Re: Michael Fumento’s Woe Unto Kyoto:
Michael Fumento’s excellent piece on the stupidity and futility of pursuing mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions was a welcome eulogy to Kyoto, but he neglected to mention that the news has not reached the ears of a number of blue state governors.
California continues to pursue Kyoto style efforts to reduce GHG emissions from cars and power plants. Seven blue Northeastern states have signed on to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“Reggie”), which will, like Kyoto, sharply raise energy prices, symbolically reduce GHG emissions and avert no detectable global warming. Republicans Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Don Carcieri of Rhode Island had a last minute sanity attack and withdrew their states.
Reggie clearly requires Congressional approval under Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution, which forbids such interstate agreements without the consent of Congress. But although eleven of 12 New England Senators support regulating GHG emissions and Reggie, not one has been willing to press for Congressional approval.
The President and Congress make foreign policy like Kyoto, not the states. Senator George Allen says conservatives need to speak up… this would be an excellent opportunity.
— Jon Reisman
Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy
University of Maine at Machias
Mr. Fumento’s article on the state of the Kyoto treaty is one of a long line of pieces showing what an out an out fraud this treaty would have been. Kyoto would have made Oil-for-Food look like a Saturday afternoon swap meet. Of course one thing that the media (or your leftist sister-in-law) will not tell you is that the man who would have profited the most was none other than head of GW’s kitchen cabinet: Kenny “Boy” Lay. Enron was leading the charge to be the market maker for carbon futures trading under Kyoto. They had already established their bona fides under the Clinton administration for trading sulfur dioxide cap contracts. Kyoto would have meant taking commissions off of untold billions of dollars of transactions.
In a Robert Novak article of January 21, 2002, he recounts how Lay tried to use his influence with then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill to get the Bush administration to sign on to Kyoto. Mr. O’Neill, who was in favor of Kyoto, hit the first of many buzz saws in the administration. Kenny’s dreams for a “richer” environment went down in flames and, as they say in the funny papers, the rest is history.
— Ron Pettengill
London, United Kingdom
Things must be very bad, indeed, in Canada these days. Canada must be suffering horribly economically, socially, and politically. Canadian politicians sound rather like Mr. Castro or Mr. Chavez these days. I cannot recall a day gone by in the past several weeks during which some Canadian politician has not taken a shot at the United States. It would seem in the assuredly myopic eyes of Canadian politicians, this country is the devil incarnate. In that respect they’re metastasizing into American Democrats. The United States has recently been blamed for violence in Canadian streets — and let us not discuss here the effects of stultifying taxes that have ground a once robust economy to a shuddering, grinding halt and the economic hopelessness that gives rise to violence — nor should we think for a minute of the quite literally billions of dollars (American dollars — the kind worth 100 cents) pumped into Canada via auto plants and sales to the U.S. of Canadian beef and other products which provide the money Canadian pols so grossly misspend.
Let us also politely not mention (Oops! Too late!) that the U.S., in my 62 years, has never meddled in the muddled political affairs of our perhaps brain frozen neighbor to the north. We have honored one of the world’s longest undefended borders, as to their credit have the Canadians; we made no effort to exploit the laughable attempts by one silly group of Canadians to divide their country along linguistic lines; nor have we ever denied them the succor from the cold they so desperately seek in Broward County, Florida, even though every waitress, server, and bartender in those environs wishes we would. (Canadians, sometimes in fits of drunken and rare exuberance tip upwards of 3 and 4 percent — all the while demanding the most exacting service standards.)
But I have a modest proposal which will alleviate the suffering and whining of Canadian politicians. Let us shut our borders to all things Canadian: nothing comes south. Not people, products, and services. Let us also shut our borders in the opposite direction: nothing American goes north, not people, products or services. Initially there could be some problems such as how Canadians not permitted in the U.S. could participate in that august body called the United Nations? Solution: since nothing American would be allowed into Canada, let the Canadians move the UN to Ottawa, make it their congress, and leave us the hell alone!
— Jay W. Molyneaux
Like everything from the lefties, claims that Polar Bears are drowning won’t hold up in court.
Polar Bears swim almost as well as many fish. They migrate at times by swimming long distances. The only way one might be able to drown is to swim too far back under an ice shelf. I said Ice? I thought it was melting!
— G.B. Hall
MACROCREATION SCIENCE LESSON
Re: Granville Sewell’s Evolution’s Thermodynamic Failure:
You have been very kind to publish some of my long-winded reader letters, including two begging for something scientific on Intelligent Design (or the corollary, scientific critique of the Theory of Evolution).
Responding to Dr. Sewell’s article let me be more succinct: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!
And Happy New Year!
— Kevin Amaro
I cannot comment on his specifics, but it seems to me that speciation based upon the notion of temporal genetic change is the greatest stumbling block to our understanding of the origin of species.
Evolution is based upon the notion that life evolved from simpler forms, and, consequently, once arose from non-life. But why this should be so is a mystery given what we can observe. If we are honest with ourselves we must admit that we only see a continuation of life from existing life. We routinely observe the transition from life in to non-life, but the first transition remains hidden.
This begs the question as to why we presume that life had a beginning? Perhaps it is only rooted in our logic, which causes us to infer that because something has an end, it must have had, sometime in the past, a beginning.
For many, the notion that life cannot, according to our usual way of thinking, have ever had a beginning is a very naive thought. But, based on observation, it is all we rightly know. Obviously, from the geologic record we presume the appearance of life in different forms and at different stages. But this is not the same thing as observing a beginning of life from non-life. And, regarding speciation, no one has ever demonstrated a change in species (although change within species is routinely observed).
Science can never hope to prove the origin of life. It is like asking it to show the origin of matter. These things are givens that must be accepted as such. By starting with a faulty premise (that life somehow derives from non-life when all we know is that life derives from existing life) evolution itself becomes tenuous and naive.
On the other hand, to introduce supernatural explanations into science is something that cannot be expected from science. For it to even ask the question is to get the question wrong from the beginning. Science cannot be a back door for religion, just as religion cannot be accepted as science.
The most that can be expected from the scientific community is that it to allow conditions for the exploration of new theories along with criticisms of existing thinking. If it does not do so then it, too, lapses into dogma.
— Michael Presley
What was supposed to have evolved? The development and character of single celled organisms in the beginning.
And this is contrary to “Thermodynamics”? The system that life existed in was the Universe, The Galaxy, the Solar System, the Planet, Its’ seas and its’ lands.
Ultimately our sun will wilt and die, but we are nowhere near the endgame predicted by the Law of Thermodynamics. The energy of living organisms is being constantly replenished or they die, Thermodynamics is not yet the governing factor. You cannot logically argue against evolution on the basis of thermodynamics.
To believe in Intelligent Design, one has to believe in God, and if God created the Universe and all therein, then why could he not have “designed” things any way he saw fit. There is no conflict here that I can see, and Albert Einstein said it first.
What we have here is a faith based premise on the one hand, and also a scientific theory which may need a lot of work. This is nothing new, just look at what the Catholic Church said in its suppression of heresy. So far Science has been more nearly correct.
— G.B. Hall
The very interesting article by Granville Sewell addresses a big unspoken problem in the debate between the evolutionists and the proponents of Intelligent Design. We all know that the “prestige dialect” of twentieth century science (including evolutionary biology) is statistics. This is understandable when one considers the huge scientific advances statistics played a part in during the last century and a half: e.g., in epidemiology, quantum mechanics, chemistry, and biology. It is understandable how this pervasive statistical mindset would (and does) color all contemporary science.
By contrast those who advocate the theory of Intelligent Design, and who do not necessarily consider statistics as the ultimate fountainhead of scientific knowledge, are often dismissed by the establishment because they are considering things outside the boundary of conventional statistics.
The debate between the evolutionists and “Intelligent Designers” is reminiscent of the “ultraviolet catastrophe” (as physicist Paul Ehrenfest called it) that erupted in the international physics community in the years 1905-1911. That “catastrophe” was the collective realization by physicists of that time that classical thermodynamics was incapable of describing many physical phenomena, among them, ultraviolet radiation. Ultimately it led to the knowledge that classical physical theory was fundamentally irreconcilable with many of those days’ observations related to light, magnetism, atomic structure, invisible radiation, and the existence of subatomic particles.
The ultraviolet catastrophe motivated a generation of physicists, among them Planck and Einstein, to create a radical new world-view, quantum physics, born of several branches of mathematics, statistics and philosophy. Quantum physics closely agreed with classical physics in the macroscopic (baseball-sized), but not the microscopic (atom-sized) world, which is the exclusive domain of quantum physics. Controversial at first, and conceptually still very difficult to understand as philosophy and as science, quantum physics is now universally accepted because of its supreme predictive power. It would be impossible to abandon it, and the modern world wouldn’t exist without it, but, it is interesting to remember that it once started out only a century ago as an unthinkable set of notions.
Now evolutionists seem to have run out of ideas in their too-rigid application of statistical theory to evolutionary biology. Unable to demonstrate evolution in molecules or species convincingly (Sewell points this out), they reflexively accuse their opponents of denying the validity of statistics, and, by extension, of denying all secular science. They are being disingenuous and evasive. They are running from important questions such as, “How can something as thermodynamically (i.e., statistically) unlikely as the development of the orderly human brain be the result of myriad random events, given the brief times involved?” This question is as valid as any statistical question. It is, in essence, a question about the statistics of extremely unlikely events being observed with anomalously high frequency. Isn’t this in the realm of statistics?
Of course it is; statistics, and other related branches of mathematics, are supposed to address such issues. As an example, one notable mathematician and physicist, Simeon Denis Poisson, first described in 1837 an eponymous statistical distribution which remains in widespread use today. He created it to account for unusual accidents, rare events, catastrophes, etc., with which the ordinary, normal distribution (i.e., the “bell curve”) was irreconcilable. Just as, now, conventional statistical theory is silent on the extremely unlikely events seen in the biology of complex systems, so was in 1837 the normal distribution mute in describing the statistical behavior of Poisson’s unlikely events.
For his work, of novel character to say the least, Poisson was not ostracized by the mathematicians of his time; on the contrary, he was lauded and highly regarded. And now his theory is a part of statistical orthodoxy, as is the Gaussian (i.e., normal) distribution. The two distributions coexist but have different applications, understandably. Just as would, one might suppose, a “theory of Intelligent Design” pertain to different sorts of phenomena from those to which one might apply the “theory of evolution.” In exactly this manner one critically applies quantum mechanics to microscopic (atom-sized) phenomena, and classical mechanics to planes, baseballs, bats, and other macroscopic objects and their movements. The two theories are not mutually exclusive, and accepting one theory does not automatically make its predecessor theory obsolete.
Our universe is jam-packed with many remarkable, “extremely unlikely events.” Some of which, like the existence of a stable terrestrial atmosphere, the rise of the sun each day and the development of new human brains, are so amazing yet so common that they beg to be described scientifically. The intelligent designers often draw the ire of the evolutionists for asking for such descriptions. They can annoy them much more easily by just stating the obvious, i.e., that conventional science is silent on many of these things.
Another interesting parallel between the two scientific epochs is the complacency of the respective establishment scientists, each in their day. By many accounts, the decades between the application of Maxwell’s equations (c. 1870) and the “ultraviolet catastrophe” (c. 1905-11) were marked by a general feeling among scientists that most physical laws had already been discovered, and that the future course of science would be one of refinement and custodianship, not revolution. One might argue that this same feeling of complacency exists today, and that the future of science is felt by many to be the refining of our knowledge of quantum physics and statistics and ever more complicated applications of that knowledge to evolutionary biology. No radically new ideas are expected, or wanted.
But the “ultraviolet catastrophe” in the early 1900s helped upset that mindset, and, along with other events, led to quantum science and its dozens of offspring disciplines. Thus began a century of the most rapid and widespread advancement of science in the world’s history, one which continues today.
Perhaps the greatest intellectual legacy of the ultraviolet catastrophe is the way it reminds us, a century later, to think in unconstrained terms about phenomena, and not to adhere excessively to old, but successful, theories. Certainly it reminds us not to disregard any plausible new theory, even one that at first seems to encompass the unthinkable.
— Francis Dillon
If anything, the Bible is mistaken about creation, astronomy, geology, the causes of phenomena, the origin of evil and the cause of death. If these are some of the mistakes and misconceptions in the Bible, it must have been written by finite beings. Perhaps force and matter have always existed, but whether there is a designer or not it is impenetrable, especially to those who believe in salvation and suffering administered by institutional tyranny as represented by the Catholic Church, et al.
— Edward Del Colle
Thank you for “Evolution’s Thermodynamic Failure” by Granville Sewell. Sewell demonstrates that evolution is based firmly in the imagination, not evidence, and therefore not science. It makes great science fiction! Star Trek incorporates more science than does evolution.
— Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Mr. Sewell is applying an elementary thermodynamic argument the full content of which he apparently does not understand with regard to the entropy of the universe. The expanded argument on a more sophisticated level is referred to as the “Fluctuation Hypothesis” and concerns the question of whether the universe is in a closed system.
The answer to the problem is in general relativity. The point at which we consider large regions of the system, the gravitational fields which they contain are important. In accord with general relativity these represent simply changes in the space time metric which is described by the metric tensor g (sub)ik.
The assumption that after a long enough interval of time a closed system must eventually reach a state of equilibrium depends obviously on the external conditions remaining constant. But the metric tensor g (sub)ik is, in general, a function of not only co-ordinates but time as well, so that the “external conditions” are by no means constant. The gravitational field cannot be counted as part of the closed system as in that case the conservation laws, which are the foundation of statistics, would become identities. As a result, in the general theory of relativity the universe as a whole must not be regarded as a closed system, but as one which is in a variable gravitational field. In this case the application of the law of increase of entropy does not imply the necessity of statistical equilibrium.
As the universe cannot be considered as a closed system, elementary thermodynamics does not apply in Mr. Sewell’s arguments.
— Lev Landau
Thanks to Granville Sewell for brilliantly explaining why the debate over evolution’s veracity is settled for those willing to pay a modicum of attention to the second law of thermodynamics: a scientific law is so fundamental that, as Dr. Sewell points out, Sir Arthur Eddington referred to it as the supreme law of Nature.
Evolutionists constantly try to reconcile their theory with this known scientific law but to no avail. Their attempts to do so are akin to a child’s attempts to put his elbow in his ear simply because he was told he couldn’t. Children quickly realize their goal is futile and admit it to themselves. Evolutionists usually don’t, but then again, they typically do not have the child’s innocence, intellectual honesty, or emotional maturity.
— R. Trotter, PE
I’d like to compliment the editors of the American Spectator. You guys print the only secular magazine that covers the evolution/intelligent design/creation science debate on a regular basis. On occasion, other publications will cover the subject but no other magazine that I know of is willing to take on this controversial topic so frequently.
It’s been my experience that this debate is a big “water cooler” topic with the general public. But the debate is not, of course, taken seriously by the MSM. Just another example of where the MSM is out of touch with its audience. Keep up the good work.
— Paul Doolittle
FED UP WITH MY GENERATION
Re: Lawrence Henry’s Screwing It Up, One More Time:
As a so-called Baby Boomer (1959) all I can say about my generation is that they are an embarrassment to America. Epitomized by the likes of Bill Clinton they are even more selfish than their parents and grandparents. The problem is America doesn’t have the economic dominance to whet their selfishness as it did the Greatest and Silent Generations. God help America if they are as self absorbed as the current crop of AARP voters.
— LT (Chaplain) Michael Tomlinson
Curtis Bay, Maryland
The prodigious narcissism of our generation never ceases to amaze me. I had an experience similar to yours in various church basements and came to the same conclusion as you. The guys I knew there didn’t have time to develop such convoluted inward-looking attitudes; they grew up in the Depression, fought in Europe and the Pacific, came home, went to college, and set about raising their families. Among my friends were veterans of Tarawa and Saipan, liberators of death camps, carrier pilots, survivors of Pearl Harbor, OSS covert operators and men who walked out of the Chosin Reservoir. Not much navel gazing among these guys, simply a deep rooted sense of gratitude that they had made it home, been lucky enough to have a wife and family, and then lucky enough again to have been given a second chance at life. How blessed I am to have known them.
Thank you for writing the above article. I live in Dallas, a suburb anyway. I grew up in Dallas, and I see these narcissistic idiots everywhere I go. It may be more or less prevalent elsewhere (mostly less I hope), but it is embarrassing. I was born in 1962, the last official year of the baby boom, but not really a boomer. I like to joke, with a tear in my eye, that by the time I retire, the boomers ahead of me will have already broken everything, and left the country mired in debt. Oh well, that’s socialism for you.
I also got sober when I was 30. You are absolutely correct in your description of the older men who belong to a group that doesn’t drink and prefers to remain anonymous. I remember living in a halfway house in Vernon, Texas. Mostly older men in that group, all farmers. Men who lived through real world wars and real Depressions. The taciturn men who saved the planet and didn’t ask for thanks, they just assumed it was their duty. I was cataloging my woes one day and one of the men said that if it didn’t rain by the end of that week, he’d have to plow under all his fields, then without any sarcasm or rancor, tried to help me see that my problems weren’t so great. I was so self-involved, I didn’t even realize what he said about his crops, his livelihood, until the next day. I now know that the only wise thing Tom Brokaw ever did with his fame, was to label those men (and women) as “The Greatest Generation.”
Thanks again for your insightful commentary; I always enjoy your work. If you are ever in Dallas, look up the Preston Group. You will find those same men, with slightly different accents of course, right there, drinking coffee.
— David Cowling
Mr. Henry has most of our generation pegged perfectly. Yep, the first wave has reached 60, but you wouldn’t know it because the ’60s era has a habit of never disappearing. It’s sort of like a generational version of Groundhog Day. The Stones still prance on stage and Cream reappeared for one brief glorious moment. (I confess — it was worth the $250 at Madison Square Garden to see these guys one last time). But the themes of the ’60s just keep repeating/reinventing themselves. As Mr. Henry suggests, why should we be surprised?
After all, a generation this “special” must always be allowed to relive its halcyon days. But just as a wounded animal is at its most dangerous, so too the last gasps of havoc from the leftist relics of the ’60s crowd might just cause the demise of America. So they will keep hammering the square peg of Vietnam into the round hole of Iraq until their pace makers give way. Those in the MSM will transform Bush into Nixon, even without face transplant. And yes, I suppose the Ward Churchill’s of academia will continue to warn their students that the NSA isn’t really looking for Al Qaeda in America, just those few Students for a Democratic Society/Black Panther stragglers still in hiding. That Ann Coulter’s appearances on various campi are just a pretense for library peeps under the Patriot Act and that Capitalism is a curse on humanity, except when their 401K hedge funds are underperforming.
Yes, we may be getting old, but some of us are still dangerous.
— A. DiPentima
Let’s dovetail this movie review with Lawrence Henry’s article: “Screwing It Up, One more Time”. And we’ve got a summation of the last 35 years in pop culture America. On one hand, we have a demanding sect of boomers going on like the paranoid AARP at Congress’s attempts to tie some value and long term solvency to Social Security and being jammed at every turn. Then we have another Hollywood re-make of a marginal original that we could have lived without.
We find pop culture and a sector of the political class in a state of perpetual “Do-Over.” Taking a Mulligan to show us that they can get “it” right, though they never telling us what “it” is. All the while critiquing everything they don’t like as if they’re the pious commentators of an Olympic skating event… with the benefit of slow-motion replay.
Jim Carrey’s “over the top” superfluous acting is similar to the hysterics provided by the Democrats and their entitlement constituents. We have to endure (S)Ex-President Clinton seeking a political-moral Mulligan under the klieg lights of his self induced Impeachment. All the while, these folks want to prove to us that they were/are right… this time. Like their claims that socialism/communism can be done right here… if we only let it. But when challenged to deliver on real reforms, all we get is the leaking of classified programs aimed at protecting the next generation of Americans, kicking ROTC off of college campuses, Senate liberals blocking renewal of the Patriot Act, ANWR drilling, tax cuts, and of course: “…all corporations are evil” and must be constricted at every turn. Thus like the failing Medicare/Social Security programs the youngsters will have to pay for, we are also saddled with windmills and “hybrid” diplomacy as alternatives to importing foreign oil and effectively battling terrorism.
But we do get the re-makes: The unending stream of attempts at showing us that they did have “it”, and still do. So they’ll prove it to us again and again. Do you get “it” yet?
— P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan
Re: James Bowman’s review of Fun With Dick and Jane:
James Bowman: Blunt. Honest. Right.
— Chef Tim
STILL FUNDING GOOFY CLERICS
Re: Kevin Amaro’s letter (under “Moral Disgust”) in Reader Mail’s Fairytale Season:
If the church funds collected by Mr. Amaro’s church work like the United Way his money will still go to the national body. I worked for United Way the year they were telling everyone you can pick where you want your money to go. Just write it on the check. Then the big shots would laugh, because all the money goes into a big pot and it is then divided up among the charities. So if the national body is supposed to get a certain percentage of what is collected that is what it will get. The only way to protest would be NOT to give money at all to the church. You might want to check into the way it is divided up.
— Elaine Kyle
SAD, SECULAR CHRISTMAS
Re: Patrick Hynes’s A Christmas Song for Tormented Souls:
I think Patrick Hynes has over-reached in an attempt to show how cool he is.
Yes, the Pogues were a reasonably serviceable Irish-punk outfit, but nothing they wrote or performed can truly be considered memorable (including the grossly over-praised “If I Should Fall”). Furthermore, their Christmas song is certainly not worthy of mention. Since when did agony and tortured souls define Christmas? And exactly how does one maintain that sullen songs like the “Christmas Shoes” are sub-par, while praising the abject misery of the Pogues? I maintain that both the slick Christ-less music of contemporary Christian artists and the filthy ruminations of drunkards are abominations to Christmas.
I’ll stick with Bing Crosby.
— C.J. Cheetham
Sumter, South Carolina
Re: Russell Seitz’s letter (under “Class Clone”) in Reader Mail’s Fairytale Season and Tom Bethell’s reply to Russell Seitz (under “Clone Ranger”) in Reader Mail’s Mormonism Spelled Out:
I’m afraid that Russell Seitz has an attention span measured in nanoseconds. He was apparently unable to follow what Neil DeRosa actually wrote in his book Apocryphal Science (Hamilton Books, 2004).
DeRosa wrote (pp. 94-95): “Again I owe to Tom Bethel [sic] of The American Spectator recognition for having brought Van Flandern and his Magnum Opus to my attention.”
In an article published in The American Spectator in April, 1999, I discussed some of Van Flandern’s views about relativity. It has earlier been pointed out (by Petr Beckmann and others) that Einstein’s famous equation accounting for the anomaly in the orbit of Mercury had been published in 1898, fully 18 years before Einstein derived it as part of his general theory of relativity (1916). The earlier discoverer of the equation, Paul Gerber, had not depended on relativity theory, which at that point did not exist. In this dispute, Van Flandern defended Einstein, saying that Gerber’s derivation was probably invalid. But Van Flandern also said (and I quoted him as saying) that the clock corrections built into the Global Positioning System are non-Einsteinian. Nonetheless, GPS has been hailed as one more triumph of Einstein’s relativity theory.
Tom Van Flandern, a physicist and cosmologist formerly associated with the University of Maryland Physics Department, worked for the Nautical Almanac Office of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Currently he puts out a newsletter called the Meta Research Bulletin. He is an independent thinker who subscribes to a wide range of views, some of which have been quoted by the eminent physicist Paul Dirac. But other of Van Flandern’s views are eccentric, and one in particular is hazardous to his reputation. This is the view that a designed artifact resembling a face is visible on Mars and has been photographed by NASA. I do not and never have subscribed to that view, which is unjustified by the evidence. You only have to look at the “face” to see that it is an accidental arrangement of canyons and shadows. In my view, it was reckless of Van Flandern to make such a claim and I have never endorsed it.
I brought Van Flandern’s ideas to DeRosa’s attention. I did not (necessarily) thereby endorse all of those views. I am sorry that Russell Seitz finds it impossible to make so elementary a distinction. A physicist should not find it necessary to make a case against those he opposes by telling lies about them.
Stick to the facts, Russell. To discern them, you will need to pay closer attention to what you read.
— Tom Bethell