Friday, August 30, 2019

Primitive Prehuman Ancestor's Newly Constructed Face "Mesmerizing" - But Does It Indicate Emergence Of a "Soul"? No

No photo description available.

The first relatively reliable "human like" face of one of our primitive primate ancestors (cf. WSJ, 'Human Ancestor's Face Is Found', August 29, p. A3) is a remarkable milestone.  It's even been described as "mesmerizing"  by  one paleo-anthropologist. This is given that the reconstructed face (left side of image) is incredibly lifelike yet derived from a skull (right side)  of a creature nearly 3.8 million years old "that stood on the cusp of apes and humans."

As the cited WSJ article points out (ibid.):

"The fossilized head bones reveal for the first time the blunt snout, broad cheeks and narrow forehead of a distant human relation called Australopithecus anamensis, who may have vied for survival in the primeval scrub of East Africa at the same time as the iconic human ancestor 'Lucy' and her kin".

According to paleoanthropologist Yohannes Haile- Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who led the international team that uncovered the nearly complete cranium in Ethiopia::

"What we see is a very primitive face."

Added William Kimbel, director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University:

"It helps fill out a picture of the earliest human skull in a period that until now has been almost vacant in the fossil record.  It provides a baseline from which we can eventually see the emergence of the human face."

Some religionists, of course, may also see this as the biological cue for the emergence of the human soul.  As I wrote in my recent published  letter to Physics Today,  e.g.

Readers' thoughts on science and religion: Physics Today: Vol 71, No 6

on science and religion and why they are so mutually antagonistic:

"Pope Francis, while he acknowledges Darwinian evolution, is still not prepared to accept the wholly naturalistic process dependent on natural selection—mutation. Instead we read, “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve,” and “He [God] created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws [emphasis added] that He gave to each one so they would reach fulfillment.

In other words, Francis accepted Darwinian evolution, but with a proviso: that a deity had to allow humans to develop according to "internal laws He gave each reach fulfillment" .  In other words the attachment of an essential "individuality" meant there had to be an interjection of a "soul" at some point. As I went on to write: 

"if the role of random evolutionary forces is neglected and the creation of “souls” is given prominence, then the door of inquiry is left open to supernatural agents."

But of course this was precisely the Pope's intention. Because minus  an individual "soul" there is no meaning or basis for an afterlife and without an afterlife the hold of mainstream religion collapses. Declaring "sins", advancing dogmas and so on then becomes an irrelevant pastime for the clergy of whatever religion.

Frank Zindler, in a piece in The American Atheist ('Spirits, Souls and Clones') wrote:

"Catholics must believe that only a scheming deity can make a human soul. They must believe that it is this soul that makes a body human.... If it be admitted that our bodies evolved from the bodies of animals possessed of neither souls nor spirits, and that injections of souls or spirits are unitary acts of a god operating within the limits of space and time, embarrassing questions leap to mind.

It is certain that we are descended, generation after generation, from ancestors who are less human-like as the line of descent is traced back to Homo erectus, Homo habilis, Australopithecus, or even more primitive primates. Nevertheless, it is also clear that no particular generation in this line differed any more from its parent generation than do we from our parents. So how did god decide which generation had become just human enough to warrant the infusion of souls?"

As I also wrote in a blog post last month (July 12):

"As we all know, and can be grown-up enough to say, neither the descendants of apes, or apes themselves possess "souls". There is only a brain, but it is ample to generate consciousness as I already showed in my 'Materialist Model of Consciousness'. Thus, when a human (or ape) dies, that's it. He is gone and there is nothing left - nothing to "punish" and nothing to go on. This hard fact may be why so many evangelicals refuse to accept evolution: they don't want to accept: a) they have no souls, and b) when they're dead, that's it, finito.....

So the most primitive hominid ancestor (Ardipithecus Kadabba) depicted at the lower left, from 6 million years ago - possessed no soul - nor did the evolutionary continuum following onward, i.e. to Homo Habilis and Homo Sapiens (upper right). Hence, when either died there would be nothing to go on, to survive in any afterlife.  Nor would there be some unexpected, magical "break out" point in between,  at which a soul suddenly manifests. "

The quotes  above highlight issues Mr. Zindler also  brought up in a previous American Atheist article, 'Spirit, Souls and Mind', i.e.  that the word "soul" like so many others ("demon", "ghost") was invented  but "refers to nothing in reality".    The central point made later in that article was (ibid.):

"The fact that nearly all words now meaning 'soul', 'spirit',  'life' etc. trace their origins to words meaning 'breath' or 'wind' leads me to conclude the derived meanings were an outgrowth of primitive people to solve a basic biological puzzle, namely, what constitutes the difference between a live body and a dead one?"

At a more fundamental level the answer is neural activity.  Live bodies have this, but dead ones don't.  If we then agree neural activity is mistaken for the presence of what had formerly been called "soul" we are getting somewhere. As this neural basis is more central than taking breaths or inhaling.   Did our prehuman ancestor display neural activity? Of course, at least while alive.  Did that mean it had a "soul" even given its more humanesque face (as opposed to ape face).? No.

Flash now to the announcement in today;'s WSJ ('Neural Activity Similar To Babies Observed In Engineered Models', p. A3)  that "miniature engineered reconstructions of the developing brain" have been made in a lab by which "patterns of neural activity" imitating very young brains, have been recorded.  This from "roughly half pea-sized balls of brain cells known as cerebral organoids"

Basically, "lab-grown human brain models"

These lab grown entities were extracted from human stem cells. Did they possess a "soul"? Well, no more than a human zygote in utero - which the RC Church raises Cain about in reaction to any abortion procedure - precisely became a soul is believed to exist therein.

We also learn:

"The work raises ethical concerns about eventually re-creating brain functions like pain perception and consciousness in the lab."

Raise ethical concerns though it may, the work gets closer to the Materialist Model of Mind I had posited nearly 9 years ago,  e.g.

A Materialist Model of Consciousness (III)

In which I proposed - as I had in my first book, The Atheist's Handbook To Modern Materialism, that :"soul' was rendered totally redundant and consciousness emerged from quantum considerations, in relation to certain molecular transport, for example of Ca ++ ions.   (Physicist Henry Stapp ('Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics') showed that application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to Ca+2 ions -involved in neural transmissions at body temperature- disclosed the associated wave packet dimension increases to many times the size of the ion itself.)   In other words, there was a role for quantum mechanics.

The takeaway from the cerebral organoid  lab experiments is that electrical- neural activity can be artificially induced in engineered model cells.  Though yes, it might be too early to ascertain whether these organoids resemble an actual developing brain, the experiments do solve one issue: that it is in fact feasible to imitate neural activity from rudimentary brain cells and which has no "soul" component to it. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Don't Believe All The Hype From Know Nothings, Dotard's "Space Force" Remains Total Bunkum

Image result for Space force cartoons

Recall in a June, 2018 post, I warned:

"What many will likely hear and see more and more of is how we "need" a Space Force to "protect our satellites" from being shot down, say by the Chinese or  Russkies. "

And sure enough, assorted moron voices have been chirping ever since about the need to implement this useless white elephant.   As Chris Hayes noted on 'All In' last night, referencing Trump's babble in the Rose Garden yesterday, it is all about just "dusting off something old and calling it something new"- referring to SpaceCom  or Space Command. (Which has been with us since the 1980s  in some form and had been based here in Colorado Springs with NORAD  at Cheyenne Mountain.)

"Space Force"  the concept is also not new but had been proposed years ago by our local congress critter Doug Lamborn who hatched it in order to try to grab more money from defense contractors .
Doug Lamborn (R).

For further  reference, the  GOP House previously approved the creation of a "Space Corps"inside the Air Force. Trump's alleged novel brain fart,  at a meeting of the National Space Council on June 18, 2018  (WSJ, 'Trump Calls For A Space Force', today, p. A3) was merely a regurgitation of Lamborn's original nonsense- though Lamborn also called it a "Space Corps".  At the time reported  (Denver Post, May 14 last year) Lamborn insisted "I don't care what we call it, or what it looks like as long as we make space the priority in the Department of Defense that it deserves to be".

Now in a new iteration (WSJ, 'End The Gag Rule  -  Start The Space Force', Aug 27, p. A12) we behold a Boston College professor named Daniel Lyons chiming in trying to get the powers -that- be to move on this idiocy,  He writes:

"The creation of a Space Force - a proposed new branch of the armed services - is one of the most significant defense discussions in a generation.  Everyone from the president to congressmen to late night comedians have chimed in on it."

Oh yes, and  Law school professors from Boston College too, evidently.

He goes on:

"Everyone that is except for the Air Force's foremost experts on Space Doctrine, the Space Horizons Task Force. On this fundamental question of space policy the group known as 'America's space think tank' has been silent for more than a year. - muzzled by a serviceable gag order.'

Muzzle?   Gag  order?   Ah yes, more paranoid conspiracy ideations this time emanating from a Boston College Law School prof, who has nothing better to do. So he confabulates bunkum that the Air University faculty are somehow being gagged (The AU is the "intellectual and development center of the Air Force,")

It didn't take long to get a response (WSJ Letters, August 28, 'There Is No Gag Rule At USAF Air University') putting this paranoid prof in his place .  The letter from Chief Academic Officer Mark Conversino noted how the prof "mischaracterized" the issue and that the faculty and students of the Space Horizons Research Task Force "continue to have full academic freedom to share their views" - or not.

Well, why not?  Short answer, as space weapons experts - unlike the testy prof - they know it's bunkum, so the less said the better. They prefer not to dignify this asinine crap with any kind of response.  The prof, meanwhile, knows next to nothing on space or space defense - only what he likely imbibes from Trump. I seriously doubt he's even read a chapter on basic celestial mechanics.

In truth, the Space Horizons Research Task Force already knows all it needs to, i.e. that what's being proposed is merely a resurrection of the old Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which was never proven workable or even remotely feasible.  It depended upon incorporating space-based interceptors as well as powerful lasers mounted on satellites to take down Soviet ICBMs.   The  most devastating exposure of the missile defense con appeared in the May, 1987 issue of Physics Today and was entitled "APS Directed Energy Weapons Study (Executive Summary)".   Versions of it  subsequently appeared in other journals, including the Reviews Of Modern Physics, e.g.

The study basically took apart the 'Star Wars' rubbish piece by piece  with no fewer than 26 major  deficiencies identified on everything from the weaknesses of the proposed lasers to shoot down the incoming missiles (too weak by several orders of magnitude) to the problem of identifying the targets "at sub-micro-radian resolution"  in the boost phase  to "lack of precision tracking via active sensor systems" and the ease with which any missile  interceptor design can easily be thwarted, say by use of dispersal of million of reflecting, metallic decoys. 

There is absolutely NO assurance, zero,  that anything different will be achieved with this Space Force codswallop. Indeed as reported in the original article from last year (WSJ. ibid.):  "The move by Trump was  despite strong objections by senior civilian and uniformed military leaders."   

Got that? Strong objections by senior military leaders.  Why? Because they know it's horse shit, unlike our overthinking, paranoid prof.

 In its new incarnation Space Force is being touted to "protect our satellites" from being shot down, say by the Chinese or  Russkies.    But let's get real here: satellites fly in predictable orbits , and so will always be fairly easy to target - if a bad actor wants to.  But launching a typical weather or defense satellite is expensive enough without adding hundreds of pounds more weight for defenses.  And there's no assurance those defenses, say built in excimer lasers, will work.  A more practical solution, as opposed to mounting "ray guns" on satellites, would be to employ greater redundancy in the satellites we do put up.   The military, to keep costs under control, could also deploy backup systems on unmanned aerial vehicles, and integrating them into a fraction of the satellite fleet.

In the end we have to thank Mark Conversino and the  Space Horizons Research Task Force for dismissing the misplaced, paranoid conspiracy baloney of a Law prof who ought to find better things to do with his time.  So there is no "silencing some of the most knowledgeable proponents" at all. Merely those  proponents remaining silent in the face of an imbecilic idea that has absolutely nothing going for it but hype- oh, and Dotard's ignorant backing.

See also:

The Space Force’s rocky start is bad news for America


"The Bell Curve" - A Bogus (Pseudo-scientific) Brief For Racism & Inequality

Protesters at Middlebury College in July, 2017, and  social pseudo-scientist Charles Murray, who marched his way into eugenics infamy with his (co-authored) academic farce, 'The Bell Curve'.

Let us concede we live in treacherous times with bastardized memes and subtle mind viruses regularly unleashed on an unsuspecting populace.  In this deformed mental and intellectual atmosphere, Donnie Dotard and his lame tweets is only the most obnoxious example.  More generally,  climate denial propaganda, economic misinformation and irrational conspiracy  ideations  - such as spawned by Q Anon - are a dime a dozen.  And sadly,  relatively few Americans possess the critical thinking skills to parse BS from fact and distinguish fake news from the genuine article..

Into this moral and intellectual vacuum any kind of poseur, dilettante, or crank can seemingly make an impression, especially if he or she can generate some facsimile of genuine academic work,  i.e. a veneer of actual scholarship.  No one has performed better in this ersatz scholarship category than Charles Murray co-author of 'The Bell Curve'.  Indeed that co-authored parody of scholarship  paved the way for his later work, 'Coming Apart'  wherein we learned that all those poor whites -  displaced from their jobs -  could have landed on their feet had their IQs only been high enough.  But sadly, they weren't, so they are left to pound sand and cry for government help - like those displaced, forlorn coal miners now scratching for aid in Kentucky.

So both books have merely served to advance Murray's pet general narrative that a certain segment of Americans are destined to be in the underclass-  by virtue of lower IQ, genetically traced--   and we ought to get used to it. Even writing (with his co-author Herrnstein) at the end of The Bell Curve.:

"It is time once again for America to try living with inequality, as life is lived..."

As "life is lived"?  Such a reprehensible statement smacks of Social Darwinism as promulgated by Herbert Spencer, the British philosopher who had no patience for such niceties as government assistance.  He deemed the poor and infirm “unfit” if they couldn’t compete for resources without state assistance and it was their lot to be eliminated if they couldn’t manage. As Spencer put it (Social Darwinism in American Thought, American Historical Association, 1955):

"The whole effort of nature is to get rid of such, to clear the world of them, and make room for better.."

Author Richard Hofstadter points out (pp. 41-42) Spencer absolutely repudiated all state assistance to the poor, the needy, physically feeble, or infirm. In terms of the role of natural selection in “social evolution” such aid amounted to unwanted artificial interference in nature. Not to mention, meddling in the “natural development” of a superior society.  As Spencer put it (ibid.):

"If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well that they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best that they should die. "

Again, this could have been lifted right out of a Nazi Eugenics tract.  Just as Herrnstein and Murray's Bell Curve bilge.

So in perspective, taking  Messrs. Herrnstein and Murray's conclusion at face value, the Democratic candidates ought to just abandon their proposals to create a "wealth tax", i.e. to tax accumulated wealth instead of income. (WSJ, yesterday, p. A1).   As noted in the article:

"Liberals see extreme inequality as morally wrong  and socially divisive and regard the current system which taxes income generated by wealth more lightly than wages  as especially objectionable and  a contributor to wealth gaps such as between blacks and whites."

Whereas in Murray and Herrnstein's Bell Curve, one can simply lay the blame at a "genetic" disparity in IQ between blacks and whites.  Hence, how can a wealth tax or even a highly progressive income tax correct what nature has already pre-ordained?    That then leads to the authors' chapter on dysgenesis.

What is that all about?  Basically they use suspect research and citations, which they either mischaracterize or inflate, to attempt to make the case that blacks are intellectually inferior genetically to whites.  At the core of this dysgensis effort one beholds this skewed Bell curve:

How did they arrive at such a skewed graphic?  Well, they began by asking: "How do African-Americans compare with blacks in Africa on cognitive tests?"

Sounds simple enough, no?  But the devil as always is in the details.  The pair thus started with the null hypothesis that 'there should be no significant difference between the IQs of black Africans and African-Americans'.   This was based on testing the effects of discrimination (as African-Americans experience every day) and genes. Hence, black Africans - say in Cameroon - ought to have higher IQ scores  than African- Americans IF low IQ scores for the latter are a result of discrimination rather than genes.

To try to get to an answer the pair cite as their authority Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster.  So they cite a Lynn paper from 1991 in which he "estimated the median black African IQ to be 75... about 10 points lower than for American blacks."

Murray and Herrnstein then conclude that the difference cannot be accounted for by the "special circumstance" of African-Americans (i.e. discrimination), hence genetics must explain the difference. To try to bolster this view  (that African -Americans have higher IQs than black Africans) the pair then cite a Ken Owen paper from 1992. writing: "The IQ of coloured students in South Africa - of mixed racial background- has been found to be similar to that of American blacks."

Now note where this is going. All of a sudden we have the white genetic component entering via the "mixed" background of the South African students.   The implication almost doesn't have to be outright stated: The addition of Caucasian genes to African genes - in both S Africa and the U.S. - results in a 10 point higher IQ score over native Africans.  What accounts for the difference? Well, obviously the whities' higher IQ  genes have entered the picture!

But here's the bugbear:  In a footnote the pair cite the Owen 1992 paper as seeming to "prove" the IQ increment peculiar to both S. African mixed race students and American blacks. (Interestingly, the actual reference doesn't appear in The Bell Curve's bibliography. GO figure.)  Maybe the reason for non-inclusion is that Owen's work is not properly characterized.  For one thing, he used the nonverbal Ravens' Progressive Matrices (thought to be less culturally biased than standard IQ test)

Owen found that out of a possible maximum raw score of 60, whites scored 45, Indians scored 42, mixed race (coloreds) scored 37 and blacks scored 27.  Seems straightforward, no?   Not quite. The second bugbear was that the test's developer, John Raven, repeatedly insisted there could be no translation of his test into IQ scores. Hence, Herrnstein and Murray were confabulating IQs out of thin air.

Worse, the source for another  Lynn citation (accepted as valid by the Bell Curve pair)  that "Zambians had a lamentably low average IQ of 75" was given as Pons [1974]; Crawford -Nutt, 1978."

But in an astounding research misfire of stupendous proportions - one more likely for a green 1st year social science student- Herrnstein and Murray failed to note that Lynn had taken the Pons' data from Crawford-Nutt's paper and converted it into a bogus IQ average of 75.   At the same time the pair failed to recognize that Lynn chose to outright ignore the substance of Crawford-Nutt's paper which reported that 228 Soweto black HS students scored an average of 45 on the matrices test, or higher than the 44 scored by same age whites.   Most appalling 5 of 6 studies were omitted from Lynn's 1991 summary - by which time the average African IQ had gone down to 69.  Selection bias on steroids, anyone?

As described by one book review of  The  Bell Curve in Scientific American  (Feb., 1995) from which the preceding graphic was obtained:

"Lynn's distortions and misrepresentations of the data constitute a truly venomous racism, combined with scandalous disregard for scientific objectivity."

Adding pointedly:

"Lynn is widely known among academics to be an associate editor of the racist journal Mankind Quarterly and a major recipient of support from the nativist, eugenically oriented Pioneer Fund. It is a matter of shame and disgrace that two eminent social scientists- fully aware of the sensitivity of the issues they address - take Lynn as their scientific tutor and uncritically accept his surveys of research."

But, of course, given Murray and Herrnstein's conclusions, it is impossible to decouple their work from a clear and intentional agenda:  to attack affirmative action, .e.g.

"Affirmative action, in education and the workplace alike, is leaking a poison into the American soul."

And argue for accepting inequality (see earlier quote) as a natural norm.

Indeed, the revealing quotes of this dysfunctional pair of academics  tells me they damned well knew the unsavory nature and pseudoscience underpinning Lynn's work, but used it anyway. They used it because it advanced their own deformed elitist agenda based on their pet prejudices and presumptions, i.e. that genetics  really does separate the human family by IQ, and we ought to accept inequality instead of fighting it.  Should we then be charitable to Murray and Herrnstein for possibly being over confident in giving so much sway to Lynn's research? Hell no! Examining this book as a scientific researcher it is clearly so full of blatant holes, slipshod methodology  and  questionable sourcing that if it was submitted to physics referees - in terms of a physics context (using similar regression analyses) - it would be rejected outright.  Much like the daft papers of climate deniers are by reputable climate journals.

For example, one of the first things the budding researcher learns in any science - when applying statistics - is  not to conflate or confuse correlation with causation. And yet the Bell Curve duo commit this fundamental transgression  in spades.  We see this in the ridiculously (and excessively) long section of their book featuring analyses of data from the National Longitudinal Survey Of Labor Market Experience of Youth (NLSY for short).  The data, even without doing a single regression analysis do show a correlation between IQ and socio-economic status.

But to besiege  the reader with a blizzard of charts, graphs, tables etc. to extrapolate to a conclusion that IQ (inherited of course) translates into better paying jobs and higher socioeconomic status is simply twaddle.  It posits that the correlations obtained are actually causative.  As the SciAm reviewer of the book put it (ibid.):

"The core of Herrnstein-Murray's message is phrased with a beguiling simplicity: 'Putting it all together, success and failure in the American economy, and all that goes with it, are increasingly a matter of the genes that people inherit."

So if you are a sanitation worker, or wait staff person, instead of say a high end investment banker or stock broker, then you have to blame your low IQ genes.  Interestingly, members of Mensa - to provide an example of an inversion of the above- are often asked: "If you're so smart why aren't you rich?"

Well, for a lot of reasons!  Kudos here must go to Dr. Steven Mason in his article 'Let's Get Dumb' in one issue of Intertel's  Integra (October, p. 26, 2014). Mason, in about 5 pages,  shows that very often being smart isn't the asset so many believe, but an actual liability.  Especially in terms of 'making it in our money obsessed capitalist culture

 As Mason points out, in conjunction with this 'why aren't you rich' theme (p. 27):

"There are several reasons for this being the case. One is that employers don't especially like employees who are smarter than themselves. The result is that many of my friends belonging to high IQ societies wind up underemployed, working at jobs far below their potential."

Hey, Herrnstein and Murray, how do you process that?

Mason also notes that "kids hate those geeks who screw up the grading curve".  These kids, who aren't afraid to show their smarts are also the most victimized and bullied. No surprise then how back in 1978 my niece Vanessa expressed fear and shame at repeatedly outshining her classmates at St. Joseph Convent school in Trinidad, and asked advice. She was leaning to "dumbing down" her profile and being less conspicuous. I advised against it and told her to do it only if she felt it was critical to her ongoing emotional balance.

Perhaps the most provocative insight rendered by Dr. Mason concerns the communication gap between people of significantly different IQ. He writes (ibid.):

"It's been demonstrated, though not widely publicized in this PC culture, that complete and effective communication between those separated by more than fifteen IQ points is unlikely. It means there is no way, repeat NO WAY, that people with IQs of 115 are ever going to explain to people with IQs of 85 why it's important to graduate high school."

By the same token, it likely means a communication gap will exist between those of IQ 110-115 and those of Mensa or Intertel  IQ level (130-135) on matters of politics, including deep politics  (and I warrant most 115'ers don't even know what it means), science, philosophy, history and economics. The gap is simply too vast to be bridged.  Now carry this gap into the typical American work scenario and what do you see?  Likely enmity breaking out especially if the Mensan or Intertel member doesn't play sufficiently dumb over time. (Again explaining why  - if outed- they will not get that promotion and hence, well, remain at a lower socioeconomic station.  But this is not because of low IQ as the Bell Curve Bozos claim, but rather being enmeshed in an anti-intellectual culture .)

Taken at a more fundamental level, Mason's thesis indicates that the upper two or so IQ percentile of Americans will never be able to communicate effectively and completely with most of the rest of the population.  This gets most glaringly exposed in the political domain. Again, the need of so many voters to base their choices on atmospherics and optics ("Is he a guy I can have a beer with?") is downright disheartening. It makes me want to scream, "No you dummy! Don't worry about the damned beer but what he can do in office!"

And this  emotional tendency (often of swing voters) surely explains many of the puzzling election results over the years, from electing Gee Dumbya Bush in 2000, to the deranged semi-imbecile, criminal and grifter Donald Trump in 2016.  The takeaway?  The practical intelligence that helped put such losers into office has to be exceedingly low. So even if one is a top flight investment banker  or history professor and had voted Bush in 2000,  2004, and Trump in 2016, his working intellect can't be all that great irrespective of what Herrnstein-Murray claim.  Even Harvard Prof Harvey Mansfield attributed Trump's  election to the "lower half of the IQ curve."  And that includes all those business CEOs, market quants, and other "upper socioeconomic class" hotshots.  Oh sure, they got their tax cuts - but look what Trump's trade war has cost them, and we haven't gone beyond a technical recession yet.

Speaking of that:  the Southern Poverty Law Center has noted many criticisms of The Bell Curve, most notably Charles Lane’s thorough takedown in The New York Review of Books, have pointed out that Murray’s attempts to link social inequality to genes are based on the work of explicitly racist scientists. In an afterward to the book, Murray rejects criticisms that rest on the fact that “we cite thirteen scholars who have received funding from the Pioneer Fund, founded and run by men who were "Nazi sympathizers, eugenicists, and advocates of white racial superiority.” Murray contends that the racist pseudo-scientists he cites “are some of the most respected psychologists of our time” and that “the relationship between the founder of the Pioneer Fund and today’s Pioneer Fund is roughly analogous to that between Henry Ford and today’s Ford Foundation."

To me, such woeful blindness and shoddy work is deliberate and totally disqualifies Murray (and Herrnstein)  from claiming any objective insight into socioeconomic status and its relation to IQ.   At  the same time it shows me that those students who protested his effort to spout racist, eugenic -based rubbish at Middlebury College  2 years ago were totally justified. Indeed, as critical thinking citizens it was incumbent on them to block the dissemination of toxic racist propaganda disguised as scholarly research.

Indeed, not to do so allows the proliferation of racist memes and the sort of degenerate codswallop recently put out in a WSJ op-ed by  Heather MacDonald ('Trump Isn't The One Dividing Us By Race',  August 19, p. A19)  Let us note this hack is the author of 'The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture'.    One can only imagine here that Ms. MacDonald is a firm acolyte of the Charles Murray Bell Curve cult. Especially when she argues (WSJ, ibid.) the racial divisiveness is the product of diversity acknowledgement and "its main propagation by the academic left and mass media".   To see her spouting her balderdash live on you tube (at Hillsdale College) check out this link:
Getting back to the authors of The Bell Curve, truth be told what these two have produced  is no more scholarly than Gerald Posner's 'Case Closed' which tried to finalize the specious Warren Report as the last word on the Kennedy assassination.  JFK Assassination experts document twelve of the most serious “Posnerisms” here:

See also:

"Coming Apart?" - Charles Murray's Arguments After..

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Rapid Melting Of Greenland Ice Sheet : Will Our Favorite Barbados Beach Still Be There Next Time We Arrive?

It's been known for at least 38 years, that South Florida will be 'ground zero' when the rising seas from climate change begin to have their most serious impact. Indeed, the image of  projected sea reclamation by 2035  for Florida - in a U.S. Geological survey map -  was actually published first in a (World Book) Science Encyclopedia article from 1981.   

Meanwhile, sea rise prognostications had forecast a 20- 25 ft. increase by 2070 owing to the melting of Greenland' enormous ice sheet.  But frankly, that's all gone by the backboards as we now have direct evidence the melting of the Greenland ice sheet has accelerated and dramatically.  

How much are we talking about?  According to the latest reports (cf. The Denver Post, Aug. 25, p. 1A, 'Greater Mass Loss Going Forward'):

"By the end of the summer about 440 million tons of ice wil have melted or calved off Greenland's giant ice sheet. "


"In the span of July 31 to August 3, more than 58 billion tons melted from the surface. This is more than 40 billion tons more than the average for this time of year."

Which elicits the question of what transpires if this rate of melt is sustained or even accelerates? It seems clear that in such a case the forecast that "Greenland alone would cause 3-4 feet of sea level rise" must be advanced, possibly to 2040 or even earlier.  Indeed, Greenland accelerated melting is  now evident given (ibid.):

"A NASA satellite found that Greenland's ice sheet lost about 255 billion metric tons of ice a year between 2003  and 2016, with the loss rate generally getting worse over that period."

Add that to the melting of the Arctic ice caps and Antarctic ice shelf as well and one can imagine a scenario for a 20-25 ' sea level rise by mid century.   We also now have to factor in the effects of the burning Amazon rain - forest - likely to add 2- 5 gigatons of carbon to the already CO2 sodden atmosphere.  This is no longer in the realm of science fiction such as portrayed in flicks like 'Waterworld'.  

Just look at the projected map of sea reclamation projected by the U.S. Geological survey for Florida by 2035. Now imagine a sea level rise instead of 3 m and five times the number of Florida residents affected. Yes, it is quite within the realm of plausibility now.  Hell, we've even seen how Miami itself is now subject to flooding.  The map below of the Miami area shows effect of elevation on rate of property price appreciation:

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Where the more contrast colored purple section refers to greater effect on rate of appreciation.  The incredible conclusion of Harvard real estate professor (and author of the paper) Jesse Keenan, is that ordinary home owners are already factoring future sea level rise into their calculations.

What about the island nation of Barbados, where I lived with wifey for 20 plus years?  It won't be any better for Bim's residents - unless they are living toward the higher elevations as indicated in the topographical  map below

Here the green coded area is greatest in elevation over sea level - from 194m to 338 m. To spare Bim's populace from the ravages of sea level rise on the same scale we expect for South Florida, they'd have to move to this area.  The most populated areas near the south coast (1- 3 m elevation) would be totally reclaimed by the ocean. Already as I posted previously, sea level rise has claimed large chunks of the beaches in and around Christchurch and St. Michael parishes.  On several visits to Bim over the past several years we've seen the encroachment of the sea first hand.

The future for Barbados and other island states does not look promising as an article in the UK Independent  notes:
"With a sea-level rise of one metre, which is now regarded as highly likely by the end of the century, the Caribbean would see "at least 149 multi-million dollar tourism resorts damaged or lost" and would also see loss or damage of 21 of the Caricom airports, and the inundation of land surrounding 35 of the region's 44 portsmage leapt upwards, as one metre of sea level.  

With a two-metre sea-level rise, by no means impossible, there would be "at least 233 multi-million dollar tourism resorts lost" plus damage or loss of nine power plants, 31 airports, and the loss of 710km of roads. However, when a more sophisticated analysis was done on the impacts of erosion caused by rising seas, it was found that the damage leapt upwards, as one metre of sea level rise on low-lying coasts gives between 50 and 100 metres of erosion. A one-metre rise with erosion factored in would result in "at least 307 multi-million dollar tourism resorts damaged or lost," the report says."

So we are talking calamitous economic and topographical changes here. Almost certainly permanent and indeed - with increased warming - the forecast can only get worse.  Indeed, we are speculating that at the current rapid Greenland ice sheet melt rate our favorite Bajan beach (below)  may no longer even exist by the time we next visit. 
Lastly, let's bear in mind that sea level rise is only one aspect of the ongoing climate catastrophe.  The other is the increased frequency of extraordinarily hot days -  spiking heat indices to unheard of levels (110 F and above) as lives and livelihoods are put at risk.

To fix ideas, the Union of Concerned Scientists 'Killer Heat' team recently compared historic averages over the period 1971- 2000 with projected heat indices for the middle to the end of this century. Their finding? 

"The team's projections bumped up against the limits of the NWS heat index formula, which is capable of calculating a value for 99 percent of summertime conditions. The analysis found that as climate change intensifies extreme heat, the numbers will often rise beyond the calculable range."

In other words, we are taking of conditions at the cusp of the runaway Greenhouse effect. Conditions so radically divergent from those today that current heat index models are unable to calculate the temperature (or thermature) limits.

One thing for certain, with the incineration of the Amazon rain forest  all our futures - especially for the younger generation - suddenly got much,  much worse.

See also: