Sunday, February 26, 2006

Museum images of Mohammad

LA Times reports:
While lethal riots persist in the Middle East and American cartoonists and editors wring their hands over what it means to publish pictures of Muhammad, the Western world's curators of Islamic art whisper and wonder.

As they understand it, the Koran does not forbid representations of Muhammad, though other revered texts have led millions of Muslims to scorn the idea. They know that many Islamic artists have taken on the subject. And they know that pictures of Muhammad -- not caricatures, but respectful representations, executed by and for Muslims, sometimes with the prophet's face shrouded by a veil, sometimes not -- can be found in museums throughout Europe and North America. ... The largest collection of such images, experts say, is probably that of the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul.
This is more evidence that Islam does not forbid images of Mohammad.

George writes, "So why are they rioting?"

They are rioting because they believe in forcing infidels to submit, and they will not tolerate disrespect.

Thomas L. Friedman writes:
People across the world still look to our example of pluralism, like no other. If we go Dark Ages, if we go down the road of pitch-fork-wielding xenophobes, then the whole world will go Dark Ages.
Only Mohammedans want to go back to the Dark Ages.

Psychotherapy is unscientific

Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips writes:
Psychotherapy is having yet another identity crisis. It has manifested itself in two recent trends in the profession in America: the first involves trying to make therapy into more of a "hard science" by putting a new emphasis on measurable factors; the other is a growing belief among therapists that the standard practice of using talk therapy to discover traumas in a patient's past is not only unnecessary but can be injurious. ...

If you have an eye test, if you buy a car, there are certain things you are entitled to expect. Your money buys you some minimal guarantees, some reliable results. The honest psychotherapist can provide no comparable assurances. She can promise only an informed willingness to listen, and the possibility of helpful comment.
He thinks that psychotherapy can become useful without being scientific.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Quantify the risk

The Emergent Chaos blog cites this story:
The district court expressly rejected the expert testimony because "the affidavit of plaintiffs' expert conclusorily posits that plaintiff's risk of identity fraud is significantly increased without quantifying the risk."
The judge has a point. Most statements about risk are meaningless because the risk is not quantified.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Teaching kids to eat

Alice Waters writes:
Schools should not just serve food; they should teach it in an interactive, hands-on way, as an academic subject. Children's eating habits stay with them for the rest of their lives. ...

We can try to improve diets all we want by making school lunches more nutritious and by getting vending machines out of the hallways, but that gets us only partway there. For example, New York City has just banned whole milk in its public schools. It's a courageous first step, but how can we be sure students will drink healthier milk just because it's offered to them, let alone understand what lifelong nourishment is all about?
Teaching nothing would be better than teaching nonsense. It is ridiculous to teach that school lunches become more nutritious by banning whole milk.

Europeans not marrying

British news:
The proportion of children born outside marriage in the UK has leapt from 12% in 1980 to 42% in 2004, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In contrast, 15 other EU countries had an estimated average of 33%, the annual ONS' Social Trends report said.
Sweden and France had the highest rates.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Italian rape law

CNN reports:
ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- Sexually abusing a teenager is less serious a crime if the girl is not a virgin, Italy's higher court said on Friday in a controversial ruling that immediately drew a barrage of criticism. ...

The supreme court is no stranger to controversial judgments.

In recent years it has ruled that "an isolated and impulsive" pat on a woman's buttocks at work did not constitute sexual harassment, and returned a verdict that a woman could not have been raped because she was wearing skin-tight jeans.
Feminist dogma says that all rape is the same, but I don't agree. I say that raping a virgin is a worse crime than raping a slut, and stranger rape is worse than date rape, and almost any rape is worse than marital rape.

Monday, February 20, 2006

No free speech in Austria

Austria news:
VIENNA, Feb. 20 (AP) ? The British historian David Irving on Monday pleaded guilty to denying the Holocaust and was sentenced to three years in prison. He conceded that he was wrong when he said there were no Nazi gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp.

Mr. Irving, 67, has been in custody since Nov. 11, when he was arrested in the southern province of Styria on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis' annihilation of six million Jews. He has contended that most of those who died at camps like Auschwitz were not executed, but instead succumbed to diseases like typhus.

I wonder how the Europeans will explain this to the Mohammedans who are upset about Danish cartoons. Wouldn't it be a lot easier just to prove that Irving was wrong?

School bans game of tag

Fox News reports:
A Santa Monica elementary school has banned the game of tag, once synonymous with youth and innocence, because they say it creates self-esteem issues among weaker and slower children.

"We had some children who were not playing 'it' appropriately. How do you differentiate between those that are playing correctly and those that aren't?" asked Franklin Elementary School Principal Pat Samarge.
I wonder how they ever decide to approve anything.

Warning foreign women about American men

Wendy McElroy writes:
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), signed by President Bush on January 5th, contains an almost unnoticed attachment. Subtitle D, also known as the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBA), will become law when VAWA is enacted. ... the IMBA requires American men who wish to correspond with foreign women through private for-profit matchmaking agencies to first provide those businesses with their police records and other personal information to be turned over to the women.

An international broker cannot provide contact or general information on a foreign woman to an American man unless that broker first collects and discloses to the woman the following information about the man:

--every state of residence since the age of 18;
--current or previous marriages as well as how and when they terminated;
--information on children under 18;
--any arrest or conviction related to controlled substances, alcohol or prostitution, making no distinction on arrests not leading to conviction;
--any court orders, including temporary restraining orders which are notoriously easy to procure;
--any arrest or conviction for crimes ranging from "homicide" to "child neglect";
--any arrest or conviction for "similar activity in violation of Federal, State or local criminal law" without specifying what "similar" means.
This is another silly nanny state law. I don't know why anyone wants to give foreigners more rights than Americans. When an American women goes out on a date with a man, no one requires the man to notify her of his arrest record.

Maybe that's next. If so, the law ought to be made more sex-neutral and provide pertinent info to the man, such as current or previous pregnancies as well as how and when they terminated.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Kids influencing parents

NY Times reports:
Today, though, the gender gap -- that men lean right and women lean left -- has become a political truism, and a series of new studies suggests that gender plays an even bigger role in politics than many believed. Having a son tends to make parents more conservative, it appears, while a daughter makes them more liberal. The parental has become the political.
Steven E. Landsburg says that daughters cause divorce.

These statistics are curious because it would seem that correlation implies causation. It wouldn't necessarily mean that liberal politics is better for girls, but might mean that people have that perception.

Americans on sleeping pills

NY Times reports:
With complaints of insomnia mounting, and marketing by drug companies becoming ever more ubiquitous, we are turning in increasing numbers to drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. According to a recent report from the research company IMS Health, pharmacists in the United States filled some 42 million prescriptions for sleeping pills last year, a rise of nearly 60 percent since 2000.
This is about 1 out of every 6 adults. I had no idea that so many people take sleeping pills.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hockey team loses

Andy writes:
Here we go again. The men's Olympic hockey team can be expected to be lousy, thanks to Title IX quotas. But the women's Olympic hockey team should be great, right, with all the new "opportunities" for women created by Title IX?

Nope. Title IX quotas are bad for women as well as men, because it distorts funding to a quota-based, numeric system.

Our women's hockey team was beaten by the mighty nation of Sweden last night.
The Swiss men's team is on a roll, beating the Czechs and Canada.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Enemies of Larry Summers

More sniping at Harvard:
Over lunch not long after Summers took over the presidency in 2001, Ellison said, Summers suggested that some funds should be moved from a sociology program to the Kennedy School, home to many economists and political scientists. "President Summers asked me, didn't I agree that, in general, economists are smarter than political scientists, and political scientists are smarter than sociologists?" Ellison said. "To which I laughed nervously and didn't reply."
Ellison is an anthropologist who was trying to hold onto some power as a Harvard dean. The Czech physicist Motl says:
In a debate with the ex-dean Ellison, the president made a remark that seems absolutely obvious to The Reference Frame - namely that the economists are smarter, in average, than the political scientists who are smarter, in average, than the sociologists. In my opinion, there can't be any reasonable doubt about the first statement and the second statement is likely to be true.

The economists represent the only field in the list that tries to study the true mechanisms that are actually relevant for the society by scientific methods - methods that attempt to be as sharp and quantitative as possible. These methods should be based on actual research as opposed to philosophical preconceptions. And sometimes they even have scientific results. If you allow me to add an example, the Czech President is an economist and one of the brightest people in the nation.

The other fields are as non-quantitative as possible and they are satisfied with vague or even scientifically vacuous verbal proclamations. It's almost always the case that the scholars in these other fields become prominent because they say something that is politically convenient for sufficiently large groups of people. The selection in social sciences is political, not scientific, in nature.
Yes, and you'll find much smarter people in the hard sciences.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Math needs new image

The Si Valley paper says:
The Bush Administration wants to make math and science cool.

Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. Commerce Secretary, visiting Silicon Valley and Stanford University on Wednesday, said that along with President Bush's recently announced American Competitiveness Initiative, there needs to be a change in American culture -- to embrace inventors and scientists, in the same way Americans worship athletes or pop stars.

Gutierrez was in the valley to promote the competitiveness initiative, a 10-year, $136 billion program. Bush unveiled the plan in his State of the Union address last month. It calls for a doubling in federal funding for basic research in physical sciences, money for improving math and science education in elementary and secondary schools, and a permanent extension of the research and development tax credits for companies.

The proposal also includes starting a "Math Now" program to promote math among elementary and middle school students.
Meanwhile, on the op-ed page in the same paper, Richard Cohen says:
I confess to be one of those people who hate math. I can do my basic arithmetic all right (although not percentages) but I flunked algebra (once), ...

Sooner or later someone's going to tell you that algebra teaches reasoning. This is a lie propagated by, among others, algebra teachers. Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not. The proof of this, Gabriela, is all the people in my high school who were whizzes at math but did not know a thing about history and could not write a readable English sentence. I can cite Shelly, whose last name will not be mentioned, who aced algebra but when called to the board in geography class, located the Sahara Desert right where the Gobi usually is. She was off by a whole continent.
Apparently Cohen never learned what a proof is, as getting a location wrong says nothing about reasoning.

I've always wondered how Cohen could make such idiotic argument. His columns are widely published, and he appears on TV a lot. And yet, I don't think that I've ever heard him give a well-reasoned argument. His column explains a lot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Shared parenting

Various states are considering child custody reform. For example, here is a recent Michigan proposal. The idea is that the legislature would require the family courts to start with a rebuttable presumption of shared child custody in divorce cases.

The opposition comes from lawyers, feminists, and others. The lawyers don't like shared custody because it reduces the need for litigation. They'll argue that every case is individual and that judges need maximum discretion because then lawyers are needed for a high-stakes court dispute. The feminists want women to be in charge and to get more support payments, and they get that when mothers get primary custody. Various others profit from a bias towards mother custody, because it maximizes the transfer payments.

There are also some conservatives who oppose shared custody, and that is harder to understand. I will look at specific arguments from them. (These arguments are taken directly from a private letter, but I am not at liberty to post it.)

Argument: Most parents do not split responsibilities 50-50.

It is certainly true that mothers change most of the diapers, but parental responsibilities encompass much more than that. If a father works two jobs to support his family, and doesn't play patty-cake with his kids all afternoon, then are you going to say that he is not living up to his responsibilities?

In my experience, most parents do split their parenting responsibilities fairly evenly. They don't take identical roles, for various reasons, but they both contribute in crucial ways. It is only by devaluing the father's role could anyone say that the mother performs 85% of the parenting responsibilities.

Argument: Shuttling kids is not conducive to order and stability

The order and stability that kids crave is having two parents who are integral parts of their lives. They are much more attached to their parents than their beds. Those who argue for mother custody often talk about how a child may be attached to her toys and dolls, but the argument depends on the notion that a child's attachments to some material things is more important that her attachment to her parents. They are not.

Some divorced parents hand off their kids daily; some do it weekly; and some use other schedules. Shared parenting does not have to necessarily follow any particular schedule. Some schedules actually involve less shuttling that the typical mother custody arrangement in which the father gets visitation every other weekend.

Sometimes there are complaints about the "dangers of lost homework", but the empirical evidence is that kids do better in school when fathers share custody, than when raised by single mothers. Problems coordinating things like homework are relatively minor compared to the enormous gains from having both parents actively raising the kids.

Argument: Shared custody is not in the best interest of the child

Some argue that judges need the discretion to award custody in the child's best interest, and that is usually not shared parenting. Anyone who thinks that judges are making decisions based on the best interest of the child (BIOTC) is delusional. BIOTC is just a buzz phrase that courts use to justify doing whatever they want to do. I defy anyone to show me one single case in the USA that was actually decided based on BIOTC.

I happen to be an expert in optimization theory. To determine the BIOC, one must, as a minimum: identify the interests of the children; adopt a methodology for measuring and consolidating those interests into a best interest; define the range of custody alternatives; and evaluate and compare those alternatives according to the consolidated best interest. These things are never done by the family court.

Argument: Fathers should get liberal visitation

This is perhaps the most offensive argument. Use of this language shows a refusal to accept fathers as having a true parenting role. Some mothers just want fathers to be visitors (and financial providers). They will let them be occasional babysitters, but not be the father figures that kids really need.

Children do best when they have a mother and a father, and when both the mother and father have genuine parenting roles.

Argument: Even Dobson's Focus on the Family is against shared parenting

James Dobson's Focus on the Family does indeed have a position paper against shared parenting. It is not clear exactly what the status of this position paper is, as it is undated, unsigned, unpublished, and not on Dobson's web site. I assume that the paper is authentic, but it may include views that Dobson is unwilling to put his reputation behind. You can find the position paper here, along with a good rebuttal by Dr. Fink.

As you can see from Dr. Fink's rebuttal, Dobson relies heavily on discredited research from Judith Wallerstein. Wallerstein's so-called research has done a lot of damage. She wrote (about her own work): "Research by Drs. Judith Wallerstein and Joan Berlin Kelly revealed that approximately 50 percent of mothers either saw no value in the father's contact with his children and actively tried to sabotage it, or resented the father's contact." (Wallerstein, Surviving the Breakup, HarperCollins, 1996, p.125).

Similar opinions by Wallerstein persuaded the California supreme court in 1996 to allow custodial parents (usually the mothers) to move their children permanently away from the fathers for just about any reason. Her arguments to the court are rebutted here: The Burgess Decision and the Wallerstein Brief, by Richard A. Gardner. M.D., Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 26(3):425-431, 1998.

Contrary to Wallerstein's opinions, the scientific research studies show overwhelmingly that shared custody works better than mother custody. Dobson's paper tries to down play Bauserman's meta-analysis because of non-uniformity in the cited studies, because some of the cited studies were unpublished Ph.D. theses, and because some of Bauserman's other research has been disturbing. But Bauserman's results have been confirmed by everyone who has looked. See for example, Father and Child Reunion by Warren Farrell (Penguin, 2001). Farrell looked at studies that tried to measure child custody outcomes a dozen different ways, and found that shared parenting did better than mother custody on every single one. He persuasively explains just why fathers are so important to their children.

It is baffling how any pro-family organization could be against shared parenting. The law should minimize the incentives for divorce, and it should help maintain family relationships to the extent practical. With today's unilateral divorces, any spouse can get divorced at any time for any reason, but there is no reason why the court should step in and effectively divorce the kids from one of the parents.

Conservatives should also oppose the intervention of judges into routine child-rearing decisions. That is what usually happens now when there is a custody trial or any other court procedure that is supposedly based on the BIOTC. Conservatives should favor leaving those decisions in the hands of the parents. And I mean both parents. The courts should not interfere unless there is criminal child abuse or something like that. Conservatives are adamantly against government interference in child-rearing by a married couple, and they should similarly object to interference with a divorced couple. The surest way to accomplish that is to have a statutory presumption of 50-50 custody.

Even the US Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that parents have a fundamental constitutional right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. This was reaffirmed as recently as 2000 in Troxel v. Granville.

In sum, a presumption of shared custody is the best way, whether one looks at empirical evidence, conservative values, or what is good for children.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Secret Cause of Flame Wars

Wired reports:
According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I've only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they've correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time.

"That's how flame wars get started," says psychologist Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago, who conducted the research with Justin Kruger of New York University. "People in our study were convinced they've accurately understood the tone of an e-mail message when in fact their odds are no better than chance," says Epley.

The researchers took 30 pairs of undergraduate students and gave each one a list of 20 statements about topics like campus food or the weather. Assuming either a serious or sarcastic tone, one member of each pair e-mailed the statements to his or her partner. The partners then guessed the intended tone and indicated how confident they were in their answers.

Those who sent the messages predicted that nearly 80 percent of the time their partners would correctly interpret the tone. In fact the recipients got it right just over 50 percent of the time.
Epley has his theory for how people could be so mistaken. My theory is that most people falsely believe that they have mind-reading capabilities.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Arguments against profiling

John Allen Paulos gives mathematical arguments against profiling, and why we should pass gun control laws instead.
He also gives legalistic constitutional arguments, where he is a little out of his field.

Security expert Bruce Schneier frequently gives arguments against profiling. Here he attacks the related idea of issued preferred IDs to certain airline passengers in the Trusted Traveler program.

These arguments are fallacious. I wonder how these guys think that law enforcement officials ever catch anyone, if they cannot make any tentative conclusions about who is suspicious.

One argument says that security, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest link. So unless everyone is treated the same, the bad guys will just act like whomever is the least suspicious, and therefore minimize the chance of getting caught.

The flaw is that not all strategies are equally available to the bad guys. Some people are a lot easier to recruit for criminal acts than others.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Genes influence reading skills

Psychology research:
Genetics can play a bigger role in determining a child's reading ability than teaching, an Australian researcher says.

An international study showed some children were born with "an unfortunate deal of the genetic deck" when it comes to reading skills, said study co-author Brian Byrne, professor of psychology at the University of New England in northern NSW.

No "magic bullet" of encouragement and tutoring would fully improve their reading abilities, he said.

Published in the latest issue of the British-based Journal of Research in Reading, the study showed the influence of parents reading to their children diminished significantly a year or so after they started school. ...

The research examined more than 600 pairs of identical and non-identical twins in Australia, the United States, Norway and Sweden from different racial and socio-economic backgrounds.

Byrne said bed-time stories early in a child's life, encouragement to read and remedial teaching would never totally make up for a child's genetic "bad deal".
I don't think that bed-time stories are really intended to make up for a genetic bad deal.

Sex is what women want

The New York Daily News reports:
Gone are the times when women became starry eyed if their lovers gifted them flowers, emotional cards or chocolates on Valentine's Day. A new poll suggests that ladies today prefer to move straight to the bedroom and forgo all the nuances of a mushy courtship.

More than 52 percent of American women said they wanted to have sex on the most romantic day of the year, according to a survey sponsered by a condom company.

While 45 percent were looking for a greeting card, 41 percent were hoping for flowers and a surprisingly low 30 percentcounting on chocolates. ...

The craving for some Valentine's Day action was highest among younger women, with 76 percent of those 18 to 34 saying they wanted sex, compared with just 24 percent of those older than 55, according to the poll, paid for by LifeStyles condoms.
We need more research done by condom makers.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Boys dominate big kiddie movies

AP reports:
LOS ANGELES - Male characters outnumbered females 3-to-1 overall in top-grossing G-rated films from 1990 to 2004, according to a study whose sponsors say the disparity diminishes the importance of women in children's eyes.

"We're showing kids a world that's very scantly populated with women and female characters," said actress Geena Davis, founder of See Jane, a program of the advocacy group Dads & Daughters that encourages balanced gender representation in entertainment for children.
John sarcastically suggests that "Dads & Daughters" may be a feminist group in disguise.

He might be right. A group called Dads & Daughters should have a dad as a spokesman, not a Hollywood actress. My daughters find plenty of movies for children with female role models. For example, they like movies like Cinderella, Shirley Temple movies, The Wizard of Oz, and Eloise at Christmastime. The leading child actor is Hollywood today is a girl named Dakota Fanning.
"It's important for what kids watch that as far as possible, they see the real world reflected, to see men and women, boys and girls, sharing the space," said Davis, co-star of the female-empowerment film "Thelma & Louise" and star of TV's "Commander in Chief" in which she plays the U.S. president. "They should see female characters taking up half the planet, which we do."
There are several Geena Davis movies that I'd recommend, but not those. The female empowerment in Thelma & Louise is murder and suicide, and is not a good example for my kids. I watched a couple of episodes of Davis's TV show, and she seemed like a lousy president to me. She was unable to control her own staff, and at the same time, she was recklessly committing to ill-considered overseas military adventures.
Joe Kelly, co-founder of Dads & Daughters, said as much as he loves "Toy Story," the study made him think about the movie differently. The movie has a positive message about two characters -- Tom Hanks' Woody and Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear -- overcoming their differences and working together, but it does have a flaw, Kelly said.
Toy Story was obviously created to appeal to both boys and girls. The main (human) character is a boy who plays with dolls, and the dolls spring to life when no one is watching. It seemed like a clever compromise to me. If the movie had been about a girl who plays with dolls, then it would have immediately lost 50% of the market.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Koran allows cartoons

Amir Taheri writes in a WSJ op-ed:
There is no Quranic injunction against images, whether of Muhammad or anyone else. When it spread into the Levant, Islam came into contact with a version of Christianity that was militantly iconoclastic. ... and the claim that a ban on images is "an absolute principle of Islam" is purely political.

The claim that the ban on depicting Muhammad and other prophets is an absolute principle of Islam is also refuted by history. Many portraits of Muhammad have been drawn by Muslim artists, often commissioned by Muslim rulers. ...

The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists. Muhammad himself pardoned a famous Meccan poet who had lampooned him for more than a decade.
I believe that most of the news stories are incorrect when they try to describe the motives of the Mohammedan cartoon protesters. They shouldn't try to read minds, and certainly not Mohammedan minds.

Low-fat diet is worthless

Gina Kolata writes:
The largest study ever to ask whether a low-fat diet reduces the risk of getting cancer or heart disease has found that the diet has no effect. ... those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes as those who ate whatever they pleased, researchers are reporting today. ...

"These studies are revolutionary," said Dr. Jules Hirsch, physician in chief emeritus at Rockefeller University in New York City, who has spent a lifetime studying the effects of diets on weight and health. "They should put a stop to this era of thinking that we have all the information we need to change the whole national diet and make everybody healthy." ...

For decades, many scientists have said, and many members of the public have believed, that what people eat -- the composition of the diet -- determines how likely they are to get a chronic disease. But that has been hard to prove. Studies of dietary fiber and colon cancer failed to find that fiber was protective, and studies of vitamins thought to protect against cancer failed to show an effect.
Supposed experts have been telling us for years that eating fat was bad, and that eater fiber is good, for various reasons. In fact, there is very little scientific evidence that any American diet is better than any other.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cult of political correctness

Peter A. Lawrence wrote an essay on Men, Women, and Ghosts in Science, but it was ideologically unacceptable:
An academic row has erupted after one of the world's leading scientific journals refused to publish an article which claims that men and women think differently. ...

In his paper, Mr Lawrence questioned why, when 60 per cent of biology students are female, only 10 per go on to become professors. ...

But Mr Lawrence dismissed "the cult of political correctness" that insists men and women are "equivalent, identical even" and argued that "men and women are born different".

The journal considered the article for seven months and, after making a number of changes, gave Mr Lawrence a publication date, proofs and a chance to order reprints.

But at the last minute he received an e-mail from Donald Kennedy, the editor-in-chief, in which he said that the journal was not going to publish the article.

The piece "did not, at least for us, lead to a clear strategy about how to deal with the gender issue," said Kennedy. ...

Science is reeling from having published two papers that contained the most notorious fraud of recent years, Prof Hwang Woo-Suk's human embryonic stem cell research.

Over two years ago, the journal was also criticised for trying to influence a Congressional debate by publishing a widely reported paper linking the drug ecstasy to brain damage, which was subsequently retracted.
Actually, the article does give suggestions for how to deal with the "gender issue". He says:
Some have a dream that, one fine day, there will be equal numbers of men and women in all jobs, including those in scientific research. But I think this dream is Utopian; it assumes that if all doors were opened and all discrimination ended, the different sexes would be professionally indistinguishable. The dream is sustained by a cult of political correctness that ignores the facts of life -- and thrives only because the human mind likes to bury experience as it builds beliefs. Here I will argue, as others have many times before, that men and women are born different. ...

I have argued that reducing the premium we give to aggression would, in several different ways, lead to more women in science and also to better science. Even so, in this Utopia, I think that far less than 50% of top physicists would be women (and far less than 50% of top professors of literature would be men). But I don't think that would matter -- we would be making better use of the diverse qualities of people. Both women and men might accept that although there is much overlap in the two populations, we are constitutionally different -- a diversity we should be able to celebrate and discuss openly. Both women and men should be leading such discussions with pride.
What the editors don't like is his statement that the "dream is Utopian". Martin Luther King had a dream, and no one likes to be told that his utopian dream is impossible.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Penetrative intercourse only

UK news:
New Scientist magazine reports that Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley, found having sex can help keep stress at bay.

However, only penetrative intercourse did the trick - other forms of sex had no impact on stress levels at all. ...

Dr Brody found that the effect remained even after taking differences in personality and other health-related factors into account.

He told the BBC News website it was possible the calming effect was linked to the stimulation of a wide variety of nerves which takes place during heterosexual intercourse, but not other forms of sex. ...

Professor Brody said it made sense in evolutionary terms for standard heterosexual sexual intercourse to be associated with a wide range of positive effects on behaviour.

He said: "A growing body of research shows that it is specifically intercourse, and not other sexual behaviours, whether alone or with a partner, that is associated with a broad range of psychological and physiological benefits.
I'd be skeptical, like "Dr Peter Bull", but apparently there are other studies with similar results.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Detecting liars

NY Times Magazine says:
Most people think they're good at spotting liars, but studies show otherwise. A very small minority of people, probably fewer than 5 percent, seem to have some innate ability to sniff out deception with accuracy. But in general, even professional lie-catchers, like judges and customs officials, perform, when tested, at a level not much better than chance. In other words, even the experts would have been right almost as often if they had just flipped a coin.
The article has much more about the science of lie detection.

This is yet another example of how most people suffer from delusions that they can read other peoples' minds. They cannot.

Convicted and exonerated

Here is some data on Americans who are falsely convicted. No one who has been executed in recent decades was later shown to be innocent. Joshua Marquis says:
Only 14 Americans who were once on death row have been exonerated by DNA evidence alone. ... In the Winter 2005 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, a group led by Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, published an exhaustive study of exonerations around the country from 1989 to 2003 in cases ranging from robbery to capital murder. They were able to document only 340 inmates who were eventually freed. (They counted cases where defendants were retried after an initial conviction and subsequently found not guilty as "exonerations.")
This is an extremely small rate of exonerations, and the rate is likely to go down in the future. Only in the last 10 years have DNA exonerations been possible because the DNA evidence was not available at trial.

Common sense would indicate that many more innocent people are convicted. Human beings are fallible. Judges, juries, prosecutors, cops, and others have various biases. But there is no hard data showing that a significant number of people are falsely convicted.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Embassies burn in cartoon protest

BBC news:
Syrians have set fire to the Norwegian and Danish embassies in Damascus to protest at the publication of newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Protesters stormed the Danish site amid chants of "God is great", before moving on to attack the Norwegian mission.
This just confirms the cartoons, and gives more evidence that there is a Mohammedan jihad against the civilized world.

Some people say that we should be tolerant of these Mohammedans, because any criticism risks alienating the moderate moslems who might be friendly to American values. I disagree. Our society depends on being able to publish political cartoons without fear of violence. If there are moderate moslems who agree, then I hope that they will distance themselves from the rioters.

George writes:
What if a newspaper made fun of Jesus? You act like Islam is the only source of violence, but Christianity burned some witches at the stake in the Middle Ages.
These analogies are silly. Making fun of Jesus is far more blasphemous than making fun of Muhammad, because Christians believe that Jesus was God. And yet NBC just aired a TV series called The Book Of Daniel that made fun of Jesus. No one rioted. They just didn't watch it, and the show was cancelled.

This article claims that about 40k European witches were burned between 1400 and 1800. I don't know about that, but no Christians today endorse that. Meanwhile, check out for facts about the Mohammedan Jihad today.

There are also some fake cartoons that the Mohammedans are circulating.

Mohammedan blasphemy

NY Times story:
Many Muslims consider it blasphemy to print any image of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, let alone a cartoon that ridicules him.
I doubt that. If it is blasphemy, then how would the muslims even know what Muhammad looked like?

It may be blasphemy to worship Muhammad as a god, but not to ridicule him.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Brown v Yana

California Family law says:
7501. (a) A parent entitled to the custody of a child has a right to change the residence of the child, subject to the power of the court to restrain a removal that would prejudice the rights or welfare of the child.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to affirm the decision in In re Marriage of Burgess (1996) 13 Cal.4th 25, and to declare that ruling to be the public policy and law of this state.
I thought that this meant that a parent who shares legal custody is subject to a court hearing before moving the child away from the other parent. But the California supreme court just ruled in Brown v Yana:
Thus, while sections 3006 and 3007 recognize the general right of a parent with sole custody to supervise and make decisions regarding a child's residence and education, section 7501, fairly read, contemplates that even a parent with sole legal and sole physical custody may be restrained from changing a child's residence, if a court determines the change would be detrimental to the child's rights or welfare.
Not only does section 7501 undermine any notion of a custodial parent's absolute right to relocate with a child, but so does the lack of any California decision supporting such a proposition.
Furthermore, it ruled that the noncustodial parent has no right to a hearing.

So the parents have no rights in the matter. In this case, the boy ultimately got his way by refusing to board the plane!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

NYC banning whole milk

NY news:
But children today are fat, or at least too many of them are, and to cut the risks of obesity, diabetes and other health problems, New York City -- the nation's largest school district -- has decided to cut whole milk from the menu. ...

One percent and skim milk, though historically less popular, will still be served, and, to the great relief of many young palates, chocolate skim milk will remain an option in most schools, ...
This is more proof that a lot of people have kooky ideas about nutrition. My local school only serves 1% milk. Claiming that chocolate skim milk is healthier for kids than whole milk is a little strange.

Addicted to oil

John writes:
SOTU headline: Bush says Americans are "addicted to oil" -- which is like saying Americans are addicted to economic growth. (transcipt)

On the one hand Bush takes credit for promoting economic growth. OTOH, he disparages oil consumption, which is the inevitable byproduct of that growth.

Complaining that we import oil from "unstable parts of the world," Bush set a goal by 2025 of replacing 75 percent of U.S. oil imports from the Middle East.

This is strange in a speech that also warned against the "false comfort of isolationism" ("In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline")

Wouldn't it be "isolationism and protectionism" to replace cheaper imported oil with higher-priced domestic energy? Of course it is.

If the U.S. reduced or even eliminated oil imports from the Middle East, that would accomplish nothing so long as our trading partners (Europe, Japan and China) continued to buy their oil from the Middle East, as they surely would.

Can anyone explain this incoherent nonsense about oil, coming from Bush and Cheney who supposedly represent the oil industry?
Maybe he wants to distance himself from the oil industry, or to promote nuclear power.