Science & Technology

Darwin and the Discovery of Evolution

In this talk, Dr. Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute explores Darwin’s life and work, focusing on the steps by which he came to discover and prove the theory of evolution by natural selection:

The theory of evolution is often disparaged by its opponents as being “just a theory” — i.e., a speculative hypothesis with little basis in hard, scientific fact. But this claim carries with it the implied accusation that Charles Darwin was “just a theorist” — i.e., he was merely an armchair scientist and that his life’s work was nothing more than an exercise in arbitrary speculation. A look at Darwin’s pioneering discoveries, however, reveals the grave injustice of this accusation. Darwin was not “just a theorist” and evolution is not “just a theory.”

Charles Darwin on the Grandeur of Evolution

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” —Charles Darwin, The Origin Of Species

Interesting enough the word “evolution” does not appear in Darwin’s work, though the last word is evolved:

“From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” —Charles Darwin, The Origin Of Species

Apparently Darwin preferred the phrase “descent with modification” to describe his theory. From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

“Charles Darwin used the word in print once only, in the closing paragraph of The Origin of Species (1859), and preferred descent with modification, in part because evolution already had been used in the discarded 18 [century] homunculus theory of embryological development (first proposed under this name by Bonnet, 1762) and in part because it carried a sense of ‘progress’ not present in Darwin’s idea.”

 

Innovation and The History Vaccines

Matt Ridley, author of How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom writes on the history of vaccines and how this scientific breakthrough was brought to the attention of the Western World not by scientists and professors, but by a black slave and woman. Ridley also discusses the fierce opposition they faced:

At a time when the miraculous success of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 has transformed the battle against the pandemic, it is fitting to recall that the general idea behind vaccination was brought to the attention of the western world, not by brilliant and privileged professors, but by a black slave and a woman.

His name was Onesimus and he lived in Boston, as the property of Cotton Mather, a well-known puritan preacher. Her name was Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, the literary wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople.

Some time around 1715 Onesimus seems to have told Mather that back in West Africa people were in the habit of deliberately infecting children with a drop of “juice of smallpox” from a survivor, thus making them immune. Mather then came across a report to the Royal Society in London from an Italian physician, Emmanuel Timoni, working in the Ottoman court in Constantinople, which described the same practice in combating smallpox. The Ottomans had got the idea from either China or Africa.

Six years later, in April 1721, when smallpox reached Boston in a ship called the Seahorse, and efforts to quarantine its crew proved in vain, Mather wrote to 14 doctors begging them to try inoculation. Thirteen ignored him but one, Zabdiel Boylston, did not. On 26 June 1721, almost 300 years ago, Boylston deliberately scratched the skin of his six year old son with a needle dipped in the pus from a smallpox survivor’s spots. He then did the same “variolation” to his slave and his slave’s two-year-old son. Imagine how brave, even foolhardy, this act was.

All three survived after mild bouts of the disease. Boylston then began inoculating other volunteers, and by November he had variolated 247 people. Six of these died. On 25 November he inoculated 15 members of Harvard University. The epidemic was by then raging in Boston, over 400 people having died in October alone.

News of Boylston’s experimental treatment caused fury among the Boston townspeople. Doctors denounced him. “Some have been carrying about instruments of inoculation, and bottles of poisonous humor, to infect all who were willing to submit to it. Can any man infect a family in the morning, and pray to God in the evening that the distemper will not spread?” thundered one. The Boston city council summoned Boylston to account for his crime and the mob descended on him. He hid in a closet for nearly two weeks to escape lynching. It is not easy being an innovator.

At almost the same time in Britain, a brave woman pioneer, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, was introducing variolation to London society, having learnt of the practice while in Constantinople as the wife of the ambassador. She too was the subject of fierce denunciation.

Read the rest at Warp, on The unexpected history and miraculous success of vaccines.

 

 

Alex Epstein Interviews Patrick Moore: Fake Invisible Catastrophes

Patrick Moore, pro-human ecologist and co-founder of Greenpeace, talks with Alex Epstein about his new book, Fake Invisible Catastrophe and Threats of Doom:

On this week’s Power Hour Alex Epstein interviews ecologist Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and author of “Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom.”

In his book Moore thoroughly debunks 11 alleged current or imminent catastrophes, from mass species extinction to ocean “acidification” to the near-death of the Great Barrier Reef.

In this interview, Alex asks Moore about the false assumptions that drive our propensity to believe in “fake invisible catastrophes,” including the assumption that human impact is inevitably destructive because it disrupts an alleged perfect, delicate balance of nature.

Moore debunks this “delicate balance” idea thoroughly with numerous examples, above all with CO2 levels–which, he argues, were on a natural and deadly downward trajectory toward mass plant death until human beings restored some of it to the atmosphere.

 

 

Alex Epstein: Decriminalize Nuclear

Alex Epstein has a podcast on “Steps toward decriminalizing nuclear” with Robert Hargraves, cofounder of ThorCon and author of “Thorium: Energy Cheaper Than Coal.”

Topics covered include:

  • Why since the creation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) over 45 years ago not one nuclear power plant has been designed and built to completion.
  • Why the Linear no Threshold guiding the NRC should be abolished.
  • What ALARA is, and how it increases nuclear costs.
  • Why South Korea builds nuclear plants at 1/3 US costs.
  • Should the NRC exist at all?

Fauci Picks Em

From July 2020:

How did they do it?

From Cuomo Advisers Altered Report on Covid-19 Nursing-Home Deaths (WSJ):

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed state health officials to strip a public report of data showing that more nursing-home residents had died of Covid-19 than the administration had acknowledged, according to people with knowledge of the report’s production.

The July report, which examined the factors that led to the spread of the virus in nursing homes, focused only on residents who died inside long-term-care facilities, leaving out those who had died in hospitals after becoming sick in nursing homes. As a result, the report said 6,432 nursing-home residents had died—a significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population, the people said. The initial version of the report said nearly 10,000 nursing-home residents had died in New York by July last year, one of the people said.

The changes Mr. Cuomo’s aides and health officials made to the nursing-home report, which haven’t been previously disclosed, reveal that the state possessed a fuller accounting of out-of-facility nursing-home deaths as early as the summer. The Health Department resisted calls by state and federal lawmakers, media outlets and others to release the data for another eight months.

State officials now say more than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities were confirmed or presumed to have died from Covid-19 since March of last year—counting both those who died in long-term-care facilities and those who died later in hospitals. That figure is about 50% higher than earlier official death tolls.

Related: Governor Andrew Cuomo Deserves Emmy But Not Governorship

Alex Epstein: Texas Blackouts Caused By Focus on Green Energy at Expense of Maintaining Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

According to Alex Epstein “the root cause of the TX blackouts is a national and state policy that has prioritized the adoption of unreliable wind/solar energy over reliable energy.” Writes Epstein, Texas “is having an electricity crisis during bad winter weather because it did not focus enough on building reliable power plants and infrastructure–because it was obsessed with getting as much unreliable wind/solar electricity as possible” and “the expense and distraction of accommodating “unreliables” takes away money and focus from resiliency. In CA this meant not maintaining power lines. In TX it may have meant not focusing enough on making the reliable power plants resilient enough to winter weather.”

Read the rest.

Epstein also appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio program:

Free Speech vs. “Censorship By Proxy”: Parler’s Amy Peikoff vs. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

Parler’s chief policy officer, the thoughtful Amy Peikoff, has an enlightening interview on Spiked Online on the app’s cancellation by Big Tech. According to Ms. Peikoff, “Parler’s mission has always been to allow people to express themselves freely to the maximum extent possible consistent with the law and with our own business purposes….” and that the answer to so-called “hate speech” is ” more speech.”

In regards to Parler differentiating itself from Twitter and Facebook, Peikoff states that Parler “want[s] to respect the privacy of users. Unlike with Twitter and Facebook, there’s no data mining, profiling, and targeting of ads based on profiles.” She adds: “The people on Parler are not the commodity.”

Peikoff also finds it “scary” that,

“Politicians are hauling tech CEOs before Congress and urging them to remove more and more content, even when the particular category of speech in question would be protected by the First Amendment or similar laws around the world.

“It’s a scary prospect, because we get to a stage where we are not in a completely free country.

In regards, to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s call for what some describe as “censorship by proxy”:

“Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg supports new regulations under which platforms would be required to issue so-called transparency reports. These are reports in which firms describe what they have done to deal with ‘objectionable content’, including speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

“He has gone further to suggest platforms should be required to prove their effectiveness at dealing with that content. If that ends up being put into law, it would represent the government trying to achieve, via regulation of social-media companies, what it could not achieve by directly censoring.”

Read the full Spiked Online interview here.

In an article on her personal website, Don’t Let It Go (named after a brilliant article by philosopher Ayn Rand), Peikoff writes on Zuckerberg’s proposals:

“Now recall that Mark Zuckerberg, in the most recent Big-Tech-CEO-Hearanguing before Congress, suggested amending Section 230 as follows:

  1. “Transparency” – each company enjoying Section 230 immunity would be required to issue periodic reports detailing how it dealt with certain types of “objectionable” content.
  2. “Accountability” –platforms enjoying immunity could also be held to some minimum level of “effectiveness” with respect to dealing with that “objectionable” content. (Recall he also bragged about how effective Facebook’s “hate speech” algorithms are.)

“Perhaps you think “transparency” at least, is good. But imagine what information ends up being collected and retained as ‘ordinary business records’ when complying with this sort of law, and read on.

Peikoff notes that though Parler was singled out by Amazon, Google, and others, the left-leaning Salonblame[s] Facebook for playing a much larger role in facilitating the planning that led up to the 6th.

Writes Peikoff:

“….What does Salon hope to gain by blaming Facebook and showing sympathy to Parler? I argue that placing responsibility for user-generated content on platforms plays right into the totalitarians’ hands.

“With all the platforms now being blamed for user-generated content containing threats or incitement, the new Congress needs only to accept Mark Zuckerberg’s engraved invitation to amend Section 230 along the above lines. But, as we’ve learned in the last week, no system of guidelines enforcement is perfect. If Facebook, with all its algorithms and other resources could not ‘adequately’ deal with this content, then what company could?

“If it’s not actually possible to be good at this, to the standard that everyone seems to expectand Zuckerberg is calling for all of us to be regulated according to that standard, then what exactly is he calling for (whether he realizes it or not)? For government to take over, to have arbitrary control. For all online platforms to operate only by permission of government, according to whatever standards politicians (or the Twitter mobs pulling their strings) deem fit—and this will be true with respect to both free speech and privacy.”

I would love to see a debate between Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Parler’s CPO Amy Peikoff on this vital issue.

For context, below is a video interview with Tucker Carlson on the targeting of Parler by Google, Apple, and Amazon:

Top Photo: FoxNews Tucker Carlson Show

 

Related:

What a Billion Dollars Can Buy: Elon Musk’s SpaceX Compared with NASA’s Orion

NASA has spent over 23 billion dollars on the Orion spacecraft – that has yet to be able to take a person into space. Writes Eric Berger in “The Orion spacecraft is now 15 years old and has flown into space just once“:

The Orion spacecraft dates back to 2005, when NASA issued a “request for proposals” to industry with the goal of “developing a new Crew Exploration Vehicle by 2014 that is capable of carrying astronauts beyond low Earth orbit.” NASA sought Orion as a building block to land humans on the Moon as part of what became known as the Constellation program. This program was later canceled, but Orion survived. Since that time, according to The Planetary Society’s Casey Dreier, NASA has spent $23.7 billion developing the Orion spacecraft. This does not include primary costs for the vehicle’s Service Module, which provides power and propulsion, as it is being provided by the European Space Agency.

For this money, NASA has gotten a bare-bones version of Orion that flew [without a crew] during the Exploration Flight Test-1 mission in 2014. The agency has also gotten the construction of an Orion capsule—which also does not have a full life support system—that will be used during the uncrewed Artemis I mission due to be flown in 12 to 24 months. So over its lifetime, and for $23.7 billion, the Orion program has produced:

  • Development of Orion spacecraft
  • Exploration Flight Test-1 basic vehicle
  • The Orion capsule to be used for another test flight
  • Work on capsules for subsequent missions

How does that compare to Elon Musk’s privately run space initiative, SpaceX?

SpaceX is generally considered one of the most efficient space companies. Founded in 2002, the company has received funding from NASA, the Department of Defense, and private investors. Over its history, we can reliably estimate that SpaceX has expended a total of $16 billion to $20 billion on all of its spaceflight endeavors. Consider what that money has bought:

  • Development of Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy rockets
  • Development of Cargo Dragon, Crew Dragon, and Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft
  • Development of Merlin, Kestrel, and Raptor rocket engines
  • Build-out of launch sites at Vandenberg (twice), Kwajalein Atoll, Cape Canaveral, and Kennedy Space Center
  • 105 successful launches to orbit
  • 20 missions to supply International Space Station, two crewed flights
  • Development of vertical take off, vertical landing, rapid reuse for first stages
  • Starship and Super Heavy rocket development program
  • Starlink Internet program (with 955 satellites on orbit, SpaceX is largest satellite operator in the world)

The author calls this an “extreme” comparison. Far from it, when comparing the economics of capitalism and socialism it is the norm.

Federal Death Agency: COVID Vaccine Created in January 2020 was Blocked By The FDA Until December 2020

Writes David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine,We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time“:

You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13. This was just two days after the genetic sequence had been made public in an act of scientific and humanitarian generosity that resulted in China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang’s being temporarily forced out of his lab. In Massachusetts, the Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial. This is — as the country and the world are rightly celebrating — the fastest timeline of development in the history of vaccines. It also means that for the entire span of the pandemic in this country, which has already killed more than 250,000 Americans, we had the tools we needed to prevent it .

The author then goes on to regurgitate “the FDA has to approve it” excuse for not banning the sale of the vaccine until the end of 2020:

To be clear, I don’t want to suggest that Moderna should have been allowed to roll out its vaccine in February or even in May, when interim results from its Phase I trial demonstrated its basic safety.

Well, why the hell not?

Shouldn’t that judgment on the efficacy of the vaccine be up to each individual? If you have a high probability of dying from COVID-19 if you get it, the vaccine in February 2020 might be worth the risk.

And why not release it in May 2020 when it was proven “safe” by FDA standards (but not yet proven as “efficacious”).

Observe that for 41% of voters; the pandemic was the “most important issue facing the country”:

What was the FDA waiting for? For Trump to lose the 2020 Presidential election? I seriously hope not. More likely, it is something worse: bureaucratic inertia with a central planning anti-free-market mindset.

Continues the author on the “reasoning” of the experts:

An unsafe vaccine, like the one for polio that killed ten and paralyzed 200 in 1955, could cause medical disaster and public-health backlash — though, as Balloux points out, since none of the new coronavirus vaccines use real viral material, that kind of accident, which affected one in a thousand recipients, would be impossible. (These days, one adverse impact in a million is the rule-of-thumb threshold of acceptability.) An ineffective vaccine could also give false security to those receiving it, thereby helping spread the disease by providing population-scale license to irresponsible behavior (indoor parties, say, or masklessness). But on other matters of population-level guidance, our messaging about risk has been erratic all year, too. In February and March, we were warned against the use of masks, in part on the grounds that a false sense of security would lead to irresponsible behavior — on balance, perhaps the most consequential public-health mistake in the whole horrid pandemic. In April, with schools already shut, we closed playgrounds. In May, beaches — unable or unwilling to live with even the very-close-to-zero risk of socializing outside (often shaming those who gathered there anyway). But in September, we opened bars and restaurants and gyms, inviting pandemic spread even as we knew the seasonality of the disease would make everything much riskier in the fall. The whole time, we also knew that the Moderna vaccine was essentially safe. We were just waiting to know for sure that it worked, too.

None of the scientists I spoke to for this story were at all surprised by either outcome — all said they expected the vaccines were safe and effective all along. Which has made a number of them wonder whether, in the future, at least, we might find a way to do things differently — without even thinking in terms of trade-offs.

The problem is that “scientists” cannot determine the “trade-offs” for any given individual. Those decisions should be up to the individual, with “experts” providing the facts, allowing each person to decide based on their particular situation and personal priorities, with the government’s job to get-out-of-the-way.

Given that the FDA blocked the sale and distribution of a vaccine that could have prevented the death of over a quarter a million Americans, we think the name suggested by Harry Binswanger to be a far more accurate description: Federal Death Agency.

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