Monday, July 30, 2012

Bare Necessities of Math

My wife of nearly 3 years, at one point in a certain job interview here in the US, was required to produce her college transcripts for review.  This itself was expected, since she'd received her degree in India.  In the course of a cursory review, one of the comments she received was that there were no fundamental algebra courses on her transcript.

Her response?  "Well, of course not!  It's a college transcript."

The very idea of basic algebra being a college level course was both shocking and horrifyingly appalling to her.  As well it should be.  I'm a product of the public schools in this country, and I recall that I had to be pushed two years ahead of the standard schedule to get to the point where I was taking algebra through middle school and high school.  And even then, the limiting factor was the schools, which simply didn't offer anything beyond basic differential and integral calculus in high school (and they limit you to 2 years ahead so that you at least have a math course every year of school).  You had to go at least to a community college to get anything beyond that.  Although I wasn't there, I can only imagine my wife's mouth must have been wide agape for several seconds in shock at the idea that the U.S. considers algebra a college-level subject.

And then today I read a little op-ed piece on the NY Times, that espouses doubt on the value of making algebra a necessary math course.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My Simple Question to YECs

The Young-Earth Creationists (YECs) out there have tried a number of modes of arguments, and the latest of these appears to be the presuppositional apologetics.  It seems, at least, that they accept that it's beyond the realm of possibility for them to attempt to play the science angle and have a hope of holding a candle to anyone reasonably well-versed in science.  There is simply no way, with science, to show that the universe was created on October 23, 4004 BC.  They accept now that people with brains will always be prepared to show them that they will never have the capacity ever to be right on that.  So instead, the approach is to say that facts don't matter, and the universe is less than 10,000 years old because la-la-la-la-la-I'm-not-listening!  La-la-la-la-la-facts-are-inventions-of-Satan!  Nur-nurny-nur-nur!

There's the general pattern where YECs always try and play games with atheists, and always try and redefine words.  In general, the Sye Ten Bruggencates and Ken Hams of the world take the approach of redefining the word "truth" to mean "whatever agrees with the Bible."  It's necessarily wrong in every way, but it's so aggravatingly, inexcusably, earth-shatteringly opposed to all semblance of reason and logic that it is impossible for people with functioning brain cells not to respond with explosive rage at the unbounded stupidity and anti-knowledge that is laid out before them.

As such, the discussion often trends down the path of pointing fingers at the content of the creationists' beliefs.  For instance, the "does the Bible condone slavery?" (which it unarguably does) type of arguments.  It's easy to do this because of the fact that literalists always like to act as if their scripture is without flaw, and that is something which is easily refuted without exception.  Of course, because you're dealing with YECs, getting them to admit to things which are factually true is a lost cause.

I think there are different ways of approaching the YEC problem.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

S.E. Cupp and The Cycle of Unbearable Idiocy

I had heard wind of the possibility that the inimitably stupid Sarah Elizabeth "S. E." Cupp might get a show on MSNBC for reasons as yet incomprehensible to me.  Sure enough, she now has a show on MSNBC, and I just watched some clips from the first episode of her new show, The Cycle.  It was an agonizingly painful experience.  I have a feeling that the only reason MSNBC, a largely left-leaning network would even put her on is because they want to feign some level of neutrality.  I can't imagine why.  Technically, CNN already plays this angle, but only by way of argumentum ad temporantiam, and trying to feign neutrality is not meaningful.

There are only four reasons why she ever had a job at Fox...  1 ) Boobs...  2 ) The Naughty Librarian look...  3 ) Boobs...  and 4 ) she poses as a Right-Wing ultra-conservative atheist who espouses the false virtues of religion.  And in spite of my mentioning her appearance more than once, the 4th one is the big one.  Sure, they made it obvious the first 3 were significant considering her presence on Fox involved a deliberate use of a wide camera shot that displayed her bared legs stretched out...  Could they make it more obvious that this woman's mindless prattling is without a shred of substance?  Nonetheless, I still have to say it's the 4th factor that It's just the sort of tool the right-wingers would love to have because it is the sort of sock-puppetry that makes it possible for religious nutbags and conservatives to say "See?? We even have an atheist agreeing with us!"

Of course, I don't buy for a second that there's anything remotely genuine about S. E. Cupp.  While I'm not entirely ready to say that she's waiting for that chance to suddenly convert, I only say that because I think her very existence as a character is created out of the right wing impression of atheism as a "trend."  It's certainly arguable that it would be if your only sample space is young impressionable teenagers who don't really have the weapon of thorough analysis of the subject material.  But she's basically got the platform of being the person who supposedly sits on the other side of the fence, but blindly agrees with what theocrats say.  And that's something politicians love, and that's exactly why she'd do better to stick with it.

Still, there's an obvious show of insincerity.  She can't even support her own supposed position.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dear Mexico, Please Take Texas Back.

We don't want it any more.

It should really be eradicated from Earth, so maybe we should give it to North Korea or something with the condition that they're required to use it for nuclear weapons testing.

You know, we've all had our laughs at Rick Perry...  the man who thought measures like government-sponsored collective praying for rain makes him a great leader of state.  But, really, he's cut from a cloth of the veritable black hole of ignorance where stupidity is so dense that it exerts a gravitational pull from which no bright idea can escape.  That cloth is the Texas Republican Party.  I mean, when I lived in Texas, I ran across geocentrists who tried to argue that teaching gravity is a socialist concept and that the "Satanic science" of astronomy caused 9/11.  It has gotten to the point where you just can't get any stupider than Texas stupid.

The best part, though, is that they are willing to say out loud not only that Texas Stupidtm is a real thing, but that it's their ideal.

The Texas Republican Party Official Platform (Final revision)
I read it...  and it surely made me weep