Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

As a child, I knew how to appreciate Christmas. If you'd asked me, I would have said something like this. "Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus' birth, and Jesus was perfect, so when he was born we all knew we were going to be saved." But it wasn't until I was an adult that I really got a handle on how to think about Easter.

Joseph Smith taught, "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." Notice: the Savior's mission was not completed by his death. It was complete when he returned from beyond physical and spiritual death and blazed a trail for us back into heaven.

If Christmas is the day we celebrate the arrival of the Savior who would someday save us, Easter is the day on which we celebrate the fact that he actually did what was impossible to any of the rest of us: died, was resurrected, ascended into heaven and was exalted to his Father's (and our Father's) throne on his Father's (and our Father's) right hand where he beckons to us, "Come unto me and be where I am." And some of us have already (the scriptures say that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob "have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods"--see D&C 132:37) and others of us yet will when we have finished our testing. And Easter is when we celebrate that future.

Easter, fundamentally, is Resurrection and Exaltation Day.

Happy Easter!

-Max

--

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.


"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Crackpot science

[The writer clearly has an agenda so I'll take the "crackpottery" generalization with a grain of salt unless/until I know more about the historical context and the extent to which a given scientist was denigrated by his community. Nevertheless, this is an intriguing list. I'd like to know more about all of these stories firsthand. -Max]

From http://amasci.com/weird/vindac.html

Weird science versus revolutionary science

While it's true that at least 99% of revolutionary announcements from the fringes of science are just as bogus as they seem, we cannot dismiss every one of them without investigation. If we do, then we'll certainly take our place among the ranks of scoffers who accidentally helped delay numbers of major scientific discoveries throughout history. Beware, for many discoveries such as powered flight and drifting continents today only appear sane and acceptable because we have such powerful hindsight. These same advancements were seen as obviously a bunch of disgusting lunatic garbage during the years they were first discovered.

In science, pursuing revolutionary advancements can be like searching for diamonds hidden in sewage. It's a shame that the realms of questionable ideas contain "diamonds" of great value. This makes the of judging crazy theories far more difficult. If crazy discoveries were always bogus, then we'd have good reason to reject them without investigation. However, since the diamonds exist, we must distrust our first impressions. Sometimes the "obvious" craziness turns out to be a genuine cutting-edge discovery. As with the little child questioning the emperor's clothing, sometimes (but rarely, of course,) the entire scientific community is misguided and incompetent. Sometimes only the lone voice of the maverick scientist is telling the truth. 

Below is a list of scientists who were reviled for their crackpottery, only to be later proven correct. Today's science texts are dishonest to the extent that they hide these huge mistakes made by the scientific community. They rarely discuss the embarrassing acts of intellectual suppression which were directed at the following researchers by their colleagues. And... after wide reading, I've never encountered any similar list.[1] This is very telling. 


"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." - Jonathan Swift

THE LIST: scroll down 

To add: B Belousov, Carl Woese, Gilbert Ling, John C. Lilly

"Concepts which have proved useful for ordering things easily assume so great an authority over us, that we forget their terrestrial origin and accept them as unalterable facts. They then become labeled as 'conceptual necessities,' etc. The road of scientific progress is frequently blocked for long periods by such errors." - Einstein

"Men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they think laughable." -J. W. Goethe


Some ridiculed ideas which had no single supporter:
  • Ball lightning (lacking a theory, it was long dismissed as retinal afterimages)
  • Catastrophism (ridicule of rapid Earth changes, asteroid mass extinctions)
  • Child abuse (before Kempe 1962, doctors were mystified by "spontaneous" childhood bruising and broken bones)
  • Cooperation or altruism between animals (versus Evolution's required competition)
  • Instantaneous meteor noises (evidence rejected because sound should be delayed by distance)
  • Mind-body connection (psychoneuroimmunology, doctors ridiculed any emotional basis for disease)
  • Perceptrons (later vindicated as Neural Networks)
  • Permanent magnet levitation ("Levitron" shouldn't have worked)

"The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated." - Wilfred Trotter, 1941


"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false." -Paul Johnson



--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pilate and Jesus

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, "Art thou the King of the Jews?"

Jesus answered him, "Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?"

Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?"

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."

Pilate therefore said unto him, "Art thou a king then?"

Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world..."

I finally understand this bit of dialogue. Pilate comes to ask Jesus, "Are you king of the Jews?" Jesus says, "Point of clarification: are you asking whether I am denying my previous teachings, or are you asking whether I am fomenting insurrection from a Roman legal standpoint?" Pilate says, "I don't care about Jewish prophecies; I just want to know if you're breaking any Roman laws." Jesus says, "No." But he says it in such a way that Pilate is intrigued, and gives Jesus the chance to say, "No, but I am the Savior of the world" and testify of his own divine mission. And of course as everyone knows, Pilate is impressed with him, despite himself, and even tries to save him from the mob--but ultimately Pilate doesn't have the spine to risk his political future just to save some nobody from Galilee from being framed for treason, even if he is an impressive nobody.

Under similar circumstances, Martin van Buren once told an oppressed people, "Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you; if I [help] you I shall lose the vote of Missouri."

I used to feel more sympathy for Pilate than I now do. He wasn't a bad man, but he wasn't a valiant man either.

-Max

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ambiguity

A couple decades ago, Richard Heuer wrote a book for the CIA to help improve the quality of their analysis. In chapter two (available online here) he mentions an interesting fact about a certain drawing:


"The right-hand drawing in the top row, when viewed alone, has equal chances of being perceived as a man or a woman. When test subjects are shown the entire series of drawings one by one, their perception of this intermediate drawing is biased according to which end of the series they started from. Test subjects who start by viewing a picture that is clearly a man are biased in favor of continuing to see a man long after an "objective observer" (for example, an observer who has seen only a single picture) recognizes that the man is now a woman. Similarly, test subjects who start at the woman end of the series are biased in favor of continuing to see a woman. Once an observer has formed an image--that is, once he or she has developed a mind-set or expectation concerning the phenomenon being observed--this conditions future perceptions of that phenomenon."

This in a nutshell is American journalism today. Reporters who started off with one set of beliefs--that they were in the process of viewing one disaster--are completely blind to the evidence that's actually coming out, indicating a quite different disaster is actually occurring. (Details of which scandal/disaster aren't important to my point.) This is why CNN/MSNBC and Fox News almost seem to be reporting from completely different universes right now; it's not that they're malicious or actively conspiring to lie--they just started at different ends of the series of drawings, and they're not fighting to overcome their biases and see the picture with fresh eyes. They're not evil; they're just not any brighter about their own psychology than the average intelligence analyst.

It is however possible to do much, much better than the average, if you work hard at intellectual honesty. That's what real science is about.

~B.C.

P.S. The Joseph Smith quote in my .sig seems relevant. "Shall I bear them down? No." etc. Note to self: try to be patient with people when they're seeing a different picture than you.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, March 2, 2017

CO2 trends vs temperature

I mentioned to a friend on Facebook that global temperatures have mostly levelled off compared to CO2, and he got confused and gave me a link to a claim that January 2017 was the "third-warmest January on record." That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the fact that we've done NOTHING substantive to reduce CO2 outputs, so total atmospheric CO2 continues to climb approximately linearly--but temperatures basically stopped rising around the year 2000.

It seems like an important fact to be aware of for anyone who wants to understand global warming.

You see how the gap between the red line and the blue line keeps growing after the year 2000 or so? It's hard to know for sure, but possibly that's because physics says that adding more CO2 to an atmosphere has diminishing returns: CO2 captures energy in certain bands, but at a certain point it's already capturing pretty much all of the energy and after that point more CO2 doesn't matter--except of course that if CO2 concentrations get a few thousand times higher it will kill you from CO2 poisoning. (You can die from oxygen poisoning too, but IIRC CO2 is lethal in lesser concentrations. "The dose makes the poison" as they say--almost anything can kill you if you have too much of it.)




(http://www.climate4you.com/images/MSU%20UAH%20GlobalMonthlyTempSince1979%20AndCO2.gif)

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."