Category Archive 'Superstition'
23 Sep 2014

The Science of Climate Change Demonstrated

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at last weekend’s Climate March. Yes, what we have here is science, alright.

ClimateMarch

Via Vanderleun.

01 May 2013

This Marvellous Age of Science

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Winston Churchill as a boy owned, played with, and undoubtedly cast and painted lead soldiers. He owned something like 1500 hundred of them –probably one of the largest juvenile collections ever on the planet–, and no one ever thought Churchill intellectually impaired.

The Left, as we all know, has Science on its side, and its regime of experts intends to govern us guided by the insights delivered by established science.

The Left’s supposedly science-based policies, however, have a tendency to resemble primitive superstition, frequently incorporating Ousiaphobia (My own neologism: “the fear of substances”) which in every way resembles the sort of fear that primitive natives manifest toward things declared taboo by tribal witchdoctors.

Our own witchdoctors come with Ph.D.s, of course, and our politicians enthusiastically embody taboos in legislation. One particularly notorious example was the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 which banned ever-more-minute levels of the taboo element LEAD (symbol: Pb) in children’s toys, &c.

That particularly absurd piece of legislation had much more far-reaching implications than banning the importation of toys painted with lead paint from China. It effectively prohibited the sale of used (and antique) toys carrying traces of the forbidden metal, and when the law (passed under George W. Bush, mind you) went into effect early in 2009, it was thought also to ban all children’s books printed before 1985, because (oogah, boogah!) back then printers’ ink contained minute quantities of lead. The act banned lead in levels of 300 parts per million, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission promised that it would enforce the ban since “[g]iven the way that kids tear and chew through library books… it’s unlikely that libraries have many children’s books that are more than 24 years old.”

Our federal government has declared all children’s books printed before 1985 taboo on the basis of the belief that children customarily eat books.

Apparently, the book purge is still underway, four years later. A commenter on a publishing blog (read by my wife) reported yesterday.

My regional library system got hit hard by the requirement to riff all the older kids books (lead in the ink, natch). That really flubbed up their budget. I suspect they are not alone in this. The Friends of the Library group has stepped up and done a lot, but I’ve noticed the number of new acquisitions is declining.

Most people in America go to school for sixteen long years. They get science courses, and learn that Darwin proved that life arose spontaneously by chance, and that Natural Selection is good as a basis for rejecting traditional religion, but is absolutely not to be tolerated in human society. I presume everyone gets Chemistry courses and learns that lead is an element, is a metal, and is heavy. Chemistry courses probably inform people today that compounds of heavy metals tend to be very poisonous, but it is clear that the relationship, or lack thereof, between very poisonous and “300 parts in a million” is very evidently not made clear. Neither is the obvious necessity of employing common sense and testing theories against historical fact.

If exposure to books with infinitesimal amounts of lead in the ink they are printed with really impacted children, every youngster who was so foolhardy as to devote significant time to reading would have to be presumed to have damaged his intelligence. In reality, it’s the children who read a lot who went on to get scholarships to Yale.

Winston Churchill monkeyed around with lead during his childhood on a scale which would obviously appall today’s scientific experts. You can bet that he handled, fondled, ordered and re-ordered, and played with every single one of those 1500 lead soldiers. He undoubtedly was additionally equipped with molds for making more of them, and he doubtless, like most hobbyists of his ilk, poured melted lead and cast his own lead soldiers which he then trimmed, tidied up, and painted. The boy Churchill’s hands were, you can count on it, soiled with lead on many a day.

I fished with lead sinkers as a boy, and during some periods, I too used a lead pot, casting my own sinkers. I also learned to handload ammunition, and cast bullets. Amazingly Churchill lived to the age of 90, and I’ve made it into my sixth decade myself.

07 Mar 2013

Witchcraft in 19th Century Chile

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Francisco Goya y Lucientes, The Bewitched Man. 1798, National Gallery, London.

The last major witchcraft trial took place in Chile in 1880. The memory of this unusual event was revived by British travel writer Bruce Chatwin in his highly-praised first book, In Patagonia (1977).

Apparently, a local sect of male witches called La Recta Provincia, “the Righteous Province,” operated a sort of protection racket, punishing persons refusing to pay by supernatural means or merely murdering them. Accounts of their activities include the organization of a large underground system of government rivaling conventional governmental authority, the mutilation of children, and elaborate initiation ceremonies and rituals involving the use of human body parts.

Smithsonian has an interesting account of all this which could be more detailed, but which finally concludes with the concession that, in the end, the stories of supernatural powers and activities failed to persuade Chilean authorities, and that most of the relatively modest sentences originally handed down were overturned on appeal.

13 Nov 2012

In Japan, Blood Types as Destiny

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The BBC reports on the Japanese obsession with ketsueki-gata, a form of racialist junk science resembling astrology, which claims to be able to predict a person’s personality, temperament, and behavioral propensities from his blood type.

[In Japan,] a person’s blood type is popularly believed to determine temperament and personality. “What’s your blood type?” is often a key question in everything from matchmaking to job applications.

According to popular belief in Japan, type As are sensitive perfectionists and good team players, but over-anxious. Type Os are curious and generous but stubborn. ABs are arty but mysterious and unpredictable, and type Bs are cheerful but eccentric, individualistic and selfish.

About 40% of the Japanese population is type A and 30% are type O, whilst only 20% are type B, with AB accounting for the remaining 10%.

Four books describing the different blood groups characteristics became a huge publishing sensation, selling more than five million copies.

Morning television shows, newspapers and magazines often publish blood type horoscopes and discuss relationship compatibility. Many dating agencies cater to blood types, and popular anime (animations), manga (comics) and video games often mention a character’s blood type.

A whole industry of customised products has also sprung up, with soft drinks, chewing gum, bath salts and even condoms catering for different blood groups on sale.

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Types defined at length.

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Condoms (accompanied by special romantic advice) and perfume are marketed by blood type.

19 Oct 2012

Geek Zodiac

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I get for a sign:

The Robot — Law Abiding, Dedicated, Logical, Stubborn, Intractable, Cold

I’m not especially law abiding, but it’s otherwise not a bad description.

Any real Geek, of course, would be intelligent and analytical enough to dismiss at once the notion that every human being born in the same year could possibly have the same personality traits.

28 Jan 2011

Subsidized Techology and Cold Weather

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Charles Lane was moved by a bad commuting experience to reflect on the insanity of governmental efforts to promote less efficient and impractical automotive technologies in the name of environmentalism.

Count me among the many thousands of Washington area residents who spent Wednesday night stuck in traffic as a snowstorm sowed chaos all around us. Being car-bound in sub-freezing weather for six hours can make a guy think. I counted my blessings. The situation could have been worse, I realized: My fellow commuters and I could have been trying to make it home in electric cars, like the ones President Obama is constantly promoting, most recently in his State of the Union address. …

This subsidized market niche is just one well-publicized malfunction away from disaster. Perhaps a Volt battery will overheat and burst into flames, as some computer batteries have been known to do. Or maybe a Leaf driver will suffer frostbite while stuck in the next blizzard. Let’s just hope one of his neighbors pulls over to help him out.

Modern efforts by government to promote the use and adoption of inefficient and uneconomic technologies by cash subsidies in pursuit of newer, tidier means of doing things we can do perfectly well and much more cheaply already resemble the obsessive efforts of pre-modern European princes to create gold by funding alchemical experiments. Throwing money in the direction of superstition does not actually create new industries and technologies. It just wastes money.

21 Jun 2010

The Drums Are Talking, The Natives Are Restless

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We have a much larger journalism pollution problem than the current oil spill represents. Government responses, costs to government and private industry, and public interest in the matter have all been massively inflated by orders of magnitude beyond anything rational or appropriate, all for the self interest of journalists and news organizations. The American public is simply led around by the nose by people with the resources and ability to exploit and exaggerate the significance of certain kinds of unfortunate events.

Who cares about those oh-so-terribly-fragile, fishy-smelling, mosquito-infested marshes? What about the impact of all the journalism pollution on energy costs, people’s jobs, American due process, the rule of law, our political decision-making processes, and the ever-expanding role and power of government and the immense regulatory burden we all have to pay for?

Take sensationalist reporting out of the equation, and we have an unfortunate industrial accident with some serious economic costs and a few seasons of regional environmental impact. Add in the media and we have a circus of emotional Sturm und Drang fueling stupid policy choices and lawless governmental behavior, with devastating long-term costs to every consumer in the country, the entire economy, and the trajectory of American government.

My understanding is that there are something like 4000 oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The last major accident was in 1979. One oil spill every 30 years, one serious problem in a generation, strikes me as a pretty decent record.

Exactly how many gazillion dollars of extra energy cost would it be worth to reduce by some undefinable percentage the itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, remote possibility that every so many decades there could be an accident, fouling so many miles of beaches and inconveniencing the fishing industry (and a certain number of pelicans) for several seasons?

Perfection, of course, is unobtainable, even if regulations and costs are piled to the sky, there is always going to be
happenstance, human error, and acts of God.

What happens in America when something goes wrong is that the press sees an opportunity to run with the story and to play heroic watchdog of the public interest. A scapegoat is always required for our civic religious ritual. The press gets to identify some business entity as heartless, irresponsible, and greedy, and one or more public officials as incompetent or corrupt. The press can do whatever it pleases with the data. Words are easy. Capping leaking wells is hard. There is always the same moral. We need bigger and more active government. We need to spend more in taxes and regulatory costs. Then, once we have punished the scapegoat(s) and made due sacrifice to Leviathan, all will be well. The Great Big Nobodaddy Government will see to it that life will be perfect and nothing will ever go wrong again.

14 Jun 2010

Press and Public Think Government Has Magical Powers

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“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Gene Healy describes how our popular cultural habit of demanding intervention by a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient state will produce no real results other than a larger and more powerful state. The government will not, however, develop the desired capabilities of preventing untoward events and effectuating instant solutions.

Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?” 11-year-old Malia demanded Thursday morning while the president was shaving. Poor President Obama: even his kids won’t give him a break about the Gulf oil spill.

Tough. It’s hard to feel sorry for the “Yes We Can” candidate, who got the job by stoking the juvenile expectation that there’s a presidential solution to everything from natural disasters to spiritual malaise.

But the adults among us ought to worry about a political culture that reacts to every difficulty by screaming “Save us, Superpresident!”

It’s “taking so doggone long,” Sarah Palin wailed, for Obama “to dive in there” (literally?). “Man, you got to get down here and take control!” James Carville screeched. “Tell BP, ‘I’m your daddy!'”

When Hurricane Katrina hit, liberals who had spent years calling President Bush a tyrant suddenly decided he wasn’t authoritarian enough when he hesitated to declare himself generalissimo of New Orleans and muster the troops for a federal War on Hurricanes.

Now the party of “drill, baby, drill” — the folks who warn that Obama’s a socialist — is screaming bloody murder because he’s letting the private sector take the lead in the well-capping operation. It’s almost enough to make a guy cynical about politics.

What do Carville, Palin, et al. want the president to do? “Replace [BP] with what?” asks Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, commanding officer at the scene. As the president admitted Thursday, “The federal government does not possess superior technology to BP,” which is trying to clean up its mess with backup from a team of scientists and engineers assembled by the feds.

Should Obama travel back in time and institute better regulation? “He could’ve demanded a plan in anticipation of this,” Carville insists.

Perhaps, but it’s hardly surprising that a president who sits atop a 2-million-employee executive branch, pretending to run it, hasn’t magically solved the problem of bureaucratic incompetence or devised a plan to deal with every conceivable hazard life might present. …

The public’s frustration is understandable. But the unreflective cry “Do something!” usually results in policies that follow the logic immortalized in the BBC comedy “Yes, Minister”: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore we must do it!”

In Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, that “something” was legislation (thankfully repealed in 2008) giving the president dangerous new powers to use troops at home to restore order and institute military quarantines during natural disasters or disease outbreaks. …

BP will pay dearly for its apparent negligence, ending up poorer and smaller as a result of the spill. Not so with the federal government: disasters are the health of the state.

That dynamic won’t change as long as pundits, pols and the public embrace the poisonous notion that the president is America’s daddy.

01 Apr 2010

Islamic Jurisprudence in Action

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“Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock”

Remind me why the civilized world stopped practicing Colonialism again.

CNN:

A Lebanese man charged with sorcery and sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia is scheduled to be beheaded on Friday, the man’s lawyer said Wednesday.

May El Khansa, the attorney for Ali Hussain Sibat, told CNN that she and Sibat’s family were informed about the upcoming execution. She said she heard from a source in Saudi Arabia with knowledge of the case and the proceedings that Saudi authorities “will carry out the execution.”…

Sibat is the former host of a popular call-in show that aired on Beirut-based satellite TV channel “Sheherazade.” According to his lawyer, Sibat would predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.

El Khansa told CNN her client was arrested by Saudi Arabia’s religious police (known as the Mutawa’een) and charged with sorcery while visiting the country in May 2008. Sibat was in Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic religious pilgrimage known as Umra.

Sibat was then put on trial, and in November 2009, a court in the Saudi city of Medina found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

According to El Khansa, Sibat appealed the verdict. The case was taken up by the Court of Appeal in the Saudi city of Mecca on the grounds that the initial verdict was “premature.”

El Khansa tells CNN that the Mecca appeals court then sent the case back to the original court for reconsideration, stipulating that all charges made against Sibat needed to be verified and that he should be given a chance to repent.

On March 10, judges in Medina upheld their initial verdict, meaning Sibat is once again sentenced to be executed.

09 Dec 2009

The Flagellants Are Coming

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People in the Middle Ages were so dumb they inflicted pointless suffering on themseves

Dies Irae 7:41 video

As the New York Times so convincingly demonstrates, the most dangerous hazard mankind faces is human stupidity.

If negotiators reach an accord at the climate talks in Copenhagen it will entail profound shifts in energy production, dislocations in how and where people live, sweeping changes in agriculture and forestry and the creation of complex new markets in global warming pollution credits.

So what is all this going to cost?

The short answer is trillions of dollars over the next few decades. It is a significant sum but a relatively small fraction of the world’s total economic output. In energy infrastructure alone, the transformational ambitions that delegates to the United Nations climate change conference are expected to set in the coming days will cost more than $10 trillion in additional investment from 2010 to 2030, according to a new estimate from the International Energy Agency.

As scary as that number sounds, the agency said that the costs would ramp up relatively slowly and be largely offset by economic benefits in new jobs, improved lives, more secure energy supplies and a reduced danger of climate catastrophe. Most of the investment will come from private rather than public funds, the agency contends.

“People often ask about the costs,” said Kevin Parker, the global head of Deutsche Bank Asset Management, who tracks climate policy for the bank. “But the figures people tend to cite don’t take into account conservation and efficiency measures that are easily available. And they don’t look at the cost of inaction, which is the extinction of the human race. Period.

14 Jul 2009

Saudi Family Sues Genie

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Litigation explosion’s latest victim

This news item from the LA Times makes it clear that adoption of sharia law by western jurisdictions will only produce an increase in litigation in new and interesting ways.

A family in Saudi Arabia has filed suit in a religious court against an unnamed genie, or jinn, who sounds most unpleasant: It steals cellphones, whispers threats and occasionally flings stones.

“We began to hear strange sounds,” a family member who requested anonymity told the Saudi daily Al Watan. “At first we did not take it seriously, but then stranger things started to happen, and the children got particularly scared when the genie started throwing stones.”

The genie — or genies — had demands: “A woman spoke to me first, and then a man. They said we should get out of the house,” said the family member, adding that his clan fled their home near the city of Medina. …

Sheikh Amr Al Salmi, head of the local Sharia court, said he will investigate the family’s claims that it has been harassed for two years: “We have to look into this case and verify its truthfulness despite the difficulty of
its consideration,” he told the Saudi daily. “What is interesting is that the complaint has come from every member of the family, and not just one.”

06 Jul 2009

Interest Groups Opposing Cap-and-Trade Bill

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House members never bothered to read the Cap and Trade Bill, but Iowahawk did, providing in his latest an update on some key provisions provoking controversy.

The President’s landmark ‘Cap and Trade’ bill faces an uncertain fate this week, as congressional backers of the carbon-limiting legislation face mounting opposition from a myriad of interest groups angered by its controversial ritual virgin sacrifice provision.

“We are asking our members to send a strong message to Washington that this bill is wrong for America’s energy future, and wrong for the virgin community,” said Bret ‘Aslan’ Crawford, a spokesman for the Action Figure Collectors of America. “Power virgins, activate!”

The 87,492 page bill — official designated as the American Patriotic Renewal Act of 2009 for Carbon Reduction, Energy Independence, Heathy Climate, Sustainable Job Growth, Adorable Puppies, and Earthly Paradise — is a keystone in President Obama’s first year legislative agenda, and was originally anticipated to get swift congressional passage. Instead, it faced a unexpectedly tough vote in the House last week after coal state Democrats complained it would place an unfair economic burden on their home districts.

In order to secure the votes of wavering Democrats, House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman inserted several last minute amendments to the legislation, including provisions for national oxygen rationing, witch burnings, dousings, and phrenology research. But the one that has seemingly stoked a grassroots backlash is the controversial Sexually Inexperienced Citizen Environmental Volunteer Amendment. The wording of the amendment calls for all American virgins over the age of 21 to register with the Selective Sacrifice Board, for possible use as victims in nationally televised vivisections intended to “supplicate the Earth-Spirits.” …

“Congress and the Administration really stirred up a hornet’s nest of virgins with this bill,” said longtime Washington-watcher Michael Barone. “The response really caught them flat-footed. I don’t think they realized just how adept the virgin community is at computers, and how much time they have between ComiCons or SpaceCons or whatever-cons. Instead of calling into sports radio shows, now they’re calling the capitol switchboard.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended the bill, saying that “it is critical that we do something immediately to show we are serious about solving this climate crisis. Without burnt offerings of taxes and virgins, Gaia will smite us all in her angry burning wrath. So let me just say to the corporate and virgin special interest groups — don’t come crying to us in 400 years, when our temperatures are up almost 1 degree celsius.”

Pelosi denied the bill was anti-consumer, pointing out it contains specific infrastructure and job creation funds. It specifies 500,000 unionized positions to construct a planned 300-foot tall National Eco Pyramid and Virgin Sacrifice Altar in Youngstown, Ohio, as well as funds to train over 20,000 youth volunteer earth-priests in live beating heart removal.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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