Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why do weird people believe smart things?

Even though Michael Shermer has... confused me... recently, theres no questioning that 'Why People Believe Weird Things' is a skeptical thinking classic. I especially enjoyed the chapter on 'Why Smart People Believe Weird Things'-- How can someone be a physicist during the day, and a ghost hunter at night? How can someone be a high school social studies teacher, but keep a blog on 'THE LOST SECRETS OF ATLANTIS!' during their free time?

Hell, Im even superstitious sometimes-- I think if I dont do the same activities every morning in the same order, Arnie will get disgruntled and get into the trash/bookshelf/futon while Im at work.

But an equally interesting question went unanswered in 'Why People Believe'.

Why do weird people believe smart things?

Im not joking when I look at Creationists like a confused puppy and say "How do you function in the real world?" Do they just randomly accept normal things?

Humans and other primates descended from a common ancestor: NO.
The earth is round: NO... I mean YES.
Its physically possible to boil water to make tea: LET ME CHECK MY BIBLE.
I wondered that very question while watching Robert Kennedy Jrs presentation on campus last week. You all might remember RFK from Respectful Insolence. RFK wrote a good ol fashioned slander piece about the non-existent VACCINES-->AUTISMOMG a couple years ago. Not just the normal stupid anti-vaxer claims-- slanderous crap against scientists and the CDC.

So I was interested when I heard RFK was coming to campus (a medical research campus) to speak about global warming. Despite the fact RFK is on the 'science' side of climate change, his previous behaviors have clearly established that he is not pro-science. Hell, he is anti-science. So why is he pro-science in the case of global warming? I mean, global warming is in fashion this political season (YAY! As long as it isnt just for show), but is he that shallow?

I dont think RFK is *that* shallow, but he is definitely anti-science.

His presentation on global warming, to scientists, included no science. Lotsa folksy stuff, like how hes just so miffed that he cant eat the fish he catches with his boys cause the lake mercury levels are too high. Cause Jebus Christ told em that he is supposeta take care of the earth (I was treated to a >20 minute sermon, you know how much I enjoyed that). Cuase its good economics to go green!

Well, I agree with two of those three things, but, um, no science.

Except when he urged the audience, several times, to have their hair tested for heavy metals. If he was a woman, he said, his mercury levels are so high he would be at risk for having a baby with autism.

Isnt that special.

Shorter Robert Kennedy Jr--
Only do the right thing when it directly benefits you.

Only do the right thing because an invisible sky pixie will hurt you if you dont.

Only do the right thing because its cost effective.
I guess thats how weird people can occasionally believe smart things?

66 comments:

Petri said...

It's all about convenience. Weird people know that science is a strong argument, they've had plenty of experience fighting it. Thus, when science actually comes down on their side it makes things much easier. However, if science doesn't agree then they pull out the arsenal of fallacious reasoning to combat it. I've always believed that these are not completely stupid people, they are opportunists, it's more about image than anti-science.

Danny Schade said...

What did Shermer do to confuse you recently?

Anonymous said...

Here is a question in line with your post. How can intelligent people so readily buy into the global warming hoax?

Tyler DiPietro said...

"How can intelligent people so readily buy into the global warming hoax?"

Translation: "How can intelligent people not attribute a scientific consensus to a massive conspiracy on the part of the NWO?"

And I have my own question: How can they believe there was no second gunman on the grassy knoll, haven't you ever heard of invisibility cloaks?

Anonymous said...

Some people, as you have clearly shown, will believe anything.

Scott said...

My dad thinks we didn't really go to the moon :(

Reynold said...

Big deal. My dad probably thinks that we should just dump a whole bunch of people there.

Now, I think that the guy brought up in this Stranger Fruit entry would be a good addition to be sent to the moon.

And he's one of the anti-darwinian "doubters" that Stein interviewed in the movie, it seems!

Dana Hunter said...

I'd imagine that some of them pick a smart thing that's not too odious to them so they can go, "See! Look at me - I'm not a total fruitcake!" And they manage to hoodwink the less informed. I've noticed a few hucksters hijack well-proven things and use that to portray themselves as informed and skeptical when they're neither.

Harlon said...

They believe because it accidentally fits into their world view.

Nothing amazing here, keep moving.

Joe McCarthy said...

He can believe in global warming because in his mind science is to blame. Similarly he blames science for autism and probably believes anything that portrays science/technology in a bad light while happily ignoring all the benefits he's derived from them.
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day!

Danny Schade said...

"How can intelligent people so readily buy into the global warming hoax?How can intelligent people so readily buy into the global warming hoax?"

Hello too-scared-to-write-your-own-name,
Hoax? Dude, this is public evidence, just look at the arctic ice. That shit is melting in places we've never seen it melt before. Do you realize that raising sea levels can kill millions of people?

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD said...

What did Shermer do to confuse you recently?

The most recent thing that comes to my mind was his announcement that liberty is more important than truth. Now, when a person has a regular column in a scientific magazine, I want to know that he's not hiding scientific truth for political reasons.

Anonymous said...

He obviously didn't put any real effort into his presentation and so I'm guessing that he figures he'll earn points for just showing up. There's too much of this and he really should be challenged on it.

Alyce said...

Wait, I'm sure there's an answer to your question in my Bible.... please hold.....

Laneman said...

OMFG people still think Global Warming is a hoax? What the hell is the matter with you? Go play in traffic.

Ken Prescott said...

Let me ask some slightly different question . . .

Many propsoals for government policy have been advocated as means of coping with global warming.

Government, at its core, is force. Nothing more . . . nothing less.

The question:

Are you confident enough in your knowledge of climate and the consequences of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to point a gun at someone and give them the following choice:

(a) limiting their greenhouse gas emissions, quite probably at a real cost in their personal comfort and happiness, or

(b) dying if they refuse?

Are you willing to pull the trigger in that case?

Laneman said...

Wow Ken you are seriously wrong. In this country, WE are the government. We decide collectively if we want something done if we decide that it will be for our collective good. That is if we get our act together to learn the issues and make things happen. If you only let a ruling elite run things then it is force.

We can either limit our comfort a little now to stabilize the climate or do nothing and let nature do the limiting for us. Guess what? Nature won't be so kind. Understand?

Laneman said...

Oh, and btw ken and all you other GW deniers, the Climate Scientists (you know the people who actually go out there and measure and study the climate instead of producing anti-science propoganda for right wing think tanks), are confident in their knowledge and of the conequences of doing nothing. Business as usual is going to hurt us bad, real bad. Doing something about it will actually help us more than harm us.

Now, go play in traffic.

Katie Marshall said...

Hi...I'm new here, and I think I might stick around. Lovely and original ideas, wrapped up in a crunchy batter of forthrightness. As a fellow female grad student, I salute thee!

Ixian said...

Ken, can we ask it the other way?

A) Live in a way that current evidence indicates that it harms the environment and will endanger the lives of everyone who currently lives only X number of feet above sea level, but have a "higher quality of life" by someone's standards

or

B) get shot in the head

It would take a pretty immoral person to chose A and put their own life over the lives of millions of people. Then again, nobody gets a gun (knife/other weapon) put to their head over a choice in this country except by criminals or the police going after said criminals.

How about we go back in time for another question example

A) believe our Christian religion, even though it's offensive to your culture, and will kill you if you continue to use known medicinal herbs to improve your quality of life

or

B) burn at the stake as a witch

(Close to the mark about you Ken? The only people I've seen give a do this or die example have been fundamentalist Christians, and it seems that nothing has changed in a few hundred years, just like their view of science.)

I'm no environmental scientist, but I do know that each year where I live, the summer has been multiple degrees hotter than the prior year and we have declined to having almost no winter at all. Even comparing winter now to winter just 5 years ago would lead someone to believe they moved to a warmer climate. We went from getting feet of snow and not seeing the ground all winter without shoveling to having it snow 3 times with a total accumulation of about 8-10 inches and completely melting off between each time it snowed.

Locally the effects have been several times what the "it's natural climate shifting, not global warming" camp has been saying should happen, which mixed with the information about greenhouse gases (and other global warming info) makes it hard to believe anything but the world's getting hotter cause we're messing it up.

Sorry if this is a little unrefined as a post, not enough time to write everything I wanted to say.

Ken Prescott said...

Wow Ken you are seriously wrong. In this country, WE are the government.

Actually, we elect representatives to run a government on our behalf.

We decide collectively if we want something done if we decide that it will be for our collective good.

And that, in the end, requires what Louis XIV referred to as Ultima Ratio Regum ("The Last Argument of Kings"), which was engraved on the muzzles of his army's artillery pieces.

Let's test this hypothesis, shall we? How about we completely disband the IRS' enforcement functions, and let's see what happens to federal tax receipts. I predict that the amount of taxes collected will decline sharply in such an environment.

That is if we get our act together to learn the issues and make things happen. If you only let a ruling elite run things then it is force.

No, all government is force. You are merely choosing to outsource its application (from your snarky and condescending tone, probably to people you consider your social, moral, spiritual, and intellectual inferiors to begin with) so you can pretend that your hands are clean.

We can either limit our comfort a little now to stabilize the climate or do nothing and let nature do the limiting for us.

How do you propose to limit China's emissions of greenhouse gases, which now exceed those of the United States and are accelerating at a much more rapid rate? They have said "hell no" to anything resembling Kyoto--as has India, another nation whose greenhouse gas emissions are rising rapidly.

If global warming is a global problem (and that is your premise), then a global response will be necessary.

If we are to reduce CO2 emissions significantly while other nations' emissions rise more rapidly than our own presently do, we will need to reduce our emissions at a very rapid rate. And that, in the end, would merely buy us some additional time--while inflicting more than a little limitation on our comfort. And that last effect would be extremely unpopular. It could very easily require a fair amount of domestic head-busting to get everyone on board.

Conversely . . . if you don't want to risk domestic head-busting, you're going to have to somehow--oh, hell, there's that word again--FORCE nations like China and India to get with the (expletive deleted) program. At some level, you're going to be pointing a gun at them and saying, "Do as I say or I will kill you."

Oh, and btw ken and all you other GW deniers, the Climate Scientists (you know the people who actually go out there and measure and study the climate instead of producing anti-science propoganda for right wing think tanks), are confident in their knowledge and of the conequences of doing nothing.

1. I am not a global warming denier. I am somewhat skeptical of the claims of how much warming and what kinds of consequences would ensue, given that I have some questions about the reliability of the data gathered to date.

2. Generally, practitioners in any given field are going to be extremely confident of their knowledge, right up to the moment that something proves them wrong. The real question is, are they confident enough to be willing to shoot people--domestic or foreign--who don't do as they're told? And should I share that degree of confidence?

Chayanov said...

In 2006 I attended an American Academy of Religion (AAR) regional meeting (my girlfriend at the time was presenting a paper) and I sat in on a session about environmentalism.

The religious scholars and theologians were discussing conservation and protection of the environment as if the notion had never really occurred to them before. At its core, what they were really debating was what the Bible meant by "stewardship" and if this interpretation had changed.

It was insane. They couldn't discuss the merits of being more aware of the environment and our effects on it. It had to be in terms of whether or not humans were upholding their biblical stewardship responsibility. In other words, if we must change our relationship with the environment there must be a biblically sanctioned reason for doing so.

Theology really is the study of nothing.

Ken Prescott said...

A) Live in a way that current evidence indicates that it harms the environment and will endanger the lives of everyone who currently lives only X number of feet above sea level, but have a "higher quality of life" by someone's standards

Actually, you need to replace "current evidence" with "current models that may or may not be reliably accurate in predicting future events."

It would take a pretty immoral person to chose A and put their own life over the lives of millions of people.

If one man would kill millions, true enough.

But one man by his lonesome wouldn't kill millions. And it would be, at this point, on the basis of a hypothetical scenario.

Then again, nobody gets a gun (knife/other weapon) put to their head over a choice in this country except by criminals or the police going after said criminals.

Which can include, for example, people possessing, manufacturing, transporting, selling, or consuming a substance which was perfectly legal until very recently. (SEE: Volstead Act.)

The people behind the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act had only the noblest of intentions, and they had no intention of actually shooting someone over some bathtub gin. They really did not foresee the violence that subsequently ensued.

Close to the mark about you Ken?

No.

The only people I've seen give a do this or die example have been fundamentalist Christians, and it seems that nothing has changed in a few hundred years, just like their view of science.

I'm not a fundamentalist Christian. I am a former Marine who has thought through the ethics of representative government and the application of force.

Tyler DiPietro said...

"Are you confident enough in your knowledge of climate and the consequences of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to point a gun at someone and give them the following choice:

(a) limiting their greenhouse gas emissions, quite probably at a real cost in their personal comfort and happiness, or

(b) dying if they refuse?"


This is nothing but ridiculous libertarian hyperbole. Give it even the most cursory glance and you will find that examples abound of law enforcement where people don't shot for disobeying the law. Reducing it to such black and white nonsense is borderline self-parody.

Laneman said...

Actually, we elect representatives to run a government on our behalf.

Yeah to represent US.

I am a former Marine who has thought through the ethics of representative government and the application of force.

So representative govt is force, and isn't authoritarian govt force also? Are you arguing for no govt at all? And how does claim that we are the government (you know us) allow me to pretend my hands are clean? Clean from what?

If global warming is a global problem (and that is your premise), then a global response will be necessary.

Of course, and China and India are not doing nothing. They are investing in renewable energy and are willing to be part of a global solution. However the US has failed to be a global leader and partner in climate change. With our bogus rhetoric that global warming is hoax, and that reducing carbon emissions will harm our economy we have lost our credibility. We should be a leader and set an example. We should invest way more in renewable energy, conservation, and efficiency. We should lead the global negotiations for reducing carbon emissions not fighting them. Since we do not do these things why should anybody else?

Tyler DiPietro said...

"Let's test this hypothesis, shall we? How about we completely disband the IRS' enforcement functions, and let's see what happens to federal tax receipts. I predict that the amount of taxes collected will decline sharply in such an environment."

Would you agree with the critique of socialism that people would lack sufficient motivation to work?

Do you see any particular conflict between that position and the common libertarian refrain that capitalism is a "voluntary" system? What is the difference between "do this or you'll go to jail" and "do this or you'll starve" in terms of "force"? Other than, of course, the fact that libertarians approve of one but the not the other.

King Aardvark said...

Hey Abbie, here's your new job if the whole science thing doesn't work out:

Lolcat site hiring; 'spelink skillz opshunal'

Ken Prescott said...

Give it even the most cursory glance and you will find that examples abound of law enforcement where people don't shot for disobeying the law.

It is the final resort. But it is a resort.

So representative govt is force, and isn't authoritarian govt force also?

Exactly. Government is force. The degree of force involved, and the nature of its exercise, are accidents (in the philosophic sense); but the substance always is force.

Are you arguing for no govt at all?

No. I recognize that government is a necessary evil. However, the burden of proof should always be on the one asserting that the benefit of granting any government more authority over the lives of its citizens outweighs the drawbacks.

Would you agree with the critique of socialism that people would lack sufficient motivation to work?

It's a very simplistic critique. The problem with socialism is that authority, responsibility, reward, and punishment inevitably end up getting disconnected from each other.

Do you see any particular conflict between that position and the common libertarian refrain that capitalism is a "voluntary" system?

What is the difference between "do this or you'll go to jail" and "do this or you'll starve" in terms of "force"?

I cannot believe that an allegedly educated person cannot reason this through to a successful conclusion.

The former is another human being dictating your life choices to you. S/he cannot be completely empty of self-interest absent some form of mental disorder. Therefore, there is a greater than zero chance that the one saying "do this or you'll go to jail" is acting solely within their self-interest, no matter how cloaked in noble, lofty rhetoric of the "collective good" that self-interest may be.

The other is simply the tyranny of being a creature that cannot subsist indefinitely off of the land, absent a steep drop in population. Nature, in short, doesn't care whether or not you're having fun.

Of course, and China and India are not doing nothing. They are investing in renewable energy and are willing to be part of a global solution.

They are not doing nearly enough of the former; their willingness to be part of a global solution is entirely contingent on everyone else paying for it in full.

That is utterly unacceptable.

However the US has failed to be a global leader and partner in climate change.

Because being a "global leader and partner" always seems to devolve into "we give other countries and a lot of NGOs large amounts of money with zero strings attached."

How much of YOUR income--above and beyond your present tax bill--are you willing to forfeit to someone else, without any say as to what they spend the money on?

Whatever that amount is, kindly send it to me, m'kay?

(Well, it was worth a try.)

Mark said...

ERV,
If you're in the mood to yell at someone else, read this: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/is-it-time-to-give-up-the-search-for-an-aids-vaccine-814737.html

Tyler DiPietro said...

"It is the final resort. But it is a resort."

One which is rarely if ever implemented in the real world. But to answer your ridiculous and entirely irrelevant question, no, I'm not for shooting everyone who breaks the law in the face. Presumably, neither would you be, even if we reduced our entire legal regime to libertarian notions. Or at least I hope not...

"It's a very simplistic critique. The problem with socialism is that authority, responsibility, reward, and punishment inevitably end up getting disconnected from each other."

So in other words, the engine of coercion is configured in a way that you like.

"The former is another human being dictating your life choices to you. S/he cannot be completely empty of self-interest absent some form of mental disorder. Therefore, there is a greater than zero chance that the one saying "do this or you'll go to jail" is acting solely within their self-interest, no matter how cloaked in noble, lofty rhetoric of the "collective good" that self-interest may be.

The other is simply the tyranny of being a creature that cannot subsist indefinitely off of the land, absent a steep drop in population. Nature, in short, doesn't care whether or not you're having fun."

There are so many problems with this that it's difficult to know where to begin. It's just one egregious false dichotomy after another.

1. Neither is a human being "dictating your life choices for you". Both are appeals to anticipated consequences of not complying with their demands. In no real world scenario would the entire process of reaching such consequences be completely bilateral, with the institutional framework of rule making, enforcement, execution being controlled by one party and subjected to another.

2. The imaginary case you invoke where the above applies has an obvious analogue in private enterprise. Let us imagine that someone has a bilateral monopoly on food (that is, they own every shred in existence) and seeks you labor in exchange for it. In the libertarian model, this is "voluntary" exchange. For all pragmatic, non-idealized purposes it is economic coercion and exploitation.

3. In any case, implicit in your "argument" is the assumption that one process is artificial and one is natural. Such is simply not the case. In a democratic regime, libertarians argue that they are "coerced" by various levels of government including popular opinion, electoral outcomes, legal precedent, etc., which you have little control over as an individual. However, similarly, in a market system you are coerced my impersonal dynamics that you also have little control over as an individual. For an extreme example that nonetheless is relevant to the real world, do you consider the phenomenon of "bumfighting" to be a "voluntary" exchange?

It is quite obvious that you have not considered these issues in the detail with which you credit yourself.

Bob of QF said...

"If he was a woman, he said, his mercury levels are so high he would be at risk for having a baby with autism."

Perhaps, there is a coorelation between his mecury levels and his inability to reason?

Monado said...

The Economist magazine, last week's I think, had an article about research on trends in diagnosis. Looking at 38 people diagnosed many years ago as having language developmental issues, they found that eight of them would now be classified as autistic and several more as being in the autistic spectrum. So that suggests the "epidemic of autism" is a combination of greater awareness and what The Economist calls a fad for the diagnosis.

Ken Prescott said...

One which is rarely if ever implemented in the real world.

It is the final backstop that keeps the law from being a worthless piece of paper. If one refuses to obey a given law, one may be arrested. If one resists arrest, the arresting officer may use force to effect the arrest. If one resists sufficiently, the force applied may escalate to deadly force. If the officer screws up (SEE: Diallo, Amadou), deadly force may be applied without justification.

Now, you can pretend that these are separate issues. But they aren't. Once you put law enforcement into adversarial contact with the citizenry, you're more or less shooting craps about the outcome.

In the end, one should ask "Is this really worth shooting someone over?" before seeking to codify something into law. Because it could very easily come to that, no matter how noble one's intent. Again, the history of Prohibition is instructive. The people who supported the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act really didn't intend to create Al Capone.

But to answer your ridiculous and entirely irrelevant question, no, I'm not for shooting everyone who breaks the law in the face.

The original question was whether you were willing to shoot someone who wasn't willing to limit their greenhouse gas emissions to an amount you deem acceptable.

If you're not willing to do that . . . ultimately, you're not willing to enforce those limits, thus making said law void. We have more than enough detritus and assorted silliness in our legal codes (for example, in my city, it is specifically illegal to shoot jackrabbits while riding a streetcar); we really don't need more.

Switching topics . . .

So in other words, the engine of coercion is configured in a way that you like.

Much of the problems we have in the American economy are the byproducts of systematically disconnecting authority and responsibility from each other; this inevitably leads to inappropriate application of reward and punishment.

You can see this sort of thing all too often in corporate governance--it's frequently known as the "golden parachute," where the senior executives get paid enormous sums of money AFTER running the company into the ground.

Let us imagine that someone has a bilateral monopoly on food (that is, they own every shred in existence) and seeks you labor in exchange for it. In the libertarian model, this is "voluntary" exchange.

The only way that state of affairs happens is via the government seizing every last shred of food. (SEE: Holodomor, 1932-33.)

Monopolies require the force of government to create and sustain them.

The Factician said...

Hi Ken,

Just curious. Are you confident enough to shoot someone to build a public school? What about roads? Would you shoot someone to fix a pothole on your street?

Does all government come down to our willingness to shoot someone for a policy we advocate?

Ken Prescott said...

Just curious. Are you confident enough to shoot someone to build a public school? What about roads? Would you shoot someone to fix a pothole on your street?

"Confidence" doesn't enter into those equations. Building a public school or fixing a pothole are definite actions with known inputs and outputs.

They are not exercises in making public policy based on data inputs of unknown accuracy and outputs from computer models of unknown reliability and predictive accuracy.

That said . . . am I willing, in the final extreme, to shoot someone who seeks to prevent construction of a public school that has been properly approved by duly constituted authority?

Yes. And the same for someone trying to impede duly approved pothole repairs, too.

Like I said, violence is the final backstop that makes a law something more than a worthless scrap of paper. Ultima ratio regum.

That's why we need to be so damn careful about what becomes law.

Does all government come down to our willingness to shoot someone for a policy we advocate?

Yes, because government is force. It may be latent force instead of patent force, but it is force, period.

Dale Husband said...

How can intelligent people so readily buy into the global warming hoax?

Just by saying that, you disqualify yourself from being a skeptic and start being a denialist, basing your ideas on dogma rather than science. Unless you can read minds or have actual access to documents proving the global warming efforts are based on a hoax, you are asserting something completely without support. That, and the fact that you post without name makes you a coward.

Venus Mousetrap said...

About that superstition thingie you mention: that sounds to me like obsessive-compulsive disorder, which I have. If you find it's causing anxiety, or disrupting you more than it should, I advise seeing a doctor about it.

The Factician said...

That said . . . am I willing, in the final extreme, to shoot someone who seeks to prevent construction of a public school that has been properly approved by duly constituted authority?

Yes. And the same for someone trying to impede duly approved pothole repairs, too.


Thanks for being honest. Have you ever read Judge Dredd comics? I think you might like them.

I'm having conflicting feelings, at the moment. Perhaps you can help me resolve them. On the one hand, you scare me, and I think you might be in need of medication. On the other hand, I think you'd likely be awfully funny over a beer.

I have a picture in my head of a man directing pothole repair crews at riflepoint, and shooting at passersby for speeding. It's a picture I'm going to contemplate while I enjoy my Friday beer.

Happy Friday.

Ken Prescott said...

I'm having conflicting feelings, at the moment. Perhaps you can help me resolve them. On the one hand, you scare me, and I think you might be in need of medication.

I respectfully disagree. If I did not know better, I'd swear you were skipping certain words (such as "final") in my writing. I put those words in there for a reason, m'kay?

In general, I would prefer that people obey the laws of the land out of a desire to be good citizens and to not cause unnecessary strife and discontent within their communities. Now, this of necessity presupposes that we have laws actually worth obeying, which is a whole 'nother topic entirely, and one that I'm not going to get into at great length.

Now, there are a lot of folks with the desire to be good citizens--but there are a lot who lack that intrinsic desire. But a majority of those folks will obey laws because they understand that there are adverse consequences to doing so, up to and including being the subject of deadly force.

I would prefer that someone who does break a law and is being held to account for it simply realize that they have transgressed society's norms and go quietly, to receive their due process.

However, I realize that my preferences are not necessarily those of the sorts of people who go out and break laws, and that they are likely to attempt tp flee or resist arrest, applying varying degrees of force to that end.

At that point, I would hope that the police (if available) or the citizenry at large (if the police are not available) would seek to effect an arrest, using the minimum amount of force necessary. Said force may be, in the final extreme, deadly.

On the other hand, I think you'd likely be awfully funny over a beer.

I don't drink, but my wife and daughter think I have a very good sense of humor.

I have a picture in my head of a man directing pothole repair crews at riflepoint, and shooting at passersby for speeding.

That's not even close.

You definitely seem to have skipped some important adjectives in my comments.

Like I said, government is force; it is backed by the promise (not the threat, the promise) of lethal violence against the noncompliant. In our country, that violence is intended to be a last resort after all reasonable sub-lethal options have been exhausted--but even an absolutist monarch like Louis XIV had Ultima Ratio Regum ("The Last Argument of Kings") inscribed around the muzzles of his army's cannon.

Force is a last resort, but it is the last backstop that makes law more than just a bunch of dead trees and ink.

If the willingness to use violence as a final resort is not present in the case of a given law, you cannot say that the law under consideration is truly capable of being enforced.

And if the thought of lethal force being the final backstop to ensure enforcement of a given law disturbs you, I suggest that might be a symptom of your own disquiet with the law in question.

Like I said earlier, the fact that the latent or patent promise of lethal force backstops the law means we need to be extremely careful as to what we put into the law--because once you have the citizenry and law enforcement officers in adversarial contact, it's going to be a crapshoot as to the final outcome.

No, I would not appreciate my next-door neighbor getting capped by a SWAT team because of a trivial housing code violation. That's why I think that a large chunk of today's housing codes are, to put it mildly, idiotic. The color one paints the exterior trim of one's house is, in my never humble opinion, not a valid subject for government application of force--so it shouldn't be in the code in the first place.

Did this clarify my stance at all?

Tyler DiPietro said...

"The only way that state of affairs happens is via the government seizing every last shred of food."

Ah, so all of a sudden, abstract discussions of possible states of affairs in conceivable universes are not sufficient to establish a proposition. Thanks for clearing that up.

BTW, this is the exact reason why your ridiculous "shoot someone in the head" argument against laws you don't like is irrelevant.

"Monopolies require the force of government to create and sustain them."

This statement, though a common mantra in libertarian circles, is simply innocent of economics. Look up "natural monopolies" and "technology-driven monopolies" for starters.

It appears that, like most libertarians, your difficulties are arising from an excessively black and white worldview.

Ken Prescott said...

This statement, though a common mantra in libertarian circles, is simply innocent of economics. Look up "natural monopolies" and "technology-driven monopolies" for starters.

Food doesn't fit either category.

Tyler DiPietro said...

"Food doesn't fit either category."

So I take it that your statement wasn't a broad characterization of monopolies but only those under optimal economic conditions (e.g., no non-divisible costs or benefits, no information asymmetries, no transaction costs, etc.)?

If so, we're in agreement. You have also in that case conceded a point that undermines a good deal of libertarianism on its own.

Ken Prescott said...

If so, we're in agreement. You have also in that case conceded a point that undermines a good deal of libertarianism on its own.

Actually, I haven't; I merely pointed out that you used an utterly nonsensical argument as far as food goes.

As far as monopolies go, they are still utterly unsustainable absent government action. Monopolies tied to technology are particulary dependent on government support--specifically, the government must actively suppress potential competitors' technological development in support of the monopoly holder(s)--who, in order to gain the government's support, will inevitably cede a siginificant amount of their own freedom of action to the government in return for the alleged benefit. (Absent severe mental illness, nobody is going to continually and consistently do something for another party without gaining something of roughly comparable value in return, and a government with the power to enforce a monopoly most assuredly has the power to break it very rapidly.)

Most monopolistic practices (and, in particular, the ones that are most effective) fall into the categories of force or fraud; these are actionable by any reasonable construction of government, to the point where governmental inaction is a product of collusion with the monopoly interest.

Tyler DiPietro said...

"Actually, I haven't; I merely pointed out that you used an utterly nonsensical argument as far as food goes."

In order to illustrate the absurdity of the very rhetorical tactics you are resorting to. Reading comprehension really isn't you strong point, I see.

"As far as monopolies go, they are still utterly unsustainable absent government action."

And as I've already said, this statement is simply, manifestly wrong. Monopolies and oligopolies are an intrinsic fact of market systems. You have a wholly wrong-headed theory that simply doesn't match reality, primarily because it doesn't take into account the reality of transaction costs, costs of entry into a market, information asymmetries, economies of scale, etc., which all upset the clean tending toward equilibrium picture painted by your "argument". Standard economics would familiarize you with these important concepts.

Steven said...

Smart people believe weird things because they usually weren't that smart when they started believing them. Also they have better post hoc rationalisations for their weird beliefs.

Abbie, what did Shermer do recently to confuse you so? I am always excited when two people I consider rational and scientifically minded have a different of opinion.

ERV said...

Oh its nothing big, its just that... look up Shermers new book at Amazon.com.

Review #1?

Dinesh D’Souza?

It confuses me.

Steven said...

I understand that a positive blurb from him (D'Souza) would give you pause.

Dinesh D'Souza has an infinite supply of straw men arguments. He is the straw man argument made flesh. Also I am sure that D'Souza has attacked people like Dawkins and Dennett for using Darwian thought to explain to much. Shermer does it here (sort of) and D'Souza likes it. I watched D'Souza in a few debates/talks and didn't like him at all.

Have you read Shermer's book? I own it but haven't read it yet. That along with about 150 other books. After my exams in May I will get stuck in.

Steven said...

The other two are from Matt Ridley and Frans de Waals. That is good. I have read work of theirs in the past and liked it.

Steven said...

Shermer makes a good point that Creationists don't accept Darwinian evolution but accept the market as not being designed. Both are examples on bottom up non intelligent design. No one intelligently sat back and said ok this is how the market will be. It just emerged from human socio-financial interactions.

William Wallace said...

Don't you get bored knocking down strawman caricatures of your own imagination?

The Earth is very close to spherical, by the way--even my 6 year old knows that.

The rhetorical question about why smart people believe weird things might be best answered by yourself.

Why do you believe what you believe?

Regarding the global warming tangent, I came across an interesting article today: Sorry to ruin the fun, but an ice age cometh y Phil Chapman, geophysicist, astronautical engineer, and NASA astronaut.

The question of which effect dominates dQ/dt of Earth: change in Solar activity v. change in human activity, is a question that has not been scientifically answered.

Consensus doesn't matter in global warming (consensus only matters in evolutionary research programs).

Global warming theories will stand or fall by hard sciences and real measurements, fanciful computer generated images of glaciers calving ice into the sea notwithstanding. (Note to Al Gore, glaciers that end at the sea drop ice in the sea).

Seabhag said...

We covered a lot the information, and debate behind the climate change issue in my Chemistry of Environmental Systems class this semester (grad level class). One of the things my professor brought up that I'd not thought about. One of the biggest issues behind the world heating and sea level temperatures isn't the glacier melt. That's important; but water expands as it warms up. So,the millions and millions of gallons of sea water heating up and expanding from that additional heat is more of an issue than the melting ice caps.

guthrie said...

Wooo hoo. William Wallace turns out to be as ignorant in climate science as I would have expected. Thats another successful prediction.

THe simple fact is, that when you claim:
"The question of which effect dominates dQ/dt of Earth: change in Solar activity v. change in human activity, is a question that has not been scientifically answered."

you are in fact completely wrong. Once you've read the fourth IPCC report, and some denialist websites, then you'll be able to pronounce on the questionm, but just now, you're just looking stupid.

John said...

William Wallace:

I notice that the article that you give doesn't give any sources, and I can't find any sources that duplicate his claims. However, I did find the following two articles from CNN and NASA:

http://edition.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/12/13/warm.weather.ap/index.html
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2007/

testtesttest said...

testtesttest

Gary said...

Attention William Wallace:
Please wait your turn!

Abbie is currently working on a post just for you:

"Why Do Dumb People Believe Dumb Things?"

We all look forward to finding out how you got to be the way you are.

J-Dog

Laneman said...

"we give other countries and a lot of NGOs large amounts of money with zero strings attached."

The U.S. NEVER gives money or aid to anyone with zero strings attached. What planet are you living on. All aid, loans, etc are full of strings attached. That is they way U.S. policy is done

"their willingness to be part of a global solution is entirely contingent on everyone else paying for it in full."

That is total bull. They are willing to be part of the global solution but they are not willing to pay for it full. In fact it is us who expect everyone else to pay for it full while we continue with business as usual. If we don't do our share why should they. Get your facts straight Ken!

"They are not exercises in making public policy based on data inputs of unknown accuracy and outputs from computer models of unknown reliability and predictive accuracy."

Actually they're based on data inputs of known accuracy and outputs from computer models of known reliability and predictive accuracy. Ofcourse the accuracy or quality of the data may be known to be poor or good and the reliability and accuracy of models may be poor to excellent. Making informed policy decisions will take that into account. Also good policy will seek to improve data quality and improve models. Unfortunately that often does not happen due to budgets, politics or both.

"Like I said, violence is the final backstop that makes a law something more than a worthless scrap of paper. Ultima ratio regum.

That's why we need to be so damn careful about what becomes law."

This is especially true for laws written and promoted by corporate interests

Laneman said...

William Wallace:

We are in an ice age right now. We are in an interglacial period of the current ice age. There have been many glacial and interglacial periods during the ice ages of the last 2 million years. All of human civilization has occured in the current interglacial period. The next glacial period is not due for another 25,000 years.

Meanwhile the 6 billion plus human population is force of nature itself, one that is impacting the entire planet. That includes global warming. Human induced global warming is a much more immedialte threat to humanity than the distant return of the glaciers.

"Global warming theories will stand or fall by hard sciences and real measurements"

And the hard science and real measurements are supporting global warming theories. Global warming is real and is happening now.

Nullifidian said...

ERV,

Did you know that your blog has been delisted from Google?

Perhaps "Billy Boy" Dembski has been acting out again?

(My apologies if this shows up as multiple posts, but blogger has decided to be a pain in the fundament today.)

ERV said...

Ya, and I know how to fix it, but Im coming up on another (and the last!) test week, so Im just gonna have to deal with it :(

Teh suk.

:(

Penguindreams said...

On sea level

For sea level change so far, the main contributers are melt of glaciers and thermal expansion of the ocean. The concern to the future is ice sheets -- Greenland and West Antarctica in particular. The reason for this concern is that there isn't 'a lot' of sea level change to be had from glaciers and thermal expansion, 10s of cm only. The ice sheets can give you meters of change.

More detailed (and cited) discussion of processes, rates, and amounts is at my web site, in the sea level change faq.

Penguindreams said...

Re: shermer and weird things

I was disappointed by the 'Why people believe weird things' book. By the time I'd read it, I was quite familiar with a variety of weird things people believed, how their beliefs got expressed, and such. I was looking for a serious answer to why. Unfortunately, that never came.

My own, unstudied, answer is that reaching decisions by analyzing evidence and then concluding is unnatural to us humans. Some recent research is playing that up, as it seems that indeed we often reach conclusions before we realize that we have. The reasoning (rationalization) process is an after the fact bit of ad-hocery.

For the folks who believe in weird things, then, it isn't that they believe them because they're weird. (And I'll leave y'all to figure out the pronominal references there!) It's a matter that they have a framework of sorts that for some selective reason likes both 'healing powers of crystals' and 'wash your hands'.

But if you could get to their reasons for both, you wouldn't find science involved in either.

Penguindreams said...

Re weird things ...

My wife came by (no, she is not the weird thing in question!) and saw my previous comment about weird things and suggested that I elaborate a bit. Apparently I'm farther gone into the world of the weird than I thought.

Anyhow, for the crystal healing person going for both crystals and for hand washing:

The thing is, neither decision was because of science. (I have talked to a couple of folks for whom this was their answer.) The power of the crystals is to do with their 'vibrations'. Now your hands also accumulate small particles, which have crystals. But these crystals aren't properly tuned; and mistuning causes bad vibrations. And then you're to bad health.

So they wash their hands, but not for reasons of bacterial growth and transmission, but to make sure that the bad vibrations don't happen.

Jason said...

The earth is round: NO... I mean YES.
Its physically possible to boil water to make tea: LET ME CHECK MY BIBLE.


You're an ass.

Anonymous said...

what exactly is wrong with the theory of intelligent design?

Ty said...

Ha!

"You're an ass."

Translation:

"Stop making fun of my stupid beliefs."

krista said...

wow, I was doing some research on diapers and came upon your blog (ha!). It is uncanny how similar mine is to yours! Although mine is far less intellectual! Nice job!