Saturday, June 07, 2008

Conservatives and Common Sense

Did you know there is a leftist war on common sense? Check out this article in the "American Thinker". See, the leftist education system no longer teaches teleology like in the old days (???). Teleology basically says there is a purpose in the processes of nature. I guess we need a good understanding of teleology so we can understand the argument for the existence of god. Leftists have taught Americans that they are not allowed to know what they know. Stuff like how G.W. Bush is the greatest President since Abraham Lincoln or how the Iraq War is so successful that oil prices will take a dive or that Dick Cheney is not evil.... things that we know we know (at least 28% of us know).

Darwin is also a problem.
With Darwin as king of the classroom and conscience but a mute passerby, the Left hurls endless invectives at the United States, denouncing both its greatness and that of its Founders, and almost nobody says a word. Some want to say something but they are too embarrassed, while others do not even know they are allowed to speak.
Common sense tells you that the USA exists and has existed only for the good of people throughout the world. Common sense must also tell us that is not good to admit to any mistakes that the USA has made throughout it's history.

It was once common sense that malaria was caused by bad air, witches would sink if thrown into a pool, or that man could not survive going through the sound barrier. Common sense is not all its cracked up to be.

Thomas Kida has written a book called "Don't Believe Everything You Think". Kida explains that there are six basic mistakes we make in thinking (common sense thinking). We prefer stories to statistics; we seek to confirm, not question our ideas; we rarely appreciate the role of chance in shaping events; we sometimes misperceive the world around us; we tend to oversimplify our thinking and we have faulty memories. Here is an article that explains why we are bad at accessing modern risks.

Common sense is not so common and can be highly overrated. The best way to determine what is true and what is false is critical thinking and science. George Bernard Shaw wrote: "It is not disbelief that is dangerous to our society, it is belief."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

What Does McCain Want Us to Believe In?

Golf? You can go to Senator McCain's Presidential campaign website and visit the "decision center" ........ or buy golf gear.

Divot Tool for the Elites

Get your McCain elite divot tool here. I'm sure all you regular "hardworking white people" will want one of these tools. Afterall, you have to keep up with the elites while you are out playing on your country club golf course.

Breaking News Most of Us Knew Already

A report released today by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee tells us a few things that we (most of us anyway) have known for some time:

* Claims by President Bush that Iraq and al Qaida had a partnership "were not substantiated by the intelligence."

* The president and vice president misrepresented what was known about Iraq’s chemical weapons capabiliies.

* Rumsfeld misrepresented what the intelligence community knew when he said Iraq's weapons productions facilities were buried deeply underground.

* Cheney's claim that the intelligence community had confirmed that lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 was not true.

So why were G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney dishonest with the American people? Would the American people not support a war with Iraq if the intelligence was doubtful? Conservatives are always telling us that government has too much power, that decisions should be made by the people, that we must take individual responsibility for our actions. Will Bush and Cheney take individual responsibility for their dishonesty? I highly doubt it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Basic Research Scientists Close Up Shop

One thing the USA has going for it is it's strength in basic medical research. This is proven time and again by the number of Nobel Prize winning scientists from the USA. But did you know that "in 2007, more than 4000 NIH-funded researchers were denied grant renewals"? Read this article in The Scientist, something I've been meaning to comment on for some time now (having lost my own job in research).

First a little background for some of you. Most basic medical research is funded by the US government through the National Institutes of Health. Researchers apply for the money through a highly competitive, peer reviewed process. Today it takes about one million dollars to run a small lab for five years. More if you use animals in your research.

In the 1990's President Bill Clinton pledged to double the NIH budget over a 5 year period. This was started in 1998 and continued through 2003. Then the war on terror was put into play. Money had to be spent on war to protect us from nuclear and biological attacks. So the NIH budget began to flatline in 2003. From 1998 to 2003 the NIH budget jumped from 13 billion dollars to 26 billion dollars. This brought a lot of scientists into basic research because it was easier to get government funding. Since 2003, however, the NIH budget has barely tracked inflation going from 26.4 billion to only 27.9 billion in 2005. So what did this mean to the scientists?

In 1999 8,957 new grant applications were submitted to NIH. 1,761 of the applications were funded, that's 19.7%. In 2005, 10,605 grant applications were submitted and only 970 were approved for a success rate of 9.1%. The success rate for grant renewals was just as dismal. In 1999, 3,214 funded scientists submitted grant renewals and 1,772 grants were renewed - a success rate of 55% (it's easier to get funded after you have been funded the first time). By 2005, 3,896 grant renewal applications were submitted and 1,262 were funded for a success rate of 33%. In 2007, more than 4,100 scientists were denied renewed grant funding.

Eventually this means the scientist has to look for a new job. Research scientists, in academia at least, are responsible for finding their own funding for their salaries and that of their post-docs and technicians. So it's not just the scientist that loses his/her job.

The bigger problem here is that this budget situation discourages students from entering the basic research field. With fewer scientists and fewer labs the USA becomes less competitive in the world of science and technology - the one place we have dominated so far.

We may or may not be safer against terrorist attack. But at what expense?

A Muslim is a Muslim - Right?

Just when you think you are beginning to get the players in Islam straightened out, along comes something new - for me at least. Actually, it is something very old and may even pre-date Islam. I'm talking about the Alevis Muslims.

Alevis muslims do not meet in Mosques but rather in meeting houses. Their core beliefs include love and respect for all people, tolerance towards other people and religions, and respect for work. They make up a large minority of Muslims in Turkey. An article in this weeks Time Magazine says the following about a meeting of Alevis:
Most noticable were the girls without headscarves flirting with boys in the entrance hall. Then there was the laxity: with no call to prayer ringing from loudspeakers, worshippers straggled in late, while one of the religious leaders joked about having to compete with TV sitcoms.

We are not talking about a small number of people in the Alevis sect. Fifteen to thirty percent of Turkey's population are Alevis. Alevis make are the 5th or 6th largest religion in the world with around 10-20 million members. Believe it or not they are an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, but believe in incorporating piety and modernity into their faith-based humanism.

The origin of Alevism is controversial. It may even pre-date Islam, having taken on a veneer of Shia theology. Alevis in Turkey have had to disguise themselves as Sunni Muslims to avoid persecution - that is, until recently. A nice little summary of Alevism can be found here or a more detailed discussion here.

So now we find that the simplistic division of Muslims into the Shia and Sunni categories is just that - simplistic. In the Time Magazine article, Alevi leader Muharrem Ercan says "We solved the issue of whether Islam could be tolerant 750 years ago".

The average person in the Western world still has much to learn about Islam.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Good Person Test

Are you a lying, thieving, blasphemous, murderous, adulterer at heart? According to this test, I am. I suspect you may be also. But don't dispair, there is still hope for saving yourself from the burning fires of hell.