RU-486 Truths Starting to Appear
The Annals of Pharmacotherapy and Eureka Alerts have news about just how unsafe the abortion pill, RU-486 (mifepristone) really is. The results of adverse effects reviwed over the past 4 years by the authors were
RESULTS: The most frequent AERs were hemorrhage (n = 237) and infection (66). Hemorrhages included 1 fatal, 42 life threatening, and 168 serious cases; 68 required transfusions. Infections included 7 cases of septic shock (3 fatal, 4 life threatening) and 43 cases requiring parenteral antibiotics. Surgical interventions were required in 513 cases (235 emergent, 278 nonemergent). Emergent cases included 17 ectopic pregnancies (11 ruptured). Second trimester viability was documented in 22 cases (9 lost to follow-up, 13 documented fetal outcome). Of the 13 documented cases, 9 were terminated without comment on fetal morphology, 1 was enrolled in fetal registry, and 3 fetuses were diagnosed with serious malformations, suggesting a malformation rate of 23%The authors also go on to suggest that many other cases are unreported concluding that
AERs relied upon by the FDA to monitor mifepristone’s postmarketing safety are grossly deficient due to extremely poor quality.
The abortion lobby has used it's muscle to push this pill into public use without proper testing. Once again, the victims of the abortion lobby are not just the innocent unborn, but also the women involved. This really highlights how the lobby doesn't really care about abortion, but are interested in simply achieving their own agenda.
(HT: Creation Safaris)
Evolution is the Scientific Discovery of the Year
The journal Science has announced that Evolution is the Scientific Discovery of the Year. Funny, I thought it was 'discovered' a hundred and fifty years ago. It seems scientists are only now 'discovering' evolution. Good thing they have been teaching it as veritable fact.
Of course, you have to love those Science people, as they write of this announcement
Today evolution is the foundation of all biology, so basic and all-pervasive that scientists sometimes take its importance for granted.. Of course, all those biologists who don't think evolution is important to their research are just 'taking it for granted'.
It just gets better though, as they say
Each year, researchers worldwide discover enough extraordinary findings tied to evolutionary thinking to fill a book many times as thick as all of Darwin's works put together. This year's volume might start with a proposed rearrangement of the microbes at the base of the tree of life and end with the discovery of 190-million-year-old dinosaur embryos.Heh. Notice the 'rearrangement' comment. These new discoveries that falsify previous ideas (which were supposedly also based on evolutionary theory) are perhaps being a little overblown by the Science writer. Add to that the addition of finding a fossilised dinosaur embryo having zero to do with evolution and you have to wonder whether the Science writer has been hitting the eggnog early this Christmas.
Now we get to the crux of the article, where the Science writer highlights the major 'discoveries' that reveal the 'laws' of evolution in action. Claiming that there are 'laws of evolution' is an asburdity.
Discovery 1 -> Chimp genome sequenced and compared to the Human Genome. The Science writer assures us that "The genome data confirm our close kinship with chimps.. " once again ignoring that the whole similarity equals close kinship thing is an ASSUMPTION. As I mentioned the other day, believing that 120 million genetic differences can happen in 4 million years (and so only 400,000 generations) is irrational. Talking about sticking your head in the sand.
Discovery 2 -> Evidence of Speciation. Forget for a second that speciation is not doubted by Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents or, well, pretty much anyone. Obviously that they have found 'emprical' evidence of how this is happening is proof of Darwins Common Descent Evolutionary theory. From the article though, it seems this proof is always prefixed by the word 'may' for instance, in talking about birds called European blackcaps the writer concludes that "This difference in timing b one day drive the two populations to become two species." In talking about two races of European corn borers the writer says they "may also be splitting up" [empasis mine]
The writers then continue to show how evolutionary assumptions have retarded scientific progress
Biologists have often focused on coding genes and protein changes, but more evidence of the importance of DNA outside genes came in 2005. A study of two species of fruit flies found that 40% to 70% of noncoding DNA evolves more slowly than the genes themselves. That implies that these regions are so important for the organism that their DNA sequences are maintained by positive selection. These noncoding bases, which include regulatory regions, were static within a species but varied between the two species, suggesting that noncoding regions can be key to speciation.Yep. Because of evolutionary theory, scientists have ignored vast regions of the genome as they thought they were unimportant. Another case of predictions of evolutionary theory being wrong.
Discovery 3 -> Health benefits. I'll let the Science writers speak for themselves
Such evolutionary breakthroughs are not just ivory-tower exercises; they hold huge promise for improving human well-being. Take the chimpanzee genome. Humans are highly susceptible to AIDS, coronary heart disease, chronic viral hepatitis, and malignant malarial infections; chimps aren't. Studying the differences between our species will help pin down the genetic aspects of many such diseases. As for the HapMap, its aims are explicitly biomedical: to speed the search for genes involved in complex diseases such as diabetes. Researchers have already used it to home in on a gene for agerelated macular degeneration.Of course, this has zero to do with common descent evolution, and everything to do with the observation of similarity.
Ultimately, all the recent discoveries do is highlight how common descent evolution doesn't really work. It is a pity that they didn't highlight the empirical scientific discovery that even beneficial mutations conspire to reduce fitness (and this was verified). My guess is that would have been a lot harder to spin as positive to their evolutionary faith.
Kofi Annan Looses His Cool
Claudia Rosett has details on how Kofi Annan, the 'chief diplomat of the world', lost his cool and insulted a report in his year end press conference.
ames Bone of the London Times began asking questions referring to two of the scandals that continue to bedevil the secretary-general: the saga of Oil-for-Food, and the cameo of a Mercedes-Benz allegedly bought and shipped under false use of Kofi Annan’s name and U.N. status by his son, Kojo Annan.Obviously Kofi Annan doesn't think that his or the UN's integrity and trustworthiness is a 'serious subject'.
Instead of answering Bone, Annan cut him off, first calling him “cheeky,” and then interrupting him again to say: “Hold on. Listen, James Bone. You have been behaving like an overgrown schoolboy in this room for many, many months and years. You are an embarrassment to your colleagues and to your profession. Please stop misbehaving, and please let’s move on to a more serious subject.”
Claudia has details of the two scandals too.
Creation Safaris has the low down on a new article by evangelical evolutionist David Sloan on how to properly indoctrinate students into believing in the evolutionary fairy tale. Read the whole thing for a scary picture of the possible future. Note the inconsistencies on Sloan's comments on morality and it's relationship to evolution. Compare this to a children's story also linked to by Creation Safaris.
The New Yorker has an article on how 'expert' opinion is not worth the paper it is printed on. Why do we still listen to them then?
Lifesite News tells us that Canada's slide into immoral hedonism continues with the legalisation of sex clubs, publicly accessible venues where groups of people can have group sex, including children 14 and above.
Here are a couple of good articles to read on the issues behind the Cronulla Riots. It seems the police still aren't dealing with the real problems.
Creation and Evolution - The Years Highlights
In last few years have been particularly bad for common descent evolution (CDE) with finding after finding continuing to show how much of a pseudoscience it really is. Many findings also show how billions of years hypotheses are quite untenable.
10/1/2005 -> In a major blow to radiometric dating, a study is finally done on one of the foundational assumptions of the method, that of being able to determine the initial ratio of the two isotopes in the rock being measured. Not surprisingly, this assumption has been invalidated, for at least rubidium-strontium. No old agers seem to question their other isotope ratios, EVEN though the agreement amongst isotope ratios is touted as evidence of their accuracy. Think about that for a second. The agreement amongst methods includes the rubidium-strontium method, which has been found to be completely unreliable. If it was completely unreliable, how did it agree with other isotope ratios?
11/5/2005 -> Details of the creation science RATE project results start to come out. Part of the results based on helium diffusion rates indicate the earth is 6000 +- 2000 years old. Old agers immediately assume the work is flawed as it doesn't agree with their billions of years presuppositions but ignore the predictions made by the RATE team that were successful. RATE also finds c-14 in a diamond that was millions of years old, where there should be no c-14 after 50,000 or so years.
15/7/2005, 14/12/2005 -> The required time for mountain building has been reduced from 40 million years to 13 million years (over two thirds!). It seems the slow/uniformitarian assumption of mountain building was wrong and metamorphic rock formation, another millions of years natural process taught as fact had to be revised in a drastic youthful manner from millions of years to just a decade. In related news, Ethiopia is getting it's own ocean, but the process is moving very quickly, with an eight metre fissure that is 60km in length appearing in only 3 weeks. It seems things that may 'look' millions of years old, may in fact be quite young.
28/3/05 -> 70 odd million year old dinosaur bone is found with soft tissue and blood still in existence. Even though such tissue's should only last thousands of years in even the best possible circumstances, no one questions the 70 million year age of the fossil or realises that many possible scientific investigations have been ignored for decades due to assuming that it was pointless to look for such tissues in 'old' fossils.
14/10/2005 -> Dating planets by impact craters has been a staple of planetary science for years. It seems however that a single impact can cause multiple secondary impacts. Scientists toss another dating method onto the scrap heap.
9/12/2005 -> More dating problems arise when human footprints are redated to over 1 million years old. Something must be wrong with their dating methods as human footprints shouldn't date past around 40,000 years (the original date). No old ager questions their dating methods, even though the two methods disagreed by several orders of magnitude.
In a bonus entry from last year, Researchers have essentially falsified CDE by demonstrating in the lab that all mutations, even beneficial ones, conspire to decrease fitness. Evolutionists of course ignore this damning, reproducible evidence, and assume their must be ‘some other evolutionary explanation’
Big Bang Cosmology Crises
22/3/05 -> Dark Matter, that invisible stuff we haven't found, is given credit for the accelerated expansion of the universe. Dark Energy, that other invisible stuff we haven't found, is said to be unnecessary and would have 'prevented the existence of everything we know in our cosmos'. No one questions the idea that 96% of the matter in the universe is unobservable.
28/9/2005, 29/9/2005 -> Big bang takes a few more hard knocks with very old structures being seen at the edge of the universe where we should see very young structures (according to big bang anyways). Big bangers continue to assume they know what they are talking about.
Update: I forgot to mention a couple of other Big Bang Blunders. A paper came out that basically falsified cosmic inflation, which was an ad hoc explanation attempting to explain the observed evenness of the cosmic background radiation. Another paper has claimed that the isotropic principle (Part of the cosmological principle), a fundamental assumption of Big Bang theory is a very shaky assumption due to scientific observations. Of course, big bang scientists continue to work on the basis of these two assumptions.
Common Descent Evolution Calamities
10/6/2005, 24/11/2004, 28/11/2005. 9/12/2005 -> The hallowed phylogenic tree of life takes a beating, with papers highlighting how branch placement is an artifact of method and assumption, not observation. Another thing shaking the evolutionary tree was new data showing that the basic tree building assumption of something being less complex being older is unfounded. Add to that other findings much of the complexity of life was there early on, phylogenic tools have been shown to be mathematically flawed and that the scaly reptile portion had to be turned upsidedown due to new findings, you have to wonder just how anyone can use phylogenic trees with a straight face. Not suprisingly, evolutionists went on presupposing that evolution was true and continued to add in ad hoc explanations to prop up their pseudoscience.
6/5/2005 -> A new dinosaur species was found. Artists immediately added on feathers due to assumptions, not observation. Based on this dinosaur, nobody questioned the necessity for convergent evolution to be invoked in explaining how dinosaurs changed from carnivore to herbivore multiple times.
18/5/2005 -> Evolutionists decide that stegosaurus plates or any other feature they can't explain, can be the result of species or mate recognition. Evolutionists now have one more just-so story to pad out their pseudoscience.
27/6/2005 -> 1 of the 2 dinosaur groups evolutionary story was built on fossil teeth. Yet a new study has shown fossil teeth are not reliable indicators for this dinosaur groups evolutionary age. Evolutionists continue to push other stories based on similarly untestable evidence.
13/5/2005 -> Professor Phillip Skell states that practical biology does not rely on CDE in the slightest. Evolutionists continue to use the 'nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution' line and whine that Intelligent Design or Creation Science will stop science.
27/7/2005 -> Sean Carroll, a biologist writing in PLos Biology, tells us that everything we thought was true about evolutionary processes was wrong and so biologists have to start over. Evolution continues to be taught as unquestionable fact to students worldwide.
1/9/2005 -> The chimp genome is fully sequenced and it seems that the difference to human DNA is more like 4%, meaning that there are 120 MILLION differences that have gotten to our respective genomes over only 4 million years. Evolutionists ignore the difficult question of how 30 mutations a year can become fixed into a primate population and yet still proclaim this as evidence that we had a common ancestor with the chimps.
11/10/2005 -> Evolutionary scientist Dr Alan Feduccia, continue to through water on the feathered dinosaur crowd, releasing a report showing there is no real evidence to support their existence. Other evolutionists who disagree with Dr Feduccia, continue to want their own dino-bird theories taught as fact.
14/10/2005 -> Another new fossil found is making evolutionists create another instance of the ad hoc explanation of convergent evolution. This time that feathered flight having evolved multiple times. The pseudo-scientific load of CDE increases without evolutionists batting an eye-lid.
8/9/2005 -> The evolutionary concept of Junk DNA has also been taking a horrible beating, with finding after finding slowly showing function for supposed junk highlighting how the evolutionary thinking has slowed scientific progress by ingoring vital areas of inquiry.
25/5/2005 -> A survey reveals 60% of doctors agree Intelligent Design is correct. Evolutionists of course, continue to pretend that anyone who disagrees with CDE is stupid or ignorant.
6/8/2005 -> The Privileged Planet DVD becomes well known, making a host of cosmological ID arguments available to the general public. Evolutionists try to censure the Smithsonian for daring to show the film.
10/6/2005, 31/8/2005 -> A new paper in Nature highlights that at least 1/3 of scientists engage in practices that are quite dodgy, from violating rules for research on people to fudging results. Another study tells us that at least 50% of scientific papers are wrong. Evolutionists continue to expect people to unquestioningly trust their authority though.
12/8/2005 -> Intelligent design (ID) continues to be in the public eye, as another ID DVD, unlocking the mystery of life, is widely distributed, US President Bush endorses teaching the controversy and states review science standards.
9/1/2005 -> A US poll reveals that over two thirds of Americans think that creation science should be taught alongside evolution. Evolutionists weep and gnash their teeth at their failure to properly indoctrinate the population.
All in all, a great year for Creation Science.
Intelligent Design and Dover Roundup
The news is out. The trial, of whether teachers can be required to say that evolution is a theory not a fact, and an alternative theory exists and you can read about it in a book in the library, is over. Not suprisingly, the judge has ruled in favor of the darwinists.
What is suprising is the amount of (his ruling was 139 pages) fire and brimstone sermonizing he levelled at the Intelligent Design (ID) supporters. What is even more amazing is the level of 'authority' a judge is given to decide what is and isn't science. And why is whether something is 'science' or not relevant to the question of whether something violates the establisment clause? I must of missed that part of the clause that said 'excluding science'.
Of course, there is a lot of blog sphere activity on the decision.
By far, the best pro-ID analysis and commentary would have to be by Jonathan Witt. Jonathan highlights and rebuts all of the judges major findings, including this troubling aspect of the judgment
Essentially, what the judge has concluded is that if one is a religious citizen who offers an argument for a point of view consistent with your religious worldview, you will be segregated from the public square. But not because your argument is bad, but because of your beliefs and the company you keep or may have kept. I can't believe this could happen in America."Make sure you read the whole thing.
Creation Safaris has it's usual expert commentary, saying
But Jones went overboard; his ruling is so full of bluster and emotion, it sounds like another shriek in the dying gasp of the materialists to maintain their stranglehold on education and to police student brains against entertaining doubts about the authority of Pope Charlie.
David Heddle, over at He Lives comments
There was no much doubt in the final outcome. The unknowns were: How activist is this judge? How far would he go? What degree of omniscience would he assume? The answers: very activist, he went very far, and he assumed godlike omniscience although without the attendant infallibility.
This was a lose-lose for everyone—although obviously the anti-ID side is crowing over their perceived victory. The problem is, today’s favorable (from whoever's perspective) judicial intrusion into an area where it doesn’t belong opens the door for tomorrow’s nightmarish decision.
In my opinion, the correct, founding-father-like ruling would have been: the school board was legally voted in—and what they decide to put in their curriculum is not the federal government’s business—and if you don’t like them, vote them out. (Which is in fact what has already happened.)
Judge Jones ruled that ID is not science. Of course, one wonders on what basis he is qualified to say what is or isn’t science.
Evolution news reports that the Discoverie Institute states "The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work,"
Of course, the Panda's Thumb people are unsuprisingly delighted, using what I think will call 'argumentum ad agreement', i.e. They guy agreed with our side so he must be balanced and correct, commenting that
That, you see, is what happens when the facts are given a genuinely fair hearing.
I have two points. In the judge's decision, he accuses the ID supporters of lying. Why are there no charges being laid for perjury? Surely if the judge can accuse them in his judgment, he should have a pretty solid case.
Also, Judge Jones, in the decision said
In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.I have to wonder how any science is allowed then as it all had a creationist/religious antecedent. Oh well. Can't really expect consistency in these things...
I'll leave you with creation safari's insightful quip
Judge Jones clearly embraced all the arguments of the plaintiffs and their witnesses, lawyers and scientists, and accepted none of those on the other side.
Update: Southern Appeal also provides great insight, discussing the Judges statements about whether he is an activist.
Judge Jones does not understand who is suppose to be an activist in our constitutional system. A School Board is suppose to "act" and make policy and curriculum decisions. And if those decisions are ill-informed, then, as happened here, the School Board will be voted out of office and the decision reversed by a future Board. A federal judge is not suppose to decide what science is, or is not, and then "act" to overrule the School Board’s decision.
This is the story of how the Christmas Carol, Silent Night came to be...It is a reminder that God uses the humble and downtrodden to bless the world and that hard hearted people can miss that blessing.
by Fr. Bernard Heffernan
Franz GruberFor 22 years I looked after the spiritual needs of senior citizen homes. Volunteers helped. Among them was Anna Cairnduf, a lady who hails from a mountain town in Austria. She's the grand niece of Father Joseph Mohr, the writer of the Christmas carol "Silent Night" which for a long time was ignored. Why?
Great music is expected from great cities and great Cathedrals but hardly from a poor, cold, drafty little mountain church, where a few days before Christmas in 1818, a hungry mouse chewed through the bellows of the old organ, silencing it. Oh no! No music for Christmas.
Nothing good was expected from the mountains and less was expected from pathetic Father Mohr. He was not a bright light in the diocese. He would never make a monsignor, hardly even a pastor. The bishop sent him into the mountains to help a stern old pastor, who at the sight of his new helper became even sterner.
At the church, the day before Christmas Eve, organist Franz Gruber arrived and discovered the damaged organ. Exasperated, he pressed the keys and pumped the bellows. Not a sound! He and Father Mohr pondered, "What could be done to save Christmas?" Shyly the priest withdrew from his pocket a paper and showed him the words he had scrawled in German, "Silent Night, Holy night. All is calm. All is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in Heavenly Peace!"
Franz Gruber was captivated by the simplicity of the song, that told so well the wondrous story. Hastening home he fingered his violin and wrote the music so he and Father Mohr could harmonize.
Come midnight Mass, the arriving parishioners and lumber jacks, trudging through the snow, were disappointed when they heard there was no organ. No music! Sterner than usual the pastor began the Mass and delivered his Christmas sermon.
Then to everyone's surprise at the front of Church, appeared six children in colourful dress and bright red bows, flanked by Father Mohr and Franz Gruber playing his violin.
There in that little church in the mountains was heard the world premier of "Silent Night." The surprised parishioners didn't know what to think. But one glance at the angry pastor told them. After Church the departing faithful quickly bid Christmas wishes and "Good Night". No one mentioned the song. One polite lady said the children's clothes were pretty. That was all.
Perhaps the performance of Silent Night was the last straw, causing the pastor to complain to the Bishop. Whatever! By the time the snow had gone and Spring had come, and the organ repair man arrived with horse and cart, Father Mohr had long vanished like a log round the bend of the river.
Up in the choir loft, the organ man found the scrap of paper on which was written "Silent Night". He carried it out of the mountains to the world, to its cathedrals, music halls and palaces. Authorship was attributed to famous composers like Bach and Beethoven. Only later did the world learn of the humble authors.
Now all the names of other Austrian Priests and organists of the time have vanished. But the names of Father Joseph Mohr and organist Franz Gruber live on in a museum built in their honour and in the beautiful Christmas song, sung in 200 languages every Christmas around the world - "Silent Night"
In their Austrian homeland, in the 1800 on Christmas Eve, when lumberjacks were gathering and `Stille Nachte' rang out through the Alpine mountains, here in Canada through forested, snow covered hills, across frozen lakes, lumberjacks also strode to church, summoned by the bells, organs and the beautiful Christmas carol, "Silent Night".
(Source: Life Site News)
Communication and doubt
Deconstruction has been part of communication theory for the last 40+ years. Essentially, it adds in that meaning is created not just by the author (or speaker), but by the reader (or listerner). This is often heard when a teacher or person emphasis's what the text says to the particular reader, and not just what the text says. Ultimately, this results in the idea that true communication is impossible as the reader always interprets the meaning away from the authors original intent.
If this was truly the case, then I would have to ask: How would we know it? If true communication is impossible how could we ever know that what we believed was the meaning of what was written was wrong? That would require knowing what the meaning of what was written is, and the only way to find that out would be to have that communicated to us. Hence, it is impossible to know that true communication is impossible.
Political Debate on RU486
A private members bill is before the Senate Committee on whether the ability to allow the abortificant, RU486 should be placed in the hands of the TGA, instead of via the authority of the Health Minister (which was put in place in 1996).
As this bill has been tabled over christmas, it certainly seems to be a stealth move by Democrats to push this bill through in a time when many senators are not available and many Australians are distracted.
You can view the transcript for an initial committee meeting on the 15th of December online. One part I would like to highlight is the well thought out presentation (pg 50) of Dr Van Gend (Doctors for Life) who has done some great research on this issue. It is long, but worth reading. In summary, some senators want to remove the safeguard and accountability for allowing a drug whose purpose is morally debated after such safeguards were put in place in 1996 with bipartisan support (Question: Why is it okay for pro-abortion senators to try to sto any discussion on the legality of abortion as 'we have already had that debate', yet in this case they think discussion is merited?). The end result of this push (if successful) would be that the pro-abortion side benefits, so claims to it being 'neutral' are somewhat self-serving.
You can send a submission to the committee by the 16th of January attached to an email to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want more information on the dangers of RU486, specifically those ignored by the AMA in their talking to the committee, you can view Renate Kleins work on the facts and myths about RU486. Suffice to say, a lot more countries than Italy have taken issue with the drug, including Canada.
Dr Van Gend's speech
let me give these summary points if I may. Abortifacient drugs such as RU486 are unique in that no other drugs are designed to end a human life. Therefore their use demands a unique level of public scrutiny and accountability. The current regulatory arrangements in Australia for abortifacient drugs were instituted in 1996 with bipartisan support to ensure proper accountability by government on a matter of great public concern, and they should remain. However, if RU486 is found by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA, to be safe then valid medical indications for its use, including certain cancers, hormonal diseases and medically essential termination of pregnancy should be authorised by government.
Other uses for RU486 which are medically unjustifiable, such as taking the life of healthy offspring to relieve the social distress of parents should have no place in government policy or medical advocacy. Instead, the compelling policy task for both government and the medical profession together is to strengthen social supports for women distressed by unplanned pregnancy.
That is the shape of our concerns. May I focus closely on the key point: why the parliament should retain policy oversight of the conditions under which RU486 legitimately be used, rather than delegating it to a body such as the TGA, which has a narrow brief to assess drugs on the basis of efficacy, safety and quality, which is
entirely proper to their official role but which has not got the brief to deal with the broader questions of our dealings with an innocent life—the justification of taking a life, the medical situations where abortion may be entirely necessary and justifiable. It is not for the TGA. Those policy parameters are for our elected members to guide the lower levels of assessment, like the TGA.
I focus on that one point. The essential question facing MPs and senators is: why should RU486 require special approval by government when all other drugs are simply assessed by the TGA? The answer is that abortifacients like RU486 are unique as drugs designed to take life. That fact is of obvious public concern. It explains why this drug demands the special attention of those elected to deal with such matters of public concern. Australians will differ on whether the life of a very young human being matters but there is no dispute that, after using RU486, where there was once a dynamic living creature and an unfolding human destiny, there is now death. So RU486 is uniquely contentious in its action, raising serious moral issues and obviously therefore requiring a special level of scrutiny and accountability by our elected representatives.
The current regulation of RU486, I remember very well, was established in 1996 on exactly this principle of accountability and with bipartisan support. On behalf of Labor, former senator Belinda Neal spoke with a moral seriousness that we need to get back into this debate. She said:
... we acknowledge that this issue raises large concerns within the community. It raises issues beyond purely health issues.
These issues need to be addressed by the executive of this government and addressed with absolute and direct accountability ...
The parliament in 1996 thereby aimed to prevent the recurrence of the debacle in 1994 where an anonymous official in the Department of Health approved the importation of RU486 without the minister being aware. AsSenator Neal concluded:
We wish to ensure that, in circumstances where this drug is to be imported or supplied in Australia, the minister berequired to approve the drug and that notification of this approval be given in this chamber.
For the government, senator Bob Woods, who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Family Services reassured the public and the AMA in these words:
In terms of the AMA’s perception that we are in some way banning a drug ... that is not the case. We are making theminister sign off, if you like, and making sure that public accountability is raised.
So the amendment put forward in 1996 by Senator Harradine was a professionally sound response to a health department lapse. It received bipartisan support. It has never banned RU486. It is being used, as we speak, in medical trials for cancer therapy in Australia—it has never been banned. It is allowed for valid medical indications. As Senator Harradine explained in his explanatory notes in 1995:
People on both sides of the abortion debate agree that the importation, trials, registration and marketing of such agents ... should not be left to bureaucrats and science technologists. There should be ministerial accountability ... The amendments
go no further than this.
Parliament is again to debate the regulation of RU486, but this time the stated aim is to remove this professional proper accountability. So once more a departmental official can approve RU486 without the minister taking policy responsibility or the parliament knowing. With this amendment bill for repeal of ministerial responsibility for approval of RU486, the parliament is being asked to support an amendment
which undermines, for ideological reasons, proper ministerial accountability on a matter of public importance.
It would be a triumph of underhandedness over transparency in public life. If this bill were passed, it would be an abandonment by parliament of their responsibility to grapple with difficult social and ethical questions, instead hiving the issues off to unelected scientists and officials who are not accountable for contentious decisions.
The TGA has a vital, proper but secondary role which is:
... to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines.
It has no brief to take into account the moral status of the life to be ended by RU486 or the justifiable conditions upon which that life may be ended. That is not in its brief. But without such ethical considerations no serious and responsible decisions can be made. That outcome, of course, is what supporters of unrestricted
abortion want—an assessment devoid of the moral dimension, free from consideration of justice or medical justifiability, just assessing this abortion bill as if it were a headache tablet. If this parliament votes to dodge responsibility, it will have lost an opportunity to make a vital, ethical distinction between abortions which are
medically necessary and which we must support and provide RU486 for, if that is appropriate, and abortions which have no medical justification which are done for complex social, financial or personal reasons but which require a different policy approach. This parliament will, by default, give its imprimatur to the current
practice of unrestricted abortion for non-medical reasons. The federal government has never had to commit itself one way or the other on the question of abortion for non-medical reasons. It is a matter for the states.
Now, with this question, it is unavoidable that it will have to commit itself one way or the other, even if the commitment is by merely washing its hands of the lives in question. If, however, this parliament recognises the need to retain policy responsibility on the use of this uniquely contentious drug, it will need to set parameters as to when the taking of life may be medically justifiable. And
that is where the medical profession must help. The government and the profession should be establishing all valid medical indications for RU486—whether in certain cancers, hormonal diseases or medically essential abortions—and approve the drug for those uses. RU486 is already available for certain medical conditions, as
the current cancer trials show.
Further, if authorities can define situations where abortion is medically essential and where RU486 is approved as safe by the TGA and considered preferable to surgical abortion by the O&G specialists, then the drug should be authorised for such situations. In this way, RU486 could be accessed appropriately for these
approved conditions through, for instance, the current system we have of authority prescriptions, which we use regularly for special drugs, such as narcotics, and where strict prescribing conditions must be met for their use.
That is practically how it could be done.
But it is the government who has to set the policy parameters for this authorisation, but not by using base level criteria of safety, efficacy and quality, which the TGA properly exists to assess. The government must bring in more complex and significant criteria, including the issue of justice to the unborn child, the prohibition against intentional killing without due cause, and the medical justifications for necessary abortion.
That is why the government needs to keep a policy watch over the lower levels of administration like the TGA, which quite properly make its assessment on simpler, technical criteria appropriate for most drugs butentirely inadequate for RU486.
Values for the Future
With the new year upon us, I think the lack of good values in our society needs to be reversed in order to reverse the trend of divorce, abortion, anger and abandonment. I believe people need to learn (and teach their children) to
1) Live up to responsibilities first
- Be faithful to your spouse, in action as well as thought
- Look after your kids, even if it means self-sacrifice
- Treat everyone with respect, even if they don't give you respect
- Treat yourself with respect, even if it means giving up short term pleasure
- Protect those who can't protect themselves, even if it puts you in harms way
- Work to support yourself, be a blessing not a burden
2) Accept imperfection
- You aren't perfect, but always look to improve
- Others aren't perfect, be ready to show grace and forgive
- Look for and encourage the best in others
3) Seek passionately for the truth
- Pleasure is a by-product of life, not it's purpose
- The big questions are important, know what you belief and why you belief it
- Never be afraid to question your beliefs, for if they are true, they will stand up to scrutiny
- There is no security in living a lie, the comfort will be short lived
- Don't just seek the truth, speak the truth, to yourself and others
What is Racism
You can't walk 3 steps without someone trying to blame the riots in Cronulla on racism. Just check out Evil Pundit's commentary about the anti-racism rally held last weekend in Sydney for an example. It shouldn't be denied that there were 100 or so white supremicists in the 5000 strong crowd in the original riot, but from this many people are blaming racism for the riots. Others are identifying the issue as a cultural, rather than a racial issue.
What has occurred to me however, is that the definition of racism is entirely unhelpful here. Many definitions of racism have 2 possible meanings
1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
Wikipedia defines racism as "
3. the belief that people of different races differ in value, that these differences can be measured on a ranked, hierarchical scale, and that result in the social, political, and economic advantage of one group in relation to others"
and also mentions the UN definition as
4. "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."
Personally, I view definitions 1 and 3 as the same, and as the best definition of racism, with all it's negative connotations. The problem with definitions 2 and 4 is that it can apply to actions which are not necessarily immoral. For instance, illegal immigration is situation where the government places a restriction on people based on their national origin (definition 4). Or, as another example, when the US and its 30_ coalition partners invaded Iraq, it was called a 'racist war' by some. Certainly the US and it's allies chose their targets (i.e. discriminated) on the basis of nationality. Some would call racial profiling racist (according to definition 2), yet if 95% of terrorists are Arab males, does it really make sense to do spot checks on 65 year old asian grannies? Or how about the fact that most serial killers are white males leading investigators to concentrate on white males as suspects.
Clearly, definitions 2 and 4 are too broad as definitions for racism. So why are they commonly used?
If for instance, young Lebanese gangs have been illegally terrorizing the cronulla beach for years, then shouldn't it be expected that some anti-lebanese comments are made. Given all the rhetoric of the mob, why is it we don't hear about little old lebanese ladies being assaulted? Indeed, all the references I could find of assault are against lebanese men of around 16 to 35 years of age. So, it wasn't just middle-eastern appearance that was the factor, but having the same profile (age,ethnicity, sex) as those who have been hassling the community for years.
So why do we have the Media and left commentators complaining with so much self-loathing of racism? Is there some underlying beliefs in cultural equivalance that is being threatened by the cronulla riots so that to avoid the threat, the phantom of racism must be embraced? Andrew Bolt has a good roundup to help you start to answer the question.
Update: Of course, it seems the Lebanese thugs have been doing some discrimination of their own.
Impossible Political Correctness
Political Correctness (PC) has gone over the top. Earlier this year, PC minded banks in Britian removed piggy banks because they could offend Muslims. Yesterday, the paper has reported that a Western Australian Hospital has removed ham and bacon and made the entire menu Halal in order to avoid offending Muslim patients.
You have to wonder why the hospital has only made the menu Halal. What about those traditional Catholics who don't eat meat on fridays, or during all of Lent? Or the Hindu who don't eat beef? Or how about those ritualistic Pontoo's who only eat vegetables that have been cooked in lambs milk? (Yes, I made that last one up, but you get the idea).
It is easily forseeable that, based on competing religous dietary rules, there is no food that can cater to all religious groups. Does this mean that PC hospitals will suddenly implode in a severe bout of sanity? Until then, we have the joy of an Australian hospital that has decided to follow Muslim dietary law for all it's patients, not just the Muslim ones.
South Korean Cloning Faked
It's official. South Korean doctor Hwang Woo Suk admitted to a colleague that the majority of his famous paper's data regarding human embryo cloning published in Science earlier this year was in fact "fake."
Finally, Glen Reynolds, thinks this is 'bad news'. Of course, Glen should of realised that the study was on shaky grounds after the good doctor broke ethical rules for egg donation, which he didn't think was a 'big deal'. However, due to his progress at any cost morality, Glen was blind to the simple fact that people who are not faithful in the little ethical details are often not faithful in the big ones either.
It's the same sort of myopia we see on the left who think a president who can't be faithful to his wife will be faithful to his office. It may the case the he will, but I sure wouldn't have confidence in it.
Jonathan Wells Responds to Critics
Jonathan Wells has been reprinting his series of responses to his critics of his work, Icons Of Evolution.
Here is the list of entries to date. They are well worth a read, not only are they informative and interesting, but they also show that many of the reasonable sounding criticisms of Wells' work either have good answers or are in error themselves.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Darwin's Tree of Life
Part 3: Haeckel’s Embryos
Part 4: Peppered Moths
Part 5: Four-winged Fruit Flies
Part 6: Human Evolution
Part 7: General Comments
Part 8: Questioning evolution because of text book errors
Intellectual Snobbery in Evolution
Alan Grey asks why should be tolerant of the sets of untruths on which Robin Holliday's article is based.
Robin Holliday, Cambridge PHD (in genetics) has written an article on ‘The Fundamental Incompatibility between Science and Religion’ which has the charming page title of ‘Robin Holliday asks why we should be tolerant of the sets of untruths on which all religions are based’
Of course, it appears from the outset that Robin is pushing the atheistic science line that all religions are false. Here it takes the form that there is a set of untruths on which all religions are based. I have to wonder Robin, how do you know this? I suspect that you have simply decided that the physical world is all there is and all there ever will be in a Sagan-like fashion and so obviously your conclusion stems from your assumption. This is not rationality though, this is begging the question. It is a leap of faith.
The publication of Darwin's Origin of Species was followed by bitter controversy between those who believed in the divine creation of species, and those who were persuaded by the logic and power of Darwin's arguments.Wow. There is a rather lame attempt at poisoning the well. Obviously, the creationists just ‘believed’ and the evolutionists where ‘persuaded by logic’. Lame rhetorical tactics do not an argument make.
This controversy seemed to die down in the 20th century, and it was then common to assert that science dealt with the material world and religion with the spiritual.This is unequivocally false. The controversy has never died down. With the Scopes trial in 1925 followed by teaching both creation and evolution for decades, and teaching creation was ruled illegal in the 60’s/70’s/80’s causing the creation side of the debate to move into different areas to put forward their view. the controversy has always been there. It is true that many (Such as Stephen J Gould) have asserted that science and religion deal with separate worlds, however this claim is about what some people were saying and not about whether the statement is true, so it is hardly useful.
It was also implicit in this view that science and religion were in some way complementary to each other. Although most of those who were religious accepted the ancient origin of life on this planet and organic evolution, many believed that this evolution was all part of God's plan, presumably for the final appearance of Homo sapiens.Another falsehood from Dr Holliday. Even today, the majority of Americans and I assume Muslims consider recent creation to be correct.
At the same time genetics, and in particular population genetics, were explaining how Darwinian evolution could occur, and there were many contemporary examples of natural selection in action. It became clear that mutation and natural selection could explain complex adaptations. This has now been reinforced by DNA sequencing, which is a very powerful tool for illuminating the origins and diversity of species.It is important to understand the difference between natural selection, mutation, and common descent evolution (CDE). Robin jumps directly from natural selection and mutation to CDE without basis. No explanation or example of the solution to Haldane’s dilemma in population genetics is given, leaving us to rely merely on Robin’s authority to accept his claim. Robin gives no examples of how mutation and natural selection have explained complex adaptions. It is also important to note that DNA sequencing has not reinforced any of this as the comparisons are done on the basis that CDE is correct and the phylogenic tree from evolution is constantly being revised as previous notions of the relationship between the various species are found to be in error. Of course, in all these revisions, CDE is never questioned. If DNA sequencing finds different things than to what is expected and yet CDE is not questioned, then on the occasions that DNA sequencing agrees with expectations it CANNOT be considered evidence for CDE. All Robin is doing is pushing the similarity implies common descent argument from the phylogenic to the molecular level. The argument has not been tested at either level.
Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, there has been a resurgence of creationism, either in the guise of "science creationism" or "intelligent design". The old arguments about gaps in the fossil records, and the problem natural selection has in explaining the appearance of complex structures, are brought up over and over again.As previously noted, there has been no resurgence. The old arguments have still not been addressed, so whilst Robin tries to deride the arguments as ‘old’ all he really does is show that there are still no satisfactory answers to problems that have been around for many decades.
The simple fact is there is an enormous knowledge gap: between evolutionary biologists who are familiar with the wealth of evidence in favour of Darwinian natural selection, and those who are unfamiliar with this evidence, and indeed most often do not even feel there is a need to examine it because they have blind faith in a divine creator.So now we get to the crux of the matter. Robin feels that anyone who disbelieves in his fairly tale of CDE is obviously ignorant and it is just blind faith that sustains most of them. Robin doesn’t seem to deal with those who do understand the evidence and still disagree with his materialistic pronouncements. Whilst there are any who don’t feel the need to investigate, even these do so on the basis of authority. Ironically, Robin has not offered anything substantially different in asking us to take his article on authority. Thankfully, I don’t have blind faith in atheistic pronouncements.
This is one of the divisions between religion and science, but by no means the only one. Most religions seem to have the following characteristics:a belief in an omniscient god or gods:I suspect this is the list of ‘untruths’ which the page title alludes to. Lets wait to see what he says about each.
• a belief in miracles;
• a belief that the material human body is separable from a non-material soul;
• a belief that humans have free will, a conscience, and the God-given ability to choose between good and evil;
• a belief in an immortal after-life, sometimes in the form of reincarnation; and
• a belief in the efficacy of prayer, which assumes that direct contact between humans and a deity exists.
There is an enormous knowledge gap between evolutionary biologists who are familiar with the wealth of evidence in favour of Darwinian natural selection, and those who are unfamiliar with this evidence.I guess Robin’s genius doesn’t extend to avoiding duplications based on the cutting and pasting job done to put this article on Online Opinion.
The belief in a non-material soul or spirit implies that it arises at some stage in human development, and this can be linked to the view that life itself is a mystery, and by implication, outside the realm and understanding of science.That non-material soul does not ‘arise’ at all. It is created.
Commonly it is thought that the fertilisation of an egg by a sperm initiates life, and the embryo is therefore already a human being.What a bizarre argument. That because DNA creates RNA which creates protein, which are used in metabolism and complex interactions there is no room for a soul, hence there is no soul? It seems Robin’s argument is
Modern molecular biology has effectively solved the so-called "mystery of life." The genetic material, DNA, is a polymeric chemical, with enormous coding capacity. It directs the synthesis of RNA which in turn is translated into proteins, consisting of one or more polypeptide chains (linear arrays of amino acids). Many proteins are enzymes, and thousands of these have been characterised. The major components of metabolism are well understood. In short, living cells consist of complex chemicals, and their even more complex interactions. There is absolutely no place for a "vital force" or any non-material entity either in the egg, the sperm, the fertilised egg, the embryo, the child or the adult. Thus, there is no non-material soul, nor an afterlife.
P1) DNA creates RNA
P2) RNA creates Protein
P3) Protein controls ALL interactions in the body
C) There is no room for a non-material soul to do anything
The major issue is premise 3. There is no way scientifically to prove that chemical reactions control every interaction in the body. That requires exhaustive knowledge of the process and exhaustive knowledge is something that science cannot give.
Again, the vast amount of biological information that has been gathered in the last 50 years cannot be communicated to those who continue to believe in a soul and an afterlifeJust in case you missed it the first time, Robin thinks those who believe in a non-material soul are not just uninformed, but stupid, as they cannot even have the information communicated to them. Thanks for the intellectual elitism Robin, it does a great job of discrediting your authority to all but the faithful evolutionist followers.
The next fundamental difference between science and religion is the issue of free will. In fact, most individuals believe in free will because it is a matter of common experience that they feel free to make their own decisions. For the religious, free will is God's gift to man. However, once it is accepted that we are complex organisms composed only of molecules, a completely new light is thrown on the supposed existence of free will.Here is a news flash, not all religions think we have free will. Of course, we can understand that Robin is merely acting as he has to, because he has no choice. I wonder if Robin is married and whether his wife knows that his love for her is just chemical signals that FORCE him to want to spend time with her. It is also interesting to note that even though Robin feels that no one has free will, he still feels the need to bring in moral concepts such as ‘tolerance’ into the discussion. Surely he can understand that those who don’t agree with him have no choice in the matter and so he shouldn’t take them to task for it.
In making a simple choice, for example, between moving one's right or left arm, we feel completely free, but the fact remains a signal is transmitted to the muscles that comes from the brain. The brain is not capable of spontaneously creating energy, because if it did it would contravene the law of conservation of energy, so the signal must come from somewhere else. Because we are conscious of feeling free, the signal must come from another part of the brain which is part of our unconscious brain function. Thus, there are forces at work of which we are not aware.
These forces are determinants of our behaviour, and free will is no more than an illusion. Of course, some decision making is complex and may depend on knowledge, experience and external factors of which we are well aware, but this does not affect the basic conclusion that we do not have free will.
The concept of two cultures is very much alive, in spite of the best efforts of contemporary science writers to explain new advances to the public. This cannot be better illustrated than by the current discussions of organic evolution.The second cut and paste error. Genius. Pure Genius.
Decades ago C.P. Snow wrote about "the two cultures" drawn from his own experience as a scientist in the 1930s and his later career as a novelist and writer. Discussion about the two cultures has gone out of fashion, but there is no disputing the fact the divide between modern science, and particularly modern biology, and the general public remains immense.Indeed, the divide between modern biology and the general public is immense. Perhaps it isn’t because the general public is dumb, but because the biological science community is working on a completely different set of assumptions about the universe and the science community is so blinded to their own faith that they cannot see their own sandy foundations.
Today's molecular and cellular biology is of enormous sophistication and complexity, and well beyond the comprehension of an intelligent layman. A glance at a modern scientific journal shows even the titles of research papers (which normally document a further advance in knowledge) are for the most part completely incomprehensible to anyone not actually working in the field. The concept of two cultures is very much alive, in spite of the best efforts of contemporary science writers to explain new advances to the public.Yep. Keep the intellectual snobbery coming Robin. You continue to ignore many experts in the field who disagree with you, e.g. Jonathan Wells.
This cannot be better illustrated than by the current discussions of organic evolution. On the one hand there is a mass of information documenting the reality of Darwinian natural selection acting on mutations that are most commonly single changes in DNA sequence. On the other hand there are those who are totally ignorant of this evidence, and who can simply assert there are "gaps" in evolution (most commonly gaps in the fossil record), and that biological structures are too complex to be explained by mutation and natural selection.Once again, Robin moves from simple natural selection and mutation to the assumption of CDE. The ‘gaps’ are real and is asserted by people who work with the evidence (e.g. Colin Paterson)
The argument can be turned on its head, and I have argued elsewhere that a creator could easily include wheels or propellers in animal design. Yet no wheels or propellers exist in the animal kingdom. The Darwinian explanation for this is perfect: it is impossible to evolve a wheel by stages, because only a whole wheel has function.Now this is a laugh. Robin is saying that Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity argument is a valid argument. Maybe he only thinks it is valid when it supports CDE? Laughably, Robin’s example of something impossible to evolve is a wheel. Considering the poster child of the Intelligent Design movement is the Bacterial Flagellum, a ROTARY motor. Rotary, you know, goes round in a circle, essentially a wheel.
There is a huge difference between those who may believe in an omniscient deity who was responsible for the initial creation of the universe, and those who also believe that this deity is in direct contact with human beings, and may influence their behaviour or respond to their prayers. Atheists believe there is no god who has any contact, influence or interaction with man, whatever the true origin of the universe may be. For religion they substitute humanism, and a belief that the problems of mankind can only be solved by the inhabitants of this planet.Indeed. At least Robin admits he has a belief, i.e. faith that there is no God.
It is said to be politically correct to be tolerant of all religions, but why should we be tolerant of the sets of untruths on which all religions are based?Well firstly Robin, you have not shown them to be untruths. Secondly, you have not shown them to be the base of ALL religions. Thirdly, why should we tolerate your atheistic beliefs given that they require a lot more faith than a theistic belief?
It is therefore not good enough for scientists to accept this political correctness. They should believe in the reality of what science has demonstrated over several centuries. To act or believe otherwise is not intellectually rigorous, and is indeed a betrayal of the achievements of their own discipline.Intellectual rigor would probably be evaluating the assumptions that have remained untested. Heck, you can’t even give a rational reason about why your mutated ape brain has any propensity to apprehend truth. The ‘reality’ of science is that it is based on Christian assumptions that you and many like it have removed without providing a rational basis for anything.
Experimental science has established itself as rational and reproducible, and there is no place for the contravention of natural laws, such as miracles, superstition and the occult.And there you have it. Because Robin says so, there can be no contravention of natural laws. That isn’t a rational or reproducible argument. It isn’t a scientific statement, it is a faith statement. All Robin is trying to do is assert his own faith system without support. Perhaps I should say that because Robin does not have a PhD in philosophy, he is too ignorant to understand that he is speaking irrational nonsense? Does anything think that my statement is valid? I hope not. Yet, I have done exactly the same as Robin has, simply appealed to my own authority.
Finally, it is often pointed out that religious scientists exist. It seems that these are individuals who can in some way compartmentalise contradictory viewpoints, but this is an ability that I for one find extremely hard to understand.I.e. Even though they have the knowledge, they are still wrong. Neener neener neener!
Robin Holliday obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, England. In 1988 he moved to a CSIRO laboratory in Sydney, Australia, where he continued to study ageing, and his book Understanding Ageing was published in 1995.
Update: Links Fixed. Darn MS Word!
Accepting Bad Data Uncritically
Humans seem to have an inbuilt propensity to accept 'evidence' that supports their existing beliefs with critically evaluating it. Then, somehow, other people take the comments at face value and the 'evidence' is slowly accepted without any real investigation into it's credibility. Today, I noticed an article on the Australian Christian Lobby website entitled 'The Twighlight of Atheism', which is a reprint of the article which appeared in Science and Theology News by Matt Donnelly. The summary line of this article is that 'Statistics show that atheism is growing in Europe, but declining elsewhere'.
The crux of the article is therefore, the following paragraph.
Is atheism dying, though? Among members of the prestigious American National Academy of Sciences, 93 percent classify themselves as unbelievers. Influential scientists, such as Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins and E.O. Wilson, have argued that more than a century of discoveries in disciplines from biology to astronomy render belief in God obsolete. Moreover, evidence is emerging that shows a solid link between high rates of atheism and societal health. High levels of atheism are strongly correlated with low rates of homicide, poverty, infant mortality and illiteracy, according to Pitzer College sociologist Phil Zuckerman, writing in the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Zuckerman also indicates that high levels of atheism are correlated with high levels of educational attainment, per capita income and gender equality.
I was immediately reminded of the hopelessly flawed and biased 'research' done by Gregory Paul, so I did a little more research into Phil Zuckerman's contribution to the Cabridge Companion to Atheism. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Phil's chapter is available online, so we can investigate where this supposed 'strong link' is coming from.
Note suprisingly, Zuckerman uses Paul's research without question (and indeed, Gregory Paul, our freelance paleontologist and artist has release other research on the prevalence of non-theism) as support for the correlation between atheism and societal health. As noted over at Verum Serum, Paul cherry picked countries and indicators in order to reach his conclusion (such as avoiding theft, assault and other societal negatives.
But Zuckerman's chapter has even more credibility problems than just relying on Paul's work (which in itself shows how uncritical Zuckerman is in accepting something that agrees with his beliefs). As this chapter was released earlier this year, Zuckerman makes the priceless comment that
nations marked by high levels of organic atheism – such as Sweden, the Netherlands, and France -- are among the healthiest, wealthiest, most educated, and most free societies on earth.I guess he feels that 60 cars being burnt every night, high unemployment figures and major cultural issues 'healthy'.
Zuckerman goes on to use UN's Human Development Report (HDR) and compare it to his list of non-theistic adherents (I'll come back to this list in a minute), saying
According to the 2004 Report, the five highest ranked nations in terms of total human development were Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands. All five of these countries are characterized by notably high degrees of organic atheism. Furthermore, of the top 25 nations ranked on the “Human Development Index,” all but one country ( Ireland) are top-ranking non-belief nations, containing some of the highest percentages of organic atheism on earth. Conversely, of those countries ranked at the bottom of the “Human Development Index” -- the bottom 50 -- all are countries lacking any statistically significant percentages of atheism.If you check out his list, Vietnam is second proportionally, yet Zuckerman conveniently ignores that Vietnam is 112th on the HDR, The Czech Republic is 6th on Zuckerman's list but 32nd on the HDR, Estonia is 10th on Zuckerman's list, but 36th on the HDR and so on and so forth. Someone probably has time to do a proper plot relating the two datasets, but Zuckerman certainly hasn't. I doubt that the plot will have any sort of good fit. All in all, there are disparities that would indicate that atheism is not a strong factor. Even if it was, it would only be showing correlation, not causation. It is completely reasonable to assume that a society with more freedom is going to have more 'organic' (Non-forced) atheism as opposed to showing that atheism causes freedom. What is really missing is a trend analysis of countries as their atheistic population changes.
Finally, dealing the Zuckerman's list itself. I have noticed several dodgey practices. Firstly, the list is ordered by the maximum percentage if a range of percentages exist from literature. Why? Surely the more statistically valid thing to do would be to use the average values?
Secondly and much more importantly, the values Zuckerman is using are not values for Atheism. He has combined values for atheism, agnosticism and 'non-believer in god' whatever those terms mean (They aren't defined). Yet, in his summary of research we can glean just how plastic these definitions can be -
According to Norris and Inglehart (2004), 64% of those in Sweden do not believe in God. According to Bondeson (2003), 74% of Swedes said that they did not believe in “a personal God.” According to Greeley (2003), 46% of Swedes do not believe in God, although only 17% self-identify as “atheist.” According to Froese (2001), 69% of Swedes are either atheist or agnostic. According to Gustafsoon and Pettersson (2000), 82% of Swedes do not believe in a “personal God.” According to Davie (1999), 85% of Swedes do not believe in God.Zuckerman goes on to talk about Japan
According to Norris and Inglehart (2004), 65% of those in Japan do not believe in God. According to Demerath (2001:138), 64% do not believe in God and 55% do not believe in Buddha, however a very strong majority have engaged in some form or Shinto, Buddhist, or Japanese folk/cultural ritual, such visiting a shrine or temple on the previous New Year’s Day. According to the 1999 Gallup International Poll, nearly 29% of the Japanese chose “none” as their religion. According to Johnstone (1993:323), 84% of the Japanese claim no personal religion, but most follow “the customs of Japanese traditional religion.”These two lists make me suspicious that many of the survey's don't always deal well with panteistic concepts like new age beliefs.
Based on Zuckerman's 'careful assessment' (Did he 'carefully assess' Paul's work?) what can we conclude? Not much. Which is why it is troubling to see other people, such as Matt Donnelly, putting forth Zuckerman's work as credible.
Three final notes. Firstly, the use of 'poverty rates' should always be taken with caution. The UN generally defines poverty as less than half the median income. This definition favors a socialist system, rather than reflecting meeting the real needs of individuals. It is fairly well known that secular humanists/atheists commonly push for socialist systems.
Secondly, many of the indicators used by the UN ignore abortion in their mortality rates. Such an exclusion represents the definition of the atheist, not the theist, further biasing results.
And finally, a better study would investigate trends over many more factors, such as specific religion's (not just lumping them all together), government types and freedom. Until then, this sort of research and pronouncement is essentially useless. That won't stop the zealous from trumpeting it as excellent because it agrees with their beliefs though.
Article of the Day - Cronulla Riots and Multiculturalism
Janet Albrechtsen has written a great article on the Cronulla riots over at the Australian. She has provided a great background to the issue as well as covering many of the current problems. From the article
Recognising human nature means that multiculturalism, though a fine sentiment, can only work if we unite behind a core set of values. Unfortunately though, that policy has become a licence for rampant cultural relativism. We are loath to criticise any aspects of cultures (except our own) for fear of sounding terribly judgmental and unfashionably un-multicultural.Read the whole thing.
With the undeniable facts of limited resources and near limitless needs, you will always have to have some criteria for not providing health care to people. It seems the UK is finally realising this.
Those wacky evolutionists are at it again. With the Fordham Foundation Flunky statistics in an attempt to show that any US state that do not support philosophical naturalism and evolution as fact are producing badly prepared science students. Mike Gene shows how badly they mangle things.
It seems Ethiopia is going to have it's own ocean. (Buy property now for ocean views?) Contrary to conventional, billions of years type wisdom, an eight metre fissure 60km in length has appeared in the ground in only 3 weeks. Who would of thought such massive changes could happen so quickly? (Okay, no points for guessing. It's too easy!)
Also contrary to conventional (mass media) wisdom, it seems that a significant majority of Iraqi's are happy with their lives, think the situation is improving and feel safe. Just don't tell the screaming left.
Read this story of Victoria Ruvulo, a woman who forgave the attacker who disfigured her. It is an inspiring display of Christian grace.
I have recently found a stash of cartoons highlighting the irrationality of the pro choice movement. Enjoy!
Just in case you missed it with all the main stream media coverage, Palestinian President Abbas has approved government funding for families of suicide bombers.
James Lileks has a fantastic, sarcastic review of the big events of 2005. My personal favorite 'Pope John Paul II dies. To the horror of many, his successor turns out to be Catholic.' Heh. Check it out.
The human body is both incredibly fragile and amazingly resilient. I'm am not sure I would call this a miracle, but it has to come close.
The violence in Sydney died down a lot last night, but an Anglican church was vandalised and a Uniting church was burnt down. Hopefully the police will continue to control the area and deal with the root problems. Professor Bunyip also has some more on responses to the violence.
Still on the Syndey violence, I found it very strange that in this article the author claims that “Multiculturalism doesn’t work” is a racial slur. Maybe I am missing something?
Cronulla Riots Continue
The riots in Cronulla continued last night. In what looks like the Middle eastern side coming out to battle for their territory, youths fired shots, smashed up shops and beat up bystanders. Many of the middle eastern youths came in convoys of cars from the poorer suburbs and police seemed unable to stop them. Before setting out the convoys assembled at the Lakemba mosque, which is Australia's largest that oversees around 350,000 Muslims.
I watched A Current Affair last night and was shocked by how much the media is trying to turn this whole thing into a racism issue. It isn't. It is quite clearly a gang and culture issue. All the media is doing is throwing fuel on the fire. As I previously mentioned when talking about the riots in France, this sort of thing has been brewing much the same in Sydney, as this article by retired police officer Tim Priest clearly predicted. The organised Lebanese gangs have been a problem in Sydney for years and last night they came out to stake their claim.
Clearly, the 'root causes' of this are firstly, the failure of multiculturalism, which let incompatible cultures attempt to coexist rather than encouraging assimilation into Australian culture. Secondly, the NSW government have let this happen by their great notions of changing how the police force works. As Tim Priest wrote in January 2004
IT WAS ABOUT 1995 to 1996 that the emergence of Middle Eastern crime groups was first observed in New South Wales. Before then they had been largely known for individual acts of anti-social behaviour and loose family structures involved in heroin importation and supply as well as motor vehicle theft and conversion. The one crime that did appear organised before this period was insurance fraud, usually motor vehicle accidents and arson. Because these crimes were largely victimless, they were dealt with by insurance companies and police involvement was limited. But from these insurance scams, a generation of young criminals emerged to become engaged in more sophisticated crimes, such as extortion, armed robbery, organised narcotics importation and supply, gun running, organised factory and warehouse break-ins, car theft and conversion on a massive scale including the exporting of stolen luxury vehicles to Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries.
As the police began to gather and act on intelligence on these emerging Middle Eastern gangs the first of the series of events took place. The New South Wales Police was restructured under Peter Ryan. Crime Intelligence, the eyes and ears of all police forces throughout the world, was dismantled overnight and a British-style intelligence unit was created. The formation of this unit and its functions has been best described by Dr Richard Basham — as a library stocking outdated books. The new Crime Intelligence and Information Section became completely reactive. It received crime intelligence from the field and stored it. Almost no relevant intelligence was ever dispensed to operational police from 1997 until I left in 2002. It was a disgrace.
One of the fundamental problems that arose out of the new intelligence structure was that it no longer had a field capacity or a target development capacity. With the old BCI there were field teams that were assigned to look into emerging trends. Vietnamese, Romanian and Hong Kong Chinese groups were all targeted after intelligence grew on their activities. When the alarm bells went off over growing intelligence concerns about a new or current crime group, covert operations were mounted.
When the Middle Eastern crime groups emerged in the mid-to-late 1990s no alarms were set off. The Crime Intelligence unit was asleep. I know personally that operational police in south-west Sydney compiled enormous amounts of good intelligence on the formation of Lebanese groups such as the Telopea Street Boys and others in the Campsie, Lakemba, Fairfield and Punchbowl areas. The inactivity could not have been because the intelligence reports weren’t interesting, because I have read many of them and from a policing perspective they were damning. Many of the offenders that you now see in major criminal trials or serving lengthy sentences in prison were identified back then.
Left to fester, it was only a matter of time.
(As a side note, the Australian article couldn't resist taking a swipe at the right by suggesting that the police promised to hunt down suspected 'right-wing' instigators. How lame)
Update: Andrew West, from the Syndey Morning Herald Blog also feels it is a multicultural issue.
Update 2: Tim Priest has an opinion piece in todays Australian that you should read as well. Some of the best comments
Although not widely known, the police ministry wields awesome power throughout the NSW police. So much so that most of the big decisions are made by so-called experts within the ministry and usually based on cost.
If Sunday's debacle can be linked back to the police ministry in any way, then there should be hell to pay. Despite the attempts of the experts, past and present, policing and law and order can't be run on a budget. After all, public safety is not a franchise; it is a common-law right.
Voluntary Student Unionism Roundup
For decades, the academic left has had its way with compulsory student unionism. As a university student for 10 years, I had to pay student union fees even if I didn't take part in any of the union provided services. Sadly, as I was neither a repressed minority, nor a socialist or greenie, many of the provided services just didnt apply to me.
Now that the liberals have the power in government, they have pushed through legislation to make student unionism voluntary. And you can hear the screaming from the left for miles around. In fact, many of these enlightened purveyors of forced association are turning downright nasty, with vandals defacing and trying to intimidate those who supported the decision. Barnaby Joyce is also unhappy at the result.
Tim Blair also has some comments. My favorites would be
The government’s move to scrap compulsory student unions is totally driven by ideology, according to Michelle Grattan. And compulsory unionism wasn’t?Of course, Tim. Don't you know that the left's ideology is the default ideology that should be accepted without questioning?
Sydney University’s vice-chancellor Gavin Brown’s pithy reaction. The student unionism bill’s passage, he said, “is a temporary victory for the rednecked philistines that will damage Australia’s reputation internationally”.Indeed. Freedom of association in a civilized country? What a travesty!
From now on we’ll be known as the country that doesn’t compel students to join unions. Imagine the shame!
Of course, if you want to see the mentality of those who want to force people to join a student union, you have no further to look than the comments of Robert Nicholas, education officer for the Queensland branch of the National Student Union who said that
the vandalism of Senator Fielding's office was a legitimate expression of students' anger at the bill.So when you don't get your way, remember it is okay to break the law.
"He has made himself a political target by voting for the legislation so he'll have to live with the consequences"
Cronulla and a Clash of Civilizations
For those who have not been in Outer Mongolia for the past week, there have been fairly large riots in Cronulla, NSW, Australia.
Tim Blair has a great roundup of all the news on the topic. What I am amazed at, is that Lebanese and Middle Eastern thugs have been terrorizing the beach for a long time, and yet we hear nothing. Finally, when they step over the (even worse) line and beat up some life-savers, it ticks off enough people that they have to take the law into their own hands (thanks to police inaction over the last few years). NOW, we have the media screaming racism.
On top of this, apparently one of the middle eastern guys who was hurt actually challenged the crowd to a fight? Truly the mind boggles.
Note that I don't condone rioting, but police inaction has led to this fracas, and because of that I see little other alternative to what is currently happening.
Creation Evolution News
Some interesting news has been about that relates to the creation evolution controversy.
More dating problems are coming to light now where 'alleged' human footprints are being dated at over 1,000,000 years old. This causes great problems as humans were not meant to be around at that time. Of course, the original discoverers found that the age of the footprints was around 40,000 years old via carbon dating. Whilst this was older than other human footprints, it wasn't controversial enough for anyone to question whether they were human footprints. Now that we have this new date, we have people being very skeptical that they are human. Of course, no one seems to be noticing how the different dating methods did not agree with each other. So this finding casts double doubt on dating methods as it shows they don't agree with each other and that by the evolutionists own time reckoning, the prints are too old.
A fairly ardent evolutionist, Michael Rose, is proclaiming evolutions power in being to vastly extend the lifespan of people. Based on his work on fruit flies, he feels that we should be able to extend our lifespan to 200 years and he feels that there is no real biological limit to age (Biblical ages anyone?). Who knows how much this can really translate to human life span though?
And finally, it seems that gene complexity is no measure of evolution. 'Higher' organisms are often less complex than 'lower' organisms. From the article
t stands to reason that the more genetically complex an organism is, the loftier its place on the evolutionary treeand further on
"The genomic complexity of ... cnidarians is much greater than expected," says John Finnerty, an evolutionary biologist at Boston University. "There is no simple relationship between the numbers of genes an animal possess and its complexity at the morphological level."So much for evolutionary theory? This has been a certain tenant in tree building for years. Another failed evidence of evolution.
Bias Against Israel
Sometimes, I am just amazed and flabbergasted at how bad and biased people can be. Talking to friends about Israel, I get the impression that they have learned all about the 'horrible' nation from their university lecturers. That's never a good thing. Whilst I am sure there is plenty to be unhappy at Israel for, I just don't see any real balance in opinions.
For instance, the UN. The top 5 countries subject to human rights criticism by the UN in 2004 were, in order, Israel, Sudan, The Democratic Republic and Congo, and (tied) Cote d'Ivoire and United States of America.
Not Syria, Zimbabwe, Iran or China.
Israel is the target of 30% of the resolutions passed by the General Assembly every year. Thankfully though, some politicians are starting to speak out about this. Israel also has been denied full membership in it's regional group. What is the deal with this? Israel is also the only country to have a special standing body to 'investigate Israelie Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories'
To top it all off, the media is also unfriendly to Israel. The latest being a poor example of journalism where the headline 'Israeli Suicide Bomber Kills 5' refers to a suicide bombing by a Palestinian. The news report went out on monday and still has not been corrected. If they do finally correct the headline, Justify This has a screen shot.
In other UN News, they have apparently held a "Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" where a map was proudly displayed with Israel removed and attendees were encouraged to "observe a minute of silence in memory of all those who have given their lives for the cause of the Palestinian people". Such as all the suicide bombers???