Hey, it's my own version of 'Celebrity Death Match'! (I'm working on the claymation)

The frequently-inflammatory Vox Day asks me a question
in passing while savaging a post of Phil Plait's. Phil has a nice blog called Bad Astronomy which enjoys a pretty fair following. Here's the post that got Vox's dander up, and here's Vox's reply, in which he invites me to comment.

Here's the reply I put on Vox's site, which I've cross-posted to Phil's site as a courtesy:

In brief, I think that Phil's comments were intemperate and, taken literally, pretty much impossible to defend. He's on pretty solid ground when he's talking about the existence of dark matter and dark energy, but his brief on evolutionary biology runs far afield.

I would say that evolutionary biology provides a conceptual framework to evaluate the degree to which ethical principles/cultural mores etc. are consonant with or (more controversially) derived from our biology. It's a valid research program within evolutionary biology, but to claim that the reigning model in which the program is nested 'explains' ethical concepts in and of itself is a rhetorical overreach, likely prompted by his own beliefs.

Anyway, Phil, Vox, I invite interested partisans from both blogs to rip me a new one in the comments.



Home schoolers are in for a shock. An appeals court ruling has affirmed that existing California law does not permit parents without teaching credentials to define their household as a private school for the purpose of educating children.

The fur is going to fly over this one. Personally, I think this is overdue. Most parents who teach their own children are not going to do a good job in math or science instruction, and the state has the right to expect a minimum level of competence. Kids who are home schooled for much of their education often do well on the SAT's and excel in subject matter that can be absorbed through books and skill rehearsal, but home schooling is never going to be the best way to train engineers, doctors or scientists. Laboratory experience is essential: just how many parents are going to have the skill and dedication to obtain a fetal pig and dissect same, or set up an acid-base titration or master the math necessary to teach introductory physics? Not too many, and right now many of these well-meaning parents (at least I prefer to think their heart's in the right place) are getting a free pass, for the most part oblivious to or indifferent to the gaping holes in their own education.

Having said all that, though, I think that there should be an alternative to credentialing for parents who want to home-school their own children exclusively. California should require them to pass the CBEST for basic skills, then take survey courses (at their own expense, natch) their first year of teaching in order to familiarize them with the standards. Parents should be given the opportunity to challenge these courses by examination, of course. Parents should also be required to purchase/lease textbooks that teach the standards from their local school district. Parents whose students tested 'below basic' should be required to take additional coursework to maintain their certificate.


My father, Jerry Hatfield, is a published author many times over. His field of interest? Antique motorcycles, especially everything to do with the legendary (but long-defunct) Indian Motorcycle.

His most recent book, a labor of love called 'Flat Out', is a meticulously-researched, beautifully-illustrated volume about Rollie Free, a fascinating character whose life seems drawn from pulp fiction, a motor sports daredevil and promoter of the same who memorably set the world speed record on the Bonneville salt flats, wearing little more than a bathing suit atop a stripped-down Vincent. Free's life, adventures and especially his iconic pose astride the whizzing Vincent, memorialized in a well-known photograph, have become part of the lore of antique motorcyclists....to the extent that Tonight Show host Jay Leno, a well-known enthusiast and collector, wrote the forward to Dad's book.

That's a Hollywood connection, but recently my Dad outdid himself. Earlier this week, he attended a Tonight Show taping as Jay's guest, and yesterday spent much of the day doing a video shoot with Jay, to be shown on-line at Jay Leno's Garage.

I'll forward more details as they become known, Dad! How about your people talk to my people, and we'll do lunch? Ciao, from Ace-Baby!



My school district (FUSD) is understandably eager to make sure that neither district personnel or students view illegal or inappropriate materials through their Internet. So they have filters that are designed to catch phrases like 'adult entertainment' or 'off-shore gambling' and the like. All well and good.

But what else might these filters be up to? For example, they blocked an attempt by yours truly to view the web page of the director of Fresno's Islamic Cultural Center who is part of the IACC (Interfaith Alliance of Central California). They've also blocked other pages expressing viewpoints on religion, among them atheist sites.

This concerns me. If a page is blocked for no other reason than containing the word 'Islamic' or 'atheist', we've got a problem with the filters.....or else, the filterers. Qui custodiet esto custodes?



You can read his rejoinder to what I wrote earlier here, along with comments from his minions, and quite a few barbed responses from yours truly.

I invite further comments in this space, and thank any from Vox's place in advance for any thoughts they might wish to share, pro or con.