Is There Anything Good About Men?

That is the title of an article by Roy F. Baumeister, Eppes Eminent Professor of Psychology & Head of Social Psychology Area, Florida State University (what a long title).

I found this to be very interesting: Is There Anything Good About Men?

For those to lazy to read it, here is a summary:

  1. Feminists and Machos are both wrong.
  2. Men and Women are equal but different.
    1. Average IQ is the same for men and women, but there are more men at the highest and lowest ranges.
      1. Same for height, money, etc. Men are more likely to be at the extremes, good or bad.
  3. Men and Women have different social outlooks
    1. Men prefer large groups that are loosely bound.
    2. Women prefer small tight-nit groups.
  4. Men are expendable
    1. If half the men in a population die, the next generation can still be the same size. But, if half the women die, the next generation will be half the size.
    2. So – men end up taking the riskiest jobs – even though women could do them.
    3. Riskier jobs also carry greater rewards, which is why historically, you see more men at the “top.”

That is probably the worst summary ever – go read the article if this intrigues/enrages you.

Einstein on Religion

The Tennessee House has approved (70-23) a bill (HB 368) that would seek to teach the “controversy” of scientific subjects, such as evolution.

Rep. Frank Nicely, during his argument in favor of the bill, was quoted saying, “Albert Einstein said that a little knowledge would turn your head toward atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head toward Christianity.”

That is a lie of biblical proportions. Einstein never said that. In reality, Rep. Nicely misquoted 16th century philosopher Francis Bacon, who said, “a little philosophy inclineth a man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth a men’s minds about to religion.” I’m guessing Nicely doesn’t even understand the original quote – which isn’t really about Christianity. But, that’s a different discussion.

I don’t like when well respected historical figures get used in this way – to push an agenda that they would never agree with. First, Einstein was, by heredity, a Jew! He never even converted to Christianity. In fact, he was famously Agnostic.

Here is what Einstein really said about religion:

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. This insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms-this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men.

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punished the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after out own-a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear of ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.

How can you read that and not understand? There is so much mystery and beauty in this universe – why make things up?

Intelligent design is a religious idea hiding behind the facade of pseudo-science. It is not a scientific theory, it is dogma. Evolution is not a theory based on the desires of scientists – it is based only on observations of reality. It can and has been tested and every time it holds true.

Via:  Bad Astronomy, Climate Progress, Einstein on Politics

Tim Minchin’s Storm

While I’m working on charting various datums for some upcoming posts (choosing colors is a weakness of mine and is eating my time) – my hope is this video will satisfy your craving, by introducing you to the raving of Tim Minchin’s Storm – in video form.

Sleep is More Important than Food

Think about it, how well do you perform hungry – compared to how well you perform if you haven’t slept? A day without food, vs. a day without sleep – under which circumstance could you get more work done?

That’s the subject of the article by Tony Schwartz in the Harvard Business Review - Sleep is More Important than Food.

So why is sleep one of the first things we’re willing to sacrifice as the demands in our lives keep rising? We continue to live by a remarkably durable myth: sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity. In reality, the research suggests that even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a significant toll on our health, our mood, our cognitive capacity and our productivity.

So go ahead and sleep in – go to bed early – anything to get your sleep. It is a luxury of sorts, but one you shouldn’t feel bad about indulging in. There is no downside to getting enough sleep.

Everyone who exercises should hopefully know by now that you need to take breaks. You exercise one day, that tells your body it needs more muscle, and then you take a few days off to let your body build the muscle. If you don’t take breaks – you never see the gains.

Sleep is the same for learning. When you learn something during the day, it gets stored in a buffer (short term memory). It is like your brain making a list of things it needs to do. Then, while you sleep, your brain commits those things to long term memory. But, your short term memory is limited – if things don’t get saved, then they are gone and you have to learn them again… And that is more wasteful of your time than just going to bed a hour earlier.

On Facts vs. Opinions

And why I’m not going to bother arguing them with you…

It seems that I find my self in many discussions throughout the day that resolve themselves to merely be a difference of opinion. I don’t like arguing opinions, it is useless. You can’t argue whether an opinion is right or wrong – opinions just are. If I say, “I think dirt tastes good,” you can’t really argue with that – it is what it is – mainly, a fact about an opinion. But, most people don’t word things that well. A person usually just says, “dirt tastes good,” while they wipe brown bits of it from their lips. Then the so-called “normal” person they are talking to says, “no it doesn’t” and you have a messy, dirty argument on your hands.

The problem is, while “dirt tastes good” sounds like a fact, it isn’t. It is an opinion pretending to be a fact, which is rather rude of it, I think. There is no point in trying to convince someone that they don’t like dirt. That is an argument you can’t win – and an argument you can’t win is one worth not having.

So if you can’t argue about opinions, can you argue about facts? Not really. Something is either a fact or it isn’t. You could argue that the thing someone is claiming as fact isn’t, but you’d better have proof.

Anyway, we’d better define what I mean by “fact.” A fact is at least two of these:

  1. Verifiable
  2. Testable
  3. Consensus-able

Verifiable

The first criteria I have for facts is that I can verify them. What this means, is that I have some way of getting at the same resource you used to come up with your fact – or a better resource. Was George Washington the first U.S. president? There are many places where I can verify that, so we call it a fact. It may be a “soft” fact, since I can’t go back in time and see it for myself, but a fact it remains – due to consensus. I’ll get to that in a second…

Testable

Another good criteria for facts is that they are testable. This works better for “hard” facts – things I can see with my own eyes. For instance, you say “red and blue make green” and I can get some paint and try it out. A point about tests – a good test will always be able to falsify a claim. You want a test to have zero false-positives, otherwise they are basically useless for determining facts.

Consensus-able

Consensus is an oddball. Basically, it is a group of people sharing the opinion that a fact is a fact. This is why you can’t have consensus by itself, it relies on one of the other corners of the “fact triangle” to make a fact. Lot’s of people share the same opinion, like when Prop 8 was voted down in California – but that doesn’t mean it is a fact that homosexual marriage is a bad thing, just a fact that many people held that opinion.

The other thing to keep in mind, when looking for consensus, is the group of people forming the consensus. In order for something to be deemed a fact, you want consensus with the people who know about it. Just take a look at the ridiculous “evolution debate.” Among biologists, people who study life, there is very good consensus on evolution. Why? They are the ones doing the studies. They know what they are looking at, they have developed intimate knowledge of how biological systems work. To them, it becomes almost taken for granted that evolution is real – and I say almost, because of the second group of people.

Outside of the mainstream biological community there are many people who deny evolution is real. The people on this side have also formed a consensus – creationism – that is directly opposite to that of the other group. So, you have creationism going head to head against evolution – and it would be really confusing, except the creationists really only have one leg to stand on.

See, creationists have managed to form a consensus, and have gone as far to try and pass off their opinion as fact. And it really is only an opinion, which is why this makes such a great example. Let’s tear down creationism…

First, is it verifiable? You could say that most creationists will point to the bible as their verification. But, the problem with the bible is it doesn’t lay out the details of creation, or how it worked – it basically just says, “God did it” and leaves it at that. Since you can’t just ask God to show you what he did – and no, I don’t count praying and receiving a “feeling” as the same thing – then you can’t really call it verifiable.

Well then, is it testable? Sort of. There really isn’t a way to set up a test to see if things were (at least, not that I know of) spontaneously created, but you can test to see if it still happens. In short, it doesn’t. Turns out, when you watch a species closely, for long enough, you can see it evolve.

The only thing that creationism has is consensus, which simply isn’t enough.

Arguments

I’ve said that you shouldn’t argue facts, because there really isn’t anything to argue about. You also shouldn’t argue opinions, because they are specifically not factual. There is no way to prove an opinion true or false, because that isn’t the nature of opinion.

Then, when is it worth your time to argue something? When someone is purposely trying to cast an opinion as a fact, or calling a fact just opinion. This is where the real argument lies. You have to be careful, though, to make sure you are on the right side of it – which means learning how to tell your facts and opinions apart. You also need to watch out for lazy speakers who phrase something like a fact, but really mean it as opinion. “Dirt tastes good” is never a good time to get into an argument. Other than some good-hearted mocking, it is best to leave things like that alone.

How MRSA Was Made

This is an awesome slide show on how MRSA, the antibiotic resistant strain of Staphylococcus Aureus, came to be – written at a “3rd grade” level…

Once upon a time there was a bacterium...

Development of resistant Staphylococcus aureus over time

I sort of had an idea before of how this worked, but I’m happy for the extra detail. This is the perfect way to explain something as complicated as how bacteria evolve to fight off antibiotics. And, although the author doesn’t mention it, it is a perfect example of real evolution in action.

I love stuff like this, because it is so hard to see evolution in action in complex animals – it takes way longer than we are alive – but in bacteria and viruses, it happens all the time and it happens fast.

I also hate stuff like this, cause it really blows when our medicine stops working… but, life will find a way – even if that way is defeating us when we try to stomp it out.

Come on MRSA, can’t we just get along?

The Insanity Virus

Discover has an article up about how research is pointing to a possible viral cause for Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder and M.S.

This shit is crazy.

A brief summary of the article:

HERV-W is an endogenous retro-virus – it is in basically everyone, as part of our genetic code. In most people, the body’s defenses are able to keep it under wraps (literally, bound up in protein) so that it doesn’t affect us. But, in some people, an early infection of some other virus – such as toxoplasmosis or influenza – as an infant may bring down the body’s defenses long enough to let the virus out. Once out, it wreaks havoc on the brain, causing degenerative inflammation in the case of Schizophrenia and actual brain lesions in the case of M.S.

The good news: this discovery will hopefully lead to new treatments that work better than current methods.

Climate Change Evidence

The smart people over at NASA have a website up that shows the evidence for climate change. Complete with citations!

Climate Change: Evidence

Just take a look at this graph of C02 levels…

Go check out the site, there is some interesting information.

And remember, Climate Change is real. The climate doesn’t care what anyone says. No amount of denial or wishful thinking will change the facts. That’s how facts work.