Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Friday

And that means it's Science Friday! Yesssssssssssssssssssssssss! But, as I was on my way home from campus, I heard this.

This is why we need greater scientific literacy in America. Though, I have to say, at least the woman was for independent confirmation of results from studies.

Monday, August 18, 2008

There he... goes... again

In case you missed the Civil Forum featuring John McCain and Barack Obama, here's a transcript.

In this forum, McCain implicitly declared reason #452 as to why he shouldn't get our vote this upcoming Nov. Apparently, he thinks scientific research is bad. Notice that in his response to the question of how McCain defines rich and how that relates to his philosophy on taxes, Mcain eventually came to government spending and this:

And, my friend, it was not taxes that mattered in America in the last several years. It was spending. Spending got completely out of control. We spent money in way that mortgaged our kids' futures.

My friends, we spent $3 million of your money to study the DNA of bears in Montana. Now I don't know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue...

... but the point is, it was $3 million of your money. It was your money. And, you know, we laugh about it, but we cry - and we should cry because the Congress is supposed to be careful stewards of your tax dollars.
From this, and the context it was taken from, we can deduce McCain's argument to be this:
  1. Taxes come from the public.
  2. The government should spend these taxes on useful things.
  3. Scientific research, namely bear DNA, is not useful.
  4. The government spent $3 million on bear DNA research.
  5. Therefore, the government is wasting your money.
Is McCain serious? The government shouldn't fund scientific research? Of course you may say I'm being a bit harsh, bear DNA can't possibly be the most important thing ever... And I will give McCain some credit, he is for funding space research. And he does support research into new technologies.

But to McCain, these are examples of research that have beneficial effects in mind. That is why he believes something such as bear DNA is superfluous research which only wastes tax dollars. Nevermind the fact that bear DNA will most likely have something to add to the enterprise of biology, which could in turn provide us with some potential medical benefits, if not at least add to our knowledge. What would he have said about the Keeling Curve had he the chance? Would he assume that superfluous also ("Why waste money to send balloons over the ocean!!?") Most scientific discoveries don't have some benefit relevant to whichever country in mind, but most benefits from science come from pure research.

Not to mention, $3 million is very little compared to what else the government spends. It's only one penny ($0.01) from each citizen (or less given that we reached the 300,000,000 mark a few years ago.) What about the funds for the Iraq war, which are in the billions?

So here we have a spavined man who doesn't understand science very well, and he wants to be president of the world's scientific leader. Does anyone feel as if this is a prescription for disaster?

Shave off those crazy people...

I'm sure this is making its rounds around the blogosphere: WWJD - he'd lower gas prices! This is an article in which a group claims that their prayers for lower gas prices have been answered by Jesus.

Of course, this would be a great time to pull out Occam's Razor. There could be several explanations as to why gas prices have gone down, and it's in our best interest to find the most plausible cause.

God may have been the cause, but that requires us explain God - some supernatural being, totally mysterious, totally immaterial, etc. We could also attribute the recent fall in gas prices to a naturally occuring pattern or maybe even supply and demand. Both of these are better answers because they don't appeal to anything supernatural. They can both be witnessed, recorded, and studied as naturally occuring phenomena! This makes them simpler, at least compared to God, so we should place our bets with them instead.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Snake Oil Science

I haven't posted in a while because I've dedicated all of my time to reading this book (I'm a slow reader.) Ok, not really, I just cant' find anything to write about.

I'll be posting a review of Snake Oil Science when I'm finished with it.