Saturday, May 31, 2008

Science, Statistics, and Social Engineering

It is unclear as to when the decline of science began, but the decline was already underway when Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” was published in 1962. This book was used as a driving force in the international ban of DDT, even though after four decades of research DDT has never been shown to be harmful to man. In fact in order to bolster her case Carson cited cases of “acute exposures” to DDT as proof of its cancer causing abilities. She cited the case of a woman who sprayed DDT for spiders in her basement and then died a month later of leukemia. In another case she cited the case of a man who sprayed his office for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. Of course these laughable examples show no empirical connection between DDT and the cancers and no responsible scientist would accept these as proof and to do so would be irresponsible. Yet no one questioned Carson or her conclusions at the time even though the actually observed results indicated DDT was not harmful to humans and the ban continues. But then there was the case of the impact of DDT on bird reproduction. The study Carson cited stated that DDT “may seriously affect reproduction of birds”. Of course the operative work here is “may” and the actual article indicated that DDT had only a minor negative impact on Quail but actually helped in the reproduction of pheasants.

But the real impact that DDT had was on human health, specifically malaria is immense. The World Health Organization credited DDT with saving 50 million to 100 million lives by preventing malaria. . In 1943 Venezuela had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962 in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968. Since DDT was banned the number of cases of Malaria has increased and since the ban the number of cases in South Africa alone has increased 400%. So here is a case where no real science was used to further an ecological cause at human expense and what real science was available was ignored by Carson and the advocaes social engineering. Carson was convinced chemicals, like DDT were poisoning the environment and so used faith based "science" to create a problem with no real scientific basis. This was one of the early examples of Faith Based Science, but there were earlier ones.

In 1892 the Senate Committee on Epidemic Diseases concluded that cigarettes were a public health hazard. In 1964 the Surgeon General issued a report that cigarette smoking CAUSED lung cancer. Since that time there has been more than two dozen similar reports and the number of diseases related to smoking is now so high that virtually every disease is included and it is a wonder that anyone who smokes or who has even been around a smoker is still alive to tell about it. However, NONE of those reports has offered any proof that connects smoking to any disease and ignores the actual fact that the majority of smokers do not get lung cancer. To this day there is no empirical evidence that smoking causes cancer. This entire anti-smoking campaign is based on a statistical correlation and the side-smoke conclusions are not only statistical but based on an A Priori hypothesis which means any contrary findings were discarded. This is another and egregious example of Faith Based science because there is no scientific evidence showing smoking as the cause of cancer.

But given the success of their attack on tobacco the non-science scientists took that as a license to forego all of that tedious lab work and move on to data mining and this opened the door to pseudo-science based on statistics. We now see on a regular basis “scientific” claims that cancer is caused by Saccharin, Styrofoam cups, red meat, Oreo cookies, vasectomies, cotton swabs, orange juice, eggs, and the list goes on and on but it is not limited to cancer. Statistical correlations are being offered almost on daily basis to show some truly ridiculous claims. These are duy reported by the media even though there is no science or any real empirical evidence to support these statistical claims. The most recent example of a statistical "disease" is obesity.

Americans are overweight and the culprit is sugar, fast food, large portions,video games, lack of excercise, or whatever is currently in vogue. Everybody is on a diet, or at least everyone in the Northeast and West Coasts where appearance is everything. Of course much of this brouhaha is a direct result of a restatement of what constitutes “overweight”. The National Health Institute declared that 55% of Americans are overweight and the Social Security Administration declared “obesity is a chronic disease”. Did you get that? When you over eat and you gain weight it isn’t because you have no will power, nosiree – you have a disease and this disease is epidemic in America today. Note that the cry isn’t for science to find a cure for this disease – the demand is for the government to attack this epidemic through social engineering. The government should force Ronald MacDonald out of business, to stop people selling candy to kids, and in general to force people to eat healthy foods and a to eat a lot less so restaurants must reduce their portion sizes. Does that sound like science in action or do-gooders telling everyone else how to live? Where is science in all of this? We are assured that obese people have more medical problems than thin people – the statistics show that so there is no necessity to do any real lab work showing there is a direct connection between a disease of the body and the “disease” of obesity.

Science is definitely in decline and seems to becoming more of a belief system than any thing seriously based on the hallowed scientific method. Perhaps the best example of this erosion of science into social engineering is the declaration that alcoholism is a “disease” and not an example of irresponsible behavior. Precisely what the germ is that causes this disease or how you catch this disease is not described. It is enough to know that people who drink to excess and cannot control their behavior cannot be held accountable by society because that would require them to be personally responsible for their situation. Instead we call it a disease and that excuses them from accountability. Where is the science? Where is the empirical connection? Science is clearly in decline and quickly disappearing. I think I need a Big Mac.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

HALLELUJAH -- I Believe in Darwin

I have generally used this space to write about various things ranging from science to politics but previously I have not addressed things at a personal level but I feel I must respond personally because my comments on Intelligent Design have prompted the usual attacks from the Dawkins and Darwin true believers. The latest attack cites this WEB site, which purports to describe transitions but it looks like this is more of a description of adaptation rather than transition.

After reading this I truly wonder about the ability of the Dawkins / Darwin crowd to think critically. They seem to be on a crusade to prove that God does not exist, that Evolution, as stated by Darwin, is 100% accurate, and that anyone who even mentions Intelligent Design is some sort of a yahoo. The recent film by Ben Stein (EXpelled) cites example after example of the intimidating attacks launched against anyone who has the temerity to question Darwin. I never thought my humble little blog, which I admit is more an exercise in ego than anything else, would come under such emotional attack. I feel like I have violated some sort of unwritten law by challenging Darwin and equating what passes for Evolution as adaptation. So I would like make some personal comments in an effort to explain my position and defend myself as an intelligent person who simply is looking critically at Darwin.

First I believe in God. I truly think we are divine creations and not the arbitrary product of some random event that began with pond scum and ended with Homo Sapiens. I believe that God created us in his image but then God is pure energy as are we so God does not exist in some heaven floating above the clouds and has a long white beard. This means that our human form is not the exact image of God and how we came to be may indeed be a result of a line of Homininds. Secondly, I believe in Evolution and I think Darwin got much of it right and when you consider the state of science at the time, his achievement was remarkable. However, I also believe that Evolution as described is incomplete and contains some inconsistencies. The reality is that Darwin's book "The Origin of Species" doesn't really explain the origin of species. The examples cited for Evolution (which are accurate) demonstrate adaptation to changing enviroments and the link referenced above is an example of that. Fish are fish, dogs are dogs, and one species does not change into another -- at least that has not been demonstrated and I don't think the link shows that.

Then there is the issue of the origin of life. This has been a sticking point for science and while they have actually been able to create a replicating non-organic molecule the point that seems to escape the Darwinists is that this is really an example of Intelligent design. In fact the Darwinists are showing increasing signs of religion and religious intolerance in their attacks on anyone who even questions their God Darwin. The demands for the creation of life seem to be mathematically impossible (I am grounded in math and know how to manipulate numbers) so why not look to alternatives -- like Intelligent design. Apparently the Darwinsists are actually atheists so the cannot even consider any challenge to Darwin or the possiblity of an alternative because that alternaitve might lead to God. So instead the Darwinists have postulated Pan Spermia -- life from outer space. Who know's this might be possible but then if this is possible isn't that a form of Intelligent Design and even so why isn't God possible?

From there we go to the problem of speciation and this has never been explained and efforts to breed across species has failed. Since Darwin never actually addressed how species came to be, this had been a problem for the Darwinists and they have generally turned to mutations or cosmic particles creating mutations but these have largely been unsatisfactory so Stephan Gould came up with his "punctuated Equilibria" theory. Essentially Gould was trying to solve two problems the lack of transitional fossils and speciation. His theory may be right although it seems to have a number of holes in it. Essentially his theory states that for some reason one species will go through a series of rapid changes over a period of time measured in thousands of years and not millions and this accounts for a lack of transitional fossils. Gould himself stated that transitional fossils would probably never be found but now he is moving away from that statement, no doubt because to stand by it would threaten his career.

However, let's accept that Gould's theory has merit, so how many thousands of years are necessary for one species to morph into another? Ten, twenty, a hundred, a thousand -- oops that's a million, so it must be less. But we have evidence of animals and even humans that go back a million but still no evidence of those annoying transitional forms. Now Gould like virtually all of the Darwinists equate anyone who challenges Darwin as a "creationist", which really is an example of their towering ignorance as well as intolerance. The Creationists are different than those who ask for a hearing about Intelligent Design. All we are saying is that Evolution is incomplete, that the origin of life is unknown, how life on Earth began is unknown, and that alternatives like Intelligent design should be explored and if wrong demonstrated. Why this meets with such hostility is beyond me.

I have read article after article as the scientific community struggles to prove that Darwin and Evolution are totally correct and they are mostly right,but it is these aggravating details that they can't answer. They can't accept that God exists so rather than even examine that possibility they launch these attacks on anyone who even appears to be something other than a true believer.

This argument over Evolution is simply another manifestation of how science has become increasingly degraded as the requirement for empirical evidence is replaced by belief and statistical analyses. I think a little tolerance and a lot of critical thinking is in order.


Monday, May 19, 2008

The New Management Paradigm

Managing is an experience, but then so is a root canal and the two experiences seem to have much in common. That is both are some times painful but both have certain rewards once the pain is over. Still there are many people who desire to lead the band. To members of the band this seems like a great and enviable position but anyone who has stepped up front knows that if you want to lead the band you have to face the music. The reality is that the manager – or in the more contemporary term leader – is the focal point for dissatisfied customers, team members and superiors and that the actual ability to control or influence events is much less than what may be perceived and the larger the band the more this is so. Consequently some days the manager might prefer to set his hair on fire rather than go to the office, but then there are those other days when things actually go as planned. True the number of days when this happens is woefully few, but they do occur and in the long term that usually makes everything worthwhile. Leading may be a lonely business but it is also fun in the long run and can be rewarding even though it frequently means hours of wading through tedious details and listening to complaints and problems that would tax a saint.

And this brings us to one of the great unanswered questions, which is – why does anyone want to take on the task of managing much less leading. Of course no one really knows why anyone wants to subject themselves to the stresses of leading an organization but there is a huge gamut of reasons ranging from power to “some one has to do it” or to inheritance. But there really is a larger question and that is what the difference is between management and leadership. Even though it is generally acknowledged that there are differences between managers and leaders these differences are generally ignored as organizations strive to keep up with the current trends in management style. The old management style – that is planning and directing-- is now considered old fashioned and companies are moving to the new leadership style of inspiring and governing. This trend can be observed everywhere as organizations morph into teams and leaders replace managers and management is replaced by governance. The result is that the concept of managing an organization is disappearing as organizations melt into teams staffed by team members both real and virtual and management is transformed into governance. Of course when challenged very few executives can make a clear distinction between these terms. The terms manager and leader are used interchangeably just as management and governance are used interchangeably. It appears that our corporate executives have come to believe that with the stroke of their administrative pen they can update their organizations and transform their unwanted and outdated managers into leaders who govern the organization. It all seems so simple but alas contrary to what Shakespeare might believe there is more to it than just a name.

But those of us who must live with these changes know how it actually works. One day you are the Department Manager happy as a clam in your little bureaucratic heaven and the next day you are the "Leader" of a new downsized, reengineered, and streamlined team, ready for action and poised to meet the future. As if by magic your department has disappeared and in its place is this newly constituted team armed with processes and acronyms prepared to battle the reactionary elements who thought things were working fine and no change was necessary. Of course that’s because down in the trenches the new team looks suspiciously like the old department--except smaller. You find that at the stroke of the pen you have been transformed from a manager of resources into a leader of men (in the generic sense of course). But most of us have found that following this metamorphosis very little has changed in reality. The downsizing has left you with a smaller staff and a new title but with the same responsibilities. Well -- almost the same responsibilities because as the leader you are not only expected to manage this team but also be a part of the team (translation: do the work). You and the smaller staff must now do everything you did before plus work more hours to compensate for the reduced staff. Furthermore, as the leader you are expected to lead by example, which means that you have retained all of your old duties, taken on direct responsibilities for certain tasks formerly done by the staff, and added more hours to your work schedule. You find that you not only are doing everything you did before but you are also an active contributor with tasks of your own. Essentially as a leader in this new paradigm, management has become "an extra duty", something to be done in your spare time as a "background" activity.

This magical transformation of managers into leaders and the associated trimming of "excess" employees is then touted to the (those that are awake) board-of-directors and stockholders as an example of how the company executives are up-to-date and have the vision necessary to lead the company into the next century. They have eliminated all of those high priced middle managers and over priced workers and replaced them with highly trained professionals in low labor cost countries. They have created a virtual organization staffed by motivated leaders and enthusiastic "A" players. The company is now poised to meet the future head-on, but is it really?

The problem is that changing titles and reducing staff is an age old management strategy that may have an immediate impact on the bottom line, but without a change in operational methods it is at best an organizational band-aide. What is required is fundamental structural, cultural, and philosophical change, plus an understanding of the purpose/ reason for the changes and a clear vision of the future. The new managers (leaders) must have a clear understanding of how their position has changed and what is expected of them. Without these real changes and an understanding of the impact of the changes reducing staff and changing titles are merely euphemisms and administrative exercises that may actually hurt the performance of the enterprise more than they help. Therefore, magical transformations of managers to leaders won't work. Unfortunately, this hasn’t seemed to stop many executives as they struggle to meet cost reduction mandates. What is needed are new approaches to management and organization complete with new processes, uniformity, and standards, but most of all a clear mission. Perhaps the lack of a mission statement is really the problem but one rarely recognized in the race to reduce costs. In any event, reducing heads and moving work offshore is rarely the only answer and certainly not the first one to choose.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Climate Change Hypocrisy

There seems to be some really bad news for those uneducated and over educated alarmists who jumped on Al Gore’s self serving Climate Change Bandwagon. It is amusing watching the political sponsors backpedal and distance themselves from this “important” issue that they were so recently extolling. Both Barrack Obama and John McCain drank the Al Gore Kool-aide on Global Warming but now are suffering from the effects of unintended consequences as their support for ethanol as a fossil fuel replacement is causing alarming rises in food prices and creating worldwide food shortages. Apparently the politicians along with many of the trendy fashion setters on the East and West Coasts fail to understand that corn is not just eaten, it is used in a wide variety of ways – like corn syrup. John McCain has joined other GOP politicians in proposing that the Environmental Protection Age (aka We know what’s best for you agency) in loosening federal mandates on ethanol in the fuel supply. Barrack Obama in his usual breathtaking grasp of problems and solutions stated that “this is just something we are going to have to deal with”. Very decisive and I’m sure he HOPES that someone somewhere will come up with a solution while he is focused on CHANGE.

It is understandable that Al Gore has led the charge to de-industrialize the Western Powers, the US in particular, because after all he has admitted at a March 1st conference that he has a financial stake in various “green” companies that are pushing alternative energy sources. But this must be placed in context with his alarmist warnings “that what is at stake here is our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization.” But it seems that in light of recent developments both McCain and Obama are moving away from Gore and his “inconvenient truth” which was never the whole truth and certainly self-serving. What are these “recent developments?” Well it seems amidst the dire warnings from the Goreacle that the Earth was in imminent danger of becoming the “scorched Earth “ due to global warming, we are now faced with a cooling planet.

What science has learned from that old fashioned scientific standby – observation – and not easily manipulated computer models – is that temperatures on Earth have been cooling since 1998. Arctic sea ice is growing and the Antarctic summer thaw began later because of colder temperatures. Furthermore a report in Nature projects that cooler ocean currents are going to cause at least a decade of colder weather. This projection follows two straight mild hurricane seasons. This last winter was the worst that has been experienced in the US and Canada in some time and the snowfall in Michigan was the worst they have experienced in the last 50 years. And all of this happened in spite of a rise in carbon dioxide emissions.

These are facts which the Goreacle and other alarmists would rather not consider even though reputable climatologists have been sounding the warning that the Earth’s climate is a great deal more complex than a self-serving oracle like Gore realizes and that these dire warnings are very pre-mature. Nevertheless this debate is far from over but the spike in food prices and growing food shortages worldwide show the folly of premature action and a failure to understand the ever changing Earth and the scientists who study the Earth and its climate. Recently there was a great deal of media attention over a large calving glacier but what was not given the same amount of media attention was the explanation offered by a University of Alabama scientist (Roy Spencer) who dismissed all of the concerns by pointing out that this “happens every 150 years”. This is very indicative of the way the whole climate change hysteria has been handled by the media. In the early 19th Century Charles Lyell postulated the “Theory of Uniformitarianism” which essentially says that the geological processes that we see today are the same processes that have always existed. This means that it is very rare – if it occurs at all – for something to happen that has never happened before.

There has been concern over the Great Lakes and their falling water levels. This has been viewed as another example of global warming and environmental destruction brought on by irresponsible human activity. However, the Army Corps of Engineers who monitors these things has reported that Lakes Ontario and Erie are closer to record high water marks than they are to their low water marks and this is after just ONE snowy winter. Perhaps it is time for the environmental alarmists to re-examine their position now that it seems that so many of their concerns seem to be unfounded or at least not demonstrable based on empirical data. Computer models can be manipulated and must be verified based on actual observations. Instead of supporting his “Inconvenient Truth” self-serving hype and the de-industrialization of America based on the Kyoto Protocol, maybe it is time for Al Gore to listen to scientists specializing in the climate rather than psychology, sociology, or other unrelated disciplines.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

America and the UN

John Bolton the former Ambassador to the United Nations recently gave a speech in Phoenix Arizona, where he made some very pertinent comments regarding America and the United Nations. After reading his speech it is easy to see why the ultra-left hated Bolton and eventually forced him out once they controlled congress. Bolton makes it very clear that the UN does not meet its initial objectives but is truly a useless organization. I think most Americans realize this, or at least those who think critically think that the US would be better off leaving the UN altogether. It seems that Jeanne Kirkpatrick another former UN Ambassador when asked why the US didn’t pull out of the UN said “Because it is more trouble than its worth.” Bolton exacerbated the left by adding that at times the UN can be an effective instrument of American foreign policy. While that statement may seem accurate but innocuous to most of us, it is like throwing gasoline on to flame for the left, because the real devotee’s of the UN think that everyone’s foreign policy should be subservient to the UN. Of course no one’s is and every UN member tries to further its own interest but the only country criticized for that is the US.

However, Bolton points out a much more serious activity of the UN and one not really visible or even discussed in the US and that is what our European “friends” call “norming”. It is likely that you have not ever heard this term used although it is essentially what Al Gore and the liberals worldwide condemn America and President Bush for not doing. “Norming” is the belief that the US should base its decisions on some sort of international consensus, rather than making its decisions according to the democratic procedures established in the US Constitution. In fact at an international conference on law, a European University professor stated “That the problem with the United States is its devotion to its constitution over international norms”. This is a typical attitude found in Europe where they despise American strength as a dependent relative despises the one who supports him in his self-inflicted poverty. But exactly what is “norming” according to the UN?

Essentially the advocates of “norming” describe it as “one nation, one vote” which sounds very democratic, except what that means is that America and American laws would be subservient to the UN and it would be the UN resolutions that would prevail over the American Constitution, for example the question of the death penalty. This has been a subject of controversy in the US for decades and opinions have swung both ways. Some states have death penalty laws while others do not and this subject has been taken to the Supreme Court which has modified the laws so the death penalty can be handed out in appropriate cases. Regardless of whether you are for or against the death penalty the fact is that this has been handled within the Constitutional framework of the US. But with “norming” this case is closed and no discussion is either needed or allowed, the UN has decided against it. When the current Secretary of the UN General Assembly Ban Ki-moon stated that the question of the death penalty was up to each country to decide he was almost run out of town on a rail because this question had already been decided by the UN – meaning no country in the eyes of the UN could inflict the death penalty. Is it any wonder why the UN acts against American interests or why so many Americans want us out of the UN?

This was the same kind of response the US received regarding gun control. The UN wants to control the flow of light weapons and as part of this they want to forbid individuals from private ownership of guns. When it was pointed out that the US could not go along with this resolution because it violated our Constitution this was treated as some sort of specious notion and that the US Constitution had no relevance to UN resolutions. While the UN can quickly come to agreement on resolutions that control the actions of the US, they are much less capable – in fact totally incapable – of reaching consensus on such things as “terrorism”. Of course the fact is that the majority of the members of the UN are Islamic, have large Islamic populations, or sympathize with Islamofascism so it is no surprise to find that the UN believes there is “good terrorism” and “bad terrorism”. This is no surprise since many of the members see the US as a terrorist country and the Islamofascists as “freedom fighters”.

The fact that the UN is totally corrupt organization is really no surprise and the oil for food program under Kofi Anan was a vivid example of the endemic corruption in the UN. When Kofi Anan was forced into examining the UN program Paul Volcker found that the oil for food scandal was only the tip of the iceberg and he recommended a whole series of reforms not the least of which was an independent audit of UN Programs. Well the UN Budget Committee voted 2 to 1 against any kind of independent audit. The countries voting for it provide 90% of the UN funding (the US provides 22%) but were out voted.

The UN was supposed to have provided support and guidance toward peace and liberty but it has simply failed on all fronts. It has not prevented any war, it has not been successful at peace keeping, just as it has not been successful in enforcing any of its resolutions. It failed to enforce the resolutions against Saddam Hussein just as it has failed to enforce its resolutions against Iran. The UN is a failed organization and to continue funding it is not in America’s best interest. John Bolton maintains that the US should only fund what we want and then insist that we get precisely what we pay for. This is unlikely to happen so if the US cannot withdraw from the UN at the very least we should no longer just give them a bucket of unencumbered money to siphon off into the hands of corrupt bureaucrats.