Bush Calls U.S. a “Nation of Prayer”

News of the weird, my friends. Our “politics-and-religion-mixing President has declared, on this the national day of prayer, that the U.S. is a nation of prayer”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060504/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_prayer;_ylt=Auh2YG3m0lrz_xYEcS4QLD6s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3OXIzMDMzBHNlYwM3MDM-. I wonder if, on the national day of reason, he’ll declare the U.S. a nation of reason? Oh, right, we don’t have that national day. Yikes.

Thinking back to that recent study on prayer [TAOMPH245], it is now clear to me why the U.S. is split down the middle politically. If you have a 50% chance of suffering complications after heart bypass surgery whether people pray for you or not, I guess a nation of prayer has a 50% chance of being Republican or Democrat. Double yikes.

.. [TAOMPH245] http://steve.cooleysekula.net/blog/?p=653


Thoughts on Science and Spirit from a man of the Spirit

My good pal Mandeep sent me a lovely blog article from “Jim Burklo, minister at the Sausalito Presbyterian Church”:http://tcpc.blogs.com/musings/2005/08/beyond_the_fish.html. Jim talks about how intelligent design is a discredit to both science and religion. Well, Jim puts it best so let me just quote him:

But [intelligent design] isn’t a “theory” at all. “Intelligent design” posits that the structure of life is so complex and delicate that it is unimaginable that it could have come into existence without having been designed by some intelligent force. Therefore such an intelligence must be responsible for it. But this is a conclusion that can be reached only by assuming that it is true in the first place – a classic tautology, or example of circular reasoning, which has no place in science. It is not a theoretical alternative to evolution, because it suggests no other credible means by which this outside intelligence created the complexity of life. There is nothing in the theory of evolution, the only theory that holds any water in explaining the origin of the species, that proves or disproves the existence of such an intelligent “designer”. Even if one thinks of God as a separate, distinct being that manipulates the universe, “intelligent design” offers no intelligent reason that God didn’t employ evolution as his or her means for creating life on earth.

Circular reasoning doesn’t belong in science education. “Intelligent design” is a thinly-veiled and inappropriate attempt to inject religious indoctrination into public schools. If it gets into school science textbooks, it would damage both science and religion in this country.

The emphasis was added by me to highlight the key conclusions he draws. Hear, hear, Jim. Let us both hope that together science can continue to map out the order of the natural world and religion can map out the order of the spirit, and through both we can gain a deeper insight into this wonderous universe.

Three Senators attend Hearing on Climate Change

It’s sad. I know it was a busy day on the Hill, but every day is a busy day on the Hill. So when I read that “only three U.S. Senators from the Senate Commerce subcommittee on global climate change attended hearings where the new head of the National Academies spoke about the scientific consensus on global warming”:http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/07/21/global.warming.ap/index.html?section=cnn_space,
I was saddened.

Who were the three attentive Senators? They were David Vitter, R-Louisiana, Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. What at least impressed me about the mix is that is was statistically bi-partisan. If you read literally into small numbers, it was overwhelmingly Republican – also encouraging.

Who were the missing subcommittee members? They were Republicans John McCain (AZ) and Olympia Snowe (ME), and Democrat John Kerry (MA). What a sad list of those missing. Half the committee was not present, and 2/3 of those not attending were people I know well enough to admire! John McCain and John Kerry are two of my favorite Senators, some of the few I consider Statesmen and not just politicians.

I just hope they had a good excuse. This was a rare opportunity for such a group of Senators to sit, ask questions of the National Academies’ new President, and have a healthy public discourse on the science of and the overwhelming evidence for human-induced global climate change.

What’s $100M when you’re defending democracy?

I am concerned by this recurring “story about 100M dollars going missing in the Iraq reconstruction effort”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050505/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/iraq_money;_ylt=At9K0nB3DggPB8jukqks16ZG2ocA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl. The AP news story on http://news.yahoo.com leads with “U.S. government mismanagement of assets in
Iraq, from the lack of proper documentation on nearly $100 million in cash to millions of dollars worth of unaccounted-for equipment, are setting back efforts to fight corruption in the fledgling democracy, auditors and critics say.”

I’d say that a “set back” in Iraq is the least of the ethical baggage the government should worry about when it comes to losing $100M. Agents who distributed the money claimed that “were under the impression that it was more important to quickly distribute the money to the region than to obtain all necessary documentation.”

So much for fiscal responsibility. So much for the idea that putting a businessman in the office of the President will improve this nation’s financial footing and ethics. Let’s frame this from my perspective.

The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, as a “matter of public record”:www.sc.doe.gov/orm/Budget_Finance/FY_05_Budget/HEP.pdf, is funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE SC) at the level of $120M. The total budget of the DOE SC is at the level of $3.2B, which is a fraction of the many billions spent on both the war and the reconstruction in Iraq. As you can see, the amount “lost” in Iraq is comparable to the amount spent to generate great science at a great national treasure, SLAC.

So here’s what I am worried about: losing $100M seems to be chalked up to the price of defending democracy, here and in Iraq. Spending $100M on great science to make this country worth defending is becoming a growing complaint within the federal gov’t, which seems loathe to spend money on the science that has made this country great. Even the President’s own party is concerned, as “evidenced by this letter from Republican Frank Wolf (VA) to the President expressing his concern about the ongoing trend to decrease basic science funding”:http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/064.html.

Let us not become complacent with our money. Can we afford to lose $100M defending democracy, yet feel worried about legitimately spending $100M to make a great democracy? That’s for Americans to decide.