Rush Limbaugh’s clueless rant about evolution

This last week I had the misfortune to hear Rush Limbaugh flapping his yap attempting to defend Christine O’Donnell’s ignorant comments about evolution. Unsurprisingly his comment were a grab bag of typical creationist nonsense. Here is the audio of the beginning of his diatribe:

Paraphrasing from the audio: “If humans evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”

This is logically exactly the same thing as asking “if my cousin and I are actually related, then why does my cousin still exist?”

Read on»

The Collective Responsibility Fallacy

Note the collective "you".

I’ve noticed that a particularly nasty bit of insanity has been running rampant lately, “collective responsibility”. This is the “thinking” that if one or a few members of some group (racial, ethnic, religious etc.) commits some crime or other objectionable act then the whole group to which they belong somehow shares in their guilt.

The claims of collective responsibility have been flying lately from people involved on two somewhat related topics, the so called Ground-Zero mosque* and the threats by a few Christian preachers to burn copies of the Qur’an**.

The building of the mosque or “community center” or whatever, has brought out clear arguments for the collective responsibility of Muslims for the 9/11 attacks by those who oppose its construction. One need only to listen to a little talk radio or watch a few relevant YouTube videos to hear people say things like: “They attacked us on 9/11 and now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero”, as if we were attacked by all Muslims that day or that all Muslims approved of the attack.

Likewise the mere threat by cult leader Pastor Terry Jones (and a few other like “minded” preachers) to burn a Qur’an sparked often, violent protests, in Afghanistan where cries of “death to America” and “death to Christians” could be heard as if all Americans or all Christians were involved with or supported the idea of burning the Qur’an.

This is essentially the same logic used by racists and bigots that says a black/white/Hispanic (whatever) person stole from me therefor all blacks/whites/Hispanics are thieves.

In this case it is “A few Muslims attacked us on 9/11 and therefor all Muslims share blame for 9/11″ and “A Christian (or American) preacher is going to burn the Qur’an, therefor all Christians are guilty of this blasphemous behavior.”

I am reminded of a great line in the movie Gettysburg when a fictional Union Sergeant (“Sgt. ‘Buster’ Kilrain” played by actor Kevin Conway), is asked by his commanding officer (the historical Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain played by Jeff Daniels) his opinion of black people:

You cannot judge a race. Any man who judges by the group is a pea wit. You take men one at a time.

Anyway I have no big answers or particularly insightful wisdom to impart on this. I just wanted to go on record with my opinion that collective responsibility, and it’s close intellectual cousin “guilt by association”, are stupid, lazy, fuzzy headed nonsense and if our species can’t wean itself from engaging in these fallacious forms of reasoning then I truly fear for our future.

[* I know I am coming late to the game on this but my two cents on the Ground Zero mosque are that the people behind it have just as much right to build it (assuming it is compatible with local zoning laws etc.) as a group of Christians would have to build a church or a corporation would have to build a strip joint. However, I do have to wonder what  the group wanting to build the mosque is hoping to accomplish. If it is to encourage feelings of good will towards Islam in the U.S. it is obviously doomed, rightly or wrongly, from a practical standpoint.

** As for the idea of burning the Qur'an, I think the idea of burning books, any book, is both base and stupid. But however stupid burning a Qur'an might be, this does not justify threats of violence in retaliation. Violence, or even the threat of violence in response to words or expressions of ideas (like book burning), however stupid or offensive is outside the bounds of civilized behavior and cannot be tolerated. ]



What’s in our kitchen now?

We had a visit this evening from a rather healthy looking Solifugid (aka camel spider, wind scorpion, sun spider, though I always knew them as a “sun scorpions”) which I caught after seeing it scurrying across our kitchen floor.

Solifugids are arachnids related to spiders and true scorpions and like scorpions seem to be largely nocturnal. We get them in the house not too infrequently (much to my wife’s dismay) but this was a larger specimen than usual. In fact it is probably one of the larger I’ve seen in this area of So. Cal..

Penny for scale

Close up

Despite their fearsome appearance they’re relatively harmless as they lack venom of any kind. However I imagine that they could inflict a rather nasty bite in self defense with those chelicerae (mouth parts).

Look into my eyes!

However impressive this individual might be for around here it is still relatively small compared to some pictures I’ve seen of some old world species encountered by U.S. troops stationed in the middle east.

Just another night in the Britain household…

Some web sites on Solifugids: