Thursday, September 30, 2010

Until the town went dry.

Prohibition era music is rather fun. I think Boardwalk Empire is going to be pretty successful as a show. And there's more than a few good parallels to draw to the prohibition of marijuana.

It seems odd that there's more money in an industry that is kept illegal. As such, there is considerable economic power behind marijuana and it's presently the main cash crop of the United States dwarfing corn, but wouldn't it fall down to the price of about wheat or sugar beats if it were fully legalized.

And if California legalizes and taxes it, isn't that just a way of profiting off the sustained efforts in other states to keep it illegal. Some analysis suggest that legalizing marijuana would net very little money for the California because without it being illegal the prices would drop rather quickly, but that would only happen if the rest of the states also made it legal.

So isn't that pretty much just a state monopoly brought about by silliness. I mean if you outlawed tobacco everywhere but North Carolina, then there'd be insane profits to be had by the state selling it at huge profits by funding the local white markets as well as the non-local black markets.

Is it really fair to profit off something that doesn't really do anything good? I mean, casinos are pretty nice, but if they went bankrupt would people be better off? I know Nevada would largely fade away and become a ghost town of producing nothing. And what if all the paper pushing money creation on wall street didn't exist. What if there were some many trillions of dollars that isn't backed by anything or produced by nothing more than slight of hand and bad investments. The first rumblings of that going away sent shockwaves through the economy and caused real hardship to real people. Why is it that fake economies are so successful at creating real wealth and real prosperity? Or is it all just a silly illusion? Are such things the economies form of digging and refilling a hole? Or are diamonds really worth what they cost in the store,  or are they worth what you can't really resell them for, or are they worth as much as a shiny bit of crystallized carbon should be worth, as in a few cents?

Prohibition brought about huge crime issues, and did mark the first time women (who weren't prostitutes) could drink with the men, and diamonds are bought and sold as blood diamonds to fund private wars, murder, and slavery. Are black markets crime simply a biproduct of undervalued resources being hugely overpriced? Would we be better off without casinos, wall street credit default swaps, overpriced shiny rocks, and illegal marijuana. Or would the economy really suffer without this fraud.

In an ecological system, it's almost never the plants that are the most interesting clunking along changing sunlight into usable energy, it's all the critters that eat the plants, and eat the critters, and live on the critters. It's all the parasites that makes nature so beautiful, it's only the plants that do the real work, but the rest of it is absolutely stunning. Do we need pointless do-nothing rules to make a vibrant economy? If we only employed people who made things, the unemployment rate would be much much higher than it is today and people wouldn't be able to buy things that the people made.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The gogolth digit of pi is 4.

"If this isn't true, I'll kill myself."

Is this a safe statement to make? Even with geometric expansion of computer power it seems quite likely that calculating the googolth digit of pi may not be done in my lifetime. Further, it might well be 4. Also the statement is not binding. And perhaps we can just keep upshifting the base until one of the bases actually is 4. In all likelihood any base greater than 5 should more or less have yet another set of odds up to base googol or so. I figure one could just keep trying.

So I think there's a way to make it true, and no real way to calculate it anyway (the best we've done is 5 trillion or ~10^12 so 1/10^88th as much as is needed). So I'd be safe with some sort of suicide pact based on pi. Or would I? Eh, doesn't matter either way. It's still a 4 in base-ten and suicide is contingent on non-4 in every base. If we assume it's normal and being unknown somewhat random, I have a 1/5th in base 5, 1/6th in base 6, 1/7th in base 7... or something I'd likely have to look up, let's just call it fifty fifty, but proving it would be an issue.

Cats in an Ikea. Because that's a good thing to know.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's a belief like that doing in a brain like you?

It isn't that I don't like people who believe silly things, and so I attack their beliefs. It's that I care about my fellow humans, and I think they are better than their beliefs. I see the best in people, and so I honestly think they can put away their childish things.That and I might be wrong, and the best way to get to the bottom of such things is through intellectual discourse.

Dance Monkey Dance. (Cheer Up and a change of pace).

This is actually a repost from 2007.

An oldie but a goodie. And it helps now that I accept that humans are monkeys.

Squinting at Science III

Hm. Now my posts are being deleted because disagreeing is very trollish and I shouldn't write so much.

My final reply which he's now taken to deleting. Having posted a large criticism of my posts and deleting what seems like a reasonable reply.

It went with the rest of the implication that he was somehow just some guy. It’s a bit like saying Mr. Newton thinks X, but scientists today disagree. He was a college professor and a fantastic scientist. You seemed to use “Mr.” to reinforce the general accusation that he was somehow being unreasonable. It’s not disrespectful in general but you seem to have a tone of disrespect that you’re reinforcing thusly.

* “offers long comment full of content I certainly agree with, then implies I do not. Quite a waste of words on his part, and such strawmanning is not appropriate for someone claiming to have truth as his objective.”

Oh, how dare I post an explanation of various aspects of history of science, to establish the point I’m trying to make. You give a false impression in the above article as well as in your paper. To make this point requires explaining a lot.

* “claims I said my paper “gave a ‘history of science’” when I said no such thing. The title of my paper makes it clear it is on methodological naturalism, merely one theme within the history of science. I really dislike being misquoted and strawmanned.”

Really. You said, and I quote: “Tatarize, it seems you have read neither my previous articles posted on this site, nor my article published on the history of science…”

Your article published “on the history of science” did, though the main thesis was MN, have some history of science there. It was poorly done, but you did say it was on history of science and it had a brief rundown of what some people might fathom the history of science is (Rodney Stark for example gives pretty much that same flawed rundown).

* “most egregiously suggests that I think Mr. Hartsoeker contributed nothing to science. My point was clear. There is no reason for us today to revert to an immature approach to science that unparsimoniously invokes imaginative solutions that fall in line with religious dogma. I poke fun at Mr. Hartsoeker in the context of the history of science in the same way I poke fun at myself when I was 10 and thought I had telepathy.”

I objected to the implication that you reiterate here that there is some sort of immaturity here. There is not. The solution wasn’t Hartsoeker’s, and it isn’t unparsimonious. It is the best conclusion given the evidence they had at the time. The reality is of genetics and embryology is unparsimonious. It’s actually a counter-intuitive reality and speculating about tiny people inside gametes is the only thing that made sense at the time. The problem is it was too parsimonious, infinitely regressive, and wrong.

* (Continued) “Neither does Isaac Newton, in spite of his enormous contributions, escape a bit of scorn for dabbling in alchemy, though many of us in the context of his age would have done the same.

Actually by the time Newton was dabbling in Alchemy it was largely considered bankrupt. He was a bit late to say that he was just “doing what all the kids were doing”. He gets scorn for that because, though he was very scientific about it, it was rightly viewed as unscientific at the time he was doing it.

* “Making fun of our blunders in our shared humanity over the ages is a healthy way to keep ourselves on track today. I’m sure most of you understood my playful article in the context of my previous satirical posts. One reader did not.”

The message one should take away is that in the history of science you can go down rather large blind alleys whether it’s preformationism or Phlogiston, good science can be wrong and we should be vigilant of that fact. It may always look wrong to us in retrospect, but it didn’t seem wrong at the time.

It is not one man’s immature blunder, it was science at the time going down a spectacular blind alley just to figure out that it was wrong.
 Perhaps I'm the crazy one and disagreeing with the false impressions somebody gives really is somehow sinister.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Squinting at Science. II

Wow. That went over like a lead balloon. I posted that comment to the blog and hrmf. The point was that the main implication of the article is wrong because preformationism was a rather large tent of most of biology at that time. Implying that it was therefore it was just this one guy, who looked through his microscope, and decided that it really was little people, and found some connection to the Bible to back him up but he was "amazingly" rebuffed by science. Is a pretty huge error in the history of science. He was a scientist, a professor, and a biologist, and a pretty good one at that, and the theory was the scientific theory of the time.

Well apparently I'm a pointless nitpicker who is just looking for a fight, and who hasn't read the authors other work, and am obsessed with a throwaway line from my post. In response, I noted that I'd eagerly accept surrender rather than a fight. I read his other suggested work, and my main point still stands.

He wrote a paper on Methodological Naturalism a year or so back, which was pretty so-so and suffers from a number of clear errors but also suffers pretty seriously with regard to the history of science. In that he thinks about as much of ancient science as Stark does. His main point in the paper is that allowing for supernaturalism is what causes science to not work and once you get rid of that science takes off like a bat out of hell. He's clearly wrong throughout and a proper understanding of the history of science would correct him. The father of anatomy Herophilus did a lot of really good work trying to answer religious questions. He did live vivesections on animal brains to find out what parts of the brain controlled what to answer the question "where is the soul?" So I go through all this trouble to address what is clearly an odd claim that the dirt obvious mistakes in the article would suddenly vanish if I read some 20-page paper on a different subject.

Arg! And I don't just say that because it's Talk Like a Pirate Day, I mean it, arg... what a pain in the ass.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Squinting at Science.

De-conversion has a nice little article about the preformationism and somehow comes to the wrong conclusion and goes for the quick claim rather than properly explaining that that's how science works and what it does. There's a lot of really good ammo against religion in the history of science and so getting it wrong is a terrible thing to do. As I'm a big enough fan of Richard Carrier and History of Science as well as preformationism I posted a well researched and quite pointy comment to the blog. However, since it's half a month old, it might not get noted or addressed. So I decided to post it here as well, because that way I can be sure that nobody will see it!

BTW, the self-deprecation is simply a no-lose. Either self-deprecating and funny or it's true and sad but if it's true then nobody will see it and know how sad it actually is, however if somebody sees it then it's just self-deprecating and funny.

 As for the article at hand...

In the 15th century, Nicolaas Hartsoeker, after squinting though his microscope at ejaculate, became so convinced that each sperm was actually a little man (homunculus), ...

Incredibly, scientists today have rejected the theory of Mr. Hoarsoeker. Scientist now claim that sperm do not at all resemble little men. But the track record of biblical insight into natural phenomena has suffered very few setbacks as fundamentalist will attest. It was simply a misunderstanding or misapplication of scripture they will inform you. They’ll get it right next time.

This article gives some rather clear misconceptions about the preformation debates and the nature of science and religion.

First, it didn't occur in a vacuum, and the debate itself was not non-scientific, it was actually the best conclusion they could muster at the time (that's what science always is!). Nicolaas Hartsoeker was actually a scientist himself by any measure. He taught Huygens how to make telescopes. Was a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and eventually taught at a university. Calling him "Mr." is just silly and disrespectful.

Secondly, you seem to give full credit to Nicolaas Hartsoeker for all the intellectual thoughts on the ideas of preformationism, while he did do the quintessential drawing on the subject he never said that that was what he saw, and most of the presented ideas were common. For example the idea that one homunculus would be inside another ad infinitum was largely the contribution of Nicolas Malebranche who was an ovist rather than a spermist like Hartsoeker. He was the first to come up with the idea that there would be one little person inside another inside the eggs of all the women going back to Eve, like little Russian nesting dolls. The fact that it provided a religious argument doesn't mean that it wasn't the best conclusion they had given the evidence. That was just bonus.

We see little people grow into bigger people and have children. Tracking this back it does stand to reason that bigger people should have really tiny people in them to make this happen. And those people should be in the gametes. Though, which gamete has the little person is a matter for debate. Such early science still has impact today as the word spermatozoa means "seed animal" as the discoverer of sperm was a spermist and thought that his discovery, because it moved around like animals, was easily more likely the source of such animation, rather than the egg.

This was the science of the 17th century (note Nicolaas Hartsoeker lived 1656-1725 that's 17th and 18th centuries not 15th, which would have been in the 1400s), and just because it was a bit more religious than science is today doesn't mean it wasn't science. A lot of good science got done asking religious questions for example Herophilus in the negative 2nd century was one of the first anatomists and performed live vivisections of animal brains to identify which specific part controlled which specific sense to answer the question of "where does the soul resides?" Galen did remarkable work in the 4th century combating those who claimed that the body was simple enough to come about by chance or simple progression from natural forces.

You can't say look at this idiot who made up this stupid theory all by himself and it ties into religion and therefore religion is stupid but science rejects that idea because science is awesome. He was a scientist. Scientists use to be very commonly Christian and very commonly theistic. As time went by, those living the truly scientific life would no longer conclude God, but eventually accepted a rational deism as it became the end result of a functional epistemology. However, after Darwin, atheism rather than deism became the end result of respecting truth more than desire.

The above blurs this line and the truth is far more entertaining. It isn't that science rejects religion out of hand. But rather science investigates the truth where ever it exists and compares those results to reality. It isn't that science is anti-Christian, it's that science is pro-reality, and reality has a strong anti-Christian bias.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Americans have an accent.

I'm really surprised.

Button. Cotton. Mountain. Bill Clinton. We Americans say buttn, cottn, mountn whereas other folks actually pronounce vowels between the 't' and the 'n'. Freaks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Marian Call (The Nerd Anthem).

<a href="">I'll Still be a Geek After Nobody Thinks it's Chic (the Nerd Anthem) by Marian Call</a>

Sometimes I forget that awesome things are not universally known. I must show them to my lurkers who don't exist, but I don't hold that against any of you. In fact, you're like gods among men in that respect.*

*If you followed that logic, have a cookie**.

** I haz cookie but I eated it? Sorry, no actual cookies will be given. Though, this is about as awesome as having a cookie.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dara O'Brian Homeopathy & Nutritionists vs. Science

It's a great video in general, but it does make the same point about science and having all the answers that I made the other day.

Dumbpiphany (SMBC)

Sometimes there are new words that are absolutely perfect because you can recall doing that several times in the past.

And for the searching requiring some kind of text:

Dumbpipany: The realization that the reason the entire conversation has been difficult to follow is that you're talking to an idiot.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"I just don't think science has all the answers."

This common trope is a rather apparent and idiotic deepity. Anybody who says it should be judged in the harshest of light.

Deepity is a term coined by Daniel Dennett  in his 2009 speech to the American Atheists Institution conference. It refers to a statement that has two meanings; one that is true but trivial, and another that sounds profound, but is essentially false, or meaningless with respect to this deeper meaning. 

It's quite true. Science doesn't have all the answers. If we had all the answers we'd just have a huge collection of answers and we wouldn't be doing science. We wouldn't need to figure things out if we had all the answers. That's what science is, figuring it out. Does this work? No. Does this work? No. Does this work? No, but why did it do that? Hm. -- Science is about figuring out how things work by testing how we think they might work against reality which knows how they actually work. We figure things out and learn new things and have new ideas about how the world works and how some really cool stuff works out. But, it doesn't have *ALL* the answers. This is absolutely true, but science is the only method we've ever found for finding any answers about the world (outside of some limited truths gleaned by math) and understanding anything about the world. The trivial trueness of the statement that 'science doesn't have all the answers' doesn't for a moment suggest the inane falseness of the implication: something else has some answers.

That's the idiotic nature of the statement, it isn't in that fact that science doesn't have all the answers. It's in the implication that therefore naturalism has competition. It's a bit like having a horse race between two horses called 'Supernaturalism' and 'Naturalism', and the horse for naturalism has won every single race over millions of different races and supernaturalism has never ever won any race ever in any matchup in all of human history. And then somebody coming around and saying "Well, naturalism hasn't won every future race yet!" -- Well, sure, that's obviously true, but who the hell should we bet on? It hasn't won those races yet, but every race that has every been won was won by naturalism, so why should the prospect of potential future races ever imply that supernaturalism is a good bet? -- I'll give you a hint: IT FRAKING ISN'T!