I have been a fan of Professor Elizabeth Loftus’ work for many years, so I am pleased to see her getting a hearing in the press at last.
From the Australian ABC news site:
When an eyewitness gives evidence in a trial, how much faith should we place in their testimony? At first brush the answer would seem to be, why not trust them? After all, if an impartial witness says with certainly they saw something—why be sceptical?
However, Elizabeth Loftus, a renowned professor of both law and psychology based at the University of California’s Irvine campus, urges caution. Professor Loftus has been at the forefront of complex and controversial debates around the nature of memory for many years, and her research has made her a much sought-after expert witness in both criminal and civil trials. In fact, she has testified in over 250 trials.
Professor Loftus says eyewitness testimony is the major cause of wrongful convictions in the USA. In one project where more than 300 cases of wrongful conviction were established using DNA testing, the major cause of these wrongful convictions was faulty eyewitness testimony.
A little article for our church newsletter:
Why do some Christians make the sign of the cross?
Many of the saints of the early Church talk about this practice. Here are quotes from just a few.
St Ephraim the Syrian:
Go not forth from the door of thy house till thou hast signed the cross. Whether in eating or in drinking, whether in sleeping or in waking, whether in thy house or on the road, or again in the season of leisure, neglect not this sign; for there is no guardian like it. It shall be unto thee as a wall, in the forefront of all thy doings. And teach this to thy children, that heedfully they be conformed to it.
St Cyril of Jerusalem:
Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it.
In every act we do, in every step we take, let our hand trace the Lord’s cross.
In other words, like American Express, don’t leave home without it!
We are not just spirit or body, but both, and we worship God, and express our faith in God not just in inner prayer, but in action. This is why we kneel or bow our heads for prayer, and stand to sing and for praise, and why we try to serve and care for others.
According to the early Church fathers, the sign of the cross is a public declaration of faith in Jesus, and it scares the heck out of the powers of darkness because it was on the cross that they were utterly defeated by the love and grace of God. It is also a reminder of our baptism, that we have died with Christ and are reborn in him, that our lives are His.
For many Christians, the sign of the cross is the first thing they do on awakening, with a heartfelt “Thank you Father!”
It is also appropriate at the absolution, when we remember that it is through Jesus’ sufferings on the cross that we receive forgiveness, at the blessing, because all God’s blessings come to us at the cost of the cross, when we think about the resurrection, because new life comes to us through Jesus’ giving of his life on the cross, and when we hear “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” because we see the nature of God the trinity most clearly when we see the cross.
Or any time at all, because for a Christian, the cross is crucial at every moment of life.
I am glad the muslim terrorist attack in Nairobi was so widely reported, even though the real horror of what happened was underplayed – the torture and mutilation of children, for example.
Perhaps this signals a change of heart in the mainstream media, and a willingness to acknowledge at last the reality of widespread jihadist terror – over 21,000 deadly attacks in the name Allah since 9/11, three murderous terror attacks very day.
But why did the even worse attack on a church in Pakistan the following day get almost no media coverage? And why the media silence about the ongoing wholesale murder and torture of Christians in Egypt and Syria?
From the Federalist:
The next day, two suicide bombs went off as Christians were leaving Sunday services at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.
“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” Nazir John, who was at the church with at least 400 other worshipers, told the Associated Press. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
Some 85 Christians were slaughtered and 120 injured, the bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan in history. The hospital ran out of beds for the injured and there weren’t enough caskets for the dead.
The situation for Christians in Egypt has also gone from bad to worse. August saw the worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries. Sam Tadros, a Coptic Christian and author of Motherland Lost, says that there has been nothing like this year’s Muslim Brotherhood anti-Christian pogrom since 1321, when a similar wave of church burnings and persecution caused the decline of the Christian community in Egypt from nearly half of Egypt’s population to its current ten percent.
The violence of just three days in mid-August was staggering. Thirty-eight churches were destroyed, 23 vandalized; 58 homes were burned and looted and 85 shops, 16 pharmacies and 3 hotels were demolished. It was so bad that the Coptic Pope was in hiding, many Sunday services were canceled, and Christians stayed indoors, fearing for their lives. Six Christians were killed in the violence. Seven were kidnapped.
Maalula, Syria, is an ancient Christian town that has been so sheltered for 2,000 years that it’s one of only three villages where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Until September 7, when Islamist rebels attacked as part of the civil war ripping through the country.
An eyewitness to the murder of three Christians in Maalula—Mikhael Taalab, his cousin Antoun Taalab, and his grandson Sarkis el Zakhm—reported that the Islamists warned everyone present to convert to Islam. Sarkis answered clearly, Vatican news agency Fides reported: “I am a Christian and if you want to kill me because I am a Christian, do it.”
There seems to be a large dose of confusion in some circles as to what the climate change debate is really about.
Firstly, no one doubts that climate change is happening. The climate is in constant flux. Temperatures are up and down like, well, the Assyrian Empire.
Secondly, there is no doubt human activity has some impact on climate, at least at a local level. The Urban Heat Island effect is one obvious example, and we also know that changes in land use can change local rain and snowfall patterns.
Third, there is substantial agreement that so-called greenhouse gasses are responsible for retaining sufficient of the heat from the sun to enable the earth’s temperature to stabilise at an average just over the melting point of H2O.
Substantial, not compete agreement on that point. Some scientists believe the chemical composition of the atmosphere has very little to do with temperature, and that warmth at lower levels of the atmosphere is a product of pressure. The same way a bicycle pump heats up when you use it.
There is also general agreement that doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to about 700ppm would result in an increase of about 1 degree Celsius in total.
This mild warming would occur mostly in cooler parts of the world and mostly at night. It would have very little if any negative impact, and combined with the positive impact of increased CO2 (current levels are so low that they almost at starvation point for most plants) which include increased crop yields and resilience, increased forest growth and reduced desertification, would likely be a very good thing.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is the assumption that slightly increased CO2 would result in increased water vapour in the atmosphere, and that this increased water vapour would produce a run away warming effect, raising temperatures by much more than for CO2 alone.
In reality (much abused and ignored!) increased water vapour produces increased cloud cover, which has a cooling effect.
The large temperature increase from increased water vapour is a guess. Various levels of guesses have been programmed into computer climate models used by the IPCC and others. None of them produces results which match reality.
Thousands of scientists from around the world have been saying for years that this is a perfect example of GIGO – garbage in, garbage out, that the amplification effect of water vapour is much milder than that inputted into the models, or doesn’t exist at all, or is negative – that is, that increased water vapour is cooling rather than warming.
In Australia this includes Professor Ian Plimer, Professor Robert Carter, David Evans, and Murray Salby. There are many, many others, whose peer reviewed work is summarised in the work of the NIPCC (the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change).
Climate alarmism is a mixture of zombie science, profiteering and scams, and a failure of leadership in journalistic, scientific, and political circles. It is the worst and most expensive scientific fraud ever perpetrated.
Just discovered this wonderful little app. If you have a Windows, Android or IOS based device, you can download and listen to music mixes compiled by people from anywhere in the world. Just search for 8tracks in the app store. It’s free.
Many of them are just brilliant. If you have a PC you can log in to the 8tracks site and create and share your own compilations.
The search facility is confusing, and you cannot access a list of tracks in each 8tracks mix. But it is still doubleplus good.
Emma Alberici and Julian Burnside must have read the same strategy book, one in which distorting your opponents’ views and values is perfectly acceptable.
The last thing anyone should want is to have Australia’s relationship with Indonesia defined by this boats issue, which I am sure will be but a passing irritant.
What the ABC’s Emma Alberici, interviewing the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, says Abbott said:
How do you feel about a world leader describing asylum seekers as “irritants”?
What the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights dutifully replies:
I am appalled.
As should we all be, but not with Tony Abbott.
I am often horrified by the easy assumption of moral superiority made by people on the green/left side of politics.
It is as if they are so sure that they are intellectually and morally superior that it never occurs to them that they should actually check what the people they think they disagree with are actually saying, or planning, and why.
They live in a kind of bubble, where they only listen to one another. I guess they just think other people are stupid, or ignorant, or motivated by fear, or just evil, so why bother listening to them or trying find out why they think the way they do?
But Christians especially should resist this temptation to judge others, and to attribute evil motives to others, even politicians!
Most politicians, even those I disagree with, are decent people who want to make the world a better place. I wish some of them were better informed, or would work at implementing policies which actually work, instead those they simply think should work. But most of them are still good people.
This is a worthwhile thought: We are all capable of good and bad. To see or assume only the bad is cynicism; it is not fully human; and it is a condition of mind which the Christian is thus called to resist.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio briefly flickered through my mind as I was considering who might be elected Pope, but quickly flickered out again. He flickered in because of persistent rumours that he was runner–up in the Conclave that elected Pope Benedict. But the rumours were doubtful, while the factors weighing against him seemed decisive.
There were three.
Firstly, at 76, he is at the upper limit of what might be considered a likely age. Too old, I thought.
Second, he is a Jesuit. There has never before been a Jesuit Pope. That in itself is not a negative factor, but the recent behaviour of some Jesuits is. In the past the Society of Jesus has produced some of the Church’s greatest thinkers and missionaries. In recent years, in the Australia and the US at least, it has declined into a kind of PC knitting circle.
If you are not sure what I mean, pay a visit to the Jesuit website eurekastreet.com.au. You might as well be reading Crikey!, or the Melbourne Anglican. Just as with those outlets, you know in advance that the position taken on any social or political issue will be that of the Labor left/Greens. An organisation that offers an encomium on the virtues of Hugo Chavez, and quotes Bertolt Brecht while doing so, has lost any capacity for rational thought.
The Jesuits in South America may be different, but while a cardinal, Pope Francis made some worrying comments about the redistribution of wealth, comments which resemble the inane demands that people who have taken risks and worked hard all their lives to produce value for others have an obligation to ‘give something back’ to people who haven’t. Popes are not infallible on matters of economics, but they may be influential.
The third and decisive factor was that he has no experience in Rome. It seemed unlikely that someone would be elected as Bishop of Rome who has little familiarity with the city and its people. Even more important, given the wide publicity given to claims of a need to reform the Curia, it seemed unlikely that someone would be elected who has no detailed knowledge of the Curia and its functions. If there really is a need for reform, Pope Francis will be in the position of having to rely for advice on the very people in need of reformation.
Having said all that, it is important to point out that Pope Francis has a wider educational background than most of his predecessors; he has a Master’s degree in chemistry, and has taught psychology and literature. He has a reputation for prayerful faithfulness and unpretentious care for others. He has resisted the temptation to lapse into the cesspool of liberation theology, and has been courageous in his opposition to some of the policies and pronouncements of Argentina’s obstreperous leftist government. For example, a few months after current Argentinian President Kristina Kirchner’s husband (her predecessor) was elected in 2003, then Cardinal Bergoglio pointed out the damage done by the “exhibitionism and strident announcements” that had come to characterise Argentinian politics.
All this suggests intelligence, humility, strength and common sense.
Maybe the cardinals know better than me after all.
My latest for Quadrant Online:
One of the most interesting phenomena of the last weeks has been the enthusiasm with which media pundits who have previously expressed the opinion that the Church is dying and irrelevant have expounded upon the importance of the right person being elected to be the new Pope. Like liberal nuns and other anti-Catholics, most of these media persons (I decline to call them personalities) believe the world would be a much better place if someone was elected who had the same opinions they do.
Alas for them, it is likely, as Philippa Martyr has pointed out in her usual delightful style, that the next Pope will be a Catholic. Which means no gay marriage, no women priests, no abortions.
Going to Mass, trusting in Jesus, reading the Bible and the whole religious thing will still be a large part of what the Church is about. It might be interesting to spend some time talking about whether it is possible to identify exactly where any culture is less than healthy, by noting at which points its demands conflict with the teaching and practice of the Church. In our case, I suspect, in the areas of gender, sexuality, and ‘self-realisation.’ But instead I’ll stick with wondering who the next Pope might be.
We start with a potential field of all unmarried baptised adult male Catholics. Betting website paddypower.com offers odds of 666 to 1 on Richard Dawkins. You can also bet on Fr. Ted at 1,000 to 1 if you are absolutely determined to lose your money.
Read the rest at Quadrant.
One of four.
Andrew Wakefield and the faked link between MMR vaccinations and autism.
Andrew Wakefield is one of the heroes of the anti-vaccination crusaders. In 1998 prestigious British medical journal The Lancet published a paper by Wakefield and others which implied a link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination. Not only was there no such link, but Wakefield’s data was faked. The article was retracted by The Lancet on February 2, 2010.
Wakefield must have known the likelihood that his faked research would reduce vaccination rates and lead to increased levels of preventable infectious childhood diseases. That is, he must have known than faking data so as to suggest a link between MMR vaccinations and autism would lead to increased child deaths.
Whatever Andrew Wakefield is, he is no hero of child health.
Apart from faking the results, there were several other ethics violations. These included failing to disclose cash payments from a lawyer representing families claiming MMR caused their children’s autism, failure to disclose financial interests in patents for MMR alternatives, failure to include data which contradicted his conclusions, and the use of contaminated samples to support his conclusions.
On January 28, 2010, Wakefield and two of his co-authors, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, were found by the UK’s General Medical Council to have acted irresponsibly, dishonestly and not in the clinical interests of the children involved in the study. The Medial Council found, amongst other things, that Wakefield had used colonoscopies, MRIs and lumbar punctures when such procedures were not clinically indicated. On May 24, 2010, the General Medical Council issued a determination that Wakefield and Walker-Smith were guilty of professional misconduct and should be struck from the Medical Register in the U.K. His license to practice medicine has been revoked.
There is no moral difference between this faking of medical research with foreseeably lethal consequences, and adding Melamine (a poison) to milk with foreseeably lethal consequences.
Some supporters of the MMR/autism theory claim that just because a few bad apples faked their results doesn’t necessarily mean there is no connection between vaccination and autism. No it doesn’t. But there isn’t. Not a speck. Not a jot nor a tittle.
In the next few days I will explain exactly how scientists know this. I’ll also examine the story that when Japan stopped vaccinating children, SIDS (cot death) stopped completely. It didn’t.
Ninety per-cent of Facebook and Twitter causes are based on false information, bigotry or both.
From scare stories about preservatives in food, to stories of dogs being hooked alive and used as shark bait, to stories about how people who don’t look like us eat something we don’t like eating and it’s disgusting and they are horrible and it should be stopped, almost every “Please pass this on, this must be stopped” story turns out to be based on false or misleading information, or cultural bigotry so blatant that it verges on racism.
These campaigns have real consequences. A campaign against the use of lean beef trimmings was bulldust from beginning to end. But the facts fell before a tidal wave of disgusting pictures of pink slime, and assertions the slime was loaded with ammonia and other deadly chemicals used as preservatives. None of the slimy pictures had anything to do with lean beef trimmings, and claims about high levels of preservatives were false.
It didn’t matter. The US beef industry responded with factual information, photos of the real product and descriptions of production methods. No one cared. Lean beef trimmings are high in protein, reduce the overall fat content of burgers and other meat products to which they are added, and in blind taste tests, were found by a majority of people to improve the tenderness of processed meats. It didn’t matter. The facts had no weight compared to the emotional fervour and manufactured horror of the pink slime campaign.
The end result was that factories were closed, businesses were forced into bankruptcy, hundreds of workers lost their jobs, and hundreds of families their incomes.
It may feel like you are doing a good thing when you click ‘Like’ to some circulating campaign against something, or pass it on to your friends. But when ninety per-cent of such campaigns are simply wrong, then clicking ‘Like’ or passing it on is not good, or even morally neutral. It is wrong.
At very least, we should check, every time, that what we are being told is true. Look for opinions opposed to those expressed in the message. Ask yourself “Is this reasonable?” “Is it really likely to be true?” Even if it is true, local governments may have the matter in hand, and demands for action in a Twitter campaign may be counter-productive or insulting.
Don’t pass on alarm stories without checking first, and if you have any doubts about the accuracy or fairness of a story, don’t pass it on at all. The truth matters. Don’t be a party to lies.
There is a point, though, at which the merely lazy, ignorant or bigoted nature of most Facebook campaigns tips over into actual evil. This point is the ongoing campaign against vaccination, and especially vaccination against childhood diseases such as measles and polio.
Over the next week I will write four articles explaining why this opposition is based on false, and in some cases deliberately false or misleading information. I will explain why the campaign is not just misguided but evil. And I will explain what you can do to help the truth be heard.