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Boston Declares Health Emergency Due To Massive Flu Outbreak

Tack Re:Flu shots (316 comments)

Hopefully the second option is only available to her if she has a demonstrated allergy or other adverse reaction to the flu shot? Otherwise, the two choices ought to be "get a flu shot" or "find another job" given how well established the risk-benefit is.

about 2 years ago

Science and Religion Can and Do Mix, Mostly

Tack Re:This just makes sense (1345 comments)

Science is the empirical study of how things are. Religion is the normative study of how things should be.

Except that religion can't help but make empirical claims that routinely contradict the reality science reveals to us, and quite often in extremely absurd ways. If you want to subtract all the ridiculous claims of religion and jettison the supernatural elements and say instead that religion is "the study of how things should be" then you've just described moral philosophy. I've no problem with moral philosophy as such, but I have not seen anyone actually behave as if that's all they believed religion was.

It's all well and good to quote-mine the bible and say everything else is just details, except when the overwhelming majority of your fellow believers use those details to justify very damaging and immoral behaviour. And if the foundation of your morality is divine authority and the immoral prescription is in your holy text (and the new testament is hardly the moral exemplar), you have very little cause to argue with them.

about 3 years ago

Is Science Just a Matter of Faith?

Tack Re:No. (1486 comments)

... many have gone to their deaths defending their religious faith. There is something there that is dismissed much too casually.

I agree there is something interesting and important and relevant to human psychology, that many people will defend to the death some proposition they believe on insufficient evidence. But their willingness to die says nothing about the truth of those propositions, because people die for contradictory religions, and other absurd ideas. If you're compelled to believe in the Christian religion because people have shed their own blood or given their lives for religious beliefs, then why hasn't 9/11 made you a Muslim?

But to accept some Science on nothing more than faith in the Scientifc Method is, in the end, faith by any other name.

I've noticed that theists play this little trick, but it's equivocating on the word "faith" to ludicrous degrees. You might want to wave the semantic wand and call my tentative assent to various scientific theories "faith," but this is disingenuous, and I assure you that it bears no resemblance whatever to any sort of faith in a deity.

My acceptance of the results of science will change on a dime if evidence comes in to the contrary, and the degree of that acceptance scales in proportion to the evidence. Can you say the same about belief in God?

more than 3 years ago

Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Effort Kills Children

Tack Re:Vaccines (832 comments)

What I don't understand is why researchers waste all that time with properly controlled and blinded vaccine trials when we have your wonderful personal anecdotes, which obviously supersede the mountains of objective data that clearly establishes the value-risk proposition of vaccines. I also really appreciated your poisoning the well of Bill Gates, as if it invalidates his position on vaccines.

So here's to you, Mr. Youtube-quality-slashdot-commenter.

more than 3 years ago

Autism-Vax Doc Scandal Was Pharma Business Scam

Tack Re:This is a Big Deal (541 comments)

You will always find a few crackpots or frauds like Wakefield who happen to have PhD or MD beside their names who will say absurd things and maintain positions not borne out by the evidence. The Discovery Institute has managed to put together an impressive list of ostensibly well-educated people (even biologists) who deny evolution. This does not mean this even remotely represents any scientific consensus. Project Steve is NCSE's satirical response to DI's lame list, a counter list of scientists who endorse evolution all named Steve (or some close variant).

The people who "knew" about a vaccine/autism link were similarly way out on the fringe. The literature you speak of is sparse, with low quality studies and/or tiny sample sizes, and the scientific consensus is overwhelmingly against any such causal connection, and has been for a long time now. Initial reaction to preliminary studies like Wakefield's is always met with skepticism, and then it trends toward a position as the data comes in -- in this case, the position that there is no link whatsoever.

You're right, I do also see a lot of similarities here with climate change.

more than 3 years ago

Thousands of Blackbirds Fall From Sky Dead

Tack Re:It has to come naturally (577 comments)

Or put simply, who decides that a chicken has more of a right to live than a carrot? It's all empty-headed bullshit.

I've never been able to relate to the hostility shown by both sides of this issue. To me, it does seem to be a difficult, nuanced moral question. I especially don't understand the naturalistic argument, because in my view this isn't an "is" but an "ought" matter. I think a sensible starting line is whether or not the living thing you're eating has a nervous system, which quite clearly puts carrots and chickens in different camps.

I'm fairly undecided on this issue, but I can't help but shake the nagging feeling that I have some cognitive dissonance to work through. If you accept evolution (and I assume everyone here does) and you start with the premise that killing humans for food is morally wrong, then you're forced to evaluate the same question throughout the evolutionary tree (or bush, at is were). For those people that accept the premise and are settled on your side of the issue, presumably they have decided that the life of a chicken, or a pig, or a cow, or whatever has sufficiently low value to trade for convenience, nutrition, quality of life, health, etc. And these things will vary by person, admittedly -- in my case I suspect my eating meat is primarily a matter of convenience and quality of life. I doubt I need them to be healthy. But nor do I feel like I'm in a position to criticize those who are decided, except to discourage language like "wankoff jerkfest" used against those who hold differing opinions.

I'm reminded of Christopher Hitchens' position on abortion. He recognizes that it's a complex problem of spectrum. There can be no obvious line drawn through foetal development where you can say it's unambiguously morally ok to abort, so he's simply opposed to abortion at any stage for that reason (setting aside the mitigating factors like health risks, whether incest or rape was involved, etc.). To me, the moral question of meat-eating is similar non-obvious spectrum.

more than 3 years ago

Wikipedia Meets $16M Budget Goal

Tack Re:Was the ad cost-effective? (255 comments)

I think the ad also required Javascript to even be visible. At least, I use NoScript and didn't even know about the fundraiser until a friend mentioned it, and I never saw it until I enabled Javascript on Wikipedia. Might not be a large number of people, but you'd figure those who browse with NoScript (or with JS otherwise disabled) are the type who would be inclined to donate (likely technically savvy, probably gainfully employed, find Wikipedia useful, etc.).

more than 3 years ago

Sir Isaac Newton, Alchemist

Tack Re:Science (330 comments)

I'd invite more scientific investigation of the field.

There's been quite a lot already. There is no science behind the core tenants of chiropractic, nor is there any verifiable evidence to support their more wacky claims. The practices of chiropractors that actually work are already done by physical therapists and related specialists.

Reminds me of Tim Minchin's Storm when he says: You know what they call "alternative medicine" that's been proven to work? Medicine.

So I suppose if you're educated and experienced enough to find a chiropractor who is only going to practice a sensible therapeutic intervention on you, then you might get some reasonable medical care. But then you still have to wonder why they aren't already a DPT.

Why is it that people jump on chiropractors all the time but not on psychologists?

Well, I agree that there's probably a lot of crap in practicing psychology, and there's also a lot of argument and controversy. But generally psychology practices trend along with the evidence. Cognitive therapy does actually have some evidence to show efficacy in certain circumstances, for example.

about 4 years ago

Sir Isaac Newton, Alchemist

Tack Re:Science (330 comments)

Actually, yes, you can throw out the entire field, because the entire field is based fundamentally on pseudoscientific quackery.

I think what you maybe wanted to say is you can't dismiss all chiropractors as idiots because the field is fundamentally nonsense and because most chiropractors believe in fairytales. I think I'd tentatively grant you that claim.

One thing alt med does seem to do decently is personal attention to patients. This is almost certainly the largest factor for people feeling better after visiting their naturopath, homeopath, acupuncturist, chiropractor, etc. It's extremely fortunate for your wife that you happened upon a chiropractor who wasn't a complete quack and referred her to a proper specialist, because I believe a non-trivial number of chiropractors would insist the problem was merely a vertebral subluxation that could be treated through manipulation (and, of course, life-long maintenance).

If you weren't happy with the diagnosis of your MD, the proper course of action would be to consult one or two other MDs, not to consult a witch doctor. There are certainly going to be idiot MDs too, not to mention, more likely, overworked, stressed, and fallible MDs who will offer a misdiagnoses. But this fact doesn't legitimize alternative medicine. It means we need more MDs, because at least their practice is primarily based on evidence with the science to back it up.

about 4 years ago

Abandon Earth Or Die, Warns Hawking

Tack Re:Who cares? (973 comments)

This is depressingly nihilistic. There are legitimate arguments to be had about where our priorities should be given the vast suffering on our current planet, but to say you don't care at all what happens to our species is where I, and I hope most other people, would part company with you.

Statistical arguments are all we have to suggest there's other intelligent life out there. The evidence we have says we're unique. Either way, imagine what we can accomplish in the next several thousand years if we managed to survive. It would be tragic not to have the opportunity.

more than 4 years ago

Google To Add Pay To Cover a Tax For Gays

Tack Re:Why so discriminating? (1036 comments)

(I'm not atheist, I don't disbelieve and I'd like to believe I'm open to the idea of a god, I just lack the blind faith requirement)

Atheists aren't necessarily closed to the idea of a god. I'm sure there many who are, but those whose atheism follows from a scientific skepticism (which is typically the case for the so-called "new atheist" movement) are open to anything for which sufficient evidence can be presented.

As for disbelief, I've noticed that the weaker form of agnostic unbelief is usually operationally indistinguishable from disbelief.

more than 4 years ago

FBI Failed To Break Encryption of Hard Drives

Tack Re:The universe would suffer thermal death (486 comments)

[...] that reduce the search space to something like 2^110.5 instead of the 256bits that AES 256 implies.

I think you're saying here that the referenced attack on AES-256 reduces the complexity from 2^256 to 2^110.5, but that's not true. Because of the birthday paradox, for a 256-bit key space you start at 2^128, and then more refined attacks reduce it from there.

more than 4 years ago

How To Behave At a Software Company?

Tack Re:Good hygiene, don't be a know it all. (842 comments)

+1. I've noticed that the people I respect the most are those who will honestly say "I don't know" when they actually don't. Generally the more intelligent and rational people will start dropping qualifiers left and right when talking about something they're not deeply familiar with.

more than 4 years ago

Google to Open Source the VP8 Codec

Tack Re:PSNR Graphs (501 comments)

Unfortunately PSNR correlates poorly to perceived quality. Most of the impressive psychovisual work that's gone into x264 over the past 1+ years has actually reduced PSNR.

more than 4 years ago

Good Language Choice For School Programming Test?

Tack Re:python python python blahblahblah (407 comments)

Because comparing languages is not about counting up a feature checklist and seeing who has more.

Python's core is elegant and coding in it is enjoyable. In contrast, after a few hours with PHP I feel like I need a scalding shower and a strong exfoliating bodywash.

more than 4 years ago

Accidental Wii Suicide

Tack Re:Suicide? (1343 comments)

I'm sure I must be misunderstanding you. If the safety is engineered such that a 3-year-old child can discharge the weapon in any case, then it's not a safety.

more than 4 years ago

Google Italy Execs Convicted Over YouTube Bullying Video

Tack Re:Down's Parent (391 comments)

I couldn't help but notice that your argument has absolutely nothing to do with down syndrome, and would apply equally if the boy in the video didn't have it. That is, perhaps, why down syndrome has not been discussed much in the comments: the fact that the boy has down syndrome is incidental, and using it to support an argument is an appeal to emotion.

more than 4 years ago

Iran Suspends Google's Email Service

Tack Re:frist (436 comments)

Islam was singled out by the GP presumably because this is an article about Iran, whose official religion is Islam.

more than 4 years ago

Vimeo Also Introduces HTML5 Video Player

Tack Re:Here that wooshing sound, Firefox? (369 comments)

I can only assume you were not around before IE7 or something like that, because that's how long it took to get proper PNG support (in the form of the alpha channel you tout as a killer feature) all major browsers. It was anything but easy.

It's much nicer now, true, but it wasn't a huge problem pre-IE7. You needed to jump through the filter=DXImageTransform.Microsoft.AlphaImageLoader(...) hoop, but things like that were easily handled inside the web framework, or could be automatically "fixed" with a bit of Javascript.

more than 4 years ago

Gmail Moves To HTTPS By Default

Tack Re:Wait, what? (275 comments)

But it still DOES starts the encrypted request all over again.

Not all over again. Nowadays, subsequent and parallel SSL/TLS connections are quicker than the first, because certain SSL session parameters can be cached and don't need to be renegotiated. The web server needs to be setup to support this, but I expect Gmail already is.

more than 4 years ago


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