Field of Science

A Reason to Vote No on Nov 6

A friend of mine posted an impassioned argument to Vote No on the marriage amendment on Facebook. She wanted to get her message out, so I offered to share it here and she said yes. I have copied her post in its entirety. So without further ado...
This is not spam, this is not meant to seem like a mass message, (although I sent it to a mass) this is a personal message that I, Jenny, am sending, with good intent, to you. Whether you know me well, from the past or only in passing, I REALLY want you to read what I have to say regardless of your opinions or lack there of on politics. 
I'll try to be brief!
In 11 days we will all have the option to cast a vote. I don't care which party/person you vote for. That is none of my business or concern. What I care about is how you vote on the marriage amendment.
*Please don't stop reading* 
I've talked to many people that I consider friends and even casual acquaintances about the marriage amendment and I've heard a startling amount of people tell me that they intent to vote "yes" to approve the amendment. Not because they claim to be bigots, not because they're particularly religious (which shouldn't matter regardless), but simply because they "don't care" or "don't know any gay people". 
Voting to permanently deny rights THAT THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE to a large population of our neighbors is barbaric. I can't believe that at this point in history we're wasting our time with something of this nature and even more, can't believe that people that I know are entertaining it! 
This is not a gay rights issue. This is a HUMAN rights issue. You don't have to know any gays to recognize that. 
Without going into sob stories about anyone that I know I want to talk about practicality. If you are religious and feel like that is the reason you should vote "yes" please do me a few favors: #1- Please remember that church is supposed to be separate from state. Your religious establishment will never be required to marry anyone that it doesn't want to, as churches (synagogues, ect.) are exempt from discrimination laws. It's also not fair to impose your religious beliefs into law. #2- God will not cast you down. I'm sure that you've 'sinned against him' in many ways, like fornication, birth control, using his name in vain, coveting your neighbor... you can still make it up to heaven. #3- If gays earn the right to marry (which is not what we're voting on.. they still will not have equal rights if you vote "no") it will not affect the sanctity of anyone's heterosexual marriage! That's like saying your flower garden is no longer beautiful because your neighbor planted flowers in their yard too. Your garden is NOT less beautiful! 
If you are voting "yes" because you don't know any gay people, please (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) recognize how asinine it is to try and prevent rights to a population just because you don't know them. In fact, if you don't know them, even better! It will affect you less than people that do know gays! 
And lastly, if you intend to vote "yes" because you just don't care, then do me an immediate favor: go to my page directly, find the friends tab, and select delete. I do not want to be so much as a casual aquaintence with anyone of your sorts. In fact, if you intend to vote "yes" for any reason, do that please. 
All moral ambiguity aside, can we not all see the economic benefits to gay marriage?! Weddings are expensive! More weddings means more venues being booked, more dresses/suits being sold, the food industry, the booze industry, jobs, taxes on marriage certificates, the cost of lawyers for the divorces... think about it. You don't even have to like the idea of gay marriage to like the extra flow of cash that would go into our economy.
Recognize, friends-that-despise-politics, that you DO NOT have to vote for a candidate to vote on the marriage amendment!!! If you so choose, you can check only one box and submit your vote. If you are one of these people, then I beg you to do so. Do it for your neighbors. Do it for any LGBT person that you know. Do it for the ones you haven't yet met. Do it for our children, that need to know that no group of people deserve to be bullied for something they cannot change. Set the example. 
This amendment has passed in 39 states. This amendment is not the kind of thing that Minnesotans pass. It's not how we treat each other. It's just not nice. 
PLEASE register to vote, even if it is the only box you check, vote "NO". 
The online registry is: 
Thank you for reading my words,

No Rape Republicans: Dumbasses

Republican Assholes: 2nd recipients of this prestigious award
For some reason it seems that an entire major US political party has unilaterally decided that rape does not exist. Or maybe it is better to say that true rape does not exist, it's probably just some liberal media myth like climate change and intellectual honesty. I realize not all, and maybe not most, republicans share this worldview, but this is the problem you get when you embrace fundamentalism.

The patriarchal fundamentalist does not believe in rape, because a woman does not own her body. A woman's body belongs to her father until such time as he bequeaths it to her husband. This is why we, as 21st century first-world Americans still spend time worrying about the hymenal status of the bride, but could care less how often the groom shot his rocks off. This is what a large proportion of the gay marriage ban community means by traditional marriage. Women are property damnit.

Since women are property, they cannot be raped, because it isn't up to them what happens to their bodies. OK, maybe I'm being a bit hyperbolic. It does seem like some douchebag fundamentalist republicans acknowledge that rape is at least theoretically possible. Todd Akin acknowledges legitimate rape. However, if a woman becomes pregnant it can't be rape because the magic uterus prevents all the sperm cells from finding the egg and fertilizing it (note: this magic effect must occur pre-fertilization or otherwise an intact whole human being would be aborted and that would make baby Jesus cry.). Ron Paul noted that there is honest rape, which you can identify because the woman goes immediately to the emergency room, does not pass GO nor collect $200. Paul Ryan identifies forcible rape as a possible event, as opposed to those non-aggressive or maybe unenforcible rapes.

Regardless, most republicans seem to agree that the sex that occurs between a man and a non-compliant woman is really the woman's fault. That's why Roger Rivard noted that some girls just rape easy. Probably the only way men can be expected to not rape those women is to cover the 'easy rape women' from head to toe in some dark garments. Oh wait, Muslims already do that and they are evil, so we'll have to come up with another plan.

Potential devil worshiper 
With that recent history, we come to Richard Mourdock republican douchebag fundamentalist du jour. His actually disagrees with Akin and suggests that a woman can be become pregnant from a rape, however that's ok, because it's a gift from god. Mourdock might be right, if Mourdock worships the devil. Let's consider the ramifications of Mourdock's viewpoint. If a woman is forced to gestate and deliver a resulting baby from a rape, then why not force her to raise it. Also don't expect me or anyone else in society to help you raise your rape-baby, because that's just socialism or something.

What about the rapist? Can we prosecute him? I mean what if the woman was an 'easy rape' and how can we tell? Hell, if the rape-baby was Mourdock's devil-god's will, then can the rapist be held responsible? Obviously not, the rapist has no free will here, it was devil-god's decision, Mourdock said so. If anyone knows what the devil is thinking, I expect it is someone like Mourdock.

My Book Has Landed

I am super-excited! I won a copy of 'Species: A History of the Idea' by John S. Wilkins and it just arrived this evening (Can I get a BOOYAH)!
Of course that means I need to clear some things off my reading plate ASAP. I'm already sporadically reading Origin of Species (with 2 chapters for blog posts in the cue), Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and The Problems of Philosophy and I cannot take on another serious non-fiction book at the moment. Probably will whip through the rest of Russell's book in the next week or so and then I can crack the binding of 'Species.'

As an extra special bonus, my copy is signed by Dr. Wilkins, which I was not expecting and reflects my total awesomeness I'm sure.

Finally I want to plug 'Evolving Thoughts' as an excellent site to gain insights into the history of biological thought, biological philosophy, and definitely check out the basic concepts posts for primers on various important scientific topics.

Quote of the day

"Every event, or appearance, or accident, which seems to deviate from the ordinary course of nature has been rashly ascribed to the immediate action of the Deity and the astonished fancy of the multitude has sometimes given shape and colour, language and motion, to the fleeting but uncommon meteors of the air."

Written more than 200 years ago about a mindset common 1400 years before that. Have things changed at all?

Quote from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.

On the Goal of Student Seminars

A requirement in most, if not all, biology related graduate programs is that the graduate students give seminars on their research progress several times during their training. In the two programs I am affiliated, students do this in their second and fourth years of training. (I am not including the oral thesis defense required to obtain the Ph.D. and I am only discussing Ph.D. programs as I do not have much experience with Master's programs.) Why do we have these requirements? Or maybe the better way to state the question is 'What is the purpose for having students talk about their research?'
A seminar (not given by a student)
This post is inspired by a recent minor conversation going on around our program. I was not going to post on it, because some of this conversation can be considered private. However, I have heard about this conversation from so many diverse people that the conversation is readily in the public domain. The conversation centers around the idea that specific faculty members are mean to students during their seminars. Seems simple enough, but we should probably define what ‘mean’ means at some point. Regardless, it is useful to establish the purpose of the student research seminar in order to determine what is and is not mean. So back to our initial question...

What is the purpose for having students talk about their research?

There are, of course, numerous purposes for the student seminar and I’ve listed four below. More purposes could be added and these four are not mutually exclusive, but these are the four I want to discuss.

1.    It allows program-wide evaluation.
2.    It sets foreseeable goal posts for progress.
3.    It is great practice.
4.    It allows for self-assessment.