Saturday, April 30, 2005

Richard Dawkins on atheism

I am godless. And I think Richard Dawkins' discussion of atheism and evolution is really quite first rate...eventhough I couldn't disagree with him more over the particulars of evolution. We both agree it happened. And we both believe there's no god.

Read the whole story here (they try to trick you into getting a paid subscription so be patient and wait for the right links to materialize)

A sample:

"There are many religious points of view where the conservation of the world is just as important as it is to scientists. But there are certain religious points of view where it is not. In those apocalyptic religions, people actually believe that because they read some dopey prophesy in the book of Revelation, the world is going to come to an end some time soon. People who believe that say, "We don't need to bother about conserving forests or anything else because the end of the world is coming anyway." A few decades ago one would simply have laughed at that. Today you can't laugh. These people are in power."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

my new article

see it here.

it's all about this guy:

more on bocks

Since this is the season of the bock I thought some more bock stuff was in order. And luckily, Sarah Smith sent me this cool link with a ton of old bock labels from when this country, at least the German-dominated regions, was dominated by medium sized regional lager breweries.

Check out Strohs's old bock label...I wish they still made a Bock.

and more happier the SlyFox simulated goat race!

One of my favorite breweries, SlyFox in SE PA, has a bock fest every year about this time where they hold a goat race. They also are serving 5 bocks this year, holy crap, but the goat race is fun too.

Now you can have your own simulated goat race online. And boy is it fun.

Check it out here. And have your speakers on to get the full effect.

Hopefully Upland's Maifest will be fun this saturday as well. But I seriously doubt that they'll have an eisbock (let alone 2!) or a doppelbock. It will probably just be their average Maibock. Maybe it will be better this year? I hope.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

now for some happier slapgut

Ahhh when my life seemed better. Sitting around a mountain lake (wolf lake?), drinking beers with best friends after a very tough backpacking trip in the smokies. These pictures make me happy.

And they make me laugh.

Here is a shot looking more or less westward into Tennessee from the crest of the Smokies.

Here's a shot of the plucky one himself standing proud atop a beautiful Appalachian waterfall.

Last bit on Dembski I promise

Looks like there had been lots of people taking issue with Dembski's latest post...and they had their comments deleted too.

see here and here.

Next slapgut pictures.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

going out with a bang

Well, I can't take the ID folks anymore. For several reasons. But one is that I need to be more positive and less worked up about this shit. So I'm not going to post about it anymore. I promise. But I feel I should go out with a bang.

Billy 'god (or aliens) did it' Dembski has been really quite dishonest today. And it is really easy to nail him on it. So I did in a comment to his blog. Of course he will undoubtedly erase it (he did) like he did my previous ones, but I have reproduced it below.

It is in reply to this post.

Here's what I wrote:

Now I can’t see anything in your list of reasons why you erase people’s comments for erasing this one.

Clearly you did NOT read the piece about quote-mining that you linked to above, or else you would have seen what I have copied from it here. It clearly states that Ward’s ‘evidence suggesting Divine Creation’ was simply rhetorical and part of a historical review of the field and that he goes on to cite evidence that is clearly consistent with evolution.

Hopefully some people will read this before you get a chance to erase it.

What you have done here is truly dishonest.

Dembski “…must be accountable for a least the rest of the section from which he quoted. Following a historical review, Ward resumes,

‘Until almost 1950 the absence of metazoan fossils older than Cambrian age continued to puzzle evolutionists and earth historians alike. Other than the remains of single-celled creatures and the matlike stromatolites, it did indeed look as if larger creatures had arisen with a swiftness that made a mockery of Darwin’s theory of evolution. This notion was finally put to rest, however, by the discovery of the Ediacarian and Vendian fossil faunas of the latest Precambrian age. (Pp 35)’” *6 pages after the quote Dembski gives above*

“In other words, we learn that science has known for well over 50 years that the supposed “sudden” appearance of Cambrian fossils was invalid, and Dembski has quoted this 12 year-old book in a basically dishonest manner.”


So what do you think a housecoat is? Is it the same thing as a bathrobe? A robe? Kimono?

Please, weigh in with your comments.

And don't look it up. Just tell me how you have used the word housecoat.

thank you

Monday, April 25, 2005

Michael Pell ladies and gentlemen

'It better taste like peaches and grip like a fist.'

You figure it out.


Billy 'god did it' Dembski took a comment of mine off of his blog this morning. I think this is funny. Why didn't he answer it that stupid fuck? Or at least leave it there? I realize it's his blog, but it seems slightly disingenuous to manipulate it like that. It gives the impression that HE IS RIGHT! But he does have some explanation for removing comments:

"(1) Thou shalt not be boring, and the person you least want to bore is me. In particular, I’ve been at this game for about fifteen years now, so I’ve seen most of the objections. Don’t repeat what I likely have already seen (for an overview of the sorts of objections I’ve seen and handled, consult my book The Design Revolution)."

OK. If that's how you're going to be about it, I need to go read your no doubt stupid book and get back to you.

I plan to even though it will be an incredible waste of time I am sure.

Anyway, I posedt a comment about the evo-devo bit I wrote about yesterday. I pretty much just wrote that while ID folks are out to show how there is conflict within evolutionary biology, no serious evolutionary biologist gets to working in a lab or in the field or whatever and says, holy shit, I think I'm going to invoke a conscious designer to explain this complex trait.

I don't think so.

Rather, people like Arthur Wallace say: we can't explain these traits, namely the origin of the different animal body plans, simply by invoking mutations with small phenotypic effects and selection (as if anybody ever claimed this). Then folks like Wallace invoke these sorts of things to explain it:

"He places particular emphasis on gene duplication, changes in spatio-temporal gene-expression patterns, internal selection, coevolution of interacting genes, and coadaptation."

This is from the book's description. No 'conscious designer' here.

Of course this may be missing the point of Nelson and Dembski. I think their point may be something like: see how these things can't be explained by evolutionary theory? Well we can explain them! God or aliens or the world spirit did it! Well, unfortunately that doesn't amount to much of an explanation. Also, if it did, very few, IF ANY, practicing evolutionary biologists think that we need to go outside of a naturalistic framework because IN PRINCIPLE, and eventually in practice, these sorts of things will probably be explained.

But two issues: is anything in science ever actually explained FOR GOOD? And secondly, there seems to be something to be said for keeping one's metaphysics (or even mechanical explanations assuming ID folks want to say that aliens did it and they have a whole different naturalistic story for how they got here) SIMPLE. Assuming explanation is possible at all, it certainly seems possible in PRINCIPLE that we can explain all biological phenomena in terms of natural mechanisms.

Well...clearly I need to work this out a bit more.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

odd bedfellows...ID and evo-devo

As I wrote here, ID proponents, aka stupid creationists, continue to cite people who work in evo-devo to show how much trouble evolutionary biology is really in. Paul 'god (or aliens?) did it' Nelson writes a bit about it over at He cites Arthur Wallace, a prominent evo-devo proponent who wrote:

“How can a theory of evolution that purports to explain how creatures with trillions of cells arose from unicellular beginnings lost in the mists of pre-Cambrian time be taken seriously if all it tells us is that differential rates of destruction can alter the genetic composition of populations? How are the new variants that natural selection spreads through populations created in the first place? Although the phrase ‘creation science’ carries disreputable connotations because of its frequent use by some religious fundamentalists, we truly need some ‘creation science’ (in the other sense of that phrase) as a major component of evolutionary theory.”

Then Nelson writes that by reading Wallace's new book:

"'ll learn a lot of biology, and a lot about what evolutionary theory needs -- and has yet -- to explain."

Ok. Yes. Clearly there are a lot of things that modern evolutionary theory has not, in practice, explained. From this one can not infer the following:

(1) Evolutionary biology cannot IN PRINCIPLE explain these things and (2) we must resort to a designer to explain them

Of course one of the biggest developments in biology (no pun intended) in the last couple of decades is in evo-devo, as it has come to be called. The push to include developmental considerations into evolutionary theory. Now I don't know much about evo-devo, but I know that no serious evo-devo proponent thinks that we can infer design from complex traits.

They certainly don't feel the need to invoke a designer.

They value the naturalism of science and have good reason to believe that IN PRINCIPLE we can explain all biological phenomena (except maybe the origin of life??) without recourse to a conscious designer.

I myself think that the origin of life itself can as well be explained without recourse to a conscious designer. The origin of the universe (if there was one)? I don't know enough physics to say. But I imagine it's a lot sketchier than even the origin of life. There are actually some pretty well worked out models of the origin of life that do not involve conscious designers.

tibetan restaurants and other goings on

First off, Pink Floyd fucking rules. I'm listening to Wish You Were Here right now and you can't really beat that intro and the first words. This guy Tim Nebosny from Huntingdon PA had some terrific insight into those first few words. First he pointed out how full of character they are. They are rich no doubt. Then he notes how you tell Roger Waters must have just finished smoking a cigarette. Good stuff.

Anyway, so Serena and I went to the Snow Lion last night. We were pre-empting her birthday this Monday. Anyway, the Snow Lion is one of only a handful of Tibetan restaurants in the country. When it was founded in 1987 it was only one of two. Well this is interesting. I mean, Bloomington has a rich Tibetan cultural tradition what with the Dalai Lama's bother or nephew or whatever living here. But why aren't there more Tibetan restaurants?

Well, I think it's because real Tibetan food kind of sucks. This is from the menu at Snow Lion:

They pretty much admit as much. I think that's funny. I mean, there were a bunch of Indian curries and Cajun dishes. Weird.

I actually heard a story one time about traditional Tibetan cuisine from a famous climber who had been to Tibet and Nepal several times climbing the big mountains there. Anyway, one of his most memorable experiences was being invited to a sherpa's hut for a traditional dinner. He was very honored. However he said it was not the most enjoyable experience. The hut was poorly ventilated and the cooking/heating fire was just an open fire in the middle of the floor. And they burn exclusively yak dung. Or whatever kind of dung they have there. Anyway, he said it was pungent. And it burnt his eyes really bad. And the embers and ashes were getting into everything. Everything was cooked in a big pot over the fire and all the shit-ash was getting into it. He said the food was not very good and kind of tasted like burnt shit. So this is one reason why there are no traditional Tibetan restaurants I guess. Instead you end up with these weird non-descript fusion recipes. Eh...whatever. Serena's curried beef noodle cabbage concoction was decent.

And now for the other goings on...Jen and Brian and I are going to Encore. Fuck it. I'm going to get some cafeteria style dinner and some Arrogant Bastardi. It will be good.

Friday, April 22, 2005


Well, Ryan doth unveiled his latest masterpiece and had us all over for some drinkin'. Why not start at 2pm on a Thursday?

Behold, the ultimate in beer serving glory (UBSC):

And here's a picture for all the geeks. Those are some premium regulators.

That's right folks. Ryan has outdone himself. Holds 8 kegs and at least one carboy. There are three nitro lines (I'm not a huge fan myself, but still cool) and he can run 4 different CO2 pressures. Really a beautiful thing. And look at how clean it all is? Excellent craftsmenship. Lance helped Ryan build it a couple weeks ago and Ryan finally put the finishing touches on it this week.

Here is Lance illustrating how one uses the UBSG:

Here's a list of the beers Ryan had on. All his own. This guy has been doing some serious brewing. And half way through the night he put on his Oatmeal Cookie Beer and Oatmeal stout. That cookie beer is ridiculous. It actually tastes exactly like an oatmeal cookie. It's scary. The PIA (pain in the ass) pils was hands down my favorite of the evening. Pain in the ass because Ryan used undermodifed moravian pils malt and a triple decoction. All whole leaf Saaz. A beautiful, BIG pilsner. 6.3%. Really clean and crisp with a remarkably subtle malt complexity. Just a tad sweet and bready in the finish, but nothing overt. Lots of Saaz make this a seriously hoppy beer. Fairly bitter and wonderful pungent hop flavors and nose. Really enjoyable. And yes, that really is a ginger ale.

Here's a good picture of JRed...I don't know what his problem was, but he looks cool.

And here's a picture of the proud father with his new child.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

jesus christo on a popsicle stick...I am scared shitless

This is scary.

From Billy "god did it" Dembski's blog:

"I’m predicting that Bush and Benedict XVI will play much the same role in the distintegration of evolution (i.e., the ateleological materialistic form of it that currently dominates the West) as Reagan and John Paul II did in the disintegration of communism."

Clarification based on Cesare's insightful comments:

I'm not scared because this will necessarily happen, I mean, I think that the catholic church is pretty evolution-friendly in a weird roundabout way, but rather I'm scared about Dembski's language. It sounds like he's rallying the troops for a serious inquisition. Some heretic burnin, maybe some house arrest for more established evolutionary biologists.

Also, how much did Reagan and John Paul II really have to do with the 'disintegration of communism'? Wasn't it bound to happen in the USSR anyway? Wasn't their timing just right? Anyway...I don't think the timings right for evolutionary biology to be 'disintegrated', but it seems that the pope and the president of the US do have some pull as far as what counts as legitimate subjects to teach as science.

Monday, April 18, 2005

beer article here! levels of selection! get 'em while they're hot!

Check it out yo, my article on the Big Beer Dinner finally hit the front page of

The formatting of the article is all screwy. We're still working the kinks out.

Bear with us.

Man am I thirsty...for writing! Just have to crank out one short paper for class tomorrow and look over my comments on the EXTENDED PHENOTYPE. The new paper is going to be very similar to our response to Ken Waters' response to Elisabeth Lloyd's latest levels of selection paper: "Why the Gene will not Return". And because we already have some sort of response outlined, I should be able to crank out a short paper about it, or at least dealing with some peripheral issues that we're not going to go into in our 'response'. Namely, what independent model construction actually means. I need to take a closer look at the Kerr and PGS paper on intertranslatability...stupid hard models.

Where's Chris Saunders when you need him? Fucking sleeping hippy mathematicians.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

I don't know how you can deny it

I claim that the western world is just clearly a better place to live. I've gotten in several arguments with people, usually in the context of the progress of science, about this claim. I argue that one metric for the progress of science is how much better it makes our lives. Clearly I'm thinking of medicine here. Usually the argument then moves to 'what do you mean by better?' And I say something like quality of life or length of life or something like this. Then they say, 'some cultures don't value long life. Their idea of quality of life is different from yours.' Maybe this is a strawman version, but you catch my drift.

While this may be true, I cannot seriously maintain this sort of extreme relativism. Perhaps this is because I am thoroughly western. I have some set of intuitions and beliefs that may be radically different from other cultures and I am unable to transcend them.

But deadly virus outbreaks scare the shit out of me. When I read HOTZONE I remember being legitamately scared. That movie, OUTBREAK, scary as shit too. And now there is a serious outbreak of the Marburg virus, a close and equally deadly relative of Ebola, in Uganda.

from the NY Times:

"More than 200 patients filled a ward designed for 97, according to Luiza Maria Costa Pedro, the chief pediatric nurse, and two other doctors who worked at the hospital. Children slept two to a bed. Mattresses were spread upon the floor for those who could not fit in the bunks.

Dr. Bonino was increasingly worried. "She sat across from me in that chair and said we are having too many strange deaths," said Dr. Enzo Pisani, who works at the hospital, also for the Italian charity.

Mrs. Costa Pedro said the children were admitted with vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Those symptoms are typical of malaria and many other tropical diseases. But after October, the death rate went up from three to five children a week to three to five a day, she said, and many died bleeding from the mouth or other orifices.

"We were very, very upset," she said. "We didn't have any way to help the patients, and we couldn't discover who brought here this sickness."

When national authorities failed to respond to requests for more tests, Dr. Alexandre took to the radio. In February, he announced that he suspected an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Uíge.

Now, he said, he has been cast as a scapegoat. Traditional leaders, he said, circulated rumors that he had used witchcraft to create the virus in hopes of winning a job promotion, a charge that can carry substantial weight in a region where deep superstitions blend seamlessly with modern beliefs. He was dismissed as hospital director."

I mean jesus fucking christ man. Clearly our life here in the Western World is BETTER than this. Maybe it's just some pragmatic notion of better, an inter-subjective notion of better, but still, I don't know how anyone from any culture could deny it.

Please respond to this post with comments if you have them. You don't have to register, I've opened comments to anyone. I'm very interested in what people have to say about this. I just simply can't get over my own cultural biases or what?

Friday, April 15, 2005

I do do work...honest

So I feel guilty tonight about not doing work. I have work to do. No doubt. And I'm going to be busy all day tomorrow so I won't be able to do it it looks like, once again, Sunday will be hell, cause lord knows I'm going over to Serena's to watch a movie and drink some beers.

But I realize that if one were to judge simply from my blog postings, it doesn't seem that I do much work. Went drinking last night, ranting at creationists, trip to Vermont and NYC, pictures of a dog etc. So I feel like posting this pic of my desk. I mean, what if some of my professors see this blog? For christ's sake they'd think I was a slacker.

As you can see, I've been quite busy. This is the chaos that I liveth amongeth. I can't believe it either. But anyway, as you may be able to tell, I've been working on a paper about Darwin. It's all about his conception of race and how it influenced his theory proper. Namely how it caused him to adopt an allopatric model of speciation to account for the evolution of the human races. I think it's pretty interesting stuff...hence I spend a lot of time thinking about it.

When I get up the steam to do a post with actual substance, I think I'll put up a bit from that paper. This will also force me to synthesize some of the stuff I've been messing around with.

farmhouse ales and cuisine, hangovers, and more stupid religious zealots

Well...there's nothing like a hectic bike ride all over Bloomington in order to secure the precious W2 that will get the juices flowing and knock that hangover right out. It all started with this book. Great book. I love Belgian farmhouse ales. After a couple hours of yard work yesterday, I felt I needed to drink a nice cool Ommegang Hennepin saison. Well, that served as inspiration for my large and excessive dinner. I'm not sure if they have acorn squash in Belgium, but goddammit, it seemed rustic to me at the time. So I polished off the 750ml Hennepin and started on a 750ml of Unibroue La Fin du Monde, a 9% Belgian tripel.

It's not the prettiest dinner I've ever made, and yes, I do oftentimes eat in front of my computer, but it was a very tasty meal.

Then Brian and myself met up with JennyB at Encore Cafe for some of the best beer deal in Bloomington: 2$ pints of Arrogant Bastard. Damn straight. After two of those there was a failed attempt at open mic. It failed beacuse they didn't take cards and we didn't have any cash and there were only 5 people there so we left. We went to the Alley Pub and had a couple DFH 60minutes, then it was on to Big Red where I picked up a bunch of bottles including a 3F's Gumballhead bomber. That was a mistake. I drank that thing far to quickly. I didn't need to drink it at all. Anyway, I woke up with quite a hangover. But because I had to get to my office hours by 11:00am, I had to deal with it. The beautiful weather really helped. But then I found out I couldn't get my W2 online so I had to ride over the big administration building on 7th street and pick it up there. So now it's time to do some taxes.

But first, check out this shit I heard in the NY Times:

"The telecast also signals an escalation of the campaign for the rule change by Christian conservatives who see the current court battle as the climax of a 30-year culture war, a chance to reverse decades of legal decisions about abortion, religion in public life, gay rights and marriage.

'As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, wrote in a message on the group's Web site. "For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms.'"

This is getting ridiculous. I swear to god, I'm moving to Europe.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

beautiful day, cuttin' the grass, drinkin' the beer, playin' the guitar, stompin' the creationists...

Just kidding. I wouldn't never stomp nobody. But this little exchange just get's more and more interesting.

The creationist's response is pretty sincere...almost touching. But still stupid.

As for cutting the's getting quite long.

As for drinkin' the if we needed some reason.

As for playin' the open mic tonight. At some place near 2nd and Walnut?? I have no idea, but I'll figure it out.

And just for kicks, here is a beautiful picture of the Stink. Behold his beautiful shiny hair, magisterial proportions and...stink.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

my burliest friend

My friend Daniel Hanks sent me an email a couple days ago. I don't stay in contact with him like I should. He is the man. Anyway...he is also my burliest friend. Far burlier than thou Adam Paugh. Sorry.

Monday, April 11, 2005

my new favorite animal's really been in my top 5 animals for some time now. But after reading this great article in the NY Times, I have to say that the wolverine has a comfortable lead over cougars and blue whales.

Now I know you thought I was going to say ermine.

Don't get me wrong...I love ermines. Ever since I saw one with my brother this winter in Utah at 10,000 feet I have been obsessed. Unfortunately, both wolverines and ermines are in the weasel family and they both inhabit the western mountains. So I can't even make them my favorite animal in some subclass of favorite animals. Of course the wolverine's range has been shrinking over the last 70 or so years, there are none in Utah anymore, so I suppose the ermine could be my favorite Utah animal. Ok.

I mean, wolverines are just so fucking cool. They are so cool looking and they are bad asses to boot. Their home ranges are like 500 square miles, the same size as grizzly bears, but they are like 1/25 the size of a least. I saw an old lassie episode once where lassie got all tangled up with a wolverine and that wolverine fucked lassie up.

Badgers are cool too.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Yesterday was simply filled with beer. I was up at 7am to commence The Hop Jockey's Belgian Brew Day. It was awesome. Everybody was here by 8am and we were brewing. About 7 folks showed up and only three of us brewed. JRed brewed his first all grain beer, a Belgian Wit. Not-Mr-Beer-Dave brewed a big Belgian Ale of some sort. Not quite sure what style it's going to be. I brewed a Belgian Pale. I'm going to pitch some Brettanomyces in secondary and dry hop the shit out of it. Ryan-the-grand-poobah brought his new oxygenation system and it insured quick starts for all our beer and I'm sure it will result in fully attenuated beers. That rules. Mr.Beer brought a brick-o-hot dogs and I made some burgers. It was a beautiful day. Most of us had a handful of beers under our belts by noon. Nice.

Here is a shot of the group around 9am.

This is MikeD drinking his Budweiser Select from a Prima Pils glass...BLASPHEME!

Here's a shot of brewing proceeding apace...or something.

We woke up Brian...poor Brian. It was like 10:30am or something. He needed to get up anyway.

This is proud Ryan and his new oxygenation system.

With everything cleaned and the floor mopped, we finished up with a round of Ryan's terrific raspberry lambic at about 2:30pm.

Then I headed to the dry cleaner to pick up my nice pants, took a shower and then got in the car and pointed her towards Castleton and Loon Lake Lodge.

I was headed for World Class Beverages' BIG BEER DINNER.

It was pretty sweet...and completely paid for. Look for my story at in the next couple days. It's going to be big with lots of pictures. Nick Floyd and Adam Avery were out of their gourds. And Eric Warner is a great speaker. Good times. Incredible beers. That Brian Boru is out of this world tasty.

Here's a pic of the menu. Couple mistakes, like calling digestifs aperitifs...but whatever...can you blame them? It is Indiana...ha.

And here are the three wise men:

more of my rantings about creationism...

...can be found here.

I submitted this piece to a carnival...I think that's what it's called. In the Blog world, or Blogosphere I think, people get together a bunch of posts on one topic in one spot. I submitted this one to "The Skeptic's Circle" on PZ Myer's recommendation. That's PZ Myers of Pharyngula fame. I sent him the link and asked him about appropriate carnivals.

Ha. Appropriate carnivals. That's funny.