Friday, July 03, 2015

Geneticists do not want you to know your DNA

Here are some geneticists who do not really believe in genetics. NPR radio reports:
You can now order genetic tests off the Internet and get your child's genome sequenced for less than the cost of a new car. The question is, should you?

Almost certainly not, according to the American Society for Human Genetics, which released a position paper Thursday intended to give parents some help navigating the dizzying world of genetic tests.

"This is something that we don't think is ready for prime time for kids," says Dr. Jeffrey Botkin, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and lead author of the paper.
Here is the abstract, and statement. The full article is behind a paywall, and the web site is full of broken links anyway.

What I get out of this is that the experts are afraid that they will lose control of the genetic testing process, if healthy people just go get whole genome sequencing by themselves.

I do not see how knowledge of your own health data can be unethical.

People get spooked by genetic info, and these geneticists are not helping. They want to create a mystique about this info being dangerous.

The DNA technology is such that there is no need to get repeated DNA tests in response to potential health questions. You can just get the sequence data at birth, and evaluate portions of it as needed. Even if Chinese hackers steal your data and post it on the web, it is unlikely that you will be damaged, unless you are a wanted rapist or something like that.

Monday, June 29, 2015

No need to finish antibiotic pills

When asked for practical consequences of biological evolution, mainstream educators nearly always point to advice to take all your pills to avoid evolving bacterial resistance. For example, PBS TV:
Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

This silent animation created for Evolution: "The Evolutionary Arms Race" follows the progression of antibiotic resistance. When a sick person takes antibiotics, the drugs begin to kill off the bacteria. But if treatment stops prematurely, it leaves some microbes alive -- the ones with mutations that make them resistant to the drugs. As these survivors multiply, they pass along their protective mutations to all their descendants. In this way, the bacteria evolves into a new drug-resistant strain. ...

It means taking all the pills that are prescribed, even if you're feeling better.
And U. California Berkeley:
Applying our knowledge of evolution
Evolutionary theory predicted that bacterial resistance would happen. Given time, heredity, and variation, any living organisms (including bacteria) will evolve when a selective pressure (like an antibiotic) is introduced. But evolutionary theory also gives doctors and patients some specific strategies for delaying even more widespread evolution of antibiotic resistance. These strategies include: ...

3. When treating a bacterial infection with antibiotics, take all your pills.
But there are medical experts who say precisely the opposite, such as Discover Magazine:
Conventional wisdom: Antibiotic regimens should be taken in full, even after the patient feels healthy again.

Contrarian view: Shorter courses are often just as effective and do a better job at preventing antibiotic resistance. ...

“The science is clear,” says infectious disease specialist Brad Spellberg of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute. “Every study that has been done comparing longer versus shorter antibiotic therapy has found shorter therapy just as effective.” A few days of taking antibiotics, it seems, should usually be enough to knock infections on their heels, allowing the patient’s immune system to come in and mop up.

Taking the full course of antibiotics unnecessarily wastes medicine, and more drugs translates to increased evolutionary pressure on the harmless bacteria in our bodies. These “good” bugs can develop drug-resistant genes, which can then transfer to bad bugs.
And the London Guardian reports:
You have been taking antibiotics for a sore throat, but after two days you feel better – except that the tablets make you feel sick. So must you keep taking them? Traditional wisdom is that failing to finish the course allows some bacteria to survive. These will be the hardier ones that can resist the same antibiotic should they meet it again. So for your own good, and that of antibiotic resistance worldwide, you should keep taking the tablets.

But last week, in an article in the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Gwendolyn Gilbert of the University of Sydney wrote: “There is a common misconception that resistance will emerge if a prescribed antibiotic course is not completed.” She argued that there was minimal risk in stopping antibiotics if the signs and symptoms of a mild infection had resolved.

Professor Chris Del Mar, professor of public health at Bond University in Queensland, agreed, saying that, for most acute chest and urine infections, GPs should tell patients to stop taking the tablets once they feel better. Only for some conditions,
Millions of people also use anti-bacterial soap, but I never heard of anyone getting sick from bacteria that evolved to be resistant to the soap. It is true that some bacteria are resistant to some drugs, but those bacteria have also been found in nature where they never would have been exposed to the drugs.

Speaking of evolution-related myths, a recent poll reported:
YouGov's latest research shows that 41% of Americans think that dinosaurs and humans either 'definitely' (14%) or 'probably' (27%) once lived on the planet at the same time. 43% think that this is either 'definitely' (25%) or 'probably' (18%) not true while 16% aren't sure. In reality the earliest ancestors of humans have only been on the planet for 6 million years, while the last dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.
There are many knowledgeable scientists who adamantly argue that birds are dinosaurs, and that humans and dinosaurs (birds) coexist today.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fear of DNA

Here is a crazy employee lawsuit that won a big award. The employer asked a couple of employees to take a DNA test solely to proved their innocence of some minor vandalism. No one was harmed. But Congress passed a stupid law on the subject, and it became a lawsuit. An ambulance-chasing-type lawyer brags:
Yesterday, in what U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg dubbed “the case of devious defecators,” jurors awarded $2.25 million dollars to Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds for the harm they suffered from having their DNA unlawfully obtained by their employers, Atlas Logistics Retail Services (Atlanta), LLC.

In this case of first impression, Judge Totenberg previously ruled that Atlas had unlawfully taken cheek swabs from the two employees under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000ff-1(b), which makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer to request, require, or purchase genetic information with respect to an employee.” ...

The jury awarded Dennis Reynolds $225,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in compensatory damages to Jack Lowe. They also awarded a whopping $1,750,000 in punitive damages, to stop Atlas from requesting its employees’ DNA in the future, and to send a crystal clear message that they value the privacy of their DNA.
I never agreed with that law. People have a lot of irrational ideas about DNA.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hot hand fallacy disproved

Statisticians frequently point to the Hot-hand fallacy, and argue that random events are uncorrelated. That is normally true for events like coin tosses and roulette wheels, but is often applied also in sports where a correlation would be expected.

Now a Vox article says:
Most sports fans and athletes believe in hot streaks. A basketball player who has hit several shots in a row, the thinking goes, has a greater chance of hitting the next one, due to a "hot hand." Think of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who recently hit 77 straight three-pointers in practice.

Yet for a long time, scientists were skeptical. In 1985, a hugely influential study by a trio of psychologists argued that the hot hand was a myth. Among the NBA and college players they studied, hitting one shot made no difference in their odds of hitting the next shot. Like coin tosses, players were subject to the laws of probability, with the same baseline percentage chance of hitting every shot. Ever since that study, psychologists have held up fans' belief in the hot hand as an example of human irrationality: our tendency to see patterns in randomness.

Now, however, it's starting to look like the hot hand might be real after all.

"Psychologists thought it was just our tendency to see patterns in randomness"

A handful of studies published over the past few years have suggested that basketball players, pro bowlers, and volleyball players can indeed heat up, boosting their normal accuracy rates by several percentage points for longer stretches of play than you'd expect from chance.

And last week, a new study found one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the hot hand yet. The researchers looked at 29 years' worth of data from the NBA three-point shooting contest and found that players who hit three or more shots in a row had a 6.3 percent higher chance of hitting the next one, compared with their baseline rate.
This hot hand fallacy is frequently given as proof of a cognitive bias.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fact-checking David Brooks

NY Times columnist David Brooks is often praised for being an intelligent conservative, and for being good at explaining social science to the masses.

But apparently much of what he says is wrong. See Language Log and Gelman.

He is not really a conservative either. He just seems that way compared to other NY Times columnists. He wrote many columns with fanboi support for Barack Obama, the most anti-conservative President in many years.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Colleges teach white hatred

Ivy League professor Ali Michael writes:
I Sometimes Don't Want to Be White Either ...

There was a time in my 20s when everything I learned about the history of racism made me hate myself, my Whiteness, my ancestors... and my descendants. I remember deciding that I couldn't have biological children because I didn't want to propagate my privilege biologically.

If I was going to pass on my privilege, I wanted to pass it on to someone who doesn't have racial privilege; so I planned to adopt. I disliked my Whiteness, but I disliked the Whiteness of other White people more. I felt like the way to really end racism was to feel guilty for it, and to make other White people feel guilty for it too. ...

When we recognize and own our Whiteness, we can account for our own portion, our one 1/billionth of responsibility for what White people have done throughout history. We can work with other White people to begin to challenge bias, ignorance and colorblindness. We can use our privilege to confront the sources of that unfair favoring.
This is a mental illness, and it is being taught to college students.

She needs to learn about positive contributions to society from white people, such as by reading Today In White History.

One of her complaints is that whites have no culture. The Dylann Roof manifesto addressed this:
Many White people feel as though they dont have a unique culture. The reason for this is that White culture is world culture. I dont mean that our culture is made up of other cultures, I mean that our culture has been adopted by everyone in the world. This makes us feel as though our culture isnt special or unique. Say for example that every business man in the world wore a kimono, that every skyscraper was in the shape of a pagoda, that every door was a sliding one, and that everyone ate every meal with chopsticks. This would probably make a Japanese man feel as though he had no unique traditional culture.
That is from the rant of a killer who ought to be executed, after a trial. Here is his explanation:
The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words “black on White crime” into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?

From this point I researched deeper and found out what was happening in Europe. I saw that the same things were happening in England and France, and in all the other Western European countries. Again I found myself in disbelief. As an American we are taught to accept living in the melting pot, and black and other minorities have just as much right to be here as we do, since we are all immigrants. But Europe is the homeland of White people, and in many ways the situation is even worse there. From here I found out about the Jewish problem and other issues facing our race, and I can say today that I am completely racially aware.
There is something seriously wrong when Pres. Obama, prosecutors, NY Times columnists, and so many others argued that Trayvon Martin did nothing wrong.

By killing blacks in a church he has finally given Obama an example of a racist white attack on innocent blacks. In the previously examples, like Ferguson, the narrative collapsed when the facts were revealed.

On another matter, San Jose congressman Mike Honda brags about having an 8-year-old transgender granddaughter (or maybe grandson, I don't know).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Philosophers have lame arguments for funding

There is a philosophy site called Scientia Salon that appears to be pro-science, but actually anti-science and anti-scientist.

A current article argues:
So let’s be honest: the reason to give money to basic science is the same that should be used to give money to the humanities and the arts: because we are a rich country that can afford to spend a fraction of its wealth on things that are not practical, on continuing the human quest for knowledge, understanding and beauty.
A couple of comments suggested that the case for basic science was stronger than for the humanities, but that was upsetting:
Unnecessary remarks by Jake Zielsdorf and francisrlb dismissive of the humanities, soured this thread for me. Really, if they aren’t willing to respect interests of mine, why should I support theirs?
The moderator admitted that he considered censoring the pro-science comments:
We actually discussed whether to let those comments through
My reply was:
Really? Did I stumble upon some sort of support group for emotionally fragile people?
The moderator blocked this for being too "uncivil".

It seems bizarre to me that a site would cater to philosophers having discussion, and yet be so unable to handle differing opinions.

Yes, of course basic science is more worthy of taxpayer funding than the humanities. A lot of science has no practical application or obvious taxpayer benefit, but at least it is pursuing facts and truth, and the scientists are held accountable for the validity of what they say.

Much of the humanities is worse than worthless.

A later comment in the same thread says:
The 1980s did bring forth a cultural revolution, the Reagan Revolution, which is properly so-called (although Reagan himself was mentally unbalanced and incompetent at anything other than delivering speeches). ... the re-interpretation of all values into the language of the marketplace: ...
Today's universities are filled with humanities professors who spout this sort of politically driven nonsense. It is worse than worthless because they are teaching the next generation a wrong version of history, as well as distorted idea of what science is all about.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Tom Brady was framed

Ted Wells is a black criminal lawyer who was famous for his poor defense of Scooter Libby. The case against Libby was very weak, as I posted several times, but Wells seemed to be throwing the case in order to create a scapegoat for the Bush administration.

Now Wells is better known for a couple of slanted reports for the NFL in order to support some stupid policies. The last one accuses Tom Brady of being 51% likely to have some general knowledge of some minor football inflation irregularities, but now it appears that Wells faked the data in his report.

I guess the NFL wants to show that it is tough on players. Or maybe it is an anti-union thing. Or people like to take down big stars. Or punishment becomes more respectable if you get a black lawyer to do the dirty work. I don't know.

This is another example of over-criminalizing sports, or inappropriate penalties, and of rejecting innocent-until-proven-guilty.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Another skeptic of human evolution

Roosh V. has turned negative on human evolution:
The one aspect of evolution, specifically, that does not hold true for modern humans, especially those living in the West, is that fit humans are reproducing up to the limit of the food supply, as stated by Darwin. In fact, the more resources a person has, the less likely they will reproduce at all, which you can witness at any time in a drive through the poor and rich parts of your city. Darwin’s theory doesn’t explain why this occurs, why the “strongest” and most “fit” are having the least amount of offspring or deliberately choosing not to have any offspring at all, even though natural selection specifically states that only the strongest can pass on their genes while the weak and infirm will not.

Most animals, plants, and bacteria do reproduce up to the limit of the food supply, or at least try to maximally have as many offspring as possible, but human beings have developed a consciousness that enables them to purposefully not reproduce even if they are able, and even develop a phobia to reproduction, and this has been in effect for at least 100 years in all major Western nations that currently suffer a death rate greater than the reproductive rate.

We must therefore conclude, with logic and rationale, that evolution is so flawed at explaining modern human reproductive behavior (and not merely casual sex where reproduction was never the intent), that evolution is not an observable or correct principle for human beings living in Westernized nations. We must discard evolutionary theory as applying to all humans through the mechanism of natural selection and begin a search for a new explanation that explains our current biological behavior.
The usual evolutionist explanation is to redefine fitness to mean whoever reproduces, and has grandkids.

So this is an example of fitness:
OWN network is pulling the plug on a prospective reality series about the father of 34 children by 17 women.

The network says in a statement Friday: “Production has ended and the series will not air.”

It went on to say that the original idea was to follow Atlanta music producer Jay Williams “as he worked to put his life and fractured relationships in order,” the network says, “and to hold him accountable every step of the way.”

Williams had appeared on the OWN reality show “Iyanla: Fix My Life” with life coach Iyanla VanZant before his own spinoff series was announced a few months ago.
I guess this reality show was too hard a reality for the Oprah viewers. But in Darwinian "survival of the fittest" terms, he is the fittest.

Roosh continues:
Say you encounter an article that says the following: “Men who go off to war have more children than men who don’t.” Evolution would describe this by saying that women want to reproduce with men who are most fit and strong and better able to defend the tribe. But let’s flip it and say “Men who don’t go off to war have more children than men who do.” Evolution can describe this too! It can say, “A superior reproductive strategy is to stay with the fertile women and reproduce with them during the time the alpha males are away.” Even the simplest of minds can find an explanation once it already knows the final result it’s aiming for.

If evolution can be used to explain both sides of the coin, which is often does, it’s not a scientific theory but a rationalization theory that justifies any and all human behavior as somehow fitting the theory. In other words, the theory is like playdough that can fit in any situation, and this is even done in the red pill portion of the manopshere to take any behavior a man or woman does and somehow justify it in terms of evolution, even if it’s based on people acting on the willful mission to not reproduce. What’s convenient for evolutionists is that none of their assertions can be proven, meaning that evolution is not more than one step above astrology in terms of describing or predicting human behavior. It’s gibberish.
That's right, many evolutionary stories are just conventient myth-making, with any scientific backing. You could say the same about parts of psychology, economics, and other soft subjects.

Nevertheless, people like Williams are spreading their genes to the next generation, and smart successful people like Roosh are not. The future inheritors of the Earth with have the heritable characteristics of those who spread their genes.

There are religious creationist who do not accept human evolution, and there are leftist-atheists who detest the concept. I think that a lot of people do not want to accept that cultural forces are transforming the human race.

We have created a culture that considers a black music producer on reality TV the fittest man.

Justice A. Scalia says:
“Class of 2015, you should not leave Stone Ridge High School thinking that you face challenges that are at all, in any important sense, unprecedented,” Scalia said, adding that “Humanity has been around for at least some 5,000 years or so, and I doubt that the basic challenges as confronted are any worse now, or alas even much different, from what they ever were.”
This upsets leftist-atheist-evolutionists.

This is not rejecting evolution. To me, accepting evolution means accepting that humans evolved from hon-human ancestors, and are still evolving. The use of alphabets and numbers only goes back about 5000 years.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Looking back at the Population Bomb

TheFederalist writes:
The New York Times just published an extraordinary “retro report”—a short video paired with an article—looking back at Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” theory, the fear that an uncontrolled human population would outstrip the ability of the Earth to support it.

The Times lays out some of the evidence for the theory’s failure, including the fact that the world’s population was about 3.5 billion when Ehrlich first made his apocalyptic prognostications in 1968. It’s 7 billion now, and we haven’t starved, we haven’t run out of resources, and we’re better off than we’ve ever been.
They make some good points: Ehrlich was wrong, but was a hero to the Left.

And yet as I write this in California, we have water rationing caused almost entirely by population growth (and agricultural development) beyond the available water resources. We also have unemployment that matches immigration rates. We have traffic jams and other population-related problems. We have frequent talk of carbon taxes and other anti-global-warming measures, where population growth and development is the biggest driver of carbon emissions.

So did the increase from 3.5B to 7B people make the world a better or worse place? I say worse.
That’s the basic issue involved: are human beings any good? Is a new person just another mouth to feed — or does he have the potential to become someone who discovers how to feed the world? Do more humans just cause more problems — or do we solve them? Do we only destroy, or do we create? Are human beings good, and if so, shouldn’t we want more of them?
This is just foolishness. The runaway population growth is in Third World countries, and is not producing someone to discover how to feed the world. The humans who are creating technology and solving problems are almost entirely coming from countries with stable native populations. (The USA is growing from immigration, not the native population.)

Some humans cause problems and some solve them.

Poor areas of Africa, India, and China are projected to grow by billions of people, while rich areas like Europe may decline in population. It is foolish to think that some African making $1 a day is going to invent a new technology for feeding the world.

We do have a population problem. It could be address it by freezing immigration and stopping aid to the developing world. Ehrlich is too much of a leftist to propose those things, so he babbles nonsense.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Not noble to censor opinion

David Brooks writes in the NY Times:
These students are driven by noble impulses to do justice and identify oppression. They want to not only crack down on exploitation and discrimination, but also eradicate the cultural environment that tolerates these things. They want to police social norms so that hurtful comments are no longer tolerated and so that real bigotry is given no tacit support. ...

But when you witness how this movement is actually being felt on campus, you can’t help noticing that it sometimes slides into a form of zealotry. ...

But many of today’s activists are forced to rely on a relatively simple social theory. According to this theory, the dividing lines between good and evil are starkly clear. ...

According to this theory, the ultimate source of authority is not some hard-to-understand truth. It is everybody’s personal feelings. A crime occurs when someone feels a hurt triggered, or when someone feels disagreed with or “unsafe.”
No, there is nothing noble about suppressing opinions in college in order to try to avoid hurting some precious snowflake's feelings.

I wonder what the social justice warriors think of this petition:
The idea that white South Africans have the right to return to Europe is based in the concept of indigenous rights and self determination.

The white South African population currently faces ethnic cleansing and persecutions at the hands of the ANC government, the EFF, and various individual anti-white aggressors. Over 4000 white farmers have been brutally murdered, often including torture and rape and mutilation. Many white South Africans today live in poverty and squalor as a consequence of the ANC government's Black Economic Empowerment policy which shuts whites out of the labour pool.

Based on the Israeli government's policy of allowing all Jews the right to return to Israel, we believe it is not only advisable but morally obligatory that Europe should allow all white South Africans the right to return.

As it currently stands, many white South Africans who try to apply for citizenship to European countries such as the Netherlands and UK are rejected. Many of these white South Africans seeking citizenship are direct descendants of the very same European nations that reject them.
So Europe takes black and Moslem refugees, but not white European descendants?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

RoK celebrates masculine men

Return of Kings is considered one of the more offensive sites on the web, but it is really just a site that celebrates masculinity in men (and femininity in women), and is not particularly political at all. There is very little talk of men's rights, and it is quite tame and small compared to major feminist sites.

Here it lists some of its beliefs:
1. Men and women are genetically different, both physically and mentally
2. Men will opt out of monogamy and reproduction if there are no incentives to engage in them
3. Past traditions and rituals that evolved alongside humanity served a clear benefit to the family unit
4. Testosterone is the biological cause for masculinity. Environmental changes that reduce the hormone’s concentration in men causes them to be weaker and more feminine.
5. A woman’s value significantly depends on her fertility and beauty. A man’s value significantly depends on his resources, intellect, and character.
6. Elimination of traditional sex roles and the promotion of unlimited mating choice in women unleashes their promiscuity and other negative behaviors that block family formation.
7. Socialism, feminism, cultural Marxism, and social justice warriorism aim to destroy the family unit, decrease the fertility rate, and impoverish the state through large welfare entitlements.
A liberal critic
disputes some of this. For example, he says that socialist policies like paid maternity leave can raise fertility rates.

On the subject of men and women, Bernie Sanders has just had to repudiate a 1972 essay/story he wrote.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A superhero movie is not cultural genocide

Movie critic Richard Brody writes in the New Yorker magazine:
In a recent video interview to promote “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man, lost his mettle. The interviewer quoted a remark by the director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu that superhero movies are “cultural genocide.” Downey seemed taken aback and responded offensively, with a nativist slur: “Look, I respect the heck out of him, and I think for a man whose native tongue is Spanish to be able to put together a phrase like ‘cultural genocide’ just speaks to how bright he is.”

There’s no defending Downey’s remark.
I'll defend Downey's remark. It is about the kindest thing that ought to be said when some leftist jerk from another culture accuses an actor of mass murder for making a popular movie.

Nobody uses terms like ‘cultural genocide’ unless they are Marxist hate-mongers. Those using the term should be mocked in the harshest terms. Downey was easy on the guy, and could have told him to go back to Mexico.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Parental contribution is mainly genetic

Bryan Caplan argues that reading helps kids more than anything:
The big result is the lack of results. Controlling for family and child background, time in school and studying barely help - and television viewing barely hurts. Contrary to wishful assertions that exercising the body improves the mind, sports don't matter either. Out of nineteen activities, only two predict greater academic success across the board: reading and visiting.

The estimated effect of visiting is modest. Reading, however, is a huge deal.
Visiting refers to certain organized out-of-school activities.

A Nature study reports:
Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies

Despite a century of research on complex traits in humans, the relative importance and specific nature of the influences of genes and environment on human traits remain controversial. We report a meta-analysis of twin correlations and reported variance components for 17,804 traits from 2,748 publications including 14,558,903 partly dependent twin pairs, virtually all published twin studies of complex traits. Estimates of heritability cluster strongly within functional domains, and across all traits the reported heritability is 49%.
You can download the full article here.

People think that kids are shaped by schools, TV, parenting, etc. The data says that these things matter less than you think.

Saying that heritability is 50% makes it sounds as if parenting and schooling are the other 50%. But other studies show that the other 50% is mostly measurement error and unkown factors, as the measurable aspect of the environment seem to have very little effect.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fat shamer on Dr. Oz show

Physician and Turkish-American TV personality Mehmet Oz regularly promotes quack medicine, with the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey. In particular he has promoted bogus weight-loss alternative medicine that borders on fraud. His physician colleagues have denounced him.

So you would think that he is against being fat. But much of his audience is fat women, and he does not want to offend them. So he introduced an anti-fat TV guest as a monster in Fat Shaming by Roosh V.

In spite of being ambushed on the show, Roosh stays calm and on point, describing how American women have become unhealthy and unattractive by getting fat. He also encourages fat men to join a gym, lose weight, and get in better shape. Men respond to logic and reasoned arguments, he says, but women do not and must be shamed.

Oz had some obese women denounce him, saying that they were happy to be fat and their inner beauty is what matters.

Oz's audience was mostly fat women, and they sided with him. All of which just help Roosh make his point that fat acceptance has led to a generation of repulsive people.

I have tried watching the Dr. Oz a couple of times. One time he discussed a minor medical problem that I was familiar with, and his advice was abominable. I say that Oz is the monster.

Very few people would dare say what Roosh V says, but he is reasonable and sensible compared to Oz.

Speaking of politically incorrect views, here are a couple of other examples.

Anthropologist Peter Frost says A synthesis has been forming in the field of human biodiversity. This consensus differs from how the leftist-Marxist-globalists deny race. It is hard to refute anything Frost says, but very few academics are willing to say it.

John Derbyshire attacks Bill Nye:
What did the Science Guy have to say to the Rutgers graduates? Well, he warned them of the horrors of climate change, which he linked to global inequality.
We’re going to find a means to enable poor people to advance in their societies in countries around the world. Otherwise, the imbalance of wealth will lead to conflict and inefficiency in energy production, which will lead to more carbon pollution and a no-way-out overheated globe.
Uh, given that advanced countries use far more energy per capita than backward ones—the U.S.A. figure is thirty-four times Bangladesh’s—wouldn’t a better strategy be to keep poor countries poor? We could, for example, encourage all their smartest and most entrepreneurial people to emigrate to the First World … Oh, wait: we already do that.
Again, hardly anyone is willing to say this, but if global warming is really such a big threat, then maybe the best thing we can do is to keep the Third World poor.

I mentioned how prominent skeptic-atheists have become disillusioned with the whole movement, but I am afraid that I have understated the matter. See the videos on Why 'Feminism' is poisoning Atheism. It appears that creepy leftist social justice warriors have hijacked to whole movement. Even the conferences sound very unpleasant.

Here is someone afraid to use certain words:
When it hit the national news that searching for certain racist and offensive words in Google Maps brought up the White House, I was immediately appalled. As someone who grew up listening to Hip-Hop music, I've heard similar language before, so I was not offended by the words themselves. I was, however, disappointed in the apparent disrespect towards our President and the ignorance of the perpetrator.
Apparently searches for "Nigger King" or "nigga house" would get you the Presidential White House. Note that the author not only refuses to write the N-word, he has to \give an excuse for even having heard the word before.

Google apologizes for this, but it bragged that during the G.W. Bush administration a search for "miserable failur"e gave the White House as the top result. That was changed when Barack Obama moved in, and the search gave Obama's biography. Google decided that was disrespectful, and the search now gives an article about how it used to point to Bush.

Update: Half of Democrats favor making hate speech a crime.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Risky to ask a woman to cut the cake

It is sometimes argued that STEM subjects should be minimized to make them more appealing to women. A female mathematical physicist attacks the idea:
But by proposing that women focus on work that is “societally meaningful” and that supports “humanitarian” goals, Ms. Nilsson indulges in two fallacies.

One is the premise that women are attracted to work consistent with the cultural notion that these are appropriate roles for women (traditionally, nursing and teaching).

In some sense, she is advocating “pink science” while ignoring the large number of female mathematicians, physical scientists and engineers who find the subject matter itself attractive.

It is analogous to telling women in medical school that they should become pediatricians and ob-gyns rather than neurosurgeons.

The other fallacy is that women are so shortsighted as to see only projects directly aimed at improving “the lives of people living in poverty” as having a meaningful societal effect. Surely, we all have a vested interest in enterprises like designing bridges and airplanes that are structurally sound.

We need to move forward with more female scientists in all fields rather than relegate them to certain subspecialties and pretend that such work is more valuable to our society.
And then there are those women who want to be treated like men, such as this one who refused to cut the cake:
My daughter majored in electrical engineering and got a job at a major electrical company. At a social gathering during work hours, her male associates asked her to cut a birthday cake, serve it and do the dishes. She refused, left for the day and eventually resigned.
Any attempt to push women into STEM fields might be pulling them away from better choices.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trashing a skeptic for being skeptical

Philosopher and skeptic-atheist Massimo Pigliucci rants about all the jerks and social justice warriors in the Skeptic Atheist Movement, and then complains when a prominent skeptic is actually skeptical about something (global warming):
he [Randi] had absolutely no business even expressing an opinion on a technical matter of that magnitude. He’s a magician, not an atmospheric physicist! Same with Bill Nye ...
Apparently the movement is dominated by folks who believe that if you are smart enuf to be a skeptic-atheist, then you must also be a leftist-feminist-SJW, because that is the only rational belief.

They also wonder why the movement attracts dysfunctional creeps.

My guess is that most people would join the SAM unless they had some desire to shut religions. Right-wingers do not care to stop the religious beliefs of others, and left-wingers seek social conformity. Leftists seem to want everyone in the movement to have the same opinions.

Someone said that organizations tend to go left-wing unless they have some charter or something keeping them right-wing. If so, then SAM groups are likely to go left-wing.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Academics still do not want Gould criticism

The late Stephen Jay Gould was famous for writing The Mismeasure of Man, a book that is widely regarded as garbage by experts in the field, but widely praised by academic leftists who liked his ideology.

Evolutionist/philosophers Joshua Banta, Jonathan Kaplan, and Massimo Pigliucci write a summary of a paper they published:
Why would the popular media be interested in a story about a historical argument surrounding measurement techniques and statistical summaries of human skull volumes? ...

Gould was, and remains, a divisive figure. His strong opposition to “genetic determinism” led to some very public fights with other science popularizers, such as Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson, whose work he viewed as encouraging naïve views of the relationship between genes and development. Gould’s longstanding commitment to anti-racism came together with his concern about simple-minded genetic explanations offered by “hereditarianism,” ...

In one of his popular books, The Mismeasure of Man, Gould set his sights on Samuel G. Morton, a 19th century American physician who catalogued and reported the cranial volumes of human skulls he collected ...

Lewis et al. claimed that Gould was wrong, and that Morton was correct. ... members of the White Supremacist website StormFront immediately trumpeted Lewis et al.’s results as proving that Gould was a fraud, and took them to be broadly supportive of their explicitly racist agenda [6]. And it is worth remembering that Nicholas Wade, as the science editor for the New York Times, was, at least in part, responsible for the unusual degree of attention that Lewis’ paper received ... Speculating that Wade publicized Lewis et al.’s paper to support his racist program seems, on the whole, not entirely unreasonable. ...

it isn’t at all clear what question Morton was trying to answer, if any, ...

Some historians have argued that, again, while Morton had many racist beliefs, his work on skulls was just an attempt to gather data with no particular purpose. Indeed, during the same time he was producing his big Catalog of Skulls, he was also publishing detailed descriptions of fossilized crocodile skulls, of all things! And even his Catalog of Skulls contains a surprising number of descriptions of nonhuman (birds, reptile, fishes, other mammal) skulls. ...

The basic conclusion at which we arrive regarding Lewis and colleagues versus Gould is “a pox on both your houses!” Morton’s data is simply not useful for anything, and talking about “races” as people perceived them at some point in history is not scientifically relevant.

What is troubling is that the Lewis and colleague’s paper passed through peer review in such a high-profile journal and picked up so much popular media attention, leaving many people with the erroneous impression that there is evidence suggesting that individuals of different “races” really do differ in their skull sizes, and that this then tells us anything of any interest at all. That Lewis and his colleagues work, surely unwittingly, gives cover to racists is even more unfortunate.
These philosophers are to call people racists, but they don't like criticism of their anti-science views. They deleted my comment from Scientia Salon, so I am posting it here:
It is amazing how much leftists will rush to the defense of dishonest work by a fellow leftist/Marxist. Here the defense of Gould consists mainly of race-baiting innuendo and claims that Morton, who died in 1851, might have had some opinions that are not proved by his data.

For a recent discussion on how Gould was a notorious academic fraud, see Trivers on Gould.

If Morton's samples were not the best, the scientific approach would be to get better data. The anti-science approach of Banta-Kaplan-Pigliucci is to launch race-baiting ideological attacks. Gould had no longstanding commitment to anti-racism. He just used racist name-calling to substitute for scientific analysis.

The popular media was interested in this story because the world's best known and credentialed evolutionist wrote a book that sold millions of copies and became required reading at hundreds of universities, and it was almost entirely bogus in its content. It was fake science being propped up by leftist politics.

These philosophers are typical of leftist academic Marxist biases and tactics. They attack perfectly legitimate scientific work on the grounds of supposed bad motives. Next they denigrate with guilt-by-association. That is, they suggest that something must be wrong with the science if it is quoted on a web site with a racist following. They argue that certain data should be ignored, and that certain subject should not be talked about. Finally they attempt censorship, by arguing that aa legitimate scientific paper should not have been published.

Nobody is going to endorse racist views based on skull measurements by a physician who died in 1851. But Gould used misrepresentations of those measurements to become America's most famous scientist, and he needs to be exposed until professors quit defending him.

They pretend to be anti-racist, but they are the opposite. The Marxist view requires an oppressor class and a victim class, and they have to stir up racial animosity to achieve their political goals. So they create racial divisions and call everyone else racists.

Ron Unz recently wrote:
In corrupt societies, bad deeds frequently go rewarded, and in the years that followed, Gould, a notorious academic fraud, was provided the platform of some of America’s most prestigious media outlets—The New York Review of Books and Natural History magazine to promote his scientific opinions, many of which were incorrect, nonsensical, or dishonest; his books, such as The Mismeasure of Man, became widely assigned texts in college courses, thereby serving to misinform entire generations of students. And by an amusing irony of fate, the noisy attacks on mainstream evolutionary theory by this self-proclaimed Marxist eventually caused him to become a leading inspiration for ignorant religious Creationists, who gleefully used his arguments in their long but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to expel Darwinism from our public schools during the 1980s and 1990s.
This was in an introduction to comments by Robert Trivers, a highly respected evolutionary biologist:
Many of us theoretical biologists who knew Stephen personally thought he was something of an intellectual fraud precisely because he had a talent for coining terms that promised more than they could deliver, while claiming exactly the opposite. One example was the notion of “punctuated equilibria”—which simply asserted that rates of (morphological) evolution were not constant, but varied over time, often with periods of long stasis interspersed with periods of rapid change. All of this was well known from the time of Darwin. The classic example were bats. They apparently evolved very quickly from small non-flying mammals (in perhaps less than 20 million years) but then stayed relatively unchanged once they reached the bat phenotype we are all familiar with today (about 50 million years ago). Nothing very surprising here, intermediate forms were apt to be neither very good classic mammals, nor good flying ones either, so natural selection pushed them rapidly through the relevant evolutionary space.

But Steve wanted to turn this into something grander, a justification for replacing natural selection (favoring individual reproductive success) with something called species selection. Since one could easily imagine that there was rapid turnover of species during periods of intense selection and morphological change, one might expect species selection to be more intense, while during the rest of the equilibrium stabilizing selection would rule throughout. But rate of species turnover has nothing to do with the traits within species—only with the relative frequency of species showing these traits. As would prove usual, Steve missed the larger interesting science by embracing a self-serving fantasy. Species selection today is a small but interesting topic in evolutionary theory, not some grand principle emerging from paleontological patterns.

Recently something brand new has emerged about Steve that is astonishing. In his own empirical work attacking others for biased data analysis in the service of political ideology—it is he who is guilty of the same bias in service of political ideology. What is worse—and more shocking—is that Steve’s errors are very extensive and the bias very serious. A careful reanalysis of one case shows that his target is unblemished while his own attack is biased in all the ways Gould attributes to his victim. His most celebrated book (The Mismeasure of Man) starts with a takedown of Samuel George Morton. Morton was a scientist in the early 19 th Century who devoted himself to measuring the human cranium, especially the volume of the inside, a rough estimate of the size of the enclosed brain. He did so meticulously by pouring first seeds and then ball bearings into skulls until they were full and then pouring them out and measuring their volume in a graduated cylinder. He was a pure empiricist. He knew brain size was an important variable but very little about the details (indeed, we do not know much more today). He thought his data would bear on whether we were one species or several, but in any case he was busy creating a vast trove of true and useful facts.
Millions of college kids today are taught that Morton was an evil racist, just because he collected skull measurements.

Update: Massimo Pigliucci argues:
“people tend to hold political and policy views that are in their self-interests, whether they realize it or not.”

Seriously? I would think that my self-interest is much better served by supporting race and gender inequality, since I’m an older white male, than equality. Go figure. ... Ah, so this ought to confirm my suspicion that most Republicans, including those in high offices, have low cognitive ability. The nonsense truly never stops.
No, a white male professor is acting in his self-interest when he recites a leftist cultural Marxist orthodoxy about how there is no such thing as race, and similar nonsense. As you can see, Gould was forgiven for being wrong on a lot of issues because he was supposedly politically anti-racist. These professors can tell themselves that their ability to be anti-racist in the face of their own privileged background proves that they have higher cognitive ability, and those who do not subscribe to these leftist beliefs must be stupid.

The truth is more nearly the opposite. It does not take any intelligence to have kindergarten morality and go around calling everyone else a racist. I have more comments here.

Update: Scientia Salon approved this comment:
Curious debate. On one side, we have folks who deny objective science, who defend Marxism, who brag about being anti-racist while calling scientists and reporters racist, and who oppose saying anything that might encourage the anonymous posters on Stormfront. If presented with data or quotes to refute what they say, they brag how they are smarter and have a superior understanding.

Gould’s book is an embarrassment to modern science. Defending it is like defending Soviet Lysenkoism. It is just bad science that is promoted for leftist ideological or self-interest reasons. And yes, it is in the self-interest of white male soft-subject professors who make a career out of denouncing racism and pseudoscience.
For examples of one of them making a career out of denouncing racism, see Ignorance, Lies, and Ways of Being Racist or Realism, Antirealism, and Conventionalism about Race. This is race-baiting, not anti-racism. He seeks out "some evidence of racist intent" in order to brand people as racists. I do not know whether he is a Marxist, but he sure acts like one.

Update: Update: A comment asks:
Schlafly, what is your purpose?

C. Van Carter’s purpose is obvious – heighten suspicion of those those with greater melanin in their skin. This achieves what? – besides greater antagonism and social repression of those you don’t like.
Comments are closed, so I answer here.

A better scientific understanding of humanity is a worthwhile goal in itself. It is bizarre to me that it is acceptable to study varieties of fruit flies but not human beings.

Studies about human nature are especially interesting because they tell something about who we are. Humans are similar to chimps in some ways, and different in others. There are similarities and differences between the sexes, and between ethnic groups, and within groups. Information about heredity tells us something about nature v nurture.

Similarities and differences between men and women have enormous practical utility. So does information about traits being innate or immutable.

Marxists and fellow travelers hate this, because they see it as interfering with their goal of a classless egalitarian society. So they want to suppress the scientific knowledge and call everyone else racist.

Whenever they see diversity or inequality, it translates to Marxist-speak as "social oppression" because they frame everything as one class oppressing another. They claim to be against antagonism but they actually encourage it because they want a revolution from the oppressed classes.

So yes, I also have a purpose of exposing the hypocritical leftist truth-denying professors who promote Marxist nonsense. We would all be living like Cuba if they had their way.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Christian culture is superior

A Moslem congressman wants to ban a prominent Dutch poltician because:
Mr. Wilders’ policy agenda is centered on the principle that Christian culture is superior to other cultures.
I thought that most Christians believe that Christian culture is superior. If they thought that Islamic or Confucian culture were superior, then maybe they would convert.

Maybe Moslems do not understand this, as many of them are born into Islam and are not permitted to convert out.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The war on radio

It is amusing to see the Apple fanbois deny that their products have any shortcomings. An Apple fan site says:
American broadcasters turn up the volume on misguided campaign to enable FM tuners in smartphones

By Sam Oliver
Monday, April 20, 2015, 11:12 am PT (02:12 pm ET)
Millions of consumers have switched off their radios in favor of music and commentary streamed over the internet, a trend that many in the terrestrial broadcast industry allege has been bolstered by device makers and wireless carriers who have conspired to disable built-in radio receivers in a bid to sell more expensive data packages.

Apple's iPod nano includes an FM receiver, but the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch don't.

Most smartphones — and indeed other connected devices, like tablets — ship with one of a handful of universal wireless communications chips inside, usually made by companies like Broadcom or Murata. They combine multi-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios in a single package, reducing size and increasing efficiency.

In many cases, these chips also pack a third over-the-air option: an FM tuner.

While many low-end devices take advantage of this to tick yet another feature checkbox, flagship smartphones rarely enable it. Apple's iPhone has never shipped with the ability to natively receive FM broadcasts despite having a built-in tuner, and Samsung largely dropped it from the Galaxy lineup after the Galaxy S3. HTC's One M9 does come with the feature, as do some Windows Phone models.
My smart phone cost a small fraction of an Apple iphone, and it has a radio. So do all my non-Apple ipods.

The android apps for listening to the radio are pretty terrible. NextRadio works great for some stations, but it only lets you listen to the station that are paying a fee to the app maker. The built-in app does not work.

Radios are getting harder to use. I bought two used cars with after-market radios, and both were inexplicably difficult to use. Both were still running a demo on the display, as the manufacturer apparently intended that the user turn that off after installation, but the user never figured out how.

I used to occasionally look at after-market car radios to buy, but I could never find one to meet basic requirements. Must be easy to use without a manual. Must be easy to scroll thru the dial to find radio stations. Must be easy to play mp3 music.

Even cheap clock-radios have gotten difficult to use.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Barry Bonds acquitted

Baseball star Barry Bonds has now been acquitted of all the charges against him. The feds spent 12 years and probably $10M trying to convict him of some steroids-related crime.

I said that Barry Bonds is innocent back in 2006, and repeatedly posted weaknesses in the case against him, and how the press is libeling him.

The 9C federal court said:
Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that “this case involves nothing more than an irrelevant, rambling statement made by a witness during the course of a grand jury investigation.”
I will be looking to see if any sports writers admit that they were wrong.

A 2009 Yahoo article said:
Taking the Clear – the star drug of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative – was not a crime, according to expert testimony included in grand jury documents.

Not only was the performance-enhancing drug tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) not specifically banned when athletes squirted “The Clear” under their tongues to gain an edge, the testimony also indicates that the drug wasn’t categorized by the Justice Department as a steroid until January 2005, long after the drug laboratory had been shuttered.

Yahoo! Sports has examined sealed grand jury testimony given by drug-testing expert Dr. Donald Catlin in 2003 and BALCO lead investigator Jeff Novitzky in 2004. Both men testified that THG was not a steroid according to the federal criminal code. Furthermore, Novitzky testified that “there’s never been any studies to show whether or not THG does, in fact, enhance muscle growth.”
Nevertheless people argue that Bonds must have known that it was a steroid.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Demographic Winter

The 2008 movie Demographic Winter is available on YouTube, in Part I and Part II. The 2013 video with a similar message.

One review says:
Doomsayers from Thomas Malthus to Paul Ehrlich have warned of “overpopulation” leading to depleted resources and mass starvation. In reality, more people have generated to more prosperity and higher standards of living.

What the world faces in the 21st century is another type of demographic crisis, but one that is painfully real: falling fertility rates and aging populations which could ultimately endanger civilization.

The average woman has to have 2.1 children during her lifetime – just to replace current population.

In less than 40 years, fertility rates have fallen by over 50% worldwide. In 1970, the average woman had 6 children during her lifetime. Today, the global average is 2.9. The United Nations Population Division predicts a further decline to 2.05 by 2050.
In much of the industrialized world, the crisis can be discerned even now:

• Europe might as well hang a “Going Out of Business” sign on its door. The average birth rate for the European Union is 1.5, well below replacement (2.1). In Italy, it’s 1.2.
Another review complains about the supposed subtext:
The argument put forth in Demographic Winter is a familiar one to those who have been watching conservative strategy develop over the past several years: that with birthrates falling globally over the last half-century, and in most developed nations falling below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 children per woman, the ratio of young to old will shift dramatically and wreak havoc upon existing social security and healthcare systems. The economy at large may also suffer, as the elderly cease spending and a smaller generation of workers is crippled by the taxes needed to support their parents. And the reasons why it’s occurring is a litany of culture-war complaints: women working, the “divorce revolution,” the sexual revolution (including cohabitation and the pill), worries, or what the filmmakers call “inaccurate presumptions,” about overpopulation and limited resources, and an affluence that leads to fewer children. It’s a massive failure to be fruitful and multiply, writ large, but again, such religious cues are kept off-screen. ...

But there’s a more insidious undercurrent to the “demographic winter” argument as well, one its proponents fiercely deny, but which nonetheless permeates nearly all of the current debate on demographic worries: that the concern is not a general lack of babies, but the cultural shifts that come when some populations, particularly immigrant communities, are feared to be out-procreating others. This has become a standard right-wing argument in Europe and the U.S., launching a series of books since 2001 that predict a coming Muslim onslaught that will displace traditional Western populations, ... Demographic Winter is an entry in the growing canon of profamily scholarship that seeks to make an “air-tight case” for the theological ideas of the “natural family” based on social science alone, de-sublimating Biblical claims into research-driven theories.
I am not sure that is the subtext, as the movie clearly says that United Nations projections show the entire world population peaking, and starting to decline in about the year 2050.

However, those UN projections are out of date. The Dec. 2014 UN projections show the world population increasing for the foreseeable future, and still increasing in 2100. The biggest gains will be in Africa, India, and China.

Nearly all the examples of birth rate decline were from Europe and Japan. Japan's has been decline for two generations. Other Western developed countries countries have been declining since about 1960, altho some of them have replaced the loss with immigrants.

The news media reminds us daily about how global warming might have an effect over the next century. But the demographics changes may be far more significant. There are technological fixes for the climate, but not for demographics.

These movies do not say what to do about these trends. One shows a couple of white lesbians adopting a couple of black babies. (Last one, at 1:09:30.) I am not sure the point of that. Is that the logical consequence of an excess of older infertile white women and an excess of poor African kids?

One conclusion might be that some populations are overbreeding, while others are underbreeding. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has argued (in 2009) that a major purpose of legalizing abortion was to reduce the population growth in the people we don't want:
Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.
She later clarified that she was quoted accurately and concerned about overpopulation in the welfare class.

Abortion is just one of many government and social policies with long-term effects on demographics. The movies mention various anti-family policies in Western countries, and these lead to low fertility in wealthy communities.

The net effect of all these policies is to de-populate the societies who created the modern world, and replace them with runaway overbreeding and migration in Third World countries.

Demographic changes seems to be a lot more important than climate change over the next century. Global warming is only expected to raise sea level a couple of feet, and most of the CO2 emission growth is coming from those high-population Third World countries. Most of the other environmental threats of the future are also attributable to Third World population growth, and to immigration to America and Europe. I don't have any answers, but it is very strange for this issue to be ignored by anyone claiming to be concerned about global warming or pollution.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

National Grilled Cheese Day

According to this, grilled cheese lovers enjoy life better is all sorts of ways.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Leftist distrust of science experts

I occasionally hear people claim that Republicans are anti-science, but the Democrats seem much more anti-science to me. Here is an editorial cartoon from Monday's Santa Cruz Sentinel, the daily paper for a leftist Democrat California beach town.

Thalidomide was never FDA approved (until it was later approved for leprosy). No one was injured a Three Mile Island. I don't think that anyone ever said that the space shuttle was perfectly safe, altho the risk did turn out to be higher than estimated. (Note also the spelling error of Challenger.) Dow Corning was bankrupted over breast implant lawsuits in 1995, but that is just proof that our legal system is broken. There is a consensus now that the lawsuits were bogus, and millions of women get implants today without major problems. Asbestos is not really that dangerous unless you are a smoker who inhales the fibers.

Leftists also hate GMO foods, pesticides, DDT, antibiotics, and preservatives.

Journalist Chris Mooney has made a career out of blaming Republicans for not trusting scientific experts, and has a Wash. Post column on The science of why you really should listen to science and experts. SciAm's John Horgan refutes it:
I recently knocked science journalist Chris Mooney for asserting that “You Have No Business Challenging Scientific Experts.” Non-experts have the right and even the duty, I retorted, to question scientific experts, who often get things wrong. ...

He cites a study that found that judges and other lawyers show less ideological bias—or “identity-protective cognition”–in their application of the law than law students and lay people. ... To my mind, the study merely shows that lawyers and judges know the law better than law students and non-lawyers.

Mooney’s citation of Tetlock is bizarre, because Expert Political Judgment—far from a defense of experts—is a devastating critique of them....

“people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. ... People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Useless airline safety measures

Commercial flying is safer than ever, and the most prominent safety measures appear to be worthless. I have assumed that most of what the TSA does is worthless, but I thought that securing the cockpit doors was valuable. Now it appears to have caused the Germanwings crash, as well as a 2005 crash. I haven't heard that it has saved anyone.

Every time you fly, they tell you about emergency oxygen masks and flotation seats, even tho these never save anyone. The oxygen even caused a 1996 Florida crash.

The airline industry would probably justify this stuff by saying that the public needs a big show of safety and security in order to be convinced to fly. That seems crazy to me. The safety record is already so good that your drive to the airport is more dangerous than the flight. We should abolish the TSA and let the airlines just do what really contributes to safety.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Worst-case housing scenario

Ever wonder about the competence of the Federal Reserve Bank? I just found this:
7/1/05 – Interview on CNBC
INTERVIEWER: Tell me, what is the worst-case scenario? We have so many economists coming on our air saying ‘Oh, this is a bubble, and it’s going to burst, and this is going to be a real issue for the economy.’ Some say it could even cause a recession at some point. What is the worst-case scenario if in fact we were to see prices come down substantially across the country?

BERNANKE: Well, I guess I don’t buy your premise. It’s a pretty unlikely possibility. We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fired for opinions

The NY Times hired a part-time opinion columnist, and then fired him because he has some opinions!

Politico reports:

The New York Times has terminated its contract with one of its new online opinion writers after a Gawker article highlighted the writer's previous association with racist publications, according to that writer's Twitter account.

Razib Khan, a science blogger and a doctoral candidate in genomics and genetics at the University of California, Davis, was one of 20 writers who signed contracts with the Times to write for the paper's online opinion section.

The Times announced its new stable of contributors on Wednesday. Hours later, Gawker's J.K. Trotter reported that Khan had a "history with racist, far-right online publications." Khan wrote 68 posts for Taki's Magazine, a publication founded by a "flamboyantly racist Greek journalist," Trotter wrote. Khan also wrote a letter to VDARE, "a white nationalist website named after the first white child born in America, in which he discussed [an essay] concerning the threat of the United States becoming “more genetically and culturally Mexican.”

Khan is a geneticist, with a broad range of knowledge and opinions. None are particular extreme, from what I have seen. The NY Times is more racist than those publications, as it was publishing several race-baiting article a day on Ferguson Missouri. I once wrote a letter to the NY Times editor that was published, but that does not mean that I endorse everything the newspaper says.

It is funny to see a dark-skinned Bengali punished for writing a letter to a supposed white nationalist editor.

The subject of genetics is sensitive. The NY Times reports
Scientists Seek Ban on Method of Editing the Human Genome

A group of leading biologists on Thursday called for a worldwide moratorium on use of a new genome-editing technique that would alter human DNA in a way that can be inherited.

The biologists fear that the new technique is so effective and easy to use that some physicians may push ahead before its safety can be assessed. They also want the public to understand the ethical issues surrounding the technique, which could be used to cure genetic diseases, but also to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence. The latter is a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.
AAAS Science magazine adds:
In 1975, the notion of using recombinant DNA to design human babies was too remote to seriously consider, but the explosion of powerful new genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9, zinc fingers, and TALENs has changed that. They have made it easy for anyone with basic molecular biology training to insert, remove, and edit genes in cells, including sperm, eggs, and embryos, potentially curing genetic diseases or adding desirable traits. Rumors are rife that scientists in China have already used CRISPR on human embryos. Researchers fear that publicity surrounding such experiments could trigger a public backlash that would block legitimate uses of the technology.
The idea of human improvement is very scary to a lot of people. Maybe a million people get born every day, with the big majority being sub-optimal circumstances. Why would anyone care if a couple get born as part of an experimental genetic treatment program? It would be insignificant to the population.

In more news about things you cannot say, a kid was kicked out of a college class for expressing some opinions. Buzzfeed reports:
True said he sparred with classmates over discussion topics related to ancient Greece and Rome, such as the “patriarchal” belief that logic is more important than emotion and his analysis of Lucretia’s rape. But it was his questioning of the widely shared and often debated statistic that 1 in 5 women in college are sexually assaulted — it doesn’t serve “actual rape victims” to “overinflate” numbers, he said — and his rejection of the term “rape culture” that led to him being banned, he said.

“I am critical of the idea of a rape culture because it does not exist,” he wrote in a lengthy email to Savery explaining his perspectives that he has also posted online. “We live in a society that hates rape, but also hasn’t optimized the best way to handle rape. Changing the legal definition of rape is a slippery slope. If sexual assault becomes qualified as rape, what happens next? What else can we legally redefine to become rape? Why would we want to inflate the numbers of rape in our society?”

More than 90 colleges are currently under federal investigation for allegedly mishandling sexual violence cases. Sexual assault on campus has become a hot-button issue both in Washington, where the White House launched a task force and senators have introduced bipartisan legislation, and on campuses like Reed, which roughly 1,500 students attend.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Study on merits of breastfeeding

Another new study on the benefits of breastfeeding is in the news, and I am just commenting on how it is reported. NPR radio reported on the study, and failed to explain how it controlled for obvious confounding variable. A comment has to explain:
I agree that correlation is often confused with causation, and has been particularly in discussions of breastfeeding. However I read the actual study, which is linked and they included maternal education, income level, smoking, maternal age, maternal pre pregnancy body mass index, gestational age, type of delivery, and birth weight in their study and took them into account. They also did the study in Brazil because breastfeeding was not positively associated with family income. The difference in IQ is seen even within income, as seen in figure 1 of the study. The authors of the study admit the study does not answer the question of whether this difference in IQ is attributable to the biological component of breastmilk, mother infant bonding, or intellectual stimulation, but this study goes much further than any previous study.
Okay, fine, maybe it is more convincing than other studies.

But what seemed curious to me was how NPR was eager to convince people that breastfeeding is good for the baby, but a lack of breastfeeding is not necessarily bad:
STEIN: Horta and Lawrence agree that babies raised on formula can turn out to be just fine, but they say everything should be done to help women breast-feed if they can. Rob Stein, NPR News.
Saying that breastfed babies are better off, on average, is the same as saying that formula-fed babies are worse off.

I guess they want to shame the moms who could breastfeed and choose not to, and not shame the moms who are unable to breastfeed. Are NPR listeners really eager to shame someone after hearing a story like this?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Subjects were right to doubt a CIA report

In 2003 Pres. G.W. Bush asked the US Congress and the UN to authorize war against Iraq. The main reasons given were that Iraq had WND programs in the past, and had not complied with UN resolutions and inspections. The concern was that Iraq would develop either chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

A widely reported 2006 social science study found:
When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions
by Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler

An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.
Their best example was giving subjects quotes about Bush, Iraq, and WMD to convince them that Iraq had WMD, and then later giving them a CIA report saying that no WMD were found in Iraq:
In other words, the correction backfired – conservatives who received a correction telling them that Iraq did not have WMD were more likely to believe that Iraq had WMD than those in the control condition.
The study did not actually ask the subjects to explain their reasoning. The researchers say that is a waste of time, because psychology research shows that people are too dumb to know why they believe what they do.

This appeared to be convincing evidence that some conservatives just irrationally believe what they want to believe in spite of the facts, because only the craziest conspiracy theorist would claim that the Bush administration covered up the WMD evidence that would vindicate its war theory.

But a NY Times story last month says exactly that. The CIA found WND in Iraq and covered it up:
The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.

The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

The effort was run out of the C.I.A. station in Baghdad in collaboration with the Army’s 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion and teams of chemical-defense and explosive ordnance disposal troops, officials and veterans of the units said. Many rockets were in poor condition and some were empty or held a nonlethal liquid, the officials said. But others contained the nerve agent sarin, which analysis showed to be purer than the intelligence community had expected given the age of the stock.

A New York Times investigation published in October found that the military had recovered thousands of old chemical warheads and shells in Iraq and that Americans and Iraqis had been wounded by them, but the government kept much of this information secret, from the public and troops alike. ...

Most of the officials and veterans who spoke about the program did so anonymously because, they said, the details remain classified. The C.I.A. declined to comment. The Pentagon, citing continuing secrecy about the effort, did not answer written questions and acknowledged its role only obliquely. ...

Not long after Operation Avarice had secured its 400th rocket, in 2006, American troops were exposed several times to other chemical weapons. ...

In some cases, victims of exposure said, officers forbade them to discuss what had occurred. ...
As an American citizen, I do not want to believe that our President lied to us to get us into war. But there is overwhelming evidence that Wilson (WWI), FDR (WWII), and LBJ (Vietnam) did exactly that. Now it has somehow become accepted wisdom that Bush also lied to get us into the Iraq War.

Those political scientists should go back and study those liberals who believe that Bush lied to justify the Iraq War. Present them the evidence, and then see whether they re-align their opinions to the facts.

Some people will still say that Bush exaggerated the threat, or that the WMD did not justify the war, or that Bush deserves contempt for various other reasons. Maybe so. It also appears that many people are not rational about issues like this.

But people are wrong when they say that Bush took us to war under false pretenses of WMD. The war was as openly and honestly debated as any war. Congress and the UN had the facts, and voted for it. Some of the intelligence info turned out to be wrong, but the war had the support of the Democrat leadership for reasons that were essentially correct.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Four Laws of Behavior Genetics

SciAm writer John Horgan notes that the evidence for behavior genes has a history of being over-hyped:
In 1990 The New York Times published a front-page article by Lawrence Altman, a reporter with a medical degree, announcing that scientists had discovered “a link between alcoholism and a specific gene.”

That was merely one in a string of reports in which the Times and other major media hyped what turned out to be erroneous claims linking complex traits and disorders—from homosexuality and high intelligence to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder—to specific genes.

I thought those days were over, and that scientists and the media have learned to doubt extremely reductionist genetic accounts of complex traits and behaviors. I was wrong. Last Sunday, the “Opinion” section of the Times published an essay, “The Feel-Good Gene,” which states:
“For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a genetic variation in the brain makes some people inherently less anxious, and more able to forget fearful and unpleasant experiences. This lucky genetic mutation produces higher levels of anandamide–the so-called bliss molecule and our natural marijuana–in our brains. In short, some people are prone to be less anxious simply because they won the genetic sweepstakes and randomly got a genetic mutation that has nothing at all to do with strength of character.”
The evidence for the "feel-good gene," which supposedly reduces anxiety, is flimsy, just like the evidence linking specific genes to high intelligence, violent aggression, homosexuality, bipolar disorder and countless other complex human traits and ailments. ...

Last fall, I quoted from a 2012 editorial in Behavior Genetics: “The literature on candidate gene associations is full of reports that have not stood up to rigorous replication. This is the case both for straightforward main effects and for candidate gene-by-environment interactions… As a result, the psychiatric and behavior genetics literature has become confusing and it now seems likely that many of the published findings of the last decade are wrong or misleading and have not contributed to real advances in knowledge.”
That is correct, but only part of the story as there have been real advances in the field. Razib Khan reports:
* First Law. All human behavioral traits are heritable.

* Second Law. The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of genes.

* Third Law. A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families.

* Fourth Law. A typical human behavioral trait is associated with very many genetic variants, each of which accounts for a very small percentage of the behavioral variability.
Researchers model behavior by assuming that it is determined by genes, family upbringing, and random factors. Twin studies have proved that the genetic influence is huge, and the family upbringing appears to be negligible. DNA studies have failed to find any individual genes with a large effect. Larger scale studies are starting to show that a combination of many small genetic effects can be significant. For more on what randomness means here, see my 2015 essay.

Parents are usually convinced that their child-rearing is the biggest influence on their kids, but this is an illusion, according to the research.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A lot of Moslems support terrorism

Every time some terrorist incident is in the news, we are reminded that most Moslems are not terrorists. That is certainly true, and it is easy to find Moslems to denounce a particular terrorist attack.

This page summarizes various surveys of Moslem opinions, such as:
PCPO (2014): 89% of Palestinians support Hamas and other terrorists firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

Pew Research (2013): Only 57% of Muslims worldwide disapprove of al-Qaeda. Only 51% disapprove of the Taliban. 13% support both groups and 1 in 4 refuse to say.

Turkish Ministry of Education: 1 in 4 Turks Support Honor Killings
Update: Here is a new one:
The majority of British Muslims oppose violence against people who publish images depicting the Prophet Muhammad, a poll for the BBC suggests.

The survey also indicates most have no sympathy with those who want to fight against Western interests.

But 27% of the 1,000 Muslims polled by ComRes said they had some sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks.
So 27% of British Muslims agree with terrorist murdering of newspaper cartoonists.

Yes, a majority are against such violence. That should be said, I guess. But that leaves a lot who favor the violence.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Psychometrics is mainstream psychology

Wikipedia has an article on List of topics characterized as pseudoscience. Most of it has obsolete or crackpot ideas.

These two items are somewhat out of place:
Psychometrics – is the field where practitioners have claimed to be able to measure various abstract mental attributes such as intelligence or creativity in individuals and groups using various contrived tests. Additionally, environmental and pre-exposure factors are often disregarded. ...

Scientific racism – ... the claim of "classifying" individuals of different phenotypes into discrete races or ethnicities.
Both are justified by Stephen Jay Gould's book, The Mismeasure of Man. The book has been one of the biggest selling American science books ever, and is probably still required reading at many colleges.

The book is garbage. As you can see from the Wikipedia page, the main claims were proven wrong. It is a Marxist-influenced political attack. Only the part on skull measurement was published as peer-reviewed science, and even the ideologically-sympathetic NY Times said in 2011 that almost every detail of his analysis is wrong.

Psychometrics has been central to the study of psychology for a century. Besides the IQ tests, there are dozens of widely respected tests to diagnose mental disorders, detect personality types, or measure other features.

Classifying people into races and ethnicities is also common and well-accepted. I noted that it is essential to recent research on Neanderthals.

The Wikipedia editors say, paraphrasing:
Of course psychologists believe in psychometrics, just as astrologers believe in astrology. That means nothing as long as we have reliable sources who say that it is pseudoscience.
It ought to be possible to find reputable scholars to say that frequentism is pseudoscience, such as from the journal that banned it.

I once proposed that the list include Continental Drift, as it meets their criteria for inclusion. Others suggested evolution. Reputable sources have said that it was pseudoscience. In the world of Wikipedia, having a reliable source is more important than truth.

I used to think that pseudoscience was a useful concept. But the term seems to be almost entirely used by people with some sort of political agenda. While I think that I have an idea of what is or is not scientific, I do not think that we have a good definition of pseudoscience.

Update: I tried to add t his:
However modern geneticists and anthropologists routinely divide people into those of African, European, and East Asian ancestry. ref: NY Times, Feb. 19, 2015.
It was reverted, as was my attempt to fix the psychometrics paragraph.