Body Found, Danielle?

A body has been found by volunteer searchers looking for Danielle, the little girl who’s been missing in California. The authorities have not released an official identification, but believe it is Danielle.
David Westerfield, the neighbor charged with kidnapping and murder in the case, plead not guilty on Wednesday. He was arrested when blood consistent with Danielle’s was found in his mobile home.
UPDATE (03-01-2002): Medical examiners have confirmed that the body was Danielle van Dam.
The family is maintaining a website with information at http://www.daniellemissing.com/.

A Moment of Silence

Two Green Beret soldiers were shot, and one killed, in a terrible training accident in North Carolina today. In what appears to be an incredibly tragic failure of communications, the soldiers mistook a deputy sheriff for a participant in an exercise. When the deputy attempted to seize a weapon the solders had, they attempted to disarm him. Fearing for his life, the officer (who was unaware of the military exercise) shot both men.
I have no witty comments for this one. It’s a sad day when the life of a man is lost, especially one dedicated enough to his country to become a Green Beret.

Evolution as Science?

HokiePundit gives an account of the recent Evolution/Creation debate held at Virginia Tech. During my years there, I never attended these debates for the reason that HP gives as “dislike of the campus Freethinkers”, although I would have phrased it “the so-called Freethinkers were the most closed minded, spiteful people I ever met”. But I digress.
My personal philosphy doesn’t particularly incorporate evolution or creationism, so I’m mildly unbiased on the issue. But I was severely disappointed by the comments of Dr. Pigliucci, who spoke for the evolution side. (Note that my comments are based solely on the account of the debate as given by HokiePundit.) Here’s the worst bit attributed to Dr. P.

Finally, he said that evolutionary biology was a scientific field that was not required to use the scientific method, and said that one reason most evolution papers don’t provide much proof is that it would be too difficult for an ordinary person to understand.

Quite frankly, if Dr. P was willing to stand up and say that, he’s so full of shit his eyes were brown. And he most certainly is not correct. Science, by definition, requires the scientific method. Without it, you’re just practicing Cargo Cult Science. I almost wish I had been at the debate just to have had the honor of calling him on that ruse. The other half of his statement is just as ridiculous. I’ve got a far better chance of understanding a paleo-biology paper than I do of understanding a sub-atomic-physics paper (personally, that is, I’m not speaking for the public in general), and yet those crazy sub-atomic-physicists publish details upon details in their papers. If this kook was the best that the Freethinkers could supply for the debate, they deserved to lose whatever credibility they had put on the line.

How the DEA Supports Terrorists

I’ve just discovered Reason Online. Some excellent articles on a huge range of topics. I had to post this one though, since I’ve seen these ads and was equally annoyed by them.

What makes the ads especially galling, however, is that the violence they cite (to the extent that it really is related to the drug trade) would not be occurring if it weren’t for the war on drugs. By creating a black market, prohibition replaces peaceful businessmen with violent criminals. It generates artificial profits for thugs, guerillas, and terrorists.

Amen, brother!

Winter’s Never Been Warmer

The NOAA has announced that this last January was the warmest ever in the history of recorded weather. Certainly not a suprise to those of you, like myself, who got out and enjoyed the 70 degree days last month. Of course, this has been taken by the “global warming crowd” as sign of further impending doom. Not being particularly familiar with the issue myself, I poked around for some more information. It turns out that the EPA has an excellent site on the issue for laymen.

Guns and Crime in the UK

Handguns have been illegal in the UK since 1997, when they were outlawed to stem crime. However, as anyone familiar with the story of Washington D.C. can tell you, laws like that just don’t work. Since 1997, gun crime in the UK has not gone down. In fact, in the last ten months, it’s gone up more than 300% in many urban areas.
Simon Heffer’s recent column finally says what so many of us in America have known for hundreds of years: the government can’t protect you. Mr. Heffer tells the government:

Given this scandalous situation, it is time for the Government to confer a new right on the people: the right to bear arms. Gun control in this country is in any case a joke. There is far more gun crime now than there was before the idiotic law passed by the Major government to ban handguns after the Dunblane massacre.

He could still learn one important lesson from his American brethern, though. The right to protect yourself isn’t “confered” by the government any more than the right to breathe is. The English (or British, if you prefer) need to snap out of their statist meta-context and realize that the entity responsible for protection isn’t the state, but the individual. While that will certainly make the state grumpy, it would make it a helluva lot safer for people when the sun goes down.
There’s a spectrum of opposition to crime: punishment, deterrence, protection, prevention. And each layer of society (society, state, and individual) has a certain proficiency at those elements. The state can efficiently handle punishment, and can thus play a role in deterrence. It is not very effective at protection or prevention though. Society as a whole can be very effective at prevetion, more so than the state or individuals. But effective protection is only achieved through the actions of individuals. And when society and the state affirm that the individual has the lattitude needed for protection, individuals play a crucial role in deterrence.