Friday, January 14, 2005
1. EARTHQUACKS: THE DEEPER MEANING OF THE TSUNAMI IS EXAMINED.
Religions are busy explaining how we should view a disaster that claimed more than 150,000 innocent lives. "Innocent"? Buddhists explained that seemingly innocent victims could be paying for some really bad stuff they did in previous lives. A leading Moslem cleric in Southern California says it was, "a test from God to see how human beings respond." Columnist and pretentious theologian William Safire also saw the tsunami as a test, and compared it to God' s test of Job. Sure Job is faithful, Satan had scoffed, God made him rich and powerful. Wagering that Job would remain faithful, God lets Satan take it all away: Job's sheep are stolen, his servants slain and a great wind kills his children. Whereupon Job falls to the ground and worships God, "the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away." So Job passes the test. Never mind his sons and daughters who died, or his servants who were murdered, it's all about Job. Well, thank God for physics. The tsunami was caused by the release of elastic energy in a tectonic earthquake.
2. MISSILE DEFENSE: A "MINOR SOFTWARE GLITCH" CAUSED THE FAILURE.
Testing is the theme of WN this week. The last interceptor never got out the silo (WN 17 Dec 04), but the head of the Missile Defense Agency said the system "would work" if nothing went wrong. That sounds right to me. They' ll try again in February, but there seems to be no urgency. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld delayed a decision to start the system, citing absence of any long-range missile threat. The threat seemed far more imminent when the administration was seeking congressional approval for the missile defense system (WN 21 Mar 03).
3. CREATIONISM: COURT ORDERS WARNING STICKERS REMOVED IMMEDIATELY.
The constitutionality of a creationist message got a court test. You will recall that in Cobb County, GA, stickers were placed on high school biology texts warning that evolution is "a theory, not a fact" (WN 12 Nov 04). Yesterday, in ordering the stickers removed, a federal judge said "the stickers convey an impermissible message of endorsement."
4. ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: IOM REPORT CALLS FOR TOUGHER STANDARDS.
For a decade, WN has argued that the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever enacted (WN 18 Sep 98). This week, an Institute of Medicine report, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States, called for major revision of DSHEA. It went much further, recommending that the same principles and standards of evidence apply to all medical treatments whether labeled as alternative or conventional.