An Argument against the Bloggs Test
I frequently use the Bloggs test (the term “Bloggs test” comes from Princeton Review) to analyze studies:
- Figure out what Joe Bloggs (an average reader) would conclude from the report. If the report was strongly stated, it was probably either written by an activist who was trying to get people to believe that conclusion or by someone who based it on the activists' press releases.
- Determine the strongest potential piece of evidence that would point in the same direction. If that evidence were true, the report would have mentioned it.
- In the absence of such evidence being mentioned, conclude that it doesn't exist.
The problem with that is not everybody uses the strongest piece of evidence. For example, the commonest evidence cited that women can be great scientists (the career of Marie Curie) isn't the strongest evidence
in that direction. Emmy Noether
is a much better example.
I was inspired by the noted crackpot Jim Donald, who called the Bloggs test “the poster-girl principle.”
A Downside of DNA Memory Storage
DNA memory storage has a potential downside. It might escape into the wild and recombine with bacterial genes. I'd hate to come down with a bad case of SQL.
“Punch Back Twice as Hard”
Apparently if you tell people to punch back twice as hard, the different factions of your followers will start punching each other.
Maybe that isn't something to imitate.
On the other hand, maybe Bernie should have said “Vote your conscience.”
Differences between Trump Supporters and the Globalists/Neocons/Establishment/Whatever
- Both sides are concerned about foreign menaces. The Globalists/Neocons/Establishment/Whatever (GNEW) are concerned about foreign governments. The Trump supporters are concerned about foreigners underselling Real Americans.
- Both are concerned about invasions. The GNEW are concerned about armies with guns shooting people. The Trump supporters are concerned about invasions of nannies, landscapers, and contract programmers.
- Both sides believe there are limits to government. The GNEW believe those limits are set by a series of agreements such as constitutions or treaties. The Trump supporters believe those limits are set by imaginary lines on a map.
“We're conducting a short public-opinion poll on current events. If you are registered to vote, please press 1.” I press 1.
“Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Obama administration? Please press 1 for favorable and 2 for unfavorable.” I press 2.
“Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton? Please press 1 for favorable and 2 for unfavorable.” I press 2.
“Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump? Please press 1 for favorable and 2 for unfavorable.” I press 2.
“If the election were held today, who would you vote for? Please press 1 for Hillary Clinton and 2 for Donald Trump.” I press 3.
“I'm sorry that was not a valid response. Please try again. If the election were held today, who would you vote for? Please press 1 for Hillary Clinton and 2 for Donald Trump.” I press 3.
“I'm sorry that was not a valid response. Please try again. If the election were held today, who would you vote for? Please press 1 for Hillary Clinton and 2 for Donald Trump.” I hang up.
A Few Notes on Trump vs. Cruz
Who's doing the half-time show?
To the Trump people: Cruz spent much of his career being called a bigot or a crackpot. Did you think a boo or two would faze him?
The wicked flee when no man pursues (Proverbs 28:1). Cruz did not come out either for or against Trump. He ended by taking about conscience. The fact that Trump supporters took that as being against Trump says something about their consciences.
The claims that Cruz destroyed his political career sound familiar.
The Most Annoying Part of the Trump Movement
The most annoying part of the Trump movement is the propensity of Trumpkins to accuse any critic of Trump or his presumed policies of being the sort of leftist who just wants to fit in. For example:
Looks like even Reason contributors are worried about not being invited to the right cocktail parties.
OTOH, libertarians are anti-social malcontents. Not being invited to parties is a reward.
Along similar lines, they will accuse libertarians of being stoners. Speaking as a libertarian who hasn't used drugs, I find that very annoying indeed … especially since I used to walk out of parties when they started handing out “funny cigarettes” … in the 1970s … at SUNY @ Stony Brook. Admittedly, it doesn't take much to get me to leave a party.
The worst part is when they accuse conservatives who have been called names by leftists for years of being afraid of being called names. That would indicate that the Trumpkins are not exactly people who have been following conservatism.
Social Science Done Right
File at eleven…
There's a common technique in psychological research: Researchers give the experimental subjects fabricated data. Much of the time, the subjects refuse to believe it. This is classified as irrational behavior.
There is a paper that avoids this problem. Instead of assuming that justified skepticism is irrational, they test for gullibility. As a bonus they also use a large sample size and look at more than one end of the political spectrum. Maybe this should embarrass the social scientists treat skepticism as irrational of use small sample sizes or look at just one end of the political spectrum.
In case you were wondering, they find gullibility all over.
A Different X Each Time
I would take warnings that antibiotic X is last recourse and bacteria are becoming resistant to it more seriously if it weren't a different X each time.
I would take warnings that corporation X is eliminating all competition more seriously if it weren't a different X each time.
I would take warnings that nation X is overtaking capitalist America more seriously if it weren't a different X each time.
I would take warnings about the dangers of immigrant group X more seriously if it weren't a different X each time.
A Counterexample to the Bayesian Truth Serum
The Bayesian Truth Serum looks like one of the best possible ways to get judgments that avoid the problem of “groupthink.” There's only one minor problem: Groupthink isn't the only human failure mode.
According to the Bayesian Truth Serum, the most reliable judgments are those that are more common than people expect. (The expected common judgments are those caused by groupthink.) The most recent cases of that are the Trump movement and Brexit. I'm not sure about Brexit, but the Trump movement is an example of something recommended by the Bayesian Truth Serum that does not reflect good judgment.
The Trump movement avoids groupthink but it is an example of System I thinking. It follows the instinctive premises present in each human mind.
What Is America? Part II
Ideally, America is a place where you get to make your own decisions instead of having them made for you by either your neighbors or a bureaucracy. In particular, it's a place where you have the right to not bake cakes or take photographs for people whose lifestyles you disapprove of.
On the other hand, one political party wants regulations that say you MUST make some deals and the other wants regulations that say you MUST NOT make some deals. Everything not forbidden is compulsory.
Also see Part I.
Anti-Inductive Phenomena and Baire Category
I've mentioned on occasion that markets are anti-inductive. There is a connection between anti-inductive phenomena and one of the more apparently-useless branches of mathematics: point-set topology.
You can think of real numbers as sequences of digits. It turns out that the set of real numbers corresponding to anti-inductive sequences is a dense Gδ point set, i.e., the complement of a set of first category.
Maybe someday we'll also find a use for the Banach–Tarski paradox.
What Is America?
Ideally, America is a place where you get to make your own decisions instead of having them made for you by either your neighbors or a bureaucracy. In particular, it's a place where you have the right to hire foreigners, rent to foreigners, buy from foreigners, and sell to foreigners.
I have to mention that latter point because some people regard those rights as some kind of giveaway to the foreigners.
Addendum: Part II is up.
Neil deGrasse Tyson Has a Bit of a Point
Neil deGrasse Tyson's suggestion for the constitution of Rationalia
Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence
has come in for mostly justified criticism
on the grounds that some political controversies are about values rather than beliefs.
On the other hand, some people make the opposite mistake. For example, Donald Trump and supporters think the free-trade controversy is a matter of some people being disloyal to America rather than believing free trade is better for Americans. (As for the actual merits of free trade… From a factual point of view, it has not caused a decline in American manufacturing. From a theoretical point of view, every dollar sent overseas come back eventually.)