Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Saturday, Jan 31, 2009
Solar eclipse coincidence
New Scientist magazine reports on solar eclipses:
At the height of totality, the fit of sun and moon is so perfect that beads of sunlight can only penetrate to us through the rugged valleys on the lunar surface, creating the stunning "diamond ring" effect.It is a fact that life on Earth is dependent on a large number of unexplained coincidences. Life on other planets might be extremely unlikely.
US prosecutors are out of control
The LA Times reports:
The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles has launched a federal grand jury investigation into Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in connection with his response to the molestation of children by priests in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the case.This is the same law that is being used against impeached Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and others.
This is crazy. The evidence for sex abuse is extremely thin. One priest pled guilty to a couple of molestations back in 1986. Nothing else has been proved in court. Even if you personally disapprove of how the LA bishop has been running the church there, since when did that become a crime? Maybe he did what he thought was best. Maybe he even had poor judgment. Maybe he was lousy at predicting who would become a good priest. Since when does a US prosecutor have the power to second-guess such decisions? Why don't they prosecute Pres. Barack Obama for pushing a flawed fanancial stimulus plan instead of more directly addressing the financial problems? That would make as much sense to me.
Here are some more US prosecutors who are out of control:
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twenty federal agents raided the home of the mother-in-law of Barry Bonds' personal trainer on Wednesday.A lot of people resent Bonds for breaking baseball records that were held by Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and others. It appears that federal agents will stop at nothing to try to discredit his achievements.
New Scientist says Darwin was wrong
The leftist-atheist-evolutionist PZ Myers is upset:
Pity Roger Highfield, editor of New Scientist, which published an issue in which the cover was the large, bold declaration that "DARWIN WAS WRONG". He has been target by a number of big name scientists who have been hammering him in a small typhoon of outraged private correspondence (I've been part of it) that his cover was a misdirected and entirely inappropriate piece of sensationalism.It is funny how these guys seem to have a need to deify Charles DarwinDarwin. The NY Times reports:
Two arresting new books, timed to coincide with Darwin’s 200th birthday, make the case that his epochal achievement in Victorian England can best be understood in relation to events — involving neither tortoises nor finches — on the other side of the Atlantic. Both books confront the touchy subject of Darwin and race head on; both conclude that Darwin, despite the pernicious spread of “social Darwinism” (the notion, popularized by Herbert Spencer, that human society progresses through the “survival of the fittest”), was no racist.This is wacky. Darwin's famous book was titled, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In The Descent of Man he wrote:
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes ... will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest Allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as the baboon, instead of as now between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.I don't know whether Darwin was a racist or not, and I think that it is odd that anyone cares. The two new books claimed that he opposed the slave trade. So what? Nearly everyone opposed the slave trade in Darwin's day. Real scientists would be interested in Darwin's scientific ideas, and not worshipping him for his political or moral views.
Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009
Blago is innocent
Here is why I think that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is innocent.
I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I’m saying. And if I don’t get what I want and I’m not satisfied with it, then I’ll just take the Senate seat myself.If he is talking about cash for himself, that would be a bribe. But he could be talking about political favors for the people of Illinois, and there would be nothing wrong with that.
Yes, I know that no one is defending Blago. The strongest defense of him on TV has been Geraldo Rivera, who called Blago a dirtbag but also said that bluster is not a crime. Here are the Blago blogs, where a couple of law profs defend him.
Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009
Science writer goes gooey
NY Times science reporter Dennis Overbye writes:
When the new president went on vowing to harness the sun, the wind and the soil, and to “wield technology’s wonders,” I felt the glow of a spring sunrise washing my cheeks, and I could almost imagine I heard the music of swords being hammered into plowshares.Barack Obama campaigned in opposition to what scientists say is the cleanest, cheapest, and surest way to harness nature for energy -- nuclear energy. I don't see any reason to believe that he will be any more pro-science than G.W. Bush.
Monday, Jan 26, 2009
Promise, peril seen with embryonic stem cells
The San Jose newspaper reports:
At first glance, that might seem a potential gold mine for biotech companies, particularly in California. Indeed, a 2004 study commissioned by Proposition 71's proponents predicted the measure's passage would generate more than 2,000 jobs a year on average during the stem-cell institute's first five years. ...That ballot proposition committed California to spend $3B on stem cells, but it has been a gigantic failure so far. As the article explains, there is plenty of money for embryonic stem cells, but hardly any worthwhile applications. The most exciting human stem cell research and therapies do not even involve embryonic stem cells.
Sunday, Jan 25, 2009
Unfair impeachment trial
Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich goes on an impeachment trial tomorrow. The Chicago Tribune reports:
Blagojevich again today restated his innocence as part of a media blitz in which he portrayed himself as the victim of unfair impeachment trial rules.Yahoo News reports:
But the governor and his lawyers are boycotting the trial on grounds that it has been stacked against him.Also:
The governor said the impeachment rules prevented him from calling witnesses to refute the charges. Among those he wants to call are White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and US Republican Jesse Jackson Jr.Bush holdover U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald should not have the power to dictate the rules under which the Illinois governor is tried. Blagojevich should have the right to cross-examine any witness against him, and to present his own witnesses in his defense.
The federal case against Blagojevich is based on an obscure law (18 USC 1346) that makes it a crime to use the mail or a telephone wire to to deprive the Illinois citizens of the intangible right of honest services. Here is a 2002 essay on this dubious legal theory and why it is controversial. There is currently a petition for the US Supreme Court to hear the issue as it was applied to convict Conrad Black, a Canadian newspaper man who mismanaged his business. The court threw out this "honest services" nonsense once before, and I hope they do it again.
I don't know whether Blagojevich is a crook or not, but I think that he is getting railroaded. If he took a bribe or committed some real crime, then they should prove it using the same court procedures that are used to convict real criminals.
This whole episode reminds me of what happened to Arizona governor Evan Mecham about 20 years ago. There was a national campaign against him because he had refused to declare an MLK holiday, even tho it would have been illegal for him to do so. The state legislature had already decided against the idea. He also made some insensitive comments such as saying that some visiting Japanese businessmen got round eyes after seeing the nice Arizona golf courses. The Arizone legislature impeached him on various corruption charges and threw him out of office. He faced those same charges in a criminal court, and was acquitted on all grounds.
Wednesday, Jan 21, 2009
Hobbit too symmetrical to be human
ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2009) — In a an analysis of the size, shape and asymmetry of the cranium of Homo floresiensis, Karen Baab, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Anatomical Scienes at Stony Brook University, and colleagues conclude that the fossil, found in Indonesia in 2003 and known as the “Hobbit,” is not human. ...So let me get this straight. Some African missing-link ape-man from millions of years ago migrated to some little Indonesian island where it lived like cave men until 17k years ago. It looked like a small-brained human but it was not human. And this is all based on finding one skull and Karen Baab declaring that the skull looks symmetrical!
This is way too wacky for me. If there were really a whole new species of ape-man that lived for millions of years, then there should be a long trail of fossils from Africa to Indonesia. Finding one lousy symmtrical skull doesn't prove anything. Aren't all skulls symmetrical?
Monday, Jan 19, 2009
Atwood novel too brutal, sexist
A Canadian newspaper reports:
TORONTO — A Toronto parent says if students repeated some of the words from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the school halls, they’d be suspended, so he questions why it is OK in the classroom.The book is an example of leftist bigoted hate speech. Using it for a school reading assignment makes as much sense as reading the Turner Diaries.
Sunday, Jan 18, 2009
Obama gets goofy science advise
Jeff Jacoby has Questions for Obama's science guy, John Holdren, such as:
2. You have advocated the "long-term desirability of zero population growth" for the United States. In 1973, you pronounced the US population of 210 million as "too many" and warned that "280 million in 2040 is likely to be much too many." The US population today is 304 million. Are there too many Americans?Those American population increases have been almost entirely from legal and illegal immigration. If he were really serious about his environmentalist views, then he would advocate tight immigration limits.
But of course the science alarmists are heading in a different direction. Marc Sheppard writes:
When word first broke that the remarkable Hudson River emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 was caused by a flock of Canadian geese, two thoughts immediately occurred.Here is a scientific paper with ominous claims about how climate change will cause bird strikes.
Monday, Jan 12, 2009
Human evolution is speeding up
One of the big frauds perpetrated by 20th century evolutionists has been that humans stopped evolving when they left Africa 50 to 200 thousand years ago.
And Steven Pinker, one of evo-psych's most prominent popularizers, now admits that many human genes are changing more quickly than anyone imagined. If genes that affect brain function and therefore behavior are also evolving quickly, then we do not have the Stone Age brains that evo-psych supposes, and the field "may have to reconsider the simplifying assumption that biological evolution was pretty much over" 50,000 years ago, Pinker says.Jonathan Haidt says faster evolution means more ethnic differences.
It stands to reason that local populations (not continent-wide "races") adapted to local circumstances by a process known as "co-evolution" in which genes and cultural elements change over time and mutually influence each other.And Pinker says in the NY Times magazine:
The most prominent finding of behavioral genetics has been summarized by the psychologist Eric Turkheimer: “The nature-nurture debate is over. . . . All human behavioral traits are heritable.” By this he meant that a substantial fraction of the variation among individuals within a culture can be linked to variation in their genes. Whether you measure intelligence or personality, religiosity or political orientation, television watching or cigarette smoking, the outcome is the same. Identical twins (who share all their genes) are more similar than fraternal twins (who share half their genes that vary among people). Biological siblings (who share half those genes too) are more similar than adopted siblings (who share no more genes than do strangers). And identical twins separated at birth and raised in different adoptive homes (who share their genes but not their environments) are uncannily similar.Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending have written a new book on The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Their site has these teasers for the first couple of chapters:
In this chapter, we consider the accepted belief that human evolution stopped 40,000 years ago. Then we dispel it; in fact, it looks as if human evolution has become more and more rapid. ...
Thursday, Jan 08, 2009
NY Times created the Einstein myth
I happened to see a book of prominent NY Times front pages in the last 150 years. It is fascinating to see how historical events were reported.
One thing that surprised me was a 1929 front page story about a new theory of electromagnetism from Albert Einstein, and how it was his most important theory yet. The article started:
EINSTEIN EXTENDS RELATIVITY THEORY; New Work Seeks to "Unite Laws of Field of Gravitation and Electro-Magnetism." HE CALLS IT HIS GREATEST "Book," Consisting or Only Five Pages, Took Berlin Scientist Ten Years to Prepare. Origin of Matter Theory Seen. His Relativity Theory. EINSTEIN EXTENDS RELATIVITY THEORY
The NY Times archives have many other such silly articles about Einstein, including this:
EINSTEIN ANNOUNCES A NEW FIELD THEORY; He Introduces a Vector of 5 Components Into 4-Dimensional Space-Time Continuum. ABANDONS WORK OF 1929 His New Mathematical Concept Is an Outgrowth of Kaluza's Hypothesis. Old Unitary Theory Abandoned. EINSTEIN ANNOUNCES A NEW FIELD THEORY Comment of Professor Wills. Einstein's Statement.This is bogus. Einstein never found a new field theory. Physics was creating quantum mechanics at that time, and that should have been front page news. But Einstein played no part in that. I suspect that the NY Times did more than anyone else to create a false myth about Einstein. Even when it wrote about quantum mechanics, the NY Times gave the impression that it was Einstein's invention, as in this 1931 article.
The NY Times seems to have started this nonsense in 1919:
LIGHTS ALL ASKEW IN THE HEAVENS; Men of Science More or Less Agog Over Results of Eclipse Observations. EINSTEIN THEORY TRIUMPHS Stars Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to be, but Nobody Need Worry. A BOOK FOR 12 WISE MEN No More in All the World Could Comprehend It, Said Einstein When His Daring Publishers Accepted It.This was pretty absurd. Einstein once published a paper saying that the relativistic deflection of starlight would be exactly the same as expected under Newtonian theory. The actual 1919 experiment was inconclusive.
Here was the long 1919 followup:
DON'T WORRY OVER NEW LIGHT THEORY; Physicists Agree That It Can Be Disregarded for Practical Purposes. NEWTON'S LAW IS SAFE At Most It Suffers Only Slight Correction, Says Prof. Bumstead of Yale University.It was Poincare who coined the "principle of relativity", derived the Lorentz contraction, and published it before Einstein.
Meanwhile, the distinguished mathematical physicist Freeman Dyson writes:
This talk is called the Einstein lecture, and I am grateful to the American Mathematical Society for inviting me to do honor to Albert Einstein. Einstein was not a mathematician, but a physicist who had mixed feelings about mathematics. On the one hand, he had enormous respect for the power of mathematics to describe the workings of nature, and he had an instinct for mathematical beauty which led him onto the right track to find nature’s laws. On the other hand, he had no interest in pure mathematics, and he had no technical skill as a mathematician. In his later years he hired younger colleagues with the title of assistants to do mathematical calculations for him. His way of thinking was physical rather than mathematical.Contrary to the myth, Einstein always got excellent math grades in school. Dyson appears to be aware of the fact that the theory of relativity was primarily created by mathematicians, not Einstein.
I have wondered how Einstein could get so much credit for things that he did not do. It was partially because he was an egomaniac who dishonestly claimed credit and concealed his sources. But he had to have had a lot of help to get such a fancy reputation. It now appears that the NY Times was the biggest benefactor to his reputation.
Monday, Jan 05, 2009
Obama is corrupting a Senate appointment
I think that Barack Obama should get more grief for manipulating the appointment of a US Senator. I don't just mean his lying about contacts with Gov. Blagojevich.
It has been reported that Blago offered the appointment to Rep. Danny Davis, but he turned it down under pressure from Obama and Dem. Majority Leader Reid. If so, then it is Obama and Reid who have corrupted the process. The governor has the power and the duty to make the appointment, and he has not been indicted or impeached. Obama and Reid have threatened not to seat any Blago appointment, and I don't think that they have any constitutional authority to veto an appointment. Now it appears that Burris will become a senator instead of Davis, and will be because of improper tampering by Obama and Reid.