Archive for the GIGO Category

A response to James

Posted in Blogging, GIGO on June, 2013 by melendwyr

From the thread about Bertrand Russell and the Ship of Fools; I’ve decided to expand my response to James into a thread of its own.  The quoted and italicized parts are from James, formerly of the comment thread.

“You believe that Bertrand Russell presented this argument.”

No, I’ve read the argument attributed as being presented by Russell.  Whether he originated the argument, or repeated a pithy formulation he encountered from someone else, I don’t know – and I don’t care.  I do care whether he ever used the argument, but only because I’ve said he did (and can’t find the attribution, which I had on-hand at the time I wrote the post).  If I hadn’t said that, I’d care only to the degree that it affects the perceived reliablity of the source.

One of the big problems I have with ‘philosophy’ is its focus on WHO instead of WHAT.  I care about the prepositions, not the individuals who happened to speak them first.  Identities provide academics with a deep fund of arbitrary information that cannot be logically derived – and thus they can profitably develop expertise that others can’t easily duplicate.  But that doesn’t make the information useful or valuable.

Forget me and my claim.  Let’s say we can demonstrate beyond refutation that Russell repeated the argument instead of creating it.  Now:  what difference does that make to its validity?  What strengths does it create or destroy, what weakness?

As far as I can see, absolutely none.

“Understanding the origin of an argument and its context provides tremendous help in the proper interpretation of the argument.”

It really doesn’t.  It can give insight into whether there were layered arguments – for example, Newton’s famous statement about standing on the shoulders of giants develops some interesting implications if you know he used to taunt his rival about his height, but those implications lie in the relationship between the primary meaning and a possible secondary one.  It changes the main meaning of the statement not at all.

If Hooke had been a very tall man, perhaps Newton would never have made that famous statement.  But would the statement have been any less, or any more, true in itself?

Ban John Horgan

Posted in GIGO, Science! with tags on May, 2013 by melendwyr

Several people I know have previously expressed the opinion, which I share, that science journalism in this country has really gone downhill over the past decade-and-a-half or so.  I once maintained a subscription to both Discover and Scientific American, and possessed a modest archive of their back editions, so I have a reasonable understanding of what they were like.  By and large, they were informative and intelligent, taking developments in various fields and expressing them in articles that a layperson could readily understand.  If you then wanted to know more, you could go and find a copy of Nature or a similar journal that contained more formal and within-the-discipline articles.

But slowly, they became vapid and foolish, the equivalent of supermarket tabloids; fewer articles and larger photos, less comprehensive information and more flash.

How far have they actually fallen?

The long trend of decline is something best seen by taking a look at the magazines, but you can get an idea of what their standards are like by examining this blog post by John Horgan, author of The End of Science.  (I’ve read it, didn’t think much of it.)

The standard disclaimer, that the opinions expressed therein do not necessarily represent those of the organization publishing them, isn’t going to cut it.  Not when the opinions involve the suppression of scientific research on politically controversial issues.


So who’s this Ron Ace guy anyway?

Posted in Doom, GIGO, Politics and Society with tags , , on May, 2013 by melendwyr

I’ve suddenly been bombarded with emails about inventor Ron Ace and his announcement that he’s come up with some revolutionary way to utilize solar power.  Despite not having a prototype, or anything other than calculations, newspaper articles are being published and republished all over the place – and it seems like lots of them are being forwarded to me.

See here.  It’s pretty typical of the stuff I’m getting.

Does no one remember cold fusion?  And that involved actual experimental error – as in an actual experiment, being performed.  There’s no such thing here,  no prototype, no testing.  Just a filing of a patent claim.

I’ve been told that the Patent Office regularly gets applications to patent systems of lights to indicate which way vehicles intend to turn.  And then, of course, there are all the perpetual motion machines, which they don’t even bother to look at any more.

I fail to see how this is different.  Why would anyone write a report about this, much less copy it and republish it over and over?  Are the people running our newspapers and news organizations less capable of figuring out what’s actually newsworthy than the people who forward ridiculous email rumors?

We’re being ‘informed’ by morons.

Libertarianism and Charity aren’t incompatible

Posted in GIGO, Politics and Society with tags , , , on May, 2011 by melendwyr

Regarding this post by mupetblast at TGGP’s Entitled to an Opinion.

I simply do not understand the people who claim or imply that libertarianism is an ‘evil’ philosophy. Or rather, I’m pretty sure I understand the motivations and purposes of most people who claim that – it’s the few who actually and sincerely believe it that I can’t quite grasp. But the idea itself is an absurdity.

To further the example brought up in the comments:

Is there anything in Libertarianism that would preclude Ebenezer Scrooge from taking his money and using it to buy the Cratchits a lovely Christmas meal? Anything? It’s his money, he can spend it how he likes, and I fail to see anything objectionable about purchasing food or delivering it to people.

We can debate whether any given charitable intervention is effective and helpful. We can even debate whether charity as a concept does more good than harm – I don’t consider that question to be a simple one – but at least in our fictional example it would seem to have done a great deal of ‘good’. So what’s the problem?

Libertarianism concerns itself with private property, individual rights, and the relationship of the individual to the state generally. It really has nothing beyond those points to say about the interaction of individuals. Like Cratchit and Scrooge.

I’ve had it…

Posted in Blogging, GIGO, Science! with tags , , on April, 2011 by melendwyr

I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with Razib Khan’s combined failure to apply the standards of scientific reasoning and basic courtesy on his blog.

Recent posts, which ended once again in Mr. Khan’s closing of the thread, have annoyed me past the point of endurance.


Posted in GIGO with tags , , on July, 2010 by melendwyr

Blake Stacey complains that his blog, Science After Sunclipse, has no readers.

Turn on comments, Stacey. I mean, DUH.

Maybe after that’s done, we can start working on the rest of your problems… baby steps, baby steps.

Missing the Point

Posted in Doom, GIGO, Politics and Society on April, 2010 by melendwyr

I don’t know that there’s much of anything that any one of us can do to help the environment on Earth Day. Short of curtailing some near-criminal abuses we might be considering, there aren’t many changes in our daily routine that would really make that much of a difference – and if there were, they’d probably need to be implemented for longer than a single day.

But having schoolchildren use markers to decorate paper bags, and then giving those bags to local retail establishments to use – if anyone happens to request a paper bag – is less useful than doing nothing.