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Archive for February 28th, 2009

In the 6th edition of “On the Origin of Species” Charles Darwin lamented over the power of “steady misrepresentation” of the facts and observations of his work 150 years ago. Those were days when God’s grace meant you could be hanged for opposing what everyone knows was the “WORD”.

While there has been a steady diet of multidisciplinary science that continues to support, extend and find nuances of his findings on natural selection, genetic drift, mutation and speciation, there is, and will always be groups that obfuscate the information in favor of their own approach to origins of life and man in particular.

As authors Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott have laid out in their review in the recent Scientific American, these various miscreants of misinformation; these groups or people that have no science, no peer review, no database of exceptions, no body of anecdotal evidence to support their views also have no conflicting data points they can point to in support of their views. In fact, their approach is not about science, evidence, methodology or technology. It is about “faith in dogma” and it is shared by millions of people around the globe.

The real pariah in the whole mess is the body of people that take a “live and let live” approach. You know who they are… “Hey, as long as they don’t make me kiss a ring, they can do what they want in Rome.” These are the people who traffic in ambivalence. They too will always be with us. They sit on a fence, not necessarily supporting dogma and yet the view that man is a kin of other primates, that our hiccup reflex is a remnant of our fish history, or that we have to deal with the almost two dozen versions of extinct humans (Viktor Deak) is just upsetting enough, if not unconventionally disturbing for them to ignore. (As if prayer for soldiers being shot at isn’t or holy wars where millions have died are somehow, in comparison, OK.)

Remember Galileo who was convicted of suspicion of heresy for following the position of Copernicus which went contrary to that laid down by the Roman Catholic Church authority of Holy Scripture.  All of this today is still about the dogma of faith vs. data of science. Same stuff, different year.

There have been crusades, ethnic cleansing and the other stuff that made up the Dark Ages. And here we are in the Spring of 2009 reviewing our civilization and thwarted by those who don’t want people to figure out what the heck is going on out there.

Enter Governor Bobby Jindal who is a potential presidential hopeful of those currently out of favor in US politics. In 2008 he literally signed the Louisiana Science Education Act into law.

Marketed as supporting critical thinking in classrooms, the law threatens to open the door for the teaching of creationism and for scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution in public school science classes [in Louisiana].

(Branch and Scott, 2009)

Does it sometimes seem to you that, while we may have evolved, there are some that didn’t get the memo? Next FOX News will be telling me that Mike Huckabee, former Presidential hopeful (who believes in the literal and biblical interpretation of Genesis) will administer the plan.

Chezz!

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I did a lot of business travel in the last 18 months and have witnessed the variety of TSA and airport security changes.  Most of the improvements have actually, well, improved the security experience.  However one thing that NEVER changes is the Threat Level.  At airports it sits at ORANGE, one less than RED (SEVERE).

I cannot find a chart or trend or any historical log of the threat level bulletins.  Only the daily update.

This ambigious scale and its unchanging nature defeats its intended behavior shaping power.  This scale is no better than issuing alerts when there is an actual threat.

If the goal is to shape people to be more aware in general, this scale lost its use a long time ago.  It’s like a banner ad that you no longer notice on a web page.  Or, more specific to the airlines, it’s like the Safety Information cards NO ONE reads.  (The Hurricane Saffir Simpson scale, when used for public awareness, also suffers from this same problem.  Hurricane warnings extensively discussed here.)

The ambigous nature of the scale itself also confuses.  What should one do if the threat is HIGH but not SEVERE? what’s the difference?  Shouldn’t I be GUARDED even if the threat is LOW?

If you want people to strength behavior you need to vary the stimulus.  Hell in this case, you don’t even have a set of behaviors you’re reinforcing…. just a “state of being” or something weird like that.

To make this more effective as an awareness shaping tool, the TSA and Homeland Security should create signs and messages that vary and are behavior specific.

“Take a look around you, is everything as you expect?”

“Last week’s reported incidents: X, Y, Z. Do you have something to report?”

“Pay attention.  Reported incidents and diligent citizens reduce risk of incident by 50%!”

Perhaps these messages are a bit strong, hopefully you see my point.  Marketing types call this a “call to action” and marketing folks know that you must vary the call to action to continue to heighten the response.

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