Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why Do Leftists Ignore Islam?

I suspect that's due to the common belief on the Left that history runs in only one direction. They figure Islam was already defeated (it was down for most of the past few centuries) and now it's Christianity's turn.

When leftists see evidence of Islamofascists in action they think of them as part of national or racial liberation movements. That might be why they attribute opposition to the Islamofascists to race prejudice.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Conservapedia, Cui Bono?

On the one hand, Conservapedia is too preposterous to be taken seriously. It's just a little too close to a leftist's caricature of what they imagine the right wing is like.

On the other hand, I can't imagine anybody putting that much effort into a parody.

According to dpbsmith, a commenter on Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

Well, they sort of brought it on themselves by positioning themselves as an alternative to Wikipedia and making inflated claims... but it's too bad, because one of the premises of the site is really quite interesting.

It is a site for teenagers--Christian homeschooled teenagers, but never mind that--to learn by doing. The theory is that by writing encyclopedia articles they'll learn about the subject matter of the articles.

In that case, the people most likely to gain from the silly parts of Conservapedia are people opposed to home schooling, e.g., teachers unions. I suspect the idea originally came from a union mole.

On the other hand, maybe I should look into tinfoil hats …

Friday, February 23, 2007

Socialists at Conservapedia

The news that a self-described conservative has organized Conservapedia, a conservative alternative to Wikipedia has been going around ScienceBlogs. I noticed that the list of the Biases of Wikipedia includes:

Unlike most encyclopedias and news outlets, Wikipedia does not exert any centralized authority to take steps to reduce bias or provide balance; it has a "neutral point of view" policy but the policy is followed only to the extent that individual editors acting in social groups choose to follow it. For example, CNN would ensure that Crossfire had a representative of the political right and one from the political left. In contrast, Wikipedia policy allows bias to exist and worsen.
Central planning? No thanks.

Come to think of it, they appear to be advocating a version of the Fairness Doctrine. So if a Conservapedia article or two is written by Floyd R. Turbo …

Addendum: Oh bleep. A couple of conservative blogs are taking this seriously.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Marcus Ross and Nuclear Winter Theorists

EcoWorld on Freeman Dyson's opinion on nuclear winter:

There is a book entitled "Infinite In All Directions" published in 1988 by the visionary scientist and writer Freeman Dyson. In this book he has a chapter entitled "Nuclear Winter," where he discusses what was then a highly publicized scientific theory describing the worldwide meteorlogical and ecological consequences of a nuclear war. In this chapter Dyson writes the following: "As a scientist, I judge the nuclear winter theory to be a sloppy piece of work, full of gaps and unjustified assumptions. As a human being, I hope fervently it is right." Dyson wanted to believe in nuclear winter, because if enough people believed it, maybe humanity would avoid fighting a nuclear war. Unimpeachable motives. Bad science.
I suspect that as a scientist, Marcus Ross judges Young-Earth Creationism to be a sloppy piece of work, full of gaps and unjustified assumptions. As a human being, he hopes fervently it is right.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Socialized Science?

According to Eric Dezenhall, a public relations advisor for the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers, there is a potential problem with open access scientific publishing:

Specifically, according to Dezenhall's suggestions in a memo to the publishers that they should "develop simple messages (e.g., Public access equals government censorship; Scientific journals preserve the quality/pedigree of science; government seeking to nationalize science and be a publisher) for use by Coalition members."
A government might possibly try censoring past results if the data were held in servers under the control of that government. (They might also try censoring present results but that goes along with the government funding in the first place.) For example, if a creationist or deep ecologist administration gets elected they might try removing some articles from the database.

We can prevent such censorship by having mirrors not under government control. They exist for at least one public-access organization, People opposed to the possibility of censorship should recommend the multiplication of mirrors.

Multiple mirrors might be a little expensive now but, in accordance with Moore's Law, the cost should decline rapidly. Eventually, the mirrors might be supported by volunteer efforts similar to SETI@home.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

They Left out a Few Steps

The “Faith” side of this chart left out a few steps such as:

  • Fights break out over different interpretations of Scripture.

  • The side less in accordance with reality shrinks.

  • The side formerly less in accordance with reality finds another way to accommodate facts.

  • The side formerly more in accordance with reality drifts away from the facts.

  • One side tries to short circuit the process by claiming to be “reality-based.”


The complaints by the “Fixed-Earth” loons are about an instance of the third step in the above list. There are religious people who absolutely refuse to look at reality but there aren't nearly as many of them as the secularists think.

A Texas Republican Environmentalist Wacko?

Daily Kos conveys a report from Burnt Orange that Warren Chisum, a Texas State Representative, has been distributing nonsense from people who believe the Earth is the center of the universe. I thought only environmentalist wackos believed that. They are, after all, the main believers in an Earth-centered cosmos today. (I suppose this means the rumors that a village in Texas is missing its idiot are false.)

The good news is that Warren Chisum also apparently believes in cutting education budgets, so fewer students will believe that nonsense and Texas taxpayers will have more left over so they can afford private schools that teach Copernicus.

Question 1: What percentage of the leftist blogs commenting on this incident claim that Warren Chisum is a Congressman?

Question 2: What percentage of the leftist blogs commenting on this incident claim that people at the time of Columbus believed the Earth was flat?

Addendum: politburo diktat 2.0 has further comments.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Is This Argument Going in an Unwanted Direction?

A Photon in the Darkness explains why it is a bad idea to become an atheist in junior high school:

Now, most of the people who are acting as "parrots" don't see it that way. They are usually convinced that they understand the topic quite well enough to see that their assertions are correct. They assume that a superficial - and usually over-simplified - understanding of an issue can make them equal to people who have studied the topic in depth.

To some extent, this belief (definition 1) that "everyday people" can understand a topic as well (or, in some instances, better) than the "experts" is a lingering zeitgeist of the 20th century, epitomized by many in the "Baby Boomer" generation (my generation, regrettably). It is, unfortunately, no more a reflection of reality than most of the philosophical nonsense to come out of that generation.

Moral philosophy, no matter how good it makes you feel, never trumps reality. The Soviet Union had to learn this lesson the hard way (see: Trofim Lysenko) and it appears that many in the Western World are determined to repeat their mistakes.

No, as much as we might like it to be different, there is no substitute for actually learning the subject. Reading "Molecular Biology for Dummies" will not put you on par with someone who has put in the hours and effort required to really learn the subject. This is not to say that people with lots of education and advanced degrees cannot be wrong - that is most definitely not true (see: cold fusion)! However, when discussing their field, the smart money is betting on the "expert" over the "self-educated".

As a general rule, nearly all the people who discover genuine problems with a system of knowledge are experts in that system.

Marcus R. Ross Should Be Given Tenure

I recommend that Marcus R. Ross be given tenure at an appropriate institution … such as the Navel Academy.

Addendum: Good heavens. There really is a Navel Academy. It trains belly dancers.

It Wasn't Adultery …

… it was a superposition of states:

At Oxford, where he fled the Nazis, Schrödinger lived openly in a threesome with his wife and a mistress (the wife of his assistant), who bore him a daughter in 1934. In Dublin, where Schrödinger and his two “wives” eventually landed in 1940 as he became the director of the School for Theoretical Physics, the quantum genius had more love affairs and fathered more children.
In each eigenstate, he was married to somebody else.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Limits to Professionalism

Orac is discussing a recent report that some doctors are refusing to discuss options they regard as unethical. Some people object to that.

I strongly disagree with the theory that physicians must discuss all effective treatment options. For example, if I were a physician, I would be dubious about recommending that patients get organ transplants in an area where executed criminals are used as a source of parts. (I've discussed this before.)

On the other hand, I agree that moral principles should be disclosed in advance. I think there was something called “The Hippocratic Oath” that was supposed to do that …

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Best Comment I've Seen on the Lancet Study on Iraq

This came from Josiah Charles Stamp:

The individual source of the statistics may easily be the weakest link. Harold Cox tells a story of his life as a young man in India. He quoted some statistics to a Judge, an Englishman, and a very good fellow. His friend said, Cox, when you are a bit older, you will not quote Indian statistics with that assurance. The Government are very keen on amassing statistics—they collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But what you must never forget is that every one of those figures comes in the first instance from the chowty dar [chowkidar] (village watchman), who just puts down what he damn pleases.

Addendum: Just a few minutes after posting the above, I found the following:

And these closed journals are hardly the kind of people whose pockets you’d want to line. Reed-Elsevier, for example, is one of the largest academic journal publishers in the world - they even own the Lancet – and they are the same company that runs the DSEI international arms fair in London, selling vile weapons to murderous regimes for cash profit extracted from very real suffering and pain, in countries you will never visit on holiday.
Since this was in The Guardian, I'm not sure whether to approve or not.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Excellent News!

The new congress wants to work less.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's Been Done

Instapundit reports on a movement to require that marriages be for the purpose of procreation and that infertile marriages be declared invalid.

According to Jewish tradition, infertility is grounds for permitting divorce and even, according to some authorities, grounds for requiring divorce. (I think that last is going a little too far.)

Addendum: John J. Reilly takes this more seriously than the originators did:

The interesting thing about this initiative is that we are in the last few years when it will immediately be perceived as a joke. There are below-replacement-level birthrate societies in Europe and East Asia, and even some depopulating states in the United States, that really should be considering pro-natalist schemes at least this radical, if not this stupid. It's a good bet that they soon will.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

On the Other Hand …

I recently suggested that the difference between the political left and the political right “is that the left side is more likely to think in terms of differences in space and the right side is more likely to think in terms of differences in time.” I then followed that by a recommendation to follow the right side on the grounds that “variations in time can distinguish between cause and effect.”

I must admit there are circumstances where the left style of reasoning can be better. For example, the left style is better able to analyze varying standards. If there's been an apparent change over time, that might be due to changing measurement techniques. After enough time has elapsed, you can't cross examine the researchers any more. If measurement techniques vary from country to country, you can sometimes find out if they have done so.

It's about Time

Douglas Glen Whitman and Mario J. Rizzo have published a paper on the effects of the cognitive biases of regulators instead of merely looking at the cognitive biases of those regulated. I've been talking about that possibility for years.

The next logical step is to examine the cognitive biases of people examing cognitive biases and then the cognitive biases of people examing the cognitive biases of people examing cognitive biases and so on up the ordinals … (It's amazing how supposedly-useless mathematical concepts such as ϵ0 turn out to be important.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Michael Pollan to New York: Drop Dead!

If the slogan “Eat your view” (part of Pollan's ideology) were taken seriously, New Yorkers would starve. It is currently impossible to grow enough food to feed New York within sight of New York. I suppose that if New Yorkers were fed on food grown in greenhouses inside city limits under nuclear-powered grow lights, Michael Pollan would still disapprove.

In related news, Matthew Yglesias (seen via Jane Galt) has been trying to claim that Jews are naturally part of the left because, as everybody knows, American conservatives hate the big cities where Jews can usually be found. The implications …

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Terrorists Are Taking Notes

As a result of the ridicule for the alleged overreaction to the mysterious devices covered with LEDs in Boston, all terrorists have to do to make sure their devices are not investigated is to cover them with LEDs making pop culture references.

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