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Tuesday, Jun 30, 2009
Treason against the planet
The House just passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill, one of the most complex economic plans ever considered. Economist and NY Times columnist writes:
And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate.

You would think that an economist would comment on the economics of trading carbon credits, but he does not. Instead he babbles about scientific matters, and he has no expertise on that.

Moreover, he seems to deny that there is even an economic issue. It is a moral issue. Not the moral issues of human harm, but he is saying that we are somehow offending the Gaia goddess.

Sunday, Jun 28, 2009
Obama EPA suppressed report
C-net reports:
The Environmental Protection Agency may have suppressed an internal report that was skeptical of claims about global warming, including whether carbon dioxide must be strictly regulated by the federal government, according to a series of newly disclosed e-mail messages.

Less than two weeks before the agency formally submitted its pro-regulation recommendation to the White House, an EPA center director quashed a 98-page report that warned against making hasty "decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data."

The Obama war on science continues. I predict that soon Obama will have suppressed more science that Bush ever did.

Update: Jonathan Adler agrees. Here are some commenters who got hung up on evolution:

There's no doubt that politicians of both parties are willing to subvert good science for political gain, but I just don't think you're going to find the equivalent of significant numbers of Republican senators denying evolution. The climate change debate is one thing, but denying the existence of evolution is the realm of real crack pots, and something significantly beyond putting political pressure on scientific reports (as despicable as that is).

Other than a few local school boards, there is no case that the government was brought to bear to attack evolution.

Denial of biologic evolution has no policy consequences regarding anything other than the teaching of evolution itself. Not so for many other science controversies.

Well, yeah, and Holocaust Denial has few, if any, policy consequences either.

I think that we are seeing opinions that are more religious than scientific. The leftist-atheist-evolutionists really hate Christian Republicans, and it has very little to do with any scientific issue that has any bearing on anyone.

The issue of anthropogenic global warming doesn't even have any direct policy consequences. The current policy issue is whether to adopt cap-and-trade carbon taxes. The question is whether climate benefits will be worth the harm, and whether it will be worth the cost. Reducing carbon output may or may not be worthwhile regardless of whether man-made CO2 has caused significant warming in the past.

Comparing science skepticisms
A Physics prof complains about this sticker that some Georgia schools used a few years ago:
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.
He compares it to the Forward that Lutheran minister Andrew Osiander wrote for Copernicus' 1543 book.

It turns out that there is a long history of complaining about Osiander's forward. For centuries people have complained that Copernicus was onto the truth, but Osiander negated it all with a forward saying that it was only a theory with no bearing on reality.

In fact, Osiander's forward is completely reasonable. It defends the work against those who might be offended by its novel hypotheses. It explains that astronomers may find different causes for observed motions, and choose whatever is easier to grasp. As long as a hypothesis allows reliable computation, it does not have to be the truth in some philosophical sense. Astronomical models need not necessarily describe the true causes for motion, but may still be useful as mathematical devices for calculating the movement of planets.

I guess I just don't see the Forward as being so denigrating towards Copernicus. Osiander makes a couple of completely valid philosophical points. They do not undermine Copernicus, but attempt to make the book appealing to a wider audience. Maybe it expresses views that Copernicus would not have expressed. But none of this is the slightest bit unusual for a book with a preface written by someone else. The only thing unusual is that the Forward is unsigned. (It was also unauthorized, but I don't know whether it was unusual for a publisher to solicit a Forward without the author's approval.)

I also reject the idea that Osiander was somehow watering down the Truth. Copernicus does not explain the causes for the planetary motions. He argued for the uniform circular motion of the planets, as opposed to the established Ptolemy model which had non-uniform motions. Kepler later discovered that the motion are non-uniform. Osiander was correct when he said that Copernicus' model was appealing because his hypothesis was easy to grasp, and his computations were consistent with observation. I think that Osiander's forward holds up pretty well, and does not deserve the criticism.

I think that it is strange that many scientists have such a dogmatic view of what is true and false in science. They are eager to say that certain ideas represent an absolute truth that must never be questioned. Examples include Copernican astronomy, evolution, and anthropogenic global warming.

Friday, Jun 26, 2009
More on science v religion
The current war between the accommodationist and non-accommodationist leftist-atheist-evolutionists has spilled into the WSJ with an essay by Lawrence Krauss. It is criticized by Jerry Coyne and Chris Mooney.

Krauss is the guy who writes books on the physics of Star Trek, and claims that he was quoted "out of context" when he told a reporter that string theory was "a colossal failure". He is not a biologist, but he is on the pro-evolution warpath. His university says:

Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist whose research is so broad that it covers science from the beginning of the universe to the end of the universe, will join Arizona State University in August to assume a leadership role in an emerging research and educational initiative on “origins.”

“Lawrence Krauss has been at the forefront of trying to unify particle physics and cosmology; of trying to use the universe itself as a laboratory to understand fundamental interactions, fundamental science and fundamental physics,” says ASU President Michael Crow. “His ability to address fundamental questions of life, of origins – Where did we come from? Why are we here? – and to seek an understanding of the long-term sustainability of life on Earth, will facilitate this new research and educational initiative at Arizona State University.”

I don't care that all these folks are leftist-atheist-evolutionists, but I do object when they start claiming that their views are the only ones compatible with science, and when they actively support the suppression of other views. They say that they just want to teach science, but their idea of science is to also teach leftism and atheism.
Why we went to war
I occasionally hear people say that the USA went to war against Iraq on false pretenses, as if that were a recognized historical fact. It is not.

The stated reasons for the Iraq War are described here:

These reasons have not been proven false, as far as I know. They are as valid as they ever were.

I sometimes hear silly things like, "But Iraq did not have the WMD be an imminent threat to the USA." There were Congressmen who expressed the opinion that we should only goto war if Iraq is shown to have WMD or to be an imminent threat. They were outvoted. That is not why we went to war.

In fairness, here are some quotes from various White House spokesmen emphasizing the threat from Iraq. Some of these quotes are a little sloppy and misleading. I haven't checked the context. But if you want the actual justifications for war, check the actual sources above.

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009
Ape fossil found
John Hawks writes:
Instead of arguing that Asia was the home to an undiscovered diversity of hominids, he instead argues that the hominids have been overestimated (in part by himself) and that some fossils represent an undiscovered diversity of apes.
It should not be news that someone expressed an opinion that a fossil is an ape fossil, but it is. It seems no one is interested in ape fossils. No matter how ape-like the bones look, the scientists always call them hominid fossils.
Abortion crime link debunked again
A new paper argues:
Ten years have passed since John Donohue and Steven Levitt initially proposed that legalized abortion played a major role in the dramatic decline in crime during the 1990s. ... I argue that the most straightforward test given available data involves age-specific arrest and homicide rates regressed on lagged abortion rates in the 1970s or indicators of abortion legalization in 1970 and 1973. Such models provide little support for the Donohue and Levitt hypothesis in either the US or the United Kingdom.
It is amazing how a couple of academics can get rich and famous based on a completely fallacious idea. Donohue and Levitt (of Freakonomics) based their hypothesis on what has now been shown to be a data mistake, and while they cling to the idea, others say that abortion had no significant impact on crime.

Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009
Letting computers control your medical records
The LA Times reports:
Accessing your own medical records should be as easy as checking your online bank account, a new health-data group contends, and Monday it launched a website to promote better access.

The site, HealthDataRights.org, was established by a group that is boosting greater personal use of electronic medical records. Only 15% of physicians track the records electronically, said James Heywood, a group founder.

The main driving force behind this appears to be startup companies who want to more easily sell your personal medical info to insurance companies and other medical gatekeepers.

Adam Bosworth, formerly heading up Google's effort to spy on your medical records, supports:

A Declaration of Health Data Rights

In an era when technology allows personal health information to be more easily stored, updated, accessed and exchanged, the following rights should be self-evident and inalienable. We the people:

1. Have the right to our own health data

2. Have the right to know the source of each health data element

3. Have the right to take possession of a complete copy of our individual health data, without delay, at minimal or no cost; If data exist in computable form, they must be made available in that form

4. Have the right to share our health data with others as we see fit

That last one is the key point. They want you to share your health data with Google and other data aggregators who can then sell ads or insurance or other products. They oppose medical privacy, according to their faq:
Does this Declaration suggest people should have exclusive rights to their data?

No, we are not suggesting that, although this is a thorny issue.

It is a thorny issue, because people want medical privacy, but the data wholesalers don't want to give it to them.

The mindset of the folks at Google is to never delete any data. Google keeps a record of every search that has ever been ordered.

State law (in California, at least) already requires medical providers to give you copies of your records. The last time I got medical assistance, I got an MRI, a radiologist report, and I saw an orthopedist. I hung onto the data the whole time. I showed the MRI and report to the orthopedist, and let him keep a copy of the report, but I still have the MRI and the report. I paid for it and it is my to do with as I please. It is true that I do not have a digitized copy of the MRI film, but that would really be mainly of use to others, not me.

Bosworth complains that things like cholesterol scores are not readily available in an XML format. That would be useful to medical data aggregators who are putting the data into databases, but who else cares? Your cholesterol score is just a number, like 200.

I would have favored a declaration that said that medical data aggregators had to treat you as the owner of your medical data. In particular, they should have to delete the data if you request it.

The campaign against AIDS denial
NewScientist magazine writes:
Why, in 21st-century California, would a middle-class woman and her young daughter die like this when there is tried-and-tested treatment for their illness? The answer lies in a bizarre medical conspiracy theory that says AIDS is not caused by HIV infection (see Five myths about HIV and AIDS). ...

The origins of the AIDS denialism movement can be traced back to 1987, four years after the discovery of HIV. Peter Duesberg (see image) was then a renowned researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who had shown that some cancers were triggered by retroviruses. In March that year, Duesberg performed an about-face, publishing an article in which he questioned his original finding that retroviruses caused cancer, and also whether HIV (another retrovirus, although not one that he had studied) caused AIDS.

I think that it is pretty crazy to blame Duesberg for some foolish women not following medical advice. If he was wrong, then the proper thing is to just prove him wrong. All he did was to publish an idea. He should be credited for that, not blamed.

I remember 1987. AIDS quickly became a politicized disease, and anyone who said anything that was not politically correct was ostracized. A lot of unscientific nonsense was reported. There was a journalist named Michael Fumento who wrote some completely reasonable articles on the subject, but he somehow stepped on some toes, and he got blackballed.

Evidence was accumulating that HIV causes AIDS, but the relevant science was sloppy. They never did give a Nobel prize for it. Soon AIDS was redefined as including a finding of a positive test for HIV, so it did not matter.

When 99% of the experts say one thing, and 1% say something else, then I go with the 99%. It does bother me that there are a few dissenters. All healthy academic fields have dissenters. But when I find out that the 99% is trying to censor and silence the 1%, then I get concerned. I get suspicious because there could be a lot more dissenters who have already been intimidated into keeping quiet. I can no longer read why the experts might be wrong, and so I don't know why they are right either.

Who will have the guts to criticize the establishment when you not only risk losing your job and your reputation, but 20 years later science magazines will still be writing articles blaming your for people dying.

Most fields allow dissent, and don't have this problem. But some fields do, and you cannot trust the authorities in those fields. Vaccination has the problem. The medical establishment does not tolerate any dissent about official vaccine policy.

Another field with this problem is global warming theory. Anyone who does not toe the official line is equated with a Holocaust denier.

The leading vaccine and global warming experts may well be 80% correct in what they say. But they are not 100% correct. The more they attempt to silence their critics, the more they cast doubt on their own authority and the ability of their ideas to stand on their own.

I say that we should encourage men like Duesberg, even if they are wrong (as Duesberg almost certainly is).

Sunday, Jun 21, 2009
Huge patent case pending
The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear Bilski v Doll. At issue is a Federal Circuit ruling that:
A process is patent-eligible only if "(1) it is tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or (2) it transforms a particular article into a different state or thing." In re Bilski, 545 F.3d 943, 954 (Fed. Cir. 2008).
I once (unsuccessfully) challenged some cryptography patents in Schlafly v Caro-Kann v PKP and RSA Data Security. My guess is that the patents would be declared invalid under the new standard. The RSA patent was not tied to any particular machine or apparatus. The inventors would argue that the invention transforms one signal to another. But the signal is not a radio signal or anything as physical as that. It is just a number, and the transformation is just some arithmetic. The number is not a measure of anything. It is just a sequence of bits that corresponds to some randomly generated cryptographic key.

The ruling might also threaten my patent on a number.

However ridiculous you might think that these cryptography patents are, the business method patents are much more ridiculous. The Bilski invention is a business method, and the Supreme Court might stick to ruling on that.

Saturday, Jun 20, 2009
Debunking the unconscious
There has been research claiming that the unconscious mind can make superior decisions:
The "unconscious thought" theory for making complex decisions was proposed in a 2006 study by Ap Dijksterhuis ..., leading the researchers to conclude that it is best to leave tough choices to the unconscious.
But others have refined the experiment, and declared:
This is evidence against the idea that unconscious deliberation is superior to conscious decision-making.
I think that the idea of the unconscious mind is one of those stupid ideas that Sigmund Freud famously promoted and people accepted, even tho there is a lack of any empirical evidence supporting the idea. Every once in a while someone claims to have some proof for the unconsious, and it is always shot down.

George writes:

The existence of the unconscious is an obvious fact. You are unconscious when you sleep. Your brain directs your heart to beat without conscious direction. How can you deny the unconscious?
Yes, there are unconscious mental processes. The question is whether the unconscious mind has higher reasoning powers, or the ability to cause neuroses, without awareness by the conscious mind. If that were true, then I would expect someone to prove it somehow.

Thursday, Jun 18, 2009
Scientists are cheering for Obama
A reader wonders why I commented on the Scientific American 10 without also noting that Pres. Obama is also on the SciAm 10.

I am waiting to see whether Pres. Obama's science policies are really any better than Pres. Bush's. So far, Pres. Obama's new stem cell policy has provoked some leftwing protests because of some restrictions on federal funds. There is a campaign to relax the rules because the new proposal requires the mother to give consent. The complaint is that it was easier to do federally-funded embryonic stem cell research under the old rules.

The NY Times now reports:

A distinct gulf exists between Obama's overall standing and how some of his key initiatives are viewed, with fewer than half of Americans saying they approve of how he has handled health care and the effort to save General Motors and Chrysler. A majority of people said his policies have had either no effect yet on improving the economy or had made it worse, underscoring how his political strength still rests on faith in his leadership rather than concrete results.
That's right, there is a "distinct gulf". The public is somehow hypnotized by Obama, even tho people don't really agree with what he is doing. I am willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt for now, but I will be commenting on what Obama actually does.

Here is NY Times column about how Obama is doctoring the global warming data.

Obama claims to support states rights
President Barack Obama signed a pro-gay executive order, and AP reports:
Obama has refused to take any concrete steps toward a repeal of a policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, even though as a candidate he pledged to scrap the Clinton-era rules. He similarly has refused to step in and block the dismissal of gays and lesbians who face courts-martial for disclosing their sexual orientation.

Obama said he wants to see the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and in its place a law that would give the partners of gay and lesbian federal employees health insurance and survivor benefits, among other things.

"I believe it's discriminatory, I think it interferes with states' rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it," Obama pledged, flanked by lawmakers and advocates.

So Obama supports states' rights?! The term states' rights has primarily been used by southern Democrat racial segragationists in the 1960s.

Conservatives do not support states' rights, and do not believe that states even have rights.

The primary effect of DOMA is to let each state decide for itself whether to recognize same-sex marriages. It seems to me that someone in favor of states rights should also favor DOMA. Obama also campaigned as being against same-sex marriage. I guess we cannot expect him to make much sense on this subject.

Another bogus gene theory
The NY Times reports:
One of the most celebrated findings in modern psychiatry — that a single gene helps determine one’s risk of depression in response to a divorce, a lost job or another serious reversal — has not held up to scientific scrutiny, researchers reported Tuesday.

The original finding, published in 2003, created a sensation among scientists and the public because it offered the first specific, plausible explanation of why some people bounce back after a stressful life event while others plunge into lasting despair. ...

The original study was so compelling because it explained how nature and nurture could collude to produce a complex mood problem. ...

The authors reanalyzed the data and found “no evidence of an association between the serotonin gene and the risk of depression,” no matter what people’s life experience was, Dr. Merikangas said.

I am sure that some day scientists will have all sorts of genetic explanations for things, but the genetic explanations for human behavior have all failed. So far.

Tuesday, Jun 16, 2009
No gay animals found yet
A reader sends this story as evidence that human homosexuality is innate:
Examples of same-sex behavior can be found in almost all species in the animal kingdom — from worms to frogs to birds — making the practice nearly universal among animals, according to a new review of research on the topic.
Yes, there is some same-sex behavior, but they don't find a same-sex sexual preference that resembles human homosexuals at all.

It mentions fruit flies with a genetic defect where they cannot tell males and female apart. So? There are other animals who don't distinguish much of anything, and will copulate with anything in sight. That is just blind hornyness, not homosexuality.

It mentions animals that exhibit non-sexual buddy behavior with animals of the same sex. Yeah, and there are men who play basketball together and women who go shopping together, but that has nothing to do with homosexuality.

Those male bonobos and penguins only have sex with each other when there are no females available.

The article says that the study is in this journal issue, but it is not. The closest I could find was an article titled, Birds gone wild: same-sex parenting in albatross.

Some people will see all this as evidence that human homosexuality is innate, but I see it as just the opposite. A lot of smart people have worked really hard to find homosexuality in the animal world, and that haven't found much that relates to human beings.

Sunday, Jun 14, 2009
America's first Mohammedan president
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. writes in the Wash. Times:
During his White House years, William Jefferson Clinton -- someone Judge Sonia Sotomayor might call a "white male" -- was dubbed "America's first black president" by a black admirer. Applying the standard of identity politics and pandering to a special interest that earned Mr. Clinton that distinction, Barack Hussein Obama would have to be considered America's first Muslim president. ...

With Mr. Obama's unbelievably ballyhooed address in Cairo Thursday to what he calls "the Muslim world" (hereafter known as "the Speech"), there is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself. Consider the following indicators:

• Mr. Obama referred four times in his speech to "the Holy Koran." Non-Muslims -- even pandering ones -- generally don't use that Islamic formulation.

• Mr. Obama established his firsthand knowledge of Islam (albeit without mentioning his reported upbringing in the faith) with the statement, "I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed." Again, "revealed" is a depiction Muslims use to reflect their conviction that the Koran is the word of God, as dictated to Muhammad. ...

I would not call Obama a Muslim or a Mohammedan, but his father was a Mohammedan, and much of the Mohammedan world would say that he should not be permitted to reject Mohommedanism.

I did not like Obama's repeated references to "aspirations". He kept expressing support for Palestinian (arab) aspirations, and how we should help them realize those aspirations. But those aspirations are to exterminate the jews! When they talk about a Palestinian state, they always mean a Palestinian arab state which expels the jews. And they want to repopulate Israel with arabs.

I think that it is fine for Obama to urge the Muslims to live in peace, but he should not be endorsing their aspirations.

Today's Jerusalem Post reports that even Egypt acknowleges that the Palestinian arab will not agree to peace until Israel is destroyed:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak blasted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech on Sunday saying "Netanyahu's demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state is ruining the chance for peace," Egyptian news agencies reported on Monday.

Mubarak further added that "not Egypt, nor any other Arab country would support Netanyahu's approach."

Friday, Jun 12, 2009
The swine flu hoax
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared swine flu a pandemic but M. Fumento explains:
So how could the WHO do it? Simple. In 2005 it rewrote the definition of "influenza pandemic," which formerly required "enormous numbers of deaths and illness." Under its new definition, a handful of cases and zero deaths can nonetheless constitute a "pandemic." And that's pretty much what we've seen.
The swine flu has turned out to be a trivial threat that has hardly effected anyone. You would probably be better off getting the swine flu so that you'll get immunity to other H1N1 viruses.

Thursday, Jun 11, 2009
The wise Latina woman
When Samuel Alito was nominated to the Supreme Court several years ago, the liberal press attacked him for belonging to an obscure conservative college group 35 years earlier. Now Sonia Sotomayor has been nominated, and she is being critized for a pattern of racist comments she has made. But hardly anyone is mentioning her membership in La Raza, a Mexican-American racist group.

Sotomayor complains that college admission test scores are culturally biased, and that is why she needed affirmative action to get into Princeton and Yale. This is nonsense. She grew up in the Bronx. The tests have no such bias. I wonder about someone who has gone thru life with such an attitude.

Sotomayor will get approved, but someone at least ought to ask her some tough questions at her hearings.

Wednesday, Jun 10, 2009
No one cares about climate change
U.S. Rep. Michael Honda, D-Campbell, writes:
The irony is that the majority of Americans believes climate change is happening, is seriously concerned and wants Congress to do more. A recently published study by Yale and George Mason universities, entitled "Global Warming's Six Americas," found that a growing majority of Americans — 67 percent — want the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of other countries' reticence toward reduction. ...

Yet an underwhelming number of citizens have written, e-mailed or phoned government officials in the last 12 months to urge them to take action on global warming. Even among those who support a vigorous national response, only 10 percent had contacted their elected officials.

So maybe they all understand climate change, and think that it is no big deal. Or that Congress cannot do anything about it. Or that Congress will just make it worse. Or that there is no need to write your Congressman to recite trend conventional wisdom.

Honda's solution:

Educate. I reintroduced legislation this year to fund the National Science Foundation in educating our nation about the impacts of climate change and ways to prevent it through energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy initiatives.
So instead of funding science, he wants to fund propaganda.

To convince the public, they will follow this research that suggests using over-confident spokesmen even if they have a history of being wrong:

The research, by Don Moore of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shows that we prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we are willing to forgive a poor track record. Moore argues that in competitive situations, this can drive those offering advice to increasingly exaggerate how sure they are. And it spells bad news for scientists who try to be honest about gaps in their knowledge.

Sunday, Jun 07, 2009
Acupuncture is worthless
The Chicago Tribune reports:
People suffering from chronic low back pain who received acupuncture treatments fared better than those receiving only conventional care, according to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Interestingly, the study also showed that people receiving simulated acupuncture — toothpicks were used instead of needles — also fared better than those receiving conventional care.

What gives?

Researchers wish they knew.

Wish they knew? Of course they know. This is the standard placebo effect.

The typical randomized medical study uses a group getting the proposed treatment that some people think is superior, a group getting some sort of fake or simulated treatment or placebo, and a group getting neither. The placebo group often does better than the last group. The real test is whether the first group does any better than the placebo group.

In this study, the acupuncture group did no better than the placebo group. It also looked at the placement of the needles, and found that it did not make any difference either.

Acupuncture might make you feel better if you think that it is going to work, but there is objective scientific evidence of any medical benefit.

Saturday, Jun 06, 2009
Mooney's war on science
Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Chris Mooney used to complain that pro-evolution TV programs did not promote atheism enough:
But PBS’s mainstreaming of Darwinism also trims back some of the theory’s more controversial implications. ...

Evolution’s attempt to divorce Darwinian science from atheism, though well intentioned, is finally naive. Darwinism presents an explanation for life’s origins that lacks any supernatural element and emphasizes a cruel and violent process of natural selection that is tough to square with the notion of a benevolent God. Because of this, many students who study evolution will find themselves questioning the religions they have grown up with. What’s insidious is that Evolution allows fundamentalists to say this, but not evolutionists.

Now he says:
The basic point that I will develop will be that reconciliationism played a key role in the biggest pro-evolution victory in this decade, Judge John E. Jones III’s ruling in the 2005 Dover trial. This on its own doesn’t make the court-endorsed accommodationist position true–judges are not our ultimate arbiter on either science or philosophy. But it does suggest that if we care about the teaching of evolution, we ought to think very, very hard before undermining a position that has succeeded so well in court.
At issue is whether govt science programs should teach that science and religion are compatible. See the Berkeley evolution site for a typical such view. The leftist-atheist-evolutionists would really like to denounce religion at every opportunity, but Mooney has realized that such a school policy would leave them vulnerable to religions complaining that their views are being misrepresented, and they might demand equal time.

That Dover court case was based on a judge's determination that evolution is compatible with religion, but the evolution critics are religiously motivated. The public should realize that the evolutionists have some anti-religion motivations.

Update: Here are the links to the accommodationist debate over whether evolutionists should be hostile to religion.

Wednesday, Jun 03, 2009
Stem cell quacks
CNN reports on overseas quacks offering bogus stem cell remedies:
The family says it got most of its information from a Web site called China Stem Cell News, at stemcellschina.com, which boasts of dozens of anecdotal testimonials from loved ones who say their children or family members showed improvement after the stem cell treatments. The site offers no scientific evidence and no means of making contact except through a Web form. CNN used the form, but as of yet has received no reply.

Stem cell therapy is routinely performed at clinics in China. When CNN correspondent John Vause reported on one stem cell therapy clinic near Beijing in December, the clinic refused to release its records or put its cases forward for peer review.

The International Society of Stem Cell Researchers and the FDA discourage Americans from traveling overseas for stem cell therapy. But clinics are operating worldwide -- many in China, and several in Russia, Latin America and Mexico.

Meanwhile, American stem cell scientists are complaining that Pres. Obama's embryonic stem cell funding conditions are more restrictive than Pres. Bush's.

I think that all this embryonic stem cell therapy hype is voodoo. There are no such effective therapies. There might be in the future, but you can be sure that they will find some therapies in rats long before they do people. And there is a good chance that human embryoes will never be needed. In the meantime, embryonic stem cell research is an overfunded area of science.

Tuesday, Jun 02, 2009
How Cooking Made Us Human
Richard Wrangham has a new book on how A cooking explains human evolution:
He continues: “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology and society.” Put simply, Mr. Wrangham writes that eating cooked food — whether meat or plants or both —made digestion easier, and thus our guts could grow smaller. The energy that we formerly spent on digestion (and digestion requires far more energy than you might imagine) was freed up, enabling our brains, which also consume enormous amounts of energy, to grow larger. The warmth provided by fire enabled us to shed our body hair, so we could run farther and hunt more without overheating. Because we stopped eating on the spot as we foraged and instead gathered around a fire, we had to learn to socialize, and our temperaments grew calmer.

There were other benefits for humanity’s ancestors. He writes: “The protection fire provided at night enabled them to sleep on the ground and lose their climbing ability, and females likely began cooking for males, whose time was increasingly free to search for more meat and honey. While other habilines” — tool-using prehumans — “elsewhere in Africa continued for several hundred thousand years to eat their food raw, one lucky group became Homo erectus — and humanity began.”

Students of evolution often ask, "Why did human evolve, and apes and monkeys did not?" The usual answer is that it is a stupid question. All living plants and animals have evolved. Humans are just animals. For all we know, apes have had as many mutations to their genomes as humans have in the last 5M years. We have adapted to a technologically advanced environment, but chimps are just as well adapted to their environment, and cockroachs and sharks have adapted to theirs. All adaptations are of equal merit, according to the standard leftist-atheist-evolutionist view.

And yet it is difficult to even convince a child of such foolishness. The Planet Of The Apes was just a silly movie that no one would take seriously. Somehow humans have evolved in a way that no other species has.

A great deal of speculation has been written about what might have put our human ancestors on the evolutionary fast track. The Lucy theory says that the breakthru was walking upright about 3M years ago. Use of language is another theory. There are many others, such as the aquatic ape hypothesis. With this book, add cooking to the list of theories.

I think that humans are qualitatively different from other animals, and the explanation of how that evolved is an open scientific question. Evolutionists sometimes act like they have answers to questions like this, but they don't.

Monday, Jun 01, 2009
How not to do a cross-exam
I commented below about how the cross-examination of Ill. Senator Roland Burris failed. I elaborate here. From the Senate hearing transcript:
REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: Did you talk to any members of the Governor's staff or anyone closely related to the Governor, including family members or any lobbyists connected with him, including let me throw out some names, John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, Bob Greenleaf, Lon Monk, John Wyma, did you talk to anybody who was associated with the Governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the Governor's arrest?
Fair question.
MR. WRIGHT: Give us a moment.

MR. BURRIS: I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes.

Evasive and unacceptable answer. If you get a non- answer like this, you have to repeat the question until you get an answer.
REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: I guess the point is I was trying to ask, did you speak to anybody who was on the Governor's staff prior to the Governor's arrest or anybody, any of those individuals or anybody who is closely related to the Governor?

MR. BURRIS: I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk about my partner and I trying to get continued business, and I did bring it up, it must have been in September or maybe it was in July of '08 that, you know, you're close to the Governor, let him know that I am certainly interested in the seat.

Answer is incomplete. You have to ask for ALL such conversations.
REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: Okay. Did you speak to any individuals who -- any individuals who were also seeking the appointment of the United States Senate seat, otherwise people we've referred to as Senate candidates one through five?

MR. BURRIS: No, I did not.

REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: Okay. At any time were you directly or indirectly aware of a quid pro quo with the Governor for the appointment of this vacant Senate seat?

MR. BURRIS: No, sir.

REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: Okay. If you were aware of a quit pro quo, what would you have done?

These are stupid questions. A quid pro quo would be a crime. Burris is not going to admit to a crime. He as might as well have asked, "Did you commit a crime?" Useless.

The next question should have been, "Was money discussed in any of those conversations?". Then Burris would have had to commit perjury, or admit that he had conversations which discussed both his possible appointment and him donating money. Then you have Burris sweating bullets. You then force him to explain exactly why it would be impossible for anyone to interpret his conversation as a quid pro quo.