Friday, November 11, 2016

Fear, and Trembling?

Fear seems to be a major theme from the left on the new Administration. Fear is a powerful word. I fear the dentist. Why? Simply, pain and cost. Dentists are still 11th century practitioners. They use early medieval instruments to tear, pull, extract, drill, and whatever. So, one can consider fear of a Dentist as real. Now there is also fear of flying. Not the sex type stuff, but the real stuff of being packed in some contraption operated by some low paid pilot whose training was at some school for flying aside some, well what shall we call them?

Now along comes Nature[1], a credible journal, entering the fray of US politics and collecting some "scientists" and discussing the "fear" in science about the new Administration. I guess the folks who control "Left Wing Speak", I now believe there are such people, things really don't happen simultaneously, have selected the operative opposition phrase as "fear". Oh, yes, and Nature calls these folks "nine experts". So, I guess we better take their word ex cathedra, got that one folks. But remember, Science is supposed to be all questioning, seeking truth. Yet for Nature and these experts, we should just take their word for it. Not one of them seems in my opinion to present a single fact, but after all they are "experts'.

First the comment:

Then there’s the US REGROW Act. This seeks to lower standards for cell therapy products — such as stem-cell treatments — and has been stalled in a Senate committee since this spring. Major scientific groups have issued statements opposing the act, including the International Society for Stem Cell Research, the International Society for Cellular Therapy, and the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. The bill’s prospects had seemed grim. Substantive amendments in recent months had, for instance, removed an alarming call for Congress to prohibit the FDA from requiring phase III clinical trials, typically the final hurdle for therapies to be approved for market for most investigational cell therapy products. Now, under a Republican-dominated government, its dim chances seem to have brightened.

"seem" is the operative phrase. "seem" to whom and based upon what evidence? Oops, I am speaking like a scientist about a scientist. I am only a humble engineer, with a few other areas of expertise, but alas, this is an "expert".

Then we have:

Clean-energy projects generate more jobs than do the coal and natural-gas sectors. With solar and wind projects creating energy prices between 2.5 and 4 ¢ per kilowatt-hour, the economic case is compelling — as is the argument for these technologies being the fastest way to provide energy access to the global poor, boosting their economic opportunities and capacity.  The economic benefits of clean energy are even more profound if combined with domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles, which bring new research growth to the high-tech sector. Renewable-energy options, in some cases supported by natural gas, are a faster route out of energy and economic poverty than are coal-energy projects.

Here we have another set of statements that make no sense. 2.5 to 4 cents per KWh? Is that at the wind farm output point? What is the basis for that number? Many of these units are idle all too frequently. They are unreliable and frankly are both environmental hazards, ever seen all the dead birds, and ugly as sin. But the clincher is the above-mentioned cost. It has yet to be proven in on a national basis. One may fine an installation here and there but no when looking at a totality.

Now for something I spent time on when in Washington. They state:

I have two concerns about defence policy. First, I’m not optimistic that the White House will understand the negative humanitarian and strategic consequences posed by lethal autonomous weapons systems. The Obama administration took the views of the scientific community seriously in formulating foreign and military policy. Secondly, I fear for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, one of the pillars of global nuclear non-proliferation  policy. Trump has disparaged the Iran nuclear agreement to limit that country's nuclear programme; the deal is widely supported by arms-control experts. He has said that he has no objection to allowing several countries in Asia and the Middle East to have nuclear weapons. He has announced his intention to retaliate with nuclear weapons against a terrorist attack by ISIS (where, exactly, would he detonate them?).

Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, LAWP, are drone that target people and then just go and wo whatever. Frankly that is wrong and subject to substantial review. So, put that aside. However, on the nuclear side, nuclear weapons are world ending, period. I spent years on CTBT discussions and years in and out of Russia. We both can agree on that. The problem however is Iran and North Korea, neither a signatory to the aforementioned agreement. So why mention it. Perhaps a poor rhetorical argument but easily rejected. Iran and its agreement are separate from a CTBT set of agreements. Russia and china know what the consequences. India and Pakistan should but we frankly should be concerned about Pakistan. But the real issue is Iran and North Korea. North Korea should be China's problem. If they want good trade deals, then resolve that issue now. Iran is now our issue. We broke it and now we own it.

Now for the best one:

Trump’s success is the crescendo of a long devaluation of the Enlightenment idea that facts are the rightful basis of action. Reason itself is under fire. This mistrust of expertise is a serious threat to the sciences and the humanities. Science is in the business of making knowledge. History is founded on the principle that informed reflection is superior to ignorance. Devaluing evidence and manufacturing doubt can be a powerful strategy — as climate-change deniers and the tobacco industry have shown. Their push for short-term gain threatens our health and environment. The history of science, broadly construed, must shoulder some of the blame. Perhaps the central insight of my field in the past 40 years is that facts are socially constructed. Truth has a social history. But even the most extreme social constructionists still value expertise; they are not the ones trying to destroy the fabric of reality. This subtlety has been lost on the wider public, and to some extent on scientists. The rift between the arts and sciences — the pillars of the university — now threatens all who value reason.

The Enlightenment. A great deal has been written on the subject and our Constitution is based upon the ideas that the movement engendered. Especially the Scottish Enlightenment. "reason itself is under fire". Really? What is the basis for your statement? That is logic and logic precede science. In fact, Galen insisted that physicians be trained in logic before taking on what little science we know about the human body. "truth is a social history" What does that mean? Truth is distinct from falsehood. Is it true that the area of a circle is πr2? Yes, but not just by definition. Truth is more that social history, it is what is done in science. It is true that genes generate RNA and that RNA generates proteins. It is true that proteins can control a lot of things. But so, can methylation, acetylation, and other intermediaries. The simplicity of a Watson and Crick, their "truth" has evolved. Science is ever evolving. Cancer is genetic, it is also epigenetic. Both are true, neither are social history.

So, what should we fear? "Fear itself?" That seemed adequate for FDR. And he was a Democrat.