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.