Friday, October 23, 2009

Urban myth hits the internet. Media coverage ensues.

What can you not prove with a little mathishness? A good question.
About a month ago there was a little coverage about a pharmacy put up its online calculator that tells you the number of indirect sexual partners you've had. What is an indirect sexual partner it's someone you've not had sex with but one of your sexual partners has. Which basically is that old urban myth twaddle about you're not just sleeping with someone, you're sleeping with everyone they've ever slept with, only with a place to modify the numbers.
People take some stuff really seriously. Like these guys: The Independent. The Christian Institute. This dude. And at the risk of channeling Ben Goldacre form a moment, the common factor is that they lazily breathlessly copied the press release without even so much as a challenge to the basic assumption or the execution.
So let's whinge for a moment.
First execution. You enter your current age, number of sexual partners and your gender. Then you select the age of each of the sexual partners. The calculator uses the average number of partners for someone that age and then applies the Kevin Bacon principle by calculating back six 'generations,' again by average number.
What it doesn't seem to care about is overlapping networks. If you go out that far, a lot of the people are doubled up. Someone that you slept with has slept with someone who has slept with someone who has slept with someone you also slept with.
In other words if Kevin Bacon is in a movie with Goldie Hawn and one with Kurt Russel he's been in movies with two people not with four.  Add Kate Hudson to the mix. A movie with Kate and one with Goldie gives you 3 (including Kurt in the indirect mix) people, not six, Goldie plus 2 indirect and Kate plus 2 indirect.
So there's a built in bias to exaggerate the numbers. It's all about overlapping sets.
But the assumption is sold as STI (STD, VD or whatever they're calling it now) awareness. And this is where it really fails.
One because it doesn't tell you anything about your actual risk but instead tries to bamboozle you with big numbers. (Actual Scaremongering Headline: Average Brit adult has indirectly slept with 2.8m people! 2.8 million! Jesus Titty-Fucking Christ, that's more pussy than Wilt Chamerblain.) But what does that tell you about risk?
Why? Because safe sex with a hundred people puts you at very little risk, while unprotected sex with 3 hookers in a Bangkok back-alley puts you at a hell of one.
So what is the real assumption?
Basically it's devoted to the idea that there's an inherent taint to sex that is passed from person to person. Otherwise there's no reason to consider 'indirect sex' with someone who hasn't passed a disease on.
Imagine someone telling you that you're not just shaking hands with a person, you're also shaking hands with everyone they've ever shaken hands with. You'd think they were nuts, wouldn't you? Try it again with 'hug.' Sounds every bit as ridiculous, wouldn't it?
What what we have is pseudo-scientific moralizing...
Load of crap.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Holy Hopin’ Fuck! Now that’s some old style bullshit.

A justice in the US regularly quizzes couples to make sure they aren’t mixed race before issuing marriage license; if they are they don’t get one.

Fuckin’ fuck. In 2009 how the fuck does this happen?

And in a stunning show of cognitive dissonance these two quotes:

Keith Bardwell, of Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana, denied racism but said mixed-race children were not readily accepted by their parents' communities.


He said: "I try to treat everyone equally."

I had a great-uncle who said this sort of thing:

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," he said "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

I was 10 and though it was a specious argument. But he was old and from a different time…And he was a sign painter, not a fucking justice.

This guy should be run out of town, but it being Louisiana he’ll end up with a memorial plaque or something.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Great Video on the Fine Tuning Argument

The universe is not "fine-tuned"
Not really sure what else to say about this. Clear and well presented.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Krishna says no moon for you.

As long as I've been reading Bad Astronomy I thought I'd seen most of the arguments against the moon landing. They're nuts but they're based on some misperceived reality.
Through Steven Novella of the NESS, I learned of a whole new form of crazy:

Man On The Moon–A Colossal Hoax that Cost Billions of Dollars | Hare Krishna Community
Although many believe man first reached the moon in July, 1969, we have information from a very reliable source, the Sanskrit Vedic scriptures, that the astronauts never actually went to the moon. The manned moon landing was a colossal hoax.
Now I know what you're thinking - that makes sense. How do we know that the books tell the truth? Because  they're perfect. And they're perfect because they tell the truth...You know the drill.
And they lead to the inevitable conclusion:
Despite the tremendous volume of propaganda proclaiming the “conquest of outer space,” we have information from a very reliable source, the Sanskrit Vedic scriptures, that the so-called “astronauts” never actually went to the moon. Although most people hold it as an article of absolute faith that man first reached the moon in July, 1969, the manned moon landing is actually a colossal hoax.


Why do you accept the popular version of the manned moon landing? Because you believe the authority of the scientists, the journalists, and the politicians who propagate that version. When we cite the Vedic scriptures, which state that the “astronauts” could not have gone to the moon, we are simply favoring another authority. In both cases, it is a matter of accepting an authority and believing what it says.

Now, why do we believe the Vedic scriptures rather than the material scientists? Because the Vedic scriptures differ from the conclusions of material science in that they are not based on imperfect sensory investigation, but are apaurusa i.e., they emanate from God, who is beyond the material world. In other words, Vedic evidence stands above the defects of conditioned souls within the material world. Thus, when it comes to real scientific knowledge, the standard of Vedic authority is perfect because it originates directly from the all-perfect, omniscient Personality of Godhead.

The Vedic account of our planetary system is already researched, concluded, and perfect. The Vedas state that the moon is 800,000 miles farther from the earth than the sun. Therefore, even if we accept the modern calculation of 93 million miles as the distance from the earth to the sun, how could the “astronauts” have traveled to the moon–a distance of almost 94 million miles–in only 91 hours (the alleged elapsed time of the Apollo 11 moon trip)? This would require an average speed of more than one million miles per hour for the spacecraft, a patently impossible feat by even the space scientists’ calculations.

Yeah, that's the crazy. Same old special pleading, appeal to authority and circular reasoning. The big difference is it's harder to type Bagavad-gita than Bible but otherwise it's the same old shit.

And somehow this guy feels motivated to say that fundamentalist thinking could be a little bit bad:

Fundamentalism will damage society, says top scientist - Science, News - The Independent
The existence of a supernatural being in the form of a god who can dish out punishment in the afterlife may have been an important force in the past that helped to keep societies together as co-operative entities – but not so in the future.