September 28, 2007
Ben Stein on Intelligent Design
In February, 2008, Ben Stein (yes, that Ben Stein) is coming out with a movie that exposes the scientific community's rather non-scientific silencing of those not towing the line.
Evolution – and the explosive debate over its virtual monopoly on America's public school classrooms – is the focus of the film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."
In the movie, Stein, who is also a lawyer, economist, former presidential speechwriter, author and social commentator, is stunned by what he discovers – an elitist scientific establishment that has traded in its skepticism for dogma. Even worse, say publicists for the feature film, "along the way, Stein uncovers a long line of biologists, astronomers, chemists and philosophers who have had their reputations destroyed and their careers ruined by a scientific establishment that allows absolutely no dissent from Charles Darwin's theory of random mutation and natural selection."
"Big Science in this area of biology has lost its way," says Stein. "Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are. Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it's anti-science. It's anti-the whole concept of learning."
Nice to see someone taking on this issue in what looks to be a funny and informative, Ben Stein sort of way.
September 19, 2007
Evolutionary Theory Challenged By Fossils
CBS News reports on new discoveries that are rewriting what evolutionists have thought about who begat whom.
Surprising research based on two African fossils suggests our family tree is more like a wayward bush with stubby branches, challenging what had been common thinking on how early humans evolved.
The discovery by Meave Leakey, a member of a famous family of paleontologists, shows that two species of early human ancestors lived at the same time in Kenya. That pokes holes in the chief theory of man's early evolution — that one of those species evolved from the other.
And it further discredits that iconic illustration of human evolution that begins with a knuckle-dragging ape and ends with a briefcase-carrying man.
Scott Ott at ScrappleFace nails it as usual.
Far from casting doubt on Darwin’s theory, experts say that the lack of evidence and contradictory discoveries have helped to build “a consensus of certainty in the field.”
“Finding little physical evidence to substantiate the theory only means there must still be a great deal of supportive evidence out there to be found,” said an unnamed editor of the journal Nature, which plans to publish a paper on the African skulls this week. “The more we realize how little we know, the more certain we are that we’re right. As I once read in a scholarly paper somewhere, ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’.”
August 20, 2007
And not the robotic kind.
Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they're getting closer.
Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life."
"It's going to be a big deal and everybody's going to know about it," said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. "We're talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways—in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict."
What's interesting to me is how they plan to solve some problems.
One of the leaders in the field, Jack Szostak at Harvard Medical School, predicts that within the next six months, scientists will report evidence that the first step—creating a cell membrane—is "not a big problem." Scientists are using fatty acids in that effort.
Szostak is also optimistic about the next step—getting nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, to form a working genetic system.
His idea is that once the container is made, if scientists add nucleotides in the right proportions, then Darwinian evolution could simply take over.
"We aren't smart enough to design things, we just let evolution do the hard work and then we figure out what happened," Szostak said.
This will be an interesting test of the evolution theory, but we're years away from that.
July 31, 2007
Name That Scientist
Jeff Jacoby presents, in a style not unlike Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story", a story about a scientist, and the school that he applied to, that will amaze you.
DID YOU hear about the religious fundamentalist who wanted to teach physics at Cambridge University? This would-be instructor wasn't simply a Christian; he was so preoccupied with biblical prophecy that he wrote a book titled "Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John." Based on his reading of Daniel, in fact, he forecast the date of the Apocalypse: no earlier than 2060. He also calculated the year the world was created. When Genesis 1:1 says "In the beginning," he determined, it means 3988 BC.
So we have a young-Earth guy who seems really into this Christianity thing, and who is applying for a science job at a very prestigious university. Did he get the job?
Hire somebody with such views to teach physics? At a Baptist junior college deep in the Bible Belt, maybe, but the faculty would erupt if you tried it just about anywhere else. Many of them would echo Oxford's Richard Dawkins, the prominent evolutionary biologist, who writes in "The God Delusion" that he is "hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. . . . It subverts science and saps the intellect."
In today's academic climate, things don't sound promising for our intrepid physicist. Religion and science don't mix, so they say.
But such considerations didn't keep Cambridge from hiring the theology- and Bible-drenched individual described above. Indeed, it named him to the prestigious Lucasian Chair of Mathematics....
To find out who this guy was who beat all the odds to get hired, click here for the full column. (And if you're a regular reader of this blog, you may already know the answer. I covered it last month.)
June 20, 2007
Mixing Science and Religion (It Can Be Done)
Richard Dawkins, scientist, atheist, and author of "The God Delusion":
Refusing to believe that science and religion could ever be happy bedfellows, the self-confessed atheist said that professional scientists who did promote that theory needed to prove the existence of god because it was a scientific question.
Emphasis mine, to point out that there have been many scientists who indeed were very religious. For instance:
Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible — exhibited this week for the first time — lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist.
Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law — even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters — and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end.
Any scientist who does that today would no doubt be considered a nut by Dawkins and his supporters. And yet I'm certain that Dawkins has no problem accepting the scientific conclusions of someone he'd consider a religious fanatic today.
In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.
"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
In another document, Newton interpreted biblical prophecies to mean that the Jews would return to the Holy Land before the world ends. The end of days will see "the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews captivity and their setting up a flourishing and everlasting Kingdom," he posited.
This is not someone with just a passing interest in a popular religious text of the time, this is someone who takes it seriously. Oftentimes, this sort of religious display is handwaved away as purely cultural, but I don't think you can do that here.
Yemima Ben-Menahem, one of the exhibit's curators, said the papers show Newton's conviction that important knowledge was hiding in ancient texts.
"He believed there was wisdom in the world that got lost. He thought it was coded, and that by studying things like the dimensions of the temple, he could decode it," she said.
The Newton papers, Ben-Menahem said, also complicate the idea that science is diametrically opposed to religion. "These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see God's actions in the world," she said.
They are not mutually exclusive.
May 17, 2007
Global Warming...on Neptune
The World Climate Report blog notes a report about the warming temperatures on Neptune, and how closely they correlate with Earth's changes.
Neptune is the planet farthest from the Sun (Pluto is now considered only a dwarf planet), Neptune is the planet farthest from the Earth, and to our knowledge, there has been absolutely no industrialization out at Neptune in recent centuries. There has been no recent build-up of greenhouse gases there, no deforestation, no rapid urbanization, no increase in contrails from jet airplanes, and no increase in ozone in the low atmosphere; recent changes at Neptune could never be blamed on any human influence. Incredibly, an article has appeared in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters showing a stunning relationship between the solar output, Neptune’s brightness, and heaven forbid, the temperature of the Earth.
Click on the link to find graphs of how changes in Neptune's temperature, Earth's temperature, and the Sun's output are strangely similar; about a 90% correlation.
May 14, 2007
An Inconvenient Debate
While some schools are showing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" without rebuttal, a university class is demonstrating that perhaps the global warming alarmists can't handle balance.
Nick Shipley, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University freshman, had just spent a week of classes watching two films with polar-opposite conclusions about global warming.
"After watching 'An Inconvenient Truth,' I was relatively convinced," Shipley said one day last month in class. "(Al Gore) did a good job in presenting his points very methodically one after the other. They all build up to essentially prove his point.
"After watching 'The Great Global Warming Swindle,' my thinking completely changed," he said. "I kind of did a complete flip-flop."
It appears that the reason we have more global warming alarmists, especially on college campuses, is that the liberal activists and media are simply not...well....fair and balanced.
To be fair, both sides do their share of exaggeration, but both sides should still be allowed evaluation.
[James] Wanliss [space physicist who teaches the class] said he doesn't necessarily subscribe to either film, but believes his students -- and the public -- should remain skeptical of theories such as Gore's explanation of global warming.
Other Embry-Riddle scientists are less outspoken than Wanliss, but one -- John Olivero, professor and chairman of the department of physical science -- allowed that skepticism is an essential tool of the scientific method.
"Science lives with internal conflict all the time," Olivero said. "Part of what we have to do is continually challenge each other."
That process, they say, leads scientists closer to truths that may be elusive for lifetimes.
The truths of global warming are, if not inconvenient, incomprehensible, Wanliss argues.
"The atmosphere is incredibly complicated, and we know very little about it," he said. "We are studying a system which is so big . . . we don't know what all the variables are."
Pointing to quotes in magazine articles, Wanliss says Gore and the producers of the "Swindle" film are purposefully overstating their science as a means to a political end.
And yet the Left talks of their foes in Holocaust-denial terms. The stifling of dissent in Al Gore's America.
April 11, 2007
Diabetics Cured with Stem Cells. But What Kind?
An amazing medical breakthrough reported in the London Times today. In a small trial of patients, 13 of 15 diabetics given injections of stem cells did not need daily insulin injection 3 years after the treatment. Truly remarkable.
Now, there are 2 types of stem cells; adult and embryonic. What kind were these. The articles doesn't say specifically, but it leaves it to the reader to deduce that.
In a breakthrough trial, 15 young patients with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes were given drugs to suppress their immune systems followed by transfusions of stem cells drawn from their own blood.
Unless we're talking about fetal diabetics, the stem cells must be adult ones. Chalk up another win for stem cells that lack any ethical issues.
But note that the writer is more than happy to bring up the other type of stem cells specifically.
Previous studies have suggested that stem-cell therapies offer huge potential to treat a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease. A study by British scientists in November also reported that stem-cell injections could repair organ damage in heart attack victims.
But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells — those acquired from human embryos — is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush.
By positioning these two paragraphs this way, the writer begs the reader to make the connection between this breakthrough and Bush's refusal to have the feds fund embryonic stem cell research. Even the linked article about heart attack victims won't use the word "adult" when talking about the stem cells.
What's worse, blatant media bias like this really works. Just read the comment section at the end (which I believe is in reverse chronological order) to find those who are against Bush's position but fail to realize the distinction.
Interesting that a major medical breakthrough, promising hope to millions of Type 1 diabetics and their families gets overshadowed by a debate on morality....
If you've had to stick a needle into your 11 year old twice/thrice daily would you object to stem cell research?
Get real this is the 21C. Blair n' Bush should spend the war money on this research!
Kids want fun/childhood, not adult ethics.
How sanctimonius some of the opinions on this discussion are. My brother and I have type 1 diabetes. I really don't care what type of stem cells are used if it finds a cure for this disease. Do you really equate a bunch of cells with an actual child or adult life? Is that serious? You would condemn people like me & my brother and countless others to living with this disease for ever because you believe that embryos are so important. That isn't moraility, its drivel.
And one fellow seems to think that if the government doesn't pay for it, it doesn't get anything.
You use your religious beliefs to prevent my tax dollars from funding embryonic stem cell research. Only adult stem cell research is funded, so only adult stem cell cures are produced. Then, you use the success of some adult stem cell research to deny the value of embryonic stem cells? What kind of twisted circular logic is that? Of course there aren't embryonic stem cell treatments if the research isn't funded.
All victims of media reporting.
Finally, one commenter makes a great point. Follow the money.
Let's not forget one of the biggest reasons that pharmas want to use embryonic stem cells. Money. If they use stem cells that come from a source other than a bonafide "Person", they can patent it and make lots of money from the treatment. You cannot patent adult stem cells as they come from and belong to a particular individual.
January 25, 2007
Back in November, the National Registry of Environmental Professionals asked 793 of their members from 47 states some questions about global warming; its existence and causes, public policy response, and how it affects their jobs. Here's the existence and causes section.
The existence of global warming today82% is a pretty good number for considering the idea that global warming is happening. But beyond that, you can only get about two-thirds to agree on its affects and its urgency.
- 82 percent of professionals report they think global warming is a real, measurable, climatic trend currently in effect.
- 66 percent respond that the rate at which global warming may be occurring is a serious problem facing the planet.
- 64 percent attribute certain phenomenon such as rising ocean levels, increased storm activity, severe drought, massive habitat loss, depletion of the Earth’s oxygen sinks, i.e. rain forests and ocean plankton, to the effects of global warming.
- 68 percent agree that global warming is a trend that must be addressed as soon as possible.
The causes of global warming
- 59 percent respond that current climactic activity exceeding norms calibrated by over 100 years of weather data collection can be, in large part, attributed to human activity.
- 71 percent of environmental professionals, however, do consider the recent increase in hurricane activity in the Atlantic through 2005 and the Pacific through 2006, to be part of a larger natural cycle and not, for the most part, attributable to human activity.
But it's the causes that really show how little consensus there is. Only 59% believe that the warming that exceeds 100-year norms is caused largely by humans. Put another way, 41% of environmental professionals either disagree or are not sure that humans are a significant contributor to warming. Thus, skepticism of it is hardly in the same league as Holocaust deniers.
The Weather Channel’s most prominent climatologist is advocating that broadcast meteorologists be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about predictions of manmade catastrophic global warming. This latest call to silence skeptics follows a year (2006) in which skeptics were compared to "Holocaust Deniers" and Nuremberg-style war crimes trials were advocated by several climate alarmists.
The Weather Channel’s (TWC) Heidi Cullen, who hosts the weekly global warming program "The Climate Code," is advocating that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) revoke their "Seal of Approval" for any television weatherman who expresses skepticism that human activity is creating a climate catastrophe.
Further, 71% think that the heavy 2005/2006 hurricane season was generally just part of the normal, natural cycle of weather. The NOAA said that and they got targeted by environmentalists. Now, all this does not mean that a former Vice President, in the movie poster for his Oscar-nominated film, can't try to draw a direct line between factories and hurricanes. It just means he's bucking the consensus. [Irony alert!]
So when somebody says to you that the debate about human-induced global warming is over, just have them ask the professionals, not the politicians.
January 08, 2007
Stem Cells with "Less Baggage"
One more reason that the ethical issues with embryonic stem cells don't have to ignored to advance science.
New research released Sunday strongly suggests the success of a third category of stem cells that carry with them less political baggage. The two previously best-known sources for stem cells have been fetuses and adult tissues. The newly discovered stem cells are amniotic-fluid stem cells that reside in the placenta and the liquid around human fetuses in the mother’s womb.
The new cells are nearly as adaptable to multiply and change into many different cell types as the other strains. The potential is huge, using this technology body tissue can be renewed, or used to treat a range of diseases. They may also allow physicians and technicians to grow new organs in a laboratory for later transplantation.
All these sources of stem cells do not require an advancement of the culture of death. This is the path we should be taking, in a big way. Destroying embryos doesn't even have to be on the table.
November 13, 2006
Abortion After the Fact
In Britian, they want to open up the discussion on whether abortion can happen sometime after the baby has already been born.
Doctors involved in childbirth are calling for an open discussion about the ethics of euthanasia for the sickest of newborn babies. The option to end the suffering of a severely damaged newborn baby - who might have been aborted if the parents had known earlier the extent of its disabilities and potential suffering - should be discussed, says the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its evidence to an inquiry by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which examines ethical issues raised by new developments.
The college says the Nuffield's working group should "think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best-interests test and active euthanasia as they are means of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns".
The inquiry is looking into "the ethics of prolonging life in foetuses and the newborn". Euthanasia was not originally on the agenda, because of its illegality. But the RCOG submission has persuaded the inquiry to broaden its investigation, although any recommendation favouring euthanasia for newborns is highly unlikely before a change in the law.
Once one envelope has been successfully pushed aside, the next lies not that far away. The question of extraordinary lifesaving steps is one thing, but "active euthanasia" brings the matter into a whole new light. One has to wonder where the ethics and morality of those wanting such discussions to take place have gone.
And here's an interesting attempt at selling the idea.
The college ethics committee tells the inquiry it feels euthanasia "has to be covered and debated for completion and consistency's sake ... if life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome." It points out that a pregnant woman who discovers at 28 weeks that her baby has a serious abnormality can have an abortion. Parents of a baby born at 24 weeks with the same abnormality have no such option.
"See, if this were an option, then we'd have more babies carried to term. Isn't that wonderful? Only then would be bother with the eugenics. And really now, isn't killing an already-born preemie just the same as a late-term abortion anyway?"
Abortion, being commonplace in our society, is now the foundation on which we start removing the infirm and the helpless. A comment on the Redstate post that gets the hat tip notes this:
I remember fairly recently they just uncovered a mass grave filled with Hitler's first victims. They weren't Jews, Gays, Gypsies or any other people group. They were the disabled and infirm. Now the reason they were killed was for the perfection of the race, but I also don't swallow the "it is for their own good" argument-especially when those who are being put out of the misery may not have a voice or a choice.
Unfettered abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and eugenics are all faces of the same thing; a lack of respect for life.
October 25, 2006
Scott Adams, a Cartoonist and a Speech Therapist
Eighteen months ago, Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, lost his voice to what he describes as an "exotic" disease; Spasmodic Dysphonia. Here's how he describes it:
Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It happens to people in my age bracket.
I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero.
Scott decided that he wasn't going to take this lying down and started working on figuring out a way to cure himself, or at least make himself better as much as possible. His post, entitled "Good News Day", of how he did this and how successful he has been is really an amazing read. Imagine figuring out how to reprogram your brain.
October 24, 2006
Missouri's Cloning Amendment
Via Redstate.com comes exposure of the tactics of those who want to move forward with human cloning and embryonic stem cell research with taxpayer money. They can't get the citizenry to accept it at face value, so they're engaging in classic Orwellian misdirection.
The proposed Missouri constitutional amendment 2 says, for example, that it will prevent human cloning. However, as Missourians Against Human Cloning notes in their explanation of the language of the amendment, what it says on the ballot is quite different from what the amendment actually says. In fact, the amendment allows for “Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer", which is the textbook definition of human cloning. The "human cloning" that is banned, as per the amendment, is just the implantation of the results of that transfer into a human womb. If it stays outside, it ain't a clone, so they say. But the ballot language doesn't define its terms, so they hope to pull one over on Missourians by saying the right words, but not meaning what most folks think they mean.
This is just bullet point 1 in a list that also includes a blank check to the biotech industry. The Redstate post has links to lots of good information about this situation. It doesn't say much for their cause at all that they have to resort this these sorts of underhanded tactics to get their way.
Why do I care about what happens in Missouri, if I'm in Georgia? Because if this deception works there, it will be exported, make no mistake.
UPDATE: Scott Ott at ScrappleFace hits the nail on the head, with his own video production of "Michael J. Embryo", and some biting wit that drives the point home.
September 08, 2006
The Last Cancer Treatment You'll Ever Need
Biologists have uncovered a deep link between lifespan and cancer in the form of a gene that switches off stem cells as a person ages.
The critical gene, already well known for its role in suppressing tumors, seems to mediate a profound balance between life and death. It weighs the generation of new replacement cells, required for continued life, against the risk of death from cancer, which is the inevitable outcome of letting cells divide. To offset the increasing risk of cancer as a person ages, the gene gradually reduces the ability of stem cells to proliferate.
The new finding, reported by three groups of researchers online Wednesday in Nature, was made in a special breed of mice that lack the pivotal gene, but is thought likely to apply to people as well.
The finding indicates that many of the degenerative diseases of aging are caused by an active shutting down of the stem cells that renew the body’s various tissues, and are not just a passive disintegration of tissues under life’s daily wear and tear, as is often assumed.
“I don’t think aging is a random process – it’s a program, an anti-cancer program,” said Dr. Norman E. Sharpless of the University of North Carolina, senior author of one of the three reports.
I find this article interesting on a number of levels. Let's start with the idea that this scientist says that aging is not a "random process", rather that it is "an anti-cancer program". This, to me, really stretches the credulity with which one must view evolution. Somehow, over the years of random changes, a program emerged through natural selection. But since the vast majority of mutations result in a degradation of the organism, the odds of such a program being written are astronomical, on top of all the other odds-beating events like the formation of life itself. (Talk about having faith in your religion.)
Another interesting thing is that the Bible talks about people in the book of Genesis who lived hundreds of years. This discovery could point out one of the scientific reasons this occurred. Further, it points to an idea opposite that of evolution; instead of the program being randomly formed until it was better and better, this program was written by a Programmer and sin has degraded this program, as the law of entropy would suggest is more likely.
The finding’s implications for cell therapy based on using a patient’s own adult stem cells are not yet clear, but news that the cells get switched off with age does not seem particularly encouraging. The result may undercut opponents of research with human embryonic stem cells who argue that adult stem cells are sufficient for cell therapy. Dr. Sharpless said his finding emphasized the need to pursue both types of research.
No, not necessarily. The stem cells of an 80-year-old patient may not be useful for regeneration of his own organs, but why does this automatically mean that you have to go after embryos and pull in all the ethical issue that entails? How about the stem cells of a 30- or 20-year old? This question is not answered or even asked in the article.
The researchers assume, but have not yet proved, that the increasing amounts of Ink-4 made as a person ages will thrust the stem cells into senescence, meaning they can never divide again. The evolutionary purpose is evidently to avert the risk that a damaged stem cell might evade controls and proliferate into a tumor.
There's that classic anthropomorphism of the evolutionary process again. Evolution could not have a purpose. A creator could.
A fascinating finding, with potentially fascinating developments.
August 24, 2006
The Lost Planet
While you slept last night, the solar system lost a planet.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.
After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is - and isn't - a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.
Will Mickey Mouse's dog have to be renamed "Neptune"?
July 28, 2006
The Mounting Human Cost of a Single Abortion
The ills that abortion is known to cause, outside of the obvious death of a child, continues to either mount or be reinforced.
A new report from a committee of the National Academies of Science finds that a first-trimester abortion, the most common abortion procedure, is linked to an increasing risk of premature birth. The report comes from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a NAS organization.
The IOM published a report this month titled "Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention."
In the report is a list of "immutable medical risk factors associated with preterm birth" and "prior first-trimester abortion" is listed third among other risk factors that increase the risk of having a subsequent premature birth.
The report has huge consequences for abortion because premature birth can lead to a host problems, including cerebral palsy for the child and breast cancer for the mother.
Teenagers are at higher risk due to higher risk of infection and an immature cervix.
This also bolsters the abortion-cancer link.
The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, a group that monitors the link between abortion and breast cancer for women, says the "IOM's findings provide further support for an abortion-breast cancer link."
"If, after having had an abortion, a childless woman is unable to carry subsequent pregnancies, then she could remain childless for the remainder of her life. Cancer organizations say childlessness (nulliparity) is a risk factor for breast cancer," the group said in a statement provided to LifeNews.com.
Other research shows that a premature birth before 32 weeks gestation increases the mother's breast cancer risk, including articles in the British Journal of Cancer and Lancet, both in 1999.
Even though the pro-abortion forces continue to deny that there is any link between the two, the evidence continues to come in. The reason is simple biology.
The biological reasons for this are the same as for the abortion-cancer link, the Coalition explained.
"Breast tissue is only matured from cancer-susceptible tissue into cancer resistant tissue during the last eight weeks of a full-term pregnancy. During this time, women receive protection from estrogen overexposure experienced during the first two trimesters of pregnancy," the group said.
So not only does an abortion kill a child, it can permanently harm the mother, and hurt or kill subsequent children. If someone really is concerned for women, they ought to be concerned for them more than just for the here and now; more than the time it takes for the check to clear.
July 25, 2006
Codes Within Codes
Codes within the code of life - "Researchers believe they have found a second code in DNA in addition to the genetic code."
The genetic code specifies all the proteins that a cell makes. The second code, superimposed on the first, sets the placement of the nucleosomes, miniature protein spools around which the DNA is looped. The spools both protect and control access to the DNA itself.
The discovery, if confirmed, could open new insights into the higher order control of the genes, like the critical but still mysterious process by which each type of human cell is allowed to activate the genes it needs but cannot access the genes used by other types of cell.
Here's a very interesting paragraph at the end (emphasis mine).
In the genetic code, sets of three DNA units specify various kinds of amino acid, the units of proteins. A curious feature of the code is that it is redundant, meaning that a given amino acid can be defined by any of several different triplets. Biologists have long speculated that the redundancy may have been designed so as to coexist with some other kind of code, and this, Dr. Segal said, could be the nucleosome code.
Yes, I'm sure that they're intending to refer to blind chance over millennia being some sort of designer. But the more they find codes within codes, one wonders how long they'll stretch believability in that regard.
July 21, 2006
Heat Wave in England
England in a heat wave! Record 92 degree temperatures. Wildfires springing up spontaneously. Deaths from the heat. Weeks without rain. Farmers having to harvest their crops at the earliest time in 46 years. News reports describe a paucity of songbirds; quiet in the countryside.
Click here to read how bad things were in England...in 1911! Indeed, the record temps have been broken this week, but if today's records are due to man-made reasons, how to explain records from 100 years ago? If you can explain those records, could not those explanations apply to today as well? If you can't explain those records, can you really explain today's?
And the globe has indeed been hotter. Wheat farming in Greenland, anyone?
July 19, 2006
It's About Time, Mr. President, but Good Call
Veto Pen: found.
Embryonic stem cell bill: vetoed.
Lives to be saved: priceless.
It's sad that it took Bush this long to veto anything, but it's a fine one to start on. Morally and financially, this was the right call.
(More at Redstate.)
(And thanks for stopping by Townhall blog readers. Thanks for the mention, Mary.)
June 30, 2006
Would You Bet Your Life on a 30% Failure?
If your birth control pill only worked 70% of the time, would you consider that successful? Apparently, some folks would.
A new study on condom effectiveness in protecting against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus has shown a discrediting 30% failure rate. The report, however, is being praised as a breakthrough for its claim that condom use offers “significant” protection against the virus.
The study relied on the journals of 82 female university students who kept daily records of their sexual behaviour, and found that 70% of the women, who reported 100% consistent condom use, were virus-free at the end of three years.
The Illinois Family Institute criticized news reports of the study as misleading and inaccurate, saying the 30 per cent failure rate was far more important information than the limited success of the study.
“In fact, the study reports that 12 out of 42 women whose partners always used condoms did get HPV. Thus, 28.5% of the women got HPV even with 100% condom use,” said William Beckman, executive director of Illinois Right to Life Committee.
“Why isn’t the fact that condoms, even under ideal usage conditions, failed 28.5% of the time the real story here? Who would consider this an acceptable failure rate when dealing with a cancer-causing virus?”
Well yeah, 70% is significant, but which is better; being sexually active and having a 30% chance of killing yourself with an STD, or being abstinent with a 0% chance? The folks trumpeting this study are, of course, highlighting the fact that condom's are better than nothing. But even considering just that comparison, is 30% worth your life? If not, then this is not a "success"; it's a dismal failure.
Maybe with a better sampling, the results might be different.
Furthermore, Beckman points out, the study itself is inconclusive since it relies on the self-reporting of just 82 university-aged women.
“For those who are still impressed by the “70% less” infection rate, remember that with only 82 women, the sample size is so small that the results have very little statistical significance.”
So what we have is a fatally flawed study, praised by people who consider it's 30% failure rate a success. Here's an example.
Among those applauding the report was Markus Steiner of Family Health International in Research Triangle Park, NC, who co-wrote an accompanying commentary. He told the New Scientist that the research should put an end to calls for FDA warnings against condom failures in protecting against HPV, by groups advocating abstinence.
“We’re hoping the findings of the paper will dissipate this pressure,” he said.
I doubt Mr. Steiner would accept a 30% failure rate in many other, non-life-threatening parts of his life, but he's more than willing to do what he can to give others a false sense of security. Is this what his company considers family health?
May 31, 2006
Imperfection Will Not Be Tolerated
First the background:
Club foot is one of the most common birth defects in Britain. About one in 1,000 babies is affected, meaning that 600 to 700 infants are born with the condition every year. It results in the feet pointing downwards and inwards, and in severe cases can cause foot deformity and a limp.
However, it is relatively easy to correct and in recent years techniques of splints, plaster casts and boots to set the foot into the correct position have replaced the need for surgery.Club foot is occasionally connected with serious but rare chromosomal defects, although specialists point out that these can also be screened out before birth with additional tests.
Relatively common, but easily correctable. The article that this comes from notes a couple of families where the child has recovered well enough to, in one case, play football. It mentions celebrities like Dudley Moore and Kristi Yamaguchi.
So do you think that should an ultrasound detect this condition in a fetus that a normally illegal 3rd trimester abortion should be allowed? In England, where they are illegal except for cases where the child would have a "serious handicap", the goal posts keep being pushed, and they've arrived at a new low on the slippery slope.
MORE than 20 babies have been aborted in advanced pregnancy because scans showed that they had club feet, a deformity readily corrected by surgery or physiotherapy.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics covering the years from 1996 to 2004, a further four babies were aborted because they had webbed fingers or extra digits, which are also corrected by simple surgery. All the terminations took place late in pregnancy, after 20 weeks.
Last year, according to campaigners, a healthy baby was aborted in the sixth month at a hospital in southeast England after ultrasound images indicated part of its foot was missing.
News of the terminations has reignited the debate over how scanning and gene technology may enable the creation of "designer babies". In 2002 it emerged that a baby had been aborted late - at 28 weeks - after scans found that it had a cleft palate, another readily corrected condition.
Safe, legal, and increasingly common, abortions are now the way we tolerate imperfection; we don't. It used to be that abortions were a last resort in serious cases. Today, they happen over minor imperfections. Tomorrow, a government-run medical system may be deciding who stays and who goes.
Some parents, doctors and charities are increasingly worried by what they see as a tendency to widen the definition of “serious handicap”. The handicap provision, which does not exist in most other countries, permits abortions to be carried out until birth. It was intended to save women from the trauma of giving birth to babies likely to die in infancy.
And the law of unintended consequences, aided by those who see abortion as somehow "freeing" and by those who have a buck to make on it, has taken that foot in the door and opened it wide, allowing all manner of simple contraception to be passed off as "serious handicap". Compromise when a life is on the line is a death sentence in the abortion debate. This is not a matter of prediction, or personal or political opinion; it's our planet's history. This was no doubt a compromise "for the children", but it's clearly been turned into one against them.
By the way, not all doctors are "increasingly worried".
“It was strongly suggested that we consider abortion after they found our baby had a club foot,” said David Wildgrove, 41, a computer programmer from Sheffield, whose son Alexander was born in 1996. “I was appalled. We resisted, the problem was treated and he now runs around and plays football with everyone else.”
Pippa Spriggs from Cambridge, whose son Isaac will celebrate his second birthday in July, was also dismayed when a scan halfway through the pregnancy revealed that her baby had the defect.
“Abortion certainly was not openly advised, but it was made clear to me it was available,” she said. “In fact he has been treated and the condition has not slowed him down at all.”
There are still enough for whom the phrase in their oath "do no harm" is given wide latitude.
But our convenience society and the push by the Left to let people feel better about aborting their babies has caused some to turn a deaf ear to their own children.
Others take a different view and decide not to accept the risk of an imperfect baby. Sue Banton, who founded the group Steps for parents of children with foot disorders, was troubled that a home counties couple last year decided to terminate their baby, despite counselling to reassure them it would have a worthwhile life even with a section of foot missing.
“We gave them other families to talk to, but they just didn’t want to know. The baby was aborted just before the 25th week,” she said.
“It is terrible. I know lots of perfectly nice people with this condition, and you just can’t imagine them not being here.”
Let me say that I am not advocating the total criminalization of abortion. I still believe there are some situations, but very few, where I think abortions are acceptable, most notably for the life of the mother. And I am under no illusion that making the choice to abort is often a difficult one. Further, I never had to deal with this question of a handicapped child; all four of mine were and are fine and healthy.
At the same time, I think that giving parents the choice of killing their slightly handicapped child isn't in anyone's best interest. I think that allowing abortion to become the contraceptive of last resort is morally wrong, not only for the loss of life of the child, but also for the behavior that it becomes an enabler for. (Essentially, those performing abortion as contraception become codependents for the parents who made poor choices, especially unmarried ones.)
But what's at issue at this point is not the line where a zygote becomes a life, but when a life becomes worth living, and who gets to decide. Is it really the parents' right to kill their otherwise healthy child? If so, the next stop on that slippery slope will be blurring or completely removing that artificial line between inside and outside the womb. Think that's not going to happen?
A GOVERNMENT adviser on genetics has sparked fury by suggesting it might be acceptable to destroy children with ‘defects’ soon after they are born.
John Harris, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, told a meeting at Westminster he did not see any distinction between aborting a fully grown unborn baby at 40 weeks and killing a child after it had been born.
Harris, who is a professor of bioethics at Manchester University, would not be drawn on which defects or problems might be used as grounds for ending a baby’s life, or how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed.
Harris was reported to have said that he did not believe that killing a child was always inexcusable.
In addition, it was claimed that he did not believe that there was any ‘moral change’ that occurred between when the baby was in the womb and when it had been brought into the world.
Harris, who also gives advice to doctors as a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), is understood to have argued that there was no moral distinction between aborting a foetus found by tests to have defects and disposing of a child where the parents discovered the problems at birth.
That's from 2004, also from Great Britian, and that's certainly not the first time such ideas have been proposed. And this time by a "professor of bioethics", no less. No, if the status quo remains, it won't be the status quo for long.
Again, this is not an issue of personal opinion. There's a plain history to chart of the pushing of the envelope, and plenty of folks in high places ready to continue the push to make abortion safe, legal, and oh-so-convenient for our 21st century lifestyle. This must stop.
May 11, 2006
We Have the Technology, But...
Where is the outcry among activists about the fact that over 2 billion of the world’s citizens do not have electricity, or that over 2.5 billion do not have access to basic sanitation? Where is the outrage that over 4 million preventable deaths occur each year due to tuberculosis and other lung infections stemming from indoor pollution caused by using dung as fuel for fires? What about the 6 million people who die from unsafe water or spoiled food?
These are not hypothetical future deaths; these are real deaths that are occurring right under our noses, which could be easily thwarted if the proper technology were applied to certain poor regions of the world.
Read this article by Daniel Son for the reason these conditions haven't improved when indeed they can.
April 26, 2006
Highlights from the SCO Blogroll
- From Virginia Postrel, a short history lesson on what is and isn't a "crisis" with regards to gas prices. Doug Williams at Bogus Gold also explains the economics of oil prices for those that think the government must do something.
- The Mystery Pollster uncovers bias in a Zogby poll about online gambling, with regards to both the questions and the method used to gather the answers.
- The Evangelical Outpost comes out with Yak Shaving Razor #50, a collection of tips and tricks and bits of information culled from all over the net. Very interesting, entertaining and useful. (No, I'm not going to explain the title; click the link to find out.)
- Captain Ed notes that Hamas is finding it harder to live without Western cash than it thought.
- Mark D. Roberts asks "Whither the Renaissance Man?" (This is part 3 of his travelogue "When in Virginia...".)
- Jeremy at Parableman warns about confusing motivation with theory in the Intelligent Design debate. "In defense of the charge that ID is religious creationism, many opponents of ID point out that most people who support ID believe in a creator God for religious reasons. This happens to be true. Actually, they usually say that all who support ID believe in a creator God for religious reasons, and that's false." He explains the error, describes why it's wrong, gives examples, and notes a number of folks using this fallacy.
- Anthony Esolen at Mere Comments talks about the wonders of the ordinary.
April 25, 2006
Reducing Emissions Without Signing Treaties
If it was proposed that the United States reduce the following pollutants (based on 1970 levels)...
- Carbon monoxide by half
- Particulate emissions by 80%
- Sulfur dioxide emissions by half
- and virtually eliminate lead emissions
...would you consider that a reasonable proposal and ask the government to sign it? If we didn't sign it, would you consider it proof that we don't care about the environment? Do you believe that the free market or our own legislation couldn't possibly do this without an international treaty?
You'd be surprised. That's exactly what we have done, all without the Kyoto Protocol. The Wall St. Journal covered
the "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators", which is published annually around Earth Day and it has its own web site as well.
The WSJ reminds us that the dire predictions of today are coming from the same people and groups that have a poor track record.
This year, for example, Vanity Fair has inaugurated an "Earth Issue," comprising 246 glossy, non-recycled pages of fashion ads, celebrity worship and environmental apocalypse. Highlights include computer-generated images of New York City underwater and the Washington mall as one big reflecting pool. The magazine also includes a breathless essay by U.S. environmental conscience-in-chief Al Gore. The message is that we are headed for an environmental catastrophe of the first order, and only drastic changes to the way we live can possibly prevent it.
If arguments were won through the use of italics, Mr. Gore would prevail in a knockout. But as Mr. Hayward notes in his "Index," the environmental movement as a whole has developed a credibility problem since the first Earth Day 36 years ago. In the 1970s, prominent greens were issuing dire predictions about mass starvation, overpopulation and--of all things--global cooling. Since then, population-growth estimates have come way down, biotechnology advances have found ways to feed more people than the doomsayers believed possible, and the global-cooling crisis has become the global-warming crisis without missing a beat.
The democratic process, the free market and scientific advancement really don't get enough credit in all of this. Treaties from on high that try to micromanage the process are a type of environmental socialism that has been shown not to work so many times in other ares of human behavior.
April 20, 2006
The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship
A briefing was held recently dealing with the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. This is a short declaration on the matter of caring for the environment in light of the love of God and the liberty He gives us, while considering sound science, sound economics and the needs of the poor. From Amy Ridenour's National Center blog:
Before a packed audience today on Capitol Hill, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA), along with the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and the Institute on Religion and Democracy held a lunch briefing at which top theologians and policy experts articulated a vision of Biblical stewardship based upon the Cornwall Declaration.
The title of the briefing was: "Pulpits, Pews and Environmental Policy: How the Cornwall Declaration is helping define the mandate of Biblical stewardship."
If this sounds like an ECI redux, there are some differences.
Speaking about the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), a statement signed by some members of the evangelical community that promotes the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming, Beisner said "[We] disagree with their assessment of the scientific evidence of the extent of human contribution to global warming, their prediction of the impact of climate change on human communities and the rest of the ecosystem, and their prescription of major reduction of carbon dioxide emissions as a solution to the alleged problem. The ECI does not specify how much emission reduction is needed to achieve its goals [to counteract global warming]. [This is] to ignore one of the most important aspects of the climatology debate: How much benefit would be gained at what cost to the global economy. And the global economy is not just an economist abstraction. It is real people who depend on that economy for jobs, income and the food, clothing, shelter, transportation and all other goods that they need."
Sometimes, considering cold economic facts is just as much good stewardship as reducing car emissions or turning off the lights.
I will say this in criticism of the briefing. They're a bit too critical of the ECI.
Paul Driessen, senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality, admonished celebrities, media and wayward religious leaders who are "twisting common definitions of ethics, morality, social responsibility and compassion for the poor to justify global warming agendas."
I respect, and in some cases know, some of the signers of the ECI, and I really don't think they're deliberately trying to twist words or have some overarching global warming agenda. Some may, but those I know don't, best I can tell. Now, I think the ECI may play into the hands of those with such an agenda, giving them a supposed common cause with evangelicals, but I don't think that was the intent.
While that part was a little much, Driessen goes on to give some criticism I tend to agree with.
Driessen also noted, "It is often the very policies they promote that actually represent the greatest threats to the world's poor. Over two billion of the world's people still do not have electricity for lights and refrigeration in their homes, for hospitals and clinics, for schools, shops, offices and factories, for wastewater treatment and other modern technologies that we often take for granted," he said. "And yet these poor countries are told they mustn't build coal or gas-fired electrical power plants, because First World countries are concerned about global warming."
Sometimes, turning on the lights is just as much good stewardship as reducing car emissions.
The over 1000 signers of this declaration include a number of people I respect, just as I respect a number of ECI signers. The Cornwall Declaration, however, includes more than just evangelicals. There are Jewish and Catholic as well as Protestant signers. Sometimes, gathering a group like this together leads to a least-common-denominator, watered down mission, but so far it doesn't appear that way.
This Cornwall Declaration is definitely worth a look.
See also: Cybercast News Service report.
UPDATE: Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute has an excellect comparison of the two tacts taken by the ECI and the Cornwall Declaration. His article is "Preserved Garden or Productive City? Two Competing Views of Stewardship".
March 31, 2006
God Under the Microscope
A decade or so ago, I recall Paul Harvey talking about a new study. He introduced the story with something like, "And today's story with the most lasting importance may be this..." The study noted that people in a hospital who were prayed for seemed to do better and heal faster than those who weren't, even if they didn't know that they were being prayed for. It might have given me a little lift if not for the fact that it didn't seem to matter to whom the prayers were spoken. It seemed to me that trying to make God do hamster tricks would be useless at the least and counterproductive at worst. If Satan can do wonders, surely he can heal those who are prayed for in the name of a false god and game the results. Prayer is not an exact science. It's not a science at all, frankly. It's part of a relationship, it's a conversation. It's not a precise chemical reaction.
Keep that in mind when you hear this.
Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.
And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.
Because it is the most scientifically rigorous investigation of whether prayer can heal illness, the study, begun almost a decade ago and involving more than 1,800 patients, has for years been the subject of speculation.
The question has been a contentious one among researchers. Proponents have argued that prayer is perhaps the most deeply human response to disease, and that it may relieve suffering by some mechanism that is not yet understood. Skeptics have contended that studying prayer is a waste of money and that it presupposes supernatural intervention, putting it by definition beyond the reach of science.
It's not so much that it's in the supernatural realm. It's that studying the actions of a person, God in this case, cannot be done statistically. If someone were to study you and see if you acted the same way to the same circumstance over and over, it would be trivial to foul up the outcome, intentionally or otherwise. And prayer is a matter of faith, but how do you measure or control for that? This study and others like it, regardless of the outcome, are pointless from the beginning. Its core assumption--that God or the supernatural world can be experimented on--is faulty. The article notes that other studies on prayer have shown mixed results, which is what I would expect.
In a hurriedly convened news conference, the study's authors, led by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston, said that the findings were not the last word on the effects of so-called intercessory prayer.
Indeed it isn't. That will come, however. Madeline Murray O'Hare could not be reached for comment. >grin<
As usual, Scott Ott at ScrappleFace puts it all in perspective.
“As it turns out, God was not impressed by our academic credentials, our substantial funding base, and our rigorous study protocols,” said lead researcher Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston. “I get the feeling we just spent 10 years looking through the wrong end of the telescope.”
March 24, 2006
Adult Stem Cells Further Prove Their Worth
Those wacky adult stem cells. Every time you turn around, they keep showing that they have a lot more potential that you thought with none of the downsides of embryonic stem cells.
German scientists said on Friday they had isolated sperm-producing stem cells that have similar properties to embryonic stem cells from adult mice.
If the same type of cells in humans show similar qualities the researchers from the Georg-August-University of Goettingen believe they could be used in stem cell research which would remove the ethical dilemma associated with stem cells derived from human embryos.
"These isolated spermatogonial stem cells respond to culture conditions and acquire embryonic stem cell properties," Gerd Hasenfuss and his colleagues said in report published online by the journal Nature.
Stem cells are master cells that have the potential to develop into any cell type in the body. Scientists believe they could act as a type of repair system to provide new therapies for illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's.
But their use is controversial because the most promising stem cells for treating human disease are derived from very early human embryos left over from fertility treatments.
If the same can be done with human cells, then the folks pushing hard for embryonic stem cell research will have the final plank knocked out from under them. The only folks left standing will be those for whom "ethics" is a quaint anachronism, and who care more about research money for corporations doing ESS work. Here's hoping that further research reveals that this source of stem cells is available to us.
March 17, 2006
The Politics of Psychology
I've been listening to a lot of podcasts in the past months. Some are political, some are computer related (geeky stuff; that's my biz), some are finance related, and some are just fun. The commute to and from work (when I do actually go in to the office) is when I typically listen to them.
On the way home today, I was listening to Glenn and Helen Reynolds' podcast (he, of course, of Instapundit fame, and she of Dr. Helen fame). Their latest entry is on the politicization of Psychology. Here's Glenn's summary of the show.
Is psychology over-politicized? We interview Dr. Nicholas Cummings, a past President of the American Psychological Association, and coauthor of Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm, about the injection of politics into mental health in general, and the American Psychological Association in particular. Plus, why men are disappearing from the psychological profession.
This is an amazing interview from a guy on the inside. Well, he was on the inside until this liberal activist got labelled a right-wing wacko for daring to suggest the politics was becoming too strong an element of APA rulings and studies.
Here's a guy who's for same-sex marriage, but who was ostracized because of his suggestion that studies and data should inform APA ethical standards in that area rather than political posturing. The APA came within 2 votes of saying that "Reparitive Therapy" for homosexuals should be on its list of ethical violations. The studies are inconclusive on this matter, but it was politics that almost made mentioning these programs to a patient a license-yanking offense.
And speaking of studies, you'll take studies done by or cited by the APA with a
grain pillar of salt after listening to Dr. Cummings describe how information that didn't fit the political correctness standard was unreported, ignored or misrepresented. This I find incredibly interesting especially in regard to studies on same-sex marriage. I was quoted studies by the APA and other groups when I mentioned the news about how families continue to break down in today's more and more liberal climate. But given the incredible bias you'll hear about, anything coming from the big psychological groups is extremely suspect. If you put your faith in those groups, prepare to have your foundation shaken.
Unless you think that liberal politics should be the basis of sound psychological reasoning. Then you'll be just fine.
This is 25 minutes well spent. Have a listen.
March 07, 2006
Global Warming "Connect the Dots" Game
I'm at a client site this week, and while watching CNN in the hotel room, I saw a commerial for the ECI folks that Jim has been writing on (and doing PR for). The commercial said--twice--that with God's help and our efforts we can "stop" global warming. With all deference to my blogger-in-law (who is not, I hasten to note, responsible for ad copy), this makes about as much sense as saying that we can pray enough to speed up global photosynthesis. I have two dots that have recently been reported on that need to be connected to demonstrate this.
Sun-spawned cosmic storms that can play havoc with earthly power grids and orbiting satellites could be 50 percent stronger in the next 11-year solar cycle than in the last one, scientists said on Monday.
German scientists have found a significant piece of evidence linking cosmic rays to climate change.
They have detected charged particle clusters in the lower atmosphere that were probably caused by the space radiation.
They say the clusters can lead to the condensed nuclei which form into dense clouds.
Clouds play a major, but as yet not fully understood, role in the dynamics of the climate, with some types acting to cool the planet and others warming it up.
The amount of cosmic rays reaching Earth is largely controlled by the Sun, and many solar scientists believe the star's indirect influence on Earth's global climate has been underestimated.
So there you have it. Connect the dots.
December 20, 2005
A Tale of Two Trials
Clayton Cramer, on the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial:
It was a controversial idea of human origins--one that offended many people because of its implications for their religious beliefs. The idea had some worrisome baggage far beyond the area of biology. It scared the people in charge of the society, enough so that they felt a need to prohibit it from being taught in public schools.
Whoops, sorry. He's talking about the Scopes trial. Follow the link for an interesting comparison of the two.
November 07, 2005
New Energy Source?
Randell Mills, a Harvard University medic who also studied electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claims to have built a prototype power source that generates up to 1,000 times more heat than conventional fuel. Independent scientists claim to have verified the experiments and Dr Mills says that his company, Blacklight Power, has tens of millions of dollars in investment lined up to bring the idea to market. And he claims to be just months away from unveiling his creation.
There's just one small problem. Science says it's impossible.
The problem is that according to the rules of quantum mechanics, the physics that governs the behaviour of atoms, the idea is theoretically impossible. "Physicists are quite conservative. It's not easy to convince them to change a theory that is accepted for 50 to 60 years. I don't think [Mills's] theory should be supported," said Jan Naudts, a theoretical physicist at the University of Antwerp.
I heard a phrase once; "Those who say doing something is impossible should not interrupt the person who is doing it." Hopefully, this can happen, and isn't just a "cold fusion" kind of thing.
September 28, 2005
Big Promise from Adult Stem Cells
Remember the ad showing a walking Christopher Reeve? Remember John Edwards saying that someday folks in wheelchairs would be able to get up and walk? Both were extolling the virtues of embryonic stem cell research. Turns out that adult stem cell research, which doesn't require the destruction of embryos and has none of the ethical issues, is on its way to fulfilling that promise.
In an apparent major breakthrough, scientists in Korea report using umbilical cord blood stem cells to restore feeling and mobility to a spinal-cord injury patient.
The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Cythotherapy, centered on a woman who had been a paraplegic 19 years due to an accident.
After an infusion of umbilical cord blood stem cells, stunning results were recorded:
"The patient could move her hips and feel her hip skin on day 15 after transplantation. On day 25 after transplantation her feet responded to stimulation."
Umbilical cord cells are considered "adult stem cells," in contrast to embryonic stem cells, which have raised ethical concerns because a human embryo must be destroyed in order to harvest them.
The report said motor activity was noticed on day 7, and the woman was able to maintain an upright position on day 13. Fifteen days after surgery, she began to elevate both lower legs about one centimeter.
The study's abstract says not only did the patient regain feeling, but 41 days after stem cell transplantation, testing "also showed regeneration of the spinal cord at the injured cite" and below it.
The scientists conclude the transplantation "could be a good treatment method" for paraplegic patients.
The article notes that this is still very preliminary ("one patient does not a treatment make" cautions a bioethicist), but this is very exciting.
Well, to me it is, at least. A search for just the journal name on Google New today returns only this article and the article it refers to. If this had been done with embryonic stem cells, the media would be all over this, with quotes from John Edwards and Ron Reagan for starters (the latter of which just needs to open his mouth on the subject to get major coverage). Let's hope they come around, but hold not thy breath.
September 22, 2005
A Better Lie Detector
I remember seeing a short movie on something like this when I was in high school. The idea was fanciful then, but it's becoming more of a reality.
BRAIN-SCANNING techniques that test whether people are telling the truth could soon be sufficiently reliable to be used to interrogate criminals.
Neuroscientists developing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a tool for detecting lies believe the technology is nearly ready for use beyond the laboratory.
A team at the University of Pennsylvania has developed a way of reading fMRI scans that is claimed to be capable of telling lies from the truth with 99 per cent accuracy.
The question in the movie was, would this run afoul of the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination? It's possible. The main question is; what was the purpose of a such a protection? As such, would a device like this protect us from the abuses that the 5th Amendment does? It's a very interesting idea, being able to get the truth for sure, but could it be abused and manipulated, giving bad information the credentials of good information because "the machine said so"?
August 26, 2005
Avoiding Ethical Complications in Stem Cell Research
A Harvard University advance in generating embryonic stem cells may have the unintended consequence of hindering congressional efforts to lift research restrictions imposed by President Bush four years ago, leaders on both sides of the issue said yesterday as details of the discovery traveled through the scientific and political communities.
The news that Harvard scientists have successfully converted human skin cells into embryonic stem cells -- without using a human egg or new embryo -- is likely to muddle the already complex debate over federal stem cell research policy.
Muddle? How in the world could finding a way to avoid all the ethical complications of embryonic stem cell research be considered muddling? On the contrary, this could help clear up the whole debate once and for all; researches get their embryonic stem cells without killing unborn life. Everybody wins, if this turns out to be a viable option. This is called "muddling"?
This research is still just getting going, but if we concentrated on this rather than something with ethical pitfalls galore, we'd come sooner to the place where all points of view would be satisfied. Isn't that the best solution?
August 23, 2005
Mixing God & Science
A very good NY Times article on how scientists can and do deal with a belief in God. A greate quote:
One panelist, Dr. Noah Efron of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, said scientists, like other people, were guided by their own human purposes, meaning and values. The idea that fact can be separated from values and meaning "jibes poorly with what we know of the history of science," Dr. Efron said.
Dr. Collins, who is working on a book about his religious faith, also believes that people should not have to keep religious beliefs and scientific theories strictly separate. "I don't find it very satisfactory and I don't find it very necessary," he said in an interview. He noted that until relatively recently, most scientists were believers. "Isaac Newton wrote a lot more about the Bible than the laws of nature," he said.
But he acknowledged that as head of the American government's efforts to decipher the human genetic code, he had a leading role in work that many say definitively demonstrates the strength of evolutionary theory to explain the complexity and abundance of life.
As scientists compare human genes with those of other mammals, tiny worms, even bacteria, the similarities "are absolutely compelling," Dr. Collins said. "If Darwin had tried to imagine a way to prove his theory, he could not have come up with something better, except maybe a time machine. Asking somebody to reject all of that in order to prove that they really do love God - what a horrible choice."
August 10, 2005
Could there be a scientist who has accepted Intelligent Design as being on par with evolution? Dr. Roy W. Spencer says, "I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism."
You might wonder how scientists who are taught to apply disciplined observation and experimentation and to search for natural explanations for what is observed in nature can come to such a conclusion? For those of you who consider themselves open-minded, I will try to explain.
Read the whole thing to discover how much evolution and the physics of the origin of the universe depend heavily on faith (and about how parts of modern explanations of evolution depend on the lack of hard evidence).
August 04, 2005
Ethical Sources of Embryonic Stem Cells
Clayton Cramer has come up with an idea for a source of hundreds of thousands of embryonic stem cells every year, without the ethical issues.
There are several sources of embryonic stem cells, however, that provide no ethical problems: non-elective abortions; miscarriages; and deaths of pregnant women. Ectopic pregnancies are one example of a non-elective abortion, and even the Catholic Church recognizes that this is legitimate. Since there are about 100,000 ectopic pregnancies a year, this is a vast number of sources of embryonic stem cells.
Miscarriages also produce embryonic tissue--and since a miscarriage is not an intentional act of killing the embryo, there is no ethical problem is using this tissue for research. I couldn't find a figure for the number of miscarriages annually, but I would be surprised if it isn't in the hundreds of thousands.
At any given time, there are hundreds of thousands of American women who are pregnant. Unsurprisingly, there are on any day hundreds of pregnant women who are killed in car accidents, murders, falls from ladders, or other circumstances where the embryo or fetus can't be saved. These are also legitimate sources of embryonic stem cells.
(Comments below the fold...)
The third item is a little morbid, but no less a viable source. As much as I've come out against embryonic stem cell research as "human experimentation", I have to admit that these ideas do have merit. As opposed to IVF embryos or abortions, there is no actual choice involved; nature has already taken its course. I consider all these cases a loss of life, but not one where any blame or culpability can typically be assigned. We do have a big source of embryonic stem cells. Is the scientific community willing to work with it?
Clayton does end his post with a reasonable caution.
I can see why some might be concerned about where embryonic stem cell research might take us. For example, imagine that the scientists doing this research find a way to fulfill all the promises that Al Gore and John Edwards made last year: a cure of paralysis; for cancer; for Alzheimer's--in short, the miracle cure. Would this lead to an increase in demand for embryonic stem cells? It certainly would, and I could see a serious debate about whether to use aborted embryos and fetuses in making this miracle cure. I would come down against this--but that isn't the question before us right now. We do have an ethical source for embryonic stem cells for research purposes.
Where to Hold the ID Debate
Snippets from blogs on Bush's "Intelligent Design should be taught in school" remark. Spot the repeating thread.
Protein Wisdom - "Similarly, I have no problem with Intelligent Design being taught alongside evolution in the context of questions concerning the origin of life-which, whether the President meant to do so or not, is in fact the context into which he placed the question. The origin of life-or first cause-is properly asked within the realm of philosophy or religious studies."
Ballon Juice - "I have no problem with a brief fifteen minute discussion of intelligent design as part of a religious/philosophy class, provided schools offer those courses."
DrivelBlog - In short, let science classes be science classes, and leave theoretical arguments for other classes such as philosophy."
Two Babes and a Brain - "How is this science? How by proving order and adherence to "rules" does this indicate an Intelligent" Design? ... Here is the thing: this theory is taught in philosophy or religion class--not science."
MovieBob - "Matters of faith, spirituality and the supernatural are philosophy, and Intelligent Design belongs in a philosophy class."
Louisiana Libertarian - "Intelligent design is not a serious scientific theory. It is the belief that some "intelligent designer" (ie. God or some space aliens) designed DNA to evolve in a programmed manner. That's not science, that's philosophy. It should be discussed in a religion or philosophy class, not taught as an alternative to evolution."
All these are wonderful suggestions as a potential place to put ID. But of course they're disingenuous because...well, let's let another blogger snippet say it:
L's Simple Observations - "It is a sad day when we are teaching philosophy in our Science classrooms. Maybe we should create an elective in High Schools that simply covers religion and philosophy...oh wait...there's no religion in public schools, but there can be Intelligent Design????"
So thus we have a whole host of people giving a reasonable-sounding suggestion yet which has an absolute zero chance of happening. Religion class? Forget it. Philosophy class? Perhaps as a low-attendance elective.
Any other suggestions? I mean, ones that have a snowball's chance in Havana of actually happening.
My main point here (and I'll admit, it's a little opaque) is that if you don't think ID has any place in school, just say so. That's a debate worth having. But if we're just going to get suggestions that could never happen in today's educational climate, that's not really a debate.
A fair result could be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question. Oh, that idea isn't original with me. It's a quote from Charles Darwin in the Introduction to "The Origin of Species".
A good blog for keeping up with the ID side of the debate is Intelligent Design The Future.
August 01, 2005
Embryonic Stem Cell Research: A Done Deal?
Thomas over at Redstate.org has a very impassioned post about why embryonic stem cell research is wrong. He's equally certain that we're going to lose this issue, at least in the short term. An excerpt:
Our Priesthood has declared that embryonic stem cell research is vital. When The Scientific Community tells us that we need something to put off death, we embrace it wholeheartedly. Scientists are no different from other human beings: They want to do Big Things, they want their work to Make a Difference, and they are, as are we all, selfish, flawed creatures. I'm not quite sure when or why we decided to elevate them to the level of a secular priesthood, but we did so, and they are now solemnly assuring us that they need to be able to take people apart for spare parts. Like a good group of Faithful, we will bow to our betters and give them what they demand, for they will reward us with the divine gift of an extra month in the actuarial tables for our fidelity and obedience.
It is precisely that simple. The folks to whom we've delegated far too much of our moral decision-making -- and thank God we held those reins fifty years ago -- are telling us that what the conscience should know is depraved is licit, and more than that, is necessary. They want to play with their toys without moral supervision. They're offering us one heck of a potential payoff. You'd better believe we're going to snap it up.
Read the whole thing. He's not suggesting giving up, but he's letting folks know how he sees the debate going.
July 29, 2005
Frist v Embryos
Back here I noted that adult stem cells keep looking better and better, being virtually as good as embryonic stem cells, not to mention their proven track record. Well, looks like Bill Frist hasn't read that study.
Breaking with President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Friday he now supports legislation to remove some of the administration's limitations on embryonic stem cell research.
Frist, an abortion opponent who just last month said he did not support expanding federal financing of research on embryos, said his decision was consistent with both his experience as a physician and his anti-abortion stance.
The crux of his argument appears to be this:
The Tennessee Republican, who has been said to be eyeing a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, said only stem cells from embryos that "would otherwise be discarded," not implanted in a woman or frozen indefinitely, should be considered for research.
First of all, never say "never". As I pointed out in a diary on Redstate.org (in the first set of comments), saying "never" amounts to predicting the future, which is not a power I typically want to give to the federal government. Ask these 21 children who were adopted as embryos.
Second, this amounts to human experimentation. If you don't consider these embryos truly "human", then what are they? They certainly aren't fish eggs. And further, if they weren't human, the scientists wouldn't want them.
I don't see how someone who is against abortion can be for human experimentation on embryos. The whole "would otherwise be discarded" argument is morally equivalent to a woman getting an abortion because she didn't want to have a baby right now.
"I give huge moral significance to the human embryo, it is nascent human life, what that means is as we advance science, we treat that embryo with dignity, with respect," Frist said.
And performing experiments on them is...what, exactly?
Frist said additional stem cells should be used, so long as there was a careful process of informed consent in which the parents had decided that the embryos should be discarded, not adopted or frozen.
Ah, so "aborting" them is OK as long as the proper government paperwork is fill out. Gotcha. Now that's "respect".
July 26, 2005
The Space Shuttle Returns
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Discovery and seven astronauts blasted into orbit Tuesday on America's first manned space shot since the 2003 Columbia disaster, ending a painful, 2 1/2-year shutdown devoted to making the shuttle less risky and NASA more safety-conscious.
At stake were not only the lives of the astronauts, but also America's pride in its technological prowess, the fate of the U.S. space program and the future of space exploration itself.
"Our long wait may be over. So on behalf of the many millions of people who believe so deeply in what we do, good luck, Godspeed _ and have a little fun up there," launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts just before liftoff.
My daughter, who has dreams of being a pioneer to Mars, likes the idea that the first Shuttle mission after this long wait, and thus a rather sensitive and scrutinized mission, is a woman. So do I.
July 18, 2005
A Million, Million, Million Monkeys
Remember the evolutionists claim that given enough monkeys banging on enough typewriters sooner or later one of them would type out the complete works of Shakespeare? Via Dean Esmay comes the word that someone's putting that to the test.
So far a simply extraordinary number of virtual monkeys (5.67088e+47 as I write this--the population continuously expands) have typed 1 letter per second each for 5.01633e+48 virtual years, and haven't managed to get much past a couple of dozen letters of any given play.
Click here to join the effort (and become a monkey). (Isn't that de-evolution?) Fun little experiment, but seriously folks, which has a higher probability; typing out the text of all of Shakespeare's plays by chance, or lining up the atoms, molecules, proteins and such of a single cell and get the right amount of jolt to begin life by chance?
Mathematical note: A billion years expressed in the scientific notation you see above is 1.0e+09 (1 times 10 to the ninth--a "1" with 9 zeroes after it). The number of virtual years noted above is over 1 times 10 to the 48th, i.e. a "1" with 48 zeroes after it. Yes, the comparison between random chemicals mixing and monkeys typing may be a comparison of apples and...bananas, but it does help show how astonishingly remote such a chance is.
June 29, 2005
Newsweek on Dinosaurs: Science or Science Fiction?
Mark Tapscott takes a closer look at an article entitled Buried Treasure from the latest issue of Newsweek and finds more science fiction than fact in their report on dinosaurs. He also links to some great resources on the scientific data available to show how dinosaurs really lived.
June 24, 2005
One less bonus to embryonic stem cells
One less benefit of embryonic stem cells over adults ones:
Hailed as a ground-breaking study, scientists in Pittsburgh say they've discovered that adult stem cells have the same ability as embryonic stem cells to multiply.
The previously unknown characteristic indicates post-natal stem cells may play an important therapeutic role, according to the researchers at the city's Children's Hospital.
In the heated national debate, embryonic stem cells -- regarded as destruction of human life by opponents -- have been touted as having a greater capacity than adult cells to multiply, making them more desirable to research as a potential treatment, noted Johnny Huard, director of the hospital's Growth and Development Laboratory.
"Scientists have typically believed that adult or post-natal stem cells grow old and die much sooner than embryonic stem cells, but this study demonstrates that is not the case," said Huard, the senior author of the study.
I have to wonder why we'd bother with all the ethical issues regarding embryonic stem cells when, the more we learn, the more we're seeing that adult stem cells are almost as good. In addition to multiplying as well, they can differentiate just about as well. Not to mention their proven track record in actual use.