Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Pope Ought Not To Be Catholic

A musing based on a quote from the Pope and Bayesian decision theory. Read more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Markets, Property Rights, and Air Pollution

Matthew Yglesias explains the correct view. Read more.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Entropy

PZ Myers explains a paper that calculates the amount of entropy decreased by the process of evolution compared to the amount of net energy the earth gets from the sun. The results, naturally, completely demolish the common creationist argument that evolution must violate the second law of thermodynamics. Read more.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I hope someone's listening

There are rumors floating around that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is a potential appointee to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

I can't do any better than Orac's screed against him, except to concisely summarize: In supporting antivaccinationist conspiracy theories far past the point of any scientific evidence, Kennedy has shown himself unqualified to head a position that requires significant scientific input in its decision making.

Obama, don't do it! Read more.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dinosaur Comics again

This time on behavioral economics:
on the other hand, in smaller cultures with a greater focus on community, player one often makes a very generous offer! so if you're all :( after this comic at least now you can be all :I Read more.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sarah Palin and Noam Chomsky really are this stupid

Radley Balko asks:
Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by “attacks” from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama.

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

So I see one of two options, here. The first is that Palin really is this stupid. The second is that she actually knows how stupid this statement is, but says it anyway because she knows the base will eat it up. Which means she is knowingly perpetuating a gobsmacklingly ignorant interpretation of the First Amendment.

So let’s hear it, Palin defenders. Which of those two options do you find more appealing?

I'm hardly a Palin defender, so I have no problem submitting that she really is this stupid. Unfortunately, so is the world's "top public intellectual." To wit:
In 1979-80 Chomsky intervened in the case of a French Holocaust denier, Robert Faurisson. Chomsky’s admirers habitually and indignantly insist that the support extended to Faurisson was nothing more exceptionable than a defence of free speech, which they claim Faurisson was being denied. The unboundedly credulous among those admirers – such as Neil Smith, Professor of Linguistics at London University, in his book Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals – even present Chomsky’s actions as heroic. . .

. . .the Faurisson affair had nothing to do with freedom of speech, but was a university’s response to a faculty member’s demonstrable fraud in presenting his arguments. By fraud, I don't mean just that Faurisson's claims about the Holocaust were false (though of course they were); I mean he was caught out by a genuine historian. . . in doctoring his source material in order to suppress those parts of it that clearly stated the existence of the gas chambers. With offensive sophistry, Chomsky (Chronicles of Dissent, 1992, p. 349) describes the charge of 'falsifying history' that was brought against Faurisson as 'a case where a fascist law was applied' and as 'standard Stalinist, fascist doctrine'. The truth is that 'falsifying history' is a literal and exact description of what Faurisson was proved to have done. Faurisson is a charlatan and a crook whose methods disqualify him from teaching in a university.

It's actually a very common interpretation of the freedom of speech. But I'll gladly cheer the media's right to attack foolish vice presidential candidates and a university's right to fire demonstrable frauds.

For a Chomsky defense of his defense, see here. Read more.