A plea for (non-financial) help

journalsOK, here is the situation; I do not work for a university, a museum, or any other educational and/or research organization. I am not paid to do the research on and write substantive refutations of creationist propaganda. I do it because I am passionate about science (especially biology and paleontology) and extremely annoyed by people who peddle lies, half-truths and misinformation about it.

It would be nice if more working scientists could take the time to familiarize themselves with the machinations of creationists so as to be better prepared to counter them but I understand that they have more important tasks to do, like actually doing science. And I —as an interested and more knowledgeable than most layperson— am more than happy to stand in for them in the trenches, without remuneration or recognition. All I ask is that I be given the tools, the ammunition if you will, to fight the fight.

In this case, it is free and unencumbered access to the scientific literature!

If I am doing research, working on a rebuttal to some creationist claim, buying copies of the articles myself is simply not an option as I live paycheck to paycheck and the miscellaneous science journals charge outrageous prices for individuals to download their articles, often as much a $25 or $35 dollars each (if they charged $1 a pop, like an mp3 download, I might sometimes spend the money)!

Instead, to get what I need, I have to pester and cajole, via e-mail, working scientists and/or university professors I am acquainted with to send me PDF copies of scientific papers.  Alternatively, I have to get in my car (which is currently broken down and I cannot afford to fix it), drive to a local university, plug a flash-drive into one of the computers in their science library, and download them, which is a big hassle and still costs money for gas and parking.  

What I would like is to be given some sort of unpaid (though I wouldn’t say no to stipend!), ceremonial position at a university, museum, or other institution that would grant me access to the primary scientific literature to which they are already subscribed (the more the better).

A couple of my university professor friends have tried without success to get me something like this, only to have the “higher up” say no.

So, I am putting out this plea to any scientist, university professor or Dean, or anyone who is sympathetic to my cause and who has influence at their institution, please, please, please, help me to get access to the science I need to do what I can to combat the forces of ignorance that threaten to overwhelm us all.

Thank you for your consideration!

Another Pharyngula podcast with yours truly

The first part was on intelligent design creationists latest attacks on some of the genetic evidence for human evolution. The second was a ostensibly on humanism but strayed into issues surrounding the internecine warfare going on in the skeptic/atheist community over issues of feminism (which I will not touch with a light-year long pole) and progressive politics. Being of a slightly libertarian bent, I bit my tongue and let the anti-libertarian jibs go by (I am used to being casually libeled and slandered by my liberal Democrat friends).

“The silly things those creationists say” – Pharyngula podcast #2

I lucked out and was able to be one of the participants on biologist P.Z. Myers’ Pharyngula video podcast (#2). The subject of this podcast was, as you may have guessed by my post title, creationism. Russell Glasser of The Atheist Experience was also there, as were several other people who, while they were new to me, seemed to be hip to the subject. I really enjoyed it and the time just few by. 

My thanks to the other participants and especially to P.Z. for having me!

My Weekend at the O.C. Freethought Alliance Conference

The Orange County Freethought Alliance Conference (3rd Annual) is “in the can” and I had a blast. I went as part of a contingent from my local Atheist, Agnostic & Skeptics Meetup group, which had purchased a table at the event. The table was right up front next to the speakers table, all the people in our group were great and there were lots of interesting talks presented! I got to meet lots of new people and say hi to familiar friends and colleagues.

Here are a few of the new people:

Dave Silverman, president of the American Atheists who was famously challenged by Bill O’Reilly to explain how every day the tides go in and go out with “never a miscommunication”.

Aron Ra, a very popular YouTube anti-creationist and veteran of the talk.origins newsgroup. I had three people think I was him, before he arrived, though I’m not sure why. Considering how many things we share in common, it is somewhat surprising it took this long for us to run into each other.

And last but actually First the Lord Himself…

Mr. Deity, AKA “El“, AKA the very funny Brian Keith Dalton. If you don’t know who Mr. Deity is, go right now to his YouTube channel and start with episode one. See also the official Mr. Deity website.

The end of the conference came late Sunday afternoon just as a partial solar eclipse started and the organizers had two telescopes set up with special filters to allow us to safely view it. One of the scopes just showed the sun as a white disk with the moon cutting into it but the other actually allowed you to just make out the filaments of the many loops, flares and prominences in the corona of the sun. I have seen many pictures and films of these phenomena before but this was the first time I actually saw them with my own eyes. Incredible.

A NASA photograph showing solar prominences etc.

Once again I have a really great time and all the people I talked to, especially those at our table were a lot of fun. Thanks to Aaron for organizing our contingent and to the other members of our group for being such good company! My only regret is I got a bit distracted and got out of there kind of quickly at the end and didn’t get a chance to say a proper goodbye to them or to my friend and colleague Barbara Forrest (who was one of the speakers). Hopefully I’ll get to see them all again soon.

If you’re interested you can watch a streaming video or buy a DVD of the event from the O. C. Freethought Alliance (look for the guy in a black t-shirt with the long hair near the front) and if you live in the area consider attending the 4th Annual O. C. Freethought Alliance Conference in 2013. You just might see me there in person.