Thursday, February 28, 2008

AiGs YECs on ERVs

Its peer reviewed too! For realzies! In a big kids journal!!!

Answers Research Journal. ARJ is a professional, peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework.
heh. Wonder if the Young Earth Creationists will publish their journal as often as the Intelligent Design Creationists?
ISCID is pleased to announce the latest issue of PCID, Volume 4.2 November 2005.
heheheh. Anyway, I dont think the ERV stuff is Sokaled-- it reads straight from the list of Creationist Claims about ERVs I already have, but I took a look at it anyway just to make sure I didnt miss a good one.

I didnt.

But it was funny anyway:
Day Six--Termites with Trichonympha (protozoans); cattle rumen with methanogenic bacteria; human intestines with E. coli (bacteria); human reproductive system with ERVs
heeeeeehehehehehehe. Sweet. The funniest part, though? The references:


Atlas, R. M., and R. Bartha. 1998. Microbial ecology: Fundamentals and applications, 4th ed. San Francisco, California: Benjamin Cummings.

Bulloch, W. 1938. The history of bacteriology. New York: Dover Publications.

Francis, J. W. 2003. The organosubstrate of life: A creationist perspective of microbes and viruses. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, ed. R. L. Ivey, Jr., pp. 434–444. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship.

Gillen, A. L. 2007. The genesis of germs: Disease and the coming plagues in a fallen world. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books.

Gillen, A. L. and F. Sherwin. 2005. The immune system: Designed to interact with microbes. Origins (A Journal of the Biblical Creation Society) 40:5–9.

Lim, D. V. 2003. Microbiology, 3rd ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt.

Liu, Y. 2007. Endogenous retroviruses: Remnants of germline infection or created in the cell? In All creation groans: The problem of natural evil, Proceedings of the Sixth BSG Conference, ed. R. W. Sanders, Occasional Papers of the BSG 10:19–20.

MacArthur, J. 2001. Battle for the Beginning. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Morris, H. M. 2006. The New Defender’s Study Bible (KJV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Word Publishing.

Purdom, G., and J. W. Francis, eds. 2008. Proceedings of the Microbe Forum, June 2007. Answers Research Journal 1:1–6.

heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehehehehehehehehehehehe!! LUV!! LUUUUUV!!! Study Bible in the reference, but no, you know, 'journals'. Not a one! Not even a real article just to quote-mine!! ROFL!!

Meh-- Ive already covered their claims (dont forget this one!) in my list, but if you see anything I missed, or still have a Q, leave a comment!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How a 'just so' story turns into just 'so?'-- HIV and the failures of Intelligent Design

August 2, 2007, over six months ago, I wrote an essay on the evolution of a cool new gene/protein in HIV-1 called 'Vpu'. To quickly summarize, Vpu first emerged in chimpanzees version of HIV, SIV. After chimpanzees transmitted SIV to humans, Vpu acquired new properties to deal with the environment of a new host. As time progressed, HIV-1 split into multiple subtypes, and the Vpus of different subtypes started to evolve different characteristics as well. Thus SIVcpz Vpu, HIVSubtype B Vpu, and HIVSubtype C Vpu are genetically and biochemically distinct proteins.

Quite the opposite of Behes claims about HIV-1 in 'Edge of Evolution', "the story of Vpu is turning into a beautiful example of how evolution works in the real world, the continual evolutionary struggle between host and disease producing a novel function, formation of an active ion channel, from a simple protein. It also nicely illustrates and how scientists use evolution to explore our universe and produce improvements in medical practice." (to quote an email from Ian Musgrave)

This didnt happen a billion years ago. It didnt take a billion years to occur. This is real evolution happening in real time with real consequences.

While that was enough to put Behes ridiculous claims about the evolution of HIV-1 to rest, there is still more to Vpus story. Six months ago, science only had a 'just so story' explanation for Vpu:

So theoretically, ion channel formation evolved in HIV-1 when it infected humans to overcome a species specific and cell specific host factor.
Why did Vpu evolve the way it did? Well, it had to overcome something in human cells. There was something about human cells that were different from chimpanzee cells that HIV-1 needed to evolve around. Whats that something? Um... something. But thats what happened! Thats why Vpu forms a viroporin!

It was one of those 'just so stories' that Creationists love to dismiss.

But that was six months ago. And, you see, scientists arent like 'Creationist' scientists. They dont see a black box, declare a deity made the box, and take the rest of the week off. Scientists see problems and demand answers. Several weeks ago, a paper was published in Nature that turned Vpus 'just so story' into just another 'so?' story for evolution:

Tetherin inhibits retrovirus release and is antagonized by HIV-1 Vpu

Human cells possess an antiviral activity that inhibits the release of retrovirus particles, and other enveloped virus particles, and is antagonized by the HIV-1 accessory protein, Vpu. This antiviral activity can be constitutively expressed or induced by interferon-alpha and it consists of protein-based tethers, which we term 'tetherins', that cause retention of fully formed virions on infected cell surfaces. Using deductive constraints and gene expression analyses, we identify CD317 (also called BST2 or HM1.24), a membrane protein of previously unknown function, as a tetherin. Specifically, CD317 expression correlated with, and induced, a requirement for Vpu during HIV-1 and murine leukaemia virus particle release. Furthermore, in cells where HIV-1 virion release requires Vpu expression, depletion of CD317 abolished this requirement. CD317 caused retention of virions on cell surfaces and, after endocytosis, in CD317-positive compartments. Vpu co-localized with CD317 and inhibited these effects. Inhibition of Vpu function and consequent mobilization of tetherin's antiviral activity is a potential therapeutic strategy in HIV/AIDS.
These researchers used Vpus 'just so story' to discover a new component of the human innate immune system. When most people think of their immune system, they think of antibodies. But there are lots of ways your body can defend itself against viruses without the adaptive immune system. It can be something as simple as your skin (keeps em out!), or something really general like Toll-Like Receptor 3, or pH changes within a cell. So because there are a lot of ways the innate immune system can help get rid of viruses, and there is a very distinct pattern of need/no need for Vpu in different cell lines, these authors thought 'maybe' Vpu was countering one of those innate mechanisms. Here is their initial logic:
1. Some kinds of cells cant be infected well unless you use an HIV that has Vpu.
2. Other kinds of cells dont care if Vpu is there or not-- they produce lots of viruses.
3. Whats different about the protein expression in these two cells?
They used a microarray to identify proteins that were upregulated in cell #1, and not expressed very much in cell #2. This gave them a list of putative proteins that could be interfering with HIV-1 particle release. Then they asked:
4. Vpu seems to act at the cell membrane, where viruses are budding off. That means that the putative protein should be either in the cell membrane, or secreted.
So they kicked everyone off the list that wasnt a membrane bound protein or secreted. This left them with one possibility-- 'CD317'. So then they asked:
5. The cells from #2 dont express CD317. If we make them express CD317, do they act like cells from #1?
6. The cells from #1 express CD317. If we knock down its expression with siRNA, do they act like cells from #2?
The answers to both of those questions is 'YES!!!'

They renamed CD317 'tetherin' and concluded that tetherin is a component of the innate immune system activated by interferon-alpha which interferes with the release of HIV-1 viruses in certain human cells, BUT this inhibition can be overcome by HIV-1 Vpu.

On top of Vpu down-regulating CD4.

On top of Vpu forming super sweet viroporins.

Now its important to note that tetherin is joining lot of other innate anti-viral systems like APOBEC3G (found using the HIV-1 protein Vif) and TRIM5alpha. Its also important to stress that like the APOBEC and TRIM, tetherin isnt a feature unique to humans-- lots of organisms have APOBEC proteins, lots of mammals have TRIM proteins. But, each species particular set of variants, each species restriction abilities, are unique. Comparing different species APOBECs and TRIMs has turned into a fruitful avenue of research.

The publishers at NATURE hope for the same with tetherin-- From a Nature News and Views on this paper:
Because the amino-acid sequence of tetherin differs considerably among mammals, some HIV-1-related animal viruses might find it difficult to overcome human tetherin, preventing them from becoming human viruses. Conversely, it is worth investigating whether tetherin contributes to the inability of HIV-1 to efficiently escape from most rodent cells, which has hampered efforts to develop small-animal models of HIV-1 infection. Even in human cells, Vpu might not always be able to overcome the powerful effect of tetherin, as the release of infectious Vpu-positive HIV-1 can be inhibited with high doses of interferon-alpha. Thus, an understanding of how tetherin works, and how Vpu fends it off, could lead to strategies to limit the spread of HIV-1 and other viruses that target humans.
In six months, evolutions 'just so story' led to new drug targets for new HIV/AIDS therapies, and a brand new avenue of research for immunologists and virologists all over the world (tetherins role in influenza, ebola, EBV, herpes, whoo!!!!).

... But what would have happened in Bizarro World? What would have happened if Intelligent Design Creationists were in charge of the NIH? What if someone like Michael Behe were controlling who got money for research?
Six months ago (well, four months, took him a while) Behe would have thrown everything known about HIV-1 Vpu into the garbage can. My original essay and all of the information it contained was 'pathetic', 'unimpressive', and 'meaningless.' Why would you continue to waste money studying the evolution of HIV-1, when it doesnt evolve in a 'meaningful way'?

This study, this study that discovered a brand new branch of innate immunity, this study that could potentially help us treat all kinds of viral infections, would have never happened in Bizarro World.

What has Behe been doing the past six months? How has he contributed to the HIV research community? The medical community? The scientific community? Its not fair to single Behe out in Bizarro World-- What about Dembski? Wells? West? Am I missing anyone? What have they done in the past six months to help stop AIDS, cancer, influenza, MSRA, anything??

Rather than being an icon for the failure of evolution, HIV-1 is an icon for the complete and utter failure of Creationism.

Monday, February 25, 2008

When Tards Attack

Crap! Its bed-time, and I just found this.

DRAT! Foiled again by those wily lychee researchers!

*shakes fist angrily*

Didnt the EAC just pass a resolution about keeping Creationists away from fresh fruit?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

More on Carl Woese

10 years ago:

The status of biological instruction, especially in the high schools, disturbs Woese. "Biology is poorly taught in general at the high school level," he says, referring to the polarization of evolution by the scientifically heterodox. "Scientifically, the matter is simple. The essence of biology is evolution, and biology should be taught from an evolutionary perspective. Yet, although evolution is covered to some extent in high school biology courses, it bears the scarlet letter and is taught in a guarded fashion, embalmed in caveats. The reason for this is obvious, as are the pressures on textbook publishers."

Woese removes himself from the "politically cathected" evolution vs. creationism issue. "I like my science pure. I don't see any fundamental contradiction between science in the big view and religion in the big view."

Woese believes biology itself has ironically locked arms with the creationists in putting negative pressure on biologic instruction. "It comes from within the core of biology itself," he says. "Biology today is structured about the molecular paradigm. Molecular biology, which derives from classical physics doesn't see evolution as basic, that it's an almost trivial collection of 'historical accidents'.

"I am not at peace with the state of biology today," he says. "It is in a revolutionary mode, and the revolution needs some guidance of the kind it is not receiving. The way we teach biology is not right. Evolution should be the centerpiece."



I mean, its appeaserery, but its fine. So why the weird switch? Maybe someone else has, erm, 'Flew' over the cuckoos nest? Or maybe Brandon Keim didnt report, ah, accurately?


In any case, you all really should read the rest of the article the above quote came from. Its a lesson in how paradigm shifts in biology really occur (PARADIGM!!!!). Woes had an idea. He was shunned for his idea. He didnt found a 'think tank.' He didnt push to get his ideas in high school textbooks. He didnt go on country-wide-church speaking tours telling radical Christians that microbiologists were Nazis who hate Jesus.

He kept doing research anyway, building evidence to support his claims.

Scientists are slaves to data. We must go where the evidence leads us. And Woeses data smacked biologists over the head: Archaea are real*.

* Archaea have their own viruses too, but thats a whole nother story :P

Friday, February 22, 2008

Has Carl Woese lost his friggen mind?

Do a Google search for 'Carl Woese and evolution'.

Hes a cool dude! Broke up the Tree of Life into Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryotes-- hes a big-wig. Unfortunately, hes not that great with words, so DI Tards LUV to quotemine him. Ah well, lots of scientists arent... um... 'eloquent' or very good at explaining their ideas to the public. But Ive been reading some things Woese has been saying on WIRED blogs recently... troubling things.

It started a couple weeks ago on Darwin Day:

Woese's experience with bacteria led him to look for an evolutionary framework larger than that provided by Darwin and his intellectual descendants. Bacteria -- which may account for up to half of Earth's biomass -- swap genes without reproducing; with millions residing in a teaspoon of seawater, Woese sees them in terms of networked communities rather than individual cells, and interprets their evolutionary history as driven by the non-linear self-organization that's now being studied at all biological scales.

The property is gone in the individual iron atoms, but when they behave collectively, you see the property of the whole. That's a very simple example.

The property is gone in the individual iron atoms, but when they behave collectively, you see the property of the whole. That's a very simple example.
The microbial world is where I work; [saltational evolution] predicts that there should be properties of the collective thing, that arise as the thing collects.

Umm... Yeah. Theyre called biofilms. In virus-word, its 'quasispecies'.

Umm... Im not sure what the hell Woese is talking about from the article, and Woeses own words are no more helpful. But when I read that a couple weeks ago, I brushed it off and thought no more about it.

Now there is a new post up at WIRED, and I will not ignore this shit:

My feeling is that evolution shouldn't be taught at the lower grades. You don't teach quantum mechanics in the grade schools. One has to be quite educated to work with these concepts; what they pass on as evolution in high schools is nothing but repetitious tripe that teeachers don't understand.

I certainly don't want any intrusion of religious ideas in the name of science -- but I don't want this bland soup that's taught as evolution in the name of science, either. It's not science -- it's catechism. Let's hold off until college, then hire some teachers who really know what to teach them. You have to go to the higest levels to find people with an understanding. That whole setup isn't there at all; all that's there is teaching the same old pap for 150 years, modfied by neo-Darwinists but not in an useful way. (typos original)
Oh no he din'int. Is he shitting me? Evolution=Quantum Mechanics?? 'Neo-Darwinism is religion see I used the word catecism'?? Teachers are tards? The 'solution' is not teaching evolution until college???


Id like to see your lesson plan, Carl. Give me *one biology topic* you can teach in a meaningful manner without evolution. You can give kids a list of shit and make them memorize it.
"Hey kids! Heres a list of the parts of a cell! But dont ask where mitochondria come from! And please dont notice animal cells look different from plant cells. I cant tell you why."

"Now its time to learn about ecosystems! This is a desert. This is a rain forest. But please dont ask why different organisms live in different organisms, or how all these organisms interact."

"Today were gonna learn about the oceans! Fish live in oceans! I cant teach you anything about whales though!"
Jesus fucking Christ. Crazy old man.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Turkey-- Our Islamic Doppelganger?

We are nowhere near Halloween, but Tander Edis just had a creepy, creepy essay published in the 'History of Science Society' newsletter. Its like seeing a ghostly double in the mirror:

In the 1970s, political Islam started to gain strength in Turkey as well as the rest of the Muslim world. Evolution became a minor culture war item, as a way for Islamists to demonstrate opposition to secular life without taking the risk of naming official secularism as a target. But creationism came into its own only in the mid 1980s, when in the aftermath of a short period of military dictatorship, religious conservatives gained control of the Turkish Ministry of Education. These conservative Muslims thought evolutionary ideas were morally corrosive, yet they found themselves in an environment where science commanded significant cognitive authority. So they needed a way to suggest that evolution was a fraudulent, scientifically dubious idea. They found the resources they needed in American “scientific creationism,” and invoked Christian creationists in a curious mirror image of the way Turkish secularists regularly relied on Western scientific authorities. While the Muslims downplayed some features of popular American creationism such as a young earth and flood geology, they adopted the bulk of the anti-evolutionary debating points developed by their Christian counterparts. Indeed, the Ministry of Education had many instances of creation-science literature officially translated and made available to high school teachers and libraries. Since this mid-80s breakthrough, Turkish textbooks have often contained anti-Darwinian or explicitly creationist material. The creationist paragraphs have disappeared in the infrequent occasions when secularist parties have shared power and reappeared when Islamists returned to government. At present a moderate Islamist party sympathetic to creationist views holds power. This party won another overwhelming electoral victory in 2007, and so it looks like conservative Muslim concerns will continue to influence Turkish science and education policy for the foreseeable future.
**shudder** A nightmare. A dystopic horror unleashed in reality.


Its real.

And its what they want for us.

But dont despair! I gots a good Behe Bash in the works ;)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nicest Guy in Science

When I was growing up (hell, even now), I always heard scary stories about evil arrogant scientists. Megalomaniacs with fancy degrees from Ivy League schools (or somewhere European) with publications in Nature and Science who demand anyone 'lower' than them grovel at their feet.

If anyone Ive met in science-world could have fit this description, it should have been Hung Fan. Graduate of MIT, worked at the Salk Institute, co-author on a paper with David Baltimore, a gazillion dollars in grant money, head honcho over at UC Irvine... He should have been one of those Arrogant Scientists.


Dr. Fan is one of the *nicest* individuals I have ever met. Wow. I mean, Im sure you all will be shocked to hear this, but Im *kinda* contrary in the lab, and especially with visiting virologists. So I tried to pick a fight with Dr. Fan over David Baltimores recent comments-- Uh uh. We had a wonderful conversation on the topic. He told me about virology-world before/during the discovery of HIV, some insight on Baltimores project and personality, and he was so encouraging about my research.

So I tried to pick a fight with him over Louis Villarreal**, as Dr. Fan has also co-authored a paper with him. Dr. Fan had lovely things to say about Dr. Villarreal and about viral evolution!

Okay, now, seriously-- Im really combative about ideas, and I kept pushing on various topics the entire day. He never got worked up or short with me, and he always just had the most insightful, and above all, encouraging comments!

He didnt tell me to go kill myself once!!

As he was leaving this evening (he stayed late to talk to a few of us longer, again, NICE!!), I asked him what his advice would be to a first year grad student studying virology. "To quit while you can and go to medical school?" I laughed.

"No! Enjoy yourself! Make sure you love to come into work every day! Make sure you love doing the experiments even when they dont work! But make sure you love your research!" he said cheerfully.

I looked at Bossman and we both ROFL. Today was a good day :)

** More on him later!! Dr. Villarreal is also a really friggen nice guy, at least through email, but I havent met him :P You know, my only encounters with Arrogant Asshole Scientists have been with Creationist 'scientists'... hmmm?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

ERV vs David Baltimore

This week, The David Baltimore finally came out and said what everyone in HIV research is thinking. Every other day you hear press releases from universities and crappy reporting declaring 'HIV VACCINE IN 2 YEARS!!' (Bossman was 'quoted' in one of those articles last summer). But Baltimore finally got a reporter to just say it:

Attempts to control the virus through antibodies or by boosting the body's immune system have ended in failure.

This has left the vaccine community depressed because they can see no hopeful way of success, Prof Baltimore said.

Yup. HIV vaccines. Epic Fails. I mean epic, with recent trials ending after the vaccine somehow increased HIV infection rates.

HOWEVER Im still pissed at Baltimore, and we would have gotten into a tif over his comments. First of all, the rest of the article is pushing the HIV-gene-therapy therapy the Gates Foundation has been funding.

"In the human you really only have one shot which is to try to change genes in stem cells," said Prof Baltimore, one of the leading experts on the HIV virus.

"So we're trying to do that, to design vectors that can carry genes that will be of therapeutic advantage."

I read about Baltimores strategy last fall in Science, 'Building an HIV-Proof Immune System':
Instructive immunotherapy

At the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, David Baltimore has teamed up with immunologist Pamela Björkman on an HIV gene-therapy project that he calls "instructive immunotherapy." Rather than bolstering the natural immune response, Baltimore says, "we're instructing the immune system [about] what to make."

This 5-year experiment lives up to its Grand Challenges billing with its focus on inventing virus-fighting antibodies. Gene therapists have paid antibodies little heed because HIV notoriously remains impervious to their attack. "I didn't think we should be giving up on the historically most powerful part of the immune system," says Baltimore. So he and Björkman are attempting to construct an antibody against HIV that's far more powerful than anything naturally produced by the immune system. Baltimore and co-workers then want to use an HIV-based vector to transduce the gene for this antibody into immune stem cells.

What I understand of that endeavor is that you take out someones pre-B-cells, alter them to produce neutralizing antibodies, and insert them back into the patient before they are infected with HIV.

Yeah. Thats a workable solution for AFRICA. Common. Common. What the hell.

Id also say that the only HIV vaccine researchers who are 'depressed' are the ones that have been failing and are currently out of ideas. I might be discouraged, but Im not 'depressed'. From my appearance on IGs show last week:
IG-- Do you think we will ever have a cure for HIV?

ERV-- Im not sure about a 'cure'. I would be happy with reducing it to a herpes level, where you have to be on drugs, it sucks, but its not going to kill you. Its not going to bankrupt you, trying to get drugs. Im optimistic about a vaccine for it, though! Im not optimistic about current vaccine trials, but Im optimistic about my research and its potential to lead to a workable vaccine target.
Here is why I think others might be 'depressed' (*warning* following info is from a bratty student bitching at people who have been involved in HIV research since before she was born). Remember quasispecies? How its like a big cloud floating in sequence-space? Current vaccine trials have been like shooting V2s into the cloud. The cloud doesnt care.

My research is based on the hypothesis that the cloud is... um, a cloud. Its a smokescreen hiding the real targets for a vaccine. We have been so intimidated by the cloud that we havent stopped to think that its not the cloud we need to worry about-- there are molecular determinants to sexual transmission. Focus on the viruses with the 'transmission' characteristics. Ignore the rest of the cloud. Got yourself a workable vaccine.

The 'vaccine community' might be depressed, Baltimore, but the basic virologists arent.


Or I might be setting up an epic fail myself.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Help a pussy, Laugh at UD

Since I can has minions, I has new mission for you all-- Help a local animal shelter by voting for your favorite kitty or puppy!! From Bissell (a US vacuum company):

Do you want to share the beauty of your favorite pet with the world? We're having a contest to find our next pet model! The winning pet will have their photo on our Pet Hair Eraser vacuum package. We will also donate $10,000 to the Pet Cause of the winning pet parent's choice!
$10,000 bucks to ASPCA, Humane Society, local no-kill shelter, anything! OMG! Now Im not suggesting my minions go vote for my friends adorable liger Walley (hehehe!), but go vote for your favorite and help out a local animal shelter!

But if you need any incentive to vote for Walley, I can assure you that if he wins, the $10,000 will not be going to PETA:

You all know my response to this. While PETAs other two ads have a point, they *kinda* arent in a position to be comparing the AKC to the KKK, considering PETAs position on pitbulls. Put 'nigger' or 'beaner' in place of 'pit bull' and you got yourself a KKK member, dear Ingrid.

Actually-- Klan members just wanted to isolate and control inferior races. Ingrid wants all pits killed. All of them. They are dangerous, evil dogs, out to eat our babies and our souls. Guess that makes her worse than a Klan member. Maybe, oh, nevermind...

That being said, I love this ad.


TARD FIGHT!!!!! (guilt free reading of UD w00t!)

Round 1-- DLH posts the usual 'Evilutionists think humans are equal to pigs and rats and they hate Jesus'

What does that have to do with Darwinism? Everything. To a Darwinist, you see, there is no distinction between human beings and animals. We all came about by chance; we are made of the same “stuff,” and we all end up as nothing more than dust. Instead of recognizing humans as bearers of God’s image, Darwinism sees us as nothing more than competitively successful bipeds with opposable thumbs. Forget any talk of human dignity.

And that is exactly the worldview that PETA lives by. If Darwinism—which we teach in the schools—is true, then they are right: Slaughtering and eating animals is just as bad as the Holocaust. It is cannibalism. If Darwinism is true, then PETA was correct when it recently compared the American Kennel Club to the Ku Klux Klan for trying to create a “master race” of dogs. Charles Darwin and Ingrid Newkirk are so much on the same page that without Darwin, there could be no PETA. It is a perfect example of following a worldview to its logical conclusion.

Round 2-- DaveTard (unexpectedly) punches back with 'If you kill animals, you hate Jesus and love Satan!':

The connundrum we are left with is a clear vision of God’s creation in a state of perfection which is definitely vegetarian, a savior who lived a sinless life as man and God together who for all the witnessed evidence we have was argualy a vegetarian, various ancient and modern day Christian monastic orders who are vegetarians, and for most of the rest of us a life where we are red in tooth and claw like a lion rather than free of blood like an innocent lamb.

Of course the story goes that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross absolves of us sin and that would include the unnecessary slaughter of animals to consume their flesh. But that doesn’t mean we should be reveling in the killing. We’re supposed to do our best to live a life free of sin. If one accepts the possibility that animal slaughter is indeed a sin then the safe bet is not to do it if hedonistic pleasure is the only real motivation for it. I don’t want to find myself standing before God someday explaining why I took the lives of things when it wasn’t necessary. Do you want to take that risk?


Hilarity ensues. Including wishes to baby Jesus that other UDers will burn in hell. AWESOME.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

LOLSaudis for Valentines Day

I always joke that Im going to run off to Saudi Arabia to get a teaching position at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology cause there arent any positions here in the US.

Well now my plans have been ruined.

The Saudi 'Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice' (did they go to 'Radical Christian Institute for Naming Things'?) has declared Valentines Day illegal:

"As Muslims we shouldn't celebrate a non-Muslim celebration, especially this one that encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women, " Sheikh Khaled Al-Dossari, a scholar in Islamic studies, told the Saudi Gazette, an English-language newspaper.

Every year, officials with the conservative Muslim kingdom's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice clamp down on shops a few days before February 14, instructing them to remove red roses, red wrapping paper, gift boxes and teddy bears. On the eve of the holiday, they raid stores and seize symbols of love.
LOL. Muslims.

Saudi Arabia should be a model for Radical Christians--We could put Ted Haggard in charge of 'Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice'!! Have a special ministry for witch burnings!


Well, even though all the Crazy Christians and Muslim Maniacs hate me cause Im an atheist chick, I got a Valentine for them anyway.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

EPIC WINS! Epic crash :P

Whos bright idea was it to make mid-terms the same week as Darwin Day???


hehehe Bleh oh well-- Im running on empty right now, but Ive got lots of fun updates:
1-- Reggie put my interview up (for freeeee!!) I dont think I came off as too tardish, and we had a lot of fun! The only embarrassing moment was when Arnie started choking on a rawhide he was NOMNOMNOMing, and all you hear on the recording is a long strange silence :P Otherwise, we chatted about Luskin, Behe, and there is even a surprise guest appearance by none other than RBH!!


2-- Darwin Day!
OUs new Center for Inquiry set up a panel discussion on evolution for Darwin Day, and it was great! Ian already summed it up-- Im really disappointed that the Creationist Kids in the audience didnt ask any questions. Let me be perfectly clear on this-- What I (we?) do with Dembski/Behe/Luskin/Hovind/whatever is not how I would react to students.


These kids are the product of their environment. They needed to ask their Creationist questions! *sigh* Maybe they were too scared, as questioning things is frowned upon in their world...

Oh, and we decided we needed to figure out how to put 'obligate siblicide' on a bumper sticker. hehehe!

If youre in Oklahoma but missed this talk, Im going to be presenting at the Oklahoma Americans United conference the end of March. Ill have more details on that later!

3-- Student BLAG!!! Some of you might have been hearing rumors of a new ERV blag. Well, ERV is staying the same, but Im partnering with Sigma Xi to open a new blog, with a new purpose: Students dealing with pseudoscience. Of course I will write about other sciency-studenty things, but one topic I want to emphasize is encouraging kids to use their knowledge to deal with pseudoscientists. Creationists, Astrologers, Homeopaths, all of em. I want 'sciency' kids in Oklahoma surrounded by Creationism to know they are not alone, and that somewhere on this planet, their critical thinking skills are appreciated. I want B-average students to get into the action-- thats one thing I brought up last night. When I was younger, science was *only* for the 'smart' kids. The nerdy kids. I got shipped off to nerd camp for a month every summer. But science is for everybody. I want Art History students to get into the action!! Hard to put into words now (Im also getting sick-- Yay NyQuil!) but lets see where we can take this new blag :) Its a done deal now, but it will be another few weeks before we are up and running. Ill keep you all updated!

So some great wins this past week, but Im going to sleep.

Its 8.15 pm, and Im going to sleep.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Im officially 'impossible'

Mom has been describing me as 'impossible' for about 25 years now, but it wasnt official until just recently. My research focuses on basically 3 things:

  1. The evolution of HIV-- IMPOSSIBLE
  2. Endogenous Retroviruses-- IMPOSSIBLE
  3. Epigenetics-- IMPOSSIBLE
Well I thought I was doing cool research with epigenetics that will help us generate new organs for people and help cure cancer and stuff, but oh well. I guess Jonny Wells knows more about this stuff than me:
Having dismissed efforts to explain development from a purely genomic perspective, Wells then claimed that epigenetics is a neo-Darwinian concept because it is genic, and rejected that as well.
Hmm-- This doesnt seem right. Epigenetics is something Creationists *love* to exploit. Its new (well, to us, not new to life), most people dont totally understand what epigenetics is, so its a perfect gap to cram a god into. I googled a bit to try to figure out what Wells deal is with epigenetics, and found 'Icons of Evolution' on Google books:
According to the standard explanation, cells differ because the genes are differentially turned on or off. Cells in one part of the embryo turn on some genes, while cells in another part turn on others. This certainly happens, as we saw in the case of Ultrabithorax. But it doesnt resolve the paradox, because it means that genes are being turned on or off by factors outside themselves. In other words, control rests with something beyond the genes-- something "epigenetic."
See! Epigenetics is 'beyond the genes' *cue Handels Messiah* If we are created in Gods image, God is a deacetylated histone! Hurray! But wait-- theres more!
This does not imply that mystical forces are at work, but only that genes are being regulated by cellular factors outside the DNA.
AWWWW! Dammit! But, um, 'cellular factors outside the DNA' are still encoded by DNA... Unless God is poofing methyltransferases into embryos.
But wait-- Theres more!
Many biologists during the first half of the twentieth century investigates epigenetic factors in their attempts to understand embryo development, but the factors proved elusive. As the neoDarwinian synthesis of Mendelian genetics with Darwinian evolution rose to prominence between the two World Wars, biologists studying epigenesis were increasingly marginalized.
Ooooooh there we go! A variation of the Galileo gambit. Fantastic.

But Im still confused. Does Jonny accept epigenetics or not? I need to know before I waste another day trying to cure cancer!!! DI Fellows, please, show us the way!!!


Scientology vs The Internet

Celebrating February 10th:

I hope Anon set their sights a little higher to... oh... I dunno... someone... like... I dunno...

* For those of you that dont get the joke, see here, and then here, and then here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

ERV live!

Just a reminder, Im going to be a guest on The Infidel Guy tonight! You can listen live from IGs site, or in his Myspace group, and if you miss it, he uploads a podcast of it at a later date :)

The last time I was on his show, it was a great experience and great exposure (hehehe, PZ spellin my name 'Abby'). Since Behe 'wasnt interested' in talking about HIV with me, there will be no debate this time. I think were just going to gab about my recent adventures with Creationists, and how any science student can do the same thing.

Ive also got some big news for any of you skeptical students out there ;)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Darwin Day! One week away!

Hey Darwin Day is next week-- What are you all doing?

Im gonna be doing this:


Ask the Experts at the DARWIN DAY Forum, 7PM, Tuesday, February 12, Baird Lounge, Oklahoma Memorial Union on the OU Campus.
What’s the evidence? Isn’t it just a theory? Are there gaps in the fossil record? Did humans come from apes? What about Intelligent Design or Creationism?

Professors and doctoral candidates will answer the tough questions for you. Panel will include Ola Fincke, Richard Broughton, Abbie Smith and perhaps others. Sponsored by Center for Inquiry (CFI) on Campus.
Creationists are free to come and attempt to avenge Dembski.


Im sure by now youve all heard about Luskins latest attack against the worlds irony meters:

The Research Blogging icon was designed to be used as part of that larger project. Anyone who wants to use the icon is welcome to. All you need to do is make sure that your post meets the guidelines for the project, register at the website, and follow the simple instructions that are provided. Casey did all but three of those things.
Yes, Casey used someone elses copyrighted image on a webpage. And worse, he did so to give his toddler-like babbling the veneer of 'scientific credibility.'

Everyone pretend to act shocked.

Pseudoscientists hijacking BPR3 was inevitable, really, so Caseys faux pas has triggered lots of interesting discussions about what to do. I think the 'fix' is simple: just require open comments. Pseudoscientists can yammer all they want about peer reviewed research as long as they follow the guidelines and people are able to say "Hey, youre full of crap, and heres why..." in the comments.

I really enjoy BPR3 posts myself, and I dont want their reputation sullied. But I bet you all have noticed that I havent taken part in BPR3. Personally, like Green Gabbo, I think BPR3 posts dont fit in with my writing style. I luv the idea, its just not for me right now.

BUT, Mister DNA has just invented a great icon for a lot of the posts I make, and I feel completely 'at home' using it:

I think we are going to be voting on the 'official' icon some time in the near future.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Students Standing up for Science

Its a sentiment youre going to be hearing more from me in the future (including during my interview with Infidel Guy!): I love it when students stand up to pseudo-scientists. I hate it when kids think "I really liked Immunology 101, and I think I see spots where Behe messed up, but Im just a student. Ill let Dawkins deal with it." or equally terrible "Im just an art history/Chinese literature/psychology major. Id like to stand up for science, but I cant."

Everyone can use their individual talents to support science education! Here is a recent, great example from a sophomore English major, Aaron Elias:

Every so often, a group will try to promote its cause and give itself the proverbial rake in the face. The pointy end of the rake came up when the makers of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” started bribing fundamentalist schools to organize mandatory field trips forcing students to watch the film. Bribery? Great publicity move! That garners about as much credibility as a Republican politician in a bathroom stall.

Not only are the filmmakers throwing money at Christian schools to wash out the insides of students’ heads, but they have also been “misleading their interviewees”—in other words, flat-out lying. Biologist P.Z. Myers, National Center for Science Education head Eugenie Scott and Richard-freaking-Dawkins said that they were misled into participating in “Expelled” by being interviewed for a film called “Crossroads,” which explored the interaction between science and religion. Dawkins stated that “at no time was [he] given the slightest clue that these people were a Creationist front.”

My favorite line:
Maybe I’m only bashing the movie because I’m a left-wing, liberal hippie who drives the Mystery Machine with my stoned talking dog.

Okay, so its not something Dawkins would write. Its not an editorial for the New York Times. But its a student making observations, putting a pen to paper, and bringing his observations to people who might not know whats going on with the ID/DI/EXPELLED story in a cute, funny way.

Aaron will no doubt be rewarded for his efforts with a PR-sniper-shot from Casey or Anakin, but I hope readers of this blog will realize that the DI is shooting with rubber bands. An attack from a DI 'Fellow' is meaningless.

Students, dont be afraid of their crap. Dont doubt your abilities. Stand up for science any way you can!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Nuns can be pedophiles too! GIRL POWER!

Just in case you still had any doubts that Catholicism is a state sponsored child sex ring:

A Roman Catholic nun who sexually abused two teenage boys in Milwaukee four decades ago admitted to a church panel that she also had molested a Chicago boy and at least three other minors, according to a court document obtained by the Tribune.
This woman is a pathological child rapist sheltered by 'religion':
Although church officials knew in the 1990s of the allegations against Giannini, they did not contact civil authorities.

At one point, the panel asked Giannini: "What do you think that these kids thought?"

Giannini answered: "They were sowing their oats. How many teenagers would resist that opportunity?"
Mmmm yeah they wanted it. They asked for it. They wanted her:
Kobs said he often considered suicide and suffers frequent migraines and recurring nightmares of abuse. St. Patrick said he abused alcohol and drugs for years after the abuse, which destroyed his faith.

"I thought, why didn't Jesus stop this?" he said.

Both men said Giannini had abused several other boys in their school, whom they have been trying to contact. One victim committed suicide, they said, and two others have sexually assaulted women.
Justifying the abuse by saying the victims 'wanted it.' Classic pedophile. Surely she is going to be punished for this, right?........ Right???
Donald sentenced Giannini to 10 years in prison on two felony counts of indecent behavior with a child, but he stayed the sentence in favor of probation and a year of incarceration at a Milwaukee County jail facility in Franklin, Wis

The judge said he decided against sending Giannini to state prison because of her age and health problems.
Um... SO??? I thought this was kinda a universal thing that everyone, Christian and atheist could agree on. Child rapists, especially serial child rapists, should rot in jail. This woman has spent 79 years out in the sun. Playing bingo. Traveling. Hanging out with friends and family like nothing has happened. She got to live a normal, happy life... while the lives of those she abused were ruined. According to her victims, she is directly responsible for the death of one of her victims, and the rape of other women.

Oh, but she should only spend a year in a county jail. Wouldnt want that breathing carcass to die in prison. Why?
"I'm struggling to understand how it is that someone who spent their entire life providing education and friendship ... could have been so diabolical," Donald said.
Because hiding under the safe wing of religion provided her with ample opportunities and cover for indulging in her psychotic behavior. Stop giving special rights to religion.

Friday, February 01, 2008

When GOOD science outreach ideas take a BAD turn

Yesterdays edition of Sigma Xi Student News had a great example of a cool science outreach idea with a really stupid, unnecessary twist:

Casting 25 to 35-Year-Old Male Host for Science Adventure Show
Objective Productions (UK) and The Discovery Channel are in search of a 25 to 35 year old male host for a new adrenalin fueled and action filled show. Our host will take on seemingly impossible challenges with crazed enthusiasm while placing his faith in science no matter how crazy the task appears. DANGERMAN is a documentary style reality series that replicates the extraordinary stunts performed by daredevils, stuntmen and showmen and explains the scientific principles that make the most amazing feats possible. Applicant MUST BE A SCIENCE GRADUATE (minimum bachelors degree). You must have an interest and passion for extreme and dangerous sports and related areas. Please submit a recent photo (from the last six months) along with a bio or resume and letters stating your interest in the show, science, adventure and extreme dangerous sports. All submissions can be e-mailed to (email me if youre interested and want the link), which is in London.

Aw now common. Disqualified by boobies.


If anything, it would be better TV if the host is a chick. Not that I dont love Bill Nye, Beakman, Mr. Wizard, and the Kratt Brothers, but why not a science-TV Lara Croft? This could have been a great opportunity to show a tough young woman having FUN with science. Guys would like it, girls would like it, YAY!


ERV-- Life on the Delist

You all know how I joke about being a D-list blogger?

Well, thanks to the help of the best readers on the intrawebs (mine YAY!), I just realized my blog has been delisted from Google. Go ahead, go to Google. Type in 'ERV'. I used to be the top hit. Now, nada. Put in "". Nada.

Try the same thing at Yahoo, and everything is fine.

Now, as much as I would like to blame this on Baby Casey and the DI, as the timing of this delisting is curious, my blog is still up. If there were some complaint (ie "She called me names and Im nice I volunteer at soup kitchens but she called me names Im kind!") my blog would have been suspended.

But another reason for delisting is when people hack your site and insert links to porn and crap, like what happened to Wes and Talk Origins. But Im on Blogger. If someone hacked this site, its Blogger/Googles fault, not mine. I dont run this shit.

And no one emailed me any kind of warning from Google.

Even though Im on Blogger.

They gots my email.

Oh well. While I would like *certain people* to *unleash their minions* to figure this out or throw a fit to get me back on *cough* because this is a pain in the ass, it doesnt really matter. I will be moving somewhere else soon anyway and reposting Classic ERVs.


Edited like an hour later-- BACK UP!! Maybe... I can has minions?

LOL, or Google just tweaked for 48 hours.