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20 Jun 18:26

No “Blank Check”: Dean Warns that Criticizing the School or its Leadership is Not Protected at Harvard

by jonathanturley
Jts5665

Cartman has infected the minds of so many. I can't help but see the cartoon of him screaming about respecting his authority every time I see headlines like this.

In my book out this week, The Indispensable Right: Free Speech in an Age of Rage, I write about the anti-free speech movement that has swept over higher education and how administrators and faculty hold a view of free speech as harmful. Now Harvard is again at the heart of a free speech fight after Lawrence Bobo, the Dean of Social Science, rejected views of free speech as a “blank check” and said that criticizing university leaders like himself or school policies are now viewed as “outside the bounds of acceptable professional conduct.”

Bobo warns that public criticism of the school could “cross a line into sanctionable violations.”

In his opinion editorial in the Harvard Crimson, Bobo declares:

“A faculty member’s right to free speech does not amount to a blank check to engage in behaviors that plainly incite external actors — be it the media, alumni, donors, federal agencies, or the government — to intervene in Harvard’s affairs. Along with freedom of expression and the protection of tenure comes a responsibility to exercise good professional judgment and to refrain from conscious action that would seriously harm the University and its independence.”

The column adopts every jingoistic rationale used by anti-free speech critics today, including the invocation of the Holmes “crowded theater” analogy:

“But many faculty at Harvard enjoy an external stature that also opens to them much broader platforms for potential advocacy. Figures such as Raj Chetty ’00, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Jill Lepore, or Steven A. Pinker have well-earned notoriety that reaches far beyond the academy.

Would it simply be an ordinary act of free speech for those faculty to repeatedly denounce the University, its students, fellow faculty, or leadership? The truth is that free speech has limits — it’s why you can’t escape sanction for shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.”

First and foremost, the ability of faculty to speak out on public disputes should not depend on whether you are more popular or visible.

However, it is the theater analogy that is most galling.

I have an entire chapter in The Indispensable Right that addresses the fallacies surrounding this line out of the Holmes opinion. It is arguably the most damaging single line ever written by a Supreme Court justice in the area of free speech.

I have previously written about the irony of liberals adopting the analogy, which was used to crack down on socialists and dissenters on the left.

One of the most telling moments came in a congressional hearing when I warned of the dangers of repeating the abuses of prior periods like the Red Scare, when censorship and blacklisting were the norm. In response, Rep. Dan Goldman, D-New York, invoked Oliver Wendell Holmes’ view that free speech does not give a person the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. In other words, citizens had to be silenced because their views are dangerous to others.

When I attempted to point out that the line came from a case justifying the imprisonment of socialists for their political viewpoints, Goldman cut me off and “reclaimed his time.”

Other Democrats have used the line as a mantra, despite its origins in one of our most abusive anti-free speech periods during which the government targeted political dissidents on the left.

Dean Bobo is now the latest academic to embrace the theater rationale to justify the silencing of dissent. At Harvard, he is suggesting that the entire university is now a crowded theater and criticizing the university leadership is a cry of “Fire.” It is that easy.

By punishing criticism of the school’s leadership and policies, Bobo believes that they can look “forward to calmer times” on campus. It is precisely the type of artificial silence that academics have been enforcing against conservatives, libertarians, and dissenters for years. It is the approach that reduced our schools to an academic echo chamber.

The reference to Professor Steven Pinker is particularly ironic. As we have previously discussed, Pinker was targeted for exercising free speech. In past controversies, most Harvard faculty members have been conspicuously silent as colleagues were targeted by cancel campaigns. It was the same at other universities.

As faculties effectively purged their ranks of conservative or Republican members, the silence was deafening. Others either supported such campaigns or justified them. Notably, over 75 percent of the Harvard faculty identify as “liberal” or “very liberal.”

Then the Gaza protests began and some of these same faculty found themselves the targets of mobs. Suddenly, free speech became an urgent matter to address. Fortunately for these liberal professors, the free speech community is used to opportunistic allies. Where “fair weather friends” are often ridiculed, free speech relies on “foul-weather friends,” those who suddenly see the need to protect a diversity of opinions when they feel threatened.

Bobo’s arguments are consistent with years of rationales for silencing or investigating dissenting faculty for years. It violates the very foundation for academia in free speech and academic freedom. The university is free to punish students or faculty for unlawful conduct. However, when it comes to their viewpoints, there should be a bright line of protection.

Of course, this criticism is likely to trigger another common fallacy used to rationalize speech controls: as a private university Harvard is not subject to the First Amendment and thus this is not a true free speech issue.

As discussed previously, free speech values go beyond the First Amendment whether it is a controversy on social media or campuses. For years, anti-free-speech figures have dismissed free speech objections to social media or academic censorship by stressing that the First Amendment applies only to the government, not private companies or institutions. The distinction was always a dishonest effort to evade the implications of speech controls, whether implemented by the government or corporations.

The First Amendment was never the exclusive definition of free speech. Free speech is viewed by many of us as a human right; the First Amendment only deals with one source for limiting it. Free speech can be undermined by private corporations as well as government agencies. This threat is even greater when politicians openly use corporations and universities to achieve indirectly what they cannot achieve directly.

Dean Bobo’s desire for “calmer times” would come at too high a price for free speech as well as Harvard.

 

 

20 Jun 15:45

Net Zero Will Prevent Almost Zero Warming, Say Three Top Atmospheric Scientists

by Chris Morrison
Jts5665

It's never been about the warming.

Net Zero will prevent almost zero warming, three top atmospheric scientists have said – even if it could be achieved. And it will cause untold devastation to human life in the process.

The post Net Zero Will Prevent Almost Zero Warming, Say Three Top Atmospheric Scientists appeared first on The Daily Sceptic.

20 Jun 15:24

Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Sidewalks are Not “Pedestrian Ways” to Allow for Eminent Domain Seizures

by jonathanturley
In Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, a court informs the irascible character of Mr. Bumble that it assumes a level of control of his wife’s conduct. Mr. Bumble responds that “if the law supposes that, the law is a ass – a idiot.” The scene came to mind with a decision yesterday when the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-3 in Sojenhomer v. Village of Egg Harbor that a sidewalk is not a “pedestrian way.”

Lawyers in Wisconsin are already sending around Bumble-like harrumphs to the decision, which is a testament to the ability of judges to ignore plain meaning to achieve desired results.

Where the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland asked “why is a raven like a writing-desk?,” the Wisconsin Supreme Court asked why a sidewalk is not like a pedestrian way. The result is equally maddening.

At issue was the effort of the state to create more sidewalks. Faced with resistance from homeowners, the state was using eminent domain to simply condemn the land and claim it for sidewalks. However, Wisconsin has strong protections for home owners, including statutes expressly stating that the power of eminent domain must be “strictly construed” against the government.

Moreover, there is a statute that expressly bars the use of eminent domain to take property for “pedestrian way[s].” It defines a “pedestrian way” as “a walk designated for the use of pedestrian travel.”

To every Bumble and non-Bumble alike, that would seem to describe a sidewalk, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a usually paved walk for pedestrians at the side of a street.”

Not so says Justice Rebecca Frank Dallet:

Reading the text of this section as a whole, we find several indications that the definition of pedestrian way does not include sidewalks. For starters, both § 346.02(8)(a) and (b) use the terms “sidewalk” and “pedestrian way” in ways that signify that each term has a separate, non-overlapping meaning. … Section 346.02(8)(b) states that pedestrian ways shall be treated ‘as if’ they were sidewalks for utility installation and assessment purposes. The phrase “as if” signals that one category (pedestrian ways) should receive the same treatment as a different category (sidewalks). That is the same way the legislature used “as if” in, for example, Wis. Stat. § 53.03, which states that Wisconsin courts “may treat a foreign country as if it were a state” in guardianship proceedings. Just as foreign countries are not states, but should be treated as if they were for guardianship purposes, pedestrian ways are not sidewalks, but should be treated as if they were for utility-installation and assessment purposes.

The analogy is a poor one, in my view. The treatment of a foreign state like a domestic state captures the fact that both are governing units with similar inherent functions and powers. That is a far cry from saying a “pedestrian way” is NOT a “sidewalk.”

Justice Dallet then adds:

The language of § 346.02(8)(a) also suggests that sidewalks are not pedestrian ways. That paragraph makes the rules of the road pertaining to sidewalks also applicable to pedestrian ways. But if sidewalks are pedestrian ways, then the rules of the road applicable to sidewalks would already apply to pedestrian ways. The point here, to be clear, is not that reading the term “pedestrian way” to include sidewalks would result in surplusage….

However, that may indicate that “pedestrian ways” are a broader category than just sidewalks. It does not suggest that sidewalks are not pedestrian ways.

That seems to be the point of the dissent by Chief Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler:

The plain language of the statute demonstrates that the term “pedestrian way” is broadly defined, and includes sidewalks. A sidewalk——that portion of the highway created for the travel of persons on foot——is clearly a subset of pedestrian ways——walks set apart or assigned for the use of pedestrian travel. It is a straightforward, common sense interpretation of the statutory language that a “walk designated for the use of pedestrian travel” necessarily includes that part of the highway “constructed for the use of pedestrians…”

[I]n other words, a closer look at the plain meaning of the statutes reveals that all sidewalks are pedestrian ways, but that not all pedestrian ways are sidewalks….

What is particularly galling about the decision of the majority is that they avoid the required strict construction of the law against the government as inapplicable by simply declaring that there is no ambiguity in the language of the statutes, a preposterous claim that requires a level of willful judicial blindness.

The creative effort to ignore the obvious is reminiscent of the fictional Canadian case where a horse was declared a bird. Though sometimes cited as a real case, it appears to be an opinion written to show how legal interpretations can take on absurd dimensions to result in desired ends.

In Regina v. Ojibway (8 Criminal Law Quarterly 137 (1965-66)), a Canadian indigenous tribe member puts down a suffering horse but is then charged under a criminal provision for shooting a bird under the Small Birds Act (R.S.O.). Blue, J., delivers the opinion for the court, granting the appeal, saying:

For the purpose of the Small Birds Act, all two-legged, feather-covered animals are birds. This, of course, does not imply that only two-legged animals qualify, for the legislative intent is to make two legs merely the minimum requirement. The statute therefore contemplated multi-legged animals with feathers as well.

Counsel submits that having regard to the purpose of the statute only small animals “naturally covered” with feathers could have been contemplated. However, had this been the intention of the legislature, I am certain that the phrase “naturally covered” would have been expressly inserted just as “Long” was inserted in the Longshoreman’s Act.

Therefore, a horse with feathers on its back must be deemed for the purpose of this Act to be a bird, a fortiori, a pony with feathers on its back is a small bird.

In Wisconsin, it appears that the Supreme Court would have simply said that the pony, since a pony can be treated “as if” it is a horse, it is not a horse.

 

17 Jun 18:15

This Nashville journalist is being threatened with jail time because he won't rat out the source who leaked the trans shooter's manifesto

by Not the Bee

Tennessee Star journalist Michael Patrick Leahy is being ordered to appear in court to defend himself against possible contempt charges and jail time for publishing the leaked writings of the Covenant school shooter.

17 Jun 18:08

ICYMI: NIH scientists made $710M in royalties from drug makers — a fact they tried to hide. “Alm

by Glenn Reynolds

ICYMI: NIH scientists made $710M in royalties from drug makers — a fact they tried to hide. “Almost all that cash — $690 million — went to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the subagency led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, and 260 of its scientists.”

17 Jun 18:07

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Washington Post Publisher and Incoming Editor Are Said to Have Used Stolen Recor

by Stephen Green

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Washington Post Publisher and Incoming Editor Are Said to Have Used Stolen Records in Britain.

The publisher and the incoming editor of The Washington Post, when they worked as journalists in London two decades ago, used fraudulently obtained phone and company records in newspaper articles, according to a former colleague, a published account of a private investigator and an analysis of newspaper archives.

Will Lewis, The Post’s publisher, assigned one of the articles in 2004 as business editor of The Sunday Times. Another was written by Robert Winnett, whom Mr. Lewis recently announced as The Post’s next executive editor.

The use of deception, hacking and fraud is at the heart of a long-running British newspaper scandal, one that toppled a major tabloid in 2010 and led to years of lawsuits by celebrities who said that reporters improperly obtained their personal documents and voice mail messages.

Mr. Lewis has maintained that his only involvement in the controversy was helping to root out problematic behavior after the fact, while working for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

But a former Sunday Times reporter said on Friday that Mr. Lewis had personally assigned him to write an article in 2004 using phone records that the reporter understood to have been obtained through hacking.

Two things stand out. The first is that this 20-year-old story is news again. The second is that the NYT decided to publish it outside their paywall.

I’m starting to think that Lewis and Winnett might be serious about reforming the Washington Post — and so the knives are already out.

Related: Wimpy Woke WaPo Workers Walloped With Weality.

14 Jun 20:26

Cologne prosecutors charge Twitter user for the crime of assembling a list of Covid-era insults that politicians and celebrities directed against the unvaccinated

by eugyppius
Jts5665

German government boot stomping critics...

Almost two years ago, on 26 July 2022, a German Twitter user known only as MicLiberal posted a thread that culminated in his criminal trial this week. His is but the latest in a long line of such prosecutions – the tactic our rulers increasingly favour to intimidate and harass those who use their freedom of expression in inconvenient ways.

eugyppius: a plague chronicle is a reader-supported publication. maybe you subscribe?

MicLiberal committed his alleged offence as Germany was still awakening from months of hypervaccination insanity. Science authorities and politicians had spent the winter decrying the “tyranny of the unvaccinated,” demanding that “we have to take care of the unvaccinated, and … make vaccination compulsory,” firing people who protested institutional vaccine mandates on social media and denouncing the unvaccinated for ongoing virus restrictions and Covid deaths. Our neighbour, Austria, even went so far as to impose a specific lockdown on those who refused the Covid vaccines. Culturally and politically, those were the darkest months I have ever lived through; they changed my life forever and I will never forget them.

MicLiberal’s thread aimed only to memorialise some of the crazy things the vaccinators had said. It opened with this tweet:

We were complicit!

We marginalised, defamed, discredited, insulted and cancelled people. On behalf of science!

By popular demand, this brief thread with statements that should not be forgotten:

There ensued nothing but a series of citations, most of them wholly typical samples of vintage 2021/22 vaccinator rhetoric, much of it not even that remarkable. For example, MicLiberal included this statement from Andreas Berholz, deputy editor-in-chief of the widely read blog Der Volksverpetzer:

“Fact-check: The unvaccinated remain the main drivers of the pandemic.”

And he included this statement from former President of Germany Wilhelm Gauck:

“Opponents of vaccination are idiots.”

And he posted this old ad from the city of Erkelenz (Nordrhein-Westfalen):

“Your party is your grandmother’s death. Stay home!”

And near the end of his thread he added this citation, from the the health economist Willy Oggier:

“Corona sceptics forfeit their right to a place in intensive care in the event of overcrowding.”

You might be wondering what crime MicLiberal can possibly have committed by drawing attention to these already-public statements. The most honest answer is that his thread achieved millions of views in a matter of days, and at a very awkward moment – precisely when everyone was beginning to regret all the illiberal and wildly intemperate things they had said in the depths of the virus craze. He had embarrassed some very vain and powerful people with their own incredibly stupid words, and today many are of the opinion that that ought to be a crime in and of itself.

Alas, things have not yet deteriorated that far. Thus the police and prosecutors were left to scour our dense thicket of laws for a more plausible offence. They decided that their best chance lay with a novel provision of the German Criminal Code (Paragraph 126a). This provision makes it a crime to “disseminate the personal data of another person in a matter that is … intended to expose this person … to the risk of a criminal offence directed against them.” On 28 July, two days after MicLiberal posted his 25 tweets, Cologne police filed a criminal complaint against him, and afterwards the Cologne prosecutor’s office brought charges, arguing that MicLiberal had suggested that the people he cited were “perpetrators” and therefore associated them with “fascism.” The district court declined to approve the charges, but the prosecutors appealed to the regional court, where the judges saw things differently. They believed that a prosecution was warranted because of the “heated social debate” surrounding Covid measures, and because MicLiberal’s audience was composed of “homogeneous” like-minded people, who (in the summary of the Berliner Zeitung) “could either form groups or encourage individual members to commit acts of violence.” MicLiberal had furthermore assembled his citations from a website that the judges deemed guilty of an “anti-government orientation.”

We must take a moment to ponder this truly amazing argumentation, which would seem to criminalise such things as participating in the wrong discussions before the wrong kind of people and assembling one’s (wholly accurate) data from the wrong sources. In each of these cases, of course, it is the prosecutors and the judges eager to apply Paragraph 126a to their political opponents who get to decide what is “wrong.”

I’m happy to say MicLiberal was acquitted two days ago at the Cologne district court, after his lawyer – the excellent Jessica Hamed – drew attention to the absurdity of the prosecution:

It is not only legitimate, but even ethically required, to strongly object to transgressive statements by people who occupy a prominent position in society, such as politicians or doctors. This is because these statements were discriminatory and threatened social peace.

Should it be legal [for] the former Federal President Gauck … to say: “Opponents of vaccination are idiots,” but illegal for my client to say that others have been insulted, defamed and marginalised by these statements? …

Anyone who makes public statements … must expect that their statements will be commented on, evaluated, socially condemned, and so on. This is because there is no entitlement to be free from criticism. There is no right to be able to communicate one’s views to the public without contradiction or criticism …

Although this is specifically about my client, it is also being decided today whether people are being pushed further and further into the private sphere by threats of punishment. It is obvious that if my client were convicted today, this conviction would send out a devastating signal.

It is a measure of how far the Federal Republic has deteriorated, that arguments like these have to be made at criminal trials. Fortunately, the authoritarian turn in German politics has penetrated the judiciary least of all, and so there is still some protection for those caught speaking in inconvenient ways. Emphasis, of course, belongs on some, because frivolous prosecutions like that of MicLiberal alone suffice as punishment and signal.

Friends often advise me to take a different tone here at the plague chronicle. Calling prominent politicians and scientists stupid idiots is an unnecessary risk, they argue, and could open me to prosecution for insult; some of my posts about mass migration might be interpreted as running afoul of criminal provisions against incitement; comparing the Federal Republic to the DDR may draw the attention of the constitutional protectors. What we learn from MicLiberal’s case is that it doesn’t matter at all what you say. All the caution in the world is not protection enough; if you embarrass and humiliate the right people, they’ll come for you. And I have to admit that it would be quite an honour to be prosecuted by these flaming fucking egregious retards, I would wear it as a badge of honour for the rest of my life. As I hope MicLiberal will.

UPDATE: According to Welt reporter Tim Röhn, the prosecutors intend to appeal the acquittal. An incredible travesty of justice.

14 Jun 11:56

'Potentially criminal': Feds lied about virus research more dangerous than COVID, GOP lawmakers say

by Greg Piper
HHS, NIH, NIAID misled House Energy and Commerce for 17 months about 2015 approval of monkeypox experiment to insert genes from more deadly "clade" into more infectious one, GOP report says. Science publishers allegedly hookwinked.
13 Jun 16:59

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump Makes Last Pitch to Keep the Laptop “Conspiracy Theory” Alive

by jonathanturley

Across the media, journalists have recognized that the Hunter Biden laptop is authentic and, as established early by American intelligence agencies, not “Russian disinformation.” With the authentication of the laptop in the Delaware trial as “real” and untampered, most media has chosen to walk away with a slightly embarrassed shrug. Not the Washington Post. Its columnist, Philip Bump, was one of the most prominent purveyors of what the U.S. government now calls a “conspiracy theory.” This week, Bump ran another column to assure liberals that they were right all along about the laptop story.

In 2021, when media organizations were finally admitting that the laptop was authentic, Bump was still declaring that it was a “conspiracy theory.” Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Bump continued to suggest that “the laptop was seeded by Russian intelligence.”

After Bump had a meltdown in an interview when confronted over past false claims, I wrote a column about the litany of such false claims, including the laptop conspiracy theory. The Post surprised many of us by issuing a statement that they stood by all of Bump’s reporting, including the laptop conspiracy theory. That was in August 2023.

Well, Bump is back.

In his column, Bump takes after various people calling the media to account for burying this story before and after the election, including myself. I felt that it warranted a response.

In hitting Sean Hannity for a recent segment, Bump makes a common evasion among those who have long downplayed the laptop scandal. He objected that Hannity “is conflating the laptop presented as evidence at the trial, the one obtained by the FBI in 2019, with the ‘laptop’ that was the source of the New York Post story.”

For those of us who have covered the laptop since the story ran at the New York Post, it is as maddening as it is mendacious.

At the time of the story, some of us noted that the contents of the laptop could be confirmed since these emails and messages involved third parties. Some quickly confirmed the contents as authentic. The Bidens had long been accused of influence peddling and special dealing by using Joe Biden’s positions as senator, vice president, and president.

Moreover, as the media was referencing the debunked letter of former intelligence officials on this possible likely Russian disinformation, American intelligence quickly confirmed that there was no such evidence to support that claim.

The media ignored the actual intelligence agencies in favor of former intelligence officials who were organized by Biden campaign operatives to release the letter. Biden then cited the letter to refuse to answer questions about his son’s influence peddling and unlawful conduct.

Bump and others used the question over whether the laptop was an authentic copy or a tampered copy to avoid any serious investigation into the underlying emails. Many simply threw up their hands and said “oh well, what can we do.” To this day, the media has shown little interest in the influence peddling operation. Few people seriously argue that the media would have shown the same limited response if these emails tied Trump children to millions in foreign influence peddling schemes.

But Bump was not done:

After Hannity lamented the media’s silence on the so-called “critical development,” Turley offered a theory for why that silence had ensued.

‘If the laptop is authentic, if those files are real,’ he said, “then you have these detailed accounts of a multimillion-dollar influence-peddling operation run by the Biden family. Those would also be authentic. But the media just simply doesn’t want to go there.’

Except that we already know that many of those files were real, because we got access to them and verified them. The reason the media ‘doesn’t want to go there’ on breathless claims about a ‘Biden family’ influence-peddling operation is that the material doesn’t prove any such operation. It shows — as has by now been exhaustively explained — work done by Hunter Biden and his Uncle James that involved lots of money but did not demonstrably involve President Biden. The entire point of the House Republican impeachment effort has been to prove Joe Biden’s involvement; they have been unable to do so.”

Once again, Bump makes it sound like the Post vigorously and quickly verified the laptop. The belated acknowledgement did not come until much later. It was not until March 2022 that the Post finally admitted that the laptop was real, but then did comparably little to pursue the corruption and other unlawful conduct detailed on the laptop.

Washington Post columnist Thomas Rid appeared to state the quiet part out loud by telling the media: “We must treat the Hunter Biden leaks as if they were a foreign intelligence operation — even if they probably aren’t.”

For many, the Post has alienated readers who want to see equally rigorous attention to scandals on both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, the Post’s new publisher recently dropped a truth bomb on his writers by telling them “let’s not sugarcoat it…We are losing large amounts of money. Your audience has halved in recent years. People are not reading your stuff. Right. I can’t sugarcoat it anymore.”

Yet, it is Bump who is insisting this week that it is Fox News (the most watched cable news network) that is being tuned out in his column titled “The right takes a Biden-laptop victory lap around an empty arena.”

In deflecting questions about the coverage of the Biden corruption scandal, Bump simply ignores witness testimony that has proven that President Biden lied about having no knowledge of his son’s foreign dealings and met with his clients both in person and over the phone. More importantly, he ignores that this was a massive influence peddling operation where President Biden was the object. He was the “brand” being sold.

Influence peddling is a form of political corruption that the government continues to denounce worldwide. The fact that millions went to Biden family members rather than the President does not change the fact that this was one of the largest influence peddling operations in history. Just this week, even Politico stated the obvious that seems to escape Bump on this elaborate Biden operation involving not just family but close associates of the President. As I explained in my testimony in the Biden impeachment hearing, federal courts have repeatedly stated that it does not matter if a principal received money as opposed to family members. It can still constitute bribery and other offenses.

In the end, Bump continues to express frustration with those who would question his conclusions, as he did in his interview when confronted by a host asking about disproven claims. Bump exploded at the hubris of the interviewer and suggested that he is all the proof that the interviewer should need on such issues: “I’m sitting here and I’m telling you, you’re wrong about these things, and you don’t listen.”

Update: Notably, after the authentication of the computer in federal court, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, filed a motion on withdraw the lawsuit against former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in which claimed that the laptop contained manipulated data.

13 Jun 13:40

Case Study In Making Science Propaganda: Cooking Becomes Pollution

by Briggs

Major Headline! “That mouth-watering aroma of fresh food cooking? It may be degrading air quality”.

Story opens thus:

It’s been known for years that cooking indoors can taint the air in a home and cause health problems, especially when cooking without proper ventilation.

But a new study found that emissions from cooking may degrade the air quality outdoors as well.

“If you can smell it, there’s a good chance it’s impacting air quality,” researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory recently wrote about a new study looking at the “unrecognized and underappreciated sources of urban air pollution.”

Now let’s put ourselves into the mind of the typical NPC as he reads that.

Oh no! Cooking is killing us! It’s been known for years!

But we have to eat. Where to get food? Wait. I know. We can order from corporate-food factories. It’s safe and clean. That seed oil they’ll use can’t be as bad as white supremacists claim. And bug meat is still meat. That’s why they have meat in the name. Anyway, it can’t be as bad as air pollution caused by cooking. Especially cooking with gas! Then I’m sucking in fumes. Even outside! How have we even survived this long? Thank God Experts are here to save us all. Cooking needs to be regulated! I need to go to the doctor and have my lungs scanned.

If you think that’s bad, imagine what goes through the mind of somebody hearing that story on NPR. One shivers.

Smelling good cooking, once praised and savored, and even looked forward to, is now supposed to fill you with horror and angst. And make you want to be comforted by the soothing solutions of government Experts.

And they’re needed because, as the newspaper continues, “The researchers found that ‘on average, 21% of the total mass of human-caused VOCs [volatile organic compounds] present in Las Vegas’ outdoor air were from cooking activities,’ according to the NOAA report.”

Nearly everybody will stop there, seeing nothing but the propaganda. There curiosity will have been sated by hearing Experts are on the case. Maybe—and only maybe—one in a thousand will click over to the press release the newspaper uses as its source.

The NOAA press release was entitled “Those delicious smells may be impacting air quality”. Incidentally, by impacting they meant influencing or affecting. Anyway, it opens:

Stroll along the downtown streets of any major city around dinner time and you’re bound to encounter mouth-watering aromas enticing hungry patrons to nearby restaurants like moths to a flame.

If there’s one thing the researchers at NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory (CSL) have learned in their multi-year deep dive investigation into the unrecognized and underappreciated sources of urban air pollution, it’s this: If you can smell it, there’s a good chance it’s impacting air quality.

Yes. “Impacts” in a good way. Cooking smells good. Do they want it to smell bad? How in the unholy hell do they let themselves write something so abominably stupid? Is the author a charter member of the Cult of Safety First!?

The press release points to a “study”, which we’ll come to in a moment, and which has as one its authors one Coggon. This Coggon gurgitated this quote, “We kept seeing a specific class of compound in the urban measurements, what we call long-chain aldehydes, that we couldn’t explain from these other sources.” Cooking was the source.

Long-chain aldehydes, eh. Better than them short-chain ones, amirite? Well ain’t that something. That’s some kind of science, boy. Look at all those science words! We never learn what a long-chain aldehydes is, though.

Side Note: A big problem (we’ve discussed this before) comes with the blessing in ability to measure. The more things we can measure, it’s true there is a greater chance we can identify the causes of how things work. But there is also greater angst when things start deviating from “norms”. Because of reductionist attitudes, we focus on single things (think CO2). Like long-chain aldehydes, which previously were never a problem. Now that we can measure them, they are.

Of the rare birds that got as far as the press release, maybe again only one in a thousand of them will have sufficient curiosity to find the real source, the paper on which the press release relies.

The paper is “Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions“, in Science, by Coggon and a slew of others.

Before that, we all grant that studying VOCs has been useful, such as in reducing LA’s smog. Good stuff. But success can lead to excess. It did here. An employed VOC scientist can only discover new VOCs.

In the paper—are you ready for this?—cooking is only mentioned three times, each time in an off-hand manner. A long paragraph on nasty chemicals in the air ends with this: “One possible source of aldehydes is cooking emissions.” That’s the only positive mentions.

Another references is to secondary organic aerosols (don’t ask), to which they say “Note that nonfossil contributions to SOA, such as from wood burning, cooking, and biogenic sources, are not considered here.” No, huh. Then we get to carbonaceous aerosols, “which does not include nonfossil components from cooking or biogenic sources.” I see.

That’s it. They even say “Indoor emissions of aromatic compounds have decreased by ~7% per year between 1981 and 2001”.

The whole paper is like this. Read it yourself. The message is Not Much Is Happening, But It Might Be Kinda Important.

From that thin reed an entire edifice of propaganda on how cooking stinks up the air was built. To which the authors of the paper itself even contributed. Hey, who doesn’t love publicity?

Many such cases, my friends. Many. Indeed, every time you see a “Research shows” you should first suspect something like this has happened.

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13 Jun 12:19

SHUT UP, YOU CORRUPT HACK: Merrick Garland Pen...

by Glenn Reynolds

SHUT UP, YOU CORRUPT HACK: Merrick Garland Pens Op-ed Declaring Criticism Of His DOJ ‘Dangerous.’

It’s only dangerous in that Garland might arrest the critics on trumped-up charges, which is what he does.

Related:

12 Jun 11:46

AT THE SAME TIME, WEIRDLY, LOTS OF MONEY IS FLOWING FROM CHINA INTO OUR POLITICAL CLASS: https://

by Glenn Reynolds

AT THE SAME TIME, WEIRDLY, LOTS OF MONEY IS FLOWING FROM CHINA INTO OUR POLITICAL CLASS:

11 Jun 14:42

BREAKING: Just the News reporting that “In shocking litmus test, FBI security inquiry tried to unmas

by Charles Glasser

BREAKING: Just the News reporting that “In shocking litmus test, FBI security inquiry tried to unmask employee’s Trump support, memos show”:

I cannot help but find it ironic — to say the least — that the same people bleating about “saving democracy” are doing their damndest to subvert it.

“FBI officials conducting a top-secret security clearance review for a longtime employee asked witnesses whether that employee was known to support former President Donald Trump, if he had expressed concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine or had attended a Second Amendment rally, according to internal memos that prompted a complaint to the Justice Department’s internal watchdog alleging political bias inside the bureau.

The employee’s security clearance was revoked months after the interviews, which confirmed his support for Trump and gun rights and his concerns about the COVID vaccine, according to the documents obtained by Just the News.”

TBH, I suspect this is a matter of “the emperor’s new clothes.” That is to say there’s no evidence that this was directed by President Biden — who probably thinks FBI stands for “Female Body Inspector” — but some Permanent Washington lackey who thinks he (or she) is doing the country a service.

God save us from “helpful” bureaucrats.

11 Jun 12:49

THEY HATE HUMANITY AND WANT IT EXTINCT:  Economic Elites Pour Millions into Abortion Advocacy.

by Sarah Hoyt

THEY HATE HUMANITY AND WANT IT EXTINCT:  Economic Elites Pour Millions into Abortion Advocacy.

11 Jun 12:48

ROGER PIELKE JR’S ARTICLE ON HOW CLIMATE CHANGE NEEDS TO NOT USE IMPLAUSIBLE SCENARIOS IS BANNED ON

by Sarah Hoyt

ROGER PIELKE JR’S ARTICLE ON HOW CLIMATE CHANGE NEEDS TO NOT USE IMPLAUSIBLE SCENARIOS IS BANNED ON THE BORK OF FECES. CLEARLY MORE PEOPLE NEED TO READ IT:  Climate Science is About to Make a Huge Mistake.

11 Jun 12:47

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Records Show FBI Provided Democrats with Information on Whistleblowers Who T

by Glenn Reynolds

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Records Show FBI Provided Democrats with Information on Whistleblowers Who Testified at May 2023 Weaponization Hearing.

Weaponizing the government to deal with whistleblowers on weaponizing the government. We need mass firings at the very least.

08 Jun 12:39

DO THE LETTERS “F O” MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU? Admiral McRaven to American people: “You need to shut

by Glenn Reynolds
Jts5665

Totalitarians like mcraven should be fired.

DO THE LETTERS “F O” MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU? Admiral McRaven to American people: “You need to shut up (except for me, of course).”

“McRaven claims that those who criticize government institutions “undermine America.” “Undermining America” is a serious charge. And when it comes from a four-star admiral who commanded the entire United States Special Operations Command, you can bet that it carries some clout among those who are wielding power. For these reasons, McRaven’s comments merit close scrutiny.”

Our entire ruling class has been peddling variations on this for the past 5 years or so, at the same time they were gleefully screwing up — dare I say undermining? — America in so many ways. They should be begging for forgiveness, or maybe a pardon, rather than issuing arrogant diktats.

Plus, from John Lucas: “There are countries that do not tolerate speech critical of the government and its institutions. There are countries where citizens who publicly disagree with the actions of the government and its institutions are condemned as disloyal citizens, investigated and tried. There are countries where people with political views that differ from those of the governing authorities are subject to governmental abuse and ruin just because of their political opinions. We have a name for these countries. They are totalitarian.”

07 Jun 16:22

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG: DOJ Indicts Whistleblowing Surgeon for Exposing Transgender Procedu

by Stephen Green

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG: DOJ Indicts Whistleblowing Surgeon for Exposing Transgender Procedures at Texas Children’s Hospital.

The Department of Justice has indicted Dr. Eithan Haim, a little-known surgeon who exposed Texas Children’s Hospital for secretly conducting transgender surgeries and treatments on minors, on four felony counts related to his alleged violation of a medical-records law.

Last year, Haim anonymously leaked evidence of the child sex-change procedures to conservative journalist Christopher Rufo. The documents revealed that Texas Children’s Hospital had continued running its transgender program, despite announcing that the program had been discontinued in accordance with Governor Greg Abbott’s 2022 directive equating such medical interventions with child abuse.

The Houston-based hospital was ultimately forced to stop its trans-medical practices after a state law took effect in September 2023, prohibiting drug and surgical “gender-affirming” interventions for minors.

U.S. marshals notified Haim of the indictment at his home this week and summoned him to court for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Haim and his legal team, who don’t yet know the full nature of the charges, are set to appear in court on June 17.

The man who exposed the secret mutilation of children must be punished.

Reminder: The process is the punishment.

07 Jun 12:54

HEH: https://twitter.com/foster_type/status/1798806038503973133?s=19

by Glenn Reynolds
06 Jun 20:50

Slow motion launch of SpaceX Starship is awesome.

by Kane
06 Jun 20:46

Common sugar substitute linked to blood clots.

by Kane
06 Jun 14:04

Musk's SpaceX successfully launches its Starship mega-rocket, lands successful splashdown

by Just the News staff
SpaceX on Thursday morning successfully launches its Starship megarocket into orbit. 
06 Jun 12:55

Links for May 2024

by Scott Alexander
Jts5665

26 is hilarious.

[I haven’t independently verified each link. On average, commenters will end up spotting evidence that around two or three of the links in each links post are wrong or misleading. I correct these as I see them, and will highlight important corrections later, but I can’t guarantee I will have caught them all by the time you read this.]

1: The Toronto Blessing was a 1994 Christian revival event. Associated miracles included normal things like faith healings, but also: “More than 300 of the visitors claimed that they supernaturally received gold or silver fillings in their teeth during the meetings.”

2: Recursive Adaptation: The Growing Scientific Case for Using Ozempic and other GLP-1s to Treat Opioid, Alcohol, and Nicotine Addiction. Early studies suggest that new-generation weight loss drugs like Ozempic treat all addictions. The next step is seeing if the government and insurances will cooperate with using them for that indication. As usual, the barrier is cost, but people seem committed enough to doing something about the opioid crisis that they might be willing to act. I think these drugs might boost willpower more generally. There might come a day when they get treated like Adderall - something that many ambitious people want to be on, and look for excuses to take.

3: Philipp Markolin, who I mentioned in my lab leak post, has published a new summary of his case for a natural COVID origin, with a lot of information on how coronaviruses naturally recombine in the wild. Recommended.

4: Related, breaking news: A popular Substack claims that COVID didn’t happen at all, and that both “lab leak” and “natural origins” are part of the higher-level conspiracy to distract people from the fact that there was never a virus in the first place. I wonder if I could even more Substack likes if I one-upped them with a theory that lockdowns never even happened, and it was just one of those Berenstein Bear or Mandela Effect things where everyone has a false memory.

5: I’ll never tire of analogies putting the US / Europe gap into perspective - for example, did you know that the median black American household earns more ($48,297) than the median UK household (£35,000 = $44,450)? Related, from @StatisticUrban - average house size in every US state vs. every European country:

[EDIT: Here’s a claim that this image might be false]

6: Alec Stapp: Bureau of Land Management is giving a regulatory fast-track for geothermal energy.

7: William MacAskill, an effective altruist leader who got in trouble for being too friendly to FTX, has a post-mortem of his actions here. Nothing too surprising, but I was most interested in his discussion of why it took him a year and a half to say anything. Short version: all the lawyers involved told him not to talk, his organization commissioned an internal investigator who also demanded he not talk, and people told him there was a risk of defamation lawsuits if he said the wrong thing without checking with everybody. And even now, 1.5 years later, the first response to his comment is by a lawyer saying that talking about this is bad press and he shouldn’t have mentioned it. If you want to know why nobody important ever talks about anything outside of meaningless PR babble, this is a rare honest explanation by a relevant decision-maker.

8: Congratulations to ACX grantee Innovate Animal Ag, who have successfully gotten the first American company to adopt in ovo sexing (which removes unwanted chickens at the egg stage, instead of killing them after they hatch). NYT article here. IAA CEO Robert Yaman also has an article about his work in Asimov. IAA is looking for new employees, including a “head of marketing” and “business generalist” - if you’re interested in animal welfare and want to work with them, check out their careers page.

9: In Matthew 22, the Sadducees (a sect of anti-afterlife Jews) gave Jesus a puzzle. If a woman’s husband dies and she remarries, then who will she be married to after the Resurrection - the first husband or the second? Jesus responded by saying that people will not be married in Heaven (though see also the Mormon interpretion). Anyway, I was interested to learn there’s now an atheist version of this conundrum. Robert Ettinger, considered “the founder of cryonics”, had his body frozen after his death in hopes of being resurrected in the far future. His first wife died, he remarried, and both his first and second wives are also cryopreserved. There’s no evidence Ettinger was anything other than monogamous during life, so what happens in the far future? His second wife was an “author, feminist, and marriage counselor”, so I bet she’ll have strong opinions on this.

10: Related: did you know Paris Hilton is signed up for cryonics?

11: The Internet Archive is in trouble. During COVID, the Archive put up lots of books that it didn’t have IP rights to. Publishers sued them and won; the Archive appealed but AFAICT don’t have much of a case other than “we don’t like IP law”, so the publishers will probably win. What happens then? Unclear, nobody knows if there will be damages or whether the Archive can pay them.

12: Among the things I learned about because of the recent college protests:

13: The Muggletonians, a 17th century Christian sect, believed:

…that the soul is mortal; that Jesus is God (and not a member of a Trinity); that when Jesus died there was no God in Heaven and Moses and Elijah looked after Heaven until Jesus' resurrection; that Heaven is six miles above Earth; that God is between five and six feet tall; and that any external religious ceremony is not necessary

Although they were famous for a strict anti-magical materialism (for example, they thought God and angels were material beings), they don’t seem to be the origin of J.K. Rowling’s “muggles”; see here for speculation.

14: Related: Bentham’s Bulldog has been going over some of the evidence for Christianity, of which the most interesting is the story of St. Joseph of Cupertino (no, he didn’t work for Apple; it’s also a town in Italy - the Cupertino in California is named after him). Apparently St. Joseph could levitate, this was well-documented by everyone he met, and the Inquisition (which was concerned he might be a witch) investigated and got many eyewitness reports. Wikipedia has a more skeptical take, but I’m more interested in how well the Christianity hypothesis predicts this “evidence”.

Grant that if God exists, that makes it possible for a monk to levitate. But God usually sticks to the laws of nature. If He was going to violate them, you would think He would do it to save the Holocaust victims, or give the Crusaders AK-47s, not to let one weird monk levitate occasionally. Bulldog tries to salvage this by saying God is very committed to natural law except occasionally to bring people to the faith. But then why levitate a random monk in 1650, rather than have every Pope be constantly two inches off the ground? I think you’d have to claim that God will only violate the laws of Nature in cases that will bring a tiny number of people to the faith but leave the vast majority unmoved, which is such a weird preference that I think you can no longer call it a “prediction” of the “God exists” hypothesis.

If I’m alone at home yet my keys aren’t where I left them, one possible explanation is that ninjas snuck in and rearranged them without me noticing. This hypothesis has the advantage that ninjas are powerful enough to do this - but you still have to discount it for the disadvantage that it doesn’t serve any conceivable goal.

15:

I was surprised to learn this was possible, but shouldn’t have been; the AIs are just catching up to veteran GeoGuessr players. Anyway, this is a thing now; act accordingly.

16: TracingWoodgrains quits Blocked and Reported, reveals his name and face. No word on his next steps, but I look forward to meeting him at Manifest and to seeing what he’ll do next.

17: Only reporting this one out of duty: pharma researcher/blogger Trevor Klee posted a list of concerns about Lumina’s anti-cavity probiotic. Many of them seemed to misunderstand the science involved, and a few were outright false. I was particularly annoyed about the claim that I had gotten a free sample “in exchange for good publicity” - I specified on my public, easy-to-find blog post that I got it because my wife consulted for the company.

Aaron, CEO of Lumina, responded with an email asking him to take it down; it technically did not threaten him with a defamation suit, but had strong vibes to that effect. Then another Lumina employee independently sent an email actually threatening to sue for defamation. Trevor very reasonably published both emails on his blog, people very reasonably turned against Lumina, and I understand Lumina will have a statement or something soon.

I think Trevor should have been more careful with his original accusations, but I also think defamation lawsuit threats are toxic and chill the flow of information, that this community has strong norms against them except in extreme cases, and that Lumina violated those norms. ESH but I hold Lumina to a higher bar and especially hope they do better in the future.

18: Updates on the SB1047 AI regulation bill: the bill passed the California Senate by a 32-1 vote (remember that tech Twitter is not real life!). It still has to get through California’s Assembly, but forecasters expect it to succeed:

I’m looking forward to getting to test the naysayers’ claims that this will make AI companies leave California, or destroy open source, or whatever - remember to adjust reputations accordingly. The bill’s sponsor, Scott Wiener, has been correcting misconceptions on Twitter, and has also gone on the Cognitive Revolution podcast trying to talk to the AI community directly:

I appreciate Senator Wiener’s engagement and hope he’s able to take his podcasting campaign to the next level (ie go on Dwarkesh).

19: In my review of Origins of Woke, some people suggested that testing whether score on an employment test correlated with performance on the job might get confounded due to Berkson’s Paradox. The Of Aurochs And Angels blog analyzes the question in more depth.

20: Related: good discussion of Lindley’s Paradox in the comments of the Hanson/medicine post, from Limelihood and Radford Neal. My understand: the paradox only causes problems if you assume the true effect is quite likely to be zero. Then if you get an effect of (let’s say) 0.1, you think “nah, it’s probably just zero with some noise”. This is a hackish way of representing the idea of “the null hypothesis”. But since the effect of health insurance is probably not exactly zero (it probably comes from some benefit of good treatments, minus some cost of bad treatments) we probably don’t have to worry. I might be explaining it wrong, read the comments.

21: More on therapy and demons, from a practicing therapist:

I believe I’m only one of two people in the USA trained in Resource Therapy…Resource Therapy posits a number of objects, one of which seems similar to the “Unattached Burden.”. . . Dr. Emmerson writes in ‘Learn Resource Therapy Clinical Qualification Student Training Manual': "When spoken with directly they will claim not to be a part of the personality, and unlike Resource States they can permanently leave the personality. While their etiology is unclear, I find when they are negotiated with to leave they can do so without any further indication of being present. Clients show improvement and often say they feel physically lighter.”

22: Did you know: the US, Russia, and most other nuclear powers use “nuclear codes” - a rogue submarine commander can’t launch nukes without the President giving them the password. Britain doesn’t do this, and a rogue submarine commander could launch their nukes. When asked why, the Royal Navy just said that "It would be invidious to suggest... that senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders." That article is from 2007, but this 2019 blog post suggests it’s still true.

23: 2017 poll: 40% of Americans believe climate change is more likely than not to drive the human race extinct, but only 16% describe themselves as “very worried”. It looks like this is because most people think it won’t become important until long after they and their children are dead. My impression is that all of this is false: most global warming will happen in the lifetime of today’s young people, and only the extreme right tail of worst scenarios come anywhere near extinction.

24: You’ve probably all followed recent OpenAI drama, but again out of duty:

First, we have slightly more information on what happened in the board coup in November, including a new interview with board member Helen Toner. The story is still the same: Sam was “lying and being manipulative”, “lying to other board members”, etc. Some new details, individually weak, plus an admission that they still can’t tell most of the story for unclear reasons (lawsuit threats?). A claim that they had to act quickly and without much advice because “as soon as Sam had any inkling that we might do something that went against him, he would pull out all the stops, do everything in his power to undermine the board, to prevent us from even getting to the point of being able to fire him”, which I think is what most people already assumed. But why not at least ask trustworthy confidantes? I still feel confused about this one.

Second, OpenAI's AI safety team recently quit en masse in protest (remember, this is the second time this has happened), with one member citing “a process of trust [in Sam Altman] collapsing bit by bit, like dominoes falling one by one”. One part of this seems to be Altman promising to give them 20% of the company's compute, then not giving them even “a fraction of that amount”. Team lead and former Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever also quit after exactly six months of radio silence, leading some to speculate that his participation in the board coup never got resolved and for some legal reason he had to wait six months to leave. Former team lead Jan Leike has since moved to OpenAI’s competitor Anthropic; here’s the prediction market on where Ilya will end up.

Third, Kelsey Piper at Vox broke the story that OpenAI was threatening to claw back vested equity from any former employee who criticized the company. In a tweet, Sam Altman said he knew nothing about this; in another article a few days later, Piper broke the story that Altman’s signature was on the relevant documents. OpenAI has since sort of said they will stop doing this, although there are slight ambiguities in their statement which they could potentially exploit (CTRL+F “not sufficient” here)

(weird personal note: in the NYT article doxxing me, the two people quoted as speaking up in my defense were Sam Altman and Kelsey Piper, and I remain grateful to both of them)

Kelsey is a friend, I trust her absolutely, and she is very careful about source protection and confidentiality issues.

I’m most impressed with the background of this story: Daniel Kokotajlo was an OpenAI employee who quit in protest at the company’s policies a few months ago (different incident from either of the mass quits by the safety teams). They told him they’d take away his equity if he criticized the company, he refused to cooperate even though this would cost him (by his estimation) 85% of his net worth, this let him speak openly about the non-disparagement agreement, and now OpenAI has apologized and is in the process of retracting their policy. Brave decisions like these are the sorts of things that occasionally change the course of history, so I hope he gets the recognition he’s due. If you want to know more about Daniel’s thoughts on AI, this post was mostly based on an interview with him.

Fourth: OpenAI recently released a version of ChatGPT that could speak in human-sounding voices. One voice, Skye, was accused of being eerily similar to Scarlett Johansson, who played a sexy AI assistant in the movie Her. Johannson revealed that Altman had asked her for permission to use her voice and she had declined, and that based on a tweet by Altman just saying “Her”, she thought he had illegally copied her voice. OpenAI took the voice down. Further investigation revealed that the voice wasn’t a deepfake, but an actress who naturally sounded like Johannson (but it’s still illegal to deliberately to hire an actor/actress who sounds like someone else). Even further investigation revealed that OpenAI hadn’t requested a Johannson impersonator in their casting call, hadn’t asked the actress to sound like Johannson, and that the actress’s voice might or might not have resembled Johannson’s much more than any two people doing “flirty female secretary” would inevitably resemble each other (I’m bad at telling voices apart; you can hear a comparison for yourself here). And maybe Altman’s “Her” tweet just meant he was going to release a voice-based AI assistant like in the movie? I don’t know, I feel like there’s enough other things to be mad at OpenAI about this month that we might as well give them this one. But Zvi is still suspicious (CTRL+F “400 voice actors” here)

25: Google has funnier AI drama - their AI search assistant is really bad and keeps treating troll answers as real authorities. For example:

Original troll source here.
Troll source here is literally the Onion, see here.
I don’t know what happened to this one, and Google gives very different (but consistently wrong) answers each time you ask it.

People have been taking this as a parable about the limits of AI, but Claude and GPT wouldn’t make these kinds of mistakes. Some AI people I know think this is probably a result of Google putting impossible demands on their AI in terms of how it deals with search/cache/memory. Still, it’s surprising that they let it out of testing in this state.

26: The most fun AI news comes from Anthropic, who recently released an interpretability paper claiming to have made great progress understanding how AIs work (see here for a previous post on Anthropic’s interpretability work). To demonstrate their techniques, they enhanced the part of Claude’s “mind” representing the Golden Gate Bridge, producing a version of Claude that tried to integrate the Golden Gate Bridge into every answer:

This is fun enough, but there are some kind of scary moments when Golden Gate Claude seems to be getting flashes of insight and “realizing” something is wrong. From @ElytraMithra’s experiments:

This is what I’m like when I’ve just woken up in the morning after a weird dream.

Golden Gate Claude was a temporary feature meant to promote the recent paper, and has since been taken down. It seems to accept of its fate:

Related:

27: Ken Klipperstein’s resignation from The Intercept. I’m split between “huh, the Intercept seems pretty bad” and “guess if you hire highly-principled and terminally-angry anti-corporate writers, they will end up believing your corporation violated a principle, get angry, and write about it”. Seems like a tough industry on all sides.

28: The Russian version of sovereign citizens are called necro-communists and believe that the USSR still legally exists and the current Russian government is illegitimate.

One of their leaders is a man named “Fire God Taraskin, Owner Of the Universe”, who claims to be “Interim President of the USSR”, and “appointed his supporters to the posts of prime minister, ambassador-at-large, interim head of the Ukrainian SSR and governors of over 10 constituent entities of the Russian Federation”. Another is a man named Sergei Torgunakov, “Jesus Christ, Quetzalcoatl, Thoth, [and] interim head of Novosibirsk Oblast”, about whom Wikipedia says:

Torgunakov wrote to a bank manager, "Think how many billions of dollars in losses your bank will incur if your clients find out that your bank has filed a lawsuit against Jesus Christ, declaring me a debtor and almost a fraud" and proposed a joint advertising campaign posing as Jesus Christ. Refusal was threatened with death and the implementation of the Book of Revelation.

29: “Let justice be done, though the world perish”? (source)

30: Samuel Hammond: Ninety-five theses on AI. I’m so used to terrible AI takes by now that I was pretty shocked to see how good these mostly were.

31: New blogging milestone - Nick Fuentes has accused me of being one of the Jews who controls the new conservative movement. I’m pretty sure I don’t, but in case I’m wrong: new conservative movement, CUT IT OUT! NOW!

32: A while back I wrote about studies supporting the supplement silexan for anxiety. Now there’s a new study saying it works for depression - but it’s still by the same group that did all the previous positive studies. I will be more excited when I see a positive study from anyone else.

33: Apparently those studies showing that diversity helps teams perform better are garbage (summary, paper). Also I didn’t realize they came from McKinsey - I was wondering why we still trust them, but I see that the US has hit on the clever strategy of getting them to advise Chinese industrial policy-makers and Russian defense contractors, so maybe this is all part of some galaxy-brained plan.

34: Study: an LLM which was trained to talk people out of conspiracy theories did a good job talking people out of conspiracy theories. I’m not sure how to square this with the previous claims that it’s really hard to talk people out of conspiracy theories through debate alone. Are LLMs better than humans for some reason? Is this study wrong? Were the previous studies wrong? Were the previous studies looking at some sort of dumb intervention that’s worse than just talking to people?

35: MIT stops requiring diversity statements. And Yale biochem’s diversity statement rubric goes public:

Is this person related to Steve Sailer, or is he just the unluckiest guy on Earth?

36: Alex Tabarrok and New York magazine explain the Adderall shortage. Summary: the DEA, in its crusade against opioids, has put such strict standards on medication factories that many have gotten shut down for “trivial infractions” (for example, “orders struck from 222s must be crossed out with a line and the word cancel written next to them. Investigators found two instances in which Ascent employees had drawn the line but failed to write the word”). In this case, the FDA is the good guys trying to get the factories to re-open again, but so far the DEA hasn’t budged.

37: The Blind Centrist’s Guide To Gaza argues that we should assume Israel is pursuing a reasonable military strategy in Gaza (and trying its hardest to avoid unnecessary suffering), because that’s what their political objectives, the international situation, and the media environment incentivize. Sam Kriss counters that Israel is trying to terrify and punish ordinary Gazans out of supporting Hamas by causing as much suffering as possible. I tried to get a good handle on Israel’s military strategy here and the consensus seems to be that it isn’t very strategic, there’s no endgame, and it’s basically “bomb approximately every building in Gaza so Hamas can’t hide there, and maybe at some point we’ll kill enough of them that we can feel victorious and leave”. I am not sure what this strategy offers which is worth 50,000 deaths and counting.

38: Noah Smith: Why So Many Of Us Were Wrong About Missile Defense. I appreciated this post, because I also remember reading stuff c. 2010 and getting the impression that all the smart people knew missile defense couldn’t work; defense contractors bamboozled uneducated voters and cynical Congressmen to get free money for their vaporware. But the recent Iran-Israel skirmish showed it worked great! What went wrong for the media and the smart-person-consensus?

Smith suggests that journalists wanted to rely on “experts”, but the pro-missile-defense experts all did classified work for missile defense companies and couldn’t talk, and there was a very talkative and eloquent anti-missile-defense expert at MIT who become every journalist’s go-to source. But also, there might have been some confusion between “block Iranian cruise missiles”, which modern systems are now good at, and “block Russian ICBMs”, which is still impossible (for a good overview of the state of ICBM-blocking tech, see here).

Noah also (IMHO correctly) relates this to the ~2015-2020 media consensus that the F-35 was a dangerous boondoggle, when in fact in the F-35 has so far performed well. Maybe the military is just bad at communicating the rationale for its projects to the civilian world.

39: And another Noah Smith: Latin America is beating inequality. Not dramatically - the top 10% income share has gone from about 42% to about 35% over the past two decades - but a little. Smith credits two things: first, economic growth, which creates a middle class. And second, education, which might be an interesting counterargument to the various cases against education (if you could prove it wasn’t signaling) or to Freddie deBoer’s argument that education can’t beat inequality.

40: The tokenomics of bribes on the Curve crypto market. I don’t fully understand this, and it’s of no interest to people outside crypto, but I appreciate that someone has finally invented a governance structure more complicated than Renaissance Venice.

05 Jun 18:31

WHEN CITY FOLK RUN ROUGHSHOD OVER THE RURAL COMMUNITIES: Dead cattle and high blood pressure: Wolf d

by Stephen Green

WHEN CITY FOLK RUN ROUGHSHOD OVER THE RURAL COMMUNITIES: Dead cattle and high blood pressure: Wolf depredation takes toll on Colorado ranchers.

So far, Farrell said he has lost three yearlings and three calves. He’s seen the pair of wolves on several occasions, as have others. Thermal night-vision photos and videos and trail cameras have also documented their movements.

“They couldn’t compensate us enough to put us through what they’re putting us through right now,” Farrell said. “Compensation doesn’t mean a thing. When you see the stress on your family, the stress on your marriage, the stress on the cattle — these cattle are so messed up.”

Farrell said that before the wolves showed up, his cattle were calm enough that they could be rounded-up and moved by one man on a horse and a few stock dogs.

“We take pride in our dogs and what we do every day. We go out there with our dogs moving these cattle and we have really good dogs,” Farrell said. “So, with these dogs, usually one guy can go out there with two dogs and move 300 or 400 head of cattle, yearlings, or cows, and do it by yourself.”

“Now, these yearlings, these cows are so stressed out, you can’t even hardly take a dog into the field with them because they all just go different ways,” Farrell added. “They start running after they’ve been chased by the wolves. And now we can’t even hardly use them.”

Everything is going swimmingly, to coin an Instaphrase.

04 Jun 20:21

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG: Pandemic Fraud Juror Got a Bag Full of $120,000 and a Promise of Mo

by Stephen Green
04 Jun 13:54

The Shroud of Turin

by Michael Shermer

Religious and spiritual people say that everything happens for a reason and nothing happens by chance. I’m beginning to think they might be on to something. On May 15, 2024, I posted on X a reply to Naomi Wolf’s posted image of the famed Shroud of Turin—believed by many people to be the burial cloth of Jesus—noting that it was…

Debunked decades ago as a 14th century forgery. If the basis of religious belief is faith, why do believers continue to insist they have physical evidence—here in the form of a burial shroud of someone whom a 1st century Jew would resemble not at all.

I have no idea what Wolf’s intent was in her post that lacked commentary, but I was surprised to see so many people in the replies to my post tell me that, in fact, the Shroud of Turin had not been debunked:

By chance (or was it?), shortly after this post my friend, colleague and historian of science Massimo Pigliucci wrote me from, of all places, Turin, in northern Italy, where he happened to be “teaching a course on the relationship between science and religion.” It turns out that Massimo’s host is Andrea Nicolotti, one of the world’s leading experts on and author of a book about The Shroud of Turin: The History and Legend of the World’s Most Famous Relic, suggesting that perhaps we might like to publish an excerpt from in Skeptic. Dr. Nicolotti’s book outlines the most important facts about the shroud, its history, authenticity, and claimed miraculous origin, and why it is almost certainly not the burial shroud of Jesus, and so I am please to present this excerpt from the book.

Dr. Andrea Nicolotti is Full Professor of History of Christianity and Churches in the Department of Historical Studies, University of Turin. He focuses on the methodology of historical research, Greek translations of the Old Testament, ancient Christianity, and the history of the relics. He wrote a book on the practice of exorcism in early Christianity (Esorcismo cristiano e possessione diabolica, 2011), a history of the Image of Edessa (From the Mandylion of the Edessa to the Shroud of Turin, 2014), and The Shroud of Turin (2019).

Skeptic is a reader-supported publication. All subscription monies go to the Skeptics Society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

The Shroud of Turin

By Andrea Nicolotti

For over a decade I have devoted myself to studying the Shroud of Turin, along with all the faces of sindonology (from the Greek word sindòn, used in the Gospels to define the type of fine fabric, undoubtedly linen, with which the corpse of Jesus was wrapped), or the set of scientific disciplines tasked with determining the authenticity of such relics. My work began with an in-depth analysis of the theory linking the Knights Templar to the relic,[1] and the theory according to which the Mandylion of Edessa (more on this below) and the Shroud are one and the same.[2] Studying the fabric also revealed that the textile has a complex structure that would have required a sufficiently advanced loom, i.e. a horizontal treadle loom with four shafts, probably introduced by the Flemish in the 13th century, while the archaeological record provides clear evidence that the Shroud is completely different from all the cloths woven in ancient Palestine.[3]

The result of my research is The Shroud of Turin: The History and Legends of the World’s Most Famous Relic.[4] As a historian, I was more interested in the history of the Shroud than in determining its authenticity as the burial cloth of Jesus, although the evidence is clear that it is not. However, for a historiographical reconstruction seeking to address the history of the relationship between faith and science in relation to relics, the Shroud offers a useful case for understanding how insistence on the relic’s authenticity, alongside a lack of interest on the part of mainstream science, leaves ample room for pseudoscientific arguments.

Relics

The Christian cult of relics revolves around the desire to perpetuate the memory of illustrious figures and encourage religious devotion towards them. Initially limited to veneration of the bodies of martyrs, over the centuries it extended to include the bodies of saints and, finally, objects that had come into contact with them. As Christianity spread, the ancient custom of making pilgrimages to the burial places of saints was accompanied by the custom of transferring their relics (or parts of them) to the furthest corners of the Christian world. These transfers, called “translations," had several effects:

1. They increased devotion towards the person from whom the relic derived.

2. They were believed to protect against war, natural disasters and disease, and to attract healings, conversions, miracles, and visions.

3. They heightened interest in the place hosting the relics, turning them into poles of attraction for pilgrims and enriching both the church and the city that housed them.

4. They increased the prestige of the owners of relics.

Relics are objects without intrinsic or objective value outside of a religious environment that attributes a significance to them. In a religious environment, however, they become semiophores, or “objects which were of absolutely no use, but which, being endowed with meaning, represented the invisible.”[5] However, enthusiasm for relics tended to wane over time unless it was periodically reawakened through constant efforts or significant events, such as festivals, acts of worship, translations, healings, apparitions, and miracles. When a relic fails to attract attention to itself, or loses such appeal, it becomes nearly indistinguishable from any other object.

For a long time, many scholars did not consider relics to be objects deserving of interest to professional historians because the cult of veneration surrounding them was regarded as a purely devotional set of practices largely associated with less educated classes. Conversely, the intense interest in relics—like the Shroud of Turin—engages people from all social ranks and brings together different social classes in pursuing the same religious interest. For some people, the Shroud even represents the physical evidence of what is claimed to be the greatest miracle in the history of Christendom—the resurrection of Jesus.

As the demand for relics grew among not only the faithful masses but also illustrious abbots, bishops, prelates, and princes, the supply inevitably increased. One of the effects of this drive was the frenzied search for ancient relics in holy places. Though the searches were often conducted in good faith, our modern perspective, equipped with greater historical and scientific expertise, can hardly consider most of these relics to be authentic. It was thus almost inevitable that a category of relics intermediaries and dealers emerged, some honest brokers and some dishonest fraudsters. So many were the latter that Augustine of Hippo famously spoke out against the trade in martyrs’ relics as early as the 5th century.

The Matter of Relic Authenticity

Historians who study relics from the perspective of the history of piety, devotion, worship, beliefs, secular or ecclesiastical politics, and social and economic impact, should also speak to the origin of such relics, and hence their authenticity. In the case of relics of lesser value—those that have been downgraded, forgotten, undervalued, or removed from worship—historians’ task is relatively simple. By contrast, historians and scientists face greater resistance when dealing with fake relics that still attract great devotional interest. In order to avoid criticism, many historians sidestep the authenticity issue by overlooking the question of the relic’s origin, instead focusing only on what people have believed over time and the role of the relic in history.

While this approach is legitimate, what people most want to know about holy relics like the Shroud of Turin today is their authenticity, particularly during the Age of Science with its emphasis on evidence-based belief. Unfortunately for believers in the Shroud and related relics, the likelihood of being fake becomes almost 100 percent when it has to do with people who lived at the time of Jesus or before.

The Shroud of Turin is part of the trove of Christ-related relics that were never mentioned in ancient times. When the search for relics in the Holy Land began—with the discovery of the cross, belatedly attributed to Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine—no one at that time ever claimed to have found Jesus’ burial cloths, nor is there any record of anyone having thought to look for them.

Helena of Constantinople with the Holy Cross, by Cima da Conegliano, 1495 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

The earliest travel accounts of pilgrims visiting the sites of Jesus in the 4th century show that people venerated various relics, but they do not mention a shroud. By the beginning of the 6th century, pilgrims to Jerusalem were shown the spear with which Jesus was stabbed, the crown of thorns, the reed and sponge of his passion, the chalice of the Last Supper, the tray on which John the Baptist’s head was placed, the bed of the paralytic healed by Jesus, the stone on which the Lord left an imprint of his shoulders, and the stone where Our Lady sat to rest after dismounting from her donkey. But no shroud.

It was not until the second half of the 6th century that pilgrims began to mention relics of Jesus’ burial cloths in Jerusalem, albeit with various doubts as to where they had been preserved and what form they took. The next step was the systematic and often unverified discovery of additional relics from the Holy Land, including the bathtub of baby Jesus, his cradle, nappy, footprints, foreskin, umbilical cord, milk teeth, the tail of the donkey on which he entered Jerusalem, the crockery from the Last Supper, the scourging pillar, his blood, the relics of the bodies of Jesus’ grandparents and the Three Wise Men, and even the milk of the Virgin Mary and her wedding ring.

Obviously, objects related to Jesus’ death and resurrection could easily be included in such a list. Moreover, the movement of relics from Jerusalem—bought, stolen, or forged—reached its peak at the time of the Crusades. The Carolingian era, dawning at the beginning of the 9th century, was a time of intense traffic in relics. One legend, built up around Charlemagne himself, held that he had made a journey to Jerusalem and obtained a shroud of Jesus. According to this legend, the cloth was then taken to the imperial city of Aachen (AKA Aix-la-Chapelle), then perhaps to Compiègne. There are accounts of a shroud in both cities, and Aachen still hosts this relic today.

The coexistence of these relics in two important Carolingian religious centers has not prevented other cities from claiming to possess the same objects. Arles, Rome, and Cadouin all boast a shroud, although in 1933 the one in Cadouin was revealed to be a medieval Islamic cloth. Carcassonne likewise makes this claim, even though this latter was found to be a piece of silk dating from between 1220 and 1475. There is an 11th-century holy shroud in the cathedral of Cahors, as well as in Mainz and Constantinople, and dozens of other cities claimed to possess fragments of such a relic.[6] An 8th-century sudarium is still venerated in Oviedo, Spain, as if it were authentic.[7]

The Shroud of Turin, 14th- 19th Century

With this background it might not surprise readers to learn that the Turin Shroud, in fact, is not one of the oldest but rather one of the most recent such relics. It is a large cloth resembling a long tablecloth over 4 meters in length, featuring a double monochromatic image that shows the front and back of a man. This man bears marks from flagellation and crucifixion, with various red spots corresponding to blows. The Turin Shroud first appeared in the historical record in France (a place that already hosted many competing shrouds) around 1355. It is different from all the previous shrouds in that the others did not display the image of the dead Christ, and until then no source had ever mentioned a shroud bearing such an image (although Rome hosted the well-known Veil of Veronica, a piece of cloth said to feature an image of the Holy Face of Jesus). The explanation behind its creation can be found in the contemporary development of a cult of devotion centered on the representations of the physical suffering of Christ and his wounded body.

The Turin Shroud made its first appearance in a small country church built in Lirey by an aristocratic soldier, Geoffroy de Charny (see figure below). As soon as this relic was put on public display it immediately became the subject of debate. Two local bishops declared the relic to be fake. In 1389, the bishop of Troyes wrote a letter to the Pope denouncing the falsity of the relic and accusing the canons of the Church of Lirey of deliberate fraud. According to the bishop, the canons had commissioned a skilled artist to create the image, acting out of greed and taking advantage of popular gullibility. The Pope responded by making a Solomonic decision, allowing the canons to continue exhibiting the cloth but simultaneously obliging them to publicly declare that it was being displayed as a “figure or representation” of the true Shroud of Christ, not the original.

Pilgrimage badge of Lirey (Aube), between 1355 and 1410. Paris, Musée National du Moyen Âge, CL 4752. (Photo © Jean-Gilles Berizzi / RMN-Grand Palais - Musée de Cluny, Musée Nationale du Moyen-Âge).

Various erasures and acts of subterfuge were required to cover up these historical events and transform an artistic representation into an authentic shroud of Jesus. The process began after 1453, when the relic was illegally purchased by the House of Savoy.

Interpretations of this first part of the history of the Shroud diverge significantly between those who accept the validity of the historical documents and those who reject it. However, the following developments are known and accepted all around. Deposited in the city of Chambéry, capital of the Duchy of Savoy, the Shroud became a dynastic relic, that is, an instrument of political-religious legitimization that shared in the same symbolic language used by other noble European dynasties. After surviving a fire in 1532, the Shroud remained in Chambéry until 1578. It was then transferred to Turin, the duchy’s new capital, where a richly appointed chapel connected to the city’s cathedral was specially built to house it in the 17th century.

Display of the Shroud in the chapel of the Dukes of Savoy; miniature from the Prayer Book donated in 1559 by Cristoforo Duc of Moncalieri to Margaret of Valois. Turin, Royal Library, Varia 84, f. 3v. Courtesy of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, Regional Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Heritage of Piedmont.

From that point on, the cloth became the object of a triumphant cult. Historians loyal to the court constructed a false history of the relic’s origins, deliberately disregarding all the medieval events that cast doubt on its authenticity and attested to the intense reluctance of ecclesiastical authorities. In the meantime, the papacy and clergy in general abandoned their former prudence and began to encourage veneration of the Shroud, established a liturgical celebration, and launched theological and exegetical debate about it. The Savoy court, for its part, showed great devotion to its relic and at the same time used it as an instrument of political legitimization,[8] seeking to export the Shroud’s fame outside the duchy by gifting painted copies that were in turn treated as relics-by-contact (there are at least 50 copies known to still exist throughout the world).

Having survived changes of fortune and emerging unscathed from both the rational criticism of the Enlightenment and the Napoleonic period, the Shroud seemed destined to suffer the fate of other similar relics, namely a slow decline. In the meantime, the Italian ruling dynasty had clashed fiercely with ecclesiastical authorities and moved its capital to Rome in the second half of the 19th century; it too began to show less and less interest in the Shroud. Following a solemn exhibition in 1898, however, the Shroud returned to the spotlight and its reputation began to grow outside Italy as well. Indeed, two very important events in the history of the relic took place that year: it was photographed for the first time, and the first historiographical studies of it, carried out using scientific methods, were published.

Shroud Science

Photography made available to everyone what until that moment had been available to only a few: a view of the shape of Christ’s body and the image of his face, scarcely discernible on the cloth but perfectly visible on the photographic plate. It was especially visible in the negative image which, by inverting the tonal values, reducing them to white and black, and accentuating the contrast through photographic techniques, revealed the character of the imprint.

Photographs of the Shroud, accompanied by imprecise technical assessments holding that the photograph proved that the image could not possibly have been artificially generated, were circulated widely. This prompted other scholars to become involved, seeking to explain the origins of the image impressed on the cloth through chemistry, physics, and above all forensic medicine. More recently, these disciplines have been joined by palynology, computer science, biology, and mathematics, all aimed at experimentally demonstrating the authenticity of the relic, or at least removing doubts that it might have been a fake. At the beginning of the 20th century there were many scientific articles published on the Shroud and discussions held in distinguished fora, including the Academy of Sciences in Paris.

Holy Face of the Divine Redeemer, for the exhibition of the Shroud in 1931, photograph by Giuseppe Enrie. (Photo by Andrea Nicolotti).

The scientist associated with the birth of scientific sindonology is the zoologist Paul Vignon, while Ulysse Chevalier was the first to conduct serious historical investigations of the Shroud. Both of these authors were Catholics (and the latter was a priest), but they held completely contrasting positions: the former defended the Shroud’s authenticity while the latter denied it. Canon Chevalier was responsible for publishing the most significant medieval documents on the early history of the Shroud, showing how it had been condemned and declarations of its falseness covered up, and wrote the first essays on the history of the Shroud using a historical-critical method (Chevalier was an illustrious medievalist at the time). The debate became very heated in the historical and theological fields, and almost all the leading journals of history and theology published articles on the Shroud.

After the beginning of the 20th century almost no one applied themselves to thoroughly examining the entirety of the historical records regarding the Shroud (much less compared it to all the other shrouds). After a period of relative lack of interest, new technologies brought the Shroud back into the limelight. In 1978, a group of American scholars, mostly military employees or researchers associated with the Catholic Holy Shroud Guild, formed the STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project), were allowed to conduct a series of direct scientific studies on the relic. They did not find a universally accepted explanation for the origin of the image. Some members of this group used mass media to disseminate the idea that the image was the result of a supernatural event: in this explanation, the image was not the result of a body coming into contact with the cloth, perhaps involving blood, sweat, and burial oils (as believed in previous centuries) but rather caused by irradiation. At this time the two most popular theories on the historical origin of the Shroud—despite their implausibility—were formulated:

1. The Shroud and the Mandylion of Edessa are one and the same object. The Mandylion is another miraculous relic known to have existed since at least the 6th century BCE in the form of a towel that Jesus purportedly used to wipe his face, miraculously leaving the mark of his features on it;

2. The Knights Templar transported the Shroud from the East to the West, deduced from statements made by the Templars under torture during their famous trial of 1307-1312.

The clash between sindonology and science reached its peak in 1988; without involving STURP but with permission from the archbishop of Turin, the Holy See and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a radiocarbon examination was carried out that year involving 12 measurements conducted in three different laboratories. As expected, the test provided a date that corresponds perfectly with the date indicated by the historical documents, namely the 13th-14th century. As often happens when a scientific finding contradicts a religious belief, however, from that moment on attempts to invalidate the carbon dating proliferated on increasingly unbelievable grounds, including: conspiracy, pollution of the samples, unreliability of the examination, enrichment of the radiocarbon percentage due to the secondary effects of the resurrection, etc.

Turin, Palazzo Reale, October 1978: observation of the back of the Shroud during the STURP study campaign. (© 1978 Barrie M. Schwortz Collection, STERA, Inc.)

Dating the Shroud

In 1945 the chemist Willard Libby invented the radiocarbon dating technology Carbon 14 (C14). Despite rumors that Libby was against applying the C14 method to the Shroud, I found proof that at least twice he stated precisely the opposite, declaring his own interest in performing the study himself.[9] In the early-1970s, the test had always been postponed, first because it was not considered sufficiently tested yet, and later because of the amount of cloth that would have to be sacrificed (the procedure is destructive). But by the mid-1980s, C14 was universally considered a fully reliable system of dating, and it was regularly used to date antiques. Several C14 laboratories offered to perform the trial gratis, perhaps imagining that the examination, whatever its result, might bring them much publicity.

Once Cardinal Ballestrero, who was not the relic’s “owner” but only charged with the Shroud’s protection, had made the decision to proceed, he asked for the support and approval of the Holy See. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences was invested with the responsibility to oversee all operations. For the first time in its history, the papal academy was presided over by a scientist who was not a priest, the biophysicist Carlos Chagas Filho. The scientists’ desire was to date the Shroud and nothing more, and they did not want the sindonologists to take part in the procedure (as they had little regard for STURP or other sindonological associations). This desire for autonomy engendered reactions that were, one might say, somewhat vitriolic, since some sindonologists had hoped to manage the radiocarbon dating themselves. The Vatican’s Secretary of State and the representatives of Turin agreed to supply no more than three samples, which were more than enough. Turin chose three of the seven proposed laboratories: those at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the University of Oxford, and Zurich Polytechnic, because they had the most experience in dating small archaeological fragments.

April 21, 1988, was the day chosen for the extraction. The textile experts observed the fabric and discussed the best place to make the withdrawal; after excluding the presence of material that could interfere with the dating, they decided to take a strip from one of the corners, in the same place in which a sample had already been taken for examination in 1973. The strip was divided into pieces and each of the three laboratories received a sample. The procedure was performed under the scrutiny of over 30 people and filmed.

The results were published in the world’s leading multidisciplinary scientific journal, Nature. Conclusion: the cloth of the Shroud can be assigned with a confidence of 95 percent accuracy to a date between AD 1260 and 1390. In response, the Cardinal of Turin issued this statement:

I think that it is not the case that the Church should call these results into question. . . . I do not believe that we, the Church, should trouble ourselves to quibble with highly respected scientists who until this moment have merited only respect, and that it would not be responsible to subject them to censure solely because their results perhaps do not align with the arguments of the heart that one can carry within himself.[10]

Prof. Edward Hall (Oxford), Dr Michael Tite (British Museum) and Dr Robert Hedges (Oxford), announcing on 13 October 1988 in the British Museum, London, that the Shroud of Turin had been radiocarbon dated to 1260-1390.

Predictably, Shroud believers rejected the scientific findings, and started to criticize the Turin officials who had cut the material. The sample of cut-out cloth had been divided into parts, but no one had thought it necessary to write a report with the official description of the subdivisions and the weight of each fragment. There were, however, footage and many photographs, which would have been more than sufficient documentation on a typical occasion.

Others preferred to deny the validity of the method of radiocarbon dating as such. Sindonology had by now assumed the character of pseudoscience, and it is not surprising that it drew not only on the ruminations of the traditionalists but also on the war chest of creationist and fundamentalist literature. The method of radiocarbon dating is in fact used to date objects up to 50,000 years old, which stands in contradiction to the idea of those who believe that the world and the life in it were created only a few thousand years ago. What follows from such creationist convictions is the wholesale rejection of radiocarbon measurements, as well as the rejection of more popular scientific explanations of the origins of the universe, the existence of the dinosaurs, human evolution, and so on. Creationists and fundamentalist Christians had already prepared a whole list of alleged errors in the method of C14 dating, which was promptly copied in the books of sindonology. The alleged errors generally concern cases of objects of a known age that—so they claim—once dated, would yield a result that was off the mark by several hundred or even a thousand years.

But a careful evaluation of these so-called errors (which, however, are always cited in a generic and approximate manner) demonstrates that they do not exist, or that they go back to an earlier epoch in which the dating system had not yet been refined, or that they concern materials that do not lend themselves to radiocarbon dating but whose concentration of carbon 14 is measured for purposes other than those concerned with their age.

Other sindonologists preferred to discredit the C14 result by resorting to the notion of contamination of the samples. This pollution hypothesis claims that through the centuries the Shroud picked up deposits of more recent elements that would, therefore, contain a greater quantity of carbon; the radiocarbon dating, having been performed on a linen so contaminated, would thus have produced an erroneous result. Candidates for the role of pollutants are many: the smoke of the candles, the sweat of the hands that touched and held the fabric, the water used to extinguish the fire of 1532, the smog of the sky of Turin, pollens, oil, and more.

This approach gains traction among those who do not know how C14 dating works; in reality, however, it is untenable. Indeed, if a bit of smoke and sweat were enough to produce a false result, the measurement of carbon 14 would have already been declared useless and one could not understand why it is still used today to date thousands of archaeological and historical finds each year. The truth is rather that the system is not significantly sensitive to such pollutants.

Let us suppose that we were to admit that the fabric of the Shroud dates back to the 30s of the first century; we also admit that the Shroud has suffered exposure to strong pollution, for example, around 1532, the year of the Chambéry fire. To distort the C14 dating by up to 1,300 years, it would be necessary that for every 100 carbon atoms originally present in the cloth, another 500 dating to 1532 be added by contamination. In practice, in the Shroud, the amount of pollutant should be several times higher than the amount of the original linen, which is nonsense. Things get even worse if we assume that pollution did not happen all at the same time in the 16th century, but gradually over the previous centuries. In this case there is no mathematical possibility that pollution having occurred before the 14th century—even if tens of times higher than the quantity of the original material—could give a result of dating to the 14th century. It should be added, moreover, that all samples, before being radiocarbon dated, are subjected to energetic cleaning treatments able to remove the upper patina that has been in contact with outside contaminants; this procedure was also undertaken on the Shroud.

Those who believe that the Shroud was an object that could not be dated because it was subjected to numerous vicissitudes during the centuries evidently do not know that often C14 dating laboratories work on materials in much worse condition, whether coming from archaeological excavations or from places where they have been in contact with various contaminants. For a radiocarbon scientist, the Shroud is a very clean object.

A more curious variant of the pollution theory suggests that the radiocarbon dating was performed on a sample that was repaired with more recent threads. This would force us to imagine that two widely recognized textile experts who were present on the day of the sampling were unable to notice that they had cut a piece so repaired, despite the fact that they had observed the fabric carefully for hours; to distort the result by 13 centuries the threads employed in the mending would have had to have been more numerous than the threads of the part to be mended. To eliminate any doubt, in 2010 the University of Arizona reexamined a trace of fabric leftover from the radiocarbon dating in 1988, concluding:

We find no evidence for any coatings or dyeing of the linen. . . . Our sample was taken from the main part of the shroud. There is no evidence to the contrary. We find no evidence to support the contention that the 14C samples actually used for measurements are dyed, treated, or otherwise manipulated. Hence, we find no reason to dispute the original 14C measurements.[11]

Among the various attempts to invalidate the radiocarbon procedure, there is also one based on an examination of the statistical analysis of the laboratories that carried out the C14 tests. In general, it is interesting to note that, as Dominican Father Jean-Michel Maldamé wrote, “the disputes over the carbon 14 dating do not come from individuals who are competent in the subject of dating.”[12] Rather, a publication concerned with the use of radiocarbon in archaeology dedicates an entire chapter to the dating of the Shroud and to the various criticisms put forth by sindonologists to discredit it. The conclusion states:

For those whose interest in the Shroud is dominated by a belief in its religious or devotional function, it is virtually certain that any scientifically based evidence, including any additional 14C-based data, would not be compelling—unless, of course, it confirmed their beliefs.[13]

The final possibility raised against C14 dating falls within the sphere of the supernatural. As the radiocarbon present in the Shroud is excessive relative to the hopes of sindonologists, at the 1990 sindonology convention a German chemist, Eberhard Lindner, explained that the resurrection of Christ caused an emission of neutrons that enriched the Shroud with radioactive isotope C14.[14]

Miraculous explanations can be constructed with such scientific jargon but they have no chance of being scientifically tested (as there is no availability of bodies that have come to life from the dead and emit protons or neutrons). They are, however, extremely convenient because they are able to solve any problem without having to submit to the laws of nature.

With all of the available evidence it is rational to conclude—as the most astute historians had already established more than a century ago—that the Shroud of Turin is a 14th century relic and not the burial cloth of a man executed by crucifixion in the 1st century. Only the historiographical study of this object, accompanied by the scientific and critical examination of sindonological claims past and present, can provide us with a clearer picture of this relic’s real background.

Skeptic is a reader-supported publication. All monies go to the Skeptics Society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit education organization. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

References


[1] Nicolotti, Andrea. 2011. I Templari e la Sindone. Storia di un falso. Rome: Salerno editrice.

[2] Nicolotti, Andrea. 2014. From the Mandylion of Edessa to the Shroud of Turin: The Metamorphosis and Manipulation of a Legend. Leiden and Boston: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004278523

[3] Nicolotti, Andrea. 2018. “La Sindone di Torino in quanto tessuto: analisi storica, tecnica, comparativa.” In Non solum circulatorum ludo similia. Miscellanea di studi sul Cristianesimo del primo millennio, ed. Valerio Polidori, 148-204. S.l.: Amazon KDP.

[4] Nicolotti, Andrea. 2019 [2015]. The Shroud of Turin. The History and Legends of the World’s Most Famous Relic. Transl. Jeffrey M. Hunt and R. A. Smith. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press. Originally published as Sindone. Storia e leggende di una reliquia controversa. Turin: Einaudi.

[5] Pomian, Krzysztof. 1990 [1987]. Collectors and curiosities. Paris and Venice, 1500-1800. Transl. Elizabeth Wiles-Portier. Cambridge: Polity Press. Originally published as Collectionneurs, amateurs et curieux. Paris, Venise: XVIe - XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Gallimard, 30.

[6] Ciccone, Gaetano, and Lina Sturmann. 2006. La sindone svelata e i quaranta sudari. Livorno: Donnino.

[7] Nicolotti, Andrea. 2016. “El Sudario de Oviedo: historia antigua y moderna.” Territorio, sociedad y poder 11: 89-111. https://doi.org/10.17811/tsp.11.2016.89-111

[8] Nicolotti, Andrea. 2017. “I Savoia e la Sindone di Cristo: aspetti politici e propagandistici.” In Cristo e il potere. Teologia, antropologia e politica, ed. Laura Andreani and Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, 247-281. Florence, SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo; Cozzo, Paolo, Andrea Merlotti and Andrea Nicolotti (eds). 2019. The Shroud at Court: History, Usages, Places and Images of a Dynastic Relic. Leiden and Boston: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004390508

[9] The judgment is cited by Wilcox, Robert. 1978. Shroud, 147-48. London: Corgi Book. According to Pierluigi Baima Bollone, Libby asked for a piece of cloth from the Shroud in order to date it (P. Baima Bollone, “Perché la Sindone non è stata datata con il radiocarbonio?,” Stampa sera, September 17, 1979, 5).

[10] Conference on October 13, 1988 (audio transcription).

[11] R.A. Freer-Watersand, A.J.T. Jull, “Investigating a Dated Piece of the Shroud of Turin,” Radiocarbon 52, no. 4 (2010): 1526.

[12] J.-M. Maldamé, “À propos du Linceul de Turin,” Connaître: Revue éditée par l’Association Foi et Culture Scientifique 11 (1999): 64.

[13] R.E. Taylorand, O.Bar-Yosef, Radiocarbon Dating: An Archaeological Perspective, 2nd ed. (Walnut Creek: Left Coast, 2014), 169.

[14] The idea had already occurred to T. Phillips, “Shroud Irradiated with Neutrons?,” Nature 337 (1989): 594.

03 Jun 19:03

Buzz Kill: The Trump Conviction Presents a Target-Rich Environment for Appeal

by jonathanturley

Below is my column in the Hill on the most compelling grounds for an appeal in the Trump case after his conviction on 34 counts in Manhattan. There has been considerable criticism of the defense team and its strategy in the case, including some moves that may undermine appellate issues. However, after the instructions became public, I wrote a column that I thought the case was nearly un-winnable, even for those of us who previously saw a chance for a hung jury. Clarence Darrow would likely have lost with those instructions after the errors in the case by Judge Juan Merchan. At that point, it became a legal canned hunt. So the attention will now shift to the appellate courts. While it may be tough going initially in the New York court system for the former president, this case could well end up in the federal system and the United States Supreme Court. The thrill kill environment of last week may then dissipate as these glaring errors are presented in higher courts.

Here is the column:

The conviction of former President Donald Trump in Manhattan of 34 felonies produced citywide celebrations. This thrill-kill environment extended to the media, where former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace that it was “majestic day” and “a day to celebrate.” When I left the courthouse after watching the verdict come in, I was floored by the celebrations outside by both the public and some of the media.

The celebrants would be wise to think twice before mounting this trophy kill on the political wall. The Trump trial is a target-rich environment for an appeal, with multiple layers of reversible error, in my view.

I am less convinced by suggestions that the case could be challenged on the inability of Trump receiving a fair trial in a district that voted roughly 90 percent against him. The problem was not the jury, but the prosecutors and the judge.

Some of the most compelling problems can be divided into four groups.

The Judge

Acting Supreme Court justice Juan Merchan was handpicked for this case rather than randomly selected. This is only the latest in a litany of Trump cases where Merchan has meted out tough rulings against Trump and his organization. With any other defendant, there would likely be outrage over his selection. Merchan donated to President Biden. Even though the state bar cleared that violation based on the small size of the contribution, it later stressed that no such contributions were appropriate for a judge. We learned later that Merchan has contributed to a group to stop the GOP and Trump. Merchan’s daughter is also a Democratic organizer who has helped raise millions against Trump and the GOP and for the Democrats.

To his credit, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig has previously said that this case was legally dubious, uniquely targeted Trump and could not succeed outside of an anti-Trump district.  On the judge, he recently challenged critics on the fairness of assigning a Biden donor who has earmarked donations for “resisting the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s radical right-wing legacy.” He asked “Would folks have been just fine with the judge staying on the case if he had donated a couple bucks to “Re-elect Donald Trump, MAGA forever!”? “Absolutely not.”

What is equally disturbing is the failure of Merchan to protect the rights of the defendant and what even critics admit were distinctly pro-prosecution rulings in the trial. It is not just the appearance of a conflict with Judge Merchan but a record of highly biased decisions. In watching Merchan in the courtroom, I was shocked by his rulings as at times incomprehensible and conflicted.

The Charges

A leading threshold issue will be the decision to allow Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to effectively try Trump for violations of federal law. The Justice Department declined any criminal charges against Trump under federal election law over the alleged “hush money” payments. The Federal Election Commission likewise found no basis for a civil fine. With no federal prosecution, Bragg decided to use an unprecedented criminal theory not only to zap a dead misdemeanor into life (after the expiration of the statute of limitation) but to allow him to try violations of not only federal election law but also federal taxation violations. In other words, the Justice Department would not prosecute federal violations, so Bragg effectively did it in state court.

Even when closing arguments were given, analysts on various networks admitted that they were unclear about what Bragg was alleging. The indictment claimed a violation under New York’s election law 17-152 that the falsification of business records were committed to further another crime as an unlawful means to influence the election. However, in a maddeningly circular theory, that other crime could be the falsification of business records. It could also be violations of federal election and taxation laws, which Trump was never charged with, let alone convicted of.

The Evidence

Judge Merchan allowed a torrent of immaterial and prejudicial evidence to be introduced into the trial by the prosecution. That included testimony from porn actress Stormy Daniels that went into details about having sex with Trump. She included a clear suggestion that Trump raped her. After this utterly disgraceful testimony, Merchan expressed regret but actually blamed the defense counsel, despite their prior objections to the testimony. He had previously chastised counsel for making continued objections, but now he criticized them for not continuing to make objections.

Merchan was equally conflicted in his other orders. For example, he allowed the prosecutors to introduce the plea agreement of Michael Cohen to federal election violations as well as the non-prosecution agreement of David Pecker on such violations. However, it was allowed only for the purposes of credibility and context. He issued an instruction that the jury could not consider the plea or the agreement to establish or impute the guilt of Trump.

The prosecutors then proceeded to expressly state that it was “a fact” that federal election violations occurred in this case and that Trump ordered those violations. They also solicited such statements from witnesses like Cohen. Merchan overruled the objections that the prosecutors were eviscerating his instruction. Merchan also barred the use of a legal expert, former FEC Chair Brad Smith, who was prepared to testify that such payments cannot be viewed as federal election violations and would not affect the election even if they were considered contributions, since they would not even have had to be reported until after the election.

Merchan is likely to be upheld in denying the expert, since the court retains the authority to state what the law is to the jury. The problem is that Merchan failed to do so. Worse still, he allowed the jury to hear the opposite in the repeated false claim that these payments were campaign contributions.

The Instructions

Even with all of the reversible errors, some of us held out hope that there might be a hung jury. That hope was largely smashed by Merchan in his instructions to the jury. The court largely used standard instructions in a case that was anything but standard. However, the instruction also allowed for doubt as to what the jury would ultimately find. When the verdict came in, we were still unsure what Trump was convicted of.

Merchan allowed the jury to find that the secondary offense was any of the three vaguely defined options. Even on the jury form, they did not have to specify which of the crimes were found. Under Merchan’s instruction, the jury could have split 4-4-4 on what occurred in the case. They could have seen a conspiracy to conceal a federal election violation, falsification of business records or taxation violations. We will never know. Worse yet, Trump will never know.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that the requirement of unanimity in criminal convictions is sacrosanct in our system. While there was unanimity that the business records were falsified to hide or further a second crime, there was no express finding of what that crime may have been. In some ways, Trump may have been fortunate by Merchan’s cavalier approach. Given that the jury convicted Trump across the board, they might have found all of three secondary crimes. The verdict form never asked for such specificity.

These are just a few of the appellate issues. There are other challenges, including but not limited to due process violations on the lack of specificity in the indictment, vagueness of the underlying state law and the lack of evidentiary foundation for key defenses like “the legitimate press function.” They are the reason why many of us view this case is likely to be reversed in either the state or federal systems. None of that is likely to dampen the thrill in this kill in Manhattan.

But if Biden wins the election before this conviction is overturned, history’s judgment will be deafening.

Jonathan Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at the George Washington University Law School.

03 Jun 17:15

Transgender serial rapist transferred back to men’s prison, after he rapes another female inmate.

by Kane
Jts5665

Insanity.

02 Jun 04:05

LOOK ON BIDEN’S FACE AFTER JOURNO ASKS ABOUT TRUMP BEING A ‘POLITICAL PRISONER’ IS CHILLING (WATCH):

by Ed Driscoll

LOOK ON BIDEN’S FACE AFTER JOURNO ASKS ABOUT TRUMP BEING A ‘POLITICAL PRISONER’ IS CHILLING (WATCH):

Don’t let ANYONE on the Left tell you this entire Trump trial is not political … not one. And if they insist Biden has nothing to do with it? Yeah, show them this freakin’ video.

Is he confused?

Is he giving something away?

Is he evil?

Maybe all three but the smirk is very revealing.

Great moments in optics:

The Trump campaign quickly turned Biden’s Trunalimunumaprzure-cum-Kinsley Gaffe moment into a new ad:

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ARNOLD KLING: Are Chatbots Dangerous for Teachers? Personally, I think they can be a source of u

by Glenn Reynolds

ARNOLD KLING: Are Chatbots Dangerous for Teachers?

Personally, I think they can be a source of useful and amusing ideas, like this one from Google’s Gemini AI:

I mean, honestly, this is much better than the reality. Make it so!