Credulity, Skepticism, and Cynicism

Work and minor illness are continuing to kick my butt. While I manage all that, please enjoy this slightly retooled repost, originally posted here.

You’ve met them. “Oh, those scientists. They get their funding from the government/industry/political think tanks. They’re just producing the results needed to keep their money flowing. They’ll say anything it takes. Besides, it’s not like they don’t make mistakes. Even Newton and Einstein had it wrong.”

You’ve met the others, too. “My friend told me about an Oprah show where she talked to a writer who explained how the universe really works. I always knew it was a special place made just for me.”

There’s no polite way to say it, but it can be said simply. They’re both doing it wrong.

Continue reading “Credulity, Skepticism, and Cynicism”

Credulity, Skepticism, and Cynicism

A Censorious Christmas

If you haven’t been paying attention to Rock Beyond Belief, you’ve been missing out on the saga of the Fort Bragg holiday display. It started as a Christmas display, of course.

Travis Air Force Base is displaying inappropriate religious decorations, including a Nativity scene. The displays are not even near a chapel, though that would still be unlawful. These decorations were recently expanded to include a Jewish display, clearly an effort to claim ‘all sides would be represented’.

Staff Sergeant Dan Rawlings is an atheist stationed at Travis. Rawlings contacted American Atheists about putting up an Atheist-themed display as well. The display was intended to go up next to the Nativity Scene and the token Jewish Menorah. Justin Griffith, the Military Director at American Atheists offered to provide and pay for an equivalent display for Staff Sergeant Rawlings to submit.

I’m sure you can guess how welcome the atheist display was… Continue reading “A Censorious Christmas”

A Censorious Christmas

Not About the Money

Yesterday’s Augusta Chronicle included a rather funny story about a local minister developing a tithing app for mobile phones. The funny parts, of course, were the quotes trying to put a holy sheen on collecting money:

“My goal back then was figuring out how we could serve our congregation who doesn’t carry cash or a checkbook,” Baker said.

Yes, how may we help you…give us money?

Continue reading “Not About the Money”

Not About the Money

On the Stability of IQ

On a recent post about genes and IQ, commenter JL objected to my statement that the brain is a uniquely plastic organ, and that humanity’s astoundingly extended childhood appears to exist to maximize that plasticity. More specifically, JL objected to my conclusion that given the brains plasticity, we would expect intelligence (and all the other factors included in IQ testing) be incredibly responsive to the environment.

While IQ is highly malleable in principle, in practise it is one of the more stable human characteristics across the lifetime.

The nice thing about disagreements like this is that we can look at the data (what data there is).

Continue reading “On the Stability of IQ”

On the Stability of IQ

Paying for Free

It’s one of those days, the sort that happen a lot this time of year, where a moment to sit down and write is in short supply. Apropos of that, and the early comments here (really?), enjoy this repost. It was originally posted here. For the record, he money earned by having ads on the site don’t change this math.

What is the point of entertaining you if you only tell me when I’m doing it wrong?

I will point out up front that I’m very lucky in my audiences. Some of this is work on my part, since I have no problem being fiercely critical of the hypercritical. A lot of it, though, is having largely other bloggers as readers of my blogs, other fiction authors as readers for my stories. There are few things more grand than to have work appreciated by those who understand what went into it.

How other bloggers cope sometimes is beyond me, though. Continue reading “Paying for Free”

Paying for Free

Saturday Storytime: Tomorrow Is Waiting

Every once in a while, you come across a story that does interesting things with your childhood. This, by Holly Mintzer, is one of those.

In the weeks that followed, it got harder to treat Kermit like a school project. He spent a lot of his time with Brian, who claimed to need to do a bunch of unspecified adjustments to the robot, although this mostly seemed to entail Kermit being shown off to all Brian’s friends. Anji didn’t mind it too much, though, because it gave her more time to try and puzzle out Kermit’s code, and also it meant that Kermit acquired a very small banjo and several sets of little clothes from Muppet fans among Brian’s friends. And that seemed to make Kermit happy.

That was the freaky thing: Anji had designed a bot that could seem to be happy. She wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. She was way, way outside the parameters of her project now, into territory that people who studied AI for a living hadn’t covered anywhere Anji could find. Because Kermit could, in fact, make jokes—and if he was mimicking them, the originals weren’t in the footage Anji had fed him—and he could noodle around on the banjo in a way that sounded nothing like the precision of music-playing AIs Anji had heard. And he could also do things that freaked Anji out on a deep and meaningful personal level, like the afternoon when Kermit, perched on the edge of the bed in Anji’s dorm, stopped strumming his banjo and sighed wistfully.

“You know, I sure do miss Fozzie,” he announced, and Anji stopped typing mid-keystroke.

“What did you say?” Anji asked, trying not to sound as startled as she felt.

“Oh, it’s not that I don’t like it here, Anji. You and Brian are awfully nice. But Fozzie’s my best friend, you know? After a while, you get to miss things. The squeak of a rubber chicken. The smell of custard pie on fur. Little things like that.”

He sighed again, and went back to strumming his banjo. Anji waited five minutes, excused herself, and ran full-tilt across campus to Brian’s dorm.

He answered the door, looking concerned. Well, Anji had been hammering on it pretty hard. “What’s the matter? Is Kermit okay?”

“Brian, I think we invented sentient AI.” Anji tried not to sound like she was panicking. She totally was, though. “We weren’t supposed to invent sentient AI! I was just supposed to get a passing grade! Now there’s an artificial life-form in my dorm room who plays the banjo!”

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: Tomorrow Is Waiting