1) Scientists Debunk Scientists 01/12/2011
Jan 12, 2011 — What do you know? We look to science to tell us about reality, but how confident can we be when they keep changing the tune?
- Undermining cosmology: Science Daily tells us today that “Cosmology Standard Candle Not So Standard After All.” Results from the Spitzer Space Telescope show that Cepheid variables shrink as they age, “making them not quite as standard as once thought.” One co-author of the paper in Astrophysical Journal warned, “Everything crumbles in cosmology studies if you don’t start up with the most precise measurements of Cepheids possible.” He is confident that “This discovery will allow us to better understand these stars, and use them as ever more precise distance indicators.” But isn’t that what they told us last time?
- Through a glass distortedly: Another thing undermining cosmology is the distorting effect of gravitational lenses. PhysOrg reported that lensing can bias counts of distant objects 10 to 30 times. “Future surveys will need to be designed to account for a significant gravitational lensing bias in high-redshift galaxy samples.” Unfortunately, the Hubble Telescope can’t do the job, “because at Hubble’s resolution one literally can no longer see the forest for the trees at these extreme distances.” We’ll have to wait for the James Webb Space Telescope, “if it gets finished as designed,” to tackle this problem that is of “crucial importance to the optimal design of surveys for the first galaxies.” See also Space.com, “Cosmic Lenses May Spoil Count of Ancient Galaxies.”
- Through the looking glass: Meanwhile, be sure to calibrate your telescope carefully. Science Daily reported, “Telescope Calibration May Help Explain Mystery of Universe’s Expansion,” suggesting it hasn’t been done yet. When dealing with one-of-a-kind ultimate things, though, what does one calibrate it to? John Woodward, who is working on calibrating the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, doesn’t seem so sure: “because this is one of the first-ever such calibrations of a telescope, it is unclear just how much effect the team’s work will have, and part of their future work will be determining how much they have reduced the uncertainties in Pan-STARRS’s performance.” Before he can measure the distortion of known uncertainties like gravitational lensing, maybe he needs to worry about the unknown uncertainties.
- Define asteroid: We all know what asteroids are, right? But did they exist before William Herschel invented the word? While pondering that, Space.com argues that it was Herschel’s colleague Stephen Weston who invented the term. OK, then, once humans agree on the term, all is settled, right? Space.com told about a space rock undergoing an identity crisis. Astronomers can’t decide if it is a comet or an asteroid. It’s in the main asteroid belt, but has a tail (see picture on National Geographic). Now they’re suggesting a new class of solar system objects: “main belt comets” – unless, that is, it turns out they’re seeing debris from a collision of two asteroids.
NG indicated that some scientists are excited to find main belt comets because it brings special delivery trucks closer to earth for their : “If you try to hit the Earth from the Kuiper belt, that’s a hell of a long shot,” David Jewitt [UCLA] said. “But if you try to hit Earth from the asteroid belt, which is ten times closer, it’s much easier, because Earth is a bigger and closer target.” Do any of you remember being told on the Discovery Channel that delivery of earth’s water via comets was a hell of a long shot?
- Genes aren’t everything: Size up this statement from PhysOrg: “We’ve been taught that DNA is everything, but you could equally well say packaging is everything.” Results of a massive survey called ENCODE (ENCyclopedia of DNA Elements), “to develop an encyclopedia of the epigenome, that is, of all of the many factors that can change the expression of the genes without changing the genes,” emphasizes the roles chromatin and chromosome packaging have on the resulting organism. Codes are everywhere, including the code of silence: “Zen-like, she [Sarah C. R. Elgin, Washington University] concludes that silence may be as important as expression. ‘It’s like sculpture – what you see depends not on what you add, but on what you take away.”
- Good cholesterol not so good: We’ve been told that HDL is the “good cholesterol” that promotes heart health. Not so fast, reported Live Science: “ Not All ‘Good’ Cholesterol is Good at Unclogging Arteries.” According to new research at the U of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, “heart disease risk may be better assessed by measuring HDL’s ability to remove artery-clogging plaque, rather than the HDL levels themselves.” In fact, there may be another substance that determines HDL’s ability to remove plaque. Unfortunately for us all, “The test is too labor-intensive as it is to be used clinically, [Dr. Daniel J.] Rader said.”
- Human-caused climate error: Scientists have tracked penguins as indicators of climate change. Now they are finding out that the act of banding penguins both harms the birds and invalidates the measurements. Banded penguins have 44% fewer chicks, not so much because of climate change, but due to the damage to their lifestyle. “Banding may have skewed the data,” PhysOrg said, “but climate change is still harming and will harm penguins,” hedging its bets about validity of global warming.
Live Science, though, said, “Because the approach diminishes survival and reproduction, Le Maho warned that climate change studies relying on banded birds are biased and produce questionable results.” OK, so let’s just band something else. Whoops: “[Rory] Wilson [Swansea University] said that the repercussions of banding would ‘absolutely’ carry over to other penguin species, and possibly even seals and sea turtles.” Did we ever know what climate tune the band was playing? If not, what should be the response to scientists like William Nordhaus telling politicians that “carbon taxes are the best approach to achieve significant emissions reductions”? (PhysOrg).
Despite pervasive myths of an ivory tower past, universities have always served their social masters and have always molded their internal cultures to those of the powers surrounding and sustaining them. They have never done so completely, but neither have they ever been as contemplatively disengaged as legend implies. Our whole society has become shot through with econometric sensibilities and corporate patterns of organization. Why ever should we expect universities to be much different? It’s a good question, meriting a considered and informed answer. We’ve heard from the humanists and the social scientists; it’s time to hear a lot more from the natural scientists and engineers. If the inhabitants of the modern research university cannot collectively agree that they want to push back, then the further alignment of research and teaching with econometric sensibilities is likely to be the future.
1. Steven Shapin, “History of Science: Commerce at the Helm?”, Science, 7 January 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6013 p. 33, DOI: 10.1126/science.1198434.
If scientists keep changing their stories about things easily accessible to the senses in real time, how much can we expect confidence in their pronouncements about the unobservable past?2) Biography of a great Christian scientist
Next headline on: Stars and Astronomy • Cosmology • Solar System • Genetics • Politics and Ethics • Philosophy of Science
Ernst Chain: Antibiotics Pioneer
by Jerry Bergman, Ph.D. *
Ernst Boris Chain (1906–1979) was born in Berlin, Germany, where he obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry and physiology. Although he became a highly respected scientist, as a Jew he foresaw what was coming and left his home country soon after Hitler came to power.2 He worked in England as a research scientist at Cambridge, also studying for a Ph.D. there, and then at Oxford University until 1948.3
After Oxford, Chain worked in research and as a professor at several universities. The promise of better equipment lured him to Rome, but Britain, conscious of its loss, soon enticed him back by building him a new research laboratory.2 His lifelong work was "all about the mystery of life,"4 and during his 40-year career he accomplished "amazingly diverse achievements"5--even feats once considered impossible, such as the production of lysergic acid by the deep fermentation process.6
A Major Founder of Antibiotics
In 1938, Chain stumbled across Alexander Fleming's 1929 paper on penicillin in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology, which he brought to the attention of his colleague Florey.7 During their research, Chain isolated and purified penicillin. It was largely this work that earned him his numerous honors and awards, including a fellow of the Royal Society and numerous honorary degrees,8 the Pasteur Medal, the Paul Ehrlich Centenary Prize, the Berzelius Medal, and a knighthood.9
Chain was selected as a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize specifically for his research that demonstrated the structure of penicillin and successfully isolated the active substance by freeze-drying the mold broth to make its use practical.10 When Chain was doing his research it required 125 gallons of broth to produce enough penicillin powder for one tablet! Now the same tablet is mass-produced for a few cents.
An internationally respected scientist, Chain is widely regarded as one of the major founders of the whole field of antibiotics. Aside from sanitation, the discovery of antibiotics was arguably the single most important revolution in medicine in terms of saving lives. Chain later wrote a leading text on the subject. 11 In 1940 he also discovered penicillinase, an enzyme that is used by bacteria to inactivate penicillin, negating its effectiveness.12 Chain knew that bacteria had become resistant to the drug and had already started working on the problem at this early date.
Other important scientific work by Chain included the study of snake venom, specifically the finding that its neurotoxic effects are caused by destroying an essential intracellular respiratory coenzyme.
One of Chain's lifelong professional concerns was the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution, which he concluded was a "very feeble attempt" to explain the origin of species based on assumptions so flimsy, "mainly of morphological and anatomical nature," that "it can hardly be called a theory."13
This mechanistic concept of the phenomena of life in its infinite varieties of manifestations which purports to ascribe the origin and development of all living species, animals, plants and micro-organisms, to the haphazard blind interplay of the forces of nature in the pursuance of one aim only, namely, that for the living systems to survive, is a typical product of the naive 19th century euphoric attitude to the potentialities of science which spread the belief that there were no secrets of nature which could not be solved by the scientific approach given only sufficient time.14A major reason why he rejected evolution was because he concluded that the postulate that biological development and survival of the fittest was "entirely a consequence of chance mutations" was a "hypothesis based on no evidence and irreconcilable with the facts."15
These classic evolutionary theories are a gross oversimplification of an immensely complex and intricate mass of facts, and it amazes me that they were swallowed so uncritically and readily, and for such a long time, by so many scientists without a murmur of protest.15Chain concluded that he "would rather believe in fairies than in such wild speculation" as Darwinism.13 Chain's eldest son, Benjamin, added: "There was no doubt that he did not like the theory of evolution by natural selection--he disliked theories...especially when they assumed the form of dogma. He also felt that evolution was not really a part of science, since it was, for the most part, not amenable to experimentation--and he was, and is, by no means alone in this view."16
Problems with Evolution
Another reason he did not consider evolution a scientific theory was because it is obvious that "living systems do not survive if they are not fit to survive."15 Chain recognized that the problem was not the survival of the fittest but the arrival of the fittest, and that mutations do produce some variety:
There is no doubt that such variants do arise in nature and that their emergence can and does make some limited contribution towards the evolution of species. The open question is the quantitative extent and significance of this contribution.15He added that evolution "willfully neglects the principle of teleological purpose which stares the biologist in the face wherever he looks, whether he be engaged in the study of different organs in one organism, or even of different subcellular compartments in relation to each other in a single cell, or whether he studies the interrelation and interactions of various species."15
He was especially aware of how the research in his own field pointed to problems with evolution. In particular, Chain noted our modern knowledge of the genetic code and that its function in transmitting genetic information seems quite incompatible with classical Darwinian ideas of evolution.17
Evolution, Morals, and Faith
Another concern about evolution that Chain expressed was evolution's moral implications. In a 1972 speech he presented in London, he stated:
It is easy to draw analogies between the behavior of apes and man, and draw conclusions from the behavior of birds and fishes on human ethical behavior, but ...this fact does not allow the development of ethical guidelines for human behavior. All attempts to do this...suffer from the failure to take into account the all important fact of man's capability to think and to be able to control his passions, and are therefore doomed to failure.18Chain did not accept some scientists' estimation that "religious belief" did not deserve serious consideration, countering that scientific theories themselves are ephemeral.
In a lecture which Crick, who, together with Watson and Wilkins, discovered the bihelical structure of DNA, gave a couple of years ago to students at University College...he said...that it was ridiculous to base serious decisions on religious belief. This seems to me a very sweeping and dogmatic conclusion...scientific theories, in whatever field, are ephemeral and...may be even turned upside down by the discovery of one single new fact....This has happened time and again even in the exactest of sciences, physics and astronomy, and applies even more so to the biological field, where the concepts and theories are much less securely founded than in physics and are much more liable to be overthrown at a moment's notice.15One might dismiss Chain's view on Darwinism as simply a result of his faith, but Clark stresses that how "directly such views were linked to his religious beliefs is open to endless argument."18 Chain's eldest son wrote that his father's concerns about evolution were not based on religion, but rather on science. Chain, though, made it clear that he was very concerned about the effect of Darwinism on human behavior.
Any speculation and conclusions pertaining to human behaviour drawn on the basis of Darwinian evolutionary theories...must be treated with the greatest caution and reserve....a less discriminating section of the public may enjoy reading about comparisons between the behaviour of apes and man, but this approach--which, by the way, is neither new nor original--does not really lead us very far.... Apes, after all, unlike man, have not produced great prophets, philosophers, mathematicians, writers, poets, composers, painters and scientists. They are not inspired by the divine spark which manifests itself so evidently in the spiritual creation of man and which differentiates man from animals.19Clark concluded that Chain wrote with such flair against Darwinism that his writings "would do credit to a modern Creationist rather than an accomplished scientist."13 Chain made it very clear what he believed about the Creator and our relationship to Him. He wrote that scientists "looking for ultimate guidance in questions of moral responsibility" would do well to "turn, or return, to the fundamental and lasting values of the code of ethical behaviour forming part of the divine message which man was uniquely privileged to receive through the intermediation of a few chosen individuals."19
Sir Derek Barton wrote that there are "few scientists who, by the application of their science, have made a greater contribution to human welfare than Sir Ernst Chain."20 His work founded the field of antibiotics, which has saved the lives of multimillions of persons. Chain is only one of many modern scientists who have concluded that modern neo-Darwinism is not only scientifically bankrupt, but also harmful to society.
- Masters, D. 1946. Miracle Drug, the Inner History of Penicillin. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 7.
- Asimov, I. 1972. Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Garden City, NY: Double Day and Company, 712.
- Schlessinger, B. and J. 1986. The Who's Who of Nobel Prize Winners. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 93.
- Lax, E. 2004. The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat. New York: Henry Holt, 63.
- Mansford, K.R.L. 1977. Profile of Sir Ernst Chain, in Hems, D.A. (ed.). Biologically Active Substances--Exploration and Exploitation. Chichester, NY: John Wiley and Sons, xxi.
- Barton, D. 1977. Introductory Remarks, in Hems, D.A. (ed.). Biologically Active Substances--Exploration and Exploitation. Chichester, NY: John Wiley and Sons, xviii.
- Lax, The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat, 79.
- Ibid, 253.
- Curtis, R. 1993. Great Lives: Medicine. New York: Scribner, 77-90.
- McMurray, E. 1995. Notable Twentieth-Century Scientists. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 334.
- Chain, E., H. Florey and N. Heatley. 1949. Antibiotics. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Barton, Biologically Active Substances, xxiii.
- Clark, R. W. 1985. The Life of Ernst Chain: Penicillin and Beyond. New York: St. Martin's Press, 147.
- Chain, E. 1970. Social Responsibility and the Scientist in Modern Western Society. London: The Council of Christians and Jews, 24-25.
- Chain, Social Responsibility and the Scientist, 25.
- Clark, The Life of Ernst Chain, 147-148.
- Chain, Social Responsibility and the Scientist, 25-26.
- Clark, The Life of Ernst Chain, 148.
- Chain, Social Responsibility and the Scientist, 26.
- Barton, Biologically Active Substances, xxvii.
Darwinism still "is a typical product of the naive 19th century euphoric attitude to the potentialities of science which spread the belief that there were no secrets of nature which could not be solved by the scientific approach given only sufficient time."
3) One of the best things on the internet that people don't know about? The Cornwall Alliance!
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
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Environmentalism as Religion: The New Holy Wars
Dr. James Tonkowich
by James Tonkowich
Human beings crave meaning and direction in their lives and religion supplies that meaning and direction. Today, writes Dr. Joel Garreau, the Lincoln Professor of Law, Culture, and Values at Arizona State University, “For some individuals and societies, the role of religion seems increasingly to be filled by environmentalism.”
Writing in “Environmentalism as Religion,”an article published in the New Atlantis, he notes that, “In parts of northern Europe, this new faith is now mainstream,” and that if we are to understand the debate over climate policy in particular, “we must understand where ‘ecotheology’ has come from and where it is likely to lead.”
Garreau’s article focuses in part on “The Greening of Christianity.” “To the extent that evangelicals and environmentalists are in fact reaching out to one another, there can be benefits for each side,” he writes. “For churches with aging congregations, green issues reportedly help attract new, younger members to the pews.” Environmentalists get reliable “foot soldiers” in return.
The catch is that evangelicals are being recruited to a different kind of religion, one that “increasingly sports saints, sins, prophets, predictions, heretics, demons, sacraments, and rituals.” It is a religion related not to historic Christianity, but to historic paganism.
And it is precisely the religious nature of much environmentalism that makes the debate so difficult. Disagree with the received environmentalist orthodoxy and you will find that you are not wrong with rational arguments to follow, but a heretic with non-rational—yea, even irrational—condemnation to follow.
One of the great dangers of this, says Garreau, is “the expansion of irrationalism in the making of public policy.” While very little public policy is made in an entirely rational manner, it is nonetheless important to use facts rather than sentiment and non-rational faith.
“A strict focus on facts and reason whenever possible can avert error and excess in policy,” he writes. “But can someone who has made a faith of environmentalism—whose worldview and lifestyle have been utterly shaped by it—adapt to changing facts?” And climate science, a scientific field in its infancy, is particularly subject to changing facts.
Joel Garreau’s article is a good overview of the issues and of what is at stake when science abandons reason for blind faith.
Garreau is one of a growing number of scholars to recognize that environmentalism not only has religious elements but has itself become a new religion. Another is Robert Nelson, who examines it in The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America. Another is Peter Jones, whose Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian Americadocuments the prevalence of revived Gnostic, pagan, animist, and polytheist religions in much environmental thought.
For more on environmentalism as religion, watch “Resisting the Green Dragon,” a twelve-part video curriculum that includes two lectures by Peter Jones, and read James Wanliss's new book (to be released January 17), both from the Cornwall Alliance.
Yes, Virginia, You do Have to Produce Those "Global Warming" Documents.(Christopher Horner, David Schnare, & Robert Marshall; The Washington Examiner)
The University of Virginia spends hundreds of thousands to fight a Freedom of Information Act request in Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's investigation of Michael "Hockey Stick" Mann's use (or misuse) of tax-funded research grants.
The Met Office Fries While the Rest of the World Freezes(Christopher Booker; The Telegraph)
As the Met Office desperately tries to salvage its reputation, another of this "warm" winter's ice disasters is unfolding in the Sea of Okhotsk.
Economics & Energy
Congress Should Rein in EPA(William Shughart II; The Independent Institute)
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has done, is doing, and will do much harm to the economy if the new Congress does not rein it in.
"Clean Energy Standard:" Bad Solution to a Non-Problem (Lindsey Graham Rides Again)(E. Calvin Beisner; Master Resource)
The call for "clean energy standards" or "renewable energy standards" fails by the standards of both science and economics.
Religion & Ethics
Mere Environmentalism: A Biblical Perspective on Humans and the Natural World(Steven F. Hayward; American Enterprise Institute)
American Enterprise Institute Scholar Steven Hayward, who lectured on "A Brief History of Environmentalism's Exaggerations, Myths, and Downright Lies" for Resisting the Green Dragon, provides a clear, concise, Biblically insightful introduction to environmental ethics and policy.
IPCC Professor Calls for "Elite Warrior Leadership" to Rule Over Eco-Dictatorship(Paul Watson; PrisonPlanet.com)
Prominent United Nations scientist says new green religion should replace traditional faiths as part of shift towards authoritarian tyranny.
Politics & Debate
Met Office "Kept Winter Forecast Secret from Public(Steven Swinford; The Telegraph)
The Met Office knew that Britain was facing an early and exceptionally cold winter but failed to warn the public, hampering preparations for some of the coldest weather on record. In a letterto the Transport Select Committee, Dr. Benny Peiser inquires if the purpose was to push the Cancun Climate Summit.
The Icy Grip of the Politics of Fear(Brendan O'Neill; Spiked)
The snow crisis of December 2010: a striking snapshot of the chasm that separates the warming-obsessed elite from the rest of us.
Meet the Critics: Piers R. Corbyn
Landmark Documents from the Cornwall Alliance
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., Founder and National Spokesman
Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation
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So if you still believe in Anthropic Global Warming despite all the record low temperatures and heavy snowfalls in the Northern Hemisphere and the leaked CRU emails and the debunked "hocky stick graph" which might still land some people in jail? You are a religious zealot who doesn't care much for evidence or logic. So there is a very good chance you are also a Darwinist. But I am not going to give up on you...