3/4 moon  
I took this photo last March: 3/4 moon taken from the clear skies of western Nevada, using the telephoto lenses with my Nikon.

Trickle down economics

Trickle down economics:

Trickle down is an idea from classical economics, which some would argue went out of favor during the Great Depression.

Jean-Baptiste Say (Say’s Law) 1767 – 1832 can be considered the father of supply side economics, a made up theory from the Reagan administration.

Alfred Marshall 1842 – 1924 was probably the first, though worded differently – the rising tide floats all boats.

Arthur Laffer – the Laffer Curve. The curve was drawn by Laffer to show how cutting taxes for the rich would stimulate the economy and increase revenue. Laffer, who is still around, has disowned this, as a bad idea.

The marginal tax rate during WW II was 92 or 93%.

The Kennedy administration lowered the marginal rate to 63%, citing the rising tide floats all boats idea.

Ronald Reagan, who had at one time, been paying 93% marginal tax rate wanted a tax cut. This would pay back his rich backers as well. David Stockman, budget director, said that it would wreck the budget. Reagan, an actor, and his administration, invented supply side economics, which brought together Say’s Law, Marshall’s floating boats, and Laffer’s Curve to produce Supply Side economics. George Bush #41, with a degree in economics, described Supply Side Economics as ‘voodoo economics’. Reagan used Supply Side Economics, to sell the idea of large tax cuts to rich people, which led to massive deficits, which led to massive borrowing. Bush #43 used the same justifications for massive tax cuts, which led to even more borrowing.

Recently, Kansas governor R-Sam Brownback used the same justification for tax cuts in Kansas, which has led to large deficits. So, rather than roll back the tax cuts, the obvious solution, Brownback is raising the Kansas sales tax, which affects the poorest people the most, since they spend all the money they earn. And affects rich people the least, since they can save or invest, which isn’t affected by the sales tax. Brownback is also laying off teachers and sending out furlough notices to state workers. Trickle down lives on in Kansas.

Conservatives don’t learn from the present. Or maybe the money they get from rich people, affects their hearing.

The bottom line is that trickle down economics was used as justification for giving huge tax breaks to the rich people who bankrolled the politicians.

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin Kruse.

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin Kruse.
I have wondered for a number of years, why America is so religious, when most of the industrialized world has matured into secularism. I figured that it was because Americans had figured out how to make money from religion. This book traces the rise of religion in America, from the Great Depression to the present. Before that, America was maturing the same as Canada and Europe. I wasn’t able to find any faults or factual errors in his historical argument.

The basic story is that some people with money, were upset with the general impression that they had caused the Great Depression. So, they found some willing people to promote the idea that Christianity and Capitalism were the same thing; Jesus would have been a capitalist. And these capitalists were just being good Christians.

Keep in mind that the people with money during the Great Depression were old white men, old, Christian, white men to be precise. And there were men and women who were willing to make money on the gullibility of the American people.

So now, we are stuck with a population of evolution deniers who think the earth is 6,000 years old and that Global Climate Change is a hoax.

This is one of the best books I have read so far in 2015.

Did Jesus Exist update

The Christian Bible is historical fiction. How can you take it seriously? There is no evidence outside the fictional Christian Bible for a historical Jesus/Joshua ben Yusef. The closest is Joshua ben Ananas who was executed by the Romans around 66 CE as the leader of a Jewish revolt. Joshua was a rather common name at the time, like David or Soloman/Suleiman. The more I read, not just Richard Carrier, the less likely, it seems to me, that there was a historical Jesus. My current estimate is less than 5% probability that Joshua ben Yusuf existed – my Bayesian estimate. Also, it is unlikely there was a historical Moses/Moshe (40 years to walk 200 K!), there was no global deluge (give me a break). Jesus / Joshua is most likely euphemism from existing gods in the region, all now considered mythical. The closest one being the Egyptian god Horus, born Dec 25 of the virgin Isis, performed miracles, raised the dead (narrative very similar to Lazarus in one case. 2 Sisters etc.), executed by his enemies, rose from the dead after 3 days. That was a common motif in the region at that time. The Roman god Romulus follows much the same formula and there are more.

The literate Greek speaking writers of the Bible knew these stories, they were educated after all. How could they miss it? With many similar stories in the region at that time, why would I think that the Jesus story is true, while all the others are false? Especially when the other stories pre-dated the Christian story. It defies logic. For Romulus, you can read Plutarch’s Lives. The god Romulus gets an entire chapter. And Plutarch’s Lives is rather inexpensive. I think it was free on Kindle. Come to think of it, that is the same price I paid for several versions of the Christian Bible.

The difference, for me, is that I have been reading the history of the region at that time. I am not afraid of being wrong or learning new things. When I look at the Jesus story, I put it into the historical context, and decide that it is rather unlikely. The thing that interests me is the psychology behind believing things like that. And, what was the motivation of its promoters?

Wandering in the desert. It won’t take 40 years!

Miracles, do they happen today.

The reason that miracles don’t happen today is the scientific method. Does intercessionary prayer work if the recipient doesn’t know that he/she is being prayed for – NO,

the placebo effect
selection bias
confirmation bias
the compliance effect

it’s a miracle!

Hindu milk. For those of you who don’t know about Hindu milk ( more than 90% of Americans and Canadians), it refers to a miracle where a statue of Ganeesh was drinking milk in 1995 and 1996. A Hindu friend told me about this and asked what I thought of it. Many, many Indians thought it was a miracle. When you get a few more details, it isn’t quite as miraculous. If Ganeesh stood up and did the Mambo, that would be impressive. In this case, a human would hold up a small saucer of milk to the statue of Ganeesh. Ganeesh then proceeded to drink the milk. The statue is very porous. The milk is drawn into the porous statue, the same way that water is drawn into a plant by its roots. Not so miraculous. Drink enough and there is a puddle.

A few months ago, I read Babylon Confidential by Claudia Christian. She told about her alcoholism and her eventual treatment using Naltrexone. Then Dr. Hiten Sony MD posted on Facebook, the book, The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind the 12 Steps Program and the Rehab Industry by Lance Dodes MD and Zachary Dodes.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a modern day miracle. Almost no one questions it in the US, well except some scientists and medical doctors. It has a miraculous cure rate of as much as 85%. AA is largely a religious organization, based on the Oxford Groups religious system. The Dodes do a scientific analysis of the program and find that it isn’t so miraculous after all. If you want to see how science tackles miracles, I strongly recommend the book. It is well written. The heading science above, gives a list of the problems with AA. The actual cure rate is closer to 4% or 5%. I had thought it would be around 15%. The difference, I think, is the criteria used for evaluation. The studies are based on the idea of people who stay with the program, and then are available for follow-up evaluation. My 15% would be people who attended a few AA meetings, stopped drinking, and didn’t fall back. In that case, it wasn’t AA that cured them, but their own physiology. That is my analysis anyway, and hard to evaluate, since they didn’t stay with the program to be evaluated.

When you remove all the scientific errors in the AA miracle, you are left with a rather small number of people who are very enthusiastic and proselytize. It is very similar to religious miracles.

I have had some alcoholic friends over the years, and was frustrated that there didn’t seem to be anything to fix the problem.

I have had some alcoholic friends over the years.

Trip West with RV Oct 2014

Copper Mountain, CO
Copper Mountain, CO  
I decided to travel, so I bought an RV to go along with my van. This is the rest stop just west of Copper Mountain, CO. Snow! The road was clear. Oct2014

I have a drinking problem

I have a drinking problem.

I don’t drink, but people around me do. My Grandfather, on my mother’s side died of DTs during prohibition. I never met him. I have known a fair number of people who were alcoholics, as well as other addicts. I never understood it, I just thought it was lack of willpower. Just don’t do it!

Recently, I read about Naltrexone, which was FDA approved in 1994 for the treatment of alcohol addiction. It works about 80% of the time, at the one year follow up. In this case, the criteria is to have drinking under control, some stop drinking altogether, others drink socially, without getting drunk.

Programs such as AA work about 15% of the time at one year follow up. AA is an abstinence program.

There are 3 drugs approved for the treatment of alcohol addiction:
Anatabuse – makes you sick when you drink alcohol.
Flagyl – makes you sick when you drink alcohol.
Getting sick can by avoided by not taking the drug for the 2 above.
Naltrexone and related drugs - you have to engage in the addiction for it to work. You take the Naltrexone an hour before drinking. it works as an opioid antagonist. In other words, it works on the endorphin system, blocking the pleasurable effect. Using it one hour before drinking, is called extinction. You don’t get the endorphin high from drinking, and you get the behavior under control. It takes 3 to 4 months to have it completely under control.

Most addicts fail in less than a year. The craving is too great. The craving is still there, unless you remove the craving.

I read a book by one of my favorite Science-fiction actors, Claudia Christian. She played Ivanova on Babylon 5. The book is Babylon Confidential: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Addiction. She is now a promoter of the use of Nalterexone and the related drugs. The book she is promoting is The Cure for Alcoholism: the Medically Proven Way to Eliminate Alcohol Addiction by Roy Eskapa.

If you have a drinking problem, I strongly recommend that you read this book. There may be benefit for other addictions as well, as long as it involves the endorphin system. Sorry, it doesn’t work with nicotine, which doesn’t use the endorphin system.

You need a prescription for Naltrexone. Buy the book and take it to your doctor when you visit, to get a prescription. It you already have cirrhosis of the liver, you need one of the other, related drugs such as Nalmefene, which are not metabolized by the liver.

One odd factoid. Danger! Danger! Don’t take Naltexone before engaging in the good addictions, such as jogging or bicycling, which also use the endorphin system. They recommend going a day without Naltrexone, before engaging in healthy addictions.

This is the first real treatment I have seen for alcohol addiction, besides will power. About 15% of people are able to stop by willpower alone. Now there is a drug to help the rest. The patent has expired on Naltrexone, so, don’t expect any American pharmaceutical company to promote it.

Methadone is used for heroin addiction. It is a replacement addiction. I saw it in use when I worked at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. Apparently, it does work as long as they take it. I wonder if Naltrexone would work for that?

You heard it here.


Bayesian Updater vs. Heuristic Efficiency

Bayesian Updater vs. Heuristic Efficiency

The term Bayesian refers to a type of probability theory that has become popular in both scientific and philosophical circles and is named after Reverend Thomas Bayes , who proposed it in a short and later very influential article originally published in 1763.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (pp. 196-197). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Fred got me interested in Bayesian inference, so, I hold FredH responsible for starting this one. If you want to know more, I have several books I can recommend. The more frequent approach to probability theory is call frequentist. Frequentist happens after the fact and can be considered a description. In Bayesian inference, you adjust your probability estimates as new evidence comes in. Pigliucci argues that we have Bayesian Updaters built into our thinking brains.

… use what cognitive scientists call “heuristics”— convenient shortcuts or rules of thumb— to quickly assess a situation or a claim.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 199). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

So, when do we use Bayesian inference and when do we fall back on Heuristics? Prasad called it ‘motivated reasoning’. Cute! How do people handle the cognitive dissonance as new evidence comes in?

Monica Prasad and her colleagues into cognitive dissonance and political opinion.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 195). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The alternative theory tested by Prasad’s group is what they call “motivated reasoning”: the battery of cognitive strategies that people deploy to avoid facing the fact that one of their important beliefs turns out to be factually wrong.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 197). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The subjects in Prasad’s study, instead, were perfectly normal people who just happened to be convinced— against all evidence to the contrary— that there was a link between the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on American soil.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 196). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The researchers focused on this particular politically based belief not only because, as they put it, “unlike many political issues, there is a correct answer,” but also because the belief was still held by about 50 percent of Americans as late as 2003—despite the fact that President Bush himself at one point declared that “this administration never said that the 9/ 11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda.” Prasad and her colleagues didn’t set out to pick on Republicans,
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 196). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The 6 rationalizations:
Attitude bolstering (33 percent): Or, as Groucho Marx famously put it, these are my principles, if you don’t like them, I’ve got others. This group simply switched to other reasons for why the United States invaded Iraq, implicitly granting the lack of a Hussein-9/ 11 connection and yet not being moved to change their position on the actual issue, the Iraq War.
Disputing rationality ( 16 percent): As one of the interviewees put it, “I still have my opinions ,” meaning that opinions can be held without or even against evidence, simply because it is one’s right to do so. (Indeed, one does have the legal right to hold on to wrong opinions under American law, as it should be; whether doing so is a good idea is an altogether different matter, of course.)
Inferred justification (16 percent): “If Bush thinks he did, then he did it.” The reasoning here is that there simply must have been a reason for the good guys (the United States) to engage in something so wasteful of human life and resources as a war. The fact that they couldn’t come up with what exactly that reason might have been did not seem to bother these people very much.
Denial of belief in the link ( 14 percent ): These were the subjects who had said they believed in the link between Iraq and 9/ 11 but who, when challenged, changed their story, often attempting to modify the original statement, as in: “Oh, I meant there was a link between Afghanistan [instead of Iraq] and 9/ 11.”
Counterarguing (12 percent): This group admitted that there was no direct evidence linking Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks, but nevertheless thought that it was “reasonable” to believe in a link, based on other issues, such as Hussein’s general antipathy for the United States, or his “well-known” support of terrorism in general.
Selective exposure (6 percent): Finally, there are people who simply refuse to engage the debate (while not changing their mind), adducing excuses along the lines of, “I don’t know enough about it” (which may very well be true, but of course would be more consistent with agnosticism on the issue).
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 198-199). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Of the remainder, how many behaved like Bayesian updaters, changing their opinion on the matter once presented with evidence (namely, President Bush’s own speech) that there was no connection ? A dismal 2 percent.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 197). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

I recommend Pigliucci’s Book.

Bayesian Updater

Christianity, Science, Dark Ages in Europe

How science got started in Europe during the Dark Ages:
The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution 2011 by James Hanam in the US.
The book was originally published in England in 2009 as God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science.

I parse the words ‘Launched’ and ‘Laid’ as ’caused’ the scientific revolution. Maybe we speak a different language? I know you have backed off a bit on the book, but, you still seem to generally accept what Hannam said. Hannam set out with the conclusion that Christianity caused the modern scientific revolution. I have read 10 or 15 books by authors who have come to a different conclusion. I find the others more convincing.

Here is Karl Poppers definition of causality.
To give a causal explanation of an event means to deduce a statement which describes it, using as premises of the deduction one or more universal laws, together with certain singular statements, the initial conditions.
Popper, Karl (2005-11-04). The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Routledge Classics) (Kindle Locations 961-962). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Pigliucci – correlation is not causation:
You can think of this first pillar of superstition, then, as the result of an imperfect mechanism for attributing causality: sometimes we imagine specific causes for things that are actually the result of random or not particularly meaningful processes.
Pigliucci, Massimo (2012-10-02). Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (p. 256). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Here is David Hume. This particular book is considered to be rather important in the philosophy of science
In a word, I much doubt whether it be possible for a cause to be known only by its effect (as you have all along supposed) or to be of so singular and particular a nature as to have no parallel and no similarity with any other cause or object, that has ever fallen under our observation.
Hume, David (2006-01-01). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (p. 68). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Galileo was responding to flaws in Aristotle’s thinking!
Galileo’s contributions to the study of motion depended closely upon difficulties discovered in Aristotle’s theory by scholastic critics.2
Kuhn, Thomas S. (2010-10-22). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kindle Locations 1257-1258). University of Chicago Press – A. Kindle Edition.

Modern Science. This sounds like a variation on the Real Scotsman argument that Eugene and I discussed recently. If you think that Greek Science was Plato and Aristotle, it doesn’t surprise me that you think that wasn’t real science.

from my website:
what is science

Archimedes invented what is now called the Archimedes screw. The screw was, after the invention of the steam engine, used to propel boats and eventually became the modern boat propeller, which became the airplane propeller, which became the fan in the turbofan engine, which became the turbine engine, which became the turbopump on liquid propelled rocket engines. How does Archimedes differ from a real scientist? Well OK, he didn’t wear a white lab coat. I get it! Oh yeah, he wasn’t Christian either.

Name some modern scientific discoveries that occurred because of the Christian worldview, that would not have occurred otherwise.
Why did it take almost 1600 years before real science, as you call it, took off in Europe?
Why did it happen sooner, elsewhere: Greece, China, land of Islam, etc if the Christian worldview was necessary for real science?

Dawkins 6

Eyewitnesses to Jesus of Nazareth

I remember reading about the eyewitnesses to Jesus. Then, I had to find which book I read it in. This is a level of detail way beyond what I am interested in. But, since you prompted me to look it up, here is what I found. The first and biggest problem is when was Jesus said to have existed – see A below? I did my search on Josephus, since I rememberd that the issue was whether or not there were eyewhitnesses. I found a rather long discussion about whether Josephus should have know about something that was in his backyard. This particular author discusses whether Nazareth was occupied at the time of Jesus of Nazareth. If Nazareth was not occurpied, you can’t have a Jesus of Nazareth. Jospehus was said to have been working 2 miles from what is now Nazareth. As I said, this is way beyond my level of interest. I like the Land of Oz reference.

A)… first problem is where to put Jesus on that timeline. Since Matthew and Luke give conflicting details of his birth, most estimates assume Luke was wrong and go with Matthew, giving estimates a range from 8 B.C.E to 4 B.C.E. Equally problematic is the year Jesus died – it’s a guessing game based on clues from the Gospels. In a nutshell, it has to be when Pontius Pilate was Prefect of Judea (from 26 or 27 to around 36 or 37). If John is right (and all the other Gospels wrong), it also must be a year when Passover fell on a Saturday. But most scholars side with the Synoptic Gospels against him, and look for a year when Passover fell on a Friday – which leaves two possibilities, 30 or 33. That said, the early Church was no more certain than we are, and many had still other ideas. But just for argument’s sake, let’s place Jesus’ life roughly between 4 to 8 B.C.E. and the year 30 or 33 C.E. Here’s how close the written accounts of Jesus come to him:

Fitzgerald, David (2010-09-30). Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (Kindle Locations 362-369). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

There are 58 references to Jospehus in this book, which is beyond my level of interest:
(8) Josephus, although he waged war within two miles of Nazareth and fortified the town of Japha nearby, does not list Nazareth among the 45 cities and towns of Galilee in his experience.
Carrier Ph.D., Richard; D.M. Murdock; René Salm; Earl Doherty; David Fitzgerald (2013-04-07). Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth (Kindle Locations 3139-3141). American Atheist Press. Kindle Edition.

Clearly, if Josephus never, ever mentioned Nazareth, he cannot have mentioned Jesus of Nazareth. As I pointed out to Ehrman, if it could be shown that the Land of Oz never existed, the Wizard of Oz would also be a fiction.
Carrier Ph.D., Richard; D.M. Murdock; René Salm; Earl Doherty; David Fitzgerald (2013-04-07). Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth (Kindle Locations 6615-6616). American Atheist Press. Kindle Edition.

There are 69 references to Josephus in this book.
Here are the possible eyewitnesses
• Flavius Josephus – Jewish aristocrat and rebel general turned historian
• Tacitus – Roman historian
• Thallus – Roman chronologer
• Lucian – Roman satirist
• Suetonius – Roman historian
• Pliny the Younger – Roman governor
• Mara Bar-Serapion – Syrian letter-writer (likely a philosopher, but his actual occupation is unknown)
• Phlegon – Roman writer
• Justin Martyr – (a.k.a. Justin of Caesarea) Christian apologist
• Clement of Rome – Bishop of Rome
• Polycarp – Bishop of Smyrna, Asia Minor
• Origen – Christian theologian
• Cyprian of Carthage – Christian theologian
• Eusebius – Christian historian
• Tertullian – Christian apologist
• Ignatius – Patriarch of Antioch
• Clement of Alexandria – Christian philosopher and scholar
• Hippolytus of Rome – Christian theologian and writer

Fitzgerald, David (2010-09-30). Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (Kindle Locations 337-358). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

Eyewitnesses to Jesus  
Flavius Josephus: 37 – c. 100
Clement of Rome: born ? – c. 98 – 102
Ignatius: c. 35 – 107
Pliny the Younger: c. 62 – 113
Suetonius: c. 75 – 160?
Tacitus: c. 55 – after 117
Polycarp: c. 69 – 155
Justin Martyr: c.114 -167
Lucian: c. 125 – 180
Clement of Alexandria: c. 150 – 211/216
Tertullian: c. 155 – 230
Origen: c.185 – c. 254

Fitzgerald, David (2010-09-30). Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (Kindle Locations 372-384). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

The four names from the list that do not appear on the timeline are: Thallus – the dates of his life are unknown, but he is believed to have written c. mid 2nd century, as is Phlegon (c.140’s AD). Hippolytus was probably born in the later 2nd century; he was active in the 3rd century and died c. 235. Very little is known about Syrian Mara Bar-Serapion apart from the contents of his single surviving letter; dates for its composition range from as early as 73

Fitzgerald, David (2010-09-30). Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All (Kindle Locations 389-393). Lulu. Kindle Edition.

The bottom line impression I got, without carefully rereading the book, is that Josephus probably should have known about Jesus and Nazareth, but didn’t. There were a few others that could have known, but it depends on when Jesus was supposed to have existed. So, Jesus of Nazareth probably did not exist.

Born again mythicist