Saturday, December 18, 2010

Assorted Links and Tidbits

Finals are over, and I know you missed me terribly. So to warm you back up here are some fun linky-links.

1) Think you're aware of your biases? Think again! I've been taking some implicit association tests. IATs are ways of getting at your unconscious attitudes by testing reaction time to words and pictures, rather than just asking - if there's a gap between what you think you believe and what you do believe, if they just asked, you'd give the answer consistent with what you think you believe. The thing to remember is that the result can be very uncomfortable if it doesn't accord with the values you'd like to have. (Case in point: I apparently still have a slight association between Asians and foreignness, which I wasn't expecting.) So it was with relief that I saw that indeed, my feeling toward four major religions were all clustered around the middle of the positive-negative spectrum, although I do give a
slight positive preference to Jews. (Interesting for an ethnic Lutheran.)

2) Why does Mendel get off nearly scot-free while Darwin is villified by creationists? Or Watson and Crick for that matter? (For example, compare the Conservapedia articles on Mendel and Darwin.) The modern synthesis is dependent on not just Darwin but the empirical mechanisms and chemistry of heredity, yet it's old Chuck D that always takes the beating. This isn't a rhetorical question - I really want to know if creationists have thought this one through and what their answer is! As Dawkins and Craig Venter reflected in this video, at this point you could throw out every fossil ever discovered since genomics has given us far more information in support of evolution.

3) Where in the Bible does it anticipate the arsenic organisms from Mono Lake? And if there's an answer to that, why didn't someone realize before now that's what it was saying? All this guy can come up with is a general paean to biological diversity in Psalms. You're right! Instead of doing clinical research to discover new drugs, we should just read Corinthians! Brilliant!

4) Thanks to everyone who I invited to offer suggestions on my atheist questionnaire. If you have any last minute ones please email me by Monday since I'll be publishing the survey shortly.

5) If atheists are forcing our agenda on everyone, we're not doing a good job. A common refrain from Christianists is that atheists in the West and especially the U.S. are forcing our agenda on everyone else, partly by a revisionist lie that Christianity was not previously as central a feature of American public life as it is now.

If they're right, then we've enlisted Google into our dark conspiracy. Checked out Ngram yet? It's like a Google search in all books ever written! (Or close to it.) You get graphic results of per capita search-term frequency over time.

Here's atheist. It's rather flat. (Here's the actual link. I don't know how to embed Ngram results yet.)



And here's "Jesus". Please do note the wildly varying Y-axis scales. I posted them separately because "atheist" is scarcely more than a flat line in comparison.

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