> -----Original Message-----
> From: Drew A. Norman, SE [mailto:DNorman(--nospam--at)dnormanse.com]
> Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2001 9:01 PM
> To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
> Subject: Re: History Buffs (Waayyy off topic)
> RE: History Buffs (Waayyy off topic)Bill,
> I normally refrain from most of the off-topic stuff but can't
> help but speak
> up here -- the muddying of history being a pet peeve.
You are an engineer. I don't know if you have graduate school experience,
but most of us do, these days, so I will assume that you understand what
"peer review" is. Of course we use it when we publish engineering research.
It is the simple practice of submitting the contents of your research to be
published to a panel of "peers" who are expert enough in the subject to
understand the subtleties of your work, and comment upon its validity.
It should not surprise you to know that "peer review" is also used in other
fields, such as history.
In today's political climate, the publication of "position papers" by
"advocacy groups" has become common. These publications are NOT "peer
reviewed," and as such they have no more validity, from the point of view of
accepted scientific research and publication practices, than an op-ed piece
in your local newpaper.
However, such advocates have become quite adept at publishing such "work"
and making it appear, to the naive public, as if it is "scientific" and
based on sound principles. The "research" done in support of the study you
cite is one such instance. It was NOT a "peer reviewed" scholarly
publication, but the work of a group of volunteers, only one of which was a
historian--the "main author" of the paper is still trying to finish her
dissertation--the others were just volunteers from the organization.
The gist of it is, yes, there is some DNA link to Jefferson's family, but
there is NO WAY that it can be shown conclusively that he was the father of
Hemings' children. In fact, there are far more eligible candidates.
This is a perfect example of the sort of "junk science" that has given us
the "global warming" and "cell phones cause brain cancer" scares. There is
no scientifically-acceptable basis for conclusive "proof" that any of these
things are reality, but the press goes along with the "scare" nonetheless.
A dumbed-down public is the perfect foil for these kinds of things, and you
have fallen for it as well.
BTW, am I saying that Thomas Jefferson was NOT the father of those children?
No, because I can't "prove a negative." What I'm saying is that swallowing
this lie that it has been so "proved" is stupid, period. It displays an
ignorance of the rules of scientific inquiry that no engineer ought to be
If you want to say "I believe this story," then go right ahead, but
understand you do so as a matter of opinion, NOT on the basis of
FWIW, I DON'T believe it, because I think there WAS such a thing as "private
character" in those days that was NOT divorced from "public character."
Those who knowingly desire to put this sort of thing forth as "fact" have an
agenda, where they want to "show" that public and private character are
separable. That is what I was referring to when I talked about "conspiracies
of the left."
Such "conspiracies" have far more evidence of their existence than does this
silly myth about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. You seem to have no
problem with the latter; why does the former bother you so much?
William L. Polhemus, Jr., P.E.
Polhemus Engineering Company
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