Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Monday, Jul 28, 2008
Nutty string theory ideas
Czech string theorist Lubos Motl has attacked me as a creationist, geocentrist, and string theorist!
No, I am none of those things. I sometimes criticize evolutionsts, but never out of support for creationism. He calls me a geocentrist because of my support for relativity theory. I criticize string theory as a big flop. It has never successfully explained anything in the real world, and it never will. It has been recognized as a failure for at least ten years.
Here is the kind of kookiness we get from string theory, from a WSJ book review:
And what was the outcome of the black-hole war? A Susskind victory, it would appear. It seems that information is not lost, even when black holes evaporate. In 1997, a young theorist named Juan Maldacena showed how, in certain cases, questions in quantum gravity can be "translated" into equivalent questions in a different-looking theory, one that doesn't involve gravity at all -- a theory, moreover, in which it is perfectly clear that information is never lost. So we don't know exactly how information escapes when a black hole evaporates. But we can start with a black hole, translate it into the new theory (where we do know how to keep track of information), let the black hole "evaporate" and translate it back. A bit indirect, but the logic seems solid.No, the logic is not solid. Info appears to be lost in the real world all the time. Whether or not itis really lost is impossible to say. Whether info can escape a black hole is pure speculation, and there is no scientific experiment that can resolve the matter one way or the other. The Maldacena transformation has nothing to do with the question. Only string theorists who are totally disconnected from reality would say such unscientific nonsense.
I am criticizing physicists here, but that doesn't mean that I subscribe to some religious alternative to Physics. There is a lot of good Physics. But theoretical physics has been taken over by wacky string theorists who cannot face the subject's failure. Just look at Lubos Motl's blog to see what a lunatic he is. See, for example, his latest post on Susskind's new book, where he blames a left-wing conspiracy for getting fired at Harvard. Don't bother leaving a critical comment, because he deletes those.
Obama is not the American dream
American History prof Albert Camarillo writes:
Obama's rise epitomizes the best of the American Dream ...No, Obama does is not a black man who represents America's troubled racial past. He is half-Kenyan, and has no relation to the descendants of West African slaves. He never suffered any racial discrimination. His only connection to America's troubled racial past is that he was a huge beneficiary of affirmative action policies that were designed for real black Americans.
It is also false to say that Obama had an immigrant father. An immigrant is someone who moves to the USA to live here permanently. Obama's father was a Kenyan who impregnated a white woman while in Hawaii on a student visa. He soon moved back to Kenya to rejoin his African wife. Even his mother didn't stay here, and moved to Indonesia.
I am not trying to blame Obama for his wacky parents, but I am afraid that a lot of people will be fooled into voting for him under a misguided belief that his background symbolizes the "best of the American Dream" or that he is "more American than Apple pie". He is the most anti-American candidate we've had in a long time.
Saturday, Jul 26, 2008
Bogus study claims girls do math as well as boys
The NY Times reports:
Although boys in high school performed better than girls in math 20 years ago, the researchers found, that is no longer the case. ...No, the study did not find that girls did as well in every category. Girls are less than 5% of the most gifted students. The study found that the NCLB tests do not even have any complex math problems. The study said:
For most states and most grade levels, none of the items were at levels 3 or 4. Therefore, it was impossible to determine whether there was a gender difference in performance at levels 3 and 4.It says that it also looked at NAEP data, but those tests did not have any level 4 (hardest) problems either.
Boys do better on the Math SAT, and the study tries to explain that by saying that a lot more girls take the test. (The printed study does not mention the SAT, but the supporting online material says that the SAT is taken by 700k boys and 800k girls.) But if you look at the SAT data, you will notice that a lot more boys than girls get high scores.
The study concludes:
Conclusion. Our analysis shows that, for grades 2 to 11, the general population no longer shows a gender difference in math skills, consistent with the gender similarities hypothesis (19). There is evidence of slightly greater male variability in scores, although the causes remain unexplained.The second sentence contradicts the first. If there is greater male variability, then that is a gender difference.
The Gender Similarities Hypothesis is the idea put forward by the study's lead author, Janet Shibley Hyde, that John Gray’s 1992 book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is all wrong, and that males and females are similar on most psychological variables.
Friday, Jul 25, 2008
Obama's war position makes no sense
A Wash. Post editorial attacks Obama:
Yet Mr. Obama's account of his strategic vision remains eccentric. He insists that Afghanistan is "the central front" for the United States, along with the border areas of Pakistan. But there are no known al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, and any additional U.S. forces sent there would not be able to operate in the Pakistani territories where Osama bin Laden is headquartered. While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country's strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world's largest oil reserves. If Mr. Obama's antiwar stance has blinded him to those realities, that could prove far more debilitating to him as president than any particular timetable.Obama acts like he can get both the pro-war vote and the anti-war vote by favoring the Afghan War and opposing the Iraq War. The newspaper is supporting Obama for President, so it is delicately describing his position as "eccentric". Substitute "idiotic".
Thursday, Jul 24, 2008
Fox News is fair and balanced
Jonathan sends this academic study of news media bias, but the study actually confirms what I said about the NY Times being more partisan than Fox News. He writes:
The study says, in relevant regard, only that Brit Hume's show is less partisan than the New York Times (and various other media). The study did not conclude, or even seek to prove, that Fox News shows "across the board" are less radically partisan than the NYT.I just don't see the hard evidence that Fox News is so partisan. If Bill O'Reilly were a partisan Republican, then he would defend Pres. Bush. But he does not.
I checked a left-wing blog that specializes in documenting right-wing media bias, and its latest example is quoting O'Reilly saying:
Viagra is used to help a medical condition -- that's why it's covered. Birth control is not a medical condition, it is a choice.O'Reilly was just reciting conventional wisdom.
Monday, Jul 21, 2008
NY Times is partisan
The NY Times attacks Fox News as partisan:
The portrait of them as secret Muslims, in cahoots with terrorists and harboring virulent anti-American sentiments, exists for the most part either on the lunatic fringe or in what some might call the lunatic establishment: radically partisan entities like Fox News.”And yet the NY Times refuses to print John McCain's rebuttal to Backtrack Obama's op-ed. The NY Times is much more radically partisan than Fox News.
The NY Times article also blames the New Yorker:
The New Yorker represented the right-wing caricature of the Obamas while making the fatal error of not also caricaturing the right wing.Ridiculing Obama is just beginning. Every other modern presidential candidate has gotten it worse.
From what you've written here it sounds like Fox News and the NYT are both partisan. But I don't see where it follows logically, based only on the evidence described by what you wrote, that the partisanship of the NYT is worse than that of Fox News. You seem to imply that failure to publish a rebuttal is itself more partisan than an outright partisan attack. Why is that conclusion more logical than viewing both techniques as roughly equal in terms of a partisan bias? Fox News is infamous, in the eyes of many, it seems, for showing folks like Bill O'Reilly shouting down their guests while aiming the camera lens primarily Bill's way during such shouting matches. Like most Big Media, Fox takes a cue (no pun) from Ronald Reagan -- Fox is paying for the microphone, so they control what goes in. No different than the NYT.Fox News is careful to present balanced views. Hannity is partisan, but he is balanced by the left-winger Colmes. O'Reilly does tough interviews, but he does tough interviews on everyone. He is not a Republican partisan. He takes strong stands on some pet issues of his, like locking up child molesters, but not partisan issues.
Yesterday, O'Reilly credited Obama with being right about opposing the Iraq War, and criticized McCain for being wrong. O'Reilly has fallen for a Democrat Party talking point. If O'Reilly were really a Republican partisan, he would not say that, because it is not true.
Sunday, Jul 20, 2008
NY Times idolizes Einstein
NY Times science reporter Dennis Overbye writes
Einstein is always with us, and that is to the benefit of science. I can imagine a lot of worse candidates to be the icon for such a major human activity. We like him because he really did seem to be out for Truth, he was funny and he didn't make a big deal of himself and of course he shouldered the burden of guilt for the atomic age.Albert Einstein certainly did make a big deal of himself. He was an egomaniac who dishonestly covered up his sources in order to make exaggerated claims for what he did.
Overbye's article mentions Einstein about 30 times. He sounds like a crackpot. I guess it is not entirely his fault, and he got Einstein questions from his readers. But Einstein did not invent relativity; he just stole the credit for it.
Saturday, Jul 19, 2008
Indian Removal Act of 1830
I ran across this US State Dept. description of the Indian treaty and removal act of 1830.
It looks like anti-American Indian propaganda to me. It is filled with factual errors, such as saying that Andrew Jackson was President in 1838. It discusses irrelevancies, such as court cases that had nothing to do with federal Indian policy. It says that the Indians were democratic, but complains that its leaders did not represent their interests. It complains that treaties were violated, but also gives arguments for the treaties never being valid in the first place. It refers to Indian property rights, but also says that Indians did not recognize property rights.
I don't know whether the Indian removal was good or bad, but a site like this should accurately describe the facts, and the reasons behind the policy.
Friday, Jul 18, 2008
Cannot have a photo of a squashed bug
I did not know that there was a federal law against depiction of animal cruelty:
The statute was enacted as an attempt to stop the distribution of so-called "crush videos," which generally depict a woman's legs and feet, often in high heels, stepping on insects, mice, or kittens; ...Wow. So it is legal for me to step on a bug, but illegal to take a picture of what I am doing? This seems wacky to me.
Myths of mental health science
The blog Different Thoughts writes:
The following list is a collection of facts from peer-reviewed scientific journals and several research-based books.He has references for all these statements.
Wednesday, Jul 16, 2008
District Gun Registration Starts
The Wash. Post reports:
D.C. police will start the gun registration process at 7 a.m. tomorrow, when it opens an office at police headquarters at 300 Indiana Ave. NW.No, the residents have not had handguns "illegally". The US Supreme Court just ruled that DC residents were entirely within their 2A constitutional rights to have those handguns. It was the city that was confiscating them illegally.
I would be a little wary of that "temporary possession". DC residents don't need amnesty. They need the city to recognize their constitutional rights.
Update: DC rejected Heller's application for a gun permit.
The NY Times reports:
Dr. [Edward O.] Wilson was not picking a fight when he published “Sociobiology” in 1975, a synthesis of ideas about the evolution of social behavior. He asserted that many human behaviors had a genetic basis, an idea then disputed by many social scientists and by Marxists intent on remaking humanity. Dr. Wilson was amazed at what ensued, which he describes as a long campaign of verbal assault and harassment with a distinctly Marxist flavor led by two Harvard colleagues, Richard C. Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould.This illustrates the sorry state of evolutionary science. The field has been dominated by Marxist evolutionists who refused to accept legitimate genetic research because of ideological beliefs about what Marxist revolution can accomplish.
The article continues:
The new fight is one Dr. Wilson has picked. It concerns a central feature of evolution, one with considerable bearing on human social behaviors. The issue is the level at which evolution operates. Many evolutionary biologists have been persuaded, by works like “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins, that the gene is the only level at which natural selection acts. Dr. Wilson, changing his mind because of new data about the genetics of ant colonies, now believes that natural selection operates at many levels, including at the level of a social group.You can find more on the dispute here.
It is remarkable that there is such a fundamental disagreement about what natural selection is. Apparently it is just a meaning buzz phrase that can be applied to life however it is observed.
Tuesday, Jul 15, 2008
Myths about epicycles
Czech physicist Lubos Motl writes:
Epicycles have become one of the labels that the laymen often use to identify what they consider to be a bad science.He is correct about epicycles. Yes, there are non-scientists who have been taught that epicycles were bad science somehow. The main idea behind epicycles is the same idea that is behind Fourier Analysis, and that idea is used throught the hard sciences today. The use of epicycles in the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems was excellent science.
Some people say that Copernicus was a great astronomer because he got rid of epicycles, but his system also had epicycles.
Epicycles were bad science because the planets do not really move in epicycles. The epicycles were just mathematical constructs that did not have the physical significance of ellipses.You are going to be in for a rude shock if you ever take a college science course. If epicycles were bad science, then so is nearly all of modern science.
Monday, Jul 14, 2008
Obama is anti-American
Backtrack Obama writes in an op-ed today:
Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.No, Obama did not oppose the Iraq War, as I have explained here and here. He is not only lying about his record, but he is perpetuating the myth that we went to war against Iraq because Pres. Bush claimed that Iraq posed an imminent threat and contributed to the 9/11 attacks.
In fact, everyone agreed that there was no imminent threat. Bush's famous speech said, "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent." Obama said that he was against "dumb wars", but so is Bush and everyone else. Obama did not express disagreement with Iraq policy at the time.
The worst part of this is how unamerican and unpatriotic Obama is. No real American would constantly try to undermine the legitimacy of the American role in the Iraq War, as Obama does.
Like it or not, the Iraq War had the support of the President, the Congress, most of our Democrat and Republican leaders, a solid majority of the American people, and the UN. The decision was made five years ago, after a prolonged public debate. It is a done deal. Get over it. It is as legitimate as any war decision the USA has ever made. Obama is anti-American for denying this.
BYW, Obama's op-ed is currently the most emailed NY Times article. No. 8 on the list is a week-old silly Maureen Dowd column in which the 56-year-old old maid quotes a 79-year-old Catholic priest to support her view that no men are good enough for her!
Saturday, Jul 12, 2008
Racist newspaper columnist
Chicago Sun-Times column Mary Mitchell claims to have found the smoking gun that proves that white men have special privileges in our society. The evidence: two old white guys got into a scuffle with each other on the street one day, and the cops did not arrest anyone!
Yes, she is part black, a big Obama fan, and sees racial injustice whereever she looks.
Would Darwin Censor Intelligent Design?
Jerry Pournelle writes:
If in fact the arguments for ID are ludicrous, I do not see why there is so much pressure for censorship and suppression. Either one believes in rational discussion or one does not. If ID is easy to refute, then refute it. Who knows, the ID people may give up, or refine their arguments; and the refutation should be instructive.He is right. Whatever the merits of ID, the anti-ID zealots are a menace. Real scientist welcome other points of view, and do not try to censor small minorities who have mild criticisms of the mainstream view.
Thursday, Jul 10, 2008
The AA prayer
The NY Times has a whole article about the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer, but fails to say it. Here it is:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,But the article does not include the text of the prayer! What goes? Does the paper think that we are all alcoholics and know it already? Or it is worried about copyrights? Or is it not fit to print for some reason? Weird.
The Drudge Report has only had to make 1 retraction in his 12 years on the Web. The NY Times, by contrast, issues 5 to 10 retractions every day, and they publish many more errors which they fail to retract. There's almost a cottage industry of people who find errors in the NY Times.
Louisiana passes science law
The evolutionists got all upset when a Louisiana school district adopted this policy:
Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.The proposed law said:
(3) That an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills that they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens.Scientists really look bad when they whine about a law like this.
As the law actually passed, it was made clear that the authorities can prohibit some textbooks, and that the law cannot promote religion. The actual law says:
C. A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board unless otherwise prohibited by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.This sounds innocuous, but NewScientist calls it a New legal threat to teaching evolution in the US. That's ridiculous. The evolutionist just sound as if they are trying to stifle legitimate scientific criticism. Likewise for global warming proponents.
Wednesday, Jul 09, 2008
Strongest evidence of White House censorship
The San Jose Mercury News reports:
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney's office last year blocked testimony on how global warming endangers public health, a former Environmental Protection Agency official said Tuesday.Good. The angry left Bush-haters have been complaining about this years, and maybe we'll finally see something of substance. The article goes on:
In October, Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was prepared to testify before Boxer's committee that climate change "is likely to have a significant impact on health," warning of extreme heat and weather, water-borne diseases and food and water scarcity.That's it?! That is the big smoking gun? This is old news. As I reported last year, here is a sample of the deleted testimony:
Some Americans may suffer anxiety, depression, and similar symptoms in anticipating climate change and/or in coping with its effects. Moreover, the aftermath of severe events may include post-traumatic stress and related problems, as was seen after Hurricane Katrina. These conditions are difficult to quantify but may have significant effects of health and well-being.If VP Cheney killed that testimony, then he did the right thing. It is much more likely that people will suffer anxiety about exaggerated doomsday warnings about global warming. Global warming itself is much too gradual to cause any mental health problems.
Monday, Jul 07, 2008
500 tons of uranium removed from Iraq
The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program — a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium — reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.There are still people who claim that Pres. Bush lied about Iraq trying to buy yellowcake, but it is still supported by the UK Butler report FactCheck.org.
Sunday, Jul 06, 2008
Justice Kennedy's evolution based on errors
As noted below, Justice Kennedy got the facts wrong in his 5-4 Supreme Court decision banning the execution of child rapists. He claimed that there was an evolving consensus against such a death penalty, but the facts show otherwise.
The Wash. Post has called for a rehearing based on an "Irony of ironies", whatever that means. It doesn't want to execute anyone, but wants to save Kennedy from ridicule.
Jan Crawford Greenburg gives a good reason why the Supreme Court will decide not to rehear the child rape death penalty case, despite the sloppy mistake which goes to the heart of Kennedy's opinion.The reason is that the court has been ignoring military justice for a long time. But the military justice example is more important in this case, because the whole case depends on an evolving consensus that is disproved by the military law.
This seems like deja vu to me. The mistake is by the same Kennedy who wrote a 2005 5-4 opinion against the juvenile death penalty, and similarly misstated the facts supporting an evolving consensus back then. There was no rehearing or correction. Orin Kerr wrote:
If I understand the statistics correctly, the move to abolish the juvenile death penalty in five states since 1989 is essentially symbolic: none of those states have executed a juvenile in many decades, if ever, and the five states are mostly states that have capital punishment in theory but not in practice. If the "evolving standards of decency" inquiry of the Eighth Amendment focuses on actual practices, then there seems to be virtually no evidence of a changed standard since 1989.This is also the same Kennedy who wrote Lawrence v Texas in 2003 and misstated colonial law, according to Clayton Cramer.
So it appears that Kennedy isn't bothered by a few bloggers pointing out errors.
Kennedy isn't the only one to make mistakes. Justice Stevens made a couple of errors in the DC gun case.
Saturday, Jul 05, 2008
ACLU opposes gun rights
The ACLU still tries to deny your gun rights:
The ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as a collective right. Therefore, we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller.Don't believe it when someone tries to tell you that the ACLU is just a defender of constitutional rights.
Friday, Jul 04, 2008
Evolutionists back data secrecy
The evolutionists blogs like Pharyngula are still attacking Conservapedia for asking about the data underlying some recent evolution research. Conservapedia asked Richard Lenski for this missing data, and got this response.
Briefly, Lenski agreed to put some of the missing data on his website, but held back on other data because some people on Conservapedia had misunderstood his research. The good stuff is reserved for competent scientists, he says.
Lenski's attitude is a little strange. Most scientists are happy to clarify their research to those who have misunderstood it. Most bloggers are usually in favor of releasing scientific data. I would think that they would be especially eager for the DNA sequence data, as that would more precisely explain how the e.coli in Lenski's lab have evolved.
Obama opposes Roe v Wade
WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says "mental distress" should not qualify as a justification for late-term abortions, a key distinction not embraced by many supporters of abortion rights.O'Steen is correct. The essence of Roe v Wade is that a pregnant woman has a constitutional right to get a late-term abortion for mental health reasons. If a woman tells the abortionist that she has some mental distress about the pregnancy, then that suffices to justify the abortion, and there can be no further inquiry about it.
While a number of cases have been brought to the US Supreme Court in attempts to limit this doctrine, the court has not budged. Obama has now aligned himself with those who want to overturn Roe v Wade.
I don't think that Obama would appoint the justices to overturn Roe v Wade, but it sure is funny to see him try to pretend that he is anti-abortion, pro-gun, against same-sex marriage, anti-tax, etc. His advisors have obviously told him that his record is far to the left of the independent voters that he needs.
Wednesday, Jul 02, 2008
The secret of the greatest-ever student prank
When engineers were engineers, some bold and clever students put a car on a rooftop. Amazing.
Tuesday, Jul 01, 2008
Judges are afraid of science
According to a NY Times interview:
Q. ARE JUDGES THE SORT OF PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE AFRAID OF SCIENCE?Yes, that is common. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote in Daubert (1993):
The Court then states that a "key question" to be answered in deciding whether something is "scientific knowledge" "will be whether it can be (and has been) tested." Ante, at 12. Following this sentence are three quotations from treatises, which speak not only of empirical testing, but one of which states that "the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability," ante, pp. 12-13.Much of science is concerned with finding evidence in the natural world to support hypotheses. Judges are concerned with evaluating courtroom evidence to support some prosecutor's indictment or plaintiff's claim for monetary damages. You would think that training to be a judge or a lawyer would include gaining some understanding of how scientists treat evidence.
But it does not. Just the opposite. Judges tend to have a phobia about science, and have a very hard time with scientific evidence. I don't just mean that they don't understand scientific terminology; they lack a good grasp on how things are proved with evidence. I think that they should have to understand science on at least a high school level before becoming judges.