Borlaug and the Green Revolution

July 18, 2007

Norman Borlaug, usually credited with starting the “Green Revolution,” which meant in its day the creation of new crop plants that were hardier in extreme weather conditions and resistant to fungal and insect pests, and often more nourishing than their predecessors, was decorated with the Congressional Gold Medal yesterday in Washington, D.C.

I did not realize he was still alive — he is 93 years old.

The Dallas Morning News reported:

Past Congressional Gold Medals had gone to the likes of George Washington, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa.

Tuesday’s honoree, Texas A&M University professor Norman Borlaug, is credited with ushering in the “Green Revolution” in the 1960s and saving more than a billion lives by developing higher-yielding, disease-resistant varieties of wheat.

Borlaug’s brief remarks suggest it would be interesting to see a longer interview with him, especially about world food and nutrition issues, today.  Is he still living in College Station?  Are there any historians at Texas A&M or a local high school, or one of Texas’ newspapers, who can do the interview?

Dr. Borlaug urged scientists and public officials to continue his efforts to grow food rather than radical ideologies, especially in Africa. “Hunger, poverty and misery are very fertile soil for planting all kinds of ‘isms’ including terrorism,” he said.

Dr. Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963 and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.


Carnivaling liberally

July 18, 2007

Carnival of the Liberals #43 is up at Stump Lane.


Tripoli 6: Justice in a creationist world

July 18, 2007

We hope the Tripoli 6 are out of Tripoli, Libya, soon. Libyan courts commuted the death sentences delivered to the six health workers, but the commutation was to life sentences; late news indicates that Libya has agreed to extradite the six to Bulgaria in return for payments to the families of the 400+ children who were victimized by the hospital screw-ups for which the six are erroneously blamed.

Libya claims to have confessions from the health workers. Evidence suggests they were tortured to sign hoax confessions.

For rational people who care for justice, there is a powerful moral here. Forensic evidence shows that the HIV viruses that infected hundreds of children at a hospital, infected the children and evolved well before the five nurses and one doctor got to the hospital. In short, it is physically impossible in time for the accused workers to have been responsible for the infections. They are innocent.

But of course, this evidence is based on evolutionary paradigms, the same way that all DNA evidence is. The Libyan courts waved the evidence off, essentially, convicting the workers in a second trial after a team of international scientists completed a special research project showing, with the highest degree of assurance, the impossibility of liability to the accused.

Creationism is relativism with King James language: Facts are not facts, science is not science, what is true in the laboratory and in the wild, not true in a creationist court. The Libyan courts dismissed what would have been exonerating evidence in U.S. and most European courts.

And so another international team was assembled to raise the extortion demanded by Libya, and a settlement negotiated. U.S. scientists contributed time and expertise; the U.S. government appears to have deferred to European governments.

Sadly, the people who created the conditions for infecting 400 kids with HIV will go unpunished in this creationist court.

Effect Measure over at the Seed stable of science blogs has a much more complete explanation of the case, with links detailing the heroic work of scientists, and I encourage you to read that account and follow the links.

Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.

                                 – Deuteronomy 16:20

Tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers and Pharyngula.


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