Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Friday, Jun 29, 2007
Citing Marbury v Madison for judicial supremacy
Ilya Somin writes on the Volokh legal blog:
The most fundamental duty of the federal courts is to overrule and remedy governmental violations of the Constitution. ...A reader rebuts it:
Although I'm sympathetic to the concept of a judicially-created remedy, nothing in Marbury obligates or even promotes it. Marbury was decided by the court NOT exercising a power that conflicted with the Constitution, not enforcing any power of its own.Somin also cited Marbury v Madison to argue:
Yet the majority still denies Robbins his request for a damage remedy. This violates one of the most basic principles of constitutional law: the idea that for every constitutional right there must be an adequate remedy.Another reader rebutted this:
It's pretty rich to quote Marbury for the proposition that every violation must have a remedy. The practical import of the Marbury Court's ruling that it didn't have the authority to issue a writ of mandamus was actually that Marbury didn't have a remedy for the violation of his legal right to his judgeship. As that example shows, the lack of legal remedy for a violation of legal rights has a long pedigree; Wilkie is hardly treading new ground.Marbury v Madison is just an obscure 1803 court case that law profs and judicial supremacists cites whenever they argue for judges seizing power non-legislatively. I wonder whether they even read the case, because it actually stands for judicial restraint.
Wednesday, Jun 27, 2007
Supremacists have four votes on court
Today's decision shows we're still a long way from attaining the goals of The Supremacists. Only Scalia and Thomas were willing to overturn Flast v. Cohen, which is one of the worst examples of judicial activism by the Warren Court. Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy, rather unconvincingly, gave a narrower interpretation but shrank from plunging the dagger in a bad precedent. Incredibly, the Supreme Court still has four justices who wanted to uphold a decision declaring that the Faith-Based Initiative violates the Establishment Clause. If O'Connor was still on the Court, she probably would have joined them to make a majority.A tax-exempt anti-religion organization, FFRF.org, sued to complain about an assortment of supposedly pro-religion policies of the Bush administration. FFRF even challenged the content of presidential speeches. FFRF could not point to any faulty statute or harm to itself, but just argued that any taxpayer should be able to use the federal courts to challenge government policy. In Hein v FFRF, four justices said FFRF should have standing for such nonsense. If a Democrat is elected in 2008, then the liberal judicial suprematicts may get five votes.
Tuesday, Jun 26, 2007
Evolutionism needs a paradigm shift
Evolutionist Douglas H. Erwin writes in the NY Times:
Is Darwin due for an upgrade? There are growing calls among some evolutionary biologists for just such a revision, although they differ about what form this might take. But those calls could also be exaggerated. There is nothing scientists enjoy more than the prospect of a good paradigm shift. Paradigm shifts are the stuff of scientific revolutions.What he is trying to say here is that everybody knows that evolution is the byproduct of mutation and natural selection, but nobody really knows how much is attributable to mutation and how much to natural selection. Evolutionism needs some radical new ideas in order to figure out how it works.
Of course he has the obligatory denunciation of creationism or else his career would be in trouble.
The point here is that evolutionists agree that evolution is natural, meaning that the selection of surviving life is not by God or Man, but beyond that there is not much agreement on how is works.
The same paper has a bunch of other evolution articles, including this:
That is the nub of the issue, according to Nancey Murphy, a philosopher at Fuller Theological Seminary who has written widely on science, religion and the soul. Challenges to the uniqueness of humanity in creation are just as alarming as the Copernican assertion that Earth is not the center of the universe, she writes in her book "Bodies and Souls or Spirited Bodies?" (Cambridge, 2006). Just as Copernicus knocked Earth off its celestial pedestal, she said, the new findings on cognition have displaced people from their "strategic location" in creation.I think that it is bizarre that some philosophers and others think that Copernicus somehow made people less human. Copernicus did nothing of the kind.
It has the usual claim that:
There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth.This is not as impressive as it sounds. It only means that change in the history of life on Earth is attributable to mutation and selection (some mutations surviving more than others). If you want to know how much is mutation and how much is selection, no one can tell you.
Update: Cornelia Dean must like that sentence. She says again:
In fact, there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth.She seems to put this sentence in all her NY Times articles on the subject. Sometimes she says "diversity and complexity" instead of "complexity and diversity", but otherwise it is the same.
The statement is almost completely vacuous. It is about like saying:
In fact, there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of climate change as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of weather on earth.Yes, that's right, but there is no practical content to the statement. It is just a silly consequence of the definitions.
Saturday, Jun 23, 2007
I just discovered a web site and a blog that exist solely to criticize Conservapedia.
The blog attacks me here:
This is easy to explain. The ad hominem attack was to accuse me of being confused. This was on a Talk page that was reserved for discussing improvements to a Conservapedia article. It is not relevant whether I am confused or not.
It is funny how Conservapedia is so upsetting to these folks. It is just a conservative version of Wikipedia. The critics are free to join and correct any errors, if they wish.
Most of the complaints on Conservapedia don't point to any actual errors, but instead gripe about a lack of leftist spin.
Friday, Jun 22, 2007
Older boys are smarter
The NY Times reports on IQ research:
The eldest children in families tend to develop higher I.Q.'s than their siblings, researchers are reporting today, in a large study that could settle more than a half-century of scientific debate about the relationship between I.Q. and birth order.No, the study only showed that 18-19 year old boys in Norway have a higher IQ. This doesn't really settle anything, as you can see from the contradictory results and explanations:
Social scientists have proposed several theories to explain how birth order might affect intelligence scores. Firstborns have their parents' undivided attention as infants, and even if that attention is later divided evenly with a sibling or more, it means that over time they will have more cumulative adult attention, in theory enriching their vocabulary and reasoning abilities.But that doesn't stop them from making unwarranted generalizations:
Because sex has little effect on I.Q. scores, the results almost certainly apply to females as well, said Dr. Petter Kristensen, an epidemiologist at the University of Oslo and the lead author of the Science study.If that is not silly enough, the article gets really wacky at the end:
Charles Darwin, author of the revolutionary "Origin of Species," was the fifth of six children. Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish-born astronomer who determined that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the planetary system, grew up the youngest of four. The mathematician and philosopher René Descartes, the youngest of three, was a key figure in the scientific revolution of the 16th century.This is nonsense. It doesn't mention first-borns Kepler, Newton, and Einstein because they don't fit the pattern.
Update: Here is a criticism of the birth-order hypothesis from John Horgan.
Wednesday, Jun 20, 2007
Indians didn't get paid for blood
Some South American Indians are complaining that they once donated blood and never got paid for it. Somebody should tell them that USA citizens don't get paid either.
1970s ecologist speaks up
The NY Times reports:
Barry Commoner has for decades been agitating to restore ecological balance to the biosphere, whether by outlawing nuclear testing or spreading the practice of recycling.So it interviews him:
Q. So you don’t think global warming is detracting from other concerns?That is exactly why leftist environmentalists love the attention given to global warming. It allows them to broadly attack human activity and economic production.
Commoner goes on:
You could argue that maybe this is a high point in a heating/cooling cycle. Well, we’re adding to the high point. There’s no question about it. So it seems to me the argument that there are natural ways in which the temperature fluctuates is a spurious one. If we accept that we’re in a cycle, it’s idiocy to increase the high point.Here, he starts to get wacky. If we are at a high point, then adding to the high point is the best thing that we could do because it would postpone another ice age.
Commoner goes on to make nutty comments about nuclear power, malaria, clothes, and Ronald Reagan.
Tuesday, Jun 19, 2007
NASA Head Regrets Global Warming Remarks
ABC News reports:
NASA administrator Michael Griffin said in the closed-door meeting Monday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena that "unfortunately, this is an issue which has become far more political than technical and it would have been well for me to have stayed out of it." ...I already commented on this below. What Griffin did was to correctly distinguish science and policy. For that, he is called "ignorant". It has become politically risky to question the global warming agenda.
Monday, Jun 18, 2007
Coyne trashes Behe
Jerry Coyne trashes Michael J. Behe's new book:
More damaging than the scientific criticisms of Behe's work was the review that he got in 2005 from Judge John E. Jones III. ... Jones's 139-page verdict for the plaintiffs was eloquent, strong, and unequivocal, especially coming from a churchgoing Republican. He ruled that "intelligent design" is not only unscientific, but a doctrine based firmly on religion.So the strongest argument against Behe's work is that a church-going Republican judge declared that it is unscientific?!
In Darwin's Black Box, Behe made exactly the same argument to show that a similar structure, the flagellum (a larger cilium that propels microorganisms), could not have evolved by natural selection. But in this case Behe's claim that no intermediate stages could have existed was refuted. Ken Miller, a biologist at Brown University (and an observant Catholic), showed how flagella and cilia could have had their precursors in mechanisms that the cell uses to transport proteins, mechanisms that are co-opted to construct flagella.So Behe's latest idea must be wrong because an observant Catholic biologist refuted an earlier and related idea?
Is Behe's theory testable? Well, not really, since it consists not of positive assertions, but of criticisms of evolutionary theory and solemn declarations that it is powerless to explain complexity.Coyne seems to alternate between saying that Behe's ideas are untestable, and saying that they have been refuted.
Evolution has been tested, and confirmed, many times over. Every time we find an early human fossil dating back several million years, it confirms evolution.I agree that a great many aspects of Evolution have been tested and confirmed, but Coyne sure offers wacky evidence. No one has ever found an early human fossil dating back several million years.
Coyne notes that Lehigh U. has this disclaimer:
While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.Coyne says that this statement is unique. Other universities do not similarly disavow their professors who advocate Marxism, Feminism, or String Theory. It is common for a Physics dept. to have a professor who denies that the theory of gravity can explain galaxy formation, and that prof is not ostracized.
The hysterical reaction of evolutionists to Behe is a little strange. Real scientists would just offer rebuttals to the testable aspects of Behe's ideas, and leave it at that. Behe accepts most of conventional Evolution dogma, and merely questions some evolutionary mechanisms. It is likely that he will be proven wrong, if he hasn't been already. But he seems like just another academic writing a provocative book. Lehigh U. looks particularly ridiculous in branding Behe unscientific just because it says that his ideas are outside the mainstream and have not been tested experimentally.
According to a recently revealed document, the great Isaac Newton once gave a Biblical analysis that predicted the end of the world in 2060. Some Case Western profs don't believe in black holes, and the critics just calmly explain why the profs are wrong.
Behe is not like other scientists who question the details of an established theory. If Behe is right, then religious nuts will infer that God had a role in the history of life on Earth. Science cannot tolerate that. It opens the door to unscientific arguments and irrational thinking. Science must always be premised on God having no role in anything. Otherwise we'll be heading back to the Dark Ages. Scientists must actively disavow Behe and everything that he represents.I wondering why it is that only evolutionists make such silly arguments. Other sciences have controversies that have religious implications. Physicists and cosmologists do not go around waging an ideological war against those who support theories that some theists happen to like.
Sunday, Jun 17, 2007
NY Times trashes Clarence Thomas again
Harvard prof Orlando Patterson just wrote a NY Times book review trashing Justice Clarence Thomas:
He frequently preaches the virtues of honesty and truthfulness, yet there is now little doubt that he lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings -- not only about his pornophilia and bawdy humor but, more important, about his legal views and familiarity with cases like Roe v. Wade.Yes, there is doubt. No one can point to just what the alleged lies were. This is just another unsubstantiated defamatory cheap shot. What is worse here is that Patterson appears to know nothing about Thomas's actual court opinions. Patterson is a black Jamaican sociologist, and not a lawyer or legal scholar, but he is reviewing a biography of Thomas. Patterson writes:
notoriously, he [Thomas] has held that beating a prisoner is not unconstitutional punishment because it would not have appeared cruel and unusual to the framersThe case was Hudson v McMillian, 503 US 1 (1992). It appears that Patterson did not read the opinion, as it has little resemblance to the above sentence. Thomas's argument was more about what previous courts considered to be punishment, than what framers would have considered cruel and unusual.
This is yet another example of people visciously attacking Thomas without showing that they even know the first things about what he has done on the court. The article attacks "his suspect qualifications for the job". That is just a code phrase. Thomas has been on the Supreme Court for 15 years, and he should now be judged on the opinions that he has issued on the job.
Wednesday, Jun 06, 2007
Libby gets stiff sentence
Does Libby's sentence violate the Blakely decision?I wonder if Libby is even going to make the argument. The NY Times reported:
The judge said there was no issue that Mr. Libby’s lawyers could appeal that seemed to present a reasonable chance of succeeding. But he relented somewhat and said they could file briefs next week detailing their arguments that there were two reasonable grounds for appeal: that Mr. Fitzgerald’s appointment as a special counsel was improper and that Judge Walton had erred in prohibiting the defense team from presenting experts on the fallibility of human memory.Yes, I think that the judge violated Blakely, but Libby's got the problem that his lawyer, Ted Wells, made hopelessly weak arguments in court and the jury convicted Libby of obstruction of justice. I don't see how any justice was obstructed, but Libby should have explained that to the jury himself.
The NY Times reports in Thursday's paper:
A decision not to pardon Mr. Libby would further alienate members of Mr. Bush’s traditional base of support in the conservative movement, a group already angry about his proposed immigration policy, his administration’s spending and his approach to Iran.This is crazy. Conservatives are upset with Pres. Bush over his immigration policy, but nobody cares about a Libby pardon. No one outside the DC pundits, that is.
Tuesday, Jun 05, 2007
Why humans are not furry
SciAm experts address this evolutionary question:
What is the latest theory of why humans lost their body hair? Why are we the only hairless primate? ...He rejects (1) because paleontological evidence is elusive, and rejects (2) because we would have lost more heat at night. He prefers theory (3) because human lice prefer hairy areas, and because naked mole rats have no hair!
It seems clear that the evolutionary experts have no good answer. Theories (2) and (3) don't even answer the question, because they fail to explain why other primates are still furry. The aquatic ape theory lacks paleontological evidence, but so does every other theory.
Evolutionists make fun of creationists and others who ask why some apes evolved into humans, and all the other apes didn't. Why didn't the chimps evolve, they ask. Evolutionists say that the question shows a misunderstanding of evolution. But there is a legitimate open question about how humans have evolved to be so different from other primates, and the above discussion shows that there is no good answer.
Monday, Jun 04, 2007
Use free wi-fi, goto jail
Michigan prosecutors say that it is a felony to access a free coffeeshop wifi connection unless you get explicit permission from the coffeeshop.
When you buy a Wi-Fi equipped device, it's your responsibility to find out what you can and can't legally do with that device, just as it would be if you were buying a radar detector or any other piece of electronics.Only DC and VA actually try to restrict the use of radar detectors.
My guess is that the Michigan wifi user could have contested the charge, and been acquitted. The coffeeshop manager would not have had the guts to testify against his own potential customer.
Defining the paradigm shift
NY Times says:
a historian of science named Thomas Kuhn, whose seminal 1962 book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolution", neatly mapped the anti-establishment landscape of innovation. Kuhn's central insight, which fast became a cliché, was to identify "paradigm shifts" as the key to advances in science and technology. Scientific world views were belief systems first and proved empirically only later. Facts had meaning only in relation to a "world view". When world views were overthrown by rebels, new paradigms could be constructed, opening the way for new theories, new facts, new technologies.I mention this because there is some confusion about the meaning of the term "paradigm shift". The term is commonly used to promote an irrational and deviant world view as a scientific breakthru, even tho it lacks empirical evidence. The term is very popular among philosophers, leftists, evolutionists, and crackpots.
Racist attacks on Justice Clarence Thomas
NY Times editorial writer Adam Cohen slams Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, suggesting that he is ignorant, ideologically driven, contemptuous of legal processes, regularly ruling against the weak, indifferent to suffering, marginal, far right, grew up angry and hurt, with friends like Rush Limbaugh, rules reflexively and on dubious grounds, against moving humane directions, and promoting other harsh jurisprudence.
If I can find Cohen's email address, I intend to send him this:
Your article quotes C. Thomas:The NY Times is free to publish Cohen's extreme opinions, of course, but it is really dishonestly misrepresenting and misquoting Clarence Thomas. Thomas often gives arguments based on the original text or the original meaning of the US Constitution, but not the original intent. Eg, in Rosenberger v Rector, Thomas says that the "right path" is to consult the "original meaning" of the Constitution.Justice Thomas claims he is simply faithful to the "original intent" of the founders.What is your source for this quote? Where did Thomas ever say that he was simply faithful to the "original intent" of the founders, using the phrase "original intent"?
The remarkable thing about the attacks on Clarence Thomas is that they are from people who appear to have never even read any of his opinions. His attackers are unable to cite any specifics from Thomas; and when they do, they get it wrong.
Cohen's background is that he worked as a lawyer for the virulently racist SPLC. He attacks Thomas in a way that he would only use to attack a black man.
Update: I sent the email to Adam Cohen at email@example.com, and got no response. It appears that Cohen and the NY Times are misquoting Thomas, and refusing to run a correction.
Unscientific attacks on NASA boss
Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson, President of the [UK] Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)
I was disturbed to read the comments by the Head of NASA, Michael Griffin, on global warming and climate change. While accepting that a trend of global warming exists, he questions whether this 'is a problem we must wrestle with'.Note that he doesn't say that Griffin is wrong; only that he expresses a view that differs from the advice of others.
It is unusual to see one scientist ask another to retract a statement. If the issue is scientific, one would normally just give a reference to the scientific paper that settles the matter. If the issue is political, then one would normally just express his own opinion. Catastrophic global warming theory is really an ideology masquerading as science.
Saturday, Jun 02, 2007
Apes may have been walking upright for 24M years
AAAS Science magazine reports:
To walk upright is to be human. At least that's what paleoanthropologists have thought for decades. But now, researchers have observed orangutans walking in a way that resembles human locomotion--albeit along the branches of trees. This suggests that the earliest stages of upright walking evolved in apes living in the trees rather than in hominids walking on the ground, according to primatologist Robin Crompton of the University of Liverpool, U.K., co-author of the report in tomorrow's issue of Science.Yes, the standard evolutionist party line for decades has been that the essence of being human is to walk upright. The famous 3M year old fossil Lucy is considered to a human ancestor solely because of some evidence that she may have walked upright. Otherwise she appears to have been just another chimp. Now these researchers claim that orangutans today are walking upright on tree branches in the Indonesian rain forest. Furthermore, according to Reuters, apes have always been walking upright:
But observations of wild orangutans navigating tree branches on two legs led these researchers to propose that bipedalism arose much earlier -- perhaps shortly after apes split evolutionarily from monkeys roughly 24 million years ago, assuming a specialized niche of tree-dwelling fruit eaters.So apes have been walking upright ever since they evolved from monkeys 24M years ago, but we are supposed to believe that some 3M year old chimp-like fossil is a human ancestor just because it may have walked upright?
I am not doubting conventional wisdom that humans evolved from apes, that human ancestors split from apes about 5M years ago, and that apes split from monkeys abot 24M years ago. What I am challenging here is the way evolutionists latch on to wacky missing link theories, and then try to use them to tell us what it means to be human. I have previously expressed doubt (for various reasons) on this blog that Lucy is a human ancestor.
The Science magazine news article also says:
The authors suggest that early human ancestors in Africa may have abandoned the high canopy when climate change thinned the forest--and retained this familiar, upright mode of walking when they moved down to the forest floor. Still, many changes were needed for habitual use of two legs. For example, their lower limbs and pelvises were remodeled to better balance the weight--and these changes still are found only in hominids that walked upright most of the time, not apes.What surprises me about this last sentence is that AAAS Science magazine is willing to make a distinction between hominids and apes. I have previously noted that many modern evolutionist deny that there is any difference.
Examples of scientific illiteracy
Steven Pinker writes:
These are just a few examples of scientific illiteracy -- inane misconceptions that could have been avoided with a smidgen of freshman science. (For those afraid to ask: pencil-lead; is carbon; hydrogen fuel takes more energy to produce than it releases; all living things contain genes; a clone is just a twin.) Though we live in an era of stunning scientific understanding, all too often the average educated person will have none of it. People who would sneer at the vulgarian who has never read Virginia Woolf will insouciantly boast of their ignorance of basic physics. Most of our intellectual magazines discuss science only when it bears on their political concerns or when they can portray science as just another political arena. As the nation's math departments and biotech labs fill up with foreign students, the brightest young Americans learn better ways to sue one another or to capitalize on currency fluctuations. And all this is on top of our nation's endless supply of New Age nostrums, psychic hot lines, creationist textbook stickers and other flimflam.He is right that the average educated person is really a scientific illiterate who could not pass a high school science exam. And they are proud of their ignorance.
Friday, Jun 01, 2007
Libby may be sentenced as if he had committed a real crime
Byron York writes:
During the perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis Libby, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald never charged, and never presented evidence, that Libby illegally disclosed the name of a covert CIA agent. But now, Fitzgerald wants Libby to be sentenced as if he had been guilty of that crime.I argued here that Libby's statements were easily defensible, but he didn't take my advice, and did not even testify to explain himself at his trial. I conclude that really bad legal advice led him to testify for 8 hours to the grand jury, but not for one minute at his trial.
Now Libby should only be sentenced for his actual conviction. The only found him guilty of 4 counts of lying to the feds, and not of anything worse.