liveonearth: (Default)
"Mr. Trump, you appear to be laboring under the delusion that you have the necessary qualifications to be president. The manifest failure of almost everything you have attempted during your first six months, coupled with the anarchic chaos that pervades your White House, should give you pause--or would give pause to any person of normal sensitivity...

Get all your news, not from FOX but from all the sources available to a president, many of them not available to the rest of us. Announce your decisions after due consideration and consultation, not impulsively on Twitter. Cultivate common good manners when dealing with people. Do no be misled by the crowds thatcheer your boorish rudeness: they are a minority of the American people.

Listen to experts better qualified than you are. Especially scientists. Be guided by evidence and reason, not gut feeling. By far the best way to assess evidence is the scientific method. Indeed, it is the only way if we interpret "scientific" broadly. In particular--since the matter is so urgent and it may already be too late--listen to scientists when they tell you about the looming catastophe of climate change."

--Richard Dawkins, when asked by John Horgan in interview, "What would you say to Trump if you had his ear"?
liveonearth: (moon)
Creationism gets treated by religious people as if it were a viable theoretical alternative to Evolution.  They do this in spite of the fact that evolution is broadly accepted by educated people world wide.  Evolution is obviously working on species today, and it is visible to any person with minimal powers of observation and exposure to the natural world.  Darwin was one such person.  Creationism is a myth, a dogma.  It is based on nothing other than a nice fictional book, and promoted by a whole lot of people who need a simple and colorul story to tell about how the world came to be.  Every culture, language and religion has its own creation story.  Creation stories can be spectacular and we love them.  But this does not make them theories in the scientific forum.  This does not make them true.  This just makes them good fiction.
liveonearth: (mushroom cloud)
The strongest bias in American politics is not a liberal bias or a conservative bias; it is a confirmation bias, or the urge to believe only things that confirm with what you already believe to be true.  Not only do we tend to seek out and remember information that reaffirms what we already believe, but there is also a "backfire effect", which sees people doubling down on their beliefs after being presented with evidence that contradicts them.  So, where do we go from here?  The only way people will start rejecting falsehoods being fed to them is by confronting uncomfortable truths.
--Emma Roller

Note to self: This bias may not be uniquely American.  A 2016 study confirms that our political beliefs are the ones most resistant to change in spite of new information that refutes them.  It's called Neural Correlates of maintaining one's political beliefs in the face of couterevidence.


Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence

Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris

Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 39589 (2016)


23 December 2016


People often discount evidence that contradicts their firmly held beliefs. However, little is known about the neural mechanisms that govern this behavior. We used neuroimaging to investigate the neural systems involved in maintaining belief in the face of counterevidence, presenting 40 liberals with arguments that contradicted their strongly held political and non-political views. Challenges to political beliefs produced increased activity in the default mode network—a set of interconnected structures associated with self-representation and disengagement from the external world. Trials with greater belief resistance showed increased response in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and decreased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. We also found that participants who changed their minds more showed less BOLD signal in the insula and the amygdala when evaluating counterevidence. These results highlight the role of emotion in belief-change resistance and offer insight into the neural systems involved in belief maintenance, motivated reasoning, and related phenomena.

liveonearth: (TommyLeeJones_skeptical)
As a student of nonverbal communication, I'm always fascinated when a new tidbit comes along.  It appears that there is one more universal microexpression to add to the current list of seven, and that is the "not" face, or the face that says "I don't agree".  It isn't completely unique, instead it borrows from the expressions of digust, anger and contempt.  The other four previously identified microexpressions are fear, sadness, surprise, and happiness. Here's a good explanation of all of this.
liveonearth: (Math: Be rational/get real)

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.
—Isaac Asimov

liveonearth: (TommyLeeJones_skeptical)
This factoid from the documentary on netflix called (Dis)Honesty.  It's about a scientist and his experiments about lying.  He (and others) have found that about 80% of Americans at least believe that they are above average, and this is diplomatically called the Optimism Bias.  So 80% of us believe that we are smarter than average.  Better drivers, lovers, cooks.  You get the idea.

If 50% actually are above average, and 30% more think they are when they are not, then we are surrounded by blowhards, egotists, optimists of the ickiest kind.  I guess the other 20% knows that they are below average or thinks that they are even if they are above average.
liveonearth: (Spidey: come into my parlour)


By Atul Gawande , JUNE 10, 2016

The following was delivered as the commencement address at the California Institute of Technology, on Friday, June 10th.

Text behind cut )

Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public-health researcher, became a New Yorker staff writer in 1998.

liveonearth: (333 only half evil)
One cannot believe
everything they read
on the internet.

--Abe Lincoln
liveonearth: (moon)
Just the other day a young man came to a doctor for help with persistent headaches after a hard head hit.  He left with a prescription for Nat sulph 1M.  What's that you ask?  That's sugar pills.  That's homeopathy, that's a substance so diluted that it isn't there, that's a treatment that has zero basis in science and plenty of mythology around it.  If you look online you will find plenty of articles supporting the use of homeopathy for brain injuries.  Check it out:

Traumatic brain injuries are very common in athletes and soldiers, and many of them go unreported and untreated.  Sure, there's a lot of media buzz these days about TBI because they've discovered that some football players and boxers have dramatically shrunken brains, and depression and tremors later in life, because of something they call CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  Those words just mean longterm brain injury from being bashed around.

If you go to your doctor for a TBI, and it's a conventional doctor, he's likely to tell you rest will fix it.  Specifically no reading or screens for a week or so, no work if you can get out of it.  He's likely to tell you that it will pass on its own.  Sometimes it does.  That's when homeopathy "works", of course, when the condition it is supposed to treat would have passed on its own without treatment.  But what about those cases that are more severe?  What if rest and sugar pills aren't enough, and the brain really needs some help?  Both the homeopath and the conventional physician fail in that case.

There are good treatments for TBI.  There are doctors in the military who know them.  At a bare minimum people who've bashed their brains need lots of omega 3 fats and a clean, veggie rich diet.  There are herbs that have been shown to help a lot with brain recovery.  It's concerning that conventional doctors are so anti-botanical medicine that they don't even study up on that.  When are we going to get real about what works and what doesn't, instead of walking around parroting what we've been told?
liveonearth: (gorilla thoughtful)

Leave nothing to chance.
Overlook nothing.
Combine contradictory observations.
Allow yourself enough time.

(as quoted by Carl Sagan on p8 of The Demon-Haunted World)

liveonearth: (blue skinned alien)

His work has been far from satisfactory... he will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way... I believe he has ideas about becoming a Scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous, if he can't learn simple Biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a Specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time on his part, and of those who have to teach him.

--a college professor, on the report card of Sir John B. Gurdon, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his revolutionary research on stem cells

liveonearth: (mad scientist's union)
Among regular people there seems to be precious little understanding of what exactly the method is, and what it does and does not accomplish.  This ignorance about the process of science contributes to claims that scientists are just greedy a-holes exploiting the government for profit.  This attitude rises from a complete lack of exposure to real scientists and their way of being.  It is not fair to scientists.  Scientists, for the most part, are trying to figure out how the world works so that we can use that information to make our lives and our world better.  They are not politicians, they are curious people who sought education enough to know what questions to ask and how to test them.  They care passionately about making the world a better place.

The first step of DOING science is to ask a question about the world.  The question doesn't have to be complicated, it just has to reach into the unknown.  Once you have your question, it is a good idea to snoop around and see if anyone else has already answered it, or tried.  Learn everything you can about the variables that might influence the answer.  Once you've studied up on it, you're qualified to make a guess---a "theory" in science terms---as to what the answer might be, and why.  A true scientist knows that a theory is just a theory--it has to be tested repeatedly by people who agree and by people who disagree.  A true scientist is not heartbroken when the data shows that his theory was bunk.  That is useful information.  Time to come up with a new theory.

This testing is the experiment.  There can be many different ways to test any one theory.  The most useful experiments are often the simplest, changing only one variable between two groups of test subjects.  Scientist use many different methods to approach the same question, and this diversity adds richness to the picture painted by the results.  We might know that B follows A three quarters of the time, but until we know WHY they are correlated, and what other variables contribute to the correlation, we do not understand.  A--->B at a rate of 75% is enough to know that there is a connection, but it is not enough to say that A causes B.  We don't know that.  Something else could be causing it.  We take our results from that experiment, share them with the other scientific thinkers in the world, and update our theory if possible.  Usually an experiment brings up new questions, which indicate new possible experiments that need to be done to understand.

So science does NOT discover causality.  It discovers correlations.  Correlations can have multiple contributing variables so more experiments are needed.  Sometimes someone repeats the same experiment and gets the opposite result.  This is evidence that there was something operating in the system that was not being measured.  This is a sign that the original theory was based in deeper ignorance than perhaps we thought at first.  This is hard to admit, even for scientists.

Just because an experiment gets peer reviewed and published in an journal does not make it the truth.  There are many false conclusions that have been published.  Egostists who call themselves scientists publish more books than all the real scientists put together.  Real scientists tent to be intraverts who'd rather stay out of the limelight and just keep digging into these interesting questions.  Every experient needs to be repeated from a variety of angles before a result is accepted as Truth.

So there is a basic primer on the scientific method.  My area is mostly medicine, though I am fascinated by all science.  Medical science is more than double blind placebo controlled studies.  It includes the careful evaluation of population outcomes and biochemical mechanisms and every other factor that could influence the answer.  Science is a process of asking questions and trying to figure out if our theories about the answers are right or not.  A theory is just a theory.

Evolution, by the way, has been proven in so many ways by so many different experiments, that it is not a theory anymore.
liveonearth: (moon)
For me, the characteristic features of a mystlcial and therefore untrustworthy, theory are that it is not refutable, that it appeals to authority, that it relies heavily on anecdote, that is makes a virtue of consensus (look how many people believe like me!), and that it takes the high moral ground.  You will notice that this applies to most religions.
--Matt Ridley in Evolution of Everything; How New Ideas Emerge, page 270
liveonearth: (moon)

Reason Rally 2016: A Bloc Party that Counts

by Lyz Liddell

Executive Director

Reason Rally 2016

The latest polls show that the percentage of people who don’t care about a candidate's religion is increasing, and that “nones” are an ever-growing segment of the under-45 population — key voters! That’s great news for those who support separation of church and state, critical thinking, and just plain good sense. As the Pew Research report [] states:

“Meanwhile, the number of religiously unaffiliated adults has increased by roughly 19 million since 2007. There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., and this group – sometimes called religious ‘nones’ – is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.”

We all have the opportunity to celebrate our increasing numbers — and build our power as a voting bloc — by attending Reason Rally 2016, June 4, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. You’ll hear great speakers and entertainers — Carolyn Porco, Bill Nye, Julia Sweeney and more — as well as comedians, lots of music, and a good time for all.

It’s a Voting Bloc Party for those who believe that public policy should be made based on scientific evidence, not religious beliefs. It’s also an opportunity to take the message of science-driven public policy directly to your own members of Congress on the lobbying days that precede Reason Rally 2016. The focus of the lobbying will be sex education and the wasted money devoted to abstinence-only curricula that have been shown to be counter-productive. IN fact, abstinence-only sex ed correlates with increased teen pregnancy!

So check out the speakers, hotel and travel deals, and sign up to lobby at our website, Bring your friends, then go home and vote in every election, from school board to president. Let’s Speak Up for Reason! Let’s make the media and politicians court us as much as they court the religious right.

liveonearth: (House religion psychosis)
There was a pretty good turnout at the usual CFI venue, a beer and pizza retreat called the Lucky Lab.  David is younger than I expected, pretty much right out of school having gotten a master's in Religious Studies.  He points out the difference between Religious Studies and Theology right up front: his education is more about comparative religion and history than about the dogma of any one ism.

He has written several books, including Disproving Christianity, which he wrote right out of undergrad school I believe. The Belief Book and the Book of God are intended for the education of children by parents who want to satisfy their natural curiousity with actual information instead of indoctrination.  And he announced last night for the first time in public that he has signed a contract for his next book, No Sacred Cows, which will be a manual for teaching critical thinking to children and adults.

I am very excited that this young man has taken to writing, and based on his public speaking, I suspect he is a clear and concise writer.  I look forward to reading some of his books, and I may start giving them as gifts too.  =-]

His main point in this talk is that the reason that there is so much dogmatic religion in the US is the lack of religious studies education.  People who do not know what religion is and what it has done in history are more likely to be religious, and more likely to be fundamentalist.  He says that to protect your children from falling prey to fundamentalism, teach them about all relgions, and satisfy their curiousity with real information.  Without this education there is in his words a "snowball effect" that leads to a widespread lack of critical thinking---which is exactly what we are seeing in today's political sphere.  If there were a strong component of religious studies integrated into primary school history and philosophy classes, there would be more critical thinking nationwide.

He mentioned an organization called the OASIS network, which is jokingly called "atheist church" but really it "an alternative to faith based community" that provides among other things programs for kids.  For freethinkers surrounded by religiousity, the name is really appropriate

Here's his blogpost on how to respond to door to door religion sellers:

**Created tag: freethinker
liveonearth: (moon)
It's not really a word, rather a phrase, but has a meaning distinct from its relative "de facto" which means existing without legal authority.  I presume is it Latin.  Pro facto is literally translated as "for the fact", but it rather means considering or assuming a stated proposition as if it were fact.  As if.  That is to say, in doing so you realize that there is uncertainty, but you go with the best explanation until there is a challenge.  Ruiz would suggest that we ought to avoid assumptions, and just admit to not knowing.  But the world is much easier to manage when you have a framework for it.

What provoked me to look this up is the fact that the organization known as Oregonians for Science and Reason has a newletter by that name.  What exactly did they mean whean choosing that title?  That they were admitting that we are going with a working understanding of things that is subject to challenge, perhaps?

Please correct me if I have the shades of meaning wrong.  Gracias.
liveonearth: (fist)

If you know what's good for you, if you know that they're leftists, you won't believe anything they say any time, anywhere, about anything … So we have now the Four Corners of Deceit, and the two universes in which we live. The Universe of Lies, the Universe of Reality, and The Four Corners of Deceit: Government, academia, science, and media. Those institutions are now corrupt and exist by virtue of deceit.

—Rush Limbaugh when discussing climate science

liveonearth: (cat_through_spectacle)

Does it mean, if you don’t understand something, and the community of physicists don’t understand it, that means God did it?... If that’s how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on.

--Neil DeGrasse Tyson

liveonearth: (curiosity and cat)
I am an agnotologist, no doubt.  That is to say, I am fascinated with all that we do not know, with the gray areas and uncertainties of life, death, and everything.  Agnostic = Doesn't Know.  Agnotology = Study of Ignorance.  Science depends on us being very clear about what we do not know yet, so that we can devise ways to try to find out.

Great article here from the NY Times )
liveonearth: (critter)
You can't talk about the ocean
with a frog who lives in a well;
he is bounded by the space he inhabits.

You can't talk about ice
with an insect who was born in June;
he is bounded by a single season.

You can't talk about Tao
with a person who thinks he knows something;
he is bounded by his own beliefs

The Tao is vast and fathomless.
You can understand only by stepping
beyond the limits of yourself.

From the Chaung Tzu. 17
via Stephen Mitchell, The Second Book of the Tao.

Originally posted by [ profile] bobby1933 at But I Don't Know The Frogs Language Or Mind, And Can't Know What The Frog Knows.


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