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Adrian Griffis
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I have quite a few friends whom I respect who frequently repost various Republican claims on Facebook and other fora. These claims are often contradicted by counter claims on the Democratic side our ideological disagreements. I’m faced with the same question many of you face: Who are we to believe?

Let me take an indirect approach to my answer to this question and ask a related question: Once I’ve explained my answer to the above question, why should you believe me? That question ought to come to my mind, if I'm the least bit interested in swaying your opinion in the direction of mine.

Of course, if I address this argument to people who already agree with me, I don't have to work hard at all on my argument. The real challenge is to sway the opinions of people who disagree with me. Once I take that step of targeting my argument to people who disagree with me, it changes everything. It pushes me to look for weaknesses in my own position, because I'd rather catch those weaknesses, myself, than have an opponent point them out to everyone else. It pushes me to try looking at my position from my opponent’s point of view, so I can include answers to possible counter arguments in my original argument. And it's just possible that my efforts to prepare an argument for the opposition will help me figure out that I'm wrong.
We humans have a tremendous capacity for making mistakes. The responsible thing for each of us to do is to accept this and to find ways to mitigate our bad habits and to discover our mistakes so we can drop our mistaken beliefs as quickly as possible. And, who can be better at helping us catch our mistakes than someone who respectfully disagrees with our beliefs.

There are many kinds of courage we can show, not all of them are easy to recognize. Our culture often does a poor job of recognizing intellectual courage. It's the courage to admit that we can make mistakes and to set out to confront, in ourselves, the very human failings that lead to many of our mistakes of belief. This courage leads us to value respectful dissent. If I have intellectual courage and I offer respectful dissent, I'm inviting you to try to sway my own opinion, if you feel that I'm mistaken. If you over a respectful argument to my position, you may well be offering me a fair chance to sway your opinion.

One who lacks intellectual courage tends to discourage dissent. Differing opinions are met with ridicule. The dissenters, themselves, are met with reflexive insults. The points the dissenters are making are not usually addressed. To be good at addressing these points, one has to practice respectful discourse, and without intellectual courage, one gets little of this kind of practice.

There is a kind of culture in the world, scattered across many different countries which attempts to encourage intellectual courage. It is the culture of science. Make no mistake, the scientists in this culture are human and make plenty of mistakes. Some of them never really get the idea of intellectual courage. But still, much of the culture of science is setup to teach that courage. If you pursue a Ph.D. in science, you will become accustomed to having your papers criticized ruthlessly be scientists who want to believe your findings are wrong. Perhaps they prefer alternate theories or perhaps they are jealous of your success. But if you really want to increase your standing in the scientific community, you can’t simply complain that your detractors are rude or suggest they are of bad character. Character flaws and conflicts of interest are grounds for suspicion, but not for dismissing other viewpoints. You must address claims about evidence and methodology.

Now, finally, to the point I want to make. When I see a politician stand up and take an anti-science position, most of the time, that politician is a Republican. I remember watching a republican debate, years ago, and seeing every Republican candidate offer the usual Creationist canards against evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory is so well supported by evidence and does so much to explain why living things are the way they are that there is a near complete consensus in the scientific community that evolution is fact. On another subject, there was a time when there was substantial room for doubt about Anthropomorphic Climate Change, but that time has passed. On issue after issue, when scientific consensus is brushed aside, it’s usually the Republicans who do it. When scientist are harassed with endless Congressional hearings and demands for dumps of all emails and other documents, and when the Congress uses other tactics to punish researchers for undesired conclusions, it is generally Republicans leading the charge.

Intellectual courage matters. People who show more of that courage learn, over time, to exercise sound judgement. Their opinions are more likely to be correct. They catch their own mistakes more often. They are more reliable sources of information. An attitude that the careful experiments and deductions of science can be dismissed, whenever they are inconvenient, is a sign of a lack of intellectual courage.

When I hear charges and countercharges flying back and force, who should I believe? Frankly, I’m most skeptical of the side that shows the least intellectual courage, Republican politicians. Now there are exceptions in that party. I’ve been impressed with John McCain, for example. But in general, when Congressional Republicans have spent far too much of two decades investigating the Clintons all the way down to Bill Clinton’s sex life, and they can’t find anything to hang formal charges on in twenty years, the first notion that comes to my mind isn’t “What have the Clintons done wrong do deserve all this investigation?” My first thought is, “Am I the only one frightened at what our justice system has become when a grand jury can be perverted into a tool to dig up dirt on someone’s sex life for purely political reasons?” I don’t admire Bill Clinton for what he did, but I have to ask all you people telling me how dangerous government can become, how did you miss this perversion of justice? And which politicians do you think might have been behind this perversion of justice? Call me biased, but my guess is it wasn’t the Democrats.

The important point here, though, is that this two decade long persecution on the Clintons doesn't tell me a lot about the Clintons. It does, on the other hand, tell me a lot about their persecutors.

Many people whom I respect have repeated the charges that Hilary is a liar and a criminal. I know these friends, and I don’t believe any of them are out to deceive me. But I do suspect they are repeating the claims without examining them carefully. But, because these are people I respect repeating these claim, I investigate some of them further. And when I try to investigate these claims, myself, I find little to substantiate them.

I'm just not convinced that I should believe the things the Republicans are saying about Hilary.


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David Brin wrote an excellent article on climate change denial. 

I'm quite frustrated with Google, right now.  I was writing this one my phone, but my phone has become unresponsive.  I've been wrestling with a performance issue on it for most of the week, and I find that I have very few tools available to help me solve the issue.  And it's important to note that I've had more such tools in the past.  The reason I have fewer tools to troubleshoot problems on my phone is that google has taken away access to the system logs and to information about wakelocks.

Both decisions were made over security concerns, and they aren't impossible to understand.  Application developers are often careless about what they leave in the logs.  It's not unusual for logs to contain passwords, account numbers and other information which be used to do a lot of harm if it gets into the wrong hands.  A common solution is to restrict access to the logs.  But ultimately, someone needs access to the logs.  Sometimes they are quite useful in troubleshooting.

It appears that wakelock information was mixed in with a lot of other system information, and Googles most direct option to keep some of that other information safe was to restrict all of it.

It seems to me that Google must think of these Android devices as phones with some other nifty capabilities.  Looked at that way, do the consumers to by these phones really need access to potentially sensitive data?

I have to say, though, that the palmtop computer that I often hold in my hands is tens or hundreds as times as powerful as the mainframe I used some times in college.  There's no doubt that this device is a computer, even if it happens to function as a phone.  I can easily run applications on it written by people neither I nor Google knows.  Those applications can, and sometimes do drain resources a lot more than they should.  And Google set up the ecosystem this way.

Setting up this open ecosystem of applications was the right move, I think.  But given the devices and ecosystem that comes with them, the owner of the phone is often the only system administrator that the phone has.  And I think Google is not taken that fact seriously enough.  Google is not offering support for these palmtop computers.  For the most part, customers must support themselves, or they must turn to other customer for support.

So I have to ask, why isn't Google more serious about making sure we have the tools we need to support ourselves and each other?

I have to admit, part of my frustration is due to the fact that Google gets so much right.  If we were talking about an iPhone or a Windows Phone, I don't think many of their users would even understand why I'm asking that question.  I suppose Google will simply have to live with the fact that, the better they get, the more their customers will get frustrated by the things those customers need to see get better still.

With all that said, Google, why are you making it harder for me to support myself?  What kind of sense does that really make?

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Fraser Cain talks about supernovae in this YouTube video.  Partway through, the following text appears in the upper left:

"Warning: Supernovas produce gamma radiation and high energy particles.  Do not use without adult supervision.  Once the fuse is lit, do not attempt to hold the supernova in your hand.  Do not taunt the supernova.  Supernovas cook any and all types of skin.  Should you come in direct contact with any stellar body, please consult the nearest emergency medical hologram."

I started a new job, this week.  It's good to be working, again.

I'm job hunting.

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This has to be the nerdiest game I've ever seen for Android. If you want to learn just what data in the LHC would indicate a Higgs Boson, this game will help you. 

Windows just decided to stop reading the keyboard, so I'm waiting the usual 20 to 30 minutes for it to reboot.

Surely I can't be the only one to see how awful this operating system is. Why do companies keep choosing this sorry excuse for an OS?

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This is important.
Signs of Pseudoscience

An imposter of science is pseudoscience: a set of claims that seem scientific but aren’t. In particular, pseudoscience lacks the safeguards against confirmation bias and belief perseverance that characterize science. We must be careful to distinguish pseudoscientific claims from metaphysical claims, which as we’ve seen, are untestable and therefore lie outside the realm of science. In principle, at least, we can test pseudoscientific claims, although the proponents of these claims often avoid subjecting them to rigorous examination.

(Source: http://goo.gl/bgL8T) #sciencesunday  
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