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Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006
A Country Ruled by Faith
Garry Wills has a tirade against Pres. Bush and his religion in the NY Review of Books. (He has written previous books condemning the Roman Catholic Church for various things.) He starts with some silly anti-Bush stuff:
Bush's conversion at a comparatively young stage in his life was a wrenching away from mainly wasted years. He joined a Bible study culture in Texas that was unlike anything Eisenhower bought into.

Bush was a saved alcoholic—and here, too, he had no predecessor in the White House. Ulysses Grant conquered the bottle, but not with the help of Jesus.

Bush was not an alcoholic, and he did not waste his youth. Other USA presidents have been known to study the Bible even more, such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Later Wills says:

An executive at the Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design, chimed in: "President Bush is to be commended for defending free speech on evolution."[22] By that logic, teaching flat-earthism, or the Ptolemaic system alongside the Copernican system, is a defense of "free speech."
I wonder what Wills will say when he finds out that NASA engineers frequently use an Earth-centered frame of reference.

Monday, Oct 30, 2006
String Theory revolutions
There are two kinds of people who like to use the word "revolution" a lot: Marxists and Kuhnians. The latter are science philosophers who deny that Science is making progress and view it as a sequence of revolutionary shifts that are not rationally based on evidence.

String Theorists, such as guru John H Schwarz, are always talking about "revolutions". A Science Magazine article about String Theory said:

ASPEN, COLORADO—Twenty years ago, this chic playground for skiers and celebrities gave birth to a scientific revolution.
Similar statements here. Brian Greene in NY Times said:
String theory continues to offer profound breadth and enormous potential. It has the capacity to complete the Einsteinian revolution and could very well be the concluding chapter in our species' age-old quest to understand the deepest workings of the cosmos.
I wonder if string theorists are overusing the word "revolution" deliberately. That is, they realize that they cannot persuade anyone that their theory is better than anything else, but think that scientists adopt theories like fads or fashions, and if they use the word "revolution" enough times, String Theory will become the dominant paradigm.
Wikipedia bias
As another example of Wikipedia bias, here is a recent addition to the Neo-creationism page:
As do postmodernists, neo-creationists reject the traditions arising from the Enlightenment upon which modern scientific epistemology is founded. Neo-creationists seek nothing less than the replacement of empirical and logical evidence with ideology and dogmatic belief. Thus, neo-creationism is considered by Eugenie C. Scott and other critics as the most successful form of irrationalism.
You cannot find anyone who calls himself a "neo-creationist", or who describes his views in a way resembling the above.

Even if you think that creationism is a religion, then an encyclopedia should describe it as neutrally as it describes other religions.

Saturday, Oct 28, 2006
Ohio school election
NY Times says:
In an unusual foray into electoral politics, 75 science professors at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland have signed a letter endorsing a candidate for the Ohio Board of Education. ...

Dr. Owens Fink, a professor of marketing at the University of Akron, said the curriculum standards she supported did not advocate teaching intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. Rather, she said, they urge students to subject evolution to critical analysis, something she said scientists should endorse. She said the idea that there was a scientific consensus on evolution was “laughable.”

Although researchers may argue about its details, the theory of evolution is the foundation for modern biology, and there is no credible scientific challenge to it as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth. ...

Her opponent, Mr. Sawyer, was urged to run for the Seventh District Board of Education seat by a new organization, Help Ohio Public Education, founded by Dr. Krauss and his colleague Patricia Princehouse, a biologist and historian of science, and Steve Rissing, a biologist at Ohio State University.

I commented before on how Krauss like to mix science and politics. The letter is not on Krauss's web site.

When scientists say that evolution is "an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth", it is important to understand exactly what they mean. They do not mean that evolution explains the origin of life on Earth, or that all life has a single common ancestor. They mean that the history of life has involved change over time, and that gene populations vary from one generation to the next. It is a bit like saying taxonomy describes the diversity of life on Earth; it doesn't say much.

The Encyclopædia Britannica defines:

evolution -- theory in biology postulating that the various types of plants, animals, and other living things on Earth have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations. The theory of evolution is one of the fundamental keystones of modern biological theory.
If Fink disagrees with teaching this, then she ought to be voted out. My guess is that the NY Times is being misleading. I cannot find where she opposed the teaching of evolution. All I see is that she supported Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues, that doesn't even mention evolution.

Friday, Oct 27, 2006
Narrow-minded Wikipedia evolutionists
A Wikipedia editor with the pseudonym FeloniousMonk has been inserting bogus statements into the Phyllis Schlafly biography. He even removed the tag indicating that the neutrality of the article is disputed. He refused to justify his changes for a week, until he finally posted this comment on the Talk page:
::I think "doyenne of the shrill right wing harpies" is more accurate than either "propagandist" or "spokesperson," but I'll leave it up to you. [[User:FeloniousMonk|FeloniousMonk]] 20:30, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
His comment was then removed by MattCrypto with the comment, "I don't think that's an enormously helpful comment". Then he made the change anyway.

FeloniousMonk is the one who has taken charge of the Wikipedia pages on evolution controversies. He and his buddies have agreed to help each other out when blocking anyone from putting neutral information on those pages. I expect this from narrow-minded evolutionists, but I am really surprised at the extent to which he attempts to use Wikipedia to personally retaliate on me.

Teach the controversy
String theorist Lubos Motl says:
Aaron Pierce who is now at faculty of University of Michigan wrote a nice and wise essay for Science:
Teach the controversy (subscription required)

The title includes a witty analogy - I am apparently not the only one who thinks that this "controversy" about string theory and hypothetical alternatives is similar to the "controversy" about evolution and creationism. Both of these "controversies" are invented, promoted, and sometimes "taught" with a certain goal in mind and they don't reflect actual scientific results. See the Wikipedia page about the Teach the Controversy strategy to see that the two situations are essentially isomorphic.

Real scientists are not afraid of controversy. They enjoy getting the opportunity to show how the empirical evidence supports their theories.

It turns out that the article doesn't say anything about evolution.

I do think that String Theorists like Motl have something in common with Evolutionists like Richard Dawkins and Eugenie Scott -- they just hate it when someone says that Science requires some empirical evidence for validation, and that predictions are not scientific unless there is some way to demonstrate whether they are true or false.

Thursday, Oct 26, 2006
Health news for the elderly
A new study says that old people who eat vegetables do not go senile as fast. There are news stories here, here, and here.

I am very skeptical about studies like this. First, it is just a correlation. Are vegetables making them smarter, or do the smarter ones eat more vegetables for some other reason? A study like this cannot tell.

Second, there is no theory as to what in the vegetables is so beneficial. Is it vitamins? anti-oxidants? oils? what? If the study were really convincing, then it would answer this.

Third, maybe the vegetables are just displacing something else. Presumably, those who eat more vegetables are eating less of something else. Eg, maybe a lot of those who don't eat vegetables are alcoholics, and either the alcoholism is making them stupid or their senility is driving them to alcohol.

I'll wait for more studies. There are a lot of diet studies, and hardly any of them really show that any one diet is better than any other diet.

Meanwhile, a new vaccine for shingles is recommended for people over the age of 60. Apparently the shingles rate has gone way up, and half of all those who reach age 85 have suffered from shingles.

What they are not telling you is that the increase in shingles is a direct result of the chicken pox (varicella) vaccine for toddlers. It used to be that most of the kids would get chicken pox, and old people would occasionally get a boost to their shingles immunity by mild exposure to a kid with chicken pox. That does not happen anymore.

People often assume that a vaccine or other medicine that prevents disease is automatically a good thing. The chickenpox vaccine is a good example of a vaccine that causes harm by preventing disease in kids. It is debatable whether the vaccine does more harm than good.

Wednesday, Oct 25, 2006
The Supremacists on Scotus blog
Phyllis Schlafly is answering questions about the courts assaulting our Constitution on the Scotus blog.

Monday, Oct 23, 2006
Censored by Wikipedia editors again
The narrow-minded evolutionist Wikipedia editors have blocked me again. This time, an editor operating under the pseudonym "FeloniousMonk" inserted text into the Phyllis Schlafly biography saying that she attended a school that "stressed Christian anti-Communism", that she is a "one-woman propagandist for the far-right", and that she made it "more difficult for any women to forge a career in the paid labor force".

In case anyone seriously believes these absurdities, I initiated a discussion on the "Talk" page that Wikipedia provides to discuss edits. No one could defend these statements, except to cite some polemical book. Instead, they blocked me from Wikipedia on the grounds that I am biased! They even blocked me from posted responses to their attacks on me in the discussion page.

In fact, Wikipedia policy recommends that even the subject of a biographical article should correct errors.

I actually post on Wikipedia under my real name. When making changes, I want it to do it transparently. I have my particular interests and biases, just like everyone else. Except that FeloniousMonk and the others only use pseudonyms.

FeloniousMonk obviously hates creationists and other anti-evolutionists. He carefully monitors pages on subjects like Intelligent Design, and immediately removes factual information that presents the views of the advocates. As a result, those pages are biased and unreliable.

I am not an advocate of Intelligent Design (ID). I think that an encyclopedia article on ID should include a section of criticism, but it should primarily describe ID as the advocates would describe it. Likewise, an article on Astrology or UFOs or Scientology or any other disreputable subject should include the views of the advocates. Evolutionists like FeloniousMonk just cannot tolerate that. He even managed to convince his fellow editors to put a guy named "Ed Poor" on Wikipedia "probation", just because he wanted to add some balance to the evolution-related pages.

What is really strange is that FeloniousMonk would follow me around and insert edits like those above. I hope he gives some explanation for himself.

I am posting my comments here because I cannot post them on the Wikipedia discussion pages.

George writes:

What is wrong with those Wikipedia pages on evolution? FeloniousMonk even got an award from his fellow editors:
We award a Barnstar and the Barnstar of diligence to FeloniousMonk for his great work on Intelligent design related articles. We recognise his seemingly inexhaustive efforts in keeping the articles free from vandalism and applaud his efforts to provide detailed sources. As anything worth doing can be difficult, FeloniousMonk if you need further help you can count on us to assist you.
RoyBoy, KillerChihuahua, Parallel or Together?, Ec5618, dave souza, Dunc, Bill Jefferys, Guettarda, Jim62sch, WAS 4.250, Plumbago, Samsara

(KillerChihuahua was the one who helped FeloniousMonk by imposing the Block on me.)

Those articles are biased and distorted from beginning to end. For example, just look at the first paragraph of the first article on Intelligent design. It says:

Its leading proponents are all affiliated with the Discovery Institute. They say that intelligent design is a scientific theory that stands on equal footing with, or is superior to, current scientific theories regarding the evolution and origin of life.
The latter sentence cites this 2002 article by Stephen C. Meyer:
This essay will examine the in principal case against the scientific status of intelligent design. It will examine several of the methodological criteria that have been advanced as means of distinguishing the scientific status of naturalistic evolutionary theories from nonnaturalistic theories such as intelligent design, special creation, progressive creation and theistic evolution. I will argue that attempts to make distinctions of scientific status a priori on methodological grounds inevitably fail, and instead that a general equivalence of method exists between these two broadly competing approaches to origins. In so doing, I will attempt to shed light on the specific question of whether a scientific theory of intelligent design could be formulated, or whether methodological objections, forever and in principle, render this possibility "self contradictory nonsense" as Ruse, Stent, Gould and others have claimed (of, at least, scientific creationism). ...

Can there be a scientific theory of intelligent design? At the very least it seems we can conclude that we have not yet encountered any good in principle reason to exclude design from science.

Elsewhere, Meyer has written that ID should not be required to be taught along side Darwinian evolution.

Now you may agree or disagree with Meyer; that is not the point. The point is that the Wikipedia article does not accurately represent Meyer's views. These articles are supposed to be written with a "neutral point of view". They are not.

I don't even think that FeloniousMonk and the other Wikipedia editors are advancing their evolutionist cause. The ID advocates do say some silly things that ought to be properly rebutted. But when an encyclopedia misrepresents what the ID advocates say, then people mistakenly rebut the wrong things.

Sunday, Oct 22, 2006
More organizations trying to define science
Some socioligists have jumped into the evolution debate:
The American Sociological Association (ASA) supports the teaching of science methods and content in U.S. public school curricula, and affirms the integrity of science education to include the teaching of evolution, a central organizing principle of the biological sciences that is based upon overwhelming empirical evidence from various scientific disciplines. ASA opposes proposals that promote, support, or advocate religious doctrines or ideologies in science education curricula. ...

The United States Constitution articulates the principle of separation of church and state as a means to prevent the government (including public schools) from advocating or imposing specific religious beliefs on our citizens.

No, Constitution does not articulate that principle. The phrase "separation of church and state" is sometimes used to describe the US Supreme Court's interpretation, but the Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

I think that it is a little odd for sociologists to be talking about the "integrity of science" and promoting evolution.

Meanwhile, the AAAS has its own wacky ideas about science:

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has 262 "affiliates," groups whose aims are “directed toward, or consistent with, the aims” of the AAAS. One affiliate is the Parapsychological Association, a self-described "organization of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of ‘psi’ (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition."
Wow. This is the same AAAS that led the campaign to change the definition of science in Kansas. At the Kansas evolution hearings, the evolutionists grilled the witnesses about their religious beliefs. The AAAS talked evolutionist witnesses into refusing to testify.

Now we know why the AAAS evolutionists didn't want to testify. They didn't want to admit that they include parapsychology in Science!

Censure of Sen. Joe McCarthy
Someone tried to tell me that Sen. Joe McCarthy must have been a bad guy because he was censured by the US Senate.

Here is the actual text of the 1954 Censure Resolution:

Resolved, That the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, failed to cooperate with the Subcommittee [that was investigating him, and] repeatedly abused the subcommittee ... contrary to senatorial traditions.

Sec 2. The Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy [called the] Select Committee to Study Censure Charges a "lynch-party" ... and stating further: "I expected he would be afraid to answer the questions, but didn't think he'd be stupid enough to make a public statement"; ... and such conduct is hereby condemned.

In other words, McCarthy's principal sin was that he badmouthed his enemies who were investigating him. The investigation itself turned up nothing of substance. It was a bit like if Bill Clinton called the Whitewater investigation a witch-hunt.

Friday, Oct 20, 2006
Greene defends String Theory
Brian Greene gives this defense of string theory:
To be sure, no one successful experiment would establish that string theory is right, but neither would the failure of all such experiments prove the theory wrong. If the accelerator experiments fail to turn up anything, it could be that we need more powerful machines; if the astronomical observations fail to turn up anything, it could mean the effects are too small to be seen. The bottom line is that it's hard to test a theory that not only taxes the capacity of today's technology, but is also still very much under development.

Some critics have taken this lack of definitive predictions to mean that string theory is a protean concept whose advocates seek to step outside the established scientific method. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some String Theory advocates do indeed want to step outside the scientific method. Eg, Lee Smolin writes
String theory comes in a countably infinite number of versions, most of which have many free parameters. String theorists speak no longer of a single theory, but of a vast "landscape1" of possible theories. Moreover, some cosmologists argue for an infinity of universes, each of which is governed by a different theory. A tiny fraction of these theories may be roughly compatible with present observation, but this is still a vast number, estimated to be greater than 10400 theories. (Nevertheless, so far not a single version consistent with all experiments has been written down.) No matter what future experiments see, the results will be compatible with vast numbers of theories, making it unlikely that any experiment could either confirm or falsify string theory.

This realization has brought the present crisis to a head. Steven Weinberg and Leonard Susskind have argued for a new definition of science in which a theory may be believed without being subject to a definitive experiment whose result could kill it. Some theorists even tell us we are faced with a choice of giving up string theory—which is widely believed by theorists—or giving up our insistence that scientific theories must be testable.

The fact is that no one has figured out a way to relate String Theory to gravitation, electromagnetism, nuclear forces, existing particles, or anything else in present-day physics.

So what has String Theory accomplished? Greene pretends that you are too stupid to understand:

While accessibility demands that I describe these developments using familiar words, beneath them lies a bedrock of rigorous analysis. We now have more than 20 years of painstaking research, filling tens of thousands of published pages of calculations, which attest to string theory's deep mathematical coherence. These calculations have given the theory countless opportunities to suffer the fate of previous proposals, but the fact is that every calculation that has ever been completed within string theory is free from mathematical contradictions.
IOW, the theory does not predict or explain anything, but no one has proved that it will never predict or explain anything. He goes on:
Moreover, these works have also shown that many of the prized breakthroughs in fundamental physics, discovered over the past two centuries through arduous research using a wide range of approaches, can be found within string theory. It's as if one composer, working in isolation, produced the greatest hits of Beethoven, Count Basie and the Beatles. When you also consider that string theory has opened new areas of mathematical research, you can easily understand why it's captured the attention of so many leading scientists and mathematicians.
It has opened up new areas of math research, and that helps explain its popularity among mathematical physicists. But it has not reproduced any "prized breakthroughs" or he would name one. Greene is a charlatan for saying this.

Here are some useful links for getting up to speed on The String Wars.

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2006
Falsely accused
Here is a list of people who are being falsely prosecuted, in my opinion.
  • Scooter Libby. He will be acquitted. The phony indictment against him was just to save face for Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor.
  • Barry Bonds. The only chance to convict him is to hold his buddy Greg Anderson in jail until he says what the feds want him to say.
  • John Mark Karr. He is a weirdo, but there is no evidence that he committed any crimes.
  • Mark Foley. He is a homosexual, not a pedophile. His privacy has been invaded to reveal embarrassing messages, but all he did was to talk dirty with a 17-year-old boy.
  • Duke lacrosse players. The accuser, Crystal Gail Mangum, is obviously lying. Duke University and the press should be really embarrassed for letting this become a racist lynching of the players.
  • HP boss Patricia Dunn. Even if she knew about the pretexting, it was an accepted practice.
  • Saddam Hussein. He deserves punishment, but his trial is a sham. It has already been going on for a year, with no end in sight.
I have a much longer list of people who have been unfairly prosecuted in the past.

As for Dunn, the law says that the phone companies own your phone records, and can do whatever they want with them. The phone companies have chosen to make them easily available for their own business reasons. Dunn's private investigator merely took advantage of phone company policy. The law is heavily tilted against the consumer, but Dunn is the wrong one to blame.

Jonathan asks about Tom Sell, the St. Louis dentist. Yes, I believe that he was unfairly prosecuted and held for about 5 years without trial. He eventually made a plea bargain for the time he had already served. I was only listing current cases.

He also wonders how Saddam Hussein is going to get the punishment he deserves, if not by trial. The evidence against Hussein's regime in Iraq has already been presented to Congress and the UN, and both decided that Iraq was in violation. That is enough. I don't see that a multi-year criminal trial serves any useful purpose.

He also suggests that the phone companies have some responsibility over and above their regulatory requirements. Yes, I agree, and I hope that they get shamed into protecting customer records better.

Tuesday, Oct 17, 2006
The future of human evolution
It is good to see an evlutionist actually make a testable prediction:
ACCORDING TO A NEW STUDY by evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry, boffin-in-residence at the London School of Economics, in 10,000 years or so the human race could well be split into two different classes, a 6-7ft tall elite and an imp-like underclass.

The theorist claims that the genetic elite will be healthy, smart, good looking and creative, whereas the underclass will be short little ugly idiots. Something that is sure to anger the average Sun reader is that the future of humankind will most likely sport coffee-coloured skin.

Women, reports the Sun, are likely to be prettier and will have perkier breasts. Men, on the other hand, will have larger penises.

Also claimed in the study is that a further reliance on technology in our lives is likely to leave us with weak immune systems, and more prone to cancers.

More details on BBC News and The Sun. I hope that someone puts all this stuff in a time capsule, so that our descendants can laugh at us.

Update: Evolutionist PZ Myers says it is utter nonsense:

Ignoring the fact that you cannot predict long-term evolutionary trends without knowing long-term environmental trends (and not even then), I would like to see the evidence for any of this.
He also supports changes to the definition of science so that evolutionism can be considered science with falsifiability.
Evolution judge still has the big head
A Lutheran magazine reports:
When Judge John E. Jones III was invested as a U.S. District Court judge in August 2002, he “could never have imagined,” he said recently, that within four years he would appear on the cover of Time and rub shoulders at a black-tie dinner this year with others “judged” as the 100 most influential people of his time.

The case? That would be Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, ...

Jones said he knew instantly when he arrived in Harrisburg, Pa., for the trial’s first day that the case would make history. “Usually judges like me labor in relative obscurity,” he recently told an audience at the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia. “When I arrived, I saw the courthouse ringed by satellite trucks. Security was on overload. Charles Darwin’s great-great grandchild was in attendance.”

The crowded atmosphere, replete with sketch artists and media, “took my breath away. I had to calm down,” he said.

Many saw the case as a new version of the famed Scopes Monkey Trial (July 1925) that led to the 1960 feature film Inherit the Wind, starring Spencer Tracy as a fictionalized Clarence Darrow. Jones said he understands two books are in the works about the recent trial, along with a docudrama for the PBS “Nova” series.

“The attention is understandable,” he said. “The trial involved the kind of cultural clash that makes for a good story.”

A "good story"? He sounds like he wants it to be fictionalized like Inherit the Wind, which was actually intended to be a pro-Communist parable. I think the publicity went to his head.

Jones justifies the case by saying:

“I didn’t think a school district somewhere else should be exposed to the costs and fees that the Dover School District ended up paying (more than $1 million) as a result of my ducking that issue.”
So he forced his local school district to pay a million dollars in order to set an example for other school districts?

The case involved a school administrator reading a statement to ninth-grade students that said:

Darwin's Theory is a theory, ... not a fact. ... Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view.
Judge Jones didn't find that these statements were wrong; only that they were religiously motivated when the Dover PA school board said them. So all his decision really does is warn others that they better be able to prove that they have no religious motivations if they say something similar, or they risk a million-dollar lawsuit.

Monday, Oct 16, 2006
Call of the West: Rein In the Judges
LA Times reports:
DENVER — Judges across several Western states could soon face new limits on their authority and threats to their independence, as conservatives campaign for ballot measures that aim to rein in what they describe as "runaway courts." ...

South Dakota's Amendment E would have the most sweeping effect; it has drawn opposition from conservatives and liberals — including, in a rare show of unanimity, every member of the state Legislature.

Under the amendment judges in the state could lose their jobs or assets if citizens disliked how they sentenced a criminal, resolved a business dispute or settled a divorce. "We want to give power back to the people," said Jake Hanes, a spokesman for the measure.

A special grand jury would evaluate citizen complaints against judges — and judges would not be presumed innocent. Amendment E explicitly instructs jurors to "liberally" tilt in favor of any citizen with a grievance, and "not to be swayed by artful presentation by the judge."

Update: NPR's Nina Totenberg just had a segment with hysterical opposition to this amendment. I think that it is American judges who have promoted the idea that anyone can sue anyone for anything, and maybe it would be instructive if S. Dakota judges were subject to being sued just like everyone else.

Friday, Oct 13, 2006
Scientific revolution
Wikipedia now has an article on the Scientific revolution that starts:
The event which most historians of science call the scientific revolution can be dated roughly as having begun in 1543, the year in which Nicolaus Copernicus published his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) and Andreas Vesalius published his De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human body).
Copernicus's book title used the word "revolution" in the sense of planets revolving around the Sun, not in the sense of an intellectual revolt. For 100s of years, the term "Copernican revolution" referred just to planetary motion. Then Thomas (Mr. Paradigm Shift) Kuhn adopted it for a 1957 book, and persuaded everyone that it was really an intellectual revolt. Then it became his best example of a paradigm shift, because it was a new point of view without any objective evidence of any scientific truth or advantage. It was crucial to his theory that there is no scientific progress, and scientists just irrationally leap from one fad to another.

Immanuel Kant once analogized one of his ideas to the Copernican Revolution at about 1800 or so. He was writing about how perceptions of objects can depend on your point of view. His analogy was that just as planets appear to revolve around the Earth but really revolve about the Sun, other objects might have some reality that differs from our perception. Depending on whom you read, this was either one of the great original philosophical breakthrus of all time, or just some incoherent ramblings of which no one has been able to make any sense.

The Wikipedia article says:

In 1543 Copernicus' work on the heliocentric model of the solar system was published, in which he tried to prove that the sun was the center of the universe. Ironically, this was at the behest of the Catholic Church as part of the Catholic Reformation efforts for a means of creating a more accurate calendar for its activities.
Why is this ironic? The Catholic Church has a long history of supporting Astronomy.

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2006
Skipping vaccines linked to illnesses
AP reports:
CHICAGO - State laws that make it easy for children to skip school-required vaccinations may be contributing to whooping cough outbreaks around the country, a study suggests.

All states allow children to be exempted from school immunization requirements for medical reasons -- because they might have a bad reaction, for example, or have weak immune systems -- and 48 states, including California, allow exemptions for personal or religious beliefs.

To get non-medical exemptions, some states require documentation, notarized paperwork and even visits to a local health department. In other states, parents merely have to sign an exemption letter.

Compared with stricter states, those with easy exemption policies had about 50 percent more whooping cough cases, according to the study. Also, about 50 percent more people got whooping cough in states that allowed personal-belief exemptions, compared with those allowing only religious exemptions, the study found.

States increasingly are being pressured to relax their exemption requirements, often by parents with fears about the risks of childhood vaccines, said University of Florida researcher Daniel Salmon, a co-author of the study. But loosening these policies would be a public-health threat, he said.

The study appears in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. It was partly funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health contributed to the study, including two who reported financial ties to vaccine makers. Salmon said he has no financial connection to vaccine makers.

It is amazing how these articles can only get written if they are funded by vaccine promoters.

The study says:

The mean exemption rate increased an average of 6% per year, from 0.99% in 1991 to 2.54% in 2004, among states that offered personal belief exemptions.
Actually, that is only an increase of only 0.12% per year. More importantly, it means that 97.5% of the population in those states are getting all the 20 or so recommended vaccines.

What is really amazing is that the vaccination rates are so high, in face of all the scandals, hassles, and contra-indications. In those 13 years, the number of vaccine shots roughly tripled. (I'll need to check the exact numbers.) A diarrhea vaccine, mandated for all babies, was withdrawn from the market because it was unsafe. The HBV vaccine, mandated at birth for all newborns, was suspended because of safety concerns. Several vaccines had to be pulled because they had thimerosal (mercury) that violated federal EPA limits. Some evidence indicated that measles vaccine may be related to autism. The FDA and CDC federal advisory committees on immunization were shown to be dominated by drug company stooges in violation of conflict-of-interest laws. The conflicts continue, but the feds just grant waivers to the laws. The committees still do not allow outsiders to participate.

In some states, like California, parents can opt out of the mandated vaccines by just signing a statement. No questions asked. The public schools have to accept it. And yet, after 13 years of widely publicized sound and unsound reasons for opting out of the official vaccines, the vaccination rates only dropped from 99% to 97.5% in those states. It is higher in other states.

I don't know if this JAMA paper has any merit or not. Only the abstract is freely available online. I doubt that the underlying data is available. It was funded and written for the purpose of promoting CDC policy. The conclusion "States should examine their exemption policies to ensure control ..." is not a scientific statement. It is merely a statement about how the CDC desires stronger enforcement of its mandates, and the CDC does not want to have to convince individuals that it has good policies. The CDC just isn't satisfied that a couple of states have only 97.5% compliance rates.

Monday, Oct 09, 2006
Courts don't give rights
David Parker writes in the Si Valley paper:
Court usual place to pursue rights

A state court of appeal voted 2-1 on Thursday that a marriage ban, approved in 2000 by California voters, is constitutional. The justices also ruled that any changes to marriage laws should come from the Legislature or the voters. This ruling is completely misguided. Equal rights have always been fought in the courts.

No, it isn't. American blacks (negroes) got their equal rights from the Civil War, the 13A, 14A, and 15A amendments to the Constitution, and from various civil rights acts passed by the Congress.

Sunday, Oct 08, 2006
Reforming Islam
Occasionally I hear someone say:
Christianity had its Protestant Reformation in the Middle Ages; the trouble with Islam is that it hasn't had its reformation.
I cannot figure out what these people mean. The Protestant Reformation had various purposes, such as abolishing the sale of indulgences, promoting a more literal reading of the Bible, and undermining allegiance to the Pope. The effect was to split Christendom, allow open warfare between various Christian factions, and promote fundamentalism.

Islam has already had its split into Sunnis and Shiites. They don't sell indulgences, they read the Koran, and they have no Pope. It would be more accurate to say that the problem with Islam is that it has had its Reformation, not that it needs one.

Saturday, Oct 07, 2006
Attacks on the courts
John sends this WSJ op-ed by Judge William H. Pryor Jr.:
Recently some leaders of the bench and bar -- including, on this page last week, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- have decried what they describe as unprecedented threats to the independence of the judiciary. I respectfully disagree. Although the fringes of American politics offer a few disturbing examples of ignorance of the judicial function, I agree with Justice Clarence Thomas, who observed in 1999, "What is truly surprising about today's judiciary is how strong it really is."

Contemporary criticisms of the judiciary are relatively mild. ... As Justice Stephen Breyer stated several years ago, "We run no risk of returning to the days when a president (responding to [the Supreme] Court's efforts to protect the Cherokee Indians) might have said, 'John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!'"

I don't know why people keep repeating this myth. Yes, Breyer said that in Bush v Gore, but Pres. Andrew Jackson never said the quote about defying the court. As I've written here and here, the story doesn't even make any sense. The Supreme Court ruled against the Cherokees, and it was Pres. Van Buren who moved them to Oklahoma. Even Wikipedia says, "the popular story that Jackson defied the Supreme Court in carrying out Indian Removal is untrue."
Neo-creationist propaganda
I tried adding this to Wikipedia:
Neo-creationism is a [[neologism]] used by [[Eugenie C. Scott]] and a few other evolutionists to describe those who oppose her political campaign to promote the [[theory of evolution]] in the schools and to extinguish the criticism that they claim to be religiously motivated. They attempt to relate the [[Intelligent design movement]] and other non-mainstream views of evolution to earlier movements that lost American court battles under the name of [[creationism]]. What follows is a description of neo-creationism from the point of view of those who think that it is the work of the devil.
Sure enough, the evolutionists deleted it within minutes. I thought that they might be willing to at least discuss why they objected to my paragraph. Is "neo-creationism" a neologism or not?

FeloniousMonk's complaint was that the article is no more biased than my blog. Just to be clear, my blog is my point of view. It is not an encyclopedia.

An article on neo-creationism should, at the very least, include material from the neo-creationist point of view, if there is such a thing. As of now, the article does not even acknowledge that the term was invented by a couple of non-neo-creatioinist to put down the the folks with whom they disagree. There are no neo-creationists who call themselves neo-creationists.

I only mention this as an example of evolutionist narrow-mindedness. If I were a scientist who wanted to expose Astrology as bogus, I would want the encyclopedia to describe Astrology as the astrologers themselves promote the subject. It would then be easy to demonstrate where they go wrong.

Likewise, creationists are easily rebutted based on what they say. But somehow, the ideological evolutionists like E. Scott and the Wikipedia evolutionist editors cannot stand for anyone to see an alternate point of view.

Nobel Prizes
All five Nobel prizewinners in science this year are Americans. I guess the supposedly inferior US science education hasn't hurt them too much.

The Chemistry winner is the son of another prizewinner. The NY Times once editorialized that IQ could not be hereditary, or else we'd see children of Nobel prizewinners winning prizes. Now there are seven examples of Nobel prizewinners who had at least one parent who was another Nobel prizewinner.

Wednesday, Oct 04, 2006
Redefining hominids
I just discovered that evolutionists have redefined "hominid". It used to be a term for humans, cave-men, Neanderthals, and other close relatives from the past who walked upright.

Now it is anyone in the classification that includes humans and apes. The word hominin has been invented for those hominids who are humans or chimps, but not gorillas.

All my dictionaries give the older definition. I haven't quite figured out the reason for the change yet. The only thing that I can figure is that evolutionists do not approve of distinguishing between humans and apes.

Monday, Oct 02, 2006
Why I post about Lucy
I get the strangest complaints from evolutionists about my postings here. They don't challenge the factual accuracy of what I say, or even directly challenge my opinions, except perhaps to say that they sometimes go against the mainstream. Instead they question my motives for not accepting the evolutionist party line unquestionably. They say that I am only encouraging followers of the Discovery Institute, and then tell me some weird conspiracy theory about how anti-evolutionists want to turn the USA into a theocracy, or something like that.

Take, for example, the 3M year old fossil Lucy, the most widely promoted Missing Link today. Johanson, the discoverer, claimed that it was the last common ancestor to humans and chimps. My daughter's fifth grade social studies textbook features Lucy prominently, and says that "most anthropologists agree" that it was a human ancestor. I guess it is a true statement about most anthropologists. No one would be interested in Lucy otherwise.

Furthermore, evolutionists commonly argue that Lucy defines what it means to be human. They say that Lucy was a small-brained primate that resembled an ape in most respects, except that it walked upright. Therefore, they say that it was walking upright that induced all the other evolutionary changes that we now recognize as human.

This theory seems farfetched to me. There are apes today that have been trained to walk upright, and so have some dogs and cats. Walking upright seems unlikely to me to explain the huge differences between humans and apes.

Looking at the Lucy fossil, I don't see how they even have enough evidence to say whether Lucy walked upright or not. They have less than half the bones. Johanson thinks that Lucy was a tree-dweller, and no one has explained why a tree-dweller would be walking upright or why other apes did not. Sometimes experts can identify a species by a single tooth, but figuring out animal's usual locomotion is a lot more difficult.

I am not a fossil or evolution expert, so shouldn't I just accept what the experts say? Maybe if they had a track record of being correct. But there is a long history of false and exaggerated claims about missing links, from Piltdown Man to Flores Man. I want to see the evidence, before I accept that some 3M year old fossil defines what it means to be human.

Paul A. Hanle writes, in the Wash Post:

I recently addressed a group of French engineering graduate students who were visiting Washington from the prestigious School of Mines in Paris. After encouraging them to teach biotechnology in French high schools, I expected the standard queries on teaching methods or training. Instead, a bright young student asked bluntly: "How can you teach biotechnology in this country when you don't even accept evolution?"

I wanted to disagree, but the kid had a point. Proponents of "intelligent design" in the United States are waging a war against teaching science as scientists understand it. Over the past year alone, efforts to incorporate creationist language or undermine evolution in science classrooms at public schools have emerged in at least 15 states, according to the National Center for Science Education.

This is hysterical nonsense. Every American school teaches evolution. There is no public school that teaches intelligent design. The NCSE is counting states like Georgia, where there is current litigation over whether students can be told that evolution is a theory.

This so-called war on science is just a big smokescreen. It is an excuse to bash religious folks and distract from other education issues.

The idea that schoolchildren will suffer somehow if they learn both the arguments for and against Lucy being a human ancestor is just ludicrous. If there is a war on science, it is being conducted by the evolutionists who insist on accepting their doctrinaire views without dissent.

For those who want an alternate view, here is a summary of arguments that Lucy walked upright:

As in a modern human's skeleton, Lucy's bones are rife with evidence clearly pointing to bipedality. Her distal femur shows several traits unique to bipedality. The shaft is angled relative to the condyles (knee joint surfaces) which allows bipeds to balance on one leg at a time during locomotion. There is a prominent patellar lip to keep the patella (knee cap) from dislocating due to this angle. Her condyles are large, and are thus adapted to handling the added weight which results from shifting from four limbs to two. The pelvis exhibits a number of adaptations to bipedality. The entire structure has been remodeled to accommodate an upright stance and the need to balance the trunk on only one limb with each stride. The talus, in her ankle, shows evidence for a convergent big toe, sacrificing manipulative abilities for efficiency in bipedal locomotion. The vertebrae show evidence of the spinal curvatures necessitated by a permanent upright stance.
Here is an ID article that is skeptical about Lucy, and here is an evolutionist rebuttal.

Sunday, Oct 01, 2006
Chomsky attacks evolutionary psychology
Horgan writes:
When I interviewed Chomsky for The Undiscovered Mind, he disparaged evolutionary psychology as “a philosophy of mind with a little bit of science thrown in.” He suggested that the field is not really scientific, because it can account for every possible fact. “You find that people cooperate, you say, ‘Yeah, that contributes to their genes’ perpetuating.’ You find that they fight, you say, ‘Sure, that's obvious, because it means that their genes perpetuate and not somebody else’s. In fact, just about anything you find, you can make up some story for it.”
Chomsky has a point, but I am not sure evolutionary psychology is so much different from the rest of evolutionary biology. Some is based on hard science, and is testable; other parts are wildly speculative and sound contorted to fit the facts.