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Sunday, Sep 30, 2007
Indians take over American grad schools
Slashdot reports:
I am a new graduate student in Computer Engineering. I would like to get my MS and possibly my Ph.D. I have learned that 90% of my department is from India and many others are from China. All the students come here to study and there are only 7 US citizens in the engineering program this year. Why is that? I have heard that many of the smarter Americans go into medicine or the law and that is why there are so few Americans in engineering. Is this true?
I've heard similar numbers from a local university. I don't know how typical this is.
NY Times loves the iPhone
John sends this NY Times article about how Apple has remotely sabotaged customer iPhones that had either been unlocked for use with non-ATT networks, or had installed unapproved non-Apple application programs. He writes:
What surprised me was the strong editorial point of view in favor of Apple's exclusionary practices. The article tried to show that Apple customers had plenty of warning this was about to happen, and it was only "denial" if they failed to anticipate it.

The NYT allowed Steve Jobs to give his pretended justification for Apple's policies, but did not quote any rebuttal from anyone.

Then the NYT went all the way to Alabama to find a law professor who "had little sympathy" for Apple customers, and the NYT gave him an unusually long quote (5 sentences) to make his case in favor of Apple. The NYT quoted no similar authority on the other side.

I guess the NYT writer is like the monkeys in this cartoon.

I've often bashed Microsoft and other big obnoxious companies, but Microsoft has never abused its own customers in this way.

Friday, Sep 28, 2007
The term Junk Food is meaningless
What is junk food? The dictionary definitions don't even make any sense. One says, "food that is high in calories but low in nutritional content". There is no such food.

Other definitions describe junk food as being high-fat (like cheeseburgers) or low-fat (like soda). Some say low-fiber, but of course fiber has no nutritional content. Wikipedia points out some problems with the notion.

The term seems to be used entirely by health food nuts and others with unscientific and superstitious ideas about food. I am inclined to believe that if someone just uses the term "junk food" then he doesn't know anything about diet and nutrition.

Joe responds:

Definitions are always tricky, but it isn't too tough to give foods and food groups a useful, rough ranking, For example, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, lean sources of protein and lightly processed dairy products are better for you than Hostess cupcakes, doughnuts and soda. I think it makes more sense to focus on the idea of a "junk food diet." As a Supreme Court justice noted in another context, you'll know it when you see it. Nobody is going to die from a cheeseburger and a milkshake. But don't do it 24/7.

Just about any research you hear about says that fruits and vegetables are the keys to good nutrition. I certainly know people who eat a lot of fast food who think it helps keep them overweight. I think your body gets trained to crave the salt and fat. In general, thin is better than fat. I think there is a consensus that in general, fish and poultry are better for you than high doses of red meat. I have no reason to think that a lot of additives are good for you. If I had to choose between a McDonalds' shake or a glass of skim milk every day, I'd take the milk, and I think the overwhelming majority of nutritionists would agree.

I want to see some actual research that the cheeseburger-milkshake diet is any worse than any other. It seems to include all essential nutrients, and in reasonable proportions. In contrast, most vegetarians have to take supplements in order to get necessary nutrients.

Thursday, Sep 27, 2007
Amnesty ends abortion neutrality
I didn't know that Amnesty International is a pro-abortion lobbying group. UK BBC reports:
Amnesty International has confirmed its controversial decision to back abortion in some circumstances, replacing its previous policy of neutrality.

The human rights group will campaign for woman to have access to abortion in cases including rape and incest.

The initial decision was taken in April, but Amnesty delegates meeting in Mexico gave it overwhelming support.

Christian organisations, including the Roman Catholic Church, have threatened to withdraw support from the group.

The decision in April by Amnesty's executive committee to support access to abortion for women in cases of rape, incest or violence, or where the pregnancy jeopardises a mother's life or health was greeted with an outcry by churches.

This tracks the language of Roe v Wade, which defines "health" to include the woman's physical, emotional, and psychological health. The upshot is that abortions must be allowed throughout the entire nine months, for any reason. It therefore appears that Amnesty International is politically supporting late-term abortions as a human right.
Suffering from cognitive dissonance
The Dilbert blog says:
Bill Maher is a brilliant guy, whether you agree with his views or not. Salman Rushdie is brilliant too. I don’t know about Rob Thomas, but he looks bright enough. Why couldn’t these three people hear anything the economist was saying? It looks to me like a classic case of cognitive dissonance . They literally couldn’t recognize that the economist was on their side because he suggested considering both the positive and negative effects of global warming.

I know I harp on this topic too much. But I do think that understanding cognitive dissonance, especially when it happens to you, is the only way to understand the world.

You can see this phenomenon on this blog on a regular basis. If I say Iran has a legitimate economic reason for building nuclear reactors, because experts agree Iran is running out of oil, it will be interpreted as anti-semitic. If I say the evidence for evolution that is available to me personally, as a non-expert, looks sketchy, it is interpreted as an argument for creationism.

In summary, if you ever plan to use the phrase "on the other hand", be sure to wear your Kevlar underpants.

Dilbert is on to something here. Many seemingly intelligent people seem unable to grasp the simplest argument that a freshman economics student should be able to understand.

Girlrobot writes that Cognitive Dissonance is Yet Another Fifty-Dollar Phrase Brought To Us By Psychologists.

Dilbert has a follow-up here. It is hard to tell whether the leftist attackers are really so stupid that they do not understand what Lomborg and Dilbert are saying, or whether they are deliberately misrepresenting their views for ideological purposes.

NY Times offended by evolution film
Cornelia Dean has another evolution article in the NY Times, and as usual she says:
There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”
She has said this before. See also here. And here. She says it every chance she gets. If she writes articles on global warming, she ought to include:
There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of climate change as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of weather on earth.
The article says that some evolutionists are annoyed at being interviewed for a film that includes some criticism of evolution. But they say that they would have agreed to be interviewed for the film anyway.

I wonder why the NY Times writes such silly articles. There is no substance to any of it. Just a film that didn't turn out the way that some evolutionists might have hoped. There is no showing of anything inaccurate or misleading. Just some evolutionists who are scared that the public might hear some other views.

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007
The Legacy of Little Rock
Stanford research fellow Shelby Steele writes:
Fifty years ago today, riot-trained troops from the 101st Airborne Division escorted nine black students through the doors of Central High School in Little Rock. Just 48 hours earlier, President Eisenhower deployed -- in a single day -- 1,000 troops to restore order and to reassert federal authority in Arkansas's capital city.

For weeks the entire nation had watched on television as a mob of angry white adults gathered each morning to prevent the nine black students from integrating Central High. It would come to be remembered as one of the ugliest and meanest white mobs of the entire civil rights era. And because of television--then still a very new medium--the horrible images of people galvanized by ferocious racial hatred were seared into the national consciousness. ...

But the mob lost in Little Rock. Eisenhower enforced democratic authority over white supremacy.

I believe that Steele is a half-black man with a white wife.

No, Eisenhower was not enforcing democratic authority, because no one voted for forced racial busing. He was enforcing judicial supremacy, and a racist view of white liberals that black kids can only learn if they are sitting in a classroom next to white students.

It was in Cooper v. Aaron the next year that the US Supreme Court refused to allow the Little Rock school board 2.5 years to phase in an integration plan. The court declared itself the supreme law of the land, and said for the first time that all other branches of govt had to take orders from it, and the Little Rock school must integrate immediately. It didn't, and the school was shut down.

Fifty years later, I fail to see any good that has come from judicial supremacy or from judicially-forced racial busing. The USA schools are as racially segregated as they have ever been. The social science research that was at the foundation of the court's reasoning has been discredited. The Supreme Court itself has backed away from forced racial busing, and now says that the Constitution prohibits such racial discrimination.

Monday, Sep 24, 2007
Another silly book about the Supreme Court
Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine seems to be another biased and error-riddled book about the US Supreme Court. Here is NR criticism:
8. In another seeming contradiction, Toobin maintains that the same Souter who had a “lifestyle that hovered somewhere between modest and ascetic” (p. 243) and who “ate the same thing for lunch every day: an entire apple, including the core and the seeds, with a cup of yogurt” (p. 43) was also one of the five “leading wine aficionados on the Court” (p. 306). Somehow that last assertion just doesn’t ring true.
I don't know about the wine, but apple cores contain cyanide, a poison. Justice Souter would be ill if he really consumed all that cyanide.

Update: I just heard (Fri noon) Toobin repeat this apple core in a radio interview. He also said that Souter was the strangest and most isolated member of the Supreme Court. Souter had not even heard of Diet Coke until he moved to DC.

Snopes says that Souter should be okay as long as he does not chew the seeds.

Update: Here is Prof. Volokh trashing Toobin's treatment of Clarence Thomas.

Volokh seems to understate Toobin's nuttiness. Toobin simultaneously accuses Thomas of favoring "states' rights" and a "personal right" in connection with the right to keep and bear arms. It can't be both. If Thomas really thinks that all gun control laws are unconstitutional, then the states have no rights in the matter.

George writes:

What about Toobin's claim that J. Scalia called Thomas a nut?
Here is the AP story about what Scalia said:
"Our Constitution does not morph," he said Monday, deadpanning, "As I've often said, I am an originalist, I am a textualist, but I am not a nut."
It is one of Scalia's standard lines, and it has nothing to with Thomas.

Sunday, Sep 23, 2007
NY Times kooks now have free blogs
One of pleasures of NYTimes.com was that its most idiotic columnists, like Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd, were blocked from non-subscribers. No more. Now Krugman's rants are freely available, and he starts by plugging his new book:
I was born in 1953. Like the rest of my generation, I took the America I grew up in for granted – in fact, like many in my generation I railed against the very real injustices of our society, marched against the bombing of Cambodia, went door to door for liberal candidates. It’s only in retrospect that the political and economic environment of my youth stands revealed as a paradise lost, an exceptional episode in our nation’s history. ...

The middle-class society I grew up in didn’t evolve gradually or automatically. It was created, in a remarkably short period of time, by FDR and the New Deal. As the chart shows, income inequality declined drastically from the late 1930s to the mid 1940s, with the rich losing ground while working Americans saw unprecedented gains. Economic historians call what happened the Great Compression, and it’s a seminal episode in American history. ...

The great divergence: Since the late 1970s the America I knew has unraveled. We’re no longer a middle-class society, in which the benefits of economic growth are widely shared: between 1979 and 2005 the real income of the median household rose only 13 percent, but the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans rose 296 percent.

Most people assume that this rise in inequality was the result of impersonal forces, like technological change and globalization. But the great reduction of inequality that created middle-class America between 1935 and 1945 was driven by political change; I believe that politics has also played an important role in rising inequality since the 1970s.

Krugman is attacked by economist Tyler Cowen.

Krugman's interpretation is bizarre. The period 1937-1945 was an economic disaster for average Americans. Failed New Deal FDR policies caused big increases in unemployment, and the American standard of living was sinking. World War II put people to work on the war effort, but not producing consumable goods. Essentials like food and gasoline were being rationed. In terms of our domestic economy, it was the worst period of the 20th century.

The only way I can make sense out of Krugman is that he guided by a liberal conscience that upsets him whenever some people are better off than others. He prefer that everybody be miserable, than to have a national prosperity that is not shared by everyone. Or maybe he is just another lying Bush-hater. At any rate, his economic arguments are absurd.

Thursday, Sep 20, 2007
Democrats trying to impeach VP Cheney
I just looked at Dennis J. Kucinich's HR 333, which is three articles of impeachment for VP Dick Cheney. It has about 20 Democrat co-sponsors. Article I is that Cheney emphasized the evidence that Iraq had WMD, and allowing the contrary evidence to be presented to Congress in dissenting reports. The article says:
The Vice President’s actions prevented the necessary reconciliation of facts for the National Intelligence Estimate which resulted in a high number of dissenting opinions from technical experts in two Federal agencies.

(A) The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research dissenting view in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate stated "Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute it’s nuclear weapons program INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors or to project a timeline for the completion of activities it does not now see happening. As a result INR is unable to predict that Iraq could acquire a nuclear device or weapon.".

I guess the core of the complaint here is that when Congress got the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), it was long and boring. Many Congressmen could not be bothered to read all 92 pages of it. The NIE gave the evidence for Iraqi WMD at the beginning, and gave the dissenting opinions afterwards. Many Congressmen did not read that far before voting to authorize the Iraq War. Most of them did not read it at all.

Article II says that Cheney exaggerated the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda, even tho Saddam Hussein had no hand in the 9/11/2001 attacks. I'm not sure if any of Cheney's statements on this subject are actually incorrect.

Article III is even wackier:

(1) Despite no evidence that Iran has the intention or the capability of attacking the United States 6 and despite the turmoil created by United States invasion of Iraq, the Vice President has openly threatened aggression against Iran as evidenced by the following:

(A) "For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime. And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." March 7, 2006, Speech of Vice President Cheney to American Israel Pub1lic Affairs Committee 2006 Policy Conference.

So 30 Democrats want to impeach Cheney for wanting to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons?! Every sensible person wants to stop Iran from getting hukes.

I do think that a President who lies to get us into war should be impeached. There is a long history of presidents doing that, including Wilson, FDR, and LBJ, and it is disgraceful. But here, the Bush administration was remarkably open and honest about presenting the evidence for and against military action, allowing a lengthy open debate, and getting approval from Congress and the public. The Congress had all the same evidence Cheney had, both pro and con.

22 Senators say that they voted for the Iraq War after reading the 2002 Iraq NIE report, including Sen. Joseph Biden. Sen. John Kerry says that he didn't read it, but was fully briefed on the contents. Sen. Hillary Clinton admits that she didn't read it, but explained her pro-war vote at the time in terms that were perfectly valid, based on all intelligence info. She was not misled. Those reasons are as valid now as they were then.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi refuses to have impeachment hearings. She's right. Such hearings would just convince the public that the Democrat Party is dominated by the leftist lunatic fringe.

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007
latest evolution research
Here is some dubious evolution research:
Science Daily — It turns out that older men chasing younger women contributes to human longevity and the survival of the species, according to new findings by researchers at Stanford and the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Evolutionary theory says that individuals should die of old age when their reproductive lives are complete, generally by age 55 in humans, according to demographer Cedric Puleston, a doctoral candidate in biological sciences at Stanford. But the fatherhood of a small number of older men is enough to postpone the date with death because natural selection fights life-shortening mutations until the species is finished reproducing.

And more:
On his return from India, Dr. Haidt combed the literature of anthropology and psychology for ideas about morality throughout the world. He identified five components of morality that were common to most cultures. Some concerned the protection of individuals, others the ties that bind a group together. ...

The emotion of disgust probably evolved when people became meat eaters and had to learn which foods might be contaminated with bacteria, a problem not presented by plant foods. Disgust was then extended to many other categories, he argues, to people who were unclean, to unacceptable sexual practices and to a wide class of bodily functions and behaviors that were seen as separating humans from animals.

"Imagine visiting a town,” Dr. Haidt writes, "where people wear no clothes, never bathe, have sex 'doggie style' in public, and eat raw meat by biting off pieces directly from the carcass."

And more:
In the study of human origins, paleoanthropology stares in frustration back to a dark age from three million to less than two million years ago. The missing mass in this case is the unfound fossils to document just when and under what circumstances our own genus Homo emerged. ...

At present, most paleoanthropologists think a solitary upper jaw represents the likeliest candidate for a Homo from that period. ...

Is habilis really one, two, possibly three species? Some scientists are not sure. Did erectus descend from habilis in a single, unbroken lineage, a process called anagenesis? “This is the only option that is no longer on the table,” Dr. Anton said.

Monday, Sep 17, 2007
Skeptic misunderstands hard sciences
Professional skeptic Michael Shermer writes in SciAm:
Over the past three decades I have noted two disturbing tendencies in both science and society: first, to rank the sciences from “hard” (physical sciences) to “medium” (biological sciences) to “soft” (social sciences); second, to divide science writing into two forms, technical and popular. And, as such rankings and divisions are wont to do, they include an assessment of worth, with the hard sciences and technical writing respected the most, and the soft sciences and popular writing esteemed the least. Both these prejudices are so far off the mark that they are not even wrong.

I have always thought that if there must be a rank order (which there mustn’t), the current one is precisely reversed. The physical sciences are hard, in the sense that calculating differential equations is difficult, for example. The variables within the causal net of the subject matter, however, are comparatively simple to constrain and test when contrasted with, say, computing the actions of organisms in an ecosystem or predicting the consequences of global climate change. Even the difficulty of constructing comprehensive models in the biological sciences pales in comparison to that of modeling the workings of human brains and societies. By these measures, the social sciences are the hard disciplines, because the subject matter is orders of magnitude more complex and multifaceted. ...

The view of science as primary research published in the peer-reviewed sections of journals only, with everything else relegated to “mere popularization,” is breathtakingly narrow and naive. Were this restricted view of science true, it would obviate many of the greatest works in the history of science, from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, the evolutionary biologist’s environmental theory about the differential rates of development of civilizations around the world for the past 13,000 years.

Well-crafted narratives by such researchers as Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, the late Stephen Jay Gould and many others are higher-order works of science that synthesize and coalesce primary sources into a unifying whole toward the purpose of testing a general theory or answering a grand question. Integrative science is hard science.

Somebody should send Shermer a dictionary. The word "hard" can mean "not easy" or "not soft". When someone distinguishes the hard sciences from the soft sciences, the meaning of "hard" is "not soft". For an example of the difference, Mathematician Terence Tao explains the difference between hard and soft analysis.

The theories by Darwin, Diamond, Dawkins, Pinker, and Gould are soft because they have no definitive predictions, and no specific tests for whether they are right or wrong. Diamond argues that human civilization is best explained by geography, and his book is a collection of anecdotes that supposedly supports his thesis. You may or may not find his stories persuasive, but his book is certainly not a great scientific work. There is not much science in his book at all.

Gould's most popular book was a polemic against intelligence testing. To the extent that he has made testable statements, they have been proven wrong, for the most part. And yet his book is still a hot seller. That is the nature of the soft sciences -- people can get rich and famous promoting "well-crafted narratives" that are politically correct but scientifically either untestable or wrong.

Saturday, Sep 15, 2007
Microsoft acts as if it owns your computer
Here, Microsoft explains why it automatically updates Windows even if you have automatic updates turned off:
One question we have been asked is why do we update the client code for Windows Update automatically if the customer did not opt into automatically installing updates without further notice? The answer is simple: any user who chooses to use Windows Update either expected updates to be installed or to at least be notified that updates were available. ... users would not have had updates installed automatically ... This has been the case since we introduced the automatic update feature in Windows XP. In fact, WU has auto-updated itself many times in the past.
This is absurd. The user should only get updates if he says he wants updates. Why does Msft even give the user the choice, since it is going force updates anyway?
Wikipedia on neo-evolution
Wikipedia has an article on neo-creationism, even tho there is nobody who actually calls himself a neo-creationist. This paragraph was recently removed, and put back in:
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.
As far as I can tell, "neo-creationist" is a smear term to refer to people who believe in the major tenets of evolution, but who also believe that God may have played a role. Apparently the Wikipedians believe that you have to be an atheist evolutionist, or you must be irrational and against all modern science.
Another law prof complains about the lack of leftists
Cass R. Sunstein complains:
A widely unknown fact: Between 1984 and 2000, the Court overruled more than 40 precedents, specifically rejecting the law as it was understood in 1980. And on many more occasions, the Court significantly reoriented the law without overruling particular decisions.
I guess Sunstein is too young to remember the Warren Court.

Sunstein's biggest complaints are that the current court favors free speech in political campaigns; opposes racial discrimination; has not outlawed religious symbols at every opportunity; and permitted some regulation of late-term abortion procedures. And he is especially upset that the public does not seem to mind that the court has shifted away from the extreme leftist positions that it previously held.

Friday, Sep 14, 2007
College financial aid propaganda
Don't believe colleges when they brag about all the good that their financial aid is doing. A group of very prestigious colleges have formed an organization called COFHE and published a book about their financial aid successes. I commented on this before. Phyllis Schlafly has written to them, asked them to correct errors about her. COFHE has repeatedly refused, and continues to post the false info. The site still claims that financial aid paid for her college education. In fact, she paid in full, out of her own money.

The colleges involved include Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. Apparently these schools think that everone is a charity case, even if the student pays full tuition.

Thursday, Sep 13, 2007
Law prof Erwin Chemerinsky fired
Law blogs are complaining that UC Irvine withdrew an appointment to extreme leftist Erwin Chemerinsky for its law school. Eg, see here. Here is a sample Chemerinsky rant:
I have no doubt that when historians look back at the late 20th and early 21st century, they will say that the most important development was the rise of fundamentalism. Fundamentalists, whether Christian, Islamic, or Jewish, share remarkably similar views on many issues -- and remarkably similar intolerance. I believe that the greatest threat to liberty in the United States is posed by the religious right, largely comprised of Christian fundamentalists. Across a broad spectrum of issues they want to move the law in a radically more conservative direction, ultimately threatening our freedom. ... Monday marked the start of a trial determining the legality of the teaching of intelligent design -- creationism dressed up as psuedoscience -- in a Pennsylvania school district. That threat extends far beyond just one county in Pennsylvania, as moves are afoot in state legislatures and county school boards across the country to call established scientific fact into question ... The threat even extends into personal freedom. I believe the Supreme Court got it exactly right in Roe v. Wade: a fundamental right of each woman is to choose whether to terminate her pregnancy. Taking this right away is a central aspect of the religious right's campaign.
Apparently what did in Chemerinsky's appointment was that two weeks after it was announced, he wrote an inflammatory op-ed in the local paper that was riddled with errors:
Does Professor Chemerinsky know that his article is chock full of patently false statements? It is hard to believe he would knowingly risk his reputation that way. Yet is also hard to believe he does not know or at least suspect they are false. Did he pick up some exaggerated claims from the anti-death-penalty propaganda machine, exaggerate them further in his own mind, and then print them as fact without any checking whatever? That would be extremely reckless disregard of the truth, at the very least.
Of course, many law schools are dominated by left-wing kooks anyway.

Joe writes:

I don't know anything about Chemerinsky, but Powerline, which I find pretty reliable, has a pretty strong endorsement.
String Theory inconsistent with inflation theory
From NewScientist:
String theory is having trouble producing inflation – the rapid expansion of space thought to have occurred in the early universe – at least in some of the theory's simplest incarnations, according to a new study.

The work suggests squaring string theory with the well-accepted notion of inflation will be challenging at best – and some even say that one or both theories may have to be abandoned.

String theory is a leading contender for the "theory of everything", which would unify all the forces of physics in one framework. Though there are many different versions of string theory, all posit that elementary particles are actually tiny vibrating strings, and that the universe contains extra spatial dimensions beyond the three that we can see.

Now, a new study suggests it may be difficult to reconcile string theory with the widely accepted theory of inflation, which explains several key cosmological observations – such as why the universe appears to have the same properties in whichever direction astronomers look.

The study was carried out by a team of researchers led by Mark Hertzberg of MIT in Cambridge, US. The team tried to produce inflation in three versions of string theory in which the extra dimensions are shaped like a doughnut – the simplest possibility. But they found that the conditions needed for inflation appear to be impossible to achieve in these simple versions. ...

Another inflation pioneer, Andrei Linde of Stanford University in California, US, is more critical of the work, however.

He says the results only apply to a class of string theory versions called type 2a, which are irrelevant to the real universe because they have been shown to be incompatible with dark energy, the mysterious force causing the universe's expansion to accelerate.

The article neglects to mention that string theory has also been impossible to reconcile string theory with any other well-accepted theory or observable physics.

Inflation theory is not really a well-accepted theory either. If cosmic inflation occurred, no one knows when it started, when it ended, if it ended, what caused it, how strong it was, or how we'd recognize it if we saw it. No Nobel Prize has been given for inflation theory, even tho a closely related prize was given last year.

Freud was a charlatan
Someone just removed this from the Wikipedia article on Sigmund Freud:
According to Richard Webster, author of Why Freud Was Wrong (1995): "Freud made no substantial intellectual discoveries. He was the creator of a complex pseudo-science which should be recognized as one of the great follies of Western civilisation. In creating his particular pseudo-science, Freud developed an autocratic, anti-empirical intellectual style which has contributed immeasurably to the intellectual ills of our own era. His original theoretical system, his habits of thought and his entire attitude to scientific research are so far removed from any responsible method of inquiry that no intellectual approach basing itself upon these is likely to endure.[21]"

H. J. Eysenck claims that Freud 'set psychiatry back one hundred years', consistently mis-diagnosed his patients, fraudulently misrepresented case histories and that "what is true in Freud is not new and what is new in Freud is not true".

Other critics, like Dr. Frederick C. Crews, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute (1995), are even more blunt: "He was a charlatan. ..."

The criticisms are valid. Freud was a charlatan. His theories were garbage.

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2007
Silly leftist law prof writes tirade
Legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin writes:
The revolution that many commentators predicted when President Bush appointed two ultra-right-wing Supreme Court justices is proceeding with breathtaking impatience, and it is a revolution Jacobin in its disdain for tradition and precedent. Bush's choices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, have joined the two previously most right-wing justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, in an unbreakable phalanx bent on remaking constitutional law by overruling, most often by stealth, the central constitutional doctrines that generations of past justices, conservative as well as liberal, had constructed. ...

It would be a mistake to suppose that this right-wing phalanx is guided in its zeal by some very conservative judicial or political ideology of principle. It seems guided by no judicial or political principle at all, ...

Twenty-four cases—a third of the Court's decisions—were decided by 5–4 votes last term, nineteen of them on a strict ideological division. Kennedy voted on the winning side in all twenty-four of them. He joined with the right-wing justices in thirteen of the ideological cases; ...

So the court has a faction that is right-wing, but not guided by political ideology, and they managed to get a majority in 13 of 24 closely-divided cases. Yawn.

The Jacobins were violent extreme leftists during the French Revolution. I am not sure how they relate to right-wing judges.

Dworkin goes on:

The most important decision was the Court's 5–4 ruling striking down school student assignment plans adopted by Seattle and Louisville. The plans of the two cities differed, but the goal in both was to reduce the depressing racial homogeneity of their schools. ...

The resulting racial isolation of young Americans at the beginnings of their lives is a national disgrace; that isolation perpetuates racial consciousness and antagonism in both blacks and whites. There is formidable evidence -- Breyer cited much of it in a long and brilliantly argued dissent that Stevens called "unanswerable" -- that the racial isolation has very serious educational disadvantages as well: black students do significantly better when they are not in either almost all-black schools or schools with very few blacks. Thomas, in a concurring opinion, cited contradictory studies, but Seattle and Louisville were certainly entitled to rely on the detailed and impressive evidence that Breyer cited.

Dworkin simultaneously complains about racial homogeneity and isolation; I guess that he thinks that both are bad for blacks. He says nothing about what is good for white students.

Fortunately, most Americans have rejected Dworkin's racist ideology. They don't want forced racial busing of schoolchildren to achieve racial quotas. Such busing has caused much more harm than good.

Monday, Sep 10, 2007
Motl attacks me
String Theory blogger Motl writes:
Concerning theories in physics, I think that a natural conservative position would be skeptical towards string theory (or QCD, or anything else that is new enough). Some people are clearly more conservative in this respect than I am. It seems sensible to say that a critical attitude with respect to string theory naturally belongs to creationists such as William Dembski and Roger Schlafly while DailyKos fans Peter Woit and Lee Smolin are just anomalous guests in this group of reactionary bigots.
Usually Motl is content to slander Woit and Smolin. He hates them because they wrote books documenting the failure of string theory.

I am not a creationist. I do not subscribe to a literal interpretation of the Bible. I believe that there is overwhelming evidence that the Earth is billions of years old. I don't think that Dembski is a creationist either. Certainly not a Young Earth Creationist, anyway. He subscribes to some sort of Intelligent Design theory. I don't. I argue for scientific and naturalistic explanations on this blog. I attack String Theory because it does not give a scientific or naturalistic explanation of anything.

Motl was commenting on a goofy study that claims to distinguish right-wingers from left-wingers by how they tap on keys in response to the letters M and W on a computer screen. I'll comment further if I find the study. Here is the abstract.

Update: You can find the 2-page study here. The author also sent me a brief supplement with some inessential details.

They studied 43 right-handed college students who each pushed buttons 500 times. 7 of the 43 students indentified as being moderately conservative, 4 as being in the center, and the rest as being liberal to various degrees. The main result was that error-related negativity electroencephalograph amplitudes were correlated with liberalism. It concludes:

Taken together, our results are consistent with the view that political orientation, in part, reflects individual differences in the functioning of a general mechanism related to cognitive control and self-regulation1–3. Stronger conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with less neurocognitive sensitivity to response conflicts. At the behavioral level, conservatives were alsomore likely to make errors of commission. Although a liberal orientation was associated with better performance on the response-inhibition task examined here, conservatives would presumably perform better on tasks in which a more fixed response style is optimal.
I guess this means that if a conservative gets mugged by illegal aliens a few times, then he will distrust illegal aliens. Liberals will show more cultural sensitivity. Conservatives might also leap to the conclusion that this study is junk.

The Dilbert blog says:

This ground-breaking study shows that the brain is somehow involved in decision-making. At the risk of sounding braggy, I already knew that. ...

I’m guessing this is how the process went down: The scientists (usually liberals) report their findings to their university bosses (usually liberals) who call their public relations people (usually liberals) to sex up this story and feed it to the media (usually liberals). There wasn’t much to slow it down. ...

We live in a strange time in human history. Every time a scientist discovers that child molesters or geniuses or musicians have different brain structures, the public gasps at the suggestion that the brain is involved in thinking. What were the other hypotheses? Souls? Elbows?

Funny. It is progress when scientists actually learn something about how the brain works, however trivial. I'll be waiting to see if this experiment is replicated, as I am skeptical.
Justice Souter wanted to resign
Here is some Souter gossip:
According to Jeffrey Toobin’s new book on the Supreme Court, Justice David Souter nearly resigned in the wake of Bush v. Gore, so distraught was he over the decision that effectively ended the Florida recount and installed George W. Bush as president.

In "The Nine," which goes on sale Sept. 18, Toobin writes that while the other justices tried to put the case behind them, "David Souter alone was shattered," at times weeping when he thought of the case. "For many months, it was not at all clear whether he would remain as a justice," Toobin continues. "That the Court met in a city he loathed made the decision even harder. At the urging of a handful of close friends, he decided to stay on, but his attitude toward the Court was never the same."

If true, this is more evidence that Souter is unfit for the court. Souter went along with the first ruling that stopped the Florida court. I guess that he wanted some backroom count by Florida court clerks to swing the election for Al Gore.

Sunday, Sep 09, 2007
The Koran teaches hatred towards infidels
A Mohammedan blogger claims that Gisburne has inaccurately paraphrased the Koran, and says:
A believer in Islam is anybody who speaks the truth and acts with extremely high, selfless, moral and ethical standards. Naturally this includes all good Muslims. But a believer in Islam could also be an Atheist, a Christian, a Jew, or anybody.
No, atheists, Christians, and Jews are not believers in Islam. Gisburne paraphrased the Koran as:
Jews are the greediest of all humankind. They'd like to live 1000 years. But they are going to Hell 2:96 ...

Have no unbelieving friends. Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them. 4:89

Go ahead and read Mystilleef's context, and see you you believe is describing Islam more accurately. What really matters is the broader context that Mohammedan leaders teach to their followers. Gisburne's videos show those leaders and what they teach.

Friday, Sep 07, 2007
Defining evolutionism
Wikipedia says:
The terms "evolutionism" and "evolutionist" are rarely used in the scientific community as self-descriptive terms. "Evolutionism", is defined by the OED as "[t]he theory of evolution, evolutionary assumptions or principles". Creationists tend to use the term evolutionism in a misleading sense in order to suggest that evolution and creationism are equal in a philosophical debate.
It goes on to argue that the terms are just creationist smear terms. That is not the case.

The terms have been in dictionaries and in common use for a century. Googling them shows that the big majority of usage today is not pejorative. The most distinguished academic scientists promoting the theory of evolution readily call themselves evolutionists or Darwinists. For example, the famous of them all, the late Stephen Jay Gould said, "I count myself among the evolutionists".

Furthermore, the mainstream press using these terms without controversy. Gould's obituary read "Evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould dead". Richard Dawkins made the TIME 100 list with his occupation listed as "Evolutionist, author, Oxford University professor". The distinguish Harvard Zoology prof Ernst Mayr wrote a book titled, "Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist".

George writes:

Yes, your examples are all extremely distinguished evolutionary scientists, but they are also professors who promoted various philosophical, theological, and even political views as being related to evolution. If you take a scientist who sticks to the science, then you'll find that his views are not just philosophical opinions.
I am just saying that evolutionism and evolutionist are neutral and accurate terms for the promotion of evolution. The terms apply whether referring to strictly scientific views or other views. I am not a creationist and creationists did not invent these terms. The terms are used by evolutionists themselves.

Wednesday, Sep 05, 2007
Correcting the Copernicus record
I corrected Wikipedia on Copernicus to:
In connection with the Galileo affair, Copernicus' book was suspended until corrected by the Index of the Catholic Church in 1616, because the Pythagorean doctrine of the motion of the Earth and the immobility of the Sun "is false and altogether opposed to the Holy Scripture".[5][6] These corrections were indicated in 1620, and nine sentences had to be either omitted or changed. [7] The book stayed on the Index untill 1758.
The points that are usually omitted are that it was perfectly acceptable to read Copernicus's book with the nine sentences corrected, and that the Church was in fact correct that the doctrine of the immobility of the Sun is indeed false. The Sun is orbiting around a black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

George writes:

Are you justifying censorship? Even if the Pope was right, it was for the wrong reasons. He used theological arguments. Galileo used science.
I am just stating the facts. Galileo's main argument for the motion of the Earth was that the motion caused the tides. He was completely wrong about that. The Church also had scientific arguments against the Copernican model, saying that the model could be viewed as a computational method and that it had not been shown to be any better than Ptolemy's model. The Church was correct.

Tuesday, Sep 04, 2007
Explaining evolution to Dilbert
Cornell anthropologist Meredith F. Small writes:
For anthropology students 30 years ago, learning human evolution was a breeze. It went from Australopithecus to Homo habilis to Homo erectus to various Homo sapiens. It was a straight shot that one could learn in a few minutes late at night while cramming for an exam.

But in the late 1970s, we entered a golden age of human fossil discoveries that has repeatedly punched holes in the naive idea that our evolution would be that clear, clean, and straight.

Like most animals, humans have a checkered past, and our family album is now full of side branches and dead ends. And it's populated with creatures, such as the little people (Homo floresiensis) of Flores Island in Indonesia, that we could never have imagined in our wildest dreams.

The straight line has blossomed into a spreading, rather uncontrolled bush and we don’t like it. We want our history to be nice and neat, but the fossils keep messing us up.

This summer, scientists announced the discovery of two human fossils found in Kenya in 2000. One is a 1.44 million-year-old Homo habilis, the first member of our genus, and the other is a 1.55 million-year-old Homo erectus, a larger brained, much more sophisticated kind of human.

Although paleoanthropologsts have assumed that habilis evolved into erectus, it looks like these creatures spent time together on the shores of Lake Tanganika.

The big news, then, is that these very different fossils are being hung on the human family tree on separate branches but at the same height. And once again, we have to reconsider the path of human evolution.

But should we be all that surprised?

We want the first bipedal humans to stay out of the trees, but their curved hand bones suggest they spent time swinging in the canopy like apes; we want brain size to increase in lock step with tool use, but tools appear before big brains; we want an orderly diaspora out of Africa and across the globe by culturally armed early humans, but it looks like people kept leaving all the time in fits and starts that don’t correlate with anything; and we want the last 200,000 years of human evolution, the time when modern Homo sapiens appeared, to make some kind of sense, but it doesn't.

Of course it doesn't.

The Dilbert blog responds:
The biggest reaction I ever got from this blog was when I stated my opinion that the evidence for evolution is bulls**t. Thanks to recent news, it's time to make that case again, but this time more clearly. ...

What I'm saying is that the evidence for evolution that is available to the casual person of interest, including most students, is simplified to the point of being misleading, false, or useless. In other words, the popular argument for evolution is bulls**t, independent of the underlying reality of evolution or the evidence available to experts in the field. ...

My point is that the average non-scientist has been fed a diet of suspicious evidence for evolution for decades. And much of it turns out to be bulls**t. It smelled like bulls**t and it was. ...

You don't need to give me links to web sites that "do an excellent job of answering all your questions." I've been there. They don't address my point in this post. All they do is point out that scientists themselves have convincing evidence for evolution that non-scientists don't understand.

He's right. The high-profile evolutionists and evolution web sites are unconvincing. They may have lots of interesting stuff about fossils or DNA, but when it comes to explaining something like how humans evolved from apes, they sound like con men. They act like they have all the answers, but they can hardly explain anything.
Left-handed crabs lose fights
The evolutionist NY Science Times reports:
... for males of the fiddler crab species Uca vocans vomeris. Male fiddlers have one large claw they use for fighting other males, and in most species this “clawedness” is about equally divided between left and right in the population. But among this species just 1 percent to 4 percent of males are left-clawed.

Patricia R. Y. Backwell of the Australian National University in Canberra and colleagues studied the fighting ability of these crabs, expecting to find that lefties would be scrappier because they have more experience fighting opposite-clawed crabs.

But as they report in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, lefties had no fighting advantage. Indeed, they appeared less likely to fight, and less likely to win if they did. ...

The researchers say it is puzzling why left-clawedness persists in this species if it offers no fighting advantage. It isn’t likely that it is just an aberration with no evolutionary significance. They suggest that further study may turn up some adaptive benefit of being a lefty.

I wonder whether these folks really believe in evolution. If lefties had an advantage in a population of righties, then evolution teaches that the population of lefties would increase until it is closer to the population of righties, and neither has an advantage.

A more sensible test would have been to choose a species of crab with righties equalling lefties, create a population of righties that only have ever seen other righties, and then see if a lefty has an advantage fighting. Also test the reverse. If so, it would indicate that the equal right-left balance was a stable equilibrium.

Maybe there are so few left-handed fiddler crabs precisely because they do poorly in fighting.

More evidence for lateral gene transfer
Evolutionists sometimes argue that if two species share some common genes, then they must have a common ancestor. But this is not true, because of lateral gene transfer. NY Times reports:
Bacteria are a generous sort, sharing their genes with other bacterial species practically at the drop of a hat. Such lateral gene transfer, as it is known, contributes to the spread of bacterial drug resistance, for example.

But lateral gene transfer between bacteria and multicellular organisms has been assumed to be exceedingly rare, for the reason that most cells in a higher organism are somatic; their genetic material does not get passed on. “So the opportunity for contact and lateral gene transfer would be fairly low,” said John H. Werren of the University of Rochester.

But now Dr. Werren, Julie C. Dunning Hotopp of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., and colleagues report widespread transfer of bacterial genes into the genome of numerous invertebrates. The finding was published in Science.

This genome-within-a-genome involves Wolbachia pipientis, a bacterial parasite that is one of the most prevalent in the world, infecting close to three-quarters of all invertebrate species, typically in the reproductive cells.

Because of mechanisms like this, science currently has no way of knowing whether humans and trees have common ancestors.
String Theory hype continues
Peter Woit writes:
The problem with string theory is not too much mathematics and a lack of effort towards making connection to real world experiments, but that it is a wrong idea about unification, and thus cannot ever explain the standard model or predict what lies beyond it.
He's right. He refers to a Physics World magazine article on String Theory that uses the word "revolution" 16 times. Here's a good rule of thumb -- if a science article uses the word "revolution" for anything other than an object revolving in a orbit, it is garbage. Real scientists point to real results, not hokey revolutions that did not accomplish anything.

The magazine editorial says, "String theory is guided by problems in the real world -- for instance the entropy of black holes". This sounds like a joke. The entropy of black holes is not observable, and sounds like medieval monks debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

String theorist David Gross is quoted as implying that the only problem with string theory is that its predictions cannot be confirmed to the 10th decimal place. No, the problem is that it has no predictions that can even be related to any experiments. Nothing agrees to even one decimal place.

I found this:

At the time of this writing, a brilliant young theoretical physicist at Harvard, Lubos Motl, has reportedly had his position terminated as a consequence of his outspoken support for Larry Summers and for his criticism of discrepancies between the claims of global-warming alarmists and the fundamental radiative physics involved. With this happening to the brightest at the best institutions, one can hardly expect better elsewhere.
Not likely. You can see from Motl's blog that he is a lunatic pursuing dead-end theories that have no bearing on any real-world science, like string theory.

Monday, Sep 03, 2007
Edwards Backs Mandatory Preventive Care
AP reports:
TIPTON, Iowa (AP) - Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said on Sunday that his universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the doctor for preventive care.

"It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care," he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. "If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK."

He noted, for example, that women would be required to have regular mammograms in an effort to find and treat "the first trace of problem."

Next, there will be mandatory medical orders to lose weight, stop smoking, or go on a low-fat diet.

I do wonder what the penalty would be those who don't comply with the mandatory preventive measures.

Edwards in not electable because he is an inexperienced lightweight. He will always be known as the guy with the $400 haircut. But he is useful because he is stupid enough to say what the Democrats want.

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007
Lawyer rig the legal system to favor themselves
Adam Liptak, on what's wrong with judges:
Dennis G. Jacobs, the chief judge of the federal appeals court in New York, is a candid man, and in a speech last year he admitted that he and his colleagues had “a serious and secret bias.” Perhaps unthinkingly but quite consistently, he said, judges can be counted on to rule in favor of anything that protects and empowers lawyers.

Once you start thinking about it, the examples are everywhere. The lawyer-client privilege is more closely guarded than any other. It is easier to sue for medical malpractice than for legal malpractice. People who try to make a living helping people fill out straightforward forms are punished for the unauthorized practice of law.

But Judge Jacobs’s main point is a deeper one. Judges favor complexity and legalism over efficient solutions, and they have no appreciation for what economists call transaction costs. They are aided in this by lawyers who bill by the hour and like nothing more than tasks that take a lot of time and cost their clients a lot of money.

And there is, of course, the pleasure of power, particularly in cases involving the great issues of the day.

This article addresses similar questions:
The questions considered include: why are lawyers the only American profession to be truly and completely self-regulated? Why is it that the attorney-client privilege is the oldest and most jealously protected professional privilege? Why is it that the Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down bans on commercial speech, except for bans on in-person lawyer solicitations and some types of lawyer advertising? Why is it that the Miranda right to consult with an attorney is more protected than the right to remain silent? Why is legal malpractice so much harder to prove than medical malpractice? The Article finishes with some of the ramifications of the lawyer-judge hypothesis, including brief consideration of whether our judiciary should be staffed by lawyer-judges at all.
The simple answer is that lawyers rig the legal system to favor themselves. We would all be better off if non-lawyers were sometimes appointed to the courts, including the Supreme Court.