Stay away from fatties

They’re contagious:

It may seem like bad news for the thin among us, but socialising with people heavier than yourself could make you put on weight…. where two people who are friends for a long time, and where one is heavier than the other, the thinner friend tended to increase in weight by up to 57 per cent over time.

No offense to the heavyset, you understand, it’s just that it’s catching….

Education vs Economics

Nature questions the assumed wisdom of churning out more PhDs:

In developed nations, the number of PhDs given in the sciences each year has grown by almost 40 percent since 1998, reaching about 34,000 doctorates in 2008. This type of expansion sounds great in theory: interest in the sciences is growing, and we now have a population that is more educated than ever. However, the effects of this worldwide trend are troubling. The workforce cannot absorb all these highly trained graduates, there is little money to support these expensive programs, and the quality of education is often low, among other problems. This week’s issue of Nature examines the problems with the expansive growth of the PhD.
A worldwide phenomenon

Worldwide, the plan is essentially the same: to stimulate the economy by educating the population. Increasing the number of students that pass through the higher education system isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but the resources must be there to make the system work. In much of the world, this just isn’t the case.

I have three observations. First, why are we supposed to respect scientists for their intelligence when they obviously can’t figure out simple concepts like “supply and demand” or bother to do enough research to see if there will be any jobs available in their field by the time they finish collecting degrees.

Second, the idea that education produces economic growth is one of the more obvious post hoc ergo propter hoc arguments I’ve ever seen. Given that there is now sufficient empirical evidence gathered in numerous countries to prove this is untrue, how many decades will need to pass before it is abandoned as a political policy? I would say the over/under must be at least two.

Third, I contend this supports my point that the advancement of science is a consequence of societal wealth, not a cause of it.

The peril of the popular intellectual

No matter how copiously one cites the pertinent studies which purportedly prove your assertions, there is always the danger that someone might actually take your ideasthe ridiculous ideas of someone else you have popularized seriously enough to put them to an empirical test:

On his 30th birthday, June 27, 2009, Dan had decided to quit his job to become a professional golfer.

He had almost no experience and even less interest in the sport.

What he really wanted to do was test the 10,000-hour theory he read about in the Malcolm Gladwell bestseller Outliers. That, Gladwell wrote, is the amount of time it takes to get really good at anything — “the magic number of greatness.”…

The Dan Plan will take six hours a day, six days a week, for six years. He is keeping diligent records of his practice and progress. People who study expertise say no one has done quite what Dan is doing right now.

It’s not exactly a secret that the middlebrow Gladwell is completely full of it. His books appeal primarily to the half-educated, -1 to +1 SD intellects that soak up information insufficiently critically to notice the unsound foundation upon which most of his conclusions are based. Of course, Readers Digest created a small empire catering to the tastes of such readers, so there are not only a lot of them, but they tend to read more than the norm in search of that feeling of intellectual self-improvement that Gladwell sells so effectively.

It should be interesting to hear Gladwell attempt to explain away the inevitable failure of his thesis. Perhaps he’ll even get another best-selling book out of it.

Zombie apocalypse in the making

This explains all the recent movies and TV shows. It was a warning from the PTBs: killer fungus turning rainforest ants into colonies of zombies

Sure, they say it’s just ants now, but how long will it be before scientists employed by the U.S. government start experimenting with the fungus? You know they won’t be able to resist playing with it anymore than they left the killer WWI flu virus alone. Or worse, what if the fungus is extraterrestrial… and by extraterrestrial, I mean from Yuggoth!

Freudian fraud finally finished

Amazing. The fact that psychiatry is a completely bogus pseudoscience concocted by the lunatic ravings of an Austrian pervert couldn’t kill off credentialed talk therapy for more than 100 years, but simply making insurance companies pay for such “therapy” appears to have it on the edge of extinction in less than a decade.

Alone with his psychiatrist, the patient confided that his newborn had serious health problems, his distraught wife was screaming at him and he had started drinking again. With his life and second marriage falling apart, the man said he needed help. But the psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Levin, stopped him and said: “Hold it. I’m not your therapist. I could adjust your medications, but I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Like many of the nation’s 48,000 psychiatrists, Dr. Levin, in large part because of changes in how much insurance will pay, no longer provides talk therapy, the form of psychiatry popularized by Sigmund Freud that dominated the profession for decades. Instead, he prescribes medication, usually after a brief consultation with each patient.

Is there any chance we can force insurance companies to pay for Neo-Keynesian economics while we’re at it? But in light of how we were contemplating earlier those white-collar jobs that can be automated, it occurs to me that psychiatry is clearly an occupation that can be easily replaced with software programs that are much cheaper than psychologists or even social workers. How hard can it be to make a synthetic speech program that asks “so how does that make you feel”, “I’m sensing you harbor some ambivalence about your mother”, and “I’m just going to prescribe you Xanax and we’ll see how that works for you.”

We are not alone

An announcement of extraterrestrial life:

We are not alone in the universe — and alien life forms may have a lot more in common with life on Earth than we had previously thought.

That’s the stunning conclusion one NASA scientist has come to, releasing his groundbreaking revelations in a new study in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology…. Though it may be hard to swallow, Hoover is convinced that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, the remains of living organisms from their parent bodies — comets, moons and other astral bodies. By extension, the findings suggest we are not alone in the universe, he said.

“I interpret it as indicating that life is more broadly distributed than restricted strictly to the planet earth,” Hoover told “This field of study has just barely been touched — because quite frankly, a great many scientist would say that this is impossible.”

If a great many scientists say extraterrestrial is impossible despite the fact that they can’t possibly know with any degree of certainty, we can safely conclude that it will be discovered relatively soon, assuming it hasn’t been already. But I’m less interested in yet another exercise in the foolishness of scientists throwing away their credibility in unscientific opining than I am in this question: would the proven existence of extraterrestrial life tend to support the Christian view of Creation or undermine it? Or would it depend upon the form in which that extraterrestrial life takes?

Killer vaccines

The Supreme Court renders vaccine makers unaccountable:

The Supreme Court today gave vaccine manufacturers greater protection from lawsuits by parents who say vaccinations harmed their children, ruling that Congress had blocked those types of claims against drug makers. In a 6-2 decision, the justices said Congress had effectively shut the courthouse door to these lawsuits in 1986, when it created a special vaccine court designed to compensate victims of vaccine injuries.

Contrary to the common assumption, I am not uniformly anti-vaccine. I think some vaccines make sense and represent a reasonable risk. On the other hand, I simply do not understand those people, especially left-wing scientists, who insist that all vaccines are intrinsically good. The following questions spring to mind:

1. Why does profiting from vaccines rather than anything else magically make a corporation intrinsically good rather than presumably greedy and evil?

2. How can one justify vaccines for non-lethal and non-communicable diseases on the basis of historically lethal and highly communicable diseases?

3. If vaccines are not capable of causing serious harm to children, why is it necessary to set up a system to compensate children who have been harmed and immunize vaccine makers from financial responsibility for those their products have injured?

4. How can anyone rationally claim that science uniformly supports vaccine use when no empirical studies that actually utilize the scientific method of experimentation and observation are utilized in testing vaccine safety?

5. Why do pro-vaccine advocates attack those who don’t vaccinate their children according to the vaccine schedule when doctors specifically tell parents not to vaccinate their children according to the schedule if an older sibling has had a negative reaction to a vaccine?

6. Why do pro-vaccine advocates assume that vaccines which are proven to be safe for adults are also safe for infants and toddlers who weigh a fraction of what an adult weighs?

Now, based on the principle of “follow the money”, I am confident that the current vaccine schedule is significantly more dangerous than most anti-vaccine people believe. If they were anywhere nearly as safe as advertised, it wouldn’t be necessary to provide special protection to the manufacturers. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense to get vaccinized for tetanus and polio, but why on Earth would it make sense to take any risk, however slight, in order to avoid getting a cold or the chicken pox?