Skepticism, Religion Archive

Friday, July 21, 2006

Stem Cell Veto

Okay, I'm a day and a half late in writing about this on my blog, but I still want to comment on it (You can read a few of my initial reactions in the comments over at TerrapinTables). It just really, really pisses me off that Bush has vetoed this law.

Here's the analogy I thought of to explain it. Imagine you see somebody fall into a flooded river (to really pull at your heart strings, you can imagine it's your own child). This river's pulling them away pretty fast. There's a guy on a bridge down stream with a rope. Now, if he throws the rope, there's no guarantee that the person in the river will be able to get it and hold on. And, there's always the possibility that the person may get rescued by someone else. But what would you think if the person on the bridge decided to not throw the rope at all?

That's basically what Bush just did. Embryonic Stem (Es) cells are not a guaranteed cure, and there are other lines of research that may lead to treatments for some of the diseases that currently look like they may be treated by ES cells, but why would somebody decide to maintain a ban on such a promising avenue of research?

And this isn't just some hypothetical, intellectual excercise. There are millions of people suffering from diseases and conditions for which ES cells might lead to a viable treatment. How many of them are going to die or suffer needlessly, because he vetoed this bill. If Bush went around randomly killing a person every day for the rest of his time in office, we'd call him a murderer. But if he vetoes a bill that in the end will lead to even more people's deaths because of lack of treatments, we call it politics.

Finally, this whole thing is asinine, because the bill proposed using embryos that were slated for destruction, already. These embryos are going to be flushed down the toilet, whether or not this bill was passed. Why not use them for research before that happens? What a f-in' waste.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Probability Disproves Evolution, or Bees Can't Fly

Other people have coverred the probability arguments against evolution, already, but I'd like to cover it from the viewpoint of an aerospace engineer. Specifically, while reading this essay, I read the line, "The numbers just don’t match up — the universe would have to be much, much older than it is for random mutations to have produced that variety of life that we see on earth," with a link to this article.

I compare these types of arguments to the one that says bees can't fly. Most people have probably heard this before, but to explain it to those that haven't, if you take standard aerodynamic theory and do a rough back of the envelope calculation applying it to a bee, you could come up with the conclusion that bee's can't fly. For the size of their wings, and the speed that they move them at, the theory predicts a lift that would actually be less than the weight of the bee.

I'll be honest, I've never actually gone through this calculation. What's the point, when you know that bees can fly, and I'm not really concerned with designing bees, anyway. But supposing I did go through with the calculation and it did predict that bees couldn't fly, would it then make sense to say that, indeed, bees can't fly? Of course not. Observation tells us that bees fly - the error would be somewhere in my theory or calculations (applying steady state, high Reynolds number aerodynamics to a non-steady state, low Reynolds number application, for those interested), but that's exactly what these probability arguments are. Evolution has occured. There's enough evidence that it's not really a question. If you have a theory that says that evolution couldn't have occurred, either you've made a mistake in your calculations or assumptions, there's a problem with your theory, or perhaps, bees can't really fly, after all.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

E-mail Forward- Allah or Jesus?

Just the other day, I received an e-mail forward of a story written by a Christian about a supposed exchange he had with a Muslim about the Islamic attitude towards infidels. The basic gist of the story was to illustrate how superior Christianity is compared to Islam, and how intolerant Muslims are of others. The entire e-mail, interspersed with my comments and corrected for the formatting errors that come about with multiple forwards, is available below the fold.

Continue reading "E-mail Forward- Allah or Jesus?" »

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Science and Engineering Indicators 2006

The new NSF report on Science and Engineering Indicators 2006 has been released. Below are the results of the "Scientific Understanding" section. While there has been some improvement, the results are still depressing. The numbers in the table are the percentage of people that responded correctly, while the correct answer is listed in parentheses after the question.

  United States (2004) China (2001) South Korea (2004) Japan (2001) Malaysia (200) EU-25 (2005) Russia (2003)
Lasers work by focusing sound waves (False) 42 16 31 28 34 47 24
It is the father’s gene which decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl (True) 62 39 59 25 46 64 22
All radioactivity is man-made (False) 73 46 48 56 33 59 35
The center of the Earth is very hot (True) 78 39 87 77 74 86 86
The universe began with a huge explosion (True) 35 17 67 63 41 NA 35
Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria (False) 54 18 30 23 21 46 18
Electrons are smaller than atoms (True) 45 24 46 30 42 46 44
Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? (Earth around the Sun) 71 59 86 NA 81 66 NA
Human beings are developed from earlier species of animals (True) 44 70 64 78 61 70 44
The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move (True) 77 45 87 83 62 87 40

Continue reading "Science and Engineering Indicators 2006" »

Friday, February 17, 2006

What Is the Value of Algebra?

Thanks to Pharyngula, Uncertain Principles, and Gene Expression over at Science Blogs for pointing this out.

Here's an interesting article in the Washington Post, written by some guy named Richard Cohen, who basically says that algebra is a worthless topic to most of the population, excluding the technical people who are going to need it for their careers. He argues that it shouldn't be a requirement for people to graduate from high school, which I think is just plain stupid.

Continue reading "What Is the Value of Algebra?" »

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