Friday, March 02, 2007

Neuroscience Creeping Up on Creationists

Phineas Gage

Dr. PJ Meyers of Pharyngula points us to this Neuroscientist and science writer, Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky. What makes act the way we do? When it comes right down to it, we are all just a bag of chemical reactions.
What does it say if, in all of history, there was even one religious person whose religiosity was due to some neurotransmitter hiccup, and in all of history there was even one person whose atheism was due to a different type of neurotransmitter hiccup?
Dr. Meyers says forget about evolution. He points out that neuroscience is creeping up on the creationists.
Evolution is shredding their preconceptions about history and their origins, but neuroscience is going to rip out a different, but even more central concept: the soul. Minds are the products of electrochemical and molecular/physiological activity, not spirits or souls or extradimensional magical forces — brains are meat and thoughts are the product of ions and small molecules bubbling about in coordinated patterns.

Support the Troops II

Last month
I ranted about lack of true support for our military troops in the USA. Sticking a magnetic "Support the Troops" sticker on the side of your car just doesn't hack it in my opinion. It's bad enough that we send troops into a war without adequate training, body armor, or armoured vehicles. The Army is "worn out", it can't recruit enough replacements so much so that felons and gang members are now filling the military ranks. Then you have the effects of multiple tours of duty, extended tours and the back door draft. All of this, for a war we were lied into by a President with questionable military servce who appointed a Secretary of Defense who has been desribed as the worst Sec. Def. in history.

That's bad enough. The Iraq War has resulted in a huge number (>50,000) of severely wounded or injured soldiers. A number that also is being misrepresented by our government. Now we find that living conditions and treatment of soldiers in our premier military hospital, Walter Reed (I think Bethesda Naval is far better), is substandard. That is also unacceptible. But the fact that the government knew about this state of affairs at Walter Reed is what really gets to me. Not just the hospital officials but congressmen too. Republicans Bill Young (R-FL) and Tom Davis (R-VA) specifically. According to Press Sec. Tony Snow, even Pres. Bush was aware of the problems.

Now, the guy that is likely directly responsible for this mess, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley is being put back in charge of the facility. Replacing scapegoat Gen. Weightman who has only been in charge for six months or so.

As I write this post I notice that one of my favorite congresspersons, Louise Slaughter (D-NY), is calling for Gen. Kiley's immediate removal. Of course Gen. Kiley has Sen. Lieberman on his side.

No sir. A magnetic sticker on a car just doesn't cut it when it comes to really supporting the troops.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What is this anti-christian C.E. business?

Are you sick of all the anti-christian posts on Wikipedia? Sick of all the biased articles on Wikipedia? Then you need to use conservapedia! If you can get it to load. Get the truth on topics such as evolution and global warming now.

After you are done examining the workings of conservative intellectuals hop on over to CreationWiki! Frankly, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Rep. Bob Ney Says Good-Bye

Convicted crook Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) says good-bye in an email to his friends. Two things stick out immediately. First, what in hell is it with writing emails in all lower case? I thought only teens did that. Second, reciting Garth Brooks lyrics? What about the bible? Have fun in FCI Morgantown you hypocritical sob.

There Was Going to be a Recession Before There Wasn't

Old man Greenspan helped spur a huge selloff in the stock market last Monday when he said
"When you get this far away from a recession invariably forces build up for the next recession, and indeed we are beginning to see that sign,"
Here's Greenspan today:
"It is possible we can get a U.S. recession toward the end of this year, but I don't think it's probable,"
Do you think Greenspan received any phone calls between Monday and today?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HPV Vaccine and Mandatory Vaccination

Gardasil is the tradename of the vaccine that protects against infection with some types of human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV infection of the cervix can cause dysplasia that might evolve into a premalignant condition. The vaccine protects against 4 of the 40 types of HPV. It should result in a 70% reduction in cervical cancer due to HPV infection. Almost 4,000 women will die from cervical cancer in 2007.

There are is a bit of a political problem with the vaccine, maybe more than one.
Reaction to the bills has varied. Evangelical groups have strongly criticized the proposed mandates. Focus on the Family says such measures would violate parents' rights, although the group adds that the vaccine should be available for those who want it. An editorial in the Washington Post said a mandatory vaccine would save lives, while a Wall Street Journal editorial in July labeled the proposals coercion.
Some states are now considering requiring school aged girls to get vaccinated with Gardasil. Texas has already required the vaccine. But the fact that this vaccine is connected to sexuality makes it a tricky issue. Obviously this is an issue for conservatives and libertarians. It shouldn't be. It's a vaccine that protects against a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cancer. Unfortunately, some believe it will result in rampant sexual activity among young girls who get vaccinated.

The vaccine is most effective if given before a women becomes infected with HPV. This means before one becomes sexually active. The vaccine is recommended for 11-12 year old girls and can be given to girls as young as 9. Although you can certainly get it at a later age. But it is not a cure for the 4 types of HPV. It prevents infection with the 4 virus types. But thus far the vaccine has only been proven to protect for 5 years, so why should an 11-12 year old girl get vaccinated. Well, it's likely that only 5 years of trials have been done. There is evidence that the smallpox vaccine I received over 40 years ago likely is still protective.

The other problem with the vaccine is the cost. You need to be immunized three times at a cost of $120 each time. Vaccines are traditionally not very profitable for a company. But this vaccine should be a huge money maker, especially if the government madates its use. Hopefully, legislators are not in bed with the vaccine manufacturers.

Lastly, there are those that are opposed to all vaccines for any number of non-scientific reasons. This is largely because the dread diseases that many of us grew up with, polio, smallpox, whooping cough etc are now relatively rare in this country. Because we got vaccinated. Current generations have not experienced having to stay away from the beach all summer because of possibly contracting polio. It's also largely due to ignorance about vaccines. Do they have side effects? Yes. Can there be severe side effects in some individuals? Yes, but extremely rare. Do vaccines cause autism. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that they do.

Did you know that the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 was caused by a flu vaccine? Yessir, flu vaccine researchers have been keeping this a secret for almost 100 years. They are one hell of a tight-lipped bunch.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tone Deaf

Well, almost. I scored 63.9% correct....that's low-normal performance. Only 12% of over 60,000 people tested lower than me. To be fair I don't think I quite "got" how to take the test the first few tones. Go here to see if you are tone deaf.

I did a bit better on the rhythm test 68% correct....Normal performance but just shy of very good performance.

The Citadel

I just finished watching the film adaptation of "The Citadel" by A.J. Cronin. One of my favorite books. I'm heading down to the library to pick up a copy of the book for a re-read. This book should be required reading for all biological researchers and physicians.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Academic Bill of Rights - SUNY Plattsburgh

It's nice to read that SUNY Plattsburgh faculty rejected the so-called Academic Bill of Rights.

The American Association of University Professors reject the bill.
The AAUP has sharply criticized the so-called academic bill of rights as unnecessary and almost certain to compromise academic freedom rather than defend it. At their core, its measures would place decisions about faculty appointments and the content of academic programs in the hands of political officials, thereby jeopardizing not only the independence of faculty members and their institutions but also their capacity to advance knowledge and educate our students. More here.
College professors have been shown to be largely liberal in their views. The questions are why and what effects does this have on students.

Prof. Paul Krugman attempts to answer the why.
One answer is self-selection - the same sort of self-selection that leads Republicans to outnumber Democrats four to one in the military. The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.
I think I can tell you why most scientist tend to be liberal. We believe that evolution is a fact and that global warming has a man-made component to it. It's hard to be a conservative these days when you believe those two things.

What effect do all these liberal professors have on students. Well, it must not be a very big concern since conservative elites send their children to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Berkeley, UCLA etc rather than Bob Jones University.

Penn. State University system did a study over 5 years to determine the number of students with complaints about liberal or conservative bias in their classrooms. The result? Thirteen complaints out of 83,000 students. Over 177,000 courses were taught over that period.

To me liberalism is all about questioning everything. A judge sends jurors in to deliberate. Think carefully and formally discuss prior to making a decision. Don't be afraid to change your mind if presented with a convincing argument.

Democrats Are Tough On Terror

So says VP Dick Cheney:
Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced trip to Pakistan on Monday to deliver what officials in Washington described as an unusually tough message to Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda.
It took a Democrat-controlled Congress to give Dick Cheney an excuse to get tough on Musharraf.