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Comment: Re:Slashdot got a sensational story wrong? (Score 1) 122

by the gnat (#47785663) Attached to: No, a Stolen iPod Didn't Brick Ben Eberle's Prosthetic Hand

Slate's columnists not only demand that we accept the most apocalyptic interpretation of the data as gospel (scientists are not used to using terms like 'believe' and 'denier', but okay, the Maoists take taken over the issue)

Again, you're painting with a broad brush, and you seem to have no idea what the people you're talking about actually believe in. I'm a scientist, I don't vote, I'm a libertarian on most issues, and I'm pessimistic about our ability to actually do anything about global warming, but I still think the so-called skeptics are lying sacks of shit. Most scientists I know feel the same way, not because we're committed to some utopian vision of. . . cap-and-trade legislation? - but because we hate seeing paid shills distort the evidence and accuse our entire community of bad faith. It's the same reason that creationism drives us batty.

but that we automatically reject every proposed solution. We're all going to die, because that's the just fate Gaia intends for us as punishment for being fat and eating meat. We can't go nuclear to eliminate carbon! We can't bioengineer better crops!

Okay, time to back that up: when has Slate published screeds against a) meat-eating, b) nuclear power, c) bioengineering? I know for certain that they've run multiple articles in support of bioengineering, and I can remember at least one or two making fun of vegetarians. And it's not like you need to look very far to find a "left" outlet supporting your favored policies; the New Yorker just ran a very critical article about an anti-GMO activist that basically ended with the statement that only bioengineering would save the world.

What I would really like to see is a leftist site that reclaims the spirit of Roosevelt. If we have problems like climate change, energy shortage, war and poverty, let's attack them by building the giant public infrastructure projects that Steinbeck waxed so lyrical about. An energy independence Apollo would address all of these problems at once.

Liberals have been talking about this idea for years, usually by analogy to the Manhattan Project rather than Apollo. You don't see it getting wider reporting because everyone with a brain realizes that it has a snowball's chance in hell of getting through Congress.

Comment: Re:Slashdot got a sensational story wrong? (Score 1) 122

by the gnat (#47782075) Attached to: No, a Stolen iPod Didn't Brick Ben Eberle's Prosthetic Hand

yes, Slate's columnists seem to have sensed that the anti-vaxers have crossed a line in their Luddism

You're still grappling with a straw man. Slate writers have repeatedly denounced anti-vaxxers in fairly strong terms, and I have yet to see a single article taking the opposing view. More generally, they've been strongly anti-pseudoscience. You're assuming bad faith by making it sound like Slate has only grudgingly decide that there's a limit to their left-wing lunacy, rather than being firmly opposed to such nonsense on principle. If their "readership" really consisted of hardcore Luddites why would the editors consistently go out of their way to piss them off? Besides, you find find people saying stupid shit on virtually any Web forum - every Slashdot post about creationism inevitably attracts a slew of pissed-off religious fundamentalists, but I don't go around complaining that Slashdot's readership consists of superstitious morons.

Comment: Re:Slashdot got a sensational story wrong? (Score 4, Informative) 122

by the gnat (#47779861) Attached to: No, a Stolen iPod Didn't Brick Ben Eberle's Prosthetic Hand

their No Nukes anti-vax GMO-free science illiterate readership.

Uh, which readership would that be? I've been reading Slate almost daily for a while now, and they've been very consistently against the anti-vaxxers and, to a lesser extent, haven't had much sympathy for the anti-GMO crowd either. They even employ Phil Plait, who rarely misses an opportunity to denounce scientific illiteracy. Perhaps you confused them with Salon?

Comment: Re:Case closed (Score 1) 127

by the gnat (#47612849) Attached to: Senior RIKEN Scientist Involved In Stem Cell Scandal Commits Suicide

As you can see from someone's post above regarding the New Yorker story, there are conspiracies that exist to discredit good researchers and good research. And apropos to BobMcD's post, the pharmaceutical industry has been one of the main perpetrators.

I read the New Yorker story, and while the behavior it describes is sleazy and unethical, it was also done semi-openly (and somewhat sloppily) and completely failed to silence the principal target. It did not involve taking over an entire field and convincing multiple independent scientists and journal publishers to lie through their teeth. Oh, and it didn't actually kill anyone. (There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that the New Yorker reporter was a little too credulous in writing that piece.) Extrapolating from that story to "shadowy medical interests sabotage key experiment and kill senior author" is a huge leap.

Comment: Re:Case closed (Score 2) 127

by the gnat (#47612815) Attached to: Senior RIKEN Scientist Involved In Stem Cell Scandal Commits Suicide

I work in bioscience too, and this thread is making my head hurt. Anyone who actually follows the biomedical literature would be aware that there's practically an epidemic of shitty papers that should have never been published in the first place, and that many supposedly groundbreaking results have turned out to be impossible to reproduce. And it's not even the first time there's been huge controversy over sketchy stem-cell protocols. For this to be a conspiracy by unnamed entities in the "global medical services" industry, we'd have to stipulate that the conspirators are able to a) subvert the (British) journal Nature into first publishing the paper with planted duplicate images (which would require knowing about it in advance of publication), then retracting the paper several months later, b) subvert every independent lab that claimed to have tried and failed to reproduce the experiment, and c) corrupt the largest research institute in Japan to produce a finding of fraud. The whole thing requires a godlike level of competency and power (in addition to pure evil) that makes Monsanto look like a ten-year-old's lemonade stand business.

Comment: Re:ORLY? (Score 1) 138

by the gnat (#47596075) Attached to: Study: Dinosaurs "Shrank" Regularly To Become Birds

Have chickens. Check out their feet. "Dinosaur" will indeed cross your mind.

We have wild turkeys where I work. Every time I see a flock, I think of the little pack of dinosaurs (Compsognathus?) that eats Wayne Knight in "Jurassic Park", and shudder. And the turkeys are actually much larger than this. Fortunately they also seem to be relatively slow-moving and don't eat anything larger than insects.

Comment: Re:Dang... (Score 2) 139

by the gnat (#47535479) Attached to: Siberian Discovery Suggests Almost All Dinosaurs Were Feathered

Good parroting of the popular Dawkins-driven line, but simply vastly historically incorrect as the sequence of events. Origen of Alexandria (one of the "Fathers of the Church", that is, one shaping core positions at the very earliest foundation of Christianity) was arguing for allegorical interpretation of Genesis in the second century A.D.

I'm aware that many Christians throughout history have argued for an allegorical interpretation of Genesis, which is why I specifically said "literalists" (i.e. creationists and associated nuts). Whatever other problems I may have with the Catholic Church (for example), I do not consider them anti-science. I had in mind the people who try to prove that the speed of light must have changed drastically in order to make the observed size of the universe compatible with their reading of Genesis (e.g. the Ussher chronology). I'll grant that I was a little unfair in blaming "the Bible" for this, but you can't really escape the fact that Christianity is dependent on an essentially immutable set of scriptures*, and there is also a large contingent that views allegorical interpretations as heresy.

The notion that science comes along and "shows religion incorrect" is fanciful nonsense.

Which is why I never said that. But it is certainly not nonsense to point out that the available scientific evidence supports a much different origin theory than the literal reading of Genesis. You can view the hand of God in there if you want; I don't really concern myself with such things. However there is still that very large subset of Christians (and Muslims, and Jews) for whom this compromise is intolerable, because for them, whatever the Bible says must be true.

(* At least within the last millennium or so. Of course in the longer time frame the contents of the Bible - especially the Old Testament - were subject to a great deal of revision and selective editing, which is why the literal interpretation really seems nonsensical to me..)

Comment: Re:Dang... (Score 2) 139

by the gnat (#47534459) Attached to: Siberian Discovery Suggests Almost All Dinosaurs Were Feathered

Science is wrong

That's a bit of an exaggeration. Science was incomplete, in the sense that our assumptions about the appearance of dinosaurs were based on limited fossil evidence (and analogies to modern lizards rather than birds). And the raw evidence wasn't even "wrong", it was totally valid - only our interpretations were incorrect. Now we have new evidence, which is being incorporated into how we think about dinosaurs. When was the last time that anything was added to the Bible?

Comment: Re:Dang... (Score 2) 139

by the gnat (#47534427) Attached to: Siberian Discovery Suggests Almost All Dinosaurs Were Feathered

There are more models to support the scientific theory, but even then, there are something like 35 competing theories of evolution.

Possibly, but the general concept isn't even remotely controversial (at least among actual scientists). Especially the theory that humans and apes have a common ancestor, which is simultaneously the most minimal example of evolution, and the one that seems to upset people the most.

However, if one wants to be totally objective (or at least minimize biases), one has to admit that science doesn't always have the answers. The idea that science can eventually explain everything is as an untestable hypothesis as a deity creating everything. Neither can be proven.

The predictive ability of science - and the number of things it explains - does continue to improve over time, however. The same cannot be said of religion. Or, put another way, science is capable of changing as new evidence is obtained, as exemplified by this article. The Bible, however, is immutable, and the literalists have to resort to increasingly contorted explanations for how the Genesis account could be factually correct.

Comment: Re:Advanced? (Score 1) 95

by the gnat (#47519539) Attached to: Finding Life In Space By Looking For Extraterrestrial Pollution

The thing is, fossil fuels run out rather quickly on the cosmic scale. A few centuries and the consequences of pollution become apparent quickly too. A civilization must quickly move to something cleaner or it dies. Either way, the pollution stops. What are the odds that our telescopes will find a planet inhabited by a civilization that just happens to be going through a (likely) one-time few century window of time?

This is an excellent point, but it's also orthogonal to the post I was replying to. You're arguing based on certain physical constraints which are based on reasonable extrapolation from our present circumstances. The GP was arguing that pollution was "illogical", which is just a nonsensical argument. Polluting the planet to the point of species extinction would be illogical, but trace levels of CFCs in the atmosphere don't necessarily indicate a fundamental lack of logic, just a transitional period where a civilization was smart enough to make such things, but not smart enough to realize the long-term impact. (But I agree that this timeframe is not likely to be very long.)

Comment: Re:Advanced? (Score 1) 95

by the gnat (#47519505) Attached to: Finding Life In Space By Looking For Extraterrestrial Pollution

First off, what we can or cannot imagine has absolutely nothing to do with what is or is not real, so it isn't clear why you're bringing this up.

The parent poster was criticizing the making of "assumptions" about how advanced alien life might behave in the process of trying to detect it. If we don't make certain assumptions based on what we can observe firsthand, our imaginations are all we're left with. And I agree this is a shitty way to do science, which was kind of my entire point.

Comment: Re:Advanced? (Score 2) 95

by the gnat (#47519007) Attached to: Finding Life In Space By Looking For Extraterrestrial Pollution

Would an advanced race actually do something so illogical?

By "advanced", I assume the summary meant "technologically advanced". How would any civilization reach a high level of technology without going through industrialization? It's not like anyone enjoys living downwind of a coal plant, but the messier forms of energy production are convenient, cheap, and don't require any advanced materials or science. Try to imagine an alternate history where we emerged from the industrial revolution with effective, sustainable fusion and solar power without ever polluting the planet.

One of my least-favorite sci-fi tropes is an alien race which is simultaneously technologically adept enough to build starships and aggressive enough to spread through the galaxy meets (much less technologically advanced) humans for the first time and sadly remarks on our lack of environmental consciousness and our propensity for violence. It requires the assumption that exactly none of the circumstances that constrained our development, and none of the evolutionary pressures which drove it, might apply to other species. Yes, we can't be certain that other forms of life aren't so radically different that these rules don't apply - but we have yet to observe such life forms on Earth, at least.

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)