Some bullshit to be angry about

A woman was included in a Girls Gone Wild video where someone pulled her top down against her will. She sued, unsuccessfully, as a jury of her peers decided she’d implied consent to being on camera topless by virtue of having danced in front of the camera. No release forms were signed, but evidently none are necessary when you’re a woman (and therefore slutbag) and you’re aware there’s a camera present.

The planet is most definitely, most assuredly warming, given that all ten indicators studied say so; and its causes are most definitely, most assuredly anthropogenic. Not that that’ll matter, while people are still spouting tired lies as “rebuttals”.

Thinking that he got the Mark of the Beast somehow, a man lopped off his own hand then microwaved it before calling for an ambulance. While mental illness is scary and sad, mental illness coupled with religious dogma can be downright horrifying.

Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum, is butt-hurt over “becoming the villain for doing the right thing”. I guess we’re supposed to ignore the facts that his company was responsible for numerous violations of safety and ethical considerations, or that he has lied to the media repeatedly, or that he has been characteristically more interested in self-vindication than the other, tangential concerns like control and clean-up of the spill.

The UK has made some recent inroads against homeopathy, but some idiots in power have fetishized “choice” about medicine and have released reports that cloud the matter of whether homeopathy should be treated as medicine. The report claims that homeopathy should be considered medicine and people should be free to choose it, but it shouldn’t be regulated like medicine (lest its unproven claims would scuttle it — not that the report ever spells that out for you!).

There’s absolutely nothing racist whatsoever about Tea Party Comix. So long as you ignore the art straight out of the 1920s. Though, thankfully, Marvel has a riposte.

And our Prime Minister Stephen Harper evidently has a pair of seemingly fascist quotes to his name. I am shocked.

The ethics of the animal rights movement

DuWayne Brayton’s in the process of moving his blog to a self-hosted WordPress-based install, which is wonderful considering it gives him the option to host others should he choose. And in fact, he apparently wants to do exactly that — to develop his own cadre of science-based bloggers hosted off his platform. If I wasn’t paying for my own site, and if I was more of a science-based blogger, I’d consider helping him out with what little traffic I can draw.

However, I suspect he’s not going to have problems drawing traffic, given the targets at which he’s taken aim.

I am now heavy into the research for my paper on the AR extremist movement and can’t help but be very concerned and saddened by what I am finding.  At the moment, I am still rather stunned.  I actually had to take a break, because this just really blew me away.  A young man with a history of mental illness and suicide attempts, doused himself with gasoline and set fire to himself, outside a Portland, OR fur store, this past January.  It is clear from what I could gather that this young man wanted to die for what are likely many reasons.  There is no question that his suicide was not primarily motivated by his animal rights beliefs.

Yet the ALF pressoffice includes his story in their media links.  It can also be found on some other sites around the webs.  But what the local AR extremists did on the heels of this sad affair is unconscionable.

Now, after reading this, you probably need to know what could be more unconscionable than lighting yourself on fire! Go find out in part one of an ongoing series on the ethics, or lack thereof, in the animal rights movement.

On the gender inequality of “safe”

Our Lady of Perpetual Win, patron saint of internet awesomeness, has written a post on a topic I bet is near to the heart of most male geeks, discussing inequality in how relationships are defined before both parties actually get to weigh in on their intentions.

This is the phenomenon in which a (generally young) woman dismisses her behavior around a guy as “Oh, that’s just so-and-so. He’s safe.” It always sounds like it’s meant to be a compliment, but there’s very little like it to bring out the bitter in a guy even decades after the fact. It took explaining the concept of “safe” to the wife of one of these friends for me to really figure out why.
[…]
The men aren’t being asked whether they have any sexual interest and whether they’re okay with it being put on hold. They aren’t being asked where the limits of their comfort with the women’s behavior are. They don’t have an option to say, “No,” except by walking away from the situation. These guys might still choose to engage in flirtatious relationships for the fun, but the choice should be theirs every bit as much as it is the women’s. With the unilateral declaration of “safe”-hood, it isn’t.

It’s another one of those sociological minefields where I suspect the problem stems from blowback from feminists’ reasserting of control (not that I dislike that reasserting, on the contrary), but can sound far too much like whinging. Or sexist. Or merely anti-feminist. Or completely made up. It’s far too easy to dismiss that the inequality even exists, but as someone who’s been declared “safe” before even getting the chance to make any sort of effort at showing romantic or sexual interest, I’m sure it does. I mean, I certainly don’t want to be seen as unsafe. But I want a say in whether I get turned into a virtual eunuch right off the bat, right?

I’m glad Stephanie, yet again, “gets it”. Even if I’m not really sure what “it” is, exactly.

Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions trailer

This has a hell of a lot of potential. There’s a number of alt-universe, yet canonical, versions of Spider-man in the comics, and I’ve always wondered how the existence of these alternate Spideys would translate into a proper video game. In most of the Spidey video games, the closest we’ve seen to these guys are unlockable costumes. That didn’t, unfortunately, grant you access to their powers, so I was always left underwhelmed. Then, I saw this trailer.

It’ll be voiced by four previous Spider-man alumni, including Neil Patrick Harris. Fingers crossed that this is good.

Why “your mom” jokes don’t really work on me

I’ve been putting off writing about this incident for a long time, not the least reason being that it’s — even now, over ten years after the fact — a giant, raw wound on my psyche. While it’s healed enough to allow me to go on living day-to-day without being reduced to a gibbering mess when something reminds me of it, it’s obviously still raw enough that certain people can bring it to the forefront. You see, my mother left my father in the summer of 1998, which in and of itself was probably a good thing, considering they’d fought on and off for years. The damage came in how she did it, why she did it, the lies she wove in doing it, and the way she metaphorically slammed the door on the way out hard enough to destroy the metaphorical china on the walls.

If you don’t like long introspectives about past butt-hurts, skip this post.
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Is the field of economics a pseudoscience?

I have exactly zero dogs in this fight, and no time to do any real research and form a proper opinion in the matter, but in the recent astrology thread, James Carey posted the following and I think it does merit some discussion, especially divested from the rest of the comments.

Having my e-mail box continuously filled with comments ranging from the snotty and condescending to the just plain rude and vulgar I did a little research on pseudo sciences on wikipedia (which is going to be my online standard) and they say that the definition of pseudo science is any scientific process that does not follow the scientific method, who’s definition, if you will forgive me, i am going to cut and paste here:

“Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new[1] knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[2] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[3]

Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methodologies of knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. These steps must be repeatable in order to dependably predict any future results. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. This in turn may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.

Among other facets shared by the various fields of inquiry is the conviction that the process must be objective to reduce biased interpretations of the results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, thereby allowing other researchers the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure, also allows statistical measures of the reliability of these data to be established.”

So I am pretty much in agreement with Jason that Astrology is a pseudo science. That being said, however, by this definition I am not convinced that Economics isn’t a pseudo science either…

George W followed up with this:

O.K. James, I’ll bite.
As I am sure we are both aware, Economics is a Social Science, and by it’s very definition cannot be directly compared to a Natural Science. The “science” in social science is more an allusion to it’s foundational methodology where data is collected by observation, hypotheses are postulated, more data is collected, hypotheses are tuned, more data collected, etc.
Economics weaknesses lie in the control of variables and the limitations of experiment. This is no different from Political Science or Anthropology… or Paleontology for that matter.
To make the claim that astrology can be lumped into a broad category with economics is fatuous and misleading to the point of being deceitful. Astrology does not collect data in a scientific matter, it tautologically serves to prove itself by cherry picking correlations without any proof or reasoning for causality.
By your own “online standard”, pseudo-science is a methodology, belief, or practice that is claimed to be scientific, or that is made to appear to be scientific, but which does not adhere to an appropriate scientific methodology, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, or otherwise lacks scientific status. (emphasis mine)
I wonder, James, why you so carelessly abbreviated that definition and concentrated on the definition of the scientific method? Why leave out the part about an “appropriate scientific method”?

Further down in the wiki article, you will note that the National Science Foundation contrasts Micheal Shermer’s definitions of science and pseudoscience.

Science-“a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed and inferred phenomena, past or present, and aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation”

Pseudoscience-“claims presented so that they appear [to be] scientific even though they lack supporting evidence and plausibility”

I would argue that economics fits best under the first definition and less under the latter.

So what of the rest of you folks? What’s your opinion?

Canadian band Rush goes steam-powered

MusicRadar reports that Canadian rock band Rush is going steampunk for their Time Machine tour.

According to Hughes & Kettner, Alex Lifeson’s TriAmp and Coreblade amps have been incorporated into the awesome custom cabinets you can see in the accompanying pictures, which the German amp gurus describe as “simply the biggest and best looking Hughes & Kettner rig that has ever been.”

Now he just needs one of these ridiculously cool steampunk guitars to play through it. Or a steampunk synth.

While they are rock giants up here in the frozen tundras, you basically only ever hear them playing on the classic rock station to fulfill the CRTC requisite Canadian content quota. It’s rather sad. I might not like them as much as I remember a few classmates did back in grade school, but I’ve always sort of appreciated that they proved Canadians can rock too.

And with a drum set like this, you’d better damn well be able to bring the noise.

Neil Peart and the Clockwork Drum Set

Neil Peart and the Clockwork Drum Set

That… is so damn cool. The only other thing I’ve seen this week that’s even remotely as cool is the Cthukulele. Coincidentally, Jodi also introduced me to the George Hrab podcast Geologic, who while being a sciencey skeptical atheist kind of guy, is also a music ubergeek probably on par with my wedding co-groom Mark. I’m not much of a music geek myself, normally. But if you guys keep this stuff up, I may have to mend my ways.

Jodi and I Owe Bora

Sadly, I don’t owe Bora Zivkovic (whom I have fondly referred to as William Tockman in the past, if you’ll pardon the geek reference) nearly as much as some of his compatriots in the scientific blogosphere. But he helped with Jodi’s geeky proposal trail that started over at Stephanie’s, and for that I owe him a debt of gratitude. Not for helping me get started as a blogger, or for helping me find my place in the scientific community, or any number of other acts of kindness, both large and small. Nor have I participated in ScienceOnline, at least not yet. But the impact Bora has had on the science community is obviously far-reaching.

Now that Bora has left ScienceBlogs in the wake of the Pepsi blog ridiculousness, he needs to support his family, as their income is severely impacted. Considering how many good turns he’s done the community, the community is understandably speaking up, telling him what they owe him — and showing him, however possible.

I honestly wish I had more to say here, but the man’s largess should speak for itself. The fact that he has been unable to adequately monetize his actions is a failing of society — where merit alone does not win one a decent living. I also wish we had the finances at the moment to be able to show, rather than say, how high my opinion of him is. But if you have benefited from Bora’s kindness, large or small, you could donate and show that you recognize that kindness, and want to do him a kindness in return. Likewise, you could visit their store and see if there’s anything you’re interested in, or anything at his Zazzle store while you’re at it. I’m sure whatever you do will be appreciated.

A new poll: what kind of nonsense do you debunk?

At the ever-lovely and ever-intelligent Stephanie Zvan‘s suggestion, I’ve updated my poll, as there’s no chance that anyone’s going to be able to change our minds about our wedding march now that Jodi and I are well and truly hitched.

I got to thinking, in the fallout from our recent astrology incursion, what kind of skeptical audience do I tend to attract? I know my content leans extremely heavily on the atheist side, but general godlessness ain’t usually a function of debunking explicitly anti-science nonsense. So, I pose of you:

[poll id=5]

Of course, if your favorite woo isn’t on the poll, do let me know in the comments.