2007/09/27

## NYTimes: Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life’s Origin

### 九月 30, 2007

By CORNELIA DEAN
Published: September 27, 2007

A few months ago, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins received an e-mail message from a producer at Rampant Films inviting him to be interviewed for a documentary called “Crossroads.”

The film, with Ben Stein, the actor, economist and freelance columnist, as its host, is described on Rampant’s Web site as an examination of the intersection of science and religion. Dr. Dawkins was an obvious choice. An eminent scientist who teaches at Oxford University in England, he is also an outspoken atheist who has repeatedly likened religious faith to a mental defect.

But now, Dr. Dawkins and other scientists who agreed to be interviewed say they are surprised — and in some cases, angered — to find themselves not in “Crossroads” but in a film with a new name and one that makes the case for intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. The film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” also has a different producer, Premise Media.

The film is described in its online trailer as “a startling revelation that freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry have been expelled from publicly-funded high schools, universities and research institutions.” According to its Web site, the film asserts that people in academia who see evidence of a supernatural intelligence in biological processes have unfairly lost their jobs, been denied tenure or suffered other penalties as part of a scientific conspiracy to keep God out of the nation’s laboratories and classrooms.

Mr. Stein appears in the film’s trailer, backed by the rock anthem “Bad to the Bone,” declaring that he wants to unmask “people out there who want to keep science in a little box where it can’t possibly touch God.”

If he had known the film’s premise, Dr. Dawkins said in an e-mail message, he would never have appeared in it. “At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,” he said.

Eugenie C. Scott, a physical anthropologist who heads the National Center for Science Education, said she agreed to be filmed after receiving what she described as a deceptive invitation.

“I have certainly been taped by people and appeared in productions where people’s views are different than mine, and that’s fine,” Dr. Scott said, adding that she would have appeared in the film anyway. “I just expect people to be honest with me, and they weren’t.”

The growing furor over the movie, visible in blogs, on Web sites and in conversations among scientists, is the latest episode in the long-running conflict between science and advocates of intelligent design, who assert that the theory of evolution has obvious scientific flaws and that students should learn that intelligent design, a creationist idea, is an alternative approach.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”

Mr. Stein, a freelance columnist who writes Everybody’s Business for The New York Times, conducts the film’s on-camera interviews. The interviews were lined up for him by others, and he denied misleading anyone. “I don’t remember a single person asking me what the movie was about,” he said in a telephone interview.

Walt Ruloff, a producer and partner in Premise Media, also denied that there was any deception. Mr. Ruloff said in a telephone interview that Rampant Films was a Premise subsidiary, and that the movie’s title was changed on the advice of marketing experts, something he said was routine in filmmaking. He said the film would open in February and would not be available for previews until January.

Judging from material posted online and interviews with people who appear in the film, it cites several people as victims of persecution, including Richard Sternberg, a biologist and an unpaid research associate at the National Museum of Natural History, and Guillermo Gonzalez, an astrophysicist denied tenure at Iowa State University this year.

Dr. Sternberg was at the center of a controversy over a paper published in 2004 in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a peer-reviewed publication he edited at the time. The paper contended that an intelligent agent was a better explanation than evolution for the so-called Cambrian explosion, a great diversification of life forms that occurred hundreds of millions of years ago.

The paper’s appearance in a peer-reviewed journal was a coup for intelligent design advocates, but the Council of the Biological Society of Washington, which publishes the journal, almost immediately repudiated it, saying it had appeared without adequate review.

Dr. Gonzalez is an astrophysicist and co-author of “The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery” (Regnery, 2004). The book asserts that earth’s ability to support complex life is a result of supernatural intervention.

Dr. Gonzalez’s supporters say his views cost him tenure at Iowa State. University officials said their decision was based, among other things, on his record of scientific publications while he was at the university.

Mr. Stein, a prolific author who has acted in movies like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and appeared on television programs including “Win Ben Stein’s Money” on Comedy Central, said in a telephone interview that he accepted the producers’ invitation to participate in the film not because he disavows the theory of evolution — he said there was a “very high likelihood” that Darwin was on to something — but because he does not accept that evolution alone can explain life on earth.

He said he also believed the theory of evolution leads to racism and ultimately genocide, an idea common among creationist thinkers. If it were up to him, he said, the film would be called “From Darwin to Hitler.”

On a blog on the “Expelled” Web site, one writer praised Mr. Stein as “a public-intellectual-freedom-fighter” who was taking on “a tough topic with a bit of humor.” Others rejected the film’s arguments as “stupid,” “fallacious” or “moronic,” or described intelligent design as the equivalent of suggesting that the markets moved “at the whim of a monetary fairy.”

Mr. Ruloff, a Canadian who lives in British Columbia, said he turned to filmmaking after selling his software company in the 1990s. He said he decided to make “Expelled,” his first project, after he became interested in genomics and biotechnology but discovered “there are certain questions you are just not allowed to ask and certain approaches you are just not allowed to take.”

He said he knew researchers, whom he would not name, who had studied cellular mechanisms and made findings “riddled with metaphysical implications” and suggestive of an intelligent designer. But they are afraid to report them, he said.

Mr. Ruloff also cited Dr. Francis S. Collins, a geneticist who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute and whose book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” (Simon & Schuster, 2006), explains how he came to embrace his Christian faith. Dr. Collins separates his religious beliefs from his scientific work only because “he is toeing the party line,” Mr. Ruloff said.

That’s “just ludicrous,” Dr. Collins said in a telephone interview. While many of his scientific colleagues are not religious and some are “a bit puzzled” by his faith, he said, “they are generally very respectful.” He said that if the problem Mr. Ruloff describes existed, he is certain he would know about it.

Dr. Collins was not asked to participate in the film.

Another scientist who was, P. Z. Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris, said the film’s producers had misrepresented its purpose, but said he would have agreed to an interview anyway. But, he said in a posting on The Panda’s Thumb Web site, he would have made a “more aggressive” attack on the claims of the movie.

Dr. Scott, whose organization advocates for the teaching of evolution and against what it calls the intrusion of creationism and other religious doctrines in science classes, said the filmmakers were exploiting Americans’ sense of fairness as a way to sell their religious views. She said she feared the film would depict “the scientific community as intolerant, as close-minded, and as persecuting those who disagree with them. And this is simply wrong.”

## 行星间距

### 九月 30, 2007

0.4、0.7、1.0、1.6、2.8、5.2、10、19.6 …

$L = 0.4 + 0.3 \times \left( 2^{n} \right)$

## 《经济学人》：How fit is the panda?

### 九月 28, 2007

NO COUNTRY in history has sustained such a blistering rate of growth over three decades as China. Its economy grew by a staggering 11.9% in the year to the second quarter. Since 1978 it has grown by an average of almost 10% a year—more than Japan or the Asian tigers achieved over similar periods when their economies took off.

So what immediate threats does China face? The biggest worry is that the economy is overheating and inflation surging out of control. In August consumer-price inflation jumped to 6.5%, up from 1.3% a year earlier and its highest for more than a decade. If China slams on the brakes, its economy could suffer a hard landing, as happened after past episodes of inflation.

But inflation is nowhere near previous danger levels in 1988 and 1994, when it soared above 25% . Moreover, the leap in inflation does not seem to be a symptom of overheating caused by excess demand, as it was in the past. It is due entirely to the rise in food prices caused by supply-side problems. Excluding food, inflation is only 0.9%. This does not mean that food is unimportant: it accounts for one-third of the inflation basket, and rising prices could trigger social unrest. But it is not something that China’s central bank can easily fix by raising interest rates.

A second much-talked-about threat is the bursting of China’s stockmarket bubble. Share prices have risen by 400% in just over two years, and average price-earnings ratios based on historic profits are around 50 (based on forecast 2008 profits they are a still-racy 30). Even though almost everyone reckons this is a bubble, history suggests that a bust is not imminent and that share prices could continue to rise for a lot longer: both Japan’s Nikkei and America’s NASDAQ saw p-e ratios well above 100 at their peaks.

Many in China have concluded that the blame for Japan’s economic malaise in the 1990s lay largely with the appreciation of the yen. Beijing has therefore allowed the yuan to rise by only 10% since July 2005. But Japan’s real mistake was its loose monetary policy to offset the impact of the rising yen—which further inflated the bubble—and then its failure to ease policy once the bust had happened. By holding down the value of the yuan and allowing a consequent build-up of excess liquidity, China risks repeating the same error.

A recession in America would reduce China’s growth, but since Beijing’s policy-makers are fretting that the economy is starting to overheat, weaker exports and hence slower GDP growth might be a good thing. Not only would it reduce the risk of inflation, but it would also help to trim China’s embarrassing trade surplus.

If a fall in exports threatens to slow growth by more than desired, the government’s strong fiscal position means that it has plenty of room to boost domestic demand by spending more on infrastructure, education or health. The budget was in small deficit in 2006, but may now be in surplus—even excluding the large surpluses of state-owned enterprises. China’s public-sector debt is only 18% of GDP, much lower than the 75% average in developed economies, giving the government ample room for a fiscal stimulus.

In the short term, therefore, an American downturn is more likely to cause sniffles in China than a heavy cold. Indeed, an American recession might be a blessing in disguise to China: if weaker exports forced the government to do more to boost domestic demand it would help to rebalance the economy and make growth more sustainable in the long run.

The bigger danger is that an American recession would inflame America’s increasingly protectionist mood and make trade sanctions against China more likely. In an election year, politicians will need a scapegoat. But import barriers would do more harm to America’s economy than China’s. If China was forced to depend less on exports and more on consumption it would gain in the long run.

From The Economist
2007/09/27

## 《经济学人》：更强的中国

### 九月 28, 2007

The good news, however, is that the world has found some powerful new engines in China and other emerging economies. Even as credit markets seize up, a world economy that is less dependent on the United States is more likely to stay aloft.

For several years, emerging Asian economies have accounted for more of global GDP growth than America has. This year China alone will for the first time accomplish the same feat all on its own (at market exchange rates), even if American growth holds up. American consumer spending is roughly four times the size of China’s and India’s combined, but what matters for global growth is the extra dollars of spending generated each year. In the first half of 2007 the increase in consumer spending (in actual dollar terms) in China and India together contributed more to global GDP growth than the increase in America did.

Of course, if America suffers a recession, then Asia’s exports will weaken. But this should not hurt GDP growth too much because other factors should help offset the weakening. It helps that China and most other Asian emerging economies are now exporting more to the European Union than to America. China’s exports to other emerging economies are growing even faster. It helps, too, that domestic spending has strengthened and is likely to stay strong: China, along with most of the rest of Asia, is one of few parts of the world without a housing bubble.

（这里有点很值得关注，《经济学人》从不认为中国出现房屋市场泡沫。在过去，它曾举出了非常好的分析来说明中国离房屋市场泡沫还有相当的距离，而不是如其他人所说的那么严重。事实上，事情是很讽刺的。正当美国和欧洲许多评论家如何叙说中国的房屋市场泡沫，他们自己却爆发了房贷危机。在那之前，《经济学人》却非常有先见之明的提出了，美国自身的泡沫可能比中国的更大。）

Commodity prices, too, will continue to feel the effect of the emerging economies’ increased importance. It is commonly assumed that an American recession would cause a sharp fall in the prices of oil and other commodities. But emerging Asia accounted for two-thirds of the increase in world energy demand over the past five years. So if Asia remains strong, commodity prices should too, and commodity-producing emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia and the Middle East will also continue to thrive.

Not so long ago, the rich world used to regard emerging economies as risky and unstable. That view needs to change: emerging economies now look like a force for stabilising the world economy.

From The Economist
2007/09/27