Friday, May 28, 2010

What'choo Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?!?

Gary Coleman, the cute kid actor from TV's "Diff'rent Strokes" died today at age 42.  While he didn't get much in the way of acting opportunities after he grew up, his role as the younger brother on that show bridged a lot of gaps in the presentation of racial differences on mainstream television in the 1980s. 

He was a lot of fun to watch while I was growing up, and it saddens me to see someone so talented die so young.  Heck, I'm only a couple years away from 42, myself. 

Selecting the wrong answer on a Facebook Poll can get you fired!

A teacher at a Catholic HS in Iowa was fired because she answered a poll about personal beliefs in a way her employer didn't like.  Apparently, Abby Nurre was surfing around Facebook last summer (before she started her job at the Catholic school) and decided to answer a poll question she found.  The poll asked whether she believed in God, angels or miracles - she answered "no".

Now she's out of a job because, as the school board put it, she violated "a policy that prohibits employees from advocating principles contrary to the dogmatic and moral teaching of the church." 

Wow... just, wow. 

It's funny that Catholic schools will let non-Catholic (even -- gasp! -- ATHEIST) students enroll and graduate, but if any teacher gives even a whiff of independent thought or questioning of their rigid dogma, they're publicly stripped of their job, kicked out the door without a second thought, and humiliated and shamed for even attempting to defend themselves. 

Of course, the non-Catholic students have to pay for the privilege of attending the school, but the teachers take money away.  Clearly, though -- there's no financial bias going on in this case, right?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

First Synthetically Created Artificial Life Made by Humans

It is finished...

OK, so maybe that line from the Bible is a bit over-the-top, but the implications of the announcement are far from tiny. Click the above link to the abstract from Science.  The full-text article is available free, so go ahead and read the whole paper.

Craig Ventner's group has managed to put together a completely human-synthesized bacterial genome, then actually gotten it to work inside a cell. The cell has metabolic activity exactly as expected, and it reproduces itself faithfully.  The only DNA in the cell is from the manufactured genome -- complete with unique markers and polymorphisms to identify it.

While this isn't a 100% synthetic organism, it is by far the largest step taken towards that goal.

Cue the creationists saying "See, it took someone intelligent to make this happen."

Of course, one could respond that since it only took a human level intelligence, then maybe the Intelligent Designer isn't all that smart to begin with.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Freedom of Speech really means

Read it and weep, motherf--kers! The US Supreme Court just bitchslapped the s--t out of censorship and bulls--t! Even the oldest damned Supreme got into the act:

Go stick that in your peace-pipe and smoke it. Or, as Justice Ginsburg is quoted as saying, this is "a bitch-slap in the face of all those uptight limp-dicks."

Free speech isn't just free, it's the f--king Law of the Land!

(hint: read the linked article if you are concerned about the language and tone of either this post or the SCOTUS decision)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Whitewashing the Fence - Should Bible Verses Be Painted On?

A Casper, WY man caused a minor controversy in his hometown when he painted a short Bible verse from Leviticus on his fence. It would have been bad enough if he had just painted on Leviticus 20:13, but he had to go and add injury to insult with his own interpretation.

Not only is this guy an outright bigot, but apparently the people in town aren't much better. Apparently, the city council has decided that because this fence is on private property, they can't do anything about it. Although I usually applaud when people try to defend "free speech" and the rights of the individual to express themselves, there are always limits to what can (or should) be said. Just like shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater is considered non-protected speech, this sign is a direct threat to anyone who dares to be non-heterosexual in Casper.

Even sadder is that this fence sits along the road to the local high school, so on many days over 100 students have to walk past it. This offensive, prejudiced, obnoxious and ignorant display of biblical literalism just shows again how backwards, anti-social and evil some people can be. I'm sure Mr. Turnbull is a nice enough person. But as Steven Weinberg said, "For good people to to evil things requires religion."