Monday, December 31, 2012

What I learned in 2012

Here are several things I learned this year.

Identity politics determined the election. Pres. Barack Obama was re-elected by a coalition of non-whites, non-Christians, and unmarrieds. What they had in common was a celebration of the decline of WASPs and traditional American values. Hardly any of those voters can explain what good came from ObamaCare or the Afghan war or all the bailouts or any other Obama policy.

No presumption of innocence. Jerry Sandusky was convicted based entirely on recovered memories of people who are suing Penn State for millions of dollars. There was no hard evidence or contemporaneous complaint. I never heard anyone even consider the possibility that the accusers could be lying. Likewise, George Zimmermann and Lance Armstrong have been railroaded on accusations that would never hold up in a fair court. I said I learned this in 2011, but the 2012 examples are more extreme.

Decline of marriage and family. Marriage has been declining for a long time, but three stories convinced me that it has reached a tipping point. One was the year-long attempt by San Francisco officials to bust up Sheriff Mirkarimi’s marriage, even tho there was no harm or complaint. Second was a California law to give family court judges the discretion to name three or more legal parents, based on the so-called best interest of the child. While the governor did veto the law, no one pointed out how damaging such a law is, and a couple of other states adopted similar laws without much controversy. The law will be back. Third, the courts ruled that it is unconstitutional for California voters to give same-sex couples all the privileges of marriage without calling it marriage. While the case is under US Supreme Court review, public opinion has shifted, and it is no longer a case of LGBT rights. Marriage and family as we know them must be destroyed.

Corruption of the hard sciences. The soft sciences have been corrupt for a long time, but now physics, the greatest of the hard sciences, is also. The story is too long to describe here, and I explain on the Dark Buzz blog. The big physics story of the year was the discovery of the Higgs boson, and the big non-story was the failure to find supersymmetry, strings, extra dimensions, parallel universes, entropic gravity, black hole firewalls, or any of the other wild concepts being promoted by today's theoretical physicists.

Scientists confused about free will. Neuroscientists, evolutionists, atheists, and others are frequently telling us that experiments prove that we have no free will. Furthermore, they say that their view is a consequence of their materialist world view that all scientists must have. The argument is fallacious. I agree with John Horgan who has resolved to believe in free will.

Hostility towards group evolution. The case can be made that group selection has allowed the social animals (ants, termites, bees, and humans) to conquer the Earth, as argued by E.O. Wilson. And yet mainstream evolutionists adamantly deny that there is any such thing. A big cause of this hostility is the example of Judaism being viewed as a group evolutionary strategy. On that subject I learned that Jews are vastly overrepresented at elite universities, with quotas being used against white Christians and Orientals.

Nuclear power is safe. The final reports are in on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and it was a worst-case scenario. It had the most unsafe plants, the worst earthquake, and the worst tsunami. Many thousands were killed, but none from the nukes. Most leftist environmentalists tend to be alarmists about global warming and also strongly opposed to nuclear power. But nuclear power is the only large-scale carbon-free source of energy.

Left-right political divide. People have political differences for many reasons, but it was recently demonstrated that liberals do not understand conservatives. That is why conservatives are able to address what liberals have to say, but liberals usually completely miss the point. Also I learned about the origin of the nuclear family in NW Europe, the American nuclear family and how that shapes political opinions.

Update: There is some research saying that people who believe in free will do a better job of keeping their new year's resolutions. Eg, see here.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

IQ research in decline

SciAm reports:
Looks like Tiger Mom had it half-right: Motivation to work hard and good study techniques, not IQ, lead to better math skills, a new study shows. ...

Not surprisingly, at the start of the study, kids with high IQs performed the best at math.

But in a vindication of exacting Tiger Moms everywhere, effective studying techniques and motivation, not IQ, predicted who had most improved their math skills by 10th grade. Kids who started out with average math abilities but were in the top 10 percent in terms of learning strategies and motivation jumped up by about 13 percentage points over the course of the study in their math abilities, Murayama said. Apathetic kids with high IQs showed no such jump.
A comment says, "Most of the time I doubt about the impact of the IQ And this article makes me doubt more". That is what you are supposed to think.

IQ theory predicts that IQ scores do not change much over time. So an average apathetic kid with a 100 IQ will score about in the 50th percentile in math. If he is motivated and studies hard, he will do significantly better, but he will never make the 95th percentile because that requires a higher IQ.

So what does this study show? Just what you expect from IQ theory.

Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost
The past year has seen the deaths of two scholars who tackled the thorny issue of IQ and race, first Philippe Rushton (October 2) and then Arthur Jensen (October 22). The coming year may see more departures. Most of the remaining HBD scholars are retired or getting on in years.

Some see this as proof of the issue’s irrelevance. Rushton and Jensen were too old to understand that “race” and “intelligence” are outdated concepts. In reality, they were old because they had earned tenure before the campaign against “racist academics” had gotten into full swing … back in the 1980s. ...

The climate in academia today, especially in the social sciences, eerily resembles that of Eastern Europe a half-century ago. In private, many academics make fun of the idea that every aspect of human behavior is “socially constructed.” In public, they say nothing. Even the ones with tenure are terrified to speak out. It just isn’t worth it. Even if your position is secure, you’ll still see funding and publishing opportunities disappear, and your acquaintances will treat you as a horrible person. At best, you’ll be considered an oddball. ...

The basic facts are already in and beyond dispute.

We know, for instance, that at least 7% of the human genome has changed over the past 40,000 years, with most of the change being squeezed into the last 10,000. In fact, human genetic evolution speeded up by over a hundred-fold about 10,000 years ago (Hawks et al., 2007). By then, however, humans had spread over the earth’s entire surface from the equator to the Arctic Circle. They weren’t adapting to new physical environments. They were adapting to new cultural and behavioral environments. They were adapting to differences in diet, in mating systems, in family and communal structure, in notions of morality, in forms of language, in systems of writing, in modes of subsistence, in means of production, in networks of exchange, and so on. This genetic evolution involved changes to digestion, metabolism, and … mental processing.

Another fact. By 10,000 years ago, modern humans were no longer a small founder group. They were already splitting up into different geographic populations. So the acceleration of human genetic evolution did not affect all humans the same way. Yes, we are different, and the differences aren’t skin deep.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Search for inborn causes has failed

Nearly all human behavior is a complex combination of nature and nuture, and people have unsupported opinions for ideological reasons. They argue that homosexuality is inborn and IQ is not. Here is an example of how leftism has corrupted a leading science journal.

AAAS Science magazine posted this interview:
Interviewer –Sarah Crespi
Wow, alright. Next up, we have a story about why homosexuality may still be around
despite the fact that it might have some evolutionary disadvantages.

Interviewee –David Grimm
Right, well that’s one of the big mysteries about homosexuality, because most homosexual people don’t procreate. The question is why and how has homosexuality, sort of, persisted in our population. We usually think, at least from a Darwinian sense, that the genes that we pass on, the traits that we pass on are adaptive. They help us become fitter; they help us produce more offspring. And homosexuality would seem to go against that, because, again, people that are homosexual tend not to have children. These researchers think they have come up with one viable explanation. ...

Well, that’s something that had been done in the past. You know, researchers have been looking for, you know, what they call a “gay gene” or “gay genes” that would help, sort of, explain the mystery. Because if there were gay genes, that could explain how it was passed down from generation to generation, and why it seemed to run more in families. But in this study, the researchers didn’t look at the genes themselves. They looked at modifications to the genes, something known as epigenetic changes, and these are chemical modifications that actually can turn certain genes on or off or modify how much of the gene is expressed in the cell, how much of the protein from that gene is made. And the researchers focused on a time when a lot of epigenetic changes are being made, namely during development in the womb, and they also looked at the interplay between hormones. Fetuses are exposed to a lot of hormones in the womb, and how that might interplay with epigenetic changes.
The interview goes on to give the impression that homosexuality is inborm, but it has no facts or papers to support the idea.

LGBT activists say that support for same-sex marriage increases when people are told that homosexual orientation has been shown to be inborn.

If an epigenetic cause to homosexuality had really been identified, that would open up the possibility of a gene therapy to change sexual orientation in adults. But the LGBT activists would find that idea offensive, so you will not hear any mention of it.

Update: Satoshi Kanazawa writes:
Most personality traits and other characteristics – like whether you are politically liberal or conservative or how likely you are to get a divorce – have heritability of .50; they are about 50% determined by genes. In fact, most personality traits and social attitudes follow what I call the 50-0-50 rule; roughly 50% heritable (the influence of genes), roughly 0% what behavior geneticists call “shared environment” (parenting and everything else that happens within the family to make siblings similar to each other), and roughly 50% “nonshared environment” (everything that happens outside of the family to make siblings different from each other). It turns out that parenting has very little influence on how children turn out.
There is no known behavioral trait that is 100% inborn.

Update: JayMan says All human behavioral traits are heritable. Yes, but look at his tables, and nothing is near 100%. He also says, "Third Law. A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Miss USA pageant is rigged

Donald Trump is out to punish a detractor:
A Miss USA contestant who claimed the pageant was rigged has been ordered to pay the organisation $5m for defamation. ...

Ms Monnin was Miss Pennsylvania USA, but resigned that title after she failed to make it past the 2012 Miss USA contest's preliminary rounds.

In her Facebook post, she wrote: "I witnessed another contestant who said she saw the list of the top 5 before the show ever started (to) proceed.

"I knew the show must be rigged. ... and from what I witnessed is dishonest." ...

He also said Ms Monnin objected to the pageant's decision to allow transgender contestants.

Ms Monnin did not participate in the arbitration.
Millions of people sign contracts with arbitration clauses all time with banks, phone companies, etc. I guess that this proves that they are all subject to defamation awards with they badmouth the companies. A company could hire an arbiter and issue a ruling without you even participating.

The Miss USA contract probably prohibits the participants from telling the truth about how the contest works, or expressing a disagreement with pageant decisions. I had assumed that Miss Penn was a sore loser, but now I think that Donald Trump and the pageant have rigged the contest to prevent the truth being told.

Trump said, “She was really nasty, and we had no choice. It is an expensive lesson for her.” Okay, he taught her a lesson, and probably intimidated the other contestants into silence about how the contest may be rigged. But what are the rest of us to think?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dark Side of the Moon

The NY Times reports:
In my article last week about the impending demise of Ebb and Flow, I noted, “Unfortunately, since the action will happen on the dark side of the Moon, there will be nothing for earthlings to see.”

About a gazillion people, including Robert Kirshner, a Harvard astronomy professor, wrote in to ask, “Didn’t you mean to write ‘far side’ and not ‘dark side’?”

The more annoyed wrote: “Dark Side of the Moon??? Come on now. You know that is not correct! You completely blew a potential teaching moment, to educate the public that the **FAR** side of the Moon is **NOT** dark! Instead you perpetuated yet another scientific misconception. No wonder we are facing a crisis in science literacy in the U.S. The New York Times can and should do better!”

Except I really meant, “dark side” ­ — the side of the Moon facing away from the Sun.
I say that the dark side is a legitimate term for the far side. Those astronomers are parodies of pedantic professors. The far side was called dark because we knew so little about it. As we know now, it even looks a lot different from the near side.

Friday, December 14, 2012

TVs are dangerous

CBS News reports:
A record number of curious kids are getting hurt by falling televisions in their homes, a government report warns.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a report on Thursday that estimates about 43,000 people are injured in a television or furniture tip-over related incident each year, more than 25,000, or 59 percent, of whom are children.

"Small children are no match for a falling dresser, wall unit or 50- to 100-pound television," the CPSC said.

The report also showed that 349 people were killed between 2000 and 2011 by a falling television, appliance or piece of furniture -- 84 percent of them were kids younger than 9 years old. Falling televisions were more deadly, accounting for 62 percent of these fatalities. Last year alone, a record 41 tip-over related fatalities occurred.

The worrisome trends the report spotlighted indicated that three children are injured by a tip-over every hour -- or 71 children per day -- and one child is killed every two weeks. Seventy percent of injuries involving children were caused by televisions, followed by 26 percent caused by furniture like dressers or tables.
By comparison, 139 children (under age 9) were killed by firearms in 2010, and 794 were injured. See links to CDC data. About one third to one half of American households have firearms, and nearly all have TVs.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Cannot read tennis faces

NPR radio reports:
"When I look at a sports magazine, and I see the full picture of a person winning a point, and he has his full gesture, the whole picture makes perfect sense to me," says Aviezer. "The face looks like a victorious face, and the body looks victorious; everything together seems to make perfect sense."

But that sense of certainty disappeared, he found, when he took images of tennis winners and losers, and erased everything but the face. When he showed just those isolated faces to people, they couldn't tell if something positive or negative was going on.

"This was really a very striking finding," says Aviezer.

Then he showed people images of tennis players with the faces erased. People had to judge winners from losers based solely on the rest of the body. "And when people saw the body alone, they easily knew if this was a positive or negative emotion," explains Aviezer.

This is counterintuitive, he says, because people usually assume that if they are getting an emotional message, it must come from the facial expression.
A lot of people attach great importance to reading facial expressions. But usually the face just confirms much more precise voice info. This study shows faces can be unreliable.

Admittedly, the tennis player is not trying to communicate with his face. Maybe faces are easier to read when someone is trying to communicate. But the person could be trying to deceive also, and it is easy to be misled about that.

Update: SciAm reports:
If someone in your field of view experiences a sudden happy thought or a wave of anger, you do not need to be told. You just seem to know. Of course, this ability is not based on psychic powers but on the reading of small clues: a distinctive curl of the lips for joy, a clenching of the jaw for pique. ... we are remarkably skilled at imagining the mental lives of others.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rebecca Saxe, 33, is part of a scientific movement to better understand this ability, known as theory of mind. Saxe established that there is a single location in the brain, the right temporoparietal junction, where this thinking is centered. ... this little section of brain, just behind the right ear, drives much of what we associate with humanity—conversation, friendship, love, empathy, morality. And art: theory of mind is why humans write novels and why they read them.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Marijuana crime

Personal marijuana use was just legalized in Colorado and Washington, but it has already been legal in my California beach town. For about $60, you can get a license to buy and use medical marijuana. All you have to do is to say that you have anxiety, or migraines, or back pain, or some such unverifiable ailment. No documentation is required. With such a prescription, you can buy top-quality marijuana in local stores. The cops are not allowed to arrest anyone for using it. If they see you smoking it on a public street, they will just tell you to put it away.

The local highway patrol writes in the local paper:
I just read the recent editorial on the local drug trade, and I do agree wholeheartedly with the Sentinel Editorial Board’s stance on drugs as a major contributor to crime.

One missing element however is the elephant in the room: marijuana. In addition to the robberies, murder and other crimes centered on marijuana locally (just this week a marijuana dispensary was robbed at gunpoint before the suspects led law enforcement on a pursuit), marijuana-impaired drivers have also caused 70 percent of our local roadway fatalities so far this year. Many drug crimes are perpetuated against victims who are already involved in the drug trade. Not so with motor vehicle collisions. This means innocent people are often being killed or injured — through no fault of their own — by simply using the public roadways. Marijuana impairment is now killing more Santa Cruz motorists than alcohol.

The CHP is doing everything it can to make sure we all make it to our destinations safely, which often feels like an uphill battle. The community of Santa Cruz County can help us with this. Help us educate marijuana users about the risks of driving under the influence. Help us educate our teens and young adults (who already know drinking and driving is dangerous) on the dangers of impaired driving of any kind. Call 911 when you see dangerous driving, and don’t let your friends drive while impaired.

Matt Olson is captain of the Santa Cruz-area California Highway Patrol.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wolfram on Mandelbot

Steven Wolfram writes in the WSJ:
One might have thought that such a simple and fundamental form of regularity would have been studied for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. But it was not. In fact, it rose to prominence only over the past 30 or so years — almost entirely through the efforts of one man, the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, who died in 2010 just before completing this autobiography.

Armed with computer graphics, however, Mandelbrot was able to move forward, discovering in 1979 the intricate shape known as the Mandelbrot set. ... a striking example of how visual complexity can arise from simple rules.

He campaigned for the Nobel Prize in physics; later it was economics. I used to ask him why he cared so much. I pointed out that really great science — like fractals — tends to be too original for there to be prizes defined for it. But he would slough off my comments and recite some other evidence for the greatness of his achievements. ...

Mandelbrot ... once declaring that "Wolfram's 'science' is not new except when it is clearly wrong; it deserves to be completely disregarded."
Funny, I would have said that Mandelbrot's science is not new except when it is clearly wrong. A picture of the Mandelbrot set was published in 1978 before Mandelbrot discovered it. The self-similar regularity of the Koch snowflake was studied as early as 1904.

There are widely varying opinions about Mandelbrot.

Update: An American Scientist review also explains how Mandelbrot has a long history of trying to take credit for the work of others.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

College admissions bias

A new article on The Myth of American Meritocracy is generating a lot of attention.

The article presents evidence that elite American colleges do not have meritocratic admissions, and they unfairly discriminate against Orientals and non-Jewish whites. Apparently there has been a huge decline in Jewish academic achievement. Unz writes:
My casual mental image of today’s top American students is based upon my memories of a generation or so ago, when Jewish students, sometimes including myself, regularly took home a quarter or more of the highest national honors on standardized tests or in prestigious academic competitions; thus, it seemed perfectly reasonable that Harvard and most of the other Ivy League schools might be 25 percent Jewish, based on meritocracy. But the objective evidence indicates that in present day America, only about 6 percent of our top students are Jewish, which now renders such very high Jewish enrollments at elite universities totally absurd and ridiculous. I strongly suspect that a similar time lag effect is responsible for the apparent confusion in many others who have considered the topic.
My favorite theory is that elite colleges admit students to maximize future alumni donations. Legacy admissions are very useful in two ways. First, those are the only students who know the school songs and traditions, and so they spread the school spirit to the class. Second, they give alumni hope that someday their kids may get favorable treatment.

The colleges are sitting on the data that could potentially refute the Ron Unz article. It will be interesting to see if anyone tries.

Update: Statistician A. Gelman is skeptical about the Jewish data. Unz may have backed off. See also Kevin MacDonald.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wade says evolution is a theory

NY Times science writer Nicholas Wade is piling on criticism of a supposedly anti-science Republican:
Senator Rubio, a possible contender in the 2016 Republican presidential race, gave the following answer: “I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians.”

It may have been a mystery back in the 17th century, ... Today’s best estimate for the age of Earth, based on the radiometric dating of meteorites, is 4.54 billion years. The real mystery is how a highly intelligent politician got himself into the position of suggesting that the two estimates are of equal value, or that theologians are still the best interpreters of the physical world.
Rubio did not say that the two estimates are of equal value, or that theologians are still the best interpreters of the physical world. He said that theologians disagree, and that "I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says."

It is true that radiometric dating (of Earth rocks, not meteorites) shows an age of 4.5B years. But I still think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, and what science says. I can believe in science and religious freedom at the same time.
Like those electrons that can be waves or particles, evolution is both a theory and a fact. In historical terms, evolution has certainly occurred and no fact is better attested. But in terms of the intellectual structure of science, evolution is a theory; no one talks about Darwin’s “fact of evolution.”
When someone says that electrons can be waves or particles, he means that electrons are not really either, but some experiments make them look like waves, and some make them look like particles. But this is a poor analogy. But Rubio did not say anything about evolution.

Wade is one of the better science reporters, but this essay is stupid and pointless. Babbling about evolution being a theory or a fact has little to do with what Rubio said. Wade says that evolution is really a theory, and if evolutionists would only admit that, then Rubio would be better able to answer questions about the age of the Earth. I don't think that the evolutionists will be happy with anything other than a statement that evolution proves religion wrong.

Wade's plan is not going to satisfy the religion-haters:
How, exactly, is Dawkins “militant”? ...

Wade is completely clueless when it comes to prescribing how to get rid of creationism. The best way, I maintain, is not to “profess respect for all religions and make a grand yet also trivial concession about the status of evolution.” The best way is to weaken the grasp of religion on the American mind, for religion is the only source of creationism.

And why, exactly, are scientists supposed to accord “respect” to a bunch of ancient fables that are not only ludicrous on their face, but motivate so much opposition to science?
Update: Of course Dawkins is militant. He describes himself as militant. I had not noticed that Barack Obama answered a question about the age of the Earth, and said the same thing as Rubio.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Neuro doubters

Alissa Quart writes in the NY Times:
THIS fall, science writers have made sport of yet another instance of bad neuroscience. The culprit this time is Naomi Wolf; her new book, “Vagina,” has been roundly drubbed for misrepresenting the brain and neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin.

Earlier in the year, Chris Mooney raised similar ire with the book “The Republican Brain,” which claims that Republicans are genetically different from — and, many readers deduced, lesser to — Democrats. ...

Meet the “neuro doubters.” The neuro doubter may like neuroscience but does not like what he or she considers its bastardization by glib, sometimes ill-informed, popularizers.

A gaggle of energetic and amusing, mostly anonymous, neuroscience bloggers — including Neurocritic, Neuroskeptic, Neurobonkers and Mind Hacks — now regularly point out the lapses and folly contained in mainstream neuroscientific discourse. This group, for example, slammed a recent Newsweek article in which a neurosurgeon claimed to have discovered that “heaven is real” after his cortex “shut down.” Such journalism, these critics contend, is “shoddy,” nothing more than “simplified pop.” Additionally, publications from The Guardian to the New Statesman have published pieces blasting popular neuroscience-dependent writers like Jonah Lehrer and Malcolm Gladwell. The Oxford neuropsychologist Dorothy Bishop’s scolding lecture on the science of bad neuroscience was an online sensation last summer.
I guess I am a neuro doubter also, as I have also complained on this blog about how the press and the public is remarkably gullible about neuroscience claims.

Besides the above, I have also criticized neuroscientists like Sam Harris (and I agree with this criticism of him).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Contradictory business advice

The key to being a big-selling writer of business decision advice is to contradict yourself. That formula is used to great success by Gladwell, Lehrer, Kahneman, Levitt, and others.

The physicist Niels Bohr was famous for explaining the atom in terms of parts that are particles and waves at the same time, depending on how you look at them. He said:
Two sorts of truth: profound truths 
recognized by the fact that the opposite is also a profound truth,
 in contrast to trivialities where opposites are obviously absurd.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Party of rich people

Statistician Andrew Gelman writes:
Arguably, both the Democrats and the Republicans are “the party of the rich.” But Republicans more so than Democrats (see above graph, also consider the debates over the estate tax and upper-income tax rates). ...

The paradigmatic Democratic rent-seekers are public employee unions. But they’re not generally rich, they’re middle class. Maybe teachers and bus drivers don’t deserve $80K salaries, maybe their pensions are bankrupting America, whatever. But they’re not rich people. Yes, Obama has supporters on Wall Street, as does Romney. Obama won the rich suburbs of New York. Meanwhile, Romney won the rich suburbs of Dallas. Put it all together, and upper-income Americans mostly vote Republican. Not uniformly so, and it varies a lot by region of the country (as we discuss here and in endless detail in our Red State Blue State book), but on average, yes.
He wrote a book on this subject, but if you look at the above graph, Americans over $75k are only slightly more Republican. And rich people in the major media markets like New York and California are overwhelmingly Democrat. So most of the influential rich people we hear about are Democrats.

There is not too much difference in tax policy on the rich either. Barack Obama and the Democrat Congress extended the Bush tax cuts in 2010. Mitt Romney campaigned on tax cuts for the middle class, but promised not to cut the taxes that rich people pay.

I also think that teachers and bus drivers who retire on $80K pensions are rich. Gelman teaches in Manhattan, where $80k is not a lot of money, but it is in the most of the rest of the country.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Measuring election closeness

Breitbart reports:
Despite losing the popular vote 51% to 48% -- not a landslide for Obama by any means, but on the other hand not the “neck and neck” outcome many predicted -- Mitt Romney would be President today if he had secured 333,908 more votes in four key swing states.
Comparing to other close elections, I wrote this in Oct. 2004:
Winning the popular vote means winning a majority. Gore did not win the popular vote, as a majority of the voters voted against Gore in 2000. Presidents won the popular votes only in 1952, 56, 64, 72, 76, 80, 84, 88. Clinton never won the popular vote.

Gore did win a plurality of the popular vote in 2000 and lost, but Nixon did the same in 1960.

To measure how close an election was, I believe the best way is to look at how many votes a loser needed to have won in order to change the outcome. The closest elections in my lifetime were 2000, 1976, 1960, and 1968. (Data from this article.)

Gore could have won in 2000 with about 500 more votes in Florida.

Ford would have won in 1976 with about 18k more votes in Ohio and Hawaii.

Nixon would have won in 1960 with about 60k more votes in Illinois and Texas.

Humphrey would have won in 1968 with about 106k more votes in New Jersey, Missouri, and New Hampshire, assuming Democratic control of the House.
So this election would be the fifth-closest in my lifetime.

In the overall popular vote, Obama's margin was 2.7%, making it the 12th-smallest in USA history. It was the 2nd smallest re-election margin.

Update: Judge Richard A. Posner lists Five reasons to keep our despised method of choosing the president. There are more arguments on Wikipedia. Everyone acts as if it is an anachronism, but it is much better than the alternatives.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Essays on favorite explanations

Psychiatrist Joel Gold writes in the new 2012 book on favorite explanations:
There are people who want a stable marriage, yet continue to cheat on their wives.

There are people who want a successful career, yet continue to undermine themselves at work.

Aristotle defined Man as a rational animal. Contradictions like these show that we are not.

All people live with the conflicts between what they want and how they live.

For most of human history we had no way to explain this paradox until Freud's discovery of the unconscious resolved it.
This is crazy. Freud never discovered any facts about the unconscious that were not already known to Aristotle, and he did not explain any of those paradoxes.

A lot of the answers don't really explain anything. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in the same book:
I hope I will not be drummed out of the corps of Social Science if I confess to the fact that I can't think of an explanation in our field that is both elegant and beautiful.
In recent social science, I would suggest the remarkable extent that the recent American election vote was predictable by demographics. The marriage gap was 20 points.

Another explanation is why Liberals do not understand conservatism .

Also, a remarkably large amount of feminism and female behavior is explained by hypergamy. Just look at the General Petraeus scandal. Other such explanations may be found on Roissy's blog.

Other explanations that you can only find on politically incorrect blogs have to do with HBD = human biodiversity. For more info, see this hbd bibliography.

A good question for next year would be to ask for a fallacious explanation.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Vaccine info censored

NPR radio reports:
Last week, we wrote about an outbreak of mumps within several Orthodox Jewish communities in and around New York City.

We told you how the outbreak spread so rapidly in 2009 that public health officials tried something that hadn't been done before. Doctors gave uninfected children who'd already been immunized a third booster shot of the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine. Two doses is the usual regimen.

After reading our post about the outbreak, you might have wondered if it worked. And maybe you even asked if you or your kids should get the extra shot.

We would have loved to answer those questions for you when we wrote our first story. (See the sidebar for the answers now.) But we couldn't tell you what we knew because the information was under wraps.
That's right, the US CDC is actively covering up vaccination info in order to control the message that the public hears. And the press cooperates.

While running for President in 2008, Barack Obama said:
We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.
So has the CDC researched it? Did anyone find a link? I doubt it, but it is disturbing that some vaccine research is censored.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why physicians lie to us

Did you know that physicians consider it ethical to lie to patients about the outcomes of genetic tests? Read about it here:
Lying to patients about genetic tests is wrong
or here:
All this sort of story does is make me be convinced that what we need widespread personalized genomics so that we can analyze our own sequences with open source applications, and cut the physicians and institutional testing laboratories out of the equation.
That is right. We should get test results straight from the lab, and not give some physician the opportunity to lie to us about the results.

Update: Here is a followup:
When it comes to what a child should know I tend to disagree with the consensus among genetic counselors. It seems that the implication from the current guidelines is that children shouldn’t be tested for adult onset disease until they can give consent. I can’t go along with this.
Medical ethics is a strange field. I would not trust their conclusions about anything.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Montana castle doctrine

This shooting story got a lot of controversy. The NY Times reports:
KALISPELL, Mont. — The last mistake Dan Fredenberg made was getting killed in another man’s garage.

It was Sept. 22, and Mr. Fredenberg, 40, was upset. He strode up the driveway of a quiet subdivision here to confront Brice Harper, a 24-year-old romantically involved with Mr. Fredenberg’s young wife. But as he walked through Mr. Harper’s open garage door, Mr. Fredenberg was doing more than stepping uninvited onto someone else’s property. He was unwittingly walking onto a legal landscape reshaped by laws that have given homeowners new leeway to use force inside their own homes.

Proponents say the laws strengthen people’s right to defend their homes. To others, they are a license to kill.

That night, in a doorway at the back of his garage, Mr. Harper aimed a gun at the unarmed Mr. Fredenberg, fired and struck him three times. Mr. Fredenberg crumpled to the garage floor, a few feet from Mr. Harper. He was dead before morning.

Had Mr. Fredenberg been shot on the street or sidewalk, the legal outcome might have been different. But on Oct. 9, the Flathead County attorney decided not to prosecute, saying that Montana’s “castle doctrine” law, which maintains that a man’s home is his castle, protected Mr. Harper’s rights to vigorously defend himself there. The county attorney determined that Mr. Harper had the right to fetch his gun from his bedroom, confront Mr. Fredenberg in the garage and, fearing for his safety, shoot him.
Fredenberg went to Harper's house with reason to believe his wife was there. She had been there, and refused to say when her husband asked if she were there. The Montana castle doctrine says:

A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry into ... an occupied structure (residence).
Okay, but the entry has to be "unlawful" for that to apply. Doesn't a man have a right to enter another house to retrieve his wife? If so, then the castle doctrine does not apply.

It seems possible to me that the wife and the lover set up Fredenberg to get shot.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hormones influence voting

Nature magazine reports:
An increasing number of studies suggest that biology can exert a significant influence on political beliefs and behaviours. Biological factors including genes, hormone levels and neurotransmitter systems may partly shape people's attitudes on political issues such as welfare, immigration, same-sex marriage and war.
This is a controversial subject. A CNN story was
Post removed: Study looks at voting and hormones
A post previously published in this space regarding a study about how hormones may influence voting choices has been removed.

After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN.
The censored story is copied here. A newspaper noticed:
The story, posted in CNN's medical and health section started with, "There's something that may raise the chances for both presidential candidates that's totally out of their control: women's ovulation cycles."

Yikes! Did the author really write that? Yep. And the author was a woman. Elizabeth Landeau, defended her story, writing on Twitter that it was a peer-reviewed study and that she included skepticism from political scientists as well.

The story referred to a new study to be published in "Psychological Science" by Kristina Durante, an assistant professor at the University of Texas. Durante's online surveys of several-hundred women led her to conclude that, when women are ovulating, single women espouse more liberal beliefs, while married or committed women gravitate towards more conservative views.

The article said Durante suggests that single women "feel sexier" when ovulating and tend to "lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality." Married women, trying to resist their "sexy" feelings, do the opposite.
Thanks to the web bypassing feminist censors, we can learn about human nature.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

President has math phobia

There is one subject where people are proud of their ignorance. Here was the President on the NBC TV Tonight Show last night:
Leno: (Here's Samantha from Colorado) When you help your daughters with their homework, is there a subject you struggle with?

Obama: Well, you know, the math stuff, I was fine with up until about seventh grade. But Malia is now a freshman in high school, and I am pretty lost.
It is culturally acceptable to admit to Mathematical anxiety. I doubt that he would admit to any other mental disorder or deficiency.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How European colors evolved

Anthropologist Peter Frost argues:
White European skin evolved relatively fast during the last ice age, specifically from 19,000 to 11,000 years ago. This was also probably the same time frame for the evolution of European hair and eye colors. Anyway, that’s my bet.

These color traits — white skin and a diverse palette of hair and eye colors — are not adaptations to a cooler, less sunny climate. They are adaptations by early European women to intense mate competition, specifically a shortage of potential mates due to a low polygyny rate and a high death rate among young men.

This situation was created by the steppe-tundra that covered most of Europe as late as 10,000 years ago. Early Europeans were able to colonize this environment but only at the price of a severe imbalance between men and women on the mate market.
This sounds improbable, but he has some good arguments for it, and he shows that competing theories have been shot down.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Suing the Boy Scouts

The newspapers report:
The publication Thursday of 20 years worth of secret records kept by the Boy Scouts of America reveal a widespread effort by the organization to cover up a scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse against 1,200 scout leaders.

The records, known within the Boy Scouts itself as the “perversion files,” cover the years 1965-1985 and detail the names of the alleged perpetrators, their hometowns and other information. The files were results of the organization’s own internal investigations into sexual abuse among its leaders and include court documents, newspapers clippings in cases where charges were actually filed and other material.

Not every person whose name was contained within the thousands of pages – which the scouts officially called the “Ineligible Volunteer Files” – ever actually faced charges or was convicted. Some files only reflected concerns about someone.
Your reaction to this story is a good indicator of whether you would want Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

The Mormons are huge promoters of the Boy Scouts. The raise money privately, use volunteers as leaders, and teach valuable lessons to the next generation. The Scouts have their own standards for who makes any acceptable youth leader, and they try to confidentially apply those standards. In some cases, this meant excluding people based on hearsay about their private lives. Romney is the Mormon and probably agrees with the overall Scout philosophy, and is not concerned with second-guess personel decisions.

The lawyers, gays, atheists, and leftist egalitarians despise the Boy Scouts and are out to destroy them. They are going to scrutinize a 40-year-old private list of names, and file lawsuits. If they form an opinion that there was a legitimate suspicion of abuse, they are going to say that the suspicions should have been reported to govt authorities. If the suspicions were of non-criminal homosexuality, then they are going to say any consideration of the info should have been illegal discrimination. Either way, they hate the idea of a private organization choosing its own leaders according to its own values.

I don't know whether Pres. Barack Obama has given an opinion about the Boy Scouts, but he bragged in the debate how he supported lawsuits about minor personnel decisions made decades in the past. See also here for how he differs from Romney.

I am afraid that the leftist Obama lawyer mentality is winning. Someday all sexual activity will be classified as legal or illegal, and anyone who is even suspected of the illegal kind will be kept on govt databases for future litigation. No one will be allowed to discriminate based on anything of the legal kind, no matter how perverted. People will be sued or sent to prison if some lawyer discovers, many years later, that they used their own judgment in making a personnel decision.

Update: Another blog adds:
For decades the Boy Scout organization made the point that permitting homosexuals to serve as group leaders would be to invite abuse.  The Scouts based their position on the well-grounded assumption that male homosexuality is essentially pedophiliac and that it would be crazy to put pedophiles in charge of boys and adolescents.  The American Left sustained a relentless culture-war against the Scouts that rested on categorizing that perfectly reasonable assumption and its argumentative consequence as a bigoted fantasy.  Now it turns out that when homosexuals did inveigle the organization, they perpetrated exactly the kinds of abuses predicted by conservative wisdom.  What is the Left’s new argument?  It is that the Scouts are wicked for concealing documentation that homosexual group leaders had preyed on their charges.  Of course these developments are in part a replay of another of the Left’s ongoing crusades – the one against the Catholic Church.  In the eyes of the Left, the Church is guilty on the one hand of condemning homosexuality and of trying to keep homosexuals out of the priesthood and on the other of covering up the outrages of priest-pedophiles.
The current CNN lead story says Boy Scouts criticized for gay ban and for "perversion files".

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sandusky accuser promotes his book

ABC TV 20/20 reports:
He was known only as Victim 1 in one of the most infamous child sexual abuse cases in history. But this week, Aaron Fisher revealed his identity to the world and, in an exclusive interview with "20/20's" Chris Cuomo, told the story of those he said stood in his way as he struggled to bring now-convicted child predator Jerry Sandusky to justice: officials at his own high school.

"Here I am, beside my mom, crying, telling them and they don't believe me," he said in an interview with Cuomo airing on "20/20" tonight at 10 p.m. ET. "I knew they wouldn't."

Fisher has detailed his struggle to have his allegations against Sandusky, formerly a revered Penn State University football coach, taken seriously in a new book, "Silent No More: Victim 1's Fight for Justice Against Jerry Sandusky," published today.
Note that every single Sandusky accuser is making money off of the accusations. He could be lying to sell books and get a Penn State lawsuit settlement.

The main complaint of the show is that the boy and his mom Daniels made a complaint to a high school principal, and she did not believe them.
By the time Fisher was 15, he reached a breaking point and finally summoned the courage to tell his mother and the school's principal, Karen Probst, that Sandusky was sexually abusing him.

"Aaron was melting down in the office," Daniels said. "I immediately told them we need to call the police." ...

Daniels and Fisher later learned that Central Mountain High School officials did call CYS, but they say the call only came after the mother and son left the principal's office. School officials are legally mandated to report all allegations of child sex abuse and have said that the allegations were reported immediately.
The TV show acted as if this is a big scandal, but it is not.

First, the principal did report the accusation. She is not mandated to believe every accusation, just to report suspected abuse.

Second, if the principal did not believe the accusation, then she was not required to report. She is only mandated to report what she suspects, not what some student or parent suspects.

Third, the mom and boy were completely free to call the police themselves. It is wrong to expect a principal to call police on behalf of a parent making a request. The police complaint should come from whoever has knowledge of the alleged crime.

I continue to disagree with how this scandal has been prosecuted and reported. No one shows any skepticism about the accusations.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chocolate raises intelligence

NPR radio reports:
So what does it take to create a genius worthy of a Nobel? The answer may have something to do with chocolate. According to a very tongue-in-cheek report published online this week by the New England Journal of Medicine, a country's propensity for producing Nobel laureates might just be correlated to its national appetite for the sinful stuff. ...

"I have published about 800 papers in peer-reviewed journals," he says, "and every single one of them stands and falls with the p-value. And now here I find a p-value of 0.0001, and this is, to my way of thinking, a completely nonsensical relation. Unless you — or anybody else — can come up with an explanation. I've presented it to a few of my colleagues, and nobody has any thoughts."
Yes, there studies are all based on statistical p-values. Jumping to conclusions based on p-values like this is at the core of why most medical studies are not reproduced. Arguments that vegetables are good for your health are also like this.

It is not impossible that chocolate makes you smarter. One study showed:
The study also found that as the chocolate started melting, all regions of the brain received a boost far more intense and longer lasting than the excitement seen with kissing.
Here is other new research:
Here we study a potential hormonal influence, focusing on the steroid hormone testosterone, which has been shown to play an important role in social behavior. ... Our results show that testosterone administration substantially decreases lying in men. Self-serving lying occurred in both groups, however, reported payoffs were significantly lower in the testosterone group (p<0.01).
Again this seems unlikely, but there is other evidence that masculine men are more honest. Asperger syndrome is most common in boys and is a trait of masculine brains. Those with it are widely regarded as having a high degree of honesty and integrity. It is still considered a mental disorder in the DSM-IV, but the classification is being dropped in the DSM-5 for some very good reasons.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Armstrong is accused again

Everyone seems to be convinced by a report from a private organization that Lance Armstrong was doping:
Had Mr. Armstrong not refused to confront the evidence against him in a hearing, the witnesses in the case of The United States Anti-Doping Agency v. Lance Armstrong would have testified under oath with a legal duty to testify truthfully or face potential civil and/or criminal consequences. Witness after witness would havebeen called to the stand and witness after witness would have confirmed the following: That Lance Armstrong used the banned drug EPO. That Lance Armstrong used the banned drug Testosterone. That Lance Armstrong provided his teammates the banned drug EPO. ...

Article 3.1 of the Code provides that: “[t]he standard of proof shall be whether the Anti-Doping Organization has established an anti-doping rule violation to the comfortable satisfaction of the hearing panel bearing in mind the seriousness of the allegation which is made.” ...

The World Anti-Doping Code specifies that doping can be proved by “any reliable
means.” This case was initiated by USADA based on evidence other than a positive drug test. ...

Accordingly, in this section USADA discusses some of the evidence of efforts by Armstrong and his entourage to cover up rule violations, suppress the truth, obstruct or subvert the legal process and thereby encourage doping. ... As he and Mr. Simeoni returned to the peloton Mr. Armstrong made a taunting “zip the lips” gesture. Because the event occurred during a stage of the 2004 Tour de France, Mr. Simeoni’s recollection is well corroborated and supported by video footage.

In this section of the Addendum, we address the evidence gathered on the question of whether Lance Armstrong admitted the use of performance enhancing drugs in an Indiana Hospital room in late October, 1996. ... As explained above, it took nearly a decade and some fairly aggressive investigative journalism for the hospital room confession to make it into the public domain. ... Thus, although the hospital room incident occurred many years ago, Armstrong’s far more recent efforts to retaliate against and impugn those who have testified about it is highly relevant. The evidence of Mr. Armstrong’s retaliation is consistent with a recurring pattern of efforts by Mr. Armstrong to suppress the truth and prevent those with evidence against him from coming forward.
I am not sure what to make of this. Sure, there are a bunch of witnesses against Armstrong. But why is this any business of the USADA, any why does anyone care about what some bicyclist might have admitted in 1996?

The report alleges that all of the major cycling competitors were doping. If so, why would it be unfair for Armstrong to do what the others were doing?

I do not see any good coming out of this. The whole process is crazy. The USADA is a mickey mouse court with no sense of jurisdiction, due process, rules of evidence, statute of limitations, standards of proof, jury of peers, etc. I do not see why a sport would rely on anything other than timely positive drug tests.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

McQueary sues Penn State

The Penn State child sex abuse scandal is not over, and litigation will continue for years. The lawyers and officials have manipulated the evidence so that lawsuits against Penn State and Penn. taxpayers will collect many millions of dollars. Here is the latest:
(Reuters) - A key witness in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal sued Pennsylvania State University on Tuesday for more than $8 million on whistleblower, defamation and misrepresentation grounds.

Mike McQueary, a former Penn State assistant football coach, claimed in the suit filed in Center County Court that he lost his job, was misled and publicly scorned because he had told about one of the attacks.

Sandusky, a retired Penn State football defensive coordinator, was convicted in June on 45 counts of child molestation in a case that riveted national attention on child sexual abuse. Sentencing is set for October 9.

McQueary testified that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a football locker room in 2001. He told jurors he then told head coach Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and university Vice President Gary Schultz about the incident.

The assault was never reported to police or child welfare officials. McQueary testified about it before a grand jury and Schultz and Curley were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.

McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback, was placed on administrative leave shortly after Sandusky, Curley and Schultz were charged in November 2011. He later lost his $140,000-a-year job as receivers coach.

McQueary is seeking at least $4 million in damages for alleged defamation arising from then-President Graham Spanier's public support of Schultz and Curley after the charges against them were announced.
I don't see how McQueary could be defamed. His own story is that he watched a boy being raped, and then chose (1) not to intervene to rescue the boy; (2) not to contact police; (3) not to make any effort to identify the boy afterwards; and (4) not to tell anyone the details until many years later.

There are holes in McQueary's story, and I think that he is worse than Sandusky. But just based on his own admissions, there are plenty of reasons to fire him.

Update: I previously wrote about the Sandusky case:
There was no physical evidence or timely complaints. The alleged victims told stories based on recovered memory, a dubious process with no scientific validity. The only accuser who is not suing was McQueary, and he testified in exchange for immunity for himself. So every witness against Sandusky had a very big motive to lie. None of them told a story that could be independently corroborated.
This is now slightly incorrect, as McQueary is also suing Penn State for millions of dollars. So all of the accusers are financially profiting from their recovered memory accusations.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Liberals do not understand conservatism

Psychology professor John T. Jost has a review (free copy here) of Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory in AAAS Science magazine. They disagree because they have different theories about what makes conservatives and liberals different. Haidt has studies showing that conservatives and liberal have different values. Jost says conservatives are just stupid.

That is the magazine that brags:
Science Magazine: The world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary.
The magazine only permits liberal commentary.

Haidt writes:
I began by summarizing the standard explanations that psychologists had offered for decades: Conservatives are conservative because they were raised by overly strict parents, or because they are inordinately afraid of change, novelty, and complexity, or because they suffer from existential fears and therefore cling to a simple worldview with no shades of gray. These approaches all had one feature in common: they used psychology to explain away conservatism. They made it unnecessary for liberals to take conservative ideas seriously because these ideas are caused by bad childhoods or ugly personality traits. I suggested a very different approach: start by assuming that conservatives are just as sincere as liberals, and then use Moral Foundations Theory to understand the moral matrices of both sides. (pp. 166-167)
Jost agrees with those psychologists who try to explain away conservatism as some sort of mental inferiority.

Jost writes:
Haidt argues that the liberal moral code is deficient, because it is not based on all 5 (or 6) of his “moral foundations.” The liberal, Haidt maintains, is like the idiot restaurateur who thought he could make a complete cuisine out of just one taste, however sweet. This illustrates the biggest flaw in Haidt’s book, ... Does it really make sense, philosophically or psychologically or politically, to even try to keep score, let alone to assert that “more is better” when it comes to moral judgment?
Jost misquotes Haidt. Haidt does not say that “more is better”, or argue that any moral values are better than any other. His point is that liberals like Jost will never understand conservatism unless they recognize the moral foundations.

Jost just confirms what Haidt says.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Islam explained

If you want to know more about Islam, watch this video of Moslem scholars. They seem educated, but they say some crazy stuff:
A true lover of the Qur’an, he says, finds music repugnant, and a true lover of music could never love the Qur’an. ... Abuzaid explains why it’s highly recommended under Qur’anic dictates for men to urinate sitting down, although under certain circumstances standing is permissible.
They do not discuss jihad.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Myth of food deserts

The current AAAS Science magazine says:
Host – Edward Hurme
Food deserts, or communities where grocery stories are few and far between, may be linked to unhealthy eating and obesity. But would supplying neighborhoods with healthy options actually stop unhealthy eating and slim down the populace? In a News Story, Science news writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel examined the research designed to answer this question. Isabelle Boni spoke with her about projects in several major cities in the U.S.

Interviewee – Jennifer Couzin-Frankel
So this is an article that is about improving access to healthy foods among mostly underprivileged neighborhoods that currently lack that access. They may not have grocery stores that offer fresh produce or other healthy options like low-fat dairy and so on. And it’s about trying to change that, in the hopes of changing eating habits and eventually changing obesity rate.
The article is behind a paywall.

This is crazy. Low-fat dairy is not healthier than other foods. The high obesity rate is not caused by poor people having to drink whole milk because they have no access to low-fat milk.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dark side of the Moon

A silly letter to the editor says:
Column gets moon fact wrong

In Nick Thomas' Sept. 16 column, "Neil Armstrong goes home," he writes, "If you haven't heard that Neil Armstrong passed away ... you've probably been living on the dark side of the moon." I'd just like to point out that, in spite of the Pink Floyd album by the same name, there is no dark side of the moon. There is a far side, which is not visible from Earth, but it receives just as much sunlight as the near side. I think Mr. Thomas does Neil Armstrong a disservice by propagating this common misconception about our celestial neighbor.

Ken Grunstra, Santa Cruz
The Far side of the Moon is indeed the dark side to the Earth. The word "dark" here also means hidden, obscure, unknown, or cut off from Earth communications. If Armstrong had landed on the dark side, then he would not have been able to send video images to Earth. We also have phrases like the Dark Ages, which means a period in the Middle Ages where we have lousy historical records compared to early Roman times and later times. The Dark Ages are not called dark because of a misconception about how much the Sun was shining.

The famous Bad Astronomer also complains about the Dark Side. It is just a simple idiom.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

USA against religious freedom

In official stateements, Secretary of State H.R. Clinton:
The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.
Pres. B. Obama:
the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others
Surely religious freedom means that you are allowed to say that your own religion is better than other religions. In this case, the administration is complaining about a movie made by an Israeli Jew critical of Islam.

It has been reported that the movie triggered the attack, but that is not known. Others say that it was triggered by the 9-11 anniversary.

Update: The LA Times reports:
Administration officials have asked YouTube to review a controversial video that many blame for spurring a wave of anti-American violence in the Middle East. ...

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sharpened her criticism of the film that led to the protests. She called the film "disgusting and reprehensible" -- but said that the U.S. would never stop Americans from expressing their views, and that the movie is no excuse for violence, according to reports from the Associated Press.
Update: By way of contrast, the biggest Broadway (NY) play of the last couple of years has been The Book of Mormon. The main message of the play is to make fun of Mormons. No, the Mormons have not been rioting. They believe in free speech.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Lizard brain theory debunked

Here is another debunked theory of the mind:
Paul MacLean’s infamous “Triune Brain” theory, whose basic idea is that every human brain contains three independent competing minds – the reptile, the early mammal, and the modern primate. ...

How is it, then, that modern authors as educated as Seth Godin and Rick Hanson (among others) are writing entire essays that present “the lizard brain” as well-documented scientific fact? How does Godin keep a straight face onstage as he tells us that “the lizard is a physical part of your brain” and that “the reason we call wild animals ‘wild’ is because they have lizard brains”?
I have had people try to convince me of this theory. They say that it is scientifically proven, and would be obvious even if it were not proven.

I need to make a list of all the brain theories that are wrong, and yet widely believed anyway.

Update: Here is another wrong brain theory:
Does the Vagina Have a Consciousness?

Naomi Wolf, the famous feminist author and activist, asks that precise question in her new book, Vagina: A New Biography. ...

Among neuroscientists, howlers such as “dopamine is the ultimate feminist chemical in the female brain”, oxytocin “is women’s emotional superpower” and the vagina is “not only coextensive with the female brain but also is part of the female soul” have been making the rounds of social media.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Chomsky is like Freud

John Hawks writes:
Chomsky is quite a lot like Freud -- he has written an immense corpus, developed an idiosyncratic model of the mind, and is surrounded by a coterie of true believers. He has been the most prominent objector to the idea that language evolved as an adaptation in ancient humans. Understanding this view helps to focus attention on how we use adaptive models in biology and how they can apply to behavior.
That is harsh. Chomsky did some excellent work in linguistics, even if some of his conclusions are dubious. Freud never did any worthwhile work.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Fatness is a choice

Razib Khan posts evidence that:
The less educated and more liberal tend to think that an individual’s weight is more due to their genes than the more conservative and more educated.
Makes sense to me. Conservatives are more likely to believe that you can be the person that you want to be. Liberals have a more fatalistic view, and sometimes do not believe that we have any free will at all.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong dies

I used to wonder what would ever qualify someone to be the first man on the moon. Sure, Neil Armstrong was a superb engineer, war hero, test pilot, and astronaut. But so were many others. His obituary says:
Neil Armstrong was a quiet self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step on to the moon. The modest man who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter million miles away has died. He was 82.
Armstrong had two qualities that made him uniquely qualified. First, he was painfully shy. Becoming the most famous man in the world would not goto his head. He would never do anything to embarrass NASA.

Second, he had nerves of steel. Several times he was nearly killed, and he never lost his composure or needed psychotherapy. Here is video of him narrowly avoiding a crash. This was a man who would never panic under pressure, and never get PTSD.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Girls pursue hookup culture

Hanna Rosin writes in Atlantic monthly magazine about how young women today pursue sexual promiscuity:
America has unseated the Scandinavian countries for the title of Easiest Lay. We are, in the world’s estimation, a nation of prostitutes. And not even prostitutes with hearts of gold. ...

What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom — the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women — not men — who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future. ...

Women in the dorm complained to the researchers about the double standard, about being called sluts, about not being treated with respect. But what emerged from four years of research was the sense that hooking up was part of a larger romantic strategy, part of what Armstrong came to think of as a “sexual career.” For an upwardly mobile, ambitious young woman, hookups were a way to dip into relationships without disrupting her self-development or schoolwork. Hookups functioned as a “delay tactic,” Armstrong writes, because the immediate priority, for the privileged women at least, was setting themselves up for a career. “If I want to maintain the lifestyle that I’ve grown up with,” one woman told Armstrong, “I have to work. I just don’t see myself being someone who marries young and lives off of some boy’s money.” Or from another woman: “I want to get secure in a city and in a job … I’m not in any hurry at all. As long as I’m married by 30, I’m good.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Effects of sperm

Here is new research on how sperm controls the female brain:
A newly-discovered protein in the semen of all mammals - including humans - prompts females to ovulate through a direct effect on the brain.

Surprisingly, it's the same molecule that regulates the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells - nerve growth factor (NGF) which is found primarily in nerve cells throughout the body.

The scientists, though, say that large amounts of the protein are produced by the accessory sex glands that contribute seminal fluid to semen.

"To our surprise, it turns out they are the same molecule," says Gregg Adams of the University of Saskatchewan. "Even more surprising is that the effects of NGF in the female were not recognized earlier, since it's so abundant in seminal plasma."

NGF in the semen acts as a hormonal signal, working through the hypothalamus of the female brain and the pituitary gland. This triggers the release of other hormones that signal the ovaries to release an egg or eggs.
It was previously shown that women can be selective about sperm:
A woman's body may be unconsciously selective about sperm, allowing some men's to progress to pregnancy but killing off the chances of less suitable matches, an Australian researcher said Wednesday.

University of Adelaide professor Sarah Robertson said her research suggested that sperm contains "signaling molecules" that activate immunity changes in a woman so her body accepts it.

But some apparently healthy sperm failed to activate these changes, leading to the suggestion that the female system can be "choosy" about its biological mate, she said.
A physician site says that Assault rape pregnancies are extremely rare.

Todd Akin got into some trouble for making some related comments, but there are commonly much more ridiculous views. There are feminists who refuse to distinguish different kinds of rape, for ideological reasons. So they hate phrases like “legitimate rape”. They say that stranger rape, violent rape, date rape, and marital rape are all the same. They are the ones with the extreme views. And they say that a women claiming rape should always be believed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Focus on empathy gap

ScienceDaily reports:
Studies of how rats and ants rescue other members of their species do not prove that animals other than humans have empathy, according to a team led by Oxford University scientists.

Empathy -- recognizing and sharing feelings experienced by another individual -- is a key human trait and to understand its evolution numerous studies have looked for evidence of it in non-human animals. ...

In order to prove empathy any experiment would need to show that individuals changed their response if the circumstances changed; for instance moving away from a trapped individual if that reduced the trapped animal's distress. It would also need to disentangle empathy from acting simply to stop the trapped animal's stress signals -- something that can be psychologically selfish and does not need to involve empathy.

Solving the riddle of empathy would have important implications not just for the sciences but for philosophy and ethics. However, the team concludes scientists will have to come up with new, more rigorous studies to show that empathy exists outside of humans.
I wonder how many humans show true empathy. Bill Clinton used to say, "I feel your pain." But he may have been just saying that to get votes. A study shows that women on botox cannot empathize.

The NY Times reports on an empathy gap:
A bruising summertime campaign by Democrats to tarnish and define Mr. Romney before he could fully introduce himself has contributed to a significant empathy gap with Mr. Obama. It is a rising concern among Romney campaign advisers, who are feverishly working to find ways to persuade voters that even though Mr. Romney is not like them, he can still relate to their lives.
Obama himself is famous for lacking empathy. See here and here.

My theory is that people like to anthropomorphize animals and concoct rich explanations when lean ones suffice. They are convinced that animals have empathy, even tho no one can prove it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Freudianism as Pseudoscience

Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci has a podcast on Freudianism as Pseudoscience. They cite Frank Cioffi and others who showed that Freud was not scientific:
Mr. Cioffi’s essay, “Freud and the Idea of a Pseudo-Science,” published in 1970, was rediscovered a decade later by a cadre of thinkers challenging Freud’s theories of the mind. Delighted to have a respected logician on their side, the anti-Freudians cited the essay as one of the historic opening salvos in their war against Freudian orthodoxy. Mr. Cioffi became a sort of cult hero.

He died on Jan. 1 at his home in Canterbury, England, his nephew, Frank Cioffi, said. He was 83.

An Oxford-trained philosopher who taught at the University of Essex, Mr. Cioffi (pronounced ch-AW-fi), claimed no stake in the internecine warfare that divided Freudian analysts after the death of Sigmund Freud in 1939. He said he had simply read Freud’s famous case studies with a logician’s eye and had reached the conclusion that Freud had manipulated his patients and fudged the evidence to suit his ideas.

Mr. Cioffi’s essay on Freud was little noticed mainly because it appeared in a philosophy journal. It was further obscured by the publication that year of Kate Millett’s best seller, “Sexual Politics,” which made the feminist case against Freud (and others) for what she called his “male supremacist bias.”

But historians of science and Freud revisionists consider Mr. Cioffi’s early work to be seminal.
Frank Cioffi said:
Advances in neurology will vindicate the amorphous and figurative speculations of Freud in the same sense in which the major events of the last few centuries vindicate the prophetic powers of Nostradamus.
They point out that Freudians only abandoned their ideas about homosexuality and penis envy because they because politically incorrect, not because of any data or scientific analysis. Furthermore, exposing Freud is not new, as he was exposed as a phony in his lifetime.

At about 32:00, they start to distinguish the origin and testability of ideas. As an example, Pigliucci talks about the origin of relativity being Einstein's thought experiments about riding light waves, and deducing that the speed of light is constant.

This is nonsense. All of the main ideas of relativity were published by Lorentz and Poincare before Einstein, as explained in my book. But no need to take my word for it. Einstein said that he borrowed the constant speed of light from Lorentz.

Einstein is always the example of someone who dreamed up a revolutionary new scientific theory out of pure thought, while ignoring previous theory and experiment. For example, here is a philosopher making the argument:
But Polanyi devotes only a few pages to these matters, for his main proof depends on what he calls “the story of Relativity.” That theory was indeed taken by the positivists to show that through instrumentalist thinking Einstein had freed l9th-century physics from its metaphysical underpinnings, and thereby made the breakthrough to modern science. Polanyi correctly points out that every textbook of physics tried to present the rise of relativity as the necessary response to an experimental situation, namely the supposed null result of the Michelson-Morley experiment searching for an ether drift in l887 -- fully in accord with the sensationist or positivist view of how theories must proceed. (As well, we should add, the easiest pedagogic method of convincing students that they must take seriously what otherwise would be so counter-intuitive.) But, Polanyi declares, “the historical facts are different.”54 He noted that Einstein, in his publication, had not mentioned the Michelson-Morley experiment at all, and concludes from it that this theory was proposed “on the basis of pure speculation, rationally intuited by Einstein before he had ever heard about it.”55
No, the facts are not different. The rise of relativity was indeed the necessary response to an experimental situation. See my book for details. Or see this 1972 Herbert Dingle rebuttal. Einstein did not pay much attention to Michelson-Morley because Lorentz already invented the theory to explain it.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Preferring bad science to science lite

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
“science-lite” books that offer superficial analyses of and solutions to social problems or—most disturbing to me—superficial descriptions of scientific work.  To me, these include books like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (a page-turner, but one that left me cold), Jon Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (with its unfortunate concentration on group selection) and The Happiness Hypothesis, David Brooks’s execrable The Social Animal, Nicholas Wade’s The Faith Instinct (funded and vetted by the Templeton Foundation), and all of the books and writing of the now-disgraced Wunderkind Jonah Lehrer.

What these books have in common is a) enormous appeal to the popular mind, especially the part that wants easy answers and doesn’t want to think too hard about science, b) good writing (usually), c) a “self-help” aspect, which promises that you can improve either your life or your business by applying or recognizing a few easily-digestible bits of modern science, and d) annoyingly superficial analyses of difficult problems.
I have similarly criticized some of these books, and also more scholarly books by Pinker and Kahneman.

Coyne loses me with:
It’s not that the public can’t understand these things: popular books by Steve Gould and Richard Dawkins aren’t dumbed down, but simply present the complexities of science in wonderful prose.  Have a look at Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man if you think readers can’t grasp sophisticated statistical analyses or complex arguments. (Granted, that book has its flaws, but my point remains.)
"Flaws" is a gross understatement. Just read the Wikipedia article on The Mismeasure of Man. The book is wrong-headed at every level. It is mainly a polemic against IQ, saying that it suffers the fallacies of "reification" and "ranking", with the proof being some alleged mistakes in skull measurements by 19th century scientists. Gould was wrong about the skulls.

More importantly, his attacks on reification and ranking could be applied to the entire scientific method. His argument is that it is wrong to apply quantitative analysis to data. It is an anti-science book. It is also a dishonest book, as Gould refused to address his errors.

Coyne and his allies belongs to an ideology that seeks to destroy Christian culture and promote their own group. Notice how upset he is when NY Times writers do not toe the line. To conceal their hypocrisy, they must deny group selection and IQ. That is why they praise such a horrible book as Gould's, and praise anti-Christian writers like Pinker and Dawkins.

Update: JayMan's blog has more comments on Pinker and IQ.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Monkeys like grapes

Jerry Coyne writes:
This video is about as powerful a refutation I’ve seen of the notion that our morality is given by God rather than either evolved or a product of our culture. ... In the one I show below, two naive capuchin monkeys display what looks for all the world like a reaction to “unfairness” ... As de Waal notes, cucumbers are okay food for the monkeys, but they really like grapes (de Waal claims that monkeys like food in proportion to its price at the supermarket).
These evolutionists love to anthropomorphize animals, and to falsify religion. I watched the video, and all I see is a monkey that likes grapes better than cucumbers. Maybe he is jealous of the other monkey getting grapes, or maybe he thinks that he is morally deserving of grapes. Or maybe he just likes grapes.

I previously wrote:
I believe that there are two kinds of people on the world -- those who look for rich explanations of the behavior of others, and those who look for lean explanations. These differences become apparent whenever you talk about intentions or motivations of others.
So the lean explanation is that the monkey likes grapes. The rich explanation is that the monkey watched his fellow monkey establish a fair price for grapes, and then applied a morality requiring giving the each monkey grapes at the rate price. Most people have brains that are wired to leap to the rich explanation. They cannot accept the lean explanation, even when it is presented.

For example, I posted this test question about a talking pineapple. The test makers requred students to adopt a rich explanation of the minds of animals. The question was probably reviewed by dozens of experts, and none of them could understand that lean explanations are just as plausible. They only dropped the test problem after a public protest. I believe that this describes a mental defect that most people have.