Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus - New York Times
In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office's famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of "comparable" magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments.
That was a ludicrous statement, as Gary Taubes demonstrates in his new book meticulously debunking diet myths, "Good Calories, Bad Calories" (Knopf, 2007).
It may seem bizarre that a surgeon general could go so wrong. After all, wasn't it his job to express the scientific consensus? But that was the problem. Dr. Koop was expressing the consensus. He, like the architects of the federal "food pyramid" telling Americans what to eat, went wrong by listening to everyone else. He was caught in what social scientists call a cascade.
Because of this effect, groups are surprisingly prone to reach mistaken conclusions even when most of the people started out knowing better, according to the economists Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch. If, say, 60 percent of a group's members have been given information pointing them to the right answer (while the rest have information pointing to the wrong answer), there is still about a one-in-three chance that the group will cascade to a mistaken consensus.
In the Battle Against Cancer, Researchers Find Hope in a Toxic Wasteland - New York Times
Death sits on the east side of this city, a 40-billion-gallon pit filled with corrosive water the color of a scab. On the opposite side sits the small laboratory of Don and Andrea Stierle, whose stacks of plastic Petri dishes are smeared with organisms pulled from the pit. Early tests indicate that some of those organisms may help produce the next generation of cancer drugs.
For decades, scientists assumed that nothing could live in the Berkeley Pit, a hole 1,780 feet deep and a mile and a half wide that was one of the world's largest copper mines until 1982, when the Atlantic Richfield Company suspended work there. The pit filled with water that turned as acidic as vinegar, laced with high concentrations of arsenic, aluminum, cadmium and zinc.
Today it is one of the harshest environments in the country. When residents speak of the pit, they often recall the day in 1995 when hundreds of geese landed on the water and promptly died.
But the pit itself is far from dead. Over the last decade, Mr. Stierle said, the couple have found 142 organisms living in it and have "isolated 80 chemical compounds that exist nowhere else."
Panel Sees Problems in Ethanol Production - New York Times
Greater cultivation of crops to produce ethanol could harm water quality and leave some regions of the country with water shortages, a panel of experts is reporting. And corn, the most widely grown fuel crop in the United States, might cause more damage per unit of energy than other plants, especially switchgrass and native grasses, the panel said.
The report noted that additional use of fertilizers and pesticides could pollute water supplies and contribute to the overgrowth of aquatic plant life that produces "dead zones" like those in the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.
Book now for the flight to nowhere - Times Online
An Indian entrepreneur has given a new twist to the concept of low-cost airlines. The passengers boarding his Airbus 300 in Delhi do not expect to go anywhere because it never takes off.
In a country where 99% of the population have never experienced air travel, the "virtual journeys" of Bahadur Chand Gupta, a retired Indian Airlines engineer, have proved a roaring success.
"Some of my passengers have crossed the country to get on this plane," says Gupta, who charges about £2 each for passengers taking the "journey".
The Odyssey Years - New York Times
People who were born before 1964 tend to define adulthood by certain accomplishments -- moving away from home, becoming financially independent, getting married and starting a family.
In 1960, roughly 70 percent of 30-year-olds had achieved these things. By 2000, fewer than 40 percent of 30-year-olds had done the same.
Overlawyered: Welcome to West Virginia: Joe Meadows v. Go-Mart
Joe Meadows was drunk. Very drunk. 0.296 percent blood-alcohol content drunk, 12 or 13 beers worth. Fortunately, he didn't drive in that state. Unfortunately, he chose to sleep it off by resting under a parked 18-wheel truck. More unfortunately, the driver, Doug Rader, who didn't check to see whether there might be drunks lying under his truck at 1:40 a.m., ran over Meadows. Rader had EMT training, and was able to save Meadows's life, but Meadows lost a leg, and sued both the truck company and the store that owned the parking lot. A Kanawha County jury decided that Meadows was only a third responsible for his injury, which means he "only" gets two thirds of the three million dollars they awarded.
What is Orthodoxy? (Part 1, Part 2)
What is the "orthodoxy" in our "humble orthodoxy" anyway? What do we mean when we say "orthodoxy?" "What must we agree upon? What are the basics, what are the essentials?"
Now this is a dangerous question. And we have to proceed very carefully here, because if you take this wrong, this question can sound a little like the teenager in the youth group asking, "How far can I go? What's the least I have to believe and still be considered a Christian? What can I get away with?" Friends, that is not the spirit in which I'm posing this question. You want to pursue truth in every single matter about which God has revealed Himself in His word. If He's gone to the trouble of revealing Himself, you should care as a Christian, you should want to understand it, so that you can know more about who this God is that you're worshiping.
Part of what we need for doctrinal discernment is to understand what must be agreed upon and how serious errors are. Because you know not all errors are created equal--they're not all the same. We need to understand the significance of the doctrine that is in question.
... So God, the Bible, the gospel.
Those are the things that we must agree upon to have meaningful cooperation as Christians. True Christian fellowship cannot be had with someone who disagrees with us on these matters. These are the essential of the essentials.
Finally, for Adam, Pastor John Piper's view of Ayn Rand's philosophy. Several years ago, after I read Adam's copy of Atlas Shrugged, I disagreed with her view of altruism. But I couldn't put my feelings into words. Now I find that John Piper has.
Atlas Shrugged Fifty Years Later :: Desiring God
My Ayn Rand craze was in the late seventies when I was a professor of Biblical Studies at Bethel College. I read most of what she wrote both fiction and non-fiction. I was attracted and repulsed. I admired and cried. I was blown away with powerful statements of what I believed, and angered that she shut herself up in what Jonathan Edwards called the infinite provincialism of atheism. Her brand of hedonism was so close to my Christian Hedonism and yet so far--like a satellite that comes close to the gravitational pull of truth and then flings off into the darkness of outer space.
Sentences like these made me want to scream. No. No. No. Altruism (treating someone better than he deserves) does not have to involve "betraying your values" or "sacrificing a greater value to a lesser one." In other words, I agreed with her that we should never sacrifice a greater value to a lesser one. But I disagreed that mercy (returning good for evil) always involved doing that.