Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burden of Proof

Proof beyond reasonable doubt. 

As skeptics, we require proof beyond reasonable doubt for all claims ordinary and extraordinary.  This has frequently caused problems in situations involving charlatans who claim that they have psychic abilities, or for gullible, self deluded inventors who claim to have created a perpetual motion machine.  These people have been convinced, in some cases willingly, and in some cases naturally.  Claims can be convincing while still not having proof beyond reasonable doubt, unfortunately the burden of proof is on the accuser, or the claimant.

The term “Burden of proof” is usually reserved for courtroom settings; however one can use it in day to day situations as well.  This could be considered cynicism or as I like to call it “turbo skepticism”... Because it sounds cooler... 

There are serious social situations where one must exercise reason and logic when it becomes difficult to keep a clear head.  Imagine for example John Doe tells your very close friend that they saw some security footage of your wife in a grocery store parking lot beating your child before entering the vehicle.  This is a serious claim and it requires further investigation. 

First one must take a step back and figure out what the source of the information is, In this case, video.  We as the defendants do not have access to the video as it is security footage and it is confidential in nature.  So right off the bat we have a friend claiming that John Doe saw something on a video, and we are supposed to take his word for it.  Not only are we expected to take his word for it, but we are also supposed to trust his ability to make out an identity via security camera as well as trust his memory to report the incident.  Any skeptic can tell you that the human memory is plastic, and anecdotal evidence is complete rubbish.

I don’t intend to sound superior; however I just don’t think a non skeptic could make sense of the analysis above.  Some people just can’t understand burden of proof, the fallibility of the human brain as well as the worthlessness of anecdotal evidence.  In most cases the emotions overwhelm reason and logic in a situation such as this.

I feel strongly that we need more skeptics in politics and education.  I also feel that every single person on this planet needs a skeptical toolbox in order to live a reasonable life.  One needs to be able to examine every day claims with reason and logic, without these tools the human brain will take a shred of anecdote and turn it into proof enough to make a rash decision.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Forgiveness is Divine

I think it's always possible to forgive, regardless of the offense.  This may be a view exclusive to me because the word forgiveness is subjective anyway.  In my opinion, to forgive is to basically put the offender at ease in a way.  In any situation, offender will at some point ask for forgiveness either literally or in a gesture of kindness. This is when the offended has been given the responsibility to answer back, give and take.

Obviously not every act can REALLY be forgiven, but the gesture is necessary especially for social situations where it would benefit more than just yourself to bridge the gap or mend the fracture.  There are many situations where one would "forgive" but not really trust at all, but either way this is a social necessity.  If another man comes onto my wife and disrespects me, he is on the shit list for the rest of his life.  However, if a social situation calls for civility, then of course I will be civil.  I will never trust this person with an ounce of anything important to me, however civility is sometimes needed in social situations.  It isn't always about the offender and the offended, one must see the bigger picture when the situation calls for it.

Be Christlike folks, turn the cheek but never forget.

ha.. Christ.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Drake Equation.

What exactly IS the drake equation?

This image is actually the best way to show one what exactly the Drake equation is and what it predicts.  Many people get the wrong idea and assume that it is a reasonable person's way to show the existence of aliens but that really isn't it at all.  It is really just the best possible way we have to accurately deduce the probability and likelihood of there being an advanced civilization out there beyond where our little eyes can see.  It takes into account the vast amount of stars, solars systems, galaxies and also specific planets that are likely to be at a good distance from their parent star.  This distance is important because the distance between a planet and it stars plays a huge part in many things that would make it a habitable planet or not for our brand of life or any other life loosely based on carbon.

It's really a pretty elementary cosmological idea that; the closer you are to a star.. guess what.. the warmer you are!  yeah.  So obviously Earth is at a perfect point for our type of life to exist, therefore when we make assumptions based on the Drake Equation we look for planets that are roughly the distance that WE have from our star.  We also look to see the mass of the planet because this will have an affect on the gravity.  Our gravity is perfect for our type of life, if we lived on a more massive planet we would be crushed by our own weight and vice versa if the planet was less massive.  Some theorize that if there were intelligent life out there on a more massive planet, then they would likely be very low to the ground and have very stout, strong, structural bones and what not.  I think this is a pretty common sense assumption but it is very thought provoking and interesting.  

All of this is also considering that our brand of life is likely the only type to exist.  There may be chlorine based or methane based life out there.. we just don't know because our laws of physics could be completely different for a different galaxy or a different solar system.. We just don't know yet... Which is why we need to fucking look US government!!!

All of this really just sounds like an equation that puts us back where we were in a way.. We still don't know.. Here is Chad Brown's "in a nutshell" of what the Drake Equation means to us:

There are a shit ton of stars, therefore there are probably a shit ton of planets, this in turn increases the likelihood that there are probably planets out there that could be habitable to life like ours.

It's a pretty reasonable assumption when you consider the numbers involved.  There are approximately 1,000,000,000 stars in our galaxy.  Yeah.  Our sun is ONE of them.  Humans can't even accurately comprehend numbers that large.  1 Billion seconds equals over 3 years.  Think about that to make sense of the biggness of that number.

I honestly have no idea why I rambled about the Drake Equation because I am not a scientist and I honestly don't know exactly how to feel about the data it predicts, but I find it interesting and there is a lot of back and forth in the science community on how we should interpret the data we can get from it and how we should treat it.

It's all up for discussion as it is quit theoretical.  I find it interesting.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rambly doo da

I keep a journal.  Yep.  My brother got me a really nice fountain pen and a nice journal for my birthday as he works for a childhood friend of his who now owns a company that sells pens inks and media in which to write on.

It's neat and fun and it encourages me to think and spill my mind onto paper, which for me is more enjoyable than on a keyboard.  And it's easier to clean up, I mean have you ever tried to clean a keyboard?  Those pressurized air cans don't work at all.

Here is an excerpt from my journal that I wrote today.  On the triviality of words:

I don't love myself, yet I don't hate myself either.  At what point does acceptance become arrogance?  Lines are blurry with most things in life and scientific explanation.  Everything is relative and there is a continuum for all dichotomies.  At what point exactly does like become love and dislike become hate?  We use words all day everyday but when you really think about it hard it is really weird.  We create words and we create the meanings for these words.  Do other species even come close to the feelings we feel, regardless of the combination of letters that we came up with that make a sound that we decided it should make?  huh?  Language... wtf.


I know at the moment I speaking into a vacuum but I just feel that there is no time for anything.  I know I'm not the only one that feels this and I'm not sure what to do about it really.  It affects the way I exist day to day and I just feel like I don't have time for anything..

36 hour days please?
The only reason I am feeling like I am able to write right now is that I am at work and there is kind of a lull.  If I were at home I would feel obligated to clean something, or put something away or work on this or that..
This is the most common thought that anyone thinks I'm sure.. but being a grown up sucks.

Evidence shmevidence

A recent post on Skepchick recently got me thinking about the what is more dangerous: Religious Fundementalists or Anti-vaxers.

It is a very thought provoking question and one that deserves discussion so I look forward to the comments that will surely follow the post.  I personally think that they are both based on the same basic problem which is misinformation.

A comment prior to my own on the site brought up a very valid idea:
"Fundamentalists are inherently more dangerous since they promote blind faith over evidence. Anti-vaxxers at least attempt to follow evidence, albeit very poorly, and still see the value of evidence. A fundamentalist will believe in spite of evidence and sees this as a virtue."
This is kind of an eye opener and I totally agree with the poster.  Religion is not only a source of misinformation like Anti-Vax propaganda, it is also a terrible alteration of logic and morality.  Morality itself is of course subjective but that is a post for another day.

Anti-vaxers actually do value the idea of evidence, proof and statistics, however much they misinterpret them, whereas religious fundamentalists simply ignore logic and look at evidence as if it were blasphemy.
"Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God" - Martin Luther
This quote is revealing of the true nature of the religious world view.  It seems like common sense to be reasonable when having a discussion and coming to a conclusion, however the religious mindset is to literally ignore reason and trust in faith, blindly and without any proof aside from anecdotes.

Cosmos... again!?

Praise jesus Cosmos is getting a sequel hosted by none other than Neil Degrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and awesome keynote speech giver extraordinaire!  From the article:

In partnership with Sagan’s colleagues Ann Druyan (who is also his widow) and Steven Soter, Seth MacFarlane — yes, that Seth MacFarlane — is going to produce a new 13-part series to serve as a sequel and modern update to Sagan’s masterpiece.
I think it's great that Ann is keeping with Sagan's legacy (regardless of if it's for monetary gain) and doubly awesome that Seth MacFarlane is going to have a part in it.  His humorous style and popularity will surely have a positive affect on the ratings however one must also be at least slightly apprehensive of the idea because we don't want Cosmos to turn into some campy funny thing, it's educational not comedy.  I hope that they can present the sequel in a witty way in order to attract viewers, however also making the content deep and full of ideas that don't often get broadcast.. Especially on what is arguably the most RIGHT network..

The bad — or at least, potentially bad — news is that, due to MacFarlane’s involvement, the series will air in primetime, and on Fox.

This COULD be bad or it could be good depending on how you look at it.  Yes a lot of Fox viewers are opposed to basic scientific thinking, however there is already a good deal of good, science friendly programming on FOX like HOUSE.  A friend of mine said "Fox isn't the same think as Fox News", and this is quite true.  I'm hopeful that it will turn out well and this show will continue.

Cosmos was an incredible show and it changed my life in a positive way, I hope that the new version will do the same for many others including myself.