Friday, September 22, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cross Orbweaver

I don't claim to be an entomologist, but I am pretty sure this is Araneus diadematus, the Cross Orbweaver. It's not native to Canada, but common in Ontario gardens.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Are Religious Beliefs Really Off Limits for Voters?

Consider this letter from the President of Princeton University, Christopher Eisgruber.

I am not persuaded at all by these arguments. I wrote the following response.

Dear President Eisgruber:

I could not disagree more strongly with the sentiments expressed in your letter to the Judiciary Committee.

1. Religious beliefs are not, as you claim, "irrelevant" to the qualifications for a Federal judgeship. Would you, for example, be willing to confirm an otherwise-qualified judge who subscribed to the tenets of Christian Identity? (If you are not familiar with this religion, please consult .)

2. Beliefs do not magically become off limits to questioning, probing, or otherwise investigating simply because one labels them "religious". As you know, there is significant debate about whether some belief systems, such as Scientology, are indeed religions. There is no bright line separating religion from other kinds of opinions one may hold.

3. It is absurd to claim that Professor Barrett's religious beliefs are not part of her judicial philosophy, when you yourself cite an article of hers that addresses precisely this issue.

4. You also should know that the "religious test" clause in the Constitution was in response to legislation, such as the Test Acts, that made it impossible for members of certain religions to hold public office. This Constitutional clause says nothing at all about whether voters may make up their minds based on a candidate's religious beliefs. Nor does it say that Judiciary Committee members may not evaluate the suitability of a candidate based on what he or she believes.

This kind of posturing is unworthy of you and unworthy of Princeton.

Jeffrey Shallit '79

In addition, I note that polls show that a large percentage of the American public would not vote for an atheist candidate. Why is it that this never merits letters of concern by people like President Eisgruber?

Many religious people want a double standard: the freedom to hold beliefs, no matter how pernicious or unsupported, and the right to never be questioned on those beliefs.

Robert Marks Anniversary: Three Years Later, Still Evading

Three years after I first asked him, the illustrious Robert J. Marks II, intelligent design advocate and professor at Baylor University, is still refusing to back up his claim that "we all agree that a picture of Mount Rushmore with the busts of four US Presidents contains more information than a picture of Mount Fuji."

I guess he must be just too busy to answer. Too busy writing extremely important articles like this one, for example, which is the only article published so far this year in the intelligent design vanity journal, Bio-Complexity. A journal, by the way, for which the illustrious Robert J. Marks II is also the Editor in Chief! The intensive peer review that article must have undergone is rather mind-boggling. I wonder how many times he sent it back to himself for revision.

Previous ducks:

Two years

One year

Six months

Three months

First question

Friday, August 25, 2017

We Don't Need a Wall...

to keep moose out.

Apparently it's hard to recruit border agents at remote US borders. It seems to me the moose would be a major attraction.

Friday, August 18, 2017

I Hope it is not an Alt-Right Moose

From readers JPA and RM comes the story of this rare white moose in Sweden.

Moose are sensible creatures. I suspect that white moose do not believe they are superior to brown ones.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Since there's a big eclipse coming up on Monday, maybe these old comic strips are appropriate:

July 15 1963

July 16 1963

July 17 1963

July 18 1963

July 19 1963

July 20 1963

A Civil War Monument We Should Leave Up

Here, from Hertford, North Carolina, a town where many of my relatives once lived, is a little-known Civil War monument, one of very few of its kind.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Powers With Repetitions

What's so cool about 574595585933 expressed in base 12400?

And why is something like that really rare?

For the answer, you'll have to read my latest paper, co-written with Andrew Bridy, Robert J. Lemke Oliver, and Arlo Shallit.