Wednesday, February 28, 2007

So much woo in such a small head

Part of my job is to provide answers to members of the public who call in with requests for information. These generally are along the lines of how deep is the aquifer in my area, what kind of rock is in my neighborhood, or where can I go look for fossils. The other day someone called and made my head spin.

I could barely get a word in edgewise; she was speaking nonstop, jumping from subject to subject like a flea on a frying pan. Part of what she was saying went something like this:
Praise Jesus! Are you familiar with the chemicals that make the water in Fiji I was studying Fiji and their water problems and do you have records of the water quality from colonial times to compare with today why do we have to pay for pure water because water is god's gift to man and it should be provided free from the federal government because "federal" comes from "feed" and evolved from local then state now federal but now we have to pay because of bad morals and you know Japanese industry didn't account to anything until after World War II when they got rid of the geisha girls because there was such immorality in Singapore now they have coral calcium water in Japan and the people in Prince George's County need to know this and do you have records of successful marriages going back all these years because all those minerals water is made from like silica and the congressman and Fiji...
We keep all our notes on loose women in the drawer with the geophysical logs, and I didn't feel like opening that drawer. I figured since she wanted demographic information (records of immorality, broken down by county), her best bet (or my only relief) was for her to call the State planning department.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ground-Water Awareness Week 11-17 March

Sure, I can give this event a plug. People growing up in urban areas may not give much thought to the source of their water, other than that it's provided by the water company. But in many areas homes are supplied by their own individual wells, and for some of these people the reliability of their water supply is a very serious issue. The National Ground Water Association is sponsoring a week to encourage people to be more aware of this resource and is providing tips and information on ground-water conservation.

From the NGWA:
Ground Water and Wells: America's Lifeline

If you have a household water well, you depend on ground water for your water supply. If you don't have a water well, you still depend on ground water in many ways.

Whether you are a well owner or not, here are some things you should know about ground water from the National Ground Water Association.

Ground water makes up more than 90 percent of the available fresh water in the world. Because it is so widespread, nearly half of Americans rely on ground water, either from private wells ore community water systems. Not only that, ground water supplies 58 billion gallons a day of water for agricultural irrigation. It also feeds 492 billion gallons a day to surface water bodies such as rivers, lakes and streams.

If you own a well, get an annual well maintenance check and water test. Private well owners are responsible for making sure their water supply is safe, so regular maintenance and water testing for nitrates and anything else of local concern is important.

If you don't own a well, you still have a responsibility to protect ground water. Improper storage or disposal of hazardous household substances can pollute ground water. These include herbicides and pesticides, antifreeze, fertilizer, paint and paint thinner, oil and chemicals. What you dump on the ground, pour down the drain or throw in the trash could end up in the ground water. Store hazardous household substances in secure places using proper containers. If possible, dispose of such substances at hazardous waste drop-off sites.

Use water wisely, whether you own a well or not. There is no shortage of ground water nationally, but demand on a local or regional basis can create water scarcity. It only makes sense not to waste water. Consider:
  • Fixing leaky toilets or faucets to save thousands of gallons of water a year.
  • Using water efficient appliances
  • Using low-flow shower heads
  • Watering the lawn or garden, not the sidewalk or street.
  • Running the dishwasher only when it's full.
You can probably think of dozens of other ways to conserve water.

Learn about well maintenance, water testing, ground water protection and conservation by talking with a qualified ground water professional or going to the National Ground Water Association Web site, at

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Move over, Moon!

Speaking of Bush brings to mind True Father and Messiah Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Another clip on tv today (hey, it was bad weather, how could I go in to the office?) featured Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda. He's stepping up as competition to Moon's Messiahship, claiming to be the new Messiah. No, wait, now he's claiming to be the Antichrist, complete with "666" tattoos. Maybe they can get together for a television special, "Clash of the Messiahs."

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It's not like that war

At his press conference today, President Bush declared that "Victory in Iraq will not be like victory in World War II."

Yeah, he's probably right. It might be more like our victory in Viet Nam.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

They didn’t know? Because they did not want to

A little while back some folks were questioning the wisdom of several members of the Dover Area School Board for insisting on adopting a statement to be read to biology students that promoted intelligent design, when they understood neither evolution nor intelligent design (nor even science, for that matter). Apparently, some people thought these ignoramuses should be excused for their lack of knowledge. I disagree. There was opportunity to learn (for crying out loud, there were teachers in the schools); some information was available in the media (although at that time too many reports seemed to attempt more balance than was justified); and some folks tried to tell them intelligent design was bogus.

In early September I sent the following letter to the three Board members who had email addresses listed on the School Board Web page. Those three were Noel Wenrich (who later left the Board for a position elsewhere), Alan Bonsell (I did not realize he was the creationist ringleader), and Heather Geesey. I asked the recipients to share the letter with their colleagues who did not have email addresses posted. Needless to say, my letters had no effect on these people.

Dear (Mr. Wenrich, Mr. Bonsell, and Ms Geesey),

I understand that the Dover Area School Board is considering whether to require “Of Pandas and People” as a supplemental text in the high school biology curriculum. I believe members of the Board should be made aware of the nature of this book and why adopting it would do a grievous disservice to the students. I have attached two critiques of this book written by qualified practitioners in the field of evolutionary biology (more critiques have been written, but they cover much of the same ground). Please share this information with those Board members who do not have email addresses lested on the Board Web page.

In a nutshell, “Intelligent Design Creationism” is a movement having as part of its overall goal, bringing Biblical Creation into the classroom. Although some may deny a religious motivation, when one examines what they say, in their own words, there is no room for doubt. “Pandas” is clearly and undeniably a sectarian religious text, despite its attempts not to refer to “God” or cite passages from the Bible. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined such efforts to introduce religion under stealth violate the Constitution. (I’ll just mention here that, despite Creationists’ execrations to the contrary, many evolutionary scientists are religious people.)

“Pandas” presents many of the standard Creationist arguments and strategies—arguments based on misunderstanding of the science, quotations out of context, distorted explanations, misrepresentations, and even outright falsehoods. If the authors are to be believed, not only is evolutionary science in error, but many aspects of geology and the basic sciences are also wrong. When one considers how well the scientific method has helped us learn about the world around us, it is extreme hubris to say that science has got it all wrong.

I’ll leave specific criticisms of “Pandas” to the attached articles. They contain additional references, and many, many more can be found at,, and other Web sites. Detailed criticisms of Intelligent Design Creationism (and hundreds more references cited) have been presented in

Forrest and Gross, 2004, Creationism’s Trojan horse: Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 401 p.

Pennock, 1999, Tower of Babel: Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 429 p.

Pennock (editor), 2001, Intelligent design creationism and its critics: Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 805 p. [includes contributions by a number of leading ID Creationists, and critiques]

Shanks, 2004, God, the devil, and Darwin: Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 273 p.

My greatest concern in matters such as this is that we are at a point where America needs to have as well-informed, knowledgeable, critically-thinking citizenry as possible in order to compete in an increasingly technological world. We severely hamper our ability to compete if we impose a seventeenth-century mode of thinking on our new generations.

I thank you for your patience, and I will gladly provide such additional materials as I can that you may find helpful.

Respectfully yours,

Oh--Happy Darwin Day!

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