25 May 2005


from the nytimes:

"[Justice Priscilla R. Owen] represents a part of the Texas culture that is basically a frontier mentality," said Linda S. Eads, a law professor at Southern Methodist University and a former deputy attorney general of Texas who supports Ms. Owen's nomination.

"You don't cry about your hardships, you just keep moving forward," Professor Eads said. "In some ways, it's a very empowering philosophy, and in some ways it can be seen as cold. I guess it depends on which side of the outcome you are."

and from sheilabeela:

They always say time changes things,
but you actually have to change them yourself.
-Andy Warhol

21 May 2005

kansans have stopped evolving

So I'm from kansas, and this is the second time i've gone through the whole "Why doesn't my state believe in evolution" crisis. But I think over time I've realized it's not just a problem with the crazies who want to put creation in the curriculum. It's actually more a problem with the way we view science.

I would like to remind people that the philosophy and purpose of science is not to prove anything. It's to observe something about nature and then try to come up with an explanation.

So, you can come up with an explanation, and other scientists may agree or disagree with your methods and conclusions. As long as they agree and adopt your theories into their own work, you're good to go. If they don't agree and you still want them to take you seriously, you have to work harder to make your experiments sound and show that your conclusions are applicable, realistic, useful.

The neat part is, if some people do agree and accept your theories, but some other people disagree, the burden is not yours anymore. Why not, well, that's because nothing in science can be proven true, it can only be proven false or withstand the test of many attempts to prove it false. The burden is on those who dissent, and it's their job to prove you wrong.

Hey Kansas, please go ahead and teach that evolution is a theory. But make sure you teach that so is gravity. Kids are smart enough, they'll get the point.

07 May 2005

annals of science

From the 9 May 2005 new yorker, Climate of Man-III, by Elizabeth Kolbert

I asked Socolow whether he thought that stabilizing emissions was a politically feasible goal. He frowned.

"I'm always being asked, 'What can you say about the practicability of various targets?" he told me. "I really think that's the wrong question. These things can all be done.

"What kind of issue is like this that we faced in the past?" he continued. "I think it's the kind of issue where something looked extremely difficult, and not worth it, and then people changed their minds. Take child labor. We decided we would not have child labor and goods would become more expensive. It's a changed preference system. Slavery also had some of those characteristics a hundred and fifty years ago. Some people thought it was wrong, and they made their arguments, and they didn't carry the day. And then something happened all of a sudden it was wrong and we didn't do it anymore. And there were social costs to that. I suppose cotton was more expensive. ... It's clear from the record that [the climate] does things that we don't fully understand. And we're not going to understand them in the time period we have to make these decisions. ... If it's a problem like that, then asking whether it's practical or not is really not going to help very much. Whether it's practical depends on how much we give a damn."