Saturday, May 31, 2008

Just pre-ordered

This group has always been worth listening to.

I look forward to hearing this in July.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Al Qaeda on the run

A year ago, Michael Hayden warned that al-Qaeda had rebounded and presented a critical threat to the United States. Yesterday, he told the Washington Post that AQ and its network had suffered defeats across the board and now faced significantly increased hostility from fellow Muslims. What happened? Three guesses:


This all started with the American surge in Iraq. A year ago, AQI had plenty of reason to brag about its operations in Iraq. The US had not fought back effectively against the terrorist network in the western provinces, and they held significant territory. They had subjugated enough of the area to proclaim a new Caliphate and urge recruits to join them in building the Islamic State of Iraq.

Instead, these recruits found out that AQI held these areas only through terrorizing other Muslims, and unfortunately for them, they arrived just when General David Petraeus brought the new counterinsurgency strategies to Iraq. Bolstered by an additional 30,000 troops, Petraeus began to clear Iraq of the terrorist network, along with new tribal alliances and assistance from more secular insurgent groups who belatedly discovered that the Americans were far more preferable than Osama bin Laden’s lunatics. AQI suffered an unending series of losses to the American military, which led to a far more damaging loss of prestige among Islamists.

The increased pace of attacks on Islamist bases in Pakistan has also helped degrade AQ. Several high-level planners have already met their doom via Predator drones, and the pace indicates that the US has received better intel over the last few months than ever before. As long as the attacks continue, the terrorists will find it difficult to maintain effective communications with its cells in other nations.

These gains could still be lost. Hayden warned against a return to the pre-9/11 mindset, saying that complacency could put us back into the same posture that allowed 9/11 to take place. Just as important, though, is to keep pressure where we have succeeded: in Iraq. A premature withdrawal that allows AQI to reform in western Iraq would certainly boost the flagging fortunes of the Osama network and once again provide a major recruitment point.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Feith and Begore!

WMD was only a part — albeit an important part — of the security-threat case for removing Saddam. More importantly, it was not, by itself, sufficient to do what cried out to be done: establish a coherent nexus between our mission in Iraq and the wider war on terror.

...the administration was overly narrow in emphasizing WMD prior to the war, and neglected to highlight the evidence (which has gotten only stronger over time) that Saddam had been cultivating jihadist groups (including al Qaeda) since the early 1990s. The problem was not just that Saddam might use WMD; it was that (a) he had strong enough ties to jihadist groups that it was plausible that he would supply them with WMD capability, and (b) wholly apart from WMD, it was plausible he would aid and abet jihadist groups in the ways only a state sponsor can — the wherewithal that allows a terror network to project power on the scale of a nation-state.

Post-invasion, when we did not find the anticipated stockpiles of WMD (notwithstanding that what we did find was alarming), the over-emphasis on WMD enabled the Left to concoct a smear that the invasion was unjustified, that it was built on a lie, and therefore that the cause was not righteous. Despite the fact that jihadists had been operating in Iraq long before the invasion and that Osama bin Laden himself was urging Iraq as the central front in a global war, the Left convinced many Americans that Iraq was a foolish "distraction" from the "real" war on terror in Afghanistan (which war, it bears observing, the Left would also be attacking if there were no Iraq).

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Scars of Evolution

Evolution leaves traces.

Every living thing has a history, and that history leaves footprints.

Here's a blog post that lists some of the vestiges of evolution in humans.

These include

• Toes.

• Lanugo.

• Goosebumps.

• Hiccups.

• The true human tail.

• The fused chromosome 2.

• The vitamin C pseudogene.

Good point!

A point made at the "Planet Gore" blog:

Is it just me or does anyone else think the oil companies are fish out of water in the PR department? For a bunch of smart guys, they were embarrassing in front of Congress. How about stating the obvious? “You want $2 gasoline Congresswoman? Then find us some $60/barrel oil.”

I've been surveyed.

I got surveyed yesterday morning.

The pollster asked me my opinion about the California Supreme Court decision and about the Constitutional amendment to be voted on this November. I didn't liveblog the survey (wish I had), but I think the questions asking my opinion of arguments in support of same-sex marriage may have outnumbered the questions regarding arguments opposing it by about 2:1.

Some of that may be perception bias. Some of it may not. Some of it is the poll's conflation of "the right of gays to marry" and "the right of people to marry someone of the same sex". The poll takes no account of the fact that gays have the right to marry under the same terms and conditions that a straight can.

The reason I think the skew in the polling questions is due to more than perception bias on my part is one question that was asked three times during the course of the poll: "During the course of a survey, it's not uncommon for a person to change his mind. If you were to vote now, would you vote to support or oppose the amendment to the State Constitution?" (I'd love to know if people who expressed support for same-sex marriage were asked that question as many times.)

This question was asked after a series of questions about how convincing I found various arguments in support of same-sex marriage. To me, it felt a lot like the poll was designed to argue the case for same-sex marriage, and ask "Are you convinced yet?"

If this poll is being reported to any news media, don't be surprised to see opposition to same-sex marriage declining.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hitler and Evolution

Did Hitler use Darwin's ideas as a basis for his Final Solution?

While Hitler uses the word "evolution" in Mein Kampf, it is clear that he is not referring to Darwin's theory --- indeed, he never mentions the man. In fact, a look at his writings reveals his sentiments on the subject to be those of an orthodox creationist.

Like a creationist, Hitler asserts fixity of kinds:

Like a creationist, Hitler claims that God made man:

Like a creationist, Hitler affirms that humans existed "from the very beginning", and could not have evolved from apes:

There is another point in Mein Kampf where Hitler refers to "evolution", in volume IV chapter II. Creationists are fond of quoting a bit of it out of context in order to give the false impression that he is talking about biological evolution.


But it is clear from the context that he is talking about social evolution, not biological evolution, and about ideas (technical knowledge, military strategies) that are culturally transmitted rather than biological traits transmitted by genetic inheritance.

Hitler's main point seems to be that every good idea has a single origin, an idea that will sound very strange to anyone with a knowledge of the history of science and technology, and which of course has nothing to do with the theory of evolution.

And while I'm at it, here's the section at

"Rare earths" -- maybe not

One of the stars of "Expelled" is an astronomer who argues that Earth is a rare beast -- a planet sufficiently fine-tuned for life as to be very improbable. Thus, more than chance is at work.

He says.

Another researcher thinks the sun, at least, is not that uncommon.

There's nothing special about the Sun that makes it more likely than other stars to host life, a new study shows. The finding adds weight to the idea that alien life should be common throughout the universe.

"The Sun's properties are consistent with it being pulled out at random from the bag of all stars," says Charles Lineweaver from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. "Life does not seem to require anything special in its host star, other than it be close."

Some previous studies of the Sun's vital statistics have concluded that it is unusual among stars, for instance, by having a higher mass than average. Such atypical properties might somehow help explain why the Sun seems to be unique, as far as we know, in having an inhabited planet.

With his ANU colleague José Robles and others, Lineweaver has now analysed 11 features of the Sun that might affect its ability to have habitable planets. They included its mass, age, rotation speed and orbital distance from the centre of the Milky Way.

Then they compared these with well-measured statistics for other stars to answer the question – overall, does the Sun stand out from the crowd any more than some other randomly chosen star would?

The Sun did stand out in two ways: it is more massive than 95% of nearby stars and its orbit around the centre of our galaxy is more circular than those of 93% of nearby stars.

Very ordinary

But when all 11 properties were taken on board, the Sun looked very ordinary. Robles's team calculates that there would be only about one chance in three that a star selected at random would be "more typical" than the Sun.

They conclude that there are probably no special attributes that a star requires to have a habitable planet, other than the obvious one – the planet must be within the star's habitable "goldilocks" zone, orbiting at a distance where the temperature is not too hot for life, nor too cold, but just right.

Lieberman's Lecture

The full transcript of what was abbreviated into a WSJ piece.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bush addresses the Knesset

Link to Bush's speech.

Media Disgrace Themselves

From a speech that lasted over 20 minutes -- interrupted eight times by applause from Israeli Knesset members -- America's media exclusively reported 83 words they felt insulted the candidate for president they have been unashamedly supporting for over a year.

Everything else in the President's stirring and emotional address went completely ignored, so much so that the other 2,400 words were totally irrelevant, as was the signficance of the day and the moment.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Are we at the peak?

Have we reached the peak in oil production? Is the supply all downhill from here?

Jim Manzi at National Review Online has some thoughts:

Crude oil production will reach a maximum at some point in the future. I don't know when that will happen, and the record of those who have tried to forecast this has not been very good over the past 70 years or so. When that happens, the price will probably rise. We will develop technological alternatives and find substitute fuels. It's not time to start burying Krugerrands in the backyard.

...Roughly speaking, forecasts indicate that we are 20 - 30 years from peak oil today, just as forecasts generally indicated that we were 20 - 30 years from peak oil throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Unsurprisingly, the DOE has taken a serious look at this question. Their best guess (and they are rigorous enough to put a range of many decades on this) is that peak production will be reached sometime in the middle of this century. The International Energy Agency projects that production will continue to increase at least through 2030. So does OPEC.

Oil production may well increase over the next few decades. One problem we're having to deal with, though, is the increase in consumption as third-world countries ramp up their use. If we increase the slope of the consumption curve, the supply curve will fail to keep up that much sooner.

On the other hand:

On an inflation-adjusted basis, this is almost exactly what oil cost in 1980. Does that mean oil production peaked in 1980?

I'll also note that while the world spent about 6 percent of its total economic output on oil in 1980, this is down to about 3.5 percent today. Maybe this is why I see no observable signs of the collapse of modern civilization resulting from the current run-up in oil prices.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kenneth Miller on "Expelled"

Kenneth Miller, author of Finding Darwin's God, has a few words to say about "Expelled".

"Intelligent Design," the relabeled, repackaged form of American creationism, has always had a problem. It just can't seem to produce any evidence. To scientists, the reasons for this are obvious. To conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, Intelligent Design is nothing more than a "phony theory." No data, no science, no experiments, just an attempt to sneak a narrow set of religious views into US classrooms.

Advocates of Intelligent Design needed a story to explain why the idea has been a nonstarter within the scientific community, and Ben Stein has given it to them. The story line is that Intelligent Design advocates are persecuted and suppressed. "Expelled" tells of this terrible campaign against free expression, and mocks the pretensions of the closed-minded scientific elite supposedly behind it.

I've linked to posts by John Derbyshire where he calls "Expelled" "a blood libel against civilization". Here's another take on why this is an apt description:

Why is all this nonsense a threat to science? The reason is Stein's libelous conclusion that science is simply evil. In an April 21 interview on the Trinity Broadcast Network, Stein called the Nazi murder of children "horrifying beyond words." Indeed. But what led to such horrors? Stein explained: "that's where science in my opinion, this is just an opinion, that's where science leads you. Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place. Science leads you to killing people."

According to Stein, science leads you to "killing people." Not to cures and vaccines, not to a deeper understanding of nature, not to wonders like computers and cellphones, and certainly not to a better life. Nope. Science is murder.

"Expelled" is a shoddy piece of propaganda that props up the failures of Intelligent Design by playing the victim card. It deceives its audiences, slanders the scientific community, and contributes mightily to a climate of hostility to science itself. Stein is doing nothing less than helping turn a generation of American youth away from science. If we actually come to believe that science leads to murder, then we deserve to lose world leadership in science. In that sense, the word "expelled" may have a different and more tragic connotation for our country than Stein intended.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Berlinski invokes Godwin's Law

David Berlinski draws a connection between Hitler and Darwin

One man -- Charles Darwin -- says: “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals. …”

Another man -- Adolf Hitler -- says: Let us kill all the Jews of Europe.

Is there a connection?

Yes obviously is the answer of the historical record and common sense.

Published in 1859, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species said nothing of substance about the origin of species. Or anything else, for that matter. It nonetheless persuaded scientists in England, Germany and the United States that human beings were accidents of creation. Where Darwin had seen species struggling for survival, German physicians, biologists, and professors of hygiene saw races.

They drew the obvious conclusion, the one that Darwin had already drawn. In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals. German scientists took the word expense to mean what it meant: The annihilation of less fit races.

The point is made with abysmal clarity in the documentary, Expelled. Visiting the site at which those judged defective were killed -- a hospital, of course -- the narrator, Ben Stein, asks the curator what most influenced the doctors doing the killing.

“Darwinism,” she replies wanly.

The view that we may consider the sources of Nazi ideology in every context except those most relevant to its formation is rich, fruity, stupid and preposterous. It is for this reason repeated with solemn incomprehension at the website Expelled Exposed: “Anti-Semitic violence against Jews,” the authors write with a pleased sense of discovery, “can be traced as far back as the middle ages, at least 7 centuries before Darwin.”

Let me impart a secret. It can be traced even further. “Oh that mine head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears," runs the lamentation in Jeremiah 9.1, “that I might weep day and night for the slain daughters of my people.”

And yet if anti-Semitism has been the white noise of European history, to assign it causal powers over the Holocaust is simply to ignore very specific ideas that emerged in the 19th century, and that at once seized the imagination of scientists throughout the world.

So Berlinski's thesis is that even though hatred of Jews has run through the past couple of millennia of history, no one had tried to eliminate them before Hitler. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

What is often called social Darwinism was a malignant force in Germany, England and the United States from the moment that social thinkers forged the obvious connection between what Darwin said and what his ideas implied. Justifying involuntary sterilization, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” He was not, it is understood, appealing to Lutheran ideas. Germany reached a moral abyss before any other state quite understood that the abyss was there to be reached because Germans have always had a congenital weakness for abysses and seem unwilling, when one is in sight, to avoid toppling into it.

Interestingly enough, Jonah Goldberg devotes a chapter of his book, Liberal Fascism to eugenics, including the Final Solution.

He has some interesting things to say about Social Darwinism"

Nonetheless, progressives did come up with a term for conservative opponents of eugenics. They called them social Darwinists. Progressives invented the term "social Darwinism" to describe anyone who opposed Sidney Webb's notion that the state must aggressively "interfere" in the reproductive order of society. In the hothouse logic of the left, those who opposed forced sterilization of the "unfit" and the poor were the villains for letting a "state of nature" rule among the lower classes.

[emphasis in original]

Note: the term was invented by progressives to label opponents of eugenics. Continuing:

Herbert Spencer, the supposed founder of social Darwinism, was singled out as the poster boy for all that was wrong in classical liberalism. Spencer was indeed a Darwinist – he coined the phrase – "survival of the fittest" – but his interpretation of evolutionary theory reinforced his view that people should be left alone. In almost every sense, Spencer was a good—albeit classical—liberal: he championed charity, women's suffrage, and civil liberties. But he was the incarnation of all that was backward, reactionary, and wrong according to the progressive worldview, not because he supported itlerian schemes of forced race hygiene but because he adamantly opposed them. To this day it is de rigeur among liberal intellectuals and historians to take potshots at Spencer as the philosophical wellspring of racism, right-wing "greed" and even the Holocaust.

[emphasis in original]

[pp. 257-258]

And of course the point remains: Hitler could have slept with Origin of Species under his pillow, and read passages from Ascent of Man over every meal, and it would have no bearing on whether Darwin's notions have any merit or not. The most we could infer is that some minds are too addled to handle science.

Demonization 101

The response of Craig Mokhiber, deputy director of the New York Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, to my article "Dithering on Durban II," provides a case study in the U.N.-driven demonization of Israel. The step-by-step game plan -- repeated for years across the system -- Mokhiber obligingly disseminates.

•     Step One: Wrap everything U.N. -- hate-mongering included -- in the flag of human rights.

As a defender of free speech, I...

•     Step Two: Pretend the critic is incapable of following U.N. events or ignorant of the intricacies of U.N. affairs. In this case, Mokhiber begins by claiming my criticism of his remarks couldn't possibly be accurate as "...she was not even present."

Unfortunately for Mokhiber, I ensured his remarks were taped and commented on them verbatim.

•     Step Three: Stand on a large soapbox and scream racism, Palestinian persecution, and foreign occupation in the same breath.

She then suggests, rather astoundingly, that Palestinians have not been persecuted in the occupied territories. In my view, this is the best argument for the need for an international process, like Durban, to combat racism. The fact that persecution continues is reason enough...

One more shot of U.N. adrenaline for proponents of Zionism-is-racism and apartheid-Israel.

•     Step Four: Accuse those who object to Israel's treatment at the U.N. of propagating the idea that Israel can do no wrong.

I assume that the pique evident in Bayefsky's piece comes from her ideological conviction that any discussion of Israel's human rights record is simply unacceptable.

The proverbial straw man. A fiction never uttered by anyone, anywhere.

•     Step Five: Paint any critic of U.N. bias against Israel as narrow-minded, parochial, and insensitive.

...the advancement of a common agenda for humanity...Bayefsky does not share this agenda...

Cutting to the chase, if Jews are really interested in human rights they should grin and bear it for the sake of that common agenda, the greater good -- albeit no one suggests building a human rights regime on the inequality of any other minority.

•     Step Six: Pull that human rights flag tight and proclaim undying commitment to the universal application of human rights; all suffering is equal; there are no hierarchies; this is about being even-handed.

We stand with the victim, regardless of who the perpetrator may be.

It's just that the U.N.-driven idea of being even-handed is to label Palestinians as victims of Israeli racism while the perpetrators of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are abstract entities.

•     Step Seven: Given that virtually no one is likely to read the actual text of a U.N. document -- misrepresent its contents. Don't give any hint as to where to find the controversial words among the 341 paragraphs.

Readers should be "reading the Durban Declaration and judging for themselves whether it is in any way offensive or . . . a worthy platform for the international community's struggle against the continuing scourge of racism."

So here they are. The Durban Declaration says: "Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance...63. We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation..."

•     Step Eight: Blame everything on U.N. member states. Pretend U.N. officials are just ignorant, powerless cogs in the wheel.

The Durban an intergovernmental process established by governments...It is thus the governments themselves that are ultimately responsible for it.

As if bigots have no human form. But then again Mokhiber actually doesn't deny that while he was an NGO representative he claimed that "One of the features of the violence that is perpetrated against the Palestinians is [that it is] random. It is perpetrated against the elderly, the infirm, anyone who happens to be a non-Jewish member of that society. It is clearly racist violence." In fact, he makes no attempt whatsoever to disavow those words. Except now he is a senior U.N. "human rights" official in a position to put his beliefs into practice.

Hillary's "worthless triumph"

At least that's what it's being called in Der Spiegel.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Family Ties to Crime

After commenting rather heavily on the math in DNA matching and the utility of trolling through a criminal DNA database, I find this piece in Reason Magazine:

The BTK murderer in Kansas was identified using DNA from a pap smear that his daughter had when she was in college. The police checked her DNA against DNA collected from the crime scenes and it was a close match. With this evidence, the police got a warrant requiring the suspect to submit to DNA testing and it matched perfectly. The murderer is now serving ten consecutive life sentences.

As the article points out, such familial DNA searching causes unease among civil libertarians. To wit:

"If practiced routinely, we would be subjecting hundreds of thousands of innocent people who happen to be relatives of individuals in the FBI database to lifelong genetic surveillance," said Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union....

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that authorities may not conduct searches for general law enforcement purposes without suspicion about individuals. Although convicted criminals have a diminished expectation of privacy, searching a database for unknown relatives might violate that principle, said Jeffrey Rosen, a George Washington University law professor.

"The idea of holding people responsible for who they are rather than what they've done could challenge deep American principles of privacy and equality," he said. "Although the legal issues aren't clear, the moral ones are vexing." ...

Stanford University law professor Henry T. Greely estimates that at least 40 percent of the FBI database is African American, though they make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population. That is because in an average year, more than 40 percent of people convicted of felonies in the United States are African American, he said.

If the national database were used for familial searching, he said, and assuming that on average each person whose profile in the database has five first-degree relatives, authorities would be "putting under surveillance" roughly a third of the African American population, compared with about 7.5 percent of the European American population, he said.

"I don't think anybody's going to be falsely convicted," he said. "It's the time, hassle and indignity of being interviewed by the police. How much is that worth? How much does that cost a person? I don't know, but it's not zero."

The general principle behind familial DNA matching is pretty simple.

DNA testing looks for markers in DNA, which are distributed pretty randomly through the population. Any given marker will show up in a small percentage of the population, usually between 5 and 25%. Thirteen markers are commonly used for a genetic ID.

If the DNA that's compared belongs to someone who is a close relative of a suspect, we'd expect to find a different number of markers in common -- say, 6 or 7 for a parent, child, or sibling; 3 or 4 for a grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew.

Of course, at two degrees of separation, like the uncle or nephew relationship, we're looking at pretty shaky connections. But the 6 or 7 marker match might lead us to look at close relatives of the person whose DNA was matched. (Indeed, it's a recurring plot element in episodes of CSI.)

What are the ethical implications of, say, trolling through a database of criminals, and looking for relatives of anyone with a 6 or 7 marker match? How about trolling through a bone marrow bank's records and looking for exact or family matches with donors? (My HLA profile is on record with the Red Cross.)

The Evolution 'Controversy'

Good take here via Nobel Intent:

Evolution clearly has no shortage of controversies. But none of those controversies involve the basic principles of evolution, and all of them operate within a framework where random mutation and selection play a key role in creating diverse species that are related by common descent. It's clear that the Discovery Institute is trying to introduce controversies that don't exist, while ignoring those that do. That's why the academic freedom bills it's promoting are such dangerous things; while supposedly promoting intellectual analysis, they're actually an attempt to pave the way for misinformation to enter the scientific classroom.

Indeed they are.

Mark Stein -- For the Birds

We are encouraging of certain forms of assertiveness: I am woman, hear me roar! Say it loud, I'm black and proud! We're here, we're queer, get used to it! But the one identity we're enjoined not to trumpet is the one that enables us to trumpet all the others: our identity as citizens of a very specific kind of society with a very particular inheritance, built on the rule of law, property rights, and freedom of speech. Heaven forbid we should assert any of that: I am Western, hear me apologize! Say it loud, I'm Dutch and cowed! We're Brits, we're s--ts, awf'lly sorry about that!

Out for a Spin

Mark Perakh over at Talk Reason is discussing the flagellum.

Actually, he's discussing several flagella, with particular emphasis on the distinction between real ones and fictional ones.

It is this image of the flagellum which Behe displayed on the wall of Larry Kane's studio. Pointing to that image, Behe triumphantly claimed that the flagellum looked exactly like a man-made "machine." Since all machines we know about have been designed, Behe confidently asserted that the flagellum bears features doubtlessly pointing to Design. QED.


If I had seen Behe's pictures, I could have simply repeated what I wrote in a post to the Panda's Thumb blog on June 15, 2004 regarding the Dembski-Shanks debate [17]. Here is a quotation from my post:

[Dembski] has devoted a considerable attention to the discussion of what he referred to as the mascot of intelligent design - the bacterium flagellum. He insisted that the flagellum is in fact a machine, and to support this statement, he displayed that standard picture where the flagellum is shown in a geometrically perfect shape, fully symmetric and consisting of geometrically perfectly formed parts. Of course, such a presentation was misleading as the real flagellum is far from having such a perfect geometric shape. Unlike machines, which may be close replicas of each other (say, all Jeeps of the same year have almost exactly the same shape) the flagella, first, have shapes with many deviations from a perfect geometric symmetry, and, second, there are no two flagella exactly identical. Individual flagella differ in various respects, like the entire biological organisms vary from an individual to individual. If Dembski's picture were closer to reality, it would be much less effective in supporting his claims. Since he did not offer a disclaimer pointing to the idealization used in his depiction of the flagellum, we are entitled to conclude that he was interested not in an honest discussion based on facts, but rather on winning the debate regardless of means.

The above words can be addressed to Behe as well as to Dembski.

In fact the images Behe, Dembski, and their ID colleagues are showing are not pictures of real flagella but rather pictures of imaginary (usually computer-generated) machine-like contraptions remotely reminiscent of real flagella, pictures composed in a way artificially creating a false impression of flagella's machine-like appearance.

To illustrate my thesis, let us survey some examples of flagella images found in various publications.


One more picture of the molecular structure of a flagellum is shown in Fig. 7, in this case representing a filament's cross-section view.

Instead of machine-like parts with a smooth surface, we see in these pictures garlands of protein molecules constituting the elements of the flagellum assembly. Which man-made machine has anything in common with these images? These structures rather look like typical bacteriophage viruses.

(Some of the pictures can be seen here:

ID advocates often point (see, for example, [18]) to the allegedly fraudulent "icons of evolution" supposedly utilized by the "Darwinists" for their nefarious purposes. One of such allegedly fraudulent "icons" is the images of embryos by Haeckel. In fact, Haeckel's embryos images were shown to be erroneous not by any creationists but rather by the "Darwinists" themselves. On the other hand, ID advocates, including Dembski and Behe, incessantly reproduce images of flagella which are heavily doctored, without any disclaimers as to the great degree of idealization inherent in these images. Indeed, look again at the real electron photographs of flagella and/or at the images of their actual molecular structure, as shown above in Figs 4, 5, 6, and 7, and it becomes obvious that real natural flagella are far from looking like man-made machines like those whose artificially constructed images are shown in Figs 1, 2, and 3.

It seems that Behe, Dembski, and their companions in the anti-science endeavors, may be with a much better justification accused of resorting to frauds, because the images of flagella they endlessly reproduce are in fact fraudulent insofar as they are not accompanied by disclaimers admitting the substantial degree of idealization, resulting in those mages being misleading made-up representations of real flagella.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ten Foot Pole

John Derbyshire has a question for David Berg:

Then tell me, if you can, why any educated person of integrity would touch creationism with a ten-foot pole.

Answer: because their demand for a God they can emotionally understand outweighs any consideration of what's actually true.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Ed Morissey on Expelled

His review of the movie is here.

Ron Bailey on Expelled

At Reason Magazine

One the movie's shticks is to grill atheist advocates of biological evolution as a way to warn viewers about the corrosive effects on science on religious belief. But are faith and reason incompatible? Not all scientists think so.

Among them is Dr. Francisco Ayala, a former Dominican priest:

Dr. Ayala, a former Dominican priest, said he told his audiences not just that evolution is a well-corroborated scientific theory, but also that belief in evolution does not rule out belief in God. In fact, he said, evolution “is more consistent with belief in a personal god than intelligent design. If God has designed organisms, he has a lot to account for.”

Consider, he said, that at least 20 percent of pregnancies are known to end in spontaneous abortion. If that results from divinely inspired anatomy, Dr. Ayala said, “God is the greatest abortionist of them all.”

Or consider, he said, the “sadism” in parasites that live by devouring their hosts, or the mating habits of insects like female midges, tiny flies that fertilize their eggs by consuming their mates’ genitals, along with all their other parts.

For the midges, Dr. Ayala said, “it makes evolutionary sense. If you are a male and you have mated, the best thing you can do for your genes is to be eaten.” But if God or some other intelligent agent made things this way on purpose, he said, “then he is a sadist, he certainly does odd things and he is a lousy engineer.”

Is that fiscal discipline in his pocket?

Or is he just happy to see us?

It cost £14,000 to create, but clearly no-one at the smart London design outfit that came up with the new logo for HM Treasury thought to turn it on its side.

The OGC logo, seen as it was intended

This is the logo the design outfit came up with.

No problem with it, right? You'd be happy to have that on your T-shirt, coffee mug, hand bag, or mouse pad, right?

Just don't turn it sideways:

The OGC logo rotated 90 degrees

Re-education at Abu Ghraib

(Hat tip: Jihad Watch

In "Anti-Jihad U.: Bringing insurgents in from the cold" in City Journal (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist), Judith Miller takes up Major General Douglas Stone's claim to use the Qur'an to teach jihadists to lay down their arms and become peaceful, law-abiding citizens. But once again, as in earlier coverage of this initiative, she doesn't offer any specifics whatsoever about how exactly he does it.

When much of the world thinks about America’s treatment of detainees in Iraq, it thinks of torture, humiliation, abuse, and pictures from Abu Ghraib. But do most people know that the American military is now running one of the Middle East’s largest Islamic schools for those detainees? Or that it sponsors religious discussion programs among them about Islam? Or that it trains suspected insurgents to be carpenters, farmers, and artists who are paid for their work each day? The school, programs, and training are core elements of the American military’s radically new approach to detention in Iraq, an integral part of its counterinsurgency effort.

For the past nine months, Task Force 134—led by Major General Douglas M. Stone, a two-star Marine general who oversees civilian detention in Iraq—has been experimenting with a series of unconventional initiatives at two large “camps” where 23,245 suspected insurgents, Iraqi and foreign, are being held. The aim of these programs, which I visited in April, is not only to accelerate the identification and release of those falsely accused of “jihadi” activity, but also to de-radicalize and rehabilitate others who may have joined the insurgency primarily to feed their families, or because they were motivated by a militant, perverse interpretation of Islam.


A major tipping point in the program, say officers, was when detainees began volunteering for the classes being offered. Although al-Qaida detainees and the Takfiris (another group of religious extremists) pressured fellow Iraqis against participating in the very popular religious discussions, over 3,000 detainees have done so. “After Iraqis here learn how to read and write, they can read the Koran themselves for the first time,” says Sheikh Ali, a Sunni who counsels detainees and who, like most of the Iraqis working in the program, declined to have his surname used and must live in an American-guarded compound to avoid reprisals. “I’ve seen detainees break down and cry when they realize that the conduct they thought was sanctioned by God is actually a sin.”

Detainees began volunteering for religious discussion—in addition to the Arabic, civics, history, science, geography, and math that are also offered—after American soldiers physically separated “extremist” elements from the overwhelming majority of camp “moderates.” “Empowering the moderates and isolating extremists has been key for us,” says Stone. When moderate inmates identified the extremists to soldiers and demanded their removal, Task Force 134 knew that its approach was working.

Gutenberg at Der Spiegel

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Will Hillary Perot-test if she loses?

Will Hillary Perot-test if she loses?

I've been assuming that the one thing Hillary Clinton won't do if she loses the Democratic nomination in Denver is run as an independent. After all, she knows either she would win only a pittance of the electorate, or she would split the Democratic party vote and McCain would win 49 states.

But then, you know how you spell "assume".

Maybe Hillary will calculate her chances of winning against a Republican, especially one McCain's age, compared with winning against Obama, a year younger than I am. She might be willing to throw the election to McCain in preparation for her 2012 campaign.

Naah. Even she wouldn't be that rash.

Ponds store CO2 better than oceans

Ponds store CO2 better than oceans

The tinier, the more effective, according to this article.

A new study shows that small bodies of water are especially effective at storing CO2. This is in part because the turnover of material in small ponds is especially rapid, giving these bodies of water a quick response time.

Researchers at Iowa State University propose the creation of artificial lakes and ponds to store CO2.

Nach [Iowa State University Professor] Downings Meinung können mehr als 300 Millionen Seen des Planeten mit einer Gesamtfläche von 4,2 Millionen Quadratkilometern doppelt so viel CO2 aufnehmen wie bisher vermutet. Damit, so sagt der Forscher, könnten sie den Ozeanen den Rang als wichtigster Klimagas-Speicher ablaufen - und das, obwohl 90 Prozent der Seen kleiner als ein Hektar sind.

In Downing's opinion, more than 300 million seas in the world with a total area of 4.2 million square kilometers store twice as much CO2 as previously thought. Thus, he says, they could rival the oceans as an important climate gas sink, even though 90% of these seas are smaller than one hectare.

Interestingly enough, what happens when you melt glaciers? You get rivers and small ponds. What happens when you increase surface water temperatures, increase the amount of water evaporating, and thus (what goes up must go down) the amount of rainfall? You get more water in rivers and small ponds.

This may even be a significant negative feedback mechanism which hasn't been accounted for in climate models.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Socioeconomic Creationism

Here's something. Brandon Berg draws a parallel between Creationism (what he calls "metaphysical creationism") and socioeconomic creationism.

Metaphysical creationisism is the rejection of the idea that the physical features of the world around us and/or life are the product of spontaneous order, instead insisting that they must be the product of some form of intelligent design.

Socioeconomic creationism is the rejection of the idea that the social and economic features of the society in which we live are the product of spontaneous order, instead insisting that they must be the product of some form of intelligent design.

For example, if some have much more wealth than others, the socioeconomic creationist believes that this is the product of government policies specifically designed to transfer wealth from the many to the few, rather than the natural result of market transactions between people of disparate abilities and preferences.

Come to think of it, that was the theme of one of my Rants of the Month back in the last millennium.

So, what about it?

It seems both are, essentially, conspiracy theories.

If the average man makes more than the average woman, the socioeconomic creationist concludes that this must be due to the misogynistic oppression of women, rather than the natural outcome of men and women having different preferences, opportunity costs, and/or abilities.

From the recent increase in the price of gasoline, the socioeconomic creationist infers a conspiracy among greedy oil producers and gasoline refiners, rather than recognizing that this is the natural and predictable result of rapidly-growing demand coupled with relatively inelastic supply.

In both forms, I think the fallacy is the same. Lacking a clear understanding of how spontaneous order works, creationists fail to see how it can produce the phenomena they observe, and from this they infer the existence of a designer.

Yes, I'd noticed that, too.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Shades of Paulos

There's been a discussion involving statistics over at Patterico's Pontifications.

Here, here, here, and here.

The discussion is prompted by an article in the Los Angeles Times. It seems there was a rape and murder that took place in the 1970s. Some DNA from the crime scene was analyzed, and tested against a database of 338,000 criminal offenders.

There was one match -- to one John Puckett.

Now, to be fair, Puckett had a history of rape. He was working in the victim's neighborhood at the time the rape occurred, and his MO was compatible (at the very least) with the details of the crime.

However, the DNA sample from the crime scene was badly deteriorated, and the match was made based on 5 genetic markers, fewer than half of the usual 13.

Puckett insisted he was innocent, saying that although DNA at the crime scene happened to match his, it belonged to someone else.

At Puckett's trial earlier this year, the prosecutor told the jury that the chance of such a coincidence was 1 in 1.1 million.

Jurors were not told, however, the statistic that leading scientists consider the most significant: the probability that the database search had hit upon an innocent person.

In Puckett's case, it was 1 in 3.

The case Puckett's defenders make: If you troll through a database containing 338,000 DNA samples, your chance of matching any one entry in the database is 1 in 1.1 million. But you're making 338,000 attempts, and experts think your odds of getting any match with someone in the database is 338,000 in 1.1 million. 338,000 divided by 1.1 million is 30.7% -- pretty close to 1 in 3.

Whatever anyone may think about the strength of the case against Puckett, the LATimes article does make a valid point. Most people don't have a clue about probability. And this is not just a point about jurors -- it applies to lawyers, judges, and even many expert witnesses.

I happen to have a pretty good grasp of statistics and probability. (When my statistical thermodynamics professor calls my grasp of statistics "strong", I think that qualifies as "bragging rights".) I propose to comment at some length on the probability calculations involved in this case.

First of all, there's the "lottery question". If you have no particular reason to suspect there will be a match, what is the probability of a 1.1 million-to-one match with at least one member of a group of 338 thousand people? It turns out to be the probability of not matching any one person, multiplied by itself 338,000 times.

An example with smaller numbers: Suppose you roll four dice. What is the probability that at least one of the dice will roll a six?

Each die has a one-in-six chance of coming up "six". That means each die has five chances in six of coming up something else.

Each die is going to do whatever it does, independent of what any other die does.

So if the first die comes up "six", there is one chance in six the next die will come up "six", and five in six that it will do something else.

And if the first die comes up something other than "six", the next die will have the same chances.

For two dice, the first die has five chances in six of coming up something other than "six". This 5/6 chance is then multiplied by the probability of each path the next die can take, and the same thing applies to each subsequent die.

So the odds that none of the dice come up "six" is 5/6 times 5/6 times 5/6 times 5/6. Multiplied together, that's 625/1296, or about 48%.

Now that's the chance that none of the dice will roll "six". That means there's a 52% chance that at least one of the dice will roll "six".

This includes rolling one "six", two "sixes", three "sixes", and all four rolling "six". Calculating the chance of all four rolling "six" is easy: 1/6 times 1/6 times 1/6 times 1/6. That's 1/1296. Calculating the odds for exactly one, exactly two, and exactly three is a bit harder and I'd rather not deal with it here. Fortunately, someone else has dealt with it elsewhere.

Now, when you get into very large numbers, this math gets to be a major headache. Fortunately, mathematicians have risen to the occasion, and come up with alternative formulations that are pretty much spot-on. One relies on what is known as the Poisson distribution.

The Poisson distribution is used when you have a small probability of an event happening. This can include events like getting a million-to-one genetic match with a random person, or a crowd of random people. Mathematically, it takes some probability of the event happening, P, and calculates the probability of that event happening some number of times in a particular domain.

In the case of the cold hit on the criminal database, P is 338 thousand, divided by 1.1 million, or 0.303. Poisson's formula gives a distribution, expressed as

P = e-P [1 + P + 1/2 P2 + 1/6 P3 + 1/24 P4 +...]

or Pi = e-p[Pi/i!]

This last equation says that the probability of finding some number of occurrences of the event equal to i in a particular region is equal to Euler's constant (e) raised to the power of -P, times P raised to the i power, divided by the factorial of i. (The factorial of a number N is 1 X 2 X 3 X ... X N. Factorials get very large in a hurry.)

In particular, the chance of having no hits in the database, at random, is e-0.303 = 73.5%. Subtracting this from 100% gives us the chance of having at least one hit, which is 26.5%.

That means, if you ran a DNA sample against a database containing 338,000 random people, you have about one chance in four of getting a "hit" at random. That means, that if it turns out the real perpetrator is in some other group, you still have one chance in four of getting a "hit" on someone who is not the perpetrator, just by chance.

There was some question as to whether one could address this question using Bayes' Theorem. If we know the chance of some event B, given A, Bayes' Theorem lets us calculate the chance of A, given that we know B applies. I'm pretty sure one could, but I'd rather not.

It's possible to spend quite a bit of time thrashing around with probabilities in Bayes' Theorem if you're not sure which numbers to assign to which probabilities. In this case, I think it's easier if you go to the derivation of the theorem from conditional probabilities. At least it is if you studied sets in grade school. (It seems to have been part of the "new math" fad.) I learned to think about sets by drawing diagrams, most of which wind up looking like the MasterCard logo.

These are two sets, A and B, inside a universe containing all the relevant possibilities. Each set takes up part of the universe, and their areas represent the probability that any member of the set {U} will be found in each set. (Not to scale.) The probability of a member of the universal set being in {A} is simply the number of elements in {A} divided by the number of elements in {U}. If {A} is the set of people rh-negative blood, in a universe of 100 people, you’ll find 15 who are in {A}. If {B} is the set of people with blood type B, in that same universe of 100 people, you’d expect (I think) 30 people to be members of {B} You’ll notice the area where the sets overlap is a different color. This area is known as the set intersection, and it represents the members of the universe that belong to both {A} and {B}. (I’m writing it here as (A*B).) In the case of the blood types, the intersection of {A} and {B} would contain about 4½ people.

We can assess the conditional probability of a member of the universe being in set {A}, if we know it’s in set {B}. That’s given by

P(A|B) = P(A*B) / P(B)

If you have the diagram in front of you, with the corresponding probabilities, you can easily write down the conditional probabilities. Bayes’ Theorem comes into play when you don’t have those numbers, and have to work them out from other probabilities.

Here’s another diagram:

In this case, set {A} is completely inside set {B}. In this case, set {B} might represent the set of people who match a particular DNA sample, and {A} represents the set of people who actually committed the crime. This is a no-brainer. We know that not everyone will match the DNA sample. Indeed, the odds very long, and if we were drawing this diagram to scale, set {B} would be a tiny speck in one corner of {U}. Likewise, if we would expect the actual perpetrator’s DNA to match the sample. I’ll even stipulate that there are no false negatives here – the suspect will match and that’s that.

The conditional probability changes a bit. Since {A} is now entirely inside {B}, {A*B} is exactly equal to {A}. Every member of {A} is a member of both {A} and {B}, which was the definition of the set intersection in the first place.

P(A|B) = P(A) / P(B).

The probability that a person who matches the DNA sample is the perpetrator, based only on there being a positive match, is equal to the number of members in {A} divided by the number of members in {B}. So, if there are 6000 people in the world who would match a particular DNA sample, the chance that any one of them is the actual perpetrator is one in 6000.

We actually don’t need Bayes’ Theorem for this at all, just a little set theory and a little common sense.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Berlinski Responds to The Derb

Berlinski Responds to The Derb

David Berlinski has written a piece in response to John Derbyshire on "Expelled".

Having not seen the documentary that he proposes to criticize, Derbyshire is nonetheless quite certain that he knows what it conveys. “It is pretty plain,” he asserts, “that it is a piece of creationist porn.” Perhaps I will be forgiven for suggesting that John Derbyshire’s late-night scrutiny of the Internet may have corrupted his habitual search for le mot juste. Expelled has nothing to do with creationism, and if it is pornographic, the details have not become widely known.

Unfortunately, Intelligent Design is Creationism -- albeit with the serial numbers filed off. In his opinion in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, Judge Jones made precisely that finding:

[p. 136]

H. Conclusion

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Expelled promotes Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is Creationism. Therefore, Expelled promotes Creationism. Q.E.D.

Go ahead and read the rest of his piece. And then go ahead and read, and some of the other pieces I've linked at my site.

For what it's worth, I've read a couple of Berlinski's comments on evolution, and decided this is an area where he doesn't read for content very well. In particular, his discussion of a piece by Nilsson and Pelger, "An optimistic estimate of the time required for the evolution of the eye", he did not read the article he presumes to debunk. Seriously. He claims the article fails to address points that it most definitely does address.

The only explanation of the content of his "response" to the piece is that he read Richard Dawkins' description of the article, tracked down the article, and read only the captions of the illustrations therein.

The other piece he wrote was less memorable, and not nearly as egregious, but it still fell far short of the sort of analysis (or understanding) I'd expect from someone with his credentials.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jim Manzi on Expelled

Jim Manzi says, "Show me the science".

Expelled makes two key assertions. First, the scientific establishment has prevented adequate consideration of Intelligent Design (ID). Second, the scientific finding of evolution through natural selection logically entails atheism and nihilism.

There is a germ of truth to the first assertion. I’m sure that you would hard-pressed to get the editors of a reputable scientific journal to publish a paper that depends explicitly on ID. Of course, it would be just as hard to convince them to publish a paper that was premised on the phlogiston theory of combustion or that presented a perpetual motion machine.

This is because, in order to make practical progress, scientists accept paradigms (e.g., the Modern Synthesis of evolutionary biology) that have demonstrated the ability both to account for a wide range of empirical observations, and to produce useful scientific results. A paradigm helps to create a coherent discipline. The day-to-day work of scientists is to solve intellectual puzzles that fall within the relevant paradigm.

...ID advocates say Aha! You see, scientists aren’t giving ID a fair hearing, because it’s just too far outside of the box for the intellectual pygmies who comprise the biology faculties of every major research university in the world. The problem with this is that science has a proven track record of subverting existing paradigms, and replacing them, once superior alternatives are proposed. This process is imperfect and always takes time to work, but it does work. Obvious examples include the triumphs of heliocentric astronomy, the law of conservation of matter, the oxygen theory of combustion, the germ theory of disease, plate tectonics, special relativity, general relativity, and quantum mechanics.

...the obvious question for ID proponents is never asked: OK, this great science is being suppressed, so please show me the data, lab notebooks, scientific work papers, unpublished manuscripts, and so on that contain all of these amazing discoveries that nobody will confront. But we never see it.

As for the second charge:

it is true that many people have reasoned from evolution to atheism. But is their reasoning correct? Expelled gives lots of screen time to several prominent scientists, philosophers, and other academics who claim that it is. It doesn’t bother to present those who disagree, and believe that evolution is fully compatible with faith: the director of the Human Genome Research Institute, to pick one example, or Pope Benedict. Why would the pope be part of a multidisciplinary conspiracy to promote atheism?

And finally...

Trying to wish away valid scientific findings because you believe that they imperil religious or ethical beliefs is a fool’s errand on many levels. Augustine’s guidance from The Literal Meaning of Genesis is quite relevant here:

Even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipse of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

Dennis Prager often feels compelled to point out that the literal translation of the third commandment is "Do not carry the Lord's name in vain." This does not refer to casual mentions like "Oh God", but to the act of doing evil (or absurdities) in God's name. Shouting "God is great!" while beheading a captive does not make God look worthy of worship.

Similarly, claiming that God demands you ignore established facts in order to be true to him makes him look petty, or perhaps scared that the real world might undermine the faith of his followers.

This does not help God's image at all.

And if it qualifies as a violation of the third commandment, apparently, that's the one sin God won't forgive.

Ben Stein Misses the Point

Ed Morrissey at HotAir says Ben Stein misses his own point.

Stein misses the target by a mile when he says this at about the 28-minute mark:

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Science does not lead to Dachau; ideology perverting science led to Dachau. The Holocaust occurred when raving anti-Semites and materialists latched onto scientific theory as a philosophy, making it into a rationalization for what they would have done regardless.

The Intelligent Design movement happens to oppose all of science as it's currently carried out. The Wedge document blames "materialism" for a multitude of social ills, and seeks "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies". While cultural materialism leads to bad things, you can't do science in any way except materialistically. When you're trying to pin down the materialistic rules that govern things, you're not allowed to bring in non-material causes. Period.

As soon as you do that, you're no longer doing science.

Friday, May 02, 2008

"Soft" survivalism

This link from the BBC looks at the new survivalists.

Basically, they're doing pretty much what we're supposed to do in preparation for the next natural disaster.

Hamas on Israel

Powerline takes Jimmy Carter to task for his position on the Middle East. It includes a link to the Hamas covenant.

He writes:

I leave it to psychiatrists to decipher the causes of Carter's loyalty to Arab terrorists and the sources of his hostility to Israelis. For the moment, we can conclude that it is not President Bush who is "completely mistaken" about the aims of Hamas.

Expelled and More

John Derbyshire is taking flak over calling anti-evolutionism in general, and "Expelled" in particular, "A blood libel against civilization".

No, David. "The world is truly revealed as upside-down and backward" when intelligent young Jews sign up to the anti-science crusade.


Now you have joined up with people who want to trash the scientific enterprise and heap insults on one of the greatest names in intellectual history. For reasons unfathomable to me, you and Ben Stein want to sneer and scoff at our understandings, hard-won over centuries of arduous intellectual effort. Don't the two of you know, don't Jews of all people know, where this anti-intellectual agitation, this pandering to a superstitious mob, will lead at last? If you truly don't, I refer you to the fate of Hypatia, which you can read about in my last book (Chapter 3), or in Gibbon (Chapter XLVII). You new pals at the Discovery Institute no doubt think Hypatia got what she deserved.

Civilization is a thin veneer, David. Reason and science are bulwarks against the dark.

I am sure you know the fine speech that Robert Bolt put in the mouth of Sir Thomas More, but "people need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed":

More … What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Bolt's More understood a thing you and Stein don't understand, the thing that Waugh credited Kipling with understanding in that quote I posted earlier in the week, and that Adolf Hitler (hey, you started the reductio ad Hitlerum), in his own way, and of course from the other side of the Wall, also understood.

You and Stein are playing a dangerous game, a game that Jews should be the very last to play. The ADL, for all its faults, at least understands that.

The heart and soul of my objection to the Creationists, and to the Intelligent Design / Intelligent Origin Theorists (ID/IOTs) is that bad theories kill people.

And these groups promote the bad theory that science is the enemy of civilization. (Nowhere spelled out more clearly than in Ben Stein's recent interview where he declares scientists guilty of gassing his relatives in Nazi germany.)

Well, one of the first things "a scientist" told me to do was drink a vial of sugar water -- mixed with polio vaccine. For every scientist involved in the Final Solution against Jews, there are thousands, at least, involved in a Final Solution against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Those who wish to call science their enemy are free to reject any solutions it comes up with. They are not free to reject them on my behalf.

Tuskegee and History

Jonah Goldberg offers an account of Tuskegee that doesn't quite mesh with what "everybody knows".

So what did happen? In 1932, public health researchers set out to study syphilis, particularly among African-Americans, who had higher infection rates than whites. They recruited 399 black men who already had syphilis. The doctors infected no one. In fact, the patients were selected in the first place because they were tertiary-stage syphilitics who were no longer contagious.

The researchers studied the progress of the disease, without treating it, for 40 years.

Prior to the availability of penicillin in the 1940s and 1950s, the researchers couldn’t have treated the men even if they wanted to. Even after standardized penicillin treatments were available, it wasn’t clear that the patients could have been helped. Some of the doctors believed that treating the decades-long infections would kill the men.

Among scholars who’ve studied Tuskegee, there’s a lot of debate about how much — if any — racism was involved in the experiment. But no one disputes that Tuskegee had nothing whatsoever to do with genocide or even a desire to spread the disease among the black population.

What was bad about the Tuskegee experiment was a callous disregard for the humanity and integrity of the patients. They were told they were getting “treatments” when they were merely being studied. They were lied to, treated as objects rather than citizens. This is even more offensive today, now that we have modern legal and ethical rules about informed consent — rules that did not exist when the study was launched. But it was still wrong.

But the idea that the Tuskegee experiment somehow validates the deranged, paranoid view that the U.S. government created AIDS to murder African-Americans — in one of the most hideously painful, drawn-out and expensive manners imaginable — is a riot of ridiculousness and a maelstrom of mendacity. And yet, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard guilt-ridden white liberals say exactly that. “Considering what we did at Tuskegee,” they opine, “who can blame them for being distrustful of government?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Expelled and Godwin's Law

Expelled and Godwin's Law

There are a number of people who take issue with the contention in Expelled that Darwin's ideas helped the Nazis justify their Final Solution.

One group that has spoken out is the Anti-Defamation League.

Unfortunately, their positions of late don't inspire a great deal of confidence in their judgment, so I haven't cited their press release.

David Klinghoffer at Jewcy has more to say about the ADL.

Stein Says Science Kills

Stein Says Science Kills

Instapundit Begs To Differ

SCIENCE LEADS YOU TO KILLING PEOPLE? If this quote is accurate, Ben Stein has completely lost it.
Auschwitz was not conceived as science, nor was it impelled by science, or scientists. The Holocaust was not a scientific endeavor, but had its roots in the Nazis' unscientific loathing of the Jews. The Nazis did try to dress up that loathing in scientific dress, but that was a propaganda move, not science. (Indeed, Nazi science, for the most part, was dreadful science, made up by people to suit their preexisting beliefs without actual resort to the scientific method.) One can argue quite compellingly against moral relativism without engaging in raw intellectual dishonesty.

STILL MORE: In the comments at ChicagoBoyz, David Foster writes:

I’ve enjoyed a lot of Stein’s writing, and it saddens me to see him descending to this nuttiness.

“the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed”…surely Stein knows that the concentration camps were run by the SS, 99% of whom were not scientists. While it is true that the Nazis employed chemists for nefarious purposes, it is also true that the Nazis employed musicians to help hide from inmates the true purpose of the camps. Would Stein also assert that music is evil?

Good point, exposing just how cheap Stein's cheap shot was.

The Derb on Science

The Derb on Science

Science is hard. Not because the subject matter is all that hard to deal with -- in most cases, it's not. Indeed, it's quite simple.

The hard part of science is that it involves ways of thinking that are quite backward from the way most people are used to thinking.

A theory, for example, gains its power far more from what it rules out than from what it explains.

And the first thing that happens with any new theory is scientists flock to it and try to prove it false. A theory is not given any respect until it's resisted these efforts for quite a while, and even a very old and well-established theory is subject to occasional attacks by people looking for that one weak spot.

In a way, thinking about science is a lot like trying to do some intricate task while watching yourself in a mirror. It's easy to get your signals mixed up and get everything backwards. It's just not natural for human beings to think the way scientists do. (Which may be why it took us most of recorded history to come up with it.)

John Derbyshire offers a thought about science which I like:

The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, and social. We want our wishes to come true; we want the universe to care about us; we want the esteem of our peers. For most people, wanting to know the truth about the world is way, way down the list. Scientific objectivity is a freakish, unnatural, and unpopular mode of thought, restricted to small cliques whom the generality of citizens regard with dislike and mistrust. There is probably a sizable segment in any population that believes scientists should be rounded up and killed.

Man Given Finger -- Literally!

Man Given Finger -- Literally!

Usual caveat: This is one of these extraordinary claims that demand extraordinary proof. I want to see this published in a peer-reviewed journal before I take it seriously. That being said, if it's real, it's real cool.

In every town in every part of this sprawling country you can find a faceless sprawling strip mall in which to do the shopping.

Rarely though would you expect to find a medical miracle working behind the counter of the mall's hobby shop.

That however is what Lee Spievak considers himself to be.

"I put my finger in," Mr Spievak says, pointing towards the propeller of a model airplane, "and that's when I sliced my finger off."

It took the end right off, down to the bone, about half an inch.

"We don't know where the piece went."

The photos of his severed finger tip are pretty graphic. You can understand why doctors said he'd lost it for good.

Today though, you wouldn't know it. Mr Spievak, who is 69 years old, shows off his finger, and it's all there, tissue, nerves, nail, skin, even his finger print.

'Pixie dust'

How? Well that's the truly remarkable part. It wasn't a transplant. Mr Spievak re-grew his finger tip. He used a powder - or pixie dust as he sometimes refers to it while telling his story.

Mr Speivak's brother Alan - who was working in the field of regenerative medicine - sent him the powder.

For ten days Mr Spievak put a little on his finger.

"The second time I put it on I already could see growth. Each day it was up further. Finally it closed up and was a finger.

"It took about four weeks before it was sealed."

Now he says he has "complete feeling, complete movement."

The "pixie dust" comes from the University of Pittsburgh, though in the lab Dr Stephen Badylak prefers to call it extra cellular matrix.

Pig's bladder

The process he has been pioneering over the last few years involves scraping the cells from the lining of a pig's bladder.

The remaining tissue is then placed into acid, "cleaned" of all cells, and dried out.

It can be turned into sheets, or a powder.

It looks like a simple process, but of course the science is complex.

"There are all sorts of signals in the body," explains Dr Badylak.

"We have got signals that are good for forming scar, and others that are good for regenerating tissues.

"One way to think about these matrices is that we have taken out many of the stimuli for scar tissue formation and left those signals that were always there anyway for constructive remodelling."

In other words when the extra cellular matrix is put on a wound, scientists believe it stimulates cells in the tissue to grow rather than scar.

If they can perfect the technique, it might mean one day they could repair not just a severed finger, but severely burnt skin, or even damaged organs.