The strike force gathers

Gary North sounds as if he was taken a little off guard by recent naval movements:

The most important news for the month of August was the fact that President Bush has quietly sent the largest armada into the Persian Gulf since the Iraq war began in 2003, when there were six carrier groups. This is a huge number of ships to be concentrated in one location in peacetime.

This story has been completely ignored by the news media all over the West. The only coverage is from special-interest websites.

I’ve been paying attention to this myself, although I haven’t wanted to cry wolf having been wrong about this last summer. I’ve been expecting some sort of Iran strike before Bush leaves office. I know there’s been a large number of false alarms with regards to Iran, but then, such a remarkable assembling of forces seldom takes place without there being a purpose for it.

It could be mere sabre-rattling, but I doubt it. Surely one or two carrier groups would suffice for that. As Stratfor noted last week, preparations for an Iran strike help explain the near-complete non-response to Russia’s activity in Georgia.

Abstaining from logic

It’s hard to decide which is the more ridiculous idea: (a) That the governor of Alaska successfully faked a pregnancy and is passing off her grandson as her son, or (b) that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy somehow demonstrates the inefficacy of abstinence-based education.

Both notions require brain damage, an IQ at least 35 points below the norm, or willful ideological blinders for anyone who spends more than five seconds thinking about the matter to adhere to them. Palin’s pregnancy has been sufficiently attested to that it needs no further explication here. As for the abstinence argument, consider the following facts:

1. In 2001, the federal and state governments together spent $4,403,000 in Alaska on contraceptive services and supplies for 141,000 women of childbearing age.

2. Almost all U.S. schoolchildren receive sex education by eighth grade, most begin receiving sex education in fifth grade. This sex education may include abstinence programs, but it is almost never limited to them.

3. Bristol Palin was not homeschooled for most of her education and her fiance is a hockey player at a public school.

Therefore, Bristol Palin’s pregnancy is much more reasonably viewed as a failure of comprehensive sex education because that is the form of sex education she and her fiance almost certainly received, rather than a failure of the abstinence-only program that her mother favors and which she did not receive. One would have to be extraordinarily logically handicapped to indict a program that cannot possibly be held responsible for a situation while trying to claim that the program actually involved would have somehow magically prevented the situation even though it manifestly did not.

Furthermore, abstinence programs are superior to other forms of sex education, at least when measured in terms of reduced STD contraction. This is what I noted in analyzing Sam Harris’s statistically tortured attempt to attack abstinence programs: “What he neglected to mention was that while the study showed that 4.6 percent of the abstinence-pledged teens contracted an STD, this was 35 percent less than the 7 percent of non-pledged teens who also acquired one.” – TIA p. 127

Two birds, one stone

In which both the inherently unreliable nature of science and the declining probability of anthropogenic global warming are demonstrated:

The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted. The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots — is an influencing factor for climate on earth….

In 2005, a pair of astronomers from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson attempted to publish a paper in the journal Science. The pair looked at minute spectroscopic and magnetic changes in the sun. By extrapolating forward, they reached the startling result that, within 10 years, sunspots would vanish entirely. At the time, the sun was very active. Most of their peers laughed at what they considered an unsubstantiated conclusion.

The journal ultimately rejected the paper as being too controversial.

Scientists like to consider themselves more educated and more intelligent than the great unwashed who know nothing about science. This is, for the most part, true. But they save their real dislike for those non-scientists who are not only more intelligent than most scientists, but are sufficiently educated about science to point out the inconvenient fact that the inherently unstable – or “dynamic”, if you prefer – nature of science renders it frequently unreliable and therefore useless as a tool in matters outside science.

For example, there are still many scientists who say that the Earth is warming despite the fact that it has been getting colder over the last decade and there is a valid theory based on empirical observation which suggests it will continue to do so for some time. All decisions made on the unsound basis of the former consensus would have probably been incorrect, and the absence of a current consensus renders all of the related science of zero value at this particular point in time.

As with many things, the human variable renders science far less useful than it might otherwise be, and it’s profoundly dishonest for scientists to pretend that the human variable is not there. Scientists like to brag that science is self-correcting, which is largely true over time but is also a confession that it can be completely unreliable at any single point in time. This doesn’t make the entire endeavor worthless, but it does mean that science always has to be examined with a much more skeptical eye than most scientists are usually willing to endure.

UPDATE – A Slashdot commenter sums it up reasonably well: “The reality is that scientific “proof” consists of general agreement among communities of people about the interpretation of observed phenomena, and that agreement can be driven by MANY factors, not just how well the data fits. One CANNOT get to the level of mathematical proof. So there will always be a role for skeptics, and those that just won’t accept that, if you have a square peg and a round hole, you just pretend the peg’s squareness doesn’t exist, because it MUST fit into the round hole.