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.