25 March 2009: Boxing, Obama’s Press Conference, Krugman’s analysis and cool rants

Workout notes 3000 yard swim; 500 in 9:10, 20 x 100 on the 1:45 (last one was 1:42, first was 1:40; I had 4 other 1:40s; rest were 1:37-39). 500 cool down. This one was rough; I was heavy armed and my stomach started to bother me at 16 reps. I swam at Bradley.

Interesting Links

Boxing: here is an excellent synopsis for the upcoming heavyweight boxing match between Samuel Peter and Eddie Chambers.

President Obama’s Press Conference. 55 minutes.

Here is one of my favorite takes from the above:

Economy Here is an excellent discussion on the Geithner plan and a nice outline of the problem.

Paul Krugman lays out the problem:

Since the beginning of the crisis, there have been two views of what’s going on.

View #1 is that we’re looking at an unnecessary panic. The housing bust, so the story goes, has spooked the public, and made people nervous about banks. In response, banks have pulled back, which has led to ridiculously low prices for assets, which makes banks look even weaker, forcing them to pull back even more. On this view what the market really needs is a slap in the face to calm it down. And if we can get the market in troubled assets going, people will see that things aren’t really that bad, and — as Larry Summers said on yesterday’s Newshour – the vicious circles will turn into virtuous circles.

View #2 is that the banks really, truly messed up: they bet heavily on unrealistic beliefs about housing and consumer debt, and lost those bets. Confidence is low because people have become realistic.

The Geithner plan can only work if view #1 is right. If view #2 is right – if the banks are really in deep trouble that goes beyond lack of confidence — subsidizing investor purchases of toxic assets, many of which aren’t even held by the most troubled banks, has no real chance of turning things around.

As you can guess, I believe in view #2. We had vast excesses during the bubble years, and I don’t think we can fix the damage with the power of positive thinking plus a bit of financial engineering.

But that’s where the issue lies.

My take: Krugman is probably right, but there are political realities to deal with. As one commenter pointed out: the public (and the blue-dog Democrats) won’t go along with 2 unless 1 is tried first.


Watch all 13 episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series here. :)

Read the voice of reason concerning genetic screening for diseases. The bottom line: this genetic screening is not about creating “designer babies”; after all, one can’t obtain genetic traits that the parents don’t have. It is about sparing children from having to live with severe genetic disorders. Hat tip to Evolved Rational.

Science journalism It is clear that the media is going through a rough time, and it is also clear that the mainstream media often gets the science wrong and that one can often just go to the blogs of the scientists themselves. A scientist weighs in on the current state (writing at Cosmic Variance).

Religion and Science There are those people who claim that science and religion are not in conflict. Some super smart people (e. g., Francis Collins) think this. But many don’t.

Here are a couple of scientists that I agree with:
Jerry Coyne

It seems to me that we can defend evolution without having to cater to the faithful at the same time. Why not just show that evolution is TRUE and its alternatives are not? Why kowtow to those whose beliefs many of us find unpalatable, just to sell our discipline? There are, in fact, two disadvantages to the “cater-to-religion” stance.

1. By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws. For example, I don’t subscribe to Miller’s belief that God acts immanently in the world, perhaps by influencing events on the quantum level, or that God created the laws of physics so that human-containing planets could evolve. I do not agree with John Haught’s theology. I do not consider any faith that touts God’s intervention in the world (even in the past) as compatible with science. Do my colleagues at the NAS or the NCSE disagree?

2. The statement that learning evolution does not influence one’s religious belief is palpably false. There are plenty of statistics that show otherwise, including the negative correlation of scientific achievement with religious belief and the negative correlation among nations in degree of belief in God with degree of acceptance of evolution. All of us know this, but we pretend otherwise. (In my book I note that “enlightened” religion can be compatible with science, but by “englightened” I meant a complete, hands-off deism.) I think it is hypocrisy to pretend that learning evolution will not affect either the nature or degree of one’s faith. It doesn’t always, but it does more often than we admit, and there are obvious reasons why (I won’t belabor these). I hate to see my colleagues pretending that faith and science live in nonoverlapping magisteria. They know better.

Because of this, I think that organizations promoting the teaching of evolution should do just that, and that alone. Leave religion and its compatibility with faith to the theologians. That’s not our job. Our job is to show that evolution is true and creationism and ID aren’t. End of story.

PZ Myers:

More than five years ago, I was griping about the pretense of compatibility between science and religion, prompted by an otherwise good site at the University of California Berkeley that offered the usual pablum:

Science and religion deal with different things. Science tries to figure out how things work and religion teaches about morality and spirituality. There doesn’t need to be a conflict.

Complete bullshit. I’d rather get my morality from reason and real world experience, from science, and religion teaches nothing about morality. Religion is about obedience to arbitrary rules. As for spirituality — I don’t need a cult to teach me about the nonexistent and irrelevant. Then last year, the NAS came out with the same nonsense:

Science and Religion Offer Different Ways of Understanding the World
Science and religion address separate aspects of human experience. Many scientists have written eloquently about how their scientific studies of biological evolution have enhanced rather than lessened their religious faith. And many religious people and denominations accept the scientific evidence for evolution.

There is this kind of conciliatory and entirely false cliched position that major proponents of better science education tend to take — because it’s popular, they pretend that religion is the gentle, benign bit of fluff that has some vague utility in making people better. It’s a lie told to calm the ignorant…the ignorant who will then turn about and obligingly stick a knife in our efforts to improve science, all in the name of their Lord.

I’ve never understood it. It simply grants religion an unquestioned privileged place as an equal to science, when it deserves no such prestige. Why aren’t these pro-science organizations going out of their way to say, “Science and literature deal with different things” or “Science and Art Offer Different Ways of Understanding the World”? At least then they’d be saying something true. At least then they wouldn’t be promoting a damaging delusion.

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March 25, 2009 - Posted by | 2008 Election, atheism, Barack Obama, boxing, creationism, economy, evolution, injury, obama, politics, politics/social, ranting, religion, science, swimming, training

1 Comment »

  1. They were really busting his balls over the budget, weren’t they?

    Comment by postsimian | March 25, 2009 | Reply

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