Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The big fat truth

Nature magazine reports:
The report, a meta-analysis of 97 studies including 2.88 million people, had been released on 2 January in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)1. A team led by Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, reported that people deemed 'overweight' by international standards were 6% less likely to die than were those of 'normal' weight over the same time period.

The result seemed to counter decades of advice to avoid even modest weight gain, provoking coverage in most major news outlets — and a hostile backlash from some public-health experts. “This study is really a pile of rubbish, and no one should waste their time reading it,” said Walter Willett, a leading nutrition and epidemiology researcher at the Harvard school, in a radio interview. Willett later organized the Harvard symposium — where speakers lined up to critique Flegal's study — to counteract that coverage and highlight what he and his colleagues saw as problems with the paper. “The Flegal paper was so flawed, so misleading and so confusing to so many people, we thought it really would be important to dig down more deeply,” Willett says.

But many researchers accept Flegal's results and see them as just the latest report illustrating what is known as the obesity paradox. Being overweight increases a person's risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many other chronic illnesses. But these studies suggest that for some people — particularly those who are middle-aged or older, or already sick — a bit of extra weight is not particularly harmful, and may even be helpful. (Being so overweight as to be classed obese, however, is almost always associated with poor health outcomes.) ...

Public-health experts, including Willett, have spent decades emphasizing the risks of carrying excess weight. Studies such as Flegal's are dangerous, Willett says, because they could confuse the public and doctors, and undermine public policies to curb rising obesity rates. “There is going to be some percentage of physicians who will not counsel an overweight patient because of this,” he says. Worse, he says, these findings can be hijacked by powerful special-interest groups, such as the soft-drink and food lobbies, to influence policy-makers.
So leading nutritionists like Willett will lie to you about food science, because they do not want to undermine their pet public policies or help the food lobby.

A lot of professional athletes have a BMI of around 26. It seems crazy for experts like Willett to argue that there is something wrong with that.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Professors required to be politically correct

Libertarian law professor Ilya Somin brags about how he has the virtue of holding unpopular views. His examples are some typical libertarian views on drugs and nudity, plus arguing that he is in favor of open immigration out of strong opposition to white and/or American nationalism.

It is true that most Americans are against open immigration, but among Jewish atheist immigrant libertarian law professors like Somin, these are among the most cowardly and conformist views that he could possibly take. As VP Joe Biden just explained, Jews have been leaders in promoting immigration of various religions, races, ethnicities, and nationalities to the USA. (Of course they just want Jews immigrating into Israel, but that's another matter.)

No one is protesting Somin's lectures. If he were to take the reverse position, and argue that the USA should cut back on immigration in order to protect its national identity, then he would face the disapproval of his leftist colleagues, and accusations that he is a bigot. I will know that he has the guts to articulate unpopular views when his lectures are protested.

Chicago biology professor Jerry Coyne complains about another professor whose Christian beliefs have apparently influenced his science teaching. There is a campaign to get the Christian fired. Apparently Christianity is an unpopular view in today's university.

If we are going to have immigration reform, then we should have an open and honest debate on the alternatives and consequences. On one side, we have people like Somin who are determined to destroy the American nationality, and to deny that America has any right to adopt policies that are good for Americans. Unfortunately liberalism does not extend to the other side being heard.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

VP Biden on Jewish influence

Politico reports:
Vice President Joe Biden spoke at length Tuesday night about the influence of Judaism on the United States, dating back to the country's founding and to the present day as Jews helped shape views on gay rights.

“The truth is that Jewish heritage, Jewish culture, Jewish values are such an essential part of who we are that it’s fair to say that Jewish heritage is American heritage,” he said. “The Jewish people have contributed greatly to America. No group has had such an outsized influence per capita as all of you standing before you, and all of those who went before me and all of those who went before you.” ...

“The embrace of immigration” is part of that, as is the involvement of Jews in social justice movements. ...

“You can’t talk about the women’s movement without talking about Betty Friedan” or American advances in science and technology without mentioning Einstein and Carl Sagan, or music and Gershwin, Bob Dylan and “so, so, so many other people.”

“I believe what affects the movements in America, what affects our attitudes in America are as much the culture and the arts as anything else,” he said. That’s why he spoke out on gay marriage “apparently a little ahead of time.” ...

“Think behind of all that, I bet you 85 percent of those changes, whether it’s in Hollywood or social media are a consequence of Jewish leaders in the industry. The influence is immense, the influence is immense. And, I might add, it is all to the good,” he said.
So the Jews control Hollywood and the media, and their pervasive influence is chiefly responsible for radical feminism, uncontrolled immigration, and same-sex marriage.

This is exaggerated. Einstein contributed nothing to American advances in science and technology. After he came to America, his research was mainly in unified field theory, and was a worthless failure. He was also involved in Zionist and Communist political causes. Sagan got a lot of people excited about the possibility of life on other planets and other populist scientific issues. He also supported some leftist political causes. There are other Jewish scientists who contributed much more to American advances.

Currently immigration and same-sex marriage are two of the hottest political issues in the USA. Proposed changes threaten to transform America as we know it. I am just reporting on who Biden says is responsible.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wanting to ban the truth about immigration

SciAm's John Horgan writes:
But another part of me wonders whether research on race and intelligence — given the persistence of racism in the U.S. and elsewhere – should simply be banned. I don’t say this lightly. For the most part, I am a hard-core defender of freedom of speech and science. But research on race and intelligence — no matter what its conclusions are — seems to me to have no redeeming value. ...

Why, given all the world’s problems and needs, would someone choose to investigate this thesis? What good could come of it? Are we really going to base policies on immigration, education and other social programs on allegedly innate racial differences? ...

I’m sympathetic toward the position spelled out by Noam Chomsky in his usual blunt fashion in his 1987 book Language and Problems of Knowledge:

“Surely people differ in their biologically determined qualities. The world would be too horrible to contemplate if they did not. But discovery of a correlation between some of these qualities is of no scientific interest and of no social significance, except to racists, sexists and the like. Those who argue that there is a correlation between race and IQ and those who deny this claim are contributing to racism and other disorders, because what they are saying is based on the assumption that the answer to the question makes a difference; it does not, except to racists, sexists and the like.”
We have an immigration policy that is rapidly changing the racial and religious composition of the USA. We are considering an immigration amnesty that will accelerate those changes. Shouldn't we get some scientific estimates of the likely effects?

Social science is all about correlations, and discussions of race are technically racist in the term refers to making racial distinctions.

Discussions of sex differences are sexist. Yes, obviously. Understanding the nature of such differences is essential to everyday life. What use is it? Better relationships, for one thing.

I mention below that this subject is one of several that are being pushed out of public discourse.

Horgan has written many worthwhile articles, and I have quoted him before, but he recently wrote: How Can We Condemn Boston Murders but Excuse U.S. Bombing of Civilians?. To answer his question, the Boston bombers were committing terrorism against innocent civilians for the purpose of carrying out a Mohammedan jihad against America and gaining martyrdom in heaven. No civilized society can tolerate such attacks. The US only bombs military targets who are at war with us, and only kills civilians by accident. If the public disagreed, then they could have voted Pres. Obama out of office last year. Horgan has a funny idea about what is too rude to discuss.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Killing mice is moral

The current AAAS Science magazine reports on new research:
Interviewee – Armin Falk
So what we do in the experiment is we show that markets have a tendency to erode moral values. The way we find this out is we contrast decisions taken in what we call a non-market condition, if you like, with decisions taken in markets. In the market and the non-market condition, subjects could trade off money and life, in our case the life of mice, so these are moral consequences. And what we show is that in markets, many more mice die for a given monetary amount compared to a non-market conditions. And we show that in a causal way, markets actually lead to the erosion of moral values. ...

It is absolutely important to stress that the mice used in the experiment were so-called surplus mice. The mice would all have been killed without the experiment.
The abstract says"
We compare individual decisions to those made in a bilateral and a multilateral market. In both markets, the willingness to kill the mouse is substantially higher than in individual decisions. Furthermore, in the multilateral market, prices for life deteriorate tremendously.
So some people play a little game in which people is paid to pretend to kill mice, and that somehow shows that economic markets degrade morals?

To most people, mice are vermin to be exterminated, and killing mice is a moral thing to do. If markets help kill mice, so much the better.

It would be nice if science could somehow tell us what is moral. But this does not, and only tells us that certain transactions are more efficient with markets, and that was known for centuries.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

IQ and Immigration Policy

Here is another example of things you cannot say. Slate reports:
Four years ago, long before he’d join the Heritage Foundation, before Marco Rubio was even in the Senate, Jason Richwine armed a time bomb. A three-member panel at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government accepted Richwine’s thesis, titled “IQ and Immigration Policy.” In it, Richwine provided statistical evidence that Hispanic immigrants, even after several generations, had lower IQs than non-Hispanic whites. Immigration reformers were fools if they didn’t grapple with that.
Richwine has now been forced out of Heritage.

If Richwine said something factually incorrect, then his critics would quote it and rebut it. He would correct his error, and move on. But truth is a whole lot more offensive than fiction.

Update: The leftoid The Nation writes:
He’s probably the first person ever to lose his job because of his Harvard PhD dissertation: Jason Richwine, let go by the Heritage Foundation on Friday. The problem: he co-authored their position paper opposing immigration reform; and then somebody discovered that his PhD thesis at Harvard’s Kennedy School was dedicated to the proposition that Hispanics have lower IQs than white people. ...

The last word in this story goes a study published in 2012 the journal Psychological Science. “In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874),” the researchers wrote, “we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood.”
So hispanic immigration will make us more racist?

Monday, May 06, 2013

Things you cannot say

Harvard historian Niall Ferguson writes about John Maynard Keynes:
It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life.
He was apologizing for earlier remarks, which were criticized here and here. It concerned the quote:
The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again.
Of course we expect peoples' policy preferences to be influenced by their personal lives. That is why last year's political campaign talked about the lives of the presidential candidates.

So why would anyone say something so ridiculous?

Some questions are politically untouchable, where I cannot get the truth from professors, and so I have to figure it out for myself. I am adding this issue to the list.