Apocalypse Now (yet again) or the false god of biodiversity

May 7, 2019

Here we go again.

The UN (who else) has its annual freak-out about a million species being threatened by humans. (There are about a trillion species on Earth). The 6th mass extinction is upon us! The solution is mass suicide by humans! The humans left will be happily dead ever after. Failing that we could have World Government.

When life on earth began, there was no biodiversity. As individual life-forms survived environmental changes, new species were created. Sometimes the parent species survived and sometimes not. Sometimes the new species did not survive further changes. The results of survival we call evolution. As for anything else there is an optimum number of species for any given environment, in any given place at any given time. Too many species is a worse thing than too few. Too few, and new species will always be formed to exploit the available environment. Too many, and every species is miserable.

All invasive species are – by definition – successful species. All endangered species are – also by definition – failing species. “Protecting” failed, but somehow attractive, species is entirely an emotional response by humans but it has no rational purpose. The rational and responsible approach to biodiversity would be to genetically modify failing species to survive or to let them become extinct in a world where they have no place.

Judging by the posts I have been driven to write in recent years, I must find all sanctimonious, self-righteous apocalypse predictions somewhat obscene.

Mass extinctions correct for evolution’s greater than 99% failure rate

Earth has too many failed species and 30% need to go extinct

There was no biodiversity to begin with

Raging biodiversity – “One trillion species on earth”

I just repeat my post from 2018.

The biodiversity myth (or How many species should there be?)

How many species should there be?

In any given environment, even with no change in the environment, natural selection will see to it, given enough time, that the number of species will increase to fill the available space. Competition between species will increase with increasing biodiversity. Species incapable of coping with the competition will restrict themselves to protected niches or disappear. As environment changes, modifications will also follow. As environment changes, species which were once viable may become extinct, continue in a suitable niche or adapt.

As far as we know the earth is the only planet on which life has developed.

……… 

Time and the laws of the Universe were established soon after the Big Bang singularity occurred some 13.8 billion years ago. ………… The earth itself was formed when it congealed about 4.54 billion years ago……. Chemistry between atoms and molecules happened. About a billion years later chemistry became biochemistry. Somehow RNA molecules (the RNA world) appeared. Some of these were replicating molecules. Some of these arranged themselves into single celled organisms. Single celled life began. Around 500 million years ago, complex multi-cellular life took off.

In the 500 million years since there have been at least 10 major extinctions and 5 Great Mass Extinctions. The last one was around 50 million years ago when the large dinosaurs “disappeared” (though that disappearance may have taken many thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of years). Nevertheless it was the spaces left vacant in the environment which enabled, and were filled by, the mammals and in turn the primates and humans. …..


 

We don’t exist, and even if we do we are doomed

May 5, 2019

The nice thing about cosmological theories is the the time scales involved make the theories unfalsifiable.

One of the latest theories is that the universe is cyclic.

  1. A sort of a Big Bang,
  2. Expansion,
  3. A Big Suck,
  4. Compression.

followed by another kind of a Big Bang, and so on ad infinitum.

But why that should be so is outside the realm of the knowable.

Two articles caught my eye this morning.

Universe shouldn’t exist, CERN physicists conclude

NEW RESEARCH SUGGEST ANDROMEDA AND MILKY WAY GALAXIES ARE ALREADY TOUCHING, MIGHT COLLIDE SOONER THAN WE THINK


One of the great mysteries of modern physics is why antimatter did not destroy the universe at the beginning of time.

To explain it, physicists suppose there must be some difference between matter and antimatter – apart from electric charge. Whatever that difference is, it’s not in their magnetism, it seems.

Physicists at CERN in Switzerland have made the most precise measurement ever of the magnetic moment of an anti-proton – a number that measures how a particle reacts to magnetic force – and found it to be exactly the same as that of the proton but with opposite sign. The work is described in Nature.

“All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist,” says Christian Smorra, a physicist at CERN’s Baryon–Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment (BASE) collaboration. “An asymmetry must exist here somewhere but we simply do not understand where the difference is.”


The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy won’t collide for next 4 billion years. But but a recent discovery of a massive halo of hot gas close to Andromeda Galaxy may mean that our galaxies are already touching. Astrophysicist Nicholas Lehner from University of Notre Dame, led a group of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope to detect an enormous halo of hot, ionized gas about 2 million light years in diameter around the galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy and Milky Way are the largest member of a ragtag group of some 54 galaxies, called the Local Group. Andromeda, with almost a trillion stars — twice as many as the Milky Way — shines 25% brighter and can simply be seen with the naked eye from outlying and rural skies. If the recently discovered halo spreads at least a million light years in our direction, our two galaxies are way MUCH closer to touching than previously thought.


 

Boeing made survival an “optional extra” with the B737 Max

April 30, 2019

It does not look good for Boeing (or the FAA).

It seems that a sensor advising of a malfunction of the MCAS was deactivated intentionally and made an optional extra to be bought separately.

“Not fit for purpose” comes to mind.

Boeing de-activated a signal designed to advise the cockpit crew of a malfunctioning of the MCAS system ……. Boeing had opted to make the malfunction alert an optional extra costing more money — and had deactivated the signal on all 737 MAX …….. Neither of the Boeing 737 Max planes in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia or the Ethiopian Airlines crash were equipped with the signal that is supposed to show a malfunctioning of the MCAS

It seems that at some level within the FAA this was seen as a potential problem last year, but the issue was not escalated within the FAA nor was it acted upon.

If surviving a flight is an optional extra an accident is no longer a random event. What somebody at Boeing did may not have been murder but it comes preciously close to manslaughter.

Yahoo News: New York (AFP)US regulators considered grounding some Boeing 737 MAX planes last year after learning of a problem with a system that is now the main suspect in two deadly crashes, a source close to the matter said. Investigators in the Lion Air crash in October off the coast of Indonesia and the Ethiopia Airlines disaster in March have zeroed in on the planes’ anti-stall system, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Last year, inspectors with the Federal Aviation Administration discovered Boeing de-activated a signal designed to advise the cockpit crew of a malfunctioning of the MCAS system, the source said. The inspectors were in charge of monitoring Southwest Airlines, the biggest user of 737 MAX planes, with a fleet of 34 of them at the time, added the source.

Before the Lion Air crash, which killed all 189 people on board, “the (signals) were depicted as operable by Boeing on all MAX aircraft” regardless of whether the cockpit crew thought they had them turned on or off, said a Southwest spokeswoman. She said after the accident, Boeing told Southwest the signals were “turned off unless they were specifically designated as being turned on” — prompting the airline to choose that option for all its aircraft. It was at that point inspectors learned Boeing had opted to make the malfunction alert an optional extra costing more money — and had deactivated the signal on all 737 MAX delivered to Southwest without telling the carrier. They considered recommending grounding the planes as they explored whether pilots flying the aircraft needed additional training about the alerts, said the source. They decided against that — but never passed details of the discussions to higher-ranking officials in the FAA, the source said, confirming a story in The Wall Street Journal.

……… The Ethiopia Airlines crash left all 157 people on the plane dead and led to all Boeing 737 Max planes all over the world being grounded. In this case too the MCAS is being looked at as a possible cause of the crash.

In times of mid-air distress, the system is supposed to activate on its own and push the nose of the plane down to keep it from stalling. Boeing is working on changing the MCAS so it can get the planes back in the air. The grounding has already cost the carrier a billion dollars, Boeing said last week. But the bill will probably climb because Boeing is expected to pay money to airlines forced to cancel thousands of flights and hire more reservations and services staff. Boeing has suspended deliveries of Boeing 737 Max planes and cut production of them by 20 percent.

Neither of the Boeing 737 Max planes in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia or the Ethiopian Airlines crash were equipped with the signal that is supposed to show a malfunctioning of the MCAS, an industry source told AFP in March. Called “disagree lights” in Boeing parlance, these lights turn on when faulty information is sent from so-called angle of attack sensors to the MCAS. Those sensors monitor whether the wings have enough lift to keep the plane flying. …. 

image – Zero Hedge


“Liberal” bigotry at the New York Times

April 29, 2019

Published under pressure by the New York Times.

An opinion piece by Bret Stephens – where the publishing of a critical article is supposed to balance the blatant and bigoted propaganda that went before.

As prejudices go, anti-Semitism can sometimes be hard to pin down, but on Thursday the opinion pages of The New York Times international editionprovided a textbook illustration of it.

Except that The Times wasn’t explaining anti-Semitism. It was purveying it.

It did so in the form of a cartoon, provided to the newspaper by a wire service and published directly above an unrelated column by Tom Friedman, in which a guide dog with a prideful countenance and the face of Benjamin Netanyahu leads a blind, fat Donald Trump wearing dark glasses and a black yarmulke. Lest there be any doubt as to the identity of the dog-man, it wears a collar from which hangs a Star of David.

Here was an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer. The Jew in the form of a dog. The small but wily Jew leading the dumb and trusting American. The hated Trump being Judaized with a skullcap. The nominal servant acting as the true master. The cartoon checked so many anti-Semitic boxes that the only thing missing was a dollar sign.

The image also had an obvious political message: Namely, that in the current administration, the United States follows wherever Israel wants to go. This is false — consider Israel’s horrified reaction to Trump’s announcement last year that he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria — but it’s beside the point. There are legitimate ways to criticize Trump’s approach to Israel, in pictures as well as words. But there was nothing legitimate about this cartoon.

So what was it doing in The Times?

For some Times readers — or, as often, former readers — the answer is clear: The Times has a longstanding Jewish problem, dating back to World War II, when it mostly buried news about the Holocaust, and continuing into the present day in the form of intensely adversarial coverage of Israel. The criticism goes double when it comes to the editorial pages, whose overall approach toward the Jewish state tends to range, with some notable exceptions, from tut-tutting disappointment to thunderous condemnation.

For these readers, the cartoon would have come like the slip of the tongue that reveals the deeper institutional prejudice. What was long suspected is, at last, revealed.

The real story is a bit different, though not in ways that acquit The Times. The cartoon appeared in the print version of the international edition, which has a limited overseas circulation, a much smaller staff, and far less oversight than the regular edition. Incredibly, the cartoon itself was selected and seen by just one midlevel editor right before the paper went to press.

An initial editor’s note acknowledged that the cartoon “included anti-Semitic tropes,” “was offensive,” and that “it was an error of judgment to publish it.” On Sunday, The Times issued an additional statement saying it was “deeply sorry” for the cartoon and that “significant changes” would be made in terms of internal processes and training.

In other words, the paper’s position is that it is guilty of a serious screw-up but not a cardinal sin. Not quite.

Imagine, for instance, if the dog on a leash in the image hadn’t been the Israeli prime minister but instead a prominent woman such as Nancy Pelosi, a person of color such as John Lewis, or a Muslim such as Ilhan Omar. Would that have gone unnoticed by either the wire service that provides the Times with images or the editor who, even if he were working in haste, selected it?

The question answers itself. And it raises a follow-on: How have even the most blatant expressions of anti-Semitism become almost undetectable to editors who think it’s part of their job to stand up to bigotry?

The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.

Add to the mix the media’s routine demonization of Netanyahu, and it is easy to see how the cartoon came to be drawn and published: Already depicted as a malevolent Jewish leader, it’s just a short step to depict him as a malevolent Jew.

I’m writing this column conscious of the fact that it is unusually critical of the newspaper in which it appears, and it is a credit to the paper that it is publishing it. I have now been with The Times for two years and I’m certain that the charge that the institution is in any way anti-Semitic is a calumny.

But the publication of the cartoon isn’t just an “error of judgment,” either. The paper owes the Israeli prime minister an apology. It owes itself some serious reflection as to how it came to publish that cartoon — and how its publication came, to many longtime readers, as a shock but not a surprise.

“Liberal” bigotry is bigotry masquerading under the cloak of self-righteous, and sanctimonious pretense. It is corruption when the New York Times uses its reputation for integrity to tout propaganda.


 

Euthanasia takes off in Canada

April 28, 2019

I don’t believe there are ethical problems here.

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but when there is great suffering or no quality of life left, there is much to recommend an assisted peaceful end.

Reblogged from BioEdge.

At least 1.12% of deaths in Canada are due to euthanasia

According to the latest figures, about 3,000 Canadians were euthanised in 2018. According to the Fourth Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying there were at least 2,614 medically assisted deaths in Canada between January 1 and October 31.

Although euthanasia was only legalised in Canada in June 2016, it has quickly become widespread. In the 10 months covered by the report, euthanasia accounted for 1.12% of all deaths in Canada. Cancer was the most frequently cited underlying medical condition, accounting for approximately 64% of all deaths. 

According to the report, “The percentage of deaths due to MAID in Canada also continues to remain within the percentage of medically assisted deaths provided in other countries where 0.4% (Oregon, USA, 2017) to 4% (Netherlands, 2017) of total deaths has been attributed to a medically assisted death.”

There have been at least 6,749 medically assisted deaths since June 2016. However, this does not include data from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Some figures are also missing from Quebec. Most people who were euthanised were between 56 and 90, with an average age of 72. Most deaths occurred in a hospital (44%) or in a patient’s home (42%). Doctors were the main agents (93%), with nurse practitioners providing the rest.

This is the last interim report now thatregulations standardising euthanasia statistics across Canada have come into force.

It is interesting to note that only 6 of all reported MAID deaths were attributable to assisted suicide. Nearly all patients wanted their doctors to administer a lethal injection.

The release of the figures did not create a big splash in the media. But Wesley J. Smith commented in the National Review: “This means well over 3,000 people are killed by their doctors each year in Canada, which — if my math is correct — is more than 250 a month, more than 58 a week, and more than eight per day. Heck, that’s about one every three hours.”


 

Understanding why two Boeing 737-800 Max planes crashed

April 23, 2019

Understanding why two Boeing 737-800 Max planes crashed.

Trying to use software to compensate for a bad design did not work.

Nice video.


 

Cleansing the “the”

April 20, 2019

The alphabet gives us the possibility to create a limitless number of words.

In any alphabet where the length of a word is not restricted, there are an infinite variety of ways of creating combinations of letters to be words. In practice most languages have working vocabularies of a few hundred thousands and even if all possible variations and forms, past and present, are counted, the vocabulary may be around one million words. The Oxford English Dictionary has around 177,000 words as being in current usage and another 50,000 as obsolete. Similarly German has around 150,000 words as being in current use and Swedish has around 125,000. However current usage is not the whole story. Current usage is only a part of the total number of words available in a language where the total number depends on the age of the language. It is said that Japanese has around 100,000 active words in a total vocabulary of around 500,000. The OED estimates the total number of words in English to be around 750,000. Other estimates put the total English vocabulary at just over one million words.

So there is no need to include the definite article to create a word. The the atre is so unnecessary. Stripping away the initial “the” is required, if nothing else, on the grounds of language parsimony. Words beginning with “therm” are excused as are those where the remnant is an existing word. Excluding derivatives, the list of commonly used words which could happily lose their “the”s is not so long. Pronouncing “ft” might be a challenge.

Removing the indefinite article would not work especially as an initial “a” is so often used to create the opposite of a word or a negation.


 

 

It’s a Long, Good, Silent, Mourning or Great Friday today.

April 19, 2019

Today is the Friday of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. “Good Friday” is probably derived from “God Friday” with “God” being used as an adjective meaning godly or pious. In the Nordic countries it is the Long Friday (Långfredagen). In German-speaking countries, it is Karfreitag (Mourning Friday) or Silent Friday (Stiller Freitag). In Greece and Eastern Europe it is Great Friday.

Fifty years ago, in all countries with a Christian tradition, all signs of merriment or happiness were forbidden by the church and by civil law. There were penalties for smiling and eating meat and dancing. If you were anybody of note you dressed in black. Most of the legal prohibitions for Easter and the period leading up to Easter have disappeared. Some still persist. In Ireland, the sale of alcoholic drinks is prohibited. In Germany, dancing and sports and gambling and the showing of “irreligious” movies is banned (Mary Poppins and Ghostbusters as examples). In the UK, horse racing is banned. In the Philippines, political campaigning is not allowed today.

In the Catholic tradition, all Fridays and the period of Lent are “penitential” days and penance in the form of abstinence and fasting is considered appropriate. Abstinence generally means refraining from any pleasurable activity. Abstinence from eating meat is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year, while abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The abstinence requirements apply to all Catholics over 14 years of age until death. Fasting is not required if you are under 18 or over 60. Traditionally milk and alcoholic drinks do not break the fast but milk shakes do.

Abstinence

The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

Fasting

The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem to be contrary to the spirit of doing penance.


 

Staggering from one false environmental catastrophe to the next

April 17, 2019

Throughout my life (and I am now 71), humanity has always been facing some environmental catastrophe or the other. Each has been a “consensus position” of “scientists” primarily concerned with drumming up funding or earning brownie points or securing TV careers. Not a single one of the supposedly imminent catastrophes has ever come within light-years of ever occurring.

Nobody seems prepared to carry out sanity checks on the doomsday scenarios any longer. This is partly because the headlines and funding and fame that can be generated by alarmism is so lucrative. The key ingredients for any “successful” alarmist theme are:

  1. that the catastrophe should be at least one decade away,
  2. not more than 3 decades away, and
  3. that the onset of the catastrophe be either undetectable or not measurable.

The list of environmental catastrophes that humanity has faced just in my lifetime:


 

Thinking oneself into existence

April 16, 2019

Cogito, ergo sum is a philosophical proposition by René Descartes usually translated into English as “I think, therefore I am”.

In no philosophy is thinking a prerequisite for existence. Of course, Descartes’ formulation is just tautology since it presupposes the “I” and the “think” and the “am”. Thinking is taken here as proof of existence, but is nothing more than an assertion of existence.

But what could prove existence?

That question in itself requires what constitutes “proof” to be defined and requires criteria specifying “existence”. An that leads only to circular arguments.

  • Existence refers to the ontological property of being.
  • “To be” does not require the capability of being observed or an observer with a consciousness.
  • “To exist” does not require proof of existence.
  • However “proof” of existence requires an observer and therefore no “proof” can be anything other than subjective to the observer.
  • Existence is not caused by an observers perception of proof.

I always end up with the case of the tree falling in the forest, creating a pressure wave and whether or not there is a brain to detect the pressure wave and perceive sound. A perception of existence is not the same as existence. The perception may be true or false. The perception requires an observer and a consciousness.

The real conundrum is the existence, not of a bunch of atoms which look like me but, of the “I” of me.

  • The “I” exists as long as – and only when – I think I think.
  • The existence of other things is not dependent upon my perception of proof of existence.

But I still cannot quite come to grips with what “thinking” is.


 

 


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