Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Denying human races

Jan Sapp reviews recent books on race in American Scientist:
Although race is void of biological foundation, it has a profound social reality. All too apparent are disparities in health and welfare. Despite all the evidence indicating that “race” has no biological or evolutionary meaning, the biological-race concept continues to gain strength today in science and society, and it is reinforced by those who design and market DNA-based technologies. Race is used more and more in forensics, medicine and the genetic-ancestry business. Tattersall and DeSalle confront those industries head on and in no uncertain terms, arguing that “race-based medicine” and “raced-based genomics” are deeply flawed. ...

Although biologists and cultural anthropologists long supposed that human races—genetically distinct populations within the same species—have a true existence in nature, many social scientists and geneticists maintain today that there simply is no valid biological basis for the concept. The consensus among Western researchers today is that human races are sociocultural constructs.
Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne replies:
Well, if that’s the consensus, I am an outlier. I do think that human races exist in the sense that biologists apply the term to animals, ...

As we all know, there are morphologically different groups of people who live in different areas, though those differences are blurring due to recent innovations in transportation that have led to more admixture between human groups. ...

Further, one wouldn’t expect human “races” or ethnic groups to show substantial genetic differences—there hasn’t been enough time for those differences to accumulate given that most human groups arose since our migration out of Africa between 60,000 and 100,000 years ago. ...

Everyone wants to know, of course, if different races differ genetically in their abilities, especially intelligence. While I think there may be statistical differences among races in these things, it’s not as obvious that sexual (or natural) selection would operate as strongly on genes involving these traits as on superficial external characteristics. We just don’t know, and in the complete absence of data it is invidious to speculate on these things. It’s just as scientifically unsupported to say, for example, that there is no difference among populations in mathematical ability as it is to say that there are differences. In the absence of data, we must follow the apophatic theologians and remain silent. And, at any rate, any such differences cannot be used to justify racism given the tremendous variation we see in other genes between members of different populations.

One can argue whether it’s even justifiable to scientifically study things like differences in IQ between populations given the political ramifications of finding differences. I go back and forth on this ...
Denying human racial differences is as silly as denying sex differences. It is apparent from the above that human racial differences exist and are significant, but they are too politically sensitive to discuss. Many leftist scientists would prefer that no one even researches those differences.

Update: Coyne adds DNA evidence about racial differences:
As I said, this doesn’t show that there are discrete “races” in Europe, and I don’t think there are obviously discrete “races” anywhere these days, though there is large-scale genetic differentiation among worldwide population suggesting that such races once existed as relatively discrete and geographically isolated populations. The discreteness that once existed, or so I think, is now blurring out as transportation and migration are beginning to mix the discrete groups into not a melting pot, but sort of a lumpy pudding of humanity.

What is clear is that, with considerable accuracy, you can diagnose an individual’s geographic origin from his genes. Nearly everyone’s DNA contains reliable information about their recent and ancient past. We are not all genetically alike.
There are people of mixed race of course, but that does not invalidate the concept of race.

Another blog comments here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Books about the FBI

There are a couple of new books about the FBI, and here is what I learned. J. Edgar Hoover's secret surveillance programs were explicitly ordered or approved by the President, including FDR and Kennedy. Hoover was a homosexual or cross-dresser. The FBI spied on M. L. King because because his top Jewish advisor was a Communist. Hoover cut off Sen. Joe McCarthy from info because Pres. Eisenhower regarded McCarthy as a political threat. The Watergate scandal was largely the result of the deputy FBI director vindictively sabotaging Pres. Nixon by illegal leaking slanted info from investigations.

Commies and commie sympathizers have always hated Hoover's FBI. If he really had presidential authorization for all of his investigations, then any blame should be on FDR, Kennedy, and the other presidents, not Hoover.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Scientists against free speech

Cosmologist Sean Carroll writes:
Everyone who has been paying attention knows that there is a strong anti-science movement in this country — driven partly by populist anti-intellectualism, but increasingly by corporate interests that just don’t like what science has to say.
As Motl explains, it is silly to complain about $10,000 when billions are spent to promote anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Likewise, 99+% of the evolution money promotes evolutionism, and yet there are complaints about the five or so scientists who promote a contrary view. Carroll also complains about Citizens United having free speech rights to put out a political film, even tho most of the money favors incumbents.

It is amazing to see scientists against the dissemination of minority viewpoints, but they are not immune to human weaknesses. Nobody likes criticism. Scientific processes need critics, so that the ideas are always being tested. Whenever you hear of someone trying to squelch dissent, you can be sure that he is clinging to some untenable ideas.

Peter H. Gleick received a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2003. He stole and leaked some documents, and says:
My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected
How could there be well-funded effort to prevent climate science debate? This is just a euphemism for Gleick wanting to silence AGW dissent.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Coyne attacks Tyson

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist and Chicago professor Jerry Coyne is dissatisfied with scientists who promote science on its own merits, and who tolerate religious views that do not interfere with science. He particular hates atheist scientists who are not sufficiently hostile to religion. Eg, see his attack on Lawrence Krauss, and his apology.

His latest target is Neil deGrasse Tyson. Coyne writes:
Tyson posits that religion doesn’t have an issue with science because most American’s “fully embrace science.” He says there’s been a “happy coexistence [between science and religion] for centuries.” ...

First, of all, I don’t agree that most Americans “fully embrace science.” That’s certainly not true as far as my own field, evolution, is concerned. Only 16% of Americans embrace the scientific view of evolution as a mindless, materialistic process, one that takes place without divine guidance.
Coyne conflates science with atheist beliefs. Americans do fully embrace scientific facts that can be demonstrated with observation and experiment. He is just unhappy that they have not fully adopted his "view".

Coyne goes on to complain that Tyson is not fully on board with his strategy for extirminating religion:
if we’re going to expunge creationism from schools, going after it as cases of teachers pushing “bad science” would involve a painful, step-by-step review of each teacher’s behavior, and then the onerous process of correcting or firing that teacher. But going after creationism as an incursion of religion into the public sphere — a perfectly proper and justified thing to do — eliminates the problem in one swipe. No creationism can be taught, anywhere.

By “problem”, I mean, of course, the legality of teaching creationist views (including intelligent design) in schools. The bigger problem remains: religion, the source of creationism. So even if you don’t care about the other inimical (and more serious) side effects of religion, ignoring it as the source of creationism is a blinkered view.
This is yet another example of where evolutionists pretend to be just promoting science, but they are really much more interested in pushing an anti-religion agenda. I think that controversies over evolution are almost entirely driven by bad scientists who trying to use science to push their personal belief systems.

Update: Tyson responds. He is simply promoting science, without getting sucked into unnecessary and unscientific disputes about religion. Not everyone wants to evangelize for the atheist cause the way Coyne does.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Proof of infinitely many primes

A new paper was posted on Euclid's theorem on the infinitude of primes: a historical survey of its proofs (300 B.C.--2012) and another new proof. Euclid's theorem is also proved on The Prime Pages and MathWorld.

This great theorem is both brilliant and trivial, but unfortunately explanations of it tend to get sidetracked into subtleties about infinity, contradiction, and non-constructive proofs. Euclid himself did not understand the concept of infinity. The simplest proof is to turn it into a finitary constructive statement.
Theorem. Let N be the product of a set of primes. If there are no other primes less than N, then N+1 is prime.

Proof. The only possible prime factors of N+1 are in the original set of primes, but those all leave a remainder of 1 when divided into N+1.

Corollary. There are infinitely many primes.

Proof. Given any finite set of primes that purports to be all primes, the theorem contructs another one.
This is essentially the same as Euclid's proof, but if you don't say it right, then N+1 is not necessarily a prime. For example, 2*3*5*7*11*13 + 1 = 59*509. So most proofs need extra explanations to address this point. However, the above proof avoids the issue.

This presentation also exemplifies the difference between hard and soft analysis. The distinction is similar to that of hard and soft science, but for math it is more subtle. The authority on the analysis distinction is Terry Tao, who explained it here in 2007 and here in 2011. On his blog, he often tries to turn a soft theorem into a hard theorem.

The above theorem is hard, while the corollary is soft. The theorem is hard because it is finitary. Given some set of primes, it tells you how to find another one. The operation can be carried out in some finite and predictable number of computations.

The corollary is soft because it says nothing about how those primes are distributed, or how to find them, or how big they are, or anything beyond there being infinitely many. Yes, you can get all the primes by counting the natural numbers and testing each one for primality. But the corollary gives no clue about how much work you will have to do to find each prime. While everyone agrees that the corollary is a true and meaningful statement, the theorem is saying something more precise that might be more useful in some situations.

This presentation is also a good example of how a difficult theorem (that there are infinitely many primes) is made easy by merely formulating the right lemma. Once the above theorem about N+1 being prime is formulated, it is easy to prove it, and to prove Euclid's theorem.

Note also that the hard-soft distinction is not the same as the difficult-easy distinction. Hard analysis is hard because of its rigidity, not its difficulty.

Update: For completeness, I give G.H. Hardy's version:
The first is Euclid’s proof of the existence of an infinity of prime numbers. ... We have to prove that there are infinitely many primes, i.e. that the series (A) never comes to an end.

Let us suppose that it does, and that
2, 3 , 5 , …, P
is the complete series (so that P is the largest prime); and let us, on this hypothesis, consider the number Q defined by the formula
Q = (2· 3 · 5 · … P) + 1
It is plain that Q is not divisible by and of 2, 3, 5, …, P; for it leaves the remainder 1 when divided by any one of these numbers. But, if not itself prime, it is divisible by some prime, and therefore there is a prime (which may be Q itself) greater than any of them. This contradicts our hypothesis, that there is no prime greater than P; and therefore this hypothesis is false.

The proof is by reductio ad absurdum, and reductio ad absurdum, which Euclid loved so much, is one of a mathematician’s finest weapons. It is a far finer gambit than any chess gambit: ... (The proof can be arranged so as to avoid a reductio, and logicians of some schools would prefer that it should be.)
This is the soft version of the proof. The core reasoning is essentially the same, but you have to read the proof to extract a finitary argument.

Euclid's original argument did not use contradiction or consecutive primes as Hardy described. It was more similar to the above hard proof.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

American nuclear family

The hbd chick tries to correlate family type with ideology, based on the 7 family types. The discussion is mostly about Europe. To simplify, there are 2 main types:

American nuclear family - autonomous unit consisting of dad, mom, and kids; dad is head of household; Christian ideals.

Old world family - arranged and cousin marriages; rigid inheritance rules; household authority includes extended family; tribal culture.

The past 50 years have seen systematic attempts to undermine the American nuclear family. There are many factors, including financial incentives for single motherhood, massive immigration by old world families that refuse to assimilate, and leftist-feminist opposition to Americanism.

I think that they are on to something. Family types explain a lot. A big advance in European civilization occurred when Christianity abolished cousin marriages about a millennium ago. Islam has not. Families are very important in China and India, but they are not like the American nuclear family. The American nuclear family made American great, and now no one is defending it against the forces that are out to destroy it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ambiguity intolerance disorder

I have been fascinated by the question of why the vast majority of people so frequently jump to conclusions that are not justified by the available info. They usually persist, even when their error is pointed out. It is as if they all have some sort of mental defect.

My current hypothesis is that they are lacking in two areas, Theory of mind and Ambiguity tolerance.

Animal studies have shown that people have mirror neurons that make it very difficult for people to distinguish between their perceptions and experiences. As a result, people have a very hard time avoid coming to faulty conclusions about the motives of others, as they confuse their own mental processes with those of others.

I have noted below about how most people so easily jump to a guilty conclusion. Jurors are told to withhold judgment until they see all of the evidence, but they just cannot do it. Likewise, most people cannot undo their first impressions. I now believe that the problem is rooted in a low tolerance for ambiguity.

I would call these two under-studied psychological disorders, except that most people are afflicted. Maybe there are studies on this, but psychologists have these problems themselves, so I am not sure I trust them.

It seems to me that these disorders might correlate with political beliefs. Liberals have the mindreading disorder and conservatives have the ambiguity intolerance. They both jump to faulty conclusions, but maybe for different reasons.

A recent study claimed a correlation between certain disorders and college majors:
Our results suggest that shared genetic (and perhaps environmental) factors may both predispose for heritable neuropsychiatric disorders and influence the development of intellectual interests.
For example, relatives of bipolar depressed drug addicts were more likely to major in humanities than science. This is not exactly the sort of study I am looking for, but it is similar.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pathologizing normal behavior

Pyschologists are increasingly pathologizing normal behavior. The DSM-5 will soon say that grief following the death of a loved one will be considered to be a symptom of depression. But there is some pushback from some folks.

The NY Times reports:
The latest findings on dyslexia are leading to a new way of looking at the condition: not just as an impediment, but as an advantage, especially in certain artistic and scientific fields.
A Time magazine cover story is on The Upside Of Being An Introvert (And Why Extroverts Are Overrated).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Only a theory

Here is typical evolutionist explanation of whether evolution is only a theory:
A theory, as the word is used in science, doesn’t mean an unsupported speculation or hypothesis (the popular use of the word). A theory is, instead, a big idea that encompasses other ideas and hypotheses and weaves them into a coherent fabric. It is a mature, interconnected body of statements, based on reasoning and evidence, that explains a wide variety of observations. It is, in one of the definitions offered by the Oxford English Dictionary, “a scheme or system of ideas and statements held as an explanation of account of a group of ideas or phenomena; . . .a statement of what are known to be the general laws of something known or observed.” Thus atomic theory, quantum theory, and plate tectonic theory are not mere speculations or opinions, but strongly supported ideas that explain a great variety of phenomena. There are few theories in biology, and among them evolution is surely the most important.

So is evolution a fact or a theory? In light of these definitions, evolution is a scientific fact. That is, the descent of all species, with modification from common ancestors is a hypothesis that in the last 150 years or so has been supported by so much evidence, and has so successfully resisted all challenges, that it has become a fact. But this history of evolutionary change is explained by evolutionary theory, the body of statements (about mutaitons, selection, genetic drift, developmental constraints, and so forth) that together account for the various changes that organisms have undergone.
This says that evolution is a theory, but then says that it is a fact instead. But note that he wants to say that a theory must be a "strongly supported idea", even tho his dictionary definition does not say that at all. As a comment says:
It’s worth emphasising that calling something a theory says absolutely nothing about its truth. Theories range from the theory of conic sections (a branch of geometry, and as certain as anything can be), through Newton’s theory of gravity (true up to a point), and ideal gas theory (true of a non-existent gas, to which real gases approximate), to the Steady State theory of the Universe (wrong).
I would add String theory and many-worlds interpretation. These are pure fantasy, as there is no way to determine whether they are true or false.

Today, leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne moves on to complaining that this 1873 Darwin quote is out of context:
“The impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God.”
The context is that Darwin is not persuaded by the argument. Coyne hates the suggestion that a great scientist might not have been an atheist. But Darwin's point is that evolution directly attacks the chief reason for believing in God, and modern evolutionists like Coyne say the same thing, as noted below. I don't really agree with them, but I do think that this attitude of evolutionists explains why evolution is so controversial.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

New attack on California marriage law

The LA Times just reported:
A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage as early as next year.

The 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, violated the U.S. Constitution. ...

“Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the court said.
It is crazy to say that California marriage law violates a Civil War amendment because there is no reason for it. The rational basis for marriage has been described in court papers many times.

There are many other legitimate reasons as well. Maybe voters wanted to correct a bad court decision. Maybe voters wanted to clarify the law. Maybe voters wanted to conform to federal law and law in other states. Maybe voters were concerned that activist judges would use same-sex marriage as an excuse to push social policies, as has happened in California and elsewhere. Maybe voters wanted to make a statement about religious freedom. The supreme courts in several states have mandated same-sex civil unions and not same-sex marriage, which is the California law that the 9C now says is irrational.

Pres. Barack Obama says that he is against same-sex marriage, but he appoints leftist judges who try to change social policy with decisions like this.

This is a question of whether California is ruled by the people, or by a leftist elite that considers 60% of the voters to be irrational.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The global warming debate

I enjoy a good scientific debate. The WSJ published No Need to Panic About Global Warming:
A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about "global warming." Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.
It drew a lot of attention and a heated response, Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate:
Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition? In science, as in any area, reputations are based on knowledge and expertise in a field and on published, peer-reviewed work. If you need surgery, you want a highly experienced expert in the field who has done a large number of the proposed operations. ... For example, there is a retrovirus expert who does not accept that HIV causes AIDS. And it is instructive to recall that a few scientists continued to state that smoking did not cause cancer, long after that was settled science.
The rebuttal is disappointing because the climate scientists do not actually refute the first article. Nor does it stick to its own advice about sticking to the opinions of experts in the field. It ends up concluding:
In addition, there is very clear evidence that investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy will not only allow the world to avoid the worst risks of climate change, but could also drive decades of economic growth. Just what the doctor ordered.
Huhh? They are climate scientists, not economists. Artificially restricting the use of carbon will make us poorer in the short run, not wealthier. I am wary of people who brag about their expertise, tell me to accept their opinions as authoritative, lecture me on what science says, and then claims some unspecified "very clear evidence" for some political purpose outside their expertise.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Why Americans reject evolution

Leftist-evolutionist-atheist writes:
the gist of Sewell’s article is that evolutionists themselves are to blame for America’s rejection of evolution.

That’s palpable nonsense. Every statistic shows that evolution-denial is born of religion. Religious people accept evolution far less than do secularists, and Biblical literalists far less than those who see the Bible as divinely inspired but not literally true. Church attendance is strongly and negatively correlated with acceptance of evolution. Countries that are less religious accept evolution far more readily. And, of course, creationism has repeatedly been thrown out of America’s public schools by the courts because creationism is a belief based on religion, not fact.
I do think that evolutionists are to blame. As Sewell explains:
Evolution began as a neat explanation of variation within species and a plausible hypothesis for the origin of species. But today it is held out as a sufficient explanation of the origin of all life, a general explanatory theory of the development of everything – including culture – a grand narrative to end all grand narratives. Evolution is presented by Daniel Dennett as a “universal acid” that dissolves all ethical and moral systems, and by Richard Dawkins as a compelling argument against the existence of God and a slam-dunk case for abandoning any search for meaning, purpose or direction in human affairs.

Does anyone seriously expect the American public to buy into all that?
He is right. The American public does not reject science. It rejects the nihilistic philosophy that evolutionists try to force on us in the name of science.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Schools need less emphasis on empathy

Mary Grabar writes in an Atlanta paper op-ed:
Consider what an “official” of the curriculum company told an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter: “It’s important for kids to have some empathy for other people in the world.”

Really? When did schools get into the empathy business?

But this official’s admission illustrates how prevalent this belief is among educators. Educators have swung sharply from what most citizens believe schools should be doing, and that is imparting knowledge objectively and teaching students how to present written and oral arguments using logic and evidence.

Instead, students are asked to adopt attitudes and present opinions on adult issues. ...

But there are other means by which educators exploit students emotionally: Writing assignments that ask for feelings and opinions. ... Group work. ... Community service. ... The emphasis on everyday people, instead of leaders and heroes. ... Anti-bullying efforts. ...

But when schools emphasize feelings over knowledge and give students a false sense of accomplishment, they’re not helping.

Real knowledge and a strong work ethic come from such things as memorization, rewards for correct answers, intellectually challenging reading, and standard-based math and writing, not from “brainstorming” in groups, or getting praise for unsupported opinions, impressionistic scribbling in journals or token acts of do-good-ism.
This is the femininization of the schools. They are now more concern with indoctrination than learning.