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Comment Re:Maybe... (Score 1) 1121

Well, my primary point is that the study does in fact mean something and the sample is reasonable. I don't have a lot of investment in the "why" part.

But you can continue your reasoning as long as you want, and end up never being able to say "why". Even if you have video of postal workers throwing away packages selectively, you never know why they did it.

Personally, I'm comfortable saying that this is a strong indication that some human beings somewhere mistreated packages because of the labels.

By the way, that does not mean that I think Christians (or any religious group) are more likely to do things like that than atheists.

I actually suspect (with the full understanding that these data do not say anything about this suspicion) that any package with a visible and potentially controversial label is more likely to get lost or delayed than a package without one. I would expect packages with tape with crosses, or stars of David, or "yay Obama", to get lost more than packages with no tape, because they will attract attention from random people who might dislike their messages. The control packages here had no tape at all.

I will admit that I would expect "atheist" packages to get lost more than "cross" packages, but that's just because there are more non-atheists than atheists, and therefore more chances for an "atheist" package to be handled by an anti-atheist person. If you equalized the numbers of atheists and Christians, you might get similar amounts of lossage for "cross" packages.

Comment Re:Maybe... (Score 1) 1121

Oh, one more point. The study is NOT based on the assumption "that packages sent on the same day will arrive at the same time". It's based on the assumption that any variation in delay should not preferentially affect packages with "atheist" tape if nothing fishy is going on. The issue isn't that all the packages didn't arrive at the same time; it's that the "atheist" packages systematically arrived later... if they arrived at all.

Comment Re:Maybe... (Score 1) 1121

Good point about possibly hidden small N.

And another source of bias is that we wouldn't have heard about this if they hadn't found something spectacular. So if it'd been tried 100 times before and nothing had come of it, we wouldn't know (this is also true for much of the scientific literature, by the way...).

Nonetheless, they found a giant effect. And the packages appear to have been delayed by very different times, and some were lost entirely while others were only delayed. Which makes it a lot harder to come up with one or two common mishaps that would preferentially affect the "atheist" packages. It leaves you with alternative hypotheses of very low probability. I mean, I guess the white tape could gum up the sorting machinery, but I wouldn't bet on it.

No single medical study is ever taken as proof of anything even if it HAS been peer reviewed, especially since they accept p up to 0.05. I'm not sure I believe in absolute proof at all. And if I were going to, I don't know, risk my life or something on an anti-atheist-package bias, I'd require more proof, too. I actually suspect that the size of the effect they found is a fluke. Nonetheless, if you had to bet $10, which way would you bet?

But the attitude I was responding to was "that doesn't mean anything at all, because [well, that's not really explained; apparently it's not a "statistical sample"].

Comment Re:Maybe... (Score 1) 1121

"Sample" is different from "statistical sample". If you qualify "sample" with "statistical", you have to be able to say what a "nonstatistical sample" would be.

The point of a selection procedure is to avoid screwing up the data by introducing biases. In their case, the test group was identical to the control group, so there is basically NO selection procedure they could have used that would have invalidated their finding that the phenomenon exists. If they were trying to compare individual delivery areas against each other in more than an informal "We didn't see this outside the US" way, they would have to be more careful... but their main point is that they do see it in at least some areas of the US, which is valid regardless of whether they covered the US evenly or without bias, or of whether or not it happens outside the US.

Any data CAN be explained by coincidence. It COULD be that there's no causality in the Universe, and every event anybody has observed so far has just been pure coincidence that randomly happened to look causal. The question is how probable you find that to be under reasonable epistemic assumptions.

The standard null-hypothesis p-value method for finding such probabilities puts the chance of coincidence at less than 2 percent for the lost packages, and less than one tenth of a percent for the delays. There are, of course, alternative views on hypothesis testing. I really don't think you want to risk asking the Bayesians what they think, because they're likely to put the probability of coincidence even lower. That leaves you with the philosophies that basically deny that any data can tell you anything at all. Want to go there?

We can argue about causes, but "coincidence" is not credible.

Comment Re:Maybe... (Score 5, Informative) 1121

What, exactly, do you mean by "it wasn't a statistical sample"? "Statistical sample" is not a statistical term.

It was a perfectly valid sample over delivery routes, it had a meaningful if not fabulous N, and it also had a control that most data can only dream of. The non-response rate was 4 out of the 89, which means that there really wasn't a chance of selective response removing the significance.

And all the packages WERE NOT delivered. 9 out of 89 packages "atheist" packages never arrived, versus 1 out of 89 "non-atheist" packages. Do 10 percent of your packages get lost? Because I order a lot of stuff by mail, and I don't see lost packages enough to even notice it.

p=.018 on the lost packages. Medical studies wish they could hit that kind of significance on a regular basis. p.001 and a huge effect size on the delays; that sort of thing is treated as more or less certainty in a lot of places, including biology and all of the social sciences.

The only way you could invalidate that would be if you assumed that somebody was outright lying: either the people running the study, or a LOT of the recipients.

I'm forced to conclude that you wouldn't know a "statistical sample" if it bit you on the behind.

Comment Re:We need data, not algorithms (Score 1) 95

I'm not disappointed at all. I'm reacting to somebody who seems to think the job is done when it's not.

All I'm saying is that the present, early stuff is NOT "sufficient for 90% of possible use cases". That doesn't mean I don't realize that things are still at an early stage and progress is being made.

Comment Re:We need data, not algorithms (Score 1) 95

If I tried to teach a human, or indeed if I set an untaught human loose on an unstructured problem, and that human turned around and demanded a huge mass of annotated data, I would not conclude that the human was a good learner, or even "sufficient for 90% of possible use cases". I would conclude that the human didn't have the complete machinery of learning.

Comment Re:What?! (Score 1) 642

And a person in a swing state is worth exponentially more so than either Californians or Wyomingites. So what? Our system is designed to protect minority interests against mob mentality. I'd say that's a virtue.

Life isn't fair. It never will be, and you know, damn the people who try to make it so from a little perch on high, where they are absolutely separated from reality. It's like trying to make a river flow uphill. There's a lot of hand waving and magical thinking, and no intellectual connection with magnitude of work required. Communism was man's greatest experiment in which the stated goal was to make life fair; as far as I can tell, it has only ever made life suck.

Of course, what else could one expect of a sociopolitical philosophy whose greatest thinkers were upper middle class or wealthy enough that they never had to work alongside the very subjects of which they espoused so much profundity.

Comment Re:Good one Youtube (Score 1) 450

Use a Constitutional amendment, such that it carries all the more weight of law, that prevents local, state and federal government agencies from having access to the 4473 forms under any circumstances, outside of a proper criminal investigation, and following the due process of law. When a dealer closes down, the forms would be better entrusted to a privately run, non-profit watchdog organization, rather than the FBI, where who knows what happens to them--such digitizing and entering into an easy-to-search database, i.e. federal registration. This could be chartered by Congress, much like the Civilian Marksmanship Program. Heck, why not add it to their charter, along with a $0.50 fee assessed during background check, for the future maintenance of the records, for as long as they are statutorily required to maintain them?

Even the most dedicated 2A proponent doesn't want nut-cases, violent ex-cons, and random illegal aliens to have free access to firearms. At a basic level, people recognize that background checks can be a useful means to that end. Most people who are against universal background checks are against them solely because in it's current form, it's tantamount to registration.

Comment Re:Reduce gun violence? (Score 1) 436

Then you haven't checked thoroughly enough. The reason the SS executive protection detail likes to wear those long overcoats these days is so they can conceal a P90 *machine gun* loaded with 50 rounds of armor piercing ammunition. In the old days they'd carry a briefcase loaded up with UZIs and who knows what else.

Comment Re:Bias (Score 1) 353

The point you missed is this: Grandpa's hunting rifle is fundamentally indistinguishable in form and function to many of the world's best military and police sniper rifles, which have been used to deadly effect in those wars. Look at the list of soldiers with the most confirmed kills. They're all snipers. Furthermore, the ammunition is often the same. Example: .30-06 .308 .300 WM are/were widely used in both hunting and sniping roles. Once they force their AWB through, and nothing changes, they're going to be the next obvious target. Slippery slope in action.

Many widely used hunting rifles are either military surplus rifles, or directly related to rifles formerly or currently used in an infantry role. I have a nearly 160 year old, antique military surplus rifle in my collection, with very little practice one can use it to place about 20 accurately aimed shots per minute. For a long time, this was a very inexpensive rifle to own and shoot, and besides being designed for a military role, it was also useful for deer other medium sized game. You think someone couldn't do some serious damage with it? Grandpa's slide action hunting shotgun is likewise has only superficial differences from combat shotguns used by both the police and military for oh...the last 100 years.

Comment Re:Bias (Score 1) 353

No argument. Well, rather, let me put it this way; I'm not claiming that scientology is anything other than a peculiar brand of sophistry / mind control, money and power extortion scheme wrapped in the cloth of metaphysical and spiritual philosophy, which was stolen from various and more insightful source material, with a side of campy 40's and 50's science pulp-fiction.

Excuse me while I go philosophic for a moment...Scientology, like academia, religious teachings, and indeed, many political philosophies, condition the mind with various filters which operate on a conscious and subconscious level, where the mind is altered in its perception of the universe. First, these filters start out small and relatively harmless. So, we have "Why don't you take a free stress test", they use that as an opportunity to inject some memes into the brain, and even a relatively care free person now has a huge set of problems, and only they have the solution. Ten to fifty thousand dollars later (however deep their pockets are), this person understands, in his heart of hearts this system is out to save humanity. Deeper in, that individual is gaining the powers of a god, through which only he can save the souls of billions of people.

Little different than the US communist party's strategy through the late 40's to 70's. They get their claws into some naive and impressionable cute thing, who then becomes a recruiter (even if she isn't conscious of her role), to any number of horny young men who will gladly go to a meeting, write their name down and receive a free copy of the communist manifesto or whatever--if there's even the slightest possibility they'll get to fuck. And you know, the ideas on their basic level seem innocent and even positive enough.

I've noticed a big change of political tactics, especially regarding gun control in the wake of our recent mass killings. There are a few new memes being bantered about in the media. "Weapons of war" is my new favorite. They used to call them 'assault weapons', but I can only guess the idea that any weapon is an assault weapon if it's used in an assault confounded some people. It ignores that any number of useful and common implements in this society have existed as weapons of war at one time or another.

After all, once upon a time, a lowly musket ignited by flint on steel was at the cutting edge of infantry warfare technology. Secondly, it construes a mental image, especially to the uninitiated, that differentiates a scary looking rifle from a less scary looking hunting rifle, even if the hunting rifle is arguably more lethal in many ways. "Even if we can only save one life, we have to take action" That's the icing on the cake.

I digress.

The real question to ask is this: is scientology any more or less dangerous than other belief systems in the wild? Up until now they've been more of a predator on the individual and familial level. Even though there are clearly aspirations for greatness, they're a niche group. There are others which already operate on the national and international/cultural level without the scrutiny scientology receives. I'd say they rank pretty low these days, knowledge of their tricks is prophylactic enough to bring them to a halt.

Comment Re:Bias (Score 2) 353

It has everything to do with the same way the inane, implausible or the impossible make their way into any belief system. Some basic ideas have value. Ten commandments, etc. Many atheists would agree, there's some good life lessons and bits of wisdom here and there in the bible, heck...even in the Koran. Trouble is, the good ideas are the attack vector to the mind for the truly crazy and dangerous shit, which tends to outweigh and drown out the good stuff.

Comment Re:Obama effect (Score 1) 514

There have been a few 5cm+ autocannons throughout history, most were abandoned in trial phase, if they ever made it past prototype. Germans in WWII in particular were very interested in big firepower, they developed and even fielded a few, one such cannon flew on a couple different airframes late in the war as a heavy-bomber destroyer. Interestingly, it was often paired up with a telescopic sight, as a sort of bomber-sniper, but the muzzle flash ruined a pilot's night vision, and it was prone to malfunction. Others were relegated to Anti-Aircraft-Artillery roles, where bigger shells usually proved superior to rapid fire of lots of small shells.

Anyway, it is possible, though incredibly, stupidly, expensive for a US citizen to own up to a 40mm Bofors, which is actually classified as a machine gun, and was once again developed for anti-aircraft roles. It can go though a five round clip like mad, and it actually uses clips, not magazines.

Anyway, it's the wrong argument to make; nobody needs more than a meal in their belly, water to drink, and some basic shelter. If we're to have only what we need, let's follow the chain of reductio ad absurdum to it's end: Having anything more than a pot to piss in (a dangerous weapon, in itself, don'tcha know) is superfluous, and the government is justified in taking it away from you.

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One can search the brain with a microscope and not find the mind, and can search the stars with a telescope and not find God. -- J. Gustav White

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