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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Small Sample Watch
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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
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Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
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Greenie Watch
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Out of Step Jew
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Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
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The Speculist
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Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Friday, June 29, 2007

Unwanted People?

There are two groups of “unwanted” people in the United States, one group defended by the right side of the political spectrum and opposed by the left side and the other defended by the left and opposed by the right.

For some reason, both sides are unwilling to notice the mirror-image resemblance.

On the other hand, Chris Muir is starting to notice.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

United Nations vs. United States

In case you were wondering how some people can sometimes be fervently in favor of globalism some of the time and against it at other times, you must realize that there are two globalisms: The United States version and the United Nations version.

This distinction can be analyzed more easily by considering the difference between a state and a nation. A state is an artificial construction whereas a nation is a natural growth. Maybe we should call the US the “United Artificial Constructions” and call the UN the “United Natural Growths.”

That last can be shortened to the “United Warts.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wasn't This on Monty Python?

Giant penguin fossils found in Peru

… and then two long tendrils come out and attack Scott of the Sahara …

What Is War and What Is Liberty?

I have a few questions:

Is war fought by governments using people as an instrument or by peoples using government as an instrument?

Is liberty a matter of the government being restrained or the people being unrestrained?

Are the answers to the above questions connected?


Razib has blogged that in many ways, Judaism bears a stronger resemblance to Islam than to Christianity. It is, of course, a well-known fact that Islam is simply Judaism with an extra Y chromosome.

That might explain why we Red-Sea pedestrians are not as eager as one might expect to endorse every criticism of Islam. Some of those criticisms can apply to Judaism.

Razib also predicted that a Reform Islam would develop. We can see an example already. Reform Islam has some of the same problems as Reform Judaism.

Improbable News

Leftists show signs of having a sense of humor. (Film at eleven.)

The Union of Concerned “Scientists” is holding a cartoon contest and one of the cartoons is actually funny.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Scienceblogs and Depleted Uranium

I've been searching for mentions of “depleted uranium” in ScienceBlogs. I noticed there were very few mentions of DU in the posts but many more in the comments (chiefly preposterous claims about its radiotoxicity that were treated as though they were in the category of “everybody knows this.”). It looks like the bloggers not only know more than the commenters but some of the commenters don't know that.

On the other hand, that search led me to Steve Dutch's Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism site (via one of those ScienceBlogs comments).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

People Enjoy Paying Taxes

According to a recent study (with a sample size of 19), people enjoy paying taxes. I'm reminded of The Masochism Tango:

Bash in my brain,
And make me scream with pain,
Then kick me once again,
And say we'll never part.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Another Prediction

Someday, genetic engineers will come up with cat that can talk … and those cats will talk like LOLcats.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Prediction

The last Harry Potter book will end suddenly in the middle of an intense scene leading to … a blank page.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Potential Drawback of Mexican Immigration and How to Overcome It

One potential difference between today's immigration and that of the last wave is that today's immigration comes largely from one country. This is probably due to the fact that immigration is more easily restricted when it's by boat. I suspect that free immigration would produce more diverse immigrants.

So if you're against Mexicans (or Canadians) being an excessive percentage of the American population, you should favor more open borders.

Wellington Grey vs. Wellington Grey

The view of religion here is not consistent with the view of religion there (earlier discussed a few months ago).

Speaking of Nukes

Boing Boing mentions a pro-nuclear comic book:

POWER FOR PROGRESS (1972) -- Nuclear Power Plant Comic Book. Further description is not necessary here.
Yes it necessary. How else are we to see how ignorant a self-congratulatory liberal can be?

Two Back-up Plans Needed

According to John J. Reilly:

Some thought should be given to the consequences of the disconfirmation in five or ten years of the anthropogenic climate-change hypothesis. Henry Farlie once remarked that no institution came through the 1960s with its integrity intact. We could experience a comparable disillusionment, this time with the scientific and public policy establishments as the victims.

It is difficult not to enjoy the sight of the Wise and Good with egg on their face. Nonetheless, it is a bad thing when a necessary public institution is discredited. We need science. We also need its practitioners to be believable.

If Anthropogenic Global Warming turns out not to be a problem, the creationists (and maybe other pseudo-scientists) will not let us forget it. The hard left is already preparing a back-up plan. (The “Living Marxism” people are planning to blame pro-nuclear people.) The academic scientists that the Global-Warming hysterics are claiming to speak for also need a back-up plan.

On the other hand, if Anthropogenic Global Warming does turn out to be a major problem, we reactionaries also need a back-up plan. Advocating nuclear power will do, but we must be better known for it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Did Rome Fall Because of Immigration?

I doubt that the favorite historical analogy of the anti-immigration Right holds water.

Rome's economy can be tracked by measuring the lead content of peat bogs in Spain. Those bogs show that Rome's GDP (and probably other measures of its power) was well down from its peak even before Valens invited in the Visigoths. The barbarian invasions were a consequence of Rome's weakness, not a cause.

It's unlikely there were very many Gothic immigrants anyway, or at least not enough for much of a linguistic impact. The languages spoken in most of Western Europe are derived from Latin, not German.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

How Some Conservatives Might React to the Media Take on the Iraq War

The Media take on the Iraq War can be expressed quite simply: “A gang of white people attacked a land of brown people and, after some setbacks, the brown people are on the verge of repelling the invasion.” If enough conservatives accept that take (which includes the dubious assumption that international politics is a matter of white folks vs. brown folks), they might react by trying to find a brown invasion of a white area and try to get back at the other side by repelling that invasion.

Wait a minute …

How Conservatives Will React to a News Story

A typical liberal will read this story and claim we MUST spend more on public hospitals.

A typical (or at least stereotypical) conservative will read it, look at the name of the woman in question, assume she is an illegal alien, and interpret the liberal response as a call spend his tax money on invaders. This will be followed by renewed calls to slam and bar the door in the starving faces of the “wretched refuse.”

Maybe liberals shouldn't make a fuss over it after all.

Allies We Don't Want

Uh oh. Southern Baptists recently approved a resolution on global warming that's likely to embarrass us reactionaries. Expertise on a religious tradition does not make somebody an expert on everything else.

I've been complaining about that for years.

The really annoying thing is that the left side of the blogosphere will pretend this started recently.

Maybe religious organizations should pass resolutions not to pass resolutions in fields they know little about.

Friday, June 15, 2007

R. A. Lafferty on Artificial Intelligence and the Afterlife

In Not to Mention Camels, R. A. Lafferty wrote:

Then he was heard in the very deep distance, far under the queasy feet of all of them. They didn't need amplification to hear it. And they didn't doubt that all of them would be hearing it forever.

It couldn't, of course, be an actual soul screaming forever in hell. It had to be some sort of imitation.

But it was quite a good imitation.

Did Gallup Cook the Books on the Creation/Evolution Survey?

I get suspicious when I read something purporting to provide evidence for a far-fetched conclusion that goes into great detail about everything but the point that's far fetched. That looks like somebody was trying to hide evidence that might refute the thesis.

In particular, news about a Gallup poll that purports to show that a majority of Republicans but minorities of Democrats and independents do not believe in evolution has been going around the more self-congratulatory parts of the blogosphere. (Some of the self-congratulation is on the right.) The only problem is that the report with partisan identification is unusually crude and other parts of the same article have a far more refined analysis but did not include partisan identification. Was there an unreported survey with a refined analysis that asked for partisan identification but was useless for Republican bashing?

Right now, I suspect that they're cooking the books, but I don't have enough data to know how. I especially don't have enough data to refute the suspicion.

Another oddity of the poll is that a substantial number of Americans (according to the refined analysis) believe in both creation and evolution. That probably means they're distancing themselves from both Biblical literalism and from the various types of “Social Darwinism”. (At least, I hope that's what it means.)

Addendum: Bruce, a commenter on The Swamp, has a plausible explanation:

I would invite commentors to actually read the Gallup question asked.
This is how Gallup defined "evolution" for this question: "Now thinking about how human beings came to exist on Earth, do you, personally, believe in evolution, or not?"

One can believe in "evolution" as Darwin defined it, and still answer no to this question, because Darwinism doesn't address the origins of life--i.e., how life forms came to exist on earth.

We must remember that, at present, all theories of the origin of life are tentative.

Thank You, Meadow Soprano

The last episode of The Sopranos makes it look like Meadow Soprano is going to be a mob lawyer …
… a self-righteous mob lawyer …
… a self-righteous mob lawyer who uses all the right multicultural cliches …

This will make it easier to argue against the excuses of identity politics. If somebody claims that, for example, the Rosenbergs were executed only because of antisemitism (you can change the example to fit whatever groups you might belong to), you can now compare that to Meadow Soprano's rationalizations.

The downside is that sometimes you have to criticize discrimination. On the other hand, once the Meadow-Soprano metaphor get loose in the blogosphere, it might produce better criticisms. For example, it won't be enough to complain about disparate impact, you'll have to give a specific example of how the same phenomenon is handled differently depending on which group is involved. (You can see an example of this here.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

So That's What's Meant by “Anecdotal Evidence”

According to Carl Pope:

Coburn is a physician, but one who reads medical data very selectively. My one encounter with him occurred during the battle over setting new health standards regarding smog and soot levels. He was on the opposite side of a League of Women Voters debate on the issue. One of my co-panelists was a women whose son had asthma. On smoggy days, she regularly got calls from her child's school and had to take him to the emergency room. So when Coburn leaned over and said, "Will you come into my office and let me show you the scientific studies proving that smog has nothing to do with your son's asthma?" she was utterly unintimidated, and fired back, "I don't have time to come into your office because I may need to take my son to the hospital."

Is a statistical analysis of citations of anecdotal evidence called for? After all, a mere anecdote about it isn't really enough to support a conclusion …

A Paranoid Theory about Rachel Carson I Haven't Seen Yet

One of the lines of evidence pointing to the possible dangers of DDT in Silent Spring was the “cancer epidemic.” In view of the fact that what little cancer epidemic there was was largely due to tobacco, is it possible that the tobacco industry played a role in Silent Spring in an effort to distract attention? Just ask yourself, “Who benefited from the cancer-epidemic hysteria?”

The best defense is a good offense

On Rereading a Classic of Skepticism

The most striking part of rereading Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science by Martin Gardner is that the common woo cliche of “THEY laughed at those crackpot ideas yesterday but THEY were shown to be WRONG!” didn't happen. The only crackpot idea mentioned in there that has come even close to being rehabilitated was acupuncture and that was both discussed very briefly then and is still regarded as dubious now.

The second most striking part is that Freud was taken seriously back then. Maybe skepticism isn't always skeptical enough.

Organic Food Is Healthier …

… if you happen to be a pathogenic bacterium.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Roe Rage and Brown Rage?

Yale law professors Robert Post and Reva Siegel have recently published Roe Rage: Democratic Constitutionalism and Backlash that appears to lean on a comparison between opposition to the Roe vs. Wade decision and the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. (Liberalism sometimes looks like a has-been going over old clippings; it was on the side of the angels during the civil-rights struggle and has been living off that reputation ever since.) I don't see how the comparison is valid.

First, there is no logical connection between supporting segregation and opposing abortion. If anything, the connection runs in the other direction. Opposition to racism is based on the idea that human rights are independent of trivial physical differences. Opposition to abortion is based on the same principle.

Second, segregation was a temporary and local phenomenon. Pro-segregation politicians were only able to win elections in the South. (The 1964 election was taken by most voters to be a referendum on segregation.) By 1976, the pro-segregation region voted for the more liberal candidate and regional distinctions had pretty much disappeared by 1980. That was only 26 years after Brown. 26 years after Roe, we reactionaries were still vocal and you can find pro-lifers in fairly large numbers all over the United States. (I must admit the other side has had a local and recent degree of success in areas with low birth rates. Apparently, the pro-lifers have been moving away from those areas.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Plastic Peanuts vs. Global Warming

Tigerhawk's article on combatting global warming with white paint inspired me to post another possible way to raise the Earth's albedo: We must increase production of non-biodegradable plastic peanuts.

After a few decades, the plastic peanuts will all wash down to the sea where they will float and reflect the Sun's rays. After the oceans are all covered with styrofoam, the Earth's albedo will be high enough to stop the global warming.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Very Like a Whale

The Great Dark Spot on Neptune looks like a whale to me.

A Political Slogan

I'm against abortion, immigration restrictions, and zoning laws. The ideal slogan would be: Two families in every garage!

Okay. So I was preceded by Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Psychic Powers at Pharyngula?

PZ Myers has acquired the psychic ability to read the minds of pro-lifers. He even knows more about what's going on in our tiny little minds than we do:

It's powerful stuff. Remember, the people who want to end abortion aren't really pro-life—they are out to control women, nothing more.
The comments to the post are worth recommending to any pro-lifer with low blood pressure. It will be raised in a jiffy. The only problem is that they are repetitive. After a few dozen comments claiming that pro-lifers are hypocrites if there's been at least one abortion secretly performed on a pro-life activist or that they must be hypocrites if they disagree with the government handing out free condoms (do such government programs work?) one's eyes start glazing over and the sheer hypnotic effect will send blood pressure back down again.

Even some of the rarer arguments can get old … especially when we compare them to other arguments. Let's see: Pro-lifers are cruel because they don't make exceptions; they are hypocrites because they make exceptions before birth but not after birth; they are hypocrites because they make exceptions after birth but not before birth …

I did see an argument in the middle of the comments from Russell that attempted to make sense:

Daniel, I find most of the rhetoric that equates an embryo with a person is quite dishonest. There is a philosophic gedanken that serves quite well to demonstrate this. Ask the person so arguing to imagine himself or herself in a fertility clinic, that has caught fire. With them is a tray containing a thousand embryos, ready for implantation, and also a child whose legs are in casts from a recent auto accident. They can save one or the other. Who do they save?

Someone who believes embryos are people has to save the embryos. In an emergency situation, one doesn't let a 1,000 people die to save 1. But I've yet to meet anyone who says that that is what they would do. And in their excuses why not, one will find their dishonesty.

On the other hand, I have already covered this:
Fuzzy logic might be appropriate. You can think of the mother and child as two different beings with a fuzzy boundary in space—time. If you cannot believe that an embryo 1 second after conception is not a separate human being but an infant 23 million seconds later is a separate human being then maybe the embryo could be considered 1/23,000,000 part of a human.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Words “Mainstream,” “Consensus,” and “Heterodox”

A few years ago, I posted the following on the use of the terms “mainstream” and “consensus”:

When I try arguing against consensus thinking, I sometimes run into the objection that creationists and/or neo-nazis also object to the mainstream. It looks like the terminology used is quite different, with fascist dissidents objecting to the mainstream. and libertarian dissidents objecting to consensus. That should not be surprising. After all, the consensus is used as a way to stop thought, whereas the mainstream implies flow, so it can change.
After considering use of the term “heterodox” mentioned on EconLog, it looks like “heterodox” is commonly used by collectivist dissidents. I made up a table plotting the number of Google results from combining “consensus,” “mainstream,” or “heterodox” with terms relating to various politicized scholarly controversies:
Term“Consensus” “Mainstream” “Heterodox”

It looks like frequent use of “heterodox” is an even better indicator that the dissidents are spouting horsebleep than the mainstream/consensus ratio.

It also looks like I should lean a little in the direction of the Establishment in the case of IQ controversies and very strongly in the direction of the Establishment in the case of immigration controversies.

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