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Mail 522 June 9 - 15, 2008
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I am somewhat weary of the Intelligent Design discussion, because I find the whole subject irrelevant to the major problems that face US education. As to the truth of falsity of the purely mechanical, random selection hypothesis, most of the discussion I have seen hasn't been very relevant.
What concerns me is the vehemence with which opponents of ID argue for exclusion of any mention of ID from any school district anywhere. People who pretend to be conservative or libertarian and opposed to central direction of people's lives by experts seem to have no problem whatever with central control of school curricula if that's what it takes to keep the Intelligent Design hypothesis out of every school in the land.
As far as I can see, if every school district in the land that wanted to put Intelligent Design as an alternative to the Dawkins theory that an undifferentiated cloud of gas would inevitably into creatures that write Dante's Inferno, perform Swan Lake, devise both the Newtonian and Relativistic theories, and write Darwin's Origin of Species, there might be as many as a hundred who would actually do that. One may speculate as to the practical effect this might have; I suspect it wouldn't have much effect at all. Most students in today's schools have no training in or love of science and its tools of logic and mathematics, and whether they believe in Dawkinsism or Intelligent Design won't matter a hill of beans in their or anyone else's lives. Actually, there might be a positive benefit: the discussion might get them thinking about the subject.
Meanwhile, the central control of curriculum has been remarkably successful in keeping any alternative to Human Caused Global Warming out of the classroom, and suppressing any teaching of Global Warming Denial; and that, I submit, does have real consequences, not only for the students but for every one of you. I don't know of any effects on the economy that inevitably result from having beliefs in Intelligent Design as opposed to Dawkinsism; but I know of many disastrous economic effects that inevitably result from belief in the Al Gore inconvenient truth hypothesis. Alternatives to Goreism are pretty well restricted from the classroom.
Why suppress Global Warming Denial? Because there is this enormous consensus that Global Warming is TRUE, and anyone who is a Global Warming Denier is either an idiot or in the pay of oil companies and probably ought to be jailed; just as there is this enormous consensus that Intelligent Design is TRIVIALLY FALSE, and anyone who believes in it is either an idiot or in the pay of some sinister forces and probably ought to be jailed. The principle that anything against the consensus must be excluded from every classroom in the land is so important that central control of curricula must trump local control.
And that, to me, is the importance of the Intelligent Design debates.
Regarding Aaron Clausen's remarks
In Friday’s mail, June 6, Aaron Clausen states “There's nothing in evolutionary or abiogenesis theory that forbids religious beliefs”
Perhaps so, but I do wish to point out that in practice there seem to be many (the vast majority?) that insist that belief in evolutionary theory demands atheism. I present as evidence “Science and Creationism” edited by Ashley Montague. It includes essays by many who I am sure are authorities in their fields, but, alas, the general tone is one of bitter sarcasm and *extreme* hatred of Christianity. For example, one essayist holds up Satan as the true hero of Genesis chapter 3. Needless to say, statements such as this do not help bring clarity to an issue.
I am not in the creationist camp, but I find it difficult not to believe that these scientists’ true colors have come out, whatever lip service they may give to the neutrality of science in matters of faith in other venues. It would be very helpful in framing the debate if both sides could read C.S. Lewis; an author you and I both appreciate.
I was disappointed that Aaron Clausen was disappointed because you did not want to use the coercive power of the state to suppress scientific dissent. Seems to me the last time the Scientific Consensus went to the courts for vindication was in 1633 and things did not work out at all well. Sometimes all a consensus means is that the vast majority of scientists was educated in a Kuhnian paradigm and clings to it as normative.
Thus, one can say that Behe is wrong to claim that his conclusion (ID) follows from his premise (IC), but this is not the same as showing the premise to be wrong. After all, he also concludes ID from the Big Bang, but few people reject BB because they reject ID. (There are exceptions, remarkably enough, who point to the Pope's ready acceptance of BB and the fact that it was first developed by a Catholic priest as "evidence" that the theory must be wrong. Scientists, forsooth.) Franklin Harold, a biochemist with no sympathy for Behe's metaphysical conclusions, wrote: "We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity; but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations."
Behe may well be right that the Malthusian struggle for existence by the organisms does not adequately explain the irreducible complexity of some microbiological mechanisms. After all, Newton's laws of motion did not explain everything about motion in extreme cases. There is room in there for another theory or two. Behe believes that Darwin's natural selection theory explains much of evolution. (Kimura's neutral selection may explain more.) But he also mentioned Shapiro's information-theoretic approach as a possible alternative explanation for irreducible complexity.
It is one thing to claim that Behe "self-destructed" at the Dover trial -- it is psychologically telling that the link is entitled "ICsilly" -- quite another to read the transcript of his testimony. There, one learns that Behe is not fluent in philosophy (few scientists are) but that he was being taken to task for "a personal definition of science" employed by the likes of Poincare, Mach, and the Positivists. What one really learns from the transcript is that a lawyer can usually make mincemeat of a scientist on the stand. Oddly enough, everyone who has referenced that testimony has used the exact same phrasing: "self-destructed." As if they were all proof-texting the same quote.
I believe Behe is wrong regarding his conclusions from a purely theological perspective. Western Theologians say that God does not design like a craftsman, tweaking this or that physical constant, but in the manner that thought is creative. At least, so said a Prof. Ratzinger. In particular, in the Latin West, it was supposed that God had endowed matter with natures having the capacity to act on their own without a divine maintenance tech. Even in the Bible it reads that God commanded the earth to bring forth living things, and it was the earth that did so. There is no need to invoke "theokinetics." To quote Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn, "I hope all the readers ... would join me in strenuously objecting if God is ever invoked in the course of normal scientific explanation!" This strain of thought in Western Christendom goes back at least as far as Augustine and was re-echoed by William of Conches, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and many others like Georges Lemaitre. Essentially, evidence of God's existence does not lie in exceptions to natural laws but in the very existence of natural laws. For the same reason, one cannot find evidence of Frank Whittle in the dimensions of this or that component of a jet engine. The existence of Whittle is not an engineering problem. John Cardinal Newman once wrote that he did not believe in God because of design, but he believed in design because of God.
Note that there are two debates here: the question of ID itself, and the policy question of who should control the curriculum. While they are related, they are separate questions. Incidentally, I often hear the question "Would you allow the Flat Earth Society to present its alternate view in school?" My answer would be, actually it was when I was in school, although I doubt that the presenter believed in it. I recall it was one of my first experiences at discussion of theories and evidence; I believe it was in geography class in St. Anne's. My other answer is that I don't seek to control the curriculum of any school but my local schools, and if some district were determined to allow the Flat Earth Society some time to present its alternate view I would be astonished, but I certainly wouldn't spend any energy suppressing them.
Free Energy & Established Science
Your recent commentary on BlackLight technologies highlights a minor one of the many technologies which card-carrying physicists shake their head at in disdain. There is a tremendous amount of research being done and significant results being achieved by non-professionals who challenge traditional physics. Zero-point energy is a reality today but the powers that be have severely suppressed it to maintain the status quo. The powers-that-be are the government (several branches of it), private monopolies, and foreign governments, all of whom have a strong interest in maintaining the energy situation as it now exists. The scale of this suppression is astounding, the history of it, horrendous.
The internet is coming to the rescue and vast dissemination of these emerging technologies will no longer be able to be suppressed.
It is certainly true that if anyone can build a working model from the theories it should be easy enough to draw an audience to examine it. As Bob Forward said years ago in the matter of the Dean Drive, we do not need more elegant theories on reactionless drives; we need a data point at odds with the existing theories. If someone can show a device that gives off more energy than comes in, and sustains that (i.e. it's not just a battery) I do not think it will be suppressed. For that matter, don't we all, including the oil companies, wish the Pogue Carburetor actually had worked and been bought and suppressed by Big Oil? Ah, well.
Threat of world Aids pandemic among heterosexuals is over, report admits.
- Roland Dobbins
Did it ever exist? In any event, the threat worked: AIDS got plenty of research funding, even though it never quite had enough to run an experimentum crucis on the HIV/AIDS hypothesis.
I have not followed this enough to have a valid opinion any longer, so please do not start an argument about whether HIV causes AIDS; I made the point years ago that there were people with very solid credentials who questioned the hypothesis, an experimentum crucis would be cheap, and before we poured everything we have into work that assumed the truth of the hypothesis, it would be prudent -- and justified by Bayesian analysis -- to invest a small amount of the funding in that experimentum crucis.
In any event, the threat of an epidemic of AIDS among the general, as opposed to high risk, population was never serious, except that it accomplished its purpose of obtaining research funds.
Last week, the realisation hit me of the similarity between Hillary Clinton and Gordon Brown--the same brains, the same sense of being entitled, the same stubbornness, the same inability to recognise early when something isn't working, the same panic dance once they do realise something isn't working, the same tone-deafness, the same hubris. So when I post something absurd about where Brown and the UK Government are headed, think of it as an option that might still be taken if we're not careful about whom we elect.
This week's stories (the tinyurl links are provided to work around problems with long links):
UK Government continues push for 42-day detention without trial:
terrorism.civilliberties> <http://tinyurl.com/4n29hd> <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/06/terrorism.houseofcommons
There is a real risk that local authorities will apply the new rules to things like littering and dog fouling:
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/northamptonshire/7414382.stm> <http://tinyurl.com/3obh76 >
Private education in the UK is becoming more popular:
The UK 'public schools' have figured out the criteria used by the old universities to break ties in selecting students, and make sure their graduates have them. That's what people are paying for.
Mugabe is turning Zimbabwe into another Burma:
Church of England comes out in opposition to New Labour policies:
<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4083979.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/3ltvxg > <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4083506.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/5fudx5 > <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4083601.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/4v865e >
NHS surplus triggers row:
Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.
Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
The Air Force as a seperate service
Report on the crash of a B-2 on Guam.
One aircraft. One point four billion dollars.
I understand that most heavily used strategic bomber today is the B-52, loitering with a load of smart weapons while waiting for the infantry to call for death from above.
Try as they might, the services just can't replace Ma Deuce and the Buffs (what a name for a group! With special guest, the Warthogs!).
Neolithic age men fought over women too, according to a study that provides the most ancient evidence of the lengths men will go to in the hunt for partners.
Military shoots down missile in test off Hawaii
I saw that speech where Obama promised to cancel "unproven missile defense systems" if elected. Interesting: those missile defense systems are now so "unproven" that even the Japanese are shooting down missiles. With our technology.
Will we someday, perhaps soon, be asking the Japanese Navy to defend our West Coast cities from North Korean missiles? If Obama is president, seems possible.
History, as usual, has a sense of humor.
"In December, a Japanese naval vessel equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system shot down a missile target off Hawaii. Japan became the first U.S. ally to intercept a missile from a ship at sea in that test."
The linked article about Officer Rot was indeed worth reading. The discussion of former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in the comments section left me wondering. I guess I have a only a superficial knowledge of what he tried to achieve in changing the military, consisting of what I read in the papers (or somewhat less than what I read in them, since I didn't put much credence in the journalistic hate speech that monopolized some media sources.) The coverage left the impression he was trying to revamp the military to handle assignments like Iraq and Afghanistan. And maybe that's even true, in a superficial way, but the devil is in the details. I wonder if someone who really understand could concisely explain what he was trying to do (good or bad)?
I could, but it would not be a simple job.
The problem is that Secretary of Defense is an anomaly job: most of those who hold it may have theories but little experience. Ideally it ought to be held by a military intellectual with practical experience: i.e. by someone like von Moltke. The US system makes it nearly impossible for that to happen.
What is needed is a political appointee with interest in the subject who is willing to surround himself with advisors from the military: both those representing the current leadership and some mavericks.
USAF in particular is impossible to govern as it stands. It has too many jobs: to actually operate the deterrent system; to operate the military air transport system; to support the field army against enemy ground troops; to achieve air supremacy and keep it; to protect the field army against enemy air activity (admittedly this is not needed if true air supremacy has been achieved); and to design and procure future systems that will do the job.
The last job in the list is about as large as the others put together.
I discuss much of this in my Megamissi0ns Lecture to the Air War College, but that lecture was mostly devoted to space power. I should probably do a more general discussion.
At one time the first mission above was handled by General Curtis Lemay and the Strategic Air Command. Lemay was a splendid commander of an operational force in being. He was useless in planning and procuring a future force. Fortunately, at the same time that Lemay was building SAC, General Bernard Schriever was building USAF Systems Command. The result was a force that was instrumental in preventing World War III (nuclear, in Europe; expanding to Central War) while aiding in winning the Cold War.
Alas, but SAC and Systems Command are gone.
I can't say that Rumsfeld wanted to restore either, because I don't think he understood either. He did believe that there were vital missions the Air Force could not or would not perform, and like anyone who pays attention he understood that the expensive new toys the current Air Force wants will not do those missions: the F22 is not a ground support airplane and never will be, and the Air Force insistence on stuff like that earns it contempt from the ground troops it is in theory supposed to help.
As I said, I could spend a lot of time on this. Douglas Feith in his book (reviewed in the June column that should be up tonight) talks about Rumsfeld and what he wanted. Feith is a lawyer policy wonk and sees the problems in terms of policy papers and general wonkery; apparently Rumsfeld did also.
If Rumsfeld had had Feith's job, and the Air Force had two forceful personalities like Schriever and Lemay argue their cases, things might be better, assuming there was also someone in the Army commands who could argue the Army's case.
|This week:||Tuesday, June
I found out last night that I
don't know anything. Apparently the world is not as I thought it to be. It
is all explained at
New Air Force Nominations
"John Says: Yes! General Schwartz is a career tactical airlift/special forces flyer. I figured it'd be either someone with that type of background or a bomber pilot with experience in the nuclear delivery mission. This is a historic hand off -- fighter pilots have ruled for a long time. Now command goes to a man who has spent his life in the tactical, black world. So is it safe to say that the rise of the Special Forces is complete?"
If this is the case, it sounds at least better than the Fighter Pilot Mafia.
I have not been following his career but I am inclined to agree.
Subj: Sniping from UAVs
Well, duh! This article goes to show as well that those with high IQs can't understand what a correlation is. IQ is only correlated 50% with income and I don't know how much with happiness.
It remains, though, that IQ is more highly correlated with income than any other known factor. And 20% are often seen as high in the social sciences. IQ should not be chucked, even if those as stupid as the those depicted in the article misuse them and accuse others of misuing them.
By FARRAH WEINSTEIN
April 17, 2007 -- AS you prepare to open those college rejection letters, or worry about having to take summer school classes, fret not - being brilliant is not in the numbers.
A roundup of IQ studies from Cambridge University Press, called the "Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance," proves that Thomas Edison was right all along: Genius is 99 percent perspiration.
"There are international chess masters that have below-average IQs," says Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, who edited the handbook.
"Basically, there is no indication that people with higher IQ are able to reach the top faster. We are finding people who meet the criteria for being skilled surgeons, chess masters, athletes or magicians. Once you start looking at what makes them successful, IQ doesn't make any difference."<snip>
Divers find marble bust of Caesar that may date to 46 B.C.
If it's an accurate rendering, then Gaius Julius Caesar looked a LOT like Mel Gibson!
"Divers trained in archaeology discovered a marble bust of an aging Julius Caesar in the Rhone River that France's Culture Ministry said Tuesday could be the oldest known."
Nuclear power and available fuel -
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
I used to spend a lot of time arguing the nuclear power issue on local dial-up bulletin board systems and Usenet, including lots of time (pre-Internet) in various libraries looking up facts and figures.
My understanding of the figures on how long our proven reserves of uranium would last is that the quoted numbers are assuming that our current once-through fuel cycle is left in place permanently, and we'll continue throwing away the plutonium bred in the reactor and the leftover U235 along with the un-transmuted U238 until the end.
Buildup of neutron-absorbing fission products, not burn-up of all the fissionable isotopes, is the major factor in when a fuel rod must be replaced.
Just separating out the plutonium isotopes and the unburned uranium and recycling them into new fuel multiplies the length of time those proven reserves will last by several times, even without going to breeder reactors. Jimmy Carter banned fuel reprocessing in the U.S. by executive decree. One of my greatest disappointments with all the presidents after Carter is that none of them ever saw fit to get around to un-decreeing the ban.
Breeder reactors multiply how long our proven reserves will last by something like an order of magnitude. Then there's thorium breeders. According to my CRC handbook, thorium is "about as common as lead", and "there is probably more available energy in the earth's crust from thorium than from uranium and all fossil fuels put together."
And finally, according to a bit in Petr Beckmann's excellent book "The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear", written back around 1974 or so, the Japanese at that time had an ion-exchange process that could extract uranium from sea water at a cost of about $200/pound in 1974 dollars. That's probably about as inexhaustible as inexhaustible gets.
In my judgment there is no danger of a shortage of nuclear fuels.
Gates To Reign In 'Fighter Mafia'?
Given your recent discussion about the Air Force, it is interesting to me that Defense Secretary Gates has selected a General from the US Transportation Command at Scott AFB (here in St. Louis) to be the next Air Force Chief of Staff (after firing General Moseley).
"Gen. Schwartz is one of the very few senior generals the Air Force has produced in modern times who is not a fighter pilot," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute. "I think Secretary Gates selected Schwartz because he is viewed as having a broader view of military requirements than a typical Air Force general has."
Wikipedia claims he is the first nominee to have been neither a bomber or fighter pilot.
Dave in St. Louis
I spent the day in bed. Sorry
June 12, 2008
Subject: Gaganauts are go?
* * * * * There are only 10 kinds of people in the world . . . those who understand binary, and those who don't.
The NY Times reports that this:
is being tried as a violation of British Columbia "hate speech" laws.
Huh? The article is basically about population demographics and why Europe is likely to become increasingly influenced by Islam as their population swells and that of "old Europe" declines.
This is "hate speech"?
I'd love to hear other opinions, because when I read the Maclean's article, I just don't see it!
Algae farm in Mexico to produce ethanol in '09
He claimed that the system can produce 6,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year, far more than corn's rate of 370 gallons per acre per year or sugar cane's at 890 gallons per acre per year.
The Mexican site is located a few miles away from a power generation station. By pumping carbon dioxide from the station into the algae bioreactors, the saltwater algae farm can boost production to 10,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year, he said.
ScienceDaily (Jun. 12, 2008) - Just as a disciplined exercise regimen helps human muscles become stronger and perform better, specialized workouts for the brain can boost cognitive skills, according to Carnegie Mellon scientists. Their new brain imaging study of poor readers found that 100 hours of remedial instruction -- reading calisthenics, of sorts, aimed to shore up problem areas -- not only improved the skills of struggling readers, but also changed the way their brains activated when they comprehended written sentences. This was the first brain imaging study in which children were tested on their understanding of sentences, not just on recognition of single words.
Didn't we call that education before the Blob took over? Then they decided it was "drill and kill" and all that went by the board. Astonishing: old fashioned drill-based education works.
It particularly works with the left side of the bell curve.
As the post-humous birthday of my late mother draws nearer, I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to you for your support during the hour of need. The enemy gave us a huge blow when they took her life. As a matter of fact, I do not know you personally except your contact details I got from her address book but I just have to pass on my sincere appreciation, also for the feat we were able to record at the last elections despite her absence as she was the party leader until her brutal assassination. The victory was to all Pakistanis as it clearly demonstrated their commitment to the course she stood and died for.
Losing her is the hardest thing I've been through all my life, but knowing that she was a hero to many people does comfort me. I know she would appreciate what everyone did for her. All we just crave for now is for her killing be probed by an international team under the United Nations. It is the only hope we have of getting the possible plotters of her murder properly investigated. Only this would help us convince our supporters that there was some element of collusion between her murderers and agents of President Musharaf who were determined to get rid of her.
While acknowledging receipt, please do confirm if you will be able to assist in investing some funds left by my late mother into a viable business. I do not know too well on how this is done, so I will need you to help me in this regard. My preference is any good profit yielding business.
Hope to hear from you soonest.
Pretty good word rate...
June 13, 2008
This day was devoured by bugs.
June 14, 2008
I'll try to catch up tomorrow. It's late and I am exhausted.
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