Archive for December, 2011

Trust in Neurons

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

This review in American Scientist claims that, despite its subtitle, Patricia Churchland’s book doesn’t tell us much about morality. And in a sense, if the description is true (and I’ll find out soon), then I am inclined to agree since I see a big difference between “morality” and “moral behaviour”.  But I still expect to find  lots of interest in the neuroscience of moral behaviour (trust and cooperation), and I  see that as foundational to a further study of the basis of actual morality itself (which I identify with the distrust and enforcement behaviours that are necessary in a population in order for moral behaviour patterns to survive and prosper).

What Are The Goals of the Atheist Movement?

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

What Are The Goals of the Atheist Movement? | Greta Christina’s Blog.

Or more to the point for me. What are my goals in wasting time on all this nonsense?

There must be some, so perhaps I’ll add more here when I think of them.

A Curious Definition of Freedom

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Afghanistan: Imprisoned Rape Victim Freed. – where in this context, apparently “freed” means transferred into the permanent custody of her rapist.

Taxing the 1%:

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

According to this ( Taxing the 1%: Why the top tax rate could be over 80% | vox – Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists), lowering the top tax rate just meant that the top 1%  had more reason to argue for taking a bigger share of the pie without actually causing any relatively better performance of the businesses and economies for which they were responsible.

…while standard economic models assume that pay reflects productivity, there are strong reasons to be sceptical, especially at the top of the income distribution where the actual economic contribution of managers working in complex organisations is particularly difficult to measure. In this scenario, top earners might be able to partly set their own pay by bargaining harder or influencing compensation committees. Naturally, the incentives for such ‘rent-seeking’ are much stronger when top tax rates are low. In this scenario, cuts in top tax rates can still increase top income shares – consistent with the observed trend in Figure 1 – but the increases in top 1% incomes now come at the expense of the remaining 99%. In other words, top rate cuts stimulate rent-seeking at the top but not overall economic growth…


The data seem to support this rent-seeking explanation  (as opposed  to actual increased productivity), since:


For example, countries that made large cuts in top tax rates such as the United Kingdom or the United States have not grown significantly faster than countries that did not, such as Germany or Denmark. Hence, a substantial fraction of the response of pre-tax top incomes to top tax rates documented in Figure 1 may be due to increased rent-seeking at the top rather than increased productive effort.

Pilot Error?

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

This annotated Flight-Data Recorder Transcript from Air France 447  (from Popular Mechanics) makes it clear that the real problem was an egregious control system design flaw which seems to defeat the main purpose of dual controls and prevented the more senior pilots from realizing what a panic stricken junior was doing. It also seems to me to represent a bit of  a counterpoint to what happened in the Korean Air Lines tragedy where a junior co-pilot was too polite to contradict the misunderstanding of his more senior colleague. Here the two older guys just didn’t seem able to grasp the fact that, despite perhaps still sounding normal, the young one had completely lost his senses.

Not Credible

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

How could this be real? Obviously, anything carrying such valuable secrets would have to have a 100% reliable built in self-destruct mechanism set to go off whenever it fell below a certain altitude anywhere away from its home base.

More On Determinism

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

It may have been completely predictable that I would decide to write this  response to the latest round of  blog posts from Sean Carroll and others, but that does not diminish the significance (or validity) of the thought processes and intentionality behind this action.



YaGottaWonder about “Philosophers”

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

In the course of proposing a kind of religion that is free from superstition, Julian Baggini, in a post at the Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’ blog, says:

if you cannot say you agree that “Religious belief does not, and should not, require the belief that any supernatural events have occurred here on Earth”, then it follows that you think religion does require the belief that some supernatural events have occurred here on Earth.

..or perhaps just that it is not required to exclude such belief !!!

Anyone that careless shouldn’t be surprised if others don’t take him seriously. And any discipline he represents is tarred with the same brush.