Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Astronomers have for decades now been searching for evidence of life elsewhere in the galaxy, and for those eager to prove that life is the product of natural processes and that wherever conditions are suitable life will emerge, a lot is at stake. If it can be shown to exist elsewhere in the universe it would, the thinking goes, make it harder to believe that God created life specially here on earth.

Thus news like that contained in this article is decidedly uncongenial to many who would like nothing more than to show that life is not only not exclusive to earth, but is actually common in the galaxy and the universe.

Here's part of it:
Scientists engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) work under the assumption that there is, in fact, intelligent life out there to be found. A new analysis may crush their optimism.

To calculate the likelihood that they'll make radio contact with extraterrestrials, SETI scientists use what's known as the Drake Equation. Formulated in the 1960s by Frank Drake of the SETI Institute in California, it approximates the number of radio-transmitting civilizations in our galaxy at any one time by multiplying a string of factors: the number of stars, the fraction that have planets, the fraction of those that are habitable, the probability of life arising on such planets, its likelihood of becoming intelligent and so on.

The values of almost all these factors are highly speculative. Nonetheless, Drake and others have plugged in their best guesses, and estimate that there are about 10,000 tech-savvy civilizations in the galaxy currently sending signals our way — a number that has led some scientists to predict that we'll detect alien signals within two decades.

Their optimism relies on one factor in particular: In the equation, the probability of life arising on suitably habitable planets (ones with water, rocky surfaces and atmospheres) is almost always taken to be 100 percent. As the reasoning goes, the same fundamental laws apply to the entire universe, and because those laws engendered the genesis of life on Earth — and relatively early in its history at that — they must readily spawn life elsewhere, too. As the Russian astrobiologist Andrei Finkelstein put it at a recent SETI press conference, "the genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms."

But in a new paper published on arXiv.org, astrophysicist David Spiegel at Princeton University and physicist Edwin Turner at the University of Tokyo argue that this thinking is dead wrong. Using a statistical method called Bayesian reasoning, they argue that the life here on Earth could be common, or it could be extremely rare — there's no reason to prefer one conclusion over the other. With their new analysis, Spiegel and Turner say they have erased the one Drake factor scientists felt confident about and replaced it with a question mark.

While it's true that life arose quickly on Earth (within the planet's first few hundred million years), the researchers point out that if it hadn't done so, there wouldn't have been enough time for intelligent life — humans — to have evolved. So, in effect, we're biased. It took at least 3.5 billion years for intelligent life to evolve on Earth, and the only reason we're able to contemplate the likelihood of life today is that its evolution happened to get started early. This requisite good luck is entirely independent of the actual probability of life emerging on a habitable planet.

"Although life began on this planet fairly soon after the Earth became habitable, this fact is consistent with … life being arbitrarily rare in the Universe," the authors state. In the paper, they prove this statement mathematically.
In other words, the position of those who have been saying for fifty years that naturalistic abiogenesis is extraordinarily improbable has been strengthened by the Spiegel and Turner paper, and the argument of those who have argued that life elsewhere in the galaxy is inevitable has been severely weakened. The view that intelligent human life is special and that earth may well be the only place in the universe where intelligent life, or life of any kind, exists seemingly grows more difficult to gainsay with every development of modern science.

All Whites Are Racist

The Blaze featues a video of a Los Angeles man who holds a dim, and uninformed, view of the Tea Party, at whose rally he was protesting:
Consider some of what the first gentleman interviewed in the video said:
“You hate the president because he is black, and you think the white race is superior.”

“As far as the black sell-outs who wish they were white and are part of the Tea Party, these sell-out Negroes have no business speaking for and joining with racists who want to kick them back into slavery.”

“No, they’re not talking, they’re too dumb to talk. All they’re talking about is Tea Party, or white supremacy, blacks should go back to Africa, America was better 400 years ago.”
Perhaps he is unaware that there was no America 400 years ago.
"All the Tea Party cares about is “hating black people.”
What evidence does he have of this? Look at the people in the background of the video. Do they look like the caricature this man has of Tea Party whites?
Racism is “a genetic trait of whites.”

“You can’t find that kind of hatred in anybody but white people."
Maybe he should look in the mirror. He might find that no raced has a monopoly on racism.
“This is hatred. This is racism....And it’s only [something] white people are capable of. Only white people.”
In other words, whites are inherently immoral and thus inherently inferior (morally) to non-whites. Isn't that itself racist a statement?

Forgive me for making a politically incorrect observation, but if this man's cognitive abilities are typical of members of non-white groups in general it's understandable why whites would feel superior.

By the way, what Michele Bachman actually said was that,
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born in to slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African- American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.
Whether the statement is true or false it's certainly not an unreasonable claim, and it certainly wasn't racist.

How to Reverse Our Economic Malaise

There's one thing the Obama administration could do, according to Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Industry, that would almost overnight create hundreds of thousands of jobs, help close the deficit, and make us independent of foreign sources of energy, but Mr. Obama won't do it.

Despite his pledge to cut red tape for job-creating industries, regulations and other delays are holding up billions of dollars in investments and thousands of jobs for oil and gas producers, Mr. Gerard alleges. Why Mr. Obama won't do it certainly is a mystery, at least to people like Mr. Gerard:
“Why would you take away from the very industry that’s creating hundreds of thousands of jobs?” “Why would you punish one of the … industries that is creating more revenue for the federal government today than perhaps any industry? Why would you penalize them?”

Oil and natural gas companies could create millions more jobs if allowed to drill domestically, Mr. Gerard said, adding that it also would help wean Americans away from oppressive foreign governments and companies responsible for high gas prices. Another plus would be the generation of billions of tax dollars.
Overbearing regulators, however, are keeping that from happening, he said.
“We’re still very troubled by not only the number of regulations, but the extreme nature of them,” Mr. Gerard said. “The president called on his people to review the regulatory processes. But we can point to a number of regulatory processes that have been initiated or continue to go forward that discourage the development of oil and natural gas in this country.”

In one instance, three agencies are reviewing the same process, even though it has been safely used for 65 years, he said. The Environmental Protection Agency — despite its early study that found the practice safe — along with the Interior and Energy departments are investigating the process.
Mr. Gerard emphasizes that domestic drilling is extremely safe but that regulations and taxes discourage oil companies from pursuing it:
The industry pays an effective tax rate of about 41 percent and contributes $86 million a day to the Treasury Department, but that hasn’t stopped calls for higher taxes to punish the companies.

[I]f the government opened America to domestic drilling, it would solve the country’s most pressing problems, he argued. The industry, which employs 9.2 million Americans and represents 7.7 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, could create another 190,000 jobs by 2013. By 2025, it could generate another $194 billion in tax revenue. By 2030, American could produce 92 percent of its liquid fuels in the U.S. and Canada.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the U.S. trade deficit is the largest since the height of the recession in October 2008, and it blamed oil imports for the problem. Mr. Gerard said the potential exists to produce another 5 million barrels a day in the U.S. and Canada.

“If we produce more at home, we import less,” he said. “We can really produce the oil and natural gas the country needs for many, many years to come.”
The solution to so many of our problems is right at hand for the president. Unleashing our petroleum industry would put us on the road to economic recovery and restore us to a position of world prominence. As long as Mr. Obama refuses to support domestic oil and gas production nothing he says about his desire to reverse joblessness and get the economy humming again sounds sincere. He has a lot to answer for to the millions of unemployed when putting many of them back to work would be so easy.