Thursday, February 24, 2005

Brotherhood forming in Iraq

The Washington Post has this story about Iraqi soldiers diving into a frigid canal to recover the bodies of Americans.
What happened then, however, has transformed the relationship between the Iraqi soldiers and the skeptical Americans who train them. Using a tool they welded themselves that day at a cost of about $40, the Iraqis dredged the canal through the cold afternoon until the tan boot of Spec. Dakotah Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, appeared at the surface. The Iraqis then jumped into the water to pull him out, and went back again and again until they had recovered the last American. Then they stood atop the canal, shivering in the dark.

"When I saw those Iraqis in the water, fighting to save their American brothers, I saw a glimpse of the future of this country," said Col. Mark McKnight, commander of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, which had overall responsibility for the unit in the accident, his eyes tearing.

Blinded by Science

Iain Murray writes on NRO of the tabloidization of science.
If this trend continues, the scientific and medical communities are playing a very dangerous game. MIT scientist Richard Lindzen once commented, "Science is a tool of some value. It provides our only way of separating what is true from what is asserted. If we abuse that tool, it will not be available when it is needed." Yet a troubling number of journals and scientists are doing just that. If the institutions of science do not face up to this problem, we face the prospect of a "post-scientific," relativistic reality. The public that trusts scientists to benefit them deserves much better.

Politicized (aka junk) science is doubly destructive because it eats resources that could go to real science, and because it erodes confidence in science itself. Chicken Little was not helpful.

Religion masquerading as science doesn't help, either.
I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.

Scientists would do well to heed Michael Chrichton's advice:
Scientists often complain to me that the media misunderstands their work. But I would suggest that in fact, the reality is just the opposite, and that it is science which misunderstands media. I will talk about why popular fiction about science must necessarily be sensationalistic, inaccurate, and negative. I'll explain why it is impossible for the scientific method to be accurately portrayed in film. I will explain why I think traditional concerns about media are misplaced, and I'll suggest some steps that science can take to genuinely improve its image.

A Victory for Socialized Medicine

A young girl in Britain was diagnosed with a rare condition which made her aspirate her food. For seven and a half years she's had to eat via a feeding tube attached to a special backpack. Picture an energetic little girl whose favorite smell is cooking bacon, having to leave the room when the family ate. She snuck morsels of food. And the doctors insisted their diagnosis was correct. Then her family flew her to Stanford where the doctors performed a miracle. They figured out what was wrong with her.


Maybe Deep Throat Isn't Sick

I mentioned a couple of theories about DT in an earlier post. Jonah Goldberg makes the case that he never existed.
In his memoirs, Too Good to Be Forgotten, [David Obst] confirms that the first draft of the book didn't mention Deep Throat and that Bob Fink, the researcher who organized the reporters' huge pile of sources, notes, and articles into a workable manuscript, was stunned to discover the appearance of Deep Throat in later versions.