal record a mile long now. Probably be on death row for multiple counts of brutal character assassination* too!

*Get it? Character assassination? Because I killed off a couple of fictional characters? Ha ha! I kill myself!

John Oliver on the ongoing problems in Ferguson, MO and the militarization of police.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all over the past week you’re already well aware of the problems in Ferguson where police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown six times resulting in his death. The people of Ferguson rose up in protest and the initial response from police was not handled well and things have gone from bad to worse since then. Events there have brought into focus several issues not the least of which is the long-standing legacy of racism in America, but also a newer problem in regards to the ongoing militarization of America’s police forces.

John Oliver on Last Week Tonight did a segment on both of these issues that is well worth watching:

This whole situation has been poorly handled from the start and it looks only to get worse before it gets better. With any luck, all of this will bring about some much needed changes not just in Ferguson, but across the country.

Don’t tell me what to read.

funny-Jack-Nicholson-careRuth Graham over at Slate thinks it’s shameful that adults are reading fiction aimed at kids:

Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books.

As The Fault in Our Stars barrels into theaters this weekend virtually guaranteed to become a blockbuster, it can be hard to remember that once upon a time, an adult might have felt embarrassed to be caught reading the novel that inspired it. Not because it is bad—it isn’t—but because it was written for teenagers.

I have two words for Ms. Graham: Fuck you.

I don’t read a lot of fiction because — and this is something I’ve said many times in the past — I’m very picky about what I read and I have the bad habit of judging books by their covers. The vast majority of my personal library is composed of non-fiction books, usually of a scientific bent. There are, however, authors whose books I will buy without even asking what they’re about simply because I’ve enjoyed their work in the past. Some of them are “young adult” authors such as J.K. Rowling. I don’t care if they’re not aimed at my demographic, I only care if I’m entertained by them. It’s the same reason I often go see “kids movies” like How To Train Your Dragon or Toy Story or Kung Fu Panda even though my own kid is now 23 years old.

Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this. I know, I know: Live and let read. Far be it from me to disrupt the “everyone should just read/watch/listen to whatever they like” ethos of our era. There’s room for pleasure, escapism, juicy plots, and satisfying endings on the shelves of the serious reader. And if people are reading Eleanor & Park instead of watching Nashville or reading detective novels, so be it, I suppose. But if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.

Again, fuck you. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve never completely grown up, but I’m of the opinion that if someone is enjoying what they’re reading then we should probably be happy they’re reading at all. My wife reads all manner of vampire and werewolf stories from authors I’ve never heard of that to me all look like the same story over and over again, but she’s happy reading them. Meanwhile, I tend to buy every book Neil Gaiman puts out regardless of whether it’s aimed at kids, young adults, or adults. I don’t understand the popularity of shows like American Idol, but I’m not going to begrudge someone’s enjoyment of it. Especially when I occasionally tune in to watch a kid’s show like Adventure Time.

I’m a huge fan of Mark Twain, but I’ve never read any of his classic stories. I have read a lot of his essays and talks and magazine articles. I’m a fan of his in spite of not having read the things he’s most famous for. The other night I realized I had a book containing a collection of his stories that included Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I have no idea where I got it, probably a gift from someone who knows I’m a Mark Twain fan, but there it was and for the first time I opened it up and starting reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Interestingly enough, in the preface to the story Mark Twain had this to say:

Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.

I wonder what Ms. Graham would have to say about that? Tom Sawyer is considered a literary classic and yet Twain says he aimed it at children. Should I be embarrassed to be reading it now that I’m 46 years old? I know some who might argue I should be embarrassed that I’m haven’t read it sooner.

Perhaps I’m not very sophisticated about the entertainment I consume. If so, then so be it. I often dismiss “serious” movies because they don’t have enough explosions for me to spend the money to see them in theaters. I generally don’t give a shit which ones win “Best Movie” at the Oscars because it’s often stuff that bores me to tears. I don’t pay attention to the New York Time’s Best Seller lists. And my musical tastes are often off-kilter to what’s popular.

I’m not ashamed by any of that. I don’t see why others should be about what they’re into. And anyone who thinks I, or anyone else, is worthy of being looked down on because I’m not into the same shit they are can go fuck themselves.

OK, one more time: Do NOT point your laser pointers at aircraft.

 

Pic of Charlie Brown.

I’m right there with you on that one, Chuck.

Man admits he pointed green laser beam into airplane cockpit at PBIA – Sun Sentinel

Michael Ryan Fischer, 26, of Wellington, pleaded guilty to a federal charge and admitted that he intentionally aimed the beam of the laser pointer into an AirTran flight shortly before 11 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2012. He also pointed the laser into a sheriff’s office helicopter that was sent to investigate the incident, according to court records.

This jackhole is getting off easy as the prosecutor is recommending a punishment that doesn’t involve jail time. He could’ve been facing five years in a federal prison.

It’s a felony to do this. You could blind the pilots and cause a crash and then you would be facing even more serious charges. You wouldn’t randomly shoot a gun into an aircraft cockpit (I hope) so why do you think there’s no harm in doing the same thing with a freakin’ laser?

The next time you think to yourself, “Gee, I wonder what would happen if I shined this laser into the cockpit of that passing aircraft?” Do everyone a favor and take that laser and shove it up your ass where it’s less likely to do any real harm to anyone. Better yet, if you don’t think you can resist the impulse of shining lasers at random passing vehicles then don’t even buy one. Surely there are better things you can spend your time and money on that don’t carry the risk of landing you in federal prison because you happen to be a dumbass.

According to a FOX News host we found Noah’s Ark some time ago.

FOX News has a well deserved reputation for disseminating a lot of misleading information. So much so that it’s widely regarded as the propaganda arm of the Republican party. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as any surprise that while discussing missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, host Bill Hemmer asks if we’ll ever find it considering that it took 2,000 years to find Noah’s Ark.

No, seriously:

If it were true that really would be news, but the last I checked it’s still just a myth. yourmouth

Not only that, but his time estimate is completely off. If we assume for the moment that he’s referring to the folks in 1959 who (wrongly) claimed to have found it and we go with the best estimate for when the myth is supposed to have taken place (2,349 B.C.) then the actual time frame would be more like 4,308 years.

This is the quality of journalist that FOX news puts on the air. Not only ignorant of reality, but also ignorant of his own religious viewpoint. Granted, this is nitpick of a throwaway comment in a segment that had nothing to do with Noah’s Ark, but it’s so indicative of what passes for intelligent commentary at FOX that it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Far Right Religious Nuts: Disney’s “Frozen” will turn your daughters into lesbians!

I’ve not posted much about the far right Christians in awhile in part because I’ve tried to stop paying too much attention to them for the sake of my blood pressure, but sometimes I’m so amazed and how divorced from reality they are that I can’t not bring it up.

If you really want to get a feel for just how looney these people can get you can’t do worse than listening to the likes of Kevin Swanson who hosts a daily Internet radio show over at the Generations with Vision website. On Wednesday of last week, Kevin and his co-host Steve Vaughn talked about “Disney’s Progressive Agenda” which, according to them, is to turn your daughters into lesbians via seemingly innocuous movies like Frozen. Check it:

Given this shot from the film you have to wonder how these guys didn't work Incest into the list of things it indoctrinates your kids into accepting.

Given this shot from the film you have to wonder how these guys didn’t work Incest into the list of things it indoctrinates your kids into accepting.

I love that he takes a moment to point out that he is “not a tinfoil hat conspiratorialist” and then proceeds to suggest that Satan bought Disney sometime in 1984 with the goal of releasing movies designed to indoctrinate 5 to 7 year-old kids into becoming lesbians and accepting homosexuality or bestiality and apparently Frozen is one of those films.

Now I admit that I haven’t seen the film yet, but from everything I’ve read and heard about it from folks who have seen it, it’s hard to fathom how it would work as an indoctrination film for the homosexual agenda. Apparently there isn’t a girl-on-girl scene to be found in the movie nor does anyone get busy with the reindeer supporting character that features throughout the film. About the worst that can be said about the film is that the character of Elsa was originally supposed to to be the villain of the movie, but ends up really being the protagonist in a story about being who you are instead of who others want you to be. An empowered woman? No wonder the far right nutcases are having a shit-fit over this film. How the fuck will they ever get her to make them a sandwich if the uppity bitch is out being the Queen of Winter and shit?

If you listen to the rest of their podcast you’ll find they’re also upset that Disney has pulled funding from the Boy Scouts over their policy of discrimination against gay troop leaders. Because according to Swanson if you have a gay man leading the troop he’ll have no choice but to turn all your sons into sodomites:

Swanson: I’m guessing the majority of American parents don’t want their little boys turning into sodomites, at this point. if you were to interview, stick a microphone in front of most parents dropping their kids off at the average K-6 school in Colorado where they’re sporting their GLSEN signs everywhere, but if you just interview them and you ask them: “Is your vision for this little 6-year-old boy, 8-year-old boy, 9-year-old, 10-year-old boy that he turn into a sodomite?” My guess is that 60 to 70 percent of them would say, “that would be my worst nightmare.”

Given the popularity of anal sex among heterosexuals I’m not sure how not having a gay troop leader will keep most kids from growing up to become sodomites. When you consider that — according to some Christian interpretations — any sexual activity that isn’t procreative is sodomy then there’s even more folks out there engaging in it regardless of their exposure to gay people. As long as the folks engaging in it are consenting adults and aren’t hurting anyone then I don’t see what the problem is, but then I’m not a Christian with a persecution complex.

Frozen is a bit of an anomaly for a Disney film in that it provides a positive portrayal of an empowered woman and that’s the real threat these asshats are reacting to. There’s no room in the far right Christian’s mind for women who aren’t submissive to men. Isn’t it enough that they can vote and drive cars? Do we really have to let them think for themselves as well? If the idea that a woman could be happy and fulfilled without a man in their life to tell them what to do were to catch on that would be the real nightmare.

Dave Daubenmire can’t resist the porn so he thinks we should ban it all.

I hear you asking: Who the fuck is Dave Daubenmire? He’s another Bible Thumper who made a name for himself by being sued by the ACLU. Seems he used to be a high school football coach who had a tendency of coercing the kids he was coaching into praying which brought on the lawsuit back in the late 90s. After settling the case he decided to leave behind his career as a high school coach to become a Coach for Team God. Not a bad decision as far as future athletes at his high school are concerned. Since then he’s attracted a bit of a following with a number of YouTube videos and setting up his own ministry called, ge this, Pass the Salt Ministries. Think of him as a less popular version of Joe the Plumber.

Anyway, he caught my attention with a recent YouTube video he did for NewsWithViews.tv in which be bemoaned being tempted by pornography while surfing on the Internet and a call to recriminalize it:

There was almost a coherent argument in that little rant. He starts off by talking about how he was minding his own business on the Internet when a popup window suddenly appeared with an ad for a porn site and he was strongly tempted to click on it. He doesn’t say if he did click on it, just that it’s one of the greatest temptations in all of society. He then tries to explain why he thinks we should criminalize porn. As near as I can tell his argument is that because we are a “rational people” we want ban smoking and guns and drunk driving and bullying so we should also ban porn because he feels it’s more dangerous than all of those things combined.

That’s about the extent of his argument, though he does try to use shame to convince you it’s legit. He wonders aloud on just how many people in any given business or church are regular consumers of porn and marvels at what a “dark, dark secret” it is. He goes on to say:

“It’s nothing that anyone likes to own up to. Nobody likes to talk about the fact that they’re looking at pornography because we know this, don’t we, that the end result of pornography in most cases when men in particular are looking at pornography it ends up in, what, masturbation. No man wants to talk about that. No man is proud to say that he does that.” 

I don’t have a problem talking about it. I occasionally watch porn with masturbation being the whole point of doing so. There’s not a whole lot of other reasons to watch porn. The acting is pretty terrible, the story all but non-existent, no real special effects to speak of in the majority of it. Some of it can be pretty funny, sometimes even intentionally so, but not enough to make that a reason to watch it. The simple truth is that my libido and my wife’s occasionally don’t sync up and I have a choice. I can make myself into a royal pain in the ass trying to get her to engage in sexy time or I can go blow off some steam with a little porn. Am I proud of it? Never really occurred to me that it’s something to be — or not be — proud of. I don’t advertise the fact that I watch porn mainly because I don’t think anyone really is interested in whether I watch porn, but I don’t consider it a dark secret that I won’t own up to.

“Coach” goes on to claim that porn is “laying waste to this land” and destroying families and careers and, oh my goodness, our young people! He doesn’t elaborate on how, exactly, it’s doing this. He just tosses the claim out there and expects you to accept it as true. I can’t speak for anyone else, but so far it hasn’t ruined my family or career, but then I have managed to develop a halfway decent impulse control as I’ve gotten older. To borrow a turn of phrase from the gun nuts: Porn doesn’t destroy people. People destroy people.

So, in summary, his entire argument seems to be: I was tempted to look at porn and I have bad self-control so I think we should ban it. Perhaps “Coach” would do well to install any of the dozens of porn filter applications on his computer that’ll block any websites that might contain temptation inducing naughtiness from his system? Or maybe he needs to hang out on a better class of website that doesn’t accept porn ads. It’s very rare that I have a popup for a porn site show up on my system, but then I don’t tend to frequent sites that are likely to accept those kind of ads. If I see pon on my screen it’s because I went straight to it.

At the start of the video he says that what he’s about to say “…may seem really radical to ya…” and it’s really not because it’s not a new idea. Porn was banned for a long time and people were prosecuted for both making it and consuming it. Technically it still is illegal in many places as none of the laws have been removed from the books as far as I’m aware. Enforcement is rare because that’s easier than the political process of revoking the laws, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t used on occasion or couldn’t be used again in the future. The truth is: Much like alcohol and (increasingly) recreational drug use, banning it doesn’t seem to abate people’s desire to partake of it.

You were right when you said it was a “supply and demand” problem. What you don’t understand is that getting rid of the supply side won’t do anything to eliminate the demand for it. And when there’s enough demand there will always be someone willing to provide it no matter what the risks.

The sad part is…

… I probably know some folks who would actually try this:

funny-cinnamon-spoon-fake-fact-cold