Friday, December 31, 2010

Cavemen ate cooked beans

Science news:
Scientists have upgraded their opinion of Neanderthal cuisine after spotting traces of cooked food on the fossilised teeth of our long-extinct cousins.

The researchers found remnants of date palms, seeds and legumes – which include peas and beans – on the teeth of three Neanderthals uncovered in caves in Iraq and Belgium.

Among the scraps of food embedded in the plaque on the Neanderthals' teeth were particles of starch from barley and water lilies that showed tell-tale signs of having been cooked. ...

Piperno said the discoveries even raised the possibility that male and female Neanderthals had different roles in acquiring and preparing food. ...

"In early human groups, women typically collected plants and turned them into food while men hunted. To us, and it is just a suggestion, this brings up the possibility that there was some sexual division of labour in the Neanderthals and that is something most people did not think existed."
So I guess that somebody had a theory that the Neanderthals got wiped out because the men were not smart enough to have their women cook their vegetables for them. And now it has been debunked.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Decline of empathy

SciAm reports:
Because according to an article in Scientific American Mind magazine, analysis of surveys of college kids reveals that self-reported empathy has been dropping for the last 30 years. And empathy really took a nosedive in the last 10 years. [Jamil Zaki, What, Me Care?] ...

The good news is that if empathy can go down, it can also go back up.
This decline was noted before, along with confusion about what the word means. Wikipedia has a long list of definitions for empathy.

Pres. Barack Obama is famous for lacking empathy, but also for wanting to appoint judges with empathy, and for blaming 9/11 on an absence of empathy in the terrorists.

I am wondering why everyone assumes that empathy is a good thing. If psychologists can measure whether it is going up or down, then they ought to be able to measure whether it is making us better or worse off. Where's the evidence? If it is good, then why is it that the upper classes don't want it? I suspect that high empathy measurements are correlated with an assortment of psychological problems.

Update: Some name-calling haters posted some comments on Nov. 30, 2012. Many of them did not notice that I have sources to back up what I say.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hornets' nest of revolutionary feminism

The London Telegraph reports:
Details of the finances of Wikileaks came as Mr Assange said he had signed books deals of $1.5 million (£970,000) for his autobiography in order to fight sexual assault charges in Sweden and keep his organisation in business. ...

In the interview, Mr Assange said he regarded himself as a victim of Left-wing radicalism. "Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism," he said. "I fell into a hornets' nest of revolutionary feminism."
I will look forward to his story being posted on a free website. The world needs to know what happened to Sweden, because other Western countries are heading in that direction.

The Merck manual includes this feminist propaganda:
Typically, rape is an expression of aggression, anger, or the need for power rather than sexually motivated. About half of women who are raped are physically injured.
If people really believed this, then maybe they would ignore rape allegations where the man is sexually motivated and the woman is not physically injured. But, of course, that is not what the Swedish feminists want.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Testing babies for mindreading

SciAm reports that babies can read minds:
Babies as young as seven months old may be able to take into account the thoughts and beliefs of other people, according to a paper published December 23 in Science. Called "theory of mind," this ability is central to human cooperation.

The finding provides evidence for the earliest awareness in infants so far of others' perspectives, says lead author Ágnes Kovács, a developmental psychologist at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. The research team made the discovery by measuring a simple behavior -- how long infants stare at a scene -- in experiments that did not require infants to explicitly assess others' thoughts or predict their actions.
Others are not convinced, such as this comment:
Um, I don't buy this one at all; first, it's not OTHER PEOPLE'S 'minds' they are reading, so right away it is totally flawed. 2nd, how you get from watching Smurf cartoons to mind reading or whatever you tag it is completely beyond me. Also way too many variables, way to many 'adult' assumptions about a 6 month old brain's method of processing visual information. Also way too many environmental variables that could have been manipulated to allow any credence to this 'study'.
I'm sorry, but even the conceptual context of mind reading is pathetic, as we know we don't read minds, we read articles about screwy experiments with bizarre conclusions.
Am I the only one still shaking their head over this one?
I am shaking my head also. There are probably simply explanations than baby mindreading.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reducing to logic

Logicism is the idea that mathematics is reducible to logic. Not every believes it, such as Steve Landsburg, who says:
Principia Mathematica, to which Russell had devoted ten years of his life, was his (and co-author Alfred North Whitehead’s) audacious and ultimately futile attempt to reduce all of mathematics to pure logic. It is a failure that enabled some of the great successes of 20th century mathematics. ...

Russell wanted to derive all of mathematics from pure logic, but there was one mathematical fact that defied his every effort — namely the fact that there are infinitely many natural numbers. ...

Aside from dissatisfaction with the Theory of Types and the Axiom of Infinity, there were a couple of other nagging questions left unsettled, though. First: Could all of mathematics be derived from Russell and Whitehead’s logical system? Surely some of it could (though not always easily — R and W notoriously required hundreds of pages to reach the conclusion that 1+1=2) — but could all? And second: Could the Russell/Whitehead system be proven to be free of logical contradictions? The Russell Paradox had been excised by the Theory of Types, but could one exclude the possibility of other paradoxes lurking in the background?

Russell was surely hopeful on both counts. Kurt Godel, the logician of the millennium and the man who would dash those hopes, was four years old in 1910.
Russell is just as famous for having a goal of world peace. Now that is a goal that is impossible! But he was much more successful with his logicist goals.

The introduction to Principia Mathematica states 3 goals: (1) to effect the greatest analysis with the fewest axioms, (2) to use precise and convenient notation, and (3) to solve the paradoxes of set theory. It seems to me that they achieved these goals admirably. It says a couple of pages later that an object of the work is "the complete enumeration of all the ideas and steps in reasoning employed in mathematics".

Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorem is sometimes alleged to undermine logicism because it shows that no particular axiomatization of mathematics can decide all statements. Nevertheless, all of mathematics has been reduced to logic. And that certainly includes everything Godel did, and everything in published math journals.

Update: Here is some typical nonsense about the book:
Ms. REHMEYER: Well, it certainly has not been forgotten. It's been very influential. But the interesting thing is it's been influential in a kind of unexpected and, in some ways, sort of tragic way.

The book kind of laid the seeds for its own undoing. About 20 years later, a German mathematician named Kurt Godel used what Russell and Whitehead had done in the Principia to show that it actually couldn't do what it aimed to do, that it couldn't contain all of math, that there would be true mathematical statements that were not logical consequences of the axioms that it set out.

And that really, it was completely shocking, and it completely transformed our understanding of what math fundamentally is.

So the interesting thing about it is, on the one hand, it kind of destroyed the whole project, and on the other hand, Godel couldn't have come to that conclusion without the work of the Principia. So it kind of ate its own tail in a funny way.

And in a certain way, at this point, one of the biggest contributions of the book is that it laid the groundwork for computation, even though that was not in Russell or Whitehead's mind at all. Computers had barely been conceived of at that point.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Decline of sympathy

According to the Books Ngram Viewer, usage of sympathy,empathy can be compared. Sympathy has been declining since 1900. Empathy has been slowing rising since World War II. Empathy might have caught up with sympathy, except that the trend stopped in 2000.

I think that the rise of empathy comes from mindreading psychologists. The Wikipedia article on empathy lists about 15 definitions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bad church ethics

Today's bad advice:
Dear Annie: My husband and I belong to different churches. He's been a member of his for 50 years, and I've been with mine for 30.

He was recently hospitalized, and someone from his church came to visit, as did my pastor. But when I spoke to my pastor, she said she did not think it was good church ethics to pray for a non-member, so she didn't pray for my husband during his illness. ...

Dear Disappointed: Talk to your pastor, and explain how upset you were ...
What's wrong with this picture? (1) Not belonging to her husband's church, (2) a female pastor, (3) church ethics, (4) having to preach to her own pastor, and (5) expecting a pastor to change beliefs just because a member is upset.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lack of gay science

Here is today's advice column:
Dear Margo: ... Is there something I might say when people (uninvited) tell me that my sexuality is all a matter of my choosing and deciding? — Michelangelo

Dear Mike: I, like you, have about had it with people who have "decided" that homosexuality is a choice or an "alternative lifestyle." This thinking is flat-out ignorant of both science and human nature. I think a fairly gentle way to make your point would be to ask, "So tell me. How old were you when you decided to be straight?" Or: "Can you imagine there's anything that could turn you into a homosexual?"
The trouble with these questions is that people have answers for them. Try asking them yourself. Many people will recite vividly the instant and circumstances in which they decided to be straight. They saw or did something that made a very strong impression.

It is also known that normally heterosexual people will sometimes behave homosexually under some circumstances, such as in prison or some other single-sex environment. That is what Kinsey and others have said.

The science blogs are all celebrating the end of Don't ask, don't tell, but they do not cite any scientific evidence either. AP says:
With an end to the ban, "no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay," Obama said in a statement. "And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love."
No, they are not asked to lie. The whole point of the DADT policy was not to ask them to lie.

Also, another AP story says:
Gay rights activists say the complications and uncertainties are being overblown.

"Only three steps are needed to assure a smooth and quick transition to open gay service," Belkin said. They are: an immediate executive order from Obama suspending all gay discharges; a few weeks to put new regulations in place; then immediate certification to Congress that the new law will work.
Here is the real hazard of the new policy. Family newspapers are now printing stories quoting gay activists talking about "being overblown" and "suspending all gay discharges". I miss DADT already.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No free speech in French territory

AP reports:
FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (AP) - A court has found an 84-year-old businessman guilty of condoning a crime against humanity for praising slavery during a TV interview and sentenced him Wednesday to pay a fine of nearly $10,000.

Alain Despointes made the comments at a moment when the French Caribbean territory was convulsed by protests over high prices and low wages and by resentment that the primarily white, "beke" descendants of slaveholders control much of the local economy. ...

"Historians exaggerated the problems a bit. They talk above all about the bad aspects of slavery," he said in the documentary. "But there were good aspects, too ... There were colonizers who were very humane with their slaves."
All human behavior has good and bad aspects. France makes it a crime to state an obvious truth.

The consequence of such laws is that people of Mantinique will conclude that there were good aspects to slavery that they are not allowed to learn for political reasons. They are likely to suspect that slavery was better than it actually was.

Where I live, a protester can get kicked out of a public meeting for giving a Nazi salute, that is being reconsidered:
SANTA CRUZ - An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed an earlier ruling from the court, ordering a trial judge to reconsider Robert Norse's free-speech lawsuit against the city of Santa Cruz.

Norse, a longtime City Council agitator and advocate for the rights of homeless people, claims his free speech protections were violated when he was ejected from a City Council meeting in 2002 after raising a Nazi salute. Norse was arrested for disrupting the meeting and refusing to leave, although the charges were later dropped.
Among some people, calling your political opponent a Nazi is considered an acceptable debate tactic.

Google search is not objective

A lot of people believe that Google search results from objective algorithms. In fact the operation is hand-tuned, as the UK Register explains:
Google's utopian vision of a uniquely democratic and completely objective web search engine is dead. It died about three years ago. While no one was looking, Google killed it.

Google now freely admits that its search algorithms are driven by its own "opinion." ...

Even Google's own employees continue to believe in the objectivity myth. "It's important to remember that our search results are generated objectively and are independent of the beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google," Lucinda Barlow, head of corporate communications for Google Australia, said as recently as last January.

For years, this is the way Google officially described its search results. ...

According to Cutts, Google changed its documentation in 2007 after a pair of federal courts ruled that the company's search results were protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which covers "free speech." ...

Google argues that its search engine is protected in the same way a newspaper is protected.
Google search has never been objective. Google pretends to be using an objective algorithm when it is accused of favoritism, but it admits to being opinion-based in court.

Meanwhile, I prefer Yahoo search.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Empathy is for the lower classes

MSNBC reports:
Upper-class people are less adept at reading other people's emotions than their lower-class counterparts, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

“We found that people from a lower-class background – in terms of occupation, status, education and income level – performed better in terms of emotional intelligence, the ability to read the emotions that others are feeling,” says Michael Kraus, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral student in psychology at the University of California, San Francisco.

In other words, if you’re looking for a little empathy, you’re more likely to get it from a poor person than a rich one (just ask Bob Cratchit).
Here is the abstract.

Empathy is usually considered a good thing. But this study suggests that it is more of a quality for the lower classes. The higher-class folks don't need it and don't want it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Iraq exterminates Christians

The NY Times reports:
QOSH, Iraq — A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country’s security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them.

The flight — involving thousands of residents from Baghdad and Mosul, in particular — followed an Oct. 31 siege at a church in Baghdad that killed 51 worshipers and 2 priests and a subsequent series of bombings and assassinations singling out Christians. ...

Iraq’s leaders, including Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, have pledged to tighten security and appealed for tolerance for minority faiths in what is an overwhelmingly Muslim country. ...

More than half of Iraq’s Christian community, estimated to number 800,000 to 1.4 million before the American-led invasion in 2003, have already left the country.
There is no such thing as tolerance for minority faiths in a Muslim country.

Supposedly there was some tolerance during the 10th century rule of Spain under the Caliphate of Córdoba. I am skeptical. Islamic law required Christians and Jews to pay a special dhimmi tax. The Spanish Christians eventually kicked the Mohammedans out, and I presume that they had good reason.

There are lots of Christian countries today that tolerate Moslems, but no Moslem countries that tolerate Christians. Even when the USA occupies a Moslem country, we cannot get them to tolerate their native Christians.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Unscientific fingerprint evidence

The NY Times reports:
Researchers have found a way to mathematically calculate the rarity of a fingerprint.

Although fingerprints are unique to every individual, crime scene prints are usually incomplete patterns taken off doorknobs or glass. ...

Today, forensic scientists make this call without the aid of technology.

“They might find hundreds of prints at a crime scene, and right now the analysis is done intuitively by human examiners,” Dr. Srihari said. “But we can calculate that.”
This is news? FBI criminologists have been giving bogus fingerprint testimony for decades. The Federal Rules of Evidence say:
Rule 702. Testimony by Experts

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.
If the "forensic scientists" are making their calls without technology, then they are not scientists, and they are not following FRE 702. Their testimony should be inadmissible.

Making mathematical calculations to assess the reliability of fingerprint evidence is not difficult. Other countries do it. It is a scandal that American prosecutors do not. Jurors should be trained to reject any evidence from witnesses who refuse to give any measure of its reliability.

Here is a typical court justification
of sloppy fingerprint evidence:
In Baines , the defendant-appellant challenged a fingerprint analyst's expert methodology. The district court held the expert opinion testimony of fingerprint analysis relevant and reliable, noting that the subjectivity of the analysis goes to the "weight of the evidence, not its admissibility," and that the weight of the evidencecould be attacked during trial. After conducting a Daubert review of the record, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the admissibility of the expert witness based on his technical knowledge. The court emphasized that an independent scientific method to verify fingerprint analysis would be "all to the good. But to postpone present in-court utilization of this 'bedrock forensic identifier' pending such research would be to make the best the enemy of the good."
This is ridiculous. The research is available. The prosecution just prefers to avoid it, if they can get away with it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Discriminating against animals

A Democrat politician complains about health regulations that discriminate between people and animals. The NY Times reports:
In October, Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, complained to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that its policy on human thyroid patients was creating dilemmas for patients, some of whom are sent home immediately after radiation treatment to households with children or pregnant women.

Now, Mr. Markey is pointing out that the rules are much stricter for house pets, even though they usually get radiation doses 90 percent to 98 percent smaller than the ones given to humans. On Thursday, he plans to ask the commission to revisit the regulations. ...

“With our veterinary patients, I can’t control where they salivate, urinate or defecate,” said Dr. Debra Gibbons, the chief of the nuclear medicine service at Colorado State University’s veterinary teaching hospital in Fort Collins, Colo.

“I can tell you to go to the bathroom,” she added. And humans can be told not to sleep in the same bed with another person, or not to cuddle people who might be vulnerable, including children or pregnant women.

“Animals, especially cats, do not follow directions well,” Mr. McIntyre said.
We should not need a veterinary professor to justify distinguishing between people and animals.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Swedish sluts accuse Assange

Sweden has a reputation for being a feminist heaven, and for having the sluttiest women in Europe. All a man has to do is to visit a bar, buy a woman a drink, tell her what she wants to hear, and she will go to bed with him. Especially in the winter, when it is too cold to do anything else. Now we are learning about the dark side to this culture.

The NY Times reports:
Now Mr. Assange, an Australian who is currently in Britain, faces an extradition request from Swedish prosecutors who want to question him on whether separate sexual encounters he had with each of the women became nonconsensual after he was no longer using a condom. Mr. Assange has denied all wrongdoing. ...

But Swedish women, backed by a strong consciousness of women’s rights and a history of a very public discussion of the scourge of sexual violence, may be more willing than most to look to the law for help.

The number of reported rapes in Sweden is by far the highest in the European Union, according to the European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics, which cites 53 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants. Britain has the next highest rate, at 24 per 100,000.

Stefan Lisinski, a veteran crime reporter for the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said he spent between a third to half of his time writing about sexual crimes. Last month a senior police chief was convicted of rape in a high-profile appeals case.
You can read more in How two one-night stands sparked a worldwide hunt for Julian Assange and Interpol puts Assange on most-wanted list.

Or better yet, read the Roissy description. He details the absurdity of the charges, and says:
Sweden leads the way in this fembot festival of absurdity, but the other Western (white) nations are not far behind. China will catapult to superpower status this century, not least because they have their heads on straight and see modern feminism for the productivity and innovation sapping insanity it is.
It will be interesting to see whether any American feminists disavow this nonsense.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Rejecting multicultural liberalism

Razib Khan usually posts about genomics, but now he explains why he does not call himself a liberal:
I believe that Islam-critics, from the unhinged neocon Right to the ultra-secularist New Atheist fringe are correct in many of their critiques of the nature of the Muslim subcultures of the West, and the barbarism of Islamic culture more generally. The word “barbaric” makes many people wince, and it’s not really acceptable in “polite” company (the company which I generally keep), but I don’t have a good word handy. I don’t believe that we should invade Saudi Arabia so that women can drive and not need to wear the abaya. I find it barbaric, and personally objectionable, but it does not rise to the level of something like slavery or genocide.

Among many liberals these sorts of assertions are ludicrous on their face. You can’t generalize about a whole religion like that. I think this is hypocrisy, as American Left-liberals regularly generalize about white Protestants (or quasi-Protestants, like Mormons). Not only that, they express snobbish disdain for the genuine kernels of truth which lay the seed for the paranoia on the xenophobic Right. Reality is complex, but when there are truths to be faced which are not congenial to the narrative of White Male Oppressor, the truth becomes very simple and stark.

Generalizations which shed a negative light on White European civilization are acceptable (if debatable) in polite Left-liberal society. For example, it is common to assert that Western civilization in the years before 1000 A.D. was barbarous, boorish, and primitive. This is a fashionable assertion as an inversion of the narrative of superiority which once reigned supreme. Of course, it ignores the real exceptions such as the Carolingian Renaissance, or Ireland before the Vikings. It invariably pretends as if the Byzantines did not exist.
As usual, he has hard data to back up his opinions. His friends are liberals, but they cannot bring themselves to admit that a major religion is dominated by barbaric beliefs.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Muslims supporting al Qaeda

The LA Times reports:
According to the survey, majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria would favor changing current laws to allow stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion. About 85% of Pakistani Muslims said they would support a law segregating men and women in the workplace.

Muslims in Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria and Jordan were among the most enthusiastic, with more than three-quarters of poll respondents in those countries reporting positive views of Islam's influence in politics: either that Islam had a large role in politics, and that was a good thing, or that it played a small role, and that was bad. ...

Despite an overall positive view of Islam's growing role in politics, militant religious organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah spurred mixed reactions. Both groups enjoyed fairly strong support in Jordan, home to many Palestinians, and Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based. Muslim countries that do not share strong cultural, historical and political ties to the Palestinian cause, such as Pakistan and Turkey, tended to view Hezbollah and Hamas negatively.

Al Qaeda was rejected by strong majorities in every Muslim country except Nigeria, which gave the group a 49% approval rating.
You can find more detailed data in the Pew report.

None of this will surprise anyone who has studied the Koran or Mohammedan history. It means that if a country is democratic and predominantly Muslim, then it will adopt barbaric practices. They cannot and will not separate religion from politics. And hundreds of millions of them will support terrorist organizations.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Legalizing child porn lowers abuse rates

Child pornography is one of the most harshly punished of American laws. You can serve a long prison sentence without any criminal intent or harm to a victim. Here is another view:
Could making child pornography legal lead to lower rates of child sex abuse? It could well do, according to a new study by Milton Diamond, from the University of Hawaii, and colleagues.

Results from the Czech Republic showed, as seen everywhere else studied (Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sweden, USA), that rape and other sex crimes have not increased following the legalization and wide availability of pornography. And most significantly, the incidence of child sex abuse has fallen considerably since 1989, when child pornography became readily accessible – a phenomenon also seen in Denmark and Japan.
There are other reasons for banning child porn. But the assumption that it reduces child sex abuse appears to be faulty.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

When boys dress like girls

A NY Times columnist writes:
When a 5-year-old Kansas City boy decided he wanted to be Daphne from the Scooby-Doo cartoon series for Halloween, his mom bought him the costume. While the boy’s friends liked the pink velvet dress and orange wig costume, some of the mothers at his school expressed disapproval.
The mom posted a ridiculous picture of the poor kid with the caption my son is gay. The mom seems to subscribe to a gay gene theory.
But on the same CNN program, a clinical psychologist, Dr. Jeff Gardere, accused the mom of “outing” her son by posting the photo on the Internet. “With all due respect, whether your child is gay or straight, I think you kind of outed him by putting him in the blog,” Dr. Gardere said.

The mother responded that her son has not been “outed,” because nobody knows the child’s sexual orientation. “First of all, he’s 5 years old,” she said on the program. “He’s made no sexual conscious choice — which I don’t believe it is (a choice) — but he’s made no overtures either way at the age of 5. I feel that people are reading into it in a negative way.”
As far as I know, there is no proof that a sexual orientation is determined by age 5. Nearly all human behaviors are known to be a complex combination of nature and nuture. The mom has been brainwashed into some nonsense opinions. Her views are the logical consequences of silly propaganda from psychologists and others. She argues that the girly costume was the boy's choice, that the boy has made no choice, and that no choice is possible. So why all the arguments about choice?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Psychologists keep reversing themselves

Psychology Today article
quotes a 1966 Time magazine article:
The once widespread view that homosexuality is caused by heredity, or by some derangement of hormones, has been generally discarded. The consensus is that it is caused psychically, through a disabling fear of the opposite sex. The origins of this fear lie in the homosexual’s parents. The mother – either domineering and contemptuous of the father, or feeling rejected by him – makes her son a substitute for her husband, with a close-binding, overprotective relationship. Thus, she unconsciously demasculinizes him. If at the same time the father is weakly submissive to his wife or aloof and unconsciously competitive with his son, he reinforces the process. To attain normal sexual development, according to current psychoanalytic theory, a boy should be able to identify with his father’s masculine role.
Psychology Today then says:
Today, in 2010, we know, through a large number of careful behavior genetic studies of twins, many of which have been conducted by Mike Bailey himself, in collaboration with his colleagues and students, that male homosexuality is almost entirely caused by a combination of genes and prenatal hormones. The so-called “gay genes,” which are yet to be sequenced but are probably located in the region Xq28 on the X chromosome, are one factor that strongly influences male sexual orientation. The other is the level of androgen to which the male fetus is exposed inside his mother’s womb. The greater the prenatal androgen exposure, the more likely the fetus is to become homosexual, which is why the number of older brothers is a significant predictor of male sexual orientation. The more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be homosexual. The current scientific consensus in 2010 is that, between the genes and prenatal androgen exposure, by the time he is born, a boy is either gay or straight, nothing in between, in his sexual orientation. 
The author goes on to say that this proves that science is not cumulative, and that we may go back to believing in the Flat Earth.

No, real science does not flip-flop with the politics of the day like this. Only sloppy soft sciences like psychology do that. There is no genetic or hormonal explanation for sexual orientation, as described here. You should be suspicious when you read of "gay genes which are yet to be sequenced". All the genes have been sequenced as part of the human genome project. These sex theories keep getting reversed because they have no solid science behind them.

The idea that anyone went back to believing in a flat Earth is just a myth promoted by evolutionists to make fun of Christians. The myth is not true.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Blaming kids for their parents

College athletic teams are able to limit their payments to athletes by making NCAA agreements to require all college to adhere to the same limits.

The LA Times reports:
“In the Reggie Bush case, when the parent [did] something inappropriate the kid and the school suffered,” Haden said. ...

“I was always told the parent is the child,” Haden said. “That’s what we’ve been telling our kids. If the parent does something inappropriate the child suffers the consequences.” ...

Haden questioned the premise that student-athletes should be held liable for their parents’ actions.

"Our kids are 18, 19, 20 years old,” he said. “Are they really responsible for their parents’ behavior?”
It is a little strange to punish Bush's college for something his father did five years ago, and when that father's action was just "inappropriate" and not illegal or contrary to contract.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Psychologists redefine craziness

The NY Times reports:
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (due out in 2013, and known as DSM-5) has eliminated five of the 10 personality disorders that are listed in the current edition.

Narcissistic personality disorder is the most well-known of the five, and its absence has caused the most stir in professional circles.
Meanwhile, there is A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sleepwalking libel case

A UK paper reports:
Even the judge was taken aback when a jury awarded €10million (£8.51million) to a company boss who sleepwalked naked to a female colleague's bedroom.

Wealthy Donal Kinsella won the biggest libel award in Ireland's history.

He had sued the mining company he worked for over a press release it put out in the aftermath of his late-night wanderings on a company trip to Africa.

Mr Kinsella's lawyers had told the court how the story had gone round the world and life had been made a misery for the married father of six ever since the 2007 incident. ...

The extra €1million (£850,000) was because the jurors felt that the cross examination of Mr Kinsella by the company's lawyers was too aggressive. They believed barristers were trying too hard to discredit Mr Kinsella. ...

Last night, Mr Kinsella said: 'I am vindicated. My name is cleared,' adding that he felt elated by the outcome.
Wow. So in Ireland a man can walk naked into a woman's bedroom, and a woman cannot accuse a him of an impropriety if he is really just sleepwalking. And the lawyers cannot ask aggressive questions to discredit her.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Language influences thoughts and feelings

Here is some new research on linguistic relativity:
ScienceDaily (Nov. 17, 2010) — The language we speak may influence not only our thoughts, but our implicit preferences as well. That's the finding of a study by psychologists at Harvard University, who found that bilingual individuals' opinions of different ethnic groups were affected by the language in which they took a test examining their biases and predilections. ...

"It was quite shocking to see that a person could take the same test, within a brief period of time, and show such different results," Ogunnaike says. "It's like asking your friend if he likes ice cream in English, and then turning around and asking him again in French and getting a different answer." ...

Linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf first posited in the 1930s that language is so powerful that it can determine thought. Mainstream psychology has taken the more skeptical view that while language may affect thought processes, it doesn't influence thought itself. This new study suggests that Whorf's idea, when not caricatured, may generate interesting hypotheses that researchers can continue to test.
It is better for Americans to not learn any foreign languages. If you learn French, you might end up eating some inferior ice cream flavors. Or worse.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taking the man's surname

The "Dear Annie" advice columnists have written several columns on whether a wife should take her husband's name, and here is their latest:
Women used to take their husband's surname because they were considered their husband's property. Many women continue to do so because they respect tradition, prefer the husband's name, don't want to confuse the children, like to give the impression that they are subservient to their husbands, whatever. ... When men are expected to take their wife's surname upon marriage, we'll be happy to ask for their input.
No, that is not correct. The reason for that tradition is to induce the father to take responsibility for the kids. Before DNA tests and test-tube babies, kids could be sure about their mothers, but not about their fathers unless certain social structures were firmly in place. One of those is marriage, and paternal naming is another. And usually the mom wants to have the same surname as the kids.

Those social structures are being systematically destroyed for ideological reasons. In the brave new world, kids will have to rely on DNA tests.

A couple of days ago, these columnists gave this sick advice:
All young children masturbate. ... At school and at home, it should be explained to the [9-year-old] girl that this is something to be done in her bedroom or bathroom.
I am surprised that this even gets published in a family newspaper. These women give really terrible advice.

Update: A new Pew study says about 39 percent of Americans said marriage was becoming obsolete. Marriage depends on it being a social norm, so it will be obsolete when most people think so.

Update: The columnists got many letters offering much better advice.

Update: Dear Annie published another response:
Dear Annie: ... As a guy, I will never need advice from a couple of feminists with their noses in the air. — Content

Dear Content: ... That would be like letting a woman decide how a man should feel about his erectile dysfunction.
It is rare that any men even write to an advice columnist. Now we see why.

Mindreading toddlers

New research claims that toddlers acquire mindreading skills at age 3.
More intriguing is that the toddlers judged a person’s intention. When one person tried to harm someone else but did not succeed, the youngsters were less likely to help that person at a later time.

But when they observed a person accidentally cause harm to another, they were more willing to help that person.

“It had been thought for a long time that it was at a later age, only around age 5 or 6, that children become conscious of other people’s intentions,” said Amrisha Vaish, one of the study’s authors and a developmental psychologist at the Max Planck Institute. “To help those who help others is actually a very sophisticated ability.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Obama consequences

A NY Times podcast says that the new Obama health care law is forcing millions of people to pay more for health insurance, and causing others to be threatened with lost coverage. The paper says that this is a great example of the law of unintended consequences" (at 25:50). It says that no one foresaw this.

No, everyone saw this. It is basic economics. You limit peoples' choices, and on average they will be worse off. They respond to incentives. The health care bill does not do anything to control costs. You cannot just say that you are requiring coverage, and have everyone be better off somehow.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Suing over an $8 snail plate

A Marin County California newspaper reports:
Comes now in Marin Superior Court, small claims division, the case of Chadwick St.-OHarra and Steve Righetti, who are suing the Seafood Peddler restaurant in San Rafael over an alleged incident of what their lawsuit called "exploding" escargot that marred Righetti's birthday dinner in June.

Plaintiffs allege the gastronomical gastropods burst from their plate when cocktail forks were applied, resulting in a spray of hot garlic butter on their faces and polo shirts.

St.-OHarra, a 59-year-old Danville resident, claims the butter got into one of his tear ducts, causing temporary vision impairment. Righetti, 59, a San Rafael businessman who lives in Sonoma, claims the side of his nose was squirted.

"I was humiliated," said Righetti, who owns an automotive shop near the landmark Canal area restaurant. "I thought, 'Do I need this on my birthday?'"
This story encapsulates the decline of America. Marin County which is known as a home for superannuated hippies, lying around in hot tubs listening to Grateful Dead tapes with a joint in one hand and a glass of Chardonnay in the other. Oddly punctuated name. A man taking another man out to dinner to celebrate his birthday. Men eating snails. Suing over an $8 plate of snails. Whining about splattered garlic butter. A man worrying about a stain on a polo shirt.

Almost as bad are the complaints of those stranded on a cruise ship for three days:
Cruise passengers endured stench, cold food

At that distance from land, it was out of cell phone range for much of the ordeal. The fire left the ship without air conditioning, hot water or hot food. The casino was closed and, for a time, so were the bars. The swimming pool was off-limits because the pumps wouldn't work. ...

"Let's put it this way: For me, this was my worst nightmare, my phobia, to be on the sea in a ship and get stuck," Warschauer said.
Having to eat cold food on a cruise ship for three days is not even a nightmare. I'd like to trade these wimps to Chile for the miners from the 2010 Copiapó mining accident.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Efforts to push female names

SciAm reports:
A recent study finds that despite our efforts for parity between the sexes, male names still come first when referring to a couple.

Brad and Angelina. Romeo and Juliet. John, Yoko. See a pattern? We may have come a long way baby, but our female names still typically follow the man’s name.

Researchers searched the Web for 10 pairs of popular names and found that in 79 percent of the pairs the male name came first. Only 21 percent put the female name first. The research is published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.
Who is SciAm speaking for with "our efforts"? Is there a coordinated campaign to get people to say "Angelina and Brad"?

Some feminists are applying such silly ideas to their own kids:
"Our nontraditional boys' names reflect our own desire to raise sons who will be as comfortable pushing dolls in strollers as pushing trucks."

Their choice: Maxfield. “We liked it that the name carried no image of masculinity, that it would free him from all preconceptions and let people see him as unique,” Richmond said. ...

Paxton was the 12th fastest-rising boys’ name in 2009. The other biggest risers for that year were all in the new group of boys’ names:

1. Cullen
2. Jax
3. King
4. Emmett
5. Colt
6. Braylen
7. Jett
8. Kason
9. Jasper
10. Brooks
It could be worse. The top baby name in Europe now is Mohammed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Texting teens are troublemakers

Here is a new study:
19.8 percent of teens reported "hypertexting," or sending more than 120 messages a day, while 11.5 percent of teens were "hypernetworking," spending more than 3 hours a day on their preferred social network sites. The authors found that the hyper-texters and -networkers were more likely to be minority students, female, and come from a lower socioeconomic status.

The hyper-texters and -networkers also tended to engage in much more at-risk behavior: higher levels of sexual activity with more sex partners, smoking, and drinking. They also were more likely to be obese and display a tendency toward eating disorders. As if that weren't enough, they had more stress and suicidal thoughts; they also got less sleep and felt less safe at school.
Wow. Liberals used to complain about a "digital divide" in which poor people lack computer access. Now the digital divide is the opposite, and the disadvantages ones have the most computer access.

Whales suffering sunburn

Here is the latest thing for environmentalists to worry about. The lighter-skinned
whales are getting sunburned thru an Anarctic hole in the ozone layer!
DiscoveryNews reports:
The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to demonstrate that sun damage to whale skin is on the rise and is likely tied to increasing levels of ultraviolet radiation resulting from the thinning ozone layer.

"The thing is, whales do not have hair, fur or feathers that could offer some protection, and they are forced to surface in order to breathe," co-author Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse told Discovery News.

"Other animals have behavioral adaptations -- hiding in the shade, for example -- but whales cannot afford to do so," added Acevedo-Whitehouse, a postdoctoral fellow at the Zoological Society of London. ...

The scientists also found that darker whales, in this case sperm and fin whales, tended to not get sunburned as much as lighter blue whales. ...

"Perhaps the most startling lesson from the ozone hole is just how quickly our planet can change," said Jonathan Shanklin, a British Antarctic Survey researcher who has studied the ozone hole and its probable causes, industrial solvents and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

Although it's hoped that phasing out of these compounds will allow Antarctic ozone levels to return to 1950's levels by the year 2080, that doesn't provide much hope for whales over the next several years.

"I do not believe we would be able to do very much to reduce the damage to whales caused by sun exposure," Acevedo-Whitehouse said. "However, efforts to mitigate other stressors, such as by reducing contaminants and noise pollution, could be tried and thus aim to reduce their environmental stress levels."
So we cannot reduce the sunburn, but maybe the whales will be happier if we shut down shipping and other byproducts of modern civilization.

Monday, November 08, 2010

More hype for quantum computers

John Markoff of the NY Times reports:
The potential power of quantum computing comes from the possibility of performing a mathematical operation on both states simultaneously. In a two-qubit system it would be possible to compute on four values at once, in a three-qubit system on eight at once, in a four-qubit system on 16, and so on. As the number of qubits increases, potential processing power increases exponentially. ...

The Santa Barbara researchers said they believe they will essentially double the computational power of their quantum computers next year.

John Martinis, a physicist who is a member of the team, said, “We are currently designing a device with four qubits, and five resonators,” the standard microelectronic components that are used to force quantum entanglement. “If all goes well, we hope to increase this to eight qubits and nine resonators in a year or so.”
So if this were correct, then he would be able to compute 256 values at once, in a year or so.

Don't bet on it. I don't think that they have even proof of one genuine qubit really doing two computations at once.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Eat good-flavored cheese

The NY Times has a long article on the dairy industry promoting dairy products, as if it were some sort of national scandal. It says:
Dr. Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health and a former member of the federal government’s nutrition advisory committee, said: “The U.S.D.A. should not be involved in these programs that are promoting foods that we are consuming too much of already. A small amount of good-flavored cheese can be compatible with a healthy diet, but consumption in the U.S. is enormous and way beyond what is optimally healthy.”
Willett is a leading nutrition expert, but why is he saying that we have to limit our cheese to what is "good-flavored"? Sometimes I think that these experts are more influenced by what they like to eat, rather than any hard science. The guy claims to have written a 1000 research papers, but he does not have any on his Harvard web site. I don't trust any researcher who is afraid to post his own research.

The article exposed govt documents that offer inconsistent advice about cheese -- some say to eat more, and some say to eat less. It says that the feds have stockpiled $4 billion of cheese in Missouri caves! I had no idea that we were so well prepared for a cheese shortage. But the official advice on nutrition is inconsistent in a lot of ways, because of unscientific reasoning.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Quantitative easing

The hot term for the monetary policy of the Pres. Barack Obama administration is Quantitative easing. A UK newspaper desribes it:
Quantitative easing is the modern way to print money. The central bank doesn’t actually have to use a four-colour press to spew out crisp notes. There are more sophisticated ways to boost a nation’s money supply. But ultimately the impact is not very different from dropping dollar bills from a helicopter as Ben Bernanke once described this policy before he became the Federal Reserve’s chairman.
I never heard of this. Apparently it has previously been used in Japan, but it has never actually worked anywhere. This makes our dollars less valuable, and there is nothing that the tea party can do about it.

According to this, it is all a plot to create a new stimulus plan, and spend money without approval from the Republican Congress.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Is Islam A Religion Of Peace?

I am watching this debate:
A team of experts argued both sides of the motion "Islam Is a Religion of Peace" in a recent Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. Two argued in favor and two against.
The debate is also here, where there appear to be a lot of other good debates. Here is the debate outcome was a big NO:
Prior to the debate, the audience was polled as to what they thought about the issue, and results showed 41 percent were for the motion, 25 percent were against it and 34 percent were undecided.

While a number of arguments were brought to the table, the dialogue was mainly rooted in questioning the original Islamic principles of violence against the doctrine of peace, both of which are dealt with in the Quran. The main issues raised included the necessity to put the more violent passages of the Quran into historical context.

Those speaking against the motion said absolutist believers failed in their attempts to contextualize the Quran. But Khan said extremists were simply circumnavigating the issue at hand.

"[The absolutists] are using Islam to cover for their political grievances," he said. "Their real issue lies with Western domination."

At the end of the debate, the opposing side concluded that while reformed Muslims do exist in the Western world, existing extremists are living by the Quran in its entirety, including the violence it contains.

After the debate, poll results revealed a drastic change from the results at the beginning of the night — 36 percent were for the motion, 55 percent were against it and 9 percent were undecided.
A high point of the debate is when the pro-Islam-peace guy is asked why more moslem do not denounce terrorism. He said that some do, and more would if it were not for the fact that they get murdered if they speak out against terrorism.

To learn more about Mohammedan violence, see

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monkey morals at Harvard

I am beginning to think that Harvard's Marc Hauser is a victim of a witch-hunt:
Under Harvard’s faculty policy, the university cannot make known its evidence against Dr. Hauser, nor can he defend himself, until the government’s report is ready. That leaves both in difficult positions. Harvard has accused a prominent professor of serious failings yet has merely put him on book leave. Dr. Hauser, for his part, cannot act publicly to prevent the derailment, at least for the moment, of his rising scientific career.

Harvard’s investigation has been “lawyer-driven,” says a faculty member who spoke on condition of anonymity, and has stuck so closely to the letter of government-approved rules for investigating misconduct that the process has become unduly protracted — it lasted three years — and procedurally unfair to the accused.
I mentioned this case before here, and some of his research here.

My gut feeling is that trying to learn morality by studying monkeys is a wacky thing to do, with dubious scientific value. The experiments involve subjective monkey interpretations, and no one should believe his results anyway unless they were well replicated. If some Harvard big-shot got famous for claiming that human morals were hardwired 20M years ago by monkeys, and he turned out to have bad professional morals himself, then we could all celebrate his foolish error. He thought that humans have monkey morals, and his own behavior is a prime example.

But now I think that his persecutors are the ones with the monkey morals. Why does it take three years to figure out whether he did anything wrong? And why the secrecy? If someone thinks that his experiments were bogus, then it would be better to just publicly say so, and force him to make a public defense. Apparently Hauser has redone some of his experiments. The scientific community should be able to form its own opinion of the validity of his work, not just some secret Harvard committee.

There is a scene in the new movie, The Social Network, about Harvard's morals:
Tyler refuses to sue them, instead accusing Mark of violating the Harvard student Code of Conduct. Through their father's connections they arrange a meeting with Harvard President Larry Summers, who is dismissive and sees no potential value in either a disciplinary action or in Thefacebook website itself.
A three-year secret investigation of monkey experiments is not going to improve Harvard's reputation, no matter what it ends up saying.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Women emotional in the old paradigm

Here is an academic essay on patriarchy:
In the classical manner of scientific advances, the discrepant data proved most informative, the evidence that did not fit the reigning patriarchal construction. Thus women's voices were privileged in informing psychologists about aspects of the human condition that by being tagged feminine and associated with women had been at once ignored and devalued. A paradigm shift followed from this research, joining what had been cast asunder. Whereas in the old paradigm, women were seen as emotional not rational, as having relationships but no self, and men, conversely, were considered rational insofar as they were unemotional, autonomous in their sense of self, the new paradigm in its reframing undid the splits. But the old patriarchal values crept back in: "feminine” qualities were taken as modifiers of "masculine” strengths – hence, "emotional intelligence," "relational self," and most recently, "the feeling brain.” ...

Patriarchy's error lies in wedding us, men and women alike, to a false story about human nature and then characterizing our resistance to this story as a sign of pathology or sin. The long-standing divisions of mind from body, thought from emotion, and self from relationships enforce a kind of moral slavery in that they erode a resistance grounded in the core self and cause us to lose touch with our experience. Damasio's research demonstrated how the severing of thought from emotion leaves the capacity for deductive reasoning intact (the ability to deduce thought from thought) but impairs our capacity to navigate the human social world, which depends on an integration of thought and emotion. The associative methods of psychoanalysis were able to break through dissociations that were psychologically induced and/or culturally enforced, leading to a release of voice and a recovery of relational capacities, and imbuing psychoanalysis with a liberatory potential. But it is by looking through a gender lens that we are able to see the problem whole: not as a problem of women or men, or of women versus men, but rather a problem with the framework we have used in thinking about these questions. The artists to whom we now turn anticipated these insights, serving as early warning signals. Their associative methods broke through dissociation and allowed them to see the framework.
This is all nonsense. Students are paying a lot of money to take classes in junk like this, and their world view is being warped.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Witches denounce beer label

If you work for NPR, you cannot express fear of Moslem terrorists, and if you do business in Santa Cruz, you have to worry about offending the local witches. Here is a witch complaint:
Ms. [Vicki] Noble, who is famous in the pagan and Wiccan communities for her astrology readings, shamanic healing and writings about goddess spirituality, says she discovered Witch’s Wit last week on one of her regular excursions to 41st Avenue Liquors, in Capitola, Calif. ...

One recipient of Ms. Noble’s e-mail was Cynthia Eller, a professor of religion at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Ms. Eller is known for her pioneering book “The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory,” which is widely loathed in the pagan community. According to Ms. Eller’s work, today’s pagans exaggerate the historical evidence for the worship of female deities in the ancient world.

The two women disagree on much. But Ms. Eller shared Ms. Noble’s disgust at the use of witch burning — the painting on the label is by the artist Sean Dominguez — to sell beer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Big stones fall faster

The NY Times science section explains:
Q. I’ve heard that if a penny is dropped from the Empire State Building it could kill someone. But what about hail? It’s often much larger and falls from much higher, so why do I never hear about any deaths caused by it?
No, the penny will not kill anyone, as explained here and here.
The friction with other precipitation deforms a hailstone from a perfect sphere, making its velocity hard to calculate when it does become heavy enough to fall to earth. One estimate is that a half-inch stone falls about 30 feet a second, while a three-inch stone falls nearly 160 feet a second.
Occasionally I hear someone tell how Galileo's Leaning Tower of Pisa experiment proved Aristotle wrong about heavier rocks falling faster. Well, as the story explains, bigger hail stones do fall faster than smaller ones.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rational preferences

Economist Steve Landsburg has explained the Allais paradox.(Update: His latest is here.) It is an argument that people make choices that are contrary to what is considered rational under common economic models. Allais won the Bank of Sweden prize (aka Nobel for economics) for the work, and died recently, and was also known for anti-relativity views.

Here is a variant of the paradox. Suppose I give you $10 if a coin toss gives heads. Before tossing the coin, I offer you two choices for additional money:

A. I give you another $10 is that coin toss is tails.
B. I give you $5 regardless.

Apparently rational utility theory says that your choices should be independent of what you already have, so you should just compare A and B. Both choices give you $5 on average if we did this many times, but B is a sure thing and should therefore be preferred by the rational person.

But people would normally prefer A. Choice A, combined with the previous offer, implies that you will get a sure $10. Under Choice B you could end up with either $5 or $15, depending on the coin toss. It is an unnecessary gamble.

I do not think that this proves that people are irrational. It only shows that economic models are deficient if they assume that people do not change their preferences after acquiring assets. A man might prefer a dog to a cat, but once he has a dog, he might not want another one. In the above case, one of the choices is correlated with what you have already been offered.

I think Landsburg disagrees with me, so you might want to read his analysis and decide for yourself.

Update: Apparently the object was to find a counterexample to the Independence Axiom in the Von Neumann–Morgenstern utility theorem. The above example does not quite do it. But there are still situations where people make choices contrary to the axioms.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The empathy deficit

The Boston Globe reports:
Young Americans today live in a world of endless connections ...

But new research suggests that behind all this communication and connectedness, something is missing. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, found that college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were in 1979, with the steepest decline coming in the last 10 years.

According to the findings, today’s students are generally less likely to describe themselves as “soft-hearted” or to have “tender, concerned feelings” for others. They are more likely, meanwhile, to admit that “other people’s misfortunes” usually don’t disturb them. In other words, they might be constantly aware of their friends’ whereabouts, but all that connectedness doesn’t seem to be translating to genuine concern for the world and one another.

“To me, that’s the basic glue,” said Sara Konrath, a research assistant professor and the lead author of the study on empathy. “It’s so rewarding to connect with human beings. It’s so good for our bodies to do this. Everything we know as psychologists tells us it’s the most wonderful thing. So if we’re losing that, I think that is distressing.”
There is now a consensus that Pres. Obama lacks empathy, even he himself has a record of blabbering about empathy. Obama has complained that terrorists lack empathy and judges lack empathy.

There seems to be a lot of confusing about what empathy means. It does not mean soft-hearted. It is a form of mindreading. Merriam-Webster defines:
Definition of EMPATHY
1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
The Boston article recognizes confusion about what the word means:
Empathy might seem like a hard-to-define, touchy-feely idea, ...

Empathy is such a basic ingredient of the human experience that even babies exhibit it, crying when other children cry or reacting to the facial expressions of adults and parents. Yet the word itself is relatively new: It didn’t enter the English lexicon until the early 1900s, derived from the German word einfühlung, according to Daniel Batson, a researcher of empathy and professor emeritus at Kansas University. And psychologists studying empathy still disagree on some basic questions about how it should be defined: Is it feeling for others? Feeling as others feel? Understanding how others feel? Or some combination of the above?

“It’s all over the place,” Batson said. “There’s no agreed-upon definition.”

But at the most basic level, most concur that empathy is some sort of emotional response to another person’s plight, pain, state, or suffering.
Yes, but empathy does not necessarily have anything to do with genuine concern for the world.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Much medical research is wrong

A Greek named John Ioannidis has been pointing out flaws in medical research for years. Here is a new article about his findings:
Some points made in the article: even the most respected, widely accepted, peer-reviewed medical studies are all-too-often deeply flawed or outright wrong; when an error is brought to light and the conclusions publicly refuted, the erroneous conclusions often persist and are cited as valid for years, or even decades; scientists and researchers themselves regard peer review as providing 'only a minimal assurance of quality'; and these shortcomings apply to medical research across the board, not just to blatantly self-serving pharmaceutical industry studies.
As examples, a lot of the studies behind a lot of dietary recommendations are bogus.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Judge has faulty opinion on public policy

I happened to hear an appeals court argument yesterday over whether a developer had to pay prevailing wages to construction workers. The developer bought the land from the city chose not to impose that requirement, but the other party argued that no such choice could be made under some obscure redevelopment agency law.

At one point, the other party said that the area was economically depressed, and the workers need the money. The judge interrupted, and said that there was no need to make such an argument because the public policy arguments are obviously on the side of requiring the prevailing wage.

The judge is an idiot. The prevailing wage is good for the local white union construction workers, but unlikely to be good for the broader economy. The city apparently required prevailing wage for some projects, and not others. Probably some of those projects would not get built if they had to pay prevailing wage. Requiring higher wages on all projects will mean that fewer projects get developed. The judge is obviously in no position to say how many projects should be developed. The legal briefs were only about the interpretation of some obscure statute.

This 3-judge panel will probably write a decision on the matter, based in part on a faulty analysis of public policy considerations. But the written opinion will probably just discuss the statute, and not mention their faulty logic.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lawyer brags about suing father

A personal injury lawyer has this testimonial:
This story was featured on The Jay Leno Show.

We’ll listen to your story carefully. We will help you to understand the merit of your personal injury claim. If you can’t come down to our offices, we can meet you at home or by your hospital bed.

What Our Clients Say

“I slipped and fell while visiting my father’s house. Six law firms I consulted refused to take my case. Hy Bergel not only took my case, he settled it for $150,000″.
Leno was making fun of him for suing the father. I guess this is good publicity for an ambulance chaser.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

UK teenager jailed for keeping password

A British newspaper reports:
A teenage takeaway [carryout food] worker has been jailed for four months for refusing to give child protection police the password to his computer.

Oliver Drage was originally arrested in May last year by a team of officers from Blackpool tackling child sexual exploitation.

The 19-year-old's computer was seized but officers could not access material stored on it as it was protected by a sophisticated 50-character encryption password.
Drage, who worked in a fast food shop, was then formally requested to disclose the password, but failed to do so.

He was convicted after a trial last month of failing to disclose an encryption key, an offence covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
Apparently, "takeaway" is some sort of British slang for fast food to go.

In the USA, you cannot be jailed for refusing to incriminate yourself. The authorities have to find some sort of evidence that you have committed a crime.

The Pres. Obama administration is seeking to expand its powers to eavesdrop on Americans. The last major expansion of those powers was during the Clinton administration.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Banning soda for the poor

The nanny state is joining forces with the welfare state. AP reports:
Using food stamps to buy sodas, teas, sports drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages would not be allowed in New York City under a new government effort to battle obesity.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson announced Thursday that they are seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the nation's food stamp program, to add sugary drinks to the list of prohibited goods for city residents receiving assistance. ...

Spending government money on "foods of little or no nutritional value not only contradicts the intent of the program, it also effectively subsidizes a serious public health epidemic," New York officials wrote in their proposal. ...

The ban would apply to any beverage that contains more than 10 calories per 8 ounces, except for milk products, milk substitutes like soy milk and rice milk, and fruit juices without added sugar. ...

More than half of adult New York City residents are overweight or obese, along with nearly 40 percent of public school students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The Coke actually has about the same nutritional value as orange juice, and a lot more than the sugar-free drinks.

But I think this is a great idea. They should ban using food stamps for organic foods and gourmet foods. Next they can test the BMI of food stamp recipients, and deny any food stamps to the obese. They are already eating too much anyway. They should just give the food stamps to skinny people who need the food.

Next, they should rate the foods in terms of energy efficiency, like household appliances. The store should have tags saying how much energy each food item has, in terms of calories per penny. The skinny food stamp recipients should be limited to buying high-calorie food, so that our tax dollars will be delivering the necessary nutritional value. They certainly should not be spending food stamps on sugar-free drinks because they have no nutritional value.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Telling the truth about Islam

Here is a sample of the opinions that have put the Dutch politician Geert Wilders on trial for hate speech:
Today, another specter is haunting Europe. It is the specter of Islam. This danger, too, is political. Islam is not merely a religion, as many people seem to think: Islam is mainly a political ideology.

This insight is not new.

I quote from the bestselling book and BBC television series The Triumph of the West which the renowned Oxford historian J.M. Roberts wrote in 1985: “Although we carelessly speak of Islam as a ‘religion’; that word carries many overtones of the special history of western Europe. The Muslim is primarily a member of a community, the follower of a certain way, an adherent to a system of law, rather than someone holding particular theological views.” The Flemish Professor Urbain Vermeulen, the former president of the European Union of Arabists and Islamicists, too, points out that “Islam is primarily a legal system, a law,” rather than a religion.

The American political scientist Mark Alexander writes that “One of our greatest mistakes is to think of Islam as just another one of the world’s great religions. We shouldn’t. Islam is politics or it is nothing at all, but, of course, it is politics with a spiritual dimension, … which will stop at nothing until the West is no more, until the West has … been well and truly Islamized.”

These are not just statements by opponents of Islam. Islamic scholars say the same thing. There cannot be any doubt about the nature of Islam to those who have read the Koran, the Sira and the Hadith. Abul Ala Maududi, the influential 20th century Pakistani Islamic thinker, wrote – I quote, emphasizing that these are not my words but those of a leading Islamic scholar – “Islam is not merely a religious creed [but] a revolutionary ideology and jihad refers to that revolutionary struggle … to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth, which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam.” ...

President Reagan showed that by speaking the truth one can change the course of history. He showed that there is no need to despair. Never! Just do your duty. Be not afraid. Speak the truth. Defend Freedom. Together we can preserve freedom, together we must preserve freedom, and together, my friends, we will be able to preserve freedom.
He is certainly correct that Islam is not merely a religion.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Blaming groups for crimes

A NY Times op-ed complains:
As a moderate Muslim American, I am at a loss as to why in 21st century America millions of law-abiding Muslim Americans stand accused, in the eyes of many, of crimes we didn’t commit, advocate or condone? Holding moderate Muslims responsible for crimes carried out in the name of Islam by a tiny minority of terrorists is akin to holding all Catholics accountable for murders of doctors in abortion clinics and child molestations in Catholic churches. It is no different than holding all Japanese-Americans responsible for Pearl Harbor, and all white Christian-Americans accountable for the Oklahoma bombings.
No, those are not good analogies. I have never even heard of any Catholics advocating abortionist murders or child molestations. I have only heard of one Oklahoma bombing, and Christian-Americans had nothing to do with it, as far as I know.

Maybe it is a little like holding all men accountable for the crimes of a few:
Tonight at 7 p.m., first-year men at Hamilton College will be attending a mandatory presentation of "She Fears You," a program at which they will be pressed to acknowledge their personal complicity in a "rape culture" on Hamilton's campus and to change their "rape-supportive" beliefs and attitudes.
Meanwhile, a Dutch political leader is on trial:
Prosecutors say Wilders incited hatred against Muslims with remarks comparing Islam to Naziism and by calling for a ban on the Koran. Wilders argues he has a right to freedom of speech and that his remarks were within the bounds of the law. ...''

If convicted he could face up to a year in jail, though a fine would be more likely. He could keep his seat in parliament regardless of the outcome. ...

The flamboyant, bleach-blond politician also has called for taxing clothing commonly worn by Muslims, such as head scarves -- or "head rags," as he called them -- because they "pollute" the Dutch landscape.

He may be best known for the 2008 short film "Fitna," which offended Muslims around the world by juxtaposing Koranic verses with images of terrorism by Islamic radicals. ...

Mohamed Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, said outside the court that he hoped judges would force Wilders to issue an apology for his past remarks.

"We are not for getting Mr. Wilders in prison. We are for correcting him," Rabbae said.
So this moderate Moslem wants to use the force of law to "correct" the opinions of others? If moderate Moslems want to be treated as less-threatening, then they could start by respecting the free speech rights of others.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

California but not federal law

The California sample ballot has this summary for Prop. 19:
Compare this to the official 2008 Prop 8 summary:
It would have made more sense to just say, "defines marriage be between a man and a woman" or "restores popular marriage definition". Supposedly there will be an initiative to repeal Prop 8 and endorse same-sex marriage, so it ought to say, "legalizes same-sex marriage under California but not federal law." After all, states that legalize marijuana or same-sex marriage are in conflict with federal law in both cases.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The TARP hoax

The NY Times reports:
After supporting TARP, several Republicans have lost elections largely because of their votes. For many Americans, TARP is more than a vote; it is a symbol of big government at its worst, intervening in private markets with taxpayers’ billions to save Wall Street plutocrats while average Americans struggle through the recession those financiers spawned.

Fewer than three in 10 Americans say they believe the program was necessary “to prevent the financial industry from failing and drastically hurting the U.S. economy,” according to a poll in July for Bloomberg News. ...

The Treasury never tapped the full $700 billion. It committed $470 billion and has disbursed $387 billion, mostly to hundreds of banks and later to A.I.G., the car industry — Chrysler, General Motors, the G.M. financing company and suppliers — and to what is, so far, a failed effort to help homeowners avoid foreclosures.
The TARP plan passed with a bunch of govt officials told us that we were headed into another Great Depression unless we spent $700B to buy toxic assets from banks. The plan was a failure from the start. The money was never even used to buy the toxic assets.

Yes, those who voted for TARP ought to be kicked out of office. We need leaders who are not so easily conned.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Apple koolaid

Wired mag gives 5 Reasons the Media Cover Apple So Much, but they all boil down to reporters being brainwashed. Look at this AP article that raves about Apple new products:
And the $49 price tag — $10 lower than the previous Shuffle — can’t be beat. Sure, it only has room for about 500 songs, and Apple is no longer offering a 4 GB Shuffle, but it’s more than enough to get you through.
Yes, the price can be beat. By several companies. This ipod does not even have a display to show what it is playing. You can pay less and get a player that not only has a display, but shows movies, has an FM radio, has more memory, takes memory cards, has a recorder, and an be loaded with just a usb connection. The Apple product lacks all of these features. The reporters are Apple fanboys.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Go ghost

The NY Times reports that peaceful journalists exercising free speech sometimes have to go ghost after receiving Mohammedan threats:
A cartoonist in Seattle who promoted an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” last spring is now in hiding after her life was threatened by Islamic extremists.

The cartoonist, Molly Norris, has changed her name and has stopped producing work for a local alternative newspaper, Seattle Weekly, according to the newspaper’s editor, Mark D. Fefer.

Mr. Fefer declined an interview request Thursday, citing “the sensitivity of the situation.” But in a letter to readers about Ms. Norris on Wednesday, he said that “on the insistence of top security specialists at the F.B.I., she is, as they put it, ‘going ghost’: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity.”
It is pathetic that this is the best that the FBI can suggest. The feds are making this problem worse by intimidating Christians into silence about Mohammedanism.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Advice to call cops on elderly dad

More bad Dear Annie advice:
Dear Annie: I need your advice ... My grandfather's 100th birthday is coming up, and my uncle arranged a big party. Needless to say, the entire extended family is expected to attend. I will go and remain cordial to my father for Grandpa's sake, but what do I do if he rages and tries to assault someone? — Worried Sick

Dear Worried: If Dad assaults anyone, call the police immediately. Do not get into a physical altercation with him. Make it about a crime being committed.
No, this is crazy advice. These advice-givers are sick and demented. You do not goto a family party with the intention to have your elderly dad arrested for his bad behavior. Surely Worried'd husband and the other male relatives are capable of restraining an old man, if necessary.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Toddlers accused of racism

The UK nanny state is targeting some very young kids for politically incorrect speech. FoxNews reports:
More Than 250,000 British Toddlers Labeled Racists

More than a quarter million British children have been accused of racism since the country passed its Race Relations Act in 2000, the Daily Mail reports.

Munira Mirza, a senior adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson, says teachers are being forced to report children as young as 3 years old to the authorities for using alleged "racist" language.

"Teachers are now required to report incidents of racist abuse among children as young as three to local authorities, resulting in a massive increase of cases and reinforcing the perception that we need an army of experts to manage race relations from cradle to grave," she wrote in Prospect magazine.

According to civil liberties group the Manifesto Club, 280,00 incidents have been reported between 2002-2009.
Meanwhile, here is an odd study of motorcycle accidents:
Along with the finding that even after controlling for factors such as insurance status, gender and injury severity, black crash victims were 1.5 times more likely to die from their injuries than similarly injured white victims. ...

The research also found that whites who were not wearing helmets were less likely to die than African-Americans who were wearing helmets
Not sure what to make of that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trapped miners hate shrinks

I commented last month about the foolishness of letter psychologists control communications to the trapped Chilean miners. Sure enough, it is a disaster, just as I predicted. An Australian newspaper reports:
SAN JOSE MINE, Chile: ''The honeymoon is over,'' explains Alberto Iturra, the lead psychologist in the operation to free 33 men trapped 700 metres deep in San Jose mine. As point man for the psychological health of the trapped men, Mr Iturra is at the receiving end of the rage of relatives of the miners who are upset at the Chilean government's refusal to deliver letters considered ''psychologically inappropriate''. ...

With their health improving and patience expiring after six weeks underground, the 33 miners are restless. On several occasions, they have refused to talk to psychologists, cancelled a series of meetings with doctors, delayed implementation of vaccinations. The men have few problems, however, making their desires clear: cigarettes and wine. ...

As the miners regained weight and strength, however, their antagonism to the daily sessions increased. ''If there is one group that is not exactly disposed to psychologists it is miners,'' said Dr Rodrigo Figueroa, a psychiatrist with Chile's Catholic University who was hired by the Chilean government to monitor the mental health treatment.

In recent days, the miners have been asked to conduct interviews using a video camera. The videos were then carefully listened to by a team of psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and nurses. In a further attempt to protect the men's mental health, the 33 men are divided into groups of three, allowing a near constant observation and platform for feedback about the health of each man.

In an effort to dominate the miners, the team of psychologists led by Mr Iturra has instituted a series of prizes and punishments. When the miners behave well, they are given TV and mood music. Other treats - like images of the outside world are being held in reserve, as either a carrot or a stick should the miners become unduly feisty.

In a show of strength, the miners have at times refused to listen to the psychologists, insisting that they are well. ''When that happens, we have to say, 'OK, you don't want to speak with psychologists? Perfect. That day you get no TV, there is no music - because we administer these things,''' said Dr Diaz. ''And if they want magazines? Well, then they have to speak to us. This is a daily arm wrestle.'' ...

While NASA experts brought to Chile as advisers have recommended sending the wines and withholding the cigarettes, the Chileans have done the opposite, saying the miners have nearly two kilometres of ventilated tunnels to smoke a cigarette and relax (as opposed to the confinement of space travel) while further noting the average miner consumes large quantities of alcohol.

''These are not PhD scientists, they are rough and tumble miners,'' said one doctor who asked not to be quoted for fears of losing his post.
I think that these psychologists are experts at torturing
people, and nothing else.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sugar is sugar

A lot of people have somehow decided high-fructose corn syrup is harmful, but the NY Times reports that there no proof that it is any worse than any other sugar:
High-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, also known as table sugar, are made up of about the same amount of glucose and fructose. The American Dietetic Association says the two sweeteners are “nutritionally equivalent” and “indistinguishable” once absorbed in the bloodstream. The American Medical Association has said it’s “unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose.” ...

In high-fructose corn syrup, the glucose and fructose molecules are chemically separate. In table sugar, the molecules are chemically bonded, forming a disaccharide that is broken apart inside the body. ...

Dr. Bray notes that the fructose absorbed from large quantities of regular sugar and from high-fructose corn syrup is equally harmful. “Sugar is sugar,” said Dr. Bray, professor of medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.