Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Come on now

Courtesy of One Standard Deviation Welltabs, which are described on their website as thus:
Welltabs are the result of years of research and combine the best, clinically evaluated, natural ingredients from around the world to:

* calm and refresh your mind and body
* help you feel physically & emotionally energized & stronger
* promote an overall sense of well-being
* promote a positive mood
* help you feel your very best, both physically and emotionally
Now then, I have never taken Welltabs, or anything like it for that matter. Nor have I examined the body of evidence surrounding the tablet. But it is quite easy to recognize the utter claptrap that serves as the foundation for artificial intervention in the human body. To its credit, Welltabs are advertised as "all natural," so they probably don't have the dangerous side affects that other pills have.
The ubiquity and effectiveness of these advertisements testify not only to the collective wishful thinking and subsequent foolishness of mankind, but to their utter stupidity as well. Oh boy, it's a pity that most people can't tell the difference between the root cause and the symptom.

Earlier today I was talking to my brother about people with insomnia. Its like, are they serious? They genuinely believe that a pill, one that is completely artificial and creates dependency, will solve their sleeping problems? Has it ever crossed their minds that it caused by fundamental problem with their lifestyle, like their diet?

And one cannot go through school without noticing the outrageous amounts of kids with ADHD. Talking to them, they seem to genuinely believe that the problem is innate, not something they can prevent or cure, that can only be mitigated by some multi-billion dollar corporation's pill. Take on the Redolin folks.

While some of these people just can't stop thinking of themselves, the concept of introspection seems to elude them. They can observe the obvious connection between excess sugars, food coloring, MSG and other quasi-sugars to hyperactivity and mental (if only temporary, albeit with long term effects) fogginess. But they do not extend this observation to a possible explanation of their inability to focus a while. Nor should a lack of interest be discounted as a possible explanation. I can sit for hours reading about a topic that interests me, like math or economics, but would be surprised if I can find it within myself to slog through a topic that bores me to death. The reality is that many kids, especially boys, would much rather throw a ball or fight each other than to learn prepositions and adverbs. So, instead of having to prescribe kids with redolin and feeding them useless BS, perhaps the teachers should instil in them a love for learning by teaching them something they're interested in.... and the ability to focus will follow. But I digress.

The salient point is that many problems that plague the modern man are self-imposed, and are not something some artificial construct like a pill can fix. Stop excusing yourself as a victim, either to your genes, culture, or background, and take ownership of your life. Go Primal, learn Game, learn the Alexander Technique, read some books. Don't hand your precious life to the self-serving authorities or profit-driven corporations because they offer you a magic solution.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Full House

Stephen Jay Gould’s book Full House was a pretty good read. Taking conventional wisdom and turning it on its head, Gould critiques the common mystical pronouncement of evolutionary progress, and offers an intriguing paradigm in which to view the changes in complex systems. Gould does so by using the notion of “right” and “left” walls – limitations inherent in the system that restrict progression or regression. Gould first advances his model that progression is marked by the amount of variation in the system, not “a point moving somewhere,” and demonstrates its explanatory power by going to his lifetime fascination with Baseball, or more specifically, the disappearance of .400 batting averages.

He rips to shreds some of the common explanations for the disappearance of .400 hitting. He is particularly harsh on the belief that the absolute skill of modern MLB batters has declined. I honestly have no idea how someone could possibly believe such nonsense. The idea that hitters have gotten objectively worse is not even remotely credible, not with literally every sport getting more competitive.

He treats the hypothesis that Batters have simply gotten worse in a relative sense, not in an absolute sense, by getting oustripped by better pitchers and fielders, with a little more sympathy. But that explanation, too, does not accord with the verifiable facts (the mean batting average has held flat at .260, not what you would expect from increasing pitcher superiority). And while it sounds reasonable on the surface, its credibility quickly vanishes once one has caught a glimpse of Gould’s explanation of contracting variation.

Basically put, batters have run into the right wall of batting ability. Due to the limitations that bio-mechanics imposes on the human potential, batters can only be so coordinated, strong, etc, and the disappearance of .400 hitting has resulted from more players getting closer (if not reaching) that limit. Thus, the great players of old, who had less competition than that of modern players, could deviate so far from the norm to reach the magic .400 without being blocked by the right wall. As play continued to improve, the average batter had advanced ever so closer to the right wall. This shrunk the overall variation in play and even the best batters could not rise to .400 hitting without reaching the right wall of human limitation.

After the section on baseball demonstrating the effects of right walls, Gould proceeds to discuss the effects of left walls on evolution. Gould debunks the argument that evolution is characterized by ”progress” or “an increase in complexity.” It is not. Natural Selection does not have a bias towards increasing complexity, says Gould. Instead, some biological organisms have increased in complexity through random movements expanding from a left wall.

To illustrate this, Gould takes a drunkard walking out of a bar, who takes a left down the road. There is a gutter thirty feet to the right of the bar. So, even with completely random movements (left to right), the drunkard will fall down the cutter, every time, because the bar acted a wall that he would bounce off of until he eventually landed in the cutter. Even random movements can have a surefire destination.

In a similar manner, the minimal complexity that is required for a biological unit – a single cell bacteria – is the left wall, leaving all random variation only one direction to move: to the right. Most organism will still cling to their humble left origins, but some – ah, a miniscule few – will drift off significantly to the right. From an evolutionary perspective, we are not living in the “age of Man”, or before, the “age of mammals/reptiles/dinosaurs etc.” but have always lived in the “age of bacteria”, with expanding variation on the right tail.

Gould gives plenty of examples and re-phrases so as to soak the argument into the reader’s mind, certainly much more effectively and comprehensively than a medium-length review of a book can do here. So I urge you to read the book, if for nothing else than a refreshing perspective on evolution and statistical analysis.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why I like Rick Perry

While I am known to espouse Rep. Ron Paul in the election, Rick Perry stands as my second choice, even though I harbor distrust toward most Republicans. Now then, I don’t agree with all of his policies or even his overall political worldview. But so far he has demonstrated that he is willing to do what has to be done: tackle the FED and lower Government spending.

One procedure that must be done in examining candidates in a political election is distinguishing genuine honesty from populist BS. A good example of the latter is when Herman Cain, after repeatedly stating in the past that the Federal Reserve does not require an audit because it already performs numerous internal audits, has said in the last debate that the FED should, in fact, be audited. The unreliability of his words can easily be seen in that he said it in passing, quickly going off to a different subject. So regardless of what he may have said at whatever moment, Cain will not attempt to audit the Federal Reserve, much less persist amid the many obstacles of doing so. Perry on the hand, has not only expressed the customary conservative rhetoric, but has gone one step further in calling Bernanke “almost treasonous,” something that no other candidate with the possible exception of Ron Paul has agreed with. To further prove my point, Perry also claimed – again, with no agreement from his competitors even when directly asked – that social security is a ponzi-scheme. Other candidates declined to concur with the statement, brushing it off with political maneuvers like “whatever you call it.”

No. It is not whatever you call it.

In fact, acknowledging SS as a Ponzi-scheme is the first step in truly grasping the fundamental problems with the program. The problem with SS is the same that plagues all other ponzi-schemes; it collapses once there is a deceleration of the amount of people giving in. In other words, it is under the mercy of future demographic trends.

Whatever flaws he may have, it is clear that Perry has the balls to do what is necessary, and he isn’t afraid to be outspoken about it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Catholic philospher and the origin of sin

Edward Feser has an extremely interesting (well, at least for some of us) article about the catholic view of Original Sin. He apparently has dug deep into the issue of the human mind and the various explanatory inadequacies of the material-reductionist model of it. This topic has interested me for quite some time, but that interest has lead more to sporadic thinking about the issue than real research or inquiry, so I harbor no illusions of being able to match, let alone supplant, this Catholic champion. However, as I finally reached the end of the aforementioned article, I noticed a few gaps in his argument concerning the bi-human origins of Sin.
After summarizing the Aristotle-to-Aquinas dichotomy of the human intellect and its material operations (which is pretty much the mainstream Christian position), Feser finishes with this:
The implications of all of this should be obvious. There is nothing at all contrary to what Pius says in Humani Generis in the view that 10,000 (or for that matter 10,000,000) creatures genetically and physiologically like us arose via purely evolutionary processes. For such creatures -- even if there had been only two of them -- would not be “human” in the metaphysical sense in the first place. They would be human in the metaphysical sense (and thus in the theologically relevant sense) only if the matter that made up their bodies were informed by a human soul -- that is, by a subsistent form imparting intellectual and volitional powers as well as the lower animal powers that a Planet of the Apes-style “human” would have. And only direct divine action can make that happen, just as (for A-T) direct divine action has to make it happen whenever one of us contemporary human beings comes into existence.

Supposing, then, that the smallest human-like population of animals evolution could have initially produced numbered around 10,000, we have a scenario that is fully compatible with Catholic doctrine if we suppose that only two of these creatures had human souls infused into them by God at their conception, and that He infused further human souls only into those creatures who were descended from this initial pair. And there is no evidence against this supposition.

This scenario raises all sorts of interesting questions, such as whether any of these early humans (in the metaphysical sense of having a human soul) mated with some of the creatures who were (genetically and, in part, phenotypically) only human-like. (If any of the latter looked like Linda Harrison in Planet of the Apes, the temptation certainly would have been there.) Mike Flynn and Kenneth Kemp have some things to say about this, but it does not affect the point at issue here, which is that there is nothing in the biological evidence that conflicts with the doctrine that the human race began with a single pair -- when that doctrine is rightly understood, in terms of the metaphysical conception of “human being” described above.
I first have to note that Feser is arguing as a Catholic and for the reconciliation of Catholic theology with current genetic and evolutionary science (specifically that homo sapiens didn't descend from one couple). In contrast, I am not a Catholic, and I am not arguing that genetics is an any way contradictory to Catholic theology; I simply contend that his logic is uncharacteristically deficient. There are no problems with the first paragraph, but the illogic begins to show once he progresses from the dualistic nature of Man to theories about how Original Sin spread throughout humanity.

Take this statement: "only two of these creatures had human souls infused into them by God at their conception, and that He infused further human souls only into those creatures who were descended from this initial pair."

Although it is theoretically possible that all humans today share a taint of Adam's genetic material and are thus imbued with a soul, it is unlikely given that the various races split off from each other comparatively early in their history, and far earlier than any theologian would place as the date of Adam. So is Feser saying that not every human is made in the image of God?

While one could probably fit this view into a reasonably orthodox theology, the empirical test Feser proposes earlier in the article precludes such an interpretation. For if the soul is necessary for abstract thought, then it would elude those endowed without one. But since it is clear that every single human being on the planet - with the possible exception of a few cases of mentally retardation, a condition that is more the result of material malfunction than a lack of a soul - possesses abstract thought, everybody is thus an endowed with a soul.

Moreover, one wonders whether Feser believes that Man's fallen nature is a material property and not a spiritual one. I haven't read enough of his works, so I wouldn't know what his stated opinion on this would be, but it seems to follow from his contention that the soul, and by extension Original Sin, would only sprout from the biological descendents of Adam. After all, as he admits, God actively bestows his image during the creation of every human being, so there is no reason to believe that God couldn't do so on a non-Adamic descendent. The curse of Adam would still fall on the creature, as he would simply be a *spiritual* descendent of the dreadful apple-eater. I mean, its not as if the Bible has never used the term *descendent* in a non-biological way.

So, I propose an alternative, one that is wholly compatible with Catholic theology. I agree with Feser for the most part. Specifically that once mankind developed the neurological capability to sustain the soul-imposed abstract thought, God created Adam as the first metaphysical human being, as opposed to the first physical human being. (Whether Adam existed 50,000 years ago, marked by the period Jared Diamond dubs "the Great Leap Forward," or 6,000 years ago when culture developed and the agricultural revolution was in full swing can be debated. I am inclined towards the latter myself, but the theological implications between the two are few). However, I differ from Feser in that I believe it makes the most sense, especially in light of what Feser has himself argued, that shortly after Eve's seduction, God empowered the rest of mankind with gift only before given to Adam, the initial representative of humanity.

I really like Feser; the man is brilliant and I look forward to digging into his archives and books. And for the most part I agree with him; I just believe he ended a great post with untypically weak logic that could easily be remedied.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More evidence... as if any was needed.

And yet another patient transformed by the power of the Paleo Diet and Primal lifestyle. From Mark's Daily Apple:
The following week I bought your book The Primal Blueprint and completely devoured it over the weekend. I could do this.

The success was immediate and amazing. Over the next 3 months I dropped 50 lbs and people started to notice. The next couple months brought another 20 lbs that really thinned out my arms, legs and face and people really noticed. I am a new man. I am now 195 lbs and working on leaning out a little more…hopefully eliminate some residual stomach skin but am generally exactly where I have wanted to be for the last 20 years of adulthood. I cannot believe how much better I feel and look and actually have a much better outlook on growing older. And it was relatively EASY.

Today I had my first checkup with my doctor since I began this program. I had the distinct pleasure of watching him cross out the multiple diagnoses on my medical chart:

Metabolic Syndrome…gone

All medication…gone. Also gone is my snoring, apnea, constant flatulence and frequent heartburn.

The reason the Paleo Diet works is because it is an attempt to understand the material ontology of the human body and capitalize on that understanding. In case with Greg, it shows that much of what is prescribed at the medical establishment is ineffective and doesn't address the core causes of the illness. And most diseases can be prevented or even cured by a simple natural application of Paleo.

Well Congrats, Greg. Here is that others will follow suit.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dick Dawk Science

The truth, so humorously encapsulated in this video, is the smug arrogance of the scientific community, and the utter foolishness of placing one’s blind faith in them. Scientists are mere human beings, and are every bit as susceptible to corruption and prejudice as politicians and corporate businessmen are. The fact that the scientific community has not only been wrong on a plethora of issues stringing from medicine to biology, climate science to physics, and economics to the viability of political systems, but has in many cases relied upon fraud and greed to produce a self-serving consensus, should remedy even the most die-hard science fetishist of the cult-worship of the scientific establishment.

“Dick to the Dawk to the PHD, he’s smarter than you – he’s got a science degree!” is nothing more than an effort to pressure the recipient not to think for himself and conform his thoughts to the intellectual elite’s ideals. It is this same mentality that was exhibited by history’s greatest mass murders: the inclination to order society to your utopian vision. And yes, the nature within the scientific community has been increasingly authoritarian the last few decades. The system set up that makes use of tenures, government grants, and peer review stresses conformity of thought and staying in line with the status quo instead of original innovation and a little dose of healthy skepticism. So ironically, the intellectual boldness of the founders of modern science - Galileo, Newton, Kepler, and Capernicus, to name a few -who challenged conventional wisdom, is notably absent from the list of modern-day overspecialized scientists.

(Moreover, often times a science degree only indicates a superior knowledge in one specific discipline of science. It does not qualify him to pontificate on philosophy, religion, politics, or even other sciences outside of his narrow discipline. It’s hilarious to see Richard Dawkins talking about theology, philosophy or history because he simply doesn’t know a darn thing about them. So, “he’s smarter than me – he’s got a science degree!” is almost meaningless unless they the topic is the particular scientist’s specific field.)

This of course does not mean that there are no great scientists in our day, or that whatever the scientific community styles as a “consensus” is inherently wrong. There are many open minded scientists that have produced brilliant works. No question. However, there are simply not enough of them. And the real question is whether their works have progressed or have been hindered by the current scientific establishment. The evidence tends to indicate the latter.

There are many examples one could use to demonstrate this to be the case. Take the issue of the Darwinian theory of evolution. As was shown in the documentary Expelled: No intelligence allowed, a mere fragment of dissent from Darwin’s Dangerous Idea leaves evolutionists waxing hysteric and the “antics” are invariably mocked into silence, usually resulting in a demotion or outright firing of the dissident. This is despite the fact that Darwin’s original theory has been so heavily modified over the last century; in the past critics have pointed out the weakness with the notion of natural selection, only to be ignored. But surprisingly, in his recent book The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins, apparently with a straight face, declares that natural selection may not be the mechanism of evolution after all! This doesn’t bother him one bit, because he doesn’t care about real science or improving accuracy of his experimental and theoretical models, but rather, he is so dedicated to salvaging his material atheism that he sees evolution as a mere means to that end. Now then, I am probably more sympathetic to evolution than most, certainly more than most Christians, but the way evolutionary biologists shriek to the sound of rational inquiry is not helping them develop better theories on the origins of life.

Another example, but one that has sparked a little less public controversy, is string theory and the physicists’s quest for a “theory of everything.” The idea was popularized by Brian Greene in his book and subsequent documentary The Elegant Universe. String theorists have postulated that vibrating strings form the building blocks of matter and that this will unify Einstein’s General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. The problem, however, is that the strings cannot be observed because they are supposedly so much smaller than a photon, the unit that allows you to see. In fact, the theory has never been tested, and strictly speaking should not be considered science; it is mere wishful thinking that is held to be true on aesthetic grounds. But this isn’t just harmless speculation on part of some obscure scientists; it has sucked a significant portion of the talent within the physicist circles. So instead of working on other potential routes, many physicists find themselves being locked in the confines of string-theory’s thought-mansion. This has been going on for decades.

And this problem isn’t limited to Evolution and String Theory. The global financial crisis has been the result of bad economic theory. And the reason the political ruling class is exacerbating the recession is because the mainstream economists that inform them espouse a deeply flawed Neo-Keynesian paradigm. In a similar manner, climatologists are more interested in their globalist, World government vision than actually understanding carbon cycles.

But once I express any doubt about the holy nature of science (or specifically, the profession of science), invariably someone jumps in with what they think is an irrefutable argument:

If you hate science so much, give up everything science has given you: your computer, modern transportation, medicine. Everything

After reading thus far, one may leap to the conclusion that I am anti-science. I am not. I have deep respect for the scientific method and the knowledge it has provided humanity. It is this appreciation for real science that causes me to criticize the current scientific establishment that hinders it.

And this is a remarkably ignorant argument, as it is not science that has produced much of the technology we take for granted, but free-market capitalism. Most inventors are either technologists or engineers innovating to improve business and have little connection with the scientific community. And while it is true that science has blessed humanity with a great number of things, it is not true that it has produced most, let alone all of them. And as has been demonstrated in no little detail, the modern incarnation of the scientific creature has largely served to cripple real scientific developments in favor of self-serving politics.

Being a natural scientist myself, and having a family of scientists and engineers, I am aware of the powers of the scientific method and the body of knowledge it has produced. I am simply cognizant of its practical and conceptual limits, and the contrast between science purely as a method and the science wielded by flawed human beings.