1. FAKE BOMB DETECTOR: THE HIGH COST OF IGNORANCE.
According to a story in The Independent (UK) on Tuesday, the investigation into the sale of fake bomb detectors has been expanded to a number of firms in the UK. It seemed comical fourteen years ago when we learned that golfers were buying fraudulent golf-ball finders (WN 12 Jan 96). The Quadro Tracker was nothing but an “antenna” mounted on a pistol-grip with a swivel that was free to rotate 360°. An almost imperceptible deviation of the swivel from horizontal would cause the antenna to rotate under the force of gravity to its lowest point. To a credulous observer it might seem to be controlled by some mysterious external force. Quadro soon began marketing them to law enforcement agencies and the Department of Defense for $995 each to search for drugs and weapons. It failed a simple scientific test. Sandia National Labs took one apart and found it contained no internal parts. The FBI shut Quadro down and arrested its officers (WN 26 Jan 96). However, the device soon reappeared in the UK as the ADE 651, sold by ATSC for prices as high as $48,000. At least 1,500 were sold to the government of Iraq as bomb detectors at a cost of millions of dollars, as WN reported in January (WN 29 Jan 2010). The fake bomb detectors have reportedly contributed to hundreds of bomb deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, including British and American troops.
2. MAGICAL THINKING: DOWSING IS NOT ILLEGAL IN THE US OR THE UK.
In spite of the heinous nature of the ATSC crime, it may be difficult to
obtain a conviction. The defense of those charged with selling fake bomb detectors will be that they believe the devices work. Their defense will point to the hundreds or thousands of people who openly market their services to dowse for water or other substances. Sometimes called water-witching, dowsing is said to rely on supernatural influence over the muscles of the person holding a willow fork or an ADE 651. Dowsing doesn’t always work, but what does? The prosecution will find itself hip deep in arguments over how an ADE 651 differs from prayer. Magical thinking will be with us until children are taught that observable effects result only from physical causes. It must be taught at the time they are learning their first language.
Creationist advocates of intellectually dishonest ideas like “teach the controversy”, or “evolution is only a theory” are not engaged in a scientific debate. Neither are they engaged in a debate about how science works. Indeed, they are not even participating in good-faith (no pun intended) discourse but are pursuing their own subversive agenda, no holds barred.
An overt part of those agenda includes recruiting children to their world view. Planting intellectually deceitful ideas in the heads of young children makes those ideas less prone to revision as the child matures.
This is not really a summary, but more some thoughts that arrived as I was listenting to the 30-minute talk by James Williams (his website), lecturer in education at Sussex University, called “Insidious Creationism”. (Given on 8 June 2009 at a day conference called “Darwin, Humanism and Science”.) I watched it at “The Dispersal of Darwin“, Michael Barton’s blog.
Near the beginning, this idea of “intellectual abuse” caught my attention (transcriptions are mine):
This is why I apply the term “intellectual abuse” to “creationism”: I feel that when a person in a position of power and authority, who claims expertise in science, deliberately provides a non-scientific explanation for a natural phenomenon, knowing that to be at odds with the accepted scientific explanation, then that person is guilty of intellectual abuse.
Later on this fanciful image of a graduate in a “creation science” degree program generated a hearty laugh from the audience:
“Intelligent design” explains nothing. Science fails to proceed if that is the approach we take. Science succeeds where there are things that we do not know, that we don’t understand. And the role of science is to find those explanations for natural phenomena.
I can’t actually see Oxford, or Cambridge, in the near future offering degrees in “supernatural sciences”. I can’t see somebody going for a science Ph.D. saying, “Well, I’ve done the tests, I’ve investigated, I’ve read all the papers, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on, so therefore my answer is: It was designed. Could I have my doctorate please?”
The biggest laugh, however, was for the fanciful picture of Jesus holding the baby raptor, an example illustration from an “intellectually deceitful” book aimed at children.
It’s not all laughs, of course, even if the presentation is light hearted and digestible. Creationism would be merely a fringe group of ignorable wackos if they were not having such a disproportionate affect currently on educational discourse and policy in this country through deliberately dishonest and misleading tactics and strategies. “Insidious” indeed.
Just in case you came in late, or you don’t remember the events of the time, and never realized the terror that could be induced by toasters, Robert Park updates us on the utter lack of danger associated with electromagnetic fields (EMF).
HYBRIPHOBIA: REMEMBER WHEN POWER LINES CAUSED CANCER?
EMF stopped causing cancer in 1997, but no one bothered to tell Jim Motavalli, who wrote an Automobile column in the Sunday New York Times about the risks of EMF in hybrids. According to Motavalli the National Cancer Institute studied the cancer risks associated with electromagnetic fields. And so it did – but it couldn’t find any. You might think Motavalli would at least check the Archives of the New York Times. On July 3, 1997, the day the massive four-year NCI study of power lines and cancer appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Gina Kolata reported in the Times that the study was unambiguous and found no health effects associated with electromagnetic fields. An editorial in the same issue of the Journal put it in perspective: “Hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into studies that never had much promise of finding a way to prevent the tragedy of cancer in children. It is time to stop wasting our research resources.” It all began in 1979 when Nancy Wertheimer, an unemployed epidemiologist, and her friend Ed Leeper, drove around Denver looking for common environmental factors in the homes of childhood victims of leukemia. It practically jumped out at them – every home had electricity. Their study was so flawed it would have been laughed off but for Paul Brodeur, a scientifically-ignorant writer for The New Yorker. He wrote a series of terrifying articles about power lines and cancer that were collected in a 1989 book, Currents of Death.
Bob Park, a physicist who writes the brief “What’s New” reports for the American Physical Society with a great deal of wit and withering obervation (archives here, subscribe here), apparently attended a recent press “event” at the National Press Club put on by the irrepressible [so-called] Design [so-called] Insitute:
EVOLUTION: DISCOVERY INSTITUTE FINDS A SCIENTIST TO DEBATE.
The National Press Club in Washington, DC is a good place to hold a press conference. If a group can make its message look like an important story, it can get national coverage. The message of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute is simple: “Intelligent Design is science.” That’s bull feathers of course, but that’s why they have PR people. Science is what scientists do, so they gotta look like scientists. Nothing can make you look more like a scientist than to debate one. Scam artists all use the “debate ploy”: perpetual-motion-machine inventors, magnet therapists, UFO conspiracy theorists, all of them. They win just by being on the same platform. So, the Discovery Institute paid for prominent biologist Will Provine, the Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences at Cornell, to travel to Washington to debate one of the Discovery Institute’s “kept” PhDs, Stephen Meyer, at the National Press Club on Wednesday. It was sparsely attended. Most were earnest, well-scrubbed, clean-cut young believers, who smiled, nodded in agreement and applauded at all the right times. The debate was not widely advertized. I’m not sure they really wanted a lot of hot-shot reporters asking hard questions. The only reporter was from UPI, which is owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church, a spiritual partner of the Discovery Institute. The next day I searched on Google for any coverage of the debate. The only story I could find was in the Washington Times, a newspaper owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.