Intellectual Free-Fire Zone #16

This is a slow weekend for our kind of news. Except for the Texas School Board elections, nothing’s going on that we can blog about. Additionally, Obama’s recent “evolution” on a certain social issue has totally clogged up our news sweeps. But there are a few items that may be of interest:

We found a great article at the Smithsonian’s blog about a gripe we all have: The Idiocy, Fabrications and Lies of Ancient Aliens.

There’s a new pleading in the Coppedge case, archived at the NCSE website: Plaintiff’s Post-trial Brief. It’s 25 pages of Coppedge’s lawyer putting the best face on his case. We might blog about it later, but probably not. At this point we may as well just wait for the judge’s decision.

Here’s a new video from Rev David Rives at the WorldNetDaily site: ‘Billions of years’ theory predicted in Bible? It’s bad. Really bad. But it’s brief. Even the commercial is longer than the rev’s creation science sermon. Go ahead and watch it.

That’s all we’ve got, so we’re on our own. As with all our free-fire zones, we’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “Intellectual Free-Fire Zone #16

  1. Yeah, brain dead this weekend. Can’t come up with anything original. Sorry, Curmy. Not that I didn’t think about it.

  2. Ceteris Paribus

    While we are just hanging around waiting for a random neuron to fire, here’s David Rives, out of uniform, offering a Musical Interlude:

  3. You know my 3 or 4 rants. One is especially appropriate where there are probably more conservative readers. In the fight against the anti-evolution movement we have been doing a great job (so far) to limit the “supply” (keeping it out of public school science class), but a poor job of reducing the “demand.” From 15 years of evaluating poll data and scrutinizing the wording of “debates” I estimate that only ~1/4 of adult Americans are hopelessly in denial of evolution. Yet 2x that many have serious doubts, and 3x that many fall for the “fairness” nonsense. Why do so many of us obsess over the one group that we can write off (mostly rank and file Fundamentalists), and give so little attention to the ones we actually can help?

    Anti-evolution activists do a far better job than we do at winning over the “swing vote.” Sure, what they do (peddle misleading but catchy sound bites and conspiracy “theories”) may be much easier than what we need to do (correct serious misconceptions of science, tell Timmy that Lassie is his cousin, etc.), but we do have a disctict advantage with those who truly believe “thou shalt not bear false witness.”

  4. @Ceteris Paribus
    He has a pleasant voice, but I’m unable to hear that song without thinking of the words from Joe Hill’s The Preacher and the Slave. Nothing intellectual, just a thought.

  5. aturingtest

    Read the Smithsonian article. “Ancient Aliens” by…the History Channel? Are you freakin’ kidding me? This is as bad as their presentation of that silly “Men Who Killed Kennedy” crap. No wonder people are so misinformed- you can sit comfortably in front of your TV and have idiotic lies just wash over you while you eat dinner, but you have to make an actual effort to find and then (gasp!) read the truth. Arghh…

  6. Tomato Addict

    I think we can find some better musical selections, like this, from Symphony of Science.

  7. @FrankJ – the anti-evolution forces have an easier time partly because they are much more motivated. They are not arguing about science, but about religious belief. They believe they are saving souls. Their message is very simple, and sounds common sense if you don’t think about it much.

    It’s hard to imagine people selling science the same way – no scientist is going to tell you that you’re going to hell if you don’t believe a particular theory, and science will never have millions of people hearing their message every sunday morning.

  8. docbill1351

    Happy Mother’s Day, one of Hallmark’s best ideas! And to all you creationist mothers out there, not so much.

    Do skim, peruse or read Coppedge’s post-trial opening brief , you’re welcome for the link.

    Becker spends most of the 20 pages or so whining about how badly Coppedge was treated that led to his fake demotion from his fake position, although no loss in pay or grade. (What really stung about that demotion was that old Coppers had less time on the job to update his creationist website. Poor Coppy!) Then Becker spends about a paragraph saying, “Oh, by the way, JPL laid Coppedge off and that was really mean of them and I’m sure JPL hated Coppedge but I have no proof or evidence about that.” Finally, Becker thinks Coppedge deserves $1.3 million to buy him a Little Mermaid band-aid for his bruised feelings. Boo hoo! (Plus REASONABLE lawyer’s fees, court costs, etc)

    Having read all the documentation, news articles, speculation and listened to the voices in my head, I suddenly came to a realization complete with sun dipped clouds and trumpets. It is this: in every instance documented where Coppedge encountered grief it was Coppedge who initiated the exchange. Borrow my DVD, change the party name, vote for Prop 8, let me tell you about ID, etc, etc, etc.

    That is to say, there is no deposition, testimony or report of anyone at JPL going up to Coppedge to mess with him. Probably just the opposite, people avoided dealing with Coppedge like the plague. So, where’s the harassment? Where’s the pestering, the bugging, the bullying? Where are the Mean Girls???

    No, in every instance it’s Coppedge who starts trouble by wiggling his fingers in his co-worker’s faces. I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you! Then someone snaps and Coppy runs to teacher.

    I am so looking forward to the Defense Brief, if there is one, and the judge’s ruling, whichever way it goes. Such drama!

  9. Good summary, docbill. Now I don’t have to mess with it. But this has given me an idea. Next time I get a parking ticket I’ll claim it was due to viewpoint discrimination because of my blogging activities.

  10. @docbill – you hit the nail on the head. Normally, harassment occurs to someone generally minding their own business, in the form of unwelcome advances, creating a hostile work environment, etc. No one did any of this to Coppedge, but he certainly created an uncomfortable environment for others. It’s hard not to become sympathetic for JPL after reading Becker’s outline of the numerous actions by Coppedge which caused his managers and coworkers distress.

    The other thing I noticed is how often Becker accuses JPL employees and managers of lying. He clearly did not get JPL witnesses to break down on the stand and admit wrongdoing, so he is evidently left with the claim that they were dishonest. As Becker (and the Judge) is undoubtedly aware, most people who aren’t criminals have a hard time convincingly lying under oath and under penalty of perjury, especially against a determined lawyer. Most of Becker’s brief consists of various rationales for why he thinks one or another witness was lying. That doesn’t seem like a winning strategy to me.

  11. Ed says: “Most of Becker’s brief consists of various rationales for why he thinks one or another witness was lying.”

    It may not be a winner, but it will serve its ultimate purpose. That brief becomes the official version of The TRVTH for creationists. For years to come, their blogs will mention the wicked decision of the Darwinist activist judge, and then they’ll rebut it with: “But as Becker said in his brief …”

  12. Gabriel Hanna

    Happy Mother’s Day, one of Hallmark’s best ideas!

    Hallmark didn’t invent Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis did in 1914. Of Mother’s Day cards, she said “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother — and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

    My wife got her first Mother’s Day card today. Our son hasn’t applied himself much in his first week, so I had to help him sign his card.

  13. docbill1351

    Thank you (not) Gabriel “Buzz Kill” Hanna for ruining my perfectly valid viewpoint opinion with your pesky “facts.” Oh, and, hey, I’m sure you’re going to chime in that I can’t make Banana’s Foster with mangoes but guess what? That’s exactly what I’m going to do and I’m going to serve it with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream which you will undoubtedly remind me and the World it’s not really homemade; that’s just a clever marketing ploy. And, furthermore, finally and in summary, I’m going to serve it at the conclusion of a roast chicken with artichokes dinner to my long suffering (I’m sure the entire Internet will agree with that.) wife, mother of my children who obviously didn’t get a memo from either Hallmark or Anna Freaking Jarvis! I would rant more but I’ve got a free range chicken to catch.

  14. Gabriel Hanna says: “Our son hasn’t applied himself much in his first week”

    You’ve kept this news from us for a whole week? Well, belated congratulations!

  15. Ed: “It’s hard to imagine people selling science the same way – no scientist is going to tell you that you’re going to hell if you don’t believe a particular theory, and science will never have millions of people hearing their message every sunday morning.”

    That may be going on with the hopeless 1/4, but the “hell” thing is not what’s turning off the other ~1/2. Rather it’s sound bites like “I hear the jury’s still out about evolution,” or “I guess something like evolution is true, but I hear it has gaps.” Even people who claim to accept evolution soon let on that they understand it only as a caricature. And it does not take much to convince even most of them that “Darwinists” are covering up “weaknesses.” Yes, our job may be much harder than that of the snake oil peddlers (a very small subset of the “hopeless ~1/4”), especially in a science-illiterate and science-distrusting culture, but it must be done. And as NCSE’s Eugenie Scott said, we must defuse the religion issue. Besides, that’s the courts’ job anyway (to control the “supply”). That ~1/2 already knows that creationism/ID is religious anyway, so obsessing over religion is at best beating a dead horse, and at worst foot-shooting.

  16. Gabriel Hanna

    belated congratulations!

    My boy is illiterate. Of course I kept it from you.

  17. @Gabriel: Let me guess. He also cannot form a coherent sentence, he refuses to even try to pick up any type of writing instrument (and don’t get you started on his complete disinterest in a keyboard, save for maybe drooling on it), and really doesn’t want to do anything except eat, sleep, poop (there’s that word again, Doc Bill!), pee, smile, cry, and coo.

  18. @Ceteris Paribus: Nice musical selection. If I may, I’d like to also recommend this one from Symphony of Science. It’s mainly with Carl Sagan, but has a cameo from Stephen Hawking.

  19. Jack Hogan


    Great point.

    Coppedge is the one initiating every incident he is complaining about. After awhile his targets started complaining to JPL. JPL told him to stop bothering people with unwelcome no-work related conversation, which they have every right to do. JPL did nothing wrong. Coppedge was harassing his coworkers.

    Even if that was their only reason for laying him off, which it wasn’t, JPL could still win the case.

  20. Why not cut to the chase and simply ask creationists (especially those vying for school board positions) whether the science curriculum should be abolished altogether? That’s really what it gets down to and either they know it and are working toward its destruction, or they are sheeple who will be served up a healthy dose of reality when put to that question.

    Enough of allowing “controversy” protagonists to cloak themselves in psuedo-science, pretending concern for alternative theories, indeed pretending concern for science as a discreet discipline. This is only a temporary disguise so that they will appear fair and mainstream to the vast number of people who really don’t know what , or what all, science encompasses.

    I am convinced that many Americans need reminding that science is science and other disciplines cannot be science due to the criteria for science. That’s because too many people think that science is much broader, ie including elements of the social sciences (thanks to the meddlers); nor do some know that science depends upon a specific methodology (teaching and reinforcing the scientific method from the earliest grades will help – I never learned it until college!). The message simply is, then, that “the controversy” is beyond the scope of science and so does not belong in science class. Although, of course, it could be instructive to apply the scientific method to religious precepts as an exercise.

    People need to know that there is absolutely no controversy within the scientific community regarding evolution (a disctinction that has been blurred by the antagonists) and that anything else is not science and only an attempt to dilute, discredit, and destroy the discipline. They need to realize that the scientific method is a framework with its own self-limiting criteria and that, in this sense, science is all or nothing; thus by extension we are all either for or against science. Those who profess to be pro science, must then allow it to exist by its own criteria. Otherwise, they are not “for” science and consequently will not place importance on maintaing and supporting it, lthough they may place importance on destroying it.

    How many people would straddle the fence if faced with whether students should study science at all – or put another way, whether Americans should accept modern science at all? I doubt the current straddlers would be so ambivalent if they had to choose science or no science in school. And it’s not only biology that’s under attack. For an example, creationists don’t accept radiocarbon and other dating methods that are susbstantiated by principles of chemistry and physics, so they prove their disbelief of those branches as well. (I know that other
    readers of this blog are better able than I to offer more examples).

    Finally, those confused by the issues should always be reminded that there is no objection to any subject as long as it’s taught or discussed in the appropriate arena. This alone may reassure a huge number of people who have been hoodwinked into believing that all theistic discussion and teaching is somehow taboo in general.

    Thank you for this forum to express myself and my concerns

  21. Donna says: “Why not cut to the chase and simply ask creationists (especially those vying for school board positions) whether the science curriculum should be abolished altogether? That’s really what it gets down to …”

    Right. I’ve touched on that from time to time, and I’ve been working on another post along those lines. I like your attitude.

  22. retiredsciguy

    Gabriel Hanna: “My wife got her first Mother’s Day card today. Our son hasn’t applied himself much in his first week, so I had to help him sign his card.”

    That’s BIG news! Congratulations!!

  23. Jack Hogan


    Why not cut to the chase and simply ask creationists (especially those vying for school board positions) whether the science curriculum should be abolished altogether?

    They will most likley reply they only want to do away with the bad science. Of course, there is little argeement among creationists about what is bad science and what is good science. The good-bad science gap between geocentric YECs and Behe’s brand of ID is enormous.

  24. docbill1351

    The argument creationists use these days is that they want to teach more science, not less. MORE is mo’ bettah! You see, the evil, left wing, liberal, godless scientists want to censor the weaknesses of science while the good, right wing, conservative, god fearing undereducated ideologues want to teach the strengths AND weaknesses which is More Science All the Time ™.

    However, what creationists say and what they do are two different things. I mean, Mt. Rushmore proves ID and the Grand Canyon proves Teh Flud, right, Vern?

  25. Tomato Addict

    @Gabriel: Congratulations, it’s a Cheesehead! 🙂