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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007
Why liberals hate the 10C
Michael Medved writes:
The left’s fiery obsession with removing Ten Commandments monuments from public property throughout the United States may seem odd and irrational but actually reflects the deepest values of contemporary liberalism.

A bedouin sells blankets on the summit of Mount Moses in the Sinai Peninsula at sunrise, October 3, 2006. According to the Old Testament this is where Moses received the ten commandments from God. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (EGYPT) In the last five years alone, the tireless fanatics at the ACLU have invested tens of millions of dollars and countless hours of legal time in lawsuits to yank the Commandments from long-standing displays in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Montana, Georgia, Iowa, Washington State, Nebraska, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida. In one of the most recent battles, they delayed their litigation in Dixie County, Florida, because they couldn’t find a single local resident to lend a name as plaintiff in a drive to dislocate the tablets from the local court house.

There is a simple explanation that Medved overlooks. These lawsuits are actually big moneymakers for the ACLU. There is an obscure federal law, 42 USC 1988(b), that lets the ACLU collect 100s of 1000s of dollars in attorney fees every time it wins a lawsuit to remove the Ten Commandments from some public place. It costs the ACLU practically nothing to litigate these cases, because it has already written all the legal briefs many times, and the payoffs are huge.

Congress should amend this law, and stop this ACLU subsidy. Lawsuits should be based on an actual injured party, and be limited to the injury. And that is none, in the case of the 10C.

Tuesday, Feb 27, 2007
Using the word Evolution for Antibiotic Resistance
Evolutionists are on a campaign to use the word "evolution" to describe antibiotic resistance. The idea is that people understand the practical significance of the fact that some drugs are more effective for some bacterial infections than others, so they will become more respectful of evolution if they think that the theory of evolution is curing infections.

If you are wondering what antibiotic resistance has to do with evolution, it is because evolution has been redefined:

In biology, evolution is the change in a population's inherited characteristics, or traits, from generation to generation.
So if a drug is effective at killing a part of bacteria population, while letting the rest reproduce, then it exemplifies evolution in this definition.

Now a PLoS Biology paper has collected data on whether the research literature has adopted this silly terminology. As expected, it found that the evolutionary biology are fond of using the word "evolution", and biomedical papers tend to use less doctrinaire terms.

The results of our survey showed a huge disparity in word use between the evolutionary biology and biomedical research literature (Figure 1). In research reports in journals with primarily evolutionary or genetic content, the word “evolution” was used 65.8% of the time to describe evolutionary processes (range 10%–94%, mode 50%–60%, from a total of 632 phrases referring to evolution). However, in research reports in the biomedical literature, the word “evolution” was used only 2.7% of the time (range 0%–75%, mode 0%–10%, from a total of 292 phrases referring to evolution), a highly significant difference (chi-square, p < 0.001). Indeed, whereas all the articles in the evolutionary genetics journals used the word “evolution,” ten out of 15 of the articles in the biomedical literature failed to do so completely.
That is because the theory of evolution is irrelevant to most biomedical research. So why does this matter? Because, the authors argue, the evolutionists are missing out on a propaganda opportunity:
we examined whether the use of the term “evolution” in the scientific literature affects the use of this word in the popular press, i.e., whether there is evidence for “cultural inheritance” of word use. We searched articles on antimicrobial resistance in national media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, and the BBC (Text S1). Our results showed that the proportion of times the word “evolution” was used in a popular article was highly correlated with how often it was used in the original scientific paper to which the popular article referred (Figure 2). This clearly shows that the public is more likely to be exposed to the idea of evolution and its real-world consequences if the word “evolution” is also being used in the technical literature. ...

This brief survey shows that by explicitly using evolutionary terminology, biomedical researchers could greatly help convey to the layperson that evolution is not a topic to be innocuously relegated to the armchair confines of political or religious debate.

The authors collected data to show that there is no downside in participating in this propaganda campaign, because just mentioning the word "evolution" in a grant proposal seems to make funding more likely:
We wondered whether these patterns were changing, so we carried out a survey of the use of the word “evolution” from 1991 to 2005 in the titles and abstracts of papers published in 14 scientific journals, as well as in the titles of proposals funded by both the US National Science Foundation (Division of Environmental Biology) and the US National Institutes of Health (National Institute of General Medical Sciences). The results showed that the use of the word “evolution” was actually increasing in all fields of biology, with the greatest relative increases in the areas of general science and medicine (Figure 3).
This is ridiculous. People will not think that they evolved from apes just because they read about a penicillin-resistant infection.

George writes:

You missed the point of the PLoS article. Yes, it urges more use of the word "evolution", but only to counter anti-evolution biases of the Bush administration. It says that one grant proposal was retitled from "the evolution of sex" to "the advantage of bi-parental genomic recombination" just to avoid controversy. Scientists should not be censored.
The article doesn't say who suggested that title change; it may have just been a colleague who thought that the latter title was more descriptive. The former title suggests a study in the origin or change in sex, but the research probably didn't cover that at all.

Monday, Feb 26, 2007
The origin of Relativity
I am going to make a list of great ideas that are falsely attributed to Albert Einstein.

The principle of relativity. Lorentz and Poincare explicitly published the principle that the laws of physics are the same for all inertial frames, and they even called it the "principle of relativity" long before Einstein.

Lorentz invariance of Maxwell's equations. Larmor discovered that Maxwell's equations were invariant certain transformations in 1897, and Lorentz and Poincare published relativity theories based on these Lorentz transformations.

The speed of light is constant for all observers. This was the consensus view among physicists after the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment. Poincare published this in 1902.

Time is the fourth dimension. Minkowski explicitly unified space and time into a four-dimensional spacetime in 1908, and Einstein didn't really agree with it at first. Einstein's 1905 papers did not use four-dimensional vectors, and did not unify space and time any more that Poincare did previously. Poincare was apparently the first to use four-dimensional vectors in 1906.

The non-invariance of simultaneity. Lorentz and Poincare published detailed examples showing that what is simultaneous for one inertial observer may not be for another, and hence there is no absolute time. Einstein's 1905 discussion came later.

The nonexistence of the aether. Einstein said that the aether was "superfluous" in 1905. Poincare said the same thing years earlier, and doubted whether it could be detected.

The equation E=mc2. Einstein derived this formula in a 1905 paper. His main point was that a body that radiates an energy E should also lose a mass equal to E/c2. Poincare published almost the exact same argument in 1900, 1902, and 1904. It wasn't until years later that Planck and others suggested that part of the mass of an atomic nucleus could be converted to energy, and it wasn't until the discovery of antimatter did anyone suggest that a particle mass could be converted entirely to matter.

The atomic bomb. Szilard invented the atomic bomb. Einstein didn't really believe it was possible, until Szilard convinced him.

The idea of using tensors to describe relativistic gravity. This was apparently due to Grossman in about 1908.

Covariant field equations for gravity. Einstein published some papers saying that it was impossible to find covariant field equations for general relativity, until Hilbert showed him how in private communication. Hilbert published the field equations on the about the same date as Einstein.

Black holes, expansion of universe, big bang These ideas were due to others, and Einstein didn't even believe them at first.

For a detailed discussion of Poincare's contributions to Relativity that predate Einstein's, see Henri Poincare and Relativity Theory, by A. A. Logunov. Here are other papers on the history of special relativity. Wikipedia summarizes the Relativity priority dispute. Einstein has been called Plagiarist of the Century.

I have blogged on this on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3.

There doesn't seem to be any serious dispute about any of this, as the papers are published and in libraries, and everyone who has looked at the matter has come to the conclusion that all of the essential concepts of relativity were published before Einstein.

Some people refuse to believe that Einstein was a plagiarist, and take him at his word when he claimed that he never saw Poincare's works. But Einstein's famous 1905 paper on special relativity used Poincare's terminology for a "Lorentz transformation" and did not include any references. Einstein got it from somewhere.

Other people assume that because Einstein was such a genius, he surely understood relativity better or deeper than anyone else. That is probably true about Larmor, FitzGerald, and Bartocci who published some early relativity work. But Lorentz, Poincare, Minkowski, and Hilbert were truly geniuses and deep thinkers.

This still doesn't explain why people idolize Einstein so much. Here's what I came up with:

  • Simple hero worship. History is simpler when it focuses on a few heroes who get all the credit. Stephen Hawking gets far more credit than he deserves, just because he has an appealing personal story, other physicists are happy to build him up, and the public doesn't understand his work anyway.
  • Eddington made Einstein world-famous in 1919 by declaring that an eclipse observation proved Einstein's relativity theory correct. In fact, Eddington's data was doctored and his results didn't really prove anything.
  • Poincare, Minkowski, and Hilbert are primarily known as mathematicians, and physicists don't like to give credit to mathematicians. Similarly, the mathematicians Hermann Weyl and John von Neumann are largely responsible for our understanding of quantum mechanics, but they don't get much credit from physicists.
  • Some of Einstein's popularity might be attributable to some sort of wacky Jewish conspiracy. Most of Einstein's big promoters, like Eddington, were not Jewish, so I doubt that this is a big factor. Maybe there is something wrong with the French and Dutch physicists for not promoting their countrymen.
Quoting Einstein is a sure sign of kookiness. Whether Einstein believed in the big bang, quantum mechanics, gravity waves, or anything else should carry no more weight than the views of dozens of his contemporaries. Those who continue to idolize Einstein are perpetuating a big hoax.

This 2006 American Scientist article makes a strong case that Poincare published the special theory of relativity before Einstein, and that Einstein stole it. The Mystery of the Einstein–Poincaré Connection gives a detailed comparison between Poincare's and Einstein's theory, and it makes Poincare look much better than Einstein. Here is description of Poincare's theory. The main differences between Poincare's Relativity and Einstein's is that Poincare is more mathematically sophisticated. Poincare understands the Lorentz group, uses time as the fourth dimension, and even suggests gravity waves. Einstein did not get to this point until many years later. The only point where Einstein supposedly had the edge is in having a more enlightened view of the ether (luminiferous aether).

Poincare said in 1905: (translated from his 1902 French book)

Whether the ether exists or not matters little -- let us leave that to the metaphysicians; what is essential for us is, that everything happens as if it existed, and that this hypothesis is found to be suitable for the explanation of phenomena. After all, have we any other reason for believing in the existence of material objects? That, too, is only a convenient hypothesis; only, it will never cease to be so, while some day, no doubt, the ether will be thrown aside as useless.
In contrast, Einstein's famous 1905 paper said:
The introduction of a "luminiferous ether" will prove to be superfluous inasmuch as the view here to be developed will not require an "absolutely stationary space" provided with special properties, nor assign a velocity-vector to a point of the empty space in which electromagnetic processes take place.
It seems to me that they are practically saying the same thing. If there are any differences, there were no observable consequences under either view. Conventional wisdom today is that there is no ether, but according to this, Einstein and other prominent physicists have found the concept of the either useful long after relativity was accepted.

Sunday, Feb 25, 2007
Rejecting students for out-of-school beliefs
Science bloggers are attacking Marcus Ross, the young-Earth creationist who got a geoscience PhD, including Knop and PZ Myers.
If I'd been on his committee, I would have directly asked him to defend his public statements about the age of the material he was studying—not his statements to his committee alone, but to the public at large. I would have insisted that he defend those comments scientifically. And when he failed to do so, I would have voted to deny him his degree.

Although, more realistically, if I'd been in that department, the rejection would have occurred at the admission step, or in the preliminary exam. Apparently, the university knew he was a young earth creationist at the time he admitted him, which is simply appalling.

I commented on this before.

I am appalled that academic scientists would be so narrow-minded. Young-Earth creationism is pretty wacky, but I never heard of profs applying such litmus tests on students' personal beliefs. Universities are filled with people who belief all sorts of wacky things. If they were really to start denying degrees based on personal beliefs, then what is next? Requiring agreement with the so-called global warming consensus?

Friday, Feb 23, 2007
Greenpeace hysteria
Here is a creepy Greenpeace video ad:
The Earth is getting warmer ... Rain forests and clean air will be a thing of the past ... You adults have known about this for years ... We will not be patronized ...
Patronized? He'll be treated like a phony scaremongering idiot.

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2007
Copernicus's birthday
Wired celebrates the birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus by giving a summary of his theory from Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article is misleading, but is currently locked because of a dispute over whether he was Polish or Prussian!

I would summarize the theory presented in his famous book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, as having these major parts:

Heavenly motions are uniform, eternal, and circular or compounded of several circles (epicycles).

The center of the universe is near the stationary Sun.

The orbs around the Sun, in order, are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the fixed stars.

The Earth has three motions: daily rotation, annual revolution, and annual tilting of its axis.

Retrograde motion of the planets is explained by the Earth's motion.

A lot of people get this stuff wrong. They'll say that Copernicus eliminated epicycles, when in fact he used more epicycles than Ptolemy.

One of the main points of the Copernican model was to get rid of Ptolemy's equants. The equant allowed planets to go more slowly on distant portions on their orbits. After Copernicus, Kepler reinstated a related idea by making the planets move non-uniformly in elliptical orbits.

Monday, Feb 19, 2007
Wash Post publishes facts about Plame affair
Victoria Toensing writes in a Wash Post op-ed a long list of facts implying that Pat Fitzgerald is blaming the wrong person at the Scooter Libby trial:
If we accept Fitzgerald's low threshold for bringing a criminal case, then why stop at Libby? This investigation has enough questionable motives and shadowy half-truths and flawed recollections to fill a court docket for months. So here are my own personal bills of indictment:

THIS GRAND JURY CHARGES PATRICK J. FITZERALD with ignoring the fact that there was no basis for a criminal investigation from the day he was appointed, with handling some witnesses with kid gloves and banging on others with a mallet, with engaging in past contretemps with certain individuals that might have influenced his pursuit of their liberty, and with misleading the public in a news conference because . . . well, just because. To wit:

· On Dec. 30, 2003, the day Fitzgerald was appointed special counsel, he should have known (all he had to do was ask the CIA) that Plame was not covert, knowledge that should have stopped the investigation right there. The law prohibiting disclosure of a covert agent's identity requires that the person have a foreign assignment at the time or have had one within five years of the disclosure, that the government be taking affirmative steps to conceal the government relationship, and for the discloser to have actual knowledge of the covert status.

From FBI interviews conducted after Oct. 1, 2003, Fitzgerald also knew that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage had identified Plame as a CIA officer to columnist Robert D. Novak, who first published Plame's name on July 14, 2003.

· In January 2001, Libby was the lawyer for millionaire financier Marc Rich, whom President Bill Clinton pardoned shortly before leaving office. Fitzgerald, who was then an assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York, and U.S. Attorney James Comey spearheaded the criminal investigation of that pardon.

· Fitzgerald jailed former New York Times reporter Judith Miller for almost 90 days for not providing evidence in a matter that involved no crime. Yet the two were engaged in another dispute: Fitzgerald wanted Miller's phone records, contending that by contacting an Islamic charity, she had alerted it to a government search the day before it happened.

· Fitzgerald granted immunity to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer without ever asking what he would testify to; he permitted NBC News bureau chief Tim Russert to be interviewed in a law firm office with his lawyer present, while Novak was forced to testify before the grand jury without counsel present.

· Armitage, like Bush adviser Karl Rove, forgot one conversation with a reporter. Fitzgerald threatened Rove with prosecution; Armitage bragged that he didn't even need a lawyer.

· In violating prosecutorial ethics by discussing facts outside the indictment during his Oct. 28, 2005, news conference, Fitzgerald made one factual assertion that turned out to be flat wrong: Libby was not "the first official" to reveal Plame's identity.

There is much more. The FireDogLake blog is cheering for a Libby conviction, and hopes the jury won't hear these arguments. (That blog is an excellent source of info about the trial.)

Sunday, Feb 18, 2007
String Theory is a lost cause
R. F. Streater has an essay on Lost Causes in Theoretical Physics. He maintains the list in order to discourage Physics grad students from working on ideas that once seemed attractives, but which proved to be dead-ends for various reasons.

He should add String Theory (ST) to the list. I've just been reading:

The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next. Lee Smolin. xxiv + 392 pp. Houghton Mifflin, 2006. $26.

Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law. Peter Woit. xi + 291 pp. Basic Books, 2006. $26.96.

Smolin describes how ST has no prospects for explaining gravity, and Woit describes how ST has similarly failed to explain particle physics. ST is supposed to be the only consistent way of explaining gravity and particle physics, but it is not a consistent way of explaining anything. ST has no connection to the physical world, and those who say that it does are perpetrating a giant hoax.

ST physicist Jim Cline trashes these books:

Many of us think that string theory has an extremely good chance of being right. It successfully combines Einstein's theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics; it unifies the four fundamental forces of nature in a beautiful and elegant way; it appears to contain the Standard Model as a low-energy approximation; it has an amazing richness, depth and mathematical consistency; it has helped us to unravel deep puzzles concerning the nature of black holes; it is well-defined and allows researchers to reach clear and unambiguous answers to questions they pose; it incorporates "supersymmetry," which many workers even outside of string theory believe will be a feature of the new physics. ...

But the historically proven and right way for the underdog to succeed (think of Einstein inventing relativity in the patent office) is by convincing others that he or she has the better idea, not by slandering the competition.

These claims about ST are total lies -- ST does not include any known physics as any sort of an approximation, and certainly not general relativity or the Standard Model, and it has not solved any puzzles or questions. Only the stuff he says about supersymmetry is true, but supersymmetry has proved to be another theoretical dead-end.

Cline's last comment is bizarre. Relativity was invented by Lorentz and Poincare, two of the most respected researchers in Europe. It was proven right by agreement with experiment, not by being an unscientific fad. Apparently these books struck a nerve with Cline.

I'll be watching for the winner of this contest to explain ST in a 2 minute video. It will be judged by Brian Greene, the leading ST popularizer.

Saturday, Feb 17, 2007
Evolutionist teachers promote atheism
Eugenie C. Scott wrote in 1998:
In 1995 the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) issued a "Statement on the Teaching of Evolution" which was reprinted in Reports of NCSE (17(1):31-32). In a list of "tenets of science, evolution and biology education," the first item read:
The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.
After the statement was published, anti-evolutionists criticized the use of the terms "unsupervised" and "impersonal." UC Berkeley lawyer Phillip Johnson (author of Darwin on Trial) and other anti-evolutionists have claimed that the NABT statement is "proof" that evolution is inherently an ideological system, rather than simply a well-supported scientific explanation.
Scott explains that the NABT refused to budge for a couple of years, and then was persuaded in 1997 that it could delete the terms "unsupervised" and "impersonal" and still meet its goals of promoting science and evolution.

Even without those terms, the statement still lacks scientific content. There is no experiment or empirical test that can prove the statement true or false. It does not promote science; it ridicules science. It serves no purpose except to promote an atheist-materialist philosophy.

Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007
Kansas changes definition of science again
After a heated electoral fight, Kansas has revised its science standards for the public school curriculum. The hottest issue was the definition of science, replacing this:
[2004] Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena. Science does so while maintaining strict empirical standards and healthy skepticism. Scientific explanations are built on observations, hypotheses, and theories. A hypothesis is a testable statement about the natural world that can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations. A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate observations, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
with this:
[2007] Science is a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us. Throughout history people from many cultures have used the methods of science to contribute to scientific knowledge and technological innovations, making science a worldwide enterprise. Scientists test explanations against the natural world, logically integrating observations and tested hypotheses with accepted explanations to gradually build more reliable and accurate understandings of nature. Scientific explanations must be testable and repeatable, and findings must be confirmed through additional observation and experimentation. As it is practiced in the late 20th and early 21st century, science is restricted to explaining only the natural world, using only natural cause. This is because science currently has no tools to test explanations using non-natural (such as supernatural) causes.
The shift is from testable hypotheses about the natural world to natural explanations for the observable world.

The AAAS and other leftist-evolutionist organizations strongly endorsed the latter definition, while denouncing the former as some sort of fundamentalist-creationist plot to undermine the cause of Science.

It is a little hard to see how voters could get so excited about such a subtle philosophical distinction. As best as I can figure out, the evolutionists don't want to be restricted to testable hypotheses. They want to be able to give explanations that are not necessarily testable. The restriction they do want is to naturalistic explanation.

For example, they want to say that life on Earth began as a random primordial ooze, even tho no one has any idea how to test that hypothesis. Nevertheless, they want to be able to rule out life being created, because that would not be a natural explanation.

George writes:

Are you justifying the teaching of religious or superstitious ideas in a science classroom?
No. I am saying that an untestable naturalistic hypothesis is no better than an untestable supernatural hypothesis. Neither is really Science, and neither should be taught as scientific truth in school. If a science teacher happens to mention an unscientific speculation, then he should also mention alternative speculations that are widely held, even if they are also unscientific.

I like the 2004 Kansas definition of Science better. It closely matches the general understanding of the term. It emphasizes empirical tests, which are really at the core of Science. The 2007 definition seems to be trying to make an ideological statement about multiculturalism and supernaturalism. It gives the impression that something becomes scientific just because humans around the world say so, or because it conforms to an accepted explanation.

The 2004 definition is restricted to "natural phenomena", while the the 2007 definition leaves the door open to studying supernatural causes, if sufficient tools are developed. It makes it sound as if this restriction is just an artificial consequence of current technology being limited and Science being a "human activity". I get the impression that they are more interested in getting String Theory classified as science than in blocking Intelligent Design.

Tuesday, Feb 13, 2007
Libby trial contradictions
Ari Fleischer testified that he told John Dickerson and David Gregory about Plame, but not Walter Pincus. The reporters say exactly the opposite. More Libby trial contradictions here.

I think that Libby is gutless to refuse to testify, but I don't think that he needs to either. There are no demonstrable facts that contradict anything Libby said. His reported recollections of conversations differ from how others testified, but no more so than the discrepancies in Fitz's star witnesses for the prosecution.

The most implausible thing Libby said was that he "forgot" that Cheney told him about Plame when he first talked to reporters about her. I don't see how the jury can determine whether Libby forgot or not. Even if it is false that Libby "forgot", it is an easy mistake for him to make. People with classified or inside info often have to pretend to forget things in order to avoid leaks. Maybe Libby had to tell himself that he forgot about Plame in order to talk to reporters, and was later confused about whether he just pretended to forget about Plame or he really forgot about Plame.

Even if Libby did say something false, it is hard to see how it could have impeded any investigation or obstructed justice. None of these disputed points has any direct bearing on whether anyone illegally leaked classified info or any other crime that Fitzgerald was investigating.

The only way I can see that a jury would convict Libby is that if it adopted a theory that Libby deliberately lied about Russert telling him about Plame in order to have an excuse for telling other reporters about Plame. The jury would have to think that Libby didn't actually discuss Plame with Russert at all, and that Libby believed that Russert would lie about it or refuse to testify. The jury would also have to think that Libby truly believed that getting hearsay from Russert would be an acceptable excuse for leaking info that maybe should not have been leaked.

None of that seems plausible to me. Other motives for Libby lying seem even less likely to me. And without some sort of criminal intent, I don't see how Libby can be convicted for turned out to be some rather minor and trivial details in the 100s of hours of testimony that Fitzgerald collected.

Monday, Feb 12, 2007
Global warming deniers
Ellen Goodman writes:
By every measure, the U N 's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change raises the level of alarm. The fact of global warming is "unequivocal." The certainty of the human role is now somewhere over 90 percent. Which is about as certain as scientists ever get.

I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

No, 90% is not the maximum. Scientists usually cannot even get published unless they claim at least 95% certainty about something.

Holocaust denial is illegal in Europe, but fortunately it is still legal to deny the future. If Goodman is right, then I would expect Europe to soon be passing laws against saying things that are hurtful to socialist environmentalists.

Christian gets PhD, atheists upset
The NY Times reports on Bible-believers getting science PhDs:
May a secular university deny otherwise qualified students a degree because of their religion? Can a student produce intellectually honest work that contradicts deeply held beliefs? Should it be obligatory (or forbidden) for universities to consider how students will use the degrees they earn?

Those are "darned near imponderable issues," said John W. Geissman, who has considered them as a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of New Mexico.

No, these issues are not difficult at all. Universities do not need to be conducting their own religious inquisitions.

Meanwhile, H. Allen Orr trashes Richard Dawkins' atheist-evolutionist book:

Exercises in double standards also plague Dawkins's discussion of the idea that religion encourages good behavior. Dawkins cites a litany of statistics revealing that red states (with many conservative Christians) suffer higher rates of crime, including murder, burglary, and theft, than do blue states. But now consider his response to the suggestion that the atheist Stalin and his comrades committed crimes of breathtaking magnitude: "We are not in the business," he says, "of counting evils heads, compiling two rival roll calls of iniquity." We're not? We were forty-five pages ago.
Another one is that Dawkins viciously attacks biological intelligent design, while conceding that similar non-biological intelligent design arguments have merit.

Thursday, Feb 08, 2007
More Wikipedia bias
A Wikipedia editor using the pseudonym Raul654 has blocked me for 24 hours, giving two reasons.

First, he objected to my removal of a poorly-source statement attacking Jonathan Wells. The article said:

Wells's assertions and conclusion in this book, as well as in his other writings, are rejected by the scientific community.
Since the article did not actually cite any such assertions or rejections, the sentence appeared to be just a malicious and unsupported comment. Wikipedia policy is that controversial material of any kind about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately.

Instead of removing it immediately, I marked it with the standard Wikipedia tag that says "citation needed". Soon enough, one of the Wikipedia evolutionists added a bunch of references to scientific organization that had denounced the teaching of intelligent design as science in the public schools.

The trouble with these citations was that Wells's book, "Icons of Evolution", is not even about intelligent design. For the most part, the book criticizes the scientific evidence that is often presented in evolutionary biology books, and argues that biology should be taught in a more scientific manner.

Nevertheless, Raul654 put the above attack on Wells back in, along with the irrelevant citations.

The other issue raised by Raul654 concerns a comment that I made on the Wikipedia discussion page for Wells. The main article on Wells falsely asserts that the Unification Church paid for Wells getting his PhD in Biology at U. Calif. Berkeley. The only cite was an unsourced comment on the left-wing political blog DailyKos. I posted this comment:

I don't know why Guerttarda and the others are so focused on ad hominem attacks on Wells. How Wells funded his education doesn't say anything about the merits of his books and ideas. If you want to expend a lot of energy trying to trace Wells's finances, then go ahead, but please don't insert your silly speculations into the article until you have some verifiable facts.
I am telling this story as an example of systemic bias in Wikipedia. A Wikipedia editor with the power to block me has chosen to make a public statement that Wikipedia biographies are to be used in the above way.

George writes:

You should not defend Wells. The anti-evolutionists and Christian fundamentalists cite Wells's "Icons of Evolution" as if a few errors in popular biology textbooks disprove evolution. Evolution is true and the Bible isn't, and those textbook paradigms are useful for students to learn evolution, even if they are not technically accurate. I don't think that Wells even believes what he writes when he implies that his examples are valid arguments against evolution. If Wikipedia discredit Wells as a Moonie puppet, then it is for the good of science, because then evolutionary scientists don't have to bother with him.

There are scientific bloggers who have rebutted what Wells says about peppered moths and Haeckel diagrams, but those rebuttals are too complex for the average Wikipedia reader. Citing those arguments would only reinforce the view that Wells has raised legitimate objections to how the textbooks teach evolution. That would play right into the hands of the intelligent design advocates who want to "teach the controversy". Teaching the controversy is just a sneaky way of avoiding the fact that the Bible is not scientific.

Teaching Science is about teaching consensus, not controversy. Wells is like the scientists who write dissents from the IPCC report on global warming. They leave the public confused, and thinking that if scientists cannot persuade each other then they cannot persuade laymen. Such thinking is an obstacle to science-based social change. Science is not just about collecting facts and doing experiments to test theories. It is about bringing a new world-view to people who cling to old-fashioned superstitions. The scientific community must exercise its authority and make sure that people like Wells are not seen as legitimate spokesmen for Science.

I was just trying to correct Wikipedia. If Wikipedia is going to say that Wells's assertions in his book are rejected by the scientific community, then it should at least cite some reliable source in the scientific community that actually rejects some specific assertions in the book. That is what the Wikipedia editors refuse to do.

Wednesday, Feb 07, 2007
Leftist attacks on science
NPR reports:
The U.S. government's top wildlife biologist says a Bush administration proposal to protect bald eagles won't do the job.

NPR has obtained an internal government memo signed by Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall. In it, he calls on his bosses to abandon a key part of their proposal for managing bald eagles once they're removed from the endangered species list.

The bald eagle has made such a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction that the national bird might come off the endangered species list later this month.

Biologists and environmentalists say the government's plans for protecting more than 14,000 bald eagles after they leave the list are inadequate. ...

John Kostyak from National Wildlife Federation says the current fight is just another example of Bush administration officials ignoring the best government science.

The job for govt scientists is to determine whether bald eagles are endangered. The eagles are not endangered. Leftists like NPR want the scientists to twist their reports in order to favor bald eagles.

Congress has already made the policy decisions on how much protection bald eagles should get. Scientists should stick to science, and the anti-science leftists should quit trying to manipulate the science.

Tuesday, Feb 06, 2007
Wikipedia propagates errors
Andy sends this story about how an unfounded rumor about Rutgers Univ. kept bouncing in and out of a Wikipedia article, and then ended up in The New York Daily News! The reporter admitted in an email that he got it from Wikipedia, altho he would never say so in the newspaper.

I recently encountered something similar. The Wikipedia biography of Jonathan Wells is filled with half-truths from his enemies. When people point out on the discussion page that a sentence is contradicted by primary sources and not even implied by secondary sources, evolutionists will respond that Wikipedia policy prefers secondary sources and that the possibly-false statement should remain as long as it is not contradicted by the supposedly-reliable secondary sources.

Consider this paragraph on Wells:

He also rejects the prevailing view of the scientific community that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The main proponent of the idea that the human immunodeficiency virus HIV is not the causative agent of AIDS has been Peter Duesberg. Wells's publisher, Regnery Press, also published Duesberg's book, which argued that the HIV explanation for AIDS was the product of a government and industrial conspiracy. Both intelligent design and AIDS reappraisal are considered pseudoscience by the scientific community.
The first reference is to Wells's only known statement on AIDS, where he merely signed a petition asking for a "reappraisal of the existing evidence for and against". The second supporting reference is to a web site that just cites Wikipedia!

It should be obvious to anyone that Wells is not responsible for another book from the same publisher.

In case you think that this is an isolated incident, a Wikipedia editor calling himself Raul654 threatened to block me from Wikipedia for pointing this out, and declared that the above "edits conform to our polices and accurately reflect the reliable sources [FeloniousMonk] has provided."

Currently, FeloniousMonk is telling another user that this editing "has to stop" because he pointed out that the Wells article falsely states that the Unification Church paid for Wells's biology graduate school. The source was an offhand comment on a leftist political blog!

Sunday, Feb 04, 2007
Wikipedia editor threatens me
A prominent Wikipedia editor who uses the alias FeloniousMonk posted this on Wikipedia directed at me:
Personal attacks made off Wikipedia, such as at your blog ... can be used as evidence ...

Clearly a change in your methods and behavior with a shift to contributing positively is called for. The only question that remains is will you make that change of your own accord, or will you continue as you have and force the community to take action?

I guess that he is threatening to ban me from Wikipedia, as he has done to others that he dislikes.

His current beef with me is concerns calling Jonathan Wells an AIDS denier. Wells is a biologist best known for writing a book criticizing the way evolution is presented in popular biology textbooks. FeloniousMonk wrote:

secondary sources are preferred over primary sources. We have 3 secondary sources that support the existing content, and 1 primary (and very partisan) source. "He also rejects the prevailing view of the scientific community that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the sole cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)." accurately summarizes the three secondary sources, while your version, "He also proposed a thorough reappraisal of the existing evidence for and against the hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS." merely repeats the rhetoric of the partisan primary source, in effect giving that fringe viewpoint undue weight, in turn running afoul of WP:NPOV. Have I made this clear enough for you?
As far as anyone on Wikipedia knows, the only thing that Wells has ever said about AIDS was to sign this petition:
It is widely believed by the general public that a retrovirus called HIV causes the group diseases called AIDS. Many biochemical scientists now question this hypothesis. We propose that a thorough reappraisal of the existing evidence for and against this hypothesis be conducted by a suitable independent group. We further propose that critical epidemiological studies be devised and undertaken.
That's all. Apparently FeloniousMonk believes that it is pseudoscience to reappraise the evidence.

What FeloniousMonk calls the primary source is the actual petition that Wells signed. The secondary sources are an opinion rant that only said, "Moonie Jonathan Wells [has] joined the AIDS denialist camp", and 2 other such sources.

I cite this as example of evolutionist thinking. FeloniousMonk cannot tolerate anyone who criticizes leftist-atheist-evolutionist conventional wisdom, and will not even let an encyclopedia article about Wells accurately report what Wells actually said.

FeloniousMonk can delete my comments on Wikipedia, but not on my blog.

Update: A Wikipedia editor calling himself Guy responds with another threat:

... attacking a Wikipedia editor in a venue outside Wikipedia. For this, we usually ban people. Attacking others makes it impossible to get on with the job of building an encyclopaedia, ... It is a provable fact that the dominant western holds creationists to be wrong and evolutionists right. Wikipedia reflects what goes on in the real world.
This is weird. I previously convinced the editors to stop calling Wells a "creationist" because he believes in an old Earth and doesn't match the common definition of a creationist. I haven't made any argument on Wikipedia about whether creationists are right or wrong. I just didn't want to call Wells a creationist unless he really is a creationist.

Now FeloniousMonk adds this to Wells's biography:

The main proponent of the idea that the human immunodeficiency virus HIV is not the causative agent of AIDS has been Peter Duesberg. Wells's publisher, Regnery Press, also published Duesberg's book, which argued that the HIV explanation for AIDS was the product of a government and industrial conspiracy.
This is part of FeloniousMonk's character assassination on J. Wells.

Duesberg is a distinguished scientist who seems to be wrong on this issue, but it is really absurd for Wikipedia editors to blame Wells for publishing a book with the same publisher as Duesberg. Regnery is a reputable published that has published a lot of excellent books.

Update: Raul654 writes:

In the last few hours, multiple people have emailed me asking me, as an uninvolved administrator familiar with the topics you edit, to look into your editing. I have noticed several things. ...

Lastly, and most seriously, is the use of your blog to make personal attacks on the people with whom you are having a disagreement with on-wiki. This is not patently unacceptable. It is a violation of our No-personal-attacks policy. Other people have been blocked for doing it. If you wish to continue to participate on Wikipedia, you must immediately cease.

I thought that Wikipedia was supposed to be an open process.

Saturday, Feb 03, 2007
Soliciting diverse scientific opinions
A think tank sent this letter to some climate scientists:
The American Enterprise Institute is launching a major project to produce a review and policy critique of the forthcoming Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due for release in the spring of 2007. We are looking to commission a series of review essays from a broad panel of experts to be published concurrent with the release of the FAR, and we want to invite you to be one of the authors.

The purpose of this project is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC process, especially as it bears on potential policy responses to climate change. ...

The TNR magazine blog responds:
Of course, if there were any scientists out there who had legitimate complaints about the report, they could have worked with the IPCC and registered their objections during the drafting process.
It is amazing how Leftists always want to suppress dissent. Governments are considering making trillion-dollar policy decisions based on the IPCC report, and I want to know everything good and bad about the report. If someone is willing to pay a few scientists $10k to do some analysis and publish it, so much the better.

Update: US Senators Kerry, Feinstein, and others have written:

We hope that you will respond to this letter by telling us that the news reports that you offered to pay scientists up to $10,000 are incorrect. If not, we trust that AEI will publicly apologize for this conduct and demonstrate its sincerity by properly disciplining those responsible.
Count them as anti-science Democrats.
String Theory and other untestable ideas
A review in a Physics magazine says:
If we accept string theory as valid while it evades observational tests, how can we legitimately rebut arguments about the "intelligent design" of the universe? The honest answer is that we cannot. For these arguments, too, are not falsifiable; they do not allow testing by measurements. To me, string theory and intelligent design belong in the same speculative, unproveable category, and Smolin apparently agrees. "The scenario of many unobserved universes plays the same logical role as the scenario of an intelligent designer," he argues. "Each provides an untestable hypothesis that, if true, makes something improbable seem quite probable."
I agree with this. Next time you hear someone give some haughty argument that Intelligent Design does not satisfy the definition of Science, ask him about String Theory.
No catastrophic global warming
The global warming scaremongers are hyping the latest IPCC report is out. It is not so scary after all.

Check out Table SPM-2 on page 11. It says that the projected sea-level rise over the next 100 years will be about one foot, according to six models. Even under the worst-case scenario of the most pessimistic of the six models, sea-level will only rise 23 inches.

Those who live near the ocean deal with much larger storm surges anyway. I think that the report will do some good. It strengthens the case for nuclear power is the most environmentally-friendly way to generate power. Germany had let its Green Party pass a law phasing out all of the country's nuclear power plants, but now the Germans want more nuclear power.

Friday, Feb 02, 2007
Libby admitted learning about Plame from Cheney
Each day the press tells of some smoking gun in the Scooter Libby trial. NY Times reported
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — The former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer today contradicted the account of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, on when Mr. Libby first learned the identity of a C.I.A. agent.

Mr. Fleischer, testifying in Mr. Libby’s trial under a grant of immunity, said Mr. Libby told him over lunch on July 7, 2003, that the wife of a critic of President Bush’s Iraq policy worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. That is three days before he told a grand jury that he first learned her name.

"This is hush-hush," Mr. Fleischer recalled Mr. Libby as saying in effect. "This is on the Q.T. Not many people know about this."

Since then, Bloomberg reports:
WASHINGTON -- I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby told the FBI he learned from Vice President Dick Cheney that an Iraq war critic's wife was a CIA official, then forgot about it until he talked to a journalist a month later, according to testimony Thursday in his perjury trial. ...

FBI agent Deborah Bond testified Thursday that, although Libby said Cheney told him about Plame around June 12, he claimed it slipped his mind until his conversation with [NBC journalist Tim] Russert [on July 10, 2003].

And AP reports:
Former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby acknowledged he may have discussed with Vice President Dick Cheney whether to tell reporters that a prominent war critic's wife worked at the CIA, an FBI agent testified Thursday.
I thought that Fitz's whole case was going to based on Libby telling the FBI that he first learned about Plame from Russert, and then proving that he knew about Plame earlier. Now it turns out that Libby told the FBI he first learned about Plame a month earlier, and said that he could not remember whether his boss had authorized him to tell the reporters.

So when Libby talked to Russert on the phone, Libby already knew about Plame from Cheney, and Russert already knew about her from Armitage. The subject of Plame came up in the conversation in a brief and incidental way. Maybe Libby was surprised that Russert knew, and maybe Russert was surprised that Libby knew, we don't know. Libby and Russert tell slightly differing accounts of that 30-second conversation fragment. There is a similar discrepancy involving another reporter. That is the gist of the case against Libby. Libby is going to walk free.

Andy Schlafly’s New Project
ArchPundit writes:
Those who used to spend some time on Talk.origins will never forget the duo of Andy and Roger Schlafly and some of the most bizarre claims to surface even in a newsgroup designed to attract the bizarred and weird from useful groups.

Andy has a new project: Conservapedia

Yes, that’s right. Wikipedia is liberally biased.

Yes, I wasted a lot of time posting messages on talk.origins. People think that it is an unmoderated group, but actually it is controlled by an evolutionist cabal that uses the usenet moderation system to censor certain types of messages. They claim that they have to because someone once cross-posted an insensitive message about how evolution encourages rape. They got it moderated under a promise that it was temporary, but then they refused to obey their own charter.

I found that if I criticized on of the evolutionist idols, like Stephen Jay Gould, then I would immediately be called a creationist or a fundie or something like that. I would protest that I am not, but the name-calling would continue anyway.

Thursday, Feb 01, 2007
Is binge eating a disorder?
AP reports:
Frequent binge eating is America's most common eating disorder, far outpacing the better-known diet problems of anorexia and bulimia, according to a national survey.

Psychiatric researchers at Harvard University Medical School and its affiliate, McLean Psychiatric Hospital, have billed the study as the first national census of eating disorders. The results were published last Thursday in the medical journal Biological Psychiatry.

The survey found that 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men suffer from binge eating, defined as bouts of uncontrolled eating, well past the point of being full, that occur at least twice a week. ...

"Everyone has a sense, whether from a casual inspection of people on Broadway or an empirical study, that there are a lot of problems with binge eating and overeating," he said. "The question is, is it a cause or a symptom?"

Seeing a lot of fat people tells you that overeating is a problem, but why is binge eating a problem or an eating disorder?

We presumably evolved from hominids who feasted on the occasional big kill. There are large snakes that just eat once a month or less. Maybe occasional binge eating is healthier that eating frequent small meals.

This paper appears to be an attempt to get binge eating classified as a DSM-IV psychological disorder, so shrinks will have new excuses to treat people.