Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Thursday, Nov 30, 2006
Blair on creationists
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said this in a recent interview:
One subject that is of great concern to scientists is creationism. There has been a suggestion that creationism is being taught in some British schools. What are your views on this?He's right, the issue is hugely exaggerated by anti-religion scientists and others. Creationism is not taught to any significant degree anywhere in the USA or UK. Occasionally some teacher will make an off-hand comment that some people believe in creation, and that's about all. It is not in the curriculum anywhere.
The preoccupation of the leftist-atheist-evolutionists with this issue is kooky.
Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006
Distinguishing equality, equity, and law
The Wash Post reports:
The Democratic takeover of Congress should revive interest in an issue many Americans think is settled -- adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment ..The word "equity" has a technical legal meaning here. Medieval England had a very important distinction between "law" and "equity". Law courts decided cased based on written statutes. Equity courts were delegated by the king to issue orders based on the judge's opinions and prejudices, regardless of the statutes.
American courts have almost entirely abandoned the concept of separate law and equity courts, but the distinction is still important. It sometimes happens that a lawsuit proves damages, and the judge is persuaded to order an "equitable" remedy because the statute only allows a monetary remedy and that is considered to be inadequate.
So why are ERA advocates demanding a law that will give them "pay equity" instead of pay equality? That is because we already has a law that guarantees women pay equality. They want to be able to bring lawsuits asking supremacist judges to order pay increases based on some goofy non-statutory notion of what is reasonable.
Monday, Nov 27, 2006
Promoting red wine as healthy
The NY Times reports on evidence that supposedly says that red wine is good for your health, and says:
As an industry that is closely regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Mr. Mondavi said, "it is blatantly against the law for any alcoholic beverage producers to make any health claim regardless of the facts or the accuracy." ...I am with the ATF, because such labels would be fraudulent. The recent rat study used dosages that were inapplicable to humans. Other studies that have claimed benefits to light alcohol drinking have all been flawed.
The Bible only recommends wine over dirty water that is contaminated with cholera and other diseases. Americans have clean water. A truthful label would tell the whole story.
Sunday, Nov 26, 2006
Brilliant Minds Forecast the Next 50 Years
New Scientist magazine asked prominent intellectuals to forecast the future.
The brilliant theoretical physicist Gerard 't Hooft says:
A spectacular breakthrough that could take place in my field is the construction of a theory that not only unites quantum mechanics and gravity but also predicts every single detail of the evolution of the universe.This is heresy. Conventional physics wisdom is that deterministic theories have been proved to be impossible. Anyone who disputes that is considered a nut.
Except that no one will call 'tHooft a nut. He just got one of the very few Nobel prizes in theoretical physics, and is credited with figuring out how to renormalize the quantum field theory of strong and weak forces.
Physicists are so sure that the world is non-deterministic that they have quantum cryptography systems, such as BB84 published in 1984, that use the non-determinacy in order to assure that info was transmitted securely. It is commonly claimed that BB84 has been proven secure that the laws of physics prevent any possible eavesdropping.
Conventional cryptosystems typically use special passwords or keys for their security. If some adversary had unlimited computer resources, he could test all possible keys, and eventually be able to crack the system. Cryptography is the science of making sure that any such key search is infeasible, so that info is available only to those who have been granted the proper keys.
The appeal of quantum cryptography is that no assumptions have to be made about the computational resources of adversaries. The laws of physics will make it provably impossible for anyone to spy on you.
But quantum cryptography has not replaced ordinary cryptography because it cannot do most of the things that ordinary cryptography can. Those in the field now call it quantum key distribution (QKD) because all it does is to transmit some probable bits down a dedicated line, allowing keys to be computed from those bits. If you want to use encryption, authentication, repeaters, or anything else, you need to use ordinary cryptography.
A lot of people thought that BB84 was proved secure, under standard quantum mechanical assumptions, back in 1984. But it was not. The so-called proofs had various holes allowing possible attacks. I am just talking about mathematical holes here. You can find recent papers which find holes and claim to fix them here, here, and here. Briefly, the physicists failed to consider the possibility that an adversary would gain probabilistic info about several bits without indentifying individual bits, and they failed to consider that someone might store captured info in a quantum computer and save it for an attack later.
Any physical implementation of QKD is likely to have physical attacks as well. No real system can perfectly match the idealized models of the QKD papers. Info could be leaked in subtle ways. For example, QKD systems typically assume that two photons can be sent down an optical fiber such that the only difference is that their polarizations differ by 90 degrees. That can be done approximately, but not perfectly.
If 't Hooft is right and the laws of physics are deterministic, the basic quantum mechanical assumptions underlying QKD are wrong. Those who promote QKD should admit that the security depends on physical assumptions that may or may not be correct.
Saturday, Nov 25, 2006
Genes affect attitudes
A 1998 twin study has conclusions that are described this way:
Your differing attitudes on abortion, birth control, immigrants, gender roles, and race are mostly due to your genes, while your attitudes toward education, capitalism and punishment are due to your life experiences.There are also other studies like this. I am not sure these particular conclusions are correct, but it does seem likely that certain attitudes are correlated with certain genes. If so, then this should have a bearing on what people should regard as a "choice" in others, and what is not.
Many people say that we shouldn't say anything bad about another race because race is an inborn trait that no one has any choice about. But what if certain attitudes are inborn, and not a matter of choice? Should we not criticize them either? That is one theory for not criticizing the religions of others.
I think that if people are really going to censor themselves and others based on some theory about what is inborn, then they should be prepared to accept the science about what really is or is not inborn.
Wednesday, Nov 22, 2006
Horganism trashes science books
Science writer John Horgan trashes a pro-Prozac book:
If you read the peer-reviewed clinical trials rather than the puffery of Kramer you would know that Prozac and other SSRIs are no more effective than earlier antidepressants, such as tricyclics, and antidepressants as a whole are no more effective than psychoanalysis and other talking cures. When I made this claim in The Undiscovered Mind in 1999, it was treated as highly controversial, but now it's been overwhelmingly confirmed.Then he follows that up with this:
Re The Bell Curve, depictions of Murray and Herrnstein as champions of truth defying political correctness make my blood boil. Many studies have shown that if you repeatedly tell a group of people—girls or members of an ethnic group or whomever—that they are inferior and there is nothing they can do about it, they will perform at a lower level. In other words, Murray and Herrnstein made a serious social problem worse with their diagnosis and prescription.He's got a point with the Prozac, but then the argument against The Bell Curve is odd. If The Bell Curve is psychological hurtful to people, then I would expect that telling people that Prozac is ineffective would be similarly hurtful.
Here's the big difference: You don't have to take Prozac or pray to the Virgin Mary. You can take a homeopathic pill or consult a witch doctor instead. You have a choice. When it comes to your race or gender, you have no choice. That puts racism and sexism in a different moral category than attacks on religion or quasi-religions like psychopharmacology.I am not sure why "choice" should make such a big difference. If it turns out that depression is caused by genetic factors (so that people with depression have no choice), then I don't see why that should have a bearing on the availability of scientific books on how to treat depression.
Well, Horgan has really clarified the IQ debate for me. Whites do more poorly than Asians and Jews because they have been told they are inferior, right?Horgan is one of the better science writers around. On this issue, his objections seem to be based more on politics than science.
I wonder what someone like Horgan would think of this NY Times story:
When President Bush signed his sweeping education law a year into his presidency, it set 2014 as the deadline by which schools were to close the test-score gaps between minority and white students that have persisted since standardized testing began. ...If these results are discouraging to blacks, then is the NY Times wrong to publish this story? What if stories like this cause Asians to do better?
If the achievement gaps are really "perplexing and persistent", and some social scientist has figured out an explanation, then should he refuse to publish out of fear that it would be upsetting to those with some egalitarian political philosophy?
There are billions of dollars riding on these educational policies. If someone has research that answers the perplexing gaps, then I certainly hope that he will publish it so that we can adopt some policies that will work.
Re some readers’ defense of The Bell Curve, the worst of the worst science books, see ...I don't get the argument here. The Bell Curve popularized the Flynn effect. I guess the book expressed an opinion about it, I don't remember. Horgan maintains that the Flynn effect is real and unexplained. How this makes The Bell Curve a terrible book, I don't know.
Here is another NY Times article on the achievement gap.
Tuesday, Nov 21, 2006
The Best Science Show on Television
NY Science Times reports:
Mr. Hyneman and his colleague, Adam Savage, are the hosts of "Mythbusters" on the Discovery Channel. It may be the best science program on television, in no small part because it does not purport to be a science program at all. What “Mythbusters” is best known for, to paraphrase Mr. Hyneman, is blowing stuff up. And banging stuff together. And setting stuff on fire. The two men do it for fun and ratings, of course. But in a subtle and goofily educational way, they commit mayhem for science’s sake. ...I agree. No other TV science show is as good at forming a hypothesis and then empirically testing that hypothesis. That is the essence of science.
Too many TV shows and popular books dwell on biographical details of the life of Einstein or some other scientist, or give some other personalized narrative without explaining the real science.
Monday, Nov 20, 2006
25 Greatest Science Books of All-Time
The latest Discover magazine has a list of 25+8 greatest science books. I would not have included any of these, as they are mostly examples of bad science:
I would think that the greatest science books would use the scientific method. That is, they would form hypotheses and then carry out experiments to test them.
Most of the better books on the list have a lot of interesting theorizing, but provide no real way to determine whether the theory is correct or not. These aren't the best examples of science. I'd like to see a list of science books that describe some real science. The books by Newton, Einstein, and Feynman derive formulas that are empirically testable.
Sunday, Nov 19, 2006
Global warming causes good weather
The Chicago Tribune reports:
Most tropical storm experts had predicted that this year's Atlantic hurricane season would be deadly. Instead, with just a few days remaining in the June-November hurricane prime time, 2006 has turned out to be a dud. ...Last year, there were 27 named storms, and the leftist ideologues blamed them on global warming.
Saturday, Nov 18, 2006
Becoming a Quack
Ever wonder how a respected Harvard professor could go off the deep end and devote his life to interview people who reported space alien abductions, and then writing a book about them as if they were real? I just learned this about Prof. John Mack:
Following encouragement from longtime friend Thomas Kuhn (who predicted that the subject might be controversial, but urged Mack to simply collect data and temporarily ignore prevailing materialist, dualist and "either/or" analysis), Mack began concerted study and interviews.Kuhn was a famous philosopher who convinced everyone that Science periodically jumps irrationally from one fad to another. I didn't know that he went around giving practical suggestions on how to make those irrational leaps.
Friday, Nov 17, 2006
Evolution and medicine
Psychiatry prof David V. Forrest writes:
From antibiotic resistance of microbes to ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny in embryology, from the presence of vestigial parts to organization of the neuraxis, evolution is always in the forefront of modern medical understanding. Even the psychoanalytic institute at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons had a course in the evolutionary biology of behaviors such as maternal attachment as early as the late '60s.I wonder what other voodoo science he learned in those psychiatry classes. He probably learned "ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny" from faked Haeckel diagrams, and that autism was some sort of evolutionary punishment for mothers who don't form proper attachments to their babies.
Tuesday, Nov 14, 2006
You are what your grandmother ate
New Scientist reports:
A mother’s diet can change the behaviour of a specific gene for at least two subsequent generations, a new study demonstrates for the first time.This is completely contrary to conventional genetic theory. If confirmed, some textbooks will have to be revised.
Update: Here is another article on behavioral (non-genetic) influences on evolution. Evolutionists have been saying for 100 years that such theories are wrong, but more evidence for them is piling up.
Quoting President Bush
Joe sends this 2003 Wash Post article:
For Bush, a Methodist who calls himself a born-again Christian, spiritual vocabulary is a frequent feature of his public speaking.And yet MSNBC said this in 2004:
George Bush has not said directly that he was ever born again.I don't know why it is so difficult for reporters to understand what Bush says. His public comments are on the record and easily accessible. If he said that he was "born again", then it would be easy to find the quote.
People variously claim that Bush admitted to being an alcoholic or a cocaine user; said Iraq had WMD and was an imminent threat; claimed that God told him to wage war against Iraq; and many other things. When you hear someone claim that Bush lied -- ask for the quote.
Dawkins believes in multiple universes to explain atheism
David Van Biema, the TIME interviewer (who deserves a pat for good questions), asks both men to comment on the observation that "if the universal constants, the six or more characteristics of our universe, had varied at all, it would have made life impossible."Since S.J. Gould died, Dawkins has become the leading spokesman for evolutionism, atheism, and the use of Science to attack religion. Too bad he also promotes goofy unscientific ideas like the multiverse as an alternative to religion.
Saturday, Nov 11, 2006
Stumbling on Happiness
Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychology professor and author of the book Stumbling on Happiness, writes in a LA Times op-ed:
Why are we less worried about the more likely disaster? Because the human brain evolved to respond to threats that have four features — features that terrorism has and that global warming lacks.No, he is wrong about this. Millions of people are sufficiently worried about flu that they get flu vaccines. No one gets an anthrax vaccine.
Global warming isn't trying to kill us, and that's a shame. ...Not only that, but global warming seems to do us more good than harm.
Environmentalists despair that global warming is happening so fast. ... Global warming is a deadly threat precisely because it fails to trip the brain's alarm, leaving us soundly asleep in a burning bed.This is kooky stuff. The human brain is fully capable of understanding global warming. Under some of the more likely scenarios, sea level will rise a foot or so over the next hundred years. If we were willing to give up part of our standard of living for the sake of fighting global warming, then maybe the increase could be slowed to 10 inches or so. The rational response to global warming scare stories is to ask: What can we do? What would the costs be under likely scenarios? What will the net benefit be for the measures that we might take?
Until these issues are addressed, the global warming lobby is not even appealing to rational thinkers.
Friday, Nov 10, 2006
Science pundits deny truth
As you’ll see if you read her remarks, Dolling is a very well-informed, sophisticated thinker. So are Jim McClellan and all the other scholars, scientists and journalists I know who hold this skeptical view of scientific “truth” (these folks view all truth claims as deserving of quotation marks). This is the position that I denigrate—for lack of a better term--as postmodernism.He's right. At least those scientists who believe in God will readily admit that their belief is a matter of faith. Those who deny truth are frustrating to deal with.
Thursday, Nov 09, 2006
According to CNN, human beings may have acquired a gene for developing bigger brains from Neanderthal man. Apparently, 70% of the world's population has a variant of a gene regulating brain size, with this variant being most common in people of European descent (where Neanderthal man lived alongside ancient humans), and least common in people of African descent (where Neanderthal man was non-existent). While modern day eugenicists might all too eagerly read into these findings to draw their own politically biased conclusions, people such as myself, who happen to be of northern European ancestry, may find it fascinating that somewhere in our lineage ancient humans and Neanderthals decided to make love and not war on the ancient plains of Eurasia.Here is the NY Times version.
The standard evolutionist bias is to take fossils that look human, like Neanderthals, and declare them to belong to a separate species. Old fossils that look like chimps, like Lucy, are declared to be human ancestors. Thus, conventional wisdom is that Neanderthals did not interbreed with humans.
What is unexplained is that Neanderthals lived in Europe 50k years ago, and they look more like Europeans than humans found elsewhere in the world.
Now this study suggests that Europeans may have gotten the genes for big brains from Neanderthals. This idea may upset some people.
We actually have enough Neanderthal DNA fragments that it may soon be possible to sequence most of it and answer some of these questions.
Meanwhile, if Europeans are embarrassed about mating with Neanderthals, Africans might be embarrassed by this:
One more reason not to eat our close living relatives. Of the three strains of HIV known to infect humans, we know that two - the one causing the global AIDS epidemic and another that has infected a small number of people in Cameroon - came from a chimpanzee virus called SIV. The source of the third strain, which infects people in western central Africa, was a mystery. Now we know it came from gorillas.Yes, don't eat them. And certainly don't have sex with them. You might get a disease, and they might get your big brain genes, and evolve into another species that might wipe you out.
Sunday, Nov 05, 2006
String Theory and the Crackpot Index
Recently two books, by Peter Woit and by Lee Smolin, have been published questioning whether the enormous theoretical effort applied to the problems of string theory has been fruitful. Both books have been reviewed in several popular publications, and generated substantial discussion both inside and outside of the physics community.Funny. That's right, Greene is not a crackpot, but he sure sounds like one. If he had any real science to talk about, he would be doing that instead of babbling about Einstein's vision. His short op-ed on String Theory mentions Einstein eleven times, even tho Einstein died about 25 years before String Theory got started. It really doesn't have much to do with Einstein.
Fat people cause global warming
Research shows that fat people cause global warming, but they keep eating anyway:
Fat people are more reviled than ever, researchers find, even as more people become fat. When smokers and heavy drinkers turned pariah, rates of smoking and drinking went down. Won’t fat people, in time, follow suit? ...Genes play a role in smoking and other addictions also.
Galileo's condemnation: The real and complex story
An evolutionist Wikipedia editor just removed this paragraph from the article on Galileo Galilei:
Pietro Redondi has put forward another reading of this history ("Galileo eretico", pub. Italy, 1983; "Galileo: Heretic" (transl: Raymond Rosenthal) Princeton University Press 1987; Penguin 1988). Redondi makes a very detailed and powerful case for the thesis that Galileo's eventual condemnation in 1633 was not to do particularly with his Copernicanism but was everything to do with the fundamental attack on Aristotle that his previous book "The Assayer" (1623) represented. The Jesuits deeply resented this book, which was a spirited attack on Orazio Grassi's (correct) interpretation on the 1618 comets that was widely believed to have been a baleful harbinger of the [[Thirty Years' War]]. By May 1632 the Pope needed the help of the Spanish to stop the Protestant [[Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden]] from crossing the Alps and descending on Rome. And the price of the Spanish was a greater attention to the protection of orthodoxy. They would dearly have liked to arraign Galileo for heresy in his atomistic views presented with such verve and force in "The Assayer", which struck at the heart of the [[Council of Trent|Tridentine]] doctrine of the [[Eucharist]] but they could hardly press this capital charge considering that the Pope himself would also be implicated (since he had welcomed "The Assayer", which was dedicated to him shortly after he was elected). Therefore they chose a lesser charge predating the current Pope, that nevertheless will still silence Galileo. Redondi's thesis was heavily criticised at the time, but subsequently Emerson Thomas McMullen has supported it with a detailed article "Galileo's condemnation: The real and complex story" (Georgia Journal of Science, vol.61(2) 2003).This story is news to me.
For some reason, evolutionists stubbornly cling to certain myths about Galileo. They believe that Galileo was the Prometheus of the Middle Ages, and gave Reason to Man much to the dismay of the Church authorities. When they find out that Galileo was wrong about the comets and the tides, and that he was even wrong about whether the Copernican system had been proved, the evolutionists are annoyed to no end. If the above paragraph is correct, then Galileo's troubles were as much a result of his theology and Biblical interpretation as anything else. It ruins their whole myth.
Liking blue-eyed women
Here is another goofy evolution theory:
The researchers, whose study was published online earlier this month in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, theorized that for a blue-eyed man, finding a blue-eyed mate might have a Darwinian payoff: as a father, he could be more certain that a blue-eyed child was his own.The evolution explanation also requires a lot of assumptions. How many people even know how recessive genes work? Why didn't they try the experiment with other recessive traits?
Thursday, Nov 02, 2006
Lost Moon tapes
The site that has reported this story says the Lost Nasa Tapes have been found,, but an a thread on Digg is saying tese are only data tapes and not the original video feed tapes. Now I am going to sit this one out and hope that these are indeed are the lost tapes.Those who say that the Moon landing was a hoax will jump on this. They'll say that it is not plausible that the tapes could be lost, and that only low quality tapes were released because analysis would show that they were faked.
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2006
An Evolutionary Theory of Right and Wrong
Nicholas Wade reports for the NY Science Times:
Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, has ... [proposed] that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. In a new book, “Moral Minds” (HarperCollins 2006), he argues that the grammar generates instant moral judgments which, in part because of the quick decisions that must be made in life-or-death situations, are inaccessible to the conscious mind. ...My impression is that Chomsky's ideas are not too popular among evolutionists, because they suggest that humans are qualitatively different from other animals. This new book would similarly suggest that humans are different from animals by being the only ones with a conscience.
I'll be interested to see how the leftist-atheist-evolutionists will react to this. They might see this as a further opportunity to encroach on religion, and argue that religious morality is fully explained by the theory of evolution, just as evolution explains everything else. Or they might dismiss the whole idea as some sort of heresy against the doctrine that evolution is supposed to prove that humans are just animals.
Scotus blog discussion degenerates
The discussion about Phyllis Schlafly on the Scotus blog has degenerated into an argument about World War II policies!
Phyllis Schlafly made a minor comment about the US Supreme Court and majority opinion:
No one in our country is forced to recite the Pledge, get married, or learn the Ten Commandments. But we are not going allow a few people to censor the will of our overwhelming majority.This got a couple of people agitated. One said that it is dangerous to listen to the overwhelming majority. As examples, they cite the WWII internment of Japanese aliens and Nazi Germany!
He might have a point if the WWII Japanese alien relocation were proposed by the overwhelming majority of the American public, and then stopped by the Supreme Court. But in fact it was the opposite. The policy was supported by FDR, Earl Warren, and the Supreme Court, and there was never any public vote on it.
I had expected some informed criticism of Phyllis Schlafly's attack on judicial supremacy on the Scotus blog. Instead, the commenters there seem to be living in some sort of fantasy world about how the Supreme Court might have behaved.