Thursday, July 31, 2008

Conservapedia: Lying about context equals truth!

It's hard to figure how Conservapedia could be any worse in their indignation. But to resort to lying about an article they link? What's worse, the article lambasts Conservapedia for being worse than what CP sees as the problem, and CP makes the news post that the article proves CP's case!

Say what?
Conservapedia sparks more discussion on the internet: "The more the Dawkins types try to turn this into a head-on fight, the more moderate religious believers edge into Conservapedia territory." Indeed. Liberals and atheists do not win in debate, and their biggest gains are in censoring the truth.

Apparently, Conservapedia can't win in debate because they resort to distorting and flat out lying.

The posting links to an article from The American Prospect. The article, from Ezra Klein, has the opening line (note: LINE. Not paragraph, not introduction. A sentence!):
Like Daniel Davies, I find the gleeful aggression of Hitchens and Dawkins and Harris a bit tiresome.

The rest of the article slams Conservapedia, including its article on "Causes of Atheism," which itself is an exploration into the insanity of the editors of Conservapedia.

So where does the quote come from that CP uses, since it's not in the article? A user comment (emphasis added for clarity):
Man but Ezra this is exactly why the Dawkins-style aggression is so dangerous. Your response to this asinine Conservapedia entry is a pretty classic example of radicalism born out of heightened contradictions. Going from bemused tolerance to allergic outrage is never a good thing in a democracy.

It's an especially bad thing when your side doesn't have the numbers to win -- which atheists clearly don't in the USA. The country's realistic options are a moderate live-and-let-live set of religious faiths or a (much smaller) set of fundamentalist religions. The more the Dawkins types try to turn this into a head-on fight, the more moderate religious believers edge into Conservapedia territory.

Now frankly if it was just a matter of the most annoying sectors of atheism and Christianity yelling at each other, that wouldn't particularly matter to me. But of course the success of MANY Progressive policy positions rests on the buy-in of moderate Christians. It's not worth sacrificing abortion rights to gain the sense of intellectual supremacy you get from out-arguing a a fundy who thinks the world is 37 minutes old. And more fundamentalist Christians = a scarier world for non-Christian religious minorities, the lion's share of whom vote for liberals.

Posted by: NS | July 28, 2008 10:48 AM

That's right, Conservapedia takes out ONE line from a user comment on an article pointing out the absurdity of their site to show that Conservapedia is right. What's worse, the user's OTHER comments further trash Conservapedia's type of argument:
Your response to this asinine Conservapedia entry is a pretty classic example of radicalism born out of heightened contradictions.


Now frankly if it was just a matter of the most annoying sectors of atheism and Christianity yelling at each other, that wouldn't particularly matter to me.

So why would Conservapedia try to make out the article and/or user comment supports their ideology, when these clearly don't? Do they not believe their readers will bother going to the article to find out what it says for themselves?

Do they even bother with the commandment of their religion that states, "Thou shalt not bear false witness"?

Unfortunately, this seems to be standard fare for "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Conservapedia: More news not fit to print!

A three-for this morning appeared on "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia." So trustworthy, in fact, that "news" has become "opinions that reflect our ideology."

Case in point, these three items:
Moral Relativism Is Killing the U.S.
We yearn for the day when we’ll return to the foundational value that makes the U.S. great. Right and wrong are not relative terms. There are fundamental truths. Evil flourishes, but good men continue to battle it – and win. Good can and will triumph over evil.

Belief Growing That Reporters are Trying to Help Obama Win
49% of voters believe most reporters will try to help the Democrat with their coverage, up from 44% a month ago.

The left supports campaign finance reform, the Fairness Doctrine and other policies allegedly aimed at ensuring that both sides of the political argument be aired. But it's a colossal fraud. The Times' rejection of McCain's piece is a case study in how liberals apply these principles. They don't believe in both sides presenting their viewpoints, but in controlling the nature and scope of the discussion.

The last one links to Human Events.

So let's take them in order.

#1: Mike Gallagher, who penned the piece, was on FOXNews last week and debated Ibrahim Hooper of the CAIR. Plenty of words filling the page about Hooper's evilness. It then jumps into this weird leap of logic:
It’s simply astounding that such a debate could even occur in the United States today. Picture what this country felt like in the weeks and months after 9/11. Can you imagine anyone even beginning to allow an advertising campaign promoting Islam, being endorsed and supported by a man the feds believe to be a terrorist, on New York City subways?

And yet we are suffering through the stench of moral relativism. Every position must be countered. Right doesn’t necessarily mean right, wrong might not be wrong.

A brutal, cowardly Arab terrorist who was convicted of bashing a little 4-year old Jewish girl’s head in with a rifle butt is released to Lebanon in exchange for a pair of dead Israeli soldiers. He’s met by adoring, cheering crowds and given a red-carpet welcome.

The Democrat presidential candidate continues to insist that the American military surge in Iraq isn’t really the reason for the overwhelming reduction of violence there.

Our country gives a couple of million minimum wage workers a big hourly pay hike and the mainstream media immediately complains by saying that high gas and food prices make the pay increase irrelevant. And when former Sen. Phil Gramm accurately points out that we’re a nation of whiners and misery sells newspapers, he’s forced to resign from his leadership post in the John McCain campaign.

The last paragraph especially made my brain hurt that someone could even begin to argue the "goodness" in it. Minimum wage increases aren't "pay hikes". They're set because the world around these workers are getting expensive, through inflation and other economic factors. Yet without the law forcing employers to meet the costs of living, many would continue to leave workers in poverty for being full-time employees.

He then puts a rich guy on a pedestal who said people are whining about the economy that an overwhelming majority of economists agree is in a serious downturn. When the federal government has to seize banks to protect those who have money in them from losing their shirts, when the stock market falls nearly to the same level it had in 2001, when home sales are hitting rock bottom, when the dollar is no longer competitive, when people have to take on two or three jobs to pay for food and shelter, it's not whining.

Unless that whining is about the government we have had since 2001.

#2: This is similar to another point I made about Conservapedia: They feel that public polls give weight to fact. If enough people believe something, it must be true.

Could the disparity of "good news" with Senator Obama versus Senator McCain have anything to do with the actions of the two men? When Senator Obama speaks in public to thousands regularly, and Senator McCain gets only a few dozen people to show up, should the press be forced to make them seem equal? When Senator McCain has a daily screw up, when he attacks Senator Obama by saying he ignores troops using footage of Senator Obama meeting with hundreds of troops, what is the press supposed to do?

Wanting the press to make someone look a hell of a lot better than he really is, just isn't their job.

#3: This piece is laughably awful. There should be a rule with conservatives: If you have to name-call three times in the first paragraph, you have no argument.

Wait a second. That's true no matter who does the name-calling!

The link goes to an opinion piece by David Limbaugh. He writes books such as one about how the Democrats are morally bankrupt. So his opinion should be considered unbiased, I guess?

His opening paragraph:
I don't know which troubles me more: the liberal media's fawning over Barack Obama or the great number of people who are buying into his mystique so uncritically. But what bothers me more than either of these is the arrogance of the liberal press, which sadly is typical of so many liberals.

Liberal, liberal, liberal. How arrogant they are!

He pens gems such as:
How anyone can fall for the media's Obama rock star charade, given his repeated demonstrations of unfitness for the presidency, is a subject better suited for psychoanalysts.

How is he unfit? Not explained. But there are repeated demonstrations of this "fact!" But those liberals should have their head examined for not looking at those undocumented repeated demonstrations of unfitnessitude.

And this:
But we can chalk up the media's irrational exuberance to their eagerness to have someone of like mind -- someone sufficiently socialistic and appeasement-oriented -- back in the Oval Office. With their insane aversion for President Bush and their craving for undefined change, it's hardly surprising they're blind to Obama's increasingly obvious flaws.

Insane aversion? You mean when the President mocks the G8 by saying "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter?" Or when he cries foul when any of his staff have to answer questions before the representatives of the people? Or, well, any number of other Constitution-breaking, arrogance-wielding, cowboy-wannabe actions he does?

The press is insane for not kissing the man's feet. People like David Limbaugh do, after all, so everyone else must have something wrong with their heads.

Contrary to liberal-spawned conventional wisdom, it is not conservatives who are selective enemies of free expression, agents of intolerance or threatened by opposing views, which they are confident can be slain in the marketplace of ideas. It is not conservatives who dominate academia or who see it as their mission not just to instruct in their disciplines but also to engage in worldview indoctrination. It is not conservatives who, behind the mask of protecting "victims," censor political and religious speech on campus and in the public square.

Uh, David? Do you not remember the "Free-Speech Zones"? Or declaring reporters who ask tough questions of the President must want the terrorists to win? That's your definition of free expression and agents of tolerance?

Neverminding the weird tangents he goes on about political and religious speeches on campus, his article just has a long lead in to his point:
This brings me to the major source of my angst: The New York Times' rejection of Sen. McCain's op-ed in response to the one it published the previous week by Sen. Obama on his plan for Iraq.

He's mad because the New York Times refused to publish Senator McCain's op-ed as it was. Ignoring for the moment that the op-ed was flawed and had accusations against Senator Obama without giving any substance to Senator McCain's own ideas--you know, the POINT to having both men write op-eds?

The Times didn't want to waste space printing attacks on a candidate that have been rehashed time and time again, when the op-ed didn't give the readers of the Times any information on what Senator McCain would do. Hence why the editor sent it back with a suggestion that, I don't know, Senator McCain should explain himself rather than try to talk about Senator Obama for the entire article?

And instead of re-writing it to be a grand op-ed, one that showcases the path Senator McCain would take if he were Number 44, the loons of the extreme right-wing in this country cry foul. Liberal media. Liberal press. Liberal arrogance.

I'm beginning to wonder, if David Limbaugh got back a paper in college with an imperfect grade and teacher recommendations for how to improve, he would have filed a complaint with the school board about how arrogant the teacher was.

But back to the point at hand. These three articles are "news" according to Conservapedia. These are further examples of how "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia," a wiki established to "counter" the bias of Wikipedia and that would suit kids to use as a study guide, has become nothing but a site of ideology and innuendo that reflects the opinions of the staff and is not grounded in reality.

And you can poll people on that.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Conservapedia: Gossip is Trustworthy!

UPDATE: Conservapedia has since removed the post from their "News" links. No notice that they did remove it, yet part of the discussion about it remains on the Talk Page for the main page. Typical.

"The Trustworthy Encyclopedia" provided in its "In the News" section a delicious report:
Does former Democratic senator and presidential candidate John Edwards have a love child? Is he having an affair? "Enquiring minds" want to know:

And linked to,2933,391426,00.html.

The Conservapedia tease even alludes to the source of the "love child" story: Tabloid National Enquirer.

How newsworthy is it?
"His face just went totally white," the guard said, when Edwards was told the reporters were shouting out questions about Edwards and Rielle Hunter, a woman the National Enquirer says is the mother of his child.

And later:
Enquirer Editor-in-Chief David Perel told his reporters caught Edwards visiting Hunter and her baby at the hotel earlier Monday evening. Perel said Hunter and Edwards have been occasionally getting together so Edwards can see the baby. Hunter came to Beverly Hills with a male friend, Bob McGovern, said Perel. Hunter and her companion reportedly booked two rooms under McGovern's name, and McGovern picked up Edwards to bring him back to the hotel.

Perel said Enquirer staff had been given information about the planned Edwards-Hunter meeting, and the tabloid sent reporters to the hotel in anticipation of Edwards' arrival. According to the Enquirer, Edwards was first spotted being dropped off at the hotel at 9:45 p.m. PT, about 25 minutes after reporters watched McGovern leave the building in his BMW.

Edwards went to Hunter's room and the two left the hotel together and returned 45 minutes later, Perel said. Edwards reportedly entered her room and stayed there until after 2:30 a.m. PT. could not independently confirm the Enquirer's allegations. Perel also declined to identify where the Enquirer received the information about Edwards' alleged visits.

Perel told that after leaving Hunter's room, Edwards took an elevator to the basement, where he was confronted by two Enquirer reporters. He ran into the bathroom, where he remained until the security guard arrived.

The Enquirer says it has videotape showing Hunter entering the room where she met Edwards, and shows Edwards leaving the same room. However, the Enquirer has thus far declined repeated requests by to release any photographs or videotape evidence of the incident.

So the story FOXNews puts forward is that the National Enquirer ambushed Edwards at a hotel, where he was meeting with a known acquaintance. He spent time with her and a male friend. The Enquirer got a head's up that Edwards would be there. The tabloid has footage of Edwards and Hunter, but refuses to release the footage.

I'm still trying to figure out how this is news and not celebrity gossip at this point. But Conservapedia feels it's newsworthy.

Later in the story, FOXNews provides these bits of information:
Last October, the Enquirer reported that several sources said a former campaign worker on Edwards' campaign had been having an affair with the former North Carolina senator. In an e-mail allegedly written by Hunter to a friend, she wrote that she is "in love with John," but it's "difficult because he is married and has kids."

Hunter has said that the father of her child is former Edwards campaign official Andrew Young. The 41-year-old married father of three has also said he is the father.

Jerome Armstrong of apparently asked Hunter about the allegations. This concocted story is just dirty politics and I want no part of it.

It's not conclusive either way. It's sloppy journalism at best. But this seems to be standard fare for "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia" to give in to political and ideological attacks.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Conservapedia: How to be an idiot with politics

On the front page, which has increasingly become a radical editorial board rather than "news," the following gem appeared today:
Obama: Radical in Liberal Clothing [2]
Even with his recent attempts at moderation, he retains positions on several significant issues indistinguishable from those of Dennis Kucinich. Most of those positions are opposed by overwhelming majorities of all Americans.

According to a June, 2008 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, the issues Americans find most significant (25% or more respondents saying it is extremely important) in the coming election:
The economy (58%)
The situation in Iraq (50%)
Gas prices (48%)
Health care (47%)
Terrorism (45%)
Education (44%)
Social Security and Medicare (41%)
Taxes (40%)
Illegal immigration (34%)
The environment (33%)
Foreign trade (29%)
Gun policy (26%)

Abortion missed out, only 24% found it extremely important.

So, which of these would Obama support a position that a majority of voters oppose?

According to the link Conservapedia uses:
Obama opposes offshore drilling for oil. Obama supports giving driver licenses to illegal immigrants. Obama supports affirmative action in public employment, contracting and university admissions. Obama says that he will cut funding for research and development of missile defense systems. Obama voted against a ban on partial birth abortions.

Despite his equivocal statements regarding the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the D.C. gun ban, Obama has never met a gun ban he didn't like. Although many Americans support certain types of restrictions on guns, they oppose broad bans by a margin of 68% to 30%. In fact, 58% insist no new gun laws should be passed. [Note: Article doesn't mention that Obama has voted for gun bans; only that apparently he likes them?]

Obama opposed the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act while in the Illinois state legislature. The measure is designed to prevent abortion providers from withholding medical care and sustenance from infants born after surviving an abortion attempt. There's no national polling data on this state issue, but when the Senate voted on a analogous piece of legislation -- the Born Alive Infant Protection Act -- the measure passed unanimously. [Note: This is supportive of the argument of the article? I thought it was what voters supported?]

Obama voted against a bill that would make English the official language for conducting business with the U.S. government. While in the Illinois state legislature, Obama voted against parental notification requirements for abortions for minors. Obama maintains that the Supreme Court's recent decisions prohibiting the use of race in determining public school assignments are wrong.

I cut out the polling data (the argument is that a majority, more than 60%, oppose what the article states Obama favors), and most are polls between 2006 and 2007. So let's tally up the categories.

Off-shore drilling 1
Illegal immigration 1
Affirmative action 2
Missile defense 1
Abortion 3 (one that ignores the article's premise)
Firearm bans 1
English as official language 1

Noting that the off-shore drilling polling relies on the media's refusal to point out how it won't even effect the price of gas anytime soon, if at all, and that it will do little to increase supply, I won't place it into gas prices. This leaves:

Illegal immigration (34%)
Gun policy (26%)

And including abortion that just missed the 25% or higher, that would be a total of four significant issues Obama supports that polls show a majority (60% or higher) oppose.

What a radical!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Conservapedia: Schlafly touts "peer review" experience, refuses to cite evidence

When one of the Richard Lenski arguments Andy Schlafly brought up to try to state that the Lenski E. coli experiment was flawed, Schlafly stated that the peer-review process was way too short. On the news page, this was posted, "Richard Lenski's defenders finally admit that the data underlying his claims (which Lenski still has not disclosed) are not too voluminous. Also, his defenders all but concede that no meaningful peer review of Lenski's paper occurred in the mere 14 days that his paper was supposedly being reviewed prior to publication." This led to some discussion on the talk page, including several people who asked about the statements:

Andy, you make two claims that require some qualifications. I would appreciate your response on these matters:

1. You call a 14-day review "absurdly quick". Let me tell you that is not the case. These days, author submit papers online, and are downloaded by the reviewers immediately. There is not snail mail involved. So the 14-day period is normal. Second, you yourself mention "The average length of peer review for PNAS, based on a sample, is over 120 days"; that is an average, meaning some papers are reviewed faster and some slower. Your claim that 14-day is too fast is like saying that, because the median income in the USA is 40,000, an income of 400,000 is absurdly high, hence likely a lie.

2. You also say "I've peer-reviewed many papers myself". I am surprised to hear that, given that all I found in your biography was "editor of the Harvard Law Review". Editor and academic involved in peer review are not the same thing. I'd be curious to see what venue you reviewed papers for: year, issue. Could you give us a list, or could you point to a section in your notarized CV, where you list your activities as a reviewer, not editor ? --EileenT

This first posting went without response.

Seeing that a different argument came forward, a couple of posters reiterated EileenT's second point that went unanswered:

EileenT asked a couple of questions a little further up the page. They appear to have been missed as a result of the conversation becoming side-tracked somewhat. I would also be interested in the answers. In particular I would be interested in knowing for whom/which journal Aschlafly was undertaking the peer review role. --DenningMR 23:19, 29 June 2008 (EDT)

I would too. To add something else I would like to know the specifics of your peer reviewing Mr. Schlafly. How long did it take on average? How long did the fastest paper you peer reviewed take? Please respond. Rellik 14:41, 30 June 2008 (EDT)

Hours later, when other discussions came up, including about the misleading characterization Schlafly had for "Lenski's defenders" and what they "conceded":

You appear to have overlooked the questions posted above by EileenT, Rellik and me. --DenningMR

This brought about the angry defense of Schlafly by others:

If I were ASchlafly I would ignore your flamewar-baiting questions too. Asking things about Mr. Schlafly's peer reviewing and about irrelevant details like "How long did the fastest paper you peer reviewed take?" is not productive. It's not Mr. Schafly that's under scrutiny here - it's Lenski. --Humble 22:12, 30 June 2008 (EDT)
Humble is indeed right. Aschlafly is not obligated to respond to trolling. HenryS 22:21, 30 June 2008 (EDT)

The conversation continued, this time with Schlafly responding!

Thanks for your input Humble and HenryS. I must respectfully disagree, however. My post had nothing to do with "flamewar-baiting" (whatever that is) or with trolling. Aschlafly has challenged the peer review of Lenski's work and, as a part of that challenge, has cited his own experience in peer reviewing. It is not disrespectful or even surprising that several editors then ask for details of what that experience was. I am sorry that you have taken it the wrong way. The question remains on the table. --DenningMR
I answered on my talk page. In my experience an article having the extraordinary claims of Lenski's paper takes many weeks, if not months, of peer review to do a thorough job. I've been involved in quicker peer reviews for less significant claims, but that is hardly relevant.--Aschlafly 22:30, 30 June 2008 (EDT)
You didn't answer on your talk page. You said that Rellik had not provided a link so you didn't know what he was referencing. He, along with EileenT and myself were referring to this claim. We would all like to know what your peer reviewing experience is. We mean no disrespect, but you are using your peer reviewing experience (repeatedly) to butress your position that the review of Lenski's work was deficient. In that light it seems a reasonable request. --DenningMR 22:50, 30 June 2008 (EDT)
P.S. Upon rereading the above I see where there might be a misunderstanding. We were not asking whether your experience indicated to you that the peer review of Lenski's work was too quick. We were asking for details of what you had peer reviewed and for whom. --DenningMR 23:08, 30 June 2008 (EDT)
We can only be taken seriously if we can substantiate our claims and acknowledge our mistakes. In fact, commandment #1 reads "Everything you post must be true and verifiable". That is why I posted some clarifications myself, and asked Andy to provide more info on his reviewing activities, so we leave readers the impression we are serious. Andy's comment was, and I quote "Thanks for trying to talk down to us, "Henry8th", but I've peer-reviewed many papers myself. Suffice it to say that you, DanielB and DinsdaleP are awfully naive if you don't think bias played a role in the absurdly quick "peer review" of Lenski's paper.--Aschlafly 20:34, 28 June 2008 (EDT)". Andy, your cooperation is appreciated, and would help strengthen Conservapedia's credibility. EileenT 23:37, 30 June 2008 (EDT)
Folks, you're barking up the wrong tree. I refuted an attempt to talk down to us. I never asked anyone to believe me based on my experience and your obsession has taken on an inappropriate life of its own. I have participated in blind peer review and that implies not bragging about the specific name of the publication(s). Now run along and contribute something substantive.--Aschlafly 23:18, 1 July 2008 (EDT)

That's right, instead of taking Schlafly to task for his absurd statements and trying to say he's fully qualified for distinguishing bad peer reviews (but don't try to find out what his qualifications are!), people should be making substantial contributions to the site. Unlike, say, personal vendettas against biologists whose work you don't like?

But, instead of several people asking Schlafly to back up his claims, apparently a commandment at "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia" to post statements in the first place, he decides to take to name-calling and avoiding the question:

Aschlafly, I can understand your reluctance to brag about your experience. However, as I pointed out above, you have repeatedly used youe peer reviewing experience to support your claim that the peer review of Lenski's work was deficient because it was "absurdly quick". Surely this site owes it to those whom it criticises, to properly support such assertions. I do not see why you cannot name the publication, so long as you do not name the specific work that you reviewed. Certainly you could reveal the research area of the work reviewed (molecular biology, quantum physics, inorganic chemistry etc). And surely there could be no objection to revealing the number of peer reviews that you have undertaken (if it is in the hundreds, no doubt a rough estimate would suffice). As EileenT pointed out, this is a matter of strengthening Conservapedia's credibility. Please set aside your understandable reluctance to brag for the good of this project. --DenningMR 00:14, 2 July 2008 (EDT)
I made no claim based on personal experience or credential. Liberals argue that way, not conservatives. Lenski's peer review was absurdly quick based on a review of PNAS average peer review times, which anyone can do, and also common sense. I know you'll insist, as all liberals do, on last wordism here, but don't misrepresent my position and don't beat a dead horse.--Aschlafly 00:19, 2 July 2008 (EDT)

Well, isn't that strange? He made no claim based on personal experience or credential[s]? I could have sworn . . .

In fact, someone else caught this quickly:

Aschlafly, you are mistaken. You did make claims based on personal experience. They were as follows:

...I've peer-reviewed many papers myself. ...--Aschlafly 20:34, 28 June 2008 (EDT)
...In my experience an article having the extraordinary claims of Lenski's paper takes many weeks, if not months, of peer review to do a thorough job. I've been involved in quicker peer reviews for less significant claims, but that is hardly relevant.--Aschlafly 22:30, 30 June 2008 (EDT)
...I've served as a blind peer reviewer also over the years.--Aschlafly 18:56, 1 July 2008 (EDT)

I am not saying that you cannot make such claims, but, having made them and having criticised Lenski based on them, are you not duty bound, when asked, to reveal what your experience is? You are behaving as if I am trying to badger you or criticise you. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want to protect the credibility of this project by ensuring that the basis for criticisms levelled at third parties is clear for all to see.

This horse isn't dead yet. The best and easiest way to kill it would be to answer the question. --DenningMR

To which a response was:

Your posts are becoming disruptive. See your talk page. Bugler

That's right, asking someone to back up his wild claims of serious experience related to what he's saying someone else failed at is "becoming disruptive". Unlike, say, the person who's devoting quite a bit of time to libeling a biologist's integrity and professionalism?

It's not disruptive for people on a site that states as commandment 1: "Everything you post must be true and verifiable." Is it that much to ask someone making claims of his own experience in saying someone else's work is flawed, that such experience should be verifiable and true? Guess not.

I expressly stated in the quotes above that the peer reviews done by me are "hardly relevant," so obviously I'm not going to continue to encourage the senseless comments about it. Put your spare time to better use: explain why Lenski won't make public the taxpayer-funded data that underlie his public claims. Liberal attempts at last wordism that divert attention from the main issue are disfavored.--Aschlafly

I guess it's true what they say about wild animals backed into corners. They will lash out, name-call, divert attention and . . .

But how would Conservapedia deal with someone who wants a straight answer that conforms to commandment one? BAN THEM!

You are encouraging these "senseless comments" by not giving a straight answer. Oh yes last wordism your effort to stifle debate by both painting the dissenting contributor as a juvenile debater and as a liberal. You know nothing about me so I encourage you to keep your last wordism to yourself. Back on topic though. To end this you have two options either block me and everyone else who is asking about your peer reviewing experience, or give an honest answer. I would prefer if you went with the easier route. Rellik 16:16, 2 July 2008 (EDT)
I have blocked 'killer': this hysterical rant was the last straw. Bugler

Look at that hysteria "Rellik" put out. He should have been banned years ago for flying off the handle. Good think Andy Schlafly keeps a calm head, isn't it?

yes, thank you for turning the volume down on the hysteria. Now it's easier for simple requests for information to be answered - like the specifics of aschlafly's peer review participation. This is straight-forward information that should take next to no time to provide and will put the braying liberals in their place. Given the energy spent doing exactly that, this seems like a great ROI opportunity! Aziraphale 18:00, 2 July 2008 (EDT)
Ugh... another wise guy. You people just won't give up huh? You didn't even bother reading what was already said - Aschlafly explained that "I have participated in blind peer review and that implies not bragging about the specific name of the publication(s)." --Humble

Blind peer review is the reason Schlafly does not have to defend his "experience"? Blind peer review simply means that the reviewers are not known to the author. If Schlafly has only participated in BPRs, and he has never wished to have his name associated with any of his works, one could consider this acceptable if this were simply his job description.

However, since Schlafly is taking his experience and using it to point out flaws of an esteemed biologist, hiding behind it makes it more suspicious. No one is asking him to brag about publications, but give some insight into his so-called experience. Naming a journal that has been around for decades isn't the same as naming a specific issue of said journal. Stating his experience lies in, say, nanotechnology studies of medical procedures in military operations, without naming anything else, will still give him some leeway that he has experience without identifying the actual articles which he reviewed.

Therein lies the problem of Schlafly stepping forward. He would need to give some information about what he peer-reviewed relevant to this study. To do so, Schlafly would also have to identify what expertise he has in such a field to become a reviewer of a paper. Reviewers aren't pulled from the street; they are experts in the field of study.

Since Schlafly's Conservapedia page lists his credentials as teacher, adjunct law professor and homeschooling subjects such as economics and history, I don't see how Schlafly can defend his statement that he has knowledge first-hand of peer-reviewing biological papers. Perhaps his peer-review experience is in an unrelated field, and thus his boasting is, once-again, misleading?

Given that several people have caught Schlafly on this, and Conservapedia's regulars defend him or ban a person for persisting to get more information on his boasts, it's clear that, like so many of Schlafly's other claims against Lenski, he's full of shit.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Conservapedia: I can make up quotes, too!

One user of online encyclopedia remarked, "Conservapedia is the laughing stock of the online community. I'd think it was satire if I didn't know they honestly believed what they write." In related news, Conservapedia conjures up a quote unrelated to an article they link regarding academic honesty.

Say what?

From Conservapedia's main page, "A new website encourages students to post college exams, but some professors object. One former student declares, 'The only people who will find this website to be a threat are those lazy tenured sloths that like to recycle old material on their exams.'"

The story is a Union-Tribune one about a website called "" This site allows students to post returned tests, and the answers, so that others can use them for study aids. The site is free to use, supported by advertisements on the site.

Yet the linked article has nothing near the quote listed. So where did it come from? The only negative quote regarding professors rehashing tests is from another teacher, and it's not derogatory, unlike the quote Conservapedia uses.

So it could be one of three things. A comment left on the article online that was removed earlier or one that came from elsewhere and unidentified; a personal opinion of the person who submitted or posted the link itself and wanted not to be identified; or Conservapedia just made it up.

In any of these, the failure to note the origin of the quote when linking to news, on "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia," makes it dishonest.

But to those who despise colleges and universities who aren't Christian degree mills, it isn't surprising that they would inject their personal views regarding higher education. I just won't be holding my breath for them to come clean on yet another falsehood.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Conservapedia: Polls and opinion are better than science

To have "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia" explain science, if enough people don't believe in a subject, or believe something that is counter to what the science states, then the science *MUST* be wrong. At least, that's the implications of such wonderful quotes as:
Record Crude Prices Fuel Support for Oil and Gas Exploration Off Florida Coast

This links to a FoxNews story that states, "With gas topping $4 a gallon, recent polls show Americans, Floridians included, more supportive of drilling in protected areas. Some politicians — including Gov. Charlie Crist — have switched sides." It's surprising that the polls are not mentioned directly, though sentiment may have to do with the media's drum beat that any drilling anywhere will lower gas prices.

According to a story with McClatchy Newspapers, "Opening America's coastal waters to oil drilling, as John McCain urged in an address Tuesday, is unlikely to provide Americans with more oil for at least seven to 10 [sic] years." What's more, "[I]f there are 19 billion barrels in the areas McCain would open to drilling, that's enough to provide about 920 days, or about 2.5 years, of current U.S. consumption." Add to that expenses, proposed to be around $100 million, and the effects will likely RAISE the costs of gas, not lower them.

If the media and some politicians keep telling people that more drilling will ease prices at the pump, then of course polls will reveal people approve of drilling off-shore. If people were instead told that drilling off-shore won't ease gas supply for almost a decade, when oil consumption will be much higher than it is now, and that any such drilling will cost millions and millions of dollars just to start (and who will pay for that setup and exploration?), there's little chance that a majority will support such actions.

Like with other entries on Conservapedia that quote polls or link to news stories that state polls trump science, it still does not make the science invalid. It speaks volumes of those who trumpet the falsehoods, though.

And if you wanted another incident of polls-trump-science on Conservapedia, I give you:
For example, an article by CBS News begins with the observation that, "Americans do not believe that humans evolved, and the vast majority says that even if they evolved, God guided the process. Just 13 percent say that God was not involved." In addition, there is evidence to suggest that the evolutionary position is gradually losing public support in the United States. The prestigious science journal Science reported the following in 2006: "The percentage of people in the country who accept the idea of evolution has declined from 45 in 1985 to 40 in 2005. Meanwhile the fraction of Americans unsure about evolution has soared from 7 per cent in 1985 to 21 per cent last year.

So yes, take all your evidence, your experiments, your predictions, and shove them, because more people just don't believe in science. After all, what has science ever done for them?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Conservapedia: Demanding the wrong data

Conservapedia, led by Mr. Schlafly, has gone on an internet-Crusade against Richard Lenski. The latter published a paper that describes, in the best sense, evolution observed in the laboratory independent of similar but isolated populations. This did not sit well for the inane demands of Schlafly.

Cue to a page demanding that people figure out how to get the data from the experiment.

The data wanted?

Visual inspection
Evolution of Cit Function in Population Ara-3. The LTEE populations are transferred daily into fresh medium, and the turbidity of each is checked visually at that time. ...
Data on these observations?

What data is Schlafly looking for? He doesn't clarify. Is he looking for the level of turbidity each transfer, every day for over twenty years, all over twelve populations? The data is not only unnecessary, it doesn't make sense to demand it.

Turbidity can differ on new cultures by minimal levels of opaqueness without changing the quality of the culture itself. Cultures are sterilized before they are used.

Is Schlafly looking for how the experiment's monitors measured the turbidity? A meter to measure turbidity? Holding it up to the light?

...the cultures are only slightly turbid when transferred. Occasional contaminants that grow on citrate have been seen over the 20 years of this experiment.
Data? When and how many?

Again, what is he looking for? Which days were turbidity levels observed to be higher? Lower? Or is he looking for what days contaminants were found on cultures? He needs to clarify.

Of course, asking for information on contaminants is ridiculous to try to find some way to prove that Lenski's experiment is due to contaminants, based on the next request...

These contaminated cultures reach much higher turbidity owing to the high concentration of citrate in the medium, which allows the contaminants to reach high density. (When contamination occurs, the affected population is restarted from the latest frozen sample.)
Data for when that occurred, and how often?

The information regarding contamination restarts most likely are available, but do not need to be included in the paper for the very reason listed in the parentheses. When contaminants are found, that population is discarded and a fresh culture is begun from the last frozen sample. This means that when contaminants were found with the bacteria, the bacteria culture was removed from the experiment. Its results are no longer included in the experiment.

Demanding this information, again, is useless for anything more than getting extra, unimportant data. It will not change the outcome of Lenski's paper or conclusions.

A Richard Lenski defender says, "If interested in a thorough review, contact the group directly, with a legitimate request for data. Otherwise, the disclaimer is a more than adequate description of the sample handling process."
In fact, two requests were made directly to Lenski for data, without success. His second response was rude and insulting.

Schlafly fails to mention that Lenski linked (and I followed suit in a previous posting) to the papers with the information on the populations from when the first possible mutations giving rise to the ability for the E. coli bacteria to metabolize citrate came, to his final paper (paper 180) before Conservapedia took offense.

So far, the "extra" data Schlafly wants, as far as I can tell from the Conservapedia page on Lenski, is not only immaterial, but likely never recorded because, through thousands of other experiments over the history of science, they are irrelevant. Demanding irrelevant and immaterial data, then saying the lack of it makes the experiment suspect, is not only dishonest, but shows levels of disrespect and ignorance of science.

The Numbers Please?
After 33,127 generations, one population, designated Ara-3, displayed significantly elevated turbidity that continued to rise for several days (Fig. 1).
Higher resolution data underlying figure not provided despite request.

What would higher resolution data do for Schlafly? Show that instead of a very smooth upward climb, there was one day where turbidity did not get as opaque as the day before?

The graph, Figure 1, shows Optical Density (OD) at 420nm from three restarted populations began from the CIT+ mutated population had slightly differing densities early, but their differences were far narrower days later. Requesting far more detailed graphs will not change the results that the graph shows. It's impossible to figure out what information Schlafly feels he can extract from more resolution, other than trying to find the exact densities rather than a good estimate.

More missing Numbers
A number...
Data? How many? Statistically significant?

Schlafly cannot read, or chose not to try.

"A number of Cit+ clones were isolated from the population and checked for phenotypic markers characteristic of the ancestral E. coli strain used to start the LTEE: all were Ara-, T5-sensitive, and T6-resistant, as expected (2)."

[Note: Corrected reference linkage, error made by blog author, not experiment's author]

The (2) refers to reference 2, which is:
"Lenski RE, Rose MR, Simpson SC, Tadler SC (1991) Long-term experimental evolution in Escherichia coli. I. Adaptation and divergence during 2,000 generations. Am Nat 138:1315–1341."

Referring to Figure 2, on the following page of the paper. What does the figure state?

"Fig. 2. Growth of Cit- (blue triangles) and Cit+ (red diamonds) cells in DM25 medium. Each trajectory shows the average OD for eight replicate mixtures of three clones, all from generation 33,000 of population Ara-3."

Was there another number Schlafly was looking for?

We're Professional Scientists
of Cit clones were isolated from the population and checked for phenotypic markers characteristic of the ancestral E. coli strain used to start the LTEE: all
Data? How many? Statistically significant?

Follows the one before. If Schlafly wants a definitive answer beyond what's in the paper, he should ask a definitive question, rather than "How many?" How many what? How many Cit clones were isolated? How many markers were checked?

Schlafly seems highly concerned with data, but not very concerned with making himself clear.

Missing Characteristics
...were Ara, T5-sensitive, and T6-resistant, as expected (2)
Data about these and other characteristics?

Schlafly did not read to page 7 of the paper, apparently. Else he would have found this:

"The Long-term Evolution Experiment. The LTEE is described in detail elsewhere (2, 22). Briefly, two ancestral clones of E. coli B were each used to found six populations. The ancestors differ by a single mutation that allows one of them to use arabinose (Ara+). Ara- and Ara+ cells make red and white colonies, respectively, on tetrazolium–arabinose (TA) plates, but the mutation is neutral in the environment of the LTEE (2). The twelve populations have been propagated for almost 20 years by daily serial dilution in DM25, a minimal salts medium that has 139[uM] glucose and 1,700[uM] citrate (2). Given 1:100 dilution and regrowth, the populations achieve ~6.64 generations per day, and they have evolved for over 40,000 generations in this experiment to date. Every 500 generations, population samples are frozen at -80°C with glycerol added as a cryoprotectant."

What other characteristics would he like? He should state each specifically.

A Richard Lenski defender says, "Interested parties should consult the literature on these topics. It is not within the scope of this paper to address the significance of these markers."
What is missing from disclosure are the data that the markers were actually observed in a reliable and conclusive manner in this study.

Schlafly here seems to be accusing Lenski and his lab of dishonesty for no other reason that he does not like the results of the experiment. If Schlafly has any reason to believe the data is manipulated or faulty, beyond that he doesn't like the results, he should make clear why he believes this, and what data specifically he would want. Making an accusation that the observations were not reliable or conclusive without any indications why is not sufficient.

DNA sequencing also showed...

What is Schlafly requesting? How the DNA was sequenced? What the sequences were? The former can be done in numerous, scientifically supported ways, and arrive at the same results. The data could end up in millions of pieces of information for a single generation. What would Schlafly want?

A Richard Lenski defender says, "The inclusion of this data would be considerably more extensive than appropriate for the inclusion in this paper."
No one asked for the data to be printed in the paper. What is missing is disclosure of the data on the website, or upon public request.

Exactly what information Schlafly wants is still unclear. Does he want every sequencing done during the experiment? Only the Cit+ retesting? What? What he's asking could easily reach one trillion pieces of information; is he willing to pour through them all to ensure the experiments results were thorough?

More missing data
...that Cit clones have the same mutations in the pykF and nadR genes as do clones from earlier generations of the Ara-3 population, ...
Data about these and other characteristics?

What information would Schlafly want here? The same mutations are the same mutations. Does he want the specific base pairs and how they differed? Does he want the proteins produced? Does he want how they matched the mutations? The characteristics are already listed in the paper, as stated above. The data, again, is unclear what Schlafly wants.

...and each of these mutations distinguishes this population from all the others (30).
Data distinguishing "This population from all the others"?

Perhaps the fact that they are Cit+?

Fast Tracked
Therefore, the Cit variant arose within the LTEE and is not a contaminant.
The astoundingly short 14-day PEER REVIEW period, measured from the day the paper was sent out for review to the day of formal contribution by Lenski after acceptance, raises questions as to whether there was any meaningful peer review of this at all.

The peer-review was done to ensure that procedures and methodologies were proper. This is typical of peer-review and does not reflect poorly on the results. If another institution capable of handling E. coli properly and wishing to inspect the results of the experiment are able to request the samples from Lenski's lab. After the publication, the only people who have complaints about the results are people who don't like the results, not people who question the experiment's integrity.

As with before, I've not only provided 100% legal ways to get this data, but I've pointed out where data Schlafly himself has overlooked is available.

I'm still awaiting the award of completing the first ever Conservapedia Challenge.

Conservapedia: Stubborn idiocy in action

Besides attributing anything bad in the world to liberalism by using tactics such as post hoc ergo propter hoc, lately Conservapedia's main page has been abuzz about their perceived insult that is biologist Richard Lenski.

Besides uncovering laboratory evidence of evolution with the E. coli bacterium, Lenski also has the privilege of being the first target of a "Conservapedia challenge." According to the page:

A Conservapedia challenge is an unsolved problem or task that offers the promise of bettering society when lawfully accomplished.

The challenge?

Who will be first to figure out a legal means for obtaining public disclosure of Lenski's underlying federally funded data?

I hope I will get that credit. So, here we go:

Paper 180 (Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli.): PDF Document
Paper 164 (Tests of parallel molecular evolution in a long-term
experiment with Escherichia coli): PDF and HTML/Frames Document
Paper 147 (Phenotypic and genomic evolution during a 20,000-generation experiment with the bacterium Escherichia coli.): PDF Document
Paper 142 (Rates of DNA sequence evolution in experimental populations of Escherichia coli during 20,000 generations.): PDF Document
Paper 140 (Parallel changes in gene expression after 20,000 generations of evolution in E. coli.): PDF Document

In fact, these and other papers related to Lenski's experiment are available at his website. Click on "Publications" in the left menu, then "Long-term evolution experiment with E.coli" in the right frame. There you go.

If you want hard copies of all information, you can acquire them from the University itself. Here is their page on directions and map of buildings. Please note: Harassing, stalking or otherwise causing problems with any staff or faculty of the University, or students and visitors to the University, is not legal!

If you cannot get to East Lansing, I have also included a list of Copying/Duplicating services in the area. Many offer mailing or shipping services. If you are willing to pay for hard copies and shipping, I'm sure one of these facilities would take you up on the production.

About the only thing not available from the experiment is the E. coli itself, for obvious reasons. Beyond that, all this information and methods of acquiring the data is 100% legal.

So credit me with the win of the first Conservapedia challenge. That would be "No Latitude".

Long time without a post

It's been a long time without a post, since I returned to college. But since religious nuts have been going crazy on the internet (was it due to Intelligent Design, much like Creationism and Creation Science before, being labeled as "religion" and unconstitutional to teach in public schools?), there has been a great deal more stupidity with neo-conservative and religious amalgamated thought on the web.