Friday, January 28, 2011

HA HA HA! Ayn Rand took Social Security and Medicare!

That's fricking classing. Ayn Rand Mrs-Government-Interference-Is-Always-Evil, took Social Security and Medicare while dying of lung cancer. She was of course a lifetime smoker because smoking symbolized man's conquest over fire, and questioned how she could get cancer because she had no false premises!

An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand's law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand's behalf she secured Rand's Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O'Connor (husband Frank O'Connor).

As Pryor said, "Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out" without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn "despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently... She didn't feel that an individual should take help."

 This is the darling of the right, of the tea party? She died pennyless and alone. Apparently because she was like a Uber-Man builder and creator whom the government attempts to tax to death. Because, government interference is the only reason why you aren't rich/richer right now. It's like Social Darwinism for the mentally ill telling people that they are better off because they are better off. I've met Rand whores in the past, and while some were eagarly trying to make perpetual motion machines in their garages or accepting Federal Reserve conspiracy theories and fiat currency doubters, they are almost always rather off... but never so off as Rand herself, that poor socialist evil woman who stole money from others at gun point to make up for her own inabilities (Rand philosophy as to what social programs involve).

Double meanings and covering all the bases.

And the constitution specifically says no government sanction of religion.
 I wrote that on some message somewhere, but found it very entertaining for the reason that sanction is a contranym, and has two different and opposite meanings to both allow and prevent. In this particular case, both meanings apply. That's just cool.

Zoë: You sanguine about the kinda reception we're apt to receive on an Alliance ship, Captain?
Mal: Absolutely. What's "sanguine" mean?
Zoë: Sanguine. Hopeful. Plus, point of interest, it also means "bloody".
Mal: Well, that pretty much covers all the options, don't it?
-Firefly, "Safe"

Non-Religious Parenting Success. 91%

I just thought it was cool. There was a passing reference in one of Godless Girl's posts to some British study about the success of non-religious parents to raise their children non-religious. Claiming a "near 100% success rate" with close to a 50/50 shot if both parents are religious and of the same denomination. And looked up the reference:

If neither parent is religiously affiliated, 91 percent of
the children likewise describe themselves as having no religion. At the opposite
extreme, where both parents belong to the same denomination, the proportion
of children maintaining that allegiance and the proportion listing themselves as
‘none’ are equal at 46 percent each.

That's just sort of cool. I've always suspected a bit that it would be rather hard odd to have children end up religious raised non-religiously. If you don't force that BS into their heads when they are wee babes, it's rather hard to get it there. As an adult it doesn't seem like it should fit.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ricky Gervais on Religion.

Wow, he's moved from being just another good person to being awesome. I swear he should win the AAI Ricard Dawkins Award just for this interview.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On the orginic origins of religion, the alternative of science, and how to know.

>>People don't cling to religion because it's some evil virus that has invaded their minds...they cling to it because they are "keen to accept" it, and they are keen to accept it because they've been conditioned by evolution to do so,
Religions arise naturally from our own humanness. If we put humans without any culture whatsoever somewhere they would very likely end up with religion and language, culture and the golden rule. They could well end up with a number of these things. The reasons for this are deeply deeply human and the result of human attempts to understand the world and understand each other. And while the language and religion developed may end up being as strange and bizarre as some possess the imaginations to suppose of alien lifeforms this isn't because religions are good. Just that religion is deeply human. We're apt to assume things are caused by things. We're apt to think of our thoughts as not being a part of our brain, but something outside of our brains.

The question here is whether religions are net positive or not, we must ask in a sense what shall we replace religion with. While this question is largely derided in modernity to asking what we would replace a heroin addiction with, it is largely important. For much of our history, there was nothing to replace religion with at all. There was no science, no understanding, no way to understand the world. There were guesses, and claims, and superstition and these generally are what religion is at it's core. Religion is the vacuum. The choice typically has not been between religion and nothing, because religion is the nothing choice. It's the easy choice. Science, rationalism, reasonable debate, functional epistemology, skepticism, these things take work. These take society and effort to maintain.

The question is not if religions arise naturally, but whether they are good for us. Would we be better without religion. And today, the answer to that is yes. Not because religions were ever good for us, but because we previously didn't have a better alternative. We tend to think of rationalism as the alternative to religion, that if we didn't have religion we would have rationalism. And today that's the case, but throughout much of human history the idea of getting rid of religion was anathema because there really isn't something it could be replaced with. The options were only religion. Because religion is the default state. However, now we have a proper alternative which has proven itself the only thing actually able to make progress, make understanding possible, and making reality understandable. Rather than the doldrums of religion, we can have real understanding. We can have science.

But, during the time when religion was the only option, religions fought each other each other and evolved and become more adapted to propagating themselves. Propagating themselves on children, winning converts through war, and insuring beliefs of those adhering to them. These guesses, superstitions, and intuitions weaponized themselves. They rose and fell, survived and thrived, on their ability to command adherence, to persist against any threats and to expand. We now have something to replace religion with, that provides real answers, real morality, better societies, dependable knowledge, and understanding of ourselves and the universe that so often gave rise to religions in the first place. And now, we are made to fight tooth and nail to make progress against comfortable ideas of the iron and bronze age. We have to fight for gay rights, for science, for abolitionism, for women's rights, for history, for humanism, and for peace against highly evolved hogwash well attuned to pressing our buttons and claiming we can have what we want so long as we turn over our minds to such hogwash and tell it to our children.

We have an alternative now, which is not only better but can show that it's better, not just is providing us profound understandings of the universe but by making us healthy, happy, and right. Previously, the question of would we be better without religion, would be rather absurd. What would you replace it with? Now the answer is, yes, yes we would.

>>When confronted by contradictory evidence, you disregard it as irrelevant....claiming that people act altruistically without religion, while failing to mention the complementary argument...that people act badly without religion also.

No. The way to see whether the net effect matters is by trying something with and without that variable. The question isn't religion and bad things and good things. But rather if there were no religion, would such and such happen?

With religion:
Good things happen.
Bad things happen.

Without religion:
Good things happen.
Significantly fewer bad things happen.

If there were no religion, would 9/11 have happened? No.
If there were no religion, would people help fight poverty? Yes.
If there were no religion, would racism happen? Yes.
If there were no religion, would crusades happen? No.

The question isn't look at good things that happen with religion. What happens with religion is a moot point. And the question isn't what bad things would still happen without religion, that's also a moot point. The question we need to address is what would change? What would the world look like without religion? And would it, as a whole, be better off. We don't have to concern ourselves with the "Yes" answers. We don't have to care about good things that would happen with or without religion, we only need to concern ourselves with those things that happen only because of religion. That there's no secular reason for doing such thing. Like flying a plane into a building. It isn't that bad things would still happen without religion, or that good things happen with religion, but those things which happen now that wouldn't happen in a world without religion. And of those, I can find few examples that do not repulse me.

After all, religion has gotten significantly better over the years since proper secular science and understanding came around. Most of the stuff they would like to do is pocket vetoed by the laugh test. They would be laughed out of the room for making such claims or doing such actions. But this isn't because religions are right, but because they stop being wrong about such things. They aren't good and getting better, but rather they are adapting to try and not seem absurd. People are trying to bend over backwards to make their religious beliefs something that wouldn't be ashamed to show their neighbors. Religion is like a plane that is going to crash, and religionists are tossing everything overboard in an attempt to save weight. Out with the luggage, out with the baggage, get rid of the chairs, empty the cargo hold, drain off some of the fuel, but at a certain point, there's nothing left. While you can say, look how much lighter they've become, they are improving all the time, it has little to do with them and how good they are, but rather what they need to do to compete with reality in a world that has an actual method of determining reality.

What would the world be like without religion is the question to ask, not look at this good thing that would happen anyway, or what about this bad thing that would happen anyway. We need to look at those things that wouldn't happen with or without religion.

No! Damn line is back.

That's what I get for turning my monitor off. *sigh* And the cat came back... the very next day...

My red line vanished!!! YAY!!

My monitor had a red line that was stuck on. Just down my screen. It just up and vanished! Woot! It's like finding 20 bucks you didn't know you lost in your jeans. No more red line! Woot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eye Tracking, Head Tracking, and Ray Tracing

It is possible with today's technology and processor power to provide photo realistic 3-D images on today's technology, with combining three rather astounding technologies. All this requires is something I call CYAO or (Cheating Your Ass Off).

Eye tracking technology has been around for a long while. Basically what it does is track what your eyes are currently looking at. So for various activities you can gauge what is happening using signals that people aren't always aware of, where they look. Most of this is unconscious and there's some really cool information that comes out of eye tracking. But, one of the interesting things you can do, is only display stuff where they are looking. If you're not looking somewhere, you really are largely unaware that you're not seeing it. Your brain fills in that stuff. But, if when ever you look at a screen you see stuff, you have every reason to think that that stuff is still there even when it isn't, or that it has significantly more detail than it actually does. After all we see very little outside the area we are focused on. Dan Dennett in "Consciousness Explained" on page 361-2 relays a early version of this technology with regard to words. and the change of the word while the person registered a saccade (or a quick eye movement to a new location). So what looked normal to the person in the contraption which used a bite bar and a beam of reflecting light on the eyeball (the technology has come along from then, but it's fine for the example). So when the eyes moved, the computer figured out where they were going and switched that word for a different word. In the machine it looks like nothing is wrong, but really the world is being changed "before your eyes".

Now this is just interesting. Just as interesting is Head Tracking which is a more general trick to do some semi-3D viewing. Basically if you know where somebody's head is, and they move their head, You can treat the monitor like a window and adjust the picture with regard to the persons head. Thereby making it seem that they can see new stuff, by moving slightly.

Now that's awesome too. And in fact, you can do that with a webcam and some good software that tracks the face. And frankly even the old bit-bar Egor style stuff would work. This is all part of today's technology. It's entirely possible to, with today's technology, create a three-D image that is foggy and not detailed until you look at it and for it to become crisp where you look at it. That's an interesting set of ideas. But, mostly worthless until you bring in a third technology we have: Ray tracing.

Raytracing is the renderization algorithm of the future. It's is used in films like Lord of the Rings and others to get photo realistic images. The way rasterization works is that it takes bunch of numbers and multiplying them to figure out exactly what the scene should look, by applying different effects to core objects and solving the screen image as a problem. Now, this takes a lot of math, and in fact that's what GPUs do, a heck of a lot of really fantastic math multiplying large matrices of number together to figure out exactly what you should see. Raytracing is different. Ray tracing works by taking individual pixels on the screen and solving for them. So if you were a photon, coming in at that exact pixel, what color would you be? Well to solve this we take a line in 3D, and see what it would hit in the scene. How much of that gets that color, does the ray bend through a glass of water, does it reflect? How did the light get there? (Eye based ray tracing is inverted from real photons in that we're tracing backwards to see what light source caused it). The effect allows for absolutely beautiful scenes that you can stream to a labtop if you have four rather massive servers working on the problem solving for each pixel. It's great if you're doing a film and have months to do an image, but if you want it in real time, you need a supercomputer. Because it's simply too hard to do.

Well, it's too hard to do if you actually do it. If you cheat your ass off, you can save yourself 99% of the work, and do it on today's technology. What do you need to do? Only show the detail where the person is looking! If you know where they are looking, that's where you need the mind blowing detail. The rest of the crap can be absolutely fuzzy and phoned in. You don't need to solve a pixel that the person looking at it isn't going to see. 99% of the work done by the server is pointless because she is only looking at 1% of the screen at any point and time. If you know where they are looking, you can give that spot the detail and ignore the rest. You can easily track the person's head and eyes and use that as part of the raytracing algorithm, because we know where the end point is, you know exactly which line to use. Head tracking pretty much comes as a freebee when you know where the pixel is actually going. You know what angle they are looking at that pixel from, and necessarily what should be in the scene at that angle. So rather than a flat picture, you can do the same amount of work and get an insanely good 3-D picture.

When you combine technologies you can get absolutely mindblowing results.

So there's my billion dollar idea for the day (and one one actually worth that billion). It's possible with today's technology and processor power to provide photo realistic 3-D images. Because if you know your audience you know what they want to see (what they are looking at) and can give them what they want (astounding detail) by not giving them massive amounts of what they don't care about (what they aren't looking at).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Gender Neutral Pronouns.

Everybody has their preference for gender neutral pronouns; I am no exception.*

*There's a really clever joke in there. If you're grammar inclined.

My life changes through various media.

I have, for various reasons, a lot of free time. I spend a lot of time reflecting and watching various things. As such, I've had my perspective changed rather radically many times over the years. Some major changes were major, some profound, some subtle. I have a good memory and can usually recall what changed my thinking.

Asimov's "The Relativity of Wrong" essay about the nature of science.

This essay really did change my perspective on science and allowed me to view science generally as an evolutionary algorithm gradually improving things over time. Not perfecting them, but making them better by increasing understanding. When the older theories are wrong it isn't that they overturned, but rather improved subtly.

Krauss' lecture on the Universe from Nothing.

While, I've advocated zero-sum universe for a bit, mostly on philosophical grounds and lack of preclusion by science. Krauss makes a very compelling case that the science actually supports it. This is going to be the end of the first cause argument. QM says we don't need causes. And 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says we can't get something for nothing. So if we have something. It needs be net zero. So rather than 0=1, the universe is 0=1+(-1).

Aron-Ra's explanation of taxonomy, as well as his argument that humans are monkeys.

I swear I understood evolution prior to watching Aron-Ra's videos but it really doesn't feel like I did, how could I. I didn't properly understand cladistics. I can't even fathom how my brain worked without understanding basal relationships within monophyletic clades.

(Several More, Below the Fold)
(I just now figured out there's a button for the fold, not that I looked much).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

God still fake.

True. Tides be damned. I bet there's a reasonable natural explanation for em.

This congressperson shooting ass is a grade-a looney-tunes.

So I bothered to google Jared Lee Loughner because I have some great Google-fu. And I wondered a bit what his motives might have been.

He's hates the government. He complains about the money system in incoherent rants.

He wrote for example as the description of a now removed Youtube video (the other crazy videos from after he started talking about himself in the past tense are far later):

Top secret: Why doesn’t the people control the money system? Their Current Currency(1/1) / Your new infinite currency (1/~infinte) This is a selcte information of revoluntary thoughts! Section 10 - Powers prohibited of States No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility. No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress. No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay. Each subject is unlocatible! 

Yeah, he loves "grammar" and wants gold or silver backed currency. That's as close to a motivation as I could fathom. He's a grade A nutbar. When ever I google somebody like this they always end up being completely insane. They aren't really of any political party, they are insane. they aren't really of any religion, they are insane. He makes these absurd syllogisms that simply require you accept the first insane premise. If the sun is yellowish then I'm insane. The sun is yellowish. Therefore I am insane. It's just crazy. He also apparently has some artist friends who hate the money system too. That's in addition to all the normal stuff that everybody else found with their inferior google-fu. This makes Tea Party crazy look vaguely sane.

And this video is going to be rocketing thru the blogs.

Though the shooter's incoherent rants don't seem to have a lick of politics. There's the fiat currency thing, but that's more crazy than political.

Upon reflection and a report that he was "very political in high school" and a commenter on Facebook pointing out that crazy is just a dismissive view and most schizophrenics and bipolar people are not any more prone to violence. Yeah. I'm going to go ahead and allow for the clear possibility that it was in many ways politically motivated. He reportedly met the congresswoman in 2007 and called her "unintelligent". Usually when high school and community college drop-outs call people such, it means they just don't like that person. I doubt such people have the judgment needed to make a proper assessment. He's seeming more tea-party wackado as time goes on. Especially if one considers that pretty much all fiat-currency conspiricists are extreme right.

Update 1- 10 -11: Nope, he's just a nilist. His dislike of currency is because of nilhism. Since it's fiat, it's pointless and worthless and doesn't matter, go ahead and make your own. Blah blah blah. He's actually one of those fiat-currency people who isn't necessarily extreme right. He really just didn't care.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On the acceptance of Faith as an answer.

Why should faith be seen as anything close to proof? Accepting it as anything more than a cop out and an admission that they don't care whether or not their beliefs are true seems a mistake. I care whether what I believe is true. I want to believe the most true things and the fewest false things. And if they don't care whether their beliefs are true, then there's no real argument to be had. One can't simply claim faith, and suffice that settle the matter. Unless one also concedes that by doing so, they is more likely accept something likely false over something likely true, and this is acceptable to said person.

After all, if you care whether your beliefs are true, you necessarily must use the only known method for properly determining truth from falsehoods, namely the rational weighing of evidence. One is entitled to forgo a functional epistemology, but in so doing they need to accept their beliefs are going to contain, on average, less truth and more falsehoods, and they must be okay with that and understand that I am not. -- That is after all what they mean by faith.

Followup: Apparently in context what I mean by 'faith' has been questioned. Apparently since a commenter can equivocate what he means when he says faith, my consistent usage is therefore wrong. So just for the information purposes, what I mean by faith is as follows (from Merriam Webster):

(2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof  

I'm sure none of you were confused, but it's best to clarify.  More specifically faith as used in the context:

Why do you believe in God?
-- I have faith.

Such context is addressed above.

Monday, January 3, 2011

On blindly following Darwin about human fossils.

In the comments of one of the blog posts I was admonished about something that I "knew".

In the scheme of things as you very well know... Homo Sapiens relative to the time line of other creatures virtually appeared overnight,
It's odd because I don't think I can acceptably be said to know things which are false.

That doesn't even include Ardi, or Kenyanthropus or closer relatives like the Denisova hominin which bred in with modern humans (Neandertal style).the human tree is actually really really diverse and we have fantastic fossils for a lot of them. A lot of the finds are due to looking more often for the human line, but they certainly didn't pop out of nothing. Interesting some worm species never leave fossils and so as far as fossils are concerned they might as well have been created yesterday. But humanish things have been around and quite common for 7 million years.

When called on this comment, I was again admonished:

Wise up my friend go check on the evolution of Homo Sapiens again. Don't just follow poor old Darwin like a slave. Oh sorry what he says suits you so you will naturally disregard any other truths or scientific facts in this regard.
But, oddly Darwin had NO HOMINID FOSSILS! Really it is hard to be enslaved to Darwin when I'm following the evidence to the most reasonable conclusions and Darwin at most figured Africa was the best place to look. He was right because that's where the earliest and best were found. Starting with Dart's Tong Child who was only a few years old before he got attacked and had his eyes pecked out by an eagle. But, it seems remarkably crass to call me a stupid, claim to have been about as dumb as I was as a kid, pray for me, and regret ever thinking that I was a reasonable person. Oy.

I'm being told to check the evidence again? But, I thought he said there was no evidence? That as far as fossil records were concerned humans might as well be nematode worms?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The light of scientific knowledge, Sir Humphrey Davy.

Every discovery opens a new field for investigation of facts, shows us the imperfection of our theories. It has justly been said, that the greater the circle of light, the greater the boundary of darkness by which it is surrounded.
— Sir Humphry Davy