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Monday, Dec 31, 2007
Science acknowledges human biodiversity
The Science mag breakthrough of the year 2007 is Human Genetic Variation.
The unveiling of the human genome almost 7 years ago cast the first faint light on our complete genetic makeup. Since then, each new genome sequenced and each new individual studied has illuminated our genomic landscape in ever more detail. In 2007, researchers came to appreciate the extent to which our genomes differ from person to person and the implications of this variation for deciphering the genetics of complex diseases and personal traits.
7 years ago, those politically correct researchers were claiming that human genome research proved that all people are the same, and not much different from chimps. Humans stopped evolving 50k years ago, they said. It turned out to be not true. People have genetic differences after all.

Of course the magazine does not admit that the only people who were surprised by the news are the leftist-atheist-evolutionists who disingenuously claim that teaching evolution promotes their egalitarian ideals.

The accompanying editorial finds a way to include a lot of Bush bashing. It says that a strong runner-up was the research that proved that stem cells will continue to available under Pres. Bush's policy of not federally funding embryo destruction:

James Thompson of the University of Wisconsin, who did the first research with embryonic stem cells, has now taken a major step toward ending the "ethical" controversy over their use. But hold on: That controversy was generated by specific objections from one religion, not some universal ethic. There is every reason to continue research along the old path, with embryo-derived cells: The new methods may carry unknown liabilities, so making the case for changing Bush's 2001 presidential order should continue.
Then it gets even weirder. It claims that Bush somehow covered up the possibility that global warming with cause mental health problems among environmentalists having anxiety about global warming. I wonder if these leftist scientists ever even talk to someone who is not a lying Bush-hater.

Sunday, Dec 30, 2007
What I've changed my mind about
The online magazine Edge is asking some prominent people the question, "What have you changed your mind about? Why?" The answers are supposed to be posted shortly.

I used to think that general relativity and quantum mechanics have some fundamental incompatibility that must be resolved by some unified field theory like string theory. Most theoretical physicists have believed this for 50 years, but no good has ever come from this thinking. There are no incompatibilities at any observable energy level, and no known way to test whether anybody's ideas are good or bad. It is just one of those goofy philosophical problems, like asking whether information can be lost in a black hole. It is not physics.

I used to think That Einstein invented relativity theory. I have always believed that Einstein was one of the great scientists of all time, but his most renowned work was actually mostly plagiarized from others. Poincare, Lorentz, Hilbert and others deserve more credit for relativity.

I used to think That it is feasible and useful to figure out people's motives. Some of the most evil people in the world have somehow gotten a free pass by convincing people that they have good motives. I have discovered that people are very frequently wrong when then make inferences about the motives of others, and that the inferences are often not useful even when they are correct.

I used to think that creationists represented some sort of threat to the scientific establishment. But the creationists are just people with fringe ideas and no influence. Fringe ideas are no threat to science. The mainstream evolutionists who push unscientific ideas are much worse.

Maybe I'll get some more ideas when the Edge essays appear.

Saturday, Dec 29, 2007
Lawyer wants to redistribute wealth
Theodore H. Frank writes:
There is a critical distinction between Mitt Romney’s and John Edwards’s wealth. Mr. Romney, as a businessman, made investments that created wealth. Mr. Edwards, as a trial lawyer, made his money through lawsuits that merely took from one pocket and gave to another, and probably destroyed wealth in the process. (Mr. Edwards’s multimillion-dollar medical malpractice verdicts almost certainly hurt the quality of health care in North Carolina.)

Little wonder that Mr. Romney understands that to improve the economy, one needs to expand the pie, while Mr. Edwards’s policy proposals focus entirely on the redistribution of the existing pie without thought for the future adverse consequences to the size of the pie.

Excellent point.

The Democratic presidential nominee will almost certainly be a lawyer who has never had any executive responsibilities, has never played a leadship role, and has never done anything productive for our economy. The Republican nominee will have far more relevant experience, and will have a proven track record of accomplishments.

1980s covert war in Afghanistan
I just watched the new movie Charlie Wilson's War, and the promotional History Channel documentary. It was about American support for the Afghan resistance to the invading Soviet army in the 1980s.

The movie has some strange omissions. It showed Congressman Wilson getting drunk the night before a big trip to Afghanistan in which he was going to convince the committee chairman to approve more covert money for the Afghan Mujahideen rebels. But it skipped the story about how he caused a car accident on a bridge on his way home, and should have been charged with hit-and-run driving. Considering that a major theme of the movie was how Wilson improbably succeeded in supporting the Afghans while facing personal scandals, I can't see why they would omit this story.

Another major omission was Pres. Ronald Reagan's role. The movie explains how the USA initially supported the Afghans covertly by buy Russian AK-47s and other military equipment from Egypt and other countries, and supplying them thru Pakistan so that the Soviets would not have proof of American involvement. Then it explains how the war was later won by American Stinger missiles that shot down a lot of Soviet aircraft. But it gives the impression that the Stingers were part of the covert war and bought from Egypt or elsewhere.

In fact Reagan had to personally approve the Stingers, and he did it over the objections of all the CIA-types who believed that the aid had to concealed from the Soviets. Only the USA had Stingers, and the Soviets would soon know what we were doing.

The movie also ends on an odd note. It shows Congressmen debating whether to fund an Afghan school after the war. The point seems to be that if we had only spent a bunch of money re-educating the Afghans after the war, then we might not have had to invade the country in 2001. The argument is wildly speculative and unsupported.

The movie looks as if someone made a factual movie, but then some Hollywood producer decided to correct the politics by removing the Reagan scene and tacking on an anti-American message at the end. If you want to watch the story, I would suggest just watching the History Channel version, as it has commentary from the real Charlie Wilson.

Thursday, Dec 27, 2007
Bush deplores cowardly acts
On 9-11-2001, Pres. Bush said:
THE PRESIDENT: I want to reassure the American people that the full resources of the federal government are working to assist local authorities to save lives and to help the victims of these attacks. Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.
Now he says:
The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy.
I don't think that "cowardly act" is the best term here. Brazen act, perhaps.

Also Pakistan does not have a democracy, and we don't know the motives of the assassin.

Wednesday, Dec 26, 2007
Repressed memory does not exist
Harvard Magazine reports on research that there is no such thing as repressed memory, and that fictional use of it is a recent invention:
In a recent study, professor of psychiatry Harrison Pope, co-director of the Biological Psychiatry Lab at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, put “repressed memory” to the test of time. He reasoned that if dissociative amnesia were an innate capability of the brain—akin to depression, hallucinations, anxiety, and dementia—it would appear in written works throughout history. In collaboration with associate professor of psychiatry James Hudson, Michael Parker, a professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, Michael Poliakoff, director of education programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities, and research assistant Matthew Boynes, Pope set out to find the earliest recorded example of a “repressed memory.”

The survey yielded various nineteenth-century instances: best known were A Tale of Two Cities (1859), by Charles Dickens, in which Dr. Manette forgets that he is a physician after his incarceration in the Bastille, and Captains Courageous (1896), by Rudyard Kipling, in which “Penn,” a former minister, loses his memory after his family perishes in a flood and recalls that trauma only after being involved in a collision at sea. But the survey turned up no examples from pre-modern sources. ...

In a report of their findings published in Psychological Medicine, Pope and his colleagues concluded that the absence of dissociative amnesia in works prior to 1800 indicates that the phenomenon is not a natural neurological function, but rather a “culture-bound” syndrome rooted in the nineteenth century. They argued that dissociative amnesia falls into the diagnostic category “pseudo-neurological symptom” (or “conversion disorder”)—a condition that “lacks a recognizable medical or neurological basis.”

So why do people believe in such a nutty and unfounded idea? Because of the influence of Freudian psychoanalysis, and because Hollywood uses flashbacks as a useful dramatic device.
Egypt to copyright antiquities
Here is another example of absurd copyright overreach. The UK BBC reports:
Egypt's MPs are expected to pass a law requiring royalties be paid whenever copies are made of museum pieces or ancient monuments such as the pyramids.

Zahi Hawass, who chairs Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told the BBC the law would apply in all countries. ...

The Luxor hotel in the US city of Las Vegas would also not be affected because it was not an exact copy of a pyramid and its interior was completely different, Mr Hawass told AFP news agency.

But he said claims by the hotel that it was "the only pyramid-shaped building in the world" could no longer be made.

Meanwhile, college students today do not see anything wrong with many forms of copyright infringement. David Pogue is quoted here as saying:
I just could not find a spot on the spectrum that would trigger these kids’ morality alarm. They listened to each example, looking at me like I was nuts.

Finally, with mock exasperation, I said, ‘O.K., let’s try one that’s a little less complicated: You want a movie or an album. You don’t want to pay for it. So you download it.’

There it was: the bald-faced, worst-case example, without any nuance or mitigating factors whatsoever.

‘Who thinks that might be wrong?’

Two hands out of 500.

Tuesday, Dec 25, 2007
Diamond's theories not well-accepted
From a NY Times essay:
Jared Diamond’s “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” ...

What the scientists held in common was a suspicion that in writing his two best-selling sagas of civilization — the other is “Guns, Germs and Steel” — Dr. Diamond washed over the details that make cultures unique to assemble a grand unified theory of history.

“A big-picture man,” one participant called him. For anthropologists, who spend their lives reveling in minutiae — the specifics and contradictions of human culture — the words are not necessarily a compliment. ...

The backlash had been brewing since a symposium last year, “Exploring Scholarly and Best-Selling Accounts of Social Collapse and Colonial Encounters,” at a meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Jose, Calif. Although “Guns, Germs and Steel” has been celebrated as an antidote to racism — Western civilization prevails not because of inherent superiority, but geographical luck — some anthropologists saw it as excusing the excesses of the conquerors. If it wasn’t their genes that made them do it, it was their geography.

“Diamond in effect argues that no one is to blame,” said Deborah B. Gewertz, an anthropologist at Amherst College. “The haves are not to be blamed for the condition of the have-nots.”

My problem with Diamond is that he speaks with such certainty about the behavior of illiterate societies that died out 1000s of years ago. His far-fetched theories are conveniently politically correct, and get widespread praise, but his evidence is thin.

Meanwhile, his analysis of recent events is well off the mark. By recent, I mean 20th century USA. He erroneously attributes the success of QWERTY, DOS/Wintel, and VHS to market failure.

Sailer comments here.

Monday, Dec 24, 2007
Calling for a science debate
John Tierney of the NY Times has joined the evolutionist bloggers in calling for a presidential science debate.
An impressive array of scientists, academics, politicians and journalists have joined Science Debate 2008, the grass-roots group urging the candidates to have a debate on science and technology.
One comment explains the main problem with this idea:
From what I have read and heard, there is no point to a debate on any science topic. The candidates, and I mean all of them, are illiterate in science. Why watch posturing when we have more than enough of that already? These people are incapable of any depth greater than a bumper sticker.
Most of the evolutionists pushing this idea present it as an opportunity to embarrass candidates with Christian beliefs. But they would all be embarrassed if they had to say something intelligent about science.

Another comment says:

Candidates should be asked this most fundamental science question. Are you willing to use science as tool to better inform public policy decisions? If not, why? and what will you use to guide your decision-making process if not well-informed science?
That is indeed the most fundamental question. Science does not say whether we should send a mission to Mars, fund embryo destruction, impose a carbon tax, or build more nuclear power plants. All science does is to provide better info for those policy decisions.

For the most part, it is people like Al Gore who are afraid of a science debate. When asked about contrary views, Al Gore says

There are still people who believe that the Earth is flat, ...
Pres. Harry S Truman is quoted as saying:
If you can't convince them, confuse them.

Saturday, Dec 22, 2007
Evolutionism and eugenics
To see why evolutionists like to deny that humans are still evolving, see this pro-eugenics article. It argues:
1. Human intelligence is largely hereditary.
2. Civilization depends totally upon innate intelligence.
3. The higher the level of civilization, the better off the population.
4. At the present time, we are evolving to become less intelligent with each new generation.
5. Unless we halt or reverse this trend, our civilization will invariably decline.
Eugenics is a bad word. No one wants to deal with this stuff.
Water fluoridation is still an issue in California
Tap water fluoridation is not a priority of the John Birch Society anymore, according to the LA Times:
Today, fluoride isn't among the topics on the John Birch Society's website.

When William F. Jasper first went to work for the group in the mid-1970s, the fluoride fight had taken a back seat to more pressing issues.

"We did have quite large files on fluoridation," said Jasper, a senior editor for the group's magazine. "I'm sure we still do somewhere."

Jasper notes that the John Birch Society still opposes fluoridation as an abuse of government power. But he wasn't aware that his hometown of Sacramento began adding fluoride to its water two years ago.

The Birch Society is concerned scientists in the United Kingdom believe that women may be evolving as humanity's sole representatives.

Water fluoridation does reduce tooth decay, but there is no proof that drinking fluoride is any better than putting it in your toothpaste. The main benefit is to those who do not brush their teeth. And 10% or so of the population suffers some (minor) adverse health effects from too much fluoride.

Thursday, Dec 20, 2007
Pope defends hard science
Pope Benedict XVI has launched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.

The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.

The German-born Pontiff said that while some concerns may be valid it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement.

It is now the environmentalists who are pursuing a dogmatic and unscientific ideology.

Monday, Dec 17, 2007
Pygmy evolution
According to new research, pygmies are short because they die young:
African pygmies usually live in forests, and the conventional explanation for their stature has been that it makes it easier for them to move through dense vegetation. There are also two competing explanations: that small bodies keep cool more readily than large ones (pygmyism tends to be a tropical phenomenon) or that pygmies live in places with unreliable food supplies, and their size means they can make do with smaller meals.

Dr Migliano and her team reject all these explanations. Some non-African pygmies live outside forests and many live in cool, dry areas. Moreover, some of the world's tallest people, such as the Turkana and Maasai of East Africa, suffer periodic interruptions to their food supply. Instead, the researchers suggest that short stature is not a desirable feature in itself, but is rather a consequence of something else, namely a need to reproduce early.

By adding pre-existing data for African pygmies to new information they have collected about the Aeta and the Batak of the Philippines, they show that at the beginnings of their lives all these pygmy populations follow the same growth curves as taller people, including Turkana and Americans. This demonstrates that pygmyism is not a result of early malnutrition, as another hypothesis has it. At the age of about 12, however, pygmies stop growing. That is also the age at which they become sexually mature—about three years earlier than taller people.

The other part of the argument is that all observed pygmy populations have a short life expectancy. Indeed, this, according to Dr Migliano's hypothesis, is the crucial evolutionary pressure. Of the six groups of pygmies for whom data exist, two have a life expectancy of 24 years and the other four about 16 years.

Sunday, Dec 16, 2007
Huckabee's inspiration to politics
CBS News reports, about Mike Huckabee:
At 14, he got a job at the local AM radio station, where the station manager, a passionate, deeply conservative Republican, became his first political mentor. Haskell Jones gave Huckabee a copy of Phyllis Schlafly's 1964 book, "A Choice Not an Echo," written in part to promote Barry Goldwater's presidential bid. Schlafly railed against the moneyed East Coast elites who she argued were diluting the Republican Party's core values. Huckabee found the ideas in the book electrifying.

Thursday, Dec 13, 2007
Lawyer of the year
Former U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales is 2007 lawyer of the year. The runners-up are also pretty bad. It is amazing how the traits admired by lawyers are despised by everyone else.

Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007
More on evolution speeding up
For decades, the leftist-atheist-evolutionists have denied that they were eugenicists. To escape associations with eugenics, they've always claimed that evolution doesn't really apply to humans because humans stopped evolved 50k years ago. They never really had any evidence for that claim, of course. It was as if they didn't really believe in evolution, and only cited evolution when it suited their political purposes.

From the LA Times story:

The researchers looked for long stretches of DNA that were identical in many people, suggesting that a gene was widely adopted and that it spread relatively recently, before random mutations among individuals had a chance to occur.

They found that the more the population grew, the faster human genes evolved. That's because more people created more opportunities for a beneficial mutation to arise, Hawks said.

In the last 5,000 to 10,000 years, as agriculture was able to support increasingly large societies, the rate of evolutionary change rose to more than 100 times historical levels, the study concluded.

Among the fastest-evolving genes were those related to brain development, but the researchers aren't sure what made them so desirable, Hawks said.

There are other mysteries too.

"Nobody 10,000 years ago had blue eyes," Hawks said. "Why is it that blue-eyed people had a 5% advantage in reproducing compared to non-blue-eyed people? I have no idea."

SciAm says:
"Ten thousand years ago, no one on planet Earth had blue eyes," Hawks notes, because that gene —- OCA2 -— had not yet developed. "We are different from people who lived only 400 generations ago in ways that are very obvious; that you can see with your eyes."
Just a few days ago, I heard Craig Venter plugging his new book, and he claimed that we do not have the technology to look at someone's DNA and determine whether or not he has blue eyes. Venter is a leading authority on DNA, so I am not sure who is right. But if this new paper is correct, then much of what you have been taught about human evolution is wrong.

Tuesday, Dec 11, 2007
Researchers: Human Evolution Speeding Up
AP Science Writer reports:
Science fiction writers have suggested a future Earth populated by a blend of all races into a common human form. In real life, the reverse seems to be happening. People are evolving more rapidly than in the distant past, with residents of various continents becoming increasingly different from one another, researchers say.

"I was raised with the belief that modern humans showed up 40,000 to 50,000 years ago and haven't changed," explained Henry C. Harpending, an anthropologist at the University of Utah. "The opposite seems to be true."

"Our species is not static," Harpending added in a telephone interview.

Also, in Wired:
"We're more different from people 5,000 years ago than they were from Neanderthals," said study co-author and University of Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending.
This is contrary to a lot of evolutionist dogma.

Saturday, Dec 08, 2007
Recording proves cop lied
Here is a cop who wishes he told the truth:
Recording Nets Charges for NY Detective

NEW YORK (AP) - A teenage suspect who secretly recorded his interrogation on an MP3 player has landed a veteran detective in the middle of perjury charges, authorities said Thursday.

Unaware of the recording, Detective Christopher Perino testified in April that the suspect "wasn't questioned" about a shooting in the Bronx, a criminal complaint said. But then the defense confronted the detective with a transcript it said proved he had spent more than an hour unsuccessfully trying to persuade Erik Crespo to confess - at times with vulgar tactics.

Once the transcript was revealed in court, prosecutors asked for a recess, defense attorney Mark DeMarco said. The detective was pulled from the witness stand and advised to get a lawyer.

Perino, 42, was arraigned Thursday on 12 counts of first-degree perjury and faces as many as seven years on each count, prosecutors said. He was released on $15,000 bail.

This is a good thing. People who act in an official govt capacity to take away people's rights ought to be monitored. And when they lie about what they are doing, they should be held accountable.

Freddy Hill writes:

Instead of the marriage ammendment and a few other stupid constitutional proposals out there, I'd suggest an ammendment to the effect that any citizen has the right to record the words and visual interactions of any representative of the state, at any time, for no reason whatsoever. It rings like a 21st century complement to the 2nd ammendment, doesn't it?

And I would encourage the auto and electronics industry to develop devices that continuously record our actions along with those of people that interact with us, in our cars and in our persons. Black boxes to protect you against the state, if you will. If a cop believes that (s)he is on candid camera all the time, (s)he will be a lot more respectful of our rights.

I'd vote for that amendment.
We are not so similar to chimps
Ever hear evolutionists argue that humans are 99% the same as chimps? I am not sure what that was really supposed to prove, but the argument is made frequently, and it is wrong.

I just heard J. Craig Venter plugging his new book that human differ from each other by 2% of the DNA, and chimps differ by as much as 5 or 6%.

Friday, Dec 07, 2007
Human evolution is speeding up
PhysOrg.com reports:
Researchers discovered genetic evidence that human evolution is speeding up - and has not halted or proceeded at a constant rate, as had been thought - indicating that humans on different continents are becoming increasingly different. "We used a new genomic technology to show that humans are evolving rapidly, and that the pace of change has accelerated a lot in the last 40,000 years, especially since the end of the Ice Age roughly 10,000 years ago," says research team leader Henry Harpending, a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Utah.

Harpending says there are provocative implications from the study, published online Monday, Dec. 10 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

-- "We aren't the same as people even 1,000 or 2,000 years ago," he says, which may explain, for example, part of the difference between Viking invaders and their peaceful Swedish descendants. "The dogma has been these are cultural fluctuations, but almost any temperament trait you look at is under strong genetic influence."

-- "Human races are evolving away from each other," Harpending says. "Genes are evolving fast in Europe, Asia and Africa, but almost all of these are unique to their continent of origin. We are getting less alike, not merging into a single, mixed humanity." He says that is happening because humans dispersed from Africa to other regions 40,000 years ago, "and there has not been much flow of genes between the regions since then."

"Our study denies the widely held assumption or belief that modern humans [those who widely adopted advanced tools and art] appeared 40,000 years ago, have not changed since and that we are all pretty much the same. We show that humans are changing relatively rapidly on a scale of centuries to millennia, and that these changes are different in different continental groups."

The site has now blocked this story, and says that it will be back on Monday.

Sunday, Dec 02, 2007
Comparing psychoanalysis to astrology
Randy writes, in response to this:
If you are really interested in knowing whether psychoanalysis is "an ongoing movement and a living, evolving process" or a "desiccated and dead, historical artifcact" I would suggest consulting the yellow pages of your local phone book, since the public tends to vote with their wallet. Based on your coordinates, that would be the yellow pages of Santa Cruz, CA. I count 135 Psychotherapists in the yellow pages of Santa Cruz, Ca. That does not include psychologists who practise psychotherapy.

Somehow, that does not strike me as a 'historical artifact', or a field which is experiencing an "existential crisis". We're not talking literature, film or history here, but BUSINESS and $.

As to courses offered outside of of psychology departments, why would you think that a psychology department has the monopoly on psychoanalysis, truth or reality? Because its graduates spend 5 or 6 years being brain washed to re-inforce an existing paradigm which may be far removed from any basis in fact or reality?

Needless to say, I don't agree with your unscientific conclusion that the field is 'completely unscientific and bogus'. I question your bias and invite you to examine your need to condemn psychoanalysis.

P.S.: What is the basis of your determination that astrology is unscientific?

Have you researched astrology, or do you know that astrology has no merit without having to research it because your credentials as an arrogant graduate of a prestigious school make it unneccessary to think?

In Santa Cruz, we also have astrologers in the yellow pages.

Astrology and psychoanalysis are based on principles that are known to be false. There have been many many attempts to scientifically prove that these fields have merit, and they have failed. But that doesn't stop people from spending money. People spend money on all sorts of foolish things.