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Monday, Feb 27, 2006
The opinion speaks for itself
Here is a Philadelphia interview of Judge Jones, the Dover PA evolutionist judge:
Inquirer:Reading through the opinion, it was hard to evade the impression that you were surprised at the weakness of one side of the case. You used very strong language to characterize the case as a whole and the presentation.

Jones: I'll answer that question indirectly... . The opinion speaks for itself. There was something I said in the opinion that was grossly misunderstood... . I said that on the issue of whether intelligent design was science, that there wasn't a judge in the United States in a better position to decide that than I was. [Commentator Phyllis] Schlafly interpreted that as my saying that I am so brilliant and erudite that I could decide that better than anyone else could. What I meant was that no one else had sat through an intensive six weeks of largely scientific testimony, and in addition to the task at hand, which was to decide the case, I wanted the opinion to stand as a primer for people across the country...

To my mind... it would be a dreadful waste of judicial resources, legal resources, taxpayer money... to replicate this trial someplace else.

Yes, the opinion speaks for itself. He thinks that because he listened to 6 weeks of idealogical blowhards philosophize on the differences between science and religion, he can decide the issues for everyone else.
New Copernicus book
Dava Sobel reviews Uncentering the Earth: Copernicus and The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by William T. Vollmann.

It is funny how these Copernicus-lovers will lavish great praise on how his book revolutionized science, and roundly denounce anyone who did not accept it as a true description of the solar system. But when it comes down to discussing the actual model of the solar system that Copernicus published, they proudly admit that they do not understand any of it. Sobel says:

Yet, as Vollmann makes clear, non-mathematicians have good reason to avoid reading the actual text of the great man's admirable legacy.
Sobel is not a mathematician, and her latest book on The Planets borders on astrology.

Another Vollman reviewer says:

It's interesting that so many of the defining moments in history involved Uncentering something from something else. For instance, Thomas Willis realized that the seat of reason and intelligence was neither the heart nor the soul, but a lump of jelly in the skull. Darwin first figured out that the homo sapiens is just one twig in the tree of life. ... in 16th century Europe people with unpopular ideas were burned along with their books. ...

In the end Copernicus was successful in uncentering the Earth. This was a real breakthrough, and not just because he was right about heliocentrism. The Uncentered viewpoint is just the idea that things in the universe can be studied objectively and empirically, without recourse to mysticism. Today we just call it science.

This is absurd. Copernicus was no more scientific than Ptolemy or other astronomers. This is just evolutionist propaganda.

Sunday, Feb 26, 2006
Bogus patents
The patent system is a mess. Blackberry lost a jury trial for patent infringement in 2002, but nobody knows whether the service will be shut down or not. This Rob Pegoraro (WashPost) columns says:
Sound crazy? The RIM-NTP fiasco isn't nearly as loony as many other escapades in patent law. Other companies have asserted ownership of such things as the image format used in digital cameras, hyperlinks on the Web and different types of online auctions. ...

There are too many bogus patents getting handed out.

One solution would be to make more things unpatentable. Just as you can't -- or shouldn't -- be able to patent a mathematical equation, in this scenario you wouldn't be able to claim ownership of things like the general workings of software (any individual program is already protected by copyright) or business methods. The U.S. has been a pioneer in turning those things into new types of intellectual property; perhaps it's time to declare this experiment a failure.

Another, somewhat overlapping solution would make it harder to get any patent. The patent office would apply a higher standard of "non-obviousness" -- the idea that a patent shouldn't reward "inventions" any competent individual could have thought up. And any outside party could submit evidence against a patent before it became final.

The scope of patentable subject matter keeps expanding. The courts expanded it from software to business methods in State Street case a few years ago. Now Ex Parte Lundgren has the Patent Office dropping the "technological arts" requirement.

Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings v Metabolite Laboratories Inc says that a patent can cover the mental decision-making of a physician making a diagnosis.

The US Supreme Court is hearing several patent cases.

Here are some troublesome patents.

Saturday, Feb 25, 2006
Phyllis Schlafly's 50-year crusade
Bill Berkowitz writes (on a left-wing site):
She is not celebrated during women's history month and she's never been elected to public office, but for the past 50 years Phyllis Schlafly has been a major force within the conservative movement and the Republican Party, and she has left her mark on the political landscape.

Friday, Feb 24, 2006
Dover pays $2M
A reader sent this agreement between the Dover PA school board and the ACLU:

The parties, by their undersigned attorneys, stipulate and agree as follows:

1. By virtue of the Court’s order entered December 20, 2005, plaintiffs are entitled to nominal damages and an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988.

2. This stipulation satisfies the requirements of Fed. R.Civ.P. 54(b)(2)(B).

3. The "fair estimate," see id., of plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and expenses is $2,067,226.00.

4. Defendants’ undersigned attorney has reviewed time and expense records upon which this "fair estimate" is based.

5. Judgment shall be entered awarding each plaintiff One ($1.00) Dollar in nominal damages and awarding plaintiffs Two Million Sixty-Seven Thousand Two Hundred Twenty-Six ($2,067,226.00) Dollars for attorneys’ fees and expenses.

6. In consideration of plaintiffs’ agreement respecting payment of this judgment, defendants will not appeal this judgment.

So the Dover evolutionists agreed to pay the ACLU $2M and promised to leave intact a permanent injunction against the school ever criticizing evolution!

$2M is a lot of money to this small school district. The evolutionists, ACLU, and judge have conspired to set an example so that no other American public school will dare criticize evolution.

George writes:

Why are you blaming this on the evolutionists? It was the Dover creationists who tried to sneak religion into the classroom.
It was the prior Dover Board that taught that Darwin's theory is a theory and not a fact. But the Dover Board has since been taken over by evolutionists, and it is the evolutionists who are agreeing to pay $2M and not appeal the injunction.

This is outrageous. Evolutionists should not be using tax money to pay the ACLU to silence criticism of evolutionism. Real scientists are not afraid of criticism. The Dover court opinion is one of the most narrow-minded and bigoted court opinions that I have ever seen, and it should be appealed.

Andy agrees that there can be no justification for promising not to appeal, and writes:

A taxpayer should intervene and force an appeal. I don't think Judge Jones' opinion would survive an appeal due to his media communications during the trial and his comments about religious views of defendants in the opinion.
I think that there are better grounds for appeal. Judge Jones wrote:
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.
Judge Jones thought that he was resolving a grand conflict between science and religion, and deciding in favor of the scientific experts who say that the religious folks are mistaken about their own beliefs.

Evolutionists teach that life is random and meaningless, and that people are just animals. Yes, this is a conflict for some religious folks.

Saturday, Feb 18, 2006
Google is a menace
I am a big fan of Google, but it is doing serious damage to its "Don't be evil" motto. This week it is in the news for two things: Rolling over to outrageous Chinese govt demands that it block anti-communist sites from its search engine, and refusing to comply with a USA govt subpoena for some sample anonymous search results. The paper says:
Google described the lengths it goes to to protect its search algorithms from competitors, including not disclosing the number of computers it uses to run the search engine, the number of queries processed in a day, the type of browsers those queries are entered on and the nature of the search strings people type in.

``The very fact that the Government is so uninformed about the value of search and URL information and so dismissive of Google's interest in protecting it speaks volumes about why the Court should protect Google from this compelled disclosure,'' the company wrote.

Google's argument is idiotic. Its brief says:

Google called the Bush administration's request for data on Web searches ``so uninformed as to be nonsensical'' in papers filed in San Jose federal court Friday, arguing that turning over the information would expose its trade secrets and violate the privacy of its users. ...

In addition, the Government will not be able to ascertain the content of a Web page from its descriptive URL name. A Web site's name that suggests potential harmful material may be benign. Conversely, a URL that seems innocent may actually return pornographic material. ... Here, the adage "you can't judge a book by its cover" applies. ... Web page content also changes, or can be changed, every day or more frequently.

Yes, the govt experts have to visit the web sites to see if they are pornographic. That is why it wants the URLs. Google is stubbornly refusing a very reasonable request that might help to measure the prevalence of porn on the web. What it is really doing is covering up its secret practices of spying on Americans and censoring pro-freedom web sites at the request of Red China.
College propaganda
The evolutionist Science magazine (subscription reqd) says:
Professors at many U.S. universities say their students are learning about evolution without abandoning their belief in some form of creationism

During a visit to Stanford University in 1994, Cornell University biologist Will Provine bet geneticist Marcus Feldman that there were "a bunch of creationists" among undergraduates at the prestigious California school. He says Feldman scoffed. But when Provine asked Feldman's biology students "how many of you believe humans came to be in the last 10,000 years?" a sizable number raised their hands. ...

For decades, polls have indicated that close to half of the U.S. adult population is skeptical of the basic tenets of Darwinian evolution. Although more educated people are more likely to endorse evolution, a college degree is no guarantee that the graduate agrees with Darwin.

It sounds like these evolutionist profs think that the purpose of college is to indoctrinate students to have leftist-atheist-evolutionist opinions. They should be judging their programs based on what the students learned and how well they reason, not whether they agree with Darwin.

Evolutionists believe that apes evolved into humans about 200k years ago. Most of them also have a leftist-atheist-egalitarian ideology that requires them to believe that humans stopped evolving about 50k years ago. Students without such ideologies could well believe that people only became fully human since the dawn of civilization about 5k years ago.

Friday, Feb 17, 2006
Why math is not reported
You rarely read about math research in the NY Times or any other popular periodical. A Math Society article says:
Gina Kolata, a widely-read science writer for the New York Times, wrote me
Newspapers are not there to educate or to teach people about the mathematics that underlies search engines unless there is something you can say about that mathematics that makes it new and compelling. The fact that the mathematics is there is not enough. With most things we use -- a car, an iPod, a DVD, most of us don’t really care how it works.
... Sara Robinson ... also reported a statement made by Rob Finer, a former editor of the New York Times, that
Mathematics has no emotional impact. What physicists do challenges peoples’ notion of origins and creations. Mathematics doesn’t change any fundamental beliefs or what it means to be human.
Sigh. This is evolutionist thinking at work. Evolutionists are often big fans of the Copernican-Freudian-Gouldian principle that the essence of science is knocking Man off his pedestal. I knew that the news media don't like to report anything about mathematics, but I didn't realize that it is an evolutionist plot.

George writes:

This is a stretch. Mathematicians are not creationists. Most of them don't goto church. Why would evolutionists want to censor mathematics?
Mathematicians seek absolute truth. That is very unsettling to evolutionists. They are ideologically opposed to the concept.

Joe writes:

You really lost me with this last post re math and evolution. I think Rob Finer is exactly right. Most people are just not interested in math breakthroughs, unless they involve something tangible like the four-color problem. I don't see what evolution has to do with this obvious lack of interest on the part of the public. Now, we could certainly use better math writing. But I don't see that dragging in Freud/Gould is explaining anything here. Are you seeing evolution everywhere? It's starting to sound like the new GUT.
Yes, of course most people are not interested in math research. Looking at today's (Feb. 18) NY Times front page, the lead stories are on NATO in Sudan, jurisdiction of the FISA court, oil money in Chad, tribal strife in Iran, and gestational diabetes. Most people are not interested in any of that stuff.

The NY Times strives to be the newspaper of record, publishing what is important. My complaint is that it is deciding what math and science to print based on Freudian-Gouldian criteria. Finer only wants to publish research that changes fundamental beliefs or what it means to be human. Is that really what you want? I want the truth, whether it knocks Man off the pedestal or not.

Joe replies:

Well, don't mathematicians seek a level of truth that most science can't quite reach (2+2 = 4, but scientific theories are more approximate than that).

In fact, the topics you cite from the NYT (e.g. tribal strife in Iran, FISA court jurisdiction) are far more interesting to most people than the latest breakthrough in topology. Rush Limbaugh is talking about the FISA court issues to 12 million people every day.

You are taking Finer too literally. He means that math is not going to get people's attention unless it affects their view of the world i.e. fundamental beliefs. And it seems to me that the sort of math breakthroughs that you get now, way out on the edge of what math is known, are just not applicable to the real world in a readily understandable way. For example, cutting edge math in the 1600's dealt with probability and gambling - that sort of thing could grab people's attention.

Finer says that he is specifically looking for news that changes "what it means to be human". Looking at the current Science Times, Gina Kolata has a big article on some new research on how diet affects health. It is titled, Maybe You're Not What You Eat. Okay, I guess the NY Times is trying to spin this story as news that changes what it means to be human. Another article looks at evolutionist explanations for religious beliefs. But most of the articles have nothing to do with what it means to be human.

Joe seems to be saying that math is not interesting because it is not applicable to daily life. That is a different argument. Apparently someone tried to get Kolata and Finer interested in doing a story on how math is applicable to daily life in search engines. Kolata and Finer said that they don't care whether the math is applicable or not; they reject it anyway.

Joe replies:

I'm just saying that Finer means that the math story has to have an angle that people can understand - something that will "change a fundamental belief." What recent math breakthrough has done that?, Wiles/Fermat was a human interest story, and a pretty understandable problem. Finer wants something like a game theory theorem that proves that it's better to approach the slowest - moving line in the grocery store - something counterintuitive and exciting - something that changes widely held "commonsense" views. I don't see that happening often in math. It happened with string theory a few years back - people at least got the idea that everything was strings, not atoms. Now maybe they have no idea what that really means, but in their minds, it was changing their picture of how the universe is put together, and that was interesting. And it didn't have anything to do with evolution.
I think that you are just substituting your own opinion for Finer's. Finer says:
Mathematics has no emotional impact. What physicists do challenges peoples’ notion of origins and creations. Mathematics doesn't change any fundamental beliefs or what it means to be human.
Finer is not saying anything about whether a math news article can be understandable. He is expressing an ideological objection to a math news story.

Furthermore, I claim that only an evolutionist was say the above quote. No physicist would say that physics is worthwhile or newsworthy because it "challenges peoples’ notion of origins and creations". Who judges the worthiness of science news by its emotional impact?

Only evolutionists are so preoccupied with dehumanizing Man.

Andy writes:

I think Roger has really hit the nail on its head here. The sine qua non of the NY Times, and newspapers like it, is to dumb down our view of (human) life. Math doesn't do that, so we don't hear about its advances through those media.
Charlie says David Lazarus of the Frisco paper is proud of public ignorance of how computers and other gadgets work.

Thursday, Feb 16, 2006
The quail coverup
Those raised on Watergate have been brainwashed to say that the coverup is worse than the original crime. Even when there is no crime, they want to criminalize the coverup.

This week, they are blaming VP Cheney for not publicizing his quail hunting accident more quickly. They have lost perspective. Cheney is probably guilty of breaking some hunting safety rules, but incident was private and notifying the local authorities was sufficient.

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2006
Ohio cannot criticize evolution
Ohio news:
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 14 — The Ohio Board of Education voted 11 to 4 Tuesday to toss out a mandate that 10th-grade biology classes include critical analysis of evolution and an accompanying model lesson plan, ...

"This lesson is bad news, the 'critically analyze' wording is bad news," Martha W. Wise, the board member who offered the emergency motion, told her colleagues during 90 minutes of contentious debate here Tuesday afternoon. "It is deeply unfair to the children of this state to mislead them about the nature of science."

There are at least two groups in the news who cannot stand criticism: the evolutionists and the Mohammedans.

For the latter, here is a complaint box.

Monday, Feb 13, 2006
Healthy diets
Gina Kolata writes:
"It's one of the great principles — no, more than principles, canons — of American culture to suggest that what you eat affects your health," says James Morone, a professor of political science at Brown University. ...

That very American canon, he and others say, may in part explain the criticism and disbelief that last week greeted a report that a low-fat diet might not prevent breast cancer, colon cancer or heart disease, after all.

It is almost impossible to reason with people about diet and nutrition. They cling to silly ideas in the face of contrary scientific evidence.

The physicians are no help. They seem to know no more about diet and nutrition than anyone else, and yet they pretend to be authorities.

Sunday, Feb 12, 2006
Lincoln and Darwin
The Si Valley paper editoralizes:
Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born Feb. 12, 1809, 197 years ago today. ... Lincoln, of course, freed slaves. Darwin liberated science from the dogma of a 6,000-year-old universe created in six days. He provided the framework that let people see, through data and observation, the beauty and complexity of nature and the biological ties that bind all creatures. Advances in stem-cell research and DNA sequencing confirm that Darwin essentially got it right. ... Bigotry persists even though geneticists tell us that the differences that distinguish race and ethnicity -- gifts of evolution -- amount to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of a person's makeup.
Science was discovering ways of measuring the age of the Earth that had nothing to do with Darwin. The paper seems to be using code words to say that Darwin liberated us from religion and racism. This editorial is ridiculous.
Betty Friedan
Mike sends this NY Times obituary of Betty Friedan (mirrored here), and justifies omitting her alleged commie affiliations.

David Horowitz wrote in 1999:

In a new book, "Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique", Smith College professor Daniel Horowitz (no relation) establishes beyond doubt that the woman who has always presented herself as a typical suburban housewife until she began work on her groundbreaking book was in fact nothing of the kind. In fact, under her maiden name, Betty Goldstein, she was a political activist and professional propagandist for the Communist left for a quarter of a century before the publication of "The Feminist Mystique" launched the modern women's movement.
Disclosure: I went to grad school with Betty Friedan's son Dan. He was a good guy. My mom Phyllis had some sharp political disagreements with Betty Friedan. Other than that, I don't know anything about her past.

Mike cites this article, saying Betty Friedan spent nine years writing propaganda articles for various commie fronts. The obituaries just say that she was a labor reporter.

Mike argues that this is rather weak, and that mentioning it would be guilt by association in the same vein as this stuff linking the Bush family and Nazism.

If Friedan was writing propaganda for the Communist Party, then it is not just "guilt by association". It means that she was a commie. When she famously wrote about her unfulfilled life, maybe it was because she was working for the wrong team.

Besides, guilt by association is stock in trade for the NY Times. A week before, Judith Warner wrote this about my mom in the NY Times:

[Critchlow] is particularly indulgent of Schlafly and her Christian conservative allies when they engage in quite un-Christian behavior. When, for example, Schlafly and other "moral conservatives" revolted at the 1960 Republican convention ... Critchlow points out that Schlafly "never identified Jews as part of any conspiracy," but then she didn't have to: phrases that invoke godless, countryless "well-financed" minorities are a well-recognized code among those who fear world domination by Wall Street and the Trilateral Commission.
This is just baseless crap. The same Judith Warner just wrote this article praising Friedan, and she sure doesn't say anything about Friedan's associations or code words.

Mike also sends this Chicago Tribune book review:

Yet for Schlafly, as for her archrival, Betty Friedan, the personal was political. Indeed, as Critchlow suggests, Friedan and Schlafly have some surprising commonalities: Both were highly ambitious, educated women with extensive political experience who decided that the most congenial face for their respective movements was that of loyal housewife and mother.
In Phyllis Schlafly's case, at least, the story is true, in spite of the NY Times innuendo.
Phyllis Schlafly Was Right
National Review says:
Most of America's girls typically don't get to celebrate Phyllis Schlafly during "Women's History Month," but they should. Mrs. Schlafly not only had the right idea when she fought the Equal Rights Amendment during the 70s, but predictions she made back then are still accurate today.
It is another review of Critchlow's book.

Saturday, Feb 11, 2006
Forced to testify
Jonathan Burdick complains about me saying that good citizens should be willing to testify in court, and gives scenarios in which testimony might seem burdensome.

His examples about a witness losing some intellectual property right by testifying seem rather farfetched to me. I have never heard of such a case. Inventions get disclosed eventually anyway, if they are patented.

There are circumstances under which I'd commit civil disobedience, but that's another matter. Those who disobey the law can expect to pay some penalties.

Reporters often complain about testifying, but I have never heard of an example of a reporter being unfairly asked to testify.

There are some people who are burdened by testifying. For example, there are witnesses to serious gangster crimes. They risk being murdered. There are also people who get dragged into embarrassing roles in high-profile cases, such as Monica Lewinsky, Amber Frey, and Kato Kaelin. The complaints of witnesses like Judith Miller seem rather trivial in comparison.

Jonathan writes:

The Constitution says that artists and inventors must be protected. To add more facts to the hypothetical, the government (via truth serum) steals the invention without adequate compensation (as in Hebern's case), and, by practicing it, they avert a catastrophe. But five years later, a completely new menace approaches, and our brilliant inventor is now unfortunately unable to bring his brains to bear on the new problem. Instead, he's locked up in jail for contempt, and highly medicated, kind of like that dentist guy Tom Sell you've written about. And others who might be able to solve the new problem have inadequate incentive now, because they've all heard about our hypothetical inventor's case, and they don't want to engage in a lot of hard work just to end up in C Block. ...
I think Jonathan is working on a movie script.

Thursday, Feb 09, 2006
Benefits of vaccination
A reader writes:
I am a parent who chose not to vaccinate our children. I agree that when there is a lack of solid evidence that it will not harm my child, the safer choice is to do nothing. When seeing a doctor recently, who knew I did not vaccinate, he made the statement: "The reason you can get away with this is because parents like us vaccinate our children - otherwise you wouldn't have this luxury of not vaccinating." Another doctor had simply stated that when they are presented with a parent like me who has chosen not to vaccinate that they are required to tell us their opinion, being that they believe we are "dead wrong!" We have run into this over the years and have stuck to our decision because they have made those statements with no solid reason to back it up. We do not give them the pleasure of an argument because we know they won't listen, however their attitude is hurtful and condesending. Do you have any advice on how to handle a doctor's comments?
We have a lot of luxuries that are derived from the fine work of others. We are free because soldiers have fought and died for their country, we have safe streets because of cops and others, we medical care because of physicians and hospitals, we have good because of farmers, and we have high technology because of inventors and entrepreneurs. I do not enlist in the Iraq War just because I am a beneficiary of past wars.

When my pediatrician recommended vaccines, he never mentioned that I was supposed to take his advice for the good of society.

I suggest saying: "It was my misunderstanding. I thought that the vaccination was for the good of my child. If someone had only explained to me that I was supposed to sacrifice my child for the good of society, then I would have complied."

Gonzales testifies
John writes:
Having trashed Al Gonzales and successfully blocked him as a potential candidate for the Supreme Court, it's only fair to acknowledge that he has done a superb job defending and arguing the case for Bush's surveillance of international phone calls to and from Al Qaeda.

I was surprised that he ever agreed to go up alone and be grilled all day before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I was even more surprised that he was extremely well prepared, his opening statement was completely persuasive, and no Senator laid a glove on him as far as challenging the legality of the surveillance program.

As during the Alito hearings, the sputtering Democrats looked and sounded ridiculous.

I am wondering why the Democrats think that we have spy agencies, if they are not going to do any wartime spying.

Howard Dean says, "All we ask is that we not turn into a country like Iran where the President can do anything he wants."

Wednesday, Feb 08, 2006
Justice Breyer
Breyer defends himself:
CHICAGO - Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer says he frequently makes decisions about a law's constitutionality by considering its purposes and consequences, which puts him at odds with fellow justices who try to adhere strictly to the language of the Constitution. ...

He said, however, that he hadn't detected any split on the high court along Republican and Democratic ideological lines.

"I haven't seen that kind of politics in the Supreme Court. Zero. It doesn't exist," he said. ...

"I tend to emphasize purpose and consequences," said Breyer, who was nominated for the high court by President Clinton. "Others emphasize language, a more literal reading of the text, history and tradition — believing that those help you reach a more objective answer." ... He decided a display of the commandments in front of two Kentucky courthouses was unconstitutional because he concluded their display would cause religious conflict.

Breyer is not smart enough to detect political differences, and yet he is so smart that he can predict what will cause religious conflict?!

And if so, does that mean that he would have found the Danish cartoons unconstitional? Breyer is an embarrassment.

More evolutionist definitions
A reader sends Aug. 2005 article for its definition of evolution. It defines "theory", and then defines Neo-Darwinian theory as 3 propositions: 1. evolution. 2. speciation. 3. "most (though not all) of evolutionary change is probably driven by natural selection".

Evolution is defined as meaning 2 below, with the addition that the change has been gradual:

The first proposition is that populations of organisms have evolved. (Darwin, who used the word "evolved" only once in On the Origin of Species, called this principle "descent with modification.") That is, the species on earth today are the descendants of other species that lived earlier, and the change in these lineages has been gradual, taking thousands to millions of years. Humans, for example, evolved from distinctly different organisms that had smaller brains and probably lived in trees.
Speciation is the idea that a species can split into multiple lineages. Proposition 3 also goes under the slogan "survival of the fittest", although some evolutionists admit that the slogan is fairly meaningless.

Monday, Feb 06, 2006
Mormons and evolution
Others say that Mormonism, with its emphasis that all beings can progress toward higher planes of existence, before and after death, has an almost built-in receptivity toward evolutionary thought that other religions might lack.
It is funny to hear nonbelievers try to figure out whether religious folks should believe in evolution.

Saturday, Feb 04, 2006
Google invades privacy
Privacy expert Declan McCullagh reports:
Google's recent legal spat with the U.S. Department of Justice highlights not only what information search engines record about us but also the shortcomings in a federal law that's supposed to protect online privacy.

It's only a matter of time before other attorneys realize that a person's entire search history is available for the asking, and the subpoenas begin to fly. This could happen in civil lawsuits or criminal prosecutions. ...

Q: Does Google collect and record people's search terms whether they're logged in or not? Yes. Google confirmed this week that it keeps and collates these results, which means the company can be forced to divulge them under court order. Whether Google does anything else with them is another issue.

Given the Department of Justice's recent subpoena to Google, it's likely the police or even lawyers in civil cases--divorce attorneys, employers in severance disputes--eventually will demand that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and other search engines cough up users' search histories.

As I noted below, Google has really opened a can of worms by drawing attention to its privacy-invading policies. Under American law, if a company keeps records on users, then those records can be subpoenaed for a court dispute. When Google decides to retain the privacy-invading records, it is also deciding to make them available to courts on request.

The obvious solution is for Google to just destroy any user-identifiable search data after a month or so. Google has very little use for such data, and the risk to some users could be high. AOL already deletes such data after 30 days.

Jonathan Burdick writes that conservatives should be defending Google's freedom and intellectual property, but I don't see that as an issue. Sure, Google can collect any data it wants. What it cannot do is to decide to use that data to sell ads but not allow the data to help resolve court disputes. Our courts depend on compelled testimony, and that's the way they have worked for 100s of years.

It's like this: If you witness a car accident, and take a photograph of it, then you can be forced to testify in court and surrender the photograph. No forced you to see the accident or to take the picture, but once you have evidence, the court can demand it. It is that simple.

Jonathan responds:

I'm not so sure. I say the court can TRY to force you to testify. You are free to deposit the film in a Swiss vault, or maybe the Cayman Islands is more secure, and let the judge sentence you to six months for contempt. My understanding (haven't looked it up lately) is that you can then emerge from solitary, calmly dust off your jumpsuit, appear in court, laugh at the judge, and then do another six months for contempt, then another, and another, and so forth (if I recall, there's some sort of vague notion about there supposedly being a theoretical limit to this, i.e. at some point repeated contempt sanctions start to appear to be masquerading as a euphemism for cruel and unusual punishment.) How do you deal with the issue of a reporter refusing to divulge a source, and going to jail for contempt? If the reporter dies in jail, your argument is shown to be wrong. The court did not "force" the reporter to testify; rather, it tried to, but the reporter rejected the force. "I refuse to play with bullies." Maybe the judge ended up being roundly criticized for repeated contempt sanctions which were held in retrospect (by Volokh-echelon legal commentators, for example) to cost our society more (in terms of causing fear of judicial trampling on freedom of the press) than it would have gained us by virtue of having had the specific evidence at issue in a single case. I'm sure you'd agree that a free press is invaluable, as it's sometimes called "the fourth branch of government", can expose corruption, etc.

I guess you can always claim that the court still "forced" the reporter (or photographer) to testify, but the result was simply that the application of force just plain failed. I may be quibbling about semantics, but "forced to testify" to me is generally a phrase used to imply that testimony actually occurred by reason of the force applied.

I know there was a big case in 2000 or 2001 on the issue of reporters safeguarding their confidential sources. Can't recall the name offhand, I believe the name of one of the parties may have started with a "B" or an "S". This, : by a lawyer, writing in 2002, doesn't mention that case, it deals with another one (Branzburg), but at the end of the note it claims that there is not a clear national standard for the so-called "reporter's privilege." I'm going to dig around and find that case that came out in 2000 or thereabouts, maybe it backs your position, maybe not; maybe it was correctly decided, maybe not. But apart from the case, I'd like to know what your theoretical position is. I believe it's possible for a court to abuse its authority to [try to] compel testimony, and that some sort of suitably strong showing might need to be made by the prosecution (depending on the facts) beyond a bare assertion that such testimony is required. And even then, the reporter is free to go to jail for contempt. Maybe the case I'm thinking of stands for the proposition that in some cases, it is NOT appropriate for a court to order a photojournalist to divulge the photograph, or for a reporter to divulge the confidential source (unless, for example, it's a case involving national security).

How's a photog supposed to make a living if his photo suddenly becomes a matter of public record, then it's all over the news, his work has suddenly been "newsified", he can't derive any profits from it, and, far from helping out his cause, what he took a photograph of was a racist beating and now he has to go into hiding like Salman Rushdie? Tell me that the authority of a court to compel someone to cough up intellectual property is not absolute and unfettered.

Yes, a witness might be able to avoid his legal obligations to testify if he is willing to sit in jail on contempt charges instead. We don't torture witnesses, we just detain them. I don't believe that it is an abuse to force testimony. Part of being a good citizen is being willing to testify.

As for photographers making a living, they are already the beneficiaries of some very favorable copyright laws. They can still be witnesses, and retain photograph copyrights for their lifetime plus another 70 years.

Wednesday, Feb 01, 2006
Romney and the supremacists
John writes:
Few politicians in history were served up such a test of leadership as Mitt Romney. If he had risen to that challenge, Romney would be a leading candidate for president, but his complete failure to deal it proves that he lacks the qualities that Americans expect in a president.

I refer, of course, to the gay marriage ruling of the state supreme court. Romney's opportunity and challenge was to deal with that ruling the way his predecessor Calvin Coolidge dealt with the 1919 Boston police strike.

Coolidge's no-nonsense, no-compromise response to that strike earned him the vice presidential nomination, from which he succeeded to the presidency on the death of Warren Harding. Coolidge's statement, ?There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time? echoed across the nation.

Romney should have responded to the court ruling as if they were striking policemen -- judges who, though sworn to uphold the law, violated their oath to become a lawless mob. He should have used all the powers of his office to deny and defeat their pretended ruling, and remove them from office.

Since Mitt Romney could not deal with a small crisis in his own small state, we can't trust him in the White House.

Liza writes:
I think Romney has done everything that could be reasonably expected of him with regard to gay marriage in Massachusetts. We can't have officials openly flouting constitutional decisions that don't suit them. If you were a marriage-license clerk in Massachusetts, would you obey or disobey a court order to issue licenses to gays? If you say disobey, the court could throw the clerk in jail for contempt, and the governor probably could not stop it.
John writes:
Would Liza have told Governor Calvin Coolidge, "We can't have officials openly flouting the armed police"? If not, why not?

Liza seems to think that in any conflict between the judiciary and the other co-equal branches of government, the judiciary always wins. That's the heresy that The Supremacists was written to refute.

The Massachusetts court decision was not 100% self-executing. There never was a "court order to issue licenses to gays." There never was a court order personally commanding any named person to do anything.

During the 6 month period (Nov. 2003 - May 2004) before the court decision was to become effective, local clerks asked the state for assistance to prepare for gay marriages. Romney's state officials complied by redesigning the state mandated form, changing the words Husband and Wife to Party A and Party B.

At a minimum, Romney could have refused to take any such actions to accommodate the court decision. If local clerks made their own forms and issued same sex licenses anyway, Romney could have refused to file them in the state office where, by law, all marriages must be filed - thus denying them official recognition as far as state government was concerned.

That's the bare minimum Romney could have done. Instead, in the immortal words of Webb Hubbell's wiretapped prison phone call, he chose to "roll over one more time." Not a good thing for someone who aspires to succeed George W. Bush.

Romney did write this WSJ op-ed, where he suggested standing up to the judicial supremacists.

Liza writes:

I think John is being naïve. The analogy to Calvin Coolidge limps. Coolidge clearly had the law on his side in an illegal strike by the police.

Rest assured that the Massachusetts supreme court would have enforced its decision, using the contempt power if necessary. What county license clerk is going to go to jail for disobeying a court order?

I never heard of central filing of marriage licenses with the state. I doubt that it is necessary for a valid marriage, which takes place at the county level every place I have ever heard of.

If two branches of government strongly believe the courts are out of line, there is a better chance of resisting an outrageous decision. But Romney didn't have the legislature on his side. Likewise, when the Kansas supreme court demanded more school funding last year and threatened not to allow any public schools in the state to open in the fall, the legislature didn't have the governor on its side, and couldn't afford the political risk of a total school shutdown.