Richard Huemer posts occasional blog entries on Campaign for Liberty. This URL will access one, from which the rest are reachable: http://www.campaignforliberty.com/blog.php?view=37787
Anti-scientists practice 'Origin of Specious'
Attacks on the theory of evolution flare up occasionally in these pages, penned by people who don't actually understand it, but they know what they don't like.
Evolution is a scientific theory that explains how the various kinds of living things came to be, and how they're related, and that's all. It does not explain the origin of life (Darwin's book, after all, was titled The Origin of Species, not The Origin of Life). It doesn't mean there's some pervasive progressive principle guiding the universe, either. It's just a useful framework for biologists to understand their subject.
Species originate when organisms adapt, sometimes accompanied by loss of unnecessary functions, to survive under narrowly defined conditions--in other words, they specialize. Basic, essential life functions are "evolutionarily conserved," in the parlance of biologists.
As one of your readers pointed out, that leaves God with nothing to do. So what? God isn't getting involved with the rest of science, either. Faith is faith, and science is science. They are like different species that normally don't interbreed. Their adventitious mating yields misshapen, sterile hybrids like creation science.
Another reader wants evolution to explain how the first cell arose. Why should it? There are no fossil records of earliest primordial life, no caches of ancient DNA, for scientists to study and analyze. There's no roadmap. The first living things that we know anything about were already quite complex biochemically. How they got that way requires its own explanation.
Why don't the non-scientists and the anti-scientists try bashing quantum mechanics for a change? Or relativity? Surely those theories are more counter-intuitive than evolution. Of course, maybe that's the problem--evolution is such a seemingly uncomplicated idea that it's easy for non-scientists to suppose they understand it. That's the origin of specious. –RPH (Antelope Valley Press, 6/27/2009, p. B8 [religion letters])
Bill would allow audits of 'Fed'
Out of sight, out of mind. That's been the story with the Federal Reserve since its founding in 1913, back when a dollar was worth 25 times what it is today.
The Fed, as it's called, isn't a government agency in the sense that we usually think of one. Although it controls the monetary policy of the United States, and is capable of conjuring trillions of dollars out of thin air, it can act entirely on its own without prior approval of the President and Congress.
Astonishingly, Congress has no idea what the Fed is doing and has never even seen an audit of the Fed! Indeed, the [Government Accountability] Office is restricted from auditing most of the Fed's activities.
A law introduced in Congress this year, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act (HR 1207), will change all that. It will enable audits by the GAO and will allow our elected representatives finally to know what the Fed is up to.
HR 1207 now has more than half of the House members as co-sponsors, which gives it a good chance of passing.
Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon has signed on very recently, perhaps in response to many AV voters' calls and e-mails.
Auditing the Fed seems like a no-brainer. Perhaps we'll find nothing amiss, but with all those trillions of bailout and stimulus dollars flowing out to goodness knows where, we certainly have a legitimate reason to take a close look. --RPH (Antelope Valley Press, 6/22/09, p. A8)
They can do without Big Brother
Having voted straight Libertarian for many years (except recently for Republican Ron Paul), and having served as an officer of the Antelope Valley Libertarian Party, I can assure reader Ken Brougher [AV press 5/29/08, p. A13] that we are not a bunch of wild-eyed stoners.
Consequently, in the unlikely event that we prevail in the coming election, he needn't expect "a bunch of dope heads running around." However, if we lose, there will be the usual bunch of dopes running the country, and I'd argue that's worse.
Libertarians agree with Ronald Reagan's sentiment that "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." The national drug habit is only one of many problems exacerbated by big government, but since Mr. Brougher brought it up, here's what's wrong with our Federal government's drug war:
First, some of us hold the quaint notion that we own our personal bodies, so that what we choose to put into them is our own business and nobody else's, thank you very much.
Second, in the face of constant demand, the drug war creates shortages which cause high prices, thus leading to multiple forms of criminal activity by users and suppliers.
Third, prohibition doesn't work. We have ample evidence from the 1920s. People flouted the law widely, gin flowed like water, and the criminal element prospered.
Fourth, the drug war has wreaked havoc on residents of Columbia, Peru, and other countries as the result of our inability to enforce our own laws.
Fifth, the Feds shouldn't usurp the states' rights in any arena. Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr, an erstwhile drug warrior, now supports the right of states to set their own medical marijuana policy, without interference from the federal government.
Many more points could be made, but I've cited enough to illustrate how government makes a problem worse. We'd still have drug abuse without the drug war, of course, but probably less, and certainly without the associated criminal activity.
The Libertarian position on most things is, simply, less government and more personal responsibility and choice. If another example were needed, consider the explosive issue of homosexual marriages. Judges and legislators shouldn't be redefining marriage, because the government shouldn't be in the marriage business to begin with. It should merely enforce the contractual aspects of marriage.
Marriage itself is a private matter between two individuals who freely choose their mates according to their religious beliefs, social traditions, and innermost yearnings. Libertarians don't see what that has to do with Big Brother. --RPH (Antelope Valley Press, 6/3/08, p. A12)
Jury Nullification: Last Peaceful Defense
I laughed out loud at last Sunday's banner headline: "Sheriff: Be part of fight against crime". How? I wondered. By turning in home-schoolers? By fingering kids who fling birthday cake on campus? By dropping my wallet at the Palmdale Mall?
I read the whole article. At the end you quoted a Sheriff's captain's response to a resident's complaint about slow responses: calls are "prioritized." Why, of course they are, with all those potential wallet-finders at large in the Mall!
I was discussing the wallet sting the other day over lunch with a doctor and a lawyer. All three of us would have taken the wallet off-site, checked it for ID, and returned it ourselves to the owner, via mail or phone call. All of us would therefore have been busted. You can bet that we'll all ignore anything we see laying around at the Mall, if indeed we ever go there again.
At least your readers' response to this episode belies the notion that the A.V. has become a community of sheep, like the rest of America seemingly has. The multiple outpourings of righteous indignation were a joy to behold, marred by only a few bleatings in favor of unfettered authority. However, only one reader actually identified the solution to such abuses of governmental power.
She wrote, on March 8: "If I were a juror, I would find these four women not guilty." She's right. Jurors have had the common-law right to judge the law as well as the facts, ever since jurors acquitted William Penn for preaching Quakerism in England, centuries ago. No government official--neither judge nor prosecutor nor enforcer--has the power to force any American to act contrary to his or her own conscience.
Jury nullification, as it's called, is a defense against tyranny. The wallet sting may not be everyone's idea of tyranny, but it's part of the mean spirit of the times in which we live, which includes the Real ID act, government wiretapping, and the egregiously misnamed Patriot Act. Certainly there are other defenses against tyranny, as the Second Amendment supporters well know, but jury nullification is the last peaceful defense.
Let's see... How does that one go? "First they came for the iodine-sellers, but I was not a horse doctor. Then they came for the cake-flingers, but I was not a juvenile. Then they came for the home-schoolers, and after that the mall shoppers, and then...." (Apologies to Rev. Martin Niemoeller of Germany). --RPH (Antelope Valley Press, 3/23/08, p. B5)
Real Conservatives and Bogus Economists (submitted to The Economist 3/20/08; not published)
Sir — Some of your writers are dismally uninformed about conservative politics in America. I refer to the March 1st issue, specifically the book reviews about “The Bush Legacy” [p. 90] and the remembrance of William F. Buckley [p. 38]. In the latter, you give undue credit to Mr. Buckley for “founding” the conservative movement. Surely he shored-up its intellectual underpinnings, but the grunt work was done by committed “crackpots”, such as the John Birchers who worked to get Barry Goldwater the Republican nomination in 1964. Goldwater directly begat Ronald Reagan, who aspired to Goldwater’s vision, however short he fell in its implementation.
The neocons currently embedded in Washington are not the spiritual heirs to the conservative movement, which was characterized by a non-interventionist foreign policy; respect for free markets, balanced budgets, and sound money; obeisance to the Constitution and the notion of innate rights; and an understanding that, in Reagan’s words, “Government is not the solution to our problem—[it] is the problem.” Neocons are not conservatives, which is precisely why a unique word is required to describe them. Consider the title of Goldwater’s honest book, The Conscience of a Conservative, and change it to The Conscience of a Neocon—the transmogrification produces a wretched oxymoron.
The true conservatives in America have been marginalized by the neocons, the religious right, the militarists, and the mainstream media. The only traditional conservative (traditionalism being the essence of conservatism) in the recent Republican primary elections and caucuses was Ron Paul. Dr. Paul did not win any, although he bested the bellicose Mr. McCain three times; over-all, he garnered about 5% of primary votes.
I congratulate you for mentioning Ron Paul a dozen times in the past year, albeit usually in passing, but you have not heeded his economic views. In fact, when you last mentioned him (Feb. 7th), you rather snidely did so in the context of his “demonising the Fed and other sinister forces.” However, Dr. Paul’s economic policies are a major aspect of his vision for America, and it behooves a journal with your name not to ignore them. If you insist on doing so, I recommend that you retitle your journal The Keynesian Economist, or perhaps even the Non-Austrian Economist, as an honest guide to what one will and won’t find in it. --RPH
Opera Lovers Rejoice
Music lovers read and heed the Valley Press. At least that’s what I concluded the Saturday after your feature story on “La Bohème” (March 30).
There were fewer than a dozen audience members at some previous opera performances at the AV Mall Cinemark. Our usher estimated 56 for “La Bohème,” most of them laughing at the comedy, applauding the arias and dabbing their eyes on the way out. What a wonderful way to experience opera. Like sporting events, the show is enhanced by HD technology and good camerawork, so it’s better than being there, unless you just go to show off your fancy clothes. Way cheaper, too.
The Metropolitan Opera (which actually answers e-mails) informed me that they are most pleased with the success of this initiative and hope to expand the program. Most of this year’s HD operas will be released on DVD, in case you missed them. Although there’s only one remaining performance in this season’s series (“La Fille du Régiment,” April 26), the fall lineup, for the 125th anniversary season, looks sublime. –RH (Antelope Valley Press, 4/12/08, p. A6)
Can Computers Think?
A review of Roger Penrose's book, The Emperor's New Mind, appeared in the July/August 1990 issue of The Sciences, published by the N.Y. Academy of Sciences. RPH and MBH were among the readers who took exception to the comments of George Johnson, the reviewer. Here are their responses, from the Jan./Feb. 1991 issue, page 3:
As a practitioner of holistic medicine, I
naturally inclined to the holistic views
by Mr. Johnson. I can think of
reasons the conscious mind cannot
duplicated by an electronic machine
a program. I appeal not to ghosts
the machine or to mystical probability
First, reasoning, symbol manipulation
and mathematical logic are easily mimicked
by machines, but other mental phenomena--emotions
and animal drives--are
harder to emulate. No conglomeration
of silicon and wires feels rage, pity or
nor has any computer ever had an
Second, every psychoanalyst knows of a phenomenon called the equivalence of opposites, and there are several examples outside psychiatry. How many times have you spoken the exact opposite of your intended meaning (especially before an audience)? How often have you shut your eyes on a bright scene to observe the com plementary afterimage? Computers aren't built that way. My computer never prints -1 when 1 is called for.
Third, mental phenomena arise from the effects of neurotransmitter chemicals, which influence the connectedness and firing rates of neurons. But non-neuronal cells elsewhere in the body also secrete and respond to neurotransmitters. Hence not just the brain but also the body as a whole has aspects of mind. Lacking a body, an electronic brain would suffer from a hopelessly incomplete operating environment. --RICHARD P HUEMER, Vancouver, Washington
Mr. Johnson mentions and dismisses John Searle's argument against strong AI. Unfortunately, he has missed Searle's point.
In his book Intentionality Searle points out that mental states have the property of intentionality: they refer directly to objects or situations in the world. If I believe it is raining, my belief is directed at the proposition that it is raining. If I am angry because someone stole my watch, my anger is directed at that fact. Mental states, according to Searle, are intrinsically intentional. My belief that it is raining is intrinsically about that proposition; if it were about anything else, it would be a different mental state.
Language, in contrast, is not intrinsically intentional. The intentionality of a word or sentence is derived--imposed by convention. The phonetic sentence "It is raining" need not refer to rain; in principle, it could be about something different, such as the number of peas in a pod. Or it could have no meaning at all. The data on a computer disk or in random-access memory are just like language; indeed, they are language. Their intentionality is derived, not intrinsic.
Here, then, is the difference between brains and computers. Brains have the remarkable ability to manipulate things that are intrinsically intentional (ideas); computers manipulate things whose intentionality is derived (symbols). In short, the mind manipulates meanings whereas a computer manipulates syntax. --MICHAEL HUEMER, Oakland, California
"Forever Young" (response to article in Reason magazine, 8/02) (not published)
Writers on aging and its hoped-for technological postponement often discuss telomere shortening, which involves the progressive loss of repetitive DNA sequences, but nearly always fail to mention another sort of DNA loss: relentless decline in rDNA. This is the DNA template for ribosomal RNA, a substance without which it is absolutely impossible for cells to make any proteins. It is present in large amounts in the beginning, but dwindles away in cells that don't divide, such as nerve, heart and muscle cells--in which, of course, telomere shortening is quite irrelevant. The effect was discovered by Dr. Bernard Strehler, who also found that the rate of rDNA loss was 7 times greater in dogs than in humans; hence, dog years are correspondingly quicker than our years. He always regarded his discovery as "very disappointing," because he could imagine no way to replenish rDNA in non-dividing cells. Professor Strehler died last year, just shy of 11 dog years, after a lifetime of scientific innovation that encompassed, remarkably, understanding mechanisms of aging, neural network hardware, how memory works, and why fireflies glow. --RPH
Nutrition the Medicine of the 21st Century
was amused to see two such very different articles about nutrition on the
same page (Jan. 16, p. B8). One article represents the new paradigm in
medicine for the 21st Century. The other is mired in the error-ridden
reporter turned in an excellent story on the Brisson family's son, Austin,
whose ADD was finally controlled through nutrition after multiple drugs
had failed. Unfortunately, she created the misleading impression that such
treatment is not available locally.
the contrary, nutritional therapy with supplements, based on lab testing,
is available not only in the Antelope Valley but in many communities
throughout Southern California. For a referral, readers can call the
American College for Advancement in Medicine at (800) 532-3688.
therapy often gives gratifying results with ADD children, far better than
one gets by doping kids with stimulant drugs. It can be remarkably
effective with autistic children, too.
people who read the other story on page B8 will be afraid to take healing
nutrients. That article is rooted in the false idea that a person needs
only enough nutrients to prevent deficiency diseases. It frets about safe
upper limits and suggests just getting 100% of the government-recommended
person at Associated Press who wrote that second article doesn't
understand that when a child's brain can't think, that child needs more of
some nutrient than the average child does. The same applies to an adult
whose joints hurt, or who has dry skin and night blindness.
You can't always trust the government's average recommendations on nutrition. If you have problems, you may be deficient and should get medically tested. --RPH (Antelope Valley Press, 2/6/01, p. C5)
Another View on Diets
[Max] Gunther applies the faddist label to responsible nutritionists who have long warned about Americans disastrous dietary habits; thus he mimics the king who killed the bearer of unpleasant tidings. In fact, the true dietary faddists are promoters of soft drinks, sugared cereals and highly processed foodsthe big businesses that advertise on TV to create appetites for unhealthful foods. RPH (TV Guide, 23(6):A8, 2/8/75)
Hell Hath No Fury (in response to The First Wives Club)
Why should first wives want revenge? They can end up with the home, the kids and a big slice of their ex-husband's future earnings. That type of alimony makes marriage the only job in the world that one can quit but still get paid for while providing no service whatever. Alimony is a holdover from those unequal times when single women had few employment options and little status. Now there is plenty of equality, status and jobs. Divorced women should shoulder their load like the men, get on with their independent lives and turn a bit of that anger inward. After all, it takes two to mess up a relationship. RPH (Time, October 28, 1996, p. 8)
To the Editor. -- "Why are editors so fastidious about titles of manuscripts?" asks Senior Editor Samuel Vaisrub (236:1151, 1976). The question is like asking "Why do elephants fly?" On page 1131 of the same issue, a title promises a description of bone marrow transplantation from donors with aplastic anemia. I searched that article in vain for references to mad doctors and therapeutic nihilism, but found only a sober accout of transplantation to aplastic-anemic recipients. RPH (J.A.M.A. 236(26):2941, Dec. 27 1976)
"Feed Store Four" Are Victims of Phony War
Background: Four senior citizens who run a feed store in Lancaster, CA, are being prosecuted for failing to keep records on customers who buy veterinary iodine. Iodine can be used in the manufacture of illicit drugs.
I continue to be dismayed by your stories about the arrest of feed store workers for not keeping dossiers on customers who buy iodine. I hope the Feed Store Four will fight that stupid law all the way to the Supreme Court!
They will be doing a favor for the rest of us, who may soon enough be also forced to become police informants. You may not be aware of it, but other businesses are also required by law to act as agents of the police.
The July issue of Action
Report from the Medical Board of California reminds doctors
that they and other practitioners must report assaultive
injuries to local law enforcement. That category now includes
not only the traditional bullet wounds, but a plethora (23, to be
exact) of newly-added forms of assaultive or abusive conduct.
That would be acceptable if a victim (of, say, elder abuse) asked the doctor for help, and if counseling were never a viable alternative to the court system. But the report must be made when a practitioner knows or reasonably suspects that one of the 23 listed offenses has occurred [emphasis added].
How suspicious must your doctor
be? If he trusts his patients a bit too much, he could face a $1000
fine or 6 months in the slammer for not filing a report.
Speaking of elder abuse, the Feed Store Four are of a generation that remembers Roosevelts Four Freedoms and the sacrifices, during WWII, of men and women who loved their country and wanted to protect liberty.
They probably dont understand why they are now being abused by the legal system, but I can tell them. Grandmas and grandpas should know this: our government is engaged in another war against a resilient foe. It is called the War on Drugs, but (to borrow from the lexicon of WWII) thats a phony war.
It is actually nothing less than a piecemeal assault against the freedoms that Americans have taken for granted for 200 years, and fostering a generation of snitches is part of the battle plan.
I hope that our liberty will remain sufficiently resilient. --RPH (Antelope Valley Press, August 20, 2000, p. B8)
Web Editor's Note: The three "Granicy Grannies," as they came to be called, were convicted on 4/13/01 of failing to prepare bills of sale for iodine crystals that were sold to undercover drug agents. The Granicy Grandpa was acquitted. The sisters will appeal.
[AIDS Ain't "Little Stones']
As a health writer of some repute, I was flabbergasted by Karl Loren's piece on AIDS viruses as little stones (SPOTLIGHT, Sept. 21). At first I thought the author ought to be publicly stoned for writing it (after all, stones don't really kill people).
Then I realized that he must have been privately stoned, on something strange and heady, while he wrote it; else how to explain the loopy logic and false metaphor?
Fortunately someone at the SPOTLIGHT had the sense to include a graphic on the same page, showing clearly how the living virus reproduces and how its reproduction might be blocked by a drug. --RPH (The Spotlight, 13(42):31, Oct. 19, 1987)
Kids Who Hurt Animals Need Mental Checkup
Dec. 19, someone broke into a backyard in Albany and stole Lisa
1984 Arriving Bit by Bit
Im mulling over the half-off subscription offer in your last issue. Frankly, Ive become disillusioned by R.W. Bradfords righteous rantings about President Clintons supposed criminal behavior. This is libertarianism? It looks more like old-fashioned authoritarianism in sheeps clothing. Your arch-libertarian editors respect for the law is, I suppose, another example of Freuds principle of the equivalence of opposites.
So, it seems entirely plausible that Clinton told the "truth" in his own lawyerly mind, and that it might even be the truth in some legal, technical sense which I lack the training to evaluate. I note in passing that a majority of those surveyed in a recent medical article (for which the editor of J.A.M.A. was canned) would likely agree with our Prez.
But what he might have lied about is more significant than whether he lied, a point that escapes Bradford. If he had lied about something important, such as, say, snuffing Vince Foster, or the Gulf of Tonkin situation (with the consequence of thousands of casualties), it would have been everybodys business. Yes, President Johnson would have been worthy of our closest scrutiny; but the Presidents johnson? Cmon. Is the majesty of the law somehow enhanced by such unfettered voyeurism, or must the ends-versus-means question intrude at some point?
The answer, I believe, is that there are some lines that the government must not cross, no matter what. One of these is personal privacy. Ken Starr lost me totally when he hauled Monicas mom into his Starr chamber and forced her to testify about intimate and confidential details of her daughters sex life. Thats uncivilized. Its also intolerable. Certain relationships, including that between parent and child, should be protected by and from the law. They routinely arent.
For just one example, the Los Angeles Times reported [April 18, 1998, p. A23] that Judge Lance Ito (who wasnt nearly so rough on O.J. Simpson) jailed three children for 12 days, and had them brought to court in shackles and handcuffs, because they were reluctant to testify against their father in a child-abuse case. So whos the more egregious child-abuser: Judge Ito or the father? Ito gets my vote.
The Supreme Court discovered a right to privacy in our Constitution. This right allows me, as a doctor, to rip a womans living offspring from her uterus in bloody shreds, yet, curiously, it would not interfere with the governments poking into my private life and making it a matter of public record--even the subject of headlines and late-night TV merriment. Somethings wrong here.
The people seem to sense it. I think thats the real reason for Clintons public support: hes being seen (richest of all ironies!) as the victim of an all-powerful state, in a plight into which many can too easily project themselves.
The justifications for lying under oath in such circumstances are clearly stated in David Kopels "Intelligent Mans Guide to Perjury" in your March issue (although Kopel doesnt apply them to Clinton). I neednt summarize, beyond pointing out that if you think the government has no business asking a question, the moral choice is to answer it any way you please.
Two likely consequences of the recent Congressional study on White House intern positions are that our government will find it much harder to bully people into revealing their private selves, and courts will have more trouble gaining evidence of private activities between two adults. The crowning irony would then be that Bill Clinton--that most priapic of prexies and sleaziest of all statists--had, by beating the rap, unintentionally struck a blow (no pun intended) for the privacy of us all. RPH
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