The Voyage of Captain Obvious

Grading is satanic

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The joy of research.

So here I am, after all these years of damn grad school. I've got an idea for a research project of sorts, and I've been working out the details--but nowadays I have this paranoid fear that any idea I get will just backfire in my face and not work out. It weirdly leaves me productive, but also filled with a morbid dread.

I just need to goddamn graduate, methinks.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


This weekend, my parents are in town from the big old hometown. On one level, this is totally great, as I love my parents, and I'm very happy to be seeing them. On another level, however, it is stressful has hell.

I constantly feel like I'm letting them down, and that is the conclusion that most of our yelling matches leave me with. Multiply this with the endless drama between the various families in my general immediate family, and it creates a lot of weirdness.

Regardless, I'd like to wish a happy wedding to my cousin. I hope she finds a life of wedded bliss. And I hope to find the strength to survive this weekend.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Because we all hate nonsense stereotypes

This week has been declared impromptu blog against strawfeminism week via bitch, phD. So, go out young madams and sirs, and remind the world that, once again, there are very few people that are actually seeking to disenfranchise men and force women into lesbian lifestyles against their wills, etc., etc.

Remember, it all still is about equal pay for equal work and having the same opportunites afforded to you int he world, regarldess of what conditions your birth happened to occur under.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Remember when Condi said that noone could predict a mass hijacking scheme with planes being used as weapons?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hi again.

Well, a weekend of pretty big ups and downs. Had a great Sat and Sun, though. Maybe I'll get into more specifics later. Also, very soon, I will be having more musings about the Cardinals. Life has just really pushed me around recently.

But what interests me right now is this post over at Cosmic Variance. There is a lot to read there that is pretty interesting, but the thing that bothers me about a lot of the tone. It's something that I have noticed quite a bit from the outright, unabashed athiests out there. It's a seeming surety about the world that may or not actually be present. The Planck energy is 1019 GeV. Currently, we have tested energies up to 1000 GeV, or so (really, nowhere close to that). That means that we have only explored 0.00000000000001% of the energy range that current science purports to describe. Making absolute claims about the way that the universe behaves seems kind of silly in this context.

I am not giving fodder to the Intelligent Design nuts. What they purport to do is reject the mountain of evidence in front of us, and simply make odd sorts of hypotheses that, lo! and behold are completely compatible with the belief system of most mainline Protestants. What an odd congruence!! This entire project essentially results what Science purports to do. IDers make a hypothesis, and attempt to twist the data in front of them to conform to said hypothesis. It is the sort of reasoning that makes Aristotle very difficult for modern readers to take in context. This is even further made rediculous due to the essentialism inherent in observing the universe, and from that, concluding that a designer whose only well-defined trait is the tendency to create a universe just like ours. My favorite questions are always of the form "why not this?" and ID-type reasoning is totally antithetical to this.

Ok, having shown why I really despise the approach that IDers take, now I want to take a closer look at why I think that the absolutist, "athiesm is truth" type arguments end up falling on deaf ears, and end up being abrasive and counterproductive at best, and wrong at worst.

The primary reason that I have to believe this is that science and religion have nothing to say to each other. For the sake of this article, I will define science as a process by which one makes and tests claims. I am going to say nothing about the standards which are required to test claims, except to note that it is essential that claims are testable and disprovable. Religion means different things to different people, but for the sake of brevity, I am going to lump religion into two categories.

First, you have religions that take practice centrally. These are systems by which one practices certain rituals and 'ethical' behavior, but does not concern themselves any more than superficially about the reasons behind these behavior. An example of this type of religion might be, at one level, Confucianism, which has a belief system, but it is a very flexible one, and is very much secondary to the set of rituals which the religion requires*. Catholicism also has some elements of this sort of religion. Ok. So, the point is, that this type of religious practice has little, if nothing to do with science. It makes no external truth claims, and therefore, has noting to verify or disprove. It is overtly agnostic. It's why, in China, so many other religious traditions were able to comingle and integrate themselves without expelling the extant Confucian practice--they didn't conflict with the practices of Confucianism, and therefore, were perfectly fine. Similar things are true for various Pagan religions in the west, as well for the incorporation of some pagan practices into Christianity. Even when the belief system around the religion changed, the practices remained. Consequently, if the religious system of this type, then science has nothing to say, because the practices will simply incorporate themselves into whatever truth claims that the scientific community deems allowable.

Then, you have the revelatory religions. These are based around basic truth claims, that are, in turn, based either in an oral tradition or upon a written scripture. The world is looked at taking these claims as axiomatic, and everthing else as derived. Examples are mainline Protestantism and Islam, amongst many others. Note that although Catholicism has elements of a religion of practice, it also has revelatory elements. Now, this type of belief would seem to be much more contradictory toward the science. And clearly, it's practicioners are the ones that are causing much of the hostility that religion feels toward science. However, this perspective is, I think, wrongheaded and doesn't properly look at what is being really said, on either side. The nature of revelation is that each instance of revelation is a one time, supernatural occurance. One cannot repeat revelation, nor can one really use post-revelation evidence to test whether or not information was revealed. On the other side, the revelatory documents really say nothing direct about the natural world, having often been written by ancient sources that had no definite definitions of the terms that are being interpred oh so literally.# Often, with the mere reading of these texts in their proper historical context, and taking into account the contemporary rhetoric, most of these apparent contradictions can be ignored, since, after all, most religious texts are way, way more concerned with establishing basic ethical principles than they are with establishing that the Earth was flooded for exactly forty days and forty nights. And if you don't buy this, fundamentalists, then why does every Gospel record different contents of the cave after the Ressurection?

On a deeper level, the revelatory religions also have nothing to do with science due to their basic approach. In revelation, everthing starts at universal axiom, and works its way down. Science, really, starts very empirically--looking at things, figuring out how they work, and then trying to come up with an explanation that gives a justifiable reason why these things work this way. It is never truly universal--these claims are only valid over the domain in which they have been tested. This leaves a religious person free to argue that, in a larger context, things work out to be consistent with the religious doctrine, leaving religion impossible to disprove--it's claims are universal (in a very absolute sense--to the religious, God exists everywhere, and affects everything, so using a small part to destroy the means by which one understands the whole is a fool's errand), and centered around one-time, untestable occurances. Since most religions are robust enough to not be truly disproven, then science has nothing to say to religion, and religion has nothing to say to science.

Anyway, I've always found agnosticism a viewpoint far more consistent with the scientific mindset than is outright athiesm. If you've made it this far, thanks for your interest, and my congratulations!

*Note once again, that I am going to be relatively brief about various traits of religions. I am attempting to speak very generally about religions in order to get at this science/religion split. Thus, these sorts of examples are intended more to establish what the hell I am talking about, rather than to give a comprehensive, or even introductory overview of individual religions. If more sourcing is wanted, say so in the comments, and I will go and do it.

#It also should be noted that Biblical literalism, particularly about the time of creation and the unfolding of the events in Genesis, is largely a 19th century event. Before then, it was seen as largely foolish to try and trace back the exact day when the Creation happen. This is a position that Rabbis still hold, from what I hear.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Stressed Out

I've been feeling stuck in the middle for quite a while recently. Some of it is having a good ol' long term relationship end. Some of it is the seeming endlessness of grad school. Some of it is terror about my future non-job prospects. But the more I think, the more I realize that I need to graduate and get the fuck out of Texas.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Deadspin has introduced me to the glory that is this comprehensive list of sports-related political donations since 1978. Sadly, I discover that Jack Buck was a supporter of none other than Todd Akin, though perhaps there is some local, personal connexion that I am missing. Much more insane is the fact that Don King has given almost a quarter million to political candidates, though 70% of it is to Republicans. But this is where I have to scream something:

Goddamn you, Harry Reid, stop fucking taking money from Don fucking King. It looks really fucking awful. It's Don fucking King!! He had someone killed, for fuck's sake!!

That is all.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

And in other news...

The president has forgotten that the Supreme Court has already ruled on something. Big suprise.

But seriously, they are actually considering prosecuting journalists for leaking information in an atmosphere where the primary leaks that people are talking about are ones that reveal that the administration is violating basic Constitutional Law? Do they even give a fuck how this looks?

In essence, this would be like four year old me getting caught taking a cookie from the counter. One of my parents would come in, notice this, and yell at me. My response would be to claim that they were violating my privacy, and having a right to privacy, I would have to call child protective services on them if there were a similar offense.

The difference, of course, is that everyone is fucking taking Bush at face value here. We'll hear people going on the talking head shows talking about national security, blah blah, espionage act, blabber, blabber. And what you will only hear in one sentence, is that Bush is doing this because leakers have shown him to have violated the US fucking Constitution. This is a tactic used by the President to insulate himelf from the consequences of his actions, but everyone pretends like his abstract general arguments are to be taken at face value.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has already decided whether or not the press is allowed to say what it wants. They can prosecute all the reporters that they want, but from the smoke and ashes, the fact is that the Constitution and case law protects political speech to an insane degree (to the point that politicians are allowed to essentially lie in campaign commercials), and there is nothing that they can really do.

God I hope so.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A question:

I got this photo from

And does anyone else agree that the Korean uniform looks really cheap? Like extremely so? Like Chan Ho Park here is getting ready to start warming up as a ringer for the 4077th, with Alan Alda sitting on the sidelines talking about how clever he is, and how the 4058th doesn't know what's coming at them?

Until a villiage gets bombed, and we learn that baseball is, after all only a game, and we can never forget how horrible a war is.

Or perhaps Chan Ho Park is an alcoholic, and he takes the mound drunk, and teaches Alda a lesson about bringing in ringers, and then gambling on the team.

Whatever. That uniform is horrible.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Drunk Driving: a proposal

Our current drunk driving laws are stupid.

Drunk driving is ubitiquous.

We all agree on these facts. Parts of the population drive drunk regularly, while some guy who is barely over the legal limit is the one who ends up with the $5,000 fine and the massive insurance hit, etc. etc. And the reason is that the current law is set up so that politicians can appear 'tough on crime' while not actually doing anything about crime. If we wanted to reduce drunk driving problems, cities would attempt the following:

1) If you have a liquor liscence, you have a breathalyzer it should be publicly availible, and should display what the legal limit is. Current law makes it impossible to decide whether or not you are actually following the law, because it is a mystery what your blood alchol level is. If it were convenient for people to measure their blood alcohol level, then there would be much, much less excuse for people to ignore the law. This would also give popele a way to help control how drunk they got, independently of the driving issue. How many times have you sat down drinking with your friends, and when it's time to go, youve ended up having more to drink than you thought.

2) Have the buses run late, and offer taxi call services. This is already done at the city I live in, but it could be expanded. It should be expected. Give people an option to be responsible, and there's a much greater chance that they'll be responsible.

3)Consistently apply penalties. Don't run around targeting normal people who had two beers on super bowl sunday. Instead, keep the patrols going at 2:00 AM, consistently. Every night. I almost never see cops out that late. I should.

4)Punish people by taking their driving rights, rather than by exhorbitant fines. First offense, you can only drive to work along a single, court-ordered route. Second offense, no driving for you. That would discourage people far more than insane fines that you have a 1/100 chance of seeing applied. anyway, most people I know don't even know how big these fines are, and thus, they serve as a small dterrant to them.

I think that these things would probably combine to truly reduce the rates at which people drive drunk. Do you have any ideas?


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I hate IQ tests more than almost anyone,

but this is damn funny.