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Tuesday, Oct 30, 2007
Manhattan was not a code name
The NY Times reports:
In “The Manhattan Project” (Black Dog & Leventhal), published last month, Dr. Norris writes about the Manhattan Project’s Manhattan locations. ...

Dr. Norris noted that the Manhattan Project led to “many of our problems today.”

I didn't know that the Manhattan Project started in Manhattan. But what are those "problems"?

The MP led to victory in WWII, turning Japan into a peaceful nation, 60 years of relative peace, big power plants without using fossil fuels, the cleanest big energy source we have, and our best hope against global warming. What are the negatives?

Neanderthals were fair-skinned and redheaded
Here is more evidence that Neanderthals looked like Europeans:
But by analyzing DNA from some of those old bones, European researchers have helped fill in the picture. Some Neanderthals, they suggest in a study published online by Science, were fair-skinned and redheaded.

Carles Lalueza-Fox of the University of Barcelona and Holger Römpler of the University of Leipzig in Germany and colleagues report the finding. They found a variation in a fragment of a Neanderthal gene that regulates pigmentation of skin and hair through melanin production and discovered that it had effects similar to those from variations in the same gene in humans.

“The inference is that the Neanderthals had red hair just like modern Europeans,” Dr. Lalueza-Fox said.

Conventional evolutionary wisdom is that modern Europeans are descended from Africans, not from European Neanderthals. The similarities with Neanderthals is just coincidental, they say.
Bush not suppressing CDC science
The Bad Astronomer thinks that he finally has the smoking gun to prove that Pres. Bush is suppressing science:
The Bush Administration has been appallingly heavy-handed about crushing any science that goes against its political and religious leanings.

Last week, I posted about the White House redacting large portions of a speech given by the head of the Centers of Disease Control when she spoke about how the CDC is preparing to deal with the effects of global warming.

It’s appalling: the White House removed a solid 1/3 of the speech. Some of it is harmless enough, but other parts make their agenda clear. Here’s one part taken out:

CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern. ...

In the United States, climate change is likely to have a significant impact on health, through links with the following outcomes:
* Direct effects of heat, ...
* Mental health problems, ...

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: global warming is real. Humans are partly if not mostly to blame for it. The evidence is in, real scientists agree, and the effects are being seen now. Sticking your head in the sand will only make things worse down the line.
He is just another lying Bush-hater. More people die of cold than of heat. If the CDC is giving a report on the health impacts of global warming, then it should include the benefits as well as the drawbacks. The Bush administration was right to discourage those silly and unscientific remarks.

Even sillier was the proposed testimony about Mental Health Problems:

Some Americans may suffer anxiety, depression, and similar symptoms in anticipating climate change and/or in coping with its effects. Moreover, the aftermath of severe events may include post-traumatic stress and related problems, as was seen after Hurricane Katrina. These conditions are difficult to quantify but may have significant effects of health and well-being.
Wow. This is the CDC that is used to giving us scare stories about Bird Flu and other diseases. Now the CDC head wanted to tell Congress that one of the big problems of global warming is all the anxiety from people worrying about it!

Update: On Wed. Nov. 7, Sen. Barbara Boxer is on MSNBC complaining that is an example of the Bush administration not letting us hear the truth about global warming! Of course, Boxer had the opportunity to ask the CDC chief any question she wanted, but chose to complain to MSNBC instead.

Sunday, Oct 28, 2007
Hillary Clinton quotes
It looks like we now have to take Hillary Clinton seriously, so I am going to start collecting quotes. When someone pointed out that her 1994 health care plan could bankrupt small businesses, she said:
I can't be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.
In an 2003 interview with Katie Couric on the Today show:
Couric: “Why did you decide to stay in your marriage? There were so many women, frankly, feminists out there…”

Clinton: “Well, I asked myself all those questions. ... And what I’ve tried to do in my own life, ever since I was a little girl, is to listen hard to my own heart and to make the decisions that are right for me.”

Selfish, cold, and calculating. My guess is that her heart told her to do focus groups on what would best advance her political career. And she discovered that her career is entirely dependent on Bill Clinton, and it always has been.

Curiously, the latter quote is on Yahoo but not Google. I do a lot of my searches on Yahoo now, because it is just as good as Google.

Savage attack on Justice Thomas
David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times has a new attack on Justice Clarence Thomas for being unsympathic to the poor. It was published on page 2A of the Si Valley paper. It says:
WASHINGTON - In his new best-selling memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas tells the story of his personal struggle to overcome poverty and racism. ... His book ends in 1991 when he is confirmed to the Supreme Court and takes the oath to "do equal right to the poor and to the rich."

But rarely have the hardships of the young Clarence Thomas been evident in the opinions of Justice Thomas. "Justice Thomas' opinions do not reflect any special sympathy for poor people," said David Vladeck, professor of law at Georgetown.

In other words, Thomas has obeyed his oath of office, even tho he is a black man.

Savage gives two examples of Thomas's opinions. The first does not involve a poor person, but a homeowner who failed to pay his property taxes. Here is the second:

Thomas has been particularly dismissive of the rights of prisoners, as evidenced by his rejection of one prisoner's claim that he was sadistically beaten by guards. The Constitution forbids "cruel and unusual punishment," but Thomas said he doubted this provision should "protect inmates from harsh treatment."
Here is the full paragraph:
Surely prison was not a more congenial place in the early years of the Republic than it is today; nor were our judges and commentators so naive as to be unaware of the often harsh conditions of prison life. Rather, they simply did not conceive of the Eighth Amendment as protecting inmates from harsh treatment. Thus, historically, the lower courts routinely rejected prisoner grievances by explaining that the courts had no role in regulating prison life.
So the quote is not Thomas's opinion, but merely part of a section that has summarized how similar cases had been treated in the past.

I am still wondering why this article was presented as news. The newspaper must really hate Clarence Thomas.

Saturday, Oct 27, 2007
Retracting a 1955 paper
What would drive a scientist to disavow a 1955 paper he wrote? What would cause that to be news in the NY Times?
Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want -- from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.

So after 52 years, he has retracted it.

Wow. This is the first that I have heard of a scientist trying to retract an old paper because he didn't like who cited it. Normally if someone is unhappy about a paper, he just writes a new one. There is no procedure for retracting a paper like that.

This is really wacky. If the paper had been cited by people wanting to colonize Mars or some goofy thing like that, no one would care. There seems to be some sort of conspiracy to prevent any science being used to support any Christian cause.

Here is the actual quote that offended Jacobson so much:

Homer Jacobson, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, comments:
Directions for the reproduction of plans, for energy and the extraction of parts from the current environment, for the growth sequence, and for the effector mechanism translating instructions into growth-all had to be simultaneously present at that moment [when life began]. This combination of events has seemed an incredibly unlikely happenstance...269 [footnote to 1955 paper]
The quotation above was written two years after the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick. But despite all the developments in science, this problem for evolutionists remains unsolved.
While Jacobson retracts the paper, he does not deny the accuracy of the quote. He also does not deny the follow-up statement that the problem (of the origin of life) remains unsolved.

NY Times reporter Cornelia Dean writes:

It is not unusual for scientists to publish papers and, if they discover evidence that challenges them, to announce they were wrong. The idea that all scientific knowledge is provisional, able to be challenged and overturned, is one thing that separates matters of science from matters of faith.
She likes putting this sort of pro-science editorializing in her stories. I am a hard-core science promoter myself, but these opinions do not belong.

First, Jacobson is not revising his work because of new evidence challenging it. He just doesn't like being quoted by creationists. By doing this, he sounds more like a censor than a scientist.

Second, it inaccurately describes the difference between science and faith. The Christian message is one in which Jesus challenged authority and tradition, and urged people to do the same. So a willingness to challenge conventional wisdom is not the difference. Science does not really subject all knowledge to being overturned; facts are still facts even when a new theory comes along.

George writes:

Faith is the literal belief in the Bible as the source of all truth. It is incompatible with Science because it does not allow for altering beliefs or considering new evidence.
Not exactly. The Bible defines faith in Hebrews 11:1 [KJV]:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Another translation gives, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Jonathan objects to me saying that colonizing Mars is goofy:

With Earth ensconced in what's been termed a "shooting gallery" of an estimated 260,000 near-earth objects boasting a mass roughly larger than a "cubic" football field, and a sizable consensus of scientists believing "It's not if, but when" w.r.t. the next Yucatan Peninsula -type Impact, I don't understand what's goofy about having a space-faring lifeboat at the ready hand, aimed at a Mars replete with some prepositioned supplies, robotic greenhouses, breedable females, etc. near the polar ice caps. We've definitely built some massive bunkers for government officials in case of nuclear attack, but those won't help in the event of a massive asteroid collision. I also note that Congress is (gingerly) funding the SpaceGuard Program, and last I heard some outfit was awarded a $100 million contract to track NEOs. What good is funding SpaceGuard unless we're prepared to act upon the information it yields? Or, in the alternative, can we assume that you think SpaceGuard is a waste of taxpayer dollars?

"The difference between us and the dinosaurs is that the dinosaurs didn't have a space program." -- unknown NASA official

Friday, Oct 26, 2007
Lab has long history with eugenics
Newsday reports:
Now, with Watson forced into early retirement for questioning Africans' intelligence, officials said it remains unclear whether he will continue his lesser known but immensely important role as the laboratory's fundraiser-in-chief.

"I don't think that's been discussed," said Bruce Stillman, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "This is a great institution. I hope that these events don't affect our fund-raising."

So they're still trying to figure out whether Watson is good or bad for fund-raising. I wouldn't worry about the Lab's reputation too much. It was created largely to do eugenics research, and only dropped it when the Nazis made that sort of thing unpopular.

Steve Sailer also reports that Sen. Joe Biden discussed underperformance of DC black kids, and said:

What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with, ... half this education gap exists before the kid steps foot in the classroom.
It sounds like he was trying to say that intelligence is half genetic. His campaign denies it, of course.
Court concocts reason to let a sex offender go
The Georgia Supreme Court just ruled 4-3:
[W]e conclude that the habeas court properly ruled that [Genarlow] Wilson’s sentence of ten years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a fifteen-year-old girl when he was only seventeen years old constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
No, he was not sentenced for consensual oral sex. The girl had not yet reached the age of consent, and the sex act was not legally consensual.

Wilson had turned down much more lenient plea bargains, both before and after his conviction.

In case you think that Wilson is totally innocent, he and his buddies threw a New Years Eve party in a motel room, and got a bunch of underage girls intoxicated on bourbon and marijuana. A video camera recorded the action. It showed Wilson having sex with one semi-conscious girl, and she claimed that she had been raped when she woke up. Wilson was lucky to be acquitted of that charge.

The court's press release refers to "its cruel and unusual analysis" of the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Funny. I couldn't have said it better myself.

The 60 million year extinction cycle
Here is the latest global warming research:
The researchers examined tropical sea temperatures - the only ones that can be determined from fossil records and go back hundreds of millions of years. They indicate a natural 60 million-year climate cycle that moves from a warmer "greenhouse" to a cooler "icehouse." The Earth is warming from its current colder period.

Every time the tropical sea temperatures were about 7 degrees warmer than they are now and stayed that way for millions of enough years, there was a die-off. How fast extinctions happen varies in length.

The study linked mass extinctions with higher temperatures, but did not try to establish a cause-and-effect. For example, the most recent mass extinction, the one 65 million years ago that included the die-off of dinosaurs, probably was caused by an asteroid collision as scientists theorize and Mayhew agrees.

So maybe we are in a 60M year cycle, and the heat or CO2 is going to kill off a lot of species over the next few million years. That still does not mean that the warming is necessarily bad. Extinctions are crucial to the evolution of new species. Maybe we have too many species today, and maybe we would be better off with fewer and better species.

Thursday, Oct 25, 2007
Appealing to conservative judges on copyrights
A new academic article on "The Effect of Judicial Ideology in IP Cases" (link here) says this:
Lawrence Lessig, the architect of the constitutional challenge to the CTEA, argues that the Eldred case could have been won if he had adopted a different strategy. Lessig’s strategy in Eldred was based on an appeal to the conservative members of the Court. Lessig had believed that the same conservative justices who had increasingly restricted the power of Congress in relation to the powers granted under the Commerce Clause since Lopez could be persuaded to limit the power of Congress under the Copyright Clause as well.
Lessig argues that, but it is not correct. Lessig is a liberal, and he didn't really make a conservative argument. He lost 2-1 on appeal, getting only the vote of a judge who relied on an Eagle Forum amicus brief for the conservative argument. The majority said that the amicus brief should have been ignored since Lessig didn't make the argument. Then at the US Supreme Court, he strangely disavowed the conservative position in oral argument, and only got the votes of two liberals.

For more on this, see my blog in 2003 and 2004.

Wednesday, Oct 24, 2007
Pres. Bush accused of science censorship again
The Wikipedia article on Joe McCarthy lists 15 people in the US govt who were correctly identified as communists by McCarthy. The Senate censure of McCarthy actually acquitted him of all the substantive charges. The Wash Post reports:
Testimony that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention planned to give yesterday to a Senate committee about the impact of climate change on health was significantly edited by the White House, according to two sources familiar with the documents.

Specific scientific references to potential health risks were removed after Julie L. Gerberding submitted a draft of her prepared remarks to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. ...

The deletions directed by the White House included details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC's analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels, according to one official who had seen the original version.

There are no diseases being spread by the rise of sea level. According to the IPCC report, sea level rose a foot or so in the last century, and the consensus models have it rising another foot or so in the next. If the CDC report had a bunch of scare stories about how this minor sea level change was going to spread disease, then it should have been edited.

I suspect that original report was also unbalanced in that it gave health threats to warming, but not cooling. It may well be that warming is a net positive on human health, and any govt report should have described advantages and disadvantages of warming. If the report only described health disadvantages, as the Wash Post (AP) story implies, then it was misleading and should have been edited.

Comic book treatment of McCarthyism
David Bernstein found a comic book in which writers were persecuted by Joe McCarthy's HUAC for wearing the wrong color socks! This is an example of popular gross distortions about the McCarthy era.

Some leftists were upset that Bernstein would defend McCarthy in this way. Grover Gardner wrote:

McCarthy was a brutal opportunist who lied about people he didn't know and destroyed lives and reputations for personal and political gain. It doesn't matter if it was ten or a hundred or a thousand. His name has become synonymous with reckless defamation of the undeserving, and became so for very real and regrettable reasons.

I'm not quite old enough to remember the McCarthy era, but I am old enough to be astonished than anyone would so much as lift a hair to defend Joe McCarthy. The fact that there were Communist spies in this country in no way excuses the tactics he employed and the terrible influence he exercised over this country for a brief period in the early 1950's.

He argues that on subjects like slavery, Nazi Holocaust, and McCarthyism, no one should ever cite any facts that undermine leftist dogma.

Gardner cannot give one single example of someone that McCarthy recklessly defamed. Not one.

Eric Muller accuses Bernstein of revisionism for pointing out the absurdity of the comic book. Muller seems to spend most of his time looking for Japanese Americans who were inconvenienced during World War II. His latest example is Harry Iba, who was rejected for military service because of suspicions that he was loyal to Japan. I wonder what Muller is going to say when he discovers that some people actually fought a war! There were probably about a billion people who were inconvenienced more than Harry Iba.

A visitor comments:

Professor Muller is acting, thus far, like the fellow travelers of the 50s: attack the anti-Communists for "going too far and smearing innocents," never acknowledge that there were any real Communists with espionage intentions to worry about, and never criticize the Communists, because opposing anti-Communism is more important than criticizing Communism.
When I asked for an example of someone McCarthy harmed, the only names that anyone could give were a couple of State Dept officials who supported Mao's Communist revolution in China. They lost their jobs. That's all. 50 million people died in China, and the McCarthy-haters think that the real crime was that a couple of obscure diplomats lost their jobs. Amazing.

Tuesday, Oct 23, 2007
Questions Al Gore won't answer
Reuters reports:
Gore shared the Nobel prize with the U.N. climate panel for their work helping galvanize international action against global warming.

"It is the most dangerous challenge we've ever faced but it is also the greatest opportunity that we have ever had to make changes that we should be making for other reasons anyway," Gore said.

"This is a chance to elevate global consciousness about the challenges that we face now."

"I'm going back to work right now. This is just the beginning," Gore added, before leaving the room without taking questions.

What changes? The most obvious change that I can think of is to switch to using more nuclear power. That is the only technology that is available today that can make a significant dent in CO2 emissions.

Someone else suggested that Gore means renewable energy and international law. Renewable energy would mean govt subsidies for ethanol, as opposed to breeder reactors for nuclear fuel. This doesn't make much sense, as ethanol is not really renewable. More energy goes into producing it than comes out.

International law means treaties like Kyoto, I guess. Kyoto was a big flop. If Gore really supports Kyoto, then he should say so.

But what did Gore really mean? And why isn't he really willing to explain the changes and the reasons?

My suspicion is that Gore wants the support of leftist-environmentalists who believe that humans are an evil and destructive force on planet Earth. Economic development is bad, and anything that counters development is good. Because nearly all development involves CO2 emissions, crying about global warming is the most effective way to oppose all development at once, without sounding like someone who is just against progress. So Gore is saying that we should reduce CO2 emissions to thwart global warming, and that we should be cutting development anyway for the sake of leftist-environmentalist ideals.

Monday, Oct 22, 2007
Ben Stein's ID movie
Ben Stein is plugging his new movie:
EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed is a controversial, soon-to-be-released documentary that chronicles my confrontation with the widespread suppression and entrenched discrimination that is spreading in our institutions, laboratories and most importantly, in our classrooms, and that is doing irreparable harm to some of the world’s top scientists, educators, and thinkers. ...

Now, I am sorry to say, freedom of inquiry in science is being suppressed.

Under a new anti-religious dogmatism, scientists and educators are not allowed to even think thoughts that involve an intelligent creator. Do you realize that some of the leading lights of “anti-intelligent design” would not allow a scientist who merely believed in the possibility of an intelligent designer/creator to work for him… EVEN IF HE NEVER MENTIONED the possibility of intelligent design in the universe? EVEN FOR HIS VERY THOUGHTS… HE WOULD BE BANNED.

This is funny. Stein is not even a Christian.

Real scientists would not suppressing alternate points of view. Yet evolutionists are busy censoring any views differing from the party line. They censor religious views as well as those expressed by Jim Watson.

Defending Jim Watson
James Fulford writes:
I’d like to see is if any mainstream conservatives have defended James D. Watson’s remarks, based on the fact they are, as far as we know, scientifically accurate, rather than “defend to the death your right to say it” kind of thing.
I don't know why conservatives are supposed to be defending the scientific accuracy of comments by Jim Watson and Larry Summers. They are not conservatives, and they do not support any conservative causes.

Furthermore, the scientific accuracy of a statement depends on facts and scientific analysis, not political views. Watson is one of America's most highly respected scientific leader. Who would want to hear some political commentator give opinions on his science?

I don't really defend Watson's right to say what he did. He made some clumsy and demeaning comments, and claimed that science was on his side. Then he apologizes, and implies that science says the opposite. Either way, I don't see much science. He doesn't explain what he really meant. I don't know what "social policies" he is referring to. Maybe he explains them in his book. If he explained what he meant, and explained the science behind his statements, then I'd defend him. As it is, he just gives the impression that all evolutionists are racists who are afraid to tell the truth about their true beliefs.

As for whether Watson was scientifically accurate, I don't know. He predicts that genes affecting differences in human intelligence will be found in 15 years. That seems plausible to me, but predictions for finding genes affecting human behavior have nearly always been over-optimistic. Attempts to find genes for alcoholism, schizophrenia, autism, homosexuality, etc. have all failed.

I am not even sure that they will find genes to show that modern humans are any smarter than Neanderthals. According to SciAm:

German researchers have discovered Neandertals apparently had the human variant of a gene that is linked to speech and language. A team of scientists, primarily from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, made the discovery during efforts to reconstruct a full genome of the extinct hominid.

The findings push back the estimated timing of the FOXP2 gene's selective sweep (rapid spread of a gene mutation due to the survival advantage it conferred) from 200,000 to 350,000 years ago, when the common ancestor of Neandertals and humans roamed the earth.

"From the point of this gene, there is no reason to think that Neandertals did not have language as we do," says Planck Institute geneticist Johannes Krause, a co-author of the study published in Current Biology.

Sunday, Oct 21, 2007
Hiding behind a privilege
A lawyer recommends:
He cites a key advantage to bringing in lawyers up front: "If you hire a law firm to supervise the process, even if there are technical engineers involved, then the process will be covered by attorney-client privilege," Cunningham said.

He noted that in a lawsuit following a data theft, plaintiffs usually seek a company's records of "all the [data-security] recommendations that were made [before the breach] and whether or not you followed them. And if you go and hire technical consultants only, all that information gets turned over in discovery. [But] if you have it through a law firm, it's generally not."

Someone comments:
This sorcerous-incantation view of attorney-client privilege is common. My last company told people on certain critical projects to Cc: the lawyer on all project communications so as to get the magical privilege pixie-dust on them.
The attorney-client privilege is abused a lot. Lawyers and clients can get away with the abuse, because no one looks at the confidential communications to see whether the claim of privilege is proper.

I am a patent agent, so I am licensed to give legal advice on patent matters. I am not an attorney, but the privilege is the same. (Eg, see this reference to a treatise.) Someone can ask me for confidential legal advice about the patentability of an invention, and be assured that the advice will not be used against him in court or the patent office later, unless he waives the privilege.

The idea is that if someone has an invention that he wishes to market, and he is concerned about protecting his legal rights, then he should be able to get an opinion without creating liabilities for himself. For example, he might be concerned that his invention infringes another patent, but his concerns should not be used as an admission of guilt in an infringement lawsuit. I can give such an opinion, and it will be privileged.

It appears that the above lawyer is trying to use the privilege to cover up some sloppy business practices. That is not really what the privilege is for.

Requirements for a Presidential candidate
From a recent speech:
A good candidate must protect parent's rights in public schools in rulings such as those which say the right of parents to determine the upbringing of their children ends at the school door. They should also oppose "nosy" questionnaires and school mental health evaluations, giving contraception to young children, and "diversity" courses.

A good president must appoint only judges that rule by the Constitution as it is written, and that reject notions that the Constitution is "evolving" or is guided by "evolving notions."

Saturday, Oct 20, 2007
Watson's unfortunate remarks
Here is someone who actually tries to address Watson's "unfortunate" remarks. (Here, "unfortunate" is a code word for "racist".)
It’s not science. I note that in Watson’s most recent book, he speaks darkly of how we shouldn’t necessarily expect that “the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically.” Yeah, well, we shouldn’t expect them NOT to be equal, either. What we should do is WAIT until we have decent science before we talk expectations.
If we waited for decent science, then we'd have to eliminate a lot of publications on global warming, space alien life, evolutionary psychology, string theory, and a lot of other subjects.

The author acknowledges that Africa is in bad shape, but blames it on us: "our forebears raped the continent of much of its resources." Huhh? Is Africa really suffering because some of its uranium and diamond mines have been depleted? I don't think so.

Watson has said other odd things. He has justified stealing Franklin's research here:

I asked him whether he felt that he gave Franklin a hard time. “No,” he shrugged. “She really was awkward.” He also told the audience that Franklin “was good at maths, and mathematicians are a bit strange”.
What he did was to cheat her out of credit for discovering the molecular structure of DNA.

Friday, Oct 19, 2007
Comparing toddler IQ
The Freakonomics blog writes that black economist Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt have done some research on this topic:
The striking result we find is that there are no racial differences in mental functioning at age one, although a racial gap begins to emerge over the next few years of life. ...

I have to say, however, that I imagined a lot of reactions to this paper, none of which were utter indifference on the part of academics and the popular press. But that was the reaction we got.

Maybe people ignored it because their paper doesn't really prove what it says. The peer-reviewed journal rejected it, and Steve Sailer writes:
Look, there is no IQ test for 1-year-olds. What Levitt did in this paper is show that a test of infant liveliness (e.g., how often the infant babbles) that has a low but positive correlation with childhood IQ doesn’t show the normal differences between the races at age 8 to 12 months. Indeed, the highest IQ children (Northeast Asians) do the worst on this test of infant vivacity. With a typical Freakonomic leap of faith, Levitt and Fryer suggested that this shows that IQ differences aren’t genetic but are caused by environmental differences, presumably between age 1 and the earliest ages at which IQ tests are semi-reliable.

Of course, all Levitt actually did was show that this test of infant liveliness is a racially biased predictor of IQ.

Europeans try to maintain their prominence
Biology guru Jim Watson has now been forced to apologize for his comments. I don't know why any apology or denunciation is necessary; if his remarks are scientifically incorrect, then just report the science that rebuts him. The NY Times reports:
There is wide agreement among researchers on intelligence that genetic inheritance influences mental acuity, but there is also wide agreement that life experiences, even in the womb, exert a powerful influence on brain structure. Further, there is wide disagreement about what intelligence consists of and how — or even if — it can be measured in the abstract.

For example, in “The Mismeasure of Man,” Stephen Jay Gould, the evolutionary biologist, dismissed “the I.Q. industry” as little more than an effort by men of European descent to maintain their prominence in the world.

So intelligence is hereditary but maybe it cannot be measured? So how does anyone know that it is hereditary if it cannot be measured?

Men of European descent have maintained their prominence in the world by using guns and bombs, not IQ studies.

Joe adds:

...and by establishing the most successful governmental system that incorporated and encouraged the most dynamic economic system.

Thursday, Oct 18, 2007
How extra dimensions may affect science
Dilbert complains about getting savagely criticized for saying:
I read about the physicist who thinks we might be able to create a Unified Theory of Everything if we allow for one additional dimension of time and one of space. ...

I’ve been saying for years that evolution as we perceive it is not a feature of reality so much as an internally consistent perception, like a shadow. Our brains aren’t equipped to understand the nature of reality. What we understand as the gradual change of species over time is no more a feature of reality than your shadow is a real person.

Because I doubt all stories about potential scientific breakthroughs, I figure it is unlikely we will create a theory of everything by adding one dimension of time and space. But let’s say this idea turns out to be validated by scientists. And let’s say you currently believe the theory of evolution is reality. Would this hypothetical breakthrough in physics be enough to convince you that your understanding of evolution has only a shadow connection to reality?

The physicist is trying to explain the universe by adding 9 extra spacetime dimensions. Any theory with extra dimensions is radically contrary to established scientific thinking, as Max Tegmark explains. He says that "there would be no point to evolving a brain", if there were any extra dimensions. Universes with extra dimensions are "probably uninhabited".

Nevertheless, Dilbert's critics confidently assert that evolution would be true regardless of how many dimensions there are.

Wikipedia promotes concept of dominionism
I just encountered another malicious edit from Wikipedia editor FeloniousMonk. He hates me, and uses his privileged Wikipedia status to badmouth his political enemies whenever he can.

In his latest, he insists on calling Eagle Forum a "Dominionist organization", whatever that is. He cannot produce any sources that even say that Eagle Forum is dominionist, except for the web site of Joan Bokaer, a self-described "nuclear disarmament activist". All she says is that Eagle Forum has high ratings for some congressmen who are also rated highly by a couple of Christian groups and rated lowly by an environmentalist group. How this is related to dominionism is never explained.

Separately, he made this edit to call Phyllis Schlafly "hypocritical", accuse her of dispersing unspecified misinformation, and to mischaracterize a quote of hers.

Wikipedia is the perfect vehicle for leftist name-calling. They can invent obscure terms like "dominionism", give them encyclopedic definitions, and then use them to smear their enemies.

Wednesday, Oct 17, 2007
Vaccine exemptions for religious beliefs
This AP story says Parents Use Religion to Avoid Vaccines:
BOSTON (AP) - Sabrina Rahim doesn't practice any particular faith, but she had no problem signing a letter declaring that because of her deeply held religious beliefs, her 4-year-old son should be exempt from the vaccinations required to enter preschool.

She is among a small but growing number of parents around the country who are claiming religious exemptions to avoid vaccinating their children when the real reason may be skepticism of the shots or concern they can cause other illnesses. Some of these parents say they are being forced to lie because of the way the vaccination laws are written in their states. ...

"Do I think that religious exemptions have become the default? Absolutely," said Dr. Paul Offit, head of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and one of the harshest critics of the anti-vaccine movement. He said the resistance to vaccines is "an irrational, fear-based decision." ...

Twenty-eight states, including Florida, Massachusetts and New York, allow parents to opt out for medical or religious reasons only. Twenty other states, among them California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio, also allow parents to cite personal or philosophical reasons. Mississippi and West Virginia allow exemptions for medical reasons only.

The article doesn't mention that Offit is a paid lobbyist for the vaccine industry. He supports expanding vaccine mandates at every opportunity.

Californians do not need religious exemptions, but even if it did, Penal Code 422.56 defines:

(g) "Religion" includes all aspects of religious belief, observance, and practice and includes agnosticism and atheism.
So I am not sure that these parents are lying. If parents have an agnostic belief that the vaccine may be harmful, then that could be considered a religious belief in California. I'm not sure about other states.
Geographically separated people evolve differently
The famous DNA pioneer and leftist-atheist-evolutionist James D. Watson explains some consquences of evolution:
He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.

When asked how long it might take for the key genes in affecting differences in human intelligence to be found, his “back-of-the-envelope answer” is 15 years. However, he wonders if even 10 years will pass.

The UK Times has a follow-up here. He is promoting his new book, Avoid Boring People and Other Lessons from a Life in Science. Watson edited a previous book on the collected works of Darwin.

I'm not sure that he meant to complain about social policy being based on "fact".

Joe writes:

So is leftist-atheist-evolutionist Watson most likely right or wrong in his surmise?
Good question. The UK Times says that Watson is said to have “joined Darwin and Copernicus among the immortals”, and stands alone as “the godfather of DNA”. Who am I to dispute such a demigod? For now, I'll just note that most or all of these leftist-atheist-evolutionists are closet eugenicists. Also, some leftist politically-correct UK do-gooders are already going to investigate Watson, and I'll wait to see if they report any scientific evidence one way or the other:
The newly formed [UK] Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was studying Dr Watson's remarks "in full". ...

Critics of Dr Watson said there should be a robust response to his views across the spheres of politics and science. Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "It is sad to see a scientist of such achievement making such baseless, unscientific and extremely offensive comments. I am sure the scientific community will roundly reject what appear to be Dr Watson's personal prejudices.

"These comments serve as a reminder of the attitudes which can still exists at the highest professional levels." ...

Anti-racism campaigners called for Dr Watson's remarks to be looked at in the context of racial hatred laws. A spokesman for the 1990 Trust, a black human rights group, said: "It is astonishing that a man of such distinction should make comments that seem to perpetuate racism in this way. It amounts to fuelling bigotry and we would like it to be looked at for grounds of legal complaint."

Perhaps they'll discover that Watson's famous DNA discovery was derived from stolen research of Rosalind Franklin. I previously criticized Watson for saying that anyone who disagrees with him is a irrational fundamentalist, for comparing himself to Freud, and for adopting the wedge strategy.

Tuesday, Oct 16, 2007
The most powerful theory in all of science
Richard Dawkins has posted a formula that he says shows that "Darwin discovered what may be the most powerful theory in all of science".

This is really wacky. Consider Newton's 2nd law, that force equals the rate of change of momentum. Or the law of gravitation. Or the conservation laws. These explain far more, while assuming far less, and therefore more powerful by Dawkins' measure.

I am not disputing Darwin's theory, just arguing that it doesn't explain very much. It doesn't have much predictive power, or allow much in the way of quantitative testing. Darwin regarded natural selection as the core of his theory, and no one has figured out any way of making predictions from that, or getting any nontrivial explanations from it.

Monday, Oct 15, 2007
Majority favors death penalty
Here is a Gallup poll:
When asked, "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?," 69% of respondents replied "yes" and 27% replied no. That matches up with results from a May Gallup poll on the morality of the death penalty: in that poll, 66% said that that the death penalty was morally acceptable, 27% said that it was morally wrong, and 5% said it depended on the circumstances.
Because of our supremacist courts, we don't even have a death penalty. The only way you can get executed in the USA is if you commit first-degree murder with "special circumstances". Simple premeditated first-degree murder is not enough.

Sunday, Oct 14, 2007
The Culture War in the Courts
This is at Radcliffe College tomorrow:
In this lecture, Phyllis Schlafly will contend that the role of judges should be similar to the role of baseball umpires: they must call the balls and strikes, but they should not change the rules of the game. Schlafly believes that nonelected, activist judges have presumed to dictate American culture in the areas of elections, free speech, immigration, law enforcement, marriage, private property, religion, schools, taxes, and even families raising children. According to Schlafly, these judges have become a super legislature that invents new rights, changes the Constitution, and makes decisions that should be made by elected representatives. She asserts that we must save self-government from rule by judges.
Update: The Harvard paper reports:
Twelve audience members staged a silent walkout ...

“It’s important to listen to viewpoints, but there’s a line,” said Catherine C. Pyle, a second year Harvard Divinity School student and first-time protester who organized the walkout.

Just 12 students walked out? That's is news? It says that Pyle was pushed over the edge by the "legitimacy of martial abuse", whatever that means. She could have stayed and asked a question, if she wanted to.

It appears to have been a successful speech.

Saturday, Oct 13, 2007
Advertising personal injury lawyers
Click on any ad here, and you will cost some scumbag lawyer about $25.

Friday, Oct 12, 2007
Gore wins Peace Prize
I thought that all the talk about Al Gore winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was a joke. It would have made more sense to give the IPCC the Chemistry prize, and Bjorn Lomborg the Peace prize. Lomborg has brought attention to measures that might actually improve lives. The prize is:
for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change
Note that it does not mention global warming, or to vouch for the scientific accuracy of any conclusions, or to endorse any policy measures. It does seem to say that man-made climate changes need to be counteracted.

The assumption that man-made climate change must be counteracted seems to me to be the most dubious part of the whole global warming movement. Where does anyone give a justification for this?

Here is a summary of errors in Al Gore's film, according to a British judge.

Remember also: Arafat got Nobel peace prize, but Ronald Reagan did not.

Update: This science blogger defends Gore on those 9 points. He concedes that some of Gore's points are misleading, but defends Gore showing a CO2-temperature correlation graph, and concludes:

But there is one relationship that is more powerful than all the others and it is this. When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer, ...
I agree with the judge that the graph does not show that at all.

Thursday, Oct 11, 2007
Defining Islamofascism
UCLA law prof Volokh writes:
The term Islamofascism strikes me as a pretty apt description of the political and religious movement of which al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, and other extremist Muslim groups are members. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Islamofascism" is,
The advocacy or practice of a form of Islam perceived as authoritarian, intolerant, or extremist; spec. Islamic fundamentalism regarded in this way.
The link to fascism strikes me as quite sound: It is authoritarian, in the sense of not allowing genuine democracy, suppressing speech and religious dissent, and aiming to control ...
Several comments complain that this definition, as well as remarks by Guiliani, Romney, and other politicians, lump together Sunnis and Shiites who don't get along with each other.

I am in favor of lumping them together. Outside the Mohammedan world, no one cares about the obscure differences between Sunnis and Shiites. We mainly care whether they are capable of coexisting with the Western civilized world. Both Sunnis and Shiites are dominated by Mohammedans who promote a jihad against infidels.

The trouble with the word "fascism" is not the meaning, but that it sounds like name-calling.

Pollution cuts life expectancy in Europe
AP reports:
BELGRADE, Serbia - Poor air and water quality, and environmental changes blamed on global warming, have cut Europeans' life expectancy by nearly a year, Europe's environmental agency warned Wednesday.

More must be done — fast — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ...

Hundreds of thousands of people across Europe are dying prematurely because of air pollution, it said. "The estimated annual loss of life is significantly greater than that due to car accidents," the report said.

At this rate, life expectancy in western and central Europe will be shorter by nearly a year, it said.

This is typical alarmist environmentalist propaganda. Global warming is not killing people in Europe. So far, it has probably even saved lives, as more people die of cold than heat.
Sometimes bad ideas cascade
Dilbert ridicules Darwinian evolution again
There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times about something social scientists call a cascade. It’s a process by which one expert’s wrong opinion spreads to other experts until they all believe it must be true because all the experts say so. ...

As I understand a cascade, bad information originates from one source, spreads until it becomes common knowledge, and any dissenting data is ignored. ...

Suppose Darwin’s original theory had been that evolution was directed by aliens who had visited Earth in its early days. He’d have plenty of circumstantial evidence for that theory because you can find all sorts of ancient wonders that seem too advanced for the societies of the time.

Here is a NY Times followup.

There are examples of scientists saying something just because all the others say something. This is particularly true in the soft sciences.

Thompson voted to acquit Clinton perjury charge
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter writes:
In 1999, Sen. Fred Thompson joined legal giants like Sens. Jim Jeffords, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to vote against removing Bill Clinton from office for obstruction of justice.

Thompson, whom President Nixon once called "dumb as hell," claimed to have carefully studied the Constitution and determined that obstruction of justice by the president of the United States did not constitute "high crimes and misdemeanors."

But according to Wikipedia and the NY Times, Thompson voted GUILTY on the obstruction of justice charge, and NOT GUILTY on the perjury charge.

So she got it backwards.

Update: Coulter has corrected it on her own site. I checked whether other blogs had noticed, but instead I found blogs attacking for answering a question in a TV interview on whether it would be better for Jews to convert to Christianity. The host, Donny Deutsch, was a Jew and accused her of hateful anti-Semitism for saying that Jews need to be perfected. But Deutsch misquoted her. What she actually said was, "That is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews." She also implied that America would be better if more people were Christians.

Sashal writes:

R.Schlafly, do you think it would be OK for a Muslim to state that Muslims are just perfected Christians and that all Christians should convert to Islam?
Muslims commonly say much worse things than that about Christians and Jews. They say that we are monkeys and pigs who deserve to be killed. Mohammed taught that infidels are to be subjugated by force, and that is what his followers have been trying to do for 1300 years.

Christian countries allow Mohammedans and Jews to worship in peace. Mohammedan countries persecute Christians and Jews. Coulter is a model of religious tolerance compared to Arab countries.

Donny Deutsch baited Coulter into saying that Christianity is an improvement on Judaism. Of course, nearly all Christians believe that, and Coulter said the obvious. Then Deutsch misquoted her, and accused her of hateful anti-semiticism. He was essentially saying that anyone who believes in the New Testament is a hateful anti-semite. Deutsch is a lying anti-Christian bigot.

George writes:

This is from the same Ann Coulter who famously advocated forced conversions of Moslems to Christianity, something that not even Pres. Bush supports. She has damaged American interests because her words have been quoted by our enemies for propaganda purposes.
If they quoted her accurately, they'll know that she was referring to Moslems who are waging war against the USA, and she did not say to forcibly convert them. Pres. Bush and the Republicans and Democrats in Congress did agree with the part about invading their countries and killing their leaders.

The Mohammedans already believe in forced conversions. The propagandists don't need Ann Coulter to prove that not everyone agrees with Pres. Bush on everything.

I really don't think that anyone should be surprised by a Christian saying that the world would be a better place if more people became Christians. It is not the Christians who go around committing terrorist acts.

Wednesday, Oct 10, 2007
Supremacist judge supports illegal aliens
The SF Chronicle reports:
(10-10) 13:54 PDT SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge in San Francisco barred the Bush administration today from threatening to prosecute businesses for knowingly employing illegal immigrants if they fail to fire workers whose Social Security numbers don't match government records.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer issued a nationwide preliminary injunction barring the government from enforcing the so-called no-match rule, which was scheduled to take effect last month but was blocked by temporary restraining orders from Breyer and another judge. Today's order remains in effect until a suit by labor unions challenging the rule goes to trial sometime next year or until a higher court intervenes.

Breyer is the little brother of the US Supreme Court justice.

John writes:

Here are all the papers filed in this case, including the preliminary injunction signed today by Judge Charles Breyer. It's an outrage that one federal judge thinks he can impose his will on the entire U.S. government, thereby overruling a clearly valid executive decision for a period that may extend until after Bush leaves office.

President Bush should announce that he alone is responsible for enforcing federal law, and he should instruct DHS and SSA officials to proceed with the no-match program despite the judge's order. In light of the court's inordinate delay, Bush should announce that he is revising the no-match letters in order to require a satisfactory response within 30 days, instead of 90 days as originally planned.

Please do not let the lawyers sort it out
From the Republican debate: (also here)
MR. MATTHEWS: ... Governor Romney, that raises the question, if you were president of the United States, would you need to go to Congress to get authorization to take military action against Iran's nuclear facilities?

MR. ROMNEY: You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do, but obviously, the president of the United States has to do what's in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat. The president did that as he was planning on moving into Iraq and received the authorization of Congress.

MR. MATTHEWS: Did he need it?

MR. ROMNEY: You know, we're going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do

Romney is going to have to stop sounding like a weaseling Democrat lawyer politician if he wants to get elected. No USA president should consult lawyers on whether to consult Congress on whether to attack Iran's nukes. If the President really does "what's in the best interest of the United States", then it doesn't matter who is elected.

Joe writes:

I agree that the answer SOUNDS pretty wimpy. But realistically, on something like attacking Iran, you have plenty of time and there are legitimate questions of constitutional authority. The AG and his staff are going to be in the room for many meetings. Sure, there are situations where you have to do something RIGHT NOW, but Iran really isn't one of those. Realistically, nowadays lawyers are in on everything - we live in a hyper-legalized climate ant that isn't going to change. It is going to get worse.
Well, the other candidates gave better answers. We want a president who can act quickly and decisively when necessary, and to get public approval otherwise. I am inclined to think that the Iran situation is not urgent, but it is possible that at some point we gain intelligence about how a bombing mission could knock out Iran's nukes, and public debate would ruin the opportunity.

Tuesday, Oct 09, 2007
Let Jones keep the medals
No one is defending Marion Jones, but this is silly:
The International Olympic Committee will spend the next two months examining how to adjust the medal standings for more than 40 athletes who competed with and against Marion Jones at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Okay, she didn't deserve the medals in 2000, but this is 2007. As a sports fan, I hate it when officials cannot decide who won a simple foot race. She was declared the winner at the time, and I think that she should be allowed to keep the medals. It diminishes the excitement of watching a live race, if I have to wonder who might be declared the winner 7 years later. Yes, Jones did wrong, but the IOC did much worse.

The feds are similarly out to get Barry Bonds. But there are some differences. Bonds admitted taking "the clear", while Jones denied it. Also, MLB will not take Bonds' home runs away. All games are final.

Nobel winners did not invent the iPod
The NY Times reports:
Two physicists who discovered how to manipulate the magnetic and electrical properties of thin layers of atoms to store vast amounts of data on tiny disks, making iPods and other wonders of modern life possible, were chosen as winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics yesterday. ...

“The MP3 and iPod industry would not have existed without this discovery,” Börje Johansson, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy, said, according to The Associated Press. “You would not have an iPod without this effect.”

No, that is not correct. Most mp3 players use flash memory, and do not use giant magnetoresistance at all. The hard-disc-based iPods and other players would have much smaller capacities without the advance, but mp3 music was already quite popular before the new drives hit the market in 1997.
Hillary and the war on science
Hillary Clinton's campaign web site says:
Hillary will: Sign an Executive Order that: ... Ends political interference with science. Hillary will ban political appointees from altering or removing scientific conclusions in government publications without any legitimate basis for doing so, and prohibit unwarranted suppression of public statements by government scientists. ... In another case, the Bush administration added statements to the National Cancer Institute website that suggested a link between abortion and breast cancer, when experts agreed that no such link existed. (Abortion and Breast Cancer, New York Times [Jan. 6, 2003].)
I don't know whether there is a link or not, but the NY Times cite is just an anti-Bush editorial and is rebutted here. Here is the NCI factsheet. The editorial said:
So in June, the institute removed the fact sheet from its Web site and later replaced it with a statement that some studies have found an increased risk of cancer while others have not. That statement, while technically accurate, is such an egregious distortion of the evidence that one can only hope it is an interim statement, as some staff members suggest, not a final surrender.
So I guess Hillary would suppress mention of a possible abortion-cancer link, and justify the suppression as being warranted.

I think that the govt puts out too many over-cautious health warnings. Look at this, from a former govt official:

Children shouldn't use cellphones. No one should drink diet sodas sweetened with aspartame. And think twice before getting X-rayed with a CAT scan except in a bona fide life-threatening emergency. That's just some of the precautionary advice that epidemiologist Devra Davis, who runs the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, delivers in her new book, "The Secret History of the War on Cancer."
Study on university ideologies
Among social science profs in American universities, 5% are conservatives and 18% are Marxists. David Bernstein adds:
Among actual scientists, in the physical and biological sciences, the percentage who identify themselves as Marxists is zero.
No word on how many support Freudianism.
Mindreading baboons
Nicholas Wade writes about the search for mindreading apes:
A possible key to the puzzle lies in what animal psychologists call theory of mind, the ability to infer what another animal does or does not know. Baboons seem to have a very feeble theory of mind. ...

It is far from clear why humans acquired a strong theory of mind faculty and baboons did not. Another difference between the two species is brain size.

Maybe humans are smarter than baboons. Did anyone think of that?

Now for some goofy theorizing:

"Monkey society is governed by the same two general rules that governed the behavior of women in so many 19th-century novels," Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth write. "Stay loyal to your relatives (though perhaps at a distance, if they are an impediment), but also try to ingratiate yourself with the members of high-ranking families."
Baboons aren't really monkeys, but maybe those literary novels apply anyway.

You would think that mindreading would be an alternative to language. But the theory here is just the opposite -- that humans evolved to communicate with language after first evolving the ability to read minds.

But people have a very strong ability to recognize the mental states of others, and this could have prompted a desire to communicate that drove the evolution of language. "If I know you don’t know something, I am highly motivated to communicate it," Dr. Seyfarth said.
Here, a evolutionist truism runs contrary to the evidence:
The shaper of a baboon's mind is natural selection. Those with the best social skills leave the most offspring. ...

Some biologists have suggested that the demands of social living were the evolutionary pressure that enhanced the size of the brain. But the largest brains occur in chimpanzees and humans, who live in smaller groups than baboons.

The first paragraph seems like a basic consequence of evolution. But if you look at what it means, it is just a theory that tries to explain brain size, but doesn't really match the evidence.

In other ape mindreading research, UPI reports: (See also Economist magazine.)

LEIPZIG, Germany, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- German researchers have demonstrated chimpanzees make choices that protect their self-interest more consistently than do humans.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig studied the chimp's choices by using an economic game with two players. In the game, a human or chimpanzee who receives something of value can offer to share it with another.

If the proposed share is rejected, neither player gets anything.

Humans typically make offers close to 50 percent of the reward. They also reject as unfair offers of significantly less than half of the reward, even though this choice means they get nothing.

The study, however, showed chimpanzees reliably made offers of substantially less than 50 percent, and accepted offers of any size, no matter how small.

The researchers concluded chimpanzees do not show a willingness to make fair offers and reject unfair ones. In this way, they protect their self interest and are unwilling to pay a cost to punish someone they perceive as unfair.

The study appeared in the Oct. 5 issue of the journal Science.

The simple explanation here is that the chimps are not doing mindreading. Whether they are any more or less rational than the humans is debatable.

Monday, Oct 08, 2007
The Problem with Atheism
The militant atheist Sam Harris now says:
We should not call ourselves "atheists." We should not call ourselves "secularists." We should not call ourselves "humanists," or "secular humanists," or "naturalists," or "skeptics," or "anti-theists," or "rationalists," or "freethinkers," or "brights." We should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar—for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them.
Go figure. Leftist-atheist-evolutionist PZ Myers disagrees.

Oxford prof Richard Dawkins is proud to be an atheist:

According to a study published last year by the University of Minnesota, Americans distrust atheists more than any other minority group, including homosexuals, recent immigrants or Muslims.

Now the best-selling author of The God Delusion and chair of public understanding of science at Oxford has set up an organisation to help atheists round the world, including the US.

In an interview with the Guardian, he said: "When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place." ...

His estimates, which square broadly with official data, show that atheists in the US account for about 10% of the population. "I have had many letters from people saying 'I don't dare give my opinions. I am afraid of my family. I am afraid of my wife, I am afraid of my husband. I am afraid of my work people. I am afraid of being fired'."

Even Sam Harris, who has written two big-selling pro-atheism books, is afraid to call himself an atheist.
Does going to college pay? Answer isn't simple
Economist Laurence Kotlikoff at Boston University challenges whether it really pays to attend college. Yes, college grads earn more on average, but the usual comparisons don't take into account paying the interest on college loans, taxes, and other factors.
Excessive jury verdicts
Two recent jury verdicts in the news seem way out of bounds to me.

Anucha Browne Sanders was making $260K per year in a basketball marketing job, and a jury gave her $11.6M because someone called her a bitch.

Jammie Thomas has to pay $222K for downloading 24 songs on a file-sharing network.

I didn't follow either of these trial, but I don't see how either judgment could be correct. If Sanders was paid a competitive wage, then she could have just gotten comparable job elsewhere, if she is so sensitive to criticism.

You shouldn't have to risk a big lawsuit just to listen to some music on your digital player. Maybe I will post some tips on how to avoid a lawsuit.

Sunday, Oct 07, 2007
Does the US Supreme Court have too much power?
The Boston Globe has an article against judicial supremacy:
A growing group of scholars from both left and right say the nation's highest court is out of control. Cut back its power, they argue, and the country will be better off.

But perhaps the court shouldn't be in such a powerful position at all. Adrian Vermeule, a rising-star professor at Harvard Law School with a deep family legacy in Boston intellectual circles, says this entire conception of the Supreme Court - nine wise and isolated elders fighting over when and whether to overrule Congress - is hopelessly flawed. It promises only perpetual rancor and inconsistency, he argues: the bane of good law. The court, he concludes, should stay out of controversial matters of politics and law almost entirely, deferring - except in painfully obvious cases - to the wisdom of elected representatives in Congress.

Court ruled against racist school busing
The racist columnist Frank Rich writes:
We are always at a crossroads with race in America, and so here we are again. The rollout of Justice Thomas's memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," is not happening in a vacuum. It follows a Supreme Court decision (which he abetted) outlawing voluntary school desegregation plans in two American cities. It follows yet another vote by the Senate to deny true Congressional representation to the majority black District of Columbia. It follows the decision by the leading Republican presidential candidates to snub a debate at a historically black college as well as the re-emergence of a low-tech lynching noose in Jena, La.
No, the Supreme Court did not outlaw a voluntary school desegregation plan. It never outlaws anything voluntary. It merely heard a dispute from students who were involuntarily excluded from some public schools because of their race, and ruled that the racist school rejections were unconstitutional.

No one was harmed by that Jena noose. It is not just the current Senate that is against DC being a state, it is the majority of Americans going back to George Washington. Rich is just racist bigot, and the NY Times should be embarrassed to publish his nonsense.

Bad science and diet
Gina Kolata reviews Gary Taubes:
His thesis, first introduced in a much-debated article [mirrored here] in The New York Times Magazine in 2002 challenging the low-fat diet orthodoxy, is that nutrition and public health research and policy have been driven by poor science and a sort of pigheaded insistence on failed hypotheses. As a result, people are confused and misinformed about the relationship between what they eat and their risk of growing fat. He expands that thesis in the new book, arguing that the same confused reasoning and poor science has led to misconceptions about the relation between diet and heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, dementia, diabetes and, again, obesity. When it comes to determining the ideal diet, he says, we have to "confront the strong possibility that much of what we’ve come to believe is wrong." The best diet, he argues, is one loaded with protein and fat but very low in carbohydrates. ...

Yet much of what Taubes relates will be eye-opening to those who have not closely followed the science, or lack of science, in this area. (Disclosure: At one point he approvingly cites my articles on the lack of evidence that a high-fiber diet protects against colon cancer.) For example, he tells the amazing story of how the idea of a connection between dietary fat, cholesterol and heart disease got going and took on a life of its own, despite the minimal connection between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol for most people. He does not mince words. "From the inception of the diet-heart hypothesis in the early 1950s, those who argued that dietary fat caused heart disease accumulated the evidential equivalent of a mythology to support their belief. These myths are still passed on faithfully to the present day." The story is similar for salt and high blood pressure, and for dietary fiber and cancer.

In fact, Taubes convincingly shows that much of what is believed about nutrition and health is based on the flimsiest science.

More comment here. It is amazing how people have goofy and unscientific ideas about diet. Physicians can be the worst sources of info on the subject.

Joe sends this article citing studies showing benefits for eating fruits and vegetables.

Anne writes:

I guess after all these emails from nutrition experts, I should weigh in! Unless you die in an accident, what is going to kill you is probably already in your body. Changing your diet might add an extra 2 weeks to your life. The biggest problem with people's diet is quantity. If you overeat, you will have health problems.

I have only one rule on deciding what to eat: does it taste delicious. In a land of plenty, all other considerations are irrelevant.

More comments here.

Joe sends this science news article:

Science Daily — Eating fewer refined carbohydrates may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a new study from researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
It recommends "whole wheat versions of rice", whatever that is. (Does it mean brown rice?)

Wednesday, Oct 03, 2007
Judicial supremacist lost job in 1962
Law prof Eric Muller complains that a 1962 law prof lost his job for advocating judicial supremacy. He quickly got a better job at another law school.

I don't know anything about the guy, but is that the worst thing that has ever happened to a judicial supremacist? Judicial supremacy is an anti-American doctrine that is common in law schools today, but has never been accepted by the American public. It wasn't even accepted by liberal law profs until about 50 years ago.

Tuesday, Oct 02, 2007
Anita Hill lied
Justice Clarence Thomas is in the news, and bloggers are debating Anita Hill again. Ilya Somin writes:
To my mind, the most interesting aspect of this debate is the way in which nearly all conservatives seem to believe Thomas, while nearly all liberals believe Hill. ... Since only Thomas and Hill themselves really know what happened with any certainty, this degree of polarization is striking. ...

Various commenters point out that the Thomas-Hill polarization can be explained by the possibility that conservatives are, for ideological reasons, generally less inclined to believe accusations of sexual harrassment than liberals are. There is some truth to this. But it fails to account for the fact that, just a few years later, most conservatives tended to believe and most liberals denied Paula Jones' sexual harrassment accusations against Bill Clinton. In such politically charged cases, the ideology of the accuser and accused seems to determine ideologues' reactions far more than their general perceptions of sexual harrassment.

A comment says:
I am a conservative who was at first skeptical of Paula Jones and Hill. But the accusations againat Clinton just kept coming and included physical evidence, while with Hill you had the lone accuser with no other evidence. The Lewinsky scandal confirmed with DNA that Clinton was willing to have sex with subordinates and that he was willing to lie about it, even under oath. With Hill there is only her one accusation with nothing to back it up and no proof that Thomas ever lied. On the other hand, I do not think anyone is skeptical anymore that Clinton is a womanizer even if they do not believe particular individual's claims.
During the Anita Hill controversy, I ran into women who argued:
I believe Anita Hill. I was sexually harassed once, and I've heard from women who tell stories similar to Hill's. I am woman so I would know.
I never heard of a conservative who gave such idiotic opinions of Paula Jones. Saying that Hill's stories are commonly heard among women is just evidence that she could have easily lied, not that she told the truth. The impeachment case against Clinton was based on him lying under oath, not or uncorroborated allegations that he occasionally used some crude language in private.

There were liberals who argued that Thomas lied under oath when he said that he never debated Roe v Wade with his fellow law students. But no one ever found any evidence to the contrary.

Anita Hill's complaints were remote, trivial, and unverifiable, at best. The overwhelming evidence favors Thomas. The attacks on Thomas easily explainable as the tactics of pro-abortion fanatics.

I see here that she is still attacking Thomas:

Justice Thomas has every right to present himself as he wishes in his new memoir, "My Grandfather’s Son."... But I will not stand by silently and allow him, in his anger, to reinvent me. ...

In a particularly nasty blow, Justice Thomas attacked my religious conviction, telling "60 Minutes" this weekend, "She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed." Perhaps he conveniently forgot that he wrote a letter of recommendation for me to work at the law school at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa. I remained at that evangelical Christian university for three years, ...

If she really wanted to refute Thomas, she could have stated her religious or conservative convictions. She could say that she attended church, or said daily prayers, or voted for Ronald Reagan. She says none of that. Instead she merely recites a fact from her resume. She accepted the only job that she could get in her home state, and it turned out to be a Christian school. She sooned moved to a non-Christian school. She is not a conservative, as you can see from her home page.

Hill is the one who has made a career out of being a whiner. It is remarkable how Thomas has been able to ignore the wacky attacks on him.

The Tygrrrr Express blog defends Thomas and others.