Matt Nisbett farts again.

March 31, 2009

Oh dear, it appears that Matt Nisbett has had another little accident.  He appears to have farted again.

Several scientist authors and pundits, led by the biologist Richard Dawkins (2006), argue that the implications of evolutionary science undermine not only the validity of religion but also respect for all religious faith. Their claims help fuel the conflict frame in the news media, generating journalistic frame devices that emphasize “God vs. Science,” or “Science versus religion.” These maverick communicators, dubbed “The New Atheists,” also reinforce deficit model thinking, consistently blaming conflict over evolution on public ignorance and irrational religious beliefs.

Dawkins, you see, is now a maverick communicator, with all the negative connotations that are supposed to go with that phrase.  The fact that Richard Dawkins is arguably one of the most prominent and successful authors on modern evolutionary biology, and – entirely unlike Nisbett – a highly respected author, is not enough to save him from Nisbetts desulutory remark that he is merely a maverick communicator.   According to Nisbett, if you cast doubt on religious faith, you’re a maverick (small ‘m’ please.  Big ‘M’s are reserved for failed Rebulican presidential candidates) communicator.  Bollocks Nisbett.

Suprisingly, Nisbett actually initially allowed some comments on his blog (his is one of very few on Science Blogs that moderates comments for approval) which were almost universally negative.  It took him a while to respond to any one, but eventually he posted a comment, which started with this statement:

I think many objections are clearly addressed in the text of the chapter excerpt or in past articles I have published on framing.

The word “clearly” has a meaning.  I don’t think it means what he thinks it means.  If the objections of the overwhelming majority of people commenting on his spiel were addressed “in the text of the chapter excerpt or in past articles”, then he’s not communicating clearly – which one should imagine would be a problem for someone touting themselves as a communications expert.

He continues:

For example, I explicitly note that as a social critic and pundit, there is nothing unethical about Dawkins expressing his personal opinions about religion.

A statement that I think most normal people can agree with.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure Nisbett is normal.  Consider:

Yet when Dawkins and other New Atheists also use the trust granted them as scientists to argue that religion is a scientific question, that science undermines even respect for religious publics, they employ framing unethically,

A normal person would most likely interpret this as a direct contradiction.  Dawkins is entitled to write about his own personal views, but because he is a trusted scientist (Ha!  Has Nisbett never heard of Ken Ham or William Dembski?) it is unethical for him to do so.

Nisbett would appear to have closed comments on that post now.  His next comment (with no intervening comments from his first) starts, “Some commenters”.  Some of those commenter commented after his first post – I know, I was one.  I called him out for the lying sack he is.

Why is Nisbett a lying sack?  Consider this:

The conflict narrative is powerfully employed in the 2008 anti-evolution documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. By relying almost exclusively on interviews with outspoken atheist scientists such as Dawkins and the blogger PZ Myers, Expelled reinforces the false impression that evolution and faith are inherently incompatible and that scientists are openly hostile to religion.

If you’re not familiar with the story behind Expelled, you may not immedeatly see why this is not just a lie, it is bordering on libel against PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins.  I haven’t seen the film, but as I do know the story behind those interviews, and to say they were heavily cut and what made the final film would appear to be a gross understatement.Nisbett then goes on to describe the film as an attack on atheistic science, and how awful it is, and how much damage Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers have done to the integrity of science in the US, finishing off with:

By the end of its spring 2008 run in theaters, Expelled ranked as one of the top grossing public affairs documentaries in U.S. history.

In truth, Expelled was a disaster.  It was a complete and utter failure.  Nisbett here is lying.  Oh, I have no doubt whatsoever that when pushed he will say something along the lines of “it was the highest grossing public affairs documentary in Spring 2008, so long as one only includes April 2nd, somewhere around lunch-time, and limits the category of ‘public affairs documentary’ to ‘Expelled’, therefore I’m not technically lying”, but the simple fact is that Nisbett is a professor of communications – he knows full well that the impression he wants to impart with his words is – to be as generous as I possibly can be – only in the most strict sense backed by the facts.  But the new expert on ethics that is Matt Nisbett ought to know that a lie by ommission is a lie.

Nisbett is a liar.

The real war on Christmas

December 6, 2008

Don’t try to grow Christmas trees under artificial lights, you dope smoking terrorist:

KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana.

You can guess what happened next.

We’re dangerous

April 7, 2008

Atheists are dangerous. Even more dangerous than secularism. We are this evil:

It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! 

The philosophy of totalitarianism is taught in almost every school in the Western world, the philosophies of Stalin, Mao and Hitler are taught in most schools, and children will most certainly come across them.  Children are – or should be – familiar with Hitler’s odious “final solution”. The philosophy of Islamic fundamentalism has, in recent years, been frequently on the front pages of newspapers, and headline news. But all this is small fry.

Atheism is dangerous. It is insidious. It will kill your wife, place porn on your computer and e-mail it to your neighbors. Its mere existence will cause a collapse in space-time and tune your television to hard-core porn. It will turn your cat in to a dog, and your dog in to a spitting cobra.  It will change you in to a lemming, and force you to jump off of a cliff – even though lemmings don’t actually do this. It is also a strange shade of mauve.

It is so dangerous, that even knowing that it exists will destroy everything.  Even being aware of the existence of atheists will corrupt the youth, and destroy civilization.

You have been warned.

Yours, the Evil Atheist Conspiracy.

Gravel for President!

January 8, 2008

LiveScience blogs asked the American presidential candidates for their position on various “hot button” science issues: global warming, stem cell research and evolution. Asked whether creationism should be taught in schools, Mike Gravel said:

As for creationism in the schools, Gravel says: “Oh God, no. Oh, Jesus. We thought we had made a big advance with the Scopes monkey trial … My God, evolution is a fact, and if these people are disturbed by being the descendants of monkeys and fishes, they’ve got a mental problem. We can’t afford the psychiatric bill for them. That ends the story as far as I’m concerned.”

Why is this man not leading the race! Americans: that’s the kind of thing you want your president to be prepared to say!

Liar, Liar

November 27, 2007

Even when applogising Bill Demski can’t get a story straight. The story, as told at ERV is that Bill Demski – notorious evolution denier and creationist ID proponent – used a video in his talks. The problem was that the video was copyright Harvard University and XVIVO, and the video Demski used was substantialy altered from the original, adding a voiceover and removing the credits.

In his apology, he states:

The video was so good that I wanted to use it in some of my public presentations, but when I tried to purchase a DVD of it (I sent several emails to relevant parties), I was informed it wasn’t ready.

Which is entirely irrelevant. Mr Demski – biochemist, and darling of the ID movement – is apparently blissfully unaware that simply owning a DVD does not grant you the right to publicly show the contents of the DVD, or to show an edited version of the contents on that DVD. Mr Demski apparently believes that owning a DVD grants him the right to infringe on the copyright holders reserved rights in anyway, shape or form.

Note also a pertinent piece of information: Mr Demski had seen the original film which includes the credits and a specific copyright before he started showing the infringing version at his talks. Keep that in mind:

Demski notes that:

  1. He did not personally modify the film, and
  2. He did not strip the copyright information
  3. He did not retitle it as “The Cell as an Automated City

Points 1 and 2 may be true. Demski does not link to a source showing where the edited version he was using came from. Nevertheless, having seen the original film, he would have been aware that the version he was seeing was an infringing – and therefore illegal – derivative work of the original film. This is willful infringement. He knew he could not use the original format that was on the web, so he initially attempted to buy a DVD so he could deliberately infringe copyright on the DVD. When he was thawrted in that attempt, he deliberately and willfuly used a version of the video that he would most certainly know was an illegal derivative copy.

Regarding point 3, he claims that he did not re-title the video, because removing the title from the video, and presenting a completely different title in a power-point presentation immedeatly preceding the showing of that video – i.e. presenting a title to a film that – is not “retitling” the film, because Demski says so. I Am Not A Lawyer (I just play one on Slashdot), but I strongly suspect that such actions would constitute “re-titling”.

The second point, that the copyright was shown at the end, is entirely irrelevant, and quite possibly libelous (again, IANAL, BIPOOS). The copyright information at the end should really have reminded Demski that neither he, nor the people who created the final video he showed, were the copyright holders, and therefore had no right to do what they did, but worse: It gave the deliberately false impression that the opinion expressed in the voice-over was that of the original copyright holders, when nothing could be further from the truth.

In attempting to “explain” his errant behaivour, Demski has simply shown that he knew perfectly well that what he was doing was illegal. That was not an apology, it was a signed confession.

Shut up Giuliani

September 21, 2007

From the BBC:

US Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has criticised the record of the NHS during a visit to London

Yuh, because America has such a fine health care system:

“I had prostate cancer seven years . My chance of survival in the US is 82%; my chance of survival if I was here in England is below 50%. Breast cancer is very similar.

This is clearly from the “Numbers I pulled out of my arse” department.  According to Cancer Research, in the UK, the five-year survival rate for prostate cancer in men is 71%. Not exactly the “below 50%” claimed by Giuliani.  Of course, making any such statement is utter nonsense anyway – to state “survival rate for cancer x is y” overlooks the problem of categorizing the various stages of that cancer, as this page shows. Oh, and breast cancer survival rates appear to be similar.

 So when Giuliani says:

“Healthcare right now in America – and I think it has been true of your experience of socialised medicine in England – is not only very expensive, it’s increasingly less effective.

 He’s clearly talking utter tripe.  Well, not quite, American health care is insanely expensive and if you get prostate cancer and do not have insurance, you’re dead (an excellent example of this can be found in Lance Amstrong’s autobiography – insurance problems don’t just affect the poor), health care in the UK is pretty shoddy but you will get treated.