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Everything posted by wellnamed

  1. Random but related: I saw this article yesterday and the number kind of blew my mind (n.b. I have no idea how skeptical you should be of this data either :P) Ethiopia plants more than 350 million trees in 12 hours
  2. I did try to provide an outline of the answer to the question of where the data comes from. I'm not sure if it actually helped or not One thing I was thinking the other day is that it seems like some of the debate on climate change is a useful context for thinking about making decisions while taking account of uncertainty, or risk. I think to some extent our normal language makes this seem harder than it is? That is we tend when speaking about stuff like climate to reduce the question to either "do you accept this or not?" as a very binary thing. And it seems like a false dichotom
  3. Your question seems like a misunderstanding to me. The data from the 19th century are not estimates of global temperature, they are thermometer reports from various ship and ground stations. The global temperature anomalies are estimated from aggregating all of the different station reports from a given time period and applying various corrections to them. The estimates then are the result of applying modern techniques to very old raw data. Bearing in mind that I'm disclaiming any expertise, you can find a lot of information about how this works from looking up various articles. On
  4. It is definitely known that data sets used for measuring climate change (say temperature anomalies at various locations over time) are messy. Whenever I've looked at IPCC publications they usually account for that by charting measures along with some indication of the estimated error. Just as a random example, I did a Google Image Search for "IPCC temperature anomaly with error bars" and the first result was this chart from NOAA, where the little gray bars above and below the line represent the uncertainty, most of which (as I understand it) is a result of known measurement issues,
  5. I'm by no means an expert but I believe I've read cosmologists who argue that big bang cosmology doesn't actually say anything about a "before", or really anything about the singularity. The theory and all of the data are extrapolations back towards a kind of asymptote, but not an attempt to say anything about what could exist (or not exist) "before the big bang", as it were. The real work is trying to explain conditions at time T0 + δ for increasingly small (but not 0) deltas.
  6. I agree that "quantum foam" is not really nothing in the philosophical sense usually meant in the context of asking about being and nothingness, or whether something can come from nothing. I tend to think the underlying question about "why is there something rather than nothing" (which I think is closely related) is unanswerable. There's a line of argument related to the Principle of Sufficient Reason here, and I tend to think that principle is not absolutely true, or at least probably not knowable. Instead, it seems to me that it's probably necessary to take as a principle of prag
  7. I kind of gave up after season 1, which was hit or miss for me. I love the book though.
  8. I believe it is here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1071-0 Full text: https://s3.amazonaws.com/wellnamed/10.1038%40s41586-019-1071-0.pdf
  9. Fair enough, for my purposes the fact that it's not widely accepted is good enough for answering the question. The original concept of the aether is wrong, at the very least, I think. New theories adopting that term notwithstanding?
  10. The reason for the paragraphs is to point out that you're probably asking the wrong question to begin with Like I said, the labeling has more to do with the use of scientific methods than anything else. It would still be called a theory if it were proven false. It would just no longer be used in the same way. For example, you could refer to the idea of the "aether" as a scientific theory, it's just one that's been disproven.
  11. this essay is pretty great:



    As I’m writing this, Wyoming’s state legislature just voted to preserve capital punishment in the state. Some legislators made the usual tough-on-crime excuses for their votes, but one state senator, incredibly, offered that the death penalty was good enough for Jesus, so we should keep it because if you think about it, we really owe our salvation to capital punishment. This conceivably could just be an episode of the show, but if you extend the logic far enough, you get to “we need to have the death penalty ready to go if any messiahs show up"...


  12. Another thing I like to think about, regarding knowledge in general: One of the classical definitions of knowledge is "justified, true belief". That is, we can say we "know that P" if and only if we believe that P, we are justified to believe that P, and P is true. There are some interesting issues with that definition (cf. Gettier problems), but I think that really all of epistemology boils down to just that one element: justification. Putting aside technical terminology for a second, what makes science valuable as an approach to knowledge is just the effort to justif
  13. The point in the wiki entry about black swans is just a point about logical induction in general, and also of abduction (inference to the best explanation). Inductive conclusions do not have the same logical force of necessity that deductive proofs (e.g. in math). This is an inescapable fact of epistemology that one just has to accept. Theories are not facts in some simple sense. But, it may be helpful to think in terms of probability. The better tested a theory is, that is the more opportunities there have been for empirical falsification, and the wider the range of phenomena for
  14. Sort of an entertaining thing on interpretation: this is the second time recently I've heard someone interpret the golden rule as "treating you the way I like to be treated" (instead of treating you the way you would like to be treated, or treating you the way I expect I would want to be treated if I were you). I always interpreted is more or less in the latter way, along with "love your neighbor as yourself. I thought the point was to reflect on the idea that other people are also Selves, Subjects, in the first person, rather than just objects, others, in the second/third person. It's about
  15. I think these are all profoundly important realizations for any kind of secular humanism.
  16. I think there's a lot of truth to that statement: "A religion is a cult that won". But it's interesting to think about what winning means. You hit on part of it: winning means lasting long enough to where the founders (e.g. charismatic cult leaders?) no longer matter as much as ongoing cultural development within the group. A great modern example is the LDS church. It definitely began as a cult by typical standards. Even by religious standards there are some pretty weird ideas in their sacred texts written by Brigham Young or Joseph Smith. I wouldn't argue with folks (especially ex-Mormons) wh
  17. Oof. I'm glad you have money and a plan! Sounds like a bad situation, and I'm glad you're getting out of it.
  18. You can't possibly expect me to pass up opportunities to post links to Pew Research. That's my #2 hobby.
  19. On ideology, cf. Gallup. AFAIK this association has been pretty stable for a long time, so I'd expect to find similar results from other surveys, I just grabbed this one quickly. Here's a slighly older Pew survey with similar results. Of course it's worth noting that it's not as if the highly educated are overwhelmingly liberal, they are just more liberal than the less educated on average. (And I should probably clarify that I wouldn't read "more educated" here to mean "smarter" or "less educated" to mean "dumber", or anything like that. :P) On religiosity, the strength
  20. I wouldn't entirely dismiss "personal experience". In a very real sense data actually is the plural of anecdote. Ultimately empiricism is all about experiences, yours mine and everyone else's. Clearly more data is better than less because you cannot assess the representativeness of an single data point, and methods for gathering data also matter, e.g. one case in a scientific study is probably more reliable than one anecdote sloppily remembered. And also how credible I'd find someone's claims of experience would depend on whatever prior probability I might assign to those experiences being rea
  21. Complex Societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history -- Pretty interesting little research snippet on the development of complex societies and religion

    1. Orbit
    2. sdelsolray


      Yes, a well written research paper.

  22. I'm always looking for good book recommendations, and I'm currently out of books. The last two science books I've read, which I can definitely recommend were: Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny -- Written by an evolutionary anthropologist, this book discusses something like 30 years of research into Evolutionary Developmental Psychology. In essence: the processes through which children grow into "fully human" adults (ontogeny), and how those processes are similar and distinct from ontogenetic processes in our closest primate relatives. Pretty fascinating stuff. If you're looking
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