Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study: Noah’s ark could float with two of each of 35,000 species

From the Australian Telegraph.

Excerpt:

The students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester who came to this conclusion used the dimensions for the boat that were given in the Bible.

In the book of Genesis, Noah is commanded to build an ark which is 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high to house himself, his family and two of every species of animal.

For the study, the students settled on a cubit being 48.2cm long and found the ark could support the weight of 2.5 million sheep. The university said that previous research suggested there were approximately 35,000 species of animals in Noah’s time.

The students said it was not clear if all the animals would actually be able to fit on board. But if they did, the boat would still float.

Student Thomas Morris, 22, said: “You don’t think of the Bible necessarily as a scientifically accurate source of information, so I guess we were quite surprised when we discovered it would work. We’re not proving that it’s true, but the concept would definitely work.”

The full paper, The animals float two by two, hurrah!, was published in a peer-reviewed student journal.

Research lead Oliver Youle, 22, explained the science behind the study.

“Every object when immersed in a liquid has an upwards force acting against it — a buoyancy force; it also has a weight acting downwards — a downwards force, and in order for it to float, these two forces need to be equal.”

His colleague Benjamin Jordan added: “Using the dimensions of the ark and the density of the water, we were able to calculate its buoyancy force, which, according to Archimedes’ principle, is equal to the weight of the volume of fluid the object displaces. This meant we were then able to estimate the total mass the ark could support before the gravitational weight would overcome the buoyancy force, causing the ark to sink, which we calculated as 50.54x106kg.”

Good news for us who accept the flood story as historical, and I do. And it’s nice to see scientists taking a look at these things in the Bible to see if they are true. Most people these days seem to sort of assume that everything in the Bible is just figurative metaphors. Well, sometimes the genre is not historical… and sometimes it is. It depends on the book. One thing is for sure – if the Bible is not true, then it’s of no value. The point of it is not to read it for comfort or community. The purpose of it is to tell us who God is and what he’s done.

Please don’t get into a young-Earth vs Old-Earth dispute in the comments.

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New study: 39 percent of private employers will cut workers if minimum wage is raised

Fox News reports on a study that should make Obama change his mind about his plan to raise minimum wage.

Excerpt:

Thirty-eight percent of America’s private employers say they will lay off workers if Congress agrees to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, according to a new survey by the nation’s largest privately held staffing firm.

Fifty-four percent of employers who are paying their workers the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour say they would reduce hiring, while 65 percent say they would raise prices on their goods and services to offset the bumps in pay.

Of the 1,213 business and human resources professionals surveyed by Express Employment Professionals last month – which include whose who pay their employees the minimum wage as well as those who do not – 19 percent say they’d fire workers, 39 percent would reduce hiring and 51 percent would raise prices on their services to make up the salary costs.

“As with any such policy change, there are upsides and downsides. But based on this survey, there’s no denying that raising the minimum wage will result in layoffs, reduced hiring, and higher prices at a large chunk of American companies,” Bob Funk, CEO of Express and the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas, said. “How severe will those effects be? That remains to be seen, but policymakers will certainly want to be mindful of this reality as they legislate.”

Last month, the Congressional Budget Office released a report that said that while raising the country’s minimum wage might boost the incomes of millions of Americans, it would simultaneously mean hundreds of thousands of fewer workers.

According to the CBO, a graduated boost in the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 would lead to an estimated decline in employment of 500,000 workers by the second half of that year.

Although wages might go up for millions of workers, businesses would have to charge more for whatever they were selling. So really, it’s just redistribution of wealth, except for the massive layoffs.

My worry about these dumb policies is like Obamacare and minimum wage hikes is that people see bad things happening and blame businesses rather than bad policies. I think we need to be studying economics to explain what is really happening to people, so that when they have a chance to vote, they vote smart.

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Study: children of same-sex couples do less well than those of married couples

The Public Discourse reports on a recent study out of Canada.

Excerpt:

A new academic study based on the Canadian census suggests that a married mom and dad matter for children. Children of same-sex coupled households do not fare as well.

There is a new and significant piece of evidence in the social science debate about gay parenting and the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to their children’s flourishing. A study published last week in the journal Review of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates.

Unlike US-based studies, this one evaluates a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census, where same-sex couples have had access to all taxation and government benefits since 1997 and to marriage since 2005.

While in the US Census same-sex households have to be guessed at based on the gender and number of self-reported heads-of-household, young adults in the Canadian census were asked, “Are you the child of a male or female same-sex married or common law couple?” While study author and economist Douglas Allen noted that very many children in Canada who live with a gay or lesbian parent are actually living with a single mother—a finding consonant with that detected in the 2012 New Family Structures Study—he was able to isolate and analyze hundreds of children living with a gay or lesbian couple (either married or in a “common law” relationship akin to cohabitation).

So the study is able to compare—side by side—the young-adult children of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, as well as children growing up in single-parent homes and other types of households. Three key findings stood out to Allen:

children of married opposite-sex families have a high graduation rate compared to the others; children of lesbian families have a very low graduation rate compared to the others; and the other four types [common law, gay, single mother, single father] are similar to each other and lie in between the married/lesbian extremes.

Employing regression models and series of control variables, Allen concludes that the substandard performance cannot be attributed to lower school attendance or the more modest education of gay or lesbian parents. Indeed, same-sex parents were characterized by higher levels of education, and their children were more likely to be enrolled in school than even those of married, opposite-sex couples. And yet their children are notably more likely to lag in finishing their own schooling.

[...]The truly unique aspect of Allen’s study, however, may be its ability to distinguish gender-specific effects of same-sex households on children. He writes:

the particular gender mix of a same-sex household has a dramatic difference in the association with child graduation. Consider the case of girls. . . . Regardless of the controls and whether or not girls are currently living in a gay or lesbian household, the odds of graduating from high school are considerably lower than any other household type. Indeed, girls living in gay households are only 15 percent as likely to graduate compared to girls from opposite sex married homes.

Thus although the children of same-sex couples fare worse overall, the disparity is unequally shared, but is instead based on the combination of the gender of child and gender of parents. Boys fare better—that is, they’re more likely to have finished high school—in gay households than in lesbian households. For girls, the opposite is true. Thus the study undermines not only claims about “no differences” but also assertions that moms and dads are interchangeable. They’re not.

With a little digging, I found the abstract of the study:

Almost all studies of same-sex parenting have concluded there is “no difference” in a range of outcome measures for children who live in a household with same-sex parents compared to children living with married opposite-sex parents. Recently, some work based on the US census has suggested otherwise, but those studies have considerable drawbacks. Here, a 20% sample of the 2006 Canada census is used to identify self-reported children living with same-sex parents, and to examine the association of household type with children’s high school graduation rates. This large random sample allows for control of parental marital status, distinguishes between gay and lesbian families, and is large enough to evaluate differences in gender between parents and children. Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 % as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. Daughters of same-sex parents do considerably worse than sons.

The author of the study is a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. His PhD in economics is from the University of Washington. A previous study had shown that gay relationships typically have far more instability (they last for more shorter times). That’s not good for children either. Another study featured in the Atlantic talked about how gay relationships have much higher rates of domestic violence. That’s not good for children either. So we have three reasons to think that normalizing gay relationships as “marriage” would not be good for children.

The reason I am posting this is because I want people to understand why social conservatives like me propose these laws defining and promoting marriage. We do favor natural marriage for the same reason that we oppose no-fault divorce, and for the same reason why we oppose welfare for single mothers (it encourages single motherhood). We don’t want to encourage people to deprive children of their mother or their father. We look at the research, and we decide that children need their mother and father. Given the choice between the needs of the child and restraining the freedom of the adults, we prefer the child’s need for her mother and father. It’s not just arbitrary rules, there is a reason behind the rules.

But children are not commodities. They have certain needs right out of the box. Adults should NOT be thinking about how to duct-tape a child onto any old relationship that doesn’t offer the same safety and stability that opposite sex marriage offers. We should be passing laws to strengthen marriage in order to protect children, not to weaken it. Libertarians don’t want to do that, because they want adults to be free to do as they please, at the expense of children.  Libertarians think that the adults should be able to negotiate private contracts and have no obligations to any children who are present, or who may be present later.

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Physicist Frank Tipler on the usefulness of refereed journals, then and now

I really enjoyed this episode of the ID the Future podcast.

Description:

Is the only good science peer-reviewed science? Are there other avenues to present important scientific work? On this episode of ID The Future, Professor of Mathematics Dr. Frank Tipler discusses the pros and cons of peer review and refereed journals. More than fifty peer-reviewed papers discussing intelligent design have been published, but critics of the theory still proclaim a lack of peer-reviewed work as an argument. Listen in as Tipler shows how things have changed with the peer review process and what we can do about it.

About the speaker:

Frank Tipler was born and raised in Andalusia, Alabama. His first science project was a letter written in kindergarten to Werner von Braun, whose plans to launch the first earth satellite were then being publicized. Von Braun’s secretary replied, regretting he had no rocket fuel for Tipler as requested. By age five, he knew he wanted to be an astrophysicist. But he’s always been a polymath, reading widely across disciplines and into the history of science and theology. After graduating from MIT and the University of Maryland, he did postdoctoral work at Oxford and Berkeley, before arriving at Tulane in 1981.

Whenever William Lance Craig often cites a book by two physicists named “Barrow and Tipler” called “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle” (Oxford University Press, 1988) in his debates to support the fine-tuning argument.  This Tipler is that Tipler! Dr. Tipler is a master of the physics of cosmology and fine-tuning. However, I definitely disagree with him on some of his ideas.

The MP3 file is here. (17 minutes)

Topics:

  • the changing nature of refereed journals and peer-review
  • previously, the refereed journals were more about communication
  • now, ideas are not taken seriously unless they are published in these journals
  • the problem is that referees can be motivated by ideological concerns
  • before, an obscure patent official named Einstein submitted a physics paper and it was published
  • now, an uncredited person would not be able to have a brilliant paper published like that
  • today, there are so many scientists that many more papers are submitted
  • although it restricts BAD ideas, it can also end up censoring NEW ideas
  • the problem is that any really brilliant idea has to go against the prevailing consensus
  • peer-review may actually be holding back the progress of science by censoring NEW ideas
  • some referees are motivated to censor ideas that undercut their reputation and prestige
  • Dr. Tipler was told to remove references to intelligent design before one of his papers would be published
  • how scientists with NEW ideas can bypass the system of refereed journals when they are censored
  • peer-review has value when it finds errors, but not when it suppresses new ideas

I think this one is a must listen. As much as I like peer-reviewed research, it’s important to acknowledge the limitations. I think if you’re going into a debate, you definitely want to be the one with the peer-reviewed evidence. Let the other guy be the one making assertions and stating his preferences and opinions. But that doesn’t mean that the peer-review process can’t be improved – I think that it can be improved.

Here is a listing of some recent peer-reviewed publications related to intelligent design.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: methodology used by Southern Poverty Law Center to detect “hate groups” is flawed

An article from the Christian Post reports on a new study published by Dr. George Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas.

Excerpt:

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch” fails to use objective criteria in determining which organizations should be labeled a “hate group,” George Yancey, professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, finds in a new study, “Watching the Watchers: The Neglect of Academic Analysis of Progressive Groups,” published in the January issue of the journal Academic Questions.

SPLC’s list dubiously lists Family Research Council as a hate group while ignoring anti-Christian groups that use similar rhetoric, which demonstrates that the list is more about mobilizing liberals than providing an objective source for hate groups, Yancey argues. SPLC has escaped critical analysis of its work in academia because of a liberal bias among academicians, the study additionally claims.

SPLC’s Hatewatch has become the definitive guide among some scholars, authors and media organizations to what is, or is not, a “hate group.” Conservatives have long criticized the list for labeling social conservative organizations, such as Family Research Council, as hate groups.

[...]According to SPLC, Yancey explains, FRC is a hate group because it intentionally makes hateful and untrue statements about the LGBT community, which can lead to violence even though FRC does not engage in violent actions. (Yancey noted the irony that while SPLC does not cite any examples of FRC-inspired violence, SPLC’s Hatewatch actually did incite violence in the case of Floyd Corkins.) To support this contention, SPLC notes that FRC reports on studies showing that the child molestation rate is higher among gays and same-sex parenting harms children, and quotes FRC President Tony Perkins saying that LGBT activists seek to “persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle.”

If this is the standard for labeling an organization a hate group, Yancey says, then the anti-Christian MRFF should also be on the list.

In a Huffington Post blog, Michael Weinstein, founder of MRFF, claimed that Christians will be responsible for ushering in “a blood-drenched, draconian era of persecutions, naturalistic militarism and superstitious theocracy.” And Weinstein has written books claiming that Christians are willing to use mass murder to bring about their goals.

“In these few comments Weinstein has violated some of the same norms SPLC used to designate FRC as a hate group. Weinstein is promoting a myth of Christian violence not substantiated by previous research and has attributed motives to conservative Christians that he cannot document,” Yancey contends.

Yancey does not argue that MRFF should be on Hatewatch, or that FRC should be off Hatewatch. Rather, he argues that if Hatewatch is to be an objective source for labeling hate groups, both groups should either be on the list or off the list.

One possible explanation for why SPLC does not include anti-Christian groups on Hatewatch, Yancey speculates, is that Hatewatch is a tool for mobilizing liberals, rather than an objective source of hate groups.

“As our society became more politically partisan, SPLC cemented its position as speaking for those with progressive political and social attitudes. Rather than developing into an objective clearinghouse for the identification of hatred – no matter where the source of that hatred may develop – SPLC has become a useful organization for progressives to legitimate their battle against conservatives. Since conservative Christians are categorized as opponents there is little, if any, incentive for SPLC to recognize hateful expressions against Christians, because doing so actually works against the social vested interest of the group,” he wrote.

Yancey’s analysis of SPLC, though, is in service of a larger point. There is not enough critical analysis of liberal groups in academia, he argues, because too many in academia share the viewpoint of liberal groups.

“This is a critique of the social biases within academia that preclude critical analysis of progressive social groups,” Yancey wrote. “Such neglect serves academics with progressive, secular perspectives by allowing progressive, secular social groups to make claims of truth and objectivity. Such claims enhance the social power of these progressives. But this neglect damages any real scientific attempt to assess social and political factors in our society. Scrutiny directed at conservative and religious groups – and they should be scrutinized – while progressive organizations are given a pass creates a distorted understanding of reality. In doing this, social science scholars replace an objective examination of our society with a biased approach serving progressive social and political interests.”

Keep in mind that the SPLC materials are being used by government agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Army.

You might remember that I blogged before about George Yancey’s work on liberal bias in academia.

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