blueollie

Some Science for the end of April 2013

Woo and yoga
Someone asked me how I could like yoga and be down on “alternative (quack) medicine”. Well, there have been some rigorous studies done on yoga and it CAN be recommended for physical therapy purposes (e. g. back aches). Via our National Institute of Health.

Frogs
This Tiger Frog from Ghana is a cutie:

tigerfrogghana

Movies: I want to see this one:

Note: my beef with religion, at least as practiced in the west, is that too many of them require people to accept “miracles” (resurrections, parting seas, virgin births, etc.) on “faith” (sans evidence). So once you “accept” that the laws of science (naturalism) can be suspended at set times, then, well, why trust science with anything? Seriously: if there is, say, water on your basement floor and a pipe joint above that with green on the joint…well…if you didn’t SEE it drip, then maybe the water and the green just appeared because of the work of some devil or pixie? Why not…if suspensions of naturalism are allowed?

My beef is NOT with religions that don’t require acceptance of miracles.
It is my opinion that a deity/spirit/whatever that is interested in humans and human affairs makes no sense, but that is the realm of opinion.

Space:

How about a storm that has an eye 1250 miles wide and winds of 330 miles per hour?

The eye of a super-hurricane at Saturn’s north pole looks like a peaceful red rose in a fresh bouquet of pictures from NASA’s Cassini orbiter. But don’t be fooled: That rosy appearance is merely due to the false colors ascribed to infrared wavelengths.
This storm’s eye measures 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) in diameter, about 20 times wider than the average hurricane’s eye on Earth. The outer clouds at the hurricane’s edge are traveling at 330 mph (530 kilometers per hour), which would be off the scale on our planet. The vortex whirls inside Saturn’s mysterious hexagonal cloud pattern, and it’s not going anywhere.

nasasaturnhurricane

How do you like this image of the moon taking from space near the earth?

moonriseedgeofearth

Here is a picture of a solar eclipse via Scientific American:
miloslavdruckmuller

Miloslav Druckmüller, a mathematician at the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic, and his colleagues were on Enewetak as the eclipse’s shadow raced toward them from the northwest at more than twice the speed of sound. This composite of 31 images from the eclipse shows the solar corona, the wispy “atmosphere” of the sun peeking out from behind the moon as well as the cratered, rayed surface of the moon itself.

Back on Earth Again
This species of fish, commonly found in China, Russia and Korea, has been found in New York. It is an invasive species.

frankenfish

Even more interestingly, it can actually breathe outside of water for a short period of time (days) and even hunt.

April 30, 2013 Posted by | astronomy, atheism, biology, frogs, nature, physics, religion, science, space, yoga | , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Republican PACS and Super PACS fleecing their donors?

PRIOR to the 2012 general election, Paul Krugman wondered if people like Karl Rove were in it merely to make money for themselves:

The estimable Rick Perlstein has a fascinating essay about the seamless continuum from direct-mail marketing scams to direct-mail right-wing fundraising, and from there to the whole character of modern movement conservatism. Go read. I didn’t know, for example, that heroes of direct-mail fundraising like Richard Viguerie ended up delivering hardly any of the money to political causes; somehow it ended up swallowed by overhead, otherwise known as the fundraisers themselves.

And although Perlstein doesn’t make this point, I suspect that his analysis explains one of the great mysteries of 2012: the failure of the great Rove/Citizens United juggernaut to materialize.

Remember how Rove and others were supposed to raise vast sums from billionaires and corporations, then totally saturate the country with GOP messaging, drowning out Obama’s message? Well, they certainly raised a lot of money, and ran a lot of ads. But in terms of actual number of ads the battle has been, if anything, an Obama advantage. And while we don’t know what will happen on Tuesday, state-level polls suggest both that Obama is a strong favorite and, much more surprising, that Democrats are overwhelmingly favored to hold the Senate in a year when the number of seats at risk was supposed to spell doom.

Some of this reflects the simple fact that money can’t help all that much when you have a lousy message. But it also looks as if the money was surprisingly badly spent. What happened?

Well, what if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

And while Rove the crusader is looking — provisionally, of course, until the votes are in — like a failure, Rove the businessman has just had an amazing, banner year.

Well, this blast from the past had Dick Morris POSSIBLY doing the same thing to small donors (who, frankly, have no business donating to PACs; it is better to give directly to the candidates instead)

Frankly, I wonder if the conservative punditry is really part of the scam. 🙂

Side note
This is a bit of economics. Paul Krugman explains the difference between the inflation rate that is announced on television (and used for cost of living calculations) and “core inflation” which is used by the Fed to help set monetary policy:

As I explained long ago, the idea behind core inflation is that not all prices behave the same. (In that post, I worried about deflation, which hasn’t happened; I’ve written a lot since about why). There are many “sticky” prices that are revised only occasionally; these prices cause inflation to have a lot of inertia, and are why disinflation can be so costly. But there are other prices that fluctuate a lot in the short run, and can cause overall inflation to jump around.

The idea of core inflation is to strip out the volatile prices to get a better measure of underlying trends. Core inflation is NOT used for things like cost of living adjustments, and it’s not the headline number in the news; so anyone who claims, with a knowing sneer, that the inflation number you hear is ignoring food and energy is just ignorant. Core is, however, what the Fed uses to assess monetary policy, because it believes that the headline number is too volatile, and it doesn’t want to overreact either to short-run inflation or short-run deflation.

You can see the two measures used side by side:

043013krugman2-blog480

And here is a nice article that explains demand side economics:

Let’s start with what may be the most crucial thing to understand: the economy is not like an individual family.

Families earn what they can, and spend as much as they think prudent; spending and earning opportunities are two different things. In the economy as a whole, however, income and spending are interdependent: my spending is your income, and your spending is my income. If both of us slash spending at the same time, both of our incomes will fall too.

And that’s what happened after the financial crisis of 2008. Many people suddenly cut spending, either because they chose to or because their creditors forced them to; meanwhile, not many people were able or willing to spend more. The result was a plunge in incomes that also caused a plunge in employment, creating the depression that persists to this day.

Why did spending plunge? Mainly because of a burst housing bubble and an overhang of private-sector debt — but if you ask me, people talk too much about what went wrong during the boom years and not enough about what we should be doing now. For no matter how lurid the excesses of the past, there’s no good reason that we should pay for them with year after year of mass unemployment.

So what could we do to reduce unemployment? The answer is, this is a time for above-normal government spending, to sustain the economy until the private sector is willing to spend again. The crucial point is that under current conditions, the government is not, repeat not, in competition with the private sector. Government spending doesn’t divert resources away from private uses; it puts unemployed resources to work. Government borrowing doesn’t crowd out private investment; it mobilizes funds that would otherwise go unused.

Now, just to be clear, this is not a case for more government spending and larger budget deficits under all circumstances — and the claim that people like me always want bigger deficits is just false. For the economy isn’t always like this — in fact, situations like the one we’re in are fairly rare. By all means let’s try to reduce deficits and bring down government indebtedness once normal conditions return and the economy is no longer depressed. But right now we’re still dealing with the aftermath of a once-in-three-generations financial crisis. This is no time for austerity.

He then goes on to say: “ok, why should you believe me?” and show how those who prescribe austerity have been spectacularly wrong.

April 30, 2013 Posted by | economics, economy, politics, politics/social, republicans | , , , | Leave a comment

Oh boy…

My plan was to try to get 20 miles (or 3.5 hours) of run/walk. I ended up with 2:18 and 12 miles; I was feeling warm.

When I got back to the car, the thermometer read 81 F but the car was in a large parking lot. The actual air temperature was 75 or so, with 65 percent humidity (or so)

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 10.57.19 AM

So it had warmed by 10 degrees and I was feeling it. So I bailed; this will enable me to run hard this Saturday and maybe get a 3 hour run/walk on Sunday (where it is supposed to be cooler). I really didn’t want to trash myself today.

April 30, 2013 Posted by | running | | Leave a comment

Cranks and woos…

cranksandwoos

April 30, 2013 Posted by | superstition | , , | Leave a comment

To my fellow Facebook liberal friends: it appears that you were right and I was wrong…maybe…

Interesting. The background check amendments failed in the Senate. I chalked it up to Senators pleasing their conservative constituencies in their home states.

My liberal friends tried to tell me that things like background checks were reasonably popular, even among Republicans.

I replied that sometimes policies were popular but the bills that contained said policies weren’t (President Clinton’s proposed health care plan was such a case).

I was skeptical that those who voted “no” would pay a political price.

Well…it turns out that some might be paying a price: (via Politics USA)

In a new poll by Public Policy Polling, five Senators in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio are feeling the wrath of the public after failing to support a background checks measure, in what PPP called “serious backlash”. According to the poll, Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Dean Heller (R-NV) face lowered approval ratings and a public less likely to support them in the next election.

Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, concluded that the lowered approval ratings are a direct result of the failure to support the background check measure, “The background checks vote is a rare one that really is causing these Senators trouble back home. All five of these Senators, as well as Kelly Ayotte, have seen their approval numbers decline in the wake of this vote. And the numbers make it clear that their position on Manchin/Toomey is a major factor causing the downward spiral.”

In Arizona, Republican Senator Flake’s approval rating dropped to 32% with a 51% disapproval. He is now more unpopular than even Mitch McConnell. In Arizona, 70% of the public supports background checks. Fifty-two percent of voters say they’re less likely to support Flake in a future election because of this vote. To demonstrate just how extreme the rejection of background checks is, the poll determined that only 19% of the public say they will be more likely to support Flake in a future election due to his vote.

Contrast Flake’s lowered approval ratings with Pennsylvania Republican Senator Toomey’s, who saw an increase in approval after co-sponsoring the bipartisan background check measure (Manchin/Toomey).

In Ohio, Republican junior Senator Rob Portman plunged a net 18 points in approval, from 35% approval and 25% disapproval to just 26% approval with 34% disapproval (net -8). Portman lost support across the board. No one seems to approve of the Ohio Republican. Some of his loss in approval among Republicans is more likely tied to his support for gay marriage, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

In Alaska, Democratic junior Senator Mark Begich lost approval from Democrats and Independents after failing to support background checks, with 41% approval rating and a 37% disapproval, down from 49% approval and 39% disapproval. Begich got no bounce from Republicans after his vote, so he basically alienated his base for nothing.

Popular Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski has lost a net 16 points in approval due to her rejection of background checks. Forty-six percent of voters approve of her now, with 41% now disapproving of her. Prior to the vote, she enjoyed a 54% approval rating and only 33% disapproval. The bad news is that while Murkowski predictably lost Democratic support due to her vote, she also failed to gain Republican support by voting with the NRA.[…]

If I am wrong, and it appears that I might be, it will make me very happy. I’ll gladly endure some “I told you so”s.

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Democrats, political/social, politics, republicans | , , | Leave a comment

Floods, internet taxes and other topics

Taxes: we are seeing some cracks in the Republican caucus. Some businesses are putting pressure on Republicans in Congress to back the internet sales tax laws. I agree with the business types who say that this will level the playing field.

Infrastructure
Michael Reuter wrote an interesting op-ed in the Peoria Journal Star about preparing for flooding. The gist: these big floods ARE more common and by making some changes (e. g. giving the river some wetlands where it can spread out a bit in places and therefore take up some of the water volume) we will be better off in the future and, perhaps, even same money in the long run:

[…]2. It’s time for a different, coordinated, system-wide approach that reduces losses while improving the health of great rivers like the Illinois. In the future we must be proactive and innovative. There is a payoff: A study by the National Institute of Building Sciences estimated that for every dollar we spend on hazard mitigation efforts, we save $4 in future damages.

3. Work with nature, not against it. We need dams and levees but nature is an essential part of the solution, too. Large cities are demonstrating how to use nature to slow stormwater runoff with less money than required for hard infrastructure. On the Lower Mississippi, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has opened floodplains and floodways to create room for the river during catastrophic events – an approach that avoided devastating losses to farmlands and urban areas in 2011.

4. Demonstrate potential solutions. While The Nature Conservancy is focused on developing and maintaining critical fish and wildlife habitat at Emiquon, part of our plan is to provide room for the river to help curtail damages during major floods. Every flood is different, but in general, by allowing floodwaters to spread out onto this vast area, Emiquon can help lower flood levels in nearby communities, including Peoria some 40 miles upstream. Even a few inches can prevent millions in damages, but ultimately additional floodplain areas along the Illinois and other rivers are needed. Farsighted public policies would provide fair economic incentives to those farmers and landowners who want to be part of the solution, potentially saving taxpayers substantial money.

Note: the economic calculations aren’t that easy, given that flooding is a stochastic event and we have to take the time value of money into effect: spending X now to prevent damage in the future (thereby saving repair and recovery costs) might save us money in the long run, but how much (if at all) depends on how long it is before the next major flood.

Speaking of disasters: Matthew Yglesias caught a lot of heat by suggesting that not every foreign country have their businesses and factories held up to the same safety standards of the United States. Yes, extra safety can be thought of as a luxury and one can overdo it. But his piece was related to the collapse of a Bangladesh factory which killed 100’s. Here he explains himself and what he was thinking. And yes, the factory in question didn’t follow local codes.

On the other end
A Texas member of the House of Representatives wonders if windmills will lead to more warming of the earth? His reasoning: windmills take energy out of the wind, which cools the planet. Or something.

My beef: why didn’t he run his idea past an engineer or scientist first? Yes, windmills take energy from the wind (and energy to the wind is being supplied by the sun) and it is nice to see what the potential “upstream” and “downstream” energy effects are. But people will look a lot smarter if they consult an expert prior to opening their mouths. Instead, they don’t feel the need to consult.

President Obama: 2013 Correspondence Dinner:

My favorite parts:

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday night gave President Barack Obama a chance to take humor-laced shots at those things in Washington that rub him the wrong way — Republicans in Congress, the media, his critics — and he also directed plenty of friendly fire at himself.
“I look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be,’” Obama quipped at one point, reflecting on how he’s aged into a second term. […]

“Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress. ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask,” Obama said. “Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?” The line earned Obama one of his loudest applauses of the evening from the 2,700 in attendance at the Washington Hilton.
Along the same lines, Obama vowed to take his “charm offensive” on the road to “a Texas barbecue with Ted Cruz, a Kentucky bluegrass concert with Rand Paul and a book burning with Michele Bachmann.”

Senator McConnell had a sense of humor and posted this photo:

mcconnell-beer-obama-twitter

Some Paul Krugman
There is a difference between cherry picking facts that support your cause and ignoring ones that don’t and picking what you write about:

One criticism I face fairly often is the assertion that I must be dishonest — I must be cherry-picking my evidence, or something — because the way I describe it, I’m always right while the people who disagree with me are always wrong. And not just wrong, they’re often knaves or fools. How likely is that?

But may I suggest, respectfully, that there’s another possibility? Maybe I actually am right, and maybe the other side actually does contain a remarkable number of knaves and fools.

The first point to notice is that I do, in fact, perform a kind of cherry-picking — not of facts, but of issues to write about. There are many issues on which I see legitimate debate, from the long-run trend of housing prices to the effects of immigration on wages. And in happier times I would probably write more about such issues than I do, and the tone of my column and blog would be a lot more genteel. But right now I believe that we’re failing miserably in responding to economic disaster, so I focus my writing on attacking the doctrines and, to some extent, the people responsible for this wrong-headed response.

But can the debate really be as one-sided as I portray it? Well, look at the results: again and again, people on the opposite side prove to have used bad logic, bad data, the wrong historical analogies, or all of the above. I’m Krugtron the Invincible!

Am I (and others on my side of the issue) that much smarter than everyone else? No. The key to understanding this is that the anti-Keynesian position is, in essence, political. It’s driven by hostility to active government policy and, in many cases, hostility to any intellectual approach that might make room for government policy. Too many influential people just don’t want to believe that we’re facing the kind of economic crisis we are actually facing.

And Krugman really doesn’t think highly of President Bush:

I’ve been focused on economic policy lately, so I sort of missed the big push to rehabilitate Bush’s image; also, as a premature anti-Bushist who pointed out how terrible a president he was back when everyone else was praising him as a Great Leader, I’m kind of worn out on the subject.

But it does need to be said: he was a terrible president, arguably the worst ever, and not just for the reasons many others are pointing out.

From what I’ve read, most of the pushback against revisionism focuses on just how bad Bush’s policies were, from the disaster in Iraq to the way he destroyed FEMA, from the way he squandered a budget surplus to the way he drove up Medicare’s costs. And all of that is fair.

But I think there was something even bigger, in some ways, than his policy failures: Bush brought an unprecedented level of systematic dishonesty to American political life, and we may never recover.

Think about his two main “achievements”, if you want to call them that: the tax cuts and the Iraq war, both of which continue to cast long shadows over our nation’s destiny. The key thing to remember is that both were sold with lies.

I suppose one could make an argument for the kind of tax cuts Bush rammed through — tax cuts that strongly favored the wealthy and significantly increased inequality. But we shouldn’t forget that Bush never admitted that his tax cuts did, in fact, favor the wealthy. Instead, his administration canceled the practice of making assessments of the distributional effects of tax changes, and in their selling of the cuts offered what amounted to an expert class in how to lie with statistics. Basically, every time the Bushies came out with a report, you knew that it was going to involve some kind of fraud, and the only question was which kind and where.

I do object to the phrase: “rammed through”: this is what people say when they are on the losing side of a vote. On these issues, President Bush was a good enough politician to sell this deal (the economic one).

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/27/the-ignoramus-strategy/

April 29, 2013 Posted by | bush-era, climate change, economy, environment, political/social, politics, politics/social | , , | Leave a comment

Consequences

Booming 427

GET THAT-THERE GOVERNMENT OFF OF OUR BACKS!

What happens: if the government doesn’t enforce safety guidelines, then businesses and factories get in a race to the bottom; after all, it is tough to compete with someone who has no safety criteria to meet.

So this is a good reminder of one of the consequences of such policies.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | economy, politics, politics/social, republicans | , , | Leave a comment

Degradation: of one’s own body (with age) and of others…

Workout notes
Weights only: I slept late (until 6:20!) and got to the weight room late.
pull ups: 5 sets of 10, with hip hikes and Achilles and rotator cuff as rest
bench press: 10 x 135, 3 x 185, 3 x 185, 7 x 170 (tired on the last set); ab routine
(sit backs, twist, crunch, vertical crunch; 3 sets each) as rest.
incline press: 10 x 140, 6 x 140 (very tired on the last set)
dumbbell military: 3 sets of 12 x 50 lb.
rows: Hammer: 3 sets of 10 x 210
curls: 2 sets of 10 x 57.5 pulley, 1 set of 10 x 70 machine
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
Note: I super setted most of the stuff after the bench; I was tired during my last sets.
I felt strong on the bench but didn’t push for that extra last rep.

Degradation with age
In the locker room, I talked to a former university basketball player; he is now in his early 80’s.
I asked him when he started to notice the decline in his physical abilities: he replied “mid 30’s”.

My guess: those who know how to push themselves notice the decline earlier than those who are merely active but don’t test limits often.
Here is how it worked for me:
30’s: I noticed my mile time getting slower; that 5:30 became a 5:40. 5K, and even the weights were roughly the same.
40’s: early 40’s, my mile took a big hit (breaking 6 became VERY difficult, then impossible) and the 5K started to slow: the half marathon and marathon stayed ok until 2001 (early 40’s).

Now: everything is slower and weaker (in my early to mid 50’s). Master’s athletes told me to expect it; in fact the former basketball player that I talked to, who still looks good and still works out, told me that now that he is in his 80’s, getting out of a chair is harder than it once was.

Someone who was (is) fit told me that when he got into his 70’s, he had to quit taking the 4 flights of stairs as it took too much out of him (to be able to teach).

Degradation of others
A friend (who racewalks) was on a plane to a race where she encountered someone else going to the race. She was asked “are you going to run half-marathon X”? He reply: no, I am racewalking it with someone.

Travelling on a plane of race people can be either great or suck. A gal just said “oh you running Nike?” Me: “Race walking.” “Oh” she said with a snotty tone. “You slow walkers better stay out of my way! I run!” Her anticipated time – 3:15:00. And yes I do have her face memorized. I promise to smile when I walk damned strong & proud past. Don’t mess with Shep!

No, that is NOT 3:15 for a full marathon….”I run????” OMG.
Yes, my walking friend passed her easily and had a friendly reminder for her.

But seriously folks: unless this 3:15 “runner” was making a joke ….goodness. What is wrong with people?
Yes, I’d say something about “hey you walker, I hope you don’t slow me down” but I’d be sure and say it to my friends who can WALK a half marathon at 7:45 minutes per mile and a marathon at 8-8:30; I’d say it to people who I knew were way faster than I. (note: an Olympic medal contender racewalker could do 6:20-6:30 for the half and 6:50-7:00 for the marathon).

For the record: since 2010, my walking half marathons have ranged between 2:22 and 2:40; my single half marathon run was 2:01. (power walking; I can no longer legally racewalk as my right knee does not straighten 100 percent of the way)

April 29, 2013 Posted by | running, sports, weight training | , , | Leave a comment

Ames Iowa, Day II (lunch)

Workout notes
I didn’t sleep well (Mexican meal too heavy last night?)

I got up early and walked 4.47 miles in 1:06 (14:52 pace) doing roughly the same course I did yesterday, minus a .7 mile out and back and a .3 out and back near the soccer fields.

It was in the 40’s and crisp; I got to see the sun rise.

Talks: the morning talks were good but tough; still I managed to pick up techniques at every one of them.
Several people said that they would have to leave prior to my talk; I expected that (4 pm slot). Some might still be there and I owe them a professional effort; I practiced my talk twice.

Campus: very pretty



April 28, 2013 Posted by | mathematics, travel, walking | , | 2 Comments

Ames Iowa: AMS meeting: Reality

schultenstalk

I am in the background, near the rear of the room (white beard).
This is a small group, but the speaker and many that you can see are among the world’s best topologists.

It was a different story at my hotel room:

PENTAX Image

Workout notes
5.7 mile run over lunch; 57 minutes.

Commentary
Going to research meetings is always eye-opening. On one hand, I often learn something and pick up techniques and ideas that I can use.
On the other hand: I am seeing people who, for the most part, research and direct graduate students for a living. This is very different from what I am used to (teaching moderately talented undergraduates relatively elementary things).

The blunt fact is that the researchers are not only the best that graduate school graduating classes have to offer (I wasn’t) but they are also people who do it full time; if you teach a 11-12 hour load (with administrative duties to boot) you are NOT going to research at that level. But it is easy to forget that if you don’t take in one of these from time to time. Those who don’t: often lose perspective.

Posts
Yes, this is a Salon article and the title is misleading. But it does raise a point:

The heads and hearts of atheists may not be on precisely the same page. That’s the implication of recently published research from Finland, which finds avowed non-believers become emotionally aroused when daring God to do terrible things.

“The results imply that atheists’ attitudes toward God are ambivalent, in that their explicit beliefs conflict with their affective response,” concludes a research team led by University of Helsinki psychologist Marjaana Lindeman. Its study is published in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.

Lindeman and her colleagues describe two small-scale experiments. The first featured 17 Finns, recruited online, who expressed high levels of belief, or disbelief, in God. They read out loud a series of statements while skin conductance data was collected via electrodes placed on two of their fingers.

Some of the statements were direct dares to a deity (“I dare God to make my parents drown”). Others were similarly disturbing, but did not reference God (“It’s OK to kick a puppy in the face”). Still others were bland and neutral (“I hope it’s not raining today”).
The arousal levels of the believers and non-believers followed precisely the same pattern: Higher for both the God dares and otherwise unpleasant statements, and lower for the neutral ones.

Compared to the atheists, the believers reported feeling more uncomfortable reciting the God dares. But skin conductance data revealed the underlying emotional reactions of the two groups were essentially the same. This suggests that taunting God made the atheists more upset than they were letting on (even to themselves).[…]

The second experiment was designed to test that hypothesis. It featured 19 Finnish atheists, who participated in an expanded version of the first experiment. It included 10 additional statements—variations on the God dares which excluded any mention of supernatural forces. For example, in addition to “I dare God to turn all my friends against me,” they read out loud the statement: “I wish all of my friends would turn against me.”

The results: The atheists showed greater emotional arousal when reading the God-related statements than while reading the otherwise nearly identical sentences that omitted the almighty. To the researchers, this indicates that “even atheists have difficulty daring God to harm themselves and their loved ones.”

Note: the “n” is rather low.

The article goes on to make conjectures as to why this might be so. I’ll make mine:
my position of atheism is NOT so much an emotional one as an intellectual one. I see no evidence of divine intervention in human affairs and the idea that there is a “interested in human events” deity in such a large universe with billions of galaxies and billions of stars per galaxy makes no sense to me. I just don’t believe it.

But I WAS raised Catholic; my dad wasn’t a religious man but believed in a deity of some sort; mom believed in “magic tricks” of a deity (one that intervened). So I was raised that way and I have the resulting emotions. I sometimes ask a non-existent deity to eternally condemn inanimate objects when they break or spill (or when I break them 🙂 ).

But emotions and emotional actions are hard to turn off.

I’ll give an example: I know that my stuffed frogs are inanimate objects. But I’d feel bad if, say, they burned in a fire and I’d get very angry if someone “mistreated” them. That is an emotional, irrational reaction. I’d have the same about religious stuff even though my mind knows better.

April 28, 2013 Posted by | atheism, mathematics, running, travel | , , | Leave a comment