Author Archives: Alison

You Can’t Disagree with What You Don’t Understand

You Can’t Disagree with What You Don’t Understand

Here’s a little story I threw together this morning to put you in the right frame of mind. Imagine this:

Cousin Angus is visiting his U.S. relatives from Scotland. One day he tells his little American cousin Mary that she’s very twee. Being young and sensitive, she runs away in tears and tells her mother what Angus said. Mom, not knowing but wanting to soothe her daughter assures her, “oh, honey, he was just teasing you about being short. He didn’t mean anything, and besides, you’ll grow!”

In school, she tells her classmates with authority, frequently, and over many years, that in Scotland, the word for short is “twee”. As she and her classmates grow older, and learn more about the world around her, there are some who wonder, “I thought I heard that it meant cute or precious?” or “Are you sure it wasn’t an insult? I heard it meant really nauseatingly sweet,” only to be firmly assured by Mary that it means short, and that’s the end of it.

In her teens, she finally gets to go on a plane for the first time to visit Angus’ side of the family. She picks out an outfit that she thinks will make a good first impression, something with lots of plaids and pleats, a darling little hat, kneesocks with garters – kind of a Hot Topic take on the pictures she remembered from her childhood books. She touches up her hair and makeup before the plane lands, and debarks knowing she’s looking wonderful. When she’s greeted by cousin Angus, she declares, “Remember when I was little and you called me twee? Well, look at me now!”

“Oh,” he says, taking her in, “You’re still twee.”

(Needless to say, every Scot she meets tries to correct her understanding, but she goes back home convinced that they don’t even know what their own slang words mean.)

The inspiration for this came from reading statements from people in Florida who are protesting proposed school science standards that would mandate teaching evolution. None of their arguments are new, none of the statements contain any valid refutations, and each one shows that they understand science just as well as Mary understood anything about Scotland. Someone told them their assumptions were true, maybe even fed them a scripted argument, and since it reinforced what they wanted to believe anyway, they have no reason to question or (god forbid) change their minds.

Most of these egregious, deliberate redefinitions have been fed to people from the Discovery Institute into the churches, books, radio broadcasts, and internet forums and blogs of creationists, who gobble it up.

Of course, it started with the word “Theory”. In science, a Theory is an explanation of facts – how they work, how they came to be, what causes them, what they cause, etc. A Theory is not a fact because it isn’t one single thing that can be expressed in a sentence or a mathematical statement, but is a collection of many facts, formulas, observations, etc. A Theory is not a fact the way a Library isn’t a Book. However, people who haven’t been educated in science have allowed this word to be co-opted by the cdesign proponentsists as equivalent to the colloquial “theory” (small t) that means a wild stab in the dark. As soon as you hear someone describe the Theory of Evolution as “only a theory,” you know that more misunderstandings and lies will soon follow:

“To be scientifically proven, it has to be observable and no one was around 6,000 years ago. We want students exposed to all theories so they can become critical thinkers.”

This comment was made on February 11th, during a meeting about the new standards, which took place in Orlando. The speaker shows how incredibly wrong you can go just by starting with a basic lack of education and then swallowing the rest of the anti-evolution propaganda hook, line, and sinker. It has allowed people to simply accept that Intelligent Design, or whatever flavor of creationism they favor, to qualify as a Theory, once it’s been redefined as a theory.

The success of this linguistic sneak attack has led to more of the same. People who have found their assertions of biblical truth torn apart by scientific facts are appropriating the language of those facts and repurposing them for their own ends.

For example, take “random mutation”. What it’s like is a random number generator that’s told to pick a two-digit number. Well, all the numbers from 00 to 99 are there, all the program does is pick one of them. In biology, there’s a limited set of mutations, determined by species, parental genetics, dominance or recessiveness of traits, environmental factors during development, and so on. In arguments against evolutionary theory, though, it means that a fish could turn into a bird, or cows could develop wings. To a scientist, “random” means not predetermined. To an antievolutionist, it means something that comes completely out of left field.

The worst, in my mind, is the recent interpretation of “peer review” by the Discovery Institute. Defenders of the “Theory” of Intelligent Design have consistently been criticized for their lack of documented, peer-reviewed research. (Any research at all, really.) To circumvent this, they’ve assembled a group of like-minded thinkers to approve of their books and papers, and called it peer review. With that kind of peer review, you could go into a bar in Massachusetts, buy everyone a few rounds, and have a peer-reviewed opinion that the Patriots really won the Super Bowl this year, someone just tinkered with the TV broadcast.

There are many, many examples of this tactic. The credibility of all science is eroded by this linguistic attack on “Evolutionism”. Like actors long ago who sought to make themselves shine in film by surrounding themselves with a dull supporting cast, these people are trying to make their arguments valid by devaluing the truth. We could hope for the same result, that people would see through the deception, but there are so many who are accepting this without question, repeating it in public, and having their words spread by the media that it seems to lead only to more credulity. No matter how much is said to show that these statements show a lack of education and understanding, they still hold sway whenever the subject of evolution comes up. Like Mary in my little story, their minds are made up, and they won’t allow themselves to be confused by the facts.

Ooh, for some more fun reading on this, check out this editorial by Carl Hiaasen and its comments on the Florida Science Standards issue.

Time to Learn WordPress.

Time to Learn WordPress.

I was up visiting Gayle yesterday and today, and the blog had been attacked by yet another couple of spambots. Hubby has set up a wordpress account so we can play around and then move everything over. I’ll let everyone know when we’re switching.

Right now, my brain is a bit too fried to absorb too much information about the program. The drive home was long and stressful because of the rain. Why the heck are drivers so resistant to the idea of putting on their headlights when it’s raining? And for that matter, why are some drivers resistant to slowing down a bit when the roads are wet? Put those two together – the ones driving like they’re the only ones on a straight dry road, and the ones who are essentially invisible, and it makes for a really good adrenal gland workout. Idjits.

Surfing Around. . .

Surfing Around. . .

I found two videos by a well-fed and poorly dressed fundie explaining 1. that the word dinosaur comes from “dyna”, like dynamite, “to explode” and “saur”, meaning “lizard”. This explains that the dinosaurs disappeared because they exploded. 2. that the continents did not drift, and that plate tectonics is a lie – the earth was actually like a big balloon, and when it got filled up and expanded, the continents came apart and the rest of the earth got covered with water. He stuck paper continents on a big balloon and blew it up and deflated it several times to demonstrate. I’m convinced. . .

I also discovered that there are about 10 junior sized sewing patterns out there that aren’t vintage on ebay. I was really hoping to find a couple so I could avoid the major alterations on children’s patterns or drafting patterns from scratch, but it’s just not going to happen. Apparently, girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 20 just don’t wear clothes. OK, they don’t wear home sewn clothes. *sigh* There’s very little on the racks, though, that’s the right size that doesn’t look either way too juvenile or way too adult for the girls. I’d like to get them into something besides jeans and tees every once in a while.

More Slimy Foley Stuff

More Slimy Foley Stuff

This time from the folks who are trying to make us think that Foley’s an innocent victim. Both Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh posit that the IMs were pranks, or plants by Democrats to “lure” Foley (Limbaugh and Hastert). I can’t find the link now, but another Limbaugh transcript had him saying that the pages were pulling a boyish prank on Foley, as boys do – and he remembers doing such stuff himself. Ick. Here’s a list of Whom To Blame Besides Foley Himself that will make your stomach churn. Fox News circumvented all this creativity, and simply changed the caption under its Foley news stories to show him as D-FL – removing all Republican blame by turning him into a Democrat instead. Further examples of Republican moral values can be found here, if we’re not yet convinced that we have the wrong people in office. I tried finding a similar list for the Dems, but I suppose nobody’s quite as angry with them right now as they are with the GOP. They’re not innocent or exonerated, just looking better and better every day.

Spammers Must Die!

Spammers Must Die!

I know that’s an extreme statement, but let me tell you, when you get three spambots from different IPs posting spam comments all up and down your blog, and have to go through not only blocking them but deleting all their comments, you get a little peeved.  I wish I were some kind of sooper hacker and could find a way to send them stuff that would keep them tied up for hours trying to get rid of it.  Maybe someone out there will invent a virus that targets only spammers that WE can install on OUR computers.  One can only hope.

But You Have to Laugh. . .

But You Have to Laugh. . .

I haven’t completely lost my sense of humor.  I’m limited in what I can do, and in order to get to anything below waist level, I need to bend at the knees, back straight, or hold onto something for balance and leverage, or do a bend over on my right leg only, sticking the left out straight back.  As I was doing this for what seemed like the umpty-millionth time in the bathroom (mmmm. . .coffeeeeee!!!) I was reminded that Carolyn told me last night that it looked like I was doing an arabesque, and so for today’s entertainment, I present to you. . .

THE POTTY BALLET!

Plie’!  Grasp lid, and releve’!

Turn!  Plie’! Sit!

(curtain closes for intermission while the mundane aspects are undergone)

Releve’!

Turn, arabesque, and flush!

Grasp lid, and plie’!

Releve’, turn, and don’t forget to switch off the light!

Thunderous applause!!!

I am Going Stir-Crazy!

I am Going Stir-Crazy!

My back is killing me.  My house is a mess, and I can’t bend over.  I can get the kids to help a bit after school, but they have tons of homework, and music lessons tonight.  I haven’t been forced to sit still for so long since I was confined to bed for the end of my first pregnancy, and I like it even less now.  At least then there was a positive outcome to staying in bed.  I can get up and walk around.  I can sit for a while if I get up and change positions before the pain kicks in.  I can’t lean forward even a tiny bit without something to hold onto.  I got a recommendation for an orthopedist from a fellow Weight Watchers member, but I have a week to wait for that appointment – this has gone way beyond chiropractic.  Thank goodness for Cymbalta, though – I’m not feeling sad and self-pitying as much as pissed off that I’m stuck like this – before, I’d be much more mopey.  I don’t know, though, that pissy is better than mopey for the people who are stuck hanging around with me. . .

Mark Foley

Mark Foley

Yet another case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” What’s got me peeved most at this point, though, is the Republicans and their media calling him gay. There’s nothing wrong or scandalous about gay. Foley is, repeat after me, a PEDOPHILE. If he were gay, he’d be interested in relations with similarly aged members of the same gender. He’s been going after boys. It’s not the same thing, and it >is< scandalous. It’s like calling someone who likes to suck on toes a “leg man”. (Not that sucking on consenting toes is particularly scandalous, but you get my drift.) If your average run-of-the-mill pedophile was told by a judge, “Hey, just watch yourself” and then allowed to carry on his life without any consequence, there would be protests and outrage, yet this is exactly what Hastert and who knows how many other GOP representatives did. For close to a year. So they wouldn’t lose a seat to Democrats. These same people who impeached a president because of a stained blue dress have shown how easily they change their moral stance when it’s convenient for them. Again. And again and again.

I Hate My Back.

I Hate My Back.

It’s been painful, way down low, off and on for a couple of weeks and really bad for the last five days.  The kids have had to help me with pretty much anything that involves bending forward without holding onto something.  So I was really happy when I felt a lot better this morning (after the morning nap, not first thing.)  I had a list – clean the ceiling fan blades, sanitize the stinky cat boxes, hang up some fabric, maybe even sew something – but first, we were really low on groceries.  I made my dinner menus, compiled the grocery list, set off for the store.  Got everything just fine, made sure to bend at the knees and all that, just to be safe.  Got out to the van, loaded the bags in, carefully lifted the case of seltzer out of the cart and went to put it in the trunk when my back snapped.  I saw stars.   I yelled really loudly.  Crap.  Crapcrapcrap.  Instead of getting stuff done, I took four advil, propped the heating pad on a bunch of pillows in the family room and watched a couple of hours of The Daily Show.  The kids mostly made dinner, Audrey even served, and now I’m waiting for hubby to show up with some Naproxen Sodium because the advil isn’t doing squat, and the muscle pain and tension is running up my entire spine and giving me a headache.  Ironic, too, that I slept through my chiro appointment this morning.