Sunday, August 22, 2010


Zeno and Proof Surrogate

Zeno, a mathematics educator (unlike Baby Huey and others members of PZ's Sierra College audience, I know the difference between a mathematician and a mathematics educator), claimed the following on his blog:

"Today we all know that the original Obama stimulus was too small. (Paul Krugman warned us at the top of his lungs, but most of us ignored him at our continuing peril.)"

As well as:

"There are two reasons for that which most sane people are able to identify: (1) the stimulus package wasn't big enough (and Paul Krugman warned us, too!)"

The fact of the matter, however, is that we all do not know that the stimulus was too small and there are plenty of sane economists who doubt it was even a good idea.

Economists Want Policy Makers to Back Off Now

Stimulus Skeptics

Fiscal policy and the burden of proof

Is Joe Biden disingenuous or misinformed?



Saturday, August 21, 2010


Today's Spiritual Thought Courtesy of Mormon Apostle Jedediah M. Grant

"I would ask you if Jehovah has not in all ages tried His people by the power of Lucifer and his associates; and on the other hand, has He not tried them and proved them by His Prophets? Did the Lord actually want Abraham to kill Isaac? Did the Prophet Joseph want every man's wife he asked for? He did not, but in that thing was the grand thread of the Priesthood developed. The grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. If such a man of God should come to me and say, 'I want your gold and silver, or your wives,' I should say, 'Here they are, I wish I had more to give you, take all I have got.' A man who has got the Spirit of God, and the light of eternity in him, has no trouble about such matters."--Elder Jedediah M. Grant, "The Power of God and the Power of Satan" (Journal of Discourses vol. 2)

How marvelous! "Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!" Holy Joe didn't want every man's wife he asked for, just some of them!

(Like a stopped clock, "Betty Bowers" is correct every once in a while, and she was right when she said, "Being lectured on what constitutes a traditional marriage by a Mormon is a bit like being scolded for loitering by a crack whore.")

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The casuistry of the man who would be Archon of California

"What Judge Walker's ruling means is you can sponsor a proposition, direct it, research it, work for it, raise $40 million for it, get it on a ballot, successfully campaign for it and then have no ability to defend it independently in court," said Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota constitutional law professor who supports same-sex marriage. "And then a judge maybe let you be the sole defender in a full-blown trial and then says, 'by the way, you never can defend this.' It just seems very unlikely to me the higher courts will buy that."

(Excerpted from here.)

The casuistry of Vaughn Walker, who fancies himself Archon of my home state, could not be more transparent. He allowed these people to defend Prop 8 but claims they don't have standing for an appeal. Granted, they did a lousy job of defending Prop 8 but the idea that SSM is mandated by the Constitution is so ludicrous that I sympathize with Cooper's claim that Prop 8 needed no defense. Archon Walker should have dismissed it; instead, he placed his seer stone in a hat* with a copy of the Constitution and located a "right" to SSM to the left of the emanation of the penumbra, written in invisible ink.

Over at Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr asked SSM advocates when the Constitution began to require it. I love that question because SSM advocates come off as vapid no matter how they answer it. If they say it always has (or date it to the ratification of the 14th or some other amendment) then one can reply, "So, you know the Constitution better than the people who wrote and amended it?" If they give a recent date one can attack the legitimacy of judges conjuring "rights" out of thin air. For that, I don't think one can do better than Byron White's dissent in Moore v. City of East Cleveland:

The Judiciary, including this Court, is the most vulnerable and comes nearest to illegitimacy when it deals with judge-made constitutional law having little or no cognizable roots in the language or even the design of the Constitution. Realizing that the present construction of the Due Process Clause represents a major judicial gloss on its terms, as well as on the anticipation of the Framers, and that much of the underpinning for the broad, substantive application of the Clause disappeared in the conflict between the Executive and the Judiciary in the 1930's and 1940's, the Court should be extremely reluctant to breathe still further substantive content into the Due Process Clause so as to strike down legislation adopted by a State or city to promote its welfare. Whenever the Judiciary does so, it unavoidably preempts for itself another part of the governance of the country without express constitutional authority.

*This was originally posted to a forum populated by former Mormons.


My response to Jerry Coyne re: mathematics

On his blog, Jerry Coyne, who is supposed to be a famous evolutionary biologist, wrote the following in response to an article by Karl Gibberson titled Mathematics and the Religious Impulse:

Mathematics is, of course, a logical system invented by humans, and so has to “work”. One could equally well ask, “Why does logic work?” But if Giberson is asking, “Why does math help us understand the world?”, that seems equivalent to asking “Why does nature obey laws?” One answer is that if it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question. But maybe I’m missing something. Yet consider this: if nature didn‘t obey laws, would we see that as evidence for no God? Of course not! In fact, the temporary and local suspension of physical law is precisely what a miracle consists of, and miracles, of course, are evidence for God. So when physical laws are obeyed, God’s working, and when they’re broken, God’s working too. Perhaps there’s some intermediate degree of lawlessness that would convince the faithful that there is no God?

My response:

Professor Coyne,

I have no doubt that you are a giant among fruit fly ejaculate researchers but you are an ignoramus concerning mathematics (and other subjects, from what I’ve observed.) Humans did not “invent” mathematics. Not even Euler, Cauchy, Gauss, or the other greats of mathematics could have “invented” the fabulous results of complex analysis. And abstract algebra was advanced without any application in mind but it turned out to be crucial for physics.

But don’t let any of that stop you from babbling about subjects you know nothing about or spinning just so yarns.



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