Patenting and Profiting from the Corona Virus Vaccine

Labour fanboy Owen Jones, writing in the Guardian, opines that The Covid vaccine will benefit humanity – we should all own the patent. I agree, but disagree with much of his reasoning as to why.

The Pfizer/BioNTech experimental vaccine itself uses a spike protein technology reportedly developed by the US government: without the state, this vaccine would probably not have been developed so speedily. While nearly 10,000 human lives are lost across the world each day to the pandemic, Pfizer’s CEO cashing in on the vaccine news by selling $5.6m in shares should cause more than discomfort.

Why? They have developed something the world wants. Why wouldn’t that cause investors to want to buy their shares?

“Essentially, pharmaceutical companies are global monopolies, which are given the right to charge whatever the market is willing to tolerate for the new medicines they produce,” says Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now, which is calling for patents on the Pfizer vaccine to be suspended. Patents award them exclusive rights to make and sell their drugs for 20 years, preventing the supply of cheaper, generic versions.

I am in complete agreement. The patent system no longer serves its purpose, which was to protect inventors. It has become a tool for corporate warfare, only available to and wielded by large companies.

Here is a sector not driven by curing illness but rather by shareholder profits: for example, recent research found that revenue from soaring insulin prices has been splashed on shareholders rather than research and development. When startup companies spring up developing innovative new drugs, big pharma buys them up and even shuts down the development of such novel treatments in order to stifle competition.

It’s fine for a company to shut down their own projects. It’s fine for companies to buy other companies. Insulin prices aren’t high because insulin is difficult for another company to produce and sell more cheaply. Here is a rare occasion where I agree with a socialist policy: having a public health care option, and making sure that the public health system is legally required to buy the cheapest drugs, can prevent the kind of collusion between big pharma and the health care providers that drives up prices in the US. That’s why insulin is far cheaper in Canada.

Take two particularly horrifying examples of this broken pharmaceutical industry. While millions of Africans were dying in the HIV/Aids pandemic, big pharma attempted to block cash-strapped governments importing cheaper versions of life-saving drugs.

If drug companies were actually competing, governments could (and should) simply ban anyone who tried to strong arm them from selling their products in country. Again, the patent system is used as a weapon to prevent competition.

Here’s another: the rise of infections resistant to antibiotics is an emergency perhaps even comparable to the climate crisis. Yet pharmaceutical companies have failed to invest in developing new drugs – shockingly, there has been no new class of antibiotic developed for nearly four decades – because it simply isn’t profitable. This colossal failure led the government’s former “superbug tsar” Jim O’Neill to suggest nationalised drug companies might be the only answer.

Pharmaceutical companies are under no obligation to spend their money on things that aren’t profitable. I’m open to publicly funding research in the area, but such research tends to be wasteful.

“We need to respond to Covid with cooperation, solidarity, and equity,” Diarmaid McDonald of Just Treatment, which is campaigning against secret deals between government and big pharma on any vaccines, tells me. “But the big-pharma model is the antithesis of this: it’s about closed business models, which are focused on competitive efforts done in isolation not to provide the best outcomes to all, but the highest possible profits to the company.”

We don’t need cooperation, solidarity, or equity. We need an effective vaccine as soon as possible. I agree cooperation could speed things up, but the profit motive is better able to do so.

In response to the early-2000s pandemic caused by Sars – also a coronavirus – governments committed to increasing investment in research, helping to develop promising vaccine candidates, which could have been used against Covid-19. But pharmaceutical companies abandoned the research. Why? Because it was unlikely to be immediately profitable. It gets worse: major pharmaceutical companies blocked an EU proposal in 2017 to fast-track vaccines for pathogens such as coronavirus.

Companies are under no obligation to spend their money and tie up their people based on government commitments. Government is notorious for prioritizing the wrong things. Only 774 people died worldwide from SARS. Pharmaceutical companies rightly saw this as wasted opportunity cost. If the EU wanted to research vaccines for future corona viruses, they should have done so in their universities.

Here’s some basic common sense. Last month, the Indian and South African governments asked the World Trade Organization to give countries the power to neither grant nor enforce patents linked to Covid-19 drugs and vaccines until global immunity is achieved. This week, they were backed up by leading UN human rights experts who called on governments to ensure universal access to a vaccine. Such proposals are being blocked.

I agree with the Indians and the South Africans that anybody should be able to reverse engineer and produce the vaccine. A company has no obligation to offer universal access to its products.

A small number of rich countries have struck deals for more than a billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, leaving less than a quarter of what is planned to be produced for the rest of the world.

This is how capitalism works. Pfizer has something we want (the vaccine), and we have something they want (money). Why would Pfizer not agree to sell to someone who put up the money in a deal? They can then borrow capital against that promise, so the deal itself is valuable.

The race to find a coronavirus treatment has one major obstacle: big pharma.

Bullshit. Pfizer isn’t getting in anyone else’s way, and they are leading the way.

Rather than being a PR triumph for big pharma, coronavirus should serve as a reminder of the disastrous consequences of leaving a life-saving industry in the hands of a profiteering monopoly. Britain has it better than most countries: the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has considerable leverage over pharmaceutical companies by being able to judge whether their drugs are value for money for the NHS. But, while the US pays on average nearly four times more for drugs than other countries, everybody is being ripped off.

The profit motive is what drives innovation. Patents get in the way of innovation, and are the major cause of high drug costs in countries like Canada and the UK that have public health care. Don’t throw the baby (innovation) out with the bathwater (patents).

A pharmaceutical industry that has long made exorbitant profits by free-riding on public-sector research has been granted its most lucrative money-spinner yet. So yes, rejoice that a vaccine may well be coming, but don’t give kudos to a pharmaceutical industry that is as dysfunctional as it is morally bankrupt.

The purpose of publicly funded research is to make progress in science in areas that don’t have immediate application. This science then forms the bedrock on which new innovation is founded. If companies are merely taking research done on the public dime and patenting it, governments should put a stop to it. If they use university research as a basis for their own innovations, then that public money was well spent. That is the purpose of basic research.

One need only look to Merck, which found a cure for river blindness in 1987 and paid to have the cure distributed in Africa, to see that there are still people in industry who care about more than just money. Get rid of patents and other obstacles to true competition. These are what makes the industry dysfunctional.

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Is Freedom of Association Dangerous?

I’m going to comment on the article The Dangerous Rise Of Men Who Won’t Date “Woke” Women, published in January on REFINERY29 by Vicky Spratt. I’d say refusing to date woke woman was is entirely appropriate, if you don’t want want to date woke women. This is called freedom of association. So what’s the danger?

White man of the moment, Laurence Fox … told a BAME audience member that Meghan Markle has not been on the receiving end of racism before subsequently appearing on the cover of The Sunday Times to tell the world that he does not “date woke women” and then displaying an appalling understanding of history by calling the inclusion of a Sikh soldier in Sam Mendes’ film 1917 “incongruous”.

Markle is married to one of the English royal family. It’s hard to see how she could be much more privileged. Fox apologized for his error regarding the Sikh’s participation in world war I. At worst, that makes him ignorant.

Laurence Fox … does not date “woke” women who he believes are being taught that they are “victims”, irrespective of whether they are right or not. And he also doesn’t believe in white privilege, irrespective of the fact that he works in a painfully undiverse industry, was privately educated and comes from a wealthy acting family which is nothing short of a dynasty.

Feminists do indeed teach that all women are victims of the patriarchy, whether they are or not. White privilege theory is bullshit. There are plenty of homeless people who are white. There is plenty of diversity on British TV. The populace of the UK is much less diverse than one would imagine by watching the BBC.

Fox is denying racism and sexism, irrespective of whether or not they exist. It’s nothing short of gaslighting. It’s all very Donald Trump.

No, he is denying that they exist for all who claim that they do. Even if he were wrong, sincere claims that are wrong are not gaslighting, they are merely incorrect. When Trump is wrong, there is often a kernel of truth (like the fact that 80% of migrant latinas were raped on their journey to the American border) behind what he says. He is often being hyperbolic, though I suppose this could be considered gaslighting.

I could go over all the things he’s said; I could use data to prove how wrong he is.

Could you? Then why don’t you?

There’s nothing funny about the things Fox is saying. It’s dangerous. He is just one very privileged man, and as a result of said privilege, has been given a platform. And he has used that platform to legitimise a bigger backlash against diversity and progress which is unfolding every single day in less public corners of the internet.

People have a right to freedom of expression. If you think freedom of expression is dangerous, that makes you dangerous.

Not wanting to date “woke” women, far from being laughable, is actually one of the more insidious aspects of it. Spend an afternoon on any major dating app and you’ll come across (generally white) men saying openly sexist and misogynistic things. They might say “no psychos” or that they “fucking hate big eyebrows” in their bios. And, by and large, they also tend to hold extremely right-wing views and see themselves as victims of liberal thinking.

So what’s the problem? Just don’t swipe right.

In fact, as I was writing this, a dear friend sent me a screenshot of a guy she’s just matched with who describes Jordan B Peterson as his “dream dinner guest”. Yes, the same Jordan B Peterson who thinks that white privilege is a “Marxist lie” and wants millennials to drop their obsession with “social justice”.  

White privilege is a cultural Marxist lie. Millennials should drop their obsession with equality of outcome and identity politics, both of which are part of that cancerous ideology. 

I, meanwhile, recently had to block someone who after matching with me launched into a vile rant about how women are “evil”, “only want sex” and treat men as though they are “disposable”. When I asked him if he hated women he replied that he had “only moderate disdain” for us before asking me whether I didn’t want to date him because I’m actually “pretty rough”. 

I put money on you eliciting that response by being insufferable.

Hostility towards feminism is feeding directly into far-right movements online.

Smearing anti-feminsts as “far right” not only makes you look like an idiot, it has made the slur meaningless. After Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and Carl Benjamin, who are all fairly centrist, are called out as the apostles of Hitler, no one with a brain is going to listen to those who cry “Nazi”.

All of this, of course, speaks not only to the presence of the very active online communities of anti-feminist incels but to the prevalence of the hideous and incorrect ideas they promote.

Most anti-feminists who have any audience are not incels. Peterson and Benjamin are married to woman, Ruben to a man. Smearing anyone who is anti-feminist as an incel makes you look like an idiot.

It doesn’t take magical thinking to see how men are radicalised by anti-feminism. As the saying goes: “When you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

What a great example of projection.

Hope Not Hate … found that a third of young British people today believe that feminism is marginalising or demonising men and warned that these beliefs were a “slip road” to other far-right ideas.

It is a fact that men are being marginalized. Far fewer than 50% of those entering college are men. They are also being demonized by feminists claims of male privilege due to a massive patriarchal conspiracy. If realizing that feminists truly hate men is a slip road to far-right ideas, maybe feminists should stop attacking men with slogans like #killallmen.

This isn’t just speculation. We know that the number of far-right referrals to the British government’s deradicalisation scheme Prevent has dramatically increased recently. In the year from 2017/18 they jumped by 36%, while referrals for Islamism actually decreased by 14%.

What are the actual numbers of each? How are decisions to refer made? Are the people making them ideologically neutral?

Right now, Laurence Fox … is legitimising hatred and division.

Hatred and division is being caused by feminists. Fox is merely pointing it out. If you dispute his claims, bring a real argument.

And yet he cannot be completely unaware of the role he plays; he … turned up wearing a pro-Donald Trump MAGA (Make America Great Again) cap.

Doing something controversial while promoting a record is pretty much par for the course.

Playing devil’s advocate by wandering the streets in a MAGA cap to provoke “hipsters” can quickly turn into something more sinister. The far right itself can be difficult to pin down because it isn’t exactly a coherent global movement with a concrete set of ideas.

It seems like the “far right” is simply anything you disagree with. The fact that it’s impossible to pin down is fairly convenient. You can just point to anyone and scream Nazi, and they will do what you want.

It was 8chan that hosted the manifestos of three mass shooters who killed scores of people last year: the El Paso shooter (who left 20 people dead and many more wounded only a couple of weeks ago), the Poway shooter (who opened fire at a synagogue in California last April) and the Christchurch shooter (who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand last March).

Yes, 8chan hosts very edgy content that mainstream sites will not. This doesn’t make them far right. They are free speech extremists. Unless you are saying that free speech is far right, that is.

Susan Faludi wrote about the link between violence, anger and anti-feminism prophetically in her book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women back in 1991.

Faludi was a feminist. Of course she smears anti-femists.

For men like Fox, who feel they have been wronged somehow, that they are missing out on opportunities because, for once in history, they are being given to other people, women and people of colour become the enemy. 

Feminists and communists are the enemies of freedom, not women and people of colour.

You can see it in the abuse and threats received by women MPs and in the wildly different treatment of Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton. While Middleton, who generally keeps herself to herself and says little, has become a pinup heroine for traditionalists, Markle, who has spoken openly about sexism and racism, trying to use her platform for good, has been – quite literally – driven out of the country, condemned for being an outspoken snowflake. 

All MPs receive abuse. Any privileged member of the royal family who attempts to act as the representative of the common man deserves to be roasted, much as Prince Charles is when he lectures us on the environment from the deck of his luxury yacht.

It’s important not to trivialise this anti-woke, anti-women backlash. In the end, it’s only by paying attention to it that we can understand it and do something about it. 

Except that you’ve shown that you completely misunderstand it. When someone tells you they find you oppressive, trying to force them to shut up is not going to make them find you less oppressive. To misquote Princess Leia, the more you tighten your grip, the more anti-feminsts will slip through your fingers.

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A Libertarian Perspective on Covid-19

There is a vast spectrum of opinion on Covid-19 and the SARS2 corona virus. One end believes that governments should declare martial law and forcefully lock down their people, in the extreme, extending such lock-downs indefinitely to prevent climate change. At the other end, there are those who believe the entire thing is a hoax, designed to enable a vast globalist conspiracy to take over the world. Naturally, the correct view lies somewhere in between.

I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of the anti-globalists first.

It is certain that there are those who seek to use Covid-19 to further their globalist agenda. These people do indeed have real power and influence. How far this extends is unclear. Allegations that the international monetary fund (IMF) has demanded authoritarian lock-downs be imposed as a condition for relief don’t seem unbelievable to me. Especially in China, and to a lesser extent in Europe, the authoritarians wield real power.

On the other hand, the anti-globalists are understating the severity of Covid-19. While it is true that case numbers are higher now due to expanded testing, deaths are climbing. Certainly there are deaths attributed to Covid-19 that are not due to it, but no metric is perfect. The idea that you should ignore a phenomenon because its measurement is imprecise is foolish. Also, one should never attribute to a conspiracy anything that can be put down to mere incompetence.

Next, the pros and cons of the authoritarians view.

Centralized control works very effectively when the central authority is doing the right thing. Both China and Australia have been unarguably successful when it comes to slowing the spread of the SARS2 corona virus. Governing by majority opinion is very ineffective. The majority tend to vote in their short term interests, leading to massive problems (like debt) in the future.

Authoritarians are also very effective at doing harm when the central authority does the wrong thing. Over and over, authoritarian governments have shown that they can’t predict the outcomes of their actions. Millions starved to death due to the communist government of the Soviet Union. When new powers are given to a central government during an emergency (like the new powers after 9/11), they are rarely rescinded when the emergency is over. Power always leads to corruption.

So what would a sane, rational approach look like?

What limits should there be on government power? The government has no right to prevent people from doing things that are legal and do no harm. Does opening your restaurant do harm? No, assuming you are not forcing people to enter. Covid-19 is not like food safety, where a customer has no way to access their risk of food poisoning. Any adult should be capable of determining the level of risk they are putting themselves in by going into a restaurant.

If everyone engages in risky behaviour, the virus will spread, eventually to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, who are at high risk of developing Covid-19. Those who care for them have a responsibility to keep the vulnerable as safe as possible. This responsibility extends to all people to a degree. The government should issue recommendations to guide people to engage in safe behaviour. The government does not have a right to break the charter and use force to curtail people’s rights. There are stupid people who will do stupid things. The government cannot prevent this.

I recommend you assess risk and don’t do anything stupid. Since March, I haven’t been to the office (it’s closed), taken transit, gone to a movie theatre, or travelled out of my area. I have been to restaurants and taken several short trips to a resort hotel that’s nearby. Until recently, I haven’t worn a mask, since I’ve done very little that might expose me to the corona virus. Recently, as the number of cases has increased and my wife has gone back to work, I sometimes wear one, though I think there’s still little risk that I will spread the virus.

The corona virus is more dangerous than the flu. This year, for the first time in a while, I got a flu shot, mainly so that I don’t have to worry as much about going to hospital and catching the corona virus. In the eighties, I had a very bad flu and pneumonia, which took weeks of convalescence and months to fully recover from. When the corona virus vaccine is approved, I will watch carefully as the first wave of people, medical staff and the elderly, are inoculated. Assuming they fare well, when the vaccine is offered to the wider public, I intend to get it.

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BC Provincial Leaders Debate – Part 3

Previous: Part 2

The Cast

John Horgin: Leader of the New Democratic Party
Andrew Wilkinson: Leader of the Liberals
Sonia Furstenau: Leader of the Greens
Shachi Kurl: The moderator


Do you believe that reconciliation with first nations requires a province to fully consider indigenous opposition to resource developments in their territories even if it means the project will never be built?


[Non answer.]


Natural resource projects get reconciled by negotiation. Sometimes conflicts arise because of linear projects that go through many different territories. The right place to resolve those is in the courts.


I agree with Mr. Wilkinson.


Mr. Horgan, the Site C dam project is billions of dollars over budget. BC hydro has reported serious structural issues with construction and has offered no clear fix. Will you go ahead with this project?


Four billion dollars was already spent and we felt that taxpayers shouldn’t absorb that when we could have clean green energy into the future so we proceeded with the project. New challenges have come forward. We’ve appointed an individual to look at the economics and the engineering and report back to government. When we see that report, we’ll make a decision.


Your government allowed the continued export of raw logs, the ongoing construction of the trans mountain pipeline, LNG (liquid natural gas) and again Site C. Why would a voter who puts climate issues first ever support the NDP?


The Kinder Morgan [trans mountain pipeline] project is not a project that we supported. We went all the way to the supreme court to try and block it. The federal government intervened, bought the project and is proceeding with it. LNG is something I’ve always supported. LNG Canada in Kitimat is going to create thousands and thousands of jobs.


Ms. Furstenau, you’ve promised a carbon neutral province by 2045. You’ve said you’ll end oil and gas subsidies and put the money into retraining workers for employment in a green economy. What do you say to people who are worried about being left behind?


Propping up an industry with taxpayer money–LNG Canada got six billion dollars to keep it afloat because it can’t make it on its own–makes no sense. Site C is [being built] to provide subsidized electricity to fracking.


Your caucus supposed the NDP moving forward on big fossil fuel projects. Did the Greens abandon their principles in pursuit of power?


We voted against the LNG tax bill 14 times. It was the Lliberals that collaborated with the NDP to pass that bil.


Mr. Wilkinson, the BC Liberals made history by implementing a carbon tax. If elected what will you do with a currently scheduled 10 percent increase to this tax?


It’s been plateaued when the federal government got involved because the carbon tax has to be in synchronization with the federal carbon program. It will move ahead incrementally in concert with the federal government.


You have said that you would stop those who are protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline, but section two of the Canadian charter of rights guarantees freedom of expression and association. How then do you propose to stop these protests?


These disputes have to be resolved in the courts, not by blocking railroad tracks, not by blocking the West Coast Express leaving 5000 people stranded so they can’t get home for dinner and pick up their kids from day care. Protest is completely legitimate within reasonable limits. It’s got to be respectful.


[BC has] the most progressive climate action plan in North America. Mr. Wilkinson, what can you say to British Columbians. Would you pick up where Sonia and I left off?


Greenhouse gases have gone up regularly each year under the NDP. The clean BC plan doesn’t even have funding allocated to it for 25 percent of the targets. British Columbia should … electrify our transportation.


Do we need charging stations around BC? Yes. We do. We have more than any other jurisdiction in North America.

[Fact Check: According to BC Hydro, BC has about 1000 stations. California has 5000. That said, per capita, looks like we beat every American state.]

We’re funding more spaces in our universities for science, math, engineering, and technology so that we can have our younger people unlock the challenges of the future. You drove up tuition fees; you did away with grants for kids going to school .


Under your government the logging of old growth [forest] continued at the same rate as it did under the previous government. How do you answer the people who recognize the importance of protecting old growth?


You were very supportive of the report on how we could manage old growth. It will result in the deferment of [the logging of] 353000 hectares of old growth forest into the future.


That plan is in place because we pushed for action on old growth.


We put in place experts to come back and tell us where we should go and we’re implementing that plan.


Four out of five regions in British Columbia are logging old growth unsustainably.


Sonia, your party made John Horgan premier. He broke his deal with you three weeks ago. He broke his own law on fixed election dates. Can john horgan be trusted?


[Non answer]


[Rant’s about Horgin]


[Still fails to address the question]

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BC Provincial Leaders Debate – Part 2

Previous: Part 1

The Cast

John Horgin: Leader of the New Democratic Party
Andrew Wilkinson: Leader of the Liberals
Sonia Furstenau: Leader of the Greens
Shachi Kurl: The moderator


Mr Horgin, according to Statistics Canada, British Columbians in more than one in seven BC households continue to live in a place that is considered unsuitable inadequate or unaffordable. What other tools do you have to help and support people struggling with housing affordability in this province?


We’re building not-for-profit housing. We’re focusing on co-ops again. We’re making sure that renters get a bit of a break. We give homeowner grants to people who are fortunate to own a home.


One of your signature promises, ten dollar a day day care, child care advocates say so far [that] the vast majority of eligible families are not able to access this benefit. Your own timeline called for ten dollar a day child care province wide by 2027. Can you still deliver on this?


I’m confident that we can. Our colleagues in the legislature would not support that. [Note: The NDP are in a coalition with the Greens]. We put in place pilots. We put in place a fee reduction That’s why we’re putting it in front of British Columbians again.


The BC Greens are promising a free care for children younger than three and free early childhood education for three and four-year-olds. How do you propose to pay for these programs?


Just to set the record clear, of course we worked with [the NDP] to bring child care care and early childhood education. [So one of these leaders is lying].

Our plan for early childhood education is to roll it into our public education system so that every parent of a three and four year old knows that they have that 25 hours of early childhood education. We include that into the cost of our public education. We’ve put over a hundred million towards this. [No answer on where the hundred million comes from.]


Another key promise of yours is to implement a four-day work week. In a minority government, would you insist that a governing partner move forward with this promise? Is it a deal breaker?


The promise isn’t to implement a four-day workweek.


Mr. Wilkinson to you now you’ve promised to privatize ICBC [our socialist insurance beureau]. Look at the rates in Alberta. Private car insurance for some drivers is skyrocketing. How are you going to ensure that your plans to privatize auto insurance will bring down rates for everyone including young drivers?


What we’re talking about is competition: keeping the ICBC no fault model and allowing other insurers to offer their products in competition. Why would you not allow competition and see if they can come out with a better price? Young people have seen their [ICBC] rates go through the roof from fifteen hundred dollars to seven thousand dollars under the NDP.


During your party’s last term the average cost of a new home in Metro Vancouver increased 50 percent. According to Dr. Peter German’s report, the role of dirty money laundered through provincially regulated casinos was a part of the problem. If elected will you commit to continuing the money laundering inquiry?


Of course. Under the NDP this last year alone condo prices are up another 10 in Vancouver. Condo insurance is up anywhere from 40 to 400 percent under the NDP.


Andrew you’re proposing a massive cut tax cut to the PST. How can you justify that?


A quarter of businesses may close within a year and half of our families expect someone to be unemployed in the next year. If we drop the PST to zero for a year, businesses will reinvest. Things will go on sale. People will buy equipment; they will go out shopping and they will enjoy their lives right here in BC because it has to be spent in BC to get the tax break.


You can’t really identify outcomes that would come from that PST cut. We need to invest in services. We need to invest in infrastructure. Taking that six or seven billion dollar hole in revenue can really undermine government’s ability. In addition, your platform which seems to have a pretty massive deficit attached to it.


Governments can borrow money very cheaply these days. We need to build infrastructure to create employment, investment that the BC business council said was one of their highest priorities when they advised John Horgin in the summer time [to] cut the PST in half for two years.


We’ve seen the results in the early 2000s when there was a 25 percent tax cut across the board. We saw cuts in services.


There will be no cuts to government services under a Liberal government.

Coming back to housing, condominium prices have gone up by ten percent in the last year in Vancouver. House prices are up five percent, condo insurance up as much as four hundred percent. Mr. Horgin, you promised affordable housing.


You promised to eliminate the speculation tax so the speculators that used to support the BC liberals can get back to the good old days the wild west of driving up costs. The speculation tax has meant that 11000 condominiums that were vacant are now being populated by renters. That’s bringing down costs for regular people. If you give back the one point 115 million dollars [raised by the speculation tax, you] will have no money to build housing.


Rents in Metro Vancouver [are] up two thousand dollars per year since your government took office. The cost of housing is the highest it’s ever been while incomes are actually going down. The rent vacancy rate is still the same as it was when you took office.


Sonia you sided with the Liberals and did not support us doing away with tolls in the lower mainland. You blocked a hydro bill this summer that would have brought down hydro rates for people and you do not support our Covid benefit of a thousand dollars. If we’re not going to help people with affordability in a pandemic when would we?


The Covid benefit of a thousand dollars you brought out as a campaign promise, not something that was ever in the legislature. We saw an uptick in traffic after those tolls were taken off and you used it as an excuse to go ahead with Site C [a hydro project] because of the deficit that it created in the budget.


We eliminated the tolls and that took pressure off other congestion points in the lower mainland and allowed people to use modern infrastructure that they shouldn’t have to pay for, just like other infrastructure in British Columbia. It’s built for all of us it should be out of our tax base. Short-term solutions for people who are struggling [are] of course what we need to do–especially in a pandemic–and driving down hydro rates is a way to do that.


You’re undermining the resiliency and the local energy production of first nations.


We focussed on core competency at hydro and bringing costs down for people. Every project by indigenous people, we are moving on.

Next: Part 3

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BC Provincial Leaders Debate – Part 1

The hour a half long BC party leaders debate for the upcoming 2020 BC provincial election took place between incumbent Premier John Horgin of the New Democratic Party (our socialists), Andrew Wilkinson of the Liberals (who in BC are actually a center right party, by our standards), and Sonia Furstenau of the Greens, moderated by Shachi Kurl of Angus Reid, a Canadian polling company. Go watch the video for full context. Here’s my edit of the transcript, removing all of the political bullshit.


Mr. Wilkinson, why is it time for change in government?


Half of British Columbia households expect someone to lose their job this year. Another third can’t pay their bills. [We will get] rid of the provincial sales tax for a full year and then reduce [it] to three percent the second year, providing a bridging finance program for our tourism and hospitality industries and also making sure that small businesses can survive.


That is projected to be a 10 billion dollar bite out of provincial coffers. How are you going to make up the lost revenue?


It’s time to accept there are going to be deficits all around the western world and we’ve got to take the chance to borrow money at very low interest rates. [We must] invest in our people to make sure they can survive economically for the next year or so. We expect there’ll be deficits, but we can get back to a balanced budget within about five years of a [SARS 2 coronavirus] vaccine becoming available.


Mr. Horgan, … you broke your agreement on fixed election dates. Why should voters trust you again?


I believe … we should ask British Columbians what they think and where they want to go. I believe it’s the right time to do that. [Great non-answer!]


We have been … in a pandemic for seven months but you did not share the details of your 1.5 billion dollar economic recovery plan with British Columbians until days before calling this election. Why did you wait?


I think we did it right. We got the right balance. [Another great non-answer!]


Ms. Furstenau, BC’s economic recovery is in part driven by large fossil fuel projects such as LNG [liquid natural gas] and trans-mountain [pipeline] projects that many of your supporters oppose. Will you support these projects to protect the jobs that they provide?


The last thing that we need from governments is to be doubling down on investing and propping up and subsidizing to the tune of six billion dollars this industry that puts our future, our lands, and our children at peril. We [should] invest into a clean energy future that will create jobs and opportunities in every part of this province.


Your party platform calls for an unprecedented transformation to a carbon neutral economy in 25 years. That is a massive change and you’re calling for the work to begin immediately. There are so many BC sectors including small business and tourism that are struggling to survive a pandemic right now. Is this the right time for this work to begin?


It’s not a matter of making a choice. Every investment needs to ensure that it addresses the needs right now and builds the future we owe to our children.


More than 150 British Colombians have died of Covid-19 while living in long-term care. Their deaths revealed many vulnerabilities in the way this province looks after its aged including the role of private for-profit facilities. Is there a place for private for-profit care in the care of our seniors?


We are proposing … that [for] any private for-profit care home that is getting getting government funding, we know exactly how they’re spending that money that there is complete transparency and accountability. We need to move to a not-for-profit care home system.


It’s time to put forward a tax credit system that supports seniors living in the right place–usually their own home to start with. The comfort and security of their home is the safest place to be during a pandemic. [We want] them [to be] able to get a credit for home care, housekeeping services, or house repairs so that [they] can live in dignity as long as they want to in their own home and then move into a properly regulated care facility with the standards of care that I expect.


There’s a place for for-profit care. When we came to government, nine in ten care homes in British Columbia did not have the staff to meet the basic minimum standards. We put in place a single site rule so that workers who were struggling to make ends meet by working in multiple locations would focus on just one. We stopped contract flipping, … making sure that we were not having for-profit companies flipping contracts, driving down wages and forcing people to work in more facilities. We’re going to hire 7 000 to care for our seniors.


One quarter of the businesses in British Columbia expect to close forever within 12 months. There was an emergency relief package that all three parties voted in support of but this election has blocked it. John, why would you block that package?


That package is out right now Andrew. The relief on GST or PST for businesses that are investing in machinery and equipment to retain workers is going out the door in the middle of September the tax credit for those businesses also went out the door. The programs for small businesses have criteria, they’re in place, and the grant applications are in play. Public servants, not politicians will make the decision and those dollars will flow as quickly as possible.


You dragged it out until three days before the election because you thought it would serve your interests. How can we trust you to look after our small businesses and our issues in British Columbia when you did this for purely self-serving reasons so that you could have an election to try to secure your employment for the next four years? What about the 150000 people working in tourism who have no revenue this year? They looked for relief now and you blocked it by saying you’d have a consultation process.


Of the six billion dollars between budgets that we approved three and a half billion of it went out the door in March. The last bit was in consultation with British Columbians and businesses who wanted to know where to go. The tourism sector said give us an advisory committee. We put it in place and they’ll decide where that money is spent. Relief on GST or PST for businesses that are investing in machinery and equipment to retain workers is going out the door in the middle of September the tax credit for those businesses also went out the door. The programs for small businesses have criteria, they’re in place, and the grant applications are in play. Public servants, not politicians will make the decision and those dollars will flow as quickly as possible.


The advisory committee … put out their reports in July and you stalled and stalled and now those tourism operators have nothing until next year because you chose to leave them out in the breeze.


The BC Liberals put a big hole in the budget in 2001 by giving tax breaks to the wealthiest, firing 10000 people. Was that the right choice?


In 2001 the health budget was eight billion dollars. It’s now 23 billion dollars. That growth happened under the Liberals. We built 14 hospitals. In their 13 years in office out of the last 30 the NDP have built no hospitals at all.


You fired 10 000 people, largely women, to give a tax break to the wealthiest people in BC.


This is your recurring theme of creating this division among British Colombians. Calling names and talking about things that happened 17 years ago will not help us.


The consequences of your decisions were profound and tragic for seniors who found themselves in a pandemic without sufficient people to help them. and others who were going from place to place to place to make ends meet.


You’ve said the South Surrey hospital would open multiple times; nothing ever happened.


John, you’ve thrown us into this unnecessary election. You’ve put people into a place of unease at a time when we’re facing this global pandemic and you’re campaigning in different ridings indicating that infrastructure that you have promised could be at risk with the outcome of this election.


I did so because I believe … British Columbians [need] to hear from myself, Sonia, and Andrew on what [our visions are] for British Columbia. How are [we] going to solve the challenges we face because of Covid-19? We didn’t think about it in February when we tabled our balanced budget.


You’re willing to break your word. You’re willing to break agreements and you’re willing to break legislation that you yourself passed in the legislature in order to… seek that power and that majority that you still want.

Next: Part 2

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Socialist Pots Claim that Republican Kettle is Undemocratic

Writing in Slate, Joshua Keating claims to know The Real Reason Why Republicans Keep Saying “We’re a Republic, Not a Democracy”, as revealed to him by activist Astra Taylor. Are they right?

Joshua Keating

The timeworn phrase “we’re a republic, not a democracy,” once confined to campus political debates and the nerdier corners of the political internet, has been bubbling up to mainstream politics for some time now. But it was still jarring, during last week’s vice presidential debate, when Sen. Mike Lee of Utah tweeted, simply, “We’re not a democracy.” He later followed up, “Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prosperity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”

How is that “jarring”? America (like Canada) is not a pure democracy. Democracy is a system, not an objective.

Lee’s comment triggered an uproar on social media, and other conservatives took up the line. During the first day of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana made the point that America is not a “pure democracy” and quoted newspaper columnist James Gill quipping that “we don’t all put on a clean toga and rush down to the forum to vote in person on every issue.”

Who gives a rat’s ass about uproars on social media?

An even more extreme position was staked out, a few days before Lee, by Loren Culp, the long-shot Republican candidate for governor of Washington, who said in a recent interview that “democracy is mob rule” and that “famous Chinese leaders like Mao Zedong and Mikhail Gorbachev loved democracy because democracy is a step toward socialism, which is a step towards communism.”

Democracy is indeed a dangerous tool. If you empower the majority to oppress the minority, it is certainly a possible outcome.

The critique that too much democracy will inevitably lead to mob rule and tyranny is as old as Plato—hence the togas—and these men are right that it was very much on the minds of America’s founders. But for anyone who lived through the era of George W. Bush and democracy promotion it’s jarring to hear Republican candidates and politicians speak about democracy with such disdain. And it certainly seems significant that the democracy critique is picking up steam ahead of an election that could once again hinge on the difference between the Electoral College and the popular vote, as the president rails against “ballots” and refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

There’s that complaint of “it’s jarring” again. Don’t be so fragile. While the difference between the electoral college and the popular vote are not the difference between a republic and a democracy, election by the popular vote is certain to be non-representative. Just as the current system gives swing states exceptional power, election by popular vote would massively favour voters in large cities.

Astra Taylor

Ah, yes. This phrase, “We are a republic, not a democracy.” I heard this phrase frequently, but always from a certain class of person. Always from a white man… That is a phrase that is uttered by people who, looking back on the sweep of American history, see themselves as safely at the center of the narrative, and typically they see their present privileges under threat. And so, they want to shore up the privileges that they possess, and they’re looking for a sort of historic hook.

What a steaming load of crap. Astra Taylor is a racist and a sexist if she thinks only white men are capable of understanding that the US has a constitution, which is what makes it a republic. Her privilege theory is pure neo-Marxist ideology.

I think you’re seeing a real shift in conservative rhetoric because they are giving up on winning majorities. [Republicans are] figuring out how to maintain dominance with a minority of support.

When cities are overwhelmingly liberal, why wouldn’t conservatives focus on the areas they can win? If you want people in the suburbs and rural areas to vote for you, you need to offer policies that they support. If that means liberal urbanites don’t vote for you but you can still win a majority of electoral seats, so be it. In Canada, our Conservatives have often held a majority of seats in our parliament with nowhere near a majority of the popular vote.

Political institutions in this country are not majoritarian. There is a long history of exclusion. And there are quite a few veto points in the political system that obstruct majoritarian policies. So they have a lot to draw on and it’s not a novel political philosophy. It’s a reversion to the American norm in some way. Because we haven’t really been a fully inclusive democracy, ever. And to the degree that we have, it’s been for just a generation—since the Voting Rights Act—and they’re already giving up on that.

The electoral college is not exclusionary. Trying to claim it has anything to do with the Voting Rights Act, which gives rights to minorities who could be stripped of them in a pure, non-constitutional democracy is pure sophistry.

And it’s so fascinating to me that that period that I took for granted because of the moment in time I happened to be born in—this Cold War framework of “capitalism is democracy versus communism is unfreedom”—that paradigm is breaking down. So, you see people on the left becoming more self-consciously socialist and saying, “Well, hold on, maybe socialism’s not so bad.” But on the right, you also see people who are like, “Why do we even have to pretend to be democratic at all?”

Socialism is destructive. Look at Venezuala. And don’t tell me their problems were all caused by US sanctions. Bullshit. If pure democracy leads to socialism, that is a good argument against pure democracy. I have never heard a person on the right (other than the fringe far right) say that they don’t want a universally representative government.

Democracy is a term that has really deep roots in this country. It’s going to be hard to turn people against it. So I think there is something powerful in this shift. And this is why I’m saying that it justifies future strategies, because I think what it helps us do is understand what we’re up against. It helps us name the strategy that we’re going to have to fight if we care about building a more democratic society.

By more democratic, does Taylor mean that there will be less representation for the minority regions, the so called “fly over” states? Why would they agree to be ruled by the massive majority who live in California, New York, and Illinois? Moving to election by popular vote might even lead to the breakup of America. Here in Canada, we have periodic rumblings of separation from both Quebec and the western provinces. People who don’t feel their government is listening to them don’t care if it was elected by a majority.

And this is why I’m frustrated with liberals who have spent the last four years warning about “populism,” which implies that the threat is the will of the majority. The real worry right now is not tyranny of the majority. If you look at the popular will in this country, the majority of people still want action on climate change, despite all of the disinformation and all of the millions of dollars that have been poured into misleading the public about the scientific consequences, right? People want better health care and public investment in health care. People want unions, et cetera. I think the problem is not the tyranny of the majority right now. The problem is the tyranny of an elite minority.

I agree with Taylor’s premise that there is a problem with the elite minority. What I disagree with is her claim that because something is popular it is the right thing to do. If people want better health care, but to get it they borrow massively against future generations, that is a problem. Again, here is where the idea of a pure democracy falls over. If a city mismanages its budget, you can move away. When your country does the same, it’s not so easy.

This is why it’s important to understand the history of this country. The Founding Fathers were very concerned with protecting minority rights. They didn’t understand the phrase minority rights as we understand it today—protections for trans people, immigrants, et cetera. But they were very concerned with the rights of the opulent. And that’s one of their words, right? Madison said that it’s very important to structure the Senate as they did to protect the rights of the opulent minority against the landless masses.

Those who have are always at risk of having what they have earned taken from them by the majority. Clearly, not all wealth is earned, but why do others have the right to take what I have worked hard to earn? This is not hard to understand.

John Adams wrote at length about how terrible it would be if you had a system where there’s rule of the majority, because the impoverished masses would vote to redistribute wealth. That is a fact of this nation’s history. And that is the history that these Republican figures are actually conjuring when they talk about the United States being a constitutional republic, not a democracy. Mike Lee is an economic libertarian, and in his tweet he emphasized liberty and prosperity. He didn’t say equality or prosperity broadly shared, right? So it’s all about protecting property from the masses who would seek redistributive reforms, and John Adams warned of that.

Exactly. Forced redistribution is theft. Worse, empowering the establishment to do the redistribution means that most of the wealth will go to those who aren’t impoverished.

People who are annoyed by that phrase, they tend to do this counter-originalist argument. They’ll say, “Oh, you stupid conservatives, don’t you realize that actually the Founding Fathers meant representative democracy when they said republic, right?” But the Founding Fathers did not want the United States to be a direct democracy, which is how they understood Athenian democracy, to be a purely direct form of democracy. They thought that that was very unstable and risky.

And they were correct.

I guess I have two responses to that. One is, I don’t really care what the Founding Fathers thought. They also thought I should have no political rights. So I’m not here to live in their world forever. And there was a lot of disagreement among the people we count as the founders, right? There were some of them who were far more small-d democratic than others. But I think the point is that the battle was never just, “Are we a direct democracy?” But rather, “How representative of a democracy are we?” In my opinion, it’s never been representative enough, but that’s really what this conversation is about.

The founders wrought well. What they created wasn’t perfect. Replacing it with a system based purely on the popular vote would be taking a huge risk.

I think this election is existential, and I hope it reminds the left that we can’t take for granted even the basic political rights we think we have. I think for a while, there has been this sort of sense on the left that we are in this two-party system, it’s a duopoly, it’s not democratic.

You have a choice between two establishment parties that are by and large the same. How is that “existential”?

And that critique was right. Of course, the system is not democratic in so many ways. I don’t think a society with the wealth inequality we have qualifies as democratic, just as a baseline. But we also have to vote. We can’t take the progress that’s been made for granted because there’s a deeply undemocratic anti-democratic strain to American politics. That’s what we’re seeing with comments like the one from Mike Lee. There are elites who are more than happy to do away with democracy, to do away with regular people having any sort of power or say over their lives.

Wealth inequality is a natural thing. A society that had no wealth inequality would not be a democracy. I agree that there are elites that want to maintain control and enact policies that make unearned inequality worse. Many of them are unelected bureaucrats. That is why government should be as small as possible.

Democracy has always been a concept that has been held in contempt by elites, even in ancient Athens. And that attitude is alive and well. Democracy is an idea that we really have to put a lot of care into, and constantly be engaging with, and to me, that process absolutely does not require this weird, religious reverence for the Founding Fathers. That’s why I end the book on the image that let us not aspire to be Founding Fathers, but to be perennial midwives, birthing democracy anew. If you don’t renew it, if you don’t reinvent it, then it’s at risk of disappearing.

As it has to a large degree in the European Union. Who is worse? Republicans, who reject your socialist doctrine of wealth redistribution, or the Democrats, many of whom are (ironically) anti-democratic globalists. I don’t disagree that democracy is at risk of disappearing. It seems all we can do is periodically vote out the party in power to show our ire with their corruption. Socialism is not the answer.

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Evolution For the Mentally Competent’s 15 Questions for Evolutionists are a lot better (and tougher) than Eric Hovind’s, but they still show an incredible ignorance of science, and laughably try to claim that science is “just like religion”. Nonsense.

1. How did life originate? Evolutionist Professor Paul Davies admitted, “Nobody knows how a mixture of lifeless chemicals spontaneously organized themselves into the first living cell.” Andrew Knoll, professor of biology, Harvard, said, “we don’t really know how life originated on this planet.” A minimal cell needs several hundred proteins. Even if every atom in the universe were an experiment with all the correct amino acids present for every possible molecular vibration in the supposed evolutionary age of the universe, not even one average-sized functional protein would form. So how did life with hundreds of proteins originate just by chemistry without intelligent design?

Life began more than 4 billion years ago. The fact that we can learn anything about primitive life that lived that long ago is amazing. The fact that we don’t yet have the full picture of how that ancient life evolved is unsurprising. “We don’t know, therefore God” is some weak tea.

2. How did the DNA code originate? The code is a sophisticated language system with letters and words where the meaning of the words is unrelated to the chemical properties of the letters—just as the information on this page is not a product of the chemical properties of the ink (or pixels on a screen). What other coding system has existed without intelligent design? How did the DNA coding system arise without it being created?

There are many examples of systems with emergent properties. Conway’s game of life is a trivially simple automaton, yet seeding it with random noise can lead to moving and regenerating forms. Genetic algorithms find solutions to problems that are better than the best solutions that people can come up with by randomly mixing codes in much that same way genetic reproduction does. Neural networks are able to learn to do complex tasks by being trained with data rather than being designed.

3a. How could mutations—accidental copying mistakes (DNA ‘letters’ exchanged, deleted or added, genes duplicated, chromosome inversions, etc.)—create the huge volumes of information in the DNA of living things?

If you reproduce the same thing over and over with errors that can randomly delete, duplicate or scramble its parts, you can easily create huge volumes of code. Natural selection is what makes that code either beneficial (i.e. useful information) or harmless (i.e. junk DNA). Harmful mutations naturally die off.

3b. How could such errors create 3 billion letters of DNA information to change a microbe into a microbiologist? There is information for how to make proteins but also for controlling their use—much like a cookbook contains the ingredients as well as the instructions for how and when to use them. One without the other is useless. See: Meta-information: An impossible conundrum for evolution. Mutations are known for their destructive effects, including over 1,000 human diseases such as hemophilia. Rarely are they even helpful.

Most mutations are destructive, but when there are a billion billion billion reproductions, the small number that have a useful mutation is still significant. For example, a mutation in Denisovans, close cousins of humanity whose genome has been sequenced, was passed on to the Sherpa’s of Nepal, and is what allows them to live at higher altitudes than the rest of us.

3c. How can scrambling existing DNA information create a new biochemical pathway or nano-machines with many components, to make ‘goo-to-you’ evolution possible? E.g., How did a 32-component rotary motor like ATP synthase (which produces the energy currency, ATP, for all life), or robots like kinesin (a ‘postman’ delivering parcels inside cells) originate.

The same way in which the human eye originated. Don’t take my word for it. Watch as Richard Dawkins demonstrates the evolution of the eye.

4. Why is natural selection, a principle recognized by creationists, taught as ‘evolution’, as if it explains the origin of the diversity of life? By definition it is a selective process (selecting from already existing information), so is not a creative process. It might explain the survival of the fittest (why certain genes benefit creatures more in certain environments), but not the arrival of the fittest (where the genes and creatures came from in the first place). The death of individuals not adapted to an environment and the survival of those that are suited does not explain the origin of the traits that make an organism adapted to an environment. E.g., how do minor back-and-forth variations in finch beaks explain the origin of beaks or finches? How does natural selection explain goo-to-you evolution?

We now know that all birds evolved from non-avian dinosaurs. The earliest birds, like Archaeopterix, had teeth. The number of teeth animals have varies. Some environmental factor early in their evolution favoured birds that had fewer teeth, and so they developed toothless beaks.

5. How did new biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence, originate? Every pathway and nano-machine requires multiple protein/enzyme components to work. How did lucky accidents create even one of the components, let alone 10 or 20 or 30 at the same time, often in a necessary programmed sequence. Evolutionary biochemist Franklin Harold wrote, “we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.

Since soft tissues rarely fossilize, and when they do, fine features like cell chemistry aren’t preserved, we can only look at existing life forms to see such evolution. Viruses, which are very simple life forms indeed, exhibit constant evolution. Without it, the human immune system would have wiped out the common cold millions of years ago.

6. Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed? Richard Dawkins wrote, “biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose.”4 Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, wrote, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”5 The problem for evolutionists is that living things show too much design. Who objects when an archaeologist says that pottery points to human design? Yet if someone attributes the design in living things to a designer, that is not acceptable. Why should science be restricted to naturalistic causes rather than logical causes?

There are natural rock formations (like the giant’s causeway in Ireland) that look like they were designed. Just because something resembles something that a human designed does not mean it was designed. Science restricts causes to those that best explain the evidence. Every year that goes by, we have more evidence to support the theory of evolution.

7. How did multi-cellular life originate? How did cells adapted to individual survival ‘learn’ to cooperate and specialize (including undergoing programmed cell death) to create complex plants and animals?

Single celled organisms often live in communities. They form symbiotic relationships. Over time, if these prove beneficial to survival, the organisms grow more closely adapted to the relationship, until one cannot survive without the other. This is how the earliest multi cellular life evolved.

8. How did sex originate? Asexual reproduction gives up to twice as much reproductive success (‘fitness’) for the same resources as sexual reproduction, so how could the latter ever gain enough advantage to be selected? And how could mere physics and chemistry invent the complementary apparatuses needed at the same time (non-intelligent processes cannot plan for future coordination of male and female organs).

Asexual reproduction gives much less variation than sexual reproduction, where the viable genes from two organisms are mixed to produce offspring that has the traits of both parents. This allows organisms that reproduce sexually to evolve more quickly, offering them a strong advantage. As we have now learned, the differences between male and female organs are actually triggered by simple hormones. Originally, the genders of the simplest organisms that reproduced sexually would have been almost identical.

9. Why are the (expected) countless millions of transitional fossils missing? Darwin noted the problem and it still remains. The evolutionary family trees in textbooks are based on imagination, not fossil evidence. Famous Harvard paleontologist (and evolutionist), Stephen Jay Gould, wrote, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology”.6 Other evolutionist fossil experts also acknowledge the problem.

Fossilization is a very rare phenomenon. The number of fossilized gorillas ever found is roughly the same as the number of fossilized Australopithicenes found. However, with every year that goes by, we are filling in the transitional fossils. The evolution of whales from land mammals, birds from dinosaurs, and humans from our apelike ancestors, is now better understood than it has ever been. If you want to disprove a theory, you must find evidence that contradicts it.

10. How do ‘living fossils’ remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years, if evolution has changed worms into humans in the same time frame? Professor Gould wrote, “the maintenance of stability within species must be considered as a major evolutionary problem.”

If an organism is sufficiently well adapted to its ecological niche to be able to outdo its competition, it has no evolutionary pressure. Dawkins, in the video I linked above, explains the phenomenon of local maxima: when an organism evolves something that is good enough, it is unlikely to devolve and then evolve into something better.

11. How did blind chemistry create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality? If everything evolved, and we invented God, as per evolutionary teaching, what purpose or meaning is there to human life? Should students be learning nihilism (life is meaningless) in science classes?

Evolutionary biology doesn’t explain everything about the mind. Intelligence evolved. Brain size increased gradually in hominids. Much of morality evolved to allow cooperative hunting and the raising of children who, due to our larger brains, take a long time to become independent. It’s easy to see how altruism to the tribe would be advantageous. Once humans became sophisticated enough to start thinking about what we were thinking, we began to evolve these basic instincts into higher concepts. Science does not teach nihilism.

12. Why is evolutionary ‘just-so’ story-telling tolerated? Evolutionists often use flexible story-telling to ‘explain’ observations contrary to evolutionary theory. NAS(USA) member Dr Philip Skell wrote, “Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive—except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed—except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.”

Evolutionary psychology is far less a science than biology, but it does hold explanatory and predictive power. Humans are overwhelmingly self-centered and aggressive because that enables survival, but war also hurts ones chances of surviving. Spreading ones seed is obviously a good survival strategy, but protecting and providing for ones offspring is also essential. It doesn’t matter how many children you have if they all die in the winter. It’s too bad if you expect simple answers. Humans are complex, and are capable of holding irrational contradictory beliefs.

13. Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution? Dr Marc Kirschner, chair of the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, stated: “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”9 Dr Skell wrote, “It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers … .”10 Evolution actually hinders medical discovery.11 Then why do schools and universities teach evolution so dogmatically, stealing time from experimental biology that so benefits humankind?

As I mentioned previously, genetic algorithms are based directly on evolution. It also directly illuminates many aspects of genetics. Pure mathematics often similarly has little application. Yet without the pure sciences, the applied sciences would not be where they are today. Without genetics, we wouldn’t know about the genetic causes of many diseases. Without the theory of evolution, we might never have discovered genetics.

14. Science involves experimenting to figure out how things work; how they operate. Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as this operational science? You cannot do experiments, or even observe what happened, in the past. Asked if evolution has been observed, Richard Dawkins said, “Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.”

Experimental and theoretical science go hand in hand. Without a theory to test, you don’t know what experiments to run. When you have a theory about something that happened long ago (e.g. the big bang), you look for things that theory predicts (e.g. cosmic background radiation). When you find these things, they confirm the theory. Mathematics is a good example of a non-experimental science. When a mathematician comes up with a new conjecture, he doesn’t run experiments. If he can mathematically prove it, it becomes a theorem.

15. Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes? Karl Popper, famous philosopher of science, said “Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical [religious] research programme ….”13 Michael Ruse, evolutionist science philosopher admitted, “Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”14 If “you can’t teach religion in science classes”, why is evolution taught?

Religion teaches that we must take things on faith alone (sola fide). Science teaches that a hypothesis becomes a theory when it best fits the evidence. Evolution best fits the evidence. Creationism doesn’t explain why we have appendices, or tail bones. It doesn’t explain why early birds had teeth, or claws on their wings. It doesn’t explain why early whales had legs, why the platypus lays eggs, or why snakes have leg bones. Evolution explains all these things. When something contradicts a scientific theory, the theory is altered or discarded entirely. We know that the Earth is billions of years old. We know that humans evolved from apes. When facts contradict the things you believe, its time to examine your beliefs critically.

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Evolution for Dummies

Eric Hovind of Creation Today offers 10 Questions to Ask Evolutionists. I’m going to answer them.

1. Where did the space for the universe come from?

This question has nothing to do with evolution. Rather, it’s one of cosmology. The answer is “we don’t know”. Creationists will at this point say “gotcha”. Wrong. “We don’t know” is the reason we have science. We don’t make up answers, though we may conjecture or hypothesize.

2. Where did matter come from?

See my previous answer.

3. Where did the laws of the universe come from (gravity, inertia, etc.)?

They are emergent properties. Not everything needs a cause. The weak anthropic principle adequately explains them.

4. How did matter get so perfectly organized?

Physics, geology, chemistry, biochemistry, and biology are the sciences that explain this phenomenon. It’s hard to give a quick explanation of such a huge body of science.

5. Where did the energy come from to do all the organizing?

Energy is matter (E = mc2). See question 2.

6. When, where, why, and how did life come from non-living matter?

Roughly 4 billion years ago, biotic life evolved. Given the amount of change that has occurred in the Earth since then, it’s amazing that we even know this. Currently, there are only hypotheses as to how this life came about.

7. When, where, why, and how did life learn to reproduce itself?

The ability to reproduce evolved more than 4 billion years ago.

8. With what did the first cell capable of sexual reproduction reproduce?

Sexual reproduction is merely a more reliable method of gene exchange. Even viruses have the ability to exchange genes. Life that evolved sexual reproduction probably did so after evolving the ability to reproduce from a combination of the genetic material of two asexual individuals.

9. Why would any plant or animal want to reproduce more of its kind since this would only make more mouths to feed and decrease the chances of survival? (Does the individual have a drive to survive, or the species? How do you explain the origin of reproduction?)

Clearly the individual has the drive to reproduce. A species whose individuals lose the drive to reproduce will die off. Most animals are unable to reason to the level that allows them to stop reproducing when resources are scare, but it is not uncommon in nature. For example, female rabbits will (unconsciously) reabsorb their young when resources are scarce.

How can mutations (recombining of the genetic code) create any new, improved varieties? (Recombining English letters will never produce Chinese books.)

If you generated a large set of random letters and spaces, and asked a Chinese speaker to choose the half of the sample that were most like Chinese, and then took the survivors and paired them up, then generated two random combinations of the “words” in each, while randomly mutating the words at a low rate, and you repeated this process millions of times, eventually, you would be producing Chinese. This is known as a genetic algorithm.

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Review: “Jennifer’s Body”

* * * B

Jennifer’s Body is a horror film from 2009. While serious, it has some self-aware comedy that makes it much lighter fare that, for example, “Let Me In”. The horror premise is very weak. Since it comes just before the third act, it weakens the ending. This is compensated for by an excellent denouement, which is almost a fourth act.

Needy (Amanda Seyfried) accompanies her hot friend Jennifer (Megan Fox) to a concert at their small town night spot. After a fire burns the event down, Jennifer leaves with the band. Needy is woken in the night by Jennifer, who is covered in blood. The next day, a teen aged boy is murdered. Gradually, Needy begins to suspect that something horrible has happened to Jennifer.

Seyfried gives a good performance, and Fox is solid. The story is good, though played for laughs a little too much for my taste. What really saved the film for me was the ending which, though over the top, fit the film perfectly and saved it from being just another dumb high school horror movie.

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