Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Another sly trick: the Quibble Method - and cornering reality

Last time, I appraised three of the magical incantations that are used in the War on Science -- and against every fact-using profession -- in order to discredit all the folks who actually know stuff, while pretending to sound logical. We need to understand these cheats at their most basic level, in order to fight back against weapons-of-darkness.

An example from last time: we all know that: "Just being smart and knowing stuff doesn't automatically make you wise."

Alas, the extrapolation -- never spoken explicitly, but slyly and relentlessly implied on Fox and every confederate medium -- is: "Being smart and knowing stuff makes you unwise." 

Scratch the surface, and you'll find this lunatic catechism, whose purpose is to generate distrust of any "smartypants elite" that might compete with oligarchy. thwarting feudalism's return.

== More sneaky messages... or Trouble with Quibbles... ==

 Okay then, here's another I've mentioned before. The Quibble Method lets manipulative gasbags neutralize anyone who actually knows something, about any topic. 

Again, you start by asserting something that's obviously true! Like: 

"None of us - even scientists - can directly perceive objective reality. Everything passes through flawed senses.” 

This, too, is blatantly true!  In fact, science itself taught the hard lesson to us, after millennia of being told by earlier elites - kings and feudal lords and priests, that they did have perfect knowledge of Truth with a capital "T." 

Only now comes the sneaky trick, after saying a true thing aloud. With a sly wink, the implied general extension is:

"Therefore, scientists can't be trusted! 

"Sure they try to make models of the world that edge ever-closer to objective reality, disproving those that are clearly and decisively farther. But ignore all that. Just assume they are like priests, of old! A priesthood is a priesthood. And science is just another religion - or 'community standard' - like any other and no better."

Let's pause and be clear; there are elements of the far-fringe, postmodernist left who incant this "all is subjective" nonsense, as volubly and vigorously as happens on the entire, mad right. (Note, though, the difference between "far-fringe" and "entire.")

It's an insidious pattern. Take an obviously true particular, and use it to imply an obviously crazy generality! Of course it leads to madness, like a recent missive from Donald Trump's appointed CDC head, declaring that biomedical scientists must adjust their judgements based upon "community standards."

In fact, science is not about community standards of truth.  It is about a community standard for processes that we've learned - from hard experience - best enable competitive researchers to falsify any rival's model that proves farther away from objective reality than their own. Indeed, there are few more-competitive entities on the planet than scientists.

Those rival theories and models that survive this process are not raised up as gods or holy writ! Nor are they called "objective reality." If they survive this process of incessant testing, it is only for this round, because successful theories or models undergo mitosis -- they simply split into daughters, that then repeat the creative endeavor of ceaseless testing.

If we cannot directly perceive objective reality, then at least we can corner it!  And we are doing this daily (I believe with His blessing) to God.

== Learn to refute the quibbles ==

Amid the terrific, elevated discussions that take place in the Contrary Brin comments section, one doubtful skeptic-of-science said: 

But I don’t think science leads us to the Truth it leads us to the useful. I consider that to be a very important difference.”

Alas, dear valued member of this community, that statement is somewhat wrong.  Hence, I will reiterate.

Science is not about achieving the useful, any more than it is about proving perfected Truth. Sure, a cornucopia of useful things fall out naturally.  But science is about carving away what’s not true. 

When I look at a chair and fondle it and smell it and measure it with instruments, I still cannot know what the chair is, with objective-Platonic certainty.  But I can eliminate one hell of a lot of things that the chair is not.

We corner objective reality by allowing less and less room for it to fool us.  And since humans are delusional beings, that means using reciprocal-competitive processes to pierce each others’ delusions, using ever-more exacting evidence.

Let other priesthoods declare Truth! We … do… not… pretend to!  They hate and fear us, because we can demolish their “Truths” the way we enjoy and thrill at demolishing each others’ theories!  And when a theory proves to not be falsified by all experiments and attacks, sure, it gets temporary glory as our current model of the world. 

But that only means it will spin off sub-variants in finer detail, and we’ll smash most of those!

I have likened it to the Dance of Shiva, in which the god leaps upon a part of the world and destroys it… so that something better immediately pops up when he hops away. And he smiles, beats his drum, and says “I’ll be back!”

So it is with theories and models. When we smash some part of our current paradigm -- say of gas-liquid dynamics laws in fine-grained computer-simulations of meteorology and climate science -- that's not an invalidation. (Not usually, that is; though sometimes that happens, too.) Generally, the result is an incremental improvement that often gets validated quickly, with another 5% or so better predictive capacity. 

Look, those who repeat these silly, anti-science calumnies and Fox-isms aren't all bad people, or agents of darkness. We have to understand these ways they have been tricked  into joining an anti-science, anti-enlightenment cult. We have to fight it, not only because it is all about proto-feudalism and wrecking everything we've created. Or because if it wins, our grandchildren are doomed.

We must fight it also because it is so joyless! It's the reason there weren't riots of joy in the streets (think Philadelphia, after the Eagles won) when Curiosity landed on Mars! Or when the Falcon Heavy launch showed us how wonderfully competent we humans can be!  (See me rant about the importance of bragging and joy!)

We must get our neighbors to grasp how much we relish this forward movement of creative destruction, for its own sake. The competitive creativity that underlies most human progress, that can only happen - ironically - when we cooperate to regulate and eliminate cheating. (The central lesson of Adam Smith.)

We do this knowing that the thing we chase – whether it's successful innovation, or objective reality, or God – will keep escaping, giggling, into the remaining fractal, diminishing and yet never-ending shadows. And we – learning every Godlike skill – give chase.
  

78 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Let's pause and be clear; there are elements of the far-fringe, postmodernist left who incant this "all is subjective" nonsense, as volubly and vigorously as happens on the entire, mad right."

http://existentialcomics.com/comic/224 from a couple of days ago.

Treebeard said...

But the postmodernists are right that in matters of culture, values, myths, spirituality, etc., there is no objective truth to be strived for, only various interests, traditions and tastes vying for power. And these are the things people are passionate about, not whether the earth is flat or round. There is no science that will convince me that Londonistan is an improvement on London, or convince some young Londoner that Britain is better than the Islamic State. This is where your cult gets so terribly out of its depth and actively harmful, when it imagines that a methodology designed for the material world can be applied across the board to the human mind, soul and culture.

Alfred Differ said...

(Loose threads from last thread)

@Tony Fisk | Helium, Alfred? I thought everything was a radioactive byproduct once.

Yes. Everything is. If you say it that way and try to look concerned about it, they catch on too quickly and it spoils the fun. Focus it and make it look like concern for the children and the jab works a little better. It only has to last long enough to get someone else to roll their eyes and prepare to label you a dunce to spot the ones to wink at so they get a chance to be in on it.

@Twominds | Oh, you mean the testing too!

Yah. Thousands. Big thermonuclear ones too. Many were detonated above ground.

Those of us who remember the era reacted a little different when Two Scoops started comparing member sizes with the NK leader a few months ago. Those early tests were essentially the same thing. “Mine’s bigger than yours” said between two males deciding whether to fight. Ugh.

@LarryHart | …and it will be nice to have an income again.

Yay! Time to order up a plate full of ‘sunny disposition.’

occam's comic said...

Let the quibbling begin.

Science is done by a community of human beings and the standards and values that the scientific community has placed on itself are an integral part why science works. And so in a very real sense the scientific community is just like other human communities in the sense that they all have some set of standards and values that guide activity in that community,

If science is really about carving away what is not true instead of giving us bunches of useful but limited ideas, why do physicist still teach and use Newtonian Physics? (it isn’t true but it is darn useful.)

And I would like to point out that although some scientific advancements come from try to accurately model the world, many others have come from actively disregarding most of the environment and instead focusing on a few key variables.

And again I still don’t understand why you say that my perspective is joyless. I don’t understand why you think being useful is joyless. Is joy only found dancing with Shiva?

Alfred Differ said...

@Twominds | red cloth to a bull

Heh. Indeed. Obviously, you fit in here just fine. 8)

I have a single voice

Sort of. If you live in isolation I’d say that is true, but you don’t. You have one ‘primary’ voice, but through the people who know you enough to care to construct a (partial) internal copy of you within them, you also have a number of secondary voices.

Yes… there are people with thousands of accounts who shout at the world and are disproportionately heard. In the olde days, that kind of influence used to cost more money. Also in the olde days, we used to react to widespread pamphlet campaigns different than we do today. Wide distribution of a message can move people, though not always in the pamphleteer’s desired direction. Have we learned to discount their messages yet? Somewhat? Are we adapting?

I think if you step back, take a deep breath, and then look carefully at why people respond to broadcast messages, you’ll find we imagine a human being on the other end telling us something we want to know. How effective a message is depends somewhat on how we imagine the person saying it. When someone offers to feel my pain and defend me from injustices, I’ll grasp for a potential ally, right? Whether the message arrives in printed form or is shouted across the internet, both are ‘broadcast’ style. I have to be pretty desperate to think someone on the other end of a broadcast is thinking about me directly, but I might settle for a belief that they are thinking about me abstractly.

I put to you that broadcasts are a fragile thing. They may work and they may work for a while, but with no person on the other end to fine tune it AS I’m interacting with it, there is a danger that the message will lose its charm. It might become flat to me through a small mistake on the writer’s part or a small change in my conditions.

I put to you that participating in a social network (like this one) reaches fewer people directly, but it is in FAR less danger of becoming flat or losing its charm when it widely distributes a message. If your network is composed of 10 who agree with you (mostly), they can support ‘your’ message much more robustly with a wider audience than you can hope to manage. They can also do it in the very manner humans evolved to expect from potential allies. If your 10 person network is a node in another set of 10 networks of 10, ‘your’ message might be partially diluted when delivered by indirect voices, but it won’t be far off if you are willing to loosely connect to them too.

Ask yourself in which how many social networks you participate? You’ve got one here and we might even be amenable to your ‘message’ if you reciprocate. Got any others? If you chart them out and direct your actions, you can have far more influence that you might realize. The secret ingredient, though, is getting people to make those partial copies of you within them. Your partner probably has already. As more do, you’ll find those partial copies have hands that help you push against the immovable objects of the world.

Treebeard said...

It's probably worth noting that in Hindu cosmology, the Shiva dance isn't moving the world “forward” in any absolute sense, just moving things around in their historical cycles. Many Hindus believe we're in the darkest age, the Kali Yuga, so Shiva's dance will bring us back to the golden age of Satya Yuga. Maybe this is Trump's historical role: to do the Shiva dance on this dark Age of Enlightenment, or even be the Kalki avatar who returns us to the golden age. If you going to start invoking Hindu concepts, you have to leave Western protestant-progressive ideas behind.

Alfred Differ said...

@occam’s comic | If science is really about carving away what is not true instead of giving us bunches of useful but limited ideas, why do physicist still teach and use Newtonian Physics? (it isn’t true but it is darn useful.)

Well…

1. You used the word ‘true’ as if you meant ‘True’ as if we could possibly know that about any theory. In Popper’s view of Science, that is unattainable. One can know ‘false’ and ‘true enough’.

2. Newton’s theory is still worth teaching because a ‘true enough’ theory must be indistinguishable from Newton’s in the limit of low speeds and no other forces besides gravity and mechanical ‘contact’ interactions.

3. Newton’s theory is also useful in teaching physicists how to model things. It is an intuitive model that upon deeper thought runs into a LOT of consistency problems. With it we can demonstrate the more complicated skill of constructing theories and testing them. Without it, we run the risk of teaching the ‘true enough’ theory as dogma.

4. Also, Newton’s theory is still ‘true enough’ in the setting where it was constructed. It doesn’t really matter if the explanatory component of the theory has been displaced if one is trying to perform a calculation that gets ‘close enough’ to what is needed.

And I would like to point out that although some scientific advancements come from try to accurately model the world, many others have come from actively disregarding most of the environment and instead focusing on a few key variables.

They have ALL come from actively disregarding most of the environment and abstracting on a few key elements that remain. Science is a big reductionism game. Some are shocked at how well reductionism works in this regard, but not me. Try doing that for human motivations in a market and the predictions are (ahem) problematic. In Science, though, we have a selection effect going on. IF the theory doesn’t fail, we keep it. If it does, we try to displace it. OF COURSE reductionism is going to work in that setting. Objective knowledge evolves. Literally. 8)

TCB said...

@ occam's comic, who said: "And I would like to point out that although some scientific advancements come from try to accurately model the world, many others have come from actively disregarding most of the environment and instead focusing on a few key variables."

So what's the problem? I heard that physicists had developed the methodology to predict the outcome of horse races with almost 99.999% absolute certainty! As long as the horses were perfectly spherical and frictionless in a vacuum.

@ Alfred Differ, I ordered a copy of The Bourgeois Virtues, or rather my wife saw that I'd searched it and ordered it for me. (I dawdled 'cause it's not on Kindle).

David Brin said...

Yes, Treebeard, we know that you hate the nerds you bullied in Junior High, who have done so well in this hated, modern era. Those geeks who use these “fact” things and keep expanding the region where they can be applied. You demand that subjective realms of social values and politics and power and policy be kept set aside for priests and inhyerited aristocrats to dominate with magic mumbo-jumbo and raved incantations, free from that horrid “accountability thing…

…and that those nerdy boffins stay in their labs making toys for the feudal lords to dole out.

But the record of 6000 years shows that your attitude is shit. The policies it leads to are shit. The ruling castes who make those policies are almost always lured - by suppression of accountability and criticism - into being asshole shits. And the result of their mad delusions is the wretched horror we call “history.”

Oh, and departing from those old approaches has brought about the greatest and most productive era in human history. Not just in material matters and lessened tragedy, but in the diversity of viewpoints that allows us to notice and step back from error. And it is the latter you hate most, allowing everyone to speak and negotiate and disprove magical incantation lies.

“If you going to start invoking Hindu concepts, you have to leave Western protestant-progressive ideas behind.”

Oh, hey man. I can use metaphors for their usefulness. Though this quibble on your part is NOT “shit.” It is erudition appropriate for a comments section and I thank you for it.

David Brin said...


Occam: “If science is really about carving away what is not true instead of giving us bunches of useful but limited ideas, why do physicist still teach and use Newtonian Physics? (it isn’t true but it is darn useful.)”

Carving away the untrue left most of Newtonian Physics standing. The “untrue” part is that “this applies at the level of atoms or at super high velocities.” With those parts carved away, Newton - known to be an approximation -still stands.

LarryHart said...

Twominds (from the previous thread) :

I have a single voice, I don't use internet tools to create a million fake accounts to scream my ideas into the web and give the impression I'm a whole movement all by myself.
Others do, and it feels dishonest and sets ordinary people like me back.


If it hasn't happened yet, I expect that the common knowledge of fake following will soon devalue the whole notion that more followers makes one "better" in any valuable sense. Just recently, I've been hearing about how Russian 'bots are ramping up the re-tweets of the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo in order to "push it to the top", whatever the heck that means. This supposedly influences the congressmen deciding whether to release the ridiculous and dangerous Devin Nunes memo to the general public in order to discredit the FBI. My thought was, "Really? They know that the hashtag is being promoted artificially, but they still give credence to the notion that hoards of real voters are clamoring for some action on their part?" I mean, if we know that the so-called popularity of an internet meme is artificial, then why do we still treat the artificial so-called popularity of an idea as if it has any meaning whatsoever?

Tony Fisk said...

We must fight it also because it is so joyless! It's the reason there weren't riots of joy in the streets (think Philadelphia, after the Eagles won) when Curiosity landed on Mars! Or when the Falcon Heavy launch showed us how wonderfully competent we humans can be!

Hmm! I don't think the situation is quite as bad as this. There may not have been Holi riots in the street, but my impression is that the social media community got the vibes! My daughter and friends skipped out of their school choir practice* to watch the Falcon launch, and land.

*(The story I'm told is the sopranos weren't needed at that point ;-)

Tony Fisk said...

Fake followers and bots are what amplify the echo chamber. Users need to be able to vote things down as well as up. The obvious problem with that is that voting down is just what botswarms will do to their victims. Thoughts to counter that: 1. make a vote up/down proportional to your reputation. 2. apply a voting cost to your reputation.

It's an ecosystem out there!

TCB said...

Astroturfing is a wee bit like carbon monoxide poisoning, innit? The monoxide crowds out the spots on the hemoglobin molecules in your blood cells where an oxygen molecule was supposed to attach, and if it replaces enough of the oxygen your metabolism stops working.

I just feel like I'm seeing so many parallels between politics and other fields like biology, information and game theory... and so, very often, you can see some politician/organization/media/etc. pursuing some strategy or tactic and you can ask, "If this were happening in some biological context, or some game theory context, or some computer security context... would this strategy work? Or would it fail? Would it seem completely wrongheaded, even?"

I get the impression that we got Trump et al by having a too-weak immune reaction over several decades. NOW we're reacting to the pathogen, but is it in time?

Also, living systems depend on dynamic balance of seemingly incompatible principles. The system can never be perfect, because it can never achieve perfect balance and stand still. The process is dynamic because it is all in constant flux; if processes stop, that means death (or at least stasis).

And the process of a living organism must be balanced: a cell must let in nutrients, expel wastes and poisons, grow and copy itself, for instance. But if any of its necessary principles becomes absolute, to the detriment of other necessities, and to the detriment of dynamic balance, then disease follows. Growth run amuck is cancer; immune responses too weak invite infection and parasites, while too strong can attack the body's own organs. And so on...

In politics we also see this dynamic balance. The dynamic political system can never be perfected and left alone; its enemies and parasites will find new flaws and exploit them. This is exactly what was meant by a commenter elsewhere who said "Fascism exploits rot." Fascists did not invent the gerrymanders, voting machines, and electoral college here; they just exploited them where they found them. Fascists did not close factories and scatter Oxycontin all over the Rust Belt; they merely exploited the real and justified anger and desperation where they found those.

Balance, too, is essential, as any constitutional scholar knows: and it is exactly by exploiting imbalance that the enemies of a free society attack it. So we are told free speech must be absolute, property rights must be absolute, and so on; but if we reply that our children have a right to clean air and water, balance is rejected: the oil companies' right to profit is absolute, leaving no room for the children! And so on: property rights are absolute for the oligarchs, and limited for the plebs. Free speech is absolute for Nazis, limited for antifascists. Due process is absolute for Donald Trump, an afterthought for Dreamers. The right to vote is absolute for Republicans, a crapshoot for Democrats in the wrong part of town.

Even truth is private property.

Tony Fisk said...

@occam. a refinement to this is that new models must account for whatever old models can explain. Relativity blends into classical Newtonian equations fairly seamlessly. Quantum mechanics *can* be made to do so, but the effort will leave most supercomputers with serious migraines.

MadLibrarian said...

I do want to 'quibble' about the reaction to the Falcon Heavy launch and landing. There was a lot of happy dancing going on at the success, both at Canaveral and wherever it was televised, and online as well. The nerds (and a lot of regular Joes) saw it, and it was good.

locumranch said...


The Quibble Method is a non-partisan argument technique, gleefully applied by the political left, political right & every participant of this blog, especially when any inconvenient truth threatens yours, mine & our worldview.

For instance, I supported the pending agricultural democalypse by citing HARD DATA regarding the aging food producing farming demographic, and this data was dismissed as irrelevant because others quibbled that these figures applied only to the vanishing small 'family farm' rather than corporate agriculture in general.

Not so -- it applies to ALL agriculture including Corporate Farms -- yet you progs prefer to delude yourselves by imagining Corporate Farms give a damn if you & children's bellies are empty.

Corporations only care about PROFIT, and they will shut their farms down the very moment that their cost/benefit ratio drops below sustainability (the business kind), just like the Big 3 US Automotive manufacturers did when they abandoned their Detroit factories & left the surrounding Detroit communities to die.

But, go ahead & keep telling yourselves that your comforts matter more than corporate profit margins, and then look what happened to Venezuela when the government tried to deprioritize corporate profits in favour of belly comfort.

I hope your quibbles are nourishing for your children's sake, as you will most likely have to eat your words.


Best

Jon S. said...

"There may not have been Holi riots in the street, but my impression is that the social media community got the vibes!"

YouTube has several different videos of the boosters landing. Combined views are somewhere north of twenty million over the past eight days. Yeah, I think social media's on the case here.

"You demand that subjective realms of social values and politics and power and policy be kept set aside for priests and inhyerited aristocrats to dominate with magic mumbo-jumbo and raved incantations, free from that horrid 'accountability' thing…

…and that those nerdy boffins stay in their labs making toys for the feudal lords to dole out."


And now I'm reminded of Majikthese and Vroomfondel, representatives of the Philosopher's Union, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!!"

Zepp Jamieson said...

I suspect that the word "Truth" used by the Doctor's correspondent was much closer to the ideation a fundamentalist has when he talks about "truth"; something universal, inalterable, impervious to changes in human knowledge or human modalities.
Science has Constants; the gravitational constant is the same throughout the universe, phi and Phi are the same in Andromeda as they are in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Science tries to determine realities, but realities are not Truth. To use a line never before seen on this blog: "It's not the same thing. In fact, it's the opposite thing." To pick the alleged chair, the physical reality is that it's 99.999999% not there. The volume is nearly all the empty space between atoms, but fortunately the weak force is there to stop your ass from smashing to the floor. It's a more sophisticated and far less evident reality than what we are pleased to call "truth" ("A chair is a chair is a chair. So there!") but it's closer to the actual nature of things than what we perceive. A layman might consider that not-exactly-there chair, and uneasily and correctly realize that the same description applies to himself; most of the space he occupies is a perfect vacuum. That leads to two questions: "Is this real?" and "Why is it like this?" Science exists to consider the first question, and doesn't even have a way to ask the second.
Brin's entirely correct in his summation of the anti-science types, but the problem goes beyond them. A lot of people look to science for answers. They cannot find truths, and the realities are counterintuitive and confusing. So a lot of people reject science, not because they are intellectual buffoons, but simply because science cannot address their intellectual and emotional needs.

Jim Mearkle said...

"But I don’t think science leads us to the Truth it leads us to the useful."

Speaking as a P.E., I'd say that is more true of engineering than science.

David Brin said...

We didn’t “quibble” away locum’s point but rather shrugged it aside as unimportant. And in truth , it isn’t unimportant. But then, I read about young urbanites opening farms.

Zepp Jamieson said...

" I read about young urbanites opening farms."

Why does Eddie Albert immediately spring to mind?

David Brin said...

And Zsa Zsa... and (groan) Rick Perry...

Zepp Jamieson said...

I am abject! I did not wish to inflict thoughts of Zsa Zsa and Governor Goodhair upon you.

Twominds said...

@Alfred Differ

Yah. Thousands. Big thermonuclear ones too. Many were detonated above ground.

I'm sloppy at saving bookmarks, a pity now, because otherwise I could link to a gif with a timeline that shows every nuclear test done anywhere in the world over the decades. If you didn't know better, you'd think you saw a war raging, but in strange places. It's impressive and horrifying.

Those of us who remember the era reacted a little different when Two Scoops started comparing member sizes with the NK leader a few months ago. Those early tests were essentially the same thing. “Mine’s bigger than yours” said between two males deciding whether to fight. Ugh.

I'm not sure from your phrasing if you say "meh, same old, same old" or "damn, they start playing with fire again!" Males deciding whether to fight may or may not lead to an actual fight, and with nuclear tipped ICBM's to play with, I'd much rather they decided to a physical wrestling match.
I would pay to see that! Trump and Kim bodily wrestling, that would be a sight to behold!

TCB said...

Here's another slimy rhetorical trick I hear regularly: "Now is not the time to talk about that."

It's slimy because later will not be the time either.

LarryHart said...

Wasn't it the other Gabor sister?

To me, Zsa Zsa will always be "Minerva" from the final episode of Batman.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

Here's another slimy rhetorical trick I hear regularly: "Now is not the time to talk about that."


The jiu jitsu move for that one is, "You mean it's not politically correct to talk about it?"

Tim H. said...

Yes, Eva Gabor co-starred in "Green Acres".

Paul SB said...

Twominds,

Don't you mean Sumo? Both are major heavyweights. Your point about two males arguing over the relative size and merits of their primary thought centers goes to the point I often make, that if we don't try to learn as much as we can about the things that drive our instincts we become slaves to them. They say knowledge is power. In this case it is the power to choose something other than what the twitchy hormones would have us do. People like them barely count as sapient human beings.

Larry,

It can be great fun to turn the "politically correct" concept on right-wingers. They are quite certain that this is a left-wing thing, and are completely blind to how they do it just as rapaciously as their opponents. The irony it is juicy, no?

Twominds said...

@Paul SB

Any form of full body-contact wrestling is OK. In loincloths, or maybe in head-to-toe Spandex.

LarryHart said...

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Feb15.html#item-3


Soon, these gentlemen and their colleagues will transition into the next stage of the process, the ritual Doing of Nothing, as we await school shooting #9. And #10, #11, and #12. Oh, and don't expect Trump to mention that the shooter—Nikolas Cruz—was fond of repeating Donald-esque rhetoric, especially anti-Muslim rhetoric, and had numerous pictures on social media showing him in a MAGA hat.


When is “Donald J. Trump going to call for a total and complete shutdown of Trump-supporting MAGA-wearing white men entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on?

Paul SB said...

Twominds,

You like them chunky, don't you? Personally I would be happy to give spiked troll clubs and watch them bash each other's heads in.

Jon S. said...

"Now is not the time to talk about the shooting in Florida."

Cool, how about we talk about the shooting in Vegas instead? Or the San Antonio church shooting last November? How about Sandy Hook, has it been long enough for that one?

LarryHart said...

A guest on Stephanie Miller's show was fighting mad this morning, and proclaimed, "From now on, all I am going to do is politicize these shootings! Because the only way to do anything about it is to elect Democrats."

Twominds said...

PaulSB

I like these two ridiculous, so no-one will ever take them seriously again, and their words and deeds are only so much comic relief.

Darrell E said...

Zepp Jamieson said...

"To pick the alleged chair, the physical reality is that it's 99.999999% not there. The volume is nearly all the empty space between atoms, but fortunately the weak force is there to stop your ass from smashing to the floor."

Even this description is, apparently, not an accurate depiction of what the science indicates, useful as it may be to demonstrate a point. Sean Carroll (the physicist not the biologist) likes to point this out to show the disconnect between typical human intuitive biases and what the applicable science actually indicates about sub-atomic and quantum scale reality. He points out that the model of an atom as a discrete nucleus with discrete electrons orbiting it, like a solar system, is not correct. The electrons are not discrete particles, and neither is the nucleus.

Carroll says that the electrons are a probability cloud around the nucleus and that thinking of electrons as discrete particles that are at some discrete point in that probability cloud at any given moment is wrong. But rather that the reality of the electron, as described by the best theories we currently have, is that it is the probability cloud. You can think of it as a field, analogous to a magnetic field.

And actually that is the picture that Quantum Field Theory posits. That all of the particles and forces are actually fields. That each particle and force is manifested by a field that permeates all of space and that the phenomena that we call particles are excitations in those fields caused by interactions among them.

Arizsun Ahola said...

My internal response to this news was "Oh look, its thoughts and prayers time again."

It isn't even worth discussing or acknowledging these events. We ought to just ignore them entirely and move on. It will have just as much effect, perhaps more as talking about these events cause a certain segment to stockpile more of a certain item.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I'll just sit on my probability cloud and hope that the oxygen molecules don't spontaneously move to the other side of the room...

Darrell E said...

Isn't that similar to the principle that the Infinite Improbability Drive is based on?

Jon S. said...

With the Infinite Improbability Drive, though, you have to figure out exactly how improbable it is that you and your ship will suddenly and spontaneously find yourselves orbiting, say, TRAPPIST-1c rather than Earth. (You have to start off with a Finite Improbability Generator first, then work out how improbable it is for the Drive to exist, and give the FIG a cup of really hot tea as a Brownian motion generator...)

Fortunately for Arthur and Ford, it turned out that the probability of their spontaneously being picked up by the Heart of Gold after being thrown into space by the Vogons was exactly the same as Tricia McMillin's phone number back on Earth (in south London, as I recall) - and Tricia, or Trillian as she liked to be called, was aboard the Heart of Gold.

sociotard said...

I have to admit, I always laugh when I see David Brin's same argument-patterns used by the right, just with issues flipped.

Brin: The Republicans have the hypocrisy to oppose the Affordable Care act, when it was based on proposals they created themselves!

National Review: The Democrats have the hypocrisy to oppose Trump's proposed student loan reforms, when they were based on proposals they created themselves!
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/456402/donald-trump-stance-on-student-loans-left-hypocrisy

Not that I'm persuaded that is the best way to go. It doesn't address the problem with misallocating pursuit of degrees with market demand, which is part of the problem with people unable to pay their loans. In Germany they make education affordable, but the government decides what you can pursue. Or, this article about letting the free market decide (link the cost of borrowing to the riskiness of the underlying asset) has potential.

David Brin said...

sociotard, many non-fungible products - like education and health care - require rationing. Europeans make committees to say: "That old man has poor prospects and few years ahead, let's ease his pain and spend more on kids." In the US is used to be "let's see how many poor people we can eject because they can't sure."

We got rid of much of the latter form of rationing while the GOP prevented any talk of the Euro kind... so we have none and costs skyrocket.

A.F. Rey said...

Off topic, but I thought you'd like to see this.

FiveThirtyEight had an article today on when the "Trump Era" really started. The author's choice: the year 2014, when trust in American institutions hit bottom.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/from-where-i-sit-the-trump-era-began-in-2014/

Strange how it was exactly 2014...

LarryHart said...

Arizsun Ahola:

My internal response to this news was "Oh look, its thoughts and prayers time again."

It isn't even worth discussing or acknowledging these events. We ought to just ignore them entirely and move on.


After one of the previous mass shootings, I opined that as long as these events are going to be treated as hurricanes are--as a horrific act of God which we are powerless to do anything about--that they should be named the way hurricanes are. This latest one could be Massacre Rubio.

Tony Fisk said...

@zepp the Monkey King is having new adventures, and would like his cloud back now.

raito said...

Dr. Brin, LarryHart,

Both wrong. Eva, not Zsa Zsa. And there were three sisters. You just didn't hear much from Magda. And, heaven help me, I knew this. But it's not like google is all that far away.

Paul SB said...

Twominds,

Dress them up like trolls and I think it would have the same effect, with the added benefit that might injure themselves sufficiently to remove them from office so they can't do any more damage.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re Rationing of Education and Health Care

The idea that people will simply consume an infinite amount of these if they are free is simply WRONG

Even if Health Care and Education don't cost anything financial they still "Cost"

How many "Free" Root Canals or Enemas do you want? - and education is nearly as bad

There is a problem where people are consuming health care or education inappropriately - the equivalent of using a library as somewhere warm and sheltered

But the total amount of both that is "wanted" is not excessive - The USA does have a problem with end of life care - but that is mostly communications

There is also a problem with treatments that simply do not work and cost a lot of money - in the UK and here we have boards that determine if certain medicines are "Cost Effective" - and an expensive drug that gives a very questionable benefit will not be accepted
I don't see that as "rationing" so much as consumer protection!

In the UK (and to a lesser extent NZ) a lot of what would be best as "community support" has ended up as Healthcare - people who need effectively a Rest Home end up in a Hospital bed

Overall if a few simple and sensible steps were taken there would be no need at all for any type of "Rationing"

Alfred Differ said...

@Twominds | Definitely not 'meh'. When I learned my physics, our community was split in two. There were those who hung framed pictures of above ground tests on their office wall and those who felt they had sinned... or their mentors had. I was never quite willing to use the term 'sin', but I wasn't inclined to help improve the weapons.

(My mentor was in tears the day the wall came down in Berlin. He didn't think he'd live to see that and not just because he was getting old. He didn't survive to see the Soviet collapse.)


As for links, my favorite that I go back to over the years is the animation showing a map and the detonations.

https://youtu.be/I9lquok4Pdk

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Many years ago I was looking in on tech projects that replaced humans with autonomous systems. I was trying to figure out how to fly large airships in the stratosphere when they were not in contact with ground support. Along the way I came across Red Whittaker's work for self-driving farm equipment. There were no self-driving cars back then and no one thought we had the computing speed to pull that off, but he had tractors driving on farms and a human over-seer only intervening when necessary. After reading on his progress, I figured almost all food production would go that way. Slowly for some crops, but faster for others.

The thought that followed quickly after that is that my first girlfriends father was fortunate that his business partner pushed him out of agriculture on the California Delta many years earlier. Shady dealings apparently. He bought property near Sonoma, moved his family, and grew spices for the niche market serving local restaurants. What he grew changed over the years, but the property itself grew in value far more. What he did was harder to automate and he had customers who would pay a premium, thus he was going to be immune far longer than his former partner.

The way I see it going now is full automation and remote over-seers. Local contractors will show up when maintenance is needed, but by 'local' I mean someone in the tri-state area. Agriculture jobs were doomed decades ago, but there will be a few niches that linger where customers willingly pay the premium. Costs will shrink as humans are squeezed out of the labor section of that market and I'm okay with that. My could-have-been father-in-law was too smart to be spending a life squeezing pennies out of his bulk crops.

David Brin said...

Community. May 24-27 I'll be at the International Space Development Conference at the Sheraton Gateway near LAX. That is, if I return (unchanged) from a coming trip to the Finnish Arctic and to Moscow.

Alfred Differ said...

@ TCB | I ordered a copy of The Bourgeois Virtues, or rather my wife saw that I'd searched it and ordered it for me.

Heh. Okay. Let me know when to deliver my apologies for suggesting you work through it. It is long. It is also the one where she relies on/talks the most about a religious angle on the subject. She admits that how she sees things (now), but I found her arguments still hold up reasonably well if you subtract one particular Transcendent. She admits as much too. Most of the book is about virtue ethics, so it isn't easy to avoid religious topics. Sometimes it is necessary to face them head-on.

Any section that describes what she intends to write in follow-up books is to be taken lightly. She had a grand project in mind when she took this subject on. At one point it involved seven books. No doubt her publisher had a chat with her about what could sell. The final result was three large books that hit on the main angles. Virtues/Dignity/Equality.

Whether you agree with her by the end of the book or not, it should show you that people who take her position aren't inhuman monsters when they advocate for market freedom. Maybe some are, but most of us are not. 8)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Shouldn't go Russian into things, Doctor. It might Finnish you off.

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp | and hope that the oxygen molecules don't spontaneously move to the other side of the room...

Heh. One of my fellow students in our first year grad class on quantum quipped something like that in front of the professor. He got this annoyed look on his face and stopped the class until we had worked through how to estimate the probability of such events. He just wanted back-of-the-envelope stuff. When we couldn't do it readily, he got even more annoyed. Were were OBVIOUSLY lacking in a fundamental skill and he set about correcting that embarrassment. 8)

It's a neat exercise and goes right up there with ones taught in computer science classes that show how long it takes to solve certain NP-complete problems. For your oxygen atoms to do all that, it wouldn't matter if you neglected to remember if you measured time in Planck units, seconds, or in ages of the universe. It doesn't change the result much. 8)

My grades in that class were horrible, but I learned a lot from him anyway.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Back in college a buddy of mine and I sat down over many beers and tried to calculate it. We were figuring on the molecular level, rather than atomic, which made the calculation infinitely easier. (Ha!). The exponential number was in the trillions, and we were dealing with a rather small room.
Ever since, it's been kind of a totem for "really stupid things to worry about".

David Brin said...

Similar calculations for the time intervals between the sudden appearance of Brains. (Capital B) A fully sapient brain -- with support system - spontaneously bringing awareness into one of a jillion-jillion universes across infinite spacetime.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm sure there is a good 'beer bet' in there somewhere. Something with a story that starts like 'The fish was SO big that...' and finishes with '... and that was SO unlikely that...' (Told right of course.) 8)

I seem to recall our calculation was for leaning against a wall (one hand on it) and having that hand pass through. Short range stuff. It was still impossibly small.

Now I just make sure I copy my professors facial expression around the pseudo-science folks who use quantum ideas to argue anything is possible. Suuuuure. 8)

Paul SB said...

Interested Observer,

Do you think that if they had cola mines on the Disc they would be as interested in BCBs, or would that be less appealing in cola nuts? : ]

TCB said...

Speaking of Boltzmann brains, I finally got around to seeing Guardians of the Galaxy 2. SPOILER:

I'm pretty sure Kurt Russell's character is one.

Paul SB said...

We do have to think a little about calculating the odds of something appearing in a Universe of hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. Old Douglas Adams poked fun at the extreme version of this when he wrote (in Restaurant at the End of the Universe, I think) that very little is actually manufactured anymore because, as enormous as the Universe is, chances are anything you want grows naturally somewhere. Thus Marvin found itself stranded in a swamp full of mattresses, all named Zem, who kept getting poached for bedroom furniture before Marvin could have any meaningful conversation with them.

Given where we are technologically, I wouldn't be too wed to any of these kinds of calculations. There is no way to know what variables we are missing, and what laughingstocks history will make of us in the future.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

Aren't you describing the "infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters" theory, writ large?

I believe the flaw in the analogy is in mistaking "a whole eff of a lot" for the truly infinite.

But then, I'm always reminded of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons:


"'It was the best of times; it was the blurst of times.'??

You stupid monkey!"

Darrell E said...

"Dam machine the g is sticked!"

A.F. Rey said...

That is, if I return (unchanged) from a coming trip to the Finnish Arctic...

Ooohhh, heading to my mom's motherland! Cool. Or, actually, quite, quite cold at this time of year. Say hi to the Laplanders for me. Sisu!

occam's comic said...

I think it is time for a movement to repeal the second amendment.
Lets pry the guns out of their cold dead hands.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

That is, if I return (unchanged) from a coming trip to the Finnish Arctic and to Moscow.


"Unchanged"? Are you anticipating replacement by a pod person (or a Skrull)?

We need some clues ahead of time so that we can distinguish an impostor from the real you. Like, I know that if my wife ever has warm feet, she's been replaced by an alien.

matthew said...

One of the revelations around the continuing stream of allegations of our POTUS's affairs - it's damned easy to blackmail him.

If you missed it, a second credible allegation of an affair covered up by a payoff from one of the president's inner circle surfaced in the New Yorker today.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trump-a-playboy-model-and-a-system-for-concealing-infidelity-national-enquirer-karen-mcdougal

The payoff came, this time, from the owner of the media group that publishes the National Enquirer, who bought the woman's story for $150,000 and then killed the story. The bagman, I mean publisher, has reportedly been bragging about the leverage he has with the President as someone that "knows where the bodies are buried."

Our President is a national security risk, and not just to the Russians.

Not really news to anyone that doesn't have partisan blinders on, but out there in the open.

It's easy to blackmail Trump.
I'm certain *every* government in the world is working on their own blackmail plan.

David Brin said...

Any attempt to repeal would start a war. And anyway, I'm not so sure I want that.

I've long offered a compromise that might offer a win-win.

http://www.tinyurl.com/jrifle

Zepp Jamieson said...

I think the best way to approach the gun issue is to take the Second Amendment literally. If you want a gun, you have to join the militia. I would suggest six weekends a year in the training of safety and use of guns. If you commit a crime that involves a gun, you will be subject to military justice and discipline. You must submit your weapons for inspection twice a year to ensure that they have not been illegally modified and are in good condition. You will be furnished ammunition for the training weekends. Any other ammo you purchase must be reported to your local militia chief. If you have a gun and do not comply with these requirements, you are in violation of the law and may have your weapons seized.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Mueller just handed out 13 indictments against Russian individuals and three against Russian entities for illegal and improper efforts to influence the election in favour of Trump.
This is huge. If Trump was still hoping to stop the investigation, there is now no legal pathway for him to do so. And the indictments make clear that Trump and/or the Trump campaign was a willing co-conspirator in all 16 indictments.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

With regard to your proposal, I'd possibly amend it to make the 'militia' rifle break action, instead of bolt action. And a limit of 2 barrels, because the sporting guys wouldn't like single, and because two-barrel break-action rifles are quite rare (and difficult to sight in). Part of the reason for the development of the bolt action was to have a weapon that could be reloaded while still looking at the enemy (this, of course, helped a lot during the trench warfare of WWI). I'm not sure where lever-action arms would stand.

I also challenge your contention that bolt-action rifles and simple shotguns are rarely used by children. My experience is in direct opposition to that. When I was young, a boy's first firearm was always a light single-shot shotgun or single-shot .22 caliber rifle (depending on whether his father preferred to hunt things that flew or things that ran). Every time. But I'd really want a citation there. What sort of firearms do you think are commonly used by children? Of course, I suppose I could be misreading and that you mean the use of firearms by children is rare, therefore the use of those arms is also rare.

LarryHart said...

All that needs to be done with the Second Amendment is to recognize that the language makes no special distinction for "guns". Firearms are no more (and no less) protected than machetes, hand grenades, and tactical nuclear devices. The same restrictions that are put on those other forms of armament should be applicable to military grade firearms with no harm done to the amendment at all.

Also, imagine if police were to treat the sight of a white man wielding an AR-15 the same way they do a black man with a pistol during a traffic stop--an immediate threat to be responded to with a hail of police gunfire. Or if outraged airline passengers would demand expulsion of travelers wearing MAGA hats the way they do with those wearing long beards and turbans.

occam's comic said...

A large growing movement to repeal the second amendment is the only thing that will bring responsible gun owners to break from the gun nuts and really support effective gun regulation.

Right now the business model for gun makers is to create mass killings because they drive sales. The gun makers are making a killing off of the killing of innocent people.

matthew said...

Note that today's indictments specifically mention support for Jill Stein.

"b. On or about November 3, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased an advertisement to promote a post on the lnstagram account “Blacktivist” that read in part: “Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.” "

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/mueller-indictment-documents-russian-effort-to-suppress-nonwhite-vote.html

I've been saying that Jill Stein, and her party support, was actively interfacing with the Russians since before the election, if you remember. Mueller has now acted on this information.

LarryHart said...

Paul Krugman tells it like it is:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/opinion/republicans-bad-faith-krugman.html

...
But our job, whether we’re policy analysts or journalists, isn’t to be “balanced”; it’s to tell the truth. And while Democrats are hardly angels, at this point in American history, the truth has a well-known liberal bias.

LarryHart said...

Has the NRA ever explained why the solution to school or church shootings is to allow more guns inside those places, but guns have to be checked at the door of the NRA's own meetings and events?

David Brin said...

Of course the real thing to realize is that "bear arms" now should mean cameras. They are vastly nmore effective.

onward
onward

Zepp Jamieson said...

Anyone have any thoughts on what this is about? A new form of light?
https://www.rawstory.com/2018/02/physicists-create-new-form-light-binding-photons/