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Comment: Re: In other news (Score 1) 609 609

That's just ridiculous. Just because someone works for the government does not mean that he or she has no expectation of privacy. I'm not defending the use of personal email for official communications, but even high ranking officials should have some expectations of privacy in the conduct of their personal affairs. Yes, even if their last name happens to be Clinton :-P

Comment: Racket (Score 1) 252 252

It's been said elsewhere in this thread that the textbook publishing industry is nothing more than a racket. The publishers routinely release "new" editions to textbook which only differ in having the problem numbers rearranged to attempt to make old editions useless for current classes. The prices in the textbooks are gouged beyond belief. The publisher makes more profit off of a class of students than the instructor does, which makes no sense on margin.

Part of the problem is that students can't vote with their wallets. The people that make the buying decisions are the professors, or worse the departments. Even without the occasional conflict of interests, these agents have no economic incentive to reduce costs for students. Students' only option to "vote with their wallets" is to look for a different academic program or school, which is rather absurd to regard as an "option". It is only out of the good will of the professor that costs for the students can realistically be minimized, but there are no real incentives to support this at most institutions.

Once upon a time, there was value added in having a publisher. But this is the 21st century, and there are ways for textbook authors to publish without imposing onerous costs on students. There are even some good publishers that will provide manuscript services at fairly minimal cost. So as I see it, the big textbook publishers have become nothing more than rent collectors in the style of the RIAA/MPAA, leeching off of the work of others. The good news is that academic culture seems to be changing. The younger generation of teachers is sensitive to these issues, and open source publishing looks poised to take off. I personally would view it as an ethical imperative to publish any textbook of my own under Creative Commons, and I think this attitude is becoming increasingly popular.

Comment: Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (Score 1) 600 600

If a model conflicts with observation, the model either must be dropped or modified.

That's a little too simplistic. Often, when a model conflicts with observation, the first thing that is questioned is the observation. Is the observation accurate? Is it repeatable? Is the observation made without observer bias (intentional or otherwise)?

How is that too simplistic? If the observation was inaccurate, then it really wasn't an observation, was it?

Only in the same way that it is impossible to "observe" a True Scotsman.

Comment: Re:Homeopathy doesn't work that way (Score 1) 408 408

But you need to be careful about the large amounts of dihydrogen monoxide present in some homeopathic preparations. Although this can be helpful in treating certain conditions, like dehydration, in sufficient quantities it is quite dangerous.

Comment: Nice try (Score 5, Informative) 667 667

"No, consideration of special creation is definitely not open for discussion, it would seem."

Nice try, except scientists have considered creationism. For instance, Stephen Jay Gould has written screeds analyzing creationism scientifically. The issue isn't a lack of consideration, but rather that such scientists have thoroughly refuted creationism. I actually wouldn't mind a series scientifically analyzing creationism in principle, perhaps along the lines of some of Gould's work, but I somehow doubt that such a public flaying would satisfy the good folks at AiG.

Comment: Re:And the US could turn Russia into vapor (Score 1) 878 878

To give an analogy. If I'm walking in a dark alley and run into a guy who jumps on me with a knife, I'm in my right to take out a pistol and shoot him. But if I'm walking in a dark alley and a guy is camping at the corner, he might be waiting for me to come by and jump on me with a knife, but until he does I have no moral or legal right to shoot him.

This looks eerily like the US justification for the Iraq War.

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