Friday, July 11, 2003
1. ERROR: NASA REFUTES STORY ABOUT A MAN WHO LIVES ON SUNLIGHT.
Last week, WN picked up the story from Space Daily, which got it from the Hindustan Times, about a guy in
India who claims he can survive on water and sunlight and who was invited to the US by NASA. WN called
NASA and thought it confirmed the invitation. However, NASA insists they said there had been no contact
with him. WN deeply regrets the confusion. It will now be WN policy to avoid anything that
photosynthesizes lest it fall on Bob Park.
2. INTELLIGENT DESIGN: THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO TEXAS.
A plague of Biblical proportions threatens civilization. The frog population may not explode, nor the
Mississippi turn to blood, but school boards across the land are being stalked. The name of the beast is
Intelligent Design (ID), and it seeks to rip evolution from children's textbooks. ID recently turned up in
Texas, where the State School Board has begun to review biology textbooks. It is such a huge market that
what happens there will determine textbooks in dozens of other states. The Seattle-based Discovery
Institute (DI) is behind the effort to rid the books of "factual errors" (evolution). The Board of
Education holds its next public hearing in September; if Texas scientists make themselves heard, instead of
wailing and gnashing of teeth, there will be rejoicing in the states.
3. FDA: IS SALMON A FOOD OR A DIETARY SUPPLEMENT?
The FDA will soon revise food labeling regulations, allowing companies to make health claims for their
products with little scientific evidence. Currently, a health claim has to enjoy significant consensus
from the scientific community to go on the package. Instead, claims will carry a grade from "generally
accepted" to "you can't be serious." This is nearly as bad as dietary supplements, which can claim
anything except to cure a disease. That was spelled out by the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health
Education Act, perhaps the worst "health" legislation ever passed (WN
27 Nov 98). Congress apparently
punted in the food labeling rules.
4. JUNK SCIENCE: MEDICAL SOCIETIES REVIEW "EXPERT" TESTIMONY.
No scientific claim is so preposterous that an "expert" witness cannot be hired to vouch for it. But just
10 years ago in its "Daubert" decision, the Supreme Court instructed federal judges to act as "gatekeepers,
" ensuring that juries are not exposed to scientific nonsense. Medical societies now impose sanctions on
doctors whose testimony doesn't meet scientific standards.
5. MISSILE DEFENSE: UH, THIS SPACE STUFF IS GONNA TAKE LONGER.
Unlike the current race to implement ground-based missile defense (WN
6 Jun 03), the Missile Defense Agency
has decided to extend the research timetable for space-based interceptors by three years. Who knows, maybe
by 2008 someone will have the brains to kill the program altogether.