Saturday, March 29, 2014

Helping Bangladesh a bad idea

Nate Silver has quit the NY Times, published an article on the cost of extreme weather caussed by global warming, and apologized to the global warming alarmists.

Mearnwhile, in a desperate attempt to find someone harmed by global warming, the NY Times blames us for problems on the other side of the world:
Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.

Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.

“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.” ...

At a climate conference in Warsaw in November, there was an emotional outpouring from countries that face existential threats, among them Bangladesh, which produces just 0.3 percent of the emissions driving climate change. Some leaders have demanded that rich countries compensate poor countries for polluting the atmosphere. A few have even said that developed countries should open their borders to climate migrants.

“It’s a matter of global justice,” said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and the nation’s leading climate scientist.
This is backwards thinking. Bangladesh is a dysfunctional country. Even the name sounds like some sort of wasteland, instead of a real nation. They have too many people, and they cannot even take care of themselves.
Though Bangladesh has contributed little to industrial air pollution, other kinds of environmental degradation have left it especially vulnerable.

Bangladesh relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The resultant pumping causes the land to settle. So as sea levels are rising, Bangladesh’s cities are sinking, increasing the risks of flooding. Poorly constructed sea walls compound the problem. ...

In an analysis of decades of tidal records published in October, Dr. Pethick found that high tides in Bangladesh were rising 10 times faster than the global average. He predicted that seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river — nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level — such an increase would have dire consequences, Dr. Pethick said.
The West has helped them overpopulate too much already. The world is a changing place, and so is human population. Maybe it would be a good thing if more of Bangladesh were under water. I certainly do not think that we should stop using carbon so those people can make a bigger mess of their country.

It is silly to think that some people should be compensated because they might have to move over the next century. A lot of people move every 5 years, and it is no big deal. These Third World countries are very much better off for Western industrialization. They certainly did not object, or propose to do it any differently. They benefit from better food and other goods. They should appreciate it. Industrialization was not a mistake, and there is no need to apologize for it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturated fat is good for you

For 50 years, physicians have been giving us bad dietary advice, and they never admit that they have been wrong, in spite of all the studies that prove them wrong. Here is the latest.

NPR Radio reports:
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines urge us to limit consumption because of concerns that saturated fat raises the risk of heart disease. But after decades of research, a growing number of experts are questioning this link.

In fact, the authors of a new meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine conclude that there's insufficient evidence to support the long-standing recommendation to consume saturated fat in very low amounts.

So, let's walk through this shift in thinking: The concern over fat gathered steam in the 1960s when studies showed that saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol — the bad cholesterol — the artery-clogging stuff. The assumption was that this increased the risk of heart disease.

But after all this time, it just hasn't panned out, at least not convincingly. When researchers have tracked people's saturated fat intake over time and then followed up to see whether higher intake increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, they haven't found a clear, consistent link.

In fact, the new study finds "null associations" (to quote the authors) between total saturated fat intake and coronary risk. And a prior analysis that included more than 300,000 participants came to a similar conclusion.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Man sentenced despite acquittal

Antwuan Ball was charged with a long list of serious drug dealing crimes, acquitted by a jury of everything except one $600 sale, and sentenced to 18 years in prison based on the unproven allegations. I did not know that was possible. It seems contrary to the American right to a jury trial.

Remember that if you are ever serving on a jury. If you believe that the defendant is innocent of the most serious counts, you might have to acquit him of the minor counts as well, in order to get that outcome. Prosecutors often overcharge defendants in order to get a compromise verdict and then to persuade the judge of an extra-long sentence. Do not fall for it.

There is more legal analysis.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Democrats against individualism

Ross Douthat writes in a NY Times op-ed:
In the future, it seems, there will be only one "ism" -- Individualism -- and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected; as for patriotism, it shall be abandoned; as for strangers, they shall be distrusted. Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide -- and the greatest of these will probably be Facebook.

That's the implication, at least, of what the polling industry keeps telling us about the rising American generation, the so-called millennials.
I don't see it. Here in California, the state is ruled by Democrats, and they are dominated by SWPLs, Jews, blacks, Latinos, and Asians. Each of those just votes the interests of his own ethnic group. Except the SWPLs, pronounced swipples, who have somehow been convinced that rainbow politics requires being anti-white. The San Fran newspaper reports:
Three Asian American state senators - including San Francisco's own Leland Yee - are asking fellow lawmakers to shelve a measure aimed at allowing California's public universities to once again consider race in admissions.

The idea behind the proposed constitutional amendment is to make more room for Latinos and African Americans, who have been falling behind in admissions in recent years.

But it appears that rainbow politics goes only so far.

Yee said he had heard - loud and clear - from Asian Americans who fear that undoing the ban on affirmative action in college admissions would hurt their children's chances of getting into the highly competitive University of California system.
Bill Clinton is a SWPL, and he has advocated affirmative action as a way of preventing California universities from having too many Asians.

California used to be largely Republican, and much more individualist. But it has been transformed by immigrants, and they have brought cultures that are anti-individualist.

Update: Yee was arrested and charged with several corrupt practices.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Religion of the Cathedral-PC-Progressive Left

I’ve composed a list of dogmas that define the religion of the Cathedral-PC-Progressive Left.

Any suggestions?

1) Poverty causes crime.
2) Progress is inevitable.
3) Greed and hate are the roots of all evil.
4) People can be born gay but they can’t be born violent or stupid.
5) Race and gender are social constructs but racism and misogyny are ever-present social realities.
6) There is no such thing as human nature, natural law, the natural order, or normal human behavior.
7) The only human action that can be judged is judging others.
8) Diversity is strength.
9) No culture is superior to any other culture.
10) All religions are equally valid.
11) There are no significant behavioral or biological differences between different groups of people. Stereotypes result from irrational biases and prejudices. Inequality results from oppression or luck.
12) There is no such thing as a harsh truth. Any statement that offends someone is false.
13) Happiness is the natural human condition. Misery always results from injustice or mental illness.
14) MLK and Nelson Mandela are the greatest human beings to ever walk the Earth.
15) Universal acceptance of these dogmas is the key to the perfectibility of the human race. People who question them should be smeared as enemies of progress, censored as hatemongers, fired from their jobs, burned as heretics, or sent to re-education facilities.
I am not sure about the usage of "Cathedral" here. It suggests some sort of rigid doctrine that is mandated by our elites and must not be questioned.

The above is not any ordinary religion, as no genuine religious believer would ever argue that all religions are equally valid. And yet if a politician were to say that his religion is superior, then he would be branded a bigot.

A. J. West defends the Cathedral:
Here's a big problem for HBD-ers to resolve.  For thousands of years, western European societies were full of superstition, religion, religious bigotry, and religious (and other) violence.  To be a heretic, or to agree with heresies or heretics, was sufficient cause for arrest and brutal murder, meaning that religious belief and religious orthodoxy were actively selected for.  To disagree with the imposition of the death sentence for a heretic, to seem unorthodox, to not rejoice at the discovery and burning of witches - all of these could lead to execution.  This went on for hundreds of years, was extremely widespread, and was strongly selected for.  This is the kind of selection that, if such things were possible, would certainly lead to higher levels of superstition or religious hatred encoded at some genetic level.

Western Europe nowadays, of course, is one of the least religious, least violent, and least superstitious places on the planet.  Murder rates in most of western Europe hover around 1 in 100,000 and a tiny proportion of the European population is killed deliberately by another person.  The death penalty is entirely absent from Europe (aside from Belarus) and torture and witch burnings are no longer practiced.

This all changed incredibly quickly, within a couple of hundred years, and it happened in clear and obvious defiance of strong selective pressures to conform to the prior pattern of violence.  Natural selection in favour of such things meant nothing in the face of expanding trade, strong states, reason, improving hygiene, and the expansion of knowledge about the universe.
This is nonsense. Europeans were not executed for those things. Yes, some witches were executed, but they could have been mentally ill, and killing them might have improved European genes.

More to the point, Christianity is the least superstitious religion on Earth. Christianizing Europe had everything to do with it becoming less violent and less superstitious. There was no strong selection pressure for greater violence, unless it can be shown that violent criminals had more offspring. I doubt it. Criminals were punished. It sure seems to me that the Europe was selecting for a more civilized people, while other continents were less effective at it.

Religion is not the same as superstition. Japan has been called the least religion nation on Earth, but it is very superstitious, as Tsunami's Ghosts Haunt Japanese Earthquake Survivors. And most of the leading anti-religion avowed atheists contend that true atheism requires various leftist political dogmas.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mindreading is a stage in child development

What is the essence of humanity? What makes us unique among animals? Some have argued that it is natural language, like English. Spoken, heard, written, etc. I might agree with that. Others argue, bizarrely, that it is mindreading.

Mindreading is the communication by means other than natural language. It typically means deducing someone's intentions or feelings from facial expression, tone of voice, posture, and other clues, and not from the information content of the actual words.

NewScientist reports:
You had me at "Hello"! It turns out our opening words speak volumes – people take less than a second to form an impression of someone's personality based on their voice alone.

We know that our voices can transmit subtle signals about our gender, age, even body strength and certain personality traits, but Phil McAleer at the University of Glasgow and his colleagues wondered whether we make an instant impression. To find out, they recorded 64 people as they read a passage. They then extracted the word "hello" and asked 320 people to rate the voices on a scale of 1 to 9 for one of 10 perceived personality traits – including trustworthiness, dominance and attractiveness.

Although it's not clear how accurate such snap judgements are, what is apparent is that we all make them, and very quickly. "We were surprised by just how similar people's ratings were," says McAleer. Using a scale in which 0 represents no agreement on a perceived trait and 1 reflects complete agreement, all 10 traits scored on average 0.92 – meaning most people agreed very closely to what extent each voice represented each trait.

It makes sense that decisions about personality should happen really fast, says McAleer. "There's this evolutionary 'approach/avoidance' idea – you want to quickly know if you can trust a person so you can approach them or run away and that would be redundant if it took too long to figure it out."
You might regard this as a nasty and annoying prejudice, These perceptions are notoriously unreliable. People think, for example, that they that tell whether someone is telling the truth by looking into his eyes, but experiments show that they cannot.

A Freakonomics broadcast:
A psychology professor argues that the brain's greatest attribute is knowing what other people are thinking. And that a Queen song, played backwards, can improve your mind-reading skills.
Nicholas Epley elaborates:
DUBNER: So you argue in the book, and I’ll quote you to yourself, “Your brain’s greatest skill is its ability to think about the minds of others in order to understand them better.” ... What makes you say that?

EPLEY: Well if you look at what makes human beings unique from our closest primate relatives, for instance, we have big brains, we’re really smart, but where we’re really smart is in our social senses, in our social smarts. So there was an enormous experiment conducted a handful of years ago by some researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and what they did was they compared 105 human toddlers against 106 adult chimpanzees and their ability to solve certain kinds of problems. One group of these problems were physical kinds of problems like your ability to use a tool for instance to achieve a goal, or your ability to track where a reward was placed under some cups. And our toddlers were doing just about as well as the chimpanzees. That is they were neck and neck in reasoning about physical objects. But then there was another class of questions. These were questions that really required some mind-reading, required some social sense. So these were the social tests where for instance you had to trick the gaze of another person to know what they wanted, to know what their goal was, or your ability to understand someone else’s intention just by watching their behavior. And on these social tasks, on these social kinds of questions, our two-year-old toddlers were crushing the competition. Our kids were solving far more of these question correctly than our adult primate relatives were. And that’s, I think, just one piece of evidence that suggests that this is what our brains were really meant to do. We are one of the most social species on the planet. We live in some of the biggest social networks of any organism on the planet. And what separates us from others, what allows us cooperate, and to compete, and to build things collaboratively is our ability to connect with the minds of others, to know what their intentions are, what their motives are, to anticipate what they’re going to do next, to know who knows what, for instance.
It is true that humans are much more social and cooperative than apes, but maybe this mind-reading is just a stage in child development. It is certainly useful for a toddler who has not learned to talk yet.

But once a child learns to verbal intentions, and to understand the verbally expressed intentions of others, what is the value in the mind-reading guesswork? The kid can learn to say he wants food if he wants food.

It is commonly argued that mindreading is essential for adults also. Wikipedia says "nonverbal communication represents two-thirds of all communication." But this is just a silly myth, as this article explains:
93% of communication is non-verbal. Everyone knows that, don' they?

I've lost track of the number of times I've heard this in sales training sessions or read it in books, articles and blogs. Sometimes the stats are qualified further, for example:

"One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by the nonverbal communication".

Sounds impressive.

The trouble is - it's not true.

Let's think about it for a minute - how can you possibly get 93% of the communication without the words? If you watch a foreign-language film, and watch the body language and listen to the vocal tones - can you really understand 93% of it? I certainly can't.
This blog post is 100% verbal communication. I am not trying to convey any hidden messages that require reading in between the lines. Those who apply mindreading are likely to misunderstand me.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fatwa against all-you-can-eat

A Saudi Arabian site reports:
The cleric, Saleh al-Fawzan, recently issued a fatwa through a kingdom-based Quranic TV station prohibiting open buffets, saying that the value and quantity of what is sold should be pre-determined before it is purchased.

“Whoever enters the buffet and eats for 10 or 50 riyals without deciding the quantity they will eat is violating Sharia (Islamic) law,” said Fawzan on al-Atheer channel.
I am adding this to my list of reasons to avoid Islamic law.

I am happy to say that you can still eat burgers like this in America.

While we don't have fatwas, you might get cheated on a large beer at a hockey game:
When the couple attended an Idaho Steelheads minor league hockey game in Boise’s CenturyLink Arena, they found that the ‘regular’ size beer they bought actually held the same volume of brew as the ‘large’ size. They decided to shoot and post a video demonstrating that the $4 regular beer (listed as 16 oz.) nearly filled the entire $7 large beer cup (listed as 20 oz.). In the video Gibbs can be heard off camera saying, “It’s the same beer. Seven dollars, you just get a taller cup.”
Update: A lawyer is now seeking a class-action lawsuit over the beer cups having the same beer.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Parents not bluffed by scare stories

A published Pediatrics study attempted to figure out what persuades parents to vaccinate kids:
METHODS: ... Parents were randomly assigned to receive 1 of 4 interventions: (1) information explaining the lack of evidence that MMR causes autism from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; (2) textual information about the dangers of the diseases prevented by MMR from the Vaccine Information Statement; (3) images of children who have diseases prevented by the MMR vaccine; (4) a dramatic narrative about an infant who almost died of measles from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet; or to a control group.

RESULTS: None of the interventions increased parental intent to vaccinate a future child.
We should be encouraged by consumers not being fooled by unscientific and anecdotal pressure tactics.

A better experiment might have been to present parents with actual evidence that the benefits of vaccination exceeds the risks, or with recommendations by an open and neutral panel of experts. But the pediatricians are unable or unwilling to do that. (A CDC panel does recommend the vaccines, but it is neither open nor neutral. It has secret meetings and it is controlled by vaccine industry lobbyists.)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Many overrated movies in 2013

The hot movies of 2013 seemed to be docudramas like The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Lone Survivor, and 12 Years a Slave. All of these were based loosely on historical facts, but ruined by fictionalizing crucial parts of the stories. The slave movie got the best picture oscar even tho the voters did not necessarily watch it. Apparently they felt obligated to endorse the anti-racism message.

It appears that the public is attracted to a movie "based on a true story", but then the movie makers just rewrite the story to suit their artistic preferences. I think that all of these movies would have been better if they stuck to the facts. I would rather see a purely fictional story, than a gross misrepresentation of the truth.

Other big winners were Gravity and Her. The chief appeal of Grevity was supposed to be its visual realism. It gave the appearance of scientific accuracy, but it had numerous misrepresentations. The main purpose of the movie seemed to be to mock the idea of using female astronauts, as the one in the movie was a bumbling incompetent from beginning to end.

I previously argued that Her is boring. The only thing of interest was the artificial intelligence, but much better AI is in movies made decades ago.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Atheists say they are born that way

MSNBC TV news host Touré Neblett just said, on a TV discussion of C-PAC:
I think you'd agree that atheism and being gay are totally different because you choose to be an atheist and being gay is who you are and how you were born. You can't change that and you shouldn't be asked to change that to remain ...
He says that as if it is an obvious truism, but leading atheists argue otherwise. For exxample, a popular atheism web site explains:
Do People Choose to be Atheists? ...

Personally, I tend very strongly towards involuntarism. I try to explain to evangelists that I do not in fact “choose” atheism. Instead, atheism is the only possible position I can have given my present state of knowledge. I can no more “choose” to just believe in the existence of a god than I can “choose” to just believe that the computer on my desk doesn’t exist.
Leading New Atheist Sam Harris wrote a book on how it is not a choice. Richard Dawkins refuses to say, and gives conflicting views here and here.

Other prominent atheists also deny that it is a choice.

On the other hand, there is no proof that being gay is inborn or unchangeable. Here is the latest attempt:
The Bailey paper claims to have found large segments of chromosomes containing hundreds of genes that are common in gay men. The researchers admitted they couldn’t find any specific “gay genes.”

Last year, a paper in a relatively obscure journal also caused a public stir for saying just the opposite.
For a survey of the evidence, see Biology and sexual orientation.

If you don't believe that something like religion or atheism could be heritable, see this recent book review:
Perhaps the main reason that scientists don’t think these psychological and attentional differences simply reflect learned behaviors — or the influence of cultural assumptions — is the genetic research. As Hibbing et al. explain, the evidence suggests that around 40 percent of the variation in political beliefs is ultimately rooted in DNA. The studies that form the basis for this conclusion use a simple but powerful paradigm: they examine the differences between pairs of monozygotic (“identical”) twins and pairs of dizygotic (“fraternal”) twins when it comes to political views. Again and again, the identical twins, who share 100 percent of their DNA, also share much more of their politics.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Race is real

Here is an early review of a new book:
“Human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional.” With these heroic words, New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade opens fire on two of the obligatory myths of our time: that there is no such thing as race, and that human evolution stopped in the Stone Age. ...

Mr. Wade notes that the early peddlers of race-is-a-myth, such as Ashley Montagu (the stylish name British-born Israel Ehrenberg chose for himself), were clearly trying to distort science for political purposes, and that more recent peddlers, such as Jared Diamond and Steven Jay Gould have done the same thing.

The physical differences we see in human groups reflect separate evolutionary paths that led to unmistakably biological differences. Hunter-gatherers left Africa about 50,000 years ago, and once they wandered into all of earth’s habitable spaces, they stayed put and bred with their neighbors. DNA testing shows there was essentially no crossing until the modern era. For tens of thousands of years, independently breeding populations developed distinct genetic patterns.

Mr. Wade explains that the physical traits of populations are dramatically and consistently different even though there are very few alleles, or gene variants, that occur exclusively in only one group. This is because most traits are influenced by many genes. Norwegians, for example, need have only a preponderance of Norwegian-style alleles in their genes in order to give birth exclusively to Norwegians—and never to Malays or Pakistanis. As Mr. Wade puts it, “The fact that genes work in combination explains how there can be so much variation in the human population and yet so few fixed differences between populations.”
The obsolete idea that genetic diversity disproves race as a scientific concept is known as Lewontin's Fallacy.

I did not know that Montagu changed his name, but I see that he was Jewish, just like Diamond, Gould, and Lewontin. Judaism is the most racially-obsessed religion in the world. Just look at how Israel deports Africans.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Stenger defends New Atheism

Atheist-physicist Victor J. Stenger writes a defense of New Atheism:
Indeed, one of the common themes of New Atheism is to persuade scientists, the majority of whom are atheists, to play a larger role in many contested issues that affect the future of humanity on this planet. ...

We would be a thousand years further along in the scientific quest had it not been interrupted when, in the fourth century of the Common Era, the Catholic Church assumed control of the Roman Empire and plunged Europe into the Dark Ages. Only with the Renaissance, when free thought once again became possible, did a new science develop that led to the modern world. ...

The principles of New Atheism, as I see them to have been elucidated in the new atheist literature, are:

1. We should seek the “end of faith” because it is at best worthless and at worst harmful to believe without evidence, and downright dangerous to believe despite the evidence.

2. Religious claims – whether about the world or about human morality and ethics — should be studied scientifically and not be given a free pass from criticism.

3. Religion should be studied scientifically and not be given a free pass from criticism.

4. Religion “poisons everything.”

5. There not only is no evidence for God, there is ample evidence against the existence of a God, such as the Judaic-Christian-Islamic God, who plays and important role in the universe and in human life.

6. Yet, the situation is not hopeless. Surveys indicate that the tide is turning against theism, especially among the young who are the future.
When the new atheists take sides on those contested issues, it is usually on the left-wing side. For example, Jerry Coynes latest post is outlaw private possession of handguns. There is no science to back up the opinion.

The history lesson is a little distorted. If Christianity was so "dark" and contrary to scientific progress, then why did Christian Europe so rapidly pass up non-Christian civilizations in China, India, Persia, Egypt, Central America, etc.?

Catholics have never claimed that teachings be given a free pass from criticism.