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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why Math Matters

I have done many things in my life, including teaching math at the college level.

The perennial question that math students ask is, "Why do I have to take this course? I will NEVER use this kind of math in real life."

Now, a lot of teachers will try to pretend that the student will actually use math. Heck, I tried to pretend that for a couple of years myself. But we all know it isn't true. Very few people outside of engineering use calculus. Calculus was required for my computer science degree, but I can honestly say I never used it for anything. At most, I've used a bit of algebra and a taste of geometry, and that's about it. Most people will never use the math they learn in school.

So why do so many college programs still require math?
Simple. Math is a marker for "meta skills." In order to do math well, you have to be:

  1. Organized, 
  2. Good at documentation,
  3. Good at detailed work,
  4. Good at following and trusting a procedure.

Those four skills are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to employers and to you.
You can't pass algebra unless you have those skills. In order to do any advanced math, you have to:

  1. Learn many different procedures, 
  2. Choose the right procedure from a multitude of different possibilities,
  3. Be able to determine why your chosen procedure is or isn't correct for the situation, 
  4. Be able to execute the chosen procedure correctly,  
  5. Write down everything you do, every step of the way in an organized fashion so in case you DO forget anything or HAVE chosen the wrong procedure, you can find the problem and fix it quickly.

When every phone is a calculator, and life really doesn't involve much math, nobody really cares if you know math. Learning math is most assuredly not the point of math class.

However EVERYBODY cares about whether or not you have the skill sets listed above. The easiest way to teach those skills and demonstrate you have those skills is to say "I got an 'A' in algebra/geometry/trig/calculus."

You will do many jobs during your lifetime. All of them will have specialized procedures. The more you train your brain to quickly learn (seemingly) arbitrary procedures, the more jobs you will qualify for, the easier it will be to earn a living. THAT is the point of taking all those math classes. People want to know you have those skills. Math is the fastest way to prove you do. It is also the most straightforward way to teach you the skills if you don't have them, because math is nothing BUT those skills.

That's why every decent college program requires math.
If you're in a program that doesn't require math, you aren't going to college, you're going to a very expensive and pretentious grade school for grown-ups.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Deniable Intimidation

After teaching an American Political Science class over the summer, I realized why nearly every corporation is interested in "embracing diversity":
It is impossible to understand the politics of the Left without grasping that it is all about deniable intimidation. The real problem European anarchism solves is how to send bombs without seemingly sending them, or how to trash the Tory party headquarters in London without really doing it.
As you will soon see, the politics of the Left is really just the politics of those in power. The powerful want "deniable intimidation": the ability to intimidate the weak without looking like a bully. "Deniable intimidation" - that's what "diversity in the workplace" and "homosexual rights" is all about. If you have ever wondered why most corporations cave so readily to homosexual rights, or work so hard to implement "diversity" policies, you need look no farther than how power is structured in the workplace. You see, we know from political science exactly what diversity accomplishes in a population:
“in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down.’ Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer.”
Studies make clear that workers are not comfortable in a "diverse" workplace. In fact, people don't like it at all.  People in "diverse" neighborhoods are less likely to be politically active than those in homogenous neighborhoods. In "diverse" settings, individuals aren't sure they can trust their neighbors so they tend to hunker down and say nothing.
…[E]verybody, well-educated and not well-educated, old-timers and newcomers alike, is affected negatively by increasing diversity. Holding constant socioeconomic resources, mobility, and many other things, as well, everybody is less likely to be engaged when they’re living in a more diverse town or city. That’s the research conclusion I found most startling: It’s not just that in the context of diversity people are less trusting of people who look different. It’s that in the context of diversity people are less trusting even of folks who look just like them.” (emphasis added)
So, why do politicians embrace diversity? Well, low turnout increases the likelihood an incumbent will win. High diversity means incumbent politicians get the low voter turnout they need.

How about the workplace? Why would businesses embrace diversity? In the workplace, low trust between workers means less likelihood of, say, union organizing activity. High diversity means low worker solidarity. Now, it is also true that having a diverse workplace means business problems tend to get solved faster, as many different experiences are brought to bear on a problem. Businesses talk endlessly about this advantage, but oddly enough, no one mentions the power structure advantages that a "diverse workplace" brings to management. "Diversity" is a win-win for corporate management, a lose-lose for the individual workers in that corporation. 

And that is why corporate America embraces diversity. That is why homosexual rights, Muslim tolerance and a rainbow workplace is considered the best environment for everyone: it is the best environment for everyone. Well, for everyone in power.

And now we can see why corporate America attacks and belittles Christianity. Christianity is a point of commonality, a rallying point for the 80% of Americans who still embrace a common set of values and a relatively common outlook on life. In America, Christianity is the opposite of diversity - it is unity and strength: the very opposite of what the powerful want from their little people. So, when businesses and media attack Christianity, realize that this isn't personal. It's just business.

Do you want to intimidate a group of men into being servile? Do you want to prevent their conspiring against or organizing against management, whether that management be corporate or political? Do you want to hang them separately to prevent them from hanging together? And do you want to do all this without being seen as a bully? Embrace diversity! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Problem of Porn

There's a new study out that blames male porn use for the drop in marriage. It's a fairly lousy study. Marriage depends on a lot of different factors. This study only looks at one, so it really doesn't tell us anything.

For instance, take the fact that high-income, college-educated people marry at a MUCH higher rate than high-school dropouts. Of course, when college-educated couples divorce, 90% of the divorces are initiated by the woman (overall, women initiate divorce 65% of the time). So, if porn is the problem, we are simultaneously saying that college-educated men don't look at porn as much as high school dropouts (thus the college grads marry more) AND college-educated men look at porn MUCH more than high school dropouts (thus the high divorce rate).

Clearly, both cannot be simultaneously true.

And furthermore, how do we find a significantly large control group of men who do not use porn? It turns out to be a lot tougher than you might think. Researchers typically can't find enough men who don't use porn to create a control group for comparison purposes.

Then we have the problem of marriage itself - when divorce happens, women get the man's income, the man's children, often his house and car, regardless of how much the woman might herself be earning. Female hypergamy means that women won't marry high school dropouts - they always try to step up to a "higher quality" man. Indeed, you can make a very strong argument that allowing women access to higher education is at least as pernicious in its effect on marriage as allowing men access to porn.

But the pool of "higher quality" men is contracting as men are getting fewer and fewer college degrees. Why are they dropping out of college? Because college is an increasingly hostile place for men. All a woman has to do is cry "rape" and the male student is instantly thrown out of school, blacklisted, with his future destroyed. Ironically, this is true even though the proliferation of internet porn happened at the same time that rape began a dramatic decline.



But, as a result of the hostile college climate, the majority of all college degrees now go to women. So fewer and fewer men are considered "eligible" marriage material by women. Female hypergamy means the men who don't put themselves through the abuse which we call college are not considered "marriageable." And of those men who are eligible, many refuse to marry precisely because they understand that if the woman decides to walk out of the relationship, it is the man who will lose his wallet. Many "eligible" men look at the cost-benefit ratio and decline the odds. But that is not addressed in this study.

Furthermore, this study only looks at MEN. What about women's porn? And women's porn isn't just 50 Shades of Grey. In women, both yoga and shopping stimulate the same brain centers as orgasm. That is, for a woman, finding a good sale is as pleasurable as having sex.

But do we find articles warning us that women imperil marriage by going shopping or practicing yoga? Do we find articles warning women to stop being hypergamous? Do we warn women not to attend college? Of course we don't. Only men imperil marriage. Women never do.

So, is porn use a consequence of non-marriage or a cause? Is it just a correlation? Given the many other factors involved (and I've only mentioned two: hypergamy and anti-male social bias), how much of the problem can be associated with porn use?

I'm not defending porn use. I'm just pointing out that there's a lot less here than meets the eye (pardon the pun). Both St. Augustine and the Angelic Doctor were willing to tolerate legal prostitution as a necessary concession to human brokenness. Does porn fall into that same category? I don't know. But I find it interesting that the porn stick is only wielded against men - never against women.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No. Bloody. Good.

A well-known blogger who passes himself off as a Catholic priest has published a blog in which he asserts that some Catholic parishes are actually part of another religion.

I'm not going to link the blog here, because the post is simply vile, schismatic crap.

Does anyone remember why St. Ignatius Loyola founded an order?
Anyone?
Anyone?
Bueller?
Anyone?

Because the Spain he grew up in - which had been Catholic for a thousand years - was so badly catechized that many parents couldn't even recite the Our Father. Many Spanish Catholics believed sex was fine as long as neither participant was married. In other words, the catechesis in 1540's Spain was about as good as the catechesis in America is now.

The Jesuits were founded as a missionary order to evangelize Catholic Spain. St. Ignatius was never so monumentally STUPID, he was never so SCHISMATIC as to say "It's. Another. Religion."

Shockingly enough, St. Ignatius, instead, of writing a lot of blogs cadging for money to feed birds, actually founded an order and did something useful with his life. That's why he's a saint and other people are simply fomenters of schism.

FYI: for those of you who think Summorum Pontificum is the salvation of the Church, note that St. Ignatius and all of Spain had the pre-conciliar (even pre-Tridentine) Latin Mass for a thousand years and it did them No. Bloody. Good. 

Remember, if liturgy is the source of all of our problems today, then the source of the modern problem is ultimately the Latin Mass. If liturgy is the source of the problem, then Ignatian Spain's problem was also the Latin Mass. But if liturgy is not the source of the problem, then the TLM is not really part of the solution.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Apparitions

These quotes are lifted directly from the linked website. Please go to that website and read the whole thing. It is well worth your time:

In his "Ascent of Mt. Camel", St. John says:
"I am appalled at what happens in these days-namely, when some soul with the very smallest experience of meditation, if it be conscious of certain locutions of this kind in some state of recollections, at once christens them all as coming from God, and assumes that this is the case, saying: 'God said to me . . . '; 'God answered me . . . ', whereas it is not so at all, but as we have said, it is for the most part they who are saying it to themselves."
And in Book 2, Chapter 11 of the same work, he warns of diabolical illusion, especially when the soul is gullible and doesn't even consider the possibility of such illusion:
"There is always ground for fear that they proceed from the devil rather than from God; for the devil has more influence in that which is exterior and corporeal . . . As they are so palpable and so material they excite the senses greatly and the soul is led to consider them the more important, the more they are felt. It runs after them and abandons the secure guidance of faith, thinking that the light they give is a guide and means to that which it desires, union with God. Thus the soul, the more it makes of such things, the more it strays from the perfect way and means, i.e., the faith. Besides, when the soul perceives itself subject to these extraordinary visitations, self-esteem very frequently enters in, and it thinks itself to be something in the eyes of God, which is contrary to humility. The devil also knows too well how to insinuate into the soul a secret, and sometimes open, self-satisfaction. For this end he frequently presents to the eyes the forms of saints, and most beautiful limits; he causes voices well-dissembled to strike the ear, and delicious odours the smell; he produces sweetness in the mouth, and thrills of pleasure in the sense of touch; and all to make us long for such things that he may lead us astray into much evil. For this reason, then, we must always reject and disregard these representations and sensations."
In Book 2, Chapter 16, he summarises his warnings; and it is interesting to note that the refusal to accept these apparitions is the proper attitude even in the case where they are truly from God, for as he explains, this is the way to test that they really are divine:
"I say, therefore, with respect to all these impressions and imaginary visions, and others of whatever kind they may be, which present themselves under forms or images, whether false as coming from the devil, or known to be true as coming from God, that the understanding is not to perplex itself about them, nor feed itself upon them; the soul must not willingly accept them, nor rest upon them, in order that it may be detached, naked, pure, and sincerely simple, which is the condition of the divine union."

Stop fixating on Fatima, Lourdes, Akita.
Start fixating on the Catechism, the writings of the saints and doctors of the Church.

Follow the advice of the doctors of the Church.
Learn doctrine, avoid apparitions, even those approved by the Church.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Peer Review Doesn't Work

I've seen people attempt to refute various scientific studies by saying, "They're not peer-reviewed, so they aren't any good."

I'm a little tired of that. Peer-review is not a gold standard (click hereherehereherehere, or here) In fact, it really isn't any kind of standard at all (click hereherehereherehere, here or here). Take, for instance, the experience of John Bohannon, a biologist at Harvard. He submitted a faked paper on the effects of a chemical derived from lichen on cancer cells to 304 self-described “peer-reviewed” journals. The paper was completely fabricated: totally flawed design, analysis and interpretation of results. The researcher and the university were fictitious. 157 of the journals accepted it for publication. That's a failure rate of more than half.

In a classic 1998 study Fiona Godlee, editor of the prestigious British Medical Journal, sent an article containing eight deliberate mistakes in study design, analysis and interpretation to more than 200 of the BMJ’s regular reviewers. Not one picked out all the mistakes. On average, they reported fewer than two; some did not spot any. Peer reviewers also seem to get worse with experience.

Some people also claim that science is great because it depends on replication. If that's true, very little science is done anymore, because no one attempts to replicate studies anymore.

  • Replication is generally not publishable, so few people do it. 
  • Only people with an axe to grind pursue replications with vigour. 
  • More than half of 238 biomedical papers published in 84 journals failed to identify all the resources (such as chemical reagents) necessary to reproduce the results.
  • Five years ago about 60% of researchers said they would share their raw data if asked; now just 45% do.
  • Only 143 of 351 randomly selected papers published in the world’s 50 leading journals and covered by some data-sharing policy actually complied.
  • Some code used to analyse data or run models may be the result of years of work and thus precious intellectual property that gives its possessors an edge in future research.

So, the next time someone invokes "peer review", just shake your head.
They apparently don't read the journals.

Addendum:
From the comments in this link
Important scientific work has not uncommonly been initially rejected by peer-reviewed journals. As a 2001 article in Science observed, "Mention 'peer review' and almost every scientist will regale you with stories about referees submitting nasty comments, sitting on a manuscript forever, or rejecting a paper only to repeat the study and steal the glory."2 Indeed, an article in the journal Science Communication by Juan Miguel Campanario notes that top journals such as "Science and Nature have also sometimes rejected significant papers," and in fact "Nature has even rejected work that eventually earned the Nobel Prize."3 In an amusing letter titled "Not in our Nature," Campanario reminds the journal of four examples where it rejected significant papers: 
(1) In 1981, Nature rejected a paper by the British biochemist Robert H. Michell on signalling reaction by hormones. This paper has since been cited more than 1,800 times.
(2) In June 1937, Nature rejected Hans Krebs's letter describing the citric acid cycle. Krebs won the 953 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for this discovery.
(3) Nature initially rejected a paper on work for which Harmut Michel won the 1988 Nobel prize for chemistry; it has been identified by the Institute of Scientific Information as a core document and widely cited.
(4) A paper by Michael J. Berridge, rejected in 1983 by Nature, ranks at number 275 in a list of the most-cited papers of all time. It has been cited more than 1,900 times.4
Second Addendum
Psychologist "proves" ESP - a study in statistical insanity

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Black Parents, Did You Know? (unredacted version)

At this point, I've heard a lot about black parents who warn their children about how to act around police.

I've yet to hear about the black parents who warn their children that, statistically speaking, they are most likely to be killed by other black children. If black children want to be safe, they need to hang out with white, Asian or Hispanic children.