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Posts Tagged ‘science’

To the best of my knowledge, there exists absolutely no scientific evidence today in favor of any statistically significant genetic difference in mental abilities across races. Yet, I do not think we understand genetics well enough to absolutely rule out such a possibility. So I do not rule out the possibility that African Americans, are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. In fact, I do not rule out this possibility for any race — Whites, South Asians, Mongoloids, Eskimos.

My position on the matter is identical to Eugene Volokh’s. “Whether there are genetic differences among racial and ethnic groups in intelligence is a question of scientific fact. Either there are, or there aren’t (or, more precisely, either there are such differences under some plausible definitions of the relevant groups and of intelligence, or there aren’t). The question is not the moral question about what we should do about those differences, if they exist. It’s not a question about what we would like the facts to be. The facts are what they are, whether we like them or not.”

The same is true for other group classifications, such as gender. In fact, according to noted Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker and many other experts, there is fairly good evidence of differences in mental abilities between males and females. For certain mental tasks it appears that males, on average, are genetically better equipped; for certain others, females are.

What is important is this: Even if some differences in mental ability exists across groups, given the extremely large variation between individuals in any group, these differences are irrelevant from a  moral or legal standpoint. It is not racist or sexist to suggest or believe that differences exist on average; it is racist and sexist to suggest we should treat people differently purely because they belong to a certain group.

What is even more important is this: The culture of pervasive political correctness today that makes is impossible to ask such questions without facing a huge backlash and social ostracization is stifling to intellectual curiousity, degrading to our intelligence and speaks only ill of our open-mindedness; in short like everything else associated with political correctness it is evil.

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Apparently there is something called World Homoeopathy day.

A function was held in [Kanpur] to observe the World Homeopathy Day. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Anil Katiyar, a noted homeopath said, “The good aspect is that homeopathy is capable of curing a person completely and there are no side-effects from this mode of treatment.”

I posted on homoeopathy previously here.

But the most brilliant demolition of irrationality ever is the poem below. Enjoy:

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Ryan Avent on the incompatibility of climate science and some libertarians:

That is to say, confronted by a problem demanding solutions inimical to libertarian beliefs, libertarians were faced with the choice of reneging on their beliefs or turning their back on science. Tellingly, they chose the latter. One might think that’s a rather drastic decision, given the role scientific endeavors have played in delivering the material prosperity so dear to the hearts of the libertarian world, and one would be right.

A belief system that cannot grapple with the fundamental reality of a situation is, quite simply, not a belief system worth having. 

I agree completely with Avent’s last sentence. I am also a libertarian. So what goes?

First off, Avent is wrong in his basic claim. There are very many libertarians who approach scientific questions scientifically. And most of them conclude that human induced climate change is real. Sure, some libertarians do turn their backs to science, but it is wrong to use that as an excuse to tar the whole movement.

Secondly, what Avent and others of his ilk forget is the question of how to deal with the problem of climate change is not merely a scientific one. It is perfectly consistent and reasonable to accept that AGW is happening and still reject most of the solutions being proferred. The question of what to do about any problem (or indeed, whether to do anything at all) depends not merely on an analysis of the problem (this is the scientific part) but also of how much value, that is costs and benefits you attach to each aspect of the problem and the possible solutions (and their consequences). This is where analysis and ideology interact in a complex manner.

I had a conversation with a friend a week ago. He asked me the following question: what would I do if I had to choose between truth and libertarianism? I answered that such a choice would never be necessary. Sure, the pursuits of truth and happiness do conflict, and so do freedom and happiness. But I cannot conceive of truth and freedom ever conflicting. I believe my moral axioms are good enough to ensure that.

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As I wrote in the comments following this post, I believe parents — being responsible for the birth and day to day care of their children — should also have considerable freedom in how they choose to raise them. Short of physical abuse or gross neglect, they have an absolute right to bring their children up in the way they think is best and teach the kids their religious and moral beliefs or whatever else they feel strongly about. Nothing will convince me that the state has any business interfering in those matters or that telling your kids about heaven or hell (or the superiority of socialism) amounts to “child abuse”.

However I draw the line when the parents’ beliefs actually lead them to deny their children vital medication or other fundamental assistance the lack of which may lead to death. Thus, I agree with every word Andrew Sullivan writes here:

We rightly understand sexual abuse to be horrifying and a legitimate reason to intervene. But withholding vital medication from a child out of religious or ideological reasons strikes me as no less abuse. I’m reminded of this acutely by the case of Christine Maggiore, a woman I met and interacted with as another person with HIV. Christine adamantly denied that HIV was related to AIDS and refused anti-HIV medication on those grounds. She died last week. Of AIDS. That was her choice, it seems to me, however tragic it is.

What was also her choice, however, was to refuse anti-HIV meds when pregnant and then to refuse HIV meds for her daughter when she was born. Eliza Jane lived three years before succumbing to HIV-related pneumonia. Magiore was never prosecuted for negligence, since she had taken Eliza Jane to doctors. One of those doctors suffered mild professional consequences.

What rights did Eliza Jane have to protect her very life from her own mother? What rights did Jett Travolta have under the control of Scientologist parents? I find it hard to believe they had none; and I find the sympathy for parents under those circumstances to be misplaced.

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Set aside 30 minutes today to watch this wonderful presentation by Bjorn Lomborg on global warming.

Lomborg is no libertarian — he is a liberal who favours a welfare state and strong redistribution through taxation — and  indeed, there is no mention of any intrinsic value of freedom and property rights in his presentation. His arguments are basically value-neutral and only rely on maximising efficiency. However, including an assignment of intrinsic value to liberty into our analysis (one corollary of that is, if the outcomes of two actions are similar, we should favor the less-coercive one) only strengthens Lomborg’s conclusions about a sane, scientific and non-reactionary approach to the problem of global warming.

It’s a great video and I am not saying that just because I agree with almost everything he says. And thanks Reason, for hosting this event and producing this video. I am glad I donate to you folks.

[Edit: Looking around the web, I find some who accuse Lomborg of cherry-picking, or at least under-stating facts to suit his views. I am a mathematician, not an expert on global warming, but I did go through those objections in detail and followed through to many of the cited papers. My opinion stated above about the essential correctness of Lomborg’s position is unchanged.]

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“That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.”

P.C. Hodgell

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There is still no cure for AIDS, but science has come a long way towards controlling it. Antiretroviral therapy has progressed so much in the last two decades that, according to current reports, a person who started taking the drugs at age 20 will on average live another 43 years.

And we can expect the science to keep getting better. Thus, a man in his 20’s who gets infected with HIV today can probably expect to live — by a conservative estimate — to his 70’s. That’s a remarkable state of affairs for a disease that only a decade ago was equated with a death sentence.

Of course, I still recommend that you use condoms when there is no intent to procreate!

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