haggholm: (someone is wrong on the internet)

Normally, the anti-vaccine brigade tend to be either coy or in denial of the fact that eliminating vaccines—or in fact just lowering the vaccination prevalence in the population below the critical herd immunity point—will take a toll in the lives of thousands of children dying every year, suffering complications like encephalitis from measles, and so on. Jenny McCarthy, one of the more notorious proponents of this for of mass collateral child murder, however, spoke up a bit more straightforwardly in an interview with TIME (sic censorship, below):

I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.

It should be noted that there exists no good evidence that vaccines are in general unsafe, let alone that any cause autism—that particular scare was based on studies by a Dr. Wakefield, which were widely considered to be so poorly conducted as to be useless, even before his data were discovered to be, in all likelihood, fraudulent. It should also be noted and never forgotten that little-feared diseases like measles are actually pretty serious, as the interviewer (a Jeffrey Kluger) points out:

Measles is among the top five killers in the world of children under 5 years old, yet it kills virtually no one in the U.S. thanks to vaccines.

McCarthy replies that

If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f___ing measles.

You be her judge, keeping in mind that

  1. There’s no evidence that any vaccine causes autism.
  2. There’s no evidence that most vaccines (certainly the mainstream childhood vaccines!) are at all prone to causing any long-term complications. Certainly some children have reactions, but ours is not a perfect world: Choose X% chance of a reaction to a vaccine, or Y% chance of dying from any of a large number of diseases. Typically, X is much smaller than Y, and the consequences much less dire.
  3. Unvaccinated children put other children at risk. If vaccination isn’t common enough, pandemics can still spread, and because no vaccine is 100% effective, vaccines prevent pandemics by making it too difficult for diseases to spread. Additionally, some children can’t be vaccinated due to allergies or other, valid health reasons: They rely on other children’s being vaccinated for protection.
  4. Low vaccination rates have already re-introduced measles to the UK. The first death was in 2006. As vaccination rates sink, more deaths will follow.
  5. Wasting people’s time and energy testing and re-testing vaccines for safety with respect to the fictional autism risk takes resources away from useful research—like addressing the real issues with vaccines that have them, or researching the actual causes of autism.
haggholm: (someone is wrong on the internet)

This is a pretty hilarious attempt at logic.

haggholm: (Default)

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_PAAMAYIM_NEKUDOTAYIM, expecting '}' in /var/www/htdocs/webeval/erez/classes/assignment/assignmentSQLgen.php on line 251

According to Wikipedia,

Paamayim Nekudotayim (פעמיים נקודתיים pronounced [paʔamajim nəkudotajim]) is a name for the Scope Resolution Operator (::) in PHP. It means "twice colon" or "double colon" in Hebrew.

Nekudotayim (נקודתיים) means 'colon'; it comes from nekuda (IPA: [nəkuda]), 'point' or 'dot', and the dual suffix ayim (יים-), hence 'two points'. Similarly, the word paamayim (פעמיים) is derived by attaching the dual suffix to paam (IPA: [paʔam]) ('one time' or 'once'), thus yielding 'twice'.

The name was introduced in the Israeli-developed Zend Engine 0.5 used in PHP 3. Although it has been confusing to many developers, it is still being used in PHP 5.

…Of course.

haggholm: (Default)

Skeptical blogger Ziztur has a little project called Ray a Day wherein she (with the assistance of her boyfriend) go through one question a day from Ray Comfort’s book, You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics. The other week, she circulated an email among her awesome commenters, in which number I have been granted the honour of inclusion.

Here’s my contribution, wherein I address Ray’s “answer” to a question challenging the existence of Hell, and muse a bit on the motivation underlying such unapologetic apologetics. Go read it, then read the rest of Ziztur’s blog.

haggholm: (Default)

I blogged about the resolution earlier. With that background knowledge, here’s one man’s feelings on the matter:

haggholm: (red)

Via Pharyngula: A 9-year-old girl in Brazil was raped, became pregnant with twins, and had an abortion. The Catholic church comments, through Marcio Miranda, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife, that she should have carried the twins to term and had a c-section:

It's the law of God: Do not kill. We consider this murder.

A 9-year-old child should have carried twins to term?!

haggholm: (Default)

Ray Comfort, the creationist dimwit behind the hilarious Atheist’s Nightmare video (and occasional enigma in the sense of Poe’s Law), has written a book that has garnered some pretty scathing reviews. He feels that the opposition is easily explained:

I simply expose atheistic evolution for the unscientific fairy tale that it is, and I do it with common logic. I ask questions about where the female came from for each species. Every male dog, cat, horse, elephant, giraffe, fish and bird had to have coincidentally evolved with a female alongside it (over billions of years) with fully evolved compatible reproductive parts and a desire to mate, otherwise the species couldn't keep going. Evolution has no explanation for the female for every species in creation.

Most people who make strawman arguments at least try to make the strawman resemble the real argument. This person apparently believes that someone claims that males and females evolved independently. Alternatively, he realises how stupid an idea this is, but aims the book at an audience who will accept that argument at face value. Either way, we have a prime example of truly comical stupidity, whether in the author or the readers who buy the book; hopefully the former, as I would not wish such an epidemic of irredeemable cretinism to be widely spread.

haggholm: (someone is wrong on the internet)

Sen. Tom Harkin, the proud father of the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, told a Senate hearing on Thursday that NCCAM had disappointed him by disproving too many alternative therapies.

"One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short," Harkin said.

The senator went on to lament that, since its inception in 1998, the focus of NCCAM has been "disproving things rather than seeking out and approving things."

Skeptics have complained all along that Harkin and his allies founded this office to promote alternative therapies at public expense, not to test them scientifically. Harkin's statement at the hearing explicitly confirms that hypothesis.

Majikthise, via Pharyngula

In other words, the point of this institution was not to figure out if alternative therapies work and promote the ones that do, but rather to promote them whether they can be shown to work or not. There are already groups that do this: They’re called advertisers (and alternative medicine is a multi-billion dollar industry). No one’s tax money should fund it.

haggholm: (someone is wrong on the internet)

In the single most stupid and by far most offensive thing I have ever heard the UN do, they have passed a resolution (thankfully non-binding…for now) called Combating Defamation of Religions, widely referred to as an anti-blasphemy measure. The abrogation of human rights inherent in squashing free expression, no matter how offensive, let alone all criticism of religion, should be painfully obvious. (There’s also the problem, as mentioned in the article above, that defamation implies falsehood—since many religions contradict each other, a reductio ad absurdam interpretation would even restrict the expression of religion.)

Naturally, this was pushed by Muslim countries, who feel that it is religious persecution that is at the root of their bad press:

Muslim countries say they are only trying to cut down of what they see as extensive bias against Islam in the West. In the lead-up to Monday’s vote, many referred, for example, to the 2005 publication of Danish cartoons that satirized Muhammad, and which touched off riots through the Muslim world.

I’m hard pressed to tell which notion is the more disturbing: That this is a bald-faced lie and excuse and the UN council bought it; or that these Muslim spokesmen are honestly so stupid that they think that the Danish cartoon incident was more consequence than cause of contempt for the Muslim world. After all, the cartoons on their own were not terribly interesting or exciting, but those world-wide, violent riots wherein countless thousands of Muslims rose up to issue death threats or embark on violence in reaction to a fairly petty and insignificant insult—that made a difference. (Not that Muslims were the only ones who gave a poor showing: It’s been widely noted that the Archbishop of Canterbury chose that time to condemn not the Muslims who issued death threats, but the Danish cartoonist.)

“Everybody is aware that there is a campaign in certain media to fuel the fire of incitement to hatred and to disfigure certain persons or figures through caricature,” said one Sudanese diplomat.

…And yet the hatred that was stirred was that of Muslims, not for them; and the only caricatures that stuck were the people who stood up for the rioters, the senders of death threats, the violent suppressors of free expression, and pretended that their brand of tolerance had respect for human dignity.

haggholm: (Default)

A very interesting article on ideomotor action. The humorous highlight is a piece I’ve seen quoted before (though more briefly, as highlighted):

The chiropractors presented as their major example a demonstration they believed showed that the human body could respond to the difference between glucose (a "bad" sugar) and fructose (a "good" sugar). The differential sensitivity was a truism among "alternative healers," though there was no scientific warrant for it. The chiropractors had volunteers lie on their backs and raise one arm vertically. They then would put a drop of glucose (in a solution of water) on the volunteer's tongue. The chiropractor then tried to push the volunteer's upraised arm down to a horizontal position while the volunteer tried to resist. In almost every case, the volunteer could not resist. The chiropractors stated the volunteer's body recognized glucose as a "bad" sugar. After the volunteer's mouth was rinsed out and a drop of fructose was placed on the tongue, the volunteer, in just about every test, resisted movement to the horizontal position. The body had recognized fructose as a "good" sugar.

After lunch a nurse brought us a large number of test tubes, each one coded with a secret number so that we could not tell from the tubes which contained fructose and which contained glucose. The nurse then left the room so that no one in the room during the subsequent testing would consciously know which tubes contained glucose and which fructose. The arm tests were repeated, but this time they were double-blind -- neither the volunteer, the chiropractors, nor the onlookers was aware of whether the solution being applied to the volunteer's tongue was glucose or fructose. As in the morning session, sometimes the volunteers were able to resist and other times they were not. We recorded the code number of the solution on each trial. Then the nurse returned with the key to the code. When we determined which trials involved glucose and which involved fructose, there was no connection between ability to resist and whether the volunteer was given the "good" or the "bad" sugar.

When these results were announced, the head chiropractor turned to me and said, "You see, that is why we never do double-blind testing anymore. It never works!" At first I thought he was joking. It turned it out he was quite serious. Since he "knew" that applied kinesiology works, and the best scientific method shows that it does not work, then -- in his mind -- there must be something wrong with the scientific method. This is both a form of loopholism as well as an illustration of what I call the plea for special dispensation. Many pseudo- and fringe-scientists often react to the failure of science to confirm their prized beliefs, not by gracefully accepting the possibility that they were wrong, but by arguing that science is defective.

haggholm: (Default)
// 1.
$map[$value] = ($value == $req['value']) ? 1.0 : 0.0;

// 2.
$map[$value] = ($value == $req['value']) ? 1.0 : 0;

Can anyone think of any reason whatsoever why these two statements should behave differently? If you had told me they would, I would have laughed derisively. And yet, PHP 5.2.6† at least thinks that they are not merely different, but critically so: While (2) works, (1) results in a syntax error:

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_DNUMBER in [...].php on line 232

Note that

  1. the literal 0.0 is not illegal in general, and
  2. the statement fails with other floating-point literals, too—it may be irrelevant to write 0.0 rather than 0, but I also couldn’t write 0.5 if that were what I needed.

What the hell is this lunacy‽

Update: This must be a bug, not (another) idiotic design feature: It raises a parse error when I run it through Apache/mod_php‡, but not with the CLI version of the PHP interpreter. On the other hand, why on Earth should the two use different parsers…? The mystery only deepens.

petter@petter-office:~/temp$ php --version
PHP 5.2.6-2ubuntu4 with Suhosin-Patch (cli) (built: Oct 14 2008 20:06:32)
Copyright (c) 1997-2008 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.2.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2008 Zend Technologies
    with Xdebug v2.0.3, Copyright (c) 2002-2007, by Derick Rethans

‡ I often wonder if it isn’t really mod_intercal. PHP is but a PLEASE and a COME FROM away from being INTERCAL 2.0 (for the Web).

haggholm: (someone is wrong on the internet)

It’s a sad and extremely frustrating thing when someone mistakenly thinks that they understand logic. Never mind the context or subject matter; suffice to say that I was addressing the logical form of an argument (which was invalid—the argument was begging the question) whereas this individual thought that I was addressing the issue as a whole, in spite of my repeatedly telling him that I was talking about the strict logic.

The problem turned out to be that he had no idea what strict logic really is. The following is a lightly trimmed and reformatted (but not otherwise edited) extract of part of the discussion.

I really find it difficult to follow what you consider to be valid logic.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/v/val-snd.htm will give you a primer. Read and digest.

I read your primer for about two seconds and I found this.

"A deductive argument is sound if and only if it is both valid, and all of its premises are actually true. Otherwise, a deductive argument is unsound."

I disagree. I'd say that the soundness of an argument is a measure of its deductive validity.

Then you have no idea what you are talking about. "Sound" is a technical term in formal logic, not subject to debate or interpretation. You may as well say that you think that the equivalence of two additive expressions is a measure of its approximate satisfaction of your requirements -- it's nonsense; "soundness" and "equivalence" are formal terms (in logic and mathematics, respectively) with very precise definitions.

If the premises are true and the deduction is valid then that makes the deduction also true, doesn't it. A sound argument only needs to have relevant premises and valid reasoning, in my opinion.

You don't get to inject your own opinion of the meaning of "sound", "valid", "plus", "minus", or "equals". If we are speaking of logic, you may safely assume that we are using the terminology of logic.

An argument therefore would be sound if it addressed a problem and came up with a reasonable and relevant solution. Since we don't always know whether premises are actually true when we use them in deductive logic, we need a general adjective which indicates that the logical processes of an argument have been correctly folowed, and I'd say that adjective could be "sound". So generally, "soundness" refers to the reasoning processes and not to the truth of the premises, which could always be in doubt.

Also there is a comma, placed incorrectly before the word "and". What's more, unless the word "actually" is supposed to indicate an element of surprise, it's redundant.

So I don't think I'll read your logic primer further, thankyou. I don't think I need it.

Clearly not…


Aug. 29th, 2008 12:08 pm
haggholm: (Default)

The idiocy of anti-vaccine activists is now threatening the health and lives of people in my area. The general problem is fairly well described by a New York Times editorial (August 24):

There has been an upsurge of measles cases in the United States, mostly because of parents’ misguided fears of vaccinations. The number is still relatively small — but climbing. In the first seven months of this year, 131 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than during the same period in any year since 1996. No deaths were reported, but at least 15 patients were hospitalized.

Most people have forgotten, but measles was once an uncontrolled scourge that infected three million to four million Americans annually. Victims typically suffered a rash, fever and diarrhea, but severe cases could lead to pneumonia or encephalitis. In bad epidemic years, some 48,000 Americans were hospitalized, 1,000 more were chronically disabled, and 400 to 500 died.

Then the development of effective vaccines and compulsory vaccination of schoolchildren drove the disease to the sidelines. Health authorities declared that measles had been eliminated from the United States in 2000. Only a few score cases have been reported annually in recent years, mostly imported from abroad.

Nearly all of the outbreaks this year were triggered by a mere 17 travelers or foreign visitors who contracted the virus abroad. The alarming wrinkle this year is that, once the virus is imported, it seems to be spreading to more people than before.

Outbreaks have occurred among home-schooled children who escaped the compulsory school vaccinations, and among children whose parents oppose vaccination, for philosophical and religious reasons or fear that the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is dangerous. Many fear that the vaccines cause autism, a theory that has been thoroughly debunked by multiple studies and by authoritative medical organizations.

Israel, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Britain are reporting sizable outbreaks of measles among populations that have refused vaccination. Although vaccination rates remain high in this country, some experts fear that they may be starting to drop. Because it is so contagious, measles is one of the first diseases to reappear when immunization coverage declines. If confidence in all vaccines were to drop precipitously, many diseases would re-emerge and cause far more harm than could possibly result from vaccination.

haggholm: (Default)

The Bible is historically accurate.

…Say what?

It actually astonishes me that anyone could utter such a breathtakingly inane argument in a religion-versus-atheism sort of debate, and that's saying something, because the bar isn't set high (often not on either side). How on Earth can anyone think that inserting some accurate statements, post hoc, makes a document more credible?

haggholm: (Default)

How to combat agricultural pests according to the precepts of biodynamic agriculture:

Field mice are to be countered by deploying ashes prepared from field mice skin when Venus is in the Scorpius constellation.

Besides sympathetic magic, as above, the biodynamic magicians also use homeopathy, which is another form of magic. (Homeopathy is the magic art of taking a small bottle of water or sugar pills and selling it at a price as though for actual medicine—a mark-up of supernatural proportions.)


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