My Canadian readers may be familiar with this common phenomenon: I have a few American readers of this blog, and even among them, it is not uncommon to hear frustrated expressions of desire to become Canadian when their politics adds another razor-wire loop to the loopiness that it is. My Canadian readers will also be familiar with the both the feeling of flattery tinged with a small amount of guilt: justified guilt that it is not deserved.
Until now, Environment Canada has been one of most open and
accessible departments in the federal government, which the executive
committee says is a problem that needs to be remedied.
all media queries must now be routed through Ottawa where "media
relations will work with individual staff to decide how to best handle
the call; this could include: Asking the program expert to respond with
approved lines; having media relations respond; referring the call to
the minister's office; referring the call to another department," the
Gregory Jack, acting director of Environment
Canada's ministerial and executive services, says scientists and
"subject matter experts" will still be made available to speak to the
media "on complex and technical issues." He would not explain how
"approved lines" are being written and who is approving them.
This sort of thing will be no surprise to anyone following the saga of the frankly excellent Linda Keen, the Canadian nuclear regulator who stood up to a Canadian government presently dominated by an unadulterated Bushian neocon. (Her total smackdown testimony linked from here.) And by dint of that, these tactics should be highly familiar to American readers, as they were learned from You Know Where.
The firmly scientific PZ Myers has been on a bit of a humanities kick this last few days. This time he posts about neoconservative influences on creationism, providing us a long email he received on the subject of Leo Strauss, Irving Kristol, and the writings of them and others on the matter of creation and evolution. I thought that this would tickle some of our regulars *cough*.
The Panda's Thumb: A critique of Himmelfarb's scientific views.: Contrast Leo Strauss' views on the scientific fact of evolution with
those of Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb. To see which
anti-evolution arguments are considered intellectually meritorious by
the nation's leading neoconservatives, consider these passages from Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution(from the 1967 edition published by Peter Smith, Gloucester, MA). For those of you familiar with the history of the anti-evolution movement,
all the howlers are there: the "impossibility" of the evolution of the
eye, even auguring Michael Behe's debunked
irreducible complexity arguments about biochemistry, the tautology of
survival, the improbability of "nature working blindly and by chance"
could create anything, legitimate scientists reject evolution, and so
forth. And I didn't cherry pick these passages—nonsense like this is
suffused throughout the book.
PZ Myers brings to my attention the good news: Kennewick Man is back to the scientists:
Pharyngula - Kennewick Man free at last: Nature reports that after 9 years of
court battles, the 9,000 year old bones are finally finding their way
to where they belong: the lab. While I think it's not only fair but
required that Native Americans be treated with respect, I have no such
compunctions about Native American superstitions, and it's about time
these interesting remains were analyzed.
A 9,000 year old corpse is not reliably anyone's direct ancestor insofar as it is likely everyone's direct ancestor. And I have little sympathy for the argument that we should take the oral histories of native people's over evidence we can discover through the remains: while there are good arguments to show that oral histories can be very well-preserved over time, these stories are not intended to be an accurate account of what precisely happened, but instead to serve a particular social purpose. It doesn't make it any less important, but it doesn't supercede science.
In the comments to that blog entry, it was repeatedly noticed that many native American groups insist strongly on these stories or on the "we were always there" story even in the face of the evidence---and in fact some of their leaders demand that no investigation that contradicts this be undertaken. If so, this insistence is interesting and important: having had everything else taken away from them, the knowledge that the land was always theirs and that they are firmly and totally connected to it must then be an important source of identity. But should identity block the pursuit of knowledge? I'm not so sure about that. Well, honestly, my answer is simply "no."
John Holbo talks about a movie experience with his daughter, and he mentions that his daughter proposed a geode-based economy for her fantasy kingdom. I'm sufficiently ignorant of geological terminology to wonder what a geode is, so I looked it up on Google and eventually found, well, a geode-based economy. Or at least someone selling break-at-home geodes. Yes, people actually pay for rocks to be delivered to their home so that they can break them. Sounds fun.
(NOTE: I am IN NO WAY associated with the sellers of this product. Really. No, I mean really, I'm not.)