Kyoto comes into effect

This is a good day for the planet, which has had mostly bad days lately. Still, even with US (and FWIW, Australian) participation, Kyoto would only have been a first step towards tackling global warming. As it is, we have a first step towards a first step.

Habib’s day in court

Having seen Mamdouh Habib’s 60 Minutes interview the other night, I’m keener than ever that he should have his day in court. I think it’s clear enough that Habib’s allegations that he was tortured in detention are true in general (why else would he have been shipped to Egypt?) and that the Australian government either knew or, in its Children Overboard mode, chose not to know about it – most likely some mixture of the two.

That said, Habib said nothing[1] to refute the government’s allegation that he’s a terrorist, claiming that he would give his answers in court. I certainly hope that this takes place. Both Habib and the government have a lot of explaining to do, in my view.

At this distance in time, I find it hard to believe that there’s much in the mooted excuse that producing the government’s evidence would compromise intelligence sources. Habib’s alleged crimes took place in 2001, when the Taliban was still in power, and Al Qaeda was operating more or less openly. The failure to detect the S11 attacks [on the government’s own account, a matter of common gossip for Habib] suggests that there can’t have been much in the way of intelligence penetration of AQ at the time and the destruction of the Taliban government must have rendered most such sources obsolete.

fn1. To be clear, he denied the allegation, but did not respond any questions about the details.

The Garbage Gene

This piece by Nicholas Kristof encapsulates everything I don’t like about ‘evolutionary psychology’, particularly in its pop mode. Kristof makes the argument that the success of the religious right is due to a predisposition to religious belief grounded in supposed evolutionary advantages, supposedly reflected in a particular gene, referred to by its putative discoverer as ‘The God Gene’. This is pretty much a standard example of EP in action. Take a local, but vigorously contested, social norm, invent a ‘just so’ story and assert that you have discovered a genetically determined universal. Kristof doesn’t quite get to the point of asserting that there exists a gene for voting Republican, but it follows logically from his argument (Dawkins defends the idea of a gene for tying shoelaces, for example).

Where to begin on the problems of all this?
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