Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What motivates students to study science?

An acquaintance asked me what motivates me to study science considering that my educational background was not originally in the natural sciences. Which, led me to think about what motivates others into studying science.

I was having a discussion with a fellow graduate student/lab member a few weeks back who told me about how she became interested in science. She told me of how her high school classes had their students memorize desperate facts for some sort of AP Bio test. She also told me about many somewhat uninteresting classes that she had to take as an undergraduate Bio major. And that if it wasn't for a single teacher during high school who made science interesting she wouldn't be studying it.

Although I am not privy as to how that teacher inspired his students, it made me think about how I became interested in science. What's funny is that I never had to go through the classes that make you memorize scientific facts, I learned them on my own time in the past couple of years with the help of Richard Dawkins, not because someone made me do it but because Prof. Dawkins made it seem so interesting. Perhaps the science classes could be improved if the people in charge of those classes introduced the students to what makes science so great. Maybe the students just need more motivation and reason to study science.

The following is a video that explains what makes science so great when you compare it to other disciplines.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Who cares?

I'm not sure why, but it seems as though the majority of Biology majors around me do not even understand science. Graduate students, undergraduate students, all alike. The further I go forth into science, the more I learn the more I become disillusioned at the state of others around me. What drives people who have no goals or whose goals are based upon illogical thinking?

The quest for perfection has it's consequences...The loss of commonalities with those around you. The fact that those around cant' see all of the beauty that surrounds them, tears my heart in two.

Beauty



Who understands it?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Beautiful Letter from Einstein

Have you ever heard "Einstein believed in God!" I have, and I have even heard it used to argue for the existence of a God. Even though any thinking man would know that Einstein was not religious. Here are several excerpts from a letter written by Einstein a year before his passing to an author of a book titled 'Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt'.
The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.
The letter was bought on auction for £170,000. That is about $100,000 USA more than a first edition Darwin.

Link to original post: Here

Monday, September 28, 2009

Correlation With Increased Teenage Birthrates and Religiosity



A recent paper was published in the Journal of Reproductive Health showing the correlation of religiosity and Teenage Birth rates. Religion 0 : Secular Society ∞

The Studies Abstract:

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The children of teen mothers have been reported to have higher rates of several unfavorable mental health outcomes. Past research suggests several possible mechanisms for an association between religiosity and teen birth rate in communities. METHODS: The present study compiled publicly accessible data on birth rates, conservative religious beliefs, income, and abortion rates in the U.S., aggregated at the state level. Data on teen birth rates and abortion originated from the Center for Disease Control; on income, from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and on religious beliefs, from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey carried out by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. We computed correlations and partial correlations. RESULTS: Increased religiosity in residents of states in the U.S. strongly predicted a higher teen birth rate, with r = 0.73 (p<0.0005). r =" -0.66," r =" -0.63." r="-0.45," p="0.002." correlation="0.68," correlation="0.54," p="0.001).">

Religiosity and teen birth rate in the United States.
Strayhorn JM, Strayhorn JC.
Reprod Health. 2009 Sep 17;6(1):14. [Epub ahead of print]

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stairway to Heaven

The Stairway to Heaven (aka. Ha'ikū Stairs) shall henceforth be known as The Stairway to Science.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009


Graph originally from here,
State IQ statistics from McDaniel Estimating State IQ
Religious importance statistics from Gallop - State of the States: Importance of Religion


A few outliers on there, Hawaii and California being the most prominent. Hawaii, California and Nevada are also on the top 5 list for the biggest homeless populations by state (here). Hawaii and California are also on the top 5 foreign born population list. (here)

Correlation does not equal causation without proper statistical significance, so just throwing those two facts out there for others to come to their own conclusions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Synaptotagmin


I will be working on identifying Synaptotagmin genes in Nematostella in my new lab with Mark Martindale at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory . I will be doing some in-situ's, phylogenetic trees, cell fate mapping, antibody staining, and DAPI. Also I will be working on pro-neural gene transcription factors.

I'll write something up on Synaptotagmin in the future.

On the Intellectual Stance of Atheists Before Darwin

Famously, in Richard Dawkins various books (The Blind Watchmaker...etc.) and various talks, Prof. Dawkins has eluded to the fact that before Darwin intellectuals were not fully justified in their disbelief. These various statements made by Prof. Dawkins have brought out a plethora of critics on the matter.

Darwin gave the answer to the apparent illusion of the irreducible complexities of life. From Darwin (and friends) we now know that the original self-replicating molecule/molecules gave rise to all the different complexities of life. Humankind was knocked down off of its high pedestal of self importance and ignorance and brought down to the level of all other living organisms. No longer were we justified to say that we were created in a Gods image, we were just like all of the other animals utterly unimportant in terms of the universe as a whole. And as we look up into the sky with our modern day telescopes we find that we are on a single planet in a sea of galaxies each containing estimates of ~100 billion stars, each with their various planets and moons and most likely life of their own.

I argue that Dawkins was completely justified in making the statement that "Darwinism allowed one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." But, I would go one step further and say that every single scientific discovery fills a hole that was once left to the dead Gods of old. Darwins contribution while not sufficient to get rid of all of the different beliefs in a God, sure did well to justify the disbelief in the Judeo-Christian God.

"From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
the concluding passage from, The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin 1859.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Disparity of the Intelligent and the Ignorant in the USA


Nature 453, 28-30 (1 May 2008) | doi:10.1038/453028a; Published online 30 April 2008

I have heard it said by Neil deGrasse Tyson that America produces the smartest people in the world, while at the same time producing the dumbest people in the world.

And Now for Something Completely Different.
Original graph from here, 2002 religiosity pew poll here, and IQ from IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Darwin Was Right!

About natural selection and almost everything else he wrote about. Any questions?

Smith HF, Fisher RE, Everett ML, Thomas AD, Randal Bollinger R, Parker W (2009) Comparative anatomy and phylogenetic distribution of the mammalian cecal appendix. J Evol Biol. 2009 Aug 12. [Epub ahead of print]

On the Concept of Racism

The term "racism" is properly defined as the belief that "race" is the primary determinant of human traits and that those traits produce inherent superiorities between "races".

There is another term "racialism," defined as a theory that race determines human traits and capacities.

While contemplating the term races in a purely scientific matter, I have come to the conclusion that factually, "race" exists. The proper term "races" stands for the different sets of genetic variants that accumulate within a population. Neo-Darwinism can be defined as changes in gene frequencies within a gene pool.

It is not hard to come up with an example of differences between races. The most obvious difference being skin color, but an even more appropriate physical feature showing a physical advantage or disadvantage depending on a particular environment would be to compare pygmies average height with that of any other "race" (The average male height of pygmies being 150 cm and the average height of American males being 176cm.) But of course even skin color can defer an advantage or disadvantage in rates of tolerance towards sun exposure. Other genetic differences between races include Lactose tolerance, HIV resistance, Malaria Resistance, and a number of other genetic differences that have been shown to occur at different rates between the supposed races.

Now, back to the term racism. Racial differences exist, we as scientists should be honest with ourselves and stop fooling ourselves into thinking that they don't. Too many people forget that it is one thing to say that racial differences exist and it is a whole other matter when someone says that a particular race is superior to another therefore the other race should be discriminated against. But again the situation gets even more complicated, because couldn't a person make a case for the discrimination of pygmies within the NBA (National Basketball Association,) obviously, yes. Would an airport hire a blind air-traffic controller? But, this brings up a new problem, in that, are not all short people discriminated against in the NBA? I would like to call this concept justified discrimination as opposed to unjustified discrimination. An example of unjustified discrimination would be the practices of organizations which perpetuate inherent differences between races, not based upon any type of pragmatic concern, but would otherwise lay claim to and actively discriminate against others solely based upon birthrights (I'm sure the reader can think of one.)

Luckily if things continue the way they are, in a few hundred years the human race will be a semi-perfect mix of all the current races. I look forward to that future of a homogeneous society where only one race exists and justified racial discrimination can and will no longer exist on logical grounds. The only discrimination will be that of the luck of the genetic draw and the subsequent environmental effects that change a persons phenotypes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sexual Differences

Two interesting papers. Come to your own conclusions...

Dunn, MJ & Searle, R (2009) Effect of manipulated prestige-car ownership on both sex attractiveness ratings British Journal of Psychology (In press) Pubmed
Abstract:
Previous studies have shown that male attractiveness can be enhanced by manipulation of status through, for example, the medium of costume. The present study experimentally manipulated status by seating the same target model (male and female matched for attractiveness) expressing identical facial expressions and posture in either a 'high status' (Silver Bentley Continental GT) or a 'neutral status' (Red Ford Fiesta ST) motor-car. A between-subjects design was used whereby the above photographic images were presented to male and female participants for attractiveness rating. Results showed that the male target model was rated as significantly more attractive on a rating scale of 1-10 when presented to female participants in the high compared to the neutral status context. Males were not influenced by status manipulation, as there was no significant difference between attractiveness ratings for the female seated in the high compared to the neutral condition. It would appear that despite a noticeable increase in female ownership of prestige/luxury cars over recent years males, unlike females remain oblivious to such cues in matters pertaining to opposite-sex attraction. These findings support the results of previous status enhancement of attractiveness studies especially those espousing sex differences in mate preferences are due to sex-specific adaptations.

Karremans, J., Verwijmeren, T., Pronk, T., & Reitsma, M. (2009) Interacting with women can impair men’s cognitive functioning. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(4), 1041-1044. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.05.004
Abstract:
The present research tested the prediction that mixed-sex interactions may temporarily impair cognitive functioning. Two studies, in which participants interacted either with a same-sex or opposite-sex other, demonstrated that men’s (but not women’s) cognitive performance declined following a mixed-sex encounter. In line with our theoretical reasoning, this effect occurred more strongly to the extent that the opposite-sex other was perceived as more attractive (Study 1), and to the extent that participants reported higher levels of impression management motivation (Study 2). Implications for the general role of interpersonal processes in cognitive functioning, and some practical implications, are discussed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Decent Measure of The Harmful Effects of Drugs

The following chart shows the classifications of drugs as proposed in the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Class A substances being the most harmful and class C drugs being the least harmful. The penalties attributed to the drugs are also determined by the class of drug used.



The mean harm score based upon the scoring of independent experts is presented below. As can be seen, the current classes of drugs do not correlate with the scores attributed to the drugs by medical professionals and the scientific literature used in this meta-analysis.



The below chart is scored from 0-3, with 0 being no risk,
1 some, 2 moderate, and 3 extreme risk.



If we assume that the results of this study are an accurate representation of the apparent harm of the drugs studied, obviously, the current classification system is not objectively based upon the physical harm, societal harm, or addictiveness of the drugs.

Sometimes people are too quick to jump to conclusions when certain drugs are proposed to be legalized, cannabis being one example. What is needed are more objective studies that get rid of the political baggage so that we can actually make informed decisions about the dangers of drugs.

Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse
The Lancet, Volume 369, March 24, 2007, Issue 9566, Pages 1047-1053
D. Nutt, L. King, W. Saulsbury, C. Blakemore

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On the Topic of Intellectual Dishonesty

Intellectual dishonesty sometimes creeps into the scientific world and should be squashed like bug whenever found. So, What is the problem with intellectual dishonesty?

A person may believe in something or hold a belief in something and be wrong without knowing, this is commonly referred to as "ignorance". But, when a person believes a certain thing, yet advocates the opposite point of view in order to obtain an educational degree in science, that is called "intellectual dishonesty".

Let's go through some of the positions that a Christian young earth creationist takes.
  1. The earth is 6000 years old.
  2. Noah's ark was around 4000 years ago and water covered the entire earth
  3. Noah's ark contained all species minus salt water fish.
  4. Species divergence occurred in 4000 years and 99% of all species went extinct in that 4000 years.
  5. People somehow lived to the age of +900 years old
  6. God created the universe with light already on its way to earth.
  7. The central tenets of Physics, Biology, and Chemistry are flawed.
  8. Evolution by natural selection doesn't occur.
  9. Dinosaurs and people lived together. (the Flintstones was a documentary)
  10. Not swayed by evidence, but convinced by poorly formed idiotic bronze age myths.
  11. Blind Faith > Scientific Method
Well, guess what University of Hawaii, there are two creationists that I know of who want to obtain graduate degrees in natural sciences from your school.

YOUR SHIPMENT OF FAIL HAS ARRIVED!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On my Personal Philosophy: Scientific Material Probabalism

Written as a time-capsule on my current worldview, to be read over in subsequent years to examine how and when my philosophy evolves:

At the current date 7-02-09, my philosophy is one of my own making. I purport that the best way to view the world is through the universal solvent that is called modern science. How should we judge the validity of ideas? I propose that the only way to properly judge the truth claims made by others is to use the scientific method. When the scientific method is inapplicable or evidence is not forthright, healthy skepticism and logical rationalization followed by probabilistic approaches will suffice as tentative devices.

I feel it necessary to create a self-definition of what my philosophy is, so as to refer back to this definition in the future. I must admit that I am reluctant to use a word or concept that already has a school of philosophy tied to it, but perhaps a combination of terms will lessen the confusion of terms.

"Scientific Material Probabalism"

Science is the main theme of this philosophical worldview. By using the tenants of inductive reasoning and empirical testing, science has been the most successful tool in discerning truth claims from falsehoods. By taking the scientific method we come to an understanding that so far there is no evidence of supernatural events, hence the following of materialism. Probabalism comes into the picture when we start to talk about the limitations of scientific findings, knowledge and "proving" things. I propose (it has been iterated many times before by philosophers of science) that in science something can never be known to 100% certainty, therefore one has to look at the findings of science in a probabilistic fashion. e.g. Creationism 1.6*10^-35 % (this is made up and is actually the Planck length if you wanted to know where I got the number from) chance of being true, while evolution 99.9999...% true. But what about claims that are 50-50, or even claims with which we have no answers for? A tenet of the philosophy is the willing acceptance to say "I don't know". When "I don't know"'s are found, that is when you can do either of two things: be content with not knowing at the moment or actively pursue the answer to the proposed question.

A common criticism towards scientific findings is that "science changes and paradigm shifts occur which turns science on its head" or "look scientists said eating eggs is bad ->good -> bad -> good etc...." I propose that the pragmatic approach is best to deal with such statements. So what if our current understanding of gravity is wrong, will airplanes fall out of the sky if a specific type of quantum gravity is found to be more accurate than general relativity? Perhaps the best definition of science is found in the following book:

Sagan, Carl, "The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark". Ballantine Books, March 1997 ISBN 0-345-40946-9, 480 pgs.

Science is a process, a self-correcting process that changes, this is the beauty of science, the strength of science, and by no means a Weakness.

Now on to moralistic properties of this philosophy. Recently, Sam Harris, HERE, made comments on using science to compare political ideologies and practices in order to form a new political system that promotes social wellness, equality, while maintaining high levels of prosperity. (No, this is not communism or utopianism, it is a progressive stance) I would go one step further and compare cultural practices, I will state that different cultural practices are harmful to a society (nationalism, tribalism, harmful religious practices). The major stepping stone for this type of scientific social study would be, what combination of factors (social well being, equality, freedoms, happiness) should be maximized? I will not delve into the subject of social engineering as this is an extremely deep field, but I hope that the reader can understand the direction that i was going in with what is written above.

Now, what about individual moral actions or moral stances. I propose a new definition called "moral probabalism" (not to be confused with the 16th century catholic philosophy.) The main stance of this philosophy is that a moral action much be approached individually (every case is different) and judged based upon the context surrounding the action taken or being taken, with all of the information available at the time an action must be taken or not taken based upon the probability of the outcome connected to a certain value property. As to what the value property is it has to be defined at the moment, it could be for the good of an individual, for the planet, for the species, etc...

to be continued......

Sunday, June 28, 2009

On the Word: Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is defined by websters online dictionary as:

"1: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not ; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion
2: an act or instance of hypocrisy"

I will freely admit that I have been wrongly using the word and also that this word could possibly be one of the most misused words in common language use in Hawaii. (Perhaps the US mainland also?)

A common misuse of the word hypocrite, directly follows. (Wiki)

"Hypocrisy is the act of pretending that one has beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities or standards that they do not actually have; this is usually done in order to mask their actual motives or feelings; falseness.

Father: You know, it's wrong to swear.
Son: You hypocrite!
Father: How so?
Son: You always swear.
Father: That doesn't make me a hypocrite.

The father is correct, as opposed to the son, who isn't. Had the father stated he doesn't swear, (assuming that the son is correct in saying he always swears) he would have been a hypocrite. Had he not actually agreed with the statement, again, he would have initiating a hypocritical situation. The possession of the belief is what labels the situation, not the practice of the belief. Self-contradiction is not necessarily synonymous with hypocrisy."

Definitions of words are extremely important in facilitating proper communication with others. By misusing words when corrected as to what their proper definitions are, you are only facilitating and promoting further problems with miscommunication in the future. The misuse of words helps to destroy and muddle the evolution of the English language. If you want to convey your thoughts feelings or an object etc... either use the correct words that are in common use (if you find it necessary to be accurate look up the word in the dictionary) or if necessary make up your own word. (so as it could possibly be taken up and assimilated into the English language)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

fractal wrongness: Concept of the day

fractal wrongness

The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

Debating with a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one. It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.

If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet--in mailing lists, newsgroups, or website forums--your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.

Courtesy of http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Fractal_wrongness

As for whether or not this is a recognized standard word, I cannot find reference to it in mainstream dictionaries, but it is a play on the mathematical concept of fractals.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Commenting on The Moral Sense

Often in the discourse between the irreligious and religious the topic of morals is brought up. The most common question put forth by religious people towards secularists is the idea that without a moral law giver (GOD) morals wouldn't exist. Thereby following that previous question with, if god doesn't exist where do you get your morals from or what stops you from murdering other people.

There are many different ways to approaching the problem of solving where our morals come from and I shall be covering several aspects of the moral argument.

Evolutionarily it is hard to think up if not impossible to imagine a species that could have evolved with a moral code of conduct that would permit the murder of their fellow members of their species. By looking at nature we would be hard pressed to find a species that performs murder of its fellow in group allies. What we see in nature are battles for territory, sex, food, and position which rarely lead to the murder of the participants. Battles are wrought in a variety of ways such as the innocence of a peacocks tail to the violent clashing of rams horns. A traditional view of the evolution of intraspecific battles are circled around the idea of ESS (Evolutionary Stable Strategies) opportunity costs and utility. If a specific player were to attempt to murder another, the cost of the murder will affect whether such a behavior will be passed down to that performers progeny. The cost of murder is obviously high in most cases, especially within the animal kingdom. If a murder is attempted the victim will most likely fight back, serious injury could occur or even death, revenge comes into play in human societies which could lead to endless vengeance and rivalry. Looking back into the evolutionary history of mankind any type of injury occurring outside of the past 100 years would be life threatening. If murder were performed before reproducing and resulted in the murderer being murdered in turn, those genes for "that behavior" (behavior and the linkage to genes is not a simple matter but the link between genes and behavior has been established) would simply not be passed on.

We can look for examples of intraspecific "murder" in nature for a better understanding of when and how it takes place. A female prey mantis can be commonly seen biting the head off of its male mate during sexual intercourse. This act of cannibalism has been shown to boost the sexual potency of the male conferring a big selection pressure on the practice. Wars between rival insect factions have been seen in nature, but such events can hardly be called senseless murder. The closest example that compares to human murder can be found in our nearest relatives the apes and monkeys. Chimps have been seen to brutally murder children of rival alpha males after taking power and have been seen murdering in group dissidents. The cost of murdering rivals children is low as they cannot protect themselves and after such murder has taken place the females begin to ovulate allowing for sexual reproduction to occur under the new alpha male. The murder of dissidents in chimp culture can be seen as a way to maintain the power structure. To my knowledge there are no known cases of serial killers in ape societies other in humans.

I will appeal to common sense and ask the reader to imagine a species that freely commits murder of its fellow kind and imagine if such a species could have survived the war of nature without succumbing to extinction.

Now on to the aspect of how our genes can control our behavior. Genes affect behavior in humans through the reward systems, empathy centers, mirror neurons etc.. (performing a deed can make us feel good or bad internally) Most people have a tendency to feel queasy when even thinking about killing other human beings. The exception to the rule are psychopaths who feel no emotions towards others due to brain defects either genetic or onset due to some form of brain damage.

Since genes have been selected against murder it is easy to see that humans are hardwired against performing murder in normal circumstances and are internally awarded to do so. Now that I have described how the moral sense against murder has been evolved naturalistically I want to continue on to the subjective realm of morals.

Laws are put in place to deter criminal acts. If a person were to commit murder there is a sufficient punishment that will be placed upon that individual if caught and convicted. A common issue with people is to say that "you are not moral if all that is keeping you from murdering is the fear of punishment", which is valid but detracts from the issue. If there were no punishment for murder would the murder rate go up, down, or stay the same? I doubt that I would have to argue that the murder rate would rise significantly. Obviously the laws and punishments are sufficient to keep a certain number of people from murdering.

The cost of murder is high, as the murderer risks severe injury or death by performing their actions. What are the benefits of committing murder? In a situation where someone was going to murder me and I had to protect myself in self defense I would kill the attacker, thereby giving me the benefit of life.

I would ask the reader to answer the question as to whether or not they would not commit murder in any and all situations and consider whether murder in self defense is moral or not. Most religions sanction certain forms of murder with the exception of Jainism and other pacifistic religions, so a devout christian or muslim could not claim murder as being immoral in all circumstances. State sanctioned murder occurs in several forms, such as self defense, war, and capital punishment. To address the extremely pacifistic religions, I would like the reader to think about this statement "a lack of action can be just as immoral as an immoral action because of the opportunity cost of inaction." A simple thought experiment can be performed here to show my point, if a known terrorist had access to a nuclear bomb and set it up in new york and had the trigger near him but you had the chance to kill him before he would take the trigger and end the life of millions, what would be the correct moral choice of action?

I have not addressed whether or not murder during war or capital punishment are moral but that topics need to be looked at individually and are not needed in this particular argument.

To answer the beginning question as to where I get my morals from and what stops me from murdering others. It is simple, all the factors that I have outlined above. By our nature we are hardwired to avoid murdering others, there are significant costs to committing murder including risks to self, a society could not function and would most likely lead to extinction if murder were permitted freely, and in some circumstances I would murder if the benefits far outweighed the costs, an example being self-defense or in the defense of others.

I don't want to typecast as a utilitarian but my morals do tend towards utilitarianism.

I am sure that some things have escaped me while I wrote this so I may add addendums to this as new ideas come to mind.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My views on Libertarians

Note this post may be incomplete:

I have recently come across a group of libertarians on YouTube and have been thoroughly perplexed by a large majority of the economical and social stances that they take. While being superficially similar to the stance of most moral objectivists, I find that the subtle differences make a huge difference between the two.

Perhaps it is best for me to present my position on politics and economics. I am not affiliated with any party and choose to vote for the candidate that 1) has a chance of winning. 2) best represents my views on science, science funding, education, stance on social freedoms, then economics. But due to the nature of the US political system at this time in history, we essentially have a two party system. Yes, there are two other party's Libertarian and Green but they usually garner <2% of the vote. (maybe up to 3%)

The Libertarians, if I am to take Ron Paul as an example, seem to not be a party with matters of social or scientific consensus. Ron Paul is against abortion, highly religious, doesn't believe in public education and he doesn't believe in evolution. Of course I have come across other libertarians that lean more towards a moral objectivists point of view and are for gay marriage, abortion rights, science, and highly anti-religious. The thing that seems to hold the political group together is their consensus on economic policy. I have been pointed to a school of economics called the Austrian school of economics an economic school of thought promoting a kind of laissez faire capitalism that Libretarians across the board subscribe to.

When presenting arguments the Libertarians seem to fall back on getting rid of the "Fed", which interpreted shows there utter disgust for any type of monetary policy being in effect. It seems that the Libertarian chooses to describe the cause of most economic recessions to failed inflationary monetary policy, which consists of any increase in the money supply that they say will produce a bubble economy resulting in a recession. Most common Libertarians seem to produce negative reactions to any type of monetary policy (expansionary or contractionary), while some big name libertarians such as Milton Freedmon while disagreeing with the existence of monetary policy have chosen to give advice on how to stabilize the economy through its use.

I must admit my own personal bias and skepticism towards the Austrian school of economics as it is not a mainstream idea. I do have degrees in finance focusing on market valuations and derivatives and international business focusing on economics, but as do most universities they do not cover the Austrian school of economics readily in classes. What is taught first is a modern Keynesian view of economics with reference to capitalism. Socialism is not thoroughly discussed except in a negative sense, but the ideas of communism were discussed and so were theories as to why it failed to produce goods and services. In later courses we learned about modern economic theory and monetary policy, along with government regulation due to the Enron fiasco. I personally came to the conclusion that the efficient market hypothesis runs relatively true and that investors are not rational when information is scarce and the best way to make money from the market was either to acquire information before it is disseminated through the public and to value companies based on rational speculations of probabilities of future income base upon past trends and trying to predict market speculation….etc.etc. (most of which would have been spent on staring at graphs) But of course this has nothing to do with how to make economies work, but deals with how to profit in the existing system.

The non-intervention monetary policy is an intriguing hypothesis, but every alarm in my head screams it is bound to fail. But, of course as the rational skeptic I must be open to consider new ideas so I took today out to looking through what the Libertarians propose. One trend that I found very disheartening was a very dogmatic view from libertarians. I had a feeling that standards of evidence were differing between me and the people I came across right off the bat. I came across some very funny quotes right after a Libertarian told me that not believing him was akin to disbelief in evolution, and the link between AIDS and HIV and a rejection of science.

“Austrian economists reject empirical, statistical methods and artificially constructed experiments as tools applicable to economics, saying that while it is appropriate in the natural sciences where factors can be isolated in laboratory conditions, the actions of human beings are too complex for this treatment"

“The main criticism of modern Austrian economics is that it lacks scientific precision. Austrian theories are not formulated in formal mathematical form, but using verbal logic. Mainstream economists believe that this makes Austrian theories too imprecisely defined to be clearly used to explain or predict real world events. Economist Bryan Caplan noted that, "what prevents Austrian economists from getting more publications in mainstream journals is that their papers rarely use mathematics or econometrics." This criticism of the Austrian school is related to its rejection of the use of the scientific method and empirical testing in social sciences in favor of self-evident axioms and logical reasoning.”

As far as I could find there are not that much papers from economists purporting the Libertarians view of economics. The above quote is actually from a Libertarian and the other is one of their basic principles of the moral absolutes or praxeology. As the libertarian view point is obviously nothing like the scientific method, I have to conclude that analogous features between the Austrian school of economics and science are few and far between. The view that logical absolutes and the axioms of human nature are self evident seems to have been derived from Aristotle’s Greek school of thought. If my mind is not being forgetful, I seem to remember the pervading view of Aristotle was that logical statements did not need to be proved. The Austrian school of economics seems to have taken up the position that proof in terms of statistics and mathematics is unnecessary in the formation of its economic theories. The scientist inside of me does not agree with the prior statement, as nature has proved to defy human logic, only through statistical means have we been able to make advances in science compared to our ancient Greek counterparts.

As there are no fully free market capitalistic Austrian economics school of thought countries, there is no empirical evidence that this system can and does work. But, there also has never been a fully communistic society either. So these two extremes have not been fully tested. As for anyone claiming that either one of these economic systems works there simply is not enough evidence to support that view. I am certainly skeptical that a fully free market could exist without turning into a corporatist monopoly system, but of course I could be wrong. But as a realist I simply do not see a theory not based upon empirical evidence taking over a majority of the public so that it will ever be instated in the US. My final conclusion is that I remain unconvinced of the claims made by Libertarians.

(Note may be incomplete)

My exchange with libertarians

These are my responses to several libertarians from this video

What should be done about the economy?

Not all In order

kintarocrab (1 day ago) Show Hide
There are different types of investment, short, longterm, bad/good. What about government spending being apart of investment, which large portions of the bailout are, I don't think you addressed these things in your video.
Because he addressed it in other videos.

kintarocrab (1 day ago) Show Hide
Which one, there are 160 too look through.
"Um no re: how to lose a trillion dollars"
for one.

kintarocrab (1 day ago) Show Hide
That video did not address the issue that I wrote. Some types of government spending have the same effect as investment. the bailout was a type of loan, that was used to invest into the economy. It is not applicable to call the deficit G-T in the short run on that graph. The effects of the deficit spending are drawn out, as it is an attempt to improve the economy so that at that time the loan can be paid back.
I think I see what you are talking about.
But even if the bailouts were investment (which they weren't) they would have been a bad one at best because they went into failed banks...
Government spending is NOT investment though, even if its in infrastructure.
That's why they are separated.
Investment is done privately without government.

kintarocrab (1 day ago) Show Hide
As these bailouts are a new thing, I don't think that there is proper precedent to say whether or not before hand as to what there effects are going to be. I remain skeptical as to whether they are a good idea or not, but I refuse to take a presupposition in the light of the lack of evidence to support the position taken by this video.
"As these bailouts are a new thing,'
No they aren't.
I may be wrong, but I do believe the S&L crisis would be an example of this....

"but I refuse to take a presupposition in the light of the lack of evidence to support the position taken by this video."
He provided evidence, in this video, and in others.

kintarocrab (22 hours ago) Show Hide
As I remember the economy was doing quite fine during the 90's except for the dotcombubble (which was not caused by bailouts, if you have evidence that it was pls. present). The scale is also different than the S&L crisis. bad evidence is not good evidence.

Surhotchaperchlorome (21 hours ago) Show Hide
"As I remember the economy was doing quite fine during the 90's except for the dotcombubble (which was not caused by bailouts, if you have evidence that it was pls. present)."
No, it was caused by the Fed pumping too much many into the system.

"The scale is also different than the S&L crisis."
Why does this matter?

"bad evidence is not good evidence."
Tautology.
What evidence are you referring to?

kintarocrab (21 hours ago) Show Hide
Damn i wrote out a long res. but it was deleted, anyway. Dotcom bubble not caused by fed, but by bad investments, and non producing companies. The swedish bailout seemed to work out fine. The video improperly caricatures what is actually going on in the economy and is highly speculative on a subject that the author cannot change, but if the bailouts do fail I will reconsider my position. END

kintarocrab (21 hours ago) Show Hide
addon: after S&L the economy improved during the 90's that was the reason for the first sentence int he other reply.

shanedk (18 hours ago) Show Hide
"Dotcom bubble not caused by fed, but by bad investments,"

Bad investments are ENCOURAGED by the Fed's inflationary bubbles. That's how it works! The increase in the Supply of Loanable Funds results in a drop in interest rates, which makes banks and investors less risk-averse. It's been shown over and over and over again.

kintarocrab (7 hours ago) Show Hide
Irrational investments into companies that didn't produce goods or had sub par services was the reason for the bubble burst. Market speculation was irrational for that period of time due to the emergence of the new techno bubble that popped up. The fed may have made investing easier but the bad investments were still made by individual investors. Not the CAUSE but a contributing factor.

shanedk (7 hours ago) Show Hide
"Irrational investments into companies that didn't produce goods or had sub par services was the reason for the bubble burst."

And the reason for the irrational investments was the false signals sent into the market by the inflationary monetary policy.

kintarocrab (7 hours ago) Show Hide
No the irrational investments were made due to the lack of information and overconfidence in the new emergent market, the investors were making short term profits on there investments(due to pyramid scheme like companies). Once the investors realized that the companies did not produce they started pulling out.

Virgil0211 (6 hours ago) Show Hide
And the only reason they were able to do this was because of the inflationary monetary policy. Had this policy not been in place, the investments wouldn't have been made. For example, we had no recessions or depressions during the free banking era.

kintarocrab (5 hours ago) Show Hide
oh man, you would use the free banking era as evidence? you are insane. Its not even applicable to what we were discussing.

Virgil0211 (5 hours ago) Show Hide
Yes. Use an ad hominem instead of actually discussing the topic.

Yes, I would use the free banking era as evidence. You were trying to imply that our current economic crisis was not due to monetary policy. I pointed you to an example where such monetary policy wasn't present, and the result was not malinvestment.

Get over it. Our monetary policy led to this recession. It enabled, encouraged, and protected the malinvestment that caused it. To deny this is akin to denying evolution or gravity.

kintarocrab (4 hours ago) Show Hide
Ya, but I wasn't arguing for the cause of the current recession. We are not talking about the same thing. So pls. retract your original statement.

shanedk (4 hours ago) Show Hide
It is! You were talking about the dot-bomb, which has the same cause! It's all due to our inflationary monetary policy.

kintarocrab (4 hours ago) Show Hide
That is a pretty big claim to be making "All of our economic problems are due to our current monetary policy post 1862". Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Evolution is agreed upon by 99.9999% of biologists and by vast amounts of evidence. As for your claims I have never come across an economist sharing that point of view. I'm sry but if that is what you are touting I don't buy it for a second.

Virgil0211 (4 hours ago) Show Hide
Actually, we have provided evidence. We've laid out how it occurred and provided an example of how things were prosperous back during the free banking era without such monetary policy. This runs quite counter to your implication that these events would've occurred even without government intervention. If you have some evidence to prove it, go ahead and present it.

And quite a few economists DO share our position. Ignorance is not a valid defense.

Virgil0211 (4 hours ago) Show Hide
And by the way, we weren't saying that all of our economic problems were due to the current monetary policy. Just the problems in question.

Next time, try not to misrepresent your opponent's side when you develop a counter-argument. It just makes you look stupid.

kintarocrab (4 hours ago) Show Hide
"It's all due to our inflationary monetary policy." I was not taking this out of context. Don't call me stupid when you didn't even have the brains to look at what I was writing in the first place. Ya I am sure you can find some obscure economist that shares your views, just as creationists can. But you can't argue that the vast majority 98+% of all economists think having some form of a controlled monetary policy is how the economy should be run.

Virgil0211 (4 hours ago) Show Hide
A similar problem having a similar cause? Oh, perish the thought! Next thing you know, they'll be saying that the majority of AIDS cases result from an HIV infection.

It wasn't a matter of brains. It was a matter of looking at the latest comments you had made, keeping the subject of the video in question, and replying. Don't blame me for the fact that Youtube's comment system is screwed up.

Milton Friedman, Adam Smith (the man whose writings inspired Darwin's T.O.S.), Peter Schiff... (cont.)

kintarocrab (4 hours ago) Show Hide
For one, how in the hell can you take adam smith as a proponent of libertarianism? Anyway you obviously won't admit that your ideas are an extreme minority and you show the tell tale signs of extreme dogmatism towards your point of view so forget it. Believe what you want based upon shoddy evidence and bad theories. I wish you guys could get your own country to try out your economic policies so people could be done with this debate, but whatever.

Virgil0211 (3 hours ago) Show Hide
He was a proponent of limited government intervention into the market. Sound familiar?

Argument from authority? Is that all you have now?

You've asserted that these recessions would happen whether or not monetary policy was changed. This has been proven false.

You've asserted that we blame all economic problems on our monetary policy. This has been proven false.

You've asserted that our opinions are only held by a minority of "crackpot" economists. This is demonstrably false.

Virgil0211 (4 hours ago) Show Hide Ludwig Von Mises, Friedrich Von Hayek (Who, like Friedman, won a nobel prize in economics), Joseph Schumpeter, Henry Hazlitt, Murray Rothbard.

Von Mises and Milton Friedman both warned about the Great Depression some years before it happened, and Peter Schiff warned about our current recession when other economists were predicting that such a recession couldn't happen.

These are NOT obscure economists. These are brilliant men whose boots you are not worthy to kiss. Your fallacy is revealed.

Virgil0211 (4 hours ago) Show Hide

I apologize. I misinterpreted the conversation. However, replace "our current economic crisis" with "the dot-bomb" and it still applies. So, no, my original statement will not be retracted. Simply modified. Happy?

kintarocrab (3 hours ago) Show Hide
None of those points have been proven false. I never used the word crackpot, don't put words in my mouth I said minority and obscure. Argument from authority you are the one pulling out names. My position doesn't need to pull out names, since I have 100+ years of economic papers written on monetary policy for you to look through and every text book written on the subject. i don't understand why you would limit yourself to a political allegiance, why don't you try being a freethinker instead.

Virgil0211 (3 hours ago) Show Hide
Your first point was proven false through an explanation of how monetary policy affects investment and the example of the Free Banking Era.

Secondly, we never said all economic problems were caused by our current monetary policy. We stated that our monetary policy has a specific effect on our economy that leads to this cycle of expansion and recession.

Minority, maybe. Obscure, definitely not. We also have 100+ years of economic papers and several accurate predictions under our belts.

Virgil0211 (3 hours ago) Show Hide
If you knew anything about scientific theories, you would know that the purpose of a theory was to make accurate predictions. Austrian theory predicted the GD, the dot bomb, and our current recession. Keynesian theory did not. It doesn't matter how many people ascribe to a model if said model doesn't make accurate predictions.

It wasn't an argument from authority. You said it was held by an obscure minority. The names were in response to that. You challenged the authority itself.

kintarocrab (2 hours ago) Show Hide
Here's a quote for you "Austrian economists reject empirical, statistical methods and artificially constructed experiments as tools applicable to economics,." and "The main criticism of modern Austrian economics is that it lacks scientific precision." I read up on your austrian economics since it is not taught readily in schools. Some interesting things but that just poked out like a soar thumb.

kintarocrab (2 hours ago) Show Hide
"his criticism of the Austrian school is related to its rejection of the use of the scientific method and empirical testing in social sciences in favor of self-evident axioms and logical reasoning." Maybe I have found my problem with your way of thinking. The quote above kind of summed it up. But it could be a conspiracy of us monetarists plaguing your wiki page.

Virgil0211 (2 hours ago) Show Hide
Check the source from the page. It's not a quote. The terms "self-evident", "social sciences", "logical reasoning", and "axioms" don't even show up in the source referenced.

Virgil0211 (2 hours ago) Show Hide
And by the way, the paper referenced for that section was written Bryan Caplan, a member of the Cato Institute (Libertarian think tank) and a Chicago School economist, which was based on the Austrian School. He would agree that monetary policy such as ours leads to these recessions.

Virgil0211 (2 hours ago) Show Hide
Ah, yes. Wikipedia. That's a wonderfully accurate resource right there. Never mind the accurate predictions made by Hayek and Schiff. Yes, Wikipedia's "criticism of Austrian School" section is the place to get your information about how accurate it is. Did you even read the rest of the article, or did you just jump to the criticisms section scrambling for a quote to use?

Whatever the case, the fact that the theory predicted these circumstances vindicates it beyond the edit wars of wikipedia.

kintarocrab (2 hours ago) Show Hide
Nah I read the whole thing, like I said kind of interesting, but the rejection of mathematics and statistics doesn't go well for me.

Virgil0211 (2 hours ago) Show Hide
They aren't rejected outright. They're taken with a grain of salt as it's very difficult to isolate variables with economics. Watch a youtube video with Peter Schiff's appearances on CNBC and see how often statistics or mathematics come up.

kintarocrab (2 hours ago) Show Hide
Peter schiff may use mathematics but that is going against the austrian school of economics. The general principles are similar to those of ayn rand. And as for him predicting the bubble bursting, there were a lot of people who thought the economy was going to tank. I myself thought the real estate bubble was going to burst back in 2005 without even looking so much into the economic debacle.

Virgil0211 (2 hours ago) Show Hide
I repeat: Austrian school takes these with a grain of salt. It doesn't discard them entirely.

An objectivist may follow the austrian school, but one who ascribes to the austrian school may not be an objectivist.

The point is why they thought the economy would tank. The keynesian economists basically predicted that so long as the government kept spending, our economy would do well. Schiff predicted that if we kept up our monetary policy, we'd experience a recession. Guess who was right.

kintarocrab (1 hour ago) Show Hide
look again with the monetary policy thing. You do realize that "Modern" economists (Keynesian isn't applicable anymore ) argue all the time about what type of policy (expansionary contractionary) should be kept at different times right? I was going to point this out to you earlier, but not all economists (who are not libr.) think the same about when and how to adjust the monetary supply.

Virgil0211 (1 hour ago) Show Hide
Perhaps, but the general trend was to predict that the economy would do well under our current monetary system. There were some non-Keynesian economists who were also predicting prosperity. I saw an interesting debate between Schiff and Art Laffer back in 2006 over that same subject. Laffer was more of a supply-side economist in the Reagan tradition.

Virgil0211 (3 hours ago) Show Hide
Finally, it's not about a political allegiance any more than your acceptance of the Theory of Evolution is a political allegiance. It's about which model makes the most accurate predictions and best applies to monetary policy. My "allegiance", if you want to call it that, is based on the fact that the libertarian party follows this model and falls in line with what I view as appropriate social policy. Should this change tomorrow, I would change my affiliation.

Virgil0211 (3 hours ago) Show Hide
Now, you're re-asserting your original claim, accusing your opponent of being extremely dogmatic, basing conclusions on shoddy evidence, etc, when every claim you've made has been falsified, every conclusion you've presented has been wrong, and your reasoning shown to be utterly flawed.

You're behaving almost exactly like a creationist, right down to throwing insults as you leave in disgrace.

I wish you well. I hope you one day learn to apply reason to economics as well as science.

kintarocrab (3 hours ago) Show Hide
The first insult was merited as you were wrong and I properly pointed out your failure. The second insult came from you, also when you were wrong. Misuse of ad hom and misuse of arg from authority from you, that is more a kin to creationists than I am.

Virgil0211 (3 hours ago) Show Hide
Your first insult may have been warranted before I corrected myself, but not after. Any ad hominem attacks I made were in conjunction with, not instead of, my arguments. The only time I may have ventured close to "argument from authority" was when I responded to your argument that Austrian economic theory was only held by an obscure minority of economists. It was an appropriate response to that fallacious assertion. The fact that you can't or won't tell the difference says alot.