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Comment Re:Rosenham Experiment (Score 2) 124

The conclusion you have drawn from this study is an extreme overreaction. It does not follow from this single study of how psychiatric staff in the 1970s responded to malingering patients that any attempt at quantifying human behavior objectively is flawed.

The main issue with this study is that psychiatric diagnosis relies heavily on self report, and the actors in this study created the illusion of a psychiatric disorder by lying about their hallucinations. How the staff responds once the patient no longer reports symptoms is interesting and revealing, but this is no indictment of the entirety of behavioral or psychological research.

There is a legitimate science of emotion, and we know quite a bit about emotion from studying it objectively. I think the issue with the theory in the OP is that it relied on a complex field of mathematics which emotion researchers were not in a position to understand or critique. This is more an issue with cross-disciplinary work than it is with behavioral science.

Comment Re:second hand e-smoke (Score 2, Informative) 314

If completely safe, I wouldn't mind this coming into general use for people who wish to smoke.

It's probably not completely safe for the smoker. A recent (just last month) study found that e-cigarettes do indeed contain carcinogens, in some cases showing similar levels of formaldehyde and acrolein as regular cigarettes.

Article about the study.

Comment Re:Are you KIDDING? (No pun intended... ok, a litt (Score 1) 380

They used the national emergency service to inform the population about some child being kidnapped. Erh... Ok, now please tell me why I should care. Yes, yes, it's probably heart breaking for the parents, and yes, yes, if it was my child I'd certainly love to use it for that but the problem is: 99.something % of the population do not give half a fuck, let alone keep an eye out for that car. "Why the fuck should I care about some random brat I don't know about?" will probably be the reaction of nearly ALL the people who got that message.

I am skeptical that 99% of the population is as apathetic as you are, especially when it comes to the welfare of children. This is not a "think of the children" situation where the welfare of children is used to leverage some other cause. This is a case where the welfare of a child is actually at stake. Of course we care. And really, no one is asking you to get out of bed and join a search party. The point is that the information is now in you head so that if you see a car matching the description you will be aware.

I see a "cry wolf" scenario waiting to happen. Some day in the future, something actually important, something that actually is meaningful to most of the population, will happen and people will simply click it away after reading "AMBER AL...", thinking "fuck, that kidnapping fad's getting worse than spam texts".

False alarms are definitely an issue with Amber alerts as often they are issued without meeting the criteria, usually when the child is abducted by a family member in a custody dispute and is not really in danger. But if you are saying that a real child abduction is not a real emergency, I hope I'm not alone in disagreeing with you.

Comment Re:cowboys and indians (Score 4, Interesting) 113

First of all, of course people do get emotionally attached to the characters in live plays. However, I don't know why you've singled out emotional attachment to characters as the important phenomenon.

In terms of the "different parts of the brain" engaged by play acting, its quite the opposite with respect to some of the relevant brain systems. One important aspect of how the brain understands what we are seeing is by simulation. For example, motor neurons that control action will fire when they observe the corresponding being performed by someone else (see mirror neurons). This is what makes watching action a very real kind of practice for the brain. Our brains understand what we are seeing by pretending to do it on some level. In contrast to your argument, these simulation systems are more engaged the more veridical an observation is -- for example, engagement is more robust watching live action compared to a video of the same action. That fact may actually insulate us from some of the effects of video games... until they get more and more realistic. For example, I'd like to see a comparison of the effects of a violent video game played in 3D to one played in 2D.

Comment Re:Do not understand this. (Score 5, Interesting) 814

Transgender people are born transgender. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_transsexualism#Biological-based_theories But what would I know, I'm only trans myself. Go and cisplain somewhere else you vile ignorant prick.

No offense, but being transgendered does not automatically make you an authority on the origins of transexualism ( just as being human does not in itself make one an expert on the origins of humanity. )

The degree to which transgender people are born transgender is quite an open question, and there is currently not a whole lot of strong evidence to support that claim (as reflected in the wikipedia article you linked to -- evidence of genetic contributions is scant, and differences in brain structure cannot indicate innateness). Most likely transgenderism involves a complex interaction of genetic, epigenetic, hormonal, developmental, psychological and social factors.

In some sense I understand why transexual people and gay people (the majority of whom in my experience seem to be committed to the idea that sexual orientation is innate) want this to be the case -- we have good societal analogies for a class of people who are innately different gaining equal status. But in the long run the case for equal rights and humane treatment should probably separate itself from this question, which is purely scientific and far from settled. If the case for equal rights is built upon such an assumption, it may fall like a house of cards as science progresses, and the fact is that we should treat people humanely regardless of the origins of their condition.

Comment Re:Another false dichotomy (Score 2) 434

The reality is that they are at odds in practice, especially in the United States. Otherwise we would not be in a circumstance where the majority of Americans disbelieve in one the of central scientific theories of our day.This state of affairs is directly attributable to the dominant religion and the anti-scientific mindset it must engender in order to survive in its current form.

But your comment has a troubling confusion embedded which might explain why you don't see the conflict. Religious believers need not exercise "faith" that science works, because there is evidence that science works. The mindset of faith is to encourage belief regardless of evidence. That is why faith-based belief systems are indeed in conflict with science -- they are impervious to evidentiary challenges.

It's true that science is not inherently incompatible with any specific truth-claim (e.g. the existence of a god), but it is incompatible with faith-based thinking. That is the point of this article -- the only reason someone "in a foxhole" would change their belief about the nature of the world is because they are influenced by the emotions of the circumstance. It's not like some new information about the existence of god suddently becomes evident because one's life is in danger.

Comment Re:Publication time are a lie (Score 1) 38

Right. My point is that many journals are no longer printing that first submission date and are instead treating the second submission date as the original submission date because since they "rejected" it the first time, now it's a "new" submission to their system. So its hard to know what that 4 days really means.

Comment Publication time are a lie (Score 1) 38

I would not believe that because it says the paper was published 4 days after submission that the review process took that long. Since time to publication became something that journals advertise, they have been using all kinds of dirty tricks to mislead readers about this statistic. For example, where it used to be common after review to send back a "revise & resubmit" response, they started doing "reject & resubmit". In other words, "we are rejecting this submission, but we encourage you to take the reviewers' comments and submit again anew". That way they can count the re-submission as a new submission and their time from submission to publication is shorter since it is measured from the time of re-submission. It's an intentional obfuscation of the actual time it takes to publish something.

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This is clearly another case of too many mad scientists, and not enough hunchbacks.