Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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My other blogs
Small Sample Watch
XBM Graphics

The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
Bad Science
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
Foreign Dispatches
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Liberty's Torch
The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
The Passing Parade
Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
Pictures of Math
Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
Seriously Science
Slate Star Codex
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Official EU Interpretation of the French Vote

… can be found here:

When I say no I mean maybe.
Baby don't you know me yet?
Nothin's worth havin' if it ain't a little hard to get.
So let me clarify so you won't have to try to guess.
When I say no I mean maybe, or maybe I mean yes.

Errr… Ummm…

I'm not sure how to respond to this. I'm supposed to answer at least five of the following:

If I could be a scientist…
If I could be a farmer…
If I could be a musician…
If I could be a doctor…
If I could be a painter…
If I could be a gardener…
If I could be a missionary…
If I could be a chef…
If I could be an architect…
If I could be a linguist…
If I could be a psychologist…
If I could be a librarian…
If I could be an athlete…
If I could be a lawyer…
If I could be an inn-keeper…
If I could be a professor…
If I could be a writer…
If I could be a llama-rider…
If I could be a bonnie pirate…
If I could be an astronaut…
If I could be a world famous blogger…
If I could be a justice on any one court in the world…
If I could be married to any current famous political figure…

~ ~ ~
and then hand the result to a few more people.

Let's see … If I could be a chef, I certainly wouldn't support knife-control laws.

Four to go …

Does This Follow?

The Washington Post looks at Finland's education system (seen via Gary Farber):

Finland finishes first in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams that test 15-year-olds in all of the world's industrial democracies. Finland also finishes at or near the top in many global comparisons of economic competitiveness: Internet usage, environmental practices and more. Finland, where the modern cell phone was largely invented, has more cell phones per capita than any other nation -- nearly 85 per 100 citizens.

As recently as the 1970s, Finland required that children attend school for just six years and the education system here was nothing special. But new laws supported by substantial government spending created, in barely 20 years, a system that graduates nearly every young person from vocational or high school, and sends nearly half of them on to higher education. At every level, the schooling is rigorous, and free.

Wouldn't that mean the Finnish cell phone industry, for example, was built by people who had done all or most of their education before the current system was set up?

By the way, are the PISA tests administered by the Finnish schools or by impartial observers?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A Question That Must Be Asked

In view of Instapundit's enthusiasm for stem-cell research, is it possible to extract useful stem cells from puppies in blenders?

Superkids, Part II

Cory Doctorow has a paranoid interpretation of the recent superkids story:

To be clear -- the interesting thing about this story isn't the possibility that it's true. It clearly isn't. It's that there are doctors participating in a Big Lie regarding the ongoing tragedy of Chernobyl.
I thought that this was, at worst, a case of doctors fooling themselves based on a small sample size. (This sounds familiar somehow.) In any case, it isn't clearly false; it is merely highly improbable.

Trying to Impress Imaginary Conservatives

If we wingnuts were macho paranoids, we'd be really worried about the latest environmentalist claim:

Chemicals found in a host of everyday products, from children‘s toys to cosmetics, are causing genital abnormalities in baby boys, a study suggests today.

Phthalates are substances used in the manufacture of thousands of products, including plastics, lubricants and solvents.


Women with higher levels of phthalate break-down chemicals, or metabolites, in their urine were more likely to give birth to baby boys with undescended or small testicles, and small penises.


A total of 134 boys, aged two to 30 months, were examined for the study.

The scientists first measured the distance between the anus and penis (anogenital distance, or AGD), which in rodents has been found to be a sensitive marker for the effects of chemicals that disrupt male hormones.

A comparison measurement called anogenital index (AGI) was then obtained by dividing an infant‘s AGD by his weight in kilograms. This was done to account for the fact that some babies were bigger than others.

Boys in the bottom quarter of the AGI scale were classified as having a “short” AGI. On average, the 24 boys who made up this group had an AGI 19% shorter than expected.

They were also much more likely to have genital defects, including undescended testicles, a “small and indistinct” scrotum, and smaller penis size.

They also have a tendency to speak with a pronounced lisp.

Let's see. They have a small sample size, an indirect method of identifying problems, a lack of discussion of whether the allegedly-real problems are statistically significant, and their best shot would be ridiculed if it came from conservatives.

By the way, how do you pronounce phthalate? Are there derivatives such as thallium phenylphthalate?

Knife Control

Gun controllers are getting consistent. Their latest brilliant idea is knife control:

A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase - and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all.

They consulted 10 top chefs from around the UK, and found such knives have little practical value in the kitchen.

None of the chefs felt such knives were essential, since the point of a short blade was just as useful when a sharp end was needed.

The researchers said a short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault - but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs.

In contrast, a pointed long blade pierces the body like "cutting into a ripe melon".

They could only find 10 chefs willing to support them?

By the way, how are you supposed to cut into a ripe melon?

Coming up next: Mandatory registration of all “blunt objects.”

Addendum: There's dissent in the chef community:

Restaurateurs and chefs reacted angrily to suggestions of banning kitchen knives. Malcolm Duck, chairman of the Edinburgh Restaurateurs Association, said: "Kitchen knives are designed for a purpose. It would be like asking a surgeon to perform an operation with a bread knife instead of a scalpel. Anything in the house like a cricket bat could be used as weapon in the hands of an idiot."

Friday, May 27, 2005


I think I dislocated by arm while patting myself on the back after seeing MSNBC's latest ad campaign:

Tough. Witty. Wise.
Just like New Yorkers
Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Are Superpowers Next?

Studies of the children born in glowing part of the Ukraine have interesting results:

THE Chernobyl nuclear disaster has spawned a generation of ‘mutant’ super-brainy children.

Kids growing up in areas damaged by radiation from the plant have a higher IQ and faster reaction times, say Russian doctors.

They are also growing faster and have stronger immune systems.

Even if this should turn out to be the product of the Russian/Ukrainian edition of The Weekly World News, that's simply another reason why the WWN's reality is superior to the one I'm stuck in.

I'm reminded of Children of the Atom by Wilmar H. Shiras.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Effects of Bad Philosophy

During the Terri Schindler Schiavo controversy, many anti-tubists were convinced that Terri had no mind. They had a little bit of evidence: Much milder cases of brain damage can stop the formation of episodic memories. By the standard of “if you don't remember it, it didn't happen” nothing was happening to Terri.

The above standard has had horrible effects in the past. In the early 20th century, an alleged anesthetic called “Twilight Sleep.” It was a combination of morphine and scopolamine. The effect was to erase memories of the pain of childbirth but not the pain itself. For example:

Clinical improvements in the management of obstetric analgesia/anesthesia within the last five decades have included new equipment (e.g., pencil-point spinal needles) and new drugs (e.g., ropivacaine); none has been more impressive than those leading to a "new look" in childbirth, that of "family-oriented" obstetrics. Prior to this event, most vaginal deliveries and preceding labor periods were conducted either with no pain relief or under twilight sleep, the combination of morphine and scopolamine.

Eventually, the potential hazard to mother and/or fetus of both methods was recognized. The adverse effect of untreated pain was confirmed experimentally in pregnant ewes; a brief, minor stress such as a bout of loud noise, movement of personnel or application to the skin of mild electric stimulation decreased uterine blood flow secondary to release of norepinephrine.4 Maternal hyperventilation, often a reaction to pain, was shown to harm the fetus in two ways: 1) by the development of an oxygen debt in the mother and 2) by a shift of her hemoglobin-oxygen dissociation curve to the left, i.e., in the baby's disfavor. The sequelae of twilight sleep were even more pertinent. In addition to the potential of producing neonatal narcotic depression, the drug combination rendered the parturients amnesic and incoherent. Although screaming with every contraction, the women were unaware of their plight as were their husbands who, banned from the labor-delivery area, were pacing up and down in a distant room.6 (This author clearly remembers a young lady who climbed over the bedrail, delivered the baby on the floor and did not realize for the next 24 hours that she had become a mother.)


[Old-timers please correct me -] I was told by my professors at Jefferson
(Phila, PA) that some women in labor given scopolamine would be
'screaming and hanging onto the light fixtures on the ceiling'
(metaphorically) or running down the halls at times.

However, when asked a few hours later (post-delivery) how their labor was,
they would say "beautiful".. they had no residual memories of their
feelings or behaviors....
The amnesia was great - the uninibited behavior could be a management problem...

as well as:

It was German doctors who offered controlled dosages of Twilight Sleep. Two American journalists went to Germany in 1914 to report on it, and one of them, in fine journalistic tradition, used it during delivery of her own baby and raved about it in a magazine. Early feminists, often society women interested in health issues, formed the National Twilight Sleep Association, which campaigned to ''relieve one-half of humanity from its antique burden of a suffering which the other half of humanity has never understood.'' The New York Times, The Ladies' Home Journal and Reader's Digest ran articles praising the removal of ''the primal curse,'' and increasing numbers of patients demanded Twilight Sleep.

But the small dose of morphine only disinhibited the patients and didn't actually prevent pain, so patients had to be strapped down and could be heard screaming several floors away. Doctors worried about the drug also causing hemorrhages, slowing contractions and depressing the baby's breathing. The campaign eventually died out after one of its leaders died hemorrhaging in childbirth, but Twilight Sleep continued to be used until the 60's, when it was finally killed off by antichemical sentiments.

In other words, the philosophy of “if you don't remember it, it didn't happen” not only caused unnecessary suffering but, once the effects of a chemical prescribed by the then male medical establishment became known, probably contributed to both environmentalism and feminism.

It's a bit disconcerting to find that the early feminists and anti-chemical activists were not completely insane …

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

An Unnerving Combination

A blog that compares human beings to a disease (seen via Deep Space Bombardment):

The clean flesh of space, of an entire ecosystem almost virtually unblemished by the black touch of human infestation, about to be contaminated in ways never attempted before.
is even more unnerving when it's pro-euthanasia:
And on the other side of the debate, those who have fought for the right of individuals to make their own choices about the kind of death they will have are so cowardly about it that they have accepted the ridiculous idea that taking someone like Schiavo off a feeding tube and letting her slowly starve is somehow morally superior to putting an end to her suffering immediately with a humane morphine drip. Caught between such opposing camps of "humanitarians", is it any wonder Hunter Thompson chose a gun?
The term “Culture of Death” is looking more accurate every day.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Mathematics Is Not Pointless!

The claim that mathematics is pointless is an outrageous calumny.

The proper term is pointfree.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Will This Be Spun as a Right-to-Die Case?

We can preserve life, we can preserve patient autonomy, or we can preserve neither. There is a current case in Britain (seen via Hyscience):

THIS WEEK Leslie Burke sat in court in a wheelchair and listened while lawyers argued whether he should be starved and dehydrated to death. The lawyers arguing in favour of the proposition were egged on by the Secretary of State for Health, who deemed it too expensive to feed and water the ailing patient.

The General Medical Council was contending before the court that decisions over treatment were for doctors, not patients, ignoring utterly the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act which allow patients to make living wills denying themselves treatment and which will bind any doctor who might take a different view. In other words, a patient may choose to die and his wishes will be paramount but if he chooses to live he is to be deemed an expensive impediment to the authority of the medical profession. Of course, the Hippocratic oath is no longer automatically required, so it is possible for these doctors to look Mr Burke in the eye and tell him that it is their right to starve him to death.

This is also an illustration of why it's a poor idea to try for a large-scale solution for a problem. Such solutions can go awry. It's much better to try a solution out on a small scale first:

I emphasise again that the issue here is food and fluid, not some esoteric and complicated medical procedure. We are not talking about assisting someone to breathe but merely refusing to starve him. Throughout the passage of the Mental Capacity Bill in Parliament the argument was put forward strongly in both Houses that it should be made explicit that food and fluid do not constitute treatment. The Government adamantly refused. We can now see why, but none of us could have predicted the speed with which the effects would be realised: the Bill was passed immediately before Parliament dissolved for the election and now, less than a month later, a minister says that it is too costly to administer basic sustenance to the dying.

During the passage of that damnable Bill we thought we were talking about the possible withdrawal of food and fluid from the unconscious (as in the case of Tony Bland, the Hillsborough victim who remained locked in a coma) or from those who could no longer take a decision because of mental incapacity. That had implications enough but never in our wildest nightmares did we suppose that a mentally competent man in a wheelchair would have to fight for the right not to be starved.

I noticed that one of the complaints by the left during the Schiavo controversy was that conservatives weren't putting forth a general-purpose bill. I think we know enough to not throw the other side into the briar patch.

Addendum: In possibly-related news

We Shall Overhype

I'm sure most of the blogosphere has heard that researchers at Seoul National University in South Korea have been able to clone embryos that were genetically identical to the original patient and were then able to dismantle the embryos for the stem cells. On the other hand, if they had been working with adult stem cells extracted from the patient, the stem cells would have been automatically genetically identical to the patient. In other words, this is a matter of doing, with great difficulty and low yields, something that could have been done easily with adult cells.

Does the hyperbolic chamber (reported by The Onion) have anything to do with this?

An extra question: If most of these overhyped results come from just one lab in South Korea, have they been replicated?

When Terrorists Inflitrate the Government

Last year, I warned about the possibility that terrorists might inflitrate the government. It looks like there's evidence that parts of the Spanish government were infiltrated shortly before the Madrid bombing (seen via Instapundit).

Friday, May 20, 2005

Darth Kenobi?

Only a Sith lord thinks in absolutes …

Thursday, May 19, 2005

It's Ba-ack!

Anybody who tried criticizing legal abortion in the 1970s or 1908s encountered the claim that one shouldn't oppose the welfare state and criticize abortion on the same time on the grounds that we need to make abortion “safe, legal, and rare” by making children affordable. It went away for a while in the 1990s. After all, we had slashed budgets and declining abortion rates. It's starting to come back both on Usenet:

A true conservative would support he right to life by setting up a universal
medical care system where mattes of health stay between the patient and
doctor with just enough government oversight to assure competent treatment
and absence of fraud.  And a true conservative would never use the political
process to try to forward a religion based agenda.  A true conservative
would deal with the abortion issue by putting support systems in place so
that young mothers would not be forced to have abortions.
and in the supposedly-respectable mainstream media (seen via Kausfiles last Tuesday):

Suozzi runs a county government, so more is asked of him than just a string of nice words. He has put $3 million in county funds on the table to support homes for single mothers, to promote adoptions and to provide information on all forms of family planning, including -- to hold the culture warriors at bay -- contraception, "natural family planning" and abstinence.


As he put it in his speech, "Anyone who really wishes to reduce the number of abortions has an obligation to help those women who choose not to have an abortion yet find themselves alone."

For some reason, we don't hear whether or not this was effective.

An anti-abortion idea that just might work

One of the most striking phenomena of the Clinton Presidency was a declining abortion rate. The decline may have been due to the fact that sex was in the news and treated as something ridiculous. Adolescents are resistant to sermons and sensitive to ridicule. If we want the decline to continue we want a President whose sex life will be the butt of even more jokes than Clinton's.

That's why I'm starting the Michael Jackson for President campaign.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Some Religions Are More Consistent Than You Might Think

On the one hand, Canadian Cynic pointed out that demand for direct observation from some creationists can be applied to police work (seen via Orac).

On the other hand, circumstantial evidence is not permitted in capital cases in Jewish religious courts. Come to think of it, Orthodox Jewish apologetics lean on the claim of direct observation of the giving of the Ten Commandments.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Creationist Cliche and that Berkeley Study

There's a common Creationist cliche that Darwinists can't really trust the workings of their minds on the grounds that those workings were caused by evolution instead by a God-given ability to discern the Truth.

That cliche does not apply very well to Darwinism. After all, an animal can evolve to be able to identify true statements. A pigeon's mind can tell the truth about bread crumbs; a cat's mind can tell the truth about mice; and a human's mind can tell the truth about cause and effect.

The cliche does apply to theories that purport to explain away other people's ideas instead of considering reasons or evidence (seen via Dissecting Leftism).

The Damage Done by That Newsweek Article May Have Been Exaggerated

If the notorious Newsweek article that claimed a Koran was flushed down a toilet was the result of deliberate disinformation (which is highly likely), then it's also likely that the riots apparently resulting from it were staged. I suspect those riots would have taken place anyway, complete with claims that the “American media” had verified the story of the Koran's desecration.

This story reminds me of the claim that 4000 Jews had stayed home the day of the World Trade Center attack. On the other hand, this current story appears to be better coordinated.

Ethnic Differences in Child Rearing

La Shawn Barber is discussing how different ethnic groups raise children. Some ethnic groups can do a better job than middle-class whites. I once overheard a mother of East Asian descent use returning empty soda cans for nickel refunds as an opportunity for an impropmptu arithmetic lesson fo her child.

That might be worth imitating.

This Isn't as Nuts as It Looks

According to Avedon (seen via The Corner):

One reason I don't think it's at all paranoid to suspect that the Republicans have deliberately taken over the voting system in order to cheat is that they keep doing things that don't otherwise make sense. There's a rather long list of things you just wouldn't expect them to think they could get away with unless they really thought they could control the ballot box, because otherwise they would have to expect that the public would kick enough of them out to not only end some political careers but also make impeachment - and prison - a distinct possibility.

And then there's this nuclear option thing - why would they be willing to remove any possibility of stopping majority party initiatives unless they were absolutely sure that they could never become the minority party again?

Conservatives have made good use of the filibuster over the years, on judicial nominations and a lot of other things. Are they absolutely certain no one will wake up and get rid of them? Or are they just sure that how we vote isn't going to matter?

What are the implications of the enthusiasm on the Other Side for single-payer health programs, gun control, hate speech laws, campaign finance restrictions, or their opposition to home schooling?

On the other hand, if those planks implied ther existence of a conspiracy, they also imply that the conspiracy didn't work.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Speaking of Nukes …

There's a pro-nuclear movement among environmentalists:

WASHINGTON, May 14 - Several of the nation's most prominent environmentalists have gone public with the message that nuclear power, long taboo among environmental advocates, should be reconsidered as a remedy for global warming.

Their numbers are still small, but they represent growing cracks in what had been a virtually solid wall of opposition to nuclear power among most mainstream environmental groups. In the past few months, articles in publications like Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wired magazine have openly espoused nuclear power, angering other environmental advocates.

Stewart Brand, a founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and the author of "Environmental Heresies," an article in the May issue of Technology Review, explained the shift as a direct consequence of the growing anxiety about global warming and its links to the use of fossil fuel.

They might even be worth listening to a little.

There is, of course, an obvious explanation.

Household Nukes

I've wanted a nuclear power plant in my backyard for years.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Maybe Someone Should Debunk The Daily Show

I was annoyed at yesterday's Daily Show. For example, they had a segment portraying “gun nuts” as ridiculous and obviously unsuitable for high-crime areas without confronting the evidence that making guns more available might reduce crime. Another segment reported on an anti-gay marriage activist who turned out to be gay. They didn't even bother mentioning that hypocrisy can be regarded as the virtue that enables moral standards to go beyond current practice. A “fisking” might be in order.

Meanwhile, in possibly-related news

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I'm Looking for Signs of the Singularity …

… but I don't think this qualifies. Can't we have something involving artificial intelligence or at least rapid prototyping?

I'm underwhelmed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It’s Your Melting Icecaps. YOU Drown

Jame Lileks recently saw a bumper sticker that went:

It’s your hell. YOU burn in it.
The same principle can be applied to other fields. A smoker might say to an anti-smoking activist, “It’s your lung cancer. YOU cough up blood.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

If You Thought Kosher Slaughter Was Bad …

I don't think the following (seen via The AnalPhilosopher) would be allowed by the laws of kashrut:

PASCO, Wash.--It takes 25 minutes to turn a live steer into steak at the modern slaughterhouse where Ramon Moreno works. For 20 years, his post was "second-legger," a job that entails cutting hocks off carcasses as they whirl past at a rate of 309 an hour.

The cattle were supposed to be dead before they got to Moreno. But too often they weren't.

"They blink. They make noises," he said softly. "The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around."

Still Moreno would cut. On bad days, he says, dozens of animals reached his station clearly alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as the tail cutter, the belly ripper, the hide puller. "They die," said Moreno, "piece by piece."

On the other hand, I suspect opponents of kosher slaughter have more goals than avoiding cruelty to animals.

What If You Were Picked on in a Blue State?

According to a recent Salon article (quoted by Instapundit):

Since last November, there's been plenty of speculation about a vast disconnect between Red and Blue America. Here's a new theory: Many urbane blue-staters are actually refugees from the red-state heartland, where they were once picked on as kids.
What if you were picked on by the supposedly broad-minded?

I'm reminded of the following quote from Woody Allen:

I won two weeks at Interfaith Camp, where I was sadistically beaten by boys of all races and creeds.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Earth Is Getting Brighter

The New York Times reports that the Earth is getting brighter:

Reversing a decades-long trend toward "global dimming," Earth's surface has become brighter since 1990, scientists are reporting today.

The brightening means that more sunlight - and thus more heat - is reaching the ground. That could partly explain the record-high global temperatures reported in the late 1990's, and it could accelerate the planet's warming trend.

The cause is obvious. There isn't enough smog. Cleaning up air pollution has a downside.

Addendum: I posted the above before looking at Greenie Watch.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Christopher Hitchens on Religion

According to Christopher Hitchens:

I have never understood why conservative entrepreneurs are so all-fired pious and Bible-thumping, let alone why so many of them claim Jesus as their best friend and personal savior. The Old Testament is bad enough: The commandments forbid us even to envy or covet our neighbor's goods, and thus condemn the very spirit of emulation and ambition that makes enterprise possible. But the New Testament is worse: It tells us to forget thrift and saving, to take no thought for the morrow, and to throw away our hard-earned wealth on the shiftless and the losers.
The Ten Commandments also say “This shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife,” but I haven't heard anybody cite that as a reason not to get married. I am less acquainted with the New Testament, but as far as I know the context of the instruction was a universal state that was starting to get corrupt. Under those particular circumstances, poverty really was the sign of good moral character and wealth was something to be ashamed of.

I also doubt if the following attempted appeal to Jewish voters will get very far:

Perhaps one could phrase the same question in two further ways. At the last election, the GOP succeeded in increasing its vote among American Jews by an estimated five percentage points. Does it propose to welcome these new adherents or sympathizers by yelling in the tones of that great Democrat bigmouth William Jennings Bryan? By insisting that evolution is "only a theory"? By demanding biblical literalism and by proclaiming that the Messiah has already shown himself?
There are Orthodox Jews as Creationist as any Christian. There's an even larger number of Jews who know an Orthodox Jew as Creationist as any Christian. As for Biblical literalism, most Jews have no objection to a Christian who is literal enough to wait for the lion to lie down with the lamb before proclaiming the Messiah.

But wait, there's more. According to James Taranto in the other half of the debate:

This attitude is politically self-defeating, for voters know when politicians are insulting their intelligence. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, recently framed the abortion debate in this way: "What we want to debate is who gets to choose: Tom DeLay and the federal politicians? Or does a woman get to make up her own mind?" He also vowed that "we're going to use Terri Schiavo," promising to produce "an ad with a picture of Tom DeLay, saying, 'Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?' " Many voters who aren't pro-life absolutists have misgivings about abortion on demand and about the death of Terri Schiavo. By refusing to acknowledge the possibility of thoughtful disagreement or ambivalence, Mr. Dean is giving these moderates an excellent reason to vote Republican.
As far as I can tell, Orthodox Judaism is one of the most pro-feeding-tube religions around and even secular Jews are not unanimously anti-tube. If the Democrats try exploiting supposed disagreement with the Religious Right by citing the Schiavo case, it's likely to backfire.

Make Your Vote Count!

Dave Munger is taking a poll on “Should Congress have intervened in -mumble mumble-?” After viewing the results, I was disappointed that I was the only one who voted for the “Randian Superman” answer. (I might not look very super, but I have Mr. Incredible's waistline …)

Another Reason Why Chesterton Should Have Converted to Judaism

He wrote a stirring defense of “vain repetitions”:

All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstacy of his life would have the stillness of death. The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance.
I was reminded of this by Dawn Eden.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Guide for Judging Government Activities

The most useful question to ask when considering a proposed government activity is: Would I trust my worst enemy with the power?

For example, when we apply it to the proposal to abolish the filibuster for judges, we can clearly see we don't want it. The Democrats were in control of both the Presidency and the Senate as recently as eleven years ago we'll need filibusters if it happens again.

On the other hand, in the case of Terri Schindler Schiavo, the question becomes: Would I trust my worst enemy with the ability to interfere in legal decisions one at a time in a very awkward manner with every step exposed to public scrutiny? I think we could live with that.

Are They Doing This Deliberately?

Researchers have recently started putting human genes into rice (seen via debunkers). They must be doing this deliberately in order to attract the “right” type of opposition. If they picked any other gene source, they would get opposition on the left side of the political spectrum but not on the right. I'm reminded of a comment I saw a few years ago:

Many on the political left also oppose cloning, including U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, several Democratic lobbying groups, and the European Union. While E.U. officials admit that genetically modified children do not scare them as much as genetically modified food, they argue that hordes of clone babies are just the start of a slippery slope which might eventually lead to high-yield strains of wheat.
Meanwhile, this way the scientists can get condemned by conservatives and still get to think of themselves as “progressive.”

Meanwhile, I'm beginning to regret ridiculing vegetable rights last year. On the other hand, I was more understanding of the feeling of plants in another post.

I Suppose Phasers Weren't Available

According to The What’s Your Signature Weapon Test (seen via Accidental Verbosity), my signature weapon is a shotgun.

Taking the Metric System to Its Logical Conclusion

While reading a a discussion of the “dehumanizing” metric system at BrothersJudd, I decided the metric system isn't artificial enough. If we're going to ignore history and go to a coldly-rational system, we clearly should drop base-ten systems (like the metric system) and do everything in base sixteen.

How many ounces are there in a pound again?

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