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Comment: One's "god's will" the other isn't (Score 1) 1324

There's a moral difference between CAUSING an abortion and ALLOWING one to happen naturally in the eyes of the religious.

To me, the line is more blurry. Is someone who could prevent something but allows it *completely* innocent, really? I mean, we as a society try to prevent deaths by cancer, why not deaths by natural abortion?

Also, some of the religious may argue that to cause an abortion that wouldn't have happened is to thwart God's Plan, but how do these yahoos know that the abortion wasn't God's plan?

And let's go back to the cancer deaths again. Are we not thwarting God's Plan by saving someone with cancer?

In the end, I think there is a fundamental point, the religious pick an arbitrary line between what they like and what they don't, and it doesn't always make rational sense.

I think the rational argument is that no one should be forced to risk their lives to provide life support to another person. My kidneys are MINE thank you very much, don't hook me up to another person as a dialysis machine against my will, even if it saves that person's life. It puts ME at risk and is a great imposition on me. And even if I agree to it at some point, I can change my mind about continuing to risk my life by providing dialysis.

Pregnancy is very much analogous.


Comment: High IQ is largely an accident of birth (Score 2) 561

by PeterM from Berkeley (#47323391) Attached to:, Mensa Create Dating Site For Geniuses

Right you are!

If you're smart, it's mostly because you're lucky. You got the good genes. Then, you probably had a good upbringing and environment. Neither of which is anything else than luck.

Sure, to maximize your smarts, you have to work. But lots of people work hard.

So what makes high IQ people special, really? Luck.

What kind of asshole gets all hoity-toity because he was, mostly, lucky?


Comment: What money can't buy, the moral limits of markets (Score 5, Interesting) 172

You need to read that book.

Taking money for blood might have the opposite effect on the supply. In the book from the title, Swiss were asked if their community would be willing to host a nuclear waste storage facility for the good of the country. Many Swiss were on board with it--for the good of their country. A subset of Swiss from the same community were asked if they'd store the waste for $. Those Swiss said NO WAY. The good of their country was far more motivating for the Swiss than $.

And take me for example. $5 is in no way compensation for the enduring the needle stick and the time involved. I doubt $20 would motivate me. Maybe not even $100. However, I've donated 2 gallons or more. I do it because of this thought: one small needle stick for me, and a bit of time, and maybe someone gets to live.

And I'm the least-risk group of donors, selected partly by my lack of $ motivation. I don't need money for drugs because I don't take them. D'you really want to give drug addicts motive to donate blood to get money? Sometimes there isn't time for blood to be exhaustively screened before use.

Also, recent experience shows that the most powerful motivator for blood donation is solidarity. Blood donation went through the roof after 9/11 and other disasters. They literally couldn't stick people with needles and drain 'em fast enough.

I really think that if we want more blood supply, we need to beat the solidarity drum, and make it really convenient for people to donate.



Comment: Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (Score 1) 608

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46838281) Attached to: Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

Unfortunately, slave labor and pirates aren't really rare.
Everyone in North Korea except the ruling class is pretty much a slave.

How free are the poor worldwide? I mean really, how free are they? In how many regimes worldwide do people have a really good shot at changing who their masters are?

What chains are YOU wearing that you're not even aware of?


Comment: Re:Its likely impossible (Score 1) 608

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46838257) Attached to: Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

Humans might be stuck, but our intelligent solid state mechanized descendants might find it less inconvenient to travel between stars. Just go slow, go into energy saving mode, except for continuous self-repair operations required to maintain functionality during the trip.

I don't think these hypothesized descendants would have much requirement for planets, though. Asteroids would be far better habitats, much more available energy and no big inconvenient gravity well.


Comment: We can survive sustainably with energy input (Score 1) 608

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46838167) Attached to: Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

On the contrary, if we flatline our population at a low enough level, we can maintain a high tech society indefinitely on this planet. The only materials we are truly consuming are uranium and other materials that we transmute to other elements. With enough energy input, we can recycle *everything* else. We can even take CO2 out of the air and turn it back into coal if we want.

It's simply a question of managing our resources for the long term.

And humans can do this, there was an isolated island in the pacific which maintained a good standard of living for hundreds of years via limiting population and managing resources until they were interfered with by outsiders. Their means of population control wasn't pretty--infanticide. However, we have better ways now to control population and in principle we could do the same planetwide.

Another example, the Japanese have re-forested their island, another example where humans can maintain and improve their environment, perhaps indefinitely. There's no need for the "herd" to move on if the "herd" maintains a good environment.

Just because humans presently are mostly NOT doing this does not mean we cannot.

Though I would prefer that humans self-modify so that they are more suitable for space habitats and move off the planet. The planet is only sustainable so long as there's no really big cataclysm of whatever sort.

So I agree with your point about colonization, however, I do NOT agree that 'using up the local resources' is the driving reason for diversifying habitat.


Comment: Grade inflation at Harvard or other Ivy Leagues (Score 1) 214

Let me play Devil's Advocate on grade inflation at Harvard and other Ivy Leagues. Harvard is so selective that only the best of the best have a hope of getting in. So why would you handicap the best of the best with respect to community colleges and give them bad GPAs? They are *all* A-class students, right? So why not give them all A's?

Second: what's so inherently wrong with the idea of learning without pressure? Who might be more qualified than the best of the best to do that? I.e., those who can get into the Ivies? This also reduces the incentive to cheat, and might create a collaborative environment rather than a cut throat one.

Were I a Harvard professor, I might do this: everyone gets A's and B's at worst, but rank people within the class and never share that internal ranking out of the class. That way, students get REAL feedback, know where they stand relative to each other, and have some incentive, but if they screw up relatively to the other awesome people in there, they don't get branded with a B or a C (or worse). I'd also focus in delivering frank and very critical assessments to these students to help the best become better. But the externally seen grades? Yeah, I'd inflate 'em.

As to "lack of quality", when you have such a grade of material incoming, I doubt that most anyone else will notice a 'lack of quality' in the product. Being lucky enough to be born smart is just such an advantage it's really hard to screw that up.


Comment: Don't be too sure of yourself. (Score 5, Insightful) 279

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46497739) Attached to: The Billionaires Privatizing American Science

What if the Billionaire WANTS a certain answer and lets the scientist know it, so that the "data" can be published for a huge return on investment for the billionaire? Tobacco industry did this.

Or maybe billionaire just has an answer he emotionally wants to hear and funds science to get that instead of sensible science? If Jenny McCarthy had billions what sort of research d'you think she might fund?

Or what if billionaire wants research on life extending treatments for him and him alone and screw publishing?

I don't see any compelling reason billionare science would be any better than publicly funded science. I'd rather everyone own the results, too, than a billionaire.

I mean, one thing a billionare is VERY good at is hoarding good things (money) for themselves AREN'T THEY.


Comment: You want dead babies? I got one for you (Score 1) 747

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46489031) Attached to: Measles Outbreak In NYC

My co-worker's child died of whooping cough. She was too young to be vaccinated, not even three months.

It's not really a tolerable prospect when it is REAL, is it?

Instead of having babies die, how about we make it PAINFUL to not be vaccinated?

No visits to doctors because you might spread disease, no health care coverage because you haven't done the MINIMUM to protect yourself?

Should society even allow anti-vaxxers to have parental rights at all?


Comment: You're dead wrong. (Score 1) 747

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46488955) Attached to: Measles Outbreak In NYC

Vaccines offer ~90% protection. So even if you're vaccinated, there's a ~10% chance you'll GET THE DISEASE if you're exposed.

When the vast majority of people are vaccinated, diseases don't spread, and the 10% of people who are vaccinated but for which the vaccine didn't work don't end up being exposed.

Vaccinated or not, someone unvaccinated is a personal threat to you and your children!

I get it that you can't ostracize your wife, but don't bring HER or YOUR KIDS anywhere near me or mine!


Comment: Re:Kind of echoes my experience as well... (Score 1) 172

Reforms are being put in place, though are being partially ignored.

For example, in our Gov't organization, we are on a 'contribution based' system. In theory, low performers get pay decreases and if not remedied, get fired. In theory, high performers get raises.

In practice, it seems that high performers get raises and the only pay decreases handed out are due to inflation: (I know of only one outright pay cut) outright cuts rarely happen and no one is ever fired. This is argueably a misadminstration of how our system is supposed to work. But at least underperformers don't get automatic raises.

As to how money is managed, in our organization you (yearly) estimate how much money you need, and you either get it or part of it and adjust your schedule/goals accordingly. If you end up with extra money, or aren't using the money you have, you give it back and management finds another use for it. Management doesn't seem to keep a FIRM memory of what happened before: if you under-spent last year you can STILL get your FULL budget request if you argue for it effectively and your objective aligns with organizational goals. No one gets budget automatically.

Budgeting's actually pretty enlightened, not the automatic stupidity you describe.


I took a fish head to the movies and I didn't have to pay. -- Fish Heads, Saturday Night Live, 1977.