December 2009

Of the several ages we might inhabit, we surely live in the Age of Sheer Numbers. This also applies to science and global warming. Consider the following from Michelle Malkin’s December 2nd column “All The President’s Climategate Deniers.”

“(climate czar Carol Browner) is now leading the “science is settled” stonewalling in the wake of Climategate. “I’m sticking with the 2,500 scientists,” she said. “These people have been studying this issue for a very long time and agree this problem is real.”

According to CNN, backing up Browner, to a degree: “Human-induced global warming is real, according to a recent U.S. survey based on the opinions of 3,146 scientists. However there remains divisions between climatologists and scientists from other areas of earth sciences as to the extent of human responsibility.” No list of names was given.

In any case, writes Michelle, “last year, more than 31,000 scientists — including 9,021 Ph.D.s — signed a petition sponsored by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine rejecting claims of human-caused global warming.” Further to that:

“Bob Unruh of WorldNetDaily reported that 31,000 U.S. scientists – 9,000 with doctorate degrees in atmospheric science, climatology, Earth science, environment and other specialties – have signed a petition rejecting global warming.

The list of scientists includes 9,021 Ph.D.s, 6,961 at the master’s level, 2,240 medical doctors and 12,850 carrying a bachelor of science or equivalent academic degree.”
The Petition Project seems to be the home of these signatures. I have read criticisms of this project, that non-scientists and celebrities have signed the list. However, you can read the names online for yourself, listed alphabetically with their degrees.

My point in reporting this is not to take sides–although I do think the case for human-caused global warming has been overstated, contains data anomalies, and is being hurt by true believers as witness in Climategate—but to point out that high profile spokespersons in this debate have turned to sheer numbers of scientists to state their case.

I’m sure there are prominent scientists in this debate who are more often quoted than other scientists. But do individuals have the authority they once enjoyed?
Consider the numbers of scientists who have signed A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism petition. It runs for 18 pages in fine print with name, degree, institution. Example: Paul Ashby, PhD., Harvard University. Quite an impressive list.

How about this one from The Union For Concerned Scientists:

“On February 18, 2004, 62 leading scientists–Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors, and university chairs and presidents–signed a scientist’s statement on scientific integrity in policymaking. Over the next four years, 15,000 U.S. scientists voiced their concern about the misuse of science by the George W. Bush administration.” Again, impressive numbers. The question is: What do we do with statistics of this magnitude? How do we evaluate them, me and you?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 6.8 billion people alive in the world today. Is it possible that we have procreated ourselves beyond the level where individual talents—really big geniuses—matter much anymore? Would it matter if an Einstein, say, were to write a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt warning of the potential of the atom bomb, considering that it might get lost in a pile of thousands of emails in the president’s inbox? It might matter to the world, but who would know? Who would blow the whistle in time: “Hey, look over here!”

I believe that individuals matter, that great men and women, be they scientists, artists, thinkers, healers, what have you, can lead movements and nations and change the course of history. I think the Einsteins and Rachael Carson’s still matter. But I must admit, that lately, I see the possibility that the dark tide of sheer numbers may overwhelm the individual voice in a cacophony of voices.

Are we now living in a world where such numbers of scientists, no less, can no longer agree on much of anything in science, or anything else, and therefore become little more than contending armies poised on opposing slopes, lances tilted forward, ready to charge like armies of old?

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.


Anyone who has followed golf over the last several years has heard the phrase: “Tiger’s on the prowl,” meaning that, in a four day golf tournament, late on Saturday, Tiger (Eldrick Tont) Woods is catching up to the leader. His winning record after leading at 54 holes in a 72-hole event is phenomenal.

Now we know that Tiger prowls in other ways, as well. He has all but admitted to having extramarital affairs with one or more women. In 2004 Tiger Woods married Swedish model Elin Nordegran, with whom he has two children. Ms. Nordegran was introduced to Woods by fellow PGA golfer Jesper Parnevik.

When Tiger, age 33, burst onto the pro golf scene, after being a three-time U.S. amateur champion, he not only won; he dominated. He won the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes and the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes. To date, Tiger has won 71 Professional Golf Association tour events. His closest rival is Phil Mickelson, five years older, who has won 37 tour events. Tiger and Phil draw large galleries when they are competing well in the same event.

Golf is one of the last gentleman’s games. It has a genteel character to it. The commentators generally speak better English than in most sports. Players joke politely with one another. They don’t trash talk, on microphones, at least, or get into fights. The game is played at a leisurely pace, even when millions of dollars are at stake. Players take their time lining up shots, especially when putting. When the ball goes out of bounds, players and officials discuss at length what options are available for the next shot. The galleries are characteristically helpful and quiet when instructed to be so. Once when Tiger’s ball landed behind a large rock, fans worked together to move the rock. Players walk from hole to hole on manicured green swards with beautiful trees and flowers, stone bridges over babbling brooks. Some scenic courses are located by the ocean. You could spend your entire life at the Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia, where the Masters is played each year. Golf is a slice of heaven on earth.

When Tiger arrived, legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicholas were still playing competitively, albeit mostly at the senior level, and Byron Nelson, the grand old man of golf, still held court at his Byron Nelson Classic. They recognized the young genius and welcomed him into their fold. He looked like a gentleman and talked their game. He knew the history of the game and its famous golf courses. He had supposedly learned stern character lessons from his Vietnam Veteran father. He seemed to possess an inner calm, perhaps from his Asian mother. They accepted his energetic fist pump; let the man show his strength. Let Tiger roar. He flashed a ready smile. He was not a gate crasher; he was one of them.

Tiger stands atop the kingdom of golf and a personal empire built from winnings and endorsements. Engineers labor to please him with sophisticated clubs and balls designed with space age technology. Ultra slow motion cameras and swing coaches analyze his swing and back swing. He is continually working on his swing, putting, every aspect of the game; training, pumping iron daily.

Then came November 27, 2009, when Mr. Woods drove his black Cadillac Escalade into a hedge, fire hydrant then a tree, near his Orlando, Florida mansion, in the wee hours of the morning. Accounts of the incident differ; my favorite is that Tiger was found snoring, barefoot on the street.

We understand, though not always condone, “transgressions,” as Tiger puts it, in our celebrities, sports and otherwise. Tiger was apparently known on the golf circuit to be a hound. He was a closet cheater, and accepted all the same by his peers. There are undoubtedly other hounds on tour. What Woods has now done is to bring tabloid headlines to the genteel game of golf, a roar not of his choosing but which he is responsible for. Every day the world awakes to new bombshells and cutie pics of alleged mistresses. The kind of stuff you associate with football players and loud sports. Booty calls. The latest news is that his wife has moved back to Sweden, and the mistress count has risen to seven, maybe ten, all white. He had once said in a TV interview that he loved his wife Elin “with all my heart.” People believed him.

It remains to be seen how fans and pro golf will treat the Prince of Tees when he crawls out from under his privacy rock and walks the green swards again, as he someday will. Jesper Parnevik has already said publicly that he thought Tiger was a “better sort of man than that.” Which must hurt. Jack Nicholas said “It’s none of my business.” Will galleries boo him? Faint camera clicks have been known to throw him into a cursing fit. He always had a temper, tossing clubs for his caddy to retrieve after a poor shot. Will family men like Michelson look away when asked about Tiger? How long will big name sponsors support him?

Tiger Woods once had the world on a string. He had us right where he wanted us. Now Tiger is going to hear the sound of unfriendly fire. Tiger Woods is going to have his Vietnam moment, maybe his long war.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.

When the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor raced across the land at the speed of radio, my Old Man was poised to make a killing. He had recently graduated from a fancy New England college—not bad for a dirt poor youth from rural Mississippi—and was living in Richmond, VA. He was set to apply his new engineering skills to the wiring of a large Army base in Virginia, a plum that had fallen into his lap. It would make him rich. Plus, he was in love. Then came the news. There wouldn’t be time now for the job before he would be drafted. His chance at a fortune gone, he signed up with the Army Air Corp, with the hopes of becoming a fighter pilot.

The Army decided he was too large for a fighter cockpit and trained him to pilot the B-17. Faded photostats of his Individual Flight Record show that he flew no fewer than six models of two light planes and five models of the B-17 Flying Fortress. In the Midwest, his bombardier practiced dropping 50lb. black powder bombs on a bullseye from low altitude. One bomb went astray and hit a barn. The farmer ran outside and shook his fist at the plane.

Tragedy struck when his plane caught fire during a training flight and not all of his crew bailed out safely. Later, in the Southwest, he took his gunners out in a jeep to hone their defensive skills by hunting jack rabbits with Thompson submachine guns. In Spring, 1943, he shipped out with the newly formed 379th Heavy Bombardment Group, piloting his $200,000 B17F to Iceland, to refuel. With his Tokyo wing tanks bulging with aviation fuel, he barely cleared the ice cliff at the end of the runway. He and his crew touched down in Kimbolton, England, his home away from home until Spring of ’44.

He settled into barracks life, preparing for the task ahead, writing to his war bride back home nearly every day. He told her how much he missed her and complained about the prevalence of Brussels sprouts on the menu.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.