* Posts by Richard Russell

41 posts • joined 13 Nov 2006

Swedish devil girls fingered on Street View

Richard Russell

@Stephen Grey Posted Friday 17thJuly 17th July 2009 13:47 GMT

What was it we used to say? Shuttup you silly bitch, it's only a bit of fun! Just lie back and enjoy it!

Did you understand that this really happened to somebody?

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Did the Vatican suppress hidden 'Galileo Cryptogram'?

Richard Russell
Badgers

@Bill Fresher

I fear your mentors have missed your point. Everything moves but your point, surely, was that stars don't appear to move while planets do.

Why not? Because the movement you're probably thinking of here is the turning of the earth, which makes the whole caboodle out there seem to spin around us (or conversely, the caboodle spins around us making it appear that the earth revolves), but the stars, belonging as they do to the way yonder, have done nothing of significance in the meantime except shine their arses off and so appear in the same place every time we spin completely round, whereas the busy planets have in the meantime hurried on their busy way around the sun, just as we are doing, only you can't see that bit so easily.

On second thoughts, just listen to your mentors.

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Transformers helmsman demolishes English language

Richard Russell
Headmaster

punctuation

What is it with you guys? The original sentence, 'I still run into so many people with kids, even this weekend, who ask, “is that movie coming out this year?"', is perfectly OK except that there should be a capital 'I' after "ask".

The interjection, "even this weekend" is not a grammar error (or even a grammatical error) but simply a good example of a person unable to cope with writing. Punctuation may work wonders but it cannot correct a faulty brain.

To be fair, this is normal in speech. When we speak we often change sentences about in mid-stream and interject stuff that happens to pass through our brains at that moment, because - who cares? Unless someone is recording it the words have gone - hey presto! - and no one remembers them. But writing, now, it lingers . . . and lingers . . . and lingers.

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Richard Russell
Headmaster

Where's the hair-splitting icon, Ms Bee?

"Could've" is just a writing convention for the spoken words (and isn't Standard Written English, but acceptable in some other styles). When spoken it isn't written, you see.

It's a 'grammar error' in the same way as it's a 'policy decision' or a 'thought crime' or a 'garden gate'. It's something the English language can do.

Unless you want to distinguish between using incorrect grammar and making an error in a grammatical manner?

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Richard Russell
Headmaster

Only one grammar error here

And that's "could of" for "could have", which doesn't confuse anybody.

What's happening here is that the writer of the email is not using Standard Written English, but is instead writing as he would speak. Then again, I doubt if it was written for general publication (or major distribution) - only for private consumption. Ha,ha! (A good teacher always laughs at his own jokes. Has to)

"Could of" is a classic error in those who do not (or cannot, or will not, or never learned how to) write in Standard Written English. In normal speech, "could have" sounds exactly the same as "could of", you see.

Apart from the that, you can understand why the guy makes movies.

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Disney punts hetero luuurv to wide-eyed kiddies

Richard Russell
Headmaster

empirical?

"I'm of the opinion [homosexuality] is . . . empirically based"

So you mean people see all those gay couples and just imitate them? Or do you mean we know it exists because we have seen them?

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Texas cop tasers gobby granny

Richard Russell
Alert

Little fascists

The shitty fruits of New Fascism are everywhere, even on this site, it seems. "She deserved it!" they say. "She was in the wrong so anything can happen to her and it's OK!"

So you do something wrong and there's no more rule-of-law? No more justice? No more decency? Is there only rule of law as long as you do what you're told? Beyond that, whatever "less lethal" implements we happen to have are OK to use, right?

The elderly may not deserve respect "just for not dying yet" (rather like you, really) but at least they remember the meaning of the old-fashioned words "humanity" and - most importantly - freedom.

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German lad hit by 30,000 mph meteorite

Richard Russell
Thumb Down

Blame dumb reporting

The BBC website offers the fascinating information that "the chances of being hit by a meteorite are 1 in 100 million". By that reckoning, over 60 people are about to be hit by meteorites.

Chances in what time-frame, anyway? The chances of being hit in a year are obviously 365 times the chance of being hit in a day.

This is the quality of reporting that brought you "bounced off his hand". I wouldn't rely on it in court.

Thumb indicates direction of travel.

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Yorkshire man wakes up Irish after brain surgery

Richard Russell
Thumb Down

A blow for Flanders and for freedom!

Isn't this just another of those egregiously specious theories cooked up by doctors who mistake correlation for cause?

The blow on the 'ead caused the Irish/Flemish witterings? Pshaw! Might it not equally be that blows to the head are *caused by* rambling in alien accents? 'Appen this poor tyke was rabbitin such execrable English that his blood vessel just burst. Similarly, a very poor Durham imitation can result in severe blows to the cranium with a frying-pan. And it's best to avoid atrocious Brummie altogether, for obvious reasons.

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Brits find accommodation a little uncomfortable

Richard Russell
Alien

Jumbled illustration

Actually, all you ElReg guys can help me out here with a survey.

Can you read ALL the words in this jumbled sentence?

My gahadfrentr was a klidny but tiractun iddaivunil who eervy day at bareksfat ate foetuern selics of tasot, sveen beliod eggs, rulbiet the ohstuoue, and dnark fvie mgus of bcalk cefofe.

Take your time.

*

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OK, did you have trouble with "rulbiet the ohstuoue"?

(Posted in the interests of honest research)

Alien, because "rulbiet the ohstuoue" is very rude where he comes from.

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Richard Russell
Stop

@ Ayonuonms Crawod

"Aoccdrnig to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lterter by istelf, but the wrod as a wlohe."

Actually, that is total bollocks and it's time the myth was exploded.

First off, if it were really true that we "read the word as a whole" we would have no trouble reading the words 'hidlaoy', 'furtvaioe', moadew', ratmoniac' and 'snoced', all common words with first and last letters intact.

Second, it takes on average 3-6 times longer to read such jumbled passages than correct text. You can check this by timing people as they read them. The more jumbled they are the longer it takes to read. (And BTW, your passage was not jumbled all that much, was it?)

Third, it takes only slightly longer to read passages in which the first and SECOND letter - not the last - are in their correct places, suggesting that the last letter has no special significance. You can check this by, well, use your imagination.

The real reason these passages are relatively easy to read (they're not actually that easy, are they - not after a few lines) is that we rely on the large amount of contextual information they contain, together with a certain amount of unscrambling to reach recognisable spellings. Both processes are inefficient and time-consuming: that is the reason they take so much longer to read.

Because of the first-and-last rule all words of up to three letters are intact and all four letter words are immediately and unambiguously decipherable. This leaves practically the whole of the grammatical structure intact. You can check this by removing all the jumbled letters and leaving only the ones that can be unambiguously read.

After that, all you need to do is crack a couple of the shorter 'content' words and the field of meaning becomes clear enough for us to anticipate what the other words are likely to be. With a little unscrambling we can confirm our hunches. You can check this by slipping in a phrase that is completely out of context. No one will be able to guess it. Contrast this with how easy it is to boil cod in vinegar spot an out-of-context phrase in properly spelt text.

But don't take my word for it - check it out for yourself. It's what your critical faculty is for.

Efficient reading is actually a complex of many acquired skills, but without pre-existing and reasonably accurate knowledge of how a word is spelt you can't identify it in text (obviously!) In fact, as eye-scans show, we do actually trace the contours of the letters from left to right, monitoring the spelling as we go. When we record a match we 'see' the word; when we don't we resort to less efficient methods.

BTW, did anybody ever track down that "Cambridge University" source?

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Richard Russell
Thumb Up

@John Angelico

"That is the first time I have seen the rule set out in full in these fora - in fact anywhere outside homeschooling lists. I keep promising myself that I will do as you did whenever this topic arises.

That leaves only five exceptions: seize, weird, foreign, counterfeit, protein (plus neither if pronounced ee),"

Not quite. The full rule includes "seize" as the exception (although proper names also put the 'e' before the 'i' - Keith, Sheila, etc)

"weird" is not an /ee/ sound but a diphthong. It's a slide from /i/ (as in 'big') to /er/ (as in 'lurk'), and the vowel is spelt 'eir'. In all the other words you mention the 'ei' bit is unstressed. The 'ei' in 'foreign' is what they call a schwa (the first sound in 'about'). 'Counterfeit', 'caffeine' and 'protein' are the ones to watch, though.

But it's still worth repeating: 'i' before 'e' except after 'c', when the sound is /ee/, with the exception of 'seize'.

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Harvard prof slams US nut allergy hysteria

Richard Russell
Stop

@Dodgy Geezer

"If you had bothered to read the article, you would see that the research suggests that over-emphasis on fear (probably combined with genetic susceptibility, which brings in your son), is responsible for this 'allergy'. It's not a physical thing."

Actually, if you read the article more carefully you see that he says no such thing. He does say that reducing exposure to nuts may increase sensitivity to them, and he also says that what he calls the hysteria about nut allergies is fuelled by fear. He does NOT say that nut allergies are psychosomatic, nor does he suggest that anything non-physical is involved in their development.

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Southern Ocean calls time on carbon sinking

Richard Russell

Ah, now we're getting there!

Thanks, Steven, for your last post. It does indeed seem we hold more in agreement than was at first apparent. One of my concerns is that too little is being done to prepare for rapid change, and too many empty promises being made by politicians about cutting emissions by 2020 or whenever (which will never happen).

The state of the GW 'debate' is rather sad, and I'm disappointed in much on both sides. I will confess now that I'm not a scientist, but in large measure this GW business is about politics and how we organise ourselves globally, which concerns us all. If there is a flaw in the 'warmers' side of the debate it lies not in wrangles over scentific specifics - CO2 absorption patterns and the rest - since it is implausible that so many professional scientists would make so many small errors at the same time, but in the broader question of social dynamics, of which funding is a large part.

Is the AGW movement a case of 'snowballing' (to pick an ironic term)? It wouldn't be the first mass hysteria of the modern age. Yet it has enough weight behind it to persuade me at present to go along with its interpretation of current climate change. Not enough credibility to make me committed, however.

Thanks for an interesting exchange. I'll follow up your link on global avarage temperature. Enjoy your retirement!

Richard

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Richard Russell

Agreeing and disagreeing while Rome burns

I did not get any of my information from RealClimate. I only suggested reading an article of theirs about the accuracy of modelling in response to your question.

I would have more respect for responses which involved attempts at addressing facts and providing argument in support of a case than with mere snide remarks. Disappointing.

My 'ad hominem' applied to my response to the Carter article only. When sceptics claim (no point in saying 'argue') that the IPCC scientists are living off a government gravy train it's valid to point out that ExxonMobil (in one of its noms de plume) lies behind most of the sceptics' organisations.

Meanwhile, an unusually early "very hot weather" warning has been issued here and our climate everywhere continues to behave waywardly. Somewhere at the beginning of the Carter article he says a proper response to natural disasters is to prepare and provide rescue (or something like that). Had he been serious about that he would have returned to that idea, having "disposed" of the great GW "scam", but he doesn't because he isn't, and neither are you.

At the very least we should be taking seriously the probable consequences of certain global warming (rising sea-levels, water-shortage from melted glaciers and desertification, etc) as well as seeking to reduce known factors behind that warming. Sceptics like yourself make even that much preparation harder to enact.

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Richard Russell

My pleasure, Steven!

I shall follow up your recommendations with interest.

In the meantime you may like to know that according to sourcewatch.org (huh? sourcewatch?) your friend Bob Carter is a member of the Institute for Public Affairs, funded by Woodside Petroleum, Esso Australia (a subsidiary of ExxonMobil) and several other energy companies. The IPA has "close ties" with the Australian Liberal Party ("small government, low taxes")

'Real science', my arse.

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Richard Russell

The Carter article

I read the article referred to by Steven Moore. There are two prongs to its thesis: one is a criticism of the science presented for the global warming hypothesis, and the other is an attack upon the independent authority of the IPCC.

Leaving aside the second as an 'ad hominem' argument which could equally be made of the 'sceptics', and bearing in mind the limited space here, I shall comment in two areas of the scientific critisicm.

Firstly, the article contained nothing new. Many of the points are false and have been refuted. For example, the article claims that avarage temperatures have recently been falling, a view that gained currency after the NASA satellite measurements of the mid-90s. More recent measurements show otherwise. It also repeats the wrong belief that land surface temperature measurements have been skewed by 'heat islands'. This is simply not the case. The article also suggests that such measurements neglect the oceans - 70% of the planet's surface. This again is not so. There are currently over 1700 buoys deployed over all the ocean areas, each measuring temperature and CO2 levels hourly. In scientific matters the article is simply not up to date.

Secondly, the article omits key points. By harping on about natural climate change - which is not in dispute - it overlooks the anomolous nature of the recent changes to both temperature and CO2 levels. Both are untypically rapid. In particular, the article talks of CO2 levels naturally changing, but overlooks the fact that its unusually rapid increase appears to have overwhelmed the natural sinks (e.g. the oceans) and is accumulating in the atmosphere (the point of the original ElReg article).

Furthermore, the article does not address the fact that the CO2 rise is deficient in C-14, confirming its origin as fossil fuel, nor the fact that the increase roughly corresponds to the total amount so far emitted throughout industrial history, allowing for a certain natural absorption.

Finally, as with all the 'it's only natural' articles I've read, it is smug in its assumption that there is nothing for us to be worried about. Global warming by any cause is something we need to concern ourselves with, but there is indeed ample evidence - but not proof - that human activity is responsible for the main part of it. Should we not err on the side of caution and act to reduce emissions?

I, too, hate the steam-hammer of current government-sponsored propaganda aimed at persuading us to reduce our individual CO2 output (and maybe avoid taking serious actions themselves thereby) but my sense of concern for the future has taken precidence over my ego in this case, and so I side with the 'warmers' - though with a mind open to fresh - and accurate - information.

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Richard Russell

1 degree in the last 150 years?

0.6 of which happened in the last 50 years.

Are we to conclude that 1 degree is a small amount? On what is that assumption based? Can we see the comparison with those 'past temperature changes' you refer to?

You seem uncertain as to what this 1 degree actually represents. Do your 'science sources' not explain this?

What are these sources, may I ask? And what is your objection to RealClimate as a source?

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Richard Russell

Are we serious here?

Thomas Poole writes, "What an extraordinary claim! The ocean is deep, and slow, atmospheric CO2 is < 200 ppm, an 18th of what it was in the Ordivician period."

The Ordovician Period was over 400 million years ago and ended with a mass extinction. All the continents were then in one vast land mass and the seas were dominated by giant molluscs. Would Mr Poole like to live then?

"Has the ocean been saturated before? What evidence is there for these claims? What predictions are made by the theory of globally threatening, man-made climate change, and do they turn out to be true?"

The evidence is everywhere to be found, by looking. Mr Poole might make a start by consulting the article "Hansen's 1988 projections" posted on RealClimate.com

"Did polar bears and penguins survive the last warming?"

Mr Poole's relationship to penguins and polar bears is moot. We are talking about human life here.

What does Mr Poole mean by "the last warming"? Is he referring to the end of previous glacial periods? The significant point of the present warming is its suddenness. Temperatures have risen many times in the (long) past, but not so swiftly. Even the transition from the glacial periods (Ice Ages) to the interglacial periods probably took several centuries. It is the swiftness of current global warming which creates the danger to polar bears, penguins and to Mr Poole's children and grandchildren.

"Did anything thrive in the last ice age?"

Plenty thrived, though humans did not do that well (or so it is thought; the total population may have dropped to 40,000). What does this have to do with warming?

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Cheney shoots down Bush message on climate change

Richard Russell

. . .and again

Not at all. Of course proper scientific procedure is the way to go, but there is a political decision to be made now, because - as you say - science cannot yet give us the necessary clarity on climate change.

My point about conspiracy theory is simply that it is unlikely that a disparate group of international scientists, whom you yourself say are inclined to disagree anyway, could organise such a world-wide scam as to promote a misleading notion of human-driven global warming as a means to gain funds. On the other hand a small and powerful group, such as the global oil industry, is capable of setting up an effective counter-campaign. I'd be surprised if they weren't.

Concerning natural factors being responsible for the current warming process, I understand that this has happened over the millenia, but I don't see anyone citing evidence that those factors actually ARE operating. Only that they can.

Which still leaves us with political decisions to make about observed global warming on the basis of insufficient scientific input.

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Richard Russell

To the anonymous poster above

I examined the site you mentioned, "Growing_Glaciers", and found much of it to be anecdotal. For example, a paragraph half-way down a BBC news report states that an Antarctic base repeatedly gets buried under increasing snow. Quite so. It doesn't say exactly where the base is, or whether the "five feet" of annual snowfall is more or less than has previously been recorded.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that a group of scientists would spend their time combing such articles in order to extract titbits like that. It smacks rather of an organised group whose aim is to counter the effects of the global warming consensus. Might such a group exist? It might. It might be funded by Exxon-Mobile. We unscientific world citizens can only wonder.

Meanwhile, I note that during the last 20 years my planet has been getting distinctly warmer. I understand that CO2 acts to trap heat, and I see also that increasingly vast amounts of the stuff (along with all kinds of pollutants) are being produced by our industry. I also realise that the earth has been subject to natural temperature variations over the millennia, and that this could be responsible for current warming. However, commentators - especially on the sceptical side - insist we know too little about how these work. Which means, in short, that we have NO EVIDENCE that natural causes are currently operating, while one apparent cause - our own industrial emissions - certainly is.

I am open to the suggestion that the search for funds distorts the direction of scientific research, as I am to the possibility that the nuclear fuel industry has a vested interest in promoting the global warming agenda - and yes, I remember the great K2 fiasco (which I never believed in). However, to suggest that the whole global warming movement is little more than a scientists' scam, as some have done, amounts to a vast conspiracy theory.

My mental resources are limited, as is the world I live in, but I would opt for cautious action on the assumption that we are causing damage to our environment over sceptical inaction, which merely seems to be self-serving.

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Richard Russell

Not curious?

Not wondering where all that industrial crap might be going? No interest in studying how those known "greenhouse" agents might be affecting things? What a very curious scientist you are.

Granted, the figure "0.6" doesn't look like much. It is, after all, less than 1, and we all know that 1 is not very much. So it must be meaningless. Never mind the very noticeable increase in overall warmth in our climate, the shifting onset of the seasons, that changes to plant growing patterns, the desertification of former fertile lands, the breaking up of the Arctic ice-flows. It's "0.6", you see. Meaningless.

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Richard Russell

Since when has the media been the arbiter of scientific truth?

"Professor" Nix is right to point out their irrelevant concern for consensus. Since when has science ever needed consensus? he asks. But what conclusion does he draw from this? You have a stadium-full of scientists, each one of them, having studied the data, concluding that human activity is the most probable cause of global warming. Ah, says Nix, but that constitutes a consensus, and that makes their conclusions invalid. Very scientific.

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Genes offer excuse for beer fear

Richard Russell

Bitter experience

So if the "non-tasters" can't detect the bitterness why is it called "bitter"?

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New Zealanders flock to AdultSheepFinder.com

Richard Russell

Craig McCormick?

What kind of English name is that?

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Why do we like to scratch a wound when it's healing?

Richard Russell

More speculation

Maybe the wounds just taste good. Maybe it's the salt in the blood. Check it out - lick your wounds!

So how come these animals can overcome the scratching urge like that? Maybe they don't itch? There again, my dog scatched her eczema to shreds and then licked the wounds.

Maybe there's evolutionary value in not knowing these things?

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Richard Russell

itching to reply

"If scratching really does have shown negative effects (infection, slowing of tissue growth etc.) then evolution usually has the complexity to work around it."

There again, evolution may not be all it's cracked up to be. Maybe itching - and consequent scratching - is just a ba-ad thing that doesn't help us at all. Maybe we'd all be much better off if we didn't do it. Maybe all those sabre-toothed tigers were even more itchy than we were. Maybe itchy wounds are caused by wolf genes "reaching out into the world" a la Dawkins to weaken their prey. In a world without references or personal biographies anything is possible.

I thought the itching was just the bits of torn tissue beginning to join up again.

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Do we really need a daily shower or bath to stay healthy?

Richard Russell

The last of the pedants (I hope)

I'm afraid neither Jonathan nor myself can read properly. Dr Juan's sentence is perfectly good as it stands.

Sorry, Waggers, pedantic Brit I may be but "different than" has to be accepted as standard American. I know - it makes me wince, too - but I guess you don't have to go there.

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Richard Russell

Correction

"Standards were different compared to [or with] those of today" Although "standards were different from [US "than"]those of today" would be simpler, shorter, and better.

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Richard Russell

the cleanest people

Yuss, Doctor, I have an argument. The frequency of showers is only one factor in people's cleanliness. Another is how dirty they get in between. Yet another is the thoroughness of the shower - use of soap, scrubbing brush, scalding hot water, cleansing creams and the like. And then there's the cleanliness of the clothes to consider. How often do Aussies wash their garments?

So many questions, so little time

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How old is my body if the cells keep renewing themselves?

Richard Russell

River analogy

Q: How old is a river, if water keeps flowing through it?

A: A river is not a substance: it is a configuration of substances and processes. A river is the same river as long as water keeps flowing through it. New rivers may form after earthquakes and volcanic eruptions; rivers die when their water dries up. But ultimately, a river is defined conceptually: is "river" the same as "estuary"?

Your body is a similar configuration. Substances flow through it, lingering a while, then leaving. The configuration remains much the same: that is your body. Ultimately, too, your body is defined conceptually, but you'll have to sit down and think about that one.

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Richard Russell

body reductionism

Don't fall for the reductionist argument that says your body is the same thing as its cells. That way you can argue that since your cells consist of chemicals, and they of atoms which have been around for millions of years, you are virtually immortal.

But your body - that whole bundle of tricks - as a coherent entity is about as old as you are. Maybe a tad older.

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Darwin Mr Popular again in Kansas

Richard Russell

or maybe not so

I rather fear that Greg Nelson has a point, at least where evolution theory is concerned. A definite air of sanctity hangs over popular pronouncements on evolution, the ghost of Objective Truth lurks behind it, taken directly from Christianity. When people say, "evolution is a fact" they invest far more emotional imput than when they say, "conservation of energy is a fact", for example.

It is unfortunate that when Darwin proposed his theory in public it happened in the context of a debate with the Church, a debate in which T.H. Huxley used Darwin as a platform for his own atheism (Darwin was not an atheist). Ever since, evoluton theory has been saddled with this anti-Church association, and atheists have used evolution theory to fight their battles, just as Huxley did.

This is sad, because it is perfectly possible to be sceptical of evolution theory - especially of the overly preachy form in which we generally learn it - without invoking gods of any kind.

To be clear about theory - there are facts, such as things-falling-down, and there is theory, such as the force of gravity, curved space, or graviton particles, offered to explain the fact. In biology, the fact is the diversity of living forms. Darwin's theory is really two theories, one on top of the other. One is that these forms evolved gradually over millions of years - this was already accepted when Darwin came along and did not necessarily contradict a God-driven world. The other is that of "natural selection", by which Darwin meant no active selection whatsoever: what happens happens. His genius lay in seeing that this action, combined with constant random variation, really could account for evolutionary change.

On this point I must bow to the scientists. However, the populist version of evolution theory - "evolutionism" - has invested these theories with an implausible value, even moral worth, which they do not support. Thus the circular reasoning involved in concluding that our existing qualities have 'evolutionary value', and the intellectual dubiousness of sociobiology, not to mention the reification of "natural selection" and notions of evolutionary advance.

Scientific theories get superseded when more information and better understanding make the old ones implausible. No doubt this will eventually happen to Darwinism, but not just yet. Nevertheless, we must maintain scientific detachment and look for weaknesses in the theory, aware that such a stance does NOT imply any support for ID or for any other form of supernatural activity.

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Richard Russell

Dotted tees and crossed eyes

To the anonymous grammar critic: everyone has their favourite grammar peeve. Mine is the use of "less" for countable nouns.

Yes, indeed, writing should express clear meaning but unfortunately language is not as precise as we imagine. The modal system, for example, is very fluid and has modified its meanings in recent years. "May" does indeed express probability, as does "might" (with little or no distinction). The act of requesting is a use that is made of that meaning, and both words can be used that way. Might I suggest you confer with a recent grammar book on the matter?

Words such as "couple", though grammatically singular, can be thought of as referring to two people, just as "family can be singular or plural. I wouldn't get too worried about it if I were you.

Judging by the name, Abdulghani may not (sic) be a native English speaker (apologies if that is not the case), but I would be far, far more concerned with the silliness he/she expresses, very clearly, despite the quality of the language.

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US immigration cavity search ends in agony

Richard Russell

Letters from the doc

I imagine that any self-respecting suicide bomber or serious drug-smuggler would also be capable of writing a letter from their "doctor". Are doctors now going to be hassled by foreign immigration officials to corroborate the authenticity of such letters? In which case, why bother with a letter at all?

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School tasers naked, oil-smeared student

Richard Russell

Sadism is now official

Have you heard the screams of someone being tasered? Do you know that it causes muscle paralysis for several minutes?

And why should standing up "attract a second dose"? Is it a crime to stand up? And notice he only *tried* to stand up. He couldn't, you see, because the electric current had incapacitated his muscles.

The light-hearted tone of this article is inappropriate. Tasers are cruel, barbaric and degrading. Tell me how it significantly differs from, say, branding with red-hot irons, which was one 'disciplinary' practice used in medieval times.

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When is seeing not seeing?

Richard Russell

Or is it lack of cognition?

I have noticed that the degree of attention I have for detail grows with my knowledge of the subject. When visiting unfamiliar places, for example, I fail to notice many details which on later visits, when I have become more educated on the place, are hard to miss. (How I wish I could think of an example at this point!)

"Seeing" is a complex process. The light rays pass onto our retina, the optic nerve responds, somewhere the brain registers a stimulus. But true "noticing" involves a cognitive response. If we don't have an understanding of the light-patterns falling on our retina it gets discarded.

Put another way, we don't just see shape X, we see "a house", "an animal", a "something-we-understand". And if we don't understand the chances are we just don't take any notice.

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How much damage does a tapeworm do to the human body?

Richard Russell

The tapeworm diet plan

I understood from my dubious grammar school education that tapeworms were indeed used for this purpose in the Middle Ages, especially by rich ladies who could thereby indulge heartily of roast ox with all the trimmings while remaining daintily slim. Only problem was when they got a chill and lost their appitite. Wormy ate everything, so they starved.

Or is this another educational myth?

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What is a Cro-Magnon man?

Richard Russell

Debate?

No, Danny - don't post your email address! There are weird people out there!

As for debate, I find your position somewhat ambiguous. On the one hand you say science has not enough "proof" - implying that with more substantial evidence you might agree with its conclusions, while on the other you say you find it easier to accept explanations in your sacred texts, which are entirely, and by their essential nature, unscientific. A person may prefer to take their notions from sacred texts rather than from research and reason - that is their choice. However, to accuse science of not being rigorous enough in its evidence while at the same time saying that you prefer unscientific sources is intellectually dubious. Which is it? Do you follow reason or faith?

You need to ask yourself these questions - and find an answer - before you can engage in any debate on the matter.

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Richard Russell

Evolution and Life's Origins

Danny, just a quick word. The question of life's origin (presumably from inanimate chemicals) is separate from that of its subsequent evolution. On the latter the evidence and logic are abundant. I am convinced by it, though it is still our best understanding and not - strictly speaking - an incontrovertible fact.

On the former question, the field is wide open. This is not a question of evolution but of something else. Essentially you must choose between supposing a restless god built life somehow (how? - that still needs explaining) and supposing (sic) that it happened through (as yet poorly understood) natural processes - unless, of course, you prefer the eternal stasis idea.

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Richard Russell

On Fact and Theory

Sorry, but one cannot say that evolution is a "fact"; and the analogy with what we call gravity - i.e. things falling down - does not hold. We can witness things falling down in its entirity, and can develop theories about this fact such as gravitational force, curved space, gravitons, etc. However, we have not witnessed the phenomenon of life-as-it-is emerging from rocks and other space debris. Neither could it ever be possible. Thus it cannot be said to be a "fact" but rather an assumption.

Neither is it the only possible assumption: life, the universe and everything may have continued much as it is through all eternity, or a restless god may have built us 6,000 years ago (or 6,000,000,000 years ago) like a child building a house out of Lego bricks. Rejecting these implausible assumptions - the latter out-of-hand and the former with a furtive, sideways glance at Indian mythology - does not elevate the first assumption to the status of "fact".

The proper response to creationist nonsense is surely to point out that established theory is not a mere exercise in supposition but is our best knowledge, based on all the evidence available to us and on sound logic. It does not help to offer our own deeply-felt convictions as "fact".

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