The Headlines

– In Svalbard, Norway, it is forbidden to die.

– In Lynwood, Illinois, it is forbidden to wear saggy pants.

Willie Bean Roscoe P. Coltrane for mayor

– Time magazine publishes the definitive Obama puff piece.


Friends Travel

My friends Tim both have fascinating blogs that have lately centered around travel, and which you had best read.

Tim Hagen is living the life of a globe-trotting bum, calling Norway home base. His most recent post on meeting Arab and African refugees in Songdal is fantastic.

Tim Marston knows stuff about sound, which apparently gets people to send you to places like Paris for conferences. His photographs from his travels are beautiful, and he keeps a mean journal too.

You can Bet that “Climate Skepticism” will become a Hate Crime Soon

Apparently, the film “The Great Global Warming Swindle“, a documentary produced in the UK and broadcast on their Channel Four, is causing a bit of a stink.

Seems the folks who produced “Swindle” had the almighty gall to suggest that the increase in atmospheric temperatures observed over the last few decades are not primarily caused by greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, but rather on changes in the sun’s output, and that the Global Warming frenzy is based on politics rather than science.

Of course the cries of “heresy” were legion (though Channel 4 reports a startling number of supportive emails and calls from scientists), and the Inquisitors at Ofcom have handed down their verdict, not surprisingly, against Channel 4.

While a watchdog group nailing a TV station for daring to question the reigning dogmas is hardly even newsworthy anymore, there was one part of the ruling that I found fascinating:

Turns out, they (Channel 4) could not be found guilty of failing to show “due impartiality” on “matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to the current public policy” on the issue of Global Warming because human-caused global warming is no longer a subject of controversy but established fact. From the BBC News article:

The last segment of the programme, dealing with the politics of climate change, broke this obligation, Ofcom judged, and did not reflect a range of views, as required under the code.

But the main portion of the film, on climate science, did not breach these rules.

Ofcom’s logic is that “the link between human activity and global warming… became settled before March 2007”.

This being so, it says, climate science was not “controversial” at the time of broadcast, so Channel 4 did not break regulations by broadcasting something that challenged the link.

Talk about assuming the center.


Do not Presume to Search the Souls of Carrots

In the same way nutritionism can lead to a false consciousness in the mind of the eater, it can just as easily mislead the scientist.
The problem starts with the nutrient. Most nutritional science involves studying one nutrient at a time, a seemingly unavoidable approach that even nutritionists who do it will tell you is deeply flawed. “The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient science,” points out Marion Nestle, a New York University nutritionist, “is that it takes the nutrient out of the contest of the food, the food out of the context of the diet, and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle.”

If nutrition scientists know this, why do they do it anyway? Because a nutrient bias is built into the way science is done. Scientists study variables they can isolate…Yet even the simplest food is a hopelessly complicated thing to analyze, a virtual wilderness of chemical compounds, many of which exist in intricate and dynamic relation to one another, and all of which together are in the process of changing from one state to another…

It’s important also to remind ourselves that what reductive science can manage to perceive well enough to isolate and study is subject to almost continual change, and that we have a tendency to assume that what we can see is the important thing to look at. The vast attention paid to cholesterol since the 1950s is largely the result of the fact that for a long time cholesterol was the only factory linked to heart disease that we had the tools to measure. (This is sometimes called parking-lot science, after the legendary fellow who loses his keys in a parking lot and goes looking for them under the streetlight – not because that’s where he lost them, but because that’s where it’s easiest to see.)…

[C]uriously, the human digestive tract has roughly as many neurons as the spinal column. We don’t yet know exactly what they’re up to, but their existence suggests that much more is going on in digestions than simply the breakdown of foods into chemicals…

When Prout and Liebig nailed down the macronutrients, scientists figured that they now understood the nature of food and what the body needed from it. Then when the vitamins were isolated a few decades later, scientists thought, okay, now we really understand food and what the body needs for its health; and today it’s the polyphenols and carotenoids that seem to have completed the picture. But who knows what else is going on deep in the soul of a carrot?

The good news is that, to the carrot eater, it doesn’t matter. That’s the great thing about eating foods as compared with nutrients: You don’t need to fathom the carrot’s complexity in order to reap its benefits.

– Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food, pp. 62 – 66.

We Want Both-And, not Either-Or

We want not an amalgam or compromise, but both things at the top of their energy; love and wrath both burning…St. Francis, in praising all good, could be more shouting optimist than Walt Whitman. St. Jerome, in denouncing all evil, could paint the world blacker than Schopenhauer. Both passions were free because both were kept in their place…By defining its main doctrine, the Church not only kept seemingly inconsistent things side by side, but, what was more, allowed them to break out in a sort of artistic violence…Poetry could be acted as well as composed.

– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, pp. 98 – 103

Dash Your Baby Thoughts Against Christ

Having our loins girded, therefore, with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk in His paths by the guidance of the Gospel, that we may deserve to see Him who has called us to His kingdom.
For if we wish to dwell in the tent of that kingdom, we must run to it by good deeds or we shall never reach it.
But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet, “Lord, who shall dwell in Your tent, or who shall rest upon Your holy mountain?”

After this question, brethren, let us listen to the Lord as He answers and shows us the way to that tent, saying, “He who walks without stain and practices justice; he who speaks truth from his heart; he who has not used his tongue for deceit; he who has done no evil to his neighbor; he who has given no place to slander against his neighbor.”

It is he who, under any temptation from the malicious devil, had brought him to naught by casting him and his temptation from the sight of his heart; and who has laid hold of his thoughts while they were still young and dashed them against Christ.

It is they who, fearing the Lord, do not pride themselves on their good observance; but, convinced that the good which is in them cannot come from themselves and must be from the Lord, glorify the Lord’s work in them, using the words of the Prophet, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give the glory,” Thus also the Apostle Paul attributed nothing of the success of his preaching to himself, but said, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” And again he says, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

– St. Benedict, Rule for Monasteries, Prologue: Jan.4 – May 5 – Sept. 4

Houses aren’t the only ones Losing their Value

The value of Human Life seems to be depreciating as well, according to the EPA. In fact, you just lost nearly a million dollars in value: from 8.04 million to 7.22 million (we use decimal values because this is science stuff, and science stuff is precise. Just trust us.). Remember that monologue about auto manufacturer recalls in Fight Club? This from an article originally appearing in the Washington Post:

To grasp the mind-bending concept of a Blue Book value on life, government officials say it is important to remember that they are not thinking about anyone specific…They might know, for instance, that a new cut in air pollution will save 50 lives a year – though they don’t know who those people might be. Still they want to decide whether saving them is worth the cost, officials say, and it helps to assign a dollar value to each life saved.

This apparently is not the first time the EPA has tried to lower the value of human life. “In 2003, it tried to count senior citizens’ lives as worth less than those of other adults. After a loud outcry from seniors, the agency backed off.” Which is a fun mental image.

From the same article, we have the best research suggestion of the year:

But how do you put a dollar value on a life, even in a generic sense?

It wouldn’t work for researchers to survey Americans at gunpoint and ask how much they would pay not to die.

I disagree. That idea is categorically awesome. I once again want to be a scientist when I grow up.

But hey, don’t knock the EPA too much. According to the article, “their value for life remains one of the highest. Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation raised its value – but even after the increase, it stood at $5.8 million…”. Which explains a lot, really.