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Thursday, Aug 31, 2006
Galileo and extraterrestial life
I just watched the PBS special Exploring Space -- The Quest for Life. It has some interesting scientific info, but it included this anti-Catholic propaganda:
Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's [four] orbiting moons led the astronomer to believe in the Copernican [mispronounced] theory that everything in the universe does not revolve around the Earth. For his efforts, the Roman Catholic Church branded Galileo a heretic, relegating him to a life lived under house arrest. But Galileo fueled the idea that if Earth was not the center of the Universe, perhaps other planets harbored life as well.
This is nonsense. The Church never had any objection to the idea that moons orbit Jupiter. Copernicus might have, as his theory did not account for any moons orbiting Jupiter. Galileo was punished for violating a court order. The only thing that the Church branded a heresy was the idea that the Sun is immovable. We now know, of course, that the Sun does indeed move, as it orbits a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and the Milky Way is accelerating away from most other galaxies.

You might wonder how a PBS science show could get such basic facts wrong. The facts are well-documented in many places. My explanation is that PBS suffers from a leftist-atheist-evolutionist mindset. It thinks that extraterrestial life will disprove Christianity, just as Galileo's discoveries did.

The leftist-atheist-evolutionists think that the Earth going around the Sun is evidence for life on other planets, that Science consists of finding ways to knock Man off the pedestal, and that some document from 400 years ago shows that Christianity must be wrong about everything. Whenever they stake out some goofy pseudoscientific opinion, they mention geocentrism or the trial of Galileo as that somehow proves them right. And they nearly always lie about Galileo.

Wednesday, Aug 30, 2006
Radio show in activist judges
Here is a Connecticut public radio WNPR program:
Court judges deliver opinions on issues that affect us both intimately as individuals and broadly as citizens.

If you agree with a judges decision, you might have something to say about the wisdom of our judicial branch and our system of laws - but if you disagree with a judicial decision, you might cozy up to the idea that our courts are swamped by opinionated activist judges who are interpreting our laws to suit their own political agendas.

Our guests are lawyer Phyllis Schlafly, conservative commentator and defeater of the ERA Amendment, and Yale Law School professors Reva Siegel and Robert Post.

You can download the MP3 file. I guess they needed two law profs to rebut Phyllis's criticisms of the courts.
Scientifically irresponsible judge
Some law prof bloggers rant:
I labeled Justice Scalia's gratuitous dissent from the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari "the most scientifically irresponsible passage" in the Court's history and an act of "shameless pandering [and] judicial aid and comfort of the highest order to the creationist lobby." By comparison, Jonathan much more temperately concluded: "I see no defense of [Scalia's] reference to the Scopes trial. At best, it was an ill-considered rhetorical flourish. At worst, it reflected a shocking level of scientific illiteracy for such an esteemed and intelligent jurist."
The legal issue was whether the following disclaimer is unconstitutional:
It is hereby recognized by the Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, that the lesson to be presented, regarding the origin of life and matter, is known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution and should be presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.
Here is the offensive Scalia passage:
today we permit a Court of Appeals to push the much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial one step further. We stand by in silence while a deeply divided Fifth Circuit bars a school district from even suggesting to students that other theories besides evolution -- including, but not limited to, the Biblical theory of creation -- are worthy of their consideration.
It is not clear which Monkey Trial legend Scalia is referring to, as most people have learned a version that is distorted in several different ways. Previously, Scalia referred to it in Edwards v. Aguillard:
The people of Louisiana, including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools, just as Mr. Scopes was entitled to present whatever scientific evidence there was for it.
These law profs are being ridiculous, and they fail to answer the comments on their own blogs. There are lots of Supreme Court decisions endorsing wacky racial theories, from the time of slavery to forced busing.

Here is where Chief Justice Rehnquist tries to define admissable scientific evidence:

The Court then states that a "key question" to be answered in deciding whether something is "scientific knowledge" "will be whether it can be (and has been) tested." Following this sentence are three quotations from treatises, which speak not only of empirical testing, but one of which states that "the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability,".

I defer to no one in my confidence in federal judges; but I am at a loss to know what is meant when it is saidthat the scientific status of a theory depends on its "falsifiability," and I suspect some of them will be, too.

I don't expect judges to know much about science, but I would think that an expert in legal evidence should have some idea about how scientists regard evidence.

The law profs cannot even explain what is wrong with Scalia quotes, except to say that he gives some encouragement to creationists. I can see where someone might think that it would have been better if he said the "Biblical story of creation", instead of "theory", but that doesn't seem to have bothered the law profs. I think that they are just upset with the term "Monkey Trial".

A lot of people think that the Scopes Monkey Trial was a great triumph of Science and Reason over Religion and Ignorance. In fact it was a big evolutionist publicity stunt. Scopes never even taught the theory of evolution. The school biology book had a section on evolution that was filled with unscientific and offensive claims, like Piltdown Man and the superiority of the Caucasian race. William Jennings Bryan was not a creationist, but objected to the way evolution was being used to justify eugenics and what was about to happen in Nazi Germany. Clarence Darrow ended up pleading guilty rather than defend evolution. He had wanted evolutionists to testify without being cross-examined, but the judge would not let him. The appeal overturned the $100 fine against Scopes on a technicality, not the merits of the theory of evolution. The movie Inherit the Wind (1960) was a fictionalized dramatization that was intended to make a pro-Communist statement.

Tuesday, Aug 29, 2006
Main reason for war
A reader sends this 2004 interview:
Ahmed Chalabi is the man whose information provided the justification for the American invasion of Iraq. But it now seems that he is at best a very shady character and at worst, a double agent, working for the government of Iran ...
He says that I was wrong when I gave my list of justifications for the Iraq War because I understate the WMD argument. As proof that WMD was the main reason for the war, he points to Pres. Bush's press conference last week:
Q Quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?

THE PRESIDENT: I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would -- who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.

Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was -- the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question -- my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

The usual Leftist theory is that Bush didn't really believe that Iraq had WMD, but that Bush lied to us in order to get us into war. His true motivations are explained in terms of helping his Arab oil buddies or his Jewish Israeli buddies, they say. Well they don't usually give both of those motivations at the same time. Another theory is that Bush was fooled by Chalabi and other anti-Americans that Iraq had WMD.

I don't do mindreading. Bush certainly isn't going to admit that the war was a mistake, or that he didn't believe that Iraq had WMD. Maybe Bush was being less than fully truthful about his motivations in 2003, and maybe he is not fully truthful today. I don't know.

I do know the stated justifications by Pres. Bush, and by Tony Blair and Congressional leaders. They said that Iraq was not complying with UN WMD inspections, and recited various suspicions that Iraq was developing WMDs. They presented circumstantial evidence of WMD development that was lacking in specificity. As an example of the lack of specificity, we didn't even know whether the WMD was nuclear, chemical, or biological. Some people were convinced that Iraq had ready-to-go WMD, and some people didn't. I was skeptical, but I thought that either outcome would not have been surprising.

Bush does come closer than ever before to admitting that the reasons for the Iraq War were faulty. If you read the rest of his comments, you'll find that Bush still maintains that valid justifications for war were given, and most of those justifications are still valid. Historians may someday decide whether the war was worth the cost. I am not smart enough to say.

I think that all this carping about the reasons for war is tiresome. The Afghan and Iraq wars had more public support than any wars in my lifetime. The arguments and evidence for the war were fully and openly debated. Prominent Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton, Kerry, Biden, and Edwards voted for the war after reviewing the evidence. Some of those Democrats now say that they made a mistake, and want a debate on what to do now. Fine, let's debate the future of Iraq.

If someone can prove to me that the President deliberately lied to the American public or to Congress to get us into war, then that is a serious charge and the President should be impeached. But if you are just going to tell me that Republicans and Democrats made some faulty inferences about the intentions and progress of an American enemy, it is not that interesting.

It might have been reasonable for some Congressman to give a speech in early 2003 saying:

Pres. Bush has formally justified this war on the grounds that Iraq refuses to comply with UN weapons inspections, and because the war on terror requires that we act before Iraq becomes an imminent threat. I believe that those are insufficient grounds because I believe that we should wait until Iraq's WMD become an imminent threat. However, I am voting for the war because various White House officials have made statements implying that they are convinced that Iraq has dangerous WMD today. The evidence that has been shown to me is unconvincing, but I believe those White House officials and I trust their judgment. If it turns out that Iraq does not have WMD today, then I will say that the war will have been a mistake.
No one said that. So I think that it is completely disingenuous for people to make nitpicky arguments about WMD and the Iraq War. Chalabi's info was not the justification for the war. The explicitly stated justifications for the war are as valid as they ever were.

George writes:

It is not true that the Iraq War had so much public support. The wars in Kuwait, Bosnia, and Kosovo had the support of the international community.
The Kuwait (Gulf) War did not have the support of the Democrats in Congress, and the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo did not have the support of either the UN or the US Congress. The invasions of Panama and Haiti did not either. Giving an ultimatum to Iraq that it had to allow weapons inspections or face military invasion was supported by the President, the Congress, the American public, the UN, and most of the world.

Monday, Aug 28, 2006
Mooney's War on Science
Chris Mooney has updated his book, The Republican War on Science. The hardback edition had a lot of insubstantial criticisms of the Bush administration. Eg, Mooney hates it when Bush distinguishes between science and policy.

Mooney's update says:

More recently, Republicans in the House of Representatives elected Congressman John Boehner of Ohio as their new majority leader. In 2002, before winning this role, Boehner coauthored a letter to the Ohio State Board of Education instructing it that students should learn about "differing scientific views on issues such as biological evolution."
Okay, I guess Mooney also prefers to brainwash kids with a particular point of view.

Mooney also complains that Republican judge John E. Jones III tried to evaluate scientific disputes in a courtroom, and then admitted that his trial was an "utter waste of monetary and personal resources." Mooney complains that Kansas redefined science in a way that "horrifies scientists". Here is how the NY Times described that change:

The old definition reads in part, "Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us." The new one calls science "a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." [NY Times]
Are you horrified yet? Mooney is just an example of the Leftist war on science.
Papal plot to rubbish Darwin
Italian news:
Rimini, August 24 - Pope Benedict XVI is to brainstorm on evolution with a top theologian accused of championing controversial theories that rubbish Darwin. ...

The closed-door think-in at the pope's summer residence of Castelgandolfo is expected to nail down a firmer position on evolution, which has been keenly debated since Pope John Paul II's famous pronouncement that Darwinism was "not just a theory".

No, Schoenborn is not out to rubbish Darwin. Here is another Italian report: (copied from here)
RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is proposing an ideology-free debate on the theory of evolution, and wants to clarify the Church’s position on the topic.

The archbishop of Vienna presented his proposal Thursday to a packed auditorium at the Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples, organized by the Communion and Liberation Movement in Rimini, Italy.

At a press conference Wednesday, the cardinal, explained that the Church does not hold the position of "creationist" theories on the origin of life and man, which draw scientific consequences from biblical texts.

In fact, he added, there is "no conflict between science and religion," but, rather, a debate "between a materialist interpretation of the results of science and a metaphysical philosophical interpretation."

Cardinal Schoenborn, who sparked a worldwide debate in 2005 with an article in the New York Times on the subject, called for clarification of the difference between the "theory of evolution" and "evolutionism," the latter understood as an ideology, based on scientific theory.

By way of example, the cardinal mentioned Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who saw in the publication of Charles Darwin’s "The Origin of Species," "the scientific foundation for their Marxist materialist theory. This is evolutionism, not theory of evolution."

The archbishop of Vienna warned against the application of this evolutionist ideology in fields such as economic neo-liberalism, or bioethical issues, where there is the risk of creating new eugenic theories.

Yes, there is a difference between evolutionist science and evolutionist politics and philosophy. It is unfortunate that the leading proponents of evolution such as Steven Jay Gould (now deceased), Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, AAAS, etc. do not make this distinction.

The Catholic Church has no objection to evolutionist science, and neither do I.

As an example of evolutionists using science to promote philosophy, here is a Nobel laureate statement that was issued to influence Kansas politics:

Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.
Cardinal Schoenborn would accept the confirmable evidence, but not the conclusion that life on Earth is unguided, unplanned, and random.
Only a monkey would question cosmological inflation
An Australian paper reports:
In the 1970s, Guth was one of those who realised that the Big Bang theory failed to explain how a hot chaotic fireball could become the cool universe with stable clusters of galaxies we see today.

Rather than challenge the idea that time and space began with the Big Bang, he suggested the new universe had suddenly expanded trillions of times in a millionth of a second. That idea, called inflation, did such a good mathematical job of explaining the shape of the universe that it was adopted far and wide.

Guth himself has built his career on it. Recently, however, it has become clear that the theory has major flaws. There is, for example, no widely accepted way for physics to explain how such "inflation" could have happened.

It also fails to deal with the 1990s discovery of "dark energy", the energy field that fills all space and which is now thought to be the cause of the universe's expansion.

So when someone presented an alternative to cosmological inflation, Guth compared him to a monkey. String theorist Motl cheers.

You would think that physicists would respond by explaining what caused inflation, when it started, when it ended, what the empirical evidence, and why we have confidence in those figures. Maybe whoever figures those things out will get the Nobel Prize instead of Guth. In the meantime, inflation appears to be another sacred cow.

Sunday, Aug 27, 2006
Redefining science
Now string theorist Lubos Motl defends fellow string theorist Lenny Susskind's statement:
It would be very foolish to throw away the right answer on the basis that it doesn’t conform to some criteria for what is or isn’t science.
Creationists would be mocked if they said anything so silly and self-serving.

It does seem like some string theorists want to be lumped in with leftist evolutionists and creationist who redefine science to include ideas that cannot be empirically tested.

Motl writes:

The evidence to support QCD was less direct than the most naive fans of science could have expected - or could have demanded. This trend - the fact that the required steps to find evidence or proof are increasingly more complex, subtle, and abstract - has been a characteristic feature of science in general and theoretical physics in particular at least for 300 years. There is no way how this trend could be suddenly reverted. Theoretical physics is bound to demand increasingly deep and ever more complex mathematical and abstract reasoning, especially if it continues to be increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain new experimental data.
I like complex mathematical and abstract reasoning. The more the better. That isn't the complaint. The complaint is that it is not science if there is no way to test the theory.

Motl tries to hide behind mathematics, and pretend that any complaint about string theory is a complaint about its use of mathematics. It isn't.

The requirement that a scientific theory be empirically testable has not changed a bit in the last 300 years. The more use of math in a physical theory makes it more testable, not less.

QCD is a theory for quark interactions inside a proton. It makes very few predictions, and no one can isolate a quark. That makes it one of our less successful theories for the fundamental forces. But that doesn't mean that it needs to be replaced with some theory that makes not predictions at all.

Aztecs Tortured, Ate Spaniards, Bones Show
LA Times reports (from Reuters):
CALPULALPAN, Mexico — Skeletons found at an archeological site show that Aztecs captured, sacrificed and partially ate several hundred people traveling with invading Spanish forces in 1520.

The condition of skulls and bones from the Tecuaque site east of Mexico City offers evidence that about 550 victims had their hearts ripped out by Aztec priests in ritual offerings, and were dismembered or had their bones boiled or scraped clean, experts say.

The findings support accounts of Aztecs capturing and killing a caravan led by Spanish conquistadors in revenge for the murder of Cacamatzin, king of the Aztec city of Texcoco. Experts said the discovery proved that some Aztecs did resist the conquistadors led by Hernan Cortes before they attacked the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.

History books say many indigenous Mexicans initially welcomed the white-skinned horsemen, thinking they were returning gods, but turned against them once they tried to take over the Aztec seat of power in a conflict that ended in 1521.

"This is the first place that has so much evidence there was resistance to the conquest," said archeologist Enrique Martinez, director of the dig here. "It shows it wasn't all submission."

The prisoners were kept in cages for months while Aztec priests selected a few each day, cut out their hearts and offered them up to various Aztec gods, Martinez said.

"It was a continuous sacrifice over six months. While the prisoners were listening to their companions being sacrificed, the next ones were being selected," Martinez said, standing in his lab amid boxes of bones, some of young children.

The priests and town elders sometimes ate their victims' hearts or cooked flesh from their arms and legs, Martinez said. Knife cuts and even teeth marks on the bones show which ones had meat stripped off to be eaten, he said.

Revise those history books. The Aztecs were a bunch of cruel and bloodthirsty cannibals.

Saturday, Aug 26, 2006
Science insiders and outsiders
String theorist Lubos Motl estimates estimates that only 1000 Americans are competent to recognize the uniqueness of string theory, and only 100 can evaluate the physics evidence for the anthropic principle. 20M can rationally see the necessity for Darwinian evolution.

The idea, of course, is that he wants to express his opinions on evolution, global warming, and IQ without any special expertise, but he doesn't want anyone else criticizing string theory.

The anthropic principle is more philosophy than science. When you hear string theorists talk about the anthropic principle, it is because they have failed to make any physical predictions that might be testable. It is about as scientific as creationists saying, "we're here, so someone must have created us".

There are some esoteric reasons for thinking that String Theory should be promising research, but you don't have to be an expert to ask what physical phenomena it has explained. Nothing so far, unfortunately.

Taller people are smarter: study
NEW YORK (Reuters) - While researchers have long shown that tall people earn more than their shorter counterparts, it's not only social discrimination that accounts for this inequality -- tall people are just smarter than their height-challenged peers, a new study finds.

"As early as age three -- before schooling has had a chance to play a role -- and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests," wrote Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton University in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The findings were based primarily on two British studies that followed children born in 1958 and 1970, respectively, through adulthood and a U.S. study on height and occupational choice.

Other studies have pointed to low self-esteem, better health that accompanies greater height, and social discrimination as culprits for lower pay for shorter people.

But researchers Case and Paxson believe the height advantage in the job world is more than just a question of image.

It is common for Americans to just assume that discrimination explains differences like these. But it could be that taller people have larger brains, or are healthier, or there are other factors.
Global warming boost to glaciers
BBC news:
Global warming could be causing some glaciers to grow, a new study claims. Researchers at Newcastle University looked at temperature trends in the western Himalaya over the past century.

They found warmer winters and cooler summers, combined with more snow and rainfall, could be causing some mountain glaciers to increase in size.

Global warming may be a net benefit to most areas.

Saturday, Aug 19, 2006
Evolutionist mind-reading
Someone wrote, on a Wikipedia discussion page:
Seriously, what's an evolutionist? The guy used the term "evolutionist mind-reading"; I think we deserve a clarification of what he means by the term "evolutionist", or more specifically, "evolutionist mind-reading". ... Kenosis
There is a particular form of mindreading that seems to be peculiar to evolutionists. They will pretend to be defending some straightforward scientific proposition or philosophical issue, and they'll waste most of their time theorizing about the thought processes of those who disagree. Often their theories are directly contrary to what their opponents say, but they persist relentlessly.

The above discussion was over whether an encyclopedia wanting a neutral point of view should say:

The bulk of the material produced by the intelligent design movement, however, is not intended to be scientific but rather to promote its social and political aims.
You would think that for the evolutionists to attack the ID movement, it would be enough to show that the pro-ID papers are not scientific. But instead, they devote a lot of energy trying to make the claim that they are not intended to be scientific.

It is hard to even have a discussion with these evolutionists, because as soon as I make a point, they immediately leap into an argument about what I am thinking!

Friday, Aug 18, 2006
Dissing Pluto and the Other Plutons
Having disposed of the redefinition of science, the NY Times has moved on to the redefinition of planets:
A panel appointed by the International Astronomical Union thinks it has come up with a dandy compromise to the years-long struggle over whether we should continue to count Pluto as a planet. The trouble is, the new definition of a planet will include an awful mélange of icy rocks found on the outer fringes of the solar system. It would be far better to expel Pluto from the planetary ranks altogether, leaving us to bask in the comfortable presence of the eight classical planets that were discovered before 1900 and have excited wonder ever since.
If some Christians in Kansas had refused to accept new planets, the NY Times and the evolutionists would lecturing us on how we must accept what the scientists say, and they would be retelling the Galileo story.

Wednesday, Aug 16, 2006
Ignoring Bush v Gore
Adam Cohen writes in the NY Times that liberals hate to talk about the 2000 Bush v Gore US Supreme Court decision because they agree with the logic of the decision but didn't like the way that it affirmed an election win for GW Bush.
The heart of Bush v. Gore’s analysis was its holding that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county.
More precisely, it held that a non-statutory court-ordered recount of a federal election must meet some very minimal standards for fairness. The proposed Florida recount was unlikely to be any more accurate than the previous recount.

State legislatures are still free to devise non-uniform election procedures that they think are fair. Court meddling nearly always makes elections less fair, because judges act undemocratically.

One of the biggest non-uniform election procedures is to use non-English ballot options in some areas, and not others. Some areas have Tagalog ballots if they have sufficiently many Tagalog speaker. No area has a French or Greek ballot regardless of those languages being spoken. If Cohen and other liberals really think that non-uniformity is unconstitional, then they should start by supporting the repeal of the Voting Rights Act.

Tuesday, Aug 15, 2006
How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Illiterate
Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss writes:
But perhaps more worrisome than a political movement against science is plain old ignorance. The people determining the curriculum of our children in many states remain scientifically illiterate. And Kansas is a good case in point.

The chairman of the school board, Dr. Steve Abrams, a veterinarian, is not merely a strict creationist. He has openly stated that he believes that God created the universe 6,500 years ago, although he was quoted in The New York Times this month as saying that his personal faith “doesn’t have anything to do with science.”

“I can separate them,” he continued, adding, “My personal views of Scripture have no room in the science classroom.”

A key concern should not be whether Dr. Abrams’s religious views have a place in the classroom, but rather how someone whose religious views require a denial of essentially all modern scientific knowledge can be chairman of a state school board.

Krauss has his own goofy definition of science. He says egalitarianism is one of the five or so basic principles of scientific ethos. He says that science requires opposition to Pres. Bush on global warming, stem cell research, and missile defense. He subscribes to the String Theory Landscape, which has no hope of being tested empirically.

Remember that the big issue in the Kansas school curriculum was the definition of science, according to the NY Times. The leftists hate definitions that require empirical testability.

Monday, Aug 14, 2006
Changing the definition of science
It is not just the evolutionists who want to change the definition of science, it is also the string theorists:
Now, it seems, at least some superstring advocates are ready to abandon the essential definition of science itself on the basis that string theory is too important to be hampered by old-fashioned notions of experimental proof.
At least the string theorists do not try to redefine the word "theory", as the evolutionists do.

The evolutionists are always calling their enemies liars. String theorist Motl reacts to the criticism by calling it "two pages full of lies about physics".

Right v Left
The American Conservative magazine asks:
1. Are the designations “liberal” and “conservative” still useful? Why or why not?

2. Does a binary Left/Right political spectrum describe the full range of ideological options? Is it still applicable?

Phyllis Schlafly answers:
Complaining about the one-dimensionality of Right and Left positions is a bit like complaining that we can’t compare apples and oranges. No scale of variables can accurately describe the full range of qualities a fruit can have. Yet when you go the supermarket, apples and oranges are measured by a single number, the price, and consumers do indeed compare prices when they shop. Whatever varied preferences they have about fruits are judged by dollars and cents at the checkout counter.

Likewise, when voters enter the voting booth, they must convert their complex ideologies into a simple (often binary) choice. They can vote for only one candidate for each public office. American political history has produced the two-party system. The Constitution requires that the president be elected by a majority of presidential electors, not just a plurality. Third parties do not get any electors if they cannot win any states.

There are also about 25 other answers.
Wikipedia evolutionists
FeloniousMonk is one of those who furiously maintains evolitionist bias in Wikipedia articles. Now he argues that that it is unfair for an article on the Kansas evolution hearings to describe what actually happened at the hearings because only one side participated. (I think he means that only one side presented witnesses; both sides participated in the cross examination.) He says that, "policy prevents this article being turned into a vehicle for one side of the debate to restate its position, a position that has ultimately been rejected in state after state." His only authority is the Wikipedia:Neutral point of view policy.

Instead of having quotes from the people who were actually involved, he insists on having quotes from some undergraduate student assistant to an ID advocate who wasn't even there. The only justification is that he claims that the quotes support some goofy conspiracy theory that he has.

These evolutionists are amazingly narrow-minded. You would think that if they really thought that they had superior facts, reason, and science on their side, then they would happily rebut the contrary arguments. Instead they always want to censor the contrary arguments. Real scientists and pro-science advocates do not have to censor anyone.

Meanwhile, the Wikipedia page on North American Union. Some administrator has deleted it and blocked any re-creation of it, without any explanation. Weird. It looks like more censorship.

Sunday, Aug 13, 2006
Teach evolution but allow students to question it
Science magazine brags about its evolutionist election win in Kansas, and reports:
John Bacon, one of the two pro-ID incumbents who won last week's primaries, promises that the issue won't go away. "It's unfortunate that we'll now be forced to again teach evolution as the only possible explanation for the origin of life," he says. [Science 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, p. 743]
Evolution explains the development of life, but not the origin. Not very well, anyway. No one should preclude other possibilities.

One of the supposedly evolutionist winners in Kansas is a former elementary school teacher from Liberal, Kansas named Sally Cauble. That's right, a town in Kansas named Liberal. She says schools should teach evolution but allow students to question it.

Hmmmm, that's what the current standards say. I wonder if she even knows what she is talking about. Maybe she just promised change in order to get campaign donations from evolutionists.

Saturday, Aug 12, 2006
Kansas evolutionists
The evolutionists at Wikipedia think that they have found a smoking gun. The page on the Kansas evolution hearings now quotes an assistant to one of the witnesses as saying that he hopes that intelligent design (ID) will be taught in Kansas. This supposedly contradicts the text of the new standards, which says that ID will not be required.

What is curious is that the evolutionists don't seem to care very much about the facts or the science. What really drives them is their supposed ability to explain the thoughts and motives of others. Kansas had public hearings on their science standards, and the evolutionists organized a boycott rather than present their witnesses to confront the issues. Even the Wikipedia article on the hearings refuses to describe the actual testimony of the actual witnesses, but instead uses secondary evidence and conspiracy theories to argue that the witnesses were secretly trying to promote Christianity or ID or criticism of some evolutionist sacred cow.

Some of the Kansas witnesses did give some goofy opinions in their testimony. If I wanted to ridicule them, then I'd quote what they say and rebut it. But the evolutionist Wikipedia contributors will have none of that. It is they are afraid of facing the actual issues. They just want to use name-calling, cite authorities on their side, and to give mind-reading conspiracy theories.

George writes:

It is unfair to call them "evolutionists". The name suggests that they are just giving opinions or that they are driven by ideology, rather than objective scientists reciting cold hard facts.
I didn't choose the term. It is what evolutionists have been calling themselves for over 100 years. It is in new and old dictionaries. I could understand making that objection to the word "Darwinist" because it suggests worshipping Darwin. I try to save that term for people like Dawkins who call themselves Darwinists. But "evolutionist" is the most neutral and descriptive term available, and it has no history of pejorative use. It is just as good a term as biologist or geologist.

Furthermore, the evolutionists in the Kansas debates do not present any scientific facts. They urged scientists to boycott the hearings. They refuse to discuss any scientific issues, and spend most of their time on ad hominem attacks. If the word "evolutionist" comes to mean someone who holds certain nonscientific opinions or philosophies, it will be because the leading evolutionary scientists wanted it that way.

Voting for war
I occasionally hear people complain that Pres. Bush failed to get public support for the Iraq War, as previous presidents have gotten for other wars. In fact, Here was the vote on the Persian Gulf (Kuwait) War:
On January 12, 1991, the Congress gave the president authority to go to war against Iraq. In the Hose, the vote was 250-183. In the Senate, it was 52-47
And here is the Iraq War vote:
The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public law 107-243, 116 Stat. 1497-1502) was a law passed by the United States Congress authorizing what was soon to become the Iraq War. The authorization was sought by President George W. Bush. Introduced as H.J.Res. 114, it passed the House on October 10 by a vote of 296-133, and by the Senate on October 11 by a vote of 77-23.
Many prominent Democrat leaders, including Sen. Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, and Biden, voted for the Iraq War.

On the other hand, the president never got approval either Congress or the UN for the wars in Kosovo, Bosnia, Panama, Haiti, etc. It appears to me that the Iraq and Afghan wars have had more official public support than any wars in a long time.

The case for term limits for judges
A new Colorado campaign to limit judges:
But this year, reformers have gathered petitions with about 108,000 signatures, and recently set up a November 2006 vote on "10 years and out" for justices of the Colorado Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Appeals. The ballot initiative will almost certainly be certified in the coming days.

The petition drive was fueled by outrage at a blatantly political June 12 ruling of the state Supreme Court--relying on a technicality, the Court threw off the ballot a popular immigration-reform proposal. Other hot buttons include the justices' leniency to murderers in last year's Harlan and Auman cases; a judge in a custody dispute who restricted where Cheryl Clark could take her daughter to church, lest the child be exposed to "homophobia"; a 2003 decision favoring the teacher unions, snaring poor kids in bad schools; and the Taylor Ranch case, trampling property rights.

Ten years is more than enough for arrogant supremacist judges.

Thursday, Aug 10, 2006
Rumsfeld never painted a rosy picture
Everyone is accusing Rumsfeld of lying, after Hillary Clinton confronted him. The Seattle paper says:
On Thursday, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I have never painted a rosy picture. I have been very measured in my words. And you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic."

Here's what the public record shows:

On Nov. 14, 2002, Rumsfeld, in an interview with Infinity Radio, said:

"The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."
Yes, and the ground war to defeat the regime in Iraq only took a few weeks. It is the nation-building in Iraq that has proved time-consuming and costly. We won the war in Iraq, but we may not succeed in installing a Western-style republican govt in Iraq.

Before the Iraq War, nearly everyone agreed that nation-building in Iraq would be very difficult. I didn't hear Rumsfeld or anyone else paint a rosy picture of. Eg, Steve Sailor wrote:

Many prominent neoconservatives are calling on America not only to conquer Iraq (and perhaps more Muslim nations after that), but also to rebuild Iraqi society in order to jumpstart the democratization of the Middle East. ... ...

In Iraq, as in much of the region, nearly half of all married couples are first or second cousins to each other. ...

By fostering intense family loyalties and strong nepotistic urges, inbreeding makes the development of civil society more difficult.

Wednesday, Aug 09, 2006
Is Our Universe Natural
Sean Carroll wrote an essay in Nature entitled "Is Our Universe Natural?", and now he is upset that a creationist took him seriously. I think that it is funny that an astrophysicist can publish wacky, vague, philosophical, speculative, and untestable ideas in a top-rated science journal, but no theological considerations are allowed.

He also says that Nature has an editorial policy forbidding the use of the words "scenario" and "paradigm". Weird.

Tuesday, Aug 08, 2006
Leftist intolerance
Former Bill Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis writes in the WSJ:
I came to believe that we liberals couldn't possibly be so intolerant and hateful, because our ideology was famous for ACLU-type commitments to free speech, dissent and, especially, tolerance for those who differed with us. ... I held on to the view that the left was inherently more tolerant and less hateful than the right.

Now, in the closing days of the Lieberman primary campaign, I have reluctantly concluded that I was wrong.

In my experience, the Left is far more hateful and intolerant than the Right.

Monday, Aug 07, 2006
Dark formative periods
John Noble Wilford answers questions in NY Science Times:
Q. In the Alchemist article it said: "Yet on the whole, historians say, the widespread practice of alchemy impeded the rise of modern chemistry. While physics and astronomy marched slowly but inexorably from Galileo to Kepler to Newton and the Scientific Revolution, chemistry slumbered under alchemy‚s influence through what historians call its 'postponed scientific revolution.' " ...

A: It's my impression that all the primary branches of science have passed through what we today would call "dark" formative periods. Recall that astronomy was under the spell of Ptolemy and a geocentric universe for more than a thousand years. But why did chemistry have its "postponed scientific revolution?" It's a question the historians of science are grappling with. ...

It is amazing how many science writers recite such nonsense. Ptolemaic astronomy was good science. There was nothing fundamentally wrong about Fourier analyzing the solar system in a non-inertial reference frame.

For that matter, alchemists also get a bum rap. They never succeeded in turning lead into gold, but they turned out to be correct about lead and gold being made of the same particles. Their work might be compared to those searching for a grand unified field theory (GUT) today, in spite of the empirical failure of all of their attempts.

Sunday, Aug 06, 2006
Junk DNA confirms evolution
Geneticist Todd A. Gray and other have published a reseach paper claiming to show that some particular sequence of junk DNA does not cause polycystic kidney disease or a bone disease known as osteogenesis imperfecta. Coauthor Robert D. Nicholls says:
Discussion over evolution and Intelligent Design really has centered on whether pseudogenes, sometimes called ‘junk DNA,’ have a function or not. The suggestion is that an Intelligent Designer would not make junk DNA, so if a pseudogene does have a function, this is claimed to support the idea of an Intelligent Designer. But there is no evidence that any of the 20,000 pseudogenes are functional. Our research proves this Makorin pseudogene does not have a function. It has continued to mutate over its short life of a few million years, a fact that supports evolution, and eventually will be discarded from the mouse genome.
Actually, there is some evidence that junk DNA is functional. When and if someone proves that junk DNA is functional, I guarantee that the evolutionists will say that the research confirms evolution.

Thursday, Aug 03, 2006
Leftist definition of science
When Kansas changed its science curriculum last year, the NY Times explained it in terms of a right-left political conflict. The right-wingers defend the traditional notion that science is objective, while the leftists deny it:
In the early 1990's, writers like the Czech playwright and former president Vaclav Havel and the French philosopher Bruno Latour proclaimed "the end of objectivity." The laws of science were constructed rather than discovered, some academics said; science was just another way of looking at the world, a servant of corporate and military interests. Everybody had a claim on truth.
The article described the biggest of the Kansas State Board of Education changes as in the definition of science:
The old definition reads in part, "Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us." The new one calls science "a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." [NY Times Nov. 15, 2005]
The old definition is the left-wing one; the latter definition is the right-wing one. On May 5, 2005, the NY Times called this change the most significant shift in the Kansas standards. A November 10, 2005 editorial again said that the Kansas change in the definition of science was the "most significant".

The old Kansas definition was not really that old. It was put in a couple of years earlier by leftists who wanted to purge the curriculum of the word "falsifiable". Those who believe that science describes objective reality have used the notion of falsifiability for decades to distinguish science from pseudoscience. As the NY Times explained:

When pressed for a definition of what they do, many scientists eventually fall back on the notion of falsifiability propounded by the philosopher Karl Popper. A scientific statement, he said, is one that can be proved wrong, like "the sun always rises in the east" or "light in a vacuum travels 186,000 miles a second." By Popper's rules, a law of science can never be proved; it can only be used to make a prediction that can be tested, with the possibility of being proved wrong.
But now that the leftists are taking over in Kansas again, the NY Times is changing its tune. It celebrated with a couple of front page stories, and now brags:
Defenders of evolution pointed to the results in Kansas as a third major defeat for the intelligent design movement across the country recently and a sign, perhaps, that the public was beginning to pay attention to the movement’s details and, they said, its failings.

“I think more citizens are learning what intelligent design really is and realizing that they don’t really want that taught in their public schools,” said Eugenie C. Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education.

The NY Times got it right last year, not this week. The issue in Kansas was the definition of science, not intelligent design. The Kansas standards do not require that intelligent design be taught or even mentioned in class. Here is what it says:
According to many scientists a core claim of evolutionary theory is that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.5 Other scientists disagree. These standards neither mandate nor prohibit teaching about this scientific disagreement. However, to promote good science, good pedagogy and a curriculum that is secular, neutral and non-ideological, school districts are urged to follow the advice provided by the House and Senate Conferees in enacting the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001:
The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.
The Kansas science debate is a dispute between right-wingers who believe that science is about objective reality, and left-wingers who deny that there is any such thing. The leftists don't believe in religion either, so they have latched onto an evolutionist philosophy as their substitute.
Arguing for IQ ignorance
John Horgan cites this NY Times article for some research on how both nature and nuture influence intelligence, and then quotes Noam Chomsky
Surely people differ in their biologically determined qualities. The world would be too horrible to contemplate if they did not. But discovery of a correlation between some of these qualities is of no scientific interest and of no social significance, except to racists, sexists and the like. Those who argue that there is a correlation between race and IQ and those who deny this claim are contributing to racism and other disorders, because what they are saying is based on the assumption that the answer to the question makes a difference; it does not, except to racists, sexists and the like.”
Now there is an argument for ignorance. The above NY Times article argues that the research justifies universal preschool. Since we spend about a trillion dollars a year on schooling, I certainly think that we should pay attention to the relevant research. It is not racist to want to know what works and what does not.
Evolutionist name-calling
I had an argument with the Wikipedia evolutionists who wanted to call all of the 19 Kansas witnesses on this page creationists. They adamantly claimed to have proof that they were all creationists, and considered it so obvious that no citation was necessary. Eventually, one of them relented, and agreed to post his documentation on each witness. As it now stands, none are labeled creationists.

The testimony of the witnesses is online here, so there shouldn't be any dispute about what they say. If their testimony was really so anti-science, as the evolutionists, then it should be easy enough to quote whatever the evolutionists think is so bad.

There is something very strange about evolutionists who cannot stand having an alternate point of view expressed. No other scientists try to censor other views.

Here is the Discovery Inst. FAQ on the Kansas standards.

Wednesday, Aug 02, 2006
What is Math Physics
Jonathan writes:
On string theory, I'm still wading at laborious pace through Penrose's masterpiece, and although I certainly don't understand a lot of the higher math involved, I took him at his word and am marching through the book anyway, picking up as much as I can en route (he writes early on that it should be read for enjoyment, even if much of the math escapes). I've jumped ahead at several points, to see what he writes about String Theory, supersymmetry, etc. As you're undoubtedly aware, Penrose is no fan of String Theory. But as all good math and science folks should, the reader might ask: If not Strings, what? Penrose draws upon his earlier work with twistor theory, and also the work of many others in spinor theory. But I know about as much about thart stuff as I do about the current string theories -- in physics, most of us are laymen.

I was just wondering if, on a more positive note, you are planning to say anything about what you currently consider to be the basis of better, more robust GUTs. (or whether you're simply gonna carp, carp, carp about strings and hyperdimensional tubules and such). What theory(ies), if any, would you feel most comfortable defending?

"Mathematical Physics is a branch of Mathematics." Seems like a slippery slope. Maybe it's better (for some) as: "Physical Mathematics" is a branch of Mathematics. "Mathematical Physics" is redundant terminology.

Yes, the term "Mathematical Physics" sounds like it is a branch of Physics. But the typical Mathematical Physics article makes some grossly simplifying assumptions about the physical world, and then proves some mathematical consequences. Those consequences may or may not say anything about the physical world. Usually they just say something about our ability to make mathematical models. So I regard it as more Mathematics than Physics. It is okay if the Math is right and the Physics is wrong, but it is not okay if the Physics is right and the Math is wrong.

As far as unified field theories go, the so-called Standard Model works great. This means quantum field theory with a SU(3)xSU(2)xU(1) gauge group (so every spacetime point has a hidden symmetry in that group) and a scalar Higgs field to break all but the U(1) symmetry. This theory is consistent with all the particle accelerator experiments.

Gravity theory is in worse shape, as dark energy contradicts General Relativity. I don't think anyone knows how to explain that.

Supersymmetry is an interesting conjecture. Finding a supersymmetric particle would be very exciting. It would not necessarily give any evidence for or against String Theory, but it could explain some other mysteries.

Tuesday, Aug 01, 2006
Intolerant left wins in Kansas
The conservatives had a 6-4 majority favoring testable science standards, and appear to have lost 2 seats. Connie Morris was involved in a minor spending scandal, and appears to have lost for that reason. Another board member did not run, and was replaced by a leftist-evolutionist.

If the leftist-evolutionists take over, their first order of business will be defining science to include untestable theories, and to remove dissent. Vote totals here.

Andy writes:

This disappointing news confirms two longstanding views of mine:

(1) Give up on public schools. They will decay until they go bankrupt. It is impossible to improve them. Develop a system (as I have been doing) outside of public schools. Public schools may have 89% of students, but it only takes a handful to make a difference and that handful will not come from public school.

(2) Evolution is the linchpin of liberal indoctrination. All other liberal beliefs flow from it. Liberals will never, ever give up on teaching evolution in public school.

Besides evolutionists, there are no other scientists who so tenaciously try to censor other points of view. I am all for teaching evolution in school, but not for adopting a phony definition of science so that certain evolutionist dogmas will go unchallenged, as they will soon do in Kansas. As some point students are going to realize that if textbook evolution ideas were really scientifically substantiated, then the evolutionists would not be using legal means to suppress criticism.
Ted Kennedy misled us
Ted Kennedy attacked Roberts and Alito in the Wash. Post, claiming that they misled the public in their confirmation hearings. But NRO's Franck points out that Kennedy was actually misquoting a Supreme Court opinion. The Wash. Post had to print a correction. Kennedy complained that the justices wanted to "accept" the Executive's military judgment, but the actual court opinion was to "respect" it.

Ted Kennedy was not misled. He voted against Roberts and Alito. I expect Kennedy to try to mislead us about the court, but he is a fool to misquote a court decision that is so easily checked.

String theory is not even wrong
The debate between Motl's reference frame and Woit's Not Even Wrong rages unabated. Woit wrote a book about how String Theory has failed to make any testable prediction, and has not been corroborated in any way. He is like the child who says that the emperor has no clothes, and the string theorists hate him for it. Motl now details his efforts to stop Woit's book from being published.

As I see it, String Theory is a branch of Mathematical Physics, and Mathematical Physics is a branch of Mathematics. Mathematics is validated by proof, not experiment. String Theory has produced some interesting mathematics. Being a mathematician myself, I believe that is a good thing. But it has not produced any good physical theories. The string theorists who pretend that string theory explains something about our universe are charlatans. It has not scientifically explained anything.

Bench-Clearing Brawl
Bert Brandenburg on Slate describes state initiatives to rein in runaway judges:
In Colorado, there's a push for retroactive term limits for appellate judges. The measure would write pink slips for 12 judges in the near future and clear off most of the Supreme Court in just a couple of years. In Montana, where every judge already runs for office, Constitutional Initiative 98 would create a new layer of recall elections to oust judges over specific decisions. An Oregon measure seeks to throw out justices from Portland by creating geographical districts for the Supreme Court. And in South Dakota, a "J.A.I.L. 4 Judges" initiative would amend the state constitution to create a fourth branch of government: a special grand jury to sue judges and others for their decisions.
He wants to educate people more about the courts. I agree with that. The more they know, the more they want to hold judges accountable.
Kansas election today
The NY Times is all excited that some evolutionists may oust some Kansas school board members in an election. But they really have a hard time explaining what is wrong with with the Kansas curriculum. It says:
The curriculum standards adopted by the education board do not specifically mention intelligent design, but advocates of the belief lobbied for the changes, and students are urged to seek "more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." ...

The chairman of the board, Dr. Steve E. Abrams, a veterinarian and the leader of the conservative majority, said few of the opposition candidates were really moderates. "They’re liberals," said Dr. Abrams, who is not up for re-election.

He said that the new science curriculum in no way opened the door to intelligent design or creationism and that any claim to the contrary "is an absolute falsehood."

"We have explicitly stated that the standards must be based on scientific evidence," Dr. Abrams said, "what is observable, measurable, testable, repeatable and unfalsifiable."

In science, he said, "everything is supposedly tentative, except the teaching of evolution is dogma."

For this, the evolutionists has mobilized the scientific establishment for an election as never before. Those scientists are scared to death about science being defined in terms of what is observable.

The issue in Kansas is not creationism, intelligent design, or any particular religious view. The issue is whether evolution must be taught as a dogma that is not subject to notions of observability, testibility, and falsifiability that apply to all other areas of science.

Andy suggests that the NY Times got the above Abrams quote wrong. Kansas wants to teach science that is falsifiable. Scientific theories are supposed to be falsifiable, meaning that there should be some way to do an experiment that might potentially falsify the theory. If there is no way to falsify a theory, then it really isn't scientific.

For example, if I propose a theory of climate change that merely says that the Earth's climate is subject to change, then there is no way to prove me wrong. I might be correct, but I am not saying anything that is scientifically testable or useful.

Maybe a NY Times copy-editor thought that it sounded wrong to say that science is falsifiable, so he changed it to unfalsifiable.

Update: A reader informs me that the NY Times did publish a correction on this point, admitting that Abrams said (correctly) "falsifiable". I don't know where the correction is, as the above article shows no correction.