Friday, July 23, 2010

Are antisemites mad?

Shrinkwrapped is a very thoughtful blog by a conservative-oriented psychoanalyst in New York. From recollection, the author is Jewish. It is a generally very good blog well worth reading for those of us who are particularly interested in the psychology of politics -- which is my field of academic research.

Recently, Glenn Reynolds linked to an article by Roddy Boyd ("Killing Jews For Fun and For Profit: The Continuing American Adventures of Arab Bank") documenting a court case against an Arab Bank which illustrates how even supposedly rational and reasonable institutions, once in thrall to antisemitism, end up behaving irrationally and self destructively. Shrinkwrapped has responded with an article titled "Anti-Semitism as Thought Disorder".

To be a little crass about it, Shrinkwrapped argues that antisemitism sends you mad. That argument is of course not a new one. There are several versions of it and "The authoritarian personality" version of 1950 is perhaps the best known.

It is however basically an "armchair" theory. As far as I can tell, the people putting it forward have little if any personal knowledge of actual antisemites. For some reason, however, I have always had the compulsion to test theory against reality -- which usually does nothing for my popularity. And much of my research career was devoted to testing inferences derived from "The authoritarian personality" theory.

Readers who know my skeptical stance on global warming and health science will not be surprised to hear that I regularly found inferences from the theory not to be supported by the data.

And one of the things I did was to apply the characteristic methodology of anthropology to an examination of antisemitism. Anthropologists have the view that you can never understand a group "from the outside" -- You have to join the group and become accepted into it before you will ever have any chance of understanding it. I did that with the neo-Nazi group in my city. In other words I got out of my armchair and had a close-up look at what I was talking about. My resultant observations were published in The Jewish Journal of Sociology.

And what I found was actually something extremely common -- perfectly normal sane people who had just got hold of a wrong theory -- not unlike most Global Warmists today and not unlike the hordes of grade school teachers who think that just looking at words without any mention of phonics is a good way for kids to learn to read.

All three theories -- Jewish evil, global warming and "look and learn" have been catastrophic in different ways and illustrate the importance of getting your theories right. They also, sadly, illustrate the reluctance of people to let go of a theory they have accepted when confronted with evidence that the theory concerned is wrong.

Scientists are in fact some of the worst people at that. They cling to the theories of their youth through thick and thin and it is only the arising of a younger generation of scientists with more open minds that allows scientific thinking to advance.

So I disagree with Shrinkwrapped in seeing antisemites as being in some way psychologically abnormal. I think they are all too normal in fact. And it is precisely their normality which makes me despair of changing their views.

So in the end I am more pessimistic about antisemites than Shrinkwrapped is. He seems to think that psychological "help" could change their views whereas I doubt that anything will change their views. Israel can kill the antisemites that surround it but it will not change their minds.


Shrinkwrapped has offered some polite comments on my post above. I am a bit amused by his heading. He uses the rare word "emended" -- which refers to minor textual corrections. But his post is much more extensive than that. In a nutshell, he says that antisemitism can drive a whole society mad even if all the individuals in it are sane.

That seems a stretch to me but I will think about it. I tend to agree with Margaret Thatcher's thoroughly conservative observation that there is no such thing as society, only individual people.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There is no lid on the greenhouse

There is now an increasing number of physical scientists who are ridiculing the entire basis of the greenhouse theory. What they are saying is a bit hard to follow for the layman so I am going to have a stab at explaining it for a general audience. Apologies in advance if I oversimplify.

In a real greenhouse (growing tomatoes etc.) there is a glass lid on the greenhouse, which means that the hot air rising off the bottom of the greenhouse cannot escape and just sticks around in its hot state. Then further hot air rising also cannot escape and adds to the amount of trapped heat.

But there is no glass lid circling the earth. CO2 is just a gas and cannot trap anything. So scientists have to come up with a new type of "greenhouse" if they want to offer a theory about why the earth should be heating up. And their theory is that heat is like a rubber ball: As soon as it hits some CO2 it bounces back down to earth ("backradiation")

But heat is not a rubber ball or anything like it. Heat is just motion -- motion among molecules. So if heated air rising off the earth hits some CO2 it may transfer some of its motion to the CO2 (and thus heat it up a bit) but that is the end of it. There is nothing to bounce and nothing to bounce off.

So the entire "global warming" theory is absurd. Prof Claes Johnson below gives a more precise explanation -- JR
Why a Cold Body Cannot Heat A Warm Body

This post connects to previous posts arguing that backradiation is unphysical.

Recall that backradiation from atmospheric greenhouse CO2 is the scientific corner-stone of IPCC climate alarmism, supported by in particular the Royal Society and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This corner-stone is unphysical and purely fictional.

In Computational Black Body Radiation I give a mathematical explanation of Planck's black body radiation law based on finite precision computation, as an alternative to the statistics of quanta used by Planck himself.

The basic problem is to explain why and how nature avoids an ultra-violet catastrophy by cutting off radiation of frequencies higher than a certain cut-off frequency proportional to the temperature according to Wien's displacement Law (see fig above): Higher temperature allows higher frequencies to be radiated, as seen in the color of a fire changing with temperature.

Planck explains the cut-off using statistical mechanics by viewing radiating waves to be assembled from a certain smallest unit of energy (quanta) and assuming that high energy/frequency is rare because it requires assembly of many quanta.

In Computational Black Body Radiation I propose an alternative explanation viewing radiation the result of a form of analog finite precision computation (performed by oscillating
atoms/molecules) with the precision being proportional to temperature (mean oscillation amplitude) leading to high frequency cut-off.

The explanation of cut-off by finite precision computation offers an explanation of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics expressing that heat/radiation energy by itself can be transferred from a warm to a colder body, but not from a cold body to a warmer. Why is it so?

Because in transfer from warm to cold, high precision/energy/frequency waves are transformed to low precision/energy/frequency waves. In short, high precision can transformed by itself (with low precision) to low precision.

On the other hand, transfer from cold to warm, would require low precision to be transformed into high precision, and that is only possible by exterior (high precision) intervention.

Let us now give some examples illustrating that transfer from warm to cold is physical/observable while transfer from cold to warm is unphysical/nonobservable, because of limitations in analog finite precision computation:


Monday, July 05, 2010

Another lame attempt to wriggle out of the Race/IQ correlation

It's not much of a guess to say that stupid people are not very good at looking after their health and -- though lack of precautions -- may get a lot more disease than smarter people. And when you have got a whole nation of dumb people, the chances of them having good public health measures -- such as providing reticulated sewerage and clean drinking water -- must also be rated as low. So a finding that stupid people get a lot more illness is not remotely surprising.

And that is what the authors of Parasite prevalence and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability by Eppig, Fincher and Thornhill found. Rather bizarrely, however, they reverse the causal link. They say that poor health causes low IQ! They do end up admitting that they have no proof for their "reversed" chain of causation so their work proves nothing but it is nonetheless amusing to note a few things about their study.

The whole point of the paper is of course to show that Africans have low average IQs not from genetic inheritance but because they are worm infested. And there is no doubt that Africans in Africa do carry a heavy burden of worm infestation -- mainly due to the great lack of public health measures there.

Where it gets amusing is that Eppig et al. did their study in various regions of the world and in 5 out of 6 regions, the correlation held. The exception was South America. The correlation collapsed completely there. Why? Because the South American region included several Caribbean nations almost wholly inhabited by Africans! So why were the results there different from the rest of South America? Could it be a racial difference?

Oh no! Eppig et al say: "It is possible that local parasites ... are causing these outliers". In other words, they abandon the obvious in favour of a totally vague and unfounded speculation!

Two other reasons why the perverse theory of Eppig et al is wrong: They pinpoint nutritional deficit as the mechanism by which parasite load inhibits brain development. But if poor nutition lowers IQ, how do we explain the famous Dutch famine study? In the closing phases of WWII, Nederland experienced a severe famine. So all the Dutch kids born during the famine should be real dummies, right? The reverse happened. They were of higher average IQ than other Dutch cohorts. Only the very healthy survived and, as we have seen, good health and high IQ correlate.

And a second very obvious disproof of the perverse Eppig et al. theory is that black Americans have very similar health environments to white Americans but are still a whole standard deviation lower in average IQ. The Eppig et al theory is, in other words, arrant and transparent nonsense

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The USA: A country for the little guy

An Independence Day reflection

I was born and bred in the Australian working class and, despite my success in academe and business, I still feel most at home among working class people. They seem to me to have a realism that the bourgeoisie lack. And I notice the same good-humoured realism among small-town Americans too. Big cities and grand theorizing seem to undermine common sense.

And there is no doubt that people from humble beginnings can rise to the top in both Australia and the USA -- from a B grade actor like Ronald Reagan to a parasite like Barack Obama.

But I think that a major factor in making America great is an extraordinarily simple one and one that is often overlooked: America has Congressional elections every two years. That puts the politicians in mortal fear of the little guy -- of ordinary Americans.

The politicians have got very little room to maneuver. If they run off the rails they will very rapidly be out on their ear. And that fear does mostly restrain them from grand follies. So America is in a very real sense the country where the little guy rules -- and that has made it great. And there is no doubt that the grand folly of Obamacare will deliver many a well-deserved boot up the backside to Democrat politicians this November.

And one of the wonderful things about ordinary Americans and Australians is that they are benevolent. They are kindly people who are ready to help others if they can. And that has made the USA into an incredibly generous nation.

What leaves me in awe is that America has repeatedly shown its readiness to risk the lives of its finest young men in order to rescue people in other countries from tyranny and brutality. America itself has not been seriously threatened for around 200 years so most of America's many wars have simply been efforts to help others.

And I think therefore that it is very right to remind ourselves of that awesome sacrifice on this day. I think the video below does that: