Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
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Other interesting web sites:
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Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Avoiding Conflict of Interest

The House of Representatives recently tried passing a bill about the composition of the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the EPA Administrator that states:

Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.
Some people have a problem with that. It might keep scientists from testifying about cutting-edge research. On the other hand, cutting-edge research tends to be unreliable. It takes a while for research to be properly checked.

This bill may help limit one of the most dangerous types of conflict of interest in scientific advice: scientists in love with their theories. It might even help limit the conflict of interest first noted in Genesis 41:33:

Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Everything Which Is Not Forbidden Is Compulsory

According to left-wing collectivists, we must take care of the refugees. According to right-wing collectivists, we must take stop anybody in our society from taking care of the refugees. (If you hire an illegal alien, you can be penalized.) Both sides agree that everything which is not forbidden is compulsory.

Maybe we should let people make their own decisions.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Refugee “Crisis” and Chesterton's Fence

A few decades from now, any laws passed in response to the Refugee “Crisis” will look like Chesterton's Fence. Maybe some fences really are pointless.

On the other hand, it's also worth checking to see if there were any identifiable protests like this post before removing them.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Is the Refugee Crisis Proof That the Nativists Are Right?

The wrong side of the Right has been treating the refugee crisis as conclusive evidence that BORDERS MUST BE CLOSED! I don't see it. The refugee situation is not ideal but it must be an improvement over staying home, otherwise they would not have come.

As for the worry about this as an invasion force, it's worth pointing out that the total number of refugees is less than 1% of the population of Europe. In the early 20th century the US absorbed over 1% of its population per year and we survived.

The usual nativist excuse for ignoring the early 20th-century precedent is that today's immigrants are different. On the other hand, we've heard that excuse before. It was used to close the gates in the 1920s. The nativists will not only have to explain that the immigrants are different, they will have to explain why they are differenter than last time.

To make matters worse, this crisis will be cited in the future as though it's evidence nativist theories cannot be challenged.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Explaining That RICO Lawsuit

As you may have heard, there's a petition for the Federal government to start a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) lawsuit against the alleged backers of alleged “climate deniers.” This may seem counterproductive, but the people in favor of the lawsuit assume that the “climate deniers” are obeying their corporate masters and if the Forces of Light can shut down those corporate masters, the “climate denier” movement will vanish.

In case you were wondering, right-wing intellectuals are not always obedient. I won't more than mention that the wider conservative movement is not a matter of following leaders.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Clocks Don't Alarm People

People alarm people.

My guess as to what happened: Ahmed built the homemade clock, took it to school, and showed it to his engineering teacher. After receiving some encouraging words, he went to his next class and said “Look at what I made!” The teacher there heard that as a threat.

As for Ahmed's reticence, I understand that is the appropriate response to police interrogation nowadays. Maybe his parents are Martha Stewart fans and he heard of what happened to her.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Answering a Scott Adams Question

Scott Adams asks (as summarized by Randall Parker):
If the vast majority of smart people can't beat the stock market indexes why do they think they can do better at knowing who to elect as President?
The vast majority of smart people can't beat the stock market indexes because the vast majority of smart people can't beat the vast majority of smart people.

You can't jump over your shadow.

The vast majority of people can't make a better decision about selecting a President than the voters because the vast majority of people can't beat the vast majority of people.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

You Won't Find These Ideas in a College Library!

Scott Alexander's discussion of Chomsky's discussion of media bias reminded of the time I read “You won't find these ideas in a college library!” in a college library.

I'm even reminded of the leftists who claimed that chain bookstores were keeping Chomsky's books off the shelves.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Trump Supporters and Communists

The blog comments by Trump supporters (you find a sample here) remind of the following story:

A Conservative Party candidate for public office in NYC was accused of being a fascist by a demonstrator. He replied “You have no more right to say I'm a fascist than I have the right to say you're a Communist.” The demonstrator then said “But I am a Communist!”
If I recall correctly, that was in National Review but I can't find it online.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The “No Bad Stuff” Clause

Statists frequently sound as though the Constitution had a “No Bad Stuff” clause. (Typical example here.) I don't know how to break it to them but the Constitution doesn't actually have a “No Bad Stuff” clause. On the other hand, the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes a “No Bad Stuff” clause in Article 29:

These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Idealist translation: All good stuff! No bad stuff!
Realist translation: The preceding 28 articles guarantee hot air. Anything they promise can be set aside if someone influential decides they're inconvenient.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Temptation of the Elves

My fellow obsessive Tolkien fans may recall Tolkien's speculation that, just as Men seek relief from death, Elves might seek relief from deathlessness. That seems a bit odd, but I think he meant that Elves might seek relief from change. You may recall that the Three Rings were intended to preserve things unchanged.

One effect of longer life spans is that most of us will see far more change in our lives than in earlier societies and we're not used to it. Anyone my age (or even a bit younger) will have the impression that “they're changing the rules every few decades.” This can be upsetting and it's understandable that many people will try slowing it down. Just when you think you know how the world works, you find that you can't get a good job any more right out of high school … or that your favorite restaurants and stores are closing … or that you have to learn how to decipher a new set of accents or ….

This may explain the efforts made to keep newcomers out of countries or neighborhoods. Please note that if you try using the One State, it's like using the One Ring. It's nature is evil and it consumes those who would wield it. For example, if you try keeping people out of your “backyard” by growth controls, you produce a zero-sum game and any newcomer will push out those stores that you want to keep.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Schrödinger's Immigrants

A new paradox has been discovered recently:

UKIP have updated Schrödinger's famous thought experiment by insisting that immigrants exist in a state of both lazing around on benefits whilst simultaneously being out there stealing British jobs.
There's another variant on the paradox: that immigrants will outbreed the natives and that they are overwhelmingly military-age males. Apparently, the refugees are mostly transsexuals.

Friday, September 04, 2015

A Plea to Political Activists

If you criticize your political opponents for defending X but not Y even though X and Y are equivalent, please do not defend Y but not X.

I was inspired by the comments here and there.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Bakers vs. Bureaucrats

The latest battle in the gay marriage war is over whether a a county clerk must issue gay marriage licenses. Such a requirement makes far more sense than requiring bakers to bake cakes for gay weddings. Engaging in business is a God-given right. Being a bureaucrat isn't. If the job violates your beliefs, you should resign in protest.

One possible effect of the controversy: An opponent of capital punishment might try to become an executioner and then refuse to serve.

A question that must be asked: What if this is a deliberate attempt by a Democrat to get a test case that can be spun as a precedent for denying the rights of bakers or pharmacists?

On the other hand, if the gay-marriage movement is for the purpose of discrediting traditional religious believers, then that would mean it is a violation of the First Amendment. This claim is not completely absurd. On the gripping hand, it's unlikely the Supreme Court will rule that it did that.

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