Friday, February 23, 2007

Consensus Science
As this news story indicates, the reigning scientific consensus on the origins of the first Americans, the Clovis Man theory, is collapsing. An emerging body of (once heretical) study is forcing a new understanding of how the American continents first became populated.

The image of Clovis Man is well known to anybody who went through grade school in the last 40 years. It's the image of the archetype hunter-gatherer, clothed in animal skins and hunting mastodons. Clovis Man came to America from Asia by way of migration across the Bering Sea ice bridge approx 10,000 years ago and immediately took to populating the entire American continent (thousands of miles from Alaska down to Tiera del Fuego) all in less than 1000 years. And as part of the theory, in the course of this mass (and rapid) migration, Clovis Man hunted to extinction the prevailing megafauna of the continent (mastodons, sabre-toothed tigers, giants sloths, etc). All of this served to establish firmly in the public consciousness that man came to the Americas at the time of the retreat of the last ice age, and that this event did not occur any earlier. Indeed, with the Clovis Man theory in place, the "science was settled" - to use a phrase currently invoked, for example, by another body of Consensus Science guardians (the scientists, politicians, and special-interest advocates who push human-induced Climate Change theory).

But of course the science was not settled. A handful of heretical scientists, anthropologists, and archaeologists began discovering, through a variety of means (including carbon-dating), evidence that challenged the fundamental tenets of Clovis Man theory. One of these renegade scientists, James Adovasio identified an archaeological site of early man habitation - the Meadowcroft Rockshelter - and produced findings that directly challenged the reigning scientific consensus. Indeed, leading publications who reported on Meadowcroft revealed the startling nature of the find:

"It was a staggering finding, suggesting a whole new way of looking at the ancient history of the Americas after date showed that the site was inhabited before archaeological orthodoxy said it could have been." --The Washington Post, April 1, 2002

"...the Meadowcroft Rockshelter near Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , show[s] that people may have lived in North America nearly 20,000 years ago." --National Geographic, Dec. 2000

Other early human habitation sites, in North and South America have also been discovered, and their findings further challenged the dominant understanding (as Adovasio details in his book The First Americans). Each of these discoveries produced information that directly challenged the entrenched Consensus Science. Adovasio describes how lonely it was, as a scientist, to be on the outside of the consensus. Many told him he was committing professional suicide in his pursuit of the evidence he was unearthing at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter site. Indeed, by going against the consensus science of Clovis Man theory, he was viewed as a heretic, a rebel, a renegade with unacceptable science. The Consensus Science defenders would not accept his denial of the reigning theory.

However, the new emerging science could not be stopped. More sites, more evidence, more understanding became unearthed by more and more scientists, eroding the foundations of Clovis Man theory. Through the indefatigable work of independent minded scientists (Adovasio included), the bedrock assumptions of Clovis Man theory were called into question. Indeed, the emerging evidence is so damning it has demanded a rethink of our entire understanding of how the Americas became originally settled. Clovis Man no longer dominates and no longer enjoys the position of being THE explanation for the peopling of the Americas. And as to be expected, these are exciting times in American archeology and anthropology. A new updated understanding of early Americans is being formulated (a fantastic book that details this new understanding is Charles Mann's 1491). The field is now wide open, accepting and unafraid of new evidence and theories. A positive environment for open scientific inquiry.

One of science's duties is to always question and test theories to ensure scientific and factual integrity. Being a human endeavor, science is not immune to the unfortunate effects of ego, hubris, groupthink, stasis, and politicization. With regard to any scientific field or area of study, no matter how much interested people declare "the science is settled", science can only remain settled if it withstands challenge. Therefore it is the duty of science to always and continuously challenge itself - to ensure its own integrity. Only through repeated prevail through challenge can a scientific consensus be rightfully earned. All attempts by interest groups, politicians, or politically / career motivated scientists to declare "the science is settled", to thwart debate and inquiry, must never be accepted by the public. Society deserves the best science it can get in all fields of scientific inquiry - in archeology, anthropology, climate change theory, wherever. The best science will emerge only if we as a people greatly resist the urge to declare "the science is settled" and fall in line, like blind sheep, behind an unearned consensus.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Binge on Pills
I loathe the phrase "health care". I hear it spoken virtually everyday. I loathe how it's pushed on me. Its something that I must worry about. Something I must demand. Something that I must consume. That's the other aspect - I am expected to consume health care. My health is not guaranteed unless I consume this health care. I must consume it often, as much as possible. Consume the health care. Consume it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

North of the Notches

In what has become for me a President's Day tradition, I went for a drive up north to drink up some wintery scenery and take a photo or two of the White Mountain Presidentials. The windchill was insane but the skies were virtually cloudless and the driving was easy.

I thought about going all the way to the northern tip of NH and check out the US/Canada border crossing, but decided against it and turned back after hitting the town of Colebrook. Above is a view of The Balsams.

Update: The Wayback Machine
I hadn't seen this before my post, but Christopher Hitchens touches on the same theme in Slate about Sen. Clinton's war positioning:

"At stake, then, is not just the credibility of an ambitious New York senator who wants to be the next President Clinton. At stake, rather, is the integrity of the last President Clinton and of those in his administration who concluded that coexistence with Saddam Hussein was neither desirable nor possible. If the subject was less important, it might be amusing to watch Hillary Clinton trying to "triangulate" her way out of this and find a way of impugning the Bush policy that did not also impugn her husband's own consistent strategy. But the thing cannot be done and can't really even be attempted without raising the suspicion that a major candidate for the office of the presidency is, on the main issue of the day, not just highly unprincipled but also completely unserious."

Hillary is running against her own husband's history if she keeps up with this. As I wrote back in 2004, Sen. Clinton is better than this, and I understand that it is tough to ignore the MoveOn morons, but she jeapordizes her chances if she continues on with this line.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Wayback Machine
Hillary keeps saying that if she knew then what she knows now she would not have voted to give authorization to the President to go to war. My question to her is if she's going to grant herself the benefit of hindsight as an excuse to explain herself, why take the Wayback Machine back to the time of her vote? Since she was First Lady to President Bill Clinton, why not take the Wayback Machine to December 1998 when UNSCOM weapons inspectors were withdrawn and President Clinton order cruise missile strikes on Iraq? Why does Hillary think that merely taking back her 2002 vote is a good use of her hindsight? I would think the more pivotal moment was that time in 1998 when weapons inspectors were withdrawn and did not return until November 2002. That 4 year intelligence black hole along with the significant event of 9/11 contributed greatly to the mix of circumstances that led the Bush administration to go to war in 2003.

If Hillary is going to use the Wayback Machine to excuse herself, then it is entirely justified to say to her: Senator, if you knew then what you know now, would you have used your crucial knowledge to convince President Bill Clinton to not withdraw UNSCOM inspectors and not launch strikes on Iraq - events that contributed to the following administration's decision to go to war?

She should abandon invoking the Wayback Machine excuse. She should drop it, because it will only make her look worse. Her vote was based on the best information at the time. She voted the way she did because she did not know what the future would reveal. Its the nature of all decision making. Invoking this Wayback Machine copout is just pure stupidity and she's better than that.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Medical Sales
You hear about legions of pharmaceutical sales representatives descending upon doctor's offices - keeping them fully stocked with sample packs of the latest pills and treatments. I wonder if the porn industry has a similar army of its own sales reps tasked to keep fertility clinics and sperm banks topped up with the latest video releases and magazines. Indeed, how does a sperm bank or fertility clinic get a hold of its porn? Does it go out and buy it? Or are the on-hand videos and magazines the result of anonymous donation? Is it the sort of thing where the sperm bank doctor brings to the office his used porn, much in the same way as a receptionist at a family medicine clinic brings in back issues of Newsweek, National Georgraphic, or (for kids) Highlights magazine?

The Summer Camp Girl
Vice President Cheney's office, to Democrats, is like what summer camp is to twelve year old boys. Its that mythical place where you can claim the most wondrous and fantastic things happen. For instance, a pre-teen boy boasts about meeting such and such girl at summer camp and went all the way or got to third base with her, etc etc. Of course, none of his friends went to that same summer camp so they have no way of verifying said claims. The Summer Camp Girl is hotter than any other girl ever known. She's mature and skilled and surpasses any of the girls back at school. She is the personification of everything the pre-teen boys ever want. Everyone agrees she exists, but no photos are owned, no artifacts/mementos of hers are possessed. She enjoys an exquisite perfection and an ironclad undeniability.

Cheney's office exudes the same mythology. Dems believe all manner of nefariousness goes on in that room, yet no one can provide documented proof. Secrets, plots, and plans are formulated behind closed doors - night and day. It doesn't matter that nobody can say for sure what is truth and what is fiction about the goings on within Cheney's domain. It is the inner sanctum of all that is evil. The hidden vortex of human devilishness. A black hole that exudes no light.

Similarities between Cheney's Office and The Summer Camp Girl mythologies:

Cheney's Office: Halliburton
Summer Camp Girl: Holly Burton

Cheney's Office: Valerie Plame
Summer Camp Girl: Valerie Playme

Cheney's Office: Meeting with oil executives
Summer Camp Girl: A totally hot time where she asked to rub suntan oil on her

Cheney's Office: Project for a New American Century
Summer Camp Girl: Project at the Crafts lodge and making out behind the kiln

Cheney's Office: Reviewed torture memo with Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzalez
Summer Camp Girl: Can't say for sure, but I think it was a Dirty Sanchez

Cheney's Office: Met with Neocons on Iraq
Summer Camp Girl: Saw her knockers behind a rock

Sunday, February 11, 2007

We Need More
You hear all the time pundits bemoaning a growing income gap and impoverished middle class. Will the pundits who peddle this notion spell out the degree to which Affluenza generates this despair? A recent Pew Research poll highlights the growing list of life's necessities; a list which includes cell phones, high speed internet access, air conditioning, flat screen TVs and (of course) iPods.

Everyone nods their head in agreement when John Edwards drones on about "Two Americas" in some campaign setting at some local high school gym. But I'd have to believe that these same people would look around at each other in severe puzzlement if Edwards made the same speech to them inside of a Best Buy.