Saturday, June 29, 2013

UK bans Islam critic

UK has banned a blogger from visiting for saying:
it [Islam] is a religion and a belief system that mandates warfare against unbelievers for the purpose of establishing a societal model that is absolutely incompatible with Western society because media and general government unwillingness to face the sources of Islamic terrorism these things remain largely unknown.
One trouble with this is that it will now be hard for anyone else to tell whether this statement is true or false.

Paula Deen has been banned from the Food channel for saying something in private conversation to her husband, I am not sure what. George Zimmerman is on trial for being a creepy-ass cracka in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

The Dilbert cartoonist writes about Snowden:
I think there's some sort of law that says I can't make a public statement in favor of jury nullification. Jury nullification is when jurors agree that the accused broke the law, but they feel the law itself is wrong, or that a conviction would be overkill, so they find the accused innocent. I predict that will happen. I don't recommend jury nullification because I'm not sure I have freedom of speech in this regard. I simply predict that nullification will happen.
No, this is a misunderstanding of jury nullification. One could easily have the opinion that Snowden did not have the necessary criminal intent, and recommend that jurors use their lawful powers to acquit. In court, juries are usually not told the full story about their powers, but there is certainly nothing wrong with a private citizen expressing an opinion about what a verdict ought to be.

Meanwhile no one complains about the movie World War Z. Zombie infections from Third World countries are destroying civilization, with the front lines being places like a Newark NJ housing project. The best way to survive is to build walls keeping the outsiders out, and to shoot the ones who get in. Or maybe inject ourselves with a terminal pathogen and hope the zombies ignore us. The movie did not make much literal sense, so I assume that the zombie invasion is a metaphor.

I am surprised at how many people say that Zimmerman deserves prison because he is a cop wannabe who should have minded his own business. They appear to have an authoritarian mindset where citizens do not have the right to defend themselves and their neighborhoods. I have confronted strangers, and I have been confronted when I was the stranger. It is a normal part of a civilized society. The authority of police in a matter like this is not much different from ordinary citizens, and that is the way is should be. Zimmerman will be acquitted.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dope-smoking study questioned

A study last year found that dope-smoking had negative effects:
Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education. Informants also reported noticing more cognitive problems for persistent cannabis users. Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Further, cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents.
This study has now been criticized by statisticians who argue that not all of the confounders were factored out. That is, maybe some personality trait led to both the dope-smoking and the cognitive decline.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Facts miss Gould's point

I have posted before about how leftist-atheist-evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould got famous on bogus IQ work. You might think that it is unfair to criticize him after he is dead, but he was thoroughly debunk while still alive. See this account:
In 1986, I mailed my results to Gould, who requested we meet after he gave a lecture in May at the University of Minnesota. Our meeting lasted perhaps five minutes. He told me that I “missed the point,” and abruptly ended the conversation, ignoring me and instead speaking to the man next to him. My recollection is that he did not say goodbye, so I simply walked away. […] After I published my paper in 1988, I sent Gould a copy but got no response. When I wrote him again, he replied that he had lost it and requested another copy, which I sent. I never heard back from him.
Gould's books are still big sellers. His point was to promote his leftist political goals by convincing the public that evolution does not apply to humans and there is no such thing as IQ.

Of course there have been lots of professors who have been guilty of sloppy, dishonest, or fraudulent work. He was on another level. He liked to denounce others for being racist, while he was a closet Marxist who faked his data in order to support his political character assassinations. And somehow he maintained the support of other liberal anti-American professors.

Update: Peter Frost says Gould distorted the work of a guy who died in 1840:
The Caucasus was the last area where one could freely buy fair-skinned women for marriage or concubinage, typically for clients in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Previously, the zone of recruitment had been larger, extending into what is now Ukraine and southern Russia. Further back in time, it had covered almost all of Europe. But this earlier page of European history was largely forgotten by Blumenbach’s time.

Blumenbach really had only one original idea. He saw a causal link between the biblical account of the Flood and the beauty of European women, particularly those from the Caucasus. But that single flash of insight would leave no lasting impression on future generations.
And that is where the term Caucasian comes from?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Evolutionists on the warpath for materialism

NY Times columnist David Brooks writes:
At the highbrow end, there are scholars and theorists that some have called the “nothing buttists.” Human beings are nothing but neurons, they assert. Once we understand the brain well enough, we will be able to understand behavior. We will see the chain of physical causations that determine actions. We will see that many behaviors like addiction are nothing more than brain diseases. We will see that people don’t really possess free will; their actions are caused by material processes emerging directly out of nature. Neuroscience will replace psychology and other fields as the way to understand action.
Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne responds:
By equating free will with the absence of determinism and materialism, Brooks implicitly labels himself a dualist. And yet the program of the “nothing buttists” sounds pretty good to me: in fact, it’s the only program that is likely to make progress in understanding how and why we think. ...

You know why Brooks would be a bad scientist? It’s because he wants this dualism to be true: he wants there to be something more to the mind than the neuronal secretions of the brain. And yet his objections to the materialist program are not objections at all. Nor does he suggest an alternative. His decrying materialism suggests some kind of festering spirituality, which is odd coming from someone who wrote a book claiming that much of our modern behavior is coded in our genes. For Brooks’s brand of evolutionary psychology is nothing but materialist and reductionist.

In fact, the brain is the mind in the sense that the mind is a product of the brain, and without a brain there is no mind. The brain is in fact the meat computer that, taking in physiological and environmental inputs, produces the mind as its output. That may sound reductionistic and materialistic, but it happens to be true. Unless, that is, there’s a spiritual homunculus sitting in our heads.
Here are two sharply different views. If we are going to be scientific, then we should ask for some experiment that demonstrates one right and one wrong. But there is no experimental evidence for or against free will.

Brooks is not a scientist, but Coyne is, and I expect more from him. If he is going to lecture us about science, then he should bring some scientific evidence to bear.

Another leftist-atheist-evolutionist who is always lecturing the public about the nature of science is PZ Myers. The Dilbert cartoonist criticizes him:
Over at The Bearded Taint's blog, the citizens have lit torches, grabbed pitchforks and come after me (again). I don't think I have seen more concentrated hate in one place. It's actually quite fascinating from a mental health perspective.

I left my own comments on the Bearded Taint's blog if you want to follow along.

The interesting thing is that I'm reasonably sure my haters and I have exactly the same opinions on the topics they are getting worked up about. But once the Internet decides you are a holocaust-denying, creationist, science-hating, sexist, sock puppet, all evidence seems to support that view. And in this case, these science-loving folks are basing their views on rumors, stuff taken out of context, misinterpretations, faulty memory of stuff they once read but don't fully remember, and that sort of thing.

I'll say it again because it is so interesting: The people who are hating me because of my opinions have exactly the same opinions. They just don't realize it because of the fog of confirmation bias.
Apparently the root of PZ Myers' hatred is that Scott Adams once expressed some skepticism about a Newsweek article on fossil evidence for evolution. Myers hates religion, but Adams does not appear to be religious. Adams regularly posts skepticism about all sorts of things.

Coyne and Myers and blinded by ideology. If they really want to promote science, then they ought to attack those who deny demonstrable facts. But Brooks and Adams are not denying any facts. They are just making observations and stating opinions. Adams is also a comedian, so he also says things just because they are imaginative or funny or provocative. Apparently this is the most offensive quote:
The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.
His cartoons make fun of people much more than that. You have to read him a while to appreciate his sense of humor. He used to sometimes tag comments with BOCTAOE (But Of Course There Are Obvious Exceptions) just for the people who take him too literally.

Update: The New Yorker reviews a new book:
A backlash against pop neuroscience is now in full swing. The latest, and most cutting, critique yet is “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience,” by Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld. The book, which slams dozens of inconclusive studies that have been spun into overblown and downright dubious fields, like neurolaw and neuromarketing, is a resounding call for skepticism of the most grandiose claims being made in the name of neuroscience. The authors describe it as “an exposé of mindless neuroscience: the oversimplification, interpretive license, and premature application of brain science in the legal, commercial, clinical, and philosophical domains." The book does a terrific job of explaining where and how savvy readers should be skeptical. ...

But the idea that the mind is separate from the brain no longer makes sense. They are simply different ways of describing the same thing. To talk about the brain is to talk about physiology, neurons, receptors, and neurotransmitters; to talk about the mind is to talk about thoughts, ideas, beliefs, emotions, and desires. As an old and elegant phrase puts it, “The mind is what the brain does.” ...

If critics are too pessimistic about what the future holds, they are right about one thing: over the past decade, neuroscience has become overprivileged as a method of examining the mind. Journalists, courts, and sometimes even scientists seem to believe that a brain scan can be more telling than a profile of an individual’s behavior. Perhaps as neuroscience progresses, it is possible for objective, physiological assessment of the brain to win out as the ultimate arbiter of truth when it comes to the mind. But that’s a long way off, if it ever will be possible at all.
That's right, one can be a materialist and still be skeptical about whether the mind will ever be understood from brain scans and similar technologies.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Google blocks my ads

Yesterday I criticized Google for undermining privacy, and today I get an email from them saying that I could no longer put Google ads on this blog because of Little or no original content.

Really? I have had this blog for 11 years, and I have 2818 posts online. There are no autogenerated content or doorway pages or any of the things they complain about. Every post I wrote myself. It is true that my blogging has been light lately, and that I quote my sources, but these habits are not much different from a lot of other legitimate and useful blogs.

Google has the legal right to retaliate against blogs for opinions expressed, but it denies that it does that. I have occasionally criticized Google in the past, such as Google keeps all data, How Google explains its rankings, and How Google punishes. I have also criticized Apple and lots of other companies.

I don't know what Google is doing here. I don't know, for example, whether a human being even looked at my site, or whether its action is part of a systematic campaign to punish certain types of blogs. It has no obligation to tell me. I am just posting the facts. If you rely heavily on Google, you might want to know about its business practices.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Losing medical privacy

Google and Facebook thrive by undermining privacy, and now the CEO says:
A day after breaking an almost year-long silence on a medical condition that had affected the way he speaks, Google co-founder Larry Page said Wednesday that people should be more open about their medical histories.

"I just disclosed yesterday my voice issues, I got so many thoughtful emails from people and advice," he said answering an audience question at the Google I/O developer event in San Francisco. Page said he had originally thought his own medical information should be very private, but the response he got from his blog post caused a rethink.

"At least in my case I feel I should have done it sooner and I'm not sure that answer isn't true for most people, so I ask why are people so focused on keeping your medical history private?"
NY Times reporter Gina Kolata reports:
But geneticists nationwide have gotten a few rude awakenings, hints that research subjects in fact could sometimes be identified by their DNA alone, or even by the way their cells were using their DNA. The latest shock came in January, when a researcher at the Whitehead Institute, which is affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, managed to track down five people selected at random from a database using only their DNA, ages and the states in which they lived. And he did it in just hours. He also found relatives — a total of close to 50 people. ...

With so many questions about the privacy and security of genetic data, researchers wonder what research subjects should be told. Leaks and identification of study subjects will never be completely avoidable, said George Church, a Harvard geneticist. And as much as investigators might like to find a way to keep genetic data secure and private, he does not think there is an exclusively technical solution.

“If you believe you can just encrypt terabytes of data or anonymize them, there will always be people who hack through that,” Dr. Church said.

He believes that people who provide genetic information should be informed that a loss of privacy is likely, rather than unlikely, and agree to provide DNA with that understanding.
Advancing technology and Obamacare may make medical privacy obsolete.

I am wondering what the practical consequences would be if everyone's medical, psychiatric, and genomic info were put in a public database. I do not see how I would be personally harmed. Maybe even my insurance rates would go down, as a lot of medical privacy is just hiding data from insurance companies. If the companies can operate more efficiently, then there would be an average benefit to us.

Medical privacy is going to be very expensive. I haven't formed a definite opinion. I want to see the costs and benefits. Nobody is telling me either.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What Do Women Want?

Daniel Bergner is getting a lot of publicity for his new book, and says in an interview:
You debunk the canard of evolutionary biology that men are impelled to spread their seed widely, women to seek one resource-providing mate. Does that mean that biologically women and men are equally inclined to casual sex?

That is what science is beginning to tell us.
No the science does not tell us that. Males seek casual sex while females seek hypergamy. You see it in humans and through the animal world.

His book seems to be an expansion of his 2009 magazine article, What Do Women Want?

He seems to be confused by research showing that women do not have a clear idea of what turns them on. That is, if you ask them about images, things, or behaviors that they like, they will give very different answers from what they are observed to like. Here is an example.

Many people will say that there is a terribly unfair double standard. It takes research to affirm the obvious:
College-aged women judge promiscuous female peers -- defined by bedding 20 sexual partners by their early 20s -- more negatively than more chaste women and view them as unsuitable for friendship, finds a study by Cornell University developmental psychologists.

Notably, participants' preference for less sexually active women as friends remained even when they personally reported liberal attitudes about casual sex or a high number of lifetime lovers. ...

The findings suggest that though cultural and societal attitudes about casual sex have loosened in recent decades, women still face a double standard that shames "slutty" women and celebrates "studly" men, said lead author Zhana Vrangalova, a Cornell graduate student in the field of human development. The study, titled "Birds of a Feather? Not When it Comes to Sexual Permissiveness" and published in the early online edition of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, reports that such social isolation may place promiscuous women at greater risk for poor psychological and physical health outcomes.
"For sexually permissive women, they are ostracized for being 'easy,' whereas men with a high number of sexual partners are viewed with a sense of accomplishment," Vrangalova said. "What surprised us in this study is how unaccepting promiscuous women were of other promiscuous women when it came to friendships -- these are the very people one would think they could turn to for support." ...

"For sexually permissive women, they are ostracized for being 'easy,' whereas men with a high number of sexual partners are viewed with a sense of accomplishment," Vrangalova said. "What surprised us in this study is how unaccepting promiscuous women were of other promiscuous women when it came to friendships -- these are the very people one would think they could turn to for support."

She added that prior research shows that men often view promiscuous women as unsuitable for long-term romantic relationships, leaving these women outside of many social circles.

"The effect is that these women are really isolated," Vrangalova said. She suggested future research to determine whom they could befriend -- perhaps straight or gay men who would be accepting of their behaviors.