Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pay Up

Think about this if you're starting a family - you're already, right now, half a million dollars in debt:

The federal government's long-term financial obligations grew by $2.5 trillion last year, a reflection of the mushrooming cost of Medicare and Social Security benefits as more baby boomers reach retirement. That's double the red ink of a year earlier.

Taxpayers are on the hook for a record $57.3 trillion in federal liabilities to cover the lifetime benefits of everyone eligible for Medicare, Social Security and other government programs, a USA TODAY analysis found. That's nearly $500,000 per household.

When obligations of state and local governments are added, the total rises to $61.7 trillion, or $531,472 per household. That is more than four times what Americans owe in personal debt such as mortgages.

So what are your congresspersons doing about it? How much enthusiasm is there for reforming the system? When President Bush tried to relieve the burden on Social Security the Democrats said that the system was not in jeopardy and blocked his reform plans. Of course, the President himself added to the problem by expanding medicare entitlements.

Someday soon this debt is going to be unsustainable and millions are going to lose medicare coverage, social security and perhaps even see their private pensions dry up. This will almost certainly rock Wall Street so even those who have invested in the markets, which all pension funds do, will likely lose their nest egg. It's a time bomb that could devastate millions of lives.

Meanwhile, Congress spends its time, and your tax dollars, dreaming up ways to indict former Bush administration officials.

One thing we can count on. When you and I lose our retirements, your congressperson won't.



This video is a pastiche of scenes cut from Unlocking the Mystery of Life, Privileged Planet, and Expelled, with a little Rappin' With Dicky Dawkins and Judas Priest thrown in for good measure. The result's maybe a C+:

Caroline Crocker's story is interesting. It's too bad she doesn't get more time on the vid.

HT: Uncommon Descent


Mixing Science and Philosophy

One of the arguments against teaching intelligent design in science classes is that ID is a philosophical hypothesis, and only scientific hypotheses should be taught in science classes, especially in public schools. Even if it were the case that ID falls short of the criteria which define science, criteria which no one has ever really been able to satisfactorily identify, that should hardly disqualify it from mention in the science classroom. There are, after all, dozens of topics and ideas discussed in science classes, especially those populated by the brighter students, which surely share the same philosophical status as ID.

Here's a partial list of examples taken from a Viewpoint post from a couple of years ago:

1. The Many Worlds Hypothesis: The idea that ours is just one of a nearly infinite number of universes, all of which are closed off from each other thus defying detection.

2. The Oscillating Universe Hypothesis: The theory that our universe has expanded and collapsed an infinite number of times.

3. String theory: The idea that the fundamental units of material substance are unimaginably tiny vibrating filaments of energy.

4. The existence of other dimensions: The theory that the four dimensions of space-time are only part of physical reality.

5. Principle of Uniformity: The assumption that the laws and properties of the universe are homogenous and constant everywhere throughout the cosmos.

6. Assumption of Uniformitarianism: The idea that the same processes and forces at work in the world today have always been at work at essentially the same rates.

7. The Scientific Method: The idea that there is a particular methodology that defines the scientific process and which ought to be followed.

8. The Law of Parsimony: The principle that assumes that the simplest explanation which fits all the facts is the best.

9. The assumption that human reason is trustworthy: The notion that a faculty which has evolved because it made us better fit to survive is also a dependable guide to something else, truth, which has no necessary connection to human survival.

10. The assumption that we should value truth: The idea that truth should be esteemed more highly than competing values, like, for instance, personal comfort or group advancement.

11. The preference in science for naturalistic explanations: This is a preference based upon an untestable assumption that all knowable truth is found only in the natural realm.

12. Naturalistic Abiogenesis: The belief that natural forces are sufficient in themselves to have produced life.

13. The assumption that if something is physically possible and mathematically elegant then, given the age of the universe, it probably happened.

14. The assumption that the cosmos is atelic. I.e. that it has no purpose.

15. The assumption that there's a world external to our own minds.

16. Materialistic Reductionism: The conviction that all phenomena, including mental phenomena, can be ultimately explained solely in terms of physics and chemistry.

17. Assumption that the universe arose out of a "vacuum matrix" rather than out of nothing.

18. Ethical claims regarding the environment, nuclear power, cloning, or genetic engineering.

19. The Concept of the Meme: According to biologist Richard Dawkins memes are the cultural analog to genes. They are ideas or customs that are believed by Dawkins and others to get passed along according to their survival value rather than their truth value (see #9, above). An example of this, unfortunately, is the concept of the meme itself.

20. The criteria by which we distinguish science from non-science.

Mention of none of these in public school science classrooms precipitates the levitation of a single eyebrow among the custodians of science purity yet every one of them is a matter of metaphysical preference, not empirical fact. Why, then, do those custodians suddenly wax squeamish when the topic of discussion turns to the possibility that incredibly complex information-based systems in the living cell are the product of intentional engineering?