Archive for August, 2019

Is ALL Advocacy and/or Advertising now Potentially Partisan According to Elections Canada?

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

If saying climate change is real could be seen as partisan activity just because some candidate or other denies it, then surely the same would apply to all advertising for, say, Coke or Pepsi if some candidate expressed a preference and intent to favour one or the other (esp. if in government contracts)  – or more realistically, if some politician spoke out against the widespread marketing of both these and other similarly poisonous addictive beverages.

Perhaps having to report their advertising budgets as third party political advocacy would not be too much of a burden on the big soft drink companies, but they would not be the only ones so labelled, and the loss of charitable status for healthy food advocates would be a nasty consequence of having their cause taken up more by some politicians than others.

So, if this interpretation stands then clearly the legislation was incompetently written. But perhaps the real takeaway is that all charitable contributions should be no more eligible for tax deduction than political ones. A fixed per person limit would both reduce the window for scammy self-serving “donations” and provide less encouragement for the wealthy to distort our pattern of social service by giving massively greater support to those charities that they happen to approve of.

Source: Saying climate change is real could be seen as partisan activity during election campaign, Elections Canada warns – The Globe and Mail

The Earth’s carrying capacity for human life may not be “fixed” but it IS bounded!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Ted Nordhaus’ disappointing essay in Aeon Ideas provides encouragement to those who would deny the need to end human population growth. Of course Earth’s carrying capacity is not fixed, but regardless of what future technology may bring, it will always remain several orders of magnitude less than “standing room only”. And allowing growth before ensuring that it can be supported will just guarantee more of the hardship and starvation that was happening before the “green revolution” (whose primary author was adamant about its giving us only a “breathing space” in which to come to terms with our looming “Population Monster”(*))




(*) From his Nobel Prize address in 1970: “The green revolution has won a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space. If fully implemented, the revolution can provide sufficient food for sustenance during the next three decades. But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise the success of the green revolution will be ephemeral only. Most people still fail to comprehend the magnitude and menace of the “Population Monster”…Since man is potentially a rational being, however, I am confident that within the next two decades he will recognize the self-destructive course he steers along the road of irresponsible population growth…”[34]

Is There really a Naturalistic Case for “Free Will”?

Monday, August 12th, 2019

In The Naturalistic Case for Free Will: The Challenge, Christian List opens a series of posts at The Brains Blog discussing some key ideas from his book ‘Why Free Will is Real’ (Harvard University Press, 2019).

But if Free Will is defined, even just on a “first gloss”, as “an agent’s capacity to choose and control his or her (or its?) own actions”, then surely it does exist – even for an agent as simple as a programmed light switch (which chooses whether to switch on or off depending on what it perceives by way of motion and/or warm objects in its environment). So the “Free Will” that is denied by some must certainly be more than this (though rather than deny its existence, I would rather say that I have never seen a coherent definition of it).

What neither the light switch nor the human agent possesses is the capacity to change its own programming for past decisions. A human, or even a suitably programmed learning agent, can of course modify the part of its “program” that will make future decisions, and even may modify its own learning algorithm; but neither he, she nor it has the capacity to modify the program with which it started.

What is relevant for ethical and legal discussions though is not some mythical mystical property that is possessed uniquely by humans, but rather the property of responsibility – by which I think we should mean the capacity to modify ones future behaviour on the basis of responses (praise, censure, punishment, reward, etc.) that one receives, or perceives as being received by others as reactions to past decisions.

What is Oil used for?

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Well in fact about 85% of it is just burned as fuel.

But according to the Daily Caller website, “A mere 46 percent of oil is used to make gasoline, while the rest goes to help make a variety of other useful products. The other 54 percent of oil is used to make most over-the-counter medicines, various cleaning products, some rubber, tons of cosmetics, many lubricants and most of the world’s asphalt. Virtually all plastic, and every product made from or containing plastic, ultimately comes from oil. Out of every 42-gallon barrel of oil, 22.6 gallons is used to make products other than gasoline.”

But by priming the reader to make a false assumption, that quote is in fact a lie (since despite the long list provided, most of those “other useful products” are also fuels – and are not included in the list)

Checkout this pie chart

pie chart

Source: Oil refinery – Wikipedia

In fact, according to the British Plastics Federation “In Europe, it is estimated that between 4–6% of oil and gas is used for producing plastics. By contrast, 87% is used for transport, electricity and heating — meaning it is simply burnt and lost.” (ie converted to CO2 in the atmosphere)