Posts Tagged ‘blog’
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 31, 2012
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 220,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!
Click here to see the complete report.
Posted in internet | Tagged: 2012, blog, skeptic, Skeptical Teacher, statistics, stats, teacher, visitors, visits, year in review | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 9, 2012
In a follow up to my recent posts (here and here) on the issue of rising U.S. gas prices and how the President and Congress really have little power to affect them, despite the belief by some that they do, I heard an excellent piece on NPR this morning about this very subject. Of course, in NPR fashion, they went a bit deeper and actually started to discuss in a scientific fashion why it is that Republicans are blaming President Obama for higher gas prices now whereas a few years ago it was Democrats blaming then President Bush for higher gas prices. Check it out…
Charlie Reidel/AP — President Bush and then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry shake hands at the end of a presidential debate in 2004 in St. Louis. Researchers want to better understand why partisans’ views of the facts change in light of their political loyalties.
When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about high gas prices, and about two-thirds of Democrats say he can’t.
But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed: Three-fourths of Democrats said President Bush could do something about high gas prices, while the majority of Republicans said gas prices were clearly outside the president’s control.
The flipped perceptions on gas prices isn’t an aberration, said Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan. On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard. …
Click here to read the entire story
Posted in economics, politics, psychology | Tagged: 2012, blog, cars, cognitive dissonance, conspiracy, conspiracy theory, crude, Democrats, economics, economy, election, fact, fiction, gas, gasoline, GOP, market, money, myth, National Public Radio, NPR, Obama, oil, partisan, politics, president, President Obama, price at the pump, prices, psychology, pump, recession, Republicans, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 27, 2012
I was inspired to write the following JREF Swift blog post as a result of my earlier posts (here and here) on the question of gasoline prices in the United States and the powers (perceived or real) of the U.S. president. I hope you find it enlightening…
On my blog, I recently put together a post – Gas Prices and Politics: Fact vs. Fiction – about higher gas prices and how people are blaming President Obama for it. As I pointed out there, Republicans blaming him for the increase in the price of gasoline (and oil in general) are wrong for the same reason as when Democrats blamed former President Bush back in 2007: the President doesn’t really have that much power to influence oil and gasoline prices.
So, if it is true that no such power exists for the leaders of our government to affect the price at the pump (and that is true, as the prices are set more by market factors such as global supply and demand of oil), why is it that people want to lay blame upon our mostly blameless leaders? I struggled with the answer to this question for some time, but I think I have finally hit upon a possible answer: many people, either consciously or not, attribute powers to the President of the United States and Congress that simply do not exist.
And that asks the next obvious question: why do people attribute such powers to our political leaders? Why is it that many of us assign almost god-like abilities to our decidedly non-god-like and wholly fallible authority figures?
I think the answer is multi-faceted and can give some interesting insights into how we think about a lot of things, especially regarding politically oriented topics. In addition, an analysis of this topic can lead us into a deeper discussion of a philosophical concept known as “agency”.
First, I think (somewhat cynically) that there are some, if not many, politicians in government who, either actively or inactively, encourage the notion that they have more power than they are in reality. After all, this is one of the reasons why people vote for candidates running for political office: because they make promises and we expect them to deliver on those promises, whether or not those promises are in any way, shape, or form realistic to achieve. This also goes for the various subsidiaries which surround the government, such as lobbying groups, political action committees, etc. But it’s too easy to stop there.
Second, I think that in many ways we are somewhat hard-wired to make inferences to the existence of things which are not there. In philosophy, this is sometimes referred to as “agency”, where we assign some kind of powers and abilities to an entity through our beliefs about that entity or our behavior towards it. For example, how many of us have been in the middle of some very important work on the computer when suddenly the program crashes? No doubt that many of us then engaged in a certain amount of cursing at (not necessarily about) the computer, as if it could not only hear but understand us. (Aside: my wife works with computers for her career, and she will swear up and down that “they know what we’re thinking”) The computer itself is real enough, but what about the agency which we assign to it?
But when you step back and think about it, it’s downright silly to rant and rave at the computer. The most obvious reason for this is that it simply doesn’t work. Yell at the computer all you want, but that won’t fix the problem; actually trying to solve the relevant hardware and/or software problem will fix things. The other reason is that, let’s face it, at the end of the day the computer is simply a collection of circuits, wire, switches, and assorted electronics. Does it really have a mind with which to interact? The answer, so far with today’s common technology, is a negative, yet for some reason we engage with the computer as if it did have such a mind. And in so doing, we assign agency to the computer. …
Click here to read the rest of the post
Posted in economics, philosophy, politics | Tagged: 2012, agency, belief, blog, cars, conspiracy, conspiracy theory, crude, Democrats, economics, economy, election, fact, fiction, gas, gasoline, God, gods, GOP, illusion, market, money, myth, Obama, oil, Paul Brandus, Peak Oil, philosophy, politics, power, president, President Obama, price at the pump, prices, pump, recession, Republicans, Skeptic Money, spike, The Week, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 17, 2012
As a brief follow up to my recent post titled Gas Prices and Politics: Fact vs. Fiction, I wanted to pass along some deeper analysis that my fellow skeptical blogger Phil over at Skeptic Money did. It puts a bit more meat on the bones of my previous argument that (duh!) the President of the United States actually has very little power to affect the price of gasoline at the pump. Read on…
Blog idea from The Skeptical Teacher. [That's me :)]
This is one of the new right-wing talking points. The interesting point is that it’s true. Well, the part that the cost of gasoline going up. However, Obama had nothing to do with it.
“Gas prices since Obama took office have risen by 103.79 percent. No other presidents in recent years have struggled as much with soaring oil prices.” – US News
Here is a graph from DShort.com.
Notice the green line. It is the price of oil. In 2008 while the recession was going strong the price of oil was bid up to almost $150 per barrel by crazed speculators. When the speculators faced the fact of decreased demand due to a global recession the price of oil collapsed to around $40 per barrel. The result is a dramatic drop in the cost of all things that come from oil – including gasoline.
Obama took office on January 20, 2009 at the very bottom of the price drop. Many countries are doing much better now than in 2008-9 and global demand has increased.
Just the other day someone told me that the price of oil was going up because Obama was limiting the production of oil. I thought he was full of crap so I went and searched out the facts for myself. If you ever want data on energy production go to eia.gov.
I found this specific data that shows US Crude Oil production. In 2008 (The year before Obama became president) the US produced 4,950,000 barrels per day. In 2011 the US produced 5,659,000 barrels per day. An increase of 14.3%.
They also claimed that Obama has reduced off shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2008 The US produced 1,152,000 barrels per day and in 2011 it was 1,318,000. Wrong on both accounts.
Their third claim was that more off shore drilling would reduce the cost of gasoline and maybe back to what it was 3 years ago. The US produced 5,659,000 barrels per day in 2011 and 23% (1,318,000 / 5,659,000) from the Gulf. US oil production is about 11.6% of the worlds total oil supply. If the Gulf is 23% of this total and you doubled this amount (this could take 10-20 years) then that would increase world production by less than 3%. I’m sure that this hypathetical and dramatic increase would lower the cost of gas. However, I would guess by $0.10 to $0.15 per gallon. [emphasis added]
Posted in conspiracy theories, economics, politics | Tagged: 2012, blog, cars, conspiracy, conspiracy theory, crude, Democrats, economics, economy, election, fact, fiction, gas, gasoline, GOP, market, money, myth, Obama, oil, Paul Brandus, Peak Oil, politics, president, President Obama, price at the pump, prices, pump, recession, Republicans, Skeptic Money, spike, The Week, United States | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 16, 2012
From my skeptical colleague and fellow blogger Steve over at TreeLobsters.com…
Posted in humor, scientific method | Tagged: astrology, blog, comic, cryptozoologists, cryptozoology, faith healers, humor, internet, prayer, pseudoscience, science, scientific method, Treelobsters, UFO, ufoologists, ufoology, Web, webcomic | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 11, 2012
Okay, I was just browsing online a bit, and I came across this funny little gem. Yeah, I had to share it, because it makes a really good point about the difference between science and pseudoscience/religion…
by Nadir on March 9, 2012 at 8:14 am
A lifetime ago by internet reckoning and two weeks ago via calendar, news came of the faulty cable/GPS-sync connection as a possible reason for the Faster-Than-Light Neutrino scandal of late 2011. This is not yet completely confirmed but I won’t say I’m not going to be disappointed if this is verified as the cause, though it seems likely. It’s anticlimactic. Not that anyone actually expected FTL travel here, I was at least hoping for a more interesting explanation for the error. The 60 nanosecond fast data is apparently explicable as a result of a bad connection between the GPS receiver and an electronic card in the computer.Yawn.
Now, in fairness, no one involved ever claimed FTL travel, only that they got that result. And they kept trying to disprove it. So what I’m saying is if you got overexcited and invested in fraudulent companies such as ‘the Neutrino-Warp-Drive Enterprise” you only have yourself to blame.*
One thing however, did come out of all this that shined a recent if not really new, light on a fundamental difference between science and religion. Many scientists were sought for comment and every one I saw or read, despite being pretty skeptical and awaiting further data, never completely rejected the idea out of hand. Solid, time tested ideas exist in science, and dagnabbit the universal-speed-limit is one of ‘em; but there are still no sacred cows or prophets. Knocking down or modifying a theory (or just trying to) only serves to strengthen the endeavor for truth, and never weakens it. This is the opposite of how religions operate, and anyone trying to make science and religion comparable, as seen in arguments time and again, has to deal with this massive cleavage.
Posted in humor, physics denial/woo, religion, scientific method | Tagged: blog, CERN, comic, Einstein, faster than light, FTL, funny, humor, internet, neutrinos, NewTrinos, pseudoscience, relativity, religion, Sci-ence, science, Web | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 15, 2012
I wrote another article for the JREF Swift Blog recently, and this one focused on science, philosophy, and religion. It gets to a pretty fundamental question regarding those three endeavors, and I wanted to share it with you here. Enjoy!
Those of us who consider ourselves skeptics and supporters of science, and most especially those of us who are involved at some level in defending good science from the efforts of creationists to water down (or even eliminate) the teaching of evolution, will be familiar with this question. I think the answer is not simple and is much thornier, both philosophically and practically speaking, than many people (including many skeptics) would like to admit.
Let me first take a few minutes to outline some basics of the philosophy of science that are relevant to this discussion. This has to do with the nature of naturalism in science; more specifically, we need to make a very clear distinction between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism.
Methodological naturalism is the practice of naturalism in science; in other words, as it is most commonly stated, there are naturalistic answers sought for scientific questions, and the question of potential supernatural answers (“miracles” if you will) is not even considered. It was the application of methodological naturalism in what was in the 19th-century still referred to as natural philosophy, which helped to define and distinguish modern science as it is currently practiced. In the view of many scientists, science as practiced doesn’t necessarily speak to the validity or non-validity of the supernatural precisely because it is constrained to seeking only natural causes for the phenomena we observe in the universe. In the view of pure methodological naturalism, science is agnostic on such matters, and this gives many believers in the supernatural an “out” for accepting science while retaining their beliefs.
By contrast, philosophical naturalism is usually defined as a philosophical position that there is no such thing as the so-called “supernatural” because the natural world is all that exists. This view assumes, a priori, that there is no separate realm of existence, which is distinguished from the natural world. Thus, in this view, anything, which is claimed to exist within the “supernatural” realm, either doesn’t exist at all or is being confused for some other kind of natural phenomenon which isn’t necessarily well understood by the claimant. It should come as no surprise that in the world of the philosophical naturalist there is no such thing as a miracle and there are no gods per se. There is no comfort for the supernaturalists in the worldview of philosophical naturalism.
Having laid that foundation, let us now get back to the specific case of the entire evolution-creationism discussion, where we can see this distinction between the methodological and philosophical view of naturalism on display. There are many pro-science groups, such as the National Center for Science Education, which take the view usually credited to the late Stephen J. Gould called non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) when discussing the thorny issues of science, religion, their intersection, and their conflicts. Basically NOMA takes a kind of modified position of methodological naturalism and is described by Gould as follows: “the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty).” 
Even the National Academy of Sciences in the United States takes a viewpoint based upon NOMA, wherein, in regards to the evolution-creationism issue, they state: “Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature. Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious. But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience. Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each.” 
Note that in the cases of taking the NOMA stance, there is nothing said one way or the other regarding the existence or non-existence of gods, miracles, or any kind of supernatural phenomena. However, there are many for whom the position of NOMA is rather unappealing, most notably because it seems to have the effect of stacking the deck in favor of what are considered unfounded beliefs and claims. For example, while the Catholic Church can tell its followers that the science for evolution is ironclad and therefore acceptable, that same religious institution routinely turns its back on science and completely ignores it regarding questions related to the authenticity of supposed religious relics such as the Shroud of Turin (which is, in case you didn’t know, a fake). This is merely one example where the believers and purveyors of the supernatural will try to have their cake and eat it too, the critics of NOMA would say, as they with one hand embrace science while with the other hand reject it. …
Click here to read the rest of the article
Posted in philosophy, religion, scientific method | Tagged: blog, creationism, empirical, empiricism, evolution, God, God particle, ID, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, materialism, methodological naturalism, miracle, naturalism, NOMA, non-overlapping magisteria, philosophical naturalism, philosophy, religion, science, scientific method, skeptic, supernatural, Swift, testing | Leave a Comment »