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Comment The solution is simple. (Score 1) 201

If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Then if you succeed, try try again. Carry on until you have constructed a body of results you can evaluate as a whole.

There is a reproducibility problem for who have a model of the universe that works like this: If A is true, then investigation will uncover evidence supporting A, and no evidence supporting not-A. If this is your world view, then the instant you have any contradictory data you have a worldview crisis.

It is perfectly normal for science to yield contradictory results. That's why when you see a study reported saying taking Garcina Cambogia yields astonishing weight loss results you don't immediately run out to the health food store to buy miracle pills. It's absolutely routine for results like this not to stand up. The problem is that journalists are too ignorant of how science works to understand this.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 385

You have not described a "phenomenon", you made a false claim. Instead of admitting you are wrong, and caught in the act, you attempt to play word games. Cowardice at it's finest.

So you are saying that people only ever use language to establish stable beliefs in propositions, and that they never say anything purely to achieve emotional effect?

As for cowardice, well if it makes you feel less insecure I suppose there's nothing I can do about it. But it's bullshit -- in the epistemic sense of the word -- and it reflects on you more than me.

Comment Endocrine hacking has a long history. (Score 2) 137

A long history of not working particularly well. And testosterone hacking is the grand-daddy of them all. You know all those steampunk-y horror stories about rich Victorian eccentrics who go mad because they implanted monkey testicles into themselves in a bid to achieve eternal youth? People actually did that.

There's a thin line... or rather let's say a fork in the road between pseudoscience and science. I think they both start in the same, non-scientific place. And that place is a kind of magical thinking. It's what happens after the initial inspiration that makes the difference between science and pseudoscience.

Testosterone is higher in men than women, an in particular higher in young men, and higher in men who achieve social dominance. It also rises after sexual intercourse. So by magical thinking testosterone must be the "manliness" hormone; it makes you young, vigorous, dominant and sexually potent.

There's nothing wrong with that as a starting point, but in the long history of testosterone hacking it hasn't worked out, except for gaining muscle mass in conjunction with resistance training. Sure if you treat men with a testosterone blocker they'll eventually lose interest in sex, men generally have less sex as they get older, and at the same time their testosterone levels decrease. So it's natural to jump to the conclusion of a chain of causality: worn out old glands put out less testosterone, and that causes a reduction in interest in sex. But if you actually test that hypothesis, it doesn't work out: individuals with least decline in testosterone levels actually have less sex than their normal counterparts. The normal decline isn't large enough to produce on its own any measurable effect in interest in sex. So if your interest in sex is dropping as you get older, look elsewhere for the cause.

This is the danger of calling testosterone "the male sex hormone", as if God had a punch list of features He wanted and implemented each feature with a single steroid compound that works in isolation from everything else. Yes, testosterone is involved in masculinization of adolescents, but it's not as simple as the more testosterone you are, the more male you are. The endocrine system is complex and dynamic, responding to internal and external changes -- including aging. Both men and women have and need testosterone and estrogen, in ways we don't fully understand yet.

If you want to get the most out of your life, eat a variety of real food in moderation, exercise, sleep, and in general alternate stress with rest. The ancient Greeks could have told you that, and in thousands of years we have not been able yet to improve on that as far as lifestyle advice is concerned. Go to your doctor if you're sick or injured, or even for a testosterone treatement if you have abnormally low testosterone for your age. But don't go to the doctor for a magic pill that will make you youthful, manly, sexy and dynamic. All that's up to you.

Comment Isn't this kind of obvious? (Score 1) 451

Sure catastrophe is great for establishing equality. It's also great for establishing dictatorship, or oligarchy.

Consider Japan. Japan is a major industrial power with no energy resources (other than renewables) of its own, so it got 30% of its energy from nuclear power, and it was on its way to making that 40%. Then there was the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe and now nuclear is essentially dead in Japan.

Is that good? Bad? Either way the indisputable thing is that Fukushima made a difference. Catastrophe is practically the only thing that makes people undertake drastic change; absent disaster people will simply tweak things until they seem to more or less work.

Comment Re:Yup (Score 1) 451

The position where slaves didn't count towards representation was just as good a default, which makes 3/5 looks like a compromise to me. Which wouldn't be surprising; the framers had a real knack for that.

Note also because of the limited, means-tested franchise in many states, the higher property ownership disparity in slave states (because of the plantation economy) concentrated enormously disproportionate power in the hands of planters.

Democracy in the early US wouldn't look very familiar. In 1824 just 4% of all Americans voted.

Comment Re:Rose tinted glasses (Score 3, Interesting) 451

Another thing you had was a huge body of men who'd been through a massive, life-changing experience together. One that took immense risk and sacrifice but ultimately ended in victory (at least for us Americans).

If you believe that people are capable at all of learning from experience, they must have brought something away from that.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 385

Well, you are ignoring polysemy here; yes "bullshit" can refer to tall tales like your drinking fifty gallons of beer. However there are other senses of the word, including topics of serious inquiry in the field of epistemics.

I refer you to Professor H.G. Frankfurt's seminal work, On Bullshit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-691-12294-6.) for more information.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 385

I find that Socratic debate usually convinces the other person that you are attacking them and their stated belief fairly quickly even if actually just honestly wanting more information.

Well, you're in good company on that one. As I recall Socrates ruffled his share of feathers.

That said, I'm talking about satisfying yourself. Convincing others necessarily involves making allowances for their muddy thinking.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 404

Except I have seen no data from the Swedish government, which publishes extremely comprehensive crime data (something we would do well to copy), to support the Syrian crime wave story. I've gone through Brottsförebyggande rådet data and it's just not there.

What I have seen is a lot of sloppy correlation and overprojection of statistical noise. For example Sweden amended its legal definition of "sexual assault" to be much, much broader, generating a spate of spurious stories about a Swedish rape epidemic.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 385

Again, you're confusing "lying" with "bullshitting". Lying is about establishing belief in a false version of the world, which is best done, as you point out, by omission. That's because lying depends on peoples' regard for the facts; it exploits that. Being caught in a false assertion destroys a lie's effectiveness, so a smart liar sticks to the facts.

Bullshitting is about inculcating the desired feelings and attitudes in the audience. While a bullshitter doesn't hesitate to use facts when they suit his purpose, he doesn't hesitate to make shit up either, because it doesn't matter if he's caught. It doesn't even matter if he asserts two inconsistent things in the course of a single sentence.

Why?

Because bullshitting doesn't aim to establish belief in propositions; propositions are completely disposable. Once it has done its job, a piece of bullshit (unlike a lie) is a nullity. You can show that it is false, but the bullshitter's adherents won't perceive that as inconsistent; not as long as the bullshitter is conveying the same attitude.

That's why fact checking a bullshitter is a waste of time, once you've established that's what he is. It doesn't matter if you prove something he said was wrong, unless you do it in a way that changes his audience's feelings.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 404

Actually the policy conclusion is not correct, however without a sophisticated understanding of statistics it's easy to be misled.

It is true that a higher proportion of immigrants commit crimes in Sweden than natives. However, if you break down immigrants by socioeconomic status and educational attainment you don't see any difference between immigrants and natives. This is because of something called Simpson's Paradox.

What's happening here is that Sweden is a wealthy advanced country with a low birth rate, and it's been importing low-education poor workers to augment it's own dwindling underclass in filling low-paying jobs. Now poor, uneducated people commit many kinds of crimes at a higher rate that affluent, educated people. Whether they are native or immigrant makes no difference. So what the Swedish statistics actually tell us is that uneducated low-wage workers make up a higher proportion of immigrants than they do of natives, which should be no surprise because that's why the largest proportion of immigrants have been admitted.

This also raises another possibility: you can actually reduce crime rates with immigration, if you let in the right people. In fact there is evidence this is happening in Canada, which places a premium on education and language skills when deciding who to admit.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 2) 385

Actually the defining characteristic of conspiracy theories is that they get you to believe things which contradict things common sense tells you are so unlikely they're bound to be false, e.g., that people do things that are against their interests, that mutual enemies act with perfect trust in each other.

It is no conspiracy theory that the Nixon White House covered up Watergate, even though that is a theory about a conspiracy. In fact Watergate shows you the problem with most conspiracy theories: massive cover ups are impossible to maintain for very long. Something as big as the government leaks information constantly.

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