Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"A good day for the Marine Corps"

From the Powerline blog:

Michael Ledeen highlights this stirring account of Marines fighting in Afghanistan:

FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- In the city of Shewan, approximately 250 insurgents ambushed 30 Marines and paid a heavy price for it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

World Health Organisation abandons the "gold standard" of scientific evidence

The march of unreason and superstition continues.

We slide that little bit further toward the abyss.

The deep cultural scepsis and crisis of confidence that has been eating away at the West for much of the last hundred years or so further erodes the foundations of what has been the greatest single human achievement of all time.

A way of approaching the world that has created societies where unparalleled levels of prosperity and health are shared by a greater proportion of "ordinary" people than any before.

And we are in the process of throwing it all away!

It's not just science, but the whole manifestation of what the Enlightenment bequeathed to us.

How did we get to this point?

Central to this I feel is a sense of confidence. Confidence about the future and the ability of people to think their way through challenges and in the end make things better.

Modern "deep-green" environmentalism, one of the bastard children of 19th Century Romanticism, represents one form of the loss of this confidence in people and the future.

The modern world, with its science and machines and change is feared and hated. The real world is no longer a source of wonder and promise, sufficient in and of itself.

Instead increasing numbers of people want to believe in anything but reality.

Whether it's the various types of so-called complimentary medicine such as naturopathy, homeopathy and the other quack remedies that separate the naive and the stupid from their money, or the infantile idealisation of tribal societies over our own.

I never cease to be amazed to read in the newspapers people going on about the wonderful peaceful aboriginal culture that existed here until evil white people arrived.

What? Name a single primitive tribal culture that wasn't a violent patriarchal warrior culture where violence, both within the tribe and between tribes, wasn't the norm?

Oh, that's right. You can't. Because no such thing has ever existed. Leaving aside Patrick Dodson's bizarre fantasising about traditional aboriginal life of a bit of sleeping, a bit of hunting and then a bit of playing with the kids, the facts tell another story.

But then that returns us to the core of the problem. We increasingly don't want facts anymore. All that dreary evidence stuff is just so inconvenient.

We don't care that even the first British settlers in this country were absolutely shocked at the nature of the violence meted out to aboriginal women by their own menfolk. Instead of rationally weighing the evidence of the fact that one of the features of anthropological collections of aboriginal skulls is the disproportionately large number of female skulls that were obviously fractured during life, we substitute mythological mystifications about little aboriginal boys who can stop herds of stampeding cattle simply by raising their hands.

We don't want to know about the accounts of escaped convicts who lived amongst aborigines and left us first hand descriptions of not only the viciousness of tribal warfare, (such as finishing off wounded opponents by smashing their heads in with boomerangs), but also engaging in less than environmentally sustainable practices, such as leaving netted fish considered too small to die on a riverbank.

White settlement was the second human disaster to strike this continent.

The various movements of modern human beings into the continent some 60,000 years ago was the first.

The flora and fauna that the first European settlers found just over two hundred years ago was what had survived the decimation wrought by the arrival of aboriginal people here all that time ago.

We simply continued changing the environment and driving plants and animals into extinction where they left off.

The aboriginal practice of burning the country changed the country completely. Those plants that could not cope with the now much more frequent fires disappeared from burnt areas. Many disappeared completely.

And just as it happened in other places, like the Americas, it is interesting is it not that the disappearance of large mammals (mega fauna) just happened to coincide with the arrival of aboriginal people in Australia?

But bugger the facts, we want myths and fantasy.

And we want to wallow in our own feelings of shame and failure for our crimes, real and imagined, against Mother Nature. We want to imagine some fantastical simpler and better time where a simpler and better kind of human being lived in "perfect" harmony with the natural world.

Hmmm, that's kind of sounding familiar isn't it? Sort of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden repackaged.

And thus the true nature of the environmentalism and nativism that now even infects our universities and centres of learning is revealed.

It's religion. Or a religion substitute if you prefer.

And especially it is the religion of choice of the affluent but deracinated white middle classes.

Now the international body tasked with setting international food standards has succumbed.

For many years the WHO has been under pressure from the dietary supplement industry to lower the accepted standards for testing claims made about the supposed benefits of such things.

The reason is simple. When subjected to randomised trials involving control groups not receiving the supplement - vitamins, minerals, herbs or whatever - the supplement was shown to have little or no benefit.

That is, there was little difference in the health outcomes between those taking the supplement or herbal remedy and those taking a placebo (sugar tablet).

Let's just emphasise this point. No so-called complimentary medicine or dietary supplement has ever been shown to be really effective.

St John's Wort is as good as it ever gets with these things - a very weak effect for mild depression, but nothing more.

Most however have no discernible effect and some are positively harmful, as some users of Chinese herbal medicine have found out to their cost.

No wonder the companies making these useless and ineffectual products wanted the standard of evidence reduced!

This would not have happened even 10 years ago.

But the erosion of confidence in the ability of the scientific method and rational thought to be the best tools to test competing claims has now reached such a level that even the WHO has given in.

As Sandy from Junkfood Science says, you will no longer be able to trust claims that the food you eat or the supplements you take are actually safe or efficacious, because it will no longer be necessary to prove claims, just enough for all intents and purposes to assert them.