97% of readers say surveys are rubbish

Evolution and nuclear energy polemic

Letters Surveys - where would we be without them? A lot better off, many of you reckon, but more of that a bit later. First up, a couple of fun-sized snippets from the mailbag, starting with two more missives on Thomas C. Greene and his Steve Gibson bashing, as previously discussed in letters:

Your readers seem quite correct that Thomas C Greene has a personal vendetta against Steve Gibson. Here's a Reg article back from 2001 when he was spewing his armchair critic vitriol against Steve Gibson even then. It's sad to see that Thomas C Greene is listed as an associate editior of The Reg and is allowed to use The Reg like this.


Mark Samson

Bud Jamison writes:

"The author obviously has a personal agenda, and little or no experience that would help him understand the exploit, and how dangerous it really is. "

Erm, actually, it's Steve Gibson that appears to have no understanding of the exploit and a frankly appalling ignorance of the fundamentals of computer programming techniques. And I don't have to attempt to mind-read anyone's motives or deduce anyone's hidden-or-otherwise-agenda here: I can demonstrate by quoting a single sentence that Mr. Gibson is massively technically incompetent.

So here we go: one of the main things that SG finds suspicious, in his own words, from the full-length article at http://www.grc.com/x/news.exe?cmd=article&group=grc.news.feedback&item=60006: "What you would expect is that when Windows is reading a WMF file, and the MetaFile ESCAPE code is encountered, followed by the SetAbortProc subcode, there would be an argument specifying a Device Context and a second argument pointing to a user-provided function that is to be executed in the event of a printing abort."

No, Mr. Gibson, that's not what you would expect. That's something that only someone whose mindset is stuck in the mid-80's era of the 8-bit micro could possibly expect. That's something that nobody who has had any experience of programming in the last twenty years could conceivably think of doing; it's utter nonsense, I was dumbfounded when I read it, and if Steve Gibson (or anyone else) ever came for a job interview at my firm I would bring it to an immediate close the instant they said something like that.

Non-programmers might not see what's so wrong with that statement, so I'll explain: putting either pointers or handles to device contexts into a file would be not merely utterly useless, but massively broken: it could never possibly work. A pointer points to an area of the computer's memory, during the execution of a program. Once the program exits, the memory is freed, and the address that the pointer used to point to no longer has any meaning or relevance, because there's nothing _in_ that memory once the program has exited. The layout of data and code in the computer's memory will be different every time you run a program, and different between every different version of the same program, and will bear no resemblance whatsoever to the memory layout of any other program. So, what possible use could a pointer be, in a supposedly portable file-format? It would cripple it: a file written out by one version of one program could not even be loaded into another release of the same program, let alone viewed in a different viewer altogether, as none of the code would be in the same places, so the pointer would point to random different garbage in every different viewer and on every different invocation of the code.

The same goes for the device context. A DC is represented in windows system calls by a 'handle', which is pretty much the same as a pointer in this context: it's a dynamically-allocated object that cannot be expected to ever be in the same place twice. The first time you run a viewer and it opens a DC to render that WMF file, it'll get one handle-value referring to it; the next time you open the same file, the viewer will have a different handle to a different DC.

Or in other words, to suggest that there would be any use in storing references to dynamically-allocated objects in a permanent file in a supposedly portable file-format is nonsense. Utter meaningless gibberish. Baby programmers wouldn't make this kind of mistake. Computers have had multitasking and virtual memory since the late 60s to early 70s in the Unix world, since the mid-80s in the home computer world, and anyone whose skills aren't up-to-date with this reality is simply not a programmer.

I'm lost for words. It is really beyond credence that anyone with the least computer programming knowledge could write those words without them leaping off the page, ringing alarm bells, and generally screaming "wrong wrong wrong WRONG WRONG!" at the writer as they wrote them. It is because of this statement that I think it is fair and right for Thomas Greene to attack Steve Gibson as robustly as he likes...

And yes, please feel free to forward this to both him and Bud Jamison and Thomas Greene and anyone else in the world, because it's the plain and simple truth based on unarguable technical facts, regardless of anyone's opinion or vendetta. Steve Gibson knows nothing, and we have it from his own words. QED.

cheers, DaveK

Right, did you get all that? The Gibson debate is now closed, ta very much.

A complaint regarding our .eu piece. Seems UK companies have not been falling over themselves to lay their hands on this new, exciting domain:

Come on Reg! http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/01/26/eu_domains_update/ is plainly a thinly-veiled puff-piece for NetNames! I mean, world+dog knows that trademarks prevent others from damaging your brand via domain registration. The news is simply that Germans like .eu suffix more than .de - not that British businesses are sticking two fingers up to the carpetbagging name sellers.

Kevin Hutchinson

No, really, you and your family are at risk of serious injury or death if you do not move immediately to secure your .eu domain. Anyone know a company which can help?

Now, survey number one: evolution. Always guaranteed to get you lot going. No exception yesterday, either, with a rather suspect BBC poll into Darwin versus God.

Before getting to the meat, though, let's straighten one point out:

"Asked which of the three theories should be included in school science lessons, 44 per cent said creationism should be on the agenda, 41 per cent voted for intelligent design, while 69 per cent backed evolution."

That doesn't add up to 100% either someone's got their figures wrong or people were voting twice.

Sebastian Clarke

Yes, they were indeed voting twice - clearly because some Brits think their kids should be offered a range of options from which they can then choose their fave theory.

A dangerously liberal concept? Possibly. What kids really want is absolute certainty:

This letter is to inform you that I teach a class on Genesis to science teachers. The title of the course is "Moses & Creation: Biblical Reality". It is a 15-hour class that tells the truth about the first three chapters of Genesis, so that the teachers won't be speaking in ignorance about what Genesis is saying to mankind. Neither theology nor secular science are anywhere close to knowing what advanced scientific knowledge is contained in Genesis.

My name is Herman Cummings. I am the foremost terrestrial authority on the book of Genesis. Due to the current pseudo controversy between what is written in Genesis and the conclusions of secular science, I believe my services are most needed. I would come the site designated by the local school or district to conduct the class.

I am the only person I know or ever heard of presently on this Earth that is qualified to teach Biblical Creation. However, "creation" is not the counterpart of the doctrine of evolution, as most of humanity believes. Biblical Creation is the doctrine that God created our Earth & universe (4.6 billion BC) and deposited original life on this planet at that time. Since Genesis does not tell us how the Earth was created, "Creation" can't be taught. It would be the counterpart of the "Big Bang" theory. However, Evolution is the doctrine that simple life began to evolve (from an unknown beginning) into complex life forms over many millions of years, into the forms of life that we have presently in our world.

The counterpart of evolution is the correct interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis, which tells of the past appearance and demise of various life forms over the course of time, and the history of modern mankind. This is called the "Observations of Moses", or "OM". Many school districts are grappling with the doctrine of "Intelligent Design". Unfortunately, "ID" is an inept and shallow doctrine that merely says that life on Earth is too complex to have developed by chance. It tells nothing about the 600 million year fossil record, and how ancient life forms appeared, plus when and why many became extinct.

The student is now left in a state of confusion because of what unqualified people have "said" what the Bible teaches, and what secular science has discovered. In reality, the doctrines of evolution and "OM" are explaining the same thing, acknowledging the same geologic periods of time, but "OM" explains what happened and why it happened, from 4.6 billion years ago until 4267 BC. There is agreement on when the life forms perished, but new information is given in the class about when those, and additional unknown, life forms were born.

After completing this course, the schoolteacher will be able to resolve the conflict in students' minds about what they read in Genesis, and scientific reality. The teachers will also be able to answer most any question atheists or theists can think of to ask. The course covers the periods of time before Earth was created, the advents of prehistoric mankind, up until the appearance of modern mankind. The students receive "closure", and become more receptive to instruction, because they don't feel like they are only being taught false conclusions.

This is not a course on teaching "creationism", but how to convey the scientific information that Genesis has for mankind.

I've asked that the U.S. Department of Education be proactive and sanction the issue of certificates for science teachers in an effort to be reasonably sure that all teachers teach the same material to all students. I've already written the governor and members of the education committees of every state legislature. I have hope that officials will introduce legislation that will free the public schools to teach all viable theories of origins, and explanations of the ancient history of life on Earth, removing the threat of (atheist) lawsuits.

Sincerely, Herman Cummings

As a Christian I beleive there can be reconciliation between evolution and creationism, I beleve God intended for there to be evolution. People who think that the bible is literal are mad. How could human beings, even prophets, ever hope to comprehend Gods work? It's my experience that many Christians (there are many prominant scientists who are beleivers) are of the same mind.

Secondly, I'd like to point out that 'Intelligent Design' sounds quite cool and scientific, and I suspect many put it down simply because it sounded like the right thing, although I'm still uttery shocked by the whole thing.

Thirdly, it can be argued that creationism = intelligent design making the figures even more shocking.

Fourthly (and lastly) teaching of the subject is fine, it's only the part about 'science lessons' which is tricky. I wonder how many people really read and understood this survey.

Finally (I lied before) survey stats really are just a load of old bollox aren't they?


2000 people... such a small population to be making clames about the rest of us. was it 2000 people fresh out of church on a Sunday or 2000 people in Tesco??? 2000 is not enough to survey a small town let alone a country. And they are going to make a TV show about it as fact. Whats going on with the BBC??? they seem to be devolving at an alarming rate. Thinking Guiness advert rates.


Wow, another bullshit article about facts that are complete bollox,

Look at this fucking moronic show - 'Horizon: A War on Science - this is evidence that "more than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution"'

I mean for fuck sake, the study was of 2000 people, last time I looked Britain had around 60 million people in it, not 2000. Why do people still create articles when stats like these are released? All this shows us is that 2000 British people think blah blah, not the whole of the UK.

See, me and the other 2000 people in a random UK warez irc channel think downloading movies is fine, does that mean the whole of the UK enjoy copyright infringment? no, it means *2000* people think so. All you are doing is spreading more bullshit facts, in the future please have a *BULLSHIT STATISTICS* tag at the top of the article so I can quickly skip it.

Michael William

All these surveys are bunkum, people make up answers on the spot, everyone knows that. The biggest surprise is that so many people admitted "don't know, don't care".... and the Intelligent Design high score can be attributed to numbskulls trying to sound intelligent by giving the answer that had the word "intelligent" in it. I am sick of the BBC and countless other "news" outlets throwing these flimsy statistics around in such a cynical and misleading manner. It is so obvious that the "man in the street" doesn't know anything at all until you hold a clipboard and ask him about it. And what percentage of people lied? We don't know. GRRRRRRR people will talk about this "statistic" round water coolers as if it is fact, further muddying the waters in this and many other debates. Great. Democracy. Working. Fine. Education. Education. Education.

Mark Splinter

The assumption that because many people chose the option "Don't know", the majority do not believe the theory of evolution, is a very big leap.

Not understanding anything scientific is a very common trait amongst the borderline moronic masses, who really don't care about anything besides what's on TV, who won the match, what Jane said about Mary, and the like. Anything scientific was best left behind in school and thankfully can be forgotten. I would speculate that "Don't know" could well be replaced with "Really don't care. Now bugger off." I bet that answer was not an option.


So, where is it all leading? We'll conclude with Nick L's thoughts on the matter:

Nice article, Lester.

I watched the programme yesterday in abject horror - the president of the world's most powerful country is advocating intelligent design, and saying "we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom".

This is the same country that is constitutionally bound to distance religion from politics? What on earth is going on?

I then watched the news to see Hamas is in control of Palestine, and shook my head as the factions started fighting amongst themselves. Nettanyahu then wandered over to say that they'll not deal with Hamas, who are terrorists. Sharon is, in my opinion, dead some time so it looks like Israel'll be getting a new hard line leader.

Rarely have I felt so concerned for the future of our planet. If we're not careful, we could be heading for dark ages of science.

Survey number two. Europeans don't like nuclear energy, says an EU poll. Pah! say readers:

When are people going to get wise to the provision of bulk, sustainable, electrical power supplies? I'm sure that if the pollsters had included "Asking the fairies to provide their electric power needs" in their list of options, there would have been a substantial number voting for this.

Rod Goslin

The bbc have a section called "Have your say?" which has featured the nuclear power question a couple of times. The general opinion there was pro nuclear so Either this poll didn't ask many from the UK or is more like the case asked certain groups of people they knew would answer with a no.

There are white lies, damn lies and statistics. I know my company works with them.

Robert Neve

So, to put it another way 52% of people objected to solar energy, 69% objected to wind power, and 88% to nuclear. I imagine there is a majority against continuing to burn fossil fuels too. Maybe all these people who object to every source of energy should be forced to hook a generator up to the back of a bicycle and pedal for their electricity every night until they decide which is least evil.

Alex King

They may want to modify the poll to something useful like,

Would you like to a) Convert to and rely on solar power, but have to reduce your power consumption at night and rainy days for heating, lights, etc. Good thing you don't have either of these in the UK. b) Convert to and rely on wind power, but have to randomly your power consumption at during the day(heating, lights, etc) c) Continue to invest in coal power, but have to spend more on pollution control but never have to worry about loosing power d) Continue to invest in Nuclear Power and have to spend more on steel drums and ships containing the byproducts so that we can dump it into the sea, but again you will not have to worry about loosing power


Most of the europeans voted "Nein" for nuclear power. However, what your article omits is the fact that most also ix-nayed *paying more for the energy* .. So punters want horribly expensive solar/wind power at nuclear/coal power rates, please.

Olli Männistö

I think this poll is slightly misleading. If you go back to the original source, you'll see that the poll was conducted back in October and November -- More than a month before the recent continent-wide cold snap and Russian disruption of European natural gas supplies.

Back in the 1970s here in the U.S., nuclear energy essentially displaced oil-fired electrical generating capacity. As we go forward, an expansion of nuclear energy could allow it to displace natural gas-fired electric generation -- freeing supplies up for home heating and industrial applications.

One could make the case that if the poll were taken now, that the results could very well be different.

Eric McErlain, Nuclear Energy Institute, Washington, D.C. USA

And before we all run screaming to the pub, one last comment on our recent description of the sun-kissed paradise that is the Isle of Man:

I Protest!

70,000 alcohlics clinging to a rock? Isle of Man? Rubbish! When I moved to Bermuda, it was described to me in exactly the same terms! And I would like to point out that Bermuda, being only 21 miles long by 1 mile wide resembles a rock far more than the comparative behemoth that is the Isle of man...

After four years of living there (the locals refer to Bermuda as 'The Rock') I can attest to the fact that the name is well justified - try a Bermuda rum Swizzle and see what I mean.

I have now returned to blighty as my liver has been punished enough...

Thank you,

Rob Marsh (ex ex-pat)

We'll drink to that. Cheers, and have a top-notch weekend. ®

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