Saturday, June 28, 2008

Both Repubs and Dems Fall for Creationist Stupidity

The good news is that we're just as smart as we've ever been. The bad news is that we're not very smart. According to a recent Gallup poll, about 60% of Republicans and 38% of Democrats believe the Earth is 10,000 years old and humans did not result from evolution but were put here as is by god.

For those playing the home game of reality, the Earth is a lot older --much, much older by billions of years. The available evidence indicates Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Scientific evidence also overwhelmingly indicates that humans are the result of an evolutionary process that occurred over millions of years. Taken in its entirety, the conclusion is inescapable that humans are just like any other creature on the planet in that we can trace our origins all the way back to the first primordial life forms that emerged on the planet 3 billion years ago. Unforunately for the creationist believers, all the evidence points away from the Earth being 10,000 years old or god depositing us here in our current form at that time.

Still though, a large swath of the public, particularly Republicans, seems completely ignorant of the facts supporting evolution, so the widespread view of creationism could have an impact on the presidential election this fall, according to Gallup:

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is facing the challenge of
gaining the confidence and enthusiasm of conservative Republicans. Turnout among
this group could be an important factor in determining the final vote outcome in
a number of key swing states. As seen here, Republicans are in general
sympathetic to the creationist explanation of the origin of humans, and if the
issue of what is taught in schools relating to evolution and creationism
surfaces as a campaign issue, McCain's response could turn out to be quite

Maybe appealing to the public's ignorance is par for the course in politics, but it's still disturbing that McCain's best bet for winning the White House in November may be to cast himself as accepting the unfounded and ignorant views of creationism, rather than as someone who's informed and educated about the scientific facts.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

EPO tests are unreliable, study shows

A while back I wrote about the questionable science behind last year's decision that 2006 Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis, was guilty of doping with testosterone. Now, two new studies shows that the tests used to catch illegal dopers are unreliable at best.

In a study released today, researchers doped men with EPO and collected urine samples from them. The samples were tested by two labs accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). One lab found samples positive for EPO when they were actually negative, and negative when they were actually positive. The other lab didn't find any of the samples to be positive. Perhaps even worse, the two labs did not agree on the test results. This means the lab tests are bogus and a person deemed to be positive for EPO doping may just as well be innocent.

In the second study, which came out last month, researchers found that many men --Asians especially-- have a genetic mutation that allows them to dope with testosterone but test negative on the test used at the Olympics and the Tour de France.

It's important to note that a WADA-accredited lab in France did the initial testing on Landis' samples. If the WADA lab is using tests that are unreliable, their credibility is in question, especially after their sloppy procedures came to light in the Landis case. At the very least, WADA should make an effort to determine if the tests they use are unreliable or inaccurate. But once again, as it did in Landis' case, WADA has shown itself to be less interested in good science and more interested in blind dogma. According to the New York Times, WADA dismissed the study's findings:
Olivier Rabin, scientific director of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said his group had tested its labs, sending samples of urine from people who were taking EPO and from people who were not. In general, he said, the labs agreed. But Rabin added that when the agency sends samples to its labs, they are not sent anonymously — the lab knows the samples are from WADA.

The agency does not share data from the tests on its labs, so it was not possible to determine how the organization's research compared with the latest study.

It's unconsciounable that WADA's scientific director isn't concerned that the tests used by his labs may be implicating innocent people and letting the guilty go undetected. The only fair conclusion is the agency is less concerned about catching dopers and more interested in playing politics.

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