Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Right Wing, Science and Technology, Uncategorized.
Tags: adam and eve, adam lee, anti-intellectual, anti-science, creationism, evolution, fundamentalism, garden of eden, gobal warming, intelligent design, noah, noah's ark, religion, republicans, richard dawkins, roger hollander, science
They want to wipe out all the findings of hundreds of years of scientific investigation and have taken to schools, the courts and political leaders to get things done.
A few weeks ago, Jon Huntsman torpedoed his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by making the following announcement: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”
It’s a pathetic commentary on the anti-intellectualism rampant in American politics that this is newsworthy. A major-party candidate announces that he doesn’t deny a foundational theory of modern science! In fact, given the political atmosphere in the Republican party, it’s not just newsworthy but a daring act: polls have shown that almost 70 percent of Republicans deny evolution.
Huntsman is clearly trying to position himself as the moderate candidate. But while that strategy might play well in the general election, it won’t do him any good unless he can get the Republican nomination. And to win that nomination, he has to get past a huge obstacle: a solid bloc of Republican primary voters who are emphatically anti-science. This isn’t an exaggeration for polemical effect; it’s the plain truth. The modern Republican party has made a fervent rejection of scientific consensus its defining attribute — both on evolution and climate change, as well as in other fields — and Huntsman’s refusal to submit to party orthodoxy is likely a fatal blow to his chances.
But opposition to climate change is something new in the Republican platform. As recently as a few years ago, both Mitt Romney and John McCain supported cap-and-trade laws, and Newt Gingrich appeared in pro-environment ads with Nancy Pelosi. The party’s rejection of climate science is fairly new, and probably comes from its increasing dependence on campaign cash from dirty-energy barons like the Koch brothers.
By contrast, the Republican party’s denial of evolution is much older and more grassroots in nature, dating at least to when the national parties traded places during the civil-rights era. The conservative South, in addition to its other charming qualities, has a long history of passing laws hostile to science, from Tennessee’s Butler Act, the 1925 law prohibiting the teaching of evolution that led to the Scopes trial, to Louisiana’s 1981 Balanced Treatment Act, which decreed that “creation science” had to be given an equal share of classroom time.
But while fundamentalists have always been hostile to evolution, the modern creationist movement got its start in the 1960s, primarily due to the influence of an evangelical author named Henry Morris. Morris’ 1964 book The Genesis Flood argued, among other things, that Noah’s flood happened just as the Bible describes it — in other words, it was reasonable to believe that eight people could care for a floating zoo containing at least two members of every species on Earth.
Imagine trying to run the entire Bronx Zoo with just eight employees. Now consider that Noah’s leaky tub, by even the most forgiving estimates, would have to have had far more kinds of animals (including dinosaurs, which creationists believe existed simultaneously with humans, a la the Flintstones). Imagine how much feeding, watering, and manure-carrying that would be. Imagine all this frenetic activity taking place in the cramped, dark, foul-smelling confines of a wooden boat, with predators and prey side-by-side in narrow pens, during the most violent and catastrophic storm in the history of the planet, with an absolute requirement that not a single animal get sick or die. Now try not to laugh too hard at the people who seriously believe all this really happened.
As already mentioned, the creationist movement’s original strategy revolved around getting friendly state legislatures to decree that their ideas had to be taught in public schools, regardless of scientific merit or lack thereof. This strategy hasn’t fared well in court: aside from a Pyrrhic victory in the Scopes trial, judges have repeatedly recognized this for the obvious violation of separation of church and state that it is. And each time they lost, the creationist movement responded the same way: like a snake shedding its skin, they rebranded themselves with a new name, then tried again with the same ideas. “Creation science” became “scientific creationism,” which became “abrupt-appearance theory,” and so on. The currently preferred nomenclature is “intelligent design” (which is totally constitutional and not at all religious, because we’re not saying who we think the intelligent designer is — nudge nudge, wink wink!). But even this watered-down creationism met with defeat in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2005, when a judge appointed by George W. Bush handed down a resounding ruling that teaching intelligent design in public school is unconstitutional.
It remains to be seen how they’ll rebrand themselves next, though we can be confident their basic strategy won’t change. One of the most hilarious parts of the Dover case was evidence showing that, after a court ruling which made it illegal to teach creationism in public schools, the authors of a creationist textbook did a find-and-replace to change “creationism” to “intelligent design” and “creationists” to “design proponents.” At one point, someone mistyped and left a transitional fossil in an early draft: a paragraph that referred to “cdesign proponentsists.”
But while creationists keep bumbling on the legal front, they’ve had more success in the cultural arena, by infiltrating the public schools with creationist teachers who flout the law and preach their religious beliefs in class. There are some notable and egregious examples, such as David Paskiewicz, the New Jersey high school teacher who advocated creationism in class, in addition to telling a Muslim student she belonged in hell. There’s also John Freshwater, a creationist science teacher who was fired for breaking school rules about proselytizing in the classroom. Among other things, he allegedly used a Tesla coil to burn a cross onto a student’s arm!
And it’s not just the teachers, either. Creationist churches are training students at all educational levels to refuse to learn about any science their religion rejects, as in this story:
The last question on the test Mr. Campbell passed out a week later asked students to explain two forms of evidence supporting evolutionary change and natural selection.”I refuse to answer,” Bryce wrote. “I don’t believe in this.”
Although there are different kinds of creationists, the most fervent and most influential are the so-called young-earth creationists, who believe the world and every species on it is about 6,000 years old. The young-earth creationists, or YECs for short, believe the universe was created in seven 24-hour days, that there was a literal Garden of Eden, a literal Adam and Eve, and a literal talking snake just as the Book of Genesis describes.
To anyone who has even the most passing acquaintance with real science, these myths are on the same level as believing in a literal wolf who blew down the houses of literal pigs. Anyone who knows anything about genetics can see the impossibility of a healthy species arising from a single breeding pair. A population starting from such a tiny gene pool just wouldn’t have enough genetic diversity to adapt to environmental changes — not to mention the obvious problem of inbreeding depression, where sex between close relatives results in a far greater likelihood of the offspring inheriting the same rare and harmful mutations from both parents. (For fun, ask a creationist to explain about how they believe the prohibition on incest didn’t apply in the beginning. After all, once Adam and Eve had sons and daughters, where was the next generation of human beings going to come from?)
Likewise, the geologic record shows that the Earth has an enormously long and intricate history. Preserved in the rock record, we see evidence of continents drifting and colliding, thrusting up mountain ranges that are then slowly worn down by erosion; glaciers advancing and retreating, carving and scouring the landscape; sedimentary rock layers slowly built up by eons of deposition, then cut into deep canyons by rivers or metamorphosed by heat and pressure; the same land becoming shallow sea, swamp, forest, plain, desert and back to sea again, as sea levels rise and fall over the ages. This grand tapestry stands in stark contrast to the creationists’ cartoonish view of geology, in which Noah’s flood was the only geological event of significance to happen in the planet’s brief history. Geologists knew well before Charles Darwin that there was no evidence for a global flood, and modern scientists can add the evidence of radiometric dating, which shows the precise ages of ancient rocks and artifacts and proves that they’re far older than the creationist worldview permits.
And then there’s the direct evidence for evolution, in all its sprawling grandeur. We know evolution is true from genetic studies which show that all species share deep similarities at the genetic level. In fact, by charting which species’ genomes share the same one-off mutations, we can build evolutionary trees which show the patterns of relationship between species and allow us to estimate when they branched from each other. This nested hierarchy, the pattern produced by descent with modification, binds all living and extinct species together in an unbreakable web of heredity and kinship, every bit as real as the one that connects you to your ancestors and your living relatives.
We know evolution is true from transitional fossils which preserve snapshots of evolutionary change, such as the bird-like feathered dinosaurs; the therapsids that are intermediate between reptiles and mammals; the primitive whales with legs that are ancestors of today’s cetaceans; and in our own family lineage, the humanlike hominids that show how modern Homo sapiens arose from more ape-like ancestors. (Hilariously, the creationists all agree that there are no transitional fossils and that all fossil hominid species are either fully human or fully ape — but they can’t agree on which is which, exactly as we’d expect from true intermediates.)
We know evolution is true from the kludges, hacks, and jury-rigs we find in the anatomy of living things, including us — evidence not of a wise and forward-looking designer, but of a slow, mindless, tinkering process of change, a “blind watchmaker” as Richard Dawkins famously termed it. From the useless goosebumps we get when cold or frightened, to the backward-wired human retina, to the babies occasionally born with vestigial tails, human bodies bear the indelible stamp of our species’ history.
The creationists are forced to deny all this and much more besides. That’s not a figure of speech: major creationist organizations and religious colleges require their faculty to sign statements promising to reject any evidence that contradicts their worldview. The official statement of faith of the group Answers in Genesis, for example, requires members to affirm that “No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.” And when people affiliated with these groups do express doubt or flirt with unorthodoxy, retribution is invariably swift and harsh.
But as laughable as the creationists’ beliefs are, the creationist movement is no joke. They want to wipe out all the findings of hundreds of years of scientific investigation, erase everything we’ve learned about the vast and majestic history of the universe, and replace it with a cartoon version that grotesquely magnifies our own importance, treating human beings as the crowning glory of creation and diminishing the immensity of the universe to a tiny stage crafted only so that the Bible’s small stories could play out on it.
Why does this matter so much to them? It’s not just an arcane scientific debate: in their minds, only Christianity can produce virtue, and Christianity can be true only if evolution is false. It follows that they believe – and they’ve said that they believe — that evolution underlies every moral problem they see in the world, from drug use to pornography to people voting Democratic. Tom DeLay infamously blamed the Columbine school shootings on the teaching of evolution, stating that “our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized out of some primordial soup.”
The larger lesson to be drawn from this is that the religious right isn’t just targeting the theory of evolution. By their own words, they can’t be. They believe that a person’s morality is completely determined by their factual beliefs — that being a good person depends on believing the right things about the origin of the universe. And since they believe that all truths worth knowing have already been revealed in the Bible, it follows that science is at best unnecessary and at worst a fatal deception that leads people away from salvation. Why, then, do we need science at all?
To those who hold the creationist worldview, everything has been going downhill since the Enlightenment. The willingness of people to think for themselves, to question authority, to investigate the world for truth – they see all this as a disastrous trend, one that only takes us farther from their ideal vision of a medieval, theocratic state. They seek nothing less than to turn back the clock of progress by several centuries, abolish the rational, reality-based view of the world, and return to the superstitious mindset in which blind faith is the answer to every problem. And, again, these are the people who’ve completely captured one of America’s two major parties. What kind of havoc will result if they gain political power again?
Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Environment, Human Rights, Science and Technology.
Tags: agriculture, clarence thomas, environment, food, food terrorists, genetically engineered, genetically modified, gm food, human rights, lenore daniels, lin cohen cole, michelle obama, monsanto.agent orange, roger hollander, Vietnam War
Roger’s note: the tone of this ariticle is sarcastic; this may offend some reader, and, if so, I am sorry; but what is a thousand times more offensive is what the article reveals.
Lenore Daniels, www.opednews.com, July 24, 2008
The effect is again a magical and hypnotic one–the projection of images which convey irresistible unity, harmony of contradictions. Thus the loved and fear Father, the spender of life, generates the H-bomb for the annihilation of life; “science-military’ joins the efforts to reduce anxiety and suffering with the job of creating anxiety and suffering.
Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man
Monsanto has great respect for all of us, little people, and for Mother Earth, the source of all its (Monsanto’s) material wealth. But Monsanto would like to remind the world that however much those activists transgressors in Brazil condemn its connection to the use of dioxin in a current project to defoliate the rain forest or however much those Vietnam Vets agitators shout about the long-term harmful effects of Agent Orange, Monsanto is a new humanitarian enterprise, working with struggling farmers on behalf of the poor and starving children of the world. Monsanto, along with the cooperative government of the U.S. and other Western nations, envisions a future filled with healthy and happy humans.
We have great respect for the U.S. soldiers sent to war and all those affected by the Vietnam conflict. All sides share in the pain from this difficult time in our history. One of the legacies of that war is Agent Orange, where questions remain nearly 40 years later.
By way of background, the U.S. military used Agent Orange from 1961 to 1971 to save the lives of U.S. and allied soldiers by defoliating dense vegetation in the Vietnamese jungles and therefore reducing the chances of ambush.
As the war began and intensified, the U.S. government used its authority under the Defense Production Act to issue contracts to seven major chemical companies to obtain Agent Orange and other herbicides for use by U.S. and allied troops in Vietnam. The government specified the chemical composition of Agent Orange and when, where and how the material was to be used in the field, including application rates. Agent Orange was one of 15 herbicides used for military purposes during the Vietnam War and the most commonly applied. It received its name because of the orange band around containers of the material”
There have been a number of lawsuits. Monsanto and the six other chemical manufacturers reached agreement with U.S. veterans in a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in 1984 that involved millions of U.S. veterans and their families. There was not a finding of fault. It was settled by the parties rather than undertake a lengthy and complicated trial. The $180 million in funds that were part of the agreement were distributed according to a plan developed in part by U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein”
[There have been other lawsuits since 2009 but]“
Monsanto is now primarily a seed and agricultural products company.
We believe that the adverse consequences alleged to have arisen out of the Vietnam War, including the use of Agent Orange, should be resolved by the governments that were involved. (Monsanto.com)
((“The Agent Orange produced by Monsanto had dioxin levels many times higher than that produced by Dow Chemicals, the other major supplier of Agent Orange to Vietnam,” “The Legacy of Agent Orange” at Corp Watch.com.))
(((Monsanto produced “some of the most toxic substances ever created,” according to an investigative report entitled, “Harvest of Fear,” published at Vanity Fair, May 2008.)))
You are now ordered to forget those images of children with skin burned and bloodied; babies with two heads and one eye, deformed and missing limbs–forget them! Whatever happened in the past was unintentional. We were ordered by your government to do it! If harm was done when Monsanto was the Monsanto we are not now, sorry! Contact your government and scream until you pass out! We are “dedicated to a better place for future generations.”
In the “imagined future,” one in which we have “foreknowledge” and “mystically share in,” that “dark place” of the Orwellian realm (1984), Monsanto assures us that information is available, accessible, and understandable,” (Monsanto.com).
Infringe on Monsanto’s patents of genetically modified food or transgress its seed laws and its “shadowy army” of private investigators and agents–”secretly” videotaping and photographing wrong doers, and infiltrating “community meetings”–will to “get you” (“Harvest of Fear”). Farmers know Monsanto as the “seed police,” the “Gestapo” of the Heartland.
We are witnessing the criminalization of producing and consuming healthy food.
Here is what the telescreen preaches to us: the U.S. Empire has detected a problem. The results of studies are in and obesity is that problem. Citizens of the U.S. of A. are obese! The littlest of the little people, the children, are “too fat.” They indulge in “fatty foods.” The children along with their parents are irresponsible.
The first Black First Lady enters the picture. The mother of two well-feed children, except for the occasional treat of French fries, is in search of obese children. In a timely manner, Michelle Obama launches her “Let’s Move” program, later in that same year (2010), she announces that she “wants to take her campaign to reduce childhood obesity to a bigger audience: the global one.”
Everyone applauds! Cameras follow the First Lady as she flies from one end of the country to the other, promoting the consumption of greens, carrots, apples, and strawberries, (and indulging occasionally in a side dish of French fries).
Monsanto has the future of our children on its horizon–and it would seem Mrs. Obama does too!
The International Journal of Biological Science issued its findings, too, and it found a problem, too, with 3 genetically modified corn varieties produced by the new, supposedly non-lethal Monsanto. In fact, this study found the problem to be with the giant Monsanto! “80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. had been genetically modified by Monsanto.” Three strains of corn tested caused serious problems in the liver (organichealthadvisor.com) and this is just one example of the risk Monsanto’s food products pose for the current and future generations of children. Agriculture Society reports that the Institute for Responsible Technology found the following health issues arising from consuming GMO foods:
Immune system problems
Faulty insulin regulation
Development of pathogenic bacteria in the digestive tract
Changes in other major organs
The International Journal of Biological Science report concludes: This is a “huge problem.” (And let us not forget–health insurance is another problem in the heartland of the U.S. Empire!).
Any word from the First Lady about Monsanto, GMOs, health risks for eating just about anything, including veggies and fruits?
Do not look to Monsanto to give up either!
Monsanto is a master shape-shifter like so many we can think of today operating at the headquarters imperial power in Washington D.C. In fact, you might find more Monsanto shape-shifters in Washington than anywhere else. That is because the First Lady’s husband, President Barrack Obama and Monsanto want to ensure the longevity of the corporation.
Here is President Barrack Obama shuffling Monsanto food executives and research scientists from the boardroom and labs to the global reaches of the U.S. Empire faster than his wife, the First Lady, can fly to her next lecture on “obesity.”. Former Monsanto executives occupy leadership positions in the Department of Agriculture.
In “Farming–Why Obama’s Government is George Wallace, Monsanto is the KKK, and We Are All Black Children” (Opednews.com), Linn Cohen Cole writes about Monsanto’s “rural cleansing” campaign. Oh, Monsanto is everywhere! The First Lady should not miss omnipotent beings in the halls of the White House, in Congress, certainly not at the Department of Agriculture and not at the Supreme Court where Justice Clarence Thomas, another former Monsanto employee, loves his Monsanto more than he does our current and future generation of children.
Since Thomas’ appointment, writes Cole, the court has ruled in favor of genetically altered organisms and, in addition, has upheld laws protecting Monsanto’s “intellectual property rights.” As a result, Monsanto’s “rural cleansing” campaign is chasing farmers off their lands, from one end of the country to the other, while contaminating nature with its genetically engineered products. This is all good, for Clarence, and apparently the White House and the First Lady, too, flying, to and from, above it all!
Cole argues that these rulings are in “violation of our civil rights.” Here is a “”justice,’” Cole continues, destroying “previously taken for granted and thus undefined civil and human rights around nature.” We can generalize about “agriculture” and “commodities” or “profits””but “the profound truth that this is about life or death and our civil rights to live” is left out of the argument.
And you would think Thomas, Mr. Obama, and Mrs. Obama should know all about the civil right to live! But here is the 21st Century is Thomas, loyal corporate man, Barrack Obama, organizer of the Monsanto-Washington unification process, and Mrs. Obama saving our children’s lives from the ravages of obesity!
Mrs. Obama giving us images of Black obese children and then Brown obese children and then obese white children careful not to give us images of parents working 2 or 3 jobs, if they are working at all, and children, then, who are left to eat potato chips and candy, genetically engineered corn-based products for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes even dinner while watching television commercials featuring genetically fattened chicken. Where are the urban, migrant poor and the working class children to establish a garden like the one Mrs. Obama tenders at the White House? (Ah, “urban cleansing”! They have done that already!).
Unintentional, you think? Corporate and government indifference is deadly!
Monsanto’s food products not only contribute to “obesity” in children (and adults as well), but also contributes to the rise in diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (Cole).
Talk about insanity–on a grand level!
But let me reiterate! The installation of Clarence Thomas as an administer of justice and Barrack Obama as a Commander-in-Chief (or is that Chef?) at the helm of the U.S. Empire represents strategic steps, salvos, intended to kill anything human or natural! (So much for the end of the Agent Orange era!). Rights are rendered to corporations these dark days. You can only imagine the light in our future,
Returning to Cole–the author, like so many of us non-important, little people, recognizes from here below, that Monsanto is practicing a form of “discrimination,” where “one group is using corrupt means to discriminate against a defined segment of the population–all of us who wish to live.”
Cole is not alone in condemning not only Monsanto but also the system that is out to destroy life, human and nature, on this planet. Cole’s observation is one voiced by those few of us Black commentators who were critical of that mechanizing and criminalizing system and the selection of Obama (the first “Black” president) chosen by Wall Street and the corporate rulers to oversee the further progress of a One World order. But the foot soldiers of “progress,” the liberal-progressive-alternative-left media thanked the Daley Machine on LaSalle Street and obliged the Democratic Party by bracketing our warnings in double, triple parenthesis–with a warning of their own: shut up!
“Progress” is buying the double talk and eating the crap! And we are where we are today!
Cole writes: Obama “is a black man [the George Wallace of this generation] overseeing a government that is discriminating and abusing a marginalized group.” But it is not one racial or ethnic group, or one class, or only women marginalized today. Here is a George Wallace in controlling and selling humans and the land to the Monsantos of the world, the KKK, Cole argues. All of us are the little Black children of yesterday.
All of us are the little people subject to whims of the state police and the “food” police, and labels of “terrorists” or “food” terrorists.
This is not just an agricultural issue. It is a civil rights and a human rights issue–the most profound in human history since it is about the right to (normal) nature and survival itself. The totalitarian and corrupt parties discriminating against us all can only be dealt with once we see this as a single issue and come together in a civil rights movement on behalf of us all.
But do not turn your eyes away from the First Lady who, for fear of losing life as she knows it, is the savior of children one minute and is campaign cheerleader the next. All in a day’s work–for the Big People!
For husband’s re-election, for the corporatist Party, and for corporate rulers, the First Lady reads Monsanto’s letter to transgressors and agitators, salutes and says, “I do, too.”
Catch that smile and those wonderful gowns!
No wonder Monsanto exchanged its dusty fatigues for a more formal, more “global” one of skull and bones.
Published at The Black Commentator.com, July 21, 2011
Posted by rogerhollander in Science and Technology.
Tags: ben stein, creationism, discovery institute, evolution, evolutionary biology, intelligent design, nicolas gotelli, pz myers, roger hollander, science
Posted on: February 18, 2009 4:15 PM, by PZ Myers, www.scienceblogs.com
A professor at the University of Vermont, Nicholas Gotelli, got an invitation to debate one of the clowns at the Discovery Institute. Here’s what they wrote.
Dear Professor Gotelli,
I saw your op-ed in the Burlington Free Press and appreciated your support of free speech at UVM. In light of that, I wonder if you would be open to finding a way to provide a campus forum for a debate about evolutionary science and intelligent design. The Discovery Institute, where I work, has a local sponsor in Burlington who is enthusiastic to find a way to make this happen. But we need a partner on campus. If not the biology department, then perhaps you can suggest an alternative.
Ben Stein may not be the best person to single-handedly represent the ID side. As you’re aware, he’s known mainly as an entertainer. A more appropriate alternative or addition might be our senior fellows David Berlinski or Stephen Meyer, respectively a mathematician and a philosopher of science. I’ll copy links to their bios below. Wherever one comes down in the Darwin debate, I think we can all agree that it is healthy for students to be exposed to different views–in precisely the spirit of inviting controversial speakers to campus, as you write in your op-ed.
I’m hoping that you would be willing to give a critique of ID at such an event, and participate in the debate in whatever role you feel comfortable with.
A good scientific backdrop to the discussion might be Dr. Meyer’s book that comes out in June from HarperCollins, “Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.”
On the other hand, Dr. Belinski may be a good choice since he is a critic of both ID and Darwinian theory.
Would it be possible for us to talk more about this by phone sometime soon?
With best wishes,
You’ll enjoy Dr Gotelli’s response.
Dear Dr. Klinghoffer:
Thank you for this interesting and courteous invitation to set up a debate about evolution and creationism (which includes its more recent relabeling as “intelligent design”) with a speaker from the Discovery Institute. Your invitation is quite surprising, given the sneering coverage of my recent newspaper editorial that you yourself posted on the Discovery Institute’s website:
However, this kind of two-faced dishonesty is what the scientific community has come to expect from the creationists.
Academic debate on controversial topics is fine, but those topics need to have a basis in reality. I would not invite a creationist to a debate on campus for the same reason that I would not invite an alchemist, a flat-earther, an astrologer, a psychic, or a Holocaust revisionist. These ideas have no scientific support, and that is why they have all been discarded by credible scholars. Creationism is in the same category.
Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren’t members of your institute publishing their ideas in prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? If you want to be taken seriously by scientists and scholars, this is where you need to publish. Academic publishing is an intellectual free market, where ideas that have credible empirical support are carefully and thoroughly explored. Nothing could possibly be more exciting and electrifying to biology than scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of the existence of a god. That would be Nobel Prize winning work, and it would be eagerly published by any of the prominent mainstream journals.
“Conspiracy” is the predictable response by Ben Stein and the frustrated creationists. But conspiracy theories are a joke, because science places a high premium on intellectual honesty and on new empirical studies that overturn previously established principles. Creationism doesn’t live up to these standards, so its proponents are relegated to the sidelines, publishing in books, blogs, websites, and obscure journals that don’t maintain scientific standards.
Finally, isn’t it sort of pathetic that your large, well-funded institute must scrape around, panhandling for a seminar invitation at a little university in northern New England? Practicing scientists receive frequent invitations to speak in science departments around the world, often on controversial and novel topics. If creationists actually published some legitimate science, they would receive such invitations as well.
So, I hope you understand why I am declining your offer. I will wait patiently to read about the work of creationists in the pages of Nature and Science. But until it appears there, it isn’t science and doesn’t merit an invitation.
In closing, I do want to thank you sincerely for this invitation and for your posting on the Discovery Institute Website. As an evolutionary biologist, I can’t tell you what a badge of honor this is. My colleagues will be envious.
P.S. I hope you will forgive me if I do not respond to any further e-mails from you or from the Discovery Institute. This has been entertaining, but it interferes with my research and teaching.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Science and Technology.
Tags: Canada, canada budget, canada research, canada research councils, canada science, canada technoloby, canadian science, canadian scientists, cancer research, genetics research, Genome Canada, genomics research, martin godbout, proteomics research, roger hollander
The head of the not-for-profit agency responsible for funding large-scale science and genetics projects is perplexed after the foundation was shut out of the federal budget.
Genome Canada president Martin Godbout said his organization was expecting about $120 million from the government to help fund new international research projects, including those led by Canadian scientists. That number would be in line with the $140 million the group received in the 2008 budget and the $100 million it got in 2007.
Instead, Genome Canada received no mention in this year’s budget, presented Tuesday.
“It’s like we fell between the chairs,” said Godbout. “This was an infrastructure budget, and so money went into that, but we got nothing.”
The organization, established nine years ago with a mandate to develop and support large-scale genomics and proteomics research projects, has become a key funding partner for a host of medical and genetic researchers across the country, supporting 33 major research projects with operating grants of $10 million a year.
Genome Canada research aims to improve forests, crops, the environment, health and new technology development.
Since its creation in 2000, it has received $840 million from the federal government and raised another $1 billion through partner co-funding and interest earnings.
Godbout said the lack of funding won’t affect projects already underway and funded through previous budgets, but it will limit Canada’s ability to contribute to new, large-scale genetics research projects.
For a government-run funding agency like the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, no mention in a budget would mean a continuation of existing annual budgets, but for Genome Canada, which operates outside the government, a lack of funding effectively stalls any new research initiatives, said Godbout.
Liberal party science and technology critic Marc Garneau told CBC News the funding of Genome Canada would be an issue the party would address with the government when it discusses amendments to the budget.
It will also raise cuts in the budget to Canada’s three research councils. The cuts total close to $150 million and peak in 2011-12 at $87.2 million, Garneau said.
But he stopped short of saying these issues would be deal-breakers in ongoing budget talks.
“What we’re going to do is continue to remind the government that they are not doing enough in that particular area,” said Garneau. “I won’t tell you whether or not this is a show-stopper because I’m not making those decisions, but I think our party will continue to point out the lack of real support in science by this government.”
The lack of funding for Genome Canada in the budget was “devastating,” said Ken Dewar, an associate professor in human genetics at Montreal’s McGill University.
“If we sit in a brand new building with brand new equipment and have scholarships for students, what are they going to do when there’s no money to actually do an experiment?” he said.
The research funding is mainly used to train and maintain highly qualified personnel and to buy supplies for experiments, added Dewar.
Dewar is working on sequencing strains of C. difficile bacteria that have been plaguing hospitals.
The federal budget contrasts with that of the U.S., where funding appears to be more balanced between infrastructure upgrades and support for leading-edge research, said Dewar, who is also the acting scientific director of the McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre.
It isn’t the first time Genome Canada received nothing in a federal budget. In 2006, the agency also received no mention, but Godbout said it was understood at the time that the $165 million the group received in 2005 would have to last for two years.
During question period on Thursday, Garneau questioned the government on whether the lack of funds was an oversight.
Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear disputed that funding was cut, saying Genome Canada was still receiving funds from the two previous budget announcements, and that these funds amounted to $106 million this year and $108 million next year.
“This government has in place two five-year contracts with Genome Canada retaining almost a quarter of a billion dollars for science research,” said Goodyear. “We’re doing that, Mr. Speaker, because we know Genome Canada is good for Canada and the good work they do is good for Canadians’ health.”
But Garneau disputed that claim, arguing the government was counting money that was previously committed in its calculations.
“Canadian scientists can only contribute to new discoveries and create the jobs of tomorrow if we give them the support they urgently need,” said Garneau. “Is this government deliberately undermining Canada’s scientists or [has it] simply forgotten to fund their future work?”
Godbout said that while money from last year’s budget was allocated over the next four years to fund ongoing projects, there was no indication that they would receive nothing this year for new initiatives.
He pointed to a project to sequence the genomes of 50 different types of cancer, led by Ontario Institute of Cancer Research scientific director Tom Hudson, as one project that would be short of funding without further federal support.
Hudson is participating in a worldwide effort to study the genetics of cancer. The Ontario government is funding a $25 million project on pancreatic cancer, and researchers were hoping the federal government would commit to studying other forms of cancer, said Rhea Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Ontario institute.
Godbout said he has expressed his concerns to the federal opposition parties but has yet to speak with the government on the issue.
Posted by rogerhollander in Science and Technology.
Tags: Barack Obama, cia, Deep Throat, Forensic Experts, Google, H.R. Haldeman, james bamford, John Erlichman, keith thomson, nsa, oval office, Politics News, Richard Nixon, Robert Novak, roger hollander, Rosemary Woods, scooter libby, Valerie Plame Wilson, watergate, Yahoo
Keith Thomson, January 27, 2009, www.huffingtonpost.com
Perhaps the most frequently-asked question about Watergate is: “How could the conspirators have been so foolish, gabbing away even though they knew the tape recorder was on?” The answer: They were human, and, as such, erred.
Anne Weisman, chief counsel for the non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, compared the infamous gap in the Nixon-Haldeman Oval Office tape to the 14 million White House emails from March 2003 to October 2005 that were missing during the investigation of the Valerie Plame CIA leak, when they might have yielded a smoking gun.
“The Watergate Tapes had an eighteen-and-a-half minute gap where [Nixon secretary] Rosemary Woods did whatever she did,” Weisman told me. “We’re talking here about a gap of at least fourteen million emails.”
Rosemary Woods demonstrates how she accidentally may have erased tapes
Early this year, the White House found the emails — it turns out they never were missing but rather, unaccounted for due to a “flawed and limited” internal review. On January 14, Weisman convinced a federal court to order the White House to preserve the emails and all relevant records.
Now, filling in the gaps in the CIA leak case — like why Bush administration officials exposed Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert operative status to Robert Novak and other journalists — may be as simple as entering “plame” as a search term (or “plane,” allowing for misspelling).
“Email is a blessing, and it can be a curse, because it’s a written record,” Weisman said. “And people know that intellectually. Still they dash off emails, without thinking about what they’re saying, as if they’re talking on the phone. As a result, you get a lot of very honest information that isn’t scrutinized the way official memoranda are.”
Weisman also recognizes the possibility that the perpetrators of the leak had the good sense not to chronicle their activities. Or they may have simply deleted their emails.
I interviewed two computer forensics experts familiar with the White House system. Per requests for anonymity, what follows is an amalgam of those interviews:
Q: Can you recover a deleted email?
A: Piece of cake.
Q: Is there a way to delete an email so that computer forensics experts would be unable to find any trace of it?
A: There are hundreds of ways.
Q: If the deleted email had been sent using the White House server, could you still locate it on the backup tapes? [Every night, backup tapes of all White House emails are made and stored in a separate location in case of fire or disaster; the March 2003 to October 2005 tapes also were unaccounted for during the leak investigation].
A: The backup tapes could contain the deleted email, absolutely.
Q: Could someone delete an email that’s on a backup tape?
A: You could easily just make a new backup tape. Put on whatever time and date stamp you want. From an evidentiary standpoint, the stamps are meaningless.
Q: So if a perpetrator pulled that off, is that the end of your investigation?
A: More like the beginning. Like an old-fashioned gumshoe, you try to sniff out clues.
Q: For instance?
A: A very simplistic example is, even if there’s no evidence of emails written to email@example.com, that address may still be in the email address book on a staffer’s computer or BlackBerry. [The Bush administration was also ordered to turn over all devices containing emails.] Something as little as that can broaden the scope of the investigation.
Q: What if that address has been expunged from the address book?
A: The entire hard drive may have been swapped out. But the trail doesn’t necessarily go cold there.
In other words, the computer forensics investigation, fundamentally, is as old as hide-and-seek, and will continue to be so until computers can be programmed to remedy human error. Assuming mistakes were made, the scope of the investigation would conceivably expand beyond the 14 million existing White House emails to every email the leakers ever have sent and received: In the digital age, the world increasingly is becoming an Oval Office Tape Recorder 2.0.
I spoke to perhaps the world’s foremost expert on the subject, James Bamford, a former intelligence analyst who wrote The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, his third New York Times best-selling book about the National Security Administration. “In order to send an email, the White House has to send it via Novak’s server,” he said. “Novak’s email provider would have the content, if they’ve kept it until now.”
Internet service providers routinely make daily back-up tapes. Moreover, a Yahoo! official told me that her company has retained a majority of individual user emails, since 1997, and has no plans to throw them out. Google has a similar offline backup system. So even if one of the leakers eschewed the White House server and sent the smoking-gun using a personal Yahoo! account from his mother-in-law’s laptop computer in Cheboygan, then flung the computer into Lake Michigan, the correspondence likely would be available in its entirety.
Bamford noted that logs of telephone calls placed and received by the leaker would be readily accessible at this juncture as well. In addition, according to a CIA source, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that some of the audio was captured by intelligence agency communication intercept systems.
The sum total is Anne Weisman’s prospects for reeling in the new Haldeman or Erlichman may be greatly enhanced. Weisman wouldn’t mind if, in the process, light were shed on such issues as the U.S. Attorney firings controversy, editing of government reports to downplay scientific findings about global warming, and how exactly 14 million emails were lost to a “flawed and limited” internal review in the first place.
So what is her immediate plan?
For five years, at least.
The 14 million emails have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration along with 300 million other documents. In accordance with the Presidential Records Act, it will be five years before the Freedom of Information Act allows her to seek a single correspondence.
In the interim, the Supreme Court may hear her case, Wilson v. Libby, potentially giving her subpoena power. She considers her best shots, however, to be either an Act of Congress or an initiative taken by the Obama administration. “They may not want to have to defend the old administration,” she said. “They may think the American public deserves to know what happened.”
Failing that, the hope is to receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org.
H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff
Former CIA covert officer Valerie Plame Wilson
Posted by rogerhollander in Science and Technology.
Tags: analog tv, answering machines, ash trees, bolling alleys, change, chesapeake bay blue crabs, classified ads, dial-up, drive-in theatres, extinct, extinction, family farm, film cameras, ham radio, hand-written letters, honey bees, incandescent bulbs, landlines, measles, milkman, movie rental stores, mumps, news magazines, personal checks, roger hollander, Science and Technology, swimming hole, tv news, vcr, wild horses, yellow pages
I don’t have the source for this list; it was sent to me by a friend (RH).
24. Yellow Pages This year will be pivotal for the global Yellow Pages industry. Much like newspapers, print Yellow Pages will continue to bleed dollars to their various digital counterparts, from Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs), to local search engines and combination search/listing services like Reach Local and Yodle Factors like an acceleration of the print ‘fade rate’ and the looming recession will contribute to the onslaught. One research firm predicts the falloff in usage of newspapers and print Yellow Pages could even reach 10% this year — much higher than the 2%-3% fade rate seen in past years.
23. Classified Ads The Internet has made so many things obsolete that newspaper classified ads might sound like just another trivial item on a long list. But this is one of those harbingers of the future that could signal the end of civilization as we know it. The argument is that if newspaper classifieds are replaced by free online listings at sites like Craigslist.org and Google Base, then newspapers are not far behind them.
22. Movie Rental Stores While Netflix is looking up at the moment, Blockbuster keeps closing store locations by the hundreds. It still has about 6,000 left across the world, but those keep dwindling and the stock is down considerably in 2008, especially since the company gave up a quest of Circuit City. Movie Gallery, which owned the Hollywood Video brand, closed up shop earlier this year. Countless small video chains and mom-and-pop stores have given up the ghost already.
21. Dial-Up Internet Access Dial-up connections have fallen from 40% in 2001 to 10% in 2008. The combination of an infrastructure to accommodate affordable high speed Internet connections and the disappearing home phone have all but pounded the final nail in the coffin of dial-up Internet access.
20. Phone Landlines According to a survey from the National Center for Health Statistics, at the end of 2007, nearly one in six homes was cell-only and, of those homes that had landlines, one in eight only received calls on their cells.
19. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs Maryland’s icon, the blue crab, has been fading away in Chesapeake Bay. Last year Maryland saw the lowest harvest (22 million pounds) since 1945. Just four decades ago the bay produced 96 million pounds. The population is down 70% since 1990, when they first did a formal count. There are only about 120 million crabs in the bay and they think they need 200 million for a sustainable population. Over fishing, pollution, invasive species and global warming get the blame.
18. VCRs For the better part of three decades, the VCR was a best-seller and staple in every American household until being completely decimated by the DVD, and now the Digital Video Recorder (DVR). In fact, the only remnants of the VHS age at your local Wal-Mart or Radio Shack are blank VHS tapes these days. Pre-recorded VHS tapes are largely gone and VHS decks are practically nowhere to be found. They served us so well.
17. Ash Trees In the late 1990s, a pretty, iridescent green species of beetle, now known as the emerald ash borer, hitched a ride to North America with ash wood products imported from eastern Asia. In less than a decade, its larvae have killed millions of trees in the Midwest, and continue to spread. They’ve killed more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with tens of millions more lost in Ohio and Indiana. More than 7.5 billion ash trees are currently at risk.
16. Ham Radio Amateur radio operators enjoy personal (and often worldwide) wireless communications with each other and are able to support their communities with emergency and disaster communications if necessary, while increasing their personal knowledge of electronics and radio theory. However, proliferation of the Internet and its popularity among youth has caused the decline of amateur radio. In the past five years alone, the number of people holding active ham radio licenses has dropped by 50,000, even though Morse Code is no longer a requirement.
15. The Swimming Hole Thanks to our litigious society, swimming holes are becoming a thing of the past. ’20/20′ reports that swimming hole owners, like Robert Every in High Falls, N.Y., are shutting them down out of worry that if someone gets hurt they’ll sue. And that’s exactly what happened in Seattle. The city of Bellingham was sued by Katie Hofstetter who was paralyzed in a fall at a popular swimming hole in Whatcom Falls Park. As injuries occur and lawsuits follow, expect more swimming holes to post ‘Keep out!’ signs.
14. Answering Machines The increasing disappearance of answering machines is directly tied to No 20 our list — the decline of landlines. According to USA Today, the number of homes that only use cell phones jumped 159% between 2004 and 2007. It has been particularly bad in New York; since 2000, landline usage has dropped 55%. It’s logical that as cell phones rise, many of them replacing traditional landlines, that there will be fewer answering machines.
13. Cameras That Use Film It doesn’t require a statistician to prove the rapid disappearance of the film camera in America. Just look to companies like Nikon, the professional’s choice for quality camera equipment. In 2006, it announced that it would stop making film cameras, pointing to the shrinking market — only 3% of its sales in 2005, compared to 75% of sales from digital cameras and equipment.
12. Incandescent Bulbs Before a few years ago, the standard 60-watt (or, yikes, 100-watt) bulb was the mainstay of every U.S. home. With the green movement and all-things-sustainable-energy crowd, the Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb (CFL) is largely replacing the older, Edison-era incandescent bulb. The EPA reports that 2007 sales for Energy Star CFLs nearly doubled from 2006, and these sales accounted for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. light bulb market. And according to USA Today, a new energy bill plans to phase out incandescent bulbs in the next four to 12 years.
11. Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys BowlingBalls.US claims there are still 60 million Americans who bowl at least once a year, but many are not bowling in stand-alone bowling alleys. Today most new bowling alleys are part of facilities for all types or recreation including laser tag, go-karts, bumper cars, video game arcades, climbing walls and glow miniature golf. Bowling lanes also have been added to many non-traditional venues such as adult communities, hotels and resorts, and gambling casinos.
10. The Milkman According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 1950, over half of the milk delivered was to the home in quart bottles, by 1963, it was about a third and by 2001, it represented only 0 .4% percent. Nowadays most milk is sold through supermarkets in gallon jugs. The steady decline in home-delivered milk is blamed, of course, on the rise of the supermarket, better home refrigeration and longer-lasting milk. Although some milkmen still make the rounds in pockets of the U.S. , they are certainly a dying breed.
9. Hand-Written Letters In 2006, the Radicati Group estimated that, worldwide, 183 billion e-mails were sent each day. Two million each second. By November of 2007, an estimated 3.3 billion Earthlings owned cell phones, and 80% of the world’s population had access to cell phone coverage. In 2004, half-a-trillion text messages were sent, and the number has no doubt increased exponentially since then. So where amongst this gorge of gabble is there room for the elegant, polite hand-written letter?
8. Wild Horses; It is estimated that 100 years ago, as many as two million horses were roaming free within the United States . In 2001, National Geographic News estimated that the wild horse population had decreased to about 50,000 head. Currently, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory board states that there are 32,000 free roaming horses in ten Western states, with half of them residing in Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management is seeking to reduce the total number of free range horses to 27,000, possibly by selective euthanasia.
7. Personal Checks According to an American Bankers Assoc. report, a net 23% of consumers plan to decrease their use of checks over the next two years, while a net 14% plan to increase their use of PIN debit. Bill payment remains the last stronghold of paper-based payments — for the time being. Checks continue to be the most commonly used bill payment method, with 71% of consumers paying at least one recurring bill per month by writing a check. However, on a bill-by-bill basis, checks account for only 49% of consumers’ recurring bill payments (down from 72% in 2001 and 60% in 2003).
6. Drive-In Theaters During the peak in 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in this country, but in 2007 only 405 drive-ins were still operating. Exactly zero new drive-ins have been built since 2005. Only one reopened in 2005 and five reopened in 2006, so there isn’t much of a movement toward reviving the closed ones.
5. Mumps & Measles Despite what’s been in the news lately, the measles and mumps actually, truly are disappearing from the United States. In 1964, 212,000 cases of mumps were reported in the U.S. By 1983, this figure had dropped to 3,000, thanks to a vigorous vaccination program. Prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine, approximately half a million cases of measles were reported in the U.S. annually, resulting in 450 deaths. In 2005, only 66 cases were recorded.
4. Honey Bees Perhaps nothing on our list of disappearing America is so dire; plummeting so enormously; and so necessary to the survival of our food supply as the honey bee. Very scary. ‘Colony Collapse Disorder,’ or CCD, has spread throughout the U.S and Europe over the past few years, wiping out 50% to 90% of the colonies of many beekeepers — and along with it, their livelihood.
3. News Magazines and TV News While the TV evening newscasts haven’t gone anywhere over the last several decades, their audiences have. In 1984, in a story about the diminishing returns of the evening news, the New York Times reported that all three network evening-news programs combined had only 40.9 million viewers. Fast forward to 2008, and what they have today is half that.
2. Analog TV According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 85% of homes in the U.S. get their television programming through cable or satellite providers. For the remaining 15% — or 13 million individuals — who are using rabbit ears or a large outdoor antenna to get their local stations, change is in the air. If you are one of these people you’ll need to get a new TV or a converter box in order to get the new stations which will only be broadcast in digital.
1. The Family Farm Since the 1930s, the number of family farms has been declining rapidly. According to the USDA, 5.3 million farms dotted the nation in 1950, but this number had declined to 2.1 million by the 2003 farm census (data from the 2007 census hasn’t yet been published). Ninety-one percent of the U.S. farms are small family farms.