Comments Posted By RWA
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Lasalle's piece was unfortunately a piece of twaddle that isn't saying anything that isn't old and either debunked or properly dismissed. The strong anthropic principle is just a philosophical exercise which doesn't have much of anything to actually contribute to scientific understanding (rather like intelligent design).

Comment Posted By RWA On 18.07.2009 @ 10:20


Huntsman also vetoed a bill which would have permitted the teaching of so-called "intelligent design" in science classes. He is the face of true conservatism, not the sort of impulsive reactionary populism that people mistake for the real thing.

Before Huntsman became ambassador, I was pushing for a Huntsman/Cantor ticket. Placing a Mormon and an observant Jew on the same ballot would have exorcised the fringe lunatics for good. With Huntsman in China, I say we push for a Cantor/Sununu ticket. Imagine what it would say to the world if we had a Jewish-American and Arab-American as running mates.

Comment Posted By RWA On 19.05.2009 @ 16:16


The forum and blog I belong to, Darwin Central, broke away from a certain once-important conservative web forum when it became clear that anyone who accepted the fact of biological evolution or who refused to place biblical authority above science was no longer welcome. I had long since given up on the site for the fact that it became a cesspool of anti-Muslim bigotry, ironically enough spewed by people who like to set up the equivalent of the Iranian dictatorship on these shores. Charlie and Rick are the voices of authentic conservatism; the screeching Coulterbots who infest the comment sections of JihadWatch and the like are the voices of a reactionary fringe, who are to mainstream conservatism what Code Pink is to mainstream liberalism. I say let them all join the Constitution party and leave the rest of us alone.

Comment Posted By RWA On 22.04.2009 @ 21:09


Thanks for the kind words, Rick. However, I'd say that the fact that we don't when the research will pay off is reason enough to fund it now, so that it pays off ASAP. Furthermore, the jobs it creates in the short term aren't just in research itself; the doubling of funding for the NIH which Gingrich rammed through Congress helped fuel the construction boom by enacting the construction of new facilities. If we don't want economic bubbles to pop, then we need this sort of continual investment, which guarantees that funding of current industries will be continuous and permanent, while opening the window for new ones.

Now you see why I keep asking you draft Fortner? :)

Comment Posted By RWA On 27.01.2009 @ 17:51

With trillion dollar deficits staring Congress in the face, the probability that NASA funds will be cut to the bone are about 95%. Congressmen find it easy to cut programs that don’t enrich cronies or buy them votes back home. Most of the pure scientific exploration represented by Kepler, New Horizons, the Mars probes, and the Webb telescope are easy pickings for the budget cutters.

And that's too bad, because basic science is one of the few things deserving full governmental support. The media likes to credit the Omnibus Bill of 1993 for the boom and surplus of the nineties, but the actual credit goes to five decades of scientific research which led to the information economy; if we want long-term sustainable prosperity, we need to make these sorts of investments. The Republicans can regain some of their intellectual currency by advocating more spending on basic science instead of direct intervention in the economy. Not only do the projects themselves generate thousands of new jobs in the short term, but the work itself leads to hundreds of new industries and enterprises in the long term. This is something the great physicist and conservative Republican Robert Millikan advocated during the Great Depression, and we should revisit his position in the light of today's crisis.

Bravo! Hurrah! Couldn't have said it better.

The catch is, we don't know how this basic scientific research will payoff in the end. The process of discovery and invention itself leads to unknown real world benefits. The knowledge that will accrue to us as a result of Kepler is tiny compared to the spin-offs in new technolgies and products.

Can't put that on a graph, unfortunately. Which is why NASA budgets are so easy to cut.


Comment Posted By RWA On 25.01.2009 @ 11:50


Can we draft Mike Fortner now?

Comment Posted By RWA On 15.12.2008 @ 11:33


Truer words were never written, Rick. I posted it at the Darwin Central forums, where we all pretty much share the same views and concerns. Oh, and as a resident of Illinois, there is something you can do to halt the slide of conservatism and the Republican party into the anti-science and anti-intellectual morass: Draft Fortner. I don't care if it's as governor once you kick out Rod Blankacheck, or as Senator once Duhhrbin retires, but just do anything to put him on the national stage.

Comment Posted By RWA On 2.11.2008 @ 16:21



I've long maintained that you have the most misnamed site in the blogosphere. You have consistently been the sanest and most rational commentator on the block, someone who carefully weighs the evidence and looks at it all possible angles. I have especially welcomed the fact that you have been willing to call out your own side when it behaves unreasonably, or when certain members take an anti-science tack, usually on the subject of evolution. I've proudly linked to some of your commentary as proof that creationism is not conservative, and that true conservatism is pro-science and pro-reason.

This time, however, you're being too cautious, too nuanced in your approach. The physicists know very well the risk inherent in their experiments; in the early days of accelerator physics, accidents resulting in severe burns and the loss of limb and eye were frequent and caused by the tiniest error imaginable(trivia note: the O-rings so important in space shuttles and elsewhere were originally designed for accelerators to prevent such accidents in the future. Another thing to thank particle physics for!). Risk analysis became a major component of all such experiments, and is just one reason besides the cost of equipments and power needs that they cost so damned much. Today, with a single component weighing hundreds of tons, and billions of dollars at stake, they are more cautious than ever, and after Brookhaven's problems in the mid-nineties (which were effectively defused by the current Presidential science advisor, John Marburger), the major labs worldwide recognize the importance of good community relations, and their responsibility to environmental safety. A bare minimum of three impact studies would have to be run in any project as large and complex as this, to assure both public safety as well as to verify what are possible worst-case scenarios. In science you have to be SUPER cautious, not just because of safety, but because the slightest misstep can leave you with egg all over your face.

This reminds me of the keruffle over the Cassini-Huygens Space Probe, which was attacked by protestors(including, incidentally, Micho Kaku) for carrying plutonium in its hull. We should be damned glad they failed at stopping it, because it would have deprived us of crucial new knowledge about the outer planets. The pure knowledge about the universe we will glean from these new experiments at the LHC will similarly augment our knowledge of the universe immeasurably, so let's not hold back!

Thanks for the kind words. Let me just say that the major point I was trying to make by recalling the exploits of Rutherford and contrasting his efforts with those of today's scientists is that we, the people, are now as responsible for these marvelous experiments since we are the ones mostly footing the bill. It's not that the Hadron Collider is necessarily dangerous or more dangerous than any other project. It's that we cannot ignore the reprecussions down the road of some of our research.

There isn't a geneticist working today who doesn't take seriously the idea of loosing a new life form on the planet without thoroughly testing its potential for mischief. And that AI link I gave to the Lifeboat Foundation's monitoring of progress toward realizing artificial intelligence is deadly serious. Creating machines that will incorporate AI puts an enormous responsibility on the designers to be cognizant of the risk.

Now it is highly unlikely that some rogue strain of wheat will kill us all or some future AI driven computer plot mankind's downfall. But does that mean we just ignore the risk? I think not. And while the Collider may not be the best example of the responsibility we taxpayers must take it highlights the wonderous opportunities to gain knowledge - an excitement that has the potential to blind us to other realities.

Comment Posted By RWA On 30.03.2008 @ 21:32

Wagner and Sancho are just exploiting the same irrational fear of science that the anti-biotech people have been doing for the past two decades, or the anti-nuclear energy people have benn doing for even longer. There is no danger here; quantum black holes, if they exist, would immediately evaporate and so would strangelets, in a trillionth of trillionth of a second (and I'm not exaggerating; that is how long they last). The Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek very patiently explained this to Wagner in a reply to a letter that the latter had sent to Scientific American, yet he still doesn't listen. The fruits of the scientific research are not only safe, but the benefits will far surpass any cost. Right now, we're using the most important spin-off of particle physics: the Internet itself.

I am not questioning Wilczek's facts but why the three impact studies then? Was it all PR?

Regardless, the point I was trying to make is that getting independent verification of risk if a scientist is conducting an experiment that has even a small chance of impacting the outside world negatively is a prudent and necessary thing to do. I realize scientists do this already but it never hurts to get an outsider's opinion.

The Jeremy Rivkins of this world do more harm than good. But that doesn't obviate the need to vet certain experiments that in the future may be a problem.


Comment Posted By RWA On 30.03.2008 @ 12:48

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