Thursday, March 29, 2012

Democrats misunderstand science

The LA Times reports:
A study released Thursday in the American Sociological Review concludes that trust in science among conservatives and frequent churchgoers has declined precipitously since 1974, when a national survey first asked people how much confidence they had in the scientific community. At that time, conservatives had the highest level of trust in scientists.

Confidence in scientists has declined the most among the most educated conservatives, the peer-reviewed research paper found, concluding: "These results are quite profound because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives."

"That's a surprising finding," said the report's author, Gordon Gauchat, in an interview.
The report is not available online, and Gordon Gauchat has no info about it on his web site. His view is that the public should blindly accept the policy recommendations of scientists who withhold the details of their studies.
To highlight the dramatic impact conservative views of science have had on public opinion, Gauchat pointed to results from Gallup, which found in 2012 that just 30% of conservatives believed the Earth was warming as a result of greenhouse gases versus 50% two years earlier. In contrast, the poll showed almost no change in the opinion of liberals, with 74% believing in global warming in 2010 versus 72% in 2008.

Gauchat suggested that the most educated conservatives are most acquainted with views that question the credibility of scientists and their conclusions. "I think those people are most fluent with the conservative ideology," he said. "They have stronger ideological dispositions than people who are less educated." ...

Science has also increasingly come under fire, Gauchat said, because its cultural authority and its impact on government have grown. For years, he said, the role science played was mostly behind the scenes, creating better military equipment and sending rockets into space.

But with the emergence of the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, scientists began to play a crucial and visible role in developing regulations.
So conservatives accept rocket science but do not necessarily accept EPA policy recommendations.

Chris Mooney claims that Gauchat validates his anti-Republican rants:
Gauchat also captures, once again, the “smart idiot” effect: Conservatives becoming more factually wrong — or, in this case, more distrusting of science, which to me is basically the same thing — as their level of education advances. Here let me quote in full, because frankly, the finding can only be called highly disturbing:

…conservatives with high school degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees all experienced greater distrust in science over time and these declines are statistically significant. In addition, a comparison of predicted probabilities indicates that conservatives with college degrees decline more quickly than those with only a high school degree. These results are quite profound, because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives.
Mooney has a funny view of science. If a Republican studies climate science data and decides to distrust the policy recommendations of the global warming alarmists, he calls them "factually wrong" and denialists.

The problem with Mooney is that he does not understand science. Science is a methology for understanding the natural world, not a leftist political tool.

The Gallup poll says:
Although a majority of Americans believe the seriousness of global warming is either correctly portrayed in the news or underestimated, a record-high 41% now say it is exaggerated. ...

Since 1997, Republicans have grown increasingly likely to believe media coverage of global warming is exaggerated, ...
This is not a rejection of science, because the news media stories are exaggerated compared to what the scientific models say.

Other studies have shown that liberals do not understand conservatives.

Update: Jonathan H. Adler writes:
To measure “trust in science” Gauchat relies on data from the General Social Survey (GSS) from 1972 to 2010, in which respondents were asked to rate the degree of “confidence” they have in various social institutions. Yet the GSS specific survey question does upon which Gauchat relies does not actually measure trust in “science.” Rather, the question asks respondents to rate their confidence in “the scientific community.” But “science” and “the scientific community” are not the same thing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Zimmerman was arrested

People keep saying that George Zimmerman should have been arrested. The city has released a letter saying:
“Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense, which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony,” the letter, signed by Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr., says. “By Florida Statute, law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time.” (Caps are theirs.)
But the police report says:
Zimmerman complied with all of my verbal commands and was secured in handcuffs. ... Zimmerman was placed in the rear of my police vehicle and was given first aid by the SFD. ... he ware transported to the Sanford Police Department. ... Zimmerman was placed in an interview room at SFD, ...
So Zimmerman was unambiguously arrested. He was handcuffed and forcibly taken to the police station. That is what an arrest is.

Zimmerman has not been indicted or charged, but that will be up to the grand jury. It will also be up to the Obama administration, as Obama has ordered a federal investigation because, as Obama said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

Obama and other liberals seem determined to use this case as a way of inflaming racial tensions between blacks and mestizos. My view is that the parties are innocent until proven guilty, and I am waiting for the evidence.

Update: The Miami Herald reports:
State attorney Angela Corey indicated her office, not a grand jury, will decide whether to bring charges in the death of Trayvon Martin.
The fix is in. Corey was appointed to replace the prosecutor who was going to follow procedure and take the case to the grand jury. Zimmerman will be charged with manslaughter in an attempt to please Pres. Obama and avoid race riots. Corey is worried that the grand jury might not indict.

Update: ABC TV News says "Zimmerman was not arrested" underneath a video showing him being taken into the police station in handcuffs. The reporter also says that thousands of protesters are demanding the arrest of Zimmerman. Weird. I don't know why anyone would say that he was not arrested when the video clearly shows him being arrested. All I can figure is that a lot of people don't understand what "arrested" means. The police arrest, the grand jury indicts, the district attorney prosecutes, the jury convicts, the judge sentences, the appellate court denies the appeal, the warden watches the prison, and the parole officer supervises the release. That is how the criminal justice system works.

Another fact from ABC: Zimmerman is 5'9" and Martin was 6'2". It was widely reported that Zimmerman was heavier than Martin, but Martin was 5 inches taller. There is more info in the Wikipedia article on Shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Apple misleads customers

Apple news:
Apple today lost its appeal in an Italian court, after it was found to have misled consumers into shelling out for AppleCare extended warranty when it was not necessary.
I am surprised Apple does not lose more. I got a promotional email, directly from Apple, saying:
The new iPad
With the stunning Retina display. 5MP iSight camera. And ultrafast 4G LTE. Starting at $499.
No, the new iPad 3 with those features does not start at $499. You have to pay over a $100 more for the 4G LTE.

Another hidden cost is Thunderbolt. Apple computers do not come with USB 3 like everyone else, and instead have some expensive non-standard connector called Thunderbolt. Apple does not supply a cable with computers. There are now some Thunderbolt disc drives on the market, but they cost hundreds of dollars more, and none of them ships with a cable. Apparently the cables are hard to find and very expensive.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Feminism unleashed hypergamy

The threat to American monogamy is not polygamy but hypergamy. That means marriage into an equal or higher caste or social group, also known as "marrying up". Evolutionary psychologists say that women have an instinctual need to mate with higher status men.

The past half-century has seen many trends contributing to the destruction of the American family. Feminism. No-fault (unilateral) divorce. Cheap and reliable contraceptives. Welfare queens. Social acceptance of loose women and single moms. Sandra Fluke lobbied for free contraceptive pills for law students, and even got a telephone call of encouragement from President Obama.

Underlying all these trends has been unleashing female hypergamy. It no longer just means marrying up; it means hooking up with alpha males. Women are attracted to wealth, status, body type, and personality, as always, but they no longer need to marry to get what they want. And the alpha males don't need to marry them either.

The alpha males who enjoy indulging female hypergamy call it "game". I am not sure if game is short for hypergamy, or if the term comes from treating seduction like a game with goals, rules, and tactics. Either way, feminists are now liberated to pursue their hypergamous ideals as long as they retain their youth and beauty, and no one calls them sluts anymore.

Some of these trends are unstoppable. But some of them are byproducts of govt policies promoted by feminists and liberals who are out to destroy the American family. Unfortunately, there is no political will to make the necessary changes. See, for examples, Roissy's plan to save marriage or his anti-alimony rant or anything else he has to say about social trends and hypergamy. His posts are outrageous and offensive, but they are also grounded in human nature and scientific research. No one is going to pay any attention to him until current social trends get a whole lot worse.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Humans are not apes

Anthropologist John Hawks writes:
I don't know why so many people who accept and promote evolution have such a dim view of phylogenetic systematics.

How else to explain why I so often hear the canard, "Humans are apes"?

My children can tell what an ape is. I work very hard to tell them why apes are different than monkeys. When they see a chimpanzee in a zoo, and other parents are telling their kids, "Look at the monkey!", my children say, "That's not a monkey, it's an ape!" ...

Today I read Jerry Coyne, writing about a silly column ("Washington Times denies that Richard Dawkins is an ape"): ...

Jerry is far from alone in this -- many evolutionary biologists state as if it were an unquestionable fact that humans are apes. I disagree. ...

We aren't apes. And it's OK to teach your children that chimpanzees are apes, not monkeys. Because that's what I do.
If a child can understand the difference between humans and apes, why are evolutionists so eager to deny it? They are on some ideological mission to convince everyone that we are just animals.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Red meat and mortality

A recent study found that red meat was deadly:
Small quantities of processed meat such as bacon, sausages or salami can increase the likelihood of dying early by a fifth, researchers from Harvard School of Medicine found. Eating steak increases the risk of early death by 12%. The study found that cutting the amount of red meat in peoples’ diets to 1.5 ounces (42 grams) a day, equivalent to one large steak a week, could prevent almost one in 10 early deaths in men and one in 13 in women.
My personal belief is that a cheeseburger is the healthiest food that you can eat, so I am always on the lookout for any evidence to the contrary.

This essay enumerates weaknesses of the study:
The authors claim that 9.3 per cent of deaths in men and 7.6 per cent of deaths in women could be avoided by eating little or no red meat. To put that into some back-of-an-envelope statistical perspective: multiplying that 9.3 per cent by the 20 per cent who actually died shows that about 1.8 per cent of red-meat eaters would die by the time they were 75 because of their meat-eating habit. ...

A serious problem with the present study is that while the researchers excluded anyone who had a heart problem or cancer at the time the study started, there were some pretty important differences between the groups examined. In both the male and female groups, at the start of the study the people who ate the most red meat were also about twice as likely to be diabetic and took much less exercise. The men in the high red-meat group were also three times as likely to be smokers and drank much more, too. (Women who like their red meat also liked booze and fags more than their burger-dodging sisters did, but the differences weren’t as large.)

There was also a clear trend in total calories consumed per day for both men and women. The low red-meat group consumed far fewer calories each day (1,659 for men and 1,202 for women) then the highest red-meat group (2,396 for men and 2,030 for women). These are enormous differences.

Can the researchers really be sure that the differences in meat consumption were to blame for the fairly small difference in health outcomes, rather than all the other differences between the groups?
(This was on a British site, where a "fag" means a cigarette.)

If red meat were really so bad, wouldn't they be able to do a more convincing study to prove it?

The trouble with this sort of uncontrolled study is that it finds healthier people who live longer, and it finds that those healthy people have an assortment of habits that are generally perceived as healthy, but it is very hard to figure out what is causing the healthiness. Maybe avoiding red meat is making people healthier, but I think that it is more likely that the healthier people have been brainwashed to think that they need to avoid red meat to stay healthy.

The essay concludes:
What is really striking is that the eat-meat-die-young panic keeps rearing its ugly head so regularly, based on study after study with equally feeble risk ratios and numerous confounding factors. This suggests that the constant desire to scare those of a carnivorous bent has little to do with the evidence – which is shakier than a cow with BSE – and more to do with the prejudices of those who want us all to live a less red-blooded lifestyle. The particular desire to promote lentil-munching over hot dogs and burgers rather suggests a general sniffiness towards mass-produced food, too.

The most accurate answer to the question of whether red meat and processed meat are bad for you is this: we just don’t know. My hunch is that the health risks are non-existent – in practical terms, they are pretty much irrelevant – but given the difficulties of conducting this research, it’s hard to believe we could ever know if one particular type of food is especially bad for us. Still, that won’t stop the medics and the researchers from trying to enforce their food rules on us anyway.
Physicians have claimed for decades that red meat causes high blood cholesterol and high blood cholesterol causes heart disease, but that reasoning is faulty also.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Time promotes mama's boys

We are in the midst of a vast social experiment, in which boy are reared by single moms and feminized schools. The bad consequences should be obvious, but some people try to justify it with sloppy research. Time mag reports:
For generations, mothers have gotten the same old message when it comes to raising sons: beware of keeping him “too close.” A mom who nurtures a deep emotional bond will prevent him from growing up to be a strong, independent man. By refusing to cut those apron strings, she is on track to create the archetypal, effeminate, maladjusted “mama’s boy.” There’s one problem with this theory: it’s just not true.
Not true? I hope it is not true, but here is the dubious research:
Nurturing mothers can help their sons develop emotional intelligence, encouraging them to talk about their feelings and recognize those of others. ... One study of 400 middle-school boys in New York City public schools revealed that boys who were closer to their mothers were less likely to define masculinity as a matter of being tough, stoic and self-reliant. (Study said: Using a mental-health measure called the Children's Depression Inventory, he also found that boys who shunned masculine stereotypes and remained more emotionally available had, on average, better rates of mental health through middle school.) ... What’s more, these young men will be better equipped to navigate today’s economy, in which communication skills and teamwork are more important for success than brute physical strength or dominance.
So the studies did find that the mama's boys were less masculine but the researchers redefined mental health in terms of having feminized personalities that encourage sharing feelings with others, and say that our feminized economy now has more demand for mama's boys.

Yes, families, schools, and jobs are more feminized than ever. The psychology profession was feminized a long time ago, so they cheer the decline of masculinity.

The current Time mag cover story has this wishful thinking:
Now that women are poised to become the major breadwinners in a majority of families within the next generation, this research suggests that men will be just as adaptive and realize what an advantage a high-earning partner can be. Men are just as willing as women to marry up, and life is now giving them the opportunity to do so. So, women, own up to your accomplishments, buy him a drink, and tell him what you really do.
The supporting research is this:
In February 2012, the Hamilton Project, a Brookings Institution initiative that tracks trends in earnings and life prospects, found that marriage rates have risen for top female earners — the share of women in the very top earning percentile who are married grew by more than 10 percentage points — even as they have declined for women in lower earning brackets. (The report also suggested that the decline in those lower brackets may be because women can support themselves and are dissuaded from marriage by the declining earnings of men.)
Note that the marriage success was only for the women in the top 1% of salaries. The rest of the women are more likely to divorce their husbands after the wife earns more money.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Compare Fukushima to Chernobyl

A year after the Japanese nuclear disaster, anti-nuclear activists are gloating that power plants are being shut down in Japan, Germany, and elsewhere. But nuclear power remains the safest way to generate power. NewScientist reports:
there is no possibility that the physical health consequences of Fukushima Daiichi will be anywhere near as bad as those of Chernobyl.

As far as anyone knows, no member of the public received a significant dose of radiation attributable to the Fukushima Daiichi reactor emergency and no physical health effects of radiation should be expected. ...

Chernobyl was the worst that could happen. Safety and protection systems failed and there was a full core meltdown in a reactor that had no containment. In the "defence in depth" of nuclear power plants outside the former USSR, containment is an essential engineered safety feature.

The figures tell a story: 237 Chernobyl workers were taken to hospital with suspected acute radiation sickness; 134 of these cases were confirmed; 28 were fatal; about 20 other workers have since died from illnesses considered to have been caused or aggravated by radiation exposure; two workers died from other causes at the time of the accident and another disappeared - presumed dead.

On top of that, it has been estimated that about 4000 people will die (or may already have died) from radiation-induced cancer, including workers exposed directly to radiation, and members of the public exposed to the huge release of radioactive material from the reactor. ...

At Fukushima Daiichi, the reactors shut down safely when struck by the magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake, the fourth largest ever recorded. But problems arose after they were inundated by a much larger tsunami than had been anticipated when the nuclear plant was designed. This caused the loss of all power on the site so that cooling systems failed and some of the reactor cores overheated.
Even if you are just concerned about radioactivity, a far greater hazard is coal power.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Farrakhan rant

Louis Farrakhan gave an invited speech at Cal Berkeley, saying:
Anybody that's not a friend of the Jewish community was never written of well in history. That's true. Because they're the publishers. They're the writers. So if you want to be well-spoken of, then be a lackey. Be a flunky. Be a tool in the oppression of your people and they will always speak well of you.
So of course everyone has denounced him, including this rabbi:
When Farrakhan spoke at a national convention just last month in Chicago, he spouted classic anti-Semitic rhetoric, such as “Did you know that the Koran says that Jews are the most violent of people? I didn’t write it, but I’m living to see it.” In addition, by suggesting that “In 100 years, (Jews) control movies, television, recording, publishing, commerce, radio, they own it all,” he reinforced a classic and offensive anti-Semitic sentiment regarding Jews and power.
I would think that it would be more effective to refute Farrakhan. For example, it must surely be easy to show that other ethnic groups are more violent than Jews.

Alan Dershowitz said in 2005:
I want to mention the areas of agreement on which there is broad consensus among the Jewish people:

1. The right of Israel to exist and thrive as a Jewish state. ...

4. The right of Israel not to be demonized and defamed on college campuses the way it happens so often today, whether it be at Berkeley or Columbia or at so many other major universities in America.
Really? All Jews agree that Farrakhan should not be allowed to speak at Berkeley? Even a famous Harvard law professor who brags about his dedication to free speech?

From what I can see, when Dershowitz is not defending murderers and Israel, he is obsessed with attacking Jews who stray from he claims is the Jewish consensus. His greatest hatred is for Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, and Gilad Atzmon. The dispute does not seem to have anything to do with politics or religion in the usual sense. Dershowitz has very strong views about Jewish political identity, and is determined to punish anyone who leaves the tribe.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Professor cannot mock female student

Colleges are filled with professors who are anti-American in various ways. Ever wonder what a professor has to say to get censured by his management? University of Rochester president Joel Seligman issued a statementdenouncing one of his professors:
Landsburg went further. He stated that Ms. Fluke’s position deserved “only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered.” ... To openly ridicule, mock, or jeer a student in this way is about the most offensive thing a professor can do. We are here to educate, to nurture, to inspire, not to engage in character assassination.
I had no idea that a professor had an obligation to respect the views of a 30yo law student of another university 1000 miles away. Prof. Landsburg has succeeded in doing "about the most offensive thing a professor can do", according to his boss. This makes me wonder what would be grounds for dismissal, if he has already done the worst.

Sandra Fluke's testimony was that she wanted 30-cent contraceptive pills to come bundled with her $50k law school tuition, at no additional cost. I understand that some people don't like the name-calling, but is she really so helpless that she should not be mocked?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Is Economics a Real Thing?

The Dilbert cartoonist writes:
All of this makes me wonder how one would go about analyzing the field of economics to find out if it's mostly legitimate, albeit imperfect - like weather forecasting, or mostly psychological, like horoscopes. Let's dig into that question.

In recent years, the definition of economics has broadened, thanks to popular books such as Freakonomics. Now when we speak of economics we can include scientific studies and analyses on just about any interesting aspect of life, from crime rates to prostitution. I consider that a red flag for the legitimacy of economics. In my experience, whenever someone tinkers with the definition of a thing, it's because the original thing is broken and no one is willing to admit it.
Freakonomics? Maybe that has become the most public face of popular economics, but much of it is bogus, as I have noted in what's wrong with Freakonomics and here and here. A close second might be Kahneman, who I criticized below. These guys not only sell millions of books, but they have also received prizes from academic economics for being among the tops in their fields. Another example is the NY Times columnist Paul Krugman. His columns are filled with economic errors, as documented here and on the blog The Big Questions. And yet these guys are wrong about their most famous assertions.

So yes, the field of economics is in a sorry state.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Kahneman the con-man

The Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman was interviewed on PBS Charlie Rose, plugging his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, which summarizes his life research. It came out in Oct. 2011 as a huge seller, and it is still no. 9 on the Amazon Best Sellers.

People buy this book because they think that they will learn to be better decision-makers. However it is useless for that purpose, and Kahneman even disavows it. The book says:
Observers are less cognitively busy and more open to information than actors. That was my reason for writing a book that is oriented to critics and gossipers rather than to decision makers. [p.417]
Much of the book is a bogus ideological attack on Bayesian inference. I have criticized him before. He sounds like someone who has never taken a freshman statistics course.

One of his favorite examples of a cognitive error is that some people think that a child who is a good reader at age 4 will go on to get good grades in school. Another supposed error is that people are willing to pay more for life insurance after being reminded of terrorist threats. Another example is that George W. Bush is a fast thinker while Barack Obama is a slow thinker.

He has very little to substantiate any of this. There is lots of evidence that kids who read well at age 4 are more likely to go on to get good grades in high school. That is what many people say, when Kahneman survey them. The strange part is that Kahneman thinks that they are wrong. Kahneman is the one who is wrong.

Kahneman is an example of someone who is uniformly praised as a great genius, and yet there is very little merit to anything he says. As he admits, it is a book for critics and gossipers. He is proof that the public is much to easily impressed with phony intellectuals.