blueollie

15 July PM

Workout notes A hot sticky walk with Olivia along the rivertrail. The red wing blackbird has started to perch on the other side of the trail so as to build up more momentum for it’s dive bombing.

Note: check out this page and scroll all of the way down to see a blackbird attack.

This isn’t me, but this is what they do.

Science and Religion: here is an interesting essay from Cosmic Variance

Here is my favorite example question. Alpha Centauri A is a G-type star a little over four light years away. Now pick some very particular moment one billion years ago, and zoom in to the precise center of the star. Protons and electrons are colliding with each other all the time. Consider the collision of two electrons nearest to that exact time and that precise point in space. Now let’s ask: was momentum conserved in that collision? Or, to make it slightly more empirical, was the magnitude of the total momentum after the collision within one percent of the magnitude of the total momentum after the collision?

This isn’t supposed to be a trick question; I don’t have any special knowledge or theories about the interior of Alpha Centauri that you don’t have. The scientific answer to this question is: of course, the momentum was conserved. Conservation of momentum is a principle of science that has been tested to very high accuracy by all sorts of experiments, we have every reason to believe it held true in that particular collision, and absolutely no reason to doubt it; therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that momentum was conserved. [...]

Now let’s turn to a closely analogous question. There is some historical evidence that, about two thousand years ago in Galilee, a person named Jesus was born to a woman named Mary, and later grew up to be a messianic leader and was eventually crucified by the Romans. (Unruly bloke, by the way — tended to be pretty doctrinaire about the number of paths to salvation, and prone to throwing moneychangers out of temples. Not very “accommodating,” if you will.) The question is: how did Mary get pregnant?

One approach would be to say: we just don’t know. We weren’t there, don’t have any reliable data, etc. Should just be quiet.

The scientific approach is very different. We have two theories. One theory is that Mary was a virgin; she had never had sex before becoming pregnant, or encountered sperm in any way. Her pregnancy was a miraculous event, carried out through the intervention of the Holy Ghost, a spiritual manifestation of a triune God. The other theory is that Mary got pregnant through relatively conventional channels, with the help of (one presumes) her husband. According to this theory, claims to the contrary in early (although not contemporary) literature are, simply, erroneous.

There’s no question that these two theories can be judged scientifically. One is conceptually very simple; all it requires is that some ancient texts be mistaken, which we know happens all the time, even with texts that are considerably less ancient and considerably better corroborated. The other is conceptually horrible; it posits an isolated and unpredictable deviation from otherwise universal rules, and invokes a set of vaguely-defined spiritual categories along the way. By all of the standards that scientists have used for hundreds of years, the answer is clear: the sex-and-lies theory is enormously more compelling than the virgin-birth theory.

The same thing is true for various other sorts of miraculous events, [...]

BINGO. That is what irritates me about religion; all too many say “we must suspend judgment” if the claim is at all religious. Nonsense. Most of what we know comes from the fact that we assume that the laws of nature are working properly (even if we have an incomplete understanding of them).

When you go to the basement and look at a pool of water on the floor and observe a pipe joint that has a tiny bit of green on it that is right above the pool of water, you don’t say “I don’t know what happened; maybe a devil formed this water pool out of nothing”, do you?

Politics The House has released the details of its proposed health care plan. Robert Reich prepares us for the onslaught:

Don’t believe critics who say the surtax will harm small business. According to the Center for Tax Justice, it would hit only five percent of small business owners — realistically defined as taxpayers for whom small business income makes up at least half of their adjusted gross income (from schedule C businesses, partnerships, family farms, and Subchapter S corporations).

Besides, only the profits of a small business would be taxed. The owner of a small business deducts money paid to employees as compensation, as well as operating costs. So, for example, a couple whose income comes entirely from a small business would have to earn more than $350,000 in business profits — after paying all their expenses, including salaries — before the surcharge would affect them at all. And if they earned more, the surcharge wouldn’t reduce their incentive to hire more employees because they pay employees with pre-tax income. And not even purchases of equipment to expand business operations would be affected because most small business owners can write off up to $250,000 of the costs of such equipment immediately.

A surtax is easy to administer. And the whole idea is easy to understand. Tax the wealthy to keep everyone healthy. Not even a bad bumper sticker.

The key is to get a few of the “blue dogs” aboard.

Republicans

Their own words. Note the utter lack of proof of the charges:

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July 15, 2009 - Posted by | Barack Obama, health care, Judicial nominations, nature, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, science, SCOTUS, superstition, walking

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