Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Peer-reviewed, with the reviewers listed in the report.

The newest volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series, due for release in April 2014, are Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts and Climate Change Reconsidered II: Human Welfare, Energy, and Policies. Digital versions of the reports’ chapters will be available here as they finish the editing process.

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts constitutes an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the impacts of climate change on plants, terrestrial animals, aquatic life, and human well-being. Climate Change Reconsidered II: Human Welfare, Energy, and Policies then uses economics and policy analysis to explain the implications of climate change on energy production and consumption and a wide range of public policies.

These two volumes are the fifth and sixth in a series of scholarly reports produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international network of climate scientists sponsored by three nonprofit organizations: Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), and The Heartland Institute. Previous volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series were published in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2013. Those volumes along with separate executive summaries for the second, third, and fourth reports are available for free online on this site.

Whereas the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warn of a dangerous human effect on climate, NIPCC concludes the human effect is likely to be small relative to natural variability, and whatever small warming is likely to occur will produce benefits as well as costs.

Climate Change Reconsidered II consists of three parts, the two being released now and an earlier volume, subtitled Physical Science, released on September 17-18, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois USA. Additional release events took place the following weeks in Washington, DC, New York, Florida, St. Louis, England, Germany, Holland, and California. That volume can be viewed here.

Summary for Policymakers
Front Matter (Foreword, Table of Contents, Executive Summary, and Introduction)
Chapter 1. Carbon Dioxide, Plants and Soils
Chapter 2. Plant Characteristics
Chapter 3. Plants Under Stress
Chapter 4. Earth’s Vegetative Future
Chapter 5. Terrestrial Animals
Chapter 6. Aquatic Life
Chapter 7. Human Health
Appendix 1: Acronyms
Appendix 2:  Authors, Contributors, and Reviewers
Appendix 3:  Plant Dry Weight Responses to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment
Appendix 4:  Plant Photosynthesis Responses to Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment
Summary for Policymakers
Front Matter (Foreword, Table of Contents, Executive Summary, and Introduction)
Chapter 1. Human Welfare
Chapter 2. Climate Economics
Chapter 3. Climate and Energy
Chapter 4. Policy Implications
Appendix 1: Acronyms
Appendix 2: Authors, Contributors, and Reviewers

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Rape Culture" on campuses

'Rape Culture' Fraud--Unmasking a Delusion

Anyone who follows the contemporary media closely is doubtless familiar with the suddenly ubiquitous phrase "rape culture." In the context of higher education, the phrase implies two interlocking beliefs. First: despite crime statistics showing sexual assault (as well as all violent crimes) to be very uncommon on campus, colleges and universities are, in fact, hotbeds of rape (but not, it appears, of all other violent crimes). Second: despite the fact that most college faculties and nearly all administrations are extraordinarily sympathetic to the activists' position on gender issues, the campus culture over which these figures preside nonetheless--somehow--actually encourages the prevalence of rape at college.
That little, if any, evidence exists to sustain either of these beliefs has not deterred the "rape culture" believers; if anything, the lack of evidence for their claims appears to have emboldened them. Nor have they been deterred by the revelation of high-profile false rape claims on campus (ranging from the Duke lacrosse case to the Caleb Warner affair at North Dakota); if anything, the increasing build-up of sympathy for clearly railroaded males has intensified the rage of those who discern a "rape culture" on campus.

The Premise

The "rape culture" movement operates from three central characteristics.

First, it has received almost fawning press coverage (what media members want to be deemed pro-rape?)--allowing for transparently absurd allegations, such as those at Occidental, to be presented as credible. In some instances, this has come from the usual suspects, such as Kingkade at Huffington Post, Allie Grasgreen at Inside Higher Ed, and Richard Perez-Peña of the New York Times. But the phenomenon has also received extensive, uncritical attention in BuzzFeed, which despite its generally solid treatment of legal issues just hired the discredited Katie Baker to help coordinate its "rape culture" articles. In a media too often accepts at face value a politically correct narrative on campus, the "rape culture" claim is almost ideal for campus "activists."

Second, the "rape culture" approach allows activists to shift the narrative away from uncomfortable questions about due process and false accusations against innocent male students, and toward a cultural critique in which the facts of specific cases can be deemed irrelevant. Selena Roberts pioneered the tactic at Duke--when the case against the lacrosse players imploded, she (falsely) claimed that her guilt-presuming columns were merely designed to critique a flawed "campus culture." Or, as Amanda Childress implied in her oft-criticized remarks, whatever value might exist in following specified procedures in sexual assault cases, universities should focus their efforts on tackling broader cultural mores.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the "rape culture" approach provides a weapon to advance a particular type of gender-based agenda (curricular and administrative priorities need to be revamped to recognize that women are victims) in a campus environment in which race/class/gender advocates already dominate. There always will be a stray, anonymous misogynistic comment on a message board, or by a drunken student at a spring-break party, from which advocates can then generalize to claim that a crisis exists on campus--without ever defining precisely what a "rape culture" is, or how the steps they recommend could possibly eradicate it. And since there isn't a recent example--from Duke to Dartmouth to any of the current Title IX claims--in which those who have cried wolf on campus have experienced any repercussions for their actions, there is no drawback in advancing inflammatory claims, no matter how unlikely.

So expect a lot of talk about "rape culture" in the coming months.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Harassment policies are becoming all the rage at science fiction conventions.  There's a risk of overdoing them, and killing off conventions altogether.

Party by the Rules

Did you hear about the caterer who was so self centered, he thought that parties were a place of business?
Well, there are apparently a lot of writers who think so.  Because science fiction conferences are – for them – a place of business and a must-attend, they think that they are the same for everyone else.
I think my colleagues have lived so long in fictional worlds that they think rules prevent things from happening.

 I’m not for harassment (who is?) and I’m not even against rules.  Some basic, enforceable rules are useful.  Say “don’t bring up pron on your computer in a con suite with children playing around.”  Or say “Don’t go feeling up people, or cornering them and trying to feel them up.  And don’t try to get into their rooms.”
Why, yes, that later has happened to me, (no, I wasn’t doing it, sillies.  Well,  I do this stuff to my husband — groping, not pron — but he doesn’t mind.)  I fail to see in the situation what a rule would have done about that, since the first instance (trying to corner me and feel me up) was done by a — then — powerful editor, late at night, in a semi-deserted corridor on the party floor.  Quite frankly, what he was trying to do was already against the rules — civil society rules.  I believe forcibly stopping someone and trying to grope them is assault, right?  Unfortunately, I also wasn’t carrying a handy policeman in my pocket.  I was carrying a knife (I usually am) but you know how con hotels are about blood stains on the carpet.
 One of the problems I've noticed when it comes to harassment is, unless the victim is willing to make a formal statement to someone in authority (security, or probably best yet, the hotel Loss Prevention department), nobody has anything to act on.

It never even occurred to me to report it, because a) he was a powerful editor.  b) I was a newly published writer.  c) No one saw it.  d) He was more than three sheets to the wind — and probably wouldn’t remember it in the morning.
Note that C is the killer.  It would be he said, she said, and no matter how many rules there are about it, and no matter that it was I saying it, he should be considered innocent until proven guilty.  And I couldn’t prove him guilty.  Had I been able to prove him guilty, I wouldn’t have bothered the con com.  I’d have gone straight to Tor.  (Yes, him.  Though I only figured that out recently.)
 And in a recent "debate" with a young lady, I was told the notion of "presumption of innocence" is part of "rape culture".  Go figure.

And right now you’re thinking “But if you had that happen to you, why would you object to a few sensible rules against harassment at cons?  Even if the rules don’t stop it, wouldn’t it be good to remind the troglodytes attending that there are rules?”
The most important part of my objection is this. ... To most people — to the fans, the people that make a convention a convention — a con is this:  [PARTY!!!]

This means that a set of people who are so far from average they can’t see it with a periscope use conventions as a means of meeting potential mates; of talking to friends they haven’t seen in years; of — sometimes the only time in the entire year — letting their hair down and being themselves.  I know that I keep a running check at the back of my head not to freak the mundanes.  If I’m talking to someone at church, or in the park, or when the kids were little at school, I have to remember not to use sf references or the geek jokes that are the language of our people.

So if people now have to mind their every word and be very careful what they say and do at a con, suddenly it’s not a place to go and relax anymore; it’s not a place to have fun.  Suddenly it’s: [BOOORING]

Or depending on the rules, and on the rule creep, and on how much credence it’s given to “she said” versus “he said”, it becomes: [SCREAM]

Of course, we don’t have to worry about this, because there are no people in science fiction and fantasy (either professionals or fandom), so exquisitely messed up that they suffer from pre-emptive ptsd.  PRE traumatic stress disorder, you could call it.  That is, there are no people who freak out at the mere thought of someone maybe, possibly, saying something that could, might, offend them, at a talk they can attend or not, as they prefer.
 Because in an assemblage of geeks and outcasts, we never have anyone who either been stomped on so hard, or been raised as such a precious little princess (particularly the guys! ) that they think the right not to to be offended is a basic right.  And we NEVER have people who completely misinterpret someone else’s actions and think they’ve been “harassed”.
 [Consider that most people go to conventions to party, and are bringing their usual fannish social skills, ] How many guys are going to have what they think is a perfectly respectful come-on mistaken for harassment?  How many geek girls are going to take offense at the fact that he is — let’s face it — often lame and think they were abused? (I should add here the only cases of SERIOUS sexual assault I know of at cons, and the ones that go largely unpunished/unreported are guy-on-guy.)


So I look at all these “rules” being put in place by people who think the world can and should be made safe for them, people who believe that not just sticks and stones, but words can break their bones, and I think of the royal families of Europe, when their kids were hemophiliac, trying to save the royal line by putting cushions around every tree and bush to keep the kids from hurting themselves.  It didn’t work for them.  For us… Knowing how overworked, tired, uncompensated the few people people willing to serve on con committees are (I put one on long ago, not in sci fi.  Trust me) I predict what they’re going to get is an avalanche of complaints from booth babes that some guy looked at them wrong.

The good news is that though rules can’t make a con safe — they can make the con com nuts; they can make everyone uncomfortable; they can create spectacularly involved he-said, she-said situations — people can make a con safe.

You need one rule: Jim Baen’s “Don’t be a butthead.”

And you need a bunch of people ready to enforce that rule.  You also need women (and men) who aren’t fainting flowers and, in the last instance, stand ready and willing to defend themselves.

Because no matter how many friends you have, or how many fans ready to defend you, they can’t always be with you at all times — for the same reason you can’t carry a policeman in your pocket –  if you do this: [HAVE THE VAPORS]

You’re only giving the butthead power he shouldn’t have.  RULES CANNOT STOP BUTTHEADS.  And there is a hair-fine difference between buttheads and nice guys with zero social ability — which are abundant in our field.  Complaining about the nice guys will just make them run away and hide in the basement for the next fifty years.

So, be prepared to do this: [SLAP!!!]

Because that’s something that both the buttheads and the misguided geeks will get and learn from.  And recover from — far more quickly than an involved, disciplinary “he said/she said” bureaucratic mess.
 Rules that turn normal party behavior into a bureaucratic mess could wind up killing off conventions.
From the comments:

Rape culture is on the rise, and the same people that are supporting new rules at cons are supporting the rise of an Islamic rape culture. It boggles the mind.
 Another point:  Consider the people who get to enforce policies: another comment...

American Mensa does a number of Regional Gatherings that are close cousins to cons with many of the same issues and complaints. A large percentage of long term members are poorly socialized odds so much the same problems arise. When I was active I worked our local RG either in hospitality or security. As I recall most issues revolved around underage drinking, misunderstandings over badly handled flirting attempts, or the occasional free range buttheads. It is worth mentioning that most RG committee members rarely served more than two or three years running before burning out to the point that they withdrew from even local events. Eventually you run through everyone willing to work their butts off for a hell of a lot of work and precious little appreciation but a raft of complaints. 
Link: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/372197/nazis-still-socialists-jonah-goldberg

Nazis: Still Socialists
Tim Stanley’s definition excludes basically all real socialists, past and present.
Link: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/28/brucethe-veto-of-arizonas-religious-freedom-bill-i/?page=all#pagebreak

Why would the Gay Gestapo suddenly need to convince everyone that any act of faith must be viewed suspiciously as discrimination and “hate?” Forcing a bakery, Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A or a photographer to either violate their religious beliefs or be destroyed is simply a test run. The real target is the church and temple. If the left can convince our society to force people of faith to violate their sacraments in the name of “equality,” why would we allow that to stop at the church door?
This is why bills like Arizona’s protecting individual Christians from lawsuits will have to return, because the left has a mission, and this is only the beginning. It was clear Mrs. Brewer had no choice but to veto the bill, considering the left had completely smeared the state in the process of its media frenzy. Add to that the fact that liberals would like nothing better in this election year than to have this be the discussion in the media instead of Obamacare and the economy. Still, it will have to be confronted eventually if we are keep tyranny from eating away at the fabric of our culture.
Ultimately, the Arizona bill had nothing to do with gays and everything to do with protecting the right of individuals to live their lives in ways that may not include others, or may even offend certain groups. As Americans, we did not go through the growing pains of the civil rights movements only to capitulate to 21st century bullies who have the gall to use the importance of minority rights as a weapon to extinguish those with whom they disagree.

7 Myths About Arizona's Religious Freedom Law

Here, then, are 7 myths the left has told about the Arizona religious freedom law – and why they’re myths:

Arizona’s Law Loosens Discrimination Against Gays and Lesbians in The State.
Adam Serwer of MSNBC says that “‘religious freedom laws could be a license to discrimination.” That’s nonsense. Arizona state law has no provision currently barring discrimination against gays and lesbians. So what does the law do? It actually narrows the law with regard to supposed discrimination against gays and lesbians. The law only provides religious people with an excuse to pick and choose clients if they can prove actual religious adherence (which, by the way, should offend atheists, who should have the same First Amendment right to associate as religious Americans).
The law also makes clear what should be clear from the text of the First Amendment: religious practice is not restricted to your church or your home. Individuals operating businesses have a right to act in accordance with their religion at work. The law also states that religious businessowners can defend lawsuits using the law against other private parties, not merely government prosecution.
This is the essence of American religious freedom. The disgusting attempt to use government to run roughshod over that religious freedom is blatantly unconstitutional. The law, which simply reinforces that, should be unobjectionable to anyone who actually believes in freedom of religion. Unfortunately, many on the left simply do not.

The Government’s Recognition of a Right to Religious Practice “Allows” Discrimination.
“I strongly support religious freedom,” Kansas state Rep. Patricia Sloop (D) explained with regard to a similar law being considered in her state, “but this bill is not about religious freedom. In my opinion, this is about legalized discrimination, and I cannot vote in support of this.”
The logic here is deeply flawed. My right to religious practice does not spring from the government; therefore, it is not up to the government to “allow” me to do anything with regard to my practice of religion. The question is whether government has a right to invade my religious practice in the name of some majority-determined or court-determined or regulator-determined social good. If the answer is yes on any sort of broad level, the Constitution is rendered meaningless. Rights can be balanced with communal needs, and are generally done so through the mechanism of the market. Once you hand the club of social enforcement to the government, however, rights are no longer balanced with communal goods. Communal goods win. Individuals lose.
The right to practice religion is not unique in this respect. My right to associate does not spring from the government; the government’s protection of that right – not violation of that right – is the purpose for the institution of government. My right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure is not subject to the government’s decision that suspicion of racism justifies violation of that right.

Allowing Private Businesses to Discriminate Among Customers Is Like Jim Crow.
On Tuesday evening, NBC’s Brian Williams made this comparison explicit, stating, “Good evening. It’s just one state out of our 50, but tonight what’s happening in Arizona is being compared by some to the epic battles this nation has fought over lunch counters, separate drinking fountains and restrooms.” Outspoken gay activist and former actor George Takei has called Arizona a “Jim Crow state” thanks to the law. Even Fox News’ Andrea Tantaros has jumped on the bandwagon, stating, “I don’t know why you want to bring Jim Crow laws back to the forefront for homosexuals,” prompting host Martha MacCallum to state, “I mean, that’s exactly what it sounds like.”
No, it doesn’t. Private discrimination may be nasty and evil, but it is not and was not Jim Crow. Jim Crow laws mandated segregation in public areas. Here, for example, is Alabama’s Jim Crow law with regard to those “lunch counters:”
It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment.
State-compelled discrimination is not the same as private citizens discriminating.
As to suggestions that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be overthrown by the act, the supremacy clause of the US Constitution prevents any state from superseding federal law.

Immorality and Illegality Should Be Identical.
Many opponents of the bill have argued, in absurd fashion, that if you support the right of religious Americans to discriminate, you therefore support discrimination. That line of argument is as wrong as it is dangerous. You can believe that something is immoral and yet agree that it should not be illegal. I think that Mein Kampf is an evil book. But I don’t think we should ban it in the United States, because I think people have a right to print it and read it. Does that mean I’m an advocate for the dissemination of Mein Kampf?
Ironically, this line of argumentation cuts against gay rights. If we now believe that anything the majority believes to be immoral should be illegal, regardless of countervailing rights, what exactly is the problem with anti-sodomy laws? Where exactly is the objection to segregation by this twisted logic?
Of course, we don’t feel that way in the United States. We believe that people have rights to activity of which we don’t approve. Otherwise, we’re living in a tyranny in which we elect the tyrants.

Race and Homosexuality Are Analogous.
Any analogy between refusing to service same-sex weddings to refusing to serve black customers is fatally flawed. Race is an immutable characteristic; homosexuality is only publicly known due to homosexual behavior. No matter how much you may be attracted to a member of the same sex, no one will ever know unless you choose to divulge that fact, or to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same sex. That means that discrimination against homosexuals would actually be discrimination against either homosexual activity, or against evidenceless perception of homosexuality. The former is entirely within the purview of religious morality (it should be and always has been my choice whether or not to participate in a gay wedding); the latter is entirely outside logic (if someone throws you out of his store because you wore a pink shirt, he’s a moron).
The same is not true for race. If you are black, you are black. Blackness is not behavior-linked, despite what some racists on the left may believe. That means that discrimination based on race is entirely morally unjustified in any religious universe. The same is not true of behavior; homosexual activity falls under a behavioral classification.
This distinction is vital, because we have decided (rightly) as a society that immutable characteristics should not be the basis for discrimination – but we continue to believe that behavior can be the basis for discrimination. It would be wrong for you to refuse me service based on my last name being Shapiro. It would not be wrong, however, for you to refuse to photograph my future son’s religious circumcision if you are an anti-circumcision activist. The same holds true with regard to race versus homosexuality.

America Is a Nasty Place.
If an alien were to land on earth today and watch the media coverage of the Arizona law, he would likely believe that the American people are incredibly homophobic, and that only the massive bulwark of government prevents Americans from routinely lynching gays and lesbians. That, at least, is the implication the media look to make when they label America on the verge of another Jim Crow era – the idea is that religious Americans can’t wait to erect separate straight and gay sections of their cigar bars.
That’s bull. No business has ever used Arizona’s current religious freedom law to defend against charges of discrimination. Hate crimes against gays and lesbians, while heinous and evil, are thankfully remarkably rare. In 2012, according to FBI statistics, there were a grand total of 1,376 hate crimes based on sexual-orientation bias. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, there are approximately 9 million LGBT people in the country. By way of contrast, there are approximately 6.7 million Jews in America, and 836 Jews were victims of hate crimes in 2012. That means that approximately one out of every 6,540 LGBT people in the United States was victimized by a hate crime in 2012; one out of every 8,014 Jews in the United States was victimized by a hate crime in 2012. America is not an anti-Semitic country; America is not a gay-bashing country.
But it is in the interest of those in the gay rights movement to continue to maintain that America is just moments away from an anti-gay outbreak. Such feelings prompt government action to crackdown on religious opponents of homosexuality. Which is, of course, what this entire debate is about.

The Left Will Leave Your Church Alone.
Even those who oppose the Arizona law maintain that they simply want individual religious businessowners to face a crackdown by the state. But that’s patently false. What, exactly, would be the justification for stating that a business, which is privately held and for-profit, would have to service same-sex weddings, but that a church, which receives non-profit privileges from the state, would not? Where is the left’s internal logic? If a religious person – a person who by definition acts in accordance with religious values in the entirety of his or her life, not just inside the four walls of the church – can be forced to violate religious values, why not a pastor?
A religious person is a religious institution. Anyone who fails to understand that has never met a religious person. Religion starts at home, not in the church. It reaches to businesses, not just to the pews. The left knows that. And that’s why the left will not stop.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Harvard Gun Study Claims Banning Weapons Doesn't Decrease Violence


In the 46-page study, which can be read in its entirety here, Kates and Mauser looked at and compared data from the U.S. and parts of Europe to show that stricter laws don’t mean there is less crime. As an example, when looking at “intentional deaths,” or murder, on an international scope, the U.S. falls behind Russia, Estonia, and four other countries, ranking it seventh.  More specifically, data shows that in Russia, where guns are banned, the murder rate is significantly higher than in the U.S in comparison. “There is a compound assertion that guns are uniquely available in the United States compared with other modern developed nations, which is why the United States has by far the highest murder rate. Though these assertions have been endlessly repeated, [the latter] is, in fact, false and [the former] is substantially so,” the authors point out, based on their research.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Fifteen Consequences of Same-Sex Marriage


The 15 effects:1. “First, as many commentators have observed, because procreation is an inherently gendered affair, redefining marriage in genderless terms would break the critical conceptual link between marriage and procreation. . . . Given the manifest ills of fatherless parenting, the State has a compelling interest in sending a powerful message to women that, whenever possible, marriage to the fathers of their children is very important to the welfare of those children and to society itself.”
2. “Second, for similar reasons, the loss of the State’s clear message in favor of biological mother-father parenting within marriage would likely result in a higher percentage of couples conceiving children without the stability that marriage would otherwise bring.”
3. “Third, replacing the child-centric or ‘conjugal’ view of marriage with a more adult-centric view would undermine the existing social norm that often leads parents in acceptable but not ideal marriages to make self-sacrifices and remain married to the parents of their children.”
4. “Fourth, by shifting the understanding of marriage to a more adult-centric view, the redefinition ordered by the district court would also undermine the current social norm (weakened though it may be) that those who wish to have children—or to engage in conduct that could lead to children—should get married.”
5. “Fifth, and most obviously, a genderless definition of marriage would likely increase the number of children being raised by same-sex parents. That could happen because the couple decides to raise together an existing child of one of the partners. Or it could result from the conception of a new child through surrogacy or sperm-donation. Either way, such children will not benefit from the State’s preferred mother-father parenting model; often they will have no way of knowing even the identity of both biological parents. And recent evidence on same-sex parenting, while not conclusive, indicates that same-sex parenting arrangements are less effective than married biological mothers and fathers in producing positive outcomes in the lives of their children.
6. “Sixth, if the traditional male-female aspect of marriage were thrown out as irrational, it would likely become more difficult to resist other innovations that would lead to additional children being raised without a father or mother.”
7. “Seventh, a court-ordered redefinition of marriage could well lead to its wholesale ‘privatization’—for example, by enactment of a civil- union regime for all couples, with religious and other organizations being free to offer the title of ‘marriage’ as they see fit.”
8. “[The] correlation between genderless marriage and lower birthrates. . . . It is also striking that fertility and birthrates tend to be markedly lower in nations and states that have embraced same-sex marriage.”
9. “Because procreation is an inherently gendered matter, redefining marriage in genderless terms breaks the critical conceptual link between marriage and procreation—and in that way alone would dilute the implicit encouragement the institution of marriage currently provides for procreation by married couples.”
10. “By implicitly endorsing the adult-centric model of marriage, a genderless redefinition would send a powerful message that it is entirely appropriate—even expected—for adults to forego or severely limit the number of their children based on concerns for their own convenience. That a new child might ‘cramp the style’ of an adult would come to be seen as sufficient reason not to have the child at all. That too would tend to reduce fertility rates.”
11. “To the extent a genderless marriage definition encourages the further abandonment—or privatization—of marriage, it would  almost certainly reduce birthrates. Studies have shown that cohabiting couples tend to produce fewer children on average than married couples do—perhaps because the resulting instability makes the participants less willing to bring children into the mix. Thus, if overall marriage rates decline further, birthrates would likely decline as well.”
12. “Governments would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches or other non-profit religious organizations that refuse on religious grounds to recognize same-sex marriages or to provide benefits to same-sex couples on the same terms as husband-wife couples.”
13. “Governments would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to investigate, prosecute and punish people in wedding-related businesses for refusing on religious conscience grounds to assist with same-sex weddings.”
14. “Government licensing agencies would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to investigate and punish counselors for refusing on religious conscience grounds to counsel same-sex married couples on the same terms as heterosexual couples.”
15. “Religion-based conflicts between public schools and parents would likely increase as children are taught about sexuality and marriage in ways that contravene parents’ and students’ deeply held religious beliefs.”

Ten (and counting) Commandments before agreeing to debate a creationist


(Actually, I only had time at the moment for Seven Commandments. I will take suggestions and improvements. If you write a sufficiently good one, I will include it and list you as an author; if the Commandments come together well, perhaps we can submit it to NCSE Reports or some such.)
(also, all I know about this debate is based on news reports, and the assumption that if something has not been mentioned, it was not thought about by Bill Nye; please correct me if I get something wrong)
Note, as commenters did, none of this deals with what should happen at any debate.

I. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT THE MOOLAH. Is there going to be an admission fee charged to this event? Where will this money go? In today’s debate, something like 800 attendees are paying $30/each to attend (I forget the exact details). That’s $24,000 on the table right there.
II. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT THE DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS. All too often, professors get goaded into debates or “discussions” (or sometimes “interviews”), show up like they would to a normal low-publicity academic event, and then discover that the creationists have a full film crew ready to professionally tape the whole thing. Some nice person sticks a consent form in front of them, they sign it, and then the professor is surprised to find themselves featured in creationist videos and documentaries for the next several decades.
III. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT THE TICKET SALES. If the tickets will be on sale, who is going to have access? According to reports, the tickets for the Nye/Ham debate sold out in 2 minutes once ticket sales opened up. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that the creationists had many of the tickets, or perhaps virtually all of the tickets, reserved ahead of time, for donors, supporters, and the like.
So: get some tickets alotted to yourself, that you may distribute as you wish.
IV. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT DONATION APPEALS. You can bet that AiG will be hitting up the audience for donations in some fashion. At the actual event, it could just be donation cards handed out at the entrance, or it could be explicit appeals and passing the hat before and after the event. You can be sure that the video versions distributed to the fundamentalist churches and schools contain donation appeals in some form too. Did you sign up to this debate to help the creationists fundraise? No? Then why didn’t you stipulate that you would refuse to participate unless such donation appeals were excluded?
Alternatively, you could demand that at the event, and in any subsequent videos, NCSE (for example) gets a plug for donations.
V. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT PRE- AND POST-DEBATE EVENTS. This never occurs to scientists until after the fact, but on the occasions when evolutionists (or mainstream Bible scholars, or whatever) do get invited to speak before fundamentalist audiences, it is entirely standard for the fundamentalists to have organized ahead of time for the audience to be subjected to post-debate rebuttals from other speakers. This ensures the creationists get the last word and gives them a chance to paper-over any cracks you might have opened up in the mind of creationists in the audience.
VI. THOU SHALT THINK ABOUT EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS. I strongly suspect that for their $30, the audience at the debate will get a bonus armful of AiG propaganda, ads for AiG materials, etc. Why aren’t there any pro-science materials being handed out as well?
VII. THOU SHALT GET ALL OF THE ABOVE AGREED UPON IN WRITING, AND PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED, BEFORE PROCEEDING FURTHER. None of the above has any point unless it is in writing, legally binding, and agreed to by all parties. Announcing it publicly helps create a tradition of less-than-total-naiveté amongst science defenders, and also lets audience members, etc., know what they are signing up for and what they are supporting with their time and perhaps money.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Organic vs. conventional produce for kids: You don't need to fear pesticides.


So let’s focus on that other major claim about organic food—that is it’s healthier, particularly for kids, because it contains fewer pesticides. First, let’s start with the fact that organic does not mean pesticide-free. As scientist and writer Christie Wilcox explains in several eye-opening blog posts over at Scientific American, organic farmers can and often do use pesticides. The difference is that conventional farmers are allowed to use synthetic pesticides, whereas organic farmers are (mostly) limited to “natural” ones, chosen primarily because they break down easily in the environment and are less likely to pollute land and water. (I say “mostly” because several synthetic chemicals are approved for use in organic farming, too.)
The assumption, of course, is that these natural pesticides are safer than the synthetic ones. Many of them are, but there are some notable exceptions. Rotenone, a pesticide allowed in organic farming, is far more toxic by weight than many synthetic pesticides. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency sets exposure limits for the amount of a chemical that individuals (including kids) can be exposed to per day without any adverse effects. For Rotenone, the EPA has determined that people should be exposed to no more than 0.004 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. Let’s compare this toxicity to that of some commonly used synthetic pesticides, like the organophosphate pesticide Malathion. The nonprofit Pesticide Action Network calls organophosphates “some of the most common and most toxic insecticides used today.” (Sarin, the nerve gas used in two Japanese terrorist attacks in the 1990s, is a potent organophosphate.) Yet the EPA has deemed it safe, based on animal tests, for humans to be exposed to 0.02 milligrams of Malathion per kilogram of body weight per day. This is five times more than the amount deemed safe for Rotenone. In other words, by weight, the natural pesticide Rotenone is considered five times more harmful than synthetic pesticide Malathion. The EPA’s recommended exposure limit for Glyphosate, another widely used synthetic pesticide—you might know it as Roundup—is 0.1 milligrams per kilogram per day, which means it’s 25 times less toxic by weight than Rotenone. The synthetic pesticide Captan is 32.5 times less toxic than Rotenone, and another one, Pyrimethanil, is 42.5 times less toxic than Rotenone. Rotenone is also not the only natural pesticide that out-ranks synthetic pesticides in terms of toxicity. The pyrethrins, a class of pesticides derived from chrysanthemums that are approved for use in organic farming, are more toxic by weight than Roundup, Captan, and Pyrimethanil, too.

Ah, but what about all those studies that suggest that organic fruits and veggies harbor fewer pesticide residues than conventionally farmed produce does? Those studies only tested for synthetic pesticides. In the few studies that have also looked for natural pesticides—the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program tested for them on organic lettuce in 2009, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation tested a handful of organic fruits and vegetables for certain natural and synthetic pesticides in 2010, and the USDA did an analysis of organic produce in 2010—scientists have found that between 15 and 43 percent of organic produce samples harbor measurable traces of either natural or synthetic pesticides or both. As far as I can tell, however, no one has published a comparison of the overall amounts of both types of pesticides on organic versus conventional produce, so it’s hard to conclude much from these findings other than that, yes, organic produce can be pesticide-tainted, too.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Americans, Including Catholics, Say Birth Control Is Morally OK


U.S. Perceived Moral Acceptability of Behaviors and Social Policies, May 2012Perceived Moral Acceptability of 2012's Most Controversial Issues -- by Party ID

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 3-6, 2012, with a random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

The White House Overreaches on Campus Rape


I analyzed the CSA and its numbers nearly three years ago when the administration launched its first initiative to combat campus sexual assault in April 2011, with the "Dear Colleague" letter to college and university presidents from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.  The vast majority of the incidents counted as assault involved what the study termed "incapacitation" by alcohol (or, rarely, drugs).  But "incapacitation" is a misleading term, since the question used in the study also measured far lower degrees of intoxication: "Has someone had sexual contact with you when you were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because you were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated, or asleep?"  This wording does not differentiate between someone who is unconscious or barely conscious and someone who is just drunk enough to go along with something he or she wouldn't do when sober.  The questions related to sexual assault by physical force--particularly attempted sexual assault--are also worded so ambiguously that they could refer to a clumsy attempt to initiate sex, even if the "attacker" stops at once when rebuffed.

Moreover, the government's numbers are wildly at odd with actual crime records.  Several years ago, Carnegie Mellon business professor Chad Hermann analyzed the number of sexual assault reported at Pittsburgh's three major campuses (the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, and Duquesne) and concluded that even if 90 percent of such assaults go unreported, a woman's annual risk of sexual assault at these schools ranges from 1 in 3,700 to 1 in 650.  Spread out over four or five years of college attendance, that still adds up to somewhere between 1 in 130 and 1 in in 925.  There is little doubt that records from other campuses would yield similar results.

Already, many have expressed concern that excessive zeal in the campus "war on rape" is creating a "presumed guilty" mindset toward accused men.  One thing you will not find in either the official White House statement or the council's report is any recognition that protections for victims must be balanced with fairness to the accused, or any acknowledgment of that such concerns legitimately exist.  Instead, the focus is exclusively on "survivors."  The only mention of false accusations in the report is a passage decrying the "myth" that "many women falsely claim rape." Cited in rebuttal is a 2010 article by University of Massachusetts psychologist David Lisak and his colleagues, which analyzes several studies (and a sample of its own) and concludes that "only 2-10% of reported rapes are false." 

Of course, the upper range of that estimate is hardly a trivial rate.  But there is another issue, too. Lisak's numbers refer to cases in which a rape allegation is more or less definitively proven to be false.  Given how difficult it is to prove a negative, the existence of these confirmed false allegations suggests that a certain percentage of unresolved charges--in which there is no conclusive proof one way or the other--are likely false as well. 

The orthodox feminist position, apparently endorsed by the Obama administration, is that unless a charge of rape is clearly demonstrated to be false, it must be true.  That is the very definition of "presumed guilty."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why is polygamy declining? -- Matt Ridley


Yet we are clearly monogamous by instinct as well as by tradition. Even in societies that allow polygamy, most people are in one-partner couples. Free-love communes always, without exception, collapse because people will insist on falling in love with particular individuals. This pairing tendency would baffle a bonobo, where sexual jealousy is apparently unknown.

Polygamy, in this reading, was mainly an aberration of the last 10,000 years caused by agriculture, which allowed the accumulation of huge surpluses, which powerful men translated into prodigious sexual rewards. Herding societies in particular became highly polygamous, causing people with names such as Attila, Ghenghis or Tamerlane to conquer other lands so as to supply women to their sex-starved followers: polygamy and violence tend to go together.

In a recent paper entitled "The puzzle of monogamous marriage", three American anthropologists argue that this trend is partly explained by competition between societies. To be economically successful, modern nations had to suppress violence within themselves.

This was incompatible with rulers grabbing all the best girls: "In suppressing intrasexual competition and reducing the size of the pool of unmarried men, normative monogamy reduces crime rates, including rape, murder, assault, robbery and fraud, as well as decreasing personal abuses . . . By shifting male efforts from seeking wives to paternal investment, normative monogamy increases savings, child investment and economic productivity."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Neumark and Wascher on minimum wages and youth unemployment

Here is the abstract from their piece from 2003 (pdf):

We estimate the employment effects of changes in national minimum wages using a pooled cross-section time-series data set comprising 17 OECD countries for the period 1975-2000, focusing on the impact of cross-country differences in minimum wage systems and in other labor market institutions and policies that may either offset or amplify the effects of minimum wages. The average minimum wage effects we estimate using this sample are consistent with the view that minimum wages cause employment losses among youths. However, the evidence also suggests that the employment effects of minimum wages vary considerably across countries. In particular, disemployment effects of minimum wages appear to be smaller in countries that have subminimum wage provisions for youths. Regarding other labor market policies and institutions, we find that more restrictive labor standards and higher union coverage strengthen the disemployment effects of minimum wages, while employment protection laws and active labor market policies designed to bring unemployed individuals into the work force help to offset these effects. Overall, the disemployment effects of minimum wages are strongest in the countries with the least regulated labor markets.
More recently, Modeled Behavior has a relevant update on how minimum wages reduce the number of new teenage hires.  Brochu and Green you will find here, the effects on teen hiring are pretty clear.
- See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/01/neumark-and-wascher-on-minimum-wages-and-youth-unemployment.html#sthash.kMCLdsde.dpuf

Instapundit: CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULTS: Grossly Overstated?


CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULTS: Grossly Overstated? "At the University of Pittsburgh, there are roughly 14,800 female students. If their chances of being sexually assaulted are 1-in-4, there should be about 3,700 sexual assaults each year. In 2009, the most recent year for which full statistics are available, Pitt students reported 4. At Carnegie Mellon University, there are roughly 3,900 female students. If their chances of being sexually assaulted are 1-in-4, there should be about 975 sexual assaults each year. In 2009, CMU reported 6. (That figure was a three-year high.) At Duquesne University, there are roughly 5,700 female students. If their chances of being sexually assaulted are 1-in-4, there should be about 1,425 sexual assaults each year. In 2009, Duquesne reported 3."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bill Gates Explains How World Is Getting More Awesome and Less Poor - Hit & Run : Reason.com

Link: http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/22/bill-gates-explains-how-world-is-getting (via shareaholic.com)

So begins a very lengthy debunking of what Gates sees as three myths first-world citizens tend to have about third-world countries. His letter can be read here. There's a pdf version here.

His three myths:

Poor countries are doomed to stay poor

Poverty levels are down just about everywhere, not just major Western countries. Gates goes so far as to say we need to rethink what we mean when we're talking about "developing" countries:

Foreign aid is a big waste

This may be a tougher sell for libertarians who are so attuned to recognizing the corruption of government power in nations both large and small. Gates believes that fears of corruption or waste are overstated based on anecdotes rather than data and also a result of a well-established problem of folks who believe Western governments spend more on foreign aid than they actually do.

Saving lives leads to overpopulation

I was half-tempted to declare this myth to actually be a straw man, but Gates says his foundation gets comments like this all the time. People believe that these poor countries will continue to grow at the same population rate as they do when they're no longer poor, despite all evidence that birth rates drop in wealthier countries. And as Gates points out, higher mortality rates do nothing to halt population growth anyway:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tip Sheet: Hydraulic Fracturing | Heartland Institute


Point 1: The Yale Graduates in Energy Study Group found the benefits of hydraulic fracturing exceed the costs by a ratio of 400–1.

Point 2: By using horizontal drilling techniques, producers are able to drill multiple wells from the same drilling pad, reducing surface disturbance while increasing access to oil and gas resources.

Point 3: Fracking fluid is composed of 99.51 percent water and sand, and .49 percent chemical additives, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Such additives prevent corrosion in the well, reduce surface tension in liquids, stabilize clay particles, adjust pH, and eliminate bacteria.

Point 4: Shale gas production consumes less water per unit of energy generated than onshore oil production, ethanol production, and washing coal after it has been mined.

Point 5: Increasing reliance on natural gas has been a key reason why U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have fallen to their lowest levels since 1994 and are not expected to reach their 2005 levels again through 2040.

Point 6: Current available science and track record suggests moratoria on hydraulic fracturing are unnecessary.

Point 7: Low energy costs due to abundant and affordable oil and natural gas are projected to add one million jobs by 2025.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Five Myths About Inequality: Newsroom: The Independent Institute

Link: http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=4844 (via shareaholic.com)

Myth No 1: Income for the average family has stagnated over the past 30 years.

Myth No. 2: People at the bottom of the income ladder are there through no fault of their own.

Myth No. 3: Government transfer programs, like unemployment insurance, are an effective remedy.

Myth No 4: Raising the minimum wage is an effective remedy.

Myth No. 5: Income is the best measure of wellbeing.

Factor Analysis of Population Allele Frequencies as a Simple, Novel Method of Detecting Signals of Recent Polygenic Selection: The Example of Educational Attainment and IQ | American Renaissance

Craig’s Five Ways, Part Two – EvolutionBlog

Link: http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2013/12/19/craigs-five-ways-part-two/ (via shareaholic.com)

We found his first two arguments to be inadequate. Do his other three fare any better?

3. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.

I always find it funny when theists insist that God is the only sound basis for morality. The argument seems to be that if you believe murder, say, is wrong because you regard it as obvious that humans have certain obligations towards one another, then you are being capricious and arbitrary and have no firm basis for your moral beliefs. But if you believe murder is wrong because you hypothesize God into existence and then assert that He has commanded us not to murder, then you have a firm, solid ground for morality. That is not reasonable.

4. God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Craig is just making stuff up here. I can promise you there is no consensus among serious historians that Jesus actually performed miracles or that the tomb was empty. How could there be? What we know about Jesus' ministry and burial is found, in its entirety, in the Gospel accounts in the New Testament. These accounts were written decades after the fact by propagandists who were specifically trying to win support for their religious beliefs. They were not written by eye-witnesses, and they were not written independently of one another. So there is no reason at all for believing that the tomb was empty.

5. God can be personally known and experienced.

That people sometimes have powerful psychological experiences is scarcely in doubt, but the interpretation of those experiences as communications from God certainly is.