Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obvious studies of the year

After posting some retracted science stories, here are some true ones. SciAm reports:
Nonetheless, some studies really take the cake in the "duh" department, discovering things that were already obvious. Here are findings from this year that should come as little surprise.

1. Unsafe sex is more likely after drinking
2. Men appear confident by suppressing fear, pain and empathy
3. Smoking pot and driving isn't safe
4. Pigs love mud
5. Fashion magazines glorify youth
6. People with generous partners have happy marriages
7. Parents don't think their kids are doing drugs
8. People aren't doing anything in particular on the Internet
9. Restricting driver's licenses decreases teen fatalities
10. Most shoppers ignore nutrition labels
A reader adds:
You missed the article that said, The first humans out of Africa engaged in interbreeding for tens of thousands of years. That article was just plain stupid.
Maybe obvious, but it is still a minority view. The mainstream idea has been that humans came out of Africa, and have not evolved since then.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Retracted science stories

2011 had several big stories of previous science stories being wrong. Lists are at NPR and MSNBC. For more, see Retraction Watch. Some fields are more vulnerable than others. Most big medical studies are not replicated. Many psychology studies are bogus. Even physics may soon be retracting the story about neutrinos going faster than light.

Disparities in school discipline

The Wash. Post reports:
Across the Washington area, black students are suspended and expelled two to five times as often as white students, creating disparities in discipline that experts say reflect a growing national problem. ...

Experts say disparities appear to have complex causes. A disproportionate number of black students live below the poverty line or with a single parent, factors that affect disciplinary patterns. But experts say those factors do not fully explain racial differences in suspensions. Other contributing factors could include unintended bias, unequal access to highly effective teachers and differences in school leadership styles.
Are those really the only explanations that the experts can imagine? They ought to at least consider IQ, future time orientation, ADD, and drug use. And whether the students are discipline problems in other settings.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why psychoanalysis never existed

NewScientist reports:
THE name Sigmund Freud is inextricable from psychoanalysis. And vice versa. But why? And how did the two wind up in the same cultural basket as Copernicus and Darwin?

In The Freud Files, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani have a tangled tale to tell but their mission is clear: "We should hurry to study psychoanalysis whilst we can," they write, "for we will soon no longer be able to discern its features - and for good reason: because it never was." The pair argue that without the Freud legend the "identity and radical difference [of psychoanalysis] from other forms of psychotherapy collapse".

Attempts to debunk the legend in the 1970s and 80s failed. But a current assault, helped by a wealth of "declassified" material, correspondence and critical studies, looks more likely to dismantle the monomyth. The Freud Archives, a collection of letters and papers, were deposited at the US Library of Congress by Freud's daughter, Anna, to put them out of reach of unofficial biographers. This move also locked away Freud's patients' versions of their own problems.

But now, as primary material is made public, parts of the archive are declassified and his letters re-edited without censorship, the legend is "fraying from all sides".
The book costs $95. I will pass. If the field had any integrity, Freud would have been disavowed as a kook a century ago.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Govt-funded evolution site gives religious opinions

I criticized a Cal Berkeley evolution web site in 2004:
I guess these evolutionists think that it is okay to use religion to promote evolution, but unconstitutional to allow religious criticism of evolution.
Now leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne attacks the same web site:
Now I’m sure that when the NSF gave money to the Cal Museum of Paleontology, it had no idea that taxpayers’ money would go to fund theology — for that’s exactly what this kind of accommodationism is — but we need to be aware of what message taxpayer–funded institutions are putting out to the public. (Berkeley is a state university) My position has always been that scientific organizations, particularly ones funded by the taxpayers, should say nothing about the compatibility of science and faith.
He personally believes that evolution disproves religion, but I guess that he does not advocate forcing that view on others.

The evolutionists seem to be split into two camps -- the new atheists who believe that evolution disproves religion and that religion is evil anyway, and the accommodationists who insist on telling us which religions are acceptable and which are not.

Either way, evolutionists are on the warpath against religion in a way that other scientists are not. It is no wonder that religious folks are offended. Their tax money is used to put down their religious views. I think that we would all be better off if the evolutionary scientists would stick to the science. But they do not. Almost all of them try to use their evolutionary views to justify unscientific opinions about religion and politics.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Genes Play Major Role in Behavior

Liberals like to deny that people have any innate differences, but the NY Times reports:
Social behavior among primates — including humans — has a substantial genetic basis, a team of scientists has concluded from a new survey of social structure across the primate family tree.

The scientists, at the University of Oxford in England, looked at the evolutionary family tree of 217 primate species whose social organization is known. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, challenge some of the leading theories of social behavior,
This might be exaggerated, because they did not find any actual genes. It has been known for millennia that behavior is a complex combination of nature and nurture, and modern research has not changed that. But they do apply it to human nature:
The Oxford survey confirms that the structure of human society, too, is likely to have a genetic basis, since humans are in the primate family, said Bernard Chapais, an expert on human social evolution at the University of Montreal. ...

Human multifamily groups may have arisen from the gorilla-type harem structure, with many harems merging together, or from stable breeding bonds replacing sexual promiscuity in a chimpanzee-type society, Dr. Chapais said.
I am waiting for the follow-up editorial on why this shows that we should not expect Mexican, Arab, and Chinese immigrants to assimilate into American culture.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free will and the unconscious

Here is research claiming that we have an unconscious mind, and no free will.
Scientific American Mind says:
Sigmund Freud popularized the idea of the unconscious, a sector of the mind that harbors thoughts and memories actively removed from conscious deliberation. Because this aspect of mind is, by definition, not accessible to introspection, it has proved difficult to investigate. Today the domain of the unconscious — described more generally in the realm of cognitive neuroscience as any processing that does not give rise to conscious awareness — is routinely studied in hundreds of laboratories using objective psychophysical techniques amenable to statistical analysis.
A Berkeley leftist cognitive scientist explains in this video:
Prof. George Lakoff - Reason is 98% Subconscious
The London Telegraph reports:
For a man who thinks he's a robot, Professor Patrick Haggard is remarkably cheerful about it. "We certainly don't have free will," says the leading British neuroscientist. "Not in the sense we think." It's quite a way to start an interview.

We're in the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, in Queen Square in London, the nerve centre – if you will – of British brain research. Prof Haggard is demonstrating "transcranial magnetic stimulation", a technique that uses magnetic coils to affect one's brain, and then to control the body. One of his research assistants, Christina Fuentes, is holding a loop-shaped paddle next to his head, moving it fractionally. "If we get it right, it might cause something." She presses a switch, and the coil activates with a click. Prof Haggard's hand twitches. "It's not me doing that," he assures me, "it's her."
This stuff is interesting, but I don't think that it is persuasive about free will or the unconscious.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Freakonomics: What went wrong?

Statistician Andrew Gelman documents what's wrong with Freakonomics:
The nonfiction publishing phenomenon known as Freakonomics has passed its sixth anniversary. The original book, which used ideas from statistics and economics to explore real-world problems, was an instant bestseller. By 2011, it had sold more than four million copies worldwide, and it has sprouted a franchise, which includes a bestselling sequel, SuperFreakonomics; an occasional column in the New York Times Magazine; a popular blog; and a documentary film. The word “freakonomics” has come to stand for a light-hearted and contrarian, yet rigorous and quantitative, way of looking at the world.
Steve Levitt was a big hero to the Left when he was giving bogus arguments in favor of abortion. He fell out of favor when he gave arguments against global warming. Now he has been shown to be completely wrong on many subjects.

Steve Sailer says:
It’s unfair to denigrate Levitt and Dubner without comparing the reliability of the Freakonomics brand to that of their chief rival, the Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker Brand. My view is that Levitt and Dubner are more trustworthy than Gladwell by a comfortable margin.
Yes, Levitt has the virtue of being sometimes correct. The New Yorker is read for its literary style, and not for the correctness of its essays. It is famous for fact-checking the details, and getting the big picture wrong.

It is funny how someone can get away with being a public intellectual and giving bogus arguments, as long as he stays politically correct. As soon as he steps on the wrong political toes, then he gets criticized.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Statute of limitations for sex crimes

A CNN columnist writes:
There are various reasons why we have statutes of limitations for crimes, other than the worst felonies, and for torts. Memories fade. Witnesses die. Evidence goes bad. We want to encourage plaintiffs to bring suit as quickly after the alleged injury as possible. Potential defendants should be able to get on with their lives without worrying about getting charged or sued for acts alleged from long ago. If anyone could sue anyone at anytime it would further clog an already congested legal system. In most cases, this all makes sense.

Not so for child sexual abuse. The very nature of the crime is predicated on secrecy and shame and manipulation. It often takes years, decades even, for victims to grasp what has happened: that an adult, often a trusted authority figure or a family member, did horribly wrong by them. ...

Over the objections of numerous groups -- insurance lobbies, teachers unions, Roman Catholic clergymen -- some states have decided to suspend the statute of limitations for these crimes, a tacit recognition of the unique dynamics of child sex crimes. Delaware recently suspended the statute of limitations for two years, creating a window for those previously time-barred to come forward. More than 100 alleged victims emerged.

In California, a similar suspension spurred more than 300 lawsuits, some dating back to episodes from the 1950s. "It's clear that it can take a long, long time before victims are ready to confront abuse and everything that can come with it," says Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Cardozo Law School and a lawyer for one of the accusers in the Sandusky case. "It's just wrong to have [policy] that favors the predator."
This is backwards. The more horrible and harmful the crime, the more we need the statute of limitations.

Yes, of course suspending the statute of limitations will encourage lawsuits. When people find out that the Catholic Church had hundreds of millions of dollars to pay out against claims, then they have a recovered memory about some allegation from decades ago.

When I hear a sex crime allegation, I ask myself: Is the charge plausible? Was there a contemporaneous complaint? Is there physical evidence? Does the accuser have an ulterior motive to make a false accusation?

I never believed the accusations in the McMartin preschool trial or Duke lacrosse case or Michael Jackson trial or DSK case for just those reasons. Implausible stories. No hard evidence. Non-credible accusers. And I am dubious about the Penn State sex abuse scandal for just those same reasons.

Yes, sex abuse is bad. If it happens, report it to the police and get the physical evidence. Sex abuse is universally considered abominable, and no police cover up these crimes. The perps are always prosecuted and convicted. But when someone says that it is so bad that the usual rules of justice have to be suspended, I get worried.

The Pann State accusers all have this in common: They did not make a prompt complaint. They have no witnesses. They have no physical evidence. The allegations are about events many years ago. And they are suing for millions of dollars. The only exception is McQueary, but he is not credible for other reasons. He has changed his story. His grand jury story is implausible. He traded his testimony for immunity. And he is a morally damaged man himself.

It is possible that jurors will ultimately find McQueary persuasive, but his story hinges on details of conversations from 2002. Most people are unable to remember a 9-year-old conversation, and our justice system has no way of resolving a discrepancy between two different accounts of a 9-year-old conversation.

We laugh at medieval prosecutors who convicted witches, but we have our own witch-hunts.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Barry Bonds sentenced

Baseball hero Barry Bonds was sentenced today:
The Barry Bonds case is over. Bonds, as we speak, is being sentenced. The penalty: 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation and 250 hours of community service. This, by the way, is what the probation office recommended. Prosecutors were seeking a 15 month jail term.

In handing out her sentence, the judge observed that she agreed with the jury that Bonds tried to obstruct justice. Just that he failed. She noted that he did not threaten witnesses, for example. When I first read his grand jury testimony three and a half years ago I observed the same thing. You can tell Barry wanted to perjure himself. He just was pretty damn bad at it.

The judge also noted that the sentence took into account that Bonds has a strong record of philanthropy, much of which is unpublicized. Weighing against that, I presume, is that he is a lousy stinkin’ cheater who robbed some sportswriters of their childhood memories.
Prosecutors spent 10 years and millions of dollars on this base. Bonds was not convicted of perjury or of using steroids. I defy anyone to explain to me what he did wrong. He did not obstruct anyone being prosecuted. At worst, he gave an incomplete answer to a question. If anyone was at fault, it was the prosecutor for not asking a followup question at the grand jury hearing.

A lot of people hate Bonds, and today they will be cheering that Bonds is disgraced. I am glad that he "robbed some sportswriters of their childhood memories." He was a great baseball player. I hope that he convinces the appeals court that it was not a crime for him to have given an incomplete answer to the grand jury.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Moderate Islam is not moderate

The leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
I keep looking for the “moderate” form of Islam in the Middle East, but have trouble finding it. I guess its main home is elsewhere. But I’ve recently come across four items that bear witness to the hatred of Muslims for Jews (I’m not claiming it’s not reciprocal), and to the fact that religion poisons everything. ...

Here’s a twelfth-grade textbook from Saudi Arabia: ... The struggle with the Jews is not political but religious. ... The Jews spread corruption and fitna [chaos and internecine rancor]. ... The Qur’an describes the corruption of the Jews. ... Jihad will force the Jews out of Palestine. ...

If this stuff is drilled into you at age twelve, what are you going to believe? And it further shows, as I’ve argued before, that a huge element of radical Islam is based not on politics, disaffection, or dispossesion, but simple religion-based emnity. Do we deny that these people believe what they say? ...

Finally, to round things out, and show that Islamic viciousness is not limited to the Middle East, ...

Is there anyone who doubts that, considering all major religions, Islam is the most pernicious. Of course Catholicism gives it a run for its money.
I was with him until that last sentence. Catholicism does not teach anything like those things. Coyne is mainly on the warpath against evangelical Christians who do not accept the macro-evolution of men descending from lower animals, but Catholics accept evolution. Coyne does argue that the Pope doesn’t understand evolution and that the Adam and Eve story cannot be reconciled with modern genetics. Okay, fine, I am sure Coyne understands evolutionary science better than the Pope. Coyne's main complaint is the Pope said evolution being a product of random mutation without mentioning natural selection. But the Catholic Church does not encourage or condone suicide bombers.

A recent study said:
80% of U.S. mosques provide their worshippers with jihad-style literature promoting the use of violence against non-believers and that the imams in those mosques expressly promote that literature.
No Catholic churches promote violence against non-believers.

Since Coyne is of Jewish descent, I will round this out with a couple of things I recently learned about Judaism. The Bible (Old Testament) says:
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations...then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy." Deuteronomy 7:1-2, NIV.

" not leave alive anything that breaths. Completely destroy the Lord your God has commanded you..." Deuteronomy 20:16, NIV.
One of the weirder anti-Jewish stories is that Jews cannot be trusted because once a year, they all get together and say a prayer that all their promises to non-Jews will be broken. That is not quite right. Here is what Wikipedia says about the Day of Atonement prayer, known as Kol Nidre:
"All personal vows we are likely to make, all personal oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce. Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established. Let our personal vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths."

The leader and the congregation then say together three times "May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault." The Torah scrolls are then replaced, and the customary evening service begins.
I do not wish to imply some sort of equivalence between Islam and Judaism. The overwhelming majority of the Jews do want to peacefully coexist with the Arabs, and Jewish textbooks do not teach violence and hatred like the Mohammedan textbooks. The book of Deuteronomy is in the Christian Bible also, but Christians (and Jews) are not taught to destroy their enemies.

Some religions are better than others. Everybody believes that, even if they think that it is rude to point out the differences.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bogus atheist distrust study

A study on distrust of atheists was widely reported in many newspapers, including USA Today:
Psychologists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon say that their study demonstrates that anti-atheist prejudice stems from moral distrust, not dislike, of nonbelievers.

"It's pretty remarkable," said Azim Shariff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the study, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?

The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.
Andrew Gelman points out that the researchers were fooled by the base rate fallacy. The study does not imply that atheists are distrusted at all, and only shows the low standards of one of the leading social science journals, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The current Amazon no. 11 top seller is currently Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I just mentioned that Pinker's book is selling well, but Kahneman's book is selling much better, and tops all the science-related books.

Kahneman is known for prospect theory, which is about the psychology of how people understand risk. If you read his book, you would probably understand what is wrong with the above atheist study. According to an Amazon review:
Here is one final example from Kahneman's work of some of the concepts the reader will encounter in this book. Suppose that Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. In college, she majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with the issues of discrimination and social justice, and she also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations. Which is more probable?

1. Linda is a bank teller.
2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

According to Kahneman, about 85% - 90% of undergraduates at several major universities chose the second option, that Linda was a bank teller and active in the feminist movement. However, this is an example of the "conjunction fallacy," since the probability of two events occurring together (in conjunction) must necessarily be less than the probability of either event occurring alone. Put simpler, the probability that Linda is a bank teller must be greater than the probability that she is a bank teller and active in feminist causes.
So the fictional driver is more likely to be a teacher than an atheist teacher, and more likely to be an atheist teacher than a rapist teacher.

These are really just trick questions that are especially contrived to trip people up. I only mention them because some major social science conclusions are manipulated from the ambiguity of the questions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Better angel analysis is weak

Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature is one of the better-selling science-related books of the year. As noted below, it claims that violence has declined over history in spite of Christianity.

Pinker's quantitative analysis seems to based on the assumption that violence should be expected to scale linearly with population size. So he compares the Mongol invasion to recent wars by counting deaths, as a proportion of the population at the time. His trick has the effect of making the Mongol invasion seem much more deadly than it was.

This assumption seems dubious. If we have a population of N people, and we assume that each pair of people has a 1% chance of being enemies, then we expect about 0.01N2 pairs of enemies. If violence occurs between enemies, then we might expect violence to grow quadratically in N.

However civilization would be impossible if violence grew that rapidly. Maybe it makes more sense to assume that potential friendships grow quadratically in N. Then maybe societies can use those friendships to self-organize into peaceful communities, and violence would grow sublinearly in N. Maybe violence only grows like the square root of N, or even the logarithm of N.

Pop psychologist John Gray reviews Pinker:
While Pinker makes a great show of relying on evidence — the 700-odd pages of this bulky treatise are stuffed with impressive-looking graphs and statistics — his argument that violence is on the way out does not, in the end, rest on scientific investigation. He cites numerous reasons for the change, including increasing wealth and the spread of democracy. For him, none is as important as the adoption of a particular view of the world: “The reason so many violent institutions succumbed within so short a span of time was that the arguments that slew them belong to a coherent philosophy that emerged during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. The ideas of thinkers like Hobbes, Spinoza, Descartes, Locke, David Hume, Mary Astell, Kant, Beccaria, Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and John Stuart Mill coalesced into a worldview that we can call Enlightenment humanism.”
This is an odd list of thinkers to credit. Baruch Spinoza was big hero to Jewish atheists. Hardly anyone else has even heard of him. He was a Dutch Jew who believed that God was the universe, and that intuition was the highest kind of knowledge. Immanuel Kant was an unreadable German philosopher whose biggest achievement was to find a non-Christian rationale for the Golden Rule. Thomas Hobbes and David Hume were religious skeptics who were accused of being atheists. Cesare Beccaria wrote a book arguing that crimes should only be punished to the extent necessary, and that people should have access to guns to prevent crime. Thomas Jefferson is revered by Americans for writing the declaration that justified armed revolution against the British. So why does Pinker make him non-violence leader? My guess is that Pinker likes the Jefferson Bible, which was an attempt to remove the religion from the Gospels. (It removed God and miracles, and left the moral teachings.)

What do these have in common? It seems to me that Pinker has cherry-picked some intellectuals in a vain attempt to support his anti-Christian thesis. The Age of Enlightenment was very important, but it happened entirely within Christian Europe. The political leaders, peasants, and intellectuals were nearly all Christians. Christianity taught a message of peace. There were Jews and other groups, but their numbers and influence were far too small to have a significant effect on the violent crime rate or the war-making policy. If violent wars and crimes were declining, it seems crazy to argue that Christianity was not the major reason for the decline.

There are many Christian historians who know this subject much better than Pinker or me. I would like to see a serious rebuttal, as Pinker's book seems like anti-Christian propaganda to me.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Convicted man has alibi

The Houston Texas newspaper reports:
Sentenced to life in prison in November for armed robbery, LaDondrell Montgomery insisted he was not the shadowy figure on surveillance video. He swore the eyewitness identifying him were flat wrong.

If only the 36-year-old habitual offender had an alibi. If only he could remember exactly where he was that day of the robbery.

A week after jurors sentenced Montgomery, his attorney was researching the felon's lengthy rap sheet.

In that file was a report that had details about a 2009 arrest and an iron-clad alibi: He was in jail.

Released from custody about nine hours after the December 13, 2009 crime, Montgomery was actually innocent.
The judge's excuse is, "Both sides in this case were spectacularly incompetent." Maybe so, but the judge failed to give the man a fair trial.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Teaching evolution in medical school

Steve Jones complains about Moslems walking out on evolution lectures in medical school, and explains the value of such lectures:
A few years ago I had an operation to repair a hernia. In that I shared the experience of about one in four British men of my age, in whom a section of intestine breaks through the body wall to form an unpleasant, and potentially dangerous, bulge in the groin. The job was done quickly and efficiently by a surgeon who had, no doubt, done it hundreds of times before.

But why is that procedure needed so often? The story began long ago, when our ancestors were fish. In those happy days ...

Hernias, then, are the result of the imperfect process of evolution, of the slow accumulation of successful mistakes and of the inevitable pressure of compromise. A surgeon may not need to know that and the first hernia operations were carried out well before The Origin of Species by people who had no idea why the problem arose; and (although I doubt it) perhaps my own doctor was equally ignorant.

Now, though, we have evolution, the grammar of biology. More and more, students do not like it.
This is unconvincing. He seems to be saying that we have hernias because we are descended from fish. But unless there is some argument that we would not have hernias if we had not been descended from fish, then what does evolution has to do with it?

Furthermore, students attend medical school to learn medicine. Do stories of fish evolution somehow make it easier to do hernia surgeries?

Of course when evolutionists give these lectures, they cannot resist offending people by saying that Adam and Eve never existed and other such anti-religion messages.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Blago sentenced to 14 years

AP reports:
Rod Blagojevich, the ousted Illinois governor whose three-year battle against criminal charges became a national spectacle, was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday, one of the stiffest penalties imposed for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics.

Blagojevich's 18 convictions included allegations of trying to leverage his power to appoint someone to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to raise campaign cash or land a high-paying job....

But the judge made it clear early in the hearing that he believed that Blagojevich had lied on the witness stand when he tried to explain his scheming for the Senate seat, ...

It took two trials for prosecutors to snare Blagojevich on sweeping corruption charges. His first ended deadlocked with jurors agreeing on just one of 24 counts that Blagojevich lied to the FBI. Jurors at his retrial convicted him on 17 of 20 counts, including bribery and attempted extortion.

FBI wiretap evidence proved decisive. In the most notorious recording, Blagojevich is heard crowing that his chance to name someone to Obama's seat was "f---ing golden" and he wouldn't let it go "for f---ing nothing."
I defended Blago here and here. It took two juries to convict him, and he is being punished, in part, for testifying in his defense.

The prosecution was political. His fellow Democrats hated him for refusing to raise taxes. There was no objective evidence of corruption, such as a suitcase full of cash. If he were really corrupt, then they could have just offered him the money for the senate seat, and see if he accepts it. But they never caught him actually taking any bribes, or having unexplained bank accounts. Those quotes above are very weak evidence.

Here is a video of the Blago story.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Passwords and baby names

Here are the 25 most common passwords:
password 123456 12345678 qwerty abc123 monkey 1234567 letmein trustno1 dragon baseball 111111 iloveyou master sunshine ashley bailey passw0rd shadow 123123 654321 superman qazwsx michael football
And the popular baby names:
The top 10 girl's names of 2011: Sophia Emma Isabella Olivia Ava Lily Chloe Madison Emily Abigail

The top 10 boy's names of 2011: Aiden Jackson Mason Liam Jacob Jayden Ethan Noah Lucas Logan
Nothing made both lists.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Medicine’s dirty secrets

The WSJ reports:
This is one of medicine’s dirty secrets: Most results, including those that appear in top-flight peer-reviewed journals, can’t be reproduced.

“It’s a very serious and disturbing issue because it obviously misleads people” who implicitly trust findings published in a respected peer-reviewed journal, says Bruce Alberts, editor of Science. On Friday, the U.S. journal is devoting a large chunk of its Dec. 2 issue to the problem of scientific replication.
Medicine is much worse than the hard sciences. Remember that when you read the health headlines or hear a pitch for some hot new medical procedure or drug.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Jewish identity politics

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz attacked The Wandering Who? by Gilad Atzmon on Fox Business TV. His main purpose was to shame and intimidate anyone associated to the book. He is particularly upset about this endorsement by John Mearsheimer:
“Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.”
Dershowitz also hates Mearsheimer for co-writing an academic article and book on The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.

Atzmon is a famous jazz saxophonist who describes himself as a proud self-hating Jew, and responds to Deshowitz on his blog.

The book is not so much about Jews or Judaism, but about Jewish identity politics. That is, it concerns the views of people like Dershowitz, who don't necessarily have any Jewish religious beliefs, but are concerned with Jewish politics above all else. The most outrageous argument I found is that Israel is worse than Nazi Germany. That is absurd, but hardly anything to get excited about. I tend to be pro-Israel, but a lot of people disagree with things Israel does, and political arguments that make comparisons to Nazis are commonplace. The Left was frequently comparing George W. Bush to Hitler.

It seems to me that Dershowitz is just proving some of what Atzmon says. Dershowitz is preoccupied with Jewish identity politics and Zionism, and with launching vitriolic personal attacks against those who disagree. He supports preemptive war and torture to advance his causes. He also supports animal rights because he thinks humans are no better than animals. And he is very quick to call anyone an "anti-Semite" if they do not support his Jewish identity politics.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Pinker defines science

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne praises Pinker's new book:
I’ll include just one excerpt that I liked, for it bears on recent discussions we’ve had on this website. I particularly like his characterization of “science” in the second sentence, which is how I construe oue discipline broadly:
(p. 181) Though we cannot logically prove anything about the physical world, we are entitled to have confidence in certain beliefs about it.  The application of reason and observation to discover tentative generalizations about the world is what we call science.  The progress of science with its dazzling success at explaining and manipulating the world, shows that knowledge of the universe is possible, albeit always probabilistic and subject to revision. Science is thus a paradigm for how we ought to gain knowledge — not the particular methods or institutions of science but its value system, namely to seek to explain the world, to evaluate candidate explanations objectively, and to be cognizant of the tentativeness and uncertainty of our understanding at any time.
The definition of science was the essence of the Kansas evolution dispute, according to the NY Times and leading science organizations, and evolutionists convinced Kansas of a new definition. The leftist view denies that science is about truth, and relies on paradigms instead of evidence. I think that Aristotle had a better understanding of what science is.

In around 2005, Kansas decided:
The new definition adopted: "Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."
The evolutionists hated this definition.

Daniel B. Botkin writes a WSJ op-ed that absolute certainty is not scientific:
One of the changes among scientists in this century is the increasing number who believe that one can have complete and certain knowledge. For example, Michael J. Mumma, a NASA senior scientist who has led teams searching for evidence of life on Mars, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Based on evidence, what we do have is, unequivocally, the conditions for the emergence of life were present on Mars—period, end of story." ...

Some scientists make "period, end of story" claims that human-induced global warming definitely, absolutely either is or isn't happening. For me, the extreme limit of this attitude was expressed by economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, who wrote in his New York Times column in June, "Betraying the Planet" that "as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn't help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet." ...

Not only is it poor science to claim absolute truth, but it also leads to the kind of destructive and distrustful debate we've had in last decade about global warming.
The Pinker definition is lousy. He says that science is just a paradigm that cannot prove anything. He says that scientists are entitled to be confident as long as they realize that they may be wrong. He makes some specific claims about Christianity and violence. For these to be scientific, there should be some way for others to test and verify them. It sounds as if he just has some dubious hypotheses about the causes of violence.

Science can prove certain things. In connection with global warming, it has been proved that burning fossil fuels has substantially increased the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, and that CO2 absorbs infrared light. We can also measure these things quantitatively and reliably. Whether this has caused the observed warming of the last 50 years is a useful hypothesis, but not yet proved. Whether Krugman is seeing treason against the planet is just an opinion. This subject is greatly confused by those who claim the confidence of the dominant paradigm, but who do not have proof for what they claim.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Decline of violence, no credit to Christians

The Jewish Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has a big new highly-promoted book on violence that has many anti-Christian claims:
First, the premise that Nazism and Communism were “atheist” ideologies makes sense only within a religiocentric worldview that divides political systems into those that are based on Judaeo-Christian ideology and those that are not. ...

Nazism received extensive support from many German churches, and no opposition from the Vatican. ... religions have been responsible for 13 of the 100 worst mass killings in history, resulting in 47 million deaths. ...

Crusaders, for example, killed 1 million people in world of 400 million, for a genocide rate that exceeds that of the Nazi Holocaust. Shortly afterwards, the Cathars of southern France were exterminated in another Crusader genocide because they had embraced the Albigensian heresy.

But things started going downhill in 312 when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and the historical facts are not consistent with the claim that Christianity since then has been a force for nonviolence: The Crusaders perpetrated a century of genocides that murdered a million people, equivalent as a proportion of the world’s population at the time to the Nazi holocaust. ...

Christians killed 60,000-100,000 accused witches in the European witchhunts.
Several years ago, Pinker attacked a scholarly work on Jews:
Of course I have not plowed through MacDonald's trilogy ... outside the bounds of normal scientific discourse ... MacDonald's various theses, even if worthy of scientifically debate individually, collectively add up to a consistently invidious portrayal of Jews
It seems to me that Pinker is going out of his way to give an invidious portrayal of Christians.

The Crusades were not genocides. They were wars to prevent the Mohammedans from invading Europe. It is a little strange to blame the Pope for being neutral during WWII. He had no army and could not do anything. Pinker ought to be blaming the aggressors in these wars.

If I had Pinker's attitude, I would declare his book offensive to Christians, and refuse to read it. I will be interested to see what historians and other experts say. Eg, Quodlibeta argues that the his death toll for the Albigensian Crusade is way too high.

Steve Sailer's review says:
Unfortunately, the opening chapters of Better Angels — a history of violence — display Pinker’s main weakness. His historical sense isn’t that strong. And a major reason for that is his deep-rooted aversion to engaging intellectually with the effects of Christianity. His distaste for the culture of Christendom before the Enlightenment is palpable. For instance, he responds to historian Barbara Tuchman’s summary of medieval economic theory with, “As my grandfather would have put it, ‘Goyische kopp!’ — gentile head.” This old family attitude seems to make this otherwise very bright scholar’s interpretations of the last 2,000 years rather obtuse.

For example, the single most obvious bit of evidence in support of Pinker’s theory that there has been a long trend away from violence is the change in morality from the Old Testament to the New. Pinker recounts at length some hair-raising anecdotes passed on without criticism — indeed, often with approbation — in the Hebrew Bible, such as the tale of what the 12 sons of Jacob did to Hamor the Hivite. Yet when the author’s attention turns to the New Testament, with its radically different moral climate, he’s barely able to begrudge an acknowledgment of this epochal change. He quickly quotes Jesus saying, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

The Enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon famously argued in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that early Christians were too nonviolent, that their pacifistic tendencies undermined the Roman army’s ability to keep out the German barbarians. But that goes unmentioned in Pinker’s history of violence.
Pinker seems to argue the opposite -- that Roman coversion to Christianity caused more violence, not less. Weird. I think that Pinker's biases are showing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Freud declared totally dead

A WSJ op-ed says:
How do religions die? Generally they don't, which probably explains why there's so little literature on the subject. ...

Still, Zeus and Apollo are no longer with us, and neither are Odin and Thor. Among the secular gods, Marx is mostly dead and Freud is totally so. Something did away with them, and it's worth asking what.

Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen. ...
Freud ought to be totally dead, but he is not. NPR just reviewed a book on Freud and cocaine. There was no mention of what a quack Freud was, except that he wrote an essay on the medical uses of cocaine without even noticing that it is an effective local anaesthetic. Freud was a cocaine addict.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Not freed by DNA

There have been lots of examples of men convicted of horrible crimes, and later proved innocent by DNA evidence. Legally, some appellate court grants the convict a new trial because of evidence not considered in the original trial, and the district attorney decides not to prosecute. But here is such a story where the man was prosecuted again, and convicted again! The jury decided to believe the cops instead of the DNA.

Update: The NY Times reports on Dec. 12:
The conviction of a man in the 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old baby sitter, a case that his supporters have long believed was the result of a false confession, was reversed Friday night by an Illinois appellate court. ...

Mr. Rivera’s case was profiled in a Nov. 27 article in The New York Times Magazine.

Earlier this week, the prosecutor, Michael Mermel, who had convicted Mr. Rivera in his third trial, retired because of inappropriate comments he made about the reliability of DNA evidence and about alleged sexual activity by the victim.
I guess that is what it takes to free an improperly convicted man. DNA proof of innocence, and a long NY Times article that humiliates the pig-headed prosecutor into retirement.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Non-Christians can freely mock Christianity

Ever wonder what happens when atheists try to form a community? If so, just google atheist elevator and you will find thousands of messages arguing about some silly incident at an atheist convention a few months ago. You will wonder how they ever cope with ordinary human interactions.

Now there has been another convention and another silly incident. Just google atheist gelato, and read about how the atheists are trying to punish an ice cream shop because the owner was offended by their anti-Christian tirades. Leftist-atheist-evolutionist PZ Myers writes:
Others may accept his apology. I don't. Until he accepts that non-Christians can freely mock Christianity, it's a not-pology.
They accuse the Christian of being a bigot, but he was really just expressing offense at a convention speech.

Myers explains himself. He acts as if he is the victim, because he is an atheist. But nobody cares about his atheist beliefs. He read his explanation, and it will convince you that he is a creep that you would not want to be near.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

50 years for decapitating a pig

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (CBS Washington) – A Portsmouth woman faces up to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to beheading her boyfriend’s piglet.

According to court documents, Ashley Fowler, 22, was breaking up with the piglet’s owner Zach Sawyer and wanted to play a prank first.

Sawyer’s mother told the Virginian-Pilot last year that the piglet’s head freaked her out when she let her puppy outside early one morning last February and saw it staring back at her.

“For somebody to come and do something like this was unbelievably sick,” Janie Sawyer told the paper.
Okay, it is sick, but 50 years in prison? Your local grocery store is stocked with meat from slaughtered pigs.

Conrad Murray killed Michael Jackson, and he faces a maximum sentence of only 4 years. Our society is unbelievably sick when it values a piglet more than the King of Pop.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Talent matters

A NY Times op-ed says:
HOW do people acquire high levels of skill in science, business, music, the arts and sports? This has long been a topic of intense debate in psychology.

...what seems to separate the great from the merely good is hard work, not intellectual ability...Malcolm Gladwell observes that...snip “Once someone has reached an I.Q. of somewhere around 120,” he writes, “having additional I.Q. points doesn’t seem to translate into any measureable real-world advantage.”snip..

But this isn’t quite the story that science tells. Research has shown that intellectual ability matters for success in many fields — and not just up to a point.
You would think that would be obvious, but apparently not. In the same paper, columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes:
To better understand why some students thrive taking the PISA tests and others do not, Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the exams for the O.E.C.D., was encouraged by the O.E.C.D. countries to look beyond the classrooms. So starting with four countries in 2006, and then adding 14 more in 2009, the PISA team went to the parents of 5,000 students and interviewed them “about how they raised their kids and then compared that with the test results” for each of those years, Schleicher explained to me. Two weeks ago, the PISA team published the three main findings of its study:

“Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socioeconomic background. Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.”
No mention of the talent of either the parents or the kids.

People are a product of nature and nurture. That has been understood since ancient times. Any attempt to understand success in school or science or sports or anything else by just looking at teachers or practices times is doomed. Some people have more talent.

I doubt that parents reading to their kids does any good at all. Maybe smarter kids or parents like to do that, but a study like this does not show that it helps. It may be just a way of selecting the smarter kids.

Update: New research claims to show that IQ is hereditary in roundworms. It appears that they learn to avoid bacteria better if they have the HECW1 gene. Yes, some worms are more talented than others.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Google explains its rankings

In 2007, Google published this explanation:
Our search results are generated completely objectively and are independent of the beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google. Some people concerned about this issue have created online petitions to encourage us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Because of our objective and automated ranking system, Google cannot be influenced by these petitions. The only sites we omit are those we are legally compelled to remove or those maliciously attempting to manipulate our results.
But it was never the case that Google sesrch results were objectively generated.

Saying that it removes "those maliciously attempting to manipulate our results" is also misleading, at best. It punishes sites that compete with Google portal services, or that use a competing ad network, or that use keywords and SEO methods to boost rankings. It is absurd to call these tactics "malicious". The web sites are just promoting their content in straightforward ways, and not acting maliciously towards anyone else.

Google's current version says:
The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the comprehensiveness of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.
So Google no longer claims that its results are automatically or objectively generated, and that it sometimes makes manual adjustments as a result of popular pressure.

Google is still lying when it says that its beliefs and preferences do not impact its search results. Google rankings change at least once a month as a consequence of manual fine-tuning of those preferences. It is especially obvious that the "feel lucky" results are hand-tuned.

The complaint was that a search for "jew" yields, just as a search for "jihad" yields These sites have politically sensitive content that is banned in certain countries. Apparently these sites do not violate the Webmaster Guidelines.

An example of Google finding a violation is how Google punished JC Penney for paying for links from unrelated sites. Most of Google's revenue comes from pressuring sites to use ads related to page content.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The empathy gene

New research claims that there is an empathy gene that determines trustworthiness, and that others can spot it from a couple of glances:
Strangers can "see" a persons trustworthy genes through their behaviors, suggests a new study finding that a single genetic change makes a person seem more compassionate and kind to others.

The gene in question is the "love hormone," or oxytocin, receptor. A single change in the receptor can result in higher or lower empathy, or how much you can emotionally relate to others. These changes can be detected by strangers from just 20 seconds of soundless video; these strangers could literally see the person's genes manifesting in their behavior.
Previous 2009 research said (in this paper):
One of the substances that experts thought to be responsible for this trait was oxytocin. ... The polymorphism, called rs53576, may be what causes empathy differences in the general population.
Here is the soundless video:
A new UC Berkeley study shows that people who are rated as trustworthy, kind and compassionate are more likely to possess a particular variation of the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype. This video shows a sequence of five individuals listening to their romantic partners talk about times when they suffered.
Look for yourself. Do you really believe that trustworthiness can be judged from these videos? Or that it is determined by a gene?

Some research says that Aspergers folks have too little empathy, and some says they have
too much empathy.

The new study seems dubious to me. It only involved 23 subjects. It got different results for Koreans and Americans.

The so-called empathy gene, rs53576, is not new to humans. The researchers claim that all human ancestors once had it, and that it is tne opposite variant that is gaining by evolution in the population. If so, that would seem to imply that the empathy gene is disadvantageous.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Penn State indignation

David Brooks writes:
Let’s All Feel Superior
First came the atrocity, then came the vanity. The atrocity is what Jerry Sandusky has been accused of doing at Penn State. The vanity is the outraged reaction of a zillion commentators over the past week, whose indignation is based on the assumption that if they had been in Joe Paterno’s shoes, or assistant coach Mike McQueary’s shoes, they would have behaved better. They would have taken action and stopped any sexual assaults. ...

Online you can find videos of savage beatings, with dozens of people watching blandly. The Kitty Genovese case from the ’60s is mostly apocryphal, but hundreds of other cases are not. A woman was recently murdered at a yoga clothing store in Maryland while employees at the Apple Store next door heard the disturbing noises but did not investigate.
Yes, there are many such videos, but nothing like what McQueary told the grand jury. He testified that he was the sole witness to an old man brutally raping a 10-year-old boy, and he did not intervene or report it to the police.

There is no record of McQueary telling anyone of a rape in 2002. He somehow remembered the story for the grand jury 9 years later, and now he has changed his story.

A famous NY Times article on the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese said that 38 people watched and did nothing. The story is in the psychology textbooks, but it is mostly false.

A Psychology Today blog writes:
Is it possible that someone can have a really scary experience early in life and then forget all about it until it comes out during psychoanalysis years later? ...

Perhaps the most notorious case played out in California where kids from a preschool were badgered into concocting hair-raising tales of sexual shenanigans occurring between playtime and naptime. ...

But perhaps the most tragic part of this entire episode is that anyone who ever took so much as a Psych 101 class should have been in a position to speak out against this lynch-mob mentality yet, to the best of my knowledge, only one person did.
I am speaking out against the lynch-mob mentality at Penn State. It is based on recovered memory, a bogus Freudian concept. It is brought by horrible evil people who hate everything that Joe Paterno stands for. They say that he is suspect because he is a leader, a football coach, a conservative, an Italian-American, and a Catholic.

NBC's Bob Costas says:
"There is a tremendous amount of information out there and fair-minded, common sense people have concluded that you are guilty of monstrous acts," Costas said. "And they are particularly unforgiving with the type of crimes that have been alleged here. And, so, millions of Americans who didn't know Jerry Sandusky's name until a week ago now regard you not only as a criminal but -- I say this I think in a considered way -- but as some sort of a monster."
No, fair-minded people believe in innocent until proven guilty, and common sense says that a 3.5 year investigation that depends almost entirely on McQueary's credibility is a very weak case.

Scientists against free will

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
Now that materialism is the dominant paradigm in all the sciences, what on earth do we do about free will? If all of our “free” decisions are really predetermined—perhaps long in advance—by a combination of our biology and our environment, and our brain is simply a concatenation of cells that must obey the laws of physics and chemistry, how can any of our decisions be “free”? And if what we do for the rest of our lives has already been determined by the laws of physics—absent, perhaps a tad of quantum indeterminacy—how can we be held responsible for our actions? ...

What is not justified under my scheme is the notion of punishment as retribution.

A kid who holds up a liquor store with a gun is no more “responsible” for his actions -— in the sense of being able to freely refrain from them -— than is someone with a brain tumor who becomes aggressive and attacks another person. The only difference is that the physical influences on behavior are more obvious in the second case. Choices come from minds, minds come from brains, and brains are collections of molecules that obey physical laws.
And a SciAm interview of neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga:
Cook: You talk about “abandoning” the idea of free will. Can you explain what you mean by this, and how you came to this conclusion?

Gazzaniga: As I see it, this is the way to think about it: If you were a Martian landing on Earth today and were gathering information how humans work, the idea of free will as commonly understood in folk psychology would not come up. The Martian would learn humans had learned about physics and chemistry and causation in the standard sense. They would be astonished to see the amount of information that has accumulated about how cells work, how brains work and would conclude, “OK, they are getting it. Just like cells are complex wonderful machines, so are brains. They work in cool ways even though there is this strong tug on them to think there is some little guy in their head calling the shots. There is not.”

The world is not flat. Before this truth was realized, people use to wonder what happened when you got to the end of the earth-- did you fall off? Once we knew the earth was round, the new perspective, made us see how the old questions were silly. New questions also seem silly many times until a new perspective is accepted. I think we will get over the idea of free will and and accept we are a special kind of machine, one with a moral agency which comes from living in social groups. This perspective will make us ask new kinds of questions.
There is not science here. Scientists claim that they are right because they have a superior worldview, and then proceed to draw policy conclusions.

They are able to make the leap from saying that the world is not flat to saying that criminals are not responsible for their actions.

Update: A comment below doubts that Coyne is really determinist. I agree with him that free will is philosophy, not science. But Coyne is firmly against free will. Besides the above quote, Coyne says that free will is impossible, and attacks Carroll and Horgan for saying that free will is possible. Adam K. Fetterman explains that for new atheists like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, believing in free will is like believing in God, and both are contrary to science.

Update: Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci more fully explains where Coyne goes wrong. They both claim to be rational naturalist skeptics on the warpath against creationists.

Monday, November 14, 2011

American inequality

David Brooks’s column tries to define American egalitarianism:
Fitness inequality is acceptable. It is perfectly fine to wear tight workout sweats to show the world that pilates have given you buns of steel. These sorts of displays are welcomed as evidence of your commendable self-discipline and reproductive merit.

Moral fitness inequality is unacceptable. It is out of bounds to boast of your superior chastity, integrity, honor or honesty. Instead, one must respect the fact that we are all morally equal, though our behavior and ethical tastes may differ.

Sports inequality is acceptable. It is normal to wear a Yankees jersey, an L.S.U. T-shirt or the emblem of any big budget team. The fact that your favorite sports franchise regularly grounds opponents into dust is a signal of your overall prowess.

Church inequality is unacceptable. It would be uncouth to wear a Baptist or Catholic or Jewish jersey to signal that people of your faith are closer to God. It is wrong to look down on other faiths on the grounds that their creeds are erroneous.
For a more liberal egalitarian view, see this video of a self-hating white man. He is on a weird liberal guilt trip.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Penn State observations

I have a few observations about the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

Media stories do not mention homosexuality because there are psychologists who claim that men raping underage boys has nothing to do with homosexuality. They say that pedophiles only have an age attraction, in spite of ample evidence of homosexual pedophiles.

Sandusky is a sick pervert, but McQueary is a moral degenerate.

The case against Penn State rests entirely on the dubious and uncorroborated testimony of McQueary about details of 2002 conversations. It is foolish to think that those details will ever be established.

If McQueary is telling the truth, then he was in a position to stop a child rape, and he chose not to intervene or notify the police.

If McQueary is lying, then he is conspiring to frame Penn State officials, in exchange for immunity from the DA. I think that he is lying.

Joe Paterno's reputation has fallen farther and faster on flimsier evidence than any case I have never seen.

Most people do not believe in innocent until proven guilty.

If anyone ignored the evidence against Sandusky, it was the PA AG. The university gave him all the evidence in 1998, and he said that there was not enough to prosecute. A victim brought the strongest complaint in Spring 2008, and the (different) PA AG waited 3.5 years before taking action against Sandusky.

Joe Paterno was a conservative who strove for excellence in football and in his players. He was loyal to his team and they were loyal to him. They were winners. He is just the sort of man that liberals despise. There is a plot to destroy him.

Penn State fired Sandusky in 1999. I predict that all other Penn State officials will eventually be acquitted. We should make a note of those who are in a rush to judgment against Penn State.

I have some more comments here and here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bad arguments that people are irrational

There are psychologists and economists, such as Daniel Kahneman, who have made their reputations on the thesis that humans are irrational. He got famous with a Bank of Sweden prize for it. Here is an example:
2. A team of psychologists performed personality tests on 100 professionals, of which 30 were engineers and 70 were lawyers. Brief descriptions were written for each subject. The following is a sample of one of the resulting descriptions:
Jack is a 45-year-old man. He is married and has four children. He is generally conservative, careful, and ambitious. He shows no interest in political and social issues and spends most of his free time on his many hobbies, which include home carpentry, sailing, and mathematics.

What is the probability that Jack is one of the 30 engineers?
A. 10–40 percent
B. 40–60 percent
C. 60–80 percent
D. 80–100 percent
Lawyers do not have mathematics as a hobby. Engineers often do. That is what I thought. Kahneman says that I am irrational for thinking so. He says that the right answer is A.

I don't doubt that people can be fooled by trick questions. Most non-mathematicians are not even able to answer straightforward logic problems.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Railroading Joe Paterno

Penn State coach Joe Paterno was just fired in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. I am surprised by the rush to judgment. Doesn't anyone believe in "innocent until proven guilty"?

The main accusation against Paterno is that in 2002, a graduate assistant told him that he saw Sandusky abuse a 10-year-old boy in a campus shower the previous day. Sandusky was an assistant coach who retired in 1999. Paterno reported the accusation to higher university officials. The content of those 2002 discussions is hotly disputed. Sandusky was banned from taking children to the facility, but no criminal action was taken. No one knows the identity of the boy, and he is not complaining.

It sounds as if Paterno could have done more, but if the graduate assistant really saw severe abuse, then why didn't he intervene directly? He was a record setting former quarterback, and could have easily subdued the elderly Sandusky. Why didn't he call the police? The grand jury treats him as some sort of hero, but he seems to be the second most culpable person involved. Apparently he made some sort of deal with the DA, trading his testimony against his superiors in exchange for not being prosecuted. Why is this only becoming an issue after 9 years, when even honest witnesses could have forgotten details?

College students are almost all over 18, and hence adults under USA law. Colleges are not really equipped to babysit 10-year-olds. Where are the parents of that boy? Why is Paterno responsible for people who don't even belong on campus?

It took a 3-year investigation by the state attorney general to decide that there was some wrongdoing here, and she had access to all sorts of info that Paterno did not. So how was Paterno supposed to figure out that something was wrong if it took the Penn AG 3 years?

An SF CA columnist writes:
It was the women's basketball coach, Rene Portland, who kept her job for 27 years despite a well-established hostility to lesbian players. Joe Paterno, then serving as both football coach and athletic director, hired Portland in 1980 and said on more than one occasion that he considered her the best coach he had brought to the school.
I guess Paterno did not show the right amount of tolerance for homosexual activity. Too much or too little can make enemies.

This seems political to me. Like the attacks on Herman Cain, it is an attempt to destroy a man who stands for what he believes in, based on vague accusations of inappropriate behavior many years ago. The accusations depend on the impossibility of learning the truth.

You could say that Sandusky's perversions should have been obvious to Paterno, but why weren't they obvious to anyone else? No one tolerates child rape. All it took was for one person to report it promptly to the police or to the father, and that would be the end of it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Female boxer wants to wear shorts

The current SciAm says that you are likely to be a moral relativist if you can solve this problem:
The green blocks problem
There are five blocks in a stack. In this stack, the second block from the top is green, and the fourth is not green. Is a green block definitely on top of a non-green block?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Cannot be determined
This seems like just a typical IQ test question to me.

Meanwhile, Yahoo sports reports:
Women will get a chance to box in the Olympics for the first time in 2012. If the Amateur International Boxing Association has anything to say about it, they will be wearing skirts. ... Unsurprisingly, many top female boxers are against this plan. Three-time world champion Katie Taylor from Ireland does not want to wear something that she would find uncomfortable while fighting:
"It's a disgrace that they're forcing some of the women to wear those mini-skirts. We should be able to wear shorts, just like the men.
"I won't be wearing a mini-skirt. I don't even wear mini-skirts on a night out, so I definitely won't be wearing mini-skirts in the ring."
Weird. Are they afraid that they might look feminine? Not too much chance of that.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Bogus sex allegations

I commented before that case against Assange is based on denying him his right not to incriminate himself, a right that Americans have.

Assange just lost his British extradition appeal, with this ruling:
Although it is clear a decision has not been taken to charge him, that is because, under Swedish procedure, that decision is taken at a late stage with the trial following quickly thereafter. In England and Wales, a decision to charge is taken at a very early stage; there can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged and thus criminal proceedings would have been commenced. If the commencement of criminal proceedings were to be viewed in this way, it would be to look at Swedish procedure through the narrowest of eyes. On this basis, criminal proceedings have commenced against Mr Assange.
That's it? Sweden wants to interrogate him, but not inform him of the charges against him? And Britain happily extradites him just because Sweden customarily denies suspects the rights that they would have in Britain.

The Assange extradition is based on (1) allegations that might not be crimes outside of Sweden, (2) Sweden's habit of prosecuting men without informing them of the charges against them, and (3) denying what we call the 5A right against self-incrimination. That and Sweden being a hornets' nest of revolutionary feminism.

On the subject of sex allegations, Jon Stewart is on the attack against Herman Cain with a big rant on what is or is not an allegation. He is a moron. An allegation is an assertion offered without proof. Usually it is an assertion of some sort of wrongdoing. Depending on the context, there may or may not be an implication that a proof is forthcoming. An assertion is a factual assertion. Stewart says that the Cain sexual harassment story is fact, not an allegation, but Cain's unsupported belief about racism is an allegation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

British royal discrimination

The UK announces that it is changing male primogeniture:
He has written to the prime ministers of Commonwealth countries outlining how he wants to change laws dating back centuries, but which are now discriminatory.

In the letter, Mr Cameron says it is “an anomaly” and goes against “gender equality” that women have to take their place behind younger royal males in the line of succession.

He writes: “In the UK, we have found it increasingly difficult to continue to justify two particular aspects of the present rules on the succession to the Crown.

“The first is the rule which says that an elder daughter should take a place in the line of succession behind a younger son. We espouse gender equality in all other aspects of life, and it is an anomaly that in the rules relating to the highest public office we continue to enshrine male superiority.”
That is what is difficult to justify? The whole rest of the monarchy is difficult to justify.

The UK (and Canada, Australia, etc) have had a queen since 1952, Elizabeth II, not a king. Her husband is considered just a prince.

On the other hand, the king's wife is considered a queen. There is no move to end this discrimination.

I am not sure about this "gender equality" argument. With this new rule, a British girl has less chance of becoming a queen. If Prince William's first-born is a girl, then no other girl of that generation will have a chance at the throne.

This change seems foolish to me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plot to increase empathy

Here is someone who proposes that mandatory social media service can save America by increasing empathy towards other populations:
Whether his assessment is right or not, two facts emerges as crystal clear. Each of us – blue, red, old, young, urban, rural, black, white, gay, straight – tends to care disproportionately about those with whom we share empathy and interdependency. And as our country becomes more fragmented rather than unified, our communities of concern get narrower. In fact, even the Occupy Movement, which has effectively called attention to the most obvious “us and them” gap, has been criticized for its lack of diversity, particularly in southern cities where there are large African American populations.

This is ironic in an age of social media when we have remarkable tools to connect us to each other. ...

So here’s my idea for saving America in case the Occupy Movement doesn’t work. It’s an idea that could help us increase empathy. It takes full advantage of social media’s true potential. ...

We require every 18-year-old in America to participate in mandatory social media service as part of a daily or weekly routine for one year.
We assign our young adults to a racially diverse online social group comprised of 12 people from different regions, backgrounds, income brackets. (Google+ is a potential platform.)
We present each group with a social challenge – obesity, jobs, poverty, high cost of education, even the problem of young men getting their sex education from watching online porn – and we ask them to solve the problem. ...

Will a group of strangers on a social platform really solve big issues like unemployment, poverty, obesity, and urban violence? Maybe not. But as a society, we might solve our most pressing problem. The need to create greater empathy and understanding between and among people who are different but share a vested interest in America.
This seems like just an isolated wacky idea, as noted here, but there is an ideology behind it.

George Lakoff, Author and Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley, explains why promoting empathy is central to leftist objectives:
Let's start with the attack on empathy. Why empathy? Isn't empathy a good thing?

Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others -- not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one's countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like. Empathy extends well beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species. Empathy is at the heart of real rationality, because it goes to the heart of our values, which are the basis of our sense of justice.

Progressives care about others as well as themselves. They have a moral obligation to act on their empathy -- a social responsibility in addition to personal responsibility, a responsibility to make the world better by making themselves better. This leads to a view of a government that cares about its citizens and has a moral obligation to protect and empower them. Protection includes worker, consumer, and environmental protection as well as safety nets and health care. Empowerment includes what is in the president's stimulus plan: infrastructure, education, communication, energy, the availability of credit from banks, a stock market that works. No one can earn anything at all in this country without protection and empowerment by the government. All progressive legislation is made on this basis. ...

We cannot let conservatives get away with redefining empathy as irrational and idiosyncratic personal feeling. Empathy is the basis of our democracy and its true meaning must be defended. ...

Democrats should go on offense. They need to rally behind empathy -- real empathy, not empathy reframed as emotion and personal feeling. They need to speak regularly about empathy as being the basis of our democracy. They need to point out that empathy leads one to notice real social and systemic causes of our troubles and to notice when and how judicial decisions and legislation can harm the most vulnerable of our countrymen. And finally that empathy is the reason that we have the principles of freedom and fairness -- which are necessary components of justice.
Empathy is a leftist code word.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

End of Iraq occupation

AP reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) — America's long and deeply unpopular war in Iraq will be over by year's end and all U.S. troops "''will definitely be home for the holidays," President Barack Obama declared Friday. ...

This was, in essence, the third time Obama had pronounced an end to the war, allowing him to remind the nation he had opposed it all along — a stance that helped his White House bid in 2008.
No, Obama did not remind us of that. He said:
As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world.

After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.
So he merely reminded us that he pledged to end the war. He never opposed the war.

Meanwhile, Obama has initiated military actions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Uganda.

Friday, October 21, 2011

California whites declining

The Sacramenta Bee newspaper reports:
California's birthrate tumbled last year to its lowest point since the Great Depression, new state figures show, yet another indication that the difficult economy is reshaping everyday life.

California families are looking at their personal finances, their job security, their prospects for the future – and increasingly deciding now is not the time to have a baby.
That is just part of the story. Middle class families sometimes find that kids are too expensive, but poor family get welfare payments to have kids.
"We are not becoming the next Germany or Japan, where the number of deaths exceeds the number of births," Johnson said.
The white population of California is declining like Germany and Japan. California's growth is entirely from immigration, illegal aliens, and first-generation (births to immigrants).

According to the California report, 51% of all births today are to hispanics, and it is rising to 55%. Only 29% are to whites, and that will drop to 25% by the year 2020. Hispanic women are having 2.23 kids apiece, while whites are having 1.68 and Asians 1.59.

This is all the result of a set of policies that have discourage white reproduction, and encouraged non-whites. It is as if the govt decided a few years ago to replace the white population of California with a non-white population.

Monday, October 17, 2011

California physicians advocate dope

Physicians are the ones most eager in our society to tell people what to do, without having to explain themselves. People often mistakenly assume that physicians' advice is backed up by scientific evidence, but usually not. Eg, you might think that if they recommended marijuana, then they would have some evidence that it is beneficial.

AP and the LA Times report:
California’s largest industry group for doctors is calling for the legalization of marijuana even as it maintains that the drug has few proven health benefits. Trustees of the California Medical Association adopted the new stance at its annual meeting Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 in Anaheim, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Dr. Donald Lyman, the Sacramento physician who wrote the group’s new policy, said doctors are increasingly frustrated by the state’s medical marijuana law, which allows use with a doctor’s recommendation. Physicians are put in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether to recommend a drug that’s illegal under federal law, Lyman said.

“It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not,” he told the newspaper.
Got that? They do not know whether the drug is useful, but recommend legalizing anyway so physicians will feel more comfortable.
Lyman called current laws a “failed public health policy.”

But critics within the medical community said association leaders did not consider the broader implications of legalizing marijuana.

“I think it’s going to lead to more use, and that, to me, is a public health concern,” Dr. Robert DuPont, an M.D. and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School, told the Times.
The law would be a failed policy if some alternative policy would be better. But the physicians did not even consider what an alternative policy would do.

As it is, California physicians can write prescriptions for marijuana, and most of them are for
unverifiable ailments like back pain, headaches, insomnia, impotence, and anxiety. The policy is a joke. The physicians who write these prescriptions have sold out.

Physician recommendations on many subjects, such as diet, vaccines, guns, and drugs is uninformed and unsubstantiated.

Update: Libertarian drug advocate Ilya Somin brags that a Gallup poll shows 50% support for legal marijuana use, for the first time. But many states, including California, already have legal medical marijuana use, and Californians have voted down broader legalization.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jobs and Ritchie

Wired magazine says:
The tributes to Dennis Ritchie won’t match the river of praise that spilled out over the web after the death of Steve Jobs. But they should.

And then some.

“When Steve Jobs died last week, there was a huge outcry, and that was very moving and justified. But Dennis had a bigger effect, and the public doesn’t even know who he is,” says Rob Pike, the programming legend and current Googler who spent 20 years working across the hall from Ritchie at the famed Bell Labs.
I agree. Jobs convinced a lot of people to buy a lot of products, but he didn't have much influence on anything I use. Ritchie did. His inventions are used everywhere.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Police Arrest Man With Headless Duck

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An 18-year-old man was charged with animal cruelty and resisting an officer after witnesses reported the suspect had a headless duck in one hand and a knife in the other. ...

According to the report, witnesses said Main was attempting to show off when he captured and killed a duck, saying he planned on cooking it.

Officers said there was a barbeque grill with a fresh fire blazing on the patio when they arrived. They also said a half-empty bottle of spiced rum was on the patio, and "it was apparent from the suspect's breath and demeanor that he had been consuming alcohol."
So why is this a crime? If this were done by a restaurant, a farmer, or a hunter, no one would question it. Duck is good food, and cutting off its head is as good as what the slaughterhouses do.

I can see where it might be crime to kill someone's pet, or to hunt out of season, but this is not animal cruelty. But this seems to be a trend. I've heard a bunch of stories like this, where someone was arrested for animal cruelty, but where there is no real cruelty. Just someone who disapproved of someone else's treatment of an animal. It makes the law very vague, because there is hardly anything that you can do with an animal that will not cause someone to disapprove.