Considering Christopher Hitchens was the master of the English language, it seems particularly stupid of me to use it now. It’s like trying to serenade the world’s greatest singer. But here goes my poor attempt which is aided greatly by a quotation by a Nobel prize winning author.
As some may know, I wrote a fairly extensive criticism of Mr Eban Olivier, regarding his reaction to Diane Coetzer. Mr Oliver has sent me an email in reply. It was not calling for my death, but actually attempted what I’d hoped for from Mr Olivier. With his permission, I reprint his email in full [and sic]. Continue reading
I don’t really watch TV. When I do allow myself free-time it’s for reading some fiction (currently Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ series). Anyway, I record certain programs then I watch them weeks later. I say this because I’ve only just watched Carte Blanche episode, from 12 June 2011. That’s a month ago.
Anyway, this was a largely disappointing episode but I’m still glad it was made. It dealt extensively with the large-scale alleged corruption within Jo’burg’s EMS. This was excellent, albeit a bit theatrical. Yet, within the episode, there were two stories that were intriguing to me.
Until a few hours ago, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with the writer Neil Gaiman. Now, to start, I’ve never met him and probably never will. I’ve only read most, but not all, of his works, including his graphic novels and comics, and encountered some of his films. I’m just a reader like anyone else.
There’s a difference between controls done to genuinely test your hypothesis and those done when you just want to show that your hypothesis is true. The authors have done some of the latter, but not the former. They should have mixed pregrown E. coli or other cells with the arsenate supplemented medium and then done the same purifications. They should have thoroughly washed their DNA preps (a column cleanup is ridiculously easy), and maybe incubated it with phosphate buffer to displace any associated arsenate before doing the elemental analysis. They should have mixed E. coli DNA with arsenate and then gel-purified it. They should have tested whether their arsenic-containing DNA could be used as a template by normal DNA polymerases. They should have noticed all the discrepancies in their data and done experiments to find the causes.
I don’t know whether the authors are just bad scientists or whether they’re unscrupulously pushing NASA’s ‘There’s life in outer space!’ agenda.
The body of scientific knowledge attacked is thoroughly scarred. It’s hard to imagine it ever taking any further steps toward wider, scientific consensus. If what Professor Redfield claims in this paragraph is true, which I think it is, we have a number of problems: pushing a bias, proving a preconceived hypothesis, setting up bad or no controls (whether as a group or method), testing alternate hypotheses. Continue reading