Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ancient Chinese Thought for the Day

"The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished...The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be." - Lao Tse

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beliefs and Theories: Religion vs. Science

Many years ago, I read Paul Watzlawick's How Real Is Real, which made a great point about the difference between belief and opinion.

Basically, a person's beliefs are immutable. A person will die before they change their beliefs. On the other hand, opinions can change over the course of a lifetime. Even the strongest opinions can be changed. (I am paraphrasing from memory as I could not find my copy of the book if my life depended on it.)

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal had a quote today that reminded me of Watzlawick's book: people often scoff at those who do not "believe in evolution." The problem with this is not that they are wrong to defend evolution, but that they mistake evolution, a scientific theory, for a belief system. When you demand adherence to a set of beliefs, you are no longer doing science but something that has the form, if not the substance, of religion.
Too often, we tend to give science too much credit. In essence, we give science a blind faith that is undeserved, and frequently not even sought by the scientists involved.

When someone says, "I have a theory...", you will listen and give the person's supposition a fair hearing, usually accepting or rejecting said "theory" on it's own merits or demerits, with some weight lent to the person's credibility. But let a scientist give you a theory, and most people will more likely than not accept it on faith.

Let more than one scientist espouse a theory, and most people will take it as if Moses came down from the mountain holding tablets. It becomes gospel at that point.

I apologize for the religious terminology, but therein lies the problem: Too many people treat science as a religion.

Ironically, both science and religion have their theories. For example, is the Creation story a myth or a fact? Even among different religions, there is no agreement on this subject. If asked about this, most scientists would give you the "Big Bang Theory", or the "Evolution Theory", as explanations of how the world came to be. The problem in this discussion is that neither science nor religion have conclusive proof to back up their respective claims. That said, I personally lend more credence to science in this debate, but that is my OPINION.

When science gives you a theory, it should be remembered it is exactly that: a theory, to be judged on it's own merits or demerits.

If your religion told you that you needed to do something that wasn't logical, would you question why? If they came back with "God said so", that might be good enough, although I personally would want a little more than that. I might need philosophical backup to support my religion's belief. Even then, it might not hit my personal belief system, and remain limited to my opinion system. In other words, I would retain my doubts.

So when science tells you that you need to do something, would you question it? If they tell you "studies show...", would you immediately change your life? For many, the answer is a blind yes.

But what happens when later scientific studies disprove the original studies? You would think "once burned, twice shy" would apply to our views of science, yet how many times have scientific theories, backed up by studies, later get overturned, yet we continue to lend blind faith to science?

Even worse, what happens when scientists fudge the data, then hide the data, while using political machinations to keep opposing scientists from proving them wrong, as recently happened with the Global Warming theory? I am amazed that there are STILL people who believe the flawed theory of Global Warming blindly.

If you don't believe me, just visit Copenhagen this week.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Debt? What debt?

"Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren...America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." - Barack Obama in 2006
I guess the federal debt is only a problem if you aren't the president? on dudes! The tab is on "them"!

(quote from the Wall Street Journal website)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Why the U.S. will fail in Afghanistan

I can predict the failure in Afghanistan in two important quotes.

First, from SunTzu, the ancient Chinese military philosopher and author of "The Art of War":
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

Second, from General Stanley McChrystal (the U.S. commander in Afghanistan), during Congressional testimony on Tuesday, December 8th (also as quoted by Slate's Fred Kaplan):
There is much in Afghanistan that I do not understand.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fox News and Climategate Killed Big Journalism

Poor Al Gore. Global warming completely debunked via the very Internet you invented. Oh, oh, the irony!” - Jon Stewart

What is sad in the above comment is the fact a comedian is discussing a scandal BEFORE ABC, CBS, or NBC news have even mentioned it. And they have yet to mention Climategate.

How does a scandal, that involves a scientific theory driving government policy decisions all over the world, get ignored by a major news organization? There was a time when any news editor worth anything would have been utterly ashamed to get scooped by another news organization on a major story, yet these organizations continue to ignore this story even AFTER Congressional investigations have been requested. How can this be?

There is only one answer, and it isn't pretty: The news media is no longer employing journalists. They employ propagandists. If you want to see or read journalism, look to the Internet.

I blame Fox News for this. The irony is that it wasn't Fox News Corp's NEWS shows that did it: It was their opinion shows. Whenever you hear Leftists talk about the evil of Fox News, they always mention the opinion shows: Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. And since Fox News gets the ratings, all the other news shows look to duplicate Fox's success.

But when you look at network news shows, they USED to be strictly about reporting the news. But they saw Fox's OPINION show success, and they sought to duplicate it. Unfortunately, the network news was filled with Left-leaning journalists, so they jazzed up the network news with Left-leaning opinions. Unfortunately, it didn't help their ratings, and made news anchors like Bret Hume seem absolutely objective.

By the time of Climategate, the network news was so beholden to the Left, they couldn't even report a news story they would have been tripping over themselves to get thirty years ago.

But now they have been scooped by a comedy show, which leaves the average viewer to look upon the naked kings and see them for what they really are: propaganda arms for big corporations who spew Leftist altruism in order to secure their own power.

Contrary to what the average news consumer has been told, the science behind Global Warming theory has NOT been settled, since it was never actually reviewed. Regardless of whether Global Warming is true or not, the news consumer can look upon the news purveyors with a critical eye, and see the naked bias.

What worries me is HOW the news consumer will choose to interpret this event. Will they merely turn away from the liberal news organizations who lied to them? Of course, but they turn JUST to Fox News for telling the truth? I suspect many of them will. However, I personally hope they use this event to teach them to view news stories with a discriminating eye. Never trust any single news source on it's own.

The irony in the case of Climategate is that it is a news story at all. Anyone with a brain in their head could see the great flaw in Global Warming theory. It doesn't take into account the heating and cooling of the single greatest source of "global warming": the sun.

Unfortunately, big media put all their eggs in the Global Warming basket, and to report that it might be wrong would make them look like what they are: fools. So rather than report something that makes them look wrong, they choose to ignore the story and hope nobody notices. Maybe they are right. Just speaking for myself, it has been years since I watched a network news broadcast.