Science Is Real

The innovative and always fun band They Might Be Giants has a new album releasing next Tuesday. It is geared towards children, similar to their recent albums Here Come the ABCs and Here Come the 123s. This one, though, is about SCIENCE. It’s called… predictably… Here Comes Science. Being a science nerd kind of guy and loving their other albums I have (which includes a few non-kids music records), I preordered it. I just heard for the first time one of the songs on the album, Science Is Real. It’s as catchy as I expected, but also more disturbing. Here are the lyrics:

Science is real
From the Big Bang to DNA
Science is real
From evolution to the Milky Way
I like the stories
About angels, unicorns and elves
Now I like the stories
As much as anybody else
But when I’m seeking knowledge
Either simple or abstract
The facts are with science
The facts are with science

Science is real
Science is real
Science is real

Science is real
From anatomy to geology
Science is real from astrophysics to biology
A scientific theory
Isn’t just a hunch or guess
It’s more like a question
That’s been put through a lot of tests
And when a theory emerges
Consistent with the facts
The proof is with science
The truth is with science

Science is real
Science is real
Science is real

Science is real

Now, I suspected (to put it lightly) the album would talk about evolution and billions of years and other Scientific types of things that I don’t agree with… but I wasn’t too concerned with that. I’m not afraid of exposing my kids to evolutionary thinking even though I disagree with it. I have them watch nature documentaries pretty regularly, and have even had real, actual conversations about evolution with them. It’s not even that I completely disagree with everything under the umbrella of evolutionary biology, which seems to be hard to understand for even the experts (like Jerry Coyne), who either don’t understand or refuse to accept that I actually believe what I do. But that’s another story. The point, again, is that I wasn’t worried about the scientific sorts of things on this new album that are not in line with my own thoughts and beliefs.

However, it seems to me that this so goes far beyond just the ‘scientific’ sorts of things. What is the implication of the repeated lines, “science is real” and “the truth is with science”?

Science is real, so what is that opposed to? A few things are made explicit in the song, and cheif among them is angels. Angels aren’t real? Well, where’s the scientific evidence of that? And what’s this about only using science when you’re seeking knowledge? Huh? Logic? Philosophy? Anything that is abstract is now ruled as incapable of producing knowledge?

I’m bothered by how far this song is going. It’s much further than science can ever go, which just goes to show you that there’s a worldview behind every idea, guiding and directing it.

Evolution/Creation/Intelligent Design

Readers of this blog know where I stand on this topic, so I won’t spend any time discussing that. I recently began reading two books, though, that are related. One is Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design and the other is Jerry A. Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True. I was thinking I would be reading these books simultaneously, and it would be interesting to compare and contrast them as I progressed. However, I only have the Coyne book for two weeks, and at the rate I read books (slowly) I can’t spare any of that time on much of anything else.

But as I’m going through it I’m finding I want to keep track of various comments I have. I’m on page ten of the book, and there are three points I want to make already. So I figure I’m going to write a new blog post each time I have one of these moments, and then I’ll stick them all together on a page or a final post when I’m finished. For now, I’ll do the three I have in mind all in this post.

First Comment.
Why Evolution Is True

Here is the cover of the book. It has an image of four animals that I will simplisticly label a dinosaur, a feathered dinosaur, a primitive bird (with the biological use of ‘primitive’ meaning older, not necessarily more simple), and finally a modern day bird. The back cover has the skeletons of each of these creatures illustrated. The inside flap of the back cover has a blurb about the cover, and it begins, “The jacket depects a chronological sequence of fossils showing the evolution of birds.” Ahh, a concise summary of the book in four small drawings. But the very next sentence is telling, “We do not know whether the actual line of descent included the first three species, but the origin of modern birds almost certainly involved a sequence very much like this one.” Ahh, I say to myself, a very concise summary of the foundation of modern evolutionary theory.

It’s also worth noting that this sequence suggests what is called the cursorial view of the evolution of birds, which says dinosaurs ran on their back legs and developed wings that helped them make longer and longer ‘hops’, which eventually became flight. There is another camp, though, that have good reason to reject this view, and insteady argue for the arboreal theory. The arboreal theory is that small reptiles lived in trees and would jump down and glide further and further until it became flight. So there are at least two contradictory positions within the evolutionary system that are presently battling it out (you can read more about it on Wikipedia). The book may deal with this in a later chapter, but you’d never guess it from the cover jacket illustrations and blurb.

Second Comment.
Darwin, who Coyne has repeatedly praised already in the book, wrote about what he called the imperfection of the geological record. You can read what he says in chapters six and ten of The Origin of Species. Here is a summary of the problem and his general solution (although he does offer several others):

On the Absence or Rarity of Transitional Varieties.—As natural selection acts solely by the preservation of profitable modifications, each new form will tend in a fully-stocked country to take the place of, and finally to exterminate, its own less improved parent-form and other less-favoured forms with which it comes into competition. Thus extinction and natural selection go hand in hand. Hence, if we look at each species as descended from some unknown form, both the parent and all the transitional varieties will generally have been exterminated by the very process of the formation and perfection of the new form.

But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? It will be more convenient to discuss this question in the chapter on the Imperfection of the Geological Record; and I will here only state that I believe the answer mainly lies in the record being incomparably less perfect than is generally supposed. The crust of the earth is a vast museum; but the natural collections have been imperfectly made, and only at long intervals of time.

So Darwin’s theory requires there to be countless transitional forms that existed on the earth in its history. The reason we don’t have fossils of these forms, Darwin argued in 1859, is that we just haven’t found them. They’re out there, and we’ll dig them up as we make a better record of fossils.

Fast forward to 2009, where Jerry Coyne in this book discusses these transitional forms and says (on p. 6), “Although common ancestors are no longer with us, and their fossils nearly impossible to document (after all, they represent but a single species out of thousands in the fossil record), we can sometimes discover fossils closely related to them, species having features that show common ancestry.” (my emphasis)

Based on his theory, Darwin predicted a great abundance of transitional forms in the fossil record over time as more and more fossils were dug up and methods were improved. 150 years of improvements and digging, though, have only brought us to a hand waving dismissal of Darwin’s prediction. But it is still supposed to give support to Darwin’s theory (that he based his prediction upon)?

Third Comment.

This one is the most surprising to me. On page 9 of the book, Coyne is discussing the classification of organisms. By looking at various anatomical, physiological, behavioral, and other characteristics of organisms, they can be categorized into groupings. These groupings can then be subdivided on down to the individual species level. This is called a nested hierarchy, as you computer geeks will know. This method of classification started long before Darwin, he says, with Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1635*. The classifications performed by many different biologists had very similar conclusions based on this ‘natural classification system’. Coyne concludes then that this classification system is very strong evidence for evolution. “Why?” he asks, “Because we don’t see such a nested arrangement if we’re trying to arrange objects that haven’t arisen by an evolutionary process of splitting and descent.” He uses a matchbook collection as an analogy, saying they can be divided in any number of different ways. “Matchbooks resemble the kinds of creatures expected under the creationist explanation of life. … Under this scenario, we wouldn’t expect to see species falling into a nested hierarchy of forms that is recognized by all biologists.”

The trouble with this point, though, is that guy that started it all waybackwhen, Carl Linnaeus? Yeah, he was a young earth creationist. He accepted the Genesis account of creation. In fact, he based his work on the classification of organisms on the certainty of divine order in creation. I can’t find an English translation of his book to get the quote first hand, but he is said to have written that the Earth’s creation is the glory of God, as seen from the works of Nature by Man alone. That the study of nature would reveal the Divine Order of God’s creation, and it was the naturalist’s task to construct a “natural classification” that would reveal this Order in the universe.

Pretty much discredits Coyne’s argument and turns it on its head.

*Carl Linnaeus wasn’t born until 1707. Dr. Coyne must have gotten his dates mixed up, or made a typo. I think he meant 1735, which is when Linnaeus first published his Systema Naturae.

Farewell Emusic

I just quit emusic. I first signed up in 2005 with a 100 free mp3s offer, and I’ve had an active account ever since. I’ve loved it over the years, and I’ve recommended it strongly to pretty much everyone I’ve talked to music about. And, apparently, people have listened because I’ve gotten many referral bonuses.

But that’s all changed. A few months ago emusic announced it was getting Sony’s back catalogue, and with that announcement came a slew of changes. Chief among them was a drastic price increase. I used to get 50 downloads for $11.99 a month, and they dropped that down to 30 downloads a month. Amazonmp3’s deals rival that, and i’ve often found myself with too much music to give it all a fair listen.

There are some good things that came with the change, but it isn’t enough to make up for all the bad things. I used to use emusic to discover music… songs were so cheap that i could buy an album from a band i’d never heard anything from before, and not feel the least bit guilty about wasting much money. the community was also indie fans, so i could trust the charts for the most part. but both of those things have changed, and so i don’t see the point in keeping the account.

So this morning after using my final downloads i canceled my account. so long emusic, it was good while it lasted!

Guest Post: Melanie Seibert Reviews Stockholm Syndrome

Earlier in the month Derek Webb‘s fifth studio album, Stockholm Syndrome, was released digitally with much interest and controversy. Posted here is a review of the album by my friend Melanie Seibert. Follow her on Twitter @melanie_seibert.

ss

A Review of Derek Webb’s Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome is a disease.

Ever since the famous 1973 bank robbery, experts in human psychology accept the fact that hostages sometimes sympathize with their captors. Its surprising frequency does not negate the fact that Stockholm Syndrome is a sickness. This is the pathological backdrop that Webb presents his fifth solo studio album.

Sonically, the album is mature; Webb isn’t afraid to contrast atonal choruses with melodic verses, as in “Black Eye,” or throw a straight-up dance party, like he does in “Cobra Con” and “Jena & Jimmy.” Old-school fans of Webb, who expect to hear him accompanied by acoustic guitar, with an occasional electric guitar track added in, may be taken aback. This is not Caedmon’s Call-era Webb, but a much more reflective, provocative, and confident solo artist.

Surprising as the sonic jolts of Stockholm Syndrome may be, though, they cannot match Webb’s lyrical ability to unsettle his listeners. A minor frenzy has erupted surrounding the song “What Matters More,” in which Webb criticizes Christendom for its intolerance and hypocrisy toward gays. Worse than that, he uses a swear word.

Careful listeners, though, will find much more disturbing fare here. In truth, “What Matters More” is simply one facet in Webb’s depressingly accurate gem, which functions as an extended meditation on human depravity. This album is best viewed as a whole, and it’s designed to be a testament to humanity’s demented affection for everything that robs us, holds us captive, and ultimately destroys us.

Webb is no pharisaical finger-pointer, either. He numbers himself among the depraved — for instance, the album cover is a close-up of him with a black eye. Trackwise, “Black Eye” is the strongest evidence of this, as Webb sets up his theme, making our skin crawl by calling a violent captor his “lover.” He clarifies that a “black eye is all is gonna take for me to love you. It’s written in my constitution.”

And it’s uncomfortably impossible to forget the violence inherent in the album’s theme when you hear “Jena & Jimmy” – probably the most rollicking date rape song ever recorded.

Perhaps most fascinating is the way the theme of sickness invades Webb’s portrayals of human love. In every single instance of the word “love” in this album, the concept bears no resemblance to the biblical standard of sincere care for another individual. Rather, it’s a sick obsession or a selfish act of pride. Case in point: “Freddie, Please,” a scathing ode to Fred Phelps (you know, the “God hates fags” guy) in which Webb, playing the role of Jesus, asks, “How can you tell them you love Me, when you hate Me, Freddie? Please.”

But for all this album’s painful truths about how sick we are, the hope of redemption is not absent. It is subtle, but the light at the end of the tunnel is there. Specifically, Webb declares in the last track that, “in the end, it’ll all be okay… So, if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end… There’s hope for everyone.”

And long after the music has finished playing, when the album’s story of sin and redemption still haunts you, you will cling to that last phrase. It’s a necessary reminder.

New Computer!

It was a month over four years ago that I got my free weather channel laptop. I polled some friends on their computer life expectancies, and I think 4 years was pretty much the end of the line. Which my experience agrees with… the lappy can’t keep up with day to day things anymore… lots of lag and lots of noworkyworky.

So I’m pretty excited about a new computer I ordered on Saturday. I was this close to getting an iMac, but went with the PC instead. Mostly because it was cheaper and had several hundreds of dollars worth of extras that I would have wanted to add to the Mac. What I’m upset most about in not getting the iMac is that they’re having their free iPod Touch promotion now, and I’m not getting one. I guess, though, that’s evidence I made the right choice about the computer.

Here are the specs…

HP Pavilion Elite m9500t customizable Desktop PC
* • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1 (64-bit)
* • Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Quad processor Q8300 [2.5GHz]
* • 6GB DDR2-800MHz dual channel SDRAM [2×2048,2×1024]
* • 640GB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive
* • 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 9300 [DVI, HDMI, VGA adapter]
* • Blu-ray player & Lightscribe SuperMulti DVD burner
* • Integrated 10/100/1000 (Gigabit) Ethernet, No wireless LAN
* • 15-in-1 memory card reader, 2 USB, 1394, audio, video (for TV Tuner)
* • TV tuner, dual format ATSC-NTSC with PVR, remote
* • Integrated 7.1 channel sound with front audio ports
* • HP wireless keyboard and HP wireless optical mouse
* • Microsoft(R) Works 9.0
* • HP Home & Home Office Store in-box envelope
HP w2558hc 25.5-inch Vivid Color Full HD Widescreen Flat Panel Monitor

So, there we go. The monitor has already shipped, and is scheduled to arrive Wednesday. The Computer is supposed to ship by Wednesday, and will probably get here Friday or (if they deliver) Saturday.

DSL Woes & Deals

We moved to Verizon DSL just about 4 years ago exactly. Looking back, it was May 3rd 2005 when it was turned on.

Since then there have been various plan changes and price changes. We ended up at the 3Mbps plan for, this past year, $31.99 a month for a one year contract. I never get more than 1.4Mbps, though.

So, fed up, I called today trying to get them to either increase my speed or lower my price or something.

First the lady checked to see if I could upgrade to the 7Mbps plan (which I’d be willing to do if I could actually get those speeds)… I couldn’t. So she offered me a better rate on my current plan. I was very interested in that, I said, because even at the 3Mbps plan, I don’t ever get that speed. She came back with $24.99 a month for a 1 year contract. Hm, that sounds good I say.

Then she asked what my current speeds are, and when I told her she said i might want to just downgrade to the 1Mbps plan for $14.99 a month (for a year contract). So I took her up on it. It’s less than half of what I was paying, and I don’t know that I’ll notice the 400k down so much. My up speed will probably change, because I did get decent up speeds. But i don’t upload a whole lot. I asked if the 1Mbps plan was actually going to be less… since my 3Mbps never lived up to it’s name. She said I should get it since I already get over 1Mbps.

I have 30 days to cancel the account completely if I’m not satisfied… and I can always upgrade again if I feel the need for that 400k of speed. Comcast offers cable around here, and while I’m not excited about a bandwidth cap… I would not be sad to leave Verizon. Although, I must say, the lady I spoke with was polite and gave me a decent deal (after they’ve been fleecing me for four years).

emusic downloads

This month’s batch of downloads….

The Power of Love by Early November. A single from the Punk Goes 80’s compilation.

Laura Gibson-Beasts of Seasons

David Bazan-American Flags EP

Ferraby Lionheart-Catch the Brass Ring

The song While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Jake Shimabukuro (from his album Gently Weeps)

Katie Herzig & Matthew Perryman Jones single Where the Road Meets the Sun

The Mountain Goats-The Sunset Tree

Joe Pug-Nation of Heat EP

The Avett Brothers-The Gleam

Sign up for 50 free downloads

emusic downloads

Another month, another 50 downloads…

Andrew Bird-emusic exclusive bonus track ‘Take Courage’, to append on Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast (which I got from amazonmp3 for 2.99)

Greg Laswell-Through Toledo

The Nadas-The Ghosts Inside These Halls

Faunts-Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.

Nick Flora & Film at Eleven-Great Escape

Bon Iver-For Emma, Forever Ago

Now if you’re a nitpicky/attention to details sort of person, you might notice that totals 51 downloads. that’s because one of them was free… because emusic offers a free song every day, and they’re often enough really good, which lead me to get the rest of the album. Just another reason to sign up for 50 free downloads.

To the Hunt

Despite never having owned a gun or gone hunting ever in my life, last Fall I got it into my head that it was something I wanted to do. I actually know the specific moment when the idea came to me… it was when I read my friend’s facebook status update: David Cooper is hunting a turkey.

I thought it was very exciting, and decided soon after that I was going to hunt our 2009 Thanksgiving turkey. Turns out Mr. Cooper was just being figurative. Oh well, I’m still after the bird.

So, I’ve got a rather unscheduled and thrown together map of what I need to do to reach my goal.

Step 1: Buy a gun. Completed. A few weeks ago I bought a Remington 870 Express Super Magnum shotgun.
Step 2: Complete the VDIF required Hunter Education course. Check… I was certified this morning.

Now I need to a few more very important steps… shoot my gun and learn how to hunt. I’ve decided to forego the spring turkey season… it’s a bit too much to process at this point, and I don’t want to purchase a bear/deer/turkey license that will expire in a couple months. I’ll just wait until July, and then it will be good for a year (they run July 1-June 30). So that gives me some time to learn the ropes.

A friend has talked about building a shooting range on his property, and I really hope he does it, because it would be great to have a place to shoot a bunch to really learn my gun, and know how to shoot it and how it shoots.

I’ll be doing some reading of how to get a turkey, and maybe also some deer and waterfowl hunting in the fall, maybe some upland game birds whenever that season is. Some friends from church do some hunting, so I’m going to beg and plead they drag me along with them to teach me.

Twitter Tools

If you use Twitter, these are some tools that you might find helpful. None of them require you to enter your Twitter password. Because using those is pretty stupid, IMO. I will probably update this post as i find more/better tools for Twitter.

http://friendorfollow.com/
A quick rundown on who of those you’re following are not reciprocating. Sometimes I’ll get a notice of a random person started following me, and if they’re a real person with updates and a website, I usually follow them back. Often those people will unfollow me after a few days (and you aren’t notified of this). So, unless I find them especially interesting or helpful, I stop following them. This tool helps with those types of people.

http://doesfollow.com/
This is a more specific check if a person is following you.

http://twitoria.com
You can use this tool to check for deadbeat followers. If people haven’t updated recently, you can unfollow them. Unless someone is important for me to follow, I unfollow if they haven’t posted in a month.

http://twittercounter.com
You can see how your follower count goes up or down over time.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter.

The Nature of Things

Last night for dinner we had biscuits with a variety of toppings. Sausage gravy, but also jams and apple butter and honey.

Geneva asked for honey, and so I poured on, quite heavily. “you’ll have to use your fork, since there’s so much honey”, I said. She explained how she would get terribly sticky if she tried to eat the biscuit with her hands. Then she asked, “What makes honey sticky?”

Being the always helpful father, I answered her question matter of factly… “The same thing that makes water wet.”

Not satisfied, she asked what makes water wet. Then Ashley popped in, “I know! I know!” She was eager to spread her knowledge. “Ice!”