Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jim Flynn gets one thing right

It always seemed obvious that the 20th century rise in measured IQ was due to a reduction in environmental barriers (such as minor brain damage due to poor obstetric procedures) to the realization of full genetic potential. The interesting and unresolved question has always been which were the main environmental barriers. That IQ has now largely stopped rising (in statistical terms: "approached an asymptote") confirms the defining role of genetics. Jim Flynn has all sorts of his usual Leftist waffle about what the implications of the asymptote are but appears not to have mentioned the genetic elephant in the bedroom. Excerpts below from "The Times":

It is a common refrain, repeated in response to every new television reality show and every bumper crop of school exam results: society is dumbing down. Scientists have long argued the opposite, pointing to the now widely accepted "Flynn effect", which shows that over the past century average IQ scores have improved across the developed world, irrespective of class or creed. Now the man who first observed this effect, the psychologist James Flynn, has made another observation: intelligence test scores have stopped rising.

Far from indicating that now we really are getting dumber, this may suggest that certain of our cognitive functions have reached - or nearly reached - the upper limits of what they will ever achieve, Professor Flynn believes. In other words, we can't get much better at the mental tasks we are good at, no matter how hard we try....

In a lecture in Cambridge yesterday, he said that the study of intelligence has for too long been asking the wrong question: "The questions are not `Are we getting smarter?' and `Are our children really smarter than we are?' If the rise in IQ scores meant that we were smarter, that would mean our grandparents were dull and our great grandparents idiots, which is clearly not the case. The question should be, `Have certain cognitive skills risen?' And the answer to that is yes."

What accounts for our rise in intelligence test scores, Professor Flynn believes, is social and environmental changes that have given us the opportunity to exercise the kinds of skills that IQ tests measure. We increasingly fill leisure time with cognitively demanding pastimes, such as puzzles and computer games. We have also developed a more scientific way of viewing the world. "In 1900 if you'd asked a child what do a dog and a rabbit have in common, they might have replied with a concrete answer like, `Dogs are used to hunt rabbits'. Today a child would be more likely to say, `They're both mammals'. We classify things scientifically."...

Professor Flynn believes there is no reason to believe IQ gains will go on for ever. He points out that although gains are still robust in America, they have stopped in Scandinavia. "Perhaps their societies are more advanced than ours and their trends will become our trends," he told his audience at the Cambridge Assessment Psychometrics Centre.

More here

Britain: Must not Say that Homosexuals are Pedophiles

No free speech in Britain again:

"A Tory councillor who suggested gay people were paedophiles was given a conditional discharge today.

Peter Willows, who has been a councillor in the UK's self-styled gay capital Brighton and Hove for 12 years, made the comment at a mayor-making reception in May. The 75-year-old was asked by the editor of a gay magazine whether he thought a gay councillor was a paedophile, Brighton Magistrates' Court was told.

"James Ledward asked Willows, 'Do you think Paul's a paedophile?"' prosecutor David Packer said. "Willows replied to that with, 'I know you are not Paul, it's the other gays'." The barrister said the words "equated gay people with paedophiles".

Willows, who the court heard has "fixed, traditional views on marriage, church and families", was found guilty of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress after a day-long trial.


Contrary to some summaries of the matter, he clearly did NOT say that ALL homosexuals are pedophiles. That many are, however, is undoubted. I guess I would be breaking the law to say that in Britain.

And what's wrong with saying that ALL homosexuals are pedophiles, anyway? Lots of other silly things are said and believed. Some people even believe that Leftism is motivated by compassion!

There is a good letter to the editor about the case here. Excerpt: "Does this mean we are to assign a section of the police force as TAFSS (The anti-free speech stormtroopers)?". Letters do not stay up for long so I have also reproduced it on POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH.

British university union votes to gag Jewish society

The usual antisemitism of the British Leftist elite:

"The student union at a prominent British university has voted to gag the Jewish Society from complaining against an increasingly intense anti-Israel campaign by the university's Palestinian society.

The student union at the University of Leeds, home of a large Jewish student population, last Friday voted on a motion proposed by the Palestinian Solidarity Group to ignore complaints by the Jewish Society "as long as Judaism as a faith is not offended."

The Palestinian Solidarity Group, which has a history of hostile campaigning against Israel, using terms such as "apartheid" and "racist," claimed that the existing practice of considering every complaint received by the student union as a real complaint constituted "an arbitrary use of authority."

Students have voiced concern that the motion singles out the university's Jewish students and denies them basic rights enjoyed by other students and student societies.


Followed of course by lots of waffle saying that they are not doing what they are doing.

No Christmas play at British school

It is the time of year when parents and grandparents look forward to seeing their children dressed up as Mary and Joseph or the Three Wise Men. But the traditional Nativity play at Knowland Grove Community First School in Norwich has been axed in favour of a celebration of a range of different faiths.

Yesterday pupils' families branded the politically-correct move "disgusting", while leaders of other religious communities said they were just as disappointed by the continuing erosion of the Christmas festivities. Instead of a Nativity play, the school's 100 children aged four to eight are presenting pieces about the origins of Christmas, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah and the Hindu festival of Diwali. It is entitled the "Festival of Lights", a phrase commonly used for Diwali, held in October.

Housewife Beverley Browne, 49, whose four-year-old grandson is at the school, said: "The Nativity is a very important story and I think it's disgusting not to do it. "Christmas should be all about the little ones learning about Jesus - that's the story they should learn about. This school's idea is rubbish. I think this is political correctness gone crazy. "I just can't believe what's happening in this country. We're supposed to be a Christian country and all our little ones should learn all about Jesus and Christmas."

Another mother said: "I'm very angry and upset about this because the Nativity play's been a tradition at the school since I was a pupil there. "A lot of parents feel so strongly about this that they're threatening not to send their children to school on the day of the new show. "At Christmas we always have a nativity play and invite parents and grandparents along. This is what Christmas is all about - Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus being born."

Byron Simmonds, chairman of the Progressive Jewish Community of East Anglia, said the school's move was well-intentioned but misguided. "It's a good thing to study different religions, but it is Christmas after all, and we certainly don't have anything against schools organising Nativity plays. "I can see why parents would be upset - Norwich is hardly the most cosmopolitan place, and yet the play sounds as if it's been watered down until it won't really be about Christmas at all."

The move comes as Christmas traditions come under attack as never before. Last week the Daily Mail told how schools across the country were replacing Nativity plays with secular productions featuring such characters as reindeer, eskimos and even Elvis Presley, while only one in 100 High Street Christmas cards now has religious theme. And Chancellor Gordon Brown has attacked Government-funded playgroups for replacing Christmas parties with politically-correct "winter celebrations".

However Knowland Grove headteacher Trudi Sharred insisted that Christmas was "alive and well" at the school. "Our children have been singing carols and songs in the mall, our Christmas tree is up, and we will be sitting down to our Christmas meal this week," she said. "We decided this year to take a slightly different approach with our end of term production to include a look at some of the other great cultural festivals of the world while maintaining the traditional Christmas message."

The younger two age-groups will present pieces on Christmas and Christingles while Year Two will perform a poem about Hanukkah and Year Three will explain Diwali. "All the children I know are looking forward to taking part in our Festival of Lights," added Mrs Sharred.

Norwich has one of the least ethnically-diverse populations in England, with just 587 Jews and Hindus at the time of the 2001 census, and Ofsted said "virtually all" pupils at Knowland Grove are "white British".



An almost inevitable outcome of dirty hospitals and negligence about aseptic procedures

A healthy hospital worker died after contracting a deadly new strain of MRSA that had never before been reported as a cause of death in hospitals. Four other workers at the same hospital also contracted Panton-Valentine Leukocidin-positive (PVL) MRSA, with two of their friends, said the Health Protection Agency. An investigation subsequently found that the strain had killed a patient at the hospital earlier this year.

The strain, which is particularly virulent, attacks healthy young people and can cause symptoms ranging from minor infections in the skin and soft tissue to a form of pneumonia that can kill in 24 hours. The outbreak, which has only just been reported, was identified when a previously healthy female healthcare worker, named only as “Case One”, developed a severe MRSA infection and pneumonia and died after emergency surgery in September, the agency said. The bacterium that she had contracted, PVL-positive MRSA, had never been found to cause a death inside a hospital. It was contracted by at least three other workers in two wards in a West Midlands hospital, and two of their friends. It was also found to have caused the death of a patient at the hospital in March.

A statement from the agency said: “Eight cases of PVL- positive community-associated MRSA have been identified among individuals in a hospital and their close household contacts in the West Midlands. Four of these individuals developed an infection, two of whom subsequently died.” The agency declined to give further details but said that extensive contact tracing had not identified more cases at the hospital. However, the strain has been found in other hospitals, including the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, which is understood to have identified two non-fatal cases of the bug.

The discovery is significant as hospital-acquired MRSA has tended to affect elderly and infirm patients rather than younger people. PVL is a toxin that destroys white blood cells, which are the key to fighting infectious diseases. It occurs in about 2 per cent of strains of the common bacterium known as staphylococcus aureus, which is termed MRSA when it is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin.

Although it is rare, a small number of cases of PVL- positive MRSA have been reported across England and Wales — however, these have usually been in the community rather than a hospital. The strain is thought to have caused the death of a Royal Marine recruit, Richard Campbell-Smith, 18, in 2004. Forty-eight hours before the young recruit died, he scratched himself on a gorse bush during a training exercise and contracted an MRSA-related infection.

Infections caused by PVL-positive MRSA normally cause skin abscesses or boils and inflammations, but they can cause more severe invasive infections such as septic arthritis, blood poisoning, flesh necrosis and pneumonia. Screening of patients and staff on the ward where Case One worked revealed that one of her friends, a hospital employee who had previously reported skin abscesses caused by MRSA, was carrying the same strain.

Four housemates of the two workers had also contracted the strain. One of these, Case Five, worked in the hospital on a different ward and is thought to have infected another worker there, who detailed a four-month history of recurrent infection of the eyelids. One further case was identified in March 2006 through retrospective analysis of MRSA samples kept in the laboratory. The patient (Case Eight) developed a suspected hospital-acquired pneumonia while in the ward where Case One worked, and died within 24 hours of the positive blood sample being taken.

A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said that PVL-MRSA was “more toxic than other strains of MRSA”, but it could still be treated with antibiotics. Angela Kearns, an MRSA expert, added: “When people contract PVL-producing strains of MRSA, they usually experience a skin infection such as a boil or abscess. Most infections can be treated successfully with everyday antibiotics, but occasionally a more severe infection may occur. “The Health Protection Agency is advising the hospital on outbreak-control measures, and will continue to monitor MRSA infection nationally.”

PVL-producing strains are more commonly contracted in the community and generally affect previously healthy young children and young adults. This contrasts with the hospital-associated MRSA strains, which do not produce PVL and are more commonly associated with causing wound infections and blood-poisoning in elderly hospital patients.


British energy survey reveals gap between attitudes and action

The Electricity Policy Research Group (EPRG) at the University of Cambridge commissioned YouGov to survey 1000 UK residents on issues ranging from the future of the electricity supply to their current purchasing decisions. While climate change concerns are voiced most strongly among the young, Liberal Democrat voters and Guardian/Independent readers, these attitudes are not translated into personal action. The poll showed, for example, that Guardian/Independent readers are no more likely to have taken any specific energy saving actions than tabloid readers, and are actually less likely to have insulated their homes.

Paradoxically, older people who are least concerned with climate change are also far more likely to have taken concrete action to save energy, including buying energy efficient light bulbs, insulating their homes and lowering their thermostats.

The survey also revealed that while half of the respondents had changed electric or gas suppliers in the past five years, 90% cited reasons of price and just 4% claimed greener energy as the reason they switched.

The EPRG report ranked environment and fuel prices among the top ten issues facing the UK and placed climate change as the top environmental concern. The poll discovered significant support for investing in renewable energy, with over two-thirds of respondents saying they would support wind farms even if situated in their own locality.

Roughly half of the people surveyed supported the building of new nuclear power stations, provided they were based on existing sites. Surprisingly, one-third supported the establishment of new sites around the country.

Coal-power was considered the least popular energy option, although opinions improved when those surveyed learnt more about developments in carbon dioxide capture and storage technologies.

Dr David Reiner, Course Director of the MPhil in Technology Policy at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and author of the report, said: "There is a real engagement among the British public on questions of energy and environment, particularly over climate change. There is a willingness to support government policies, but even those groups that are the strongest supporters of policy action do not translate this support into their personal energy saving behaviour. They show a clear divergence between their views as citizens and their actions as consumers."


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