Dark Buzz

Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters


Dark Buzz
RSS feed
Singular Values

About these blogs

Schlafly net

Powered by RogBlog


Friday, Apr 30, 2004
Adults with autism
The NY Times has an article about adults who suddenly discover that they are mentally retarded. Often it happens after they have a child diagnosed with autism. Then they watch the movie Rain Man and think that they must have some hidden genius-level talents.

It goes on to say that some marriages have been improved by wives gaining an understanding of how their husbands are mentally defective. Here is an example:

"She'll say something about how terrible her clothes look," Mr. Jorgensen explains. "I'll say, `Yes, honey, those are terrible-looking clothes,' when really she's wanting some affirmation that her clothes don't look terrible."
This is really wacky. It is the wife who is confused about whether she wants an opinion or a compliment, who is insecure, and who lacks basic communication skills. Diagnosing autism in kids is a big fad, and now it seems to be spreading to adults. The movie Rain Man did not help, as it was a truly terrible movie.

George writes:

You have to understand subtle behavior clues if you want to get along with people. There must be something wrong with these men if they are unable to pick up on the clues.
No, there is nothing wrong with a man giving a direct answer to a direct question from his wife. There is something wrong with the growing trend to label standard male behavior as abnormal, sick, or even criminal.

Here is another example from Wednesday's Dear Abby. The first letter is a complaint from a young wife with 3 small kids who wants to bail out of her marriage. Her biggest specific complaints are that he doesn't make breakfast for the kids and that he refuses to go for marriage counseling about it! The poor guy probably works long hours to support his family, and thinks that his homemaker wife should be willing to make breakfast for the kids. Dear Abby (who is really the daughter of the original Dear Abby) says that the husband is sick and that the wife should get a divorce.

Another letter was from a girl who complained about too much sex with her boyfriend of one year. Dear Abby's advice was to refer her to a rape counselor!

This advice is just abominably bad. The only reason that it doesn't raise eyebrows is that our society is already bombarded with anti-men psychobabble.

Chris quotes the first Dear Abby letter and writes:

I take from this that the major complaint is verbal and emotional abuse which is just a little different from not making breakfast.

It undercuts your argument that there is much ”anti-men psychobabble” unless you think that emotional and verbal abuse is standard male behavior and should be accepted and condoned.

Yes, the wife complained that her husband was "verbally and emotionally abusive." But without some context or some specifics, the complaint is meaningless. Everyone who is dissatisfied with his or her marriage accuses the spouse of some sort of mental cruelty. It is boilerplate.

The wife said that she asked her husband to leave, and that she doesn't love him anymore. That usually means that she wants his house and money, custody of the kids, and child support for the next 16 years. She wants him to goto marriage counseling, but only for the purpose of changing him. She shows no interest in learning what she can do to make him happier, or to improve the marriage.

In evaluating a complaint, it can be as important to notice what is not said, as what is said. My hunch is that this is an extremely selfish, ungrateful, and nagging wife. She needs a lesson on how to have a happy marriage, and she is not going to get it.

Thursday, Apr 29, 2004
Cross is unconstitutional
John sends this SF CA story about a California city having to remove crosses from its logo. I live in Santa Cruz, which means Holy Cross. Do we have to change our name?

Tuesday, Apr 27, 2004
Academic Red-shirting
The NY Times has an article on academic red-shirting. There is a growing trend for parents to start their kid in school later, by repeating a year in pre-kindergarten, in order to give them an academic advantage. The NY Times suggests that affluent families might be getting an unfair advantage over poor families who don't want to pay for an extra year of pre-kindergarten.

But the article also cites experts who say that there is no advantage at all, and probably a disadvantage:

The irony of it, said Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development in Chicago, is that parents who hold their children out of kindergarten because it is too academic add to pressures a year later to make it even more academic. Dr. Meisels is one of the most outspoken critics of what has become known as academic red-shirting.

''Parents who observe a kindergarten class in the spring before their child enters school and are not sure if their child will do well because it's very academic in orientation may keep him out another year,'' Dr. Meisels said. ''Then, lo and behold, the year after that, their child is bored. The parent then goes to the teacher and says, 'He's not being challenged. You've got to give him more work' and this sets up a cycle that makes kindergartens more and more academic.''

Does holding children back make a difference? Opinions are mixed among early childhood education experts, but the growing consensus seems to be that younger children learn just as well as older ones, and schools should be able to teach all age-ready students. But many teachers and parents think some younger children do better to sit out a year. ...

Experts hope to learn more from a current federal study. Researchers are following through the fifth grade 22,000 children who entered kindergarten in 1998. Data from the kindergarten year found that older kindergartners slightly outperformed their younger peers in prereading and premath skills. But the differences were small and many younger children outperformed the older ones, said Grover J. Whitehurst, director of the Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Whatever slight academic advantages older students might have in the early years typically evaporate by third grade, experts say. In a 2002 report, Deborah Stipek, dean of the School of Education at Stanford, found that existing research showed that on average older children did not academically outperform their younger peers. Nor are there social or emotional benefits to being older in the grade, her own research has found.

''It's one of the conventional wisdoms that take hold in our society that parents are giving their children a great advantage if they're older,'' she said. ''But there's real data out there showing that for most children that's not true, and parents should know there's a downside if their children are intellectually capable of handling kindergarten.''

For one, older children who are ready for a more challenging program can become bored and misbehave in class. Dr. Robert S. Byrd, a pediatrician at the University of California Davis Medical Center, analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics for 9,079 children ages 7 to 17. He found that teenagers who were older in their grade because they had started school late were twice as likely to have behavior problems as classmates who had entered at the usual age.

The local public school near me encourage academic red-shirting, because they say that the California curriculum standards are too tough. They think that it is easier to begin reading instruction in 2nd grade rather than 1st grade, I guess. And then if you don't want to red-shirt your kid, they complain that your kid will be a year younger than all the red-shirted kids.

The red-shirting doesn't make much sense to me. I don't think that there is an academic advantage at all. The main advantage seems to be that boys might be better behaved if they are a little older. But it would be better if school just learned to accommodate restless boys a little better.

Kerry's medals
Conventional wisdom says that Kerry's war record is a big plus for him. After all, he is a war hero, credited with 20 or 30 kills personally. But after watching him on ABC Good Morning America, I think that he is very weak on the issue. He is still lying about throwing his medals away. And worse, we still don't know where he stands -- is he proud of those medals, or is he ashamed of them?

Bob writes:

Kerry was not lying about his decorations. Karen Hughes is the liar. See the 4/28 Lehrer. Tom Oliphant was there and reported what happened. Kerry may be pathetic at explaining himself, but he is being lied about by the Bush campaign.
Here is Kerry defending himself on his web site, and on ABC Good Morning America. Karen Hughes said that Kerry pretended to throw his medals away, and Bob thinks that was a lie.

Here is what the Dallas Morning News says:

Kerry's Medals: Changing answers undercut candidate's image

12:01 AM CDT on Wednesday, April 28, 2004

It's one of the dumbest things a politician can do: reinforce a negative stereotype that others have of him.

Over the years, Vietnam veteran John Kerry has offered different responses to a simple question: Did he hurl his war medals at the Capitol during a April 1971 protest organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War? His changing answers play right into the perception by some Americans that he is someone who will say anything to get elected.

Last week, Mr. Kerry told The Los Angeles Times that he never tossed his medals and that he never even had "implied" otherwise. And in December, he insisted to ABC News' Peter Jennings that he merely had thrown away his combat ribbons and the medals of two other veterans.

So what are Americans supposed to make of a videotape recently obtained by ABC News in which Mr. Kerry says – in a November 1971 interview on a Washington news program – that he "gave back ... six, seven, eight, nine medals" to protest the Vietnam War?

Which John Kerry should Americans believe – the one who said, 33 years ago, that he tossed his medals or the one who has denied, at various times in the years since, that he ever did any such thing? Which one is running for president?

The problem isn't that Mr. Kerry may have performed a dramatic act in the name of principle more three decades ago. It's that his backtracking since then suggests he may not have the firmest grasp on the meaning of the word.

I think that Kerry is in serious trouble.

Bob responds:

Kerry may be in trouble. My opinion, based on his behavior and record apart from his Vietnam service and antiwar protests, is that he would not be an improvement over Bush. It may or may not be true that Kerry changed his story about his decorations. What is false, is the lie Karen Hughes told when she said "I also was very troubled by the fact that he participated in the ceremony where veterans threw their medals away, and he only pretended to throw his. Now, I can understand if out of conscience you take a principled stand and you would decide that you were so opposed to this that you would actually throw your medals. But to pretend to do so, I think that's very revealing." Kerry did not "pretend" to throw anything. Hughes has sunk to the level of Michael Moore and Bush approved it.
I think that it is correct to say that Kerry pretended to throw his medals because he did throw medals, and he told news reporters that he was throwing his own medals, but in fact he was not throwing his own medals. According to his current story, he threw his ribbons along with someone else's medals.

But Hughes is a pro-Bush political operative, so I don't know why anyone would be surprised that she puts an anti-Kerry spin on the story. Both campaigns do distort the truth on occasion. For examples on both sides, see SpinSanity.org or FactCheck.org.

As for Kerry being in trouble, the Village Voice says:

John Kerry Must Go

Note to Democrats: it's not too late to draft someone -- anyone -- else

April 27th, 2004 11:45 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- With the air gushing out of John Kerry's balloon, it may be only a matter of time until political insiders in Washington face the dread reality that the junior senator from Massachusetts doesn't have what it takes to win and has got to go. As arrogant and out of it as the Democratic political establishment is, even these pols know the party's got to have someone to run against George Bush. They can't exactly expect the president to self-destruct into thin air. With growing issues over his wealth (which makes fellow plutocrat Bush seem a charity case by comparison), the miasma over his medals and ribbons (or ribbons and medals), his uninspiring record in the Senate (yes war, no war), and wishy-washy efforts to mimic Bill Clinton's triangulation gimmickry (the protractor factor), Kerry sinks day by day. The pros all know that the candidate who starts each morning by having to explain himself is a goner.

What to do? Look for the Dem biggies, whoever they are these days, to sit down with the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike. Then they can return to business as usual—resurrecting John Edwards, who is still hanging around, or staging an open convention in Boston, or both.

If things proceed as they are, the dim-bulb Dem leaders are going to be very sorry they screwed Howard Dean.

Monday, Apr 26, 2004
National ID cards
I am glad to see crypto-advocate Bruce Schneier oppose national ID cards, but his argument that they make us less secure rings hollow.

We already have the US passport as an official national ID card, and the state drivers license as an unofficial national ID card. (The drivers licenses are issued by the states, but the states conform to federal specs, and law inforcement info is shared across state lines.)

Furthermore, the feared national databases already exist. Police can quickly check vehicle or drivers license numbers against govt databases. They also exist in the private sector. They get checked every time you buy something with a credit card or do something that requires a credit check.

Schneier says:

But the main problem with any ID system is that it requires the existence of a database. In this case it would have to be an immense database of private and sensitive information on every American -- one that is immediately accessible from airline check-in stations, police cars, schools and so on. The security risks are enormous. And when the inevitable worms, viruses or random failures happen and the database goes down, what then? Is America supposed to shut down until it's restored?

Proponents of national ID cards want us to assume all these problems, and the tens of billions of dollars such a system would cost -- for what? The promise of being able to identify someone?

These problems have been solved. Google's database is 1,000 times larger, and its online all the time.

Saturday, Apr 24, 2004
Oppie was a Commie
The SF Chronicle is just discovering that J. Robert Oppenheimer was a Communist. He lost his security clearance in 1954 when he got caught in an assortment of lies about his association with commies. It seemed clear that he was either a commie or a fellow traveler. Various leftist academics still claim that he was a victim of some sort of witch-hunt. They never should have let him on the Manhattan Project in the first place. I wouldn't be surprised if he was a Soviet spy. There was at least one highly-placed Los Alamos atomic spy who was never caught.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Dallas Morning News praised Oppenheimer by repeating various myths:

Oppenheimer's humiliation still haunts science

... Half a century ago this month, the man who made the atomic bomb project successful was humiliated because he refused to align his moral compass to the prevailing political winds. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the nation's top theoretical physicist in the 1930s, ...

Over the next few years, Oppenheimer courted controversy by his reluctance to endorse efforts to build the superpowerful hydrogen bomb. Conflict in particular came with Edward Teller, a physicist whom Oppenheimer had angered back in Los Alamos by denying him a coveted job. Oppenheimer's loyalty was called into question, ...

Oppenheimer was against the H-bomb because it was going to be used to defend the USA against the commies, and he was a commie. All commies who lied about their secret connections to the Soviets were denied security clearances. It was not a matter of personal spite.

Thursday, Apr 22, 2004
Symbolic thinking in Africa
Someone found a handful of tiny pea-sized shells in the Blombos cave in Africa, and scientists claim that it is proof of symbolic thinking about 75k years ago.

I collected some shells as a kid. Some of them had holes in them. The shells didn't symbolize anything. Simple crows are smart enough to do the same thing. This theory is really a stretch.

Wednesday, Apr 21, 2004
PBS Bias
I happened to see the PBS News Hour yesterday, and I was just reminded of what a stupid and biased program that is. It spent about 10 minutes reciting the gripes of some school district that had substandard test scores. The school officials blamed it all one student who had Down's syndrome and another girl who claimed that she had a learning disability that prevented her from learning her multiplication tables. The school risked losing some federal funding if their scores did not improve. The school did not want to test the Down's kid, but the parent had been convinced that the testing was a good thing.

This is a typical PBS/NPR story. Just a lot of whining about some govt program, without any critical analysis. I really doubt that one test score from a Down's boy is significant to the school average. The feds cannot cope with figuring out whether some girl really has a learning disability. The simple thing to do is to expect the school to test everyone, and to count on the law of averages to balance the smart kids with the dumb ones.

Addicted to BBQ
Dr. Nora Volkow has been a leader in a propaganda campaign to say that ritalin is not addictive when used as prescribed for ADD (or ADHD). It acts just like cocaine when it is abused, and is on the DEA Schedule II for that reason, but we are supposed to believe that the millions of kids on ritalin are not addicted.

Now Volkow uses some more of her dubious brain scan evidence to say that the following are addictive: bacon-egg-cheese sandwich, cinnamon bun, pizza, hamburger with cheese, fried chicken, lasagna, barbecue, ice cream, brownie, and chocolate cake.

The evidence is that people's brain get excited when they taste their favorite foods. I think that she is a nut.

Tuesday, Apr 20, 2004
Palestinian needs
A NY Times op-ed says:
For the last five weeks I have been traveling through the Middle East, meeting diplomats, officials, policy experts, military leaders, students and ordinary citizens. I learned something very important the greatest single cause of anti-Americanism in the Middle East today is not the war in Iraq; more surprisingly, it is not even American support for Israel, per se. Rather, it is a widespread belief that the United States simply does not care about the rights or needs of the Palestinian people.
Count me in. I do not care about their so-called rights and needs. And I hope that they don't get compensated for waging a long and disastrous war (as the article suggests).

Friday, Apr 16, 2004
Jamie Gorelick
When Henry Kissinger was appointed to head the 9-11 commission, I wondered whether a worse choice was possible. Now we know. Jamie Gorelick. The witnesses should be investigating her, not Gorelick investigating the witnesses. It appears that she has more culpability for 9-11 than anyone else in the government.
Ditch the computer
John sends this article that says:
The first thing [Clinton administration FBI Director Louis J. Freeh] did was tell the bureau to get rid of the computer on his desk ...

Thursday, Apr 15, 2004
Lessig v. Manes
Larry Lessig and Stephen Manes are having a nasty debate about copyright law on their blogs.

Lessig objects to Manes calling his Eldred v. Ashcroft arguments "flaccid":

"Flaccid"? I've already taken responsibility for failing to persuade in Eldred. But this is the most astonishing part of Manes's argument. He really does believe that it makes sense for Congress to extend -- again and again and again -- the term of existing copyrights. He might find the arguments against that "flaccid." But Steve Forbes, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, James Buchanan, Phyllis Schlafly -- as well as a bunch of right thinking sorts from the other side -- disagree.
Just to clarify -- Phyllis Schlafly did indeed take Lessig's side in that case, but she didn't take a public stand on whether or not Lessig's arguments were flaccid. What she did do was to have Eagle Forum submit amicus briefs on his side at the DC Circuit and the Supreme Court. That amicus brief persuaded the dissenter in the DC Circuit panel that ruled 2-1 against Lessig, and is the main reason that the Supreme Court even agreed to hear the case. The majority refused to directly address the argument from the Eagle Forum brief and the dissent because Lessig had repudiated it.

Before the Supreme Court, Lessig continued to disavow the Eagle Forum position, and he made weak and flaccid arguments instead. In fairness to Lessig, I think that he would have lost no matter what arguments he made. But I think that he is wrong to conclude that those submitting amicus briefs on his side would all agree that he was making strong arguments. On the contrary, they were submitting amicus briefs because they thought that his arguments were not strong enough.

Abortion - breast cancer link
Andy writes:
Jane Orient was kind enough to send me the full Lancet article on the abortion-breast cancer (ABC) connection. I will copy and mail it to anyone willing to analyze it in detail.

Contrary to the headlines, the Lancet article shows a large ABC correlation among breast cancer victims asked if they had obtained an abortion. The Lancet article excludes the studies showing the highest correlation and includes dubious studies, but the article still illustrates a strong connection. 33 out of 39 studies in Lancet's own table show an increased risk of breast cancer from abortion. Its table shows studies in France, Greece, Australia and Germany displaying relative risks of 1.35 or above. But actually the correlation is much higher, because the Lancet relative risk compares abortion to not having a pregnancy. The proper comparison is between abortion and childbirth, and that contrast demonstrates the far greater increased risk.

The Lancet article claims that women under-report abortion. If true, then that would drive the real ABC correlation even higher. If a breast cancer victim had an abortion but denied it, then that would artificially depress the correlation. Under-reporting of abortion causes under-reporting of its causation of breast cancer.

Ignoring the voluminous data showing a correlation, Lancet cites smaller "prospective" studies that report abortion prior to the woman contracting breast cancer. If under-reporting is a problem, then it would be a far greater problem with prospective studies. A woman has no reason to include abortion in her medical history for a routine check-up, or completely unrelated medical conditions. Healthy women who prospectively report a prior abortion would be over-represented by women preparing to give birth. However, giving birth is known to be preventive of breast cancer. For this group, the effects of the abortion on breast cancer are masked or even offset.

One sentence in the article gives away the ruse. In the prospective studies, "[o]n average, the age of the women with breast cancer was 50.4 years and they had 2.4 births." This is not representative of most breast cancer victims. 80% of breast cancer victims are over 50; the average number of births by such victims are less than 2.4 births. The Lancet article has preselected its sample to consist of the least likely breast cancer victims among women who had abortions.

There are many additional flaws to the Lancet article. Its pro-abortion bias is overwhelming. For example, it talks in terms of women "hav[ing] been at risk of illegal abortion for part of their reproductive lives." (p. 1013). The authors picked studies advancing their agenda, and admitted to excluding studies showing higher correlations between abortion and breast cancer (id.). They also excluded older women, who are most likely to contract breast cancer, by an irrational elimination of studies predating the full legalization of abortion in many countries. Moreover, the article includes almost no information about how the prospective studies were really performed.

It seems plausible to anyone that putting dirty soot in clean lungs might cause some problems. Just watch anyone coughing while trying to smoke his first cigarette. But abortion seems quite similar to natural miscarriages that happen to millions of women. Are you claiming that miscarriages are correlated with breast cancer?

John writes:

Those who believe there is a link between abortion and breast cancer have an explanation for why natural miscarriages generally do not raise the breast cancer risk. See here for details.

In addition to the apparently greater risk of breast cancer when pregnancy is interrupted by abortion (but not miscarriage), there is also a greater risk of breast cancer among women who delay their first full-term pregnancy for any reason. There is a higher incidence of breast cancer among among Catholic nuns.

Andy writes:
There's an obvious difference in natural miscarriages, the body is healing itself. In abortion, an outside interference is doing something to the body.

According to the pro-abortion Lancet article itself, 40 retrospective studies of natural miscarriages show an overall relative risk of breast cancer of 0.98, while 39 retrospective studies of abortion show an overall relative risk of breast cancer of 1.11.

Note that no one is claiming that abortion is the only cause of breast cancer. But it clearly is a cause. Professor Joel Hibrand, of the City University of New York, calls abortion the most preventable cause of breast cancer.

Monday, Apr 12, 2004
I don't get all these Democrat attacks on Bush over the Aug. 6, 2001 PDB. They act like it is a smoking gun. The memo briefly recites some 1990s intelligence about Bin Laden, says that there are 70 FBI investigations ongoing. The most ominous part is where it refers to an unconfirmed 1998 report wanted to hijack US aircraft in order to gain release of some extremists.

That 1998 intelligence was 3 years old, and we now know that it was false. There was a hijacking on 9-11, of course, but it they took no hostages and made no demands. A more ominous statement, in retrospect, was from Bin Laden himself in a 1998 ABC News interview where he theatened to attack the USA.

Even if anyone really think that this PDB demanded some immediate presidential action, what would that action be? To double the number of FBI investigations to 140?

Here is Slate's T. Noah, claiming that C. Rice lied. But reading the transcript, I say that it is Ben-Veniste who was being dishonest. It is actually a good example of a manipulative interrogation. The technique is to ask a loaded subjective question followed immediately by an objective question. When Rice answers the objection question, then Ben-Veniste acts like he got the answer to his loaded subjective question as well, and cuts off further reply. Most witnesses will fold under such pressure, and allow the questioners misreprepresentation to persist.

In this case, the PDB was classified, and Ben-Veniste desperately wanted the TV viewers to get the impression that Rice was acknowledging that the PDB warned of imminent attacks, and that Bush ignored the warnings. Rice doesn't fall for the trap, and she corrects the impression that Ben-Veniste tried to leave. She was right to say, "It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information."

I had assumed that the President had better intelligence on Bin Laden than this. The gist of the PDB is: Bin Laden has been wanting to attack the USA for several years, and the FBI is trying to figure out what he is up to. That's all.

NY Times bias
Fox's Bill O'Reilly is upset by this NY Times story:
"The Passion" is a big hit within its Christian market niche. ... It had a movie-star director willing to spend his own money, who understood how to target large numbers of well-organized church groups and political conservatives. He was able to deploy partisan news-media pundits like Fox's Bill O'Reilly and ABC Radio's Sean Hannity to appeal to their constituents to show their support by seeing the movie. They responded in droves.
I have to agree with O'Reilly. Only Hollywood and the NY Times would think that the American Christian market is just a "niche". Most of the media publicity about the movie was anti-Christian propaganda from the NY Times and others with a similar point of view.

Update: The NY Times actually issued a correction on April 16:

An article in The Arts on Monday about the box-office success of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" during Holy Week misstated the use he made of talk show hosts to publicize it. He discussed the film with conservatives like Bill O'Reilly, on Fox television, but did not "deploy" them to encourage their audiences to see it, and Mr. O'Reilly did not recommend it.
I am sure O'Reilly is still unhappy that the NY Times writes regular stories about Al Franken's struggling radio show, and has never mentioned O'Reilly's far more successful radio show.

Sunday, Apr 11, 2004
No one knows physics
This British poll says that only 2% could answer this question:
The world is made of atoms; what is the nucleus of an atom made of?
Either "quarks", or "protons and neutrons", was considered correct.

It refers to a documentary that I happened to see. It shows a bunch of Harvard grads, still in caps and gowns, who cannot explain why it is warmer in the summer than in the winter. The most common explanation was that we are closer to the Sun in the summer. But then they get really confused when asked about the Southern Hemisphere.

Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950, lists these 14 cognitive breakthroughs since 800 B.C. Murray calls them "meta-inventions":
Artistic realism; Linear perspective; Artistic abstraction; Polyphony; Drama; the Novel; Meditation; Logic; Ethics; Arabic numerals; the Mathematical proof; the Calibration of uncertainty; the Secular observation of nature; and the Scientific method.
What I can't figure out is why logic and mathematical proof are listed separately. What is the difference?

The only explanation that I can figure is that Aristotelian logic is usually taught in a non-numerical manner, and people think of numbers when they think of mathematics and mathematical proof. However the best examples of early mathematical proofs are in Euclidean geometry, and most of those proofs are non-numerical. Aristotelian logic was just a straightforward application of mathematical proof.

Bob quotes Albert Einstein:

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Yes, and according to Relativity, Euclidean geometry is only an approximation to observable space. Einstein could have said the same thing about logic, and it would mean the same.

Friday, Apr 09, 2004
Changing Minds
I just listened to an NPR interview of Howard Gardner, who just wrote a book on the Seven Levers of Mind Change. He is a Harvard psychology prof who previously wrote a book on the 7 intelligences.

Gardner is a leftist, and while he claims that he and his fellow academics are rational beings, he claims that other people, especially right-wingers, are not. His book purports to examine the supposedly irrational ways in which other people reach conclusions.

On the show, Gardner said:

Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science pointed out that older scientists almost never buy the new paradigm. That is, people who were 50 in Einstein's time never became Einsteinians, and Einstein, when he was 50, never became a quantum mechanical. Instead, and Kuhn points out, you have to wait for the younger generation because they are open to a new kind of ideas.
This is just nonsense. Kuhn did have a very peculiar idea that science was an irrational process. (I think Kuhn preferred the word arational, but that is not in my dictionary.) Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics were readily accepted by the physics establishment of the day.

George writes:

Gardner isn't so one-sided. He cites Margaret Thatcher as someone who has changed minds, and he describes himself as a fundamentalist about science.
The Thatcher example is amusing because he refuses to admit that any right-winger could convince anyone of anything by reason. He theorizes that she fooled people because of the way that her message resonated.

Gardner defines:

Fundamentalism are ideas we are so committed to that we say under no circumstances will we change our minds.
That's not fundamentalism; that's intransigence. He seems to misunderstand both fundamentalism and science.

Wednesday, Apr 07, 2004
Evolution disclaimer
John sends this story about a federal judge who thinks that it violates the First Amendment to have the following sticker on Georgia biology textbooks:
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
What religion is being established by saying that evolution is a theory? Or does the sticker threaten the free exercise of religion?

Meanwhile, the comic strip Pardon My Planet showed Jerry Falwell with a flat-earth globe in his home. But of course Christian fundamentalists do not believe in a flat earth. The Flat Earth Myth is one that is exclusively promoted by evolutionists.

ATT fires worker for his beliefs
Joan sends this story:
A federal judge has awarded a Denver-area man $146,269 after AT&T Broadband fired him in 2001 for refusing on religious grounds to sign the cable company's diversity policy.

Albert A. Buonanno, 47, argued that Denver-based cable giant AT&T Broadband, since bought by Comcast Corp., could not require him to "value" the behavior and beliefs of others, notably homosexuals, if doing so violated his own Christian beliefs.

In addition, Buonanno said he could tolerate religions contrary to Christianity but not value them or hold them in esteem.

Particularly amusing is the man's job title: quota specialist.
Kepler conjecture
The Annals of Mathematics has agreed to publish the non-computer portions of T. Hales's proof of the Kepler conjecture. The Annals sat on Hales's manuscript for several years, and ultimately rejected the computer part. The NY Times says:
In a new policy, The Annals has decided that computer-assisted proofs have merit, but the journal will accord them a lower status than traditional proofs, regarding them more like laboratory experiments that provide supporting evidence.

"In some cases, it's not a good idea to verify computer proofs," Dr. MacPherson said. "It took the effort of many mathematicians for many years, and nothing came out of it."

(Slashdot commentary here.)

I wonder now if I am the only one to publish a computer proof in the Annals. I wrote a paper with a computer-assisted proof of a conjecture about soap bubbles, and the Annals sat on it for a long time, but eventually published it. Now it appears that the Annals doesn't want to try to very computer-assisted proofs anymore.

Monday, Apr 05, 2004
Buy back stolen guns
John sends this story about some poor citizen who was robbed of his guns, and then had trouble getting the police to give his guns back.

I don't quite understand why the Penn. police think that he needs a background check. He already owned the guns.

Physician privilege
Andy this Palm Beach Post story:
AAPS "calls the seizure of patient records 'an assault on the private practice of medicine. It's an issue that every doctor in the country is concerned about,' said attorney Andy Schlafly.

The group, the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, has about 4000 independent practitioners as members. Two other small groups concerned with prosecution of doctors and patients in relation to pain medication also have joined the fight. None of the nation's major medical groups has weighed in.

Schlafly questions what happens next after prosecutors have the records. 'The doctor has to testify against a patient? That's like an attorney testifying against a client, a priest against a confessor,' Schlafly said. 'It's a direct violation of the Hippocratic oath.'"

John writes:
(1)Why is it better to seek medical records by subpoena rather than by judge-approved search warrant?

(2) Suppose the State Attorney had used a subpoena instead; would Andy still object and, if so, on what grounds?

(3) Is it Andy's position that medical records can never be obtained as evidence against a patient because they would always violate the doctor-patient privilege? I never heard that a privilege can be claimed for written records. Isn't it merely a testimonial privilege?

Sunday, Apr 04, 2004
Hockey overtime
The NHL (pro hockey) has some odd rules about ties. If a game is tied after regulation time, a 5-minute sudden-death overtime period is played. The teams play with 1 fewer player, in order to encourage scoring. If a goal is scored, the winner gets credit with a win, and the loser gets credit with a tie.

What I don't get is why I never see a team pull its goalie in overtime. Replacing a goalie with an extra attacker gives a significant scoring advantage. The risk is that the other team will score into the empty net, but both teams are assured of at least a tie anyway so the risk is minor.

If it is a game between 2 rivals for the same playoff spot, then a team might not want to let the other team get a cheap win. But in most games, hockey teams just care about their own records, and not the opponents'.

Mark explains:

It happens very rarely since if a team pulls it goalie in overtime and it is scored on, it loses the point for the tie in regulation. I know of only one situation where this has happened. Vancouver, needing a win in their last game to keep their playoff hopes alive in 2000, were tied after regulation. They were scored on which ended their playoff chances. It ended up being a moot point since San Jose won in a later game, which would have eliminated the Canucks anyways.
See NHL rules, note 5.

Saturday, Apr 03, 2004
Legality of Crypto
Some people apparently think that cryptography used to be illegal in the USA. Eg, a new book called Cryptography For Dummies says:
Until fairly recently, it was unlawful for average American citizens to even own encryption technology. [p.28]
In fact, there was never any such law.

David Eather writes (from Australia) that Horst Feistel was harassed by the NSA and unable to hold a crypto job for much of his career because of unwritten laws against crypto.

In fact, Feistel had a very good crypto research job for IBM. His main difficulties from the US govt came as a German immigrant trying to get USA citizenship during WWII. He subsequently got a couple of military crypto research jobs, but those vanished when such work was consolidated in the NSA. I don't know whether he ever applied to the NSA for a job. He was never restricted in his personal or private sector work.

Feistel is well-known for being the principal designer of the IBM Lucifer cipher in the early 1970s. It was cutting edge research for IBM at the time, but only because NSA work was classified. NSA then helped IBM improve Lucifer into another cipher that eventually because the US
Data Encryption Standard.

French Terror Alert
Bob sends this:


In light of the Madrid bombing, France has raised their terror alert level from "run" to "hide". The only two higher levels in France are "collaborate" and "surrender."

Thursday, Apr 01, 2004
Using religion to promote evolution
John sends this NRO article about a govt-funded pro-evolution group using religion to promote evolution.

The site says:

Most Christian and Jewish religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.
I guess these evolutionists think that it is okay to use religion to promote evolution, but unconstitutional to allow religious criticism of evolution.

The Berkeley evolutionist site also says this:

The problem is that we humans are hung up on ourselves. We often define progress in a way that hinges on our view of ourselves, a way that relies on intellect, culture, or emotion. But that definition is anthropocentric.

It is tempting to see evolution as a grand progressive ladder with Homo sapiens emerging at the top. But evolution produces a tree, not a ladder—and we are just one of many leaves on the tree.

No, I don't think that anthropocentricity is a problem. (The site defines Anthropocentric as "centering on humans and considering all other things in relation to humans.")

Bob writes:

Does this mean that you will stop accusing "evolutionists" of being hostile to religion?
No. The evolutionists behind that site are indeed hostile to religion. And here is a page by Eugenie C. Scott on religion at the site you recommended. She signed onto a "Humanist Manifesto III", and disdainfully lumps religious believers in with Flat Earth believers. (She apparently doesn't even realize that the Flat Earth myth is a joke.)

Bob writes:

If Scott lumps religious believers in with flat earth believers, she also lumps them in with evolutionists. Scott defines a spectrum from creationists to evolutionists. From left to right she lists Flat Earthers, Geocentrists, Young Earth Creationists ... Materialist Evolutionists. Scott provides a footnote on the Flat Earthers. Do you claim that there are no believers in the flat earth? Clearly it is a joke, but so is geocentrism and young earth creationism, yet there are those who don't get the joke and unreasonably believe this nonsense. I would check the footnote before I bet that there are no flat earth believers. At least Scott talks about a spectrum of belief rather than dishonestly lumping all creationists together as you do with evolutionists. I, for example, defend evolution as a scientifically established fact, but I do not agree with the Berkeley site you cite above and resent the implication that I do. Unfortunately there are Marxists who twist evolution to serve their agenda. Evolution also has a reputable right wing interpretation, which is unfortunately ignored by entirely too many right wingers.
There are no Flat Earthers. It is a myth.

I think that Bob objects to the Berkeley site because it mentions micro-evolution, and he doesn't think that micro-evolution can be distinguished from macro-evolution. I'll have to get a clarification.