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Thursday, Sep 29, 2005
Ptolemy was not wrong
I just watched a Cosmos rerun, and Carl Sagan listed some great scholars and scientists and said:
There was the astronomy Ptolemy who compiled much of what today's pseudoscience of astrology -- his Earth-centered universe held sway for 1500 years showing that intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong.
That is nonsense. Ptolemy was no more wrong than Einstein. Ptolemy had an exceptionally good model of the universe, and it is too his credit that it lasted so long.

Sagan goes on to say, "We are the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution." I guess these are atheist code words.

Gould hated right-wingers
Demski quotes Steven Jay Gould, revealing Gould's political motives for attacking creationists.
Sued for failed to cook the test
CNN reports on a discrimination lawsuit against FedEx:
James Finberg, an attorney representing the class, said FedEx normally promotes from within, yet three times the number of package handlers and loaders are minorities compared to drivers, who earn more. Twice the number of minorities fail promotional tests than do whites, Finberg added.

"FedEx knows that black and Hispanics fail at a much higher rate, but yet has not changed the test," Finberg said.

I guess the attorney is arguing that the law requiring rigging the test to favor blacks and hispanics.
Evolutionist sympathy is not reciprocated
An evolutionist blogger says:
To understand what the Dover school board was trying to accomplish, consider how you would feel if your children, in the course of a compulsory education, were taught doctrines that contradicted your most cherished beliefs — that blandly invalidated your worldview without discussion. Think about being heavily taxed to destroy your own belief system. That's how the people in this community feel.
Well said. This is the one point that gives me pause in thinking about this issue. While I find the beliefs of Christian evangelicals to be completely irrational, the fact remains that they are deeply held. So, yes, I can imagine how it feels to be forced to pay for an education that you belive puts your child's very soul in jeopardy.

However, the reason I am not more sympathetic to this view is that I don't belive the sympathy is reciprocated. Sartwell is being very high-minded and ecumenical here, but the religious zealots on the other side do not share his even-handedness. Consider the issue of having “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Do you think for one second that the School Board majority that voted in favor of ID ever worries about telling atheist children that belief in God and loyalty to their country go hand in hand? Of course they don't. Quite the opposite.

Why can't these evolutionist just agree to fairly tell the truth in schools? This guy seems to think that religious folks need to make some concessions to radical atheist demands.
Compulsory vaccination
John writes that Natl Review supports compulsory vaccination.

The article cites a child who died from AIDS-related pneumonia, the 1918 Spanish Flu, and people dying of measles in the Third World. These are not good arguments for mandatory vaccination in the USA. Vaccines are not even recommended for HIV+ kids. Flu vaccines are recommended only for adults, and only kids have mandatory vaccines. No one dies of measles in the USA.

Catherine Seipp concludes:

All states allow children more likely to suffer vaccination side effects because of medical problems to enter school unimmunized (as they should), some allow religious exemptions (as they shouldn’t) and some, like California, allow families to opt out for any reason at all (which is why much of the rest of the country regards us as nuts.) ...

I think California’s lax vaccination laws should be changed pronto ...

California is indeed full of kooky people (mostly on the Left) who believe in alternative medicine, subscribe to various health fads, etc. We are also filled with legal and illegal immigrants bringing diseases into the state. And yet there are no public health problems that are attributable to "California's lax vaccination laws".

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2005
Another biography review
Charlotte Hays writes:
If Margaret Thatcher was the most important conservative woman of the 20th century, then who was the second most important? A good case can be made that it was Phyllis Schlafly, who almost single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment a generation ago and who - to borrow the feminist terminology - is the founding mother of female conservative activism.
Her main complaint about the book is that it is more about her political life than her personal life. I have not yet seen the book, but I think that the point was to focus on her political life.
Evolution on trial
In coverage of the Penn. ID trial, the SJ paper says:
Evolutionary theory

A small group of cells 3.5 billion years ago through random mutation and natural selection gave rise to the biological diversity that today thrives on Earth.

``What makes evolution a scientific explanation is that it makes testable predictions. You only believe theories when they make non-obvious predictions that are confirmed by scientific evidence.'' Eric Lander, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Lander is correct, but he is talking about micro-evolution, and his predictions are really those of population genetics. If a gene is known to reduce the probability that an animal will reproduce, then standard formulas may be used to predict the future of that gene. Population genetics can make and confirm such predictions.

But how would anyone test the above statement of evolution theory? It seems to be artfully worded so as to be non-falsifiable. Does a "small group" mean one cell or a billion cells? Were random mutation and natural selection the only evolutionary mechanisms, or were their other more significant ones? Is all life descended from those cells, or did other life independently evolve?

I don't doubt that animals evolve, but the evolutionists insist on these unscientific statements and on bragging about how scientific they are. Their description of evolutionary theory is bit like defining hurricane theory as:

Atmospheric molecules going thru agitation and circulation give rise to the diverse weather on Earth.
Such a statement has no content and cannot be tested.

George writes:

Your comparison is not fair because you are using definitions of evolution that are intended for the general public. If the theory of evolution were defined in terms of specifics, then creationists would attack those specifics. The public doesn't understand how science works. Theories get revised with new data all the time. The theory is not really wrong just because its specific predictions turn out to be false. They have to use a definition that emphasizes that evolution is a naturalistic process, without committing themselves to any mechanisms or timetables that might turn out to be incorrect.
I don't think that the evolutionists understand how science works.
Rebutting the TNR book review
I was going to write a rebuttal to the TNR review of Critchlow's book (discussed below), but much of it is just idiotic innendo like this:
Midwestern America was honeycombed with people who denounced Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Schlaflys were part of this milieu. The world they idealized was filled with rugged individualists, and it had no place for labor unions, cities, racial minorities, Jews, or liberated women. ... adherents of the Old Right became obsessed with the evils of communism in the years after World War II.
This is just an underhanded way of implying that Phyllis Schlafly was a bigot. He has no facts or evidence to support it. It is a bit like saying, "Alan Wolfe was raised as a Jew and American Jews were very sympathetic to Soviet Communism."

Of course the Old Right did consider communism an evil threat after WWII. The USSR really was a nasty oppresive regime; there really were commie spies in our govt; the USSR really was controlling Eastern Europe; and the USSR really was building a nuclear arsenal threatening the free world.

Here are other criticisms of Phyllis and the book:

  • That in 1952 she advocated increases in defense spending but contradicted herself by opposing a draft and calling for a smaller government.

    He obviously does not understand what Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s.

  • That Critchlow fails to realize that "Christian" is just a code word for anti-semitism.

    Eagle Forum has many Jewish members and supporters. One can be a proud Christian without being an anti-semite. Wolfe has a persecution complex.

  • That a certain Cagney and Lacey TV episode was not an incitement to violence.

    CBS promoted the episode as being about an assassin going to kill the anti-feminist leader as she gave a speech to 1000 followers. It was scheduled to be aired on a night that Phyllis Schlafly was giving a speech to 1000 followers. I have never seen any other instance in which a TV network targeted a real person at a real event for an attempted murder.

    Wolfe claims that the episode was postponed for months. My recollection is that CBS postponed it at the last minute for a week or two. But for a week before her big speech, CBS aired promotions about how the show would feature an assassin trying to kill her at the speech.

  • That her views on American nuclear strategy were in line with genuine defense intellectuals, but that she was an amateur on the subject.

  • That Schlafly should be blamed for other right-wing extremist groups like The John Birch Society.

    There is a long history of her enemies accusing her of being a member of Birch Society. It is not true. She had nothing to do with them. Even if it were, it is meaningless. Hardly anyone knows what the Birch Society stood for, except that the Left hated the organization. The Birch Society was staunchly anti-communist, and that is why it was hated.

  • That Schlafly's political involvement was inconsistent with being a good Christian.

  • That Schlafly was not consistent in her opposition to the ERA because she did not oppose all constitutional amendments.

  • That Schlafly was not really a populist because she sometimes took unpopular positions.

These criticisms are just idiotic.

Monday, Sep 26, 2005
Another gun control failure
John sends this Toronto column about how Canada's gun registry has not worked.

Sunday, Sep 25, 2005
Web picture printing
One application that seems perfectly suited for the web is picture processing, and yet no seems to be able to make it work. I complained to a leading company, and got this response:
Greetings Roger-

Thank you for contacting MyPublisher. I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing trouble while trying to purchase your book. Bellow are some suggestions that should alleviate the "loop" that you mentioned so you can continue with purchasing your book!

~ Turn off (disable) your anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

~ Your firewall may be set too high. Allow the http://www.mypublisher.com URL to be accessed through your firewall.

~ Add MyPublisher to your Internet Explorer Trusted Sites:

i. Right-click on your Internet Explorer Icon on your desktop
ii. Click on Properties
iii. Click on the Security tab
iv. Click on the Check Mark marked Trusted Sites
v. Click on Sites
vi. Add http://www.mypublisher.com
vii. Click on OK

~ If you are using a computer that is connected to a corporate or institutional network (e.g. at college or work), you may not be able to upload your order because of this network firewall and security settings. If this is the case, you will need to use a computer that is not connected to a network.

When you're ready to reupload your book, we suggest that you only run the BookMaker software and that you close all other software programs for optimal performance.

If there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

Best Regards,
Customer Service Team

This is pathetic. Their program does into an infinite loop generating error messages, and I have to use the Windows task manager to shut it down. And it certainly won't help to disconnect my computer from the network!

I've tried ordering prints from Snapfish, Kodak, and others, and I have never successfully gotten prints anywhere but my own printer and the local drugstore.

Mrs. America
Alan Wolfe reviews a new book in The New Republic magazine:
Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade
By Donald T. Critchlow
(Princeton University Press, 422 pp., $29.95)

Few living Americans are more deserving of the kind of exhaustive political biography that Donald T. Critchlow has written than Phyllis Schlafly. If political influence consists in transforming this huge and cantankerous country in one's preferred direction, Schlafly has to be regarded as one of the two or three most important Americans of the last half of the twentieth century. Tireless, committed, strategically brilliant, undeterred: she grew up in the Old Right environment of xenophobic isolationism and helped to transform it into a New Right politics of anti-communism. Had she never been born, the Constitution would now include an Equal Rights Amendment. Without ever serving in the House of Representatives--she ran twice, losing both times--she played an instrumental role in driving moderates out of the Republican Party and replacing them with the hard-right politicians who currently dominate Congress. Tom DeLay owes more to Phyllis Schlafly than she owes to him. ...

Critchlow is right to insist on Schlafly's influence--but influence is a neutral category. It may be a force for good or a force for ill, depending upon the ideas that animate it. Let it be said of Phyllis Schlafly that every idea she had was scatter-brained, dangerous, and hateful. The more influential she became, the worse off America became. ...

The ugliness of American politics today can be directly traced back to Schlafly's vituperative, apocalyptic, character-assassinating campaign against the ERA. In Slander, her 2002 contribution to American letters, Ann Coulter described Schlafly as "one of the most accomplished and influential people in America" and "a senior statesman in the Republican Party." Coulter was right. Karl Rove only perfected what Phyllis Schlafly invented. And the wild, filthy rhetoric of Coulter and some of her screaming reactionary colleagues owes a great deal to Schlafly. We are lucky, come to think of it, that Schlafly flourished in the days before cable.

I guess he was hoping that the book would be a hatchet job. His real complaint is with her political positions, and hates the idea that she would be considered a populist. He thinks that she should be considered an extremist because she did not actively denounce the John Birch Society, and he thinks that it was elitist for her to oppose the ERA because so many legislatures had approved it. He is nuts. The political, academic, and news media elites were overwhelmingly in favor of the ERA. The main opposition came from her populist organization.

The review says:

he ERA passed both houses of Congress by huge majorities: 84 to 8 in the Senate, 354 to 23 in the House. It was then approved by 35 of the 38 state legislatures necessary for ratification, before losing political steam. You cannot get more democratic than that. Liberals who are denounced by conservatives for relying on undemocratic courts are almost never praised by them when they do exactly the opposite and take on the rigorous work of passing a constitutional amendment. Schlafly had her reasons for opposing the ERA, but, having set herself so resolutely against a measure that had such widespread support, populism could hardly have been one of them.
Yes, you can get more democratic. You can get a vote of the actual people, not the legislative elites. Between 1973 and 1992, ERA referenda lost popular votes in Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Vermont, and Iowa.

The review asks:

What did Fred Schlafly, whose views on women were suitably retrograde, think of the travels and the commitments of his wife, who was also the mother of his six children? Indeed, who were those children, and how do they feel about their mother? These, too, are questions Critchlow ignores, and his book suffers for it.
I am one of those six children. I met Critchlow 3 or 4 times while he was researching the book. He did not interview me for the book, and I did not expect to be discussed in the book. I have not yet seen the book. The book was to be about Phyllis Schlafly and the conservative political movement. My personal opinions are of no consequence.

Saturday, Sep 24, 2005
Unscientific heresy
Astronomy magazine says:
More than 400 years ago, the Dominican monk Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for making a heretical claim: that our universe was inifnite and contained an infinite number of worlds.

Today, cosmologists arguing a similar point - that our universe is but one of many universes comprising a larger “multiverse” - are hoping for a better fate, maybe even a Nobel Prize. There is growing acknowledgement among physicists and astronomers that this idea, outlandish as it sounds, just might be true.

No, Bruno was executed for religious heresies. And the multiverse theory will not be "true", because it is not testable.

Friday, Sep 23, 2005
Spector votes for Roberts
US Sen. Arlen Spector said about John Roberts:
Other memoranda -- candidly, I was not entirely satisfied with his explanation, but I think we have a man who is considerably different than he was when those memoranda were written some 20 years ago.

They were best summarized by Phyllis Schlafly, the president of the Eagles Forum [sic], saying that they were comments of a young bachelor who hadn't had much life experience when he criticized women for being lawyers instead of homemakers. I think he's a different man. He has a wife who's a prominent lawyer and a homemaker as well.

I don't think she would have made the comment if she had realized that Sen. Spector would turn it into such gibberish.

With Senators Kennedy, Biden, Schumer, and Feinstein voting against Roberts, he must be good.

Thursday, Sep 22, 2005
Random thoughts from Mike
Mike writes:
"Apparently the evolutionists cannot agree on whether evolution is random or not."

This is as stupid as saying that physicists cannot agree on whether the universe is random or not. Yes, at a certain (quantum) level physical effects are random. At another level, thermodynamics (or gravity) plays the dominant role and effects are damn near "deterministic." Why can't you accept the *fact* that evolution, in attempting to describe changes in extremely complicated biological systems can express itself in both random and non-random ways?

Some genetic changes are random, being caused by cosmic rays. Others, such as self-correction during replication, are programmed into the genetic material itself and hence aren't random.

The scale between the realms of the genes and that of an entire organism is as broad as that between the quantum and galactic realms. Cut evolution some slack and stop disingenuously attacking one aspect of it based on precepts from another aspect/realm.

If you ask physicists whether the various theories of physics are random or not, then they will tell you which are and which are not, and the answers will agree. But it is very strange when a committee of Nobel prizewinners issues a statement that evolution is random, and the world's leading evolution says that it is not.
ID is NOT the answer to your problems with evolution. Cutting evolution some slack and acknowledging that, though not all of its proponents are perfect, it's still a damn good collection of theories, might allow you to rest easier at night. "Survival of the fittest" is just one possible evolutionary mechanism, it does not comprise the entire theory of evolution. It's not even the only mechanism, though promoting it as such might have been a common failing of early evolutionists.
I never said that ID was the answer but "survival of the fittest" isn't either. It is just a meaningless tautology. A lot of people think that it means that the strongest and swiftest and healthiest animals survive. But no, evolutionist define fitness in terms of survival, so it just means that the life that survives is the life that survives.
But the bottom line is that true scientists (evolutionists or otherwise) attempt to explain the physical world without resort to a designer or god (call it what you will) -- and they're doing a damn good job. The other side has an *irrational* need to bring a designer into all realms (whether they are ones in which a designer is needed or not). SCIENCE seeks explanations that do not resort to divine intervention and this pursuit needs no justification -- it's a game! RELIGION looks for divine intervention everywhere as justification for its own existence.

Problems only arise when "people of faith" try to impose their nonsensical beliefs on domains in which SCIENCE is supposed to be taught.

No, the problems arise when evolutionists try to force people to accept unscientific beliefs, and to censor criticism. True scientists do not do that. A good example is the Nobel prizewinner letter that insists that it is a scientific fact that life is unguided, unplanned, and random.

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2005

Slate legal columnist Dahlia Lithwick has her usual foolish report:
So, is Roberts an ideologue? Roberts says no, and most of us are inclined to believe him. If he really is Scalia-without-the-anger, he's the most accomplished liar in world history.
Where is the lie? Roberts' answers were consistent with Scalia's approach. I could imagine Scalia giving the same answers, and doing it truthfully.

Scalia, Rehnquist, and Roberts are all ideologues in the sense of adhering to the ideology of the Constitution and the Rule of Law.

There are various leftists who would absolutely hate to see another Scalia on the court. Scalia is the most widely respected Supreme Court justice, and everybody knows it.

Here are some law professors who are baffled at Sen. Biden and others who say that another Rehnquist is okay, but another Scalia is not. I don't think that Biden knows what he is talking about.

Tuesday, Sep 20, 2005
The next nomination
Liza recommends these Notre Dame law student predictions for the next Supreme Court nomination.
A museum explains evolution
The NY Times quotes this museum brochure:
What is evolution? Organic evolution is the idea that all organisms are connected by genealogy and have changed through time.

How does evolution happen? Evolution is probably driven by several processes, the most important of which is natural selection.

Is evolution 'just a theory'? A "theory" in science is a structure of related ideas that explains one or more natural phenomena and is supported by observations from the natural world; it is not something less than a "fact." Theories actually occupy the highest, not the lowest, rank among scientific ideas. ... Evolution is a "theory" in the same way that the idea that matter is made of atoms is a theory. Is it true that there is lots of evidence against evolution? No. Essentially all available data and observations from the natural world support the hypothesis of evolution. No serious biologist or geologist today doubts whether evolution occurred.

This is pitiful. If the theory of evolution is more than a fact, then why can't they define it in terms of some facts or at least some specific assertions? All they can give are some vague claims about how organisms have changed over time, and that change is probably partially driven by some animals surviving and some dying.

Monday, Sep 19, 2005
Law prof wants consistency
Law prof Robert Justin Lipkin writes:
Phyllis Schlafly in her recent book The Supremacists has inveighed against wayward courts deciding issues our constitutional design has delegated to state legislatures. ... those opposing same-sex marriage should choose, once and for all, which branch of government is the proper forum for deciding this issue, or embrace both and cease carping at the courts when they enter the controversy.
His problem is that the California legislature tried to pass a same-sex marriage law that would have been directly contrary to Proposition 22, an initiative passed by the voters in 2000. Under California law, a popular initiative can only be repealed by another initiative. So if a same-sex law had been signed by the governor, then a court challenge would have presumably knocked it out.

Lipkin seems to agree that the people should have to final say in the matters, but is annoyed at the possibility that the courts might side with the majority. He says:

Indeed, protecting minorities is often advanced as the courts' raison d'etre. Thus, if courts should be involved in the same-sex controversy at all, it should be to defend proponents of same-sex marriage from conceivably biased majorities.
This is pretty nutty stuff for a law professor to be saying. If that were really the courts' purpose, then the first thing that it would do would be to free all the criminals. The purpose of the courts is to enforce the rule of law, not their own silly ideas about protecting minorities.

Sunday, Sep 18, 2005
Evolution may or may not be random
Defending evolution as one of the 10 big ideas in science, Dawkins writes:
Natural selection is quintessentially non-random, yet it is lamentably often miscalled random. This one mistake underlies much of the sceptical backlash against evolution. Chance cannot explain life.
Apparently the evolutionists cannot agree on whether evolution is random or not.

Saturday, Sep 17, 2005
Confirming judges
If you are following the John Roberts confirmation battle, then I recommend these legal blogs:
  • Carol Platt Liebau
  • Confirm Them
  • Confirmation Whoppers
  • How Appealing
  • The Volokh Conspiracy

    This article says that conservatives have been very happy with Arlen Spector. You can get better opinions at the above blogs.

    New Yorker dog cartoons
    The magazine's articles are too wordy and snotty for me, but the cartoons are sometimes funny. See: On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog and Back to pointless, incessant barking.
    Evolutionist prizewinners have funny ideas about science
    Kansas news:
    TOPEKA — A group of 38 Nobel Laureates headed by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel have asked the Kansas State Board of Education to reject science standards that criticize evolution.
    I do not think that the people of Kansas need to listen to a "Holocaust survivor" on the definition of science.

    The letter says (from the pdf at the above link):

    Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection. ... In contrast, intelligent design is fundamentally unscientific; it cannot be tested as scientific theory because its central conclusion is based on belief in the intervention of a supernatural agent. ...

    Science and faith are not mutually exclusive. Neither should feel threatened by the other.

    Suppose I accept the 2nd sentence, and I agree that belief in divine intervention is unscientific because it cannot be tested. The 1st sentence essentially says that it is a scientific fact that the history of life on Earth is unguided, unplanned, and random.

    I am sure that a lot of scientists believe that life is unguided, unplanned, and random, but it is certainly not a scientific fact. Those properties are no more testable than the belief in divine intervention. Indeed, these are more-or-less opposite concepts, so that any test for one would also be a test for the other. If a test could prove that life was unguided, unplanned, and random, then that same test would prove that there has been no divine intervention.

    It is also rather disingenuous for the scientists (and peace prize winners) to say that people of faith should not feel threatened by an attempt to force Kansas students to learn that life is unguided, unplanned, and random. People of faith believe that life has a purpose, and that human life is no accident. The theory of evolution, as these scientists would like to teach it, is a threat to that faith.

    George writes:

    They are not saying that all life in unguided, just that the process of evolution is unguided.
    These folks use the word "evolution" as an all-inclusive term. The National Academy of Sciences has a pro-evolutionist site that defines:
    Biological evolution concerns changes in living things during the history of life on earth. It explains that living things share common ancestors.
    Evolutionists usually give a definition that includes the entire history of life on Earth, if not the entire history of the universe since the Big Bang.

    Thursday, Sep 15, 2005
    Are humans still evolving?
    Bob questions the claim that humans have stopped evolving 50,000 years ago. He says that this must be the source of the NY Times quote:
    The possibility that our brains are continuing to adapt is fascinating and important," says Huntington Willard, director of the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. "Most laypeople tend to assume that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and that we have stopped evolving. Science, Vol 309, Issue 5741, 1662-1663 , 9 September 2005
    You can tell that Willard is a leftist-elitist-evolutionist-Gouldian by his use of the word "laypeople" and his eagerness to knock man off his pedestal.

    My problem with evolution is not the science, but the unscientific leftist atheist dogma that goes with it. The evolutionists are dominated by leftist egalitarians who like to pretend that all human beings are the same, except perhaps for the environmental effect of the dominant racist imperialist bourgeois ruling class.

    These evolutionists hate to admit that humans are still evolving because that suggests that some people are more evolved than others, undermining their political mindset. When the NY Times says that humans stopped evolving 50k years ago, you can bet that is the message that the evolutionists want you to think.

    When evidence is published that two human brain genes are still evolving, then it is amusing to watch the evolutionist backpeddle. They either don't believe the result, or they want to attribute it to byproduct of some evolutionary pressure on the human body outside the brain. In other words, they might be willing to admit that humans evolve, but they refuse to say that the human brain might be evolving.

    Here is an example of the evolutionist backpedaling, in the current Science magazine:

    Even if the favored alleles did provide some sort of cognitive or cultural advantage, some researchers say that it was unlikely to have been a dramatic one. All normal modern humans are capable of language and symbolic expression, regardless of which alleles they have. "This suggests that the new alleles don't have a big effect on these abilities," says Tyler-Smith, who calls the possible links to events in human prehistory "highly speculative." (If you subscribe, try this link. It is from EVOLUTION: Are Human Brains Still Evolving? Brain Genes Show Signs of Selection -- Balter 309 (5741): 1662 -- Science.)
    Imagine if a creationist downplayed evolution in Galapagos finches by saying that all finches are capable of eating and flying, regardless of which alleles they have. The evolutionists would ridicule them as misunderstanding science, time, genes, evolution, and everything else.

    A July 8 Science article on whether humans evolve said this:

    Although the evolution of measurable traits such as modern human skull shape may be due to random drift, some changes in human body form may have more to do with cultural and environmental factors such as diet. “Over the past 10,000 years, there has been a significant trend toward rounder skulls and smaller, more gracile faces and jaws,” notes anthropologist Clark Larsen of Ohio State University in Columbus. Most of the change, says Larsen, is probably due to how we use our jaws rather than genetic evolution. With the rise of farming, humans began to eat much softer food that was easier to chew. The resulting relaxation of stress on the face and jaw triggered changes in skull shape, Larsen says. He adds that the dramatic and worldwide increase in tooth malocclusion, tooth crowding, and impacted molars are also signs of these changes: Our teeth are too big for our smaller jaws. Numerous studies show that non-Western people who eat harder textured foods have very low rates of malocclusion, he notes. Similar changes are found in monkeys fed hard and soft diets. “With the reduction in masticatory stress, the chewing muscles grow smaller, and thus the bone grows smaller,” Larsen says. “It is not genetic but rather reflects the great plasticity of bone. It is a biological change but heavily influenced by culture.”
    Science magazine usually pretty reliably pro-evolutionist. It is published by AAAS, and Stephen Jay Gould used to be the president. But the above paragraph just sounds like gibberish to me. If human heads, jaws, and teeth have been changing shape over the last 10k years, then they have been evolving. What other possible explanation could there be? I guess there could be divine intervention, but I don't think that's Larsen's argument.

    If a Christian professor had made an argument like Larsen's, and said it about apes, then the AAAS would probably be organizing a campaign to get the professor fired for not believing in evolution. But apparently it is okay for an anthropologist to not believe that humans are evolving.

    Teach the controversy
    Here is an editorial cartoon that I think is supposed to promote evolution and ridicule the "teach the controversy" position of evolution critics.

    I don't see how this helps the evolutionist cause. It analogizes the evolutionists to medieval Catholics, and the ID movement to the Protestant Reformation. I would expect that most Protestants and maybe even most Catholics would be quite happy with teaching the controversy.

    Tuesday, Sep 13, 2005
    Better stem cells
    Bob claims that this NY Times article proves his prediction that stem cells will be better understood.

    Bob also worries that Korea might be passing us up in cloning research. However the Korean cloners attribute their success to chopsticks. Wired reports:

    "This work can be done much better in Oriental hands," Hwang told Nature Medicine. "We can pick up very slippery corn or rice with the steel chopsticks." Hwang also told the journal that his lab works seven days a week.

    Monday, Sep 12, 2005
    Field hockey
    Ellen Schlafly is a big field hockey star. I think she is the daughter of a second cousin.
    Sen. Spector, again
    Arlen Spector just opened the hearing with a brief statement including:
    I am concerned about what I said is the denigration by the Court of Congressional authority. When the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the legislation to protect women against violence, the Court did so because of our "method of reasoning". The dissent noted that carried the implication of judicial competence, and the inverse of that is Congressional incompetence.
    The method of reasoning was that Congress's authority to regulate interstate commerce allows intervention into domestic disputes, because such disputes might deter unhappy wives from traveling interstate.

    Spector says that he wants the Supreme Court to have the last word on Constitutional interpretation. If so, then the Court must surely reject such radical and illogical Congressional reasoning. Congressional action on VAWA was indeed a display of Congressional incompetence.

    He went on:

    Phyllis Schlafly, the president of the Eagles Forum, said that there were smart-alecky comments by a bachelor who didn't have a whole lot of experience.
    The Roberts comment was, "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good, but I suppose that is for the judges to decide."

    The comment was correct. Many people do indeed that believe that encouraging more people to become lawyers is not a good thing.

    Update: Phyllis Schlafly had to explain her comment here. In a separate matter, she had to deny calling Arnold Schwarzenegger a "girly-man".

    Sunday, Sep 11, 2005
    Arlen Spector, supremacist
    I saw Sen. Arlen Spector on Meet The Press, and he was pathetic. He said:
    Marbury v Madison -- explain for people who don't know the case -- it stands for its judicial word is the final interpreter ...

    I am fully behind the court having the last word. But I think that we've gone outside the balance of power when they take a very extensive record that we have created and say it's insufficient because of our method of reasoning.

    The problem here is that he is confused about judicial supremacy. He claims to believe in both judicial supremacy and the balance of powers, but those are contradictory. The root of the problem is that he misunderstands Marbury v Madison. Too bad we don't have a Senate Judiciary Committee chairman who has a better grip on USA law.
    No hurricane trend
    Here are the records on major USA hurricanes. As you can see, there is no obvious trend that can be attributed to global warming.
    FEMA head's resume
    A lot of people are attacking Michael D. Brown's FEMA resume, but I think that they are missing the bad parts:
    Prior to joining FEMA, Mr. Brown practiced law in Colorado and Oklahoma, where he served as a bar examiner on ethics and professional responsibility for the Oklahoma Supreme Court and as a hearing examiner for the Colorado Supreme Court. ... Mr. Brown was also an adjunct professor of law for the Oklahoma City University. ... He received his J.D. from Oklahoma City University’s School of Law.
    Never hire a lawyer to do a real job. Especially not one who believes in lawyer ethics.
    Huge flying dinosaurs
    This paleontologist claims pterosaurs had 6-foot heads, 10-foot necks, 64-foot wingspans, and still flew gracefully. Pterosaurs are commonly known as flying dinosaurs, altho the article does not call them dinosaurs. It sounds unlikely to me.
    Lavish tastes of card-carrying lowlifes
    Katrina news:
    Profiteering ghouls have been using debit cards distributed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina - intended to buy essentials for evacuated families - in luxury-goods stores as far away as Atlanta.

    "We've seen three of the cards," said a senior employee of the Louis Vuitton store at the Lenox Square Mall in affluent Buckhead, who asked not to be named. "Two I'm certain have purchased; one actually asked if she could use it in the store. This has been since Saturday."

    The distinctive white cards were distributed by the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and carry a value of up to $2,000.

    "It doesn't say anything on the card other than alcohol, tobacco and firearms cannot be purchased with it," the store employee told me. "There's nothing legally that prevents us from taking it, unfortunately. Other than morally, it's wrong."

    The source told me that the two women who had made purchases with the card each bought a signature monogrammed Louis Vuitton handbag in the $800 range.

    Profiteering ghouls? They are just using what they've been given, and following the rules. It may be a sign that too much relief money is pouring into the Katrina coast, but that's all.

    Saturday, Sep 10, 2005
    The unlikely universal common ancestor
    A lot of people think that evolution has proved that all life on Earth has a universal common ancestor, but I think that the whole concept is undermined by the theory of horizontal gene transfer. UC David Prof. Michael Syvanen has been writing papers on the subject since the 1980s, and here is a recent discussion.

    Here is a recent evolution paper:

    Since Darwin's Origin of Species, reconstructing the Tree of Life has been a goal of evolutionists, and tree-thinking has become a major concept of evolutionary biology. Practically, building the Tree of Life has proven to be tedious. ... We conclude that we simply cannot determine if a large portion of the genes have a common history. In addition, none of these datasets can be considered free of lateral gene transfer. CONCLUSION: Our phylogenetic analyses do not support tree-thinking. These results have important conceptual and practical implications. We argue that representations other than a tree should be investigated in this case because a non-critical concatenation of markers could be highly misleading.
    Some evolutionists are starting to tacitly admit the possibility that the Least Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) theory is wrong by referring to a "common ancestry" instead of a "common ancestor". Of course they never admit that their main premise might be wrong.
    Evolution hasn't influenced much biology research
    Chemist Philip S. Skell writes in The Scientist:
    The modern form of Darwin's theory has been raised to its present high status because it's said to be the cornerstone of modern experimental biology. But is that correct? "While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky's dictum that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,' most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas," A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, wrote in 2000.1 "Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one."

    I would tend to agree. Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming's discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin's theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.

    I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: ... I found that Darwin's theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.

    (Via Denise O'Leary's blog.) This doesn't say anything about whether evolution is right or wrong, but it does rebut some of the extravagant claims that evolutionists commonly make, such as a recent one for numerous medical breakthroughs.

    Thursday, Sep 08, 2005
    Scientists argue about whether humans are evolving
    I am always amazed at how often evolutionists seem to not even believe in evolution themselves. The NY Times reports:
    Two genes involved in determining the size of the human brain have undergone substantial evolution in the last 60,000 years, researchers say, leading to the surprising suggestion that the brain is still undergoing rapid evolution.

    The discovery adds weight to the view that human evolution is still a work in progress, since previous instances of recent genetic change have come to light in genes that defend against disease and confer the ability to digest milk in adulthood.

    It had been widely assumed until recently that human evolution more or less stopped 50,000 years ago.

    The new finding, reported in today's issue of Science by Bruce T. Lahn of the University of Chicago, and colleagues, could raise controversy because of the genes' role in determining brain size.

    The controversy is that the research suggests that Europeans have evolved superior brains, using a couple of genes that haven't evolved in sub-Saharan Africans. The leftist-Gouldian-evolutionists refuse to admit that there is any such thing as intelligence, or that it can be measured, or that it evolves.
    Nancy Pelosi, Democrat attack dog
    Nancy Pelosi wants to fire the head of FEMA. She says she told Pres. Bush this, and couldn't understand that Bush asked why.

    I would also ask why. There has been a lot of second-guessing about the Katrina situation, but no consensus on what should have been done. If Pelosi thinks that Michael Brown should be fired, then the first step is to figure out exactly what he did wrong. Pelosi could not do that, apparently, and is just looking for a partisan political issue. I think that she is just another lying Bush-hater.

    Wednesday, Sep 07, 2005
    Indian tutors
    Liza writes:
    Computer programming and tech support aren't the only jobs being outsourced to India. Now online Indian tutors are tutoring American kids in English grammar. They cost half as much as American tutors.
    How soon can they displace the teaching staff at my local grammar school?

    The NY Times says:

    Daniela, an eighth grader at Malibu Middle School, said, "I get C's in English and I want to score A's," and added that she had given no thought to her tutor being 20,000 miles away, other than the situation feeling "a bit strange in the beginning."
    Besides the apostrophe abuse, the author needs some tutoring on the size of the Earth. No point on the surface is more than 13,000 miles away.

    Tuesday, Sep 06, 2005
    Researchers withholding studies
    I emailed Northwestern U. Prof. Jon Miller to ask him for one of his papers on scientific literacy. I mentioned his work previously. He got govt grants to do surveys and write reports on the scientific literacy of the public. He doesn't have any of his papers on his website. He just wrote back with a list of obscure journal references, but no papers.

    This is fishy. Any real researcher on scientific literacy would make his work publicly and freely available. He is trying to use his results to influence public policy debates on science education. And then he doesn't want the general public to see the details.

    Miller writes:

    Most of the journals are accessible in PDF through libraries with access to e-journals. The Biomedical Communication book is available from amazon.com and I think that the Between Understanding and Trust is also available through amazon.com. Both books are in many universities libraries.
    Yes, I know that. Info about living cells and the solar system is also in university libraries. Here is a political science professor who spends his career collecting to prove that the general public is not well informed on scientific isssues, and he refuses to make his (probably unscientific) studies available to the general public. He sounds like a charlatan to me.

    Monday, Sep 05, 2005
    Refusing power is not activism
    John writes:
    Linda Greenhouse repeats a common liberal criticism of the Rehnquist Court: "... the Supreme Court's own power grew correspondingly as the justices circumscribed the power of Congress" ("by overturning dozens of federal laws that sought to project federal authority into what the Supreme Court majority viewed as the domain of the states").

    This she calls a "paradox ... because another goal that he accomplished in large measure was to shrink the role of the federal courts by taking them out of the business of running prisons, school systems and other institutions of government."

    The solution to the "paradox" is that most of the federal laws overturned by the Rehnquist Court were laws conferring jurisdiction on the federal courts. They were laws in which a liberal Congress had tried to increase the power of the federal judiciary by authorizing federal courts to exercise new powers over state governments.

    When the Rehnquist Court overturned these laws, it was rejecting power, not taking it. It was following the model set by John Marshall's Marbury v. Madison decision, in which the Court declined to accept a form of jurisdiction that Congress had tried to confer upon it.

    When the Court overturns a law that tries to increase the power of the federal courts by conferring jurisdiction upon them, that should be regarded as judicial restraint, not judicial activism.

    Yes, there have been a lot of liberals trying to make the argument that the conservative judges are the activists. Here is kooky leftist Harvard law prof Alan Dershowitz ranting about Rehnquist being a "thug", and misrepresenting his opinions. I put them in a category with the lying Bush-haters.

    Dershowitz has more attacks here. I agree with judge Richard A. Posner who said:

    Dear Professor Dershowitz: ... You traffic in rumor, innuendo, and reckless charges. Do you remember the TV interviews in which, following the deadlocked election, you said that Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris, was "corrupt," "bought and paid for," and a "crook" (CNN Breaking News, Nov. 14, 2000, 8 p.m.; Rivera Live, CNBC News Transcripts, Nov. 14, 2000; "The Florida Secretary of State: A Human Lightning Rod in a Vote-Counting Storm," the New York Times, Nov. 20, 2000) and that four of the five justices in the Bush v. Gore majority had financial motives for supporting Bush (Good Morning America, Dec. 13, 2000)?

    Sunday, Sep 04, 2005
    No known evolution uses
    Karen Schiff of Oak Park, Ill. writes this NY Times letter:
    It's true that most of us don't fret about quantum physics because its practical uses, such as in transistors and lasers, are clear, even though the theory may sail over our heads.

    Perhaps scientists should follow a similar tack with evolution.

    Why not spell out the numerous medical breakthroughs produced by the field of modern evolutionary biology? Perhaps a focus on the practical side of evolution, rather than its theoretical underpinnings, would give disbelievers pause the next time a loved one needed a medical drug or procedure that owed its existence to Darwin.

    I cannot tell whether she is being sarcastic, or if Oak Park Ill. is a hotbed of NY-Times-reading leftist-atheist-evolutionists.

    There are no medical breakthroughs produced by the theory of evolution.

    George writes:

    How can you say that when evolution is the central organizing principle of modern biology? There are antibiotics that found to kill penicillin-resistent bacteria. There are drugs that were tested on chimps because chimps are so closely related to humans.
    Don't forget the drugs tested on rats, and the evolutionist belief that we are 95% the same as a rat.

    Saturday, Sep 03, 2005
    Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies
    John sends this AP obituary:
    Rehnquist, who championed states' rights and helped speed up executions, ...

    Rehnquist was the force behind the court's push for greater states' rights. The chief justice has been the leader of five conservatives, sometimes called "the Rehnquist five," who generally advocate limited federal government interference. ...

    The Rehnquist five were together in the Bush v. Gore decision, which critics predicted would tarnish the court's hard-won luster. The closing paragraph of a book Rehnquist wrote on the court's history may stand as his answer to criticism.

    Rehnquist noted that the court makes "demonstrable errors" from time to time, but he added, "It and the country have survived these mistakes and the court as an institution has steadily grown in authority and prestige."

    No, Rehnquist did not champion "states' rights", and never even used the phrase in any of his opinions. The suggestion that Rehnquist was admitting that Bush v Gore was a demonstrable error is a low blow. It is both false, and inappropriate for an obituary. Rehnquist surely meant that decisions like Roe v Wade were the demonstrable errors. Bush v Gore looks pretty good in hindsight, as the newspaper analysis of Florida votes subsequently proved that allowing the Florida supreme court to devise its own recount scheme would have been a disaster.

    Here is another cheap shot:

    As chief justice, Rehnquist drew complaints when he led a group of lawyers and judges in a rendition of "Dixie" at a conference in Virginia in 1999. He did not respond to a black lawyers' organization that called the song an offensive "symbol of slavery and oppression."
    He served with distinction for many years, and the obituary complains that he sang Dixie?! "Dixie" was also Abraham Lincoln's favorite song, and it was played at his inauguration.
    Blaming the feds for Katrina
    John says that we were going to lose New Orleans anyways, and sends this article from 5 years ago:
    (New Orleans) -- By the year 2100, the city of New Orleans may be extinct, submerged in water. A future akin to the fabled sunken city of Atlantis? Yes, according to Dr. Chip Groat, Director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Washington, D.C., "With the projected rate of subsidence (the natural sinking of land), wetland loss, and sea level rise," he said, "New Orleans will likely be on the verge of extinction by this time next century." ...

    Over the last 50 years, land loss rates had accelerated from 10 miles to 40 miles per year by the 1970s, with the current rate being approximately 25 square miles or 16,000 acres of wetlands a year. Coastal Louisiana is poised to lose more than 10,000 acres per year for the foreseeable future.

    New Orleans is sinking three feet per century--eight times faster than the worldwide rate of only 0.4 feet per century. Currently, New Orleans, on average, is eight feet below sea level--11 feet in some places.

    Many of the low-lying barrier islands will disappear by 2050.

    This Wikipedia article describes many popular articles with predictions of hurricane risk for New Orleans.

    Liza writes:

    It is clear to me that if anyone is to blame for the response to Katrina in New Orleans, it is the dysfunctional local and state officials, not the feds.

    See the Power Line blog for various informative posts. It turns out that President Bush had to call and personally armtwist the relevant officials to order a mandatory evacuation before the storm hit - without which the disaster would have been far worse. Calling in the National Guard is a state function, not a federal function, and the governor inexcusably delayed that move. When she finally did it, she failed to give a "shoot to kill" order as the Mississippi governor did. It does not seem to have occurred to the mayor to use, say, the zillions of empty and now-flooded school buses to help get carless people out of town. Neither the mayor nor the police chief sounds remotely competent on TV. I don't know why a hurricane-prone city was unable to find bottled water for the shelters and needed the feds to truck in water from faraway places.

    I believe the feds got in there as fast as they could, given the transportation and communication challenges.

    No doubt the lying Bush-haters will blame Pres. Bush. Maybe they'll even blame Ronald Reagan for not stopping global warming.

    Thursday, Sep 01, 2005
    Chimps in the news
    Mike sends evolution news. This one actually had some evolutionists claiming that an evolutionist prediction had been proved correct:
    The finding, published today in the journal Nature by California Academy of Sciences anthropologist Nina Jablonski, fills a critical gap in the fossil record ... ``We hypothesized that they were there. This fulfilled our prediction,'' Jablonski said. (Signin key: MUKRI@BUGMENOT.COM / ANURA1)
    So what did they find? They found 3 chimp teeth, the first-ever chimpanzee fossils found.

    This is pathetic. No one thinks that chimps landed here from Mars, or anything like that. Of course chimp fossils were going to be found eventually.

    Nevertheless, the evolutionists go gaga with the most trivial of evidence:

    The discovery of the teeth at the same site as human bones proves that the two intelligent primates lived side by side, she said.

    ``What is nice to think about is this: During most of our history, we lived next to our closest evolutionary relatives,'' she said.

    Lieberman noted that life may not have been totally harmonious. ``Typically, chimps love fruit. Hominids love fruit. You'd imagine some competition among them for some resources.''

    They found 3 lousy teeth, and already they are drawing conclusions about "most of our history". It seems very unlikely that we shared an environment with chimps, since we did a lot more evolving than they did.

    Another chimp story said that a chimp genome had been sequenced.

    The genetic sequences of the most functional parts of the human and chimp genomes are about 99 percent identical, according to the analysis by 67 researchers, including a team from the University of California-Santa Cruz. Part of the chimp genome is not shared by humans; part of the human genome is not shared by chimps.

    When the genomes of the two species are compared more broadly, including non-functional ``junk DNA,'' they are 96 percent identical.

    Of course this is also said to prove evolution:
    "I can't imagine Darwin hoping for a stronger confirmation of his ideas," said Robert H. Waterston, who led the Washington University team.
    This is absurd. Darwin knew nothing of genes. Even before Darwin, biologists knew that humans and chimps were similar. Darwin would have hoped for some proof that mutation and natural selection can make new species. Finding similarities between humans and apes is just confirming what Aristotle knew.

    Mike follows up with this:

    Suppose you saw two cars driving down the street with matching hubcaps?
    I would figure that they had been designed that way. (I'm not sure if he was just trying to feed me a straight man line with that.)

    He adds:

    I'll try once more... Why isn't man at the top of that list of "most intelligent animals? What is man, if not an animal?
    Next, Mike will be asking about the HAL 9000.