Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Science Testing Faith

The Discovery Channel recently reported a study that will appear in the
Personality and Individual Differences
journal entitled "The relationship between date of birth and individual differences in personality and general intelligence: A large-scale study." This article by Peter Hartmann investigates the link (or lack there of) between personalities and astrological signs. Two large samples (4000+ in one group and 11,000+ in the other) were investigated. The abstract of the article provides a succinct statement of their results:
"In no cases did date of birth relate to individual differences in personality or general intelligence."
Hartmann provided the Discovery Channel with some qualifications to his conclusions:
"This does not necessarily mean that all astrology is without truth, but only that the independent effect of sun signs is most likely to be irrelevant. As for the weekly horoscope based on mere sun signs, then according to the current scientific standing, there is probably more truth in the comic strips."
A few weeks ago CNN reported that Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School reported that prayer offered no advantage to patients undergoing heart bypass surgery. These conclusions were reached after following 1,800 patients at six hospitals for 30 days after surgery. Funded by the Templeton Agency, this research was published in the American Heart Journal.

Both of these studies were a serious waste of time and money. Science cannot study or evaluate faith by definition. Reports like these, in addition to being practically inane, only deepen the divide between science and religion. In a world where we, as scientists, have to work to convince the general population to continue teaching evolution in schools and accept the fact that global warming is a reality, such publications border on professional negligence.

For an astrologers prospective on the study by Hartmann, see Astrodynamics.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

DOE Dismisses Advisors

Samuel Bodman, the US Secretary of Energy, has disbanded the Department of Energy's advisory board. The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) will be shut down after it completes its final report this May. DOE spokes Craig Stevens had this to say about closing the advisory board:

"[Bodman] believes that we have a strong agenda moving forward with the American Competitiveness and Advanced Energy Initiatives put forth by the White House. With these two initiatives, the secretary believes our course is charted for the next couple of years."
Stevens defends removing outside advice by citing the fact that Bodman is a Chemical Engineer by training so he "has an understanding of science of scientific processes." The DOE denies that the Advisory Board's most recent report recommending the "aggressive dismantlement of the Cold war [nuclear weapons] stockpile" had nothing to do with this decision.

Science doesn't work function by closing your eyes and ears to the results, interpretations, and opinions of others. Eliminating conflicting view points doesn't make them go away. You can't kill an idea, but you can put your fingers in your ears and hum to yourself. It's a shame that our government has resorted to such adolescent behavior again and again.

This story was covered by Nature, Chemical and Engineering News, and Think Progress among others.