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Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 04:16 PM PDT

An Open Letter to Creationists

by VTHokie011

Recently, a television show has returned to our viewing screens. The original Cosmos was before my time and I can't speak to the quality of the Neil deGrasse Tyson version - though if his time on the Daily Show is any indication he's fun to watch. Whatever the quality of that show, I can't help but be happy that in this day and age where people in positions of power deny reality when it doesn't agree with their preconceptions of how the world works, that a show attempts to glorify fact-based science. You could do an entire diary on its own about such people. Fox News and Obamacare. Darrel Issa and Benghazi. Scott Walker and unions. Senator Inhofe and his never-ending crusader against climate change.

But today I want to talk about one facet of denialism, one that reaches back to the return of Cosmos. Evolution, and how people freak out when you talk about it.

Over at the pro-"intelligent design" Discovery Institute, they're not happy. Senior fellow David Klinghoffer writes that the latest Cosmos episode "[extrapolated] shamelessly, promiscuously from artificial selection (dogs from wolves) to minor stuff like the color of a polar bear's fur to the development of the human eye." In a much more elaborate attempted takedown, meanwhile, the institute's Casey Luskin accuses Tyson and Cosmos of engaging in "attempts to persuade people of both evolutionary scientific views and larger materialistic evolutionary beliefs, not just by the force of the evidence, but by rhetoric and emotion, and especially by leaving out important contrary arguments and evidence." Luskin goes on to contend that there is something wrong with the idea of the "tree of life." Tell that to the scientists involved in the Open Tree of Life project, which plans to produce "the first online, comprehensive first-draft tree of all 1.8 million named species, accessible to both the public and scientific communities." Precisely how to reconstruct every last evolutionary relationship may still be an open scientific question, but the idea of common ancestry, the core of evolution (represented conceptually by a tree of life), is not.
Join me below the undulating orange ouroboros of life.

Does evolution disprove the existence of God?

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With the President officially declaring that he will not pull a rabbit out of his hat to avert a default, President Obama has squarely put the responsibility upon Congress to do so instead. While we would probably prefer this to be a time when the President exerted executive power instead of relying on the separation of powers, this has the side-effect of forcing the end-game on the debt ceiling to occur in roughly a month to a month and a half. Whatever Republicans sane enough to think strategically are left are announcing that the debt ceiling is not 'the ultimate hostage', and that 'all options are on the table'.

While this is obviously an attempt to manage expectations on the right, this attempt has brought up a term that hasn't been seriously considered for some time: government shutdown. Below the orange doodad is a review of the difference between the debt ceiling and a government shutdown, what causes the latter, and what happens if one occurs.

As per my last two diaries, I am compelled to note that I am not an economics expert and that any research I have performed was done with the search of Google and Wikipedia. I will defer to any experts in the field.


What should the President do? Please couch your response in a famous quote.

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The Constitution of the United States is the bedrock upon which all laws and governance relies upon for its legality, and we commonly perceive the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of whether a law is sufficiently in keeping with the Constitution. The practice of this determination is commonly referred to as 'judicial review'.

This great power of the Supreme Court was also never explicitly granted to them in the Constitution. Article III only establishes a Supreme Court, it wasn't until Marbury v. Madison in 1803 that Chief Justice John Marshall made the concept part of the American judicial system.

Because the constitutionality of law was then and has since been subject to the judgement of the courts, those on the courts have ultimately created their own interpretations on how to read the Constitution. While it's easy to divide these camps into 'left' and 'right' or 'conservative' and 'liberal', these labels are political in nature and have no real legal meaning. After all, how does one legally define 'liberal', 'libertarian', 'progressive', or 'conservative'? The labels for these interpretations must therefore be derived from how the Constitution is read, and not the political leanings of the one reading it.

Below the official orange seal, the two most prominent methods of constitutional interpretation are defined, discussed, and another d-word that I can't muster right now. Keep in mind that this research is the result of a cursory Google and Wikipedia search, and is not exhaustive. I am not a law student, I am not an expert, and I will gladly defer to anyone with such expertise. This is merely what I have found.


Did this diary make any kind of sense?

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Gun control has, after far too many deaths and massacres, finally started to be discussed by the public at large. It is an understatement to say that the pro-control side of the debate getting wind in its sails was long overdue; after all to have a debate there must be people willing to discuss it and until recently people had fallen into a pattern of:

-Massacre happens
-People proclaim it is 'too soon' to discuss any kind of efforts to ensure it doesn't happen again
-Time elapses, tempers die down
-No one discusses it again and the massacre becomes a statistic

There is an understandable emotional reasoning for not wanting to discuss political implications immediately following a tragedy like Newtown. People just died. Emotions are still raw. Investigations are just starting up, we can't assume we know what caused this one.

But now the genie is out of the bottle, and the death of innocent children and teachers is finally forcing a conversation. And so it has come to the Hitler card being deployed.

In any sane world, a pundit would invoke Godwin's Law. But we're in something else, aren't we? Below the ornate orange ornament, the results of a quick Wikipedia (and other sources) research bit on German gun control - and why invoking the Nazis is not only laughable, but wrong.

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