Stupid Design

I thought I’d read some idiocy about evolution, but this piece of moronic Deepak Chopra drivel takes the cake and bakes a new one. It’s breath-takingly stupid. Among other things, Chopra is concerned that the fossil record didn’t preserve maladaptive mutations or the transition from interesting chemicals to self-replicating life. Jesus.

Meanwhile back in reality, the New York Times ran a nice expose on the Discovery Institute Sunday. More on these things later.

UPDATE: Dr. Myers has some fun with Chopra, but cuts him way too much slack.

Snowball Earth caused by slime

Reef aquariasts call cyanobacteria “bubble slime algae” because it forms clumps of bubbles encased in slime, with the bubbles being a byproduct of a unique form of photosynthesis. It’s treated short-term with antibiotics, and long term by keeping the water free of phosphates and nitrates so it can’t grow.

On a large scale, it was probably responsible for the Snowball Earth effect, according to some Caltech research dudes:

In the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Caltech graduate student Robert Kopp and his supervising professor, Joe Kirschvink, along with alumnus Isaac Hilburn (now a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and graduate student Cody Nash, argue that cyanobacteria (or blue-green algae) suddenly evolved the ability to break water and release oxygen about 2.3 billion years ago. Oxygen destroyed the greenhouse gas methane that was then abundant in the atmosphere, throwing the global climate completely out of kilter.

Cyano blooms in the oceans when phosphate fertilizers run off from farms. This is a treatable problem if the will is there, and it may play a role in reversing global warming, but that’s a scary thought.

Here’s a picture of the slime.

Environmentalist junk science kills

Daily Pundit comments on a New York Sun article on the DDT panic that’s lead to millions of perfectly preventable malaria deaths. Here’s the part that he quotes:

[Pseudo]-science can be fatal. It’s estimated that since the ban of the insecticide DDT, more than 50 million people have died of malaria. A young aspiring journalist from the Bulls Head section of Staten Island is one of the latest victims. Akilah Amapindi, 23, contracted the disease while working as a radio intern in southern Africa.

… DDT was not a carcinogen. It did not harm humans. Indeed, it could be ingested. It was one of the most effective killers of disease-bearing mosquitoes.

Dr. Paul Müller, its inventor, was honored with the Nobel Prize in 1948.When it was introduced in Sri Lanka, cases of malaria dropped from 3 million in 1946 to just 29 in 1964. Five years after the DDT ban, the death rate had climbed back to more than a half-million a year.

I was still a teenager when “Silent Spring”was published,and all I knew at the time was that it was about bugs, so my interest level was nonexistent. But Rachel Carson has been lauded over the years as the matriarch of today’s militant environment movement.What is interesting to note is that many legitimate scientists have always condemned her book as a tissue of cleverly told lies designed to exclude any argument that challenged Carson’s conclusions.

J.Gordon Edwards was a professor of entomology at San Jose State University who testified in defense of DDT at hearings before the ban. He wrote an editorial in 1992 for 21st Century Science and Technology Magazine that was called “The Lies of Rachel Carson.” In it he pinpointed all of Carson’s deliberate obfuscations and faulty research, from the very beginning of “Silent Spring” to its end.

… Perhaps the best explanation for why junk scientists have so much success in promoting their hokum theories is that there are so many “intellectual morons” in the world of academia. An author, Daniel Flynn, in his latest nonfiction work, “Intellectual Morons — How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas,” coined that term.

The malaria scandal is a great example of people who mean well doing bad things because they’re too swept-up in the feeling of righteousness.

UPDATE: Commenters point out that Rachel Carson has arguably killed more people than Stalin. See the DDT FAQ here and this comment:

Communism did kill, Courtois and his fellow historians demonstrate, with ruthless efficiency: 25 million in Russia during the Bolshevik and Stalinist eras, perhaps 65 million in China under the eyes of Mao Zedong, 2 million in Cambodia, millions more Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America–an astonishingly high toll of victims. This freely expressed penchant for homicide, Courtois maintains, was no accident, but an integral trait of a philosophy, and a practical politics, that promised to erase class distinctions by erasing classes and the living humans that populated them.

Carson will soon catch up with Mao, the biggest mass killer of all time.

Autism and the male condition

Autism isn’t necessarily something to do with vaccinations, you know. Simon Baron-Cohen sees connections with the male brain:

One needs to be extremely careful in advancing a cause for autism, because this field is rife with theories that have collapsed under empirical scrutiny. Nonetheless, my hypothesis is that autism is the genetic result of “assortative mating” between parents who are both strong systemizers. Assortative mating is the term we use when like is attracted to like, and there are four significant reasons to believe it is happening here.

FIRST, both mothers and fathers of children with autism complete the embedded figures test faster than men and women in the general population.

Second, both mothers and fathers of children with autism are more likely to have fathers who are talented systemizers (engineers, for example).

Third, when we look at brain activity with magnetic resonance imaging, males and females on average show different patterns while performing empathizing or systemizing tasks. But both mothers and fathers of children with autism show strong male patterns of brain activity.

Fourth, both mothers and fathers of children with autism score above average on a questionnaire that measures how many autistic traits an individual has. These results suggest a genetic cause of autism, with both parents contributing genes that ultimately relate to a similar kind of mind: one with an affinity for thinking systematically.

Read it all to see how Larry Summers fits into the story.

Krugman’s Politicization of Science

Krugman’s recent column attributing intelligent design to a Vast Right Wing Think Tank Conspiracy draws the ire of the Prometheus blog:

Unlike most areas of science, in the case of evolution there really is no “excess of objectivity” and Krugman is certainly right about that. But by making the general case that scientific facts compel particular ideological outcomes, Krugman is legitimizing the very strategy employed by conservative think tanks (and today also embraced by liberal think tanks) that debates that are really about values can be effectively turned into debates putatively about science.

On the role of science in politics, Krugman finds considerable room for agreement with his conservative opponents. As much as anything, this area of liberal-conservative agreement helps to explain the increasing politicization of science in the United States.

This leap to the idea that research compels certain policies is one of the more disturbing errors we see on leftwing science blogs.

Leftwing partisan attack scientist Chris Mooney (of The American Prospect) is upset with Prometheus for daring to critcize Krugman.

This isn’t helping

Partisan hack Paul Krugman attacks the president and the neo-cons on Intelligent Design today:

I’d like to nominate Irving Kristol, the neoconservative former editor of The Public Interest, as the father of “intelligent design.”

Duh, it’s not going to convince anyone, even with Panda’s Thumb drooling all over it.

Krugman is probably the least credible columnist writing in America today. The Lying in Ponds website has consistently ranked him number 1 or 2 on their objective partisanship scale. Any column he writes that mentions Bush or the Republicans in connection with any subject at all is properly understood simply as unprincipled political bashing, because that’s the dude’s raison d’etre.

So Krugman beating up on Bush over ID isn’t helpful to those of us who oppose ID. Similarly, Dawkins is getting carried away with his political partisanship, attacking Bush constantly even though he’s not an American. He went so far as to say that all Bush voters are “stupid”. And his work in the ID wars has lately become more and more soft.

The people best situated to attack Bush on ID are those who generally support him on the war, the economy, school choice, and that whole set of issues. And there’s been no shortage of attacks from this sector of the political spectrum (center and right) on the suggestion that ID be taught in biology classes. See Krauthammer for a good example:

Evolution is one of the most powerful and elegant theories in all of human science and the bedrock of all modern biology. Schönborn’s proclamation that it cannot exist unguided–that it is driven by an intelligent designer pushing and pulling and planning and shaping the process along the way–is a perfectly legitimate statement of faith. If he and the Evangelicals just stopped there and asked that intelligent design be included in a religion curriculum, I would support them. The scandal is to teach this as science–to pretend, as does Schönborn, that his statement of faith is a defense of science. “The Catholic Church,” he says, “will again defend human reason” against “scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of ‘chance and necessity,'” which “are not scientific at all.” Well, if you believe that science is reason and that reason begins with recognizing the existence of an immanent providence, then this is science. But, of course, it is not. This is faith disguised as science. Science begins not with first principles but with observation and experimentation.

And see any of the RINO blogs (Balloon Juice, Ace of Spades, Roger Simon, Jeff Jarvis, Protein Wisdom, Don Surber, etc.)

The fact is that politics by its very nature is the enemy of science, and neither side of the political spectrum has been immune to the abuse of science in the pursuit of its agenda. The junk social science that’s been churned out of left-leaning universities is a scandal of major proportions, much bigger than funny games with climatology or the work of the tiny little Disco Institute club.

Let me suggest that people who want to take on the cause of fighting ID would do well to check their other partisan beliefs at the door, lest they be confused for Unprincipled Krugmans. Similarly, religious people who want to spread their gospel would do well to stay out of science classrooms, because (as Krauthammer explains:)

To teach faith as science is to undermine the very idea of science, which is the acquisition of new knowledge through hypothesis, experimentation and evidence. To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of religious authority. To teach it as science is to discredit the welcome recent advances in permitting the public expression of religion. Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square. But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.

Criticisms of Christianity from snake-handling Buddhists carry no weight, and criticisms of evolution from those who reject science wholesale are similarly ephemeral.

Exposing the children to different ideas

This crap is just plain wrong:

WASHINGTON (Aug. 2) – President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss ”intelligent design” alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.

During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

”I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. ”You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”

There are too many “different ideas” about how we came to be to teach them all, so the schools should focus on elements of the science curriculum that actually, you know, relate to science. The next thing we know they’ll be teaching Native American creation myths, Scientology, and Zen Buddhism.

This insane embrace of religiosity, which we saw in the Schiavo matter as well, will push voters to the Democrats in coming elections. I’ve personally said I’d vote for Hillary before I’d vote for a religious nut, and I meant it.

H/T Right Wing Nut House and Politburo Diktat.

UPDATE: It bears pointing out that the Democrats are no more “pro-science” than the Republicans, generally speaking. Democrats would import all sorts of ethnic creation myths into science classes in the name of multiculturalism, and they’ve already wrecked the social sciences with their gender mythology.

Science is the natural enemy of politics.

UPDATE AGAIN: Instapundit has a google of links on the subject. It’s heart-warming to see so many Republicans refusing to issue the president a free pass on this gaffe. Roger Simon is on the case too.

UPDATE SOME MORE: Jeff Goldstein is taking the side of the morons and so is Simon Says, because they fail to realize the agenda behind ID. We’ve covered this before, so please start with the Wedge Strategy document from the Discovery Institute. ID was invented by their employees in hopes of increasing the religiosity of American life. Whether you think that’s a good idea or a bad one, it’s against the law to use tax dollars to cram religion down the throats of public school children, and it better remain that way. Here are some quotes:

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West’s greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art

The cultural consequences of this triumph of materialism were devastating. Materialists denied the existence of objective moral standards, claiming that environment dictates our behavior and beliefs. Such moral relativism was uncritically adopted by much of the social sciences, and it still undergirds much of modern economics, political science, psychology and sociology.

Materialists also undermined personal responsibility by asserting that human thoughts and behaviors are dictated by our biology and environment. The results can be seen in modern approaches to criminal justice, product liability, and welfare. In the materialist scheme of things, everyone is a victim and no one can be held accountable for his or her actions.

Finally, materialism spawned a virulent strain of utopianism. Thinking they could engineer the perfect society through the application of scientific knowledge, materialist reformers advocated coercive government programs that falsely promised to create heaven on earth.

Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the Center explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature. The Center awards fellowships for original research, holds conferences, and briefs policymakers about the opportunities for life after materialism.

Any questions?

A lovely ass-whipping

The right is nutty about the new-fangled creationism called “Intelligent Design.” This is because religious people, some of them nuts, are an important part of the coalition, and nobody wants to offend them. So The New Republic did a survey, with some glee, exposing he creationism “wedge issue” for the entertainment of the left. This is fair game, because the whole creationist side is nutty. But turnabout is also fair play, so Todd Zywicki played a similar game with Evolutionary Psychology that made the knee-jerk left cry “foul,” mainly in the person P. Z. Myers, the idiot savant biologist who’s trapped firmly in the intellectual straight-jacket of radical feminism that will admit that no difference between men and women can be anything but the product of patriarchal oppression.

Here’s a bit from Zywicki:

As a policy question, there is one difference between religiously-motivated science on the left and the right may or may not be relevant. This is that the right’s program is to add new (dubious) ideas to the educational system (i.e., add intelligent design to the teaching of evolutionary theory) whereas the left’s goal is to censor and exclude investigation of certain (potentially explanatory) scientific hypotheses from the educational system. As a policy question, my sense is that most people ascribe to something like a “free marketplace of ideas” conceptualization of education, meaning that they would prefer to err on the side of including erroneous ideas if they are also countered by better ideas, rather than the exclusion of potentially true ideas. I personally would have no problem with excluding ID and including EP, but then I think that these investigations should be questions of science, not religion.

And a lame attempt at rejoinder from the Rainman, Myers:

And what a silly question! “Are there biological differences between the sexes?” I do agree that if any liberal pundit says no, he or she is as much an idiot as those conservatives who claim evolution didn’t occur. As for evolutionary psychology, I’m a biologist, and I’m in the camp that says it’s a load of poorly done hokum, so I’ll forgive Paul Krugman if he should think EP is junk; I’ll be less pleased if he says he agrees with it, but since EP does have many proponents in academe and is taught at places like Harvard, I’ll just have to roll my eyes and be understanding.

I love this sort of thing.

Latest on Kennewick Man

Anthropologists can finally begin the study of Kennewick Man:

A coalition of four tribes — the Umatilla, Yakama, Colville and Nez Perce — claimed the bones were covered by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and belonged to the tribes.

U.S. District Judge John Jelderks and the appeals court, however, ruled the tribes could prove no direct link to the bones and the act did not apply.

The tribes have appealed the most recent 9th Circuit ruling, but attorneys involved in the case and Jelderks’ office said a decision still is pending. Calls to tribal officials were not immediately returned.

Legislation remains under consideration in Congress that would allow federally recognized tribes to claim ancient remains even if they cannot prove a link to a current tribe.

But trouble looms – the legislation, carried by the idiot McCain – will effectively put a stop to further examination of America’s past.

See Progressive Reaction for more on K-man.

This action alert is especially important.

H/t to reader Ruth and blogger Moira Breen.

Poop power

Venture capital is so marvelous it can turn crap into gold:

A new Tukwila company has scored $8 million in financing to turn cow manure and trash into usable energy.

Prometheus Energy Co., which has kept a low profile for the past two years, is developing a new technology that transforms the methane gas produced at landfills, cow pastures and coal mines into a substitute for diesel fuel.

“What we do is take pollution and turn it into energy,” explained Daniel Clarkson, vice president of government and legal affairs at the startup. “We take waste gases … and through a freezing process turn that into liquid natural gas.”

In India they power stoves with methane from cow shit, but this process is much more exotic.

Thanks to reader Ruth for the tip.