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Friday, January 04, 2008

National Academies: Science, Evolution and Creationism

The National Academies (Science, Engineering, Medicine) (USA) have just published their latest book on the evolution/creationism controversy. You can download it for free on their website [Science, Evolution and Creationism].

Like the previous versions, this one is quite well done. It explains evolutionary concepts correctly and gives clear examples of the evidence supporting the fact of evolution. The book—actually a large pamphlet—describes the various forms of creationism and why they are rejected by science.

I was troubled by one part of the book describing the compatibility of science and religion. It's only two paragraphs plus three pages of quotations but it promotes the fallacy of the Doctrine of Joint Belief. This fallacy makes a virtue out of compartmentalization. It says that because scientist X is religious, it follows that religion and science are compatible. Similarly, because religious leader Y, accepts evolution, it follows that science and religion are not in conflict.

While preparing to blog about this fallacy, my daughter Jane alerted me to a piece in today's New York Times [Evolution Book Sees No Science-Religion Gap]. The article in the New York Times is written by Cornelia Dean who has previously written about the compatibility of science and religion [Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science].

In today's article, Cornelia Dean briefly reviews Science, Evolution and Creationism. She says,
But this volume is unusual, people who worked on it say, because it is intended specifically for the lay public and because it devotes much of its space to explaining the differences between science and religion, and asserting that acceptance of evolution does not require abandoning belief in God.


The 70-page book, “Science, Evolution and Creationism,” says, among other things, that “attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.” And it offers statements from several eminent biologists and members of the clergy to support the view.
I think it's unfortunate that the New York Times article places so much emphasis on this part of the book but the authors of the book1 must have known what they were doing. Too bad they were misguided.

Here's what they wrote in Science, Evolution and Creationism,
Acceptance of the evidence for evolution
can be compatible with religious faith.

Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth’s history. Many have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible. Scientists and theologians have written eloquently about their awe and wonder at the history of the universe and of life on this planet, explaining that they see no conflict between their faith in God and the evidence for evolution. Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.

Science and religion are based on different aspects of human experience. In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities. Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.
There are two fallacies here. The first one is the one I already alluded to (the Doctrine of Joint Belief). Just because you can find scientists and theologians who proclaim that evolution is compatible with religious faith doesn't make it so. You need to examine their understanding of evolution and also what they mean by "religious faith."

As you might have guessed, the book trots out quotations from the usual suspects, Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller2. Their words of wisdom appear on a page with the title "Excerpts of Statements by Scientists Who See No Conflict Between Their Faith and Science." The book makes some amends, in my opinion, by including the following statement on that page.
Scientists, like people in other professions, hold a wide range of positions about religion and the role of supernatural forces or entities in the universe. Some adhere to a position known as scientism, which holds that the methods of science alone are sufficient for discovering everything there is to know about the universe. Others ascribe to an idea known as deism, which posits that God created all things and set the universe in motion but no longer actively directs physical phenomena. Others are theists, who believe that God actively intervenes in the world. Many scientists who believe in God, either as a prime mover or as an active force in the universe, have written eloquently about their beliefs.
The good part about that statement is that it mentions deism, which is a form of religion where the conflict between science and religion really is minimized. The bad parts are that theists who promote interventionist Gods are touted as examples of those who see no conflict between science and religion. (The reason why Theistic Evolutionists don't "see" a conflict is because they choose to look the other way [Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground].)

The other bad part is that atheists are equated with the philosophical position of scientism. That's an unnecessary complication. It would have been sufficient, and preferable, to state that many scientists do not believe in supernatural beings. They could have gone on to state that many of those non-believers see a conflict between science and the supernatural.

The second fallacy in the two paragraphs quoted above is something I call the Fallacy of the Undetectable Supernatural. The authors of Science, Evolution and Creationism repeat the silly argument that "supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science." Why not? The only kind of supernatural beings that could never be investigated by science are those that exist entirely as figments of the imagination and have absolutely no effect on the real world as we know it. As soon as your God intervenes in the real world his actions become amenable to scientific investigation.

In this, I agree with Stephen Jay Gould's description of Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA). He states very clearly that religion violates NOMA as soon as it makes a claim for an interventionist God (Gould, 1999). In that case religion is no longer compatible with science.
The first commandment for all versions of NOMA might be summarized by stating: "Thou shalt not mix the magisteria by claiming that God directly ordains important events in the history of nature by special interference knowable only through revelation and not accessible to science." In common parlance, we refer to such special interference as "miracle"—operationally defined as a unique and temporary suspension of natural law to reorder the facts of nature by divine fiat.

                                    Stephen Jay Gould (1999) pp. 85-85
The National Academies are violating NOMA unless they specifically refer to belief in Gods that do not perform miracles of any kind. There are very few religions that believe in non-interventionist Gods who never perform miracles. Therefore, it is much more scientifically accurate to say that science conflicts directly with almost all religious beliefs, including those of Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

This is an important error in Science, Evolution and Creationism since Americans have a right to expect that the National Academies can define the proper magisterium of science. Instead, the National Academies, like NCSE, has taken the easy way out by redefining science as that field of study that is not in conflict with the religious views of Francis Collins and Ken Miller.

1. The book was produced by a committee headed by Fancisco Ayala.

2. Who appointed Collins and Miller to be the flame carriers for evolution?

Gould, S.J. (1999) Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the fullness of Life The Ballantine Publishing Group, New York (USA).

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing

A growing number of for-profit companies are selling genetic testing services directly to customers who pay anywhere from $100 t0 $1000 for their personal genetic profile.

Several blogs have been actively promoting these private companies and encouraging people to sign up for their services. The cheerleader bloggers have been among the first to submit thier DNA for testing. In general, there has been little discussion about the ethical implications of direct to consumer, for-profit, genetic testing and little discussion about scientific issues such as accuracy. There has been a bit of talk about misleading advertising [23andMe - More Hype from Genetic Testing Services].

One of the more responsible bloggers has been Hsien-Hsien Lei. She is very open about her employment with DNA Direct. She recently posted an article outlining the concerns of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) [American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) Statement on Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing].

The ASHG, like many of us, is worried about this trend to commercialization of genetic testing. They've issued some guidelines on direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing (Hudson et al. 2007).
DTC testing has emerged during a period of rapid growth in the number of genetic tests. Today, there are more than 1,100 genetic tests available clinically, and several hundred more are available in research settings. Although most genetic testing is currently available only through a health care provider, an increasing variety of tests are being offered DTC, often without any health care provider involvement or counseling. The range of tests available DTC is broad, from tests for single-gene disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, to tests for predisposition to complex, multifactorial diseases, such as depression and cardiovascular disease. In addition to providing test results DTC, some companies also make recommendations regarding lifestyle changes on the basis of these results, such as changes in diet or use of nutritional supplements.



I. Transparency

To promote transparency and to permit providers and consumers to make informed decisions about DTC genetic testing, companies must provide all relevant information about offered tests in a readily accessible and understandable manner.
  • Companies offering DTC genetic testing should disclose the sensitivity, specificity, and predictive value of the test, and the populations for which this information is known, in a readily understandable and accessible fashion.
  • Companies offering DTC testing should disclose the strength of scientific evidence on which any claims of benefit are based, as well as any limitations to the claimed benefits. For example, if a disease or condition may be caused by many factors, including the presence of a particular genetic variant, the company should disclose that other factors may cause the condition and that absence of the variant does not mean the patient is not at risk for the disease.
  • Companies offering DTC testing should clearly disclose all risks associated with testing, including psychological risks and risks to family members.
  • Companies offering DTC testing should disclose the CLIA certification status of the laboratory
    performing the genetic testing.
  • Companies offering DTC testing should maintain the privacy of all genetic information and disclose their privacy policies,
    including whether they comply with HIPAA.
  • Companies offering DTC testing and making lifestyle, nutritional, pharmacologic, or other treatment recommendations on the basis of the results of those tests should disclose the clinical evidence for and against the efficacy of such interventions, with respect to those specific recommendations and indications.

II. Provider Education

To ensure that providers are aware that genetic tests are being provided DTC and that some of these tests may lack analytic or clinical validity, professional organizations should educate their members regarding the types of genetic tests offered DTC, so that providers can counsel their patients about the potential value and limitations of DTC testing.
  • Professional organizations should disseminate information to their members explaining what DTC testing is, what tests are offered DTC, and the potential benefits and limitations of such testing for patients.

III. Test and Laboratory Quality

To ensure the analytic and clinical validity of genetic tests offered DTC and to ensure that claims made about these tests are truthful and not misleading, the relevant agencies of the federal government should take appropriate and targeted regulatory action.
  • CMS should create a genetic testing specialty under CLIA, to ensure the analytic validity of tests and the quality of genetic-testing laboratories.
  • CMS should ensure that all DTC genetic-testing laboratories are certified under CLIA and should maintain a publicly accessible list containing the certification status of laboratories.
  • The federal government should take steps to ensure the clinical validity of DTC tests that make health-related or health care-affecting claims.
  • The FTC should take action against companies that make false or misleading claims about DTC tests.
  • The FDA and the FTC should work together to develop guidelines for DTC testing companies to follow, to ensure that their claims are truthful and not misleading and that they adequately convey the scientific limitations for particular tests.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should conduct a study on the impact of DTC testing on consumers, to assess whether and to what extent consumers are experiencing benefit and/or harm from this method of test delivery. The CDC should also conduct a systematic comparison between the claims made in DTC advertising and the scientific evidence available to support these claims.

Similar controls need to be put in place in other countries since these testing services are marketed on the internet where they are not restricted to American citizens.

Hudson, K., Javitt, G., Burke, W., Byers, P., with the ASHG Social Issues Committee (2007) ASHG Statement on Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing in the United States. Obstetricians and Gynecology 110:1392-1395. [PubMed]

Why biology is harder than physics

Rosie Redfield says [Why biology is harder than physics].
Beginning university students in the sciences usually consider biology to be much easier than physics or chemistry. From their experience in high school, physics has math and formulae that must be understood to be applied correctly, but the study of biology relies mainly on memorization. But in reality biology is much more complex than the physical sciences, and understanding it requires more, not less, brain work.
Read the rest over at RRTeaching. Rosie makes a point that I've also tried to make, but she does a better job.

Rosie is a Professor at the second best (in my opinion) university in Canada.

For another perspective, check out the views of a physics-trained graduate student (Philip Johnson) who works here at the best university in Canada [Biology is harder than physics?]. After expressing some skepticism, Philip closes with ...
I hope someone in the social sciences gets wind of this and belittles biologists. Sociology is obviously more complex than biology, so it clearly requires more brainpower to be a social scientist than a biologist, right?
Uh, no Philip. Sociology is the study of the behavior of one particular biological species (Homo sapiens). It's a teeny, tiny subset of biology.

Changing Your Mind: Are Science and Religion Compatible?

Clay Shirky used to think that science and religion were compatible. That doesn't mean all religious beliefs, of course, because some of them like Young Earth Creationism are not compatible with science. He has changed his mind ... [Religion and Science].
Since we couldn't rely on the literal truth of the Bible, we needed a fallback position to guide our views on religion and science. That position was what I'll call the Doctrine of Joint Belief: "Noted Scientist X has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Therefore, religion and science are compatible." (Substitute deity to taste.) You can still see this argument today, where the beliefs of Francis Collins or Freeman Dyson, both accomplished scientists, are held up as evidence of such compatibility.

Belief in compatibility is different from belief in God. Even after I stopped believing, I thought religious dogma, though incorrect, was not directly incompatible with science (a view sketched out by Stephen Gould as "non-overlapping magisteria".) I've now changed my mind, for the obvious reason: I was wrong. The idea that religious scientists prove that religion and science are compatible is ridiculous, and I'm embarrassed that I ever believed it. Having believed for so long, however, I understand its attraction, and its fatal weaknesses.
Read the rest of the article to find out why the "Doctrine of Joint Belief" is not based on logic.

In the war between "arrogant" atheists and accommodationist atheists (formerly called "appeasers"), Clay Shirky has shifted sides.
Saying that the mental lives of a Francis Collins or a Freeman Dyson prove that religion and science are compatible is like saying that the sex lives of Bill Clinton or Ted Haggard prove that marriage and adultery are compatible. The people we need to watch out for in this part of the debate aren't the fundamentalists, they're the moderates, the ones who think that if religious belief is made metaphorical enough, incompatibility with science can be waved away. It can't be, and we need to say so, especially to the people like me, before I changed my mind.

Changing Your Mind: Are Scientific Theories Falsifiable?

Rebecca Goldstein is a philosopher at Havard University (USA). She used to think that Karl Popper's view of how science is done was correct. Now she's changed her mind ... [Falsifiability]
Said Popper: The criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability.

For most scientists, this is all they need to know about the philosophy of science. It was bracing to come upon such a clear and precise criterion for identifying scientific theories. And it was gratifying to see how Popper used it to discredit the claims that psychoanalysis and Marxism are scientific theories. It had long seemed to me that the falsifiability test was basically right and enormously useful.

But then I started to read Popper’s work carefully, to teach him in my philosophy of science classes, and to look to scientific practice to see whether his theory survives the test of falsifiability (at least as a description of how successful science gets done). And I’ve changed my mind.


...scientists don’t, and shouldn’t, jettison a theory as soon as a disconfirming datum comes in. As Francis Crick once said, “Any theory that can account for all of the facts is wrong, because some of the facts are always wrong.” Scientists rightly question a datum that appears to falsify an elegant and well-supported theory, and they rightly add assumptions and qualifications and complications to a theory as they learn more about the world. As Imre Lakatos, a less-cited (but more subtle) philosopher of science points out, all scientific theories are unfalsifiable. The ones we take seriously are those that lead to “progressive” research programs, where a small change accommodates a large swath of past and future data. And the ones we abandon are those that lead to “degenerate” ones, where the theory gets patched and re-patched at the same rate as new facts come in.
Many people agree with Rebecca Goldstein but I still hear from lots of Popperians. It's very annoying to see my fellow scientists attack Intelligent Design Creationism on the grounds that it doesn't conform to Popper's idea of science—it's not falsifiable. That's true but irrelevant. Much of the best kinds of science also don't conform to Popper's ideas.

Much of evolutionary theory is not falsifiable in the true Popperian sense.

Changing Your Mind: Are Humans Evolving?

Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University (USA) used to think that humans had stopped evolving. Now he's changed his mind ... [Have Humans Stopped Evolving?]
Ten years ago, I wrote:
For ninety-nine percent of human existence, people lived as foragers in small nomadic bands. Our brains are adapted to that long-vanished way of life, not to brand-new agricultural and industrial civilizations. They are not wired to cope with anonymous crowds, schooling, written language, government, police, courts, armies, modern medicine, formal social institutions, high technology, and other newcomers to the human experience.
Are we still evolving? Biologically, probably not much. Evolution has no momentum, so we will not turn into the creepy bloat-heads of science fiction. The modern human condition is not conducive to real evolution either. We infest the whole habitable and not-so-habitable earth, migrate at will, and zigzag from lifestyle to lifestyle. This makes us a nebulous, moving target for natural selection. If the species is evolving at all, it is happening too slowly and unpredictably for us to know the direction. (How the Mind Works)

New results from the labs of Jonathan Pritchard, Robert Moyzis, Pardis Sabeti, and others have suggested that thousands of genes, perhaps as much as ten percent of the human genome, have been under strong recent selection, and the selection may even have accelerated during the past several thousand years. The numbers are comparable to those for maize, which has been artificially selected beyond recognition during the past few millennia.

If these results hold up, and apply to psychologically relevant brain function (as opposed to disease resistance, skin color, and digestion, which we already know have evolved in recent millennia), then the field of evolutionary psychology might have to reconsider the simplifying assumption that biological evolution was pretty much over and done with 10-000 — 50,000 years ago.
I'm glad he's changed his mind but it's for the wrong reasons.

Evolution, human or otherwise, cannot ever be stopped. Pinker, like the true adaptationist he is, cannot conceive of any evolution mechanism other than natural selection. Even if his original writings were correct, all he said is that natural selection may have stopped. Evolution by random genetic drift—the most frequent form of evolution—never stops.

It's interesting to see Pinker make the connection between the presumed stoppage of human evolution after the shift from hunter-gatherer mode, and evolutionary psychology. I never really thought about it before but that connection is a basic assumption in most of the the just-so stories promoted by evolutionary psychologists. If there has been lots of recent selection in human populations then it becomes more difficult to attribute our current "primitive" behavior to old adaptations that took place 100,000 years ago.

[Photo Credit: CivilBrights]

Changing Your Mind: Alan Alda Converts from Atheism to Agnosticism

Alan Alda has changed his mind. He used to be an atheist but now he prefers to call himself an agnostic [ So far, I've changed my mind twice about God].
But, slowly I realized that in the popular mind the word atheist was coming to mean something more: a statement that there couldn't be a God. God was, in this formulation, not possible, and this was something that could be proved. But I had been changed by eleven years of interviewing six or seven hundred scientists around the world on the television program Scientific American Frontiers. And that change was reflected in how I would now identify myself.

The most striking thing about the scientists I met was their complete dedication to evidence. It reminded me of the wonderfully plainspoken words of Richard Feynman who felt it was better not to know than to know something that was wrong. The problem for me was that just as I couldn't find any evidence that there was a god, I couldn't find any that there wasn't a god. I would have to call myself an agnostic. At first, this seemed a little wimpy, but after a while I began to hope it might be an example of Feynman's heroic willingness to accept, even glory in, uncertainty.
I think he's dead wrong about the meaning of the word atheism. I think it means that you have not accepted theism and therefore you are "without a belief in God." I see the word atheism as similar to words like "a-toothfairyism" or "a-SantaClausism." You don't believe in Santa Claus so you are an "a-SantaClausist." It does not mean you are committed to the concept that there could not possibly be a Santa Claus.

It would be silly to label yourself an agnostic with respect to belief in Santa Claus. Nobody, especially Christians, goes around announcing that they are agnostic about the existence of the Greek Gods. You don't believe in them, full stop.

There is a version of agnosticism that's perfectly acceptable. John Wilkins, among others, promotes this definition of agnosticism. True agnostics claim that it is impossible to prove one way or the other whether God exists, just as it's impossible to prove one way or the other whether the tooth fairly exists. All rational people are agnostics in this sense. Some of them are also atheists. Alan Alda appears to be both an atheist and an agnostic, just like Richard Dawkins. Alan Alda is a wimp for letting non-atheists redefine atheism and then abandoning his position because of that incorrect definition.

It's not an either/or situation, in my opinion (Wilkins disagrees). You can, and should, be both an atheist and an agnostic.

[Photo Credit: M*A*S*H]

Changing Your Mind: The Limits Of Darwinian Reasoning

Marc D. Hauser is a biologist and psychologist at Harvard University (USA). He is beginning to see the error of his adaptationist ways [The Limits Of Darwinian Reasoning].
Let me be clear about the claim here. I am not rejecting Darwin’s emphasis on comparative approaches, that is, the use of phylogenetic or historical data. I still practice this approach, contrasting the abilities of humans and animals in the service of understanding what is uniquely human and what is shared. And I still think our cognitive prowess evolved, and that the human brain and mind can be studied in some of the same ways that we study other bits of anatomy and behavior. But where I have lost the faith, so to speak, is in the power of the adaptive program to explain or predict particular design features of human thought.

Although it is certainly reasonable to say that language, morality and music have design features that are adaptive, that would enhance reproduction and survival, evidence for such claims is sorely missing. Further, for those who wish to argue that the evidence comes from the complexity of the behavior itself, and the absurdly low odds of constructing such complexity by chance, these arguments just don’t cut it with respect to explaining or predicting the intricacies of language, morality, music or many other domains of knowledge.

Changing Your Mind: The Obligations and Responsibilities of The Scientist

Leon Lederman is a physicist and a Nobel Laureate. He has changed his mind about the The Obligations and Responsibilities of The Scientist.
The role of the Professor, reflecting the mission of the University, is research and dissemination of the knowledge gained. However, the Professor has many citizenship obligations: to his community, State and Nation, to his University, to his field of research, e.g. physics, to his students. In the latter case, one must add to the content knowledge transferred, the moral and ethical concerns that science brings to society. So scientists have an obligation to communicate their knowledge, popularize, and whenever relevant, bring his knowledge to bear on the issues of the time. However, additionally, scientists play a large role in advisory boards and systems from the President's Advisory system all the way to local school boards and PTAs. I have always believed that the above menu more or less covered all the obligations and responsibilities of the scientist. His most sacred obligation is to continue to do science. Now I know that I was dead wrong.

Changing Your Mind: Maybe Human Races Do Exist After All

Mark Pagel is an evolutionary biologist who used to buy into the idea that human races did not exist [We Differ More Than We Thought].
The last thirty to forty years of social science has brought an overbearing censorship to the way we are allowed to think and talk about the diversity of people on Earth. People of Siberian descent, New Guinean Highlanders, those from the Indian sub-continent, Caucasians, Australian aborigines, Polynesians, Africans — we are, officially, all the same: there are no races.
Now, in 2007, he changed his mind ...
What this all means is that, like it or not, there may be many genetic differences among human populations — including differences that may even correspond to old categories of 'race' — that are real differences in the sense of making one group better than another at responding to some particular environmental problem. This in no way says one group is in general 'superior' to another, or that one group should be preferred over another. But it warns us that we must be prepared to discuss genetic differences among human populations.
Good for him. Better late than never, I say.

Changing Your Mind: The Fallacy of Hypothesis Testing

The Edge has asked people to describe whether they have changed their mind about anything and if so, why? It's the Annual Question for 2008.

Some of the replies are worth discussing. For example, Irene Pepperbreg has changed her mind about the meaning of the scientific method [The Fallacy of Hypothesis Testing]. I think she makes some good points, notably ....
Third, I've learned that the scientific community's emphasis on hypothesis-based research leads too many scientists to devise experiments to prove, rather than test, their hypotheses. Many journal submissions lack any discussion of alternative competing hypotheses: Researchers don't seem to realize that collecting data that are consistent with their original hypothesis doesn't mean that it is unconditionally true. Alternatively, they buy into the fallacy that absence of evidence for something is always evidence of its absence.

I'm all for rigor in scientific research — but let's emphasize the gathering of knowledge rather than the proving of a point.
I think this is a serious problem in science today. There are too many papers being published without any serious discussion of competing explanations. There are too many papers that fail to critically examine their own basic assumptions or the possible flaws in their experiments.

There may be a reason for this behavior—scientists don't want to draw attention to possible flaws in their work for fear that the granting agency will find out—but that doesn't excuse it. Scientific rigor demands that you present both sides of a scientific debate in a fair and unbiased manner. The failure to address the arguments of your opponents is nothing less than failing to be a good scientist.

Similarly, the failure to recognize the possible flaws in one's own explanation is the mark of a bad scientist.

While Irene Pepperbreg may be right about the flaws in today's method of doing science, I'm not prepared to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Hypothesis-based science is still important. You just have to form the right hypotheses and put your work in context. The problem, in my opinion, isn't that hypothesis testing is a fallacy: the problem is that it's not being done properly.

Open Lab 2007

Open Lab 2007 is about to be published. The book contains the best articles from science blogs in 2007.

There were 486 articles nominated and the judges selected 53 for publication [Open Lab 2007 - the winning entries for you to see!]. The winners come from a wide selection of science blogs; 20 of them are part of the SEED group (ScienceBlogsTM) and 33 are from other science blogs.

For the second year in a row there won't be any of my Sandwalk postings in the Open Lab anthology.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Oops! The Rapture Didn't Happen

There was supposed to be a rapture last month but the prediction didn't come true. Either that or it did come true and only a small number of people were raptured, not including the prophet.

In case anyone is interested, here's how our prophet explains his little mistake [Are You Rapture Ready]. I assume he's apologizing to all those people who gave away everything in the expectation that they would soon be in heaven.

I offered to take some of those worldly goods off their hands but I couldn't find anyone who was expecting to be raptured. I guess I don't hang out with the right kinds of people.

Iowa Caucuses

In a few days about 100,000 people will get together in Iowa to elect the next President of the United States. At least I think that's what the caucuses are all about. It's all very confusing. Apparently there are some other states like New Hampshire and South Carolina that have to confirm the Iowa result before it becomes official.

American politics is so confusing. None of this stuff is in the Constitution so I can't check the rules.

Anyway, since those few Iowa citizens are going to have such an important role in choosing the new leader of the free world (sic) I thought you might be interested in seeing how one of them is struggling to make up his mind. John Logsdon of Sex, genes & evolution has written about his quandary [Caucus Conundrum: Considering Compelling Candidates]. Why not pay him a visit and help him decide?

You Think *You* Have a Tough Job? ....


[Hat Tip: Canadian Cynic]