Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Strategic analysis of Global warming

From Marconomica Principle #5 I've grouped entities strategically as countries. In the global scale, it is countries leaders making the commitments on behalf of all their citizens. The Dillemma's leaders of democracies face is that signed committments get votes now, but may lose them votes if they fail to achieve them later, or if it ends up costing more than voters are willing to pay. The over-riding strategic concern must be "the tragedy of the commons". I have imagined scenarios in which generalised fears cause emmissions to accelerate, with every country more or less blaming every other country. Individual countries obviously try to make any committments at such a long term as to ensure they won't lose personally by failing. As the long term committment nears maturity, the gap between the committment and reality will be so wide that no Government would accept responsibility. The proposed targets are framed in such a way that it is only the end result that is being argued over - not anything in between that will necessarily have to happen to get there (eg goals within an electoral term window). Examples that perhaps ought to be copied if we were serious about it, have their own horrors associated. For instance, Russia is the only Kyoto ratifier to obviously achieve their goal. Clearly, having an economy tank is an obvious way to reduce emissions, but no environmentalist is seriously suggesting it (except Peter Garrett before he became a politician:)). Also examples of rich countries with a very low carbon intensity exist (France), but this contradicts heavily with environmentalists hatred of Hydro and Nuclear power (and hatred of France). Having all but strategically ruled out strategies with proven records, my prediction is of a 10% increase in emmissions in developed countries by 2020 (from 2000 figures)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Marconomic Analysis of the state of play in Climate change

In Principia Marconomica
principle #2, I have stated that perception is not reality, and having a quick look at Wikipedia's Determining political spectra, the climate change state of play is that people's views are highly correlated on this, thus a one dimensional line is very apt to describe it. Principle #2 states that it is very likely that none of the points on the line reflect reality. The perception of the majority, including those that are uncertain, is that if the "alarmist" is right about one thing (say rapid increasing temperature prediction) that they will also be right about a correlated view (Disaster will befall the Earth). Similarly for "denialist" views.
Politics is certain to use this line to influence certain peer groups as units to obtain votes; activists are going to try to influence individuals to join their peer such as to increase their numbers and weight as efficiently as possible.
The unfortunate thing is that a set of views that is without peer almost always gets misunderstood, ignored or forever questioned. What we need is a set of scientists and other professionals that is unburdened by their peers or lobby groups. I just wonder whether "Peer review" leads to "peer pressure" when it comes to the spin on scientific research.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Trading Hot Air

I realise I have perhaps been too harsh to completely dismiss the current state of affairs with "Carbon offsets". I have claimed that these are a "bastardised" form of *allocation* trading. My reasoning is that trading allocations works because the number of allocations is finite and controlled. If one starts to use something like planting trees or buying incandescent lightbulbs, you can buy an infinite amount of these and obviously this would break down the system. Contrast this to a carbon tax, that like any sin tax will reduce demand for the sinful product (in this case carbon), punish bigger users in proportion, and if it replaces other non-carbon-proportional taxes, will be revenue neutral, thus there should not be any net capital flight away from the taxing country.

However, adopt cumulative palatable changes to this system and something strange happens. First, these offsets can move from being voluntary to being compulsory for a certain energy class. Say with electricity, an automatic calculation of carbon based on your electricity bill is used to bill you for the offset. Ditto with fuels. This would not be too controversial. Next, these could be further refined by more accurate metering. CH4, NO2 etc. levels could be monitored over different urban areas and these could form the basis for more compulsory offsets.

In the long term these offsets would be collected by the government and become quite proportional to the carbon usage. The offsets would no longer necessarily go to the lowest price, nor to the one decided on by the payer, but be decided pretty much like any other Government project. This way it would end up being indistinguishable from a carbon tax. This is just a pathway for the Government to sell the idea of something that is essentially increasing cost for basic utilities without any added direct value - generally a fatal policy move.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chicago, Canada, Alabama, Key West

As part of our whirlwind 87/88 US tour, we made good use of our 15 day Greyhound pass to get around. I can't quite remember the context and dates for these :( Yes I can :).

These photos are all from early January 1988. After a chilly New Years Day stop-over in Fargo North Dakota (no photos), where we were locked out of the bus station and a kind beekeeper puts us up for the night so we don't freeze in the -40degree (Farenheit, Celcius take your pick:)) wind chill, we make it to Winnipeg Canada, where by the 3rd of January, I remember that we hadn't taken any photos so I take one.
Winnipeg, Canada We were walking to (Eatons?) shopping centre.

This next photo is a re-enactment of a very notorious scene in "Ferris Bueller's day off", where the youngsters risk their lives by standing on the railing and lean into the window with their head when they are at the top floor observatory! It was probably the 5th of January.

Sears Tower, Chicago Not as scary as it looks. Maybe the security guards knew something we didn't.

The next photo was taken in Birmingham, Alabama, where the trees had ice on them. Must have been around the 9th of January. We were awaiting our bus out of the place and I realised we didn't have a photo, so I demanded one next to the phone box because it looked a little interesting.
Alabama! I had my winter suit on, but the Doctor seemed to be warm enough without.

The next photo is the place at Key West which was rather warm in comparison, so we bought some singlets with stuff written on them. Must have been about the 11th of January?
Key West

Friday, December 07, 2007

Lesson: Do not throw snowballs at AMERICANS

Australian Andy should have learned the lesson I did almost twenty years ago.

Trust me! It can never end well. This goes for Islamic extremists who like to throw something more substantial... eg. Suicide bomber, Aeroplane etc. etc.

Even if you lead a country and even hint at suggesting America may have asked for it, you are seen to be fair game.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

25th November day

If you're going to have a day to remember - Have it twice. On 25/11/1987, we take off, have a stop-over in Sydney for several hours where we do some stuff, then get on a plane overnight to Honolulu, then have 25/11/1987 all over again. If I'm not mistaken, 28/11/1987 is when Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was ousted by his own party after being premier for 17 years.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Christmas 1987 - Durango, Colorado

After having seen unusual snow in Tucson and the Grand Canyon, we decided to have a white Christmas in the Colorado Rockies. Activities were basically toboganning in Hawaiian costume, climbing a nearby mountain peak and celebrating Christmas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mexico Leg 1987

Mexico December 16th to 22nd? 1987. My entry document indicates that we entered Mexico on the 16th. I recall that we stayed several days in Mexico, but we went to Colorado for Christmas. The order of the pictures in the album suggests we went to the Grand Canyon after Mexico, but that seems a litle too close to Christmas by my reckoning. I remember catching a train to Guaymas, hiking a lot, sleeping in the rain on an island near Club Med, nearly missing our vital train trip back, jumping onto the moving train with luggage, being searched on our way back to the US.

The Groose with club Med in the background
Me with "Tetas de Capra" (Goats' teats) mountains in background.
On A sand dune with Cacti in backdrop

Monday, November 12, 2007

Arizona Leg Nostalgia 1987

4th December to 15th December 1987. After one day living it up in LA and visiting Universal studios, we catch an overnight bus to Tucson Az. minus our luggage for a day and minus our tape recorder forever. Activities included golf, mountain climbing, the occasional party, pictionary, bowling, shopping (eg. boots, sleeping bag, mini-camera) trip to Grand Canyon - see pictures. I have a document that tells me we entered Mexico on the 16th of December. I remember staying about 5 days??? Anyhow, I've relegated Mexico to a separate leg of the adventure.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Concierto De Aranjuez (orange juice (sic))

From the movie "Brassed Off" .Townsville Brass actually played this at our last contest, and we have a young female Flugel Horn player and an older baldy conductor like this clip. We are playing it again at a concert on the strand "Brass on the Grass" Sunday 11th November.

Friday, November 09, 2007

More Nostalgia

28th November to 3rd December 1987 - Hitch-hiking around the Big Island (HAWAII) Trecking through volcanoes, to "green" beaches, acid rain deserts, Pakalolo plantations, dog/stunt/vehicles etc.

I don't remember pakalolo plantations, but so very much in such a little time- sheltering from a downpour in a Hilo high school- overnight at the Volcano visitors centre- the day we made money, picking up change along a highway through a desolate moonscape- camping on a picnic table at a haunted beach of black and white pebbles- begging for water- eating guavas off the vine- trying to find the Captain Cook monument- the cops coming to see if we were dead, camped outside a church on the edge of Kailua-Kona - then the best ever hitched ride, warned of the sheriff in Honokaa (or was it Ho'okena?, most memorable ever hitched ride passing trucks on double white lines on twisty mountain road with watefalls sitting with the dogs in a ute with no sides... trying to peer through the windows of the Miss Teen USA competition and the drug dealer who was the only person who *didn't* offer us pakalolo...

Wide angle - Foreground is untouched wilderness, background is volcanic lava flow destruction

close up of me and the Doctor from the original image surveying the eerie moonscape of lava destruction

Best ever hitched ride
Sign says do not climb loose volcano ejecta


Reminiscing about 20 years ago reminds me about 18 years ago today. In fact I believe three young tourists were instrumental in generating momentum in 1988 that culminated in the wall coming down. I believe I said to some German "Ich bin Ein Hamburger" - you see we couldn't get into Berlin so we had to make do with Hamburg, and that's why it took so long for the message to get through to the border guards.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Arguments for modern specific experiments for Lamarckism

I have been reading The Panda's Thumb and there is a nice chapter devoted to the discussion of Lamarckism. Essentially the tenets of "Lamarckism" is that evolution can be "directed" by environmental factors, rather than by undirected genetic variation being winnowed out by death or lower reproduction rates of fellow individuals of the species allowing the remaining individuals to pass on genes appropriate to the environmental factors. Lamarckism has been rejected by biologists because "Darwinism" explains all facets of evolution satisfactorily, and no direct evidence of Lamarckism has been discovered, as well as the fact that particular examples (giraffe necks etc.) oft quoted have been discredited as being both explainable by darwinism and having no measurable direct evidence of directed genetic change.

A new approach would be to look at it from a completely different angle as follows. If Lamarckism is a force in evolution, what are the best genetic strategies to follow given a pre-reproductive youth to experiment on what genes are useful and which not. The issue to me is that genes would have to predict what future environments will require. Genetic variation would hedge its bets on an environmental change being a temporary or permanent one. I would suggest that modern controlled experiments on a range of different animals over a large number of generations would demonstrate it. Essentially, almost no experiments have been done since the 1920's and 1930's. With a greater understanding of the complex role of RNA, more nuanced experiments, I believe would find a subtle but pervasive pathway for some direct/accelerated forms of evolution.

Neither the rat/maze learning experiments and antenna/amputation/regrowth experiments have natural environmental analogies, making them less explanatory than they appear. Direct adaptation would only happen where similar changes in environment had happened before in the distant ancestral history of the animal/plant in question. After all, the specific Lamarckian adaptation itself would have to evolve to suit probable dramatic shifts in environment (ie. selection pressures on species that had no Lamarckian adaptation vs species that did)

One particular experiment would be subjecting specimens to permanent darkness. It is a well known evolutionary theme that vision in a large range of beasts becomes impaired when adapted to permanent darkness. It also has reasonably common natural analogy where animals adapted to light have close relatives adapted to dark with common ancestry. Adaptation to permanently, cold, wet, hot or dry are similarly common natural events that lab experiments could weed out direct vs undirected variation.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Honolulu 25th-28th November 1987
Left Townsville 7:00 am 25th November - Arrived Honolulu 25th November 6:00 am. Gotta love that date line :)

In the first few days of our 1987 trip, we hung out around Honolulu trying to make nuisances of ourselves. We had a tape recorder but nothing too interesting got recorded other than being thrown out of a hotel for wearing shorts. We didn't steal any cars but we did pretend to own them.

What I didn't realise was that the hotel we stayed at - the Edgewater Hotel - was a historic building. Some info From link Waikiki Beach Walk builds on Outrigger's deep history in the area. The 184-room Edgewater Hotel -- which opened in 1951 and is at the heart of the new Waikiki Beach Walk complex -- was the second hotel built by company founders Roy and Estelle Kelley, and for years was the only major building in that area of Waikiki. (The Kelleys' first hotel, the Islander, was built in 1947 on the site of the former Waikiki I and II Theaters and has long since been demolished.) The Edgewater Hotel was the first hotel in Waikiki to have an automatic elevator and a swimming pool, and it set the standard for Outrigger's growth in Waikiki in the succeeding decades, meeting the needs of generations of travelers seeking moderately priced rooms in Waikiki.

Picture of me at the Edgewater Hotel.

and this link explaining some more of the history of the place.

linkOutrigger Hotels had a large investment in the area, including its once landmark Edgewater Hotel. Built in 1951, in the burst of postwar optimism that anticipated as many as 50,000 Waikiki visitors a year, it was the first Waikiki hotel with an automatic elevator and a swimming pool. John Wayne, who often stayed there, once locked himself out of his room naked, and had to be rescued by the owner himself. John Wayne should have just climbed down :)


Thanks for the links .... I'll checkem out when I have some more time. At the moment Carleah and I are living it up in China. It's great. We can get a restaurant meal including drinks for 3 people for the pricey sum of $7.... an expensive taxi ride is $3.

I'll be celebrating our 20year anniversary on the 25th November in Korea :-)

The Groose

Watching the big waves near Sunset Beach, Oahu
Waves are deemed too big for the surfing championships being held on Sunset Beach - so we go in for a swim at Waimea Bay

You were allowed to go to Schoolies weren't you?

This is a question that Belinda put to me recently when I made obvious my loathing of the organised activities of youngsters at the end of grade 12. My initial reaction was that "Schoolies" didn't exist when I finished high school. But then I thought about it and I really have no idea what status "schoolies" had back in 1987. To tell you the truth when I did think back to what I actually did in the week after school finished, I am not sure I should bring up the details with my kids, lest they think it ok to act irresponsible and stuff.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Police(?) Reply

Comment on Mad World : Hi Marco just looking around and found your blog in relation to this matter and I'd like to clear up a few things. Firstly there are fully sworn and operational Police who are ATSI, the QPS also goes to great lengths to recruit ATSI staff; however, the issue with recruiting is a cultural one and unfortunately those that do join the QPS are often ostrisized by there families so this makes it a very difficult decision for any ATSI folk to make. Also in relation to Police Liason Officers (PLO's) these are unsworn staff that serve as a bridge between the QPS and a number of cultural groups ATI, Asian and many others. Again these guys and girls can face a difficult choice when becoming PLO's especially in places like Palm Island where there is a strong anti-police culture stemming from old issues.

In relation to "self Policing" there are a number of programs which satisfy this, including Community Police, and ATSI court, where most matters involving ATSI's are handled. Of course we need to consider that Australian Law is Australian law and while I acknowldege ATSI's as the orginal inhabitants of Australia, there must be a time where we all accept that we are now Australians and with that in mind Australian law applies to all Australians regardless of Race, religion, sex, or any other difference of the human condition.

I would also like to point out to dr.clam if he is still following this blog that the union's issue is not that an officer was charged. As Police most are happy to face there accusers in a fair system and it would be hypocritical not to. The issue stems from a couple of points. Firstly the fact that a number of enquiries (including royal commissions) have been held in relation to a number of deaths in custody and Beattie and his governement (not the Police) have failed to implement all recomendations of those enquiries. As an example the installation of CCTV at "All" watch houses, which in this matter may have been of great assistance. Further was the fact that Beattie was initially supportive of the DPP recommendation that there was insufficient evidence to support a charge and later reversed his decision for "political" reasons. I would further clarify that at no time did Hurley change his story.

If anyone does read this I hope you find it informative.

I assume this is coming from a police union member. One point is that I heard that there was CCTV cameras in that watchhouse but they were inactive, and that that is reasonably common for the ones that had been installed (yes ok, still not enough, and unclear as to whose fault it was that they were inactive). I do have this feeling that there is a way forward, and that we will find it!

Also, I fail to see why there can't be more aboriginals employed one way or another within the police system on Palm Island. Whether it be a subset of the Palm Island council being a police liaison committee, or a constant informal training of locals.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Immigration Model

The immigration quota system in Australia is like a control valve. I have been violently against import quotas for goods because of the highly impractical nature of doing that and the pointlessness. However with permanent migrants, it is a form of population growth planning which if not completely admirable, does help stability. Opening the valve to double the flow will still be controlled and very desirable.

Increase Refugee and Immigrant quotas!

The 2006/07 migration program has 144,000 regular migrants and 13,000 humanitarian migrants - both rates are at record high levels - much higher than under Labor. Is it wrong to want people with skills who will make good citizens?

This rate might seem high, but Australia has a capacity for it to be much higher(1). Talk of skills and citizenship potential is a pointless diversion. Migrants and refugees select themselves quite well. Refugees from anywhere are often skilled. What is the point of a trained accountant when he becomes dispossessed because of war? Let more refugees in and let our flexible job market (and world best help programs here) sort it out. Labour moves to where it is needed in Australia, and short-term training fills many skills gaps quite nicely. It is pointless to dwell on importing skills of which there is a world-wide shortage. Rely on the flexibility and mobility of labour here to do the best we can with what we have got (and are getting). More important than new entrants showing citizenship skills, is Australia demonstrating that it is an excellent world citizen. Increasing refugee intake is a win-win in this case. Refugees bring a range of (fairly random) skill-sets which are lapped up by the businesses that require that - even if what is required is keen unskilled workers. It is the less keen that are unemployed in Australia. At the same time, on the international stage, we are shown to be model world citizens if we are progressive and generous in our quota of refugees.

(1) It appears 144k is about 10% more than the previous year. 13k refugees is about 20-30% increase. These increases were made quietly and in a bipartisan fashion. No attempt by either party has been made to advertise or attack this gradual policy shift. The public only needs to continue to give "permission" to the governments to increase these quotas, such as not to tempt them to partisanise the issue.

Monday, October 01, 2007

School Holidays - Ho Hum

Belinda has taken off to Italy with the School Tour. As of this moment she's in a nunnery in florence (or something). Kylie is still mad at me for not taking her (when we were last in Italy) to the places that the Belinda's tour is visiting (Pisa, Pompeii etc.), but that's life. We're busy re-watching West Wing seasons 1 - 6. It's the kind of thing that I'm enjoying more the second time around. West Wing works on a number of different levels. In part it is educational about the technical aspects of US politics. It clearly dwells on only the drama that can potentially happen, like any good drama, but it is believable enough to get you thinking about what is happening in reality.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Delusion XX - If only *Everyone* was atheist like me

(Talking about Northern Ireland conflict) From page 259 "The two sets of people have the same skin colour, they speak the same language, they enjoy the same things, but they might as well belong to different species, so deep is the historic divide. And *without religion*, and religiously segregated education, the divide simply would not be there.

I would like to rephrase this thus : "If everyone in Northern Ireland (etc.) was atheist like me, there would be no conflict in Northern Ireland."

The trouble is, you could replace the word "atheist" with any ideology/religion you like, and it would be just as true as his original statement. However, religions are actively trying to make that happen (eg. through having more children, converting people, killing their enemies :)) while most atheists just like to give this concept lip service and just try to convert people ad hoc. Dawkins is doing what spokespeople for practically every religion does - Defining their own ideology as the only true one, and that all the others are false and evil. Most of the rest of chapter 6 extols his version of the moral zeitgeist. To me he is just digging himself deeper, enveloping moral rules into atheist ideology.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Delusion XIX - Do I agree with him?

In some ways I feel I am "more" atheist than Dawkins is. He believes that in principle the existence of God can be proven - I don't. This tends to place me in an almost unreachable place for evangelists, while Dawkins agrees with them on this point. He also agrees with evangelists that an instantaneous magical design/creation by a supernatural entity is analagous to human design/creation of, say, a watch. I say that a high enough technology is indistinguishable from magic, but the progression of design of watches is as evolutionary as the progression of life on Earth. Complex design without complex precedents to work from is a fantasy either way, no matter how intelligent the designer. Thus, design/creation doesn't even exist as a separate thing to evolution to me - so in that sense, I am also further from creationist ideas than Dawkins. Dawkins is also ideologically rigid in his ideas on evolution. I am much more open to research on group selection, Lamarckism and panspermia - aspects which Dawkins has a completely closed mind to - Much like evangelists he challenges us to "prove" that these things exist before he will consider them - But as an authority on biology he asks us to reject them until then. My mind is way more open to new scientific ideas than his is. I am in some ways an "apologist" for religions, and that is partly because I believe religion to have large selective significance, and particularly because it takes warped associative logic to demonstrate religion's "badness"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

11/9 Day 2007

Since last year's post, nothing much has happened on the War on Terrorism (WOT) front. There is a gradual trend to greater pessimism on the WOT front, despite the surge. Changes in government amongst Coalition Of the Willing states(COWs) portend a managed withdrawal over the next couple of years, while the Other Timid Western States (COWARDS) continue their negativity to Any Actual Action Against Anyone (AAAAA). Fear is still disturbingly high worldwide. Hatred seems to have dropped a few notches.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Delusion XVIII - Chapter 6: morality dillemma

Page 222 "Sexual Lust is the driving force behind a large proportion of human ambition and struggle, and much of it constitutes a mis-firing. There is no reason why the same should not be true of the lust to be generous and compassionate, if this is the misfired consequence of ancestral village life. The best way for natural selection to build in both kinds of lust in ancestral times was to install rules of thumb in the brain."

Dawkins invokes "mis-firing" quite heavily in chapter 5 and chapter 6. Anything which appears not to be of benefit in a "selfish gene" way is presumed a persisted redundant feature. This is the way he fills the gap in our understanding of evolved traits. My view is that for any persistent trait, the assumption should be that however useless a trait may appear, its persistence is evidence of proximal evolutionary advantage. He is selective in choosing things which *he* believes to be pointless (thus mis-firings, eg religiosity, altruism), rather than just conceding the truth - that it is a field of open study in which we are finding the evolutionary relevance in due course (Just like the "gaps"). He correctly demonstrates that individual morality given certain dillemas is an in-built trait, irrespective of religion, but he ignores research that dwells on the actual differences between societies that have differing levels of religious uptake. One such study, for instance (*) that I have read about is how paired "believers", as opposed to those nominally religious, are more likely to remain faithful to their partners. Organised morality of religions may be even more useful than the instinctive morality of our genes. Dawkins has two definitions of "good" - 1) That which human instincts tells us is good.
and 2) That which gives us an individual competitive advantage.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Delusion XVII - But is it a "Good" Book

In this sense, I am defining "Good" as meeting the "objectives" he sets out to achieve in writing the book. By "objectives", I mean the objectives I believe he had - not the one *he* states he has. In writing this book, I believe Dawkins is aiming at *two* main audiences. The first audience is the uncommitted/loosely committed, nominally falling under a particular denomination, but who is overall unconvinced and open-minded. With this audience he is encouraging them towards the "non-believer-in-God" end of his religiosity spectrum. He is using the fact that peoples opinions are highly corellated with associated opinions (eg. the opinion that Religion and the state should be as separate as possible is highly correlated with the view that religion is "bad"). This is excellent in terms of persuasive writing, even if it is under contention that the world will be a better place with more atheists.

The other main audience I believe he is aiming for is the committed (or zealous) atheist. With this audience, he is affirming their beliefs and strengthening the arguments across a swathe of the spectrum. He is also arming them with numerous "sound bites", analogies and references that they can use in arguments with the loosely committed - *especially* in the context of the loosely committed being a minority amongst his peer group.

He rightly concedes that aiming to the audience of hardened religious or rigidly theological, or even rigidly philosophical part of the spectrum is a lost cause. Unless one takes that strict logical positivism is the only kind of logic that is valid, his logic is neither convincing nor watertight.

So I have to concede that he easily achieves his aims in this book, and his desired audience is captive and extensive. It is just that I am neither in his desired audience, nor do I think success in his writing goals will make the world a better place. Quite the opposite in fact.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Delusion XVI - Chapter 5 - let the atheist scientist attack

I had an idea to extend on "Adaptive? Aye!" and attack Dawkins *With the assumption that the conclusions of the previous four chapters were correct* (in fitting in with my axiomatic abstractions) , However this Skeptic of Dawkins has done most of the work for me.
Average effects became selfish genes and individuals became lumbering robots controlled by their genes. Group selection became a pariah concept, taught only as an example of how not to think. As one eminent evolutionist advised a student in the 1980s, “There are three ideas that you do not invoke in biology: Lamarkism, the phlogistron theory, and group selection.”

I invoke two of those three (Lamarckism and group theory) and I add "panspermia" as an alternative third, that have been "ruled" false, yet I am convinced that these three "facts" will be reversed within our lifetime by good science.

Scientific Dogmatism
In retrospect, it is hard to fathom the zeal with which evolutionists such as Williams and Dawkins rejected group selection and developed a view of evolution as based entirely on self-interest

That chapter five is based on Atheist Dogma, to me is a tautology. An atheist skeptical scientist appears to back me up. David Sloan Wilson basically covers all my objections of chapter 5, that Dawkins is choosing to believe the theory that makes religion look all the more pointless.

I can't help but include his conclusion:
On Scientific Open-Mindedness
Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins waxes poetic about the open-mindedness of science compared to the closed-mindedness of religion. He describes the heart-warming example of a scientist who changed his long-held beliefs on the basis of a single lecture, rushing up to his former opponent in front of everyone and declaring “Sir! I have been wrong all these years!”

This inspiring example represents one end of the scientific bell curve when it comes to open-mindedness. At the other end are people such as Louis Agassiz, one of the greatest biologists of Darwin’s day, who for all his brilliance and learning never accepted the theory of evolution. Time will tell where Dawkins sits on the bell curve of open-mindedness concerning group selection in general and religion in particular. At the moment, he is just another angry atheist, trading on his reputation as an evolutionist and spokesperson for science to vent his personal opinions about religion.

It is time now for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work on understanding one of the most important and enigmatic aspects of the human condition.

Obviously, I believe that Dawkins is close-minded about this, and Atheism as an ideology will be as close-minded as any other "religion" for the foreseeable future, with such spokespersons as Dawkins.

Delusion XV - Logical Positivism?

From wikipedia
Although the logical positivists held a wide range of beliefs on many matters, they were all interested in science and skeptical of theology and metaphysics. Early on, most logical positivists believed that all knowledge is based on logical inference from simple "protocol sentences" grounded in observable facts. Many logical positivists supported forms of materialism, philosophical naturalism, and empiricism.


Early critics of logical positivism said that its fundamental tenets could not themselves be formulated in a way that was clearly consistent. The verifiability criterion of meaning did not seem verifiable; but neither was it simply a logical tautology, since it had implications for the practice of science and the empirical truth of other statements. This presented severe problems for the logical consistency of the theory.

It is this grounding in observable facts, and it not being an Axiomatic system, that gives its appeal. When most people I talk to think of "logic" and reason, this is what they are talking about. This is often why I am confounded by people who tell me higher mathematics is not "logical". It is just that maths is not necessarily grounded in observable facts. This is the "Logic" that Dawkins uses, which has been shown to have perpetual consistency difficulties, which should colour the claims that God is inconsistent with observable phenomena. This differs from what I call "logic", which is based on provably consistent axiomatic reasoning. I insist that "reality will not contradict itself" and that axiomatic reasoning is vitally important in Science, and in our understanding of our place in the Universe.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Delusion XIV - Religion Definigion

Page 15 "By 'Religion' Einstein meant something entirely different from what is conventionally meant. As I continue to clarify the distinction between supernatural religion on the one hand and Einsteinian religion on the other, bear in mind that I am only calling *supernatural* Gods delusional.

This is not a general way in which religion is defined and it is a bit of an atheismism. When I am talking about the *problems* of religion, I define it as a zealous pursuit of a particular ideology. Whether it is Islam, Scientology or zealous atheism, the more zealous the pursuit is, the more "religious" I believe it to be. The control of the flow of information to "footsoldier" followers of the ideology can multiply the evil of the leader by many orders of magnitude. By defining religion so narrowly, atheists let other zealous ideologies off the hook completely. Being that scientifically concurrent "religions" are on the ascendant should not necessarily mean that they will be less zealous or evil in a very similar way that atheists describe traditional religions.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Delusion XIII - Design Defined

Design - To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form.

Before having children, I planned what they were going to look like. I chose a partner knowing what I wanted the children to be like. I had their early childhood education planned out quite in advance. Hey presto! I'm a genetic engineer!

That is what I think when people say "look at the wonderful things this or that person designed" Sure he designed a 747, but there was a very similar looking 707 mass-produced before it, and other planes before that. All the designer is doing is putting in a mutation to a design already available, testing it thoroughly (discarding failed species) over and over again (through multiple un-noticed generations) In fact, if there was a God, that is exactly the process of design one would expect. He couldn't have come up with a human without extensive experimentation with primates etc. etc. Evolution is *exactly* the analagous process of design to how humans come up with new designs in their sphere.

eg. Page 157 "2 The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer.It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person."

This is a bad analogy - Sure, the engineer does have to be intelligent, but a fancy design of a watch has to be seen in the context of there existing an extensive watch industry. The first wristwatch was some clever engineer thinking of putting a strap onto a pocket watch. The first pocket watch was just a scaled down clock. The first clock was funny shaped stick placed in the sun etc. If you correctly transfer this analogy to the need for God to design a fancy wing, one must have it in the context of wing genes being spread through the population already. The clever designer saw something goodlooking in the flight of some cute bird :) and sought to kill off some of other lesser birds, and procreate that one.

Delusion XII - Testing, Testing...

(Bible citation required) Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the bible will know that there are explicit explanations in there that God will not allow himself to be tested. This my Axiomatic point of difference (b). Thus, experiments like the double-blind prayer test are meaningless to prove anything about a God as defined by reference to the bible. I also see this as a potential catch-all copout, in a skeptical sense, but I don't see how proving a testable God says anything about a non-testable one.

Delusion XI - The great circle debate

Page 51 quote "It is superficially tempting to place PAP (Permanently Agnostic in Principle) in the middle of the spectrum, with a 50 percent probability of God's existence, but this is not correct. PAP agnostics aver that we cannot say anything, one way or another, on the question whether God exists. The question, for PAP agnostics is in principle unanswerable, and they should strictly refuse to place themselves anywhere on the spectrum of probabilities."

And I do refuse to. Essentially this correctly disqualifies me from judging the merits of his reasoning. To a PAP agnostic all proofs of God's existence can only use circular reasoning. Equivalently all disproofs also can only use circular reasoning. That the complexity/design/creation conundrum discovered with Darwinism ought to extend to supernatural beings as believed by the religious cannot be verified - only believed or disbelieved. He relies on this factor but didn't specify it in his original hypothesis (*citation required)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Delusion X - Circular logic?

In his fourth chapter Dawkins sneakily adds to his definition of God, that he be explainable or that he makes sense in a scientific context (etc.). A key definition of science is that it deals with observable natural phenomena (ie. an Axiom of there being no God). Using only scientific research that starts with an Axiom of there being no God, he comes to the conclusion that there be no God. I fail to see how that isn't a tautology based on a circular argument. There is definition creep going on here such that he is defining a God such that it couldn't possibly make sense that it exists. That demonstrates nothing about God fearing intellectuals and *their* God. This doesn't mean I agree or disagree. I already accept that I am a PAP. This doesn't mean that I think God is more probable than he does. This whole chapter has no bearing on our Definition (a) which we dispute. Talk on whether God makes sense given known science is a completely meaningless concept to me.

Delusion IX - It's Definitive, dear Watson

When two or more reasoned intellectuals, after lengthy discussion, still disagree, there are a couple of possibilities.

1) Their starting "definitions" related to what they are discussing differ. Their different conclusions can, in this case be completely attributed to their starting definitions (Technically it is their initial AXIOMS (ie. starting assumptions) that differ that are IMPLICIT in their "definitions" that generate their conclusions through logical processes)

2) The data they are using is in dispute or otherwise differs between them.


X) One of them is not being reasonable or is not intelligent enough to see the obvious logic or illogic.

X) can be discarded because we are talking about reasoned intellectuals see initial definition.

If in this case we are talking about me and Dawkins (with his reasoned intellectual hat on as opposed to his ridicule the opposition hat), it really is just (1). These are the definitions of his that differ with mine at this stage:

a) The in-principle provability or disprovability of God.

b) The definition of God that will allow himself to be tested.

c) His definition of "Design".

d) His definition of "Religion".

I have a choice when reading the book to set aside these differences by taking on his definitions and concentrate on his logic - or ignore any conclusions that can be attributable to the differences in our definitions. Atheists in general take on definitions that are accepted by the majority of naive christians, that wouldn't pass muster with any intellectual theologist or philosopher.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Delusion VIII - Darwinism

As much as I see there is an inherent beauty and simplicity in the truth of evolution, I can't help but feel that ideology has taken over from the skeptical pursuit of science for a great many scientists. David Attenborough's "Life on Earth" series was an almost magical summary of the known progression of species, and I cannot remember a nature show that I have enjoyed more since. However, I have noted in the past about the popular parody being a ladder(evolution is a bush), and the particular emphasis on the primate to human step. I have to add that I believe there are a few surprises in store within our lifetime. "Lamarckism" will have a comeback now that a plausible process for its existence has been established. Also, I am quite certain that "panspermia" will become a mainstream field of research. It is unlikely, but a scientifically consistent possibility that many of the "parts" (genes that may have relevance to higher species) of the mystical "747" (sentient species like humans) are floating around in intergalactic space trapped as rogue DNA in frozen bacteria and virus fragments. These might be as hard to verify as floating teacups, however.

Delusion VII - Chapter 4 -

I didn't design it! It is intelligent artificial selection! I go further than Dawkins in destroying the presumption of intelligent design. The 747 is the end product of the "evolution" of aeroplane designs. Aeroplanes are mainly scaled-up versions/copies/mix and match elements of previous designs with trial and error modifications (mutations) very occasionally put in with thorough testing (extinction of Darwinian failures). 747 sub-components (eg. engines) have also gone through an evolutionary process of their own. The 747 is just well adapted to the human environment of wanting to travel long distances cheaply. Religions have always gone through an evolutionary process also (more about that in other chapters). The amount of duplication of the previous generation in software is quite scary. The "millenium bug" as it affected PC's date rollovers was one such case - I couldn't believe that computers that were sold in the 90's needed to save the 2 digits. However the firmware in question written in assembly language, was rote-copied (with only minor modifications) from previous versions that dated all the way back to the 60's, when the techies writing the code would never have given the millenium a second's thought. Design is an illusion - Intelligent Design doubly so.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Delusion VI - Chapter 3

Objection! Argumentative. In "Arguments for God's Existence" it appears to me like an elaborate debate style argument. Except that his side of the debate goes uncontested. Like an advocate, he is sure never to be lying, but you never can tell how much spin he puts on anything in particular. Without going in and going to the source of every detail, there is no hope to know if he is exaggerating any claims. Some of the arguments are familiar, some are not. The familiar arguments he is painting his own colour. Where there is discrepancy between historical accounts of the bible and other history he is implying the biblical one is wrong. I am not sure that all his claims of the bibles inaccuracies are unexagerrated, but I do not need any convincing that the relationship between described individual details of the bible and what actually happened is incidental. However, I am inclined to take any "historical facts" mentioned in the "God Delusion" with the same amount of skepticism - ie. I just skim over any actual historical details and ignore them as irrelevant to his points.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Delusion V Chapter 2 - part 2

You Call me "PAP", I call you "Dork-Ins". In this section (the poverty of Agnosticism) Dawkins changes tack slightly and takes sides with a theologian that insults agnostics, calling them "PAP" (Permanently Agnostic on Principle). Dawkins asserts that in principle, the existence of God can be proven with miracles. He implies that there are miracles that HE would accept as proof enough. Would he just? I can quite imagine him being placed somewhere that for all intensive purposes was like hell, and after several thousand years he would be thinking "I wonder how those religious frauds pulled this one off?". He doesn't really explain how it would be a "proof" in a scientific sense. He seems to imply that if his main opposition feels it's true (God can be proven by miracles), then nobody should challenge him if he thinks it is true. DORK-INS ("Doesn't Observe Righteous King - Insofar Not Sighted") followers believe (without evidence) in the possibility of incontrovertible proof of God's existence. They also believe that the possibility of proof happening is approximately nil (without needing a quantitative analysis). This conclusion comes from a detailed rebuttal of various theological reasonings that come to any other probability conclusion. This leads me to believe that Atheism thrives in an environment of "established" religions, where those same religions have no control within the regional learning establishments (Universities). Atheism thrives on the hatred of religious establishment.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Delusion IV - Chapter 2 part 1

I Object! In this part of the chapter, Dawkins lays out his hypothesis amongst a litany of transparent "proof by ridicule" tirades. He justifies giving offence to religions which is acceptable to me as long as he is aware that he is opening the door to evangelicals ridiculing historical sciences (such as evolution) for the same purposes of winning over the uncommitted and as an affirmation for those already convinced. By laying out a hypothesis he is implying that he aims to disprove it using science and logic. Via correct mathematical logic he would assume it true and with progressive mathematically acceptable steps would arrive at a contradiction. He knows that is how hypotheses are disproven and he knows it wouldn't work if he did that, so instead he debates a litany of positions that religions take on this hypothesis and rules them invalid one by one. One critical assertion he makes is that the existence of God can be proven (via "miracles") and another is that science could theoretically disprove the hypothesis. Now these two assertions are hypotheses in their own right, and I feel they are disprovable. Let us assume that the existence of God can be proven. No matter how amazing the phenomenon that is called a miracle, it is a tenable position that it is a natural phenomenon that we don't as yet understand. God could shift mountains, destroy the Earth and bring it back again, could consign you to hell forever, but there is nothing that can't be attributed to either a much higher alien technology, or mass hypnosis (or both). Besides which, practically all monotheistic believers define a God that will not allow himself to be tested. This is a contradiction because any proof is not an acceptable proof of the "supernature" of the phenomenon. Alternatively, let us assume that we have proven the last aspect that had been previously attributed to God. One can easily (and automatically) generate a new question that is yet to be answered by science, that can be easily assumed to be answerable by reference to God. Thus, no matter how far science reaches, there will always be a new why? to try and answer. Interestingly, I would have thought that any scientist or intellectual would accept that logic and conclude that talk of probability of there being a God is meaningless as far as logic can obtain. Thus he has got it completely backwards. The existence or non-existence of God is not something we should have an expectation to be provable, and we should be very confident of the non-provability of God, and regard the existence or non-existence as one of the most basic axioms of any belief system. Any talk of proof or dis-proof can only be a circular argument, or proof by ridicule, or a call to our instincts for seeing the bleedingly obvious. I know that as humans, it is in our nature to come to a conclusion one way or the other, but we get there through relating to our experience of the universe, not as a response to evidence.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Delusion III - Chapter One

Hello. I've been here before. Here Dawkins quotes three people I have admired greatly in the past - Einstein, Carl Sagan and Douglas Adams. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the ridicule he heaps on religions in this book are the successful practice of "proof by ridicule". This technique is very effective with "unprovables" like for instance long term climate predictions, and the existence (and in this case non-existence) of God. This technique involves cloaking the baseline argument in a long-winded series of ridiculing viewpoints of the opposite argument and heaping praise on viewpoints supporting it. I recognise the beginnings of this technique because it is so similar to the "brainwashing" techniques used by Christian evangelists so successfully. In the back of the book is a list of societies you can contact that will complete the process for you. The baseline argument will of course be a circular one, but it will take an extremely keen philosophical eye to ferret it out. Now, Dawkins has defined religion in great philosophical detail. He has made a harsh distinction between Naturalist Pantheistic God and the supernatural one, and has asserted that it is intellectual high treason to confuse the two. This is a classic call to the reader that they have to make up their mind one way or the other. To try to sit on the fence is the worst philosophy of all. This is very similar to the evangelical statements that if you are not sure - then you are on the heathen side of the razor sharp fence. Dawkins has now defined God to my satisfaction, but heaped praise on Spinozan pantheism (This is more his apparent philosophy rather than what it really was. Spinoza's vision of what God is does not differ much from the Judeo-Christian definition). Spinoza was a moral relativist (Correction: Many have chosen to believe this, but by his own reasoning he wasn't), so it seems that his assertion "Religion is Bad" relies on an arbitrary definition of bad. Thus it is becoming increasingly clear that he is promoting this assertion as "blindingly obvious" thus axiomatic. He is clearly relying somewhat on faith to believe this, but I need more than just sound-bites and examples - I need a strict definition of "Bad" and comparitive scientific evidence. I am hoping by chapter eight I will get some of that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Delusion II - The Preface

Imagine no religion. As an overview of the theme - "Religion is Bad", he asserts that without people who believe in God, there would be none of a list of crimes that are invariably (and perhaps dangerously) attributed to the religiousness of those that participate in these crimes. Those that believe that the root cause of 9/11 is the Islamic religion, are fuelling the fire that created the retaliatory backlash against islam in the US. This I believe is a wrong and dangerous consequence in believing it is the religion that is bad and not that criminals are bad no matter what they believe. The economist intelligence unit for one, in their report on Suicide terrorism come to the conclusion that suicide terrorism is being embraced for the rewards in this world, not the next. This counters Dawkins' assertion, and therefore I shall not accept it as proven at all. I await with expectation for someone to tell me where in the book he proves that non-God-fearing people are less likely to be organised criminals of similar vein. It is not enough to demonstrate that people are doing bad things in the name of a God - One must show a causal link, and society-wide or world-wide comparative analysis. Most importantly, what is Dawkins' take on good and bad? Is he advocating for moral relativism or do we decide democratically as we go? How are we to argue what is good and bad without a definition that we can agree on?

Delusion I - The Back page blurb

Let's see, "The God Delusion" is to Atheism as _________ is to Christianity? Well, it ain't its' bible! My definition of atheist has always been one who believes that the non-existence of God can be proven. Now, the best way to disprove something is to assume it is true, and then come up with a contradiction through logical mathematical steps. I have read books and articles that go down this line, and although no authoratitive contradiction comes up, many difficulties do. The blurb mentions "the grievous harm it (the belief in God) has inflicted on society". This is actually an assertion that can be scientifically tested. My interpretation of the various evidence in the world is indicating the harm that is attributed to the belief in God is independent of the belief in God: ie. analogous real situations without the belief in God have equal or greater "harm" than than those attributed to religion. The various arguments I have been given to back up his claim play hard and fast with their definitions of "religion" and "harm". I will be keeping a very close eye for definitions of those terms and "God". Having randomly chosen sections in the book I have noted that Dawkins does state unequivocally that the non-existence of God cannot be proven using purely science. Thus, my answer to my question at the start is an evangelical document such as an "Alpha course" supplement. Thus Dawkins is not writing a scientific document here but an "evangelical" one trying to "convert" people to his point of view (Atheism) and threatening that if you don't, you will be party to society's harms. Using science anecdotes to convince is not the same as a scientific demonstration/proof.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Drrrrriillll, Crrreeeaak... Ok Mind is open now

I am going to backtrack and change my mind and actually try to read "The God Delusion". As is my want, I will abstract what the absolute essence of what his argument is and get agreement on that before I actually criticize or praise any particular conclusion or logic. I will just start with the title. The title itself is an indication that the book is aiming to demonstrate that those that believe in God are almost certainly deluded, and that this is a bad thing. I presume that he will define what he means by God, and from this definition and using scientific analysis and reasoning demonstrate the badness of believing. I would hope that somewhere along the line, he would define what he means by bad and demonstrate a causal link between the perceived problems and the belief in God. Is this what he is trying to demonstrate?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tobacco for the masses

Why do some people reject evolution as scientific reality given all the evidence? Why do smokers keep smoking given all the scientific evidence? To me the second problem is the one worth fixing. I still can't get over the reality that there exist doctors that smoke. That is like a geologist that believes in young earth creationism. It's not as if their life depends on finding a coal deposit - but surely the one important goal in life would be to give up smoking.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Weird Cult

I can't remember where I read about this cult that had a strange way of converting people and convincing them of the supernaturality of their God. The new convert would be invited to a seance/prayer room. A small number of desciples or just the spiritual leader would demonstrate his God given powers and rattle of a series of personal details about the would-be convert that they hadn't ever told anyone, and that there was absolutely no way they could have been guessed, and didn't rely on any input from the newby at all - just astonishment as his private details were rattled off to him/her. As it happens, the newbies were put into a hypnotic state in the initial prayer. The leader would then ask for a series of personal details while they were in a hypnotic state. Then they would repeat them back later when they were out of the hypnotic state. Now the weirdest thing was that the leader (and any desciple)was also in a trans-hypnotic trance while asking the questions as well, such that he had no idea how the details were getting into his head - it just seemed like a mystical power to him also. So confident was he of his powers, that years after starting his cult, he decided to film the process as a demonstration of the power in which he had complete confidence was from God. Of course, reviewing the film he saw the whole elaborate mutual trickery unfold, and was so mortified that he committed suicide and the cult unravelled soon after.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Criticizing Dorkins

In part a protest against the implied basis of the book dorkins has written, I am refusing to read it (1). I do not believe this disqualifies me from criticising it, as long as I stick to criticising the basis of the book, and use whatever quotes from the book I get from reliable sources. Now, it is a Provable Fact that the existence of God cannot be proven, nor disproven. As a corollary to this fact, talk of the improbability, or probability of the existence of God is completely meaningless. Therefore, any author who goes to any length to convince someone otherwise is either delusional (2) or a fraud. From this, I can speculate that since he tries to convince the would be reader anyway, that a lot of his "logic" and "reasoning" is not watertight. I would recommend a would be critic to start as given that God doesn't exist, and that therefore those that believe in God are in fact delusional. His assertion that "religion is bad" and that "the mistaken belief in God is the root of the badness of religion" appears to be a theme he talks about, but never gives tight definitions and solid reasoning to back it up. If "bad" and "good" are pretty well taken care of by our moral sense, these are extremely arbitrary assertions.

(1) I might read parts of the book down the track, who knows?

(2) This is not really the "stick him in the mental asylum" delusional, but a common, fairly harmless delusion with anyone with a non-self-consistent World view.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

In defence of usury

This economist article finds that a "consequentialist" analysis of the results of lending money at extortionate interest rates to the poor is better for the would be borrower than being refused the loan. An "Absolutist" would not believe such a one-off study to be relevant and defer to the scriptures, which probably state one way or another that usury is evil in general and should not be allowed. I for one, have come to the conclusion that usury IS evil, but possibly a necessary one for modern civilisation to keep prospering.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Grocery Shopping Adventure

After dinner monday night, I had to get a few groceries. I was feeling obsessive so I decided I would calculate the exact grocery bill item by item and have the exact amount withdrawn from the eftpos with my card before the checkout operator had even finished scanning. Since this included bananas and tomatoes which are sold by the kilo ($7.98 @ $5.98 per kilo respectively) this was going to require accurate measurement. I decided I would take the average of two scales in the shop that were supposed to be accurate to the nearest 5 grams. For my 6 bananas one said 405g, the other 1.065kg(1), hmmm. After moving an obstruction on one of the scales they both measured about 1.060 kg. 5 tomatoes was .905 kg. After buying ten items (including prepacked smoked salmon on special at $49.90/kg) , I was confident I had it to $23.15 + or - 5 cents. Of course the checkout chick scanned it as fast as I could load it up, so my original plan was thwarted, and much to my surprise, the total was $22.15, exactly one dollar out. Suspiciously looking like a copying error on my part, I had a quick scan of the docket. Bananas 1.056 kg, fine. Tomatoes 0.705kg ? huh. Smoked salmon $5.49 (100g) instead of the advertised special of $4.99. I went to the service desk to claim my 50c ripoff, but low and behold, I got $5.50 back and the salmon. I had thought that "scan's wrong and it's free thing" had disappeared long ago from Coles. Apparently it still pays to meticulously check the docket. I didn't argue the toss on the tomatoes against my better judgement, assuming I misread my measurement, but I re-checked at home and my measurement was the correct one.

(1) That's $1.35 per banana - Almost Larry level. Still think Aus would be better off with free trade in bananas.

Worm Farm

One of the things that I did back in 1999 was to buy and use a worm farm. My main motivation was to use the worm casts in the garden. Also to have less smelly garbage in the bin. If I had calculated whether this reduced or increased green house gases, my thought would be that it was much of a mulchness. Whether my food scraps rotted slowly in my wormfarm and garden, or in a landfill was not much different. In fact I would have thought that in a landfill the carbon would be buried deep underground to become coal in the distant future ie - sequestered. However, recent studies have shown that in a typical landfill and typical worm-farm, the worm farm would absorb the CH4 very well, and the landfill not at all. So it would seem that I was inadvertently helping the environment... Not so fast. As I recall at about the same time, we had a child and to give ourselves more time for gardening, we switched from reusable to disposable nappies exclusively. So instead of nappy-waste going down the drain and into sewage treatment plants to fertilise golf courses etc; it was ending up in the landfill generating methane. Besides which, I never really had enough worms to absorb all foodscraps, so plenty still goes in the bin. And the worm casts in my garden? Myriad tomato, rockmelon, pumpkin and pawpaw seedlings pop up from the casts. I never know whether to try to cultivate them, or to pull them out to leave room for the plants I'm trying to fertilise with the casts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What our energy policy should be

There has been a lot of talk about what our energy policy should include. Running themes are global warming, energy security, privatisation of utilities, subsidies and taxes.

- Global Warming: (*disclaimer: Carbon strategy should be about one countries standing and reputation to achieve things cheaply while others spend heaps with nothing to show for it. Therefore other countries (and global) failure is as much a positive as meeting domestic targets*)A dual strategy of long term goals, GHG metering and measuring in the short term. I see no economic harm in signing treaties that are not binding, such as Kyoto. We should also not fear "exporting" our emissions to third world countries. This will help them develop in a market-friendly way, and they may be better able to adjust to sea rises etc. with less fatalities/burdens. (We should be) Reducing subsidies on carbon intensive energy sources but not be tempted to waste money on new subsidies (on solar/wind). Subsidies are way less efficient than direct investments in the carbon market. When the carbon market becomes more trustworthy, this will be the cheapest way to meet targets. Carbon taxes and reducing fossil fuel subsidies will be the cheapest way to reduce emissions in the long term.

- Energy Security: The absolute highest security must surround all fissile materials handled in Australia. The biggest security risk to the world is nuclear blackmail and mega-terrorism. With such a bright future for nuclear, one must not forget its security-risk implications which dwarf its cost per KW as an associated input cost. As far as energy imports go, ethanol from Brazil is preferable to oil from the middle-east, and subsidies should not be used to favour domestic energy sources, but only to favour lower risk sources if at all.

- Privatisation of Utilities: Retail energy supply should definitely be privatised, but associated infrastructure MUST remain Nationalised (NB. price controls on infrastructure access count as near-nationalised). Privatised energy supply is the only way to account for demand/supply unbalances fairly (if this unfairly punishes the poor, the poor should be singled out and helped. No point rewarding the rich with cheaper power just to marginally help the poor)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's the one-dimensional political continuum

Back when I was researching what was meant by "left" and "right" in politics, I realised that peoples political views are highly correlated, and that the position on a one-dimensional line that you reside in determines the kind of political authorities and peers one believes and therefore debates tend to try to push a swinging voter one direction or the other along the line, ignoring all possible tangents.
This is especially true for the global warming debate, the imaginary line having alarmist, environmentally conscious, act locally kind of view on one end, and highly "skeptic", globalisation friendly, optimists on the other end. Unfortunately, the skeptic end is associated with some rather dodgy pseudo-scientific arguments that global warming is natural, cyclical and unrelated to human activity, as described in the "Great Global Warming Swindle" show I watched part of the other day. This rather annoys multi-dimensional thinkers like myself, and that is why I tend to debate along the action axis, debating which actions are sensible and which are not in terms of energy and environmental policy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blog Etiquette

I don't really know if it really exists; bloggers just write what they feel like writing. However when it comes to naming names, it freaks some out, and I get the feeling that trust becomes lost in a mesmerising field of aliases. Of course if one states a real name of someone else, that becomes googlable - with unknown future consequences.

As an example, mentioning my children by their names is a double edged sword. My daughter's teenage friends found her mentioned here to her great embarrassment. Luckily, I can usually edit any misleadingly embarrassing or revealing information.

Sometimes when I quote someone here from somewhere else in the WWW, this is where it gets found more often in different contexts. This seems to be positive, especially if they were quoted in an optimistic light. People often get googled after a job interview, partly as a character reference. Be aware of this if you are the kind to get people angry habitually. Revenge is spreading info about various dishonours or disrespects. Flattery is ever greater when mentioned in published print.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Mad World

Even though, it is a fairly obvious plucking of heartstrings this Queensland Police Union Mini-documentary is a watershed.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Younger Dryas - Why can't it happen again?

Apparently, the most likely theory of the cause of the younger dryas involves a comet impact. The Younger Dryas is a rapid cooling event of about 13K years ago, going against the trend of moving into the current interglacial period. The reckoning is that a comet caused a catastrophic melt event which rapidly sent fresh water into the northern polar region: This caused a severe disruption of the thermo-haline current, plunging the Northern hemisphere back into ice age temperatures. Extra snow and ice cover caused an albedo effect which somewhat affected the temperature of the whole Earth somewhat, giving a thousand year pause to the interglacial warming, which even more suddenly corrected globally to a warm temperature consistent with the interglacial.

Climate scientists are almost unanimous in stating that a similarly triggered iceage could not happen due to the ice melt in greenland etc. due to global warming. The two prongs of this argument are 1) that the melting is too slow to give enough fresh water to similarly disrupt the currents, and 2) the base climatic conditions are too different - ie. there are less chance that there would be enough snow/ice cover to affect the albedo enough.

Most of the fearmongering however is that the icemelt and northern polar warming is going to be much more than had been calculated just a few short years ago, and quicker than anything since the younger dryas. That, to me, means that if Europe has a sudden cooling event (whithin the next 40 years), climate scientists could still claim that they were correct.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Top end of the "Marriage Gap"

Reading this Economist Article:marriage in America, I feel vindicated, because almost all of the pressure and "education" that I received from others was directed to me about the risks. That divorce is bad, and that the divorce rate is high is self-evident. Clearly, the trick is not to avoid marriage, but to get it right when you do marry or otherwise commit to a life partner. I think the most important thing to instil in ones peers and children is to look at precedent. Ie. does the person come from a broken home? What history do they have with committment? etc. I have been trying (with variable success) with my daughter that these are important questions right from the first time you decide to date someone. Unfortunately, she is getting mixed messages from tv shows and peers.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Education - Nationalise or privatise?

My simple rule of thumb is: that for the longer the term of the investment (before being profitable), the further it should be towards nationalisation on the continuum. Pre-school children are basically a very long term investment before what they have learnt makes an impact on society. University students, however, in a few short years, can go from being smart to being an asset to an employer, society or whatever. Therefore, the efficiency of competitive private finance is critical for universities, but almost meaningless for kindergarten. This is why I think "The Economist" is correct when it states that governments should deregulate and privatise higher education.

No! It is nothing like New Orleans!

Re: Australian outback alcoholism, child abuse in remote communities.
The comment by the prime minister is quite irresponsible. Let's see, Sending the army and police whom know little about the regional culture, don't really know which are the worst criminals because most crimes have been done in high secrecy; The problems are not amenable to "one-off" surge of interest, intrusion and intervention. Really, the only hope of "fixing" the problem would take 35 years and billions of dollars. This is more like IRAQ than New Orleans! I guess the political technique is, move out after a few months, claim victory, then re-bury our heads in the sand.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Finally back over 20 degrees celcius

Since Wednesday here in Townsville, the temperature has dipped below 20' C and on thursday we had our lowest EVER maximum of 13.9' C. Today the maximum was back up to 20' C. I blame all those internal migrants from Melbourne bringing their depressing cold rainy weather. On the other hand, I could blame global warming for triggering a severe antarctic blast that permeated all the way to the tropics, as temperatures differentials suck away the cold air.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Marconomics predicts longterm failure to reduce CO2 emissions

Going straight from my axioms,
- The judgement on policy is essentially which country does well in a typical competitive environment in the ideal where the policy concerned is the only point of difference.

Policies which involve ignoring, lying about, or failing to meet targets will put countries at a competitive advantage economically. Geopolitics, for good and ill, is optimised such that any policy which gives a distinct competitive advantage to any country, becomes policy in competing countries. The average citizen is completely oblivious but complicit, just by their own cost-benefit analysis in their own head. This process for say fifty years into the future is pretty much immune to global targets of any sort. The trick is to globally constrain the economy such that "doing well" CO2 reduction wise, is going to be "doing well" money-wise. This is just not going to happen without a global government with teeth. A global government with teeth is not compatible with the benefits gained from the competitive aspect of nations. Basically for the future 50 years or so, we will all be talking about CO2 global targets, but have no chance of meeting them. Regional CO2 targets will occasionally be met, but only by accident of say economic ruin, or accident of geography (eg. Soviet breakup, France's love of Nuclear/hydro)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lamarckism returns?

New information as explained in this Economist Briefing RNA - Really New Advances seems to discredit what I call the "Darwinist Triumphalists". That is, those scientists that believe we know all that there is to know about evolution and natural selection. That there is easily possible avenues for direct Lamarckian adaptation which doesn't depend on random mutations, to me, means that there almost certainly is. The competitive advantage of organisms directly mutating appropriately to environmental inputs would mean that organisms that don't would become extinct more often.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Israel-Palestine score-sheet

Outright war between the Palestinian Autority and a privately funded terrorist organisation, I had counted as a "win" for Israel in my three player reference game theory. Since Israel has neither been made illegitimate nor destroyed with recent events, I would have to say that they are ahead of the ball game at the moment. Israel's current strategy may be to engineer a continuation of this civil strife indefinitely.


Dr. Clam, quite flatteringly suggested future Giant robot leaders would be well versed in "marconomics" and therefore avoid the pitfalls of democracies and Holy Roman empires. Somewhere in between Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, is the space where policy matters. A good starting point would be the privatisation/nationalisation axioms. Good Marconomic policy is choosing policies that are shown to work in our grand global experiment that is the rise of nations. Also to have an experimental mindset about new policies.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The other reason why Polar Bears are 100% safe from extinction

Like elephants, tigers, whales, koalas etc., selected large mammals have such an importance in human's consciousness, that an unfathomly high priority ends up being placed on salvaging at least the genetic pool of these animals in captivity, if not special "reserves", where their natural habitat is preserved or they are protected from competing wildlife and human encroachment.

This is with a background of a possible large scale extinction in the chunk of climate specific/sensitive species which is not very visible to the human consciousness. Through climate change, the overall number of organisms shouldn't change that much in any particular class, but opportunistic species will win out over the highly specialised in any particular category.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"Overshoot" Theory

This is my theory about oil prices principally, but it works equally well for prices for a range of other stuff. My theory is to do with pricing as a tool for matching supply and demand, coupled with profits being used to invest in increased capacity, coupled with the long-term average price being a fairly simple function of the cost of extraction. Thus the long term average price is fairly independent of demand and supply. Thus as it runs out, it is the increased cost of extraction of a depleted resource that will determine higher average prices, rather than the discrepancy between supply and demand. That particular increase in cost doesn't appear to exist in the places which have the most oil left.

Thus the supply curve is still behind the demand curve. Capacity is increasing financed with the profits. The Supply will catch up with demand because the profits have nowhere else useful to go other than increased capacity. The (long) delay is because the profits have to build up, the capacity needs time to ramp up. But the march is unstoppable. When the supply and demand curves intersect, prices will undershoot their long term average.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Stuff That should remain nationalised

As in ownership and control.

Lawmaking - The Government is that which makes the laws about stuff.

Law enforcement - Enforce the laws that one makes.

Judiciary - Make judgements about the laws one makes.

Infrastructure - These sort of investments are of such a long term nature, very hard to structure into a market, are natural monopolies, have risks which are hard to insure for, have little advantage of competition, and competition can cause unnecessary duplication of infrastructure and waste. eg Roads, Rail, fibre-optic networks, power networks, airports.

Fallback basic primary school education - Government owned and controlled schools can compete on an even keel with private schools at a primary school level.

Fallback basic universal health care - including emergency, preventative and educational. "elective" stuff should be private.

Pensions - same reasons as for infrastructure. Highly regulated private superannuation system as in Australia is great too.

Disaster recovery - As opposed to insurance, there is no reason why any private interest would have a spare reserve trained specialists for immediate help. The Australian army seems much better for instance.

National Security - Command and control is necessary to at least protect the functions of government.

Privatisation/Nationalisation Axioms

* - Continuous Spectrum. For any "Stuff" there is a continuum of policy of ownership from Government-owned monopoly all the way to unregulated competitive private ownership. Some markers being Highly regulated private monopoly, Government owned but some private subcontracting, majority owned near-monopoly competing with private enterprises, Government services competing in a fairly level field with private. Conveniently economists can come to a consensensus on where on the spectrum a policy puts itself.

* - Independent nation-states able to individually pursue and experiment with policies without being able to impose such policy on other countries or be imposed on from the UN or other supranational entity.

* - The judgement on policy is essentially which country does well in a typical competitive environment in the ideal where the policy concerned is the only point of difference.

* - There is little or no interdependence between different "stuff" being privatised. ie. if A is privatised, and B is privatised, the net effect will be approximately the sum of the effects of each.

* - Price controls on "Stuff" which is nominally privatised has the effect of removing a large chunk of control from private interests and should be considered in the nationalisation end of the spectrum.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Polar Bear "species" is 100% safe from global warming

Environmental "scientists", I believe have been guilty of Species Inflation with regards to polar bears. One of the things that evolutionary and genetic science has given us is a "tight" definition of a species. Ignoring the look, habitat and lifestyle and just concentrating on the genetics, polar bears are a sub-species of the brown bear. Focusing on the plight of the white bears is just racism.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Historical Sciences Bah...

I am not really a big fan of the historical sciences. To me it makes a mockery of the word science(*). Scientific method is about repeatable experiments, and everybody knows that... "His-tory neever repeats...". Also, one can always quip back to some asserted historical fact - "Were you there?" you know to "observe" it. Indirect observation, irrepeatable conditions = always conjecture. This especially irks me when experts in their field go to extreme lengths and expense to prove for example A) that Jesus performed miracles or
B) that a particular fossil is the common ancestor of apes and humans.

To me these factoids are primarily used to enforce one's theological convictions, and are therefore pretty useless scientifically.

Even historical ice cores for temperature & atmosphere content statistics have gone as far as is scientifically useful. Todays conditions and issues are so radically different to historical ones, that it cannot help policy decisions today, and are therefore again only useful in promoting ones views (perhaps at taxpayers' expense).

(*) - To tell you the truth, I probably just have a problem with the "SPIN" placed on historical sciences rather than the historical science itself.


I have had a lot to say about the middle-east with specific reference to Iran in Kraus Rohde's Blog. I may seem to be completely in the camp which believes they truly are "Axis of Evil". In some sense again I agree with Dawk-ins in that it is religion is the problem there. But as Dawkins may believe that it is the essence of the belief in God that is the root problem, I differ in that the problem to me is that the leaders of the church there are the leaders of the country. This elevates the leadership to a "God" status in themselves, at least to their subjects, and to me demonstrates the virtues of separating state powers from religious powers.

But there is one thing that apparently they are leaders in. Some time ago, they decided that citizens could buy and sell kidneys. This has resulted in almost completely eliminating waiting lists and reducing renal-related deaths. This is certainly preferable to the situation highlighted by a Dutch reality show about the agony of waiting for donors.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thinking... Thinking.... Thunk!

As usual the my spur of the moment environment entries attract comments while my entries on cosmology and budget get completely ignored. What is it about the internet. Posts labelled under "Darwinism" have generated most of my hits lately - go figure.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Where's the figures?

This article states confidently that Australia's emissions grow at twice the rate of other rich countries but was there a link to the data? Does any bloody news service that rants about global warming ever make the data demonstrating latest trends that they mention available? Nope. Where does this place Australia in its notional Kyoto targets that we didn't sign? Until the latest (but not linked) figures we appeared on target. I am quite for the concept of exporting emmissions to exempt developing countries like Indonesia etc. This may invoke a much more rapid transfer of real wealth to the third world, as we tax our Carbon highly, and they can remain exempt gaining a competitive advantage. And the nice thing about competitive advantage is that it isn't a "freebie" like aid, grants, tarriffs or oil resources. They still have to work hard and competitively to take advantage of the advantage.

On the latest posturing of "players" in the "global warming" game, there appears little prospect of (global) emmissions reductions for at least a couple of decades. Plus the moral hazard is just too great. I reckon if (global) emmissions are at 120% of current emmissions by 2030, we will be doing well. The only thing left to guesswork is who everyone is going to blame.

Monday, May 21, 2007


One of the things that always bothered me about the "Big Bang" was the mathematically awkward descriptions of the setoff process. This was alleviated for me somewhat by the newish assertion that the universe quantum tunnelled itself into existence. This takes care of the issue about what there was before by answering "nothing". The problem that it created however (to me) was that A) since there is no visible "antimatter" balancing the matter, there seems a distinct breaking of fundamental rules of some kind and B) What is stopping a big bang happening within our universe at any time to wreck it?. Matter and anti-matter pairs are constantly coming and going out of existence in the vaccuum of space, as far as I know, with no discernible other effects.

My theory is that if our universe and an antimatter copy of our universe were travelling away from eachother at the speed of light, that would resolve requirements of self-consistency of laws of conservation of matter/energy. Infact, one could postulate an infinite number of universes all travelling away from eachother at the speed of light, in matter/antimatter pairs. That would account for the infinite parallel universes that yet other theoretical scientists postulate, and explain why we can't see them.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Budget

I remember now I was going to say something about the Australian Budget. In the two extremes, the superannuation co-contribution policy built up over the last few budgets is nothing short of pure genius. I may need to explain why this is so but it is a little long-winded. On the other extreme, the resumption and expansion of solar cell subsidies is throwing good money in the bin. The amount of carbon reductions per dollar spent is pathetically small + it distorts the green economy such that private enterprise will flourish chasing the subsidy and not the underlying carbon reduction goal.

Unfortunately, the government has not specified how it will achieve desired higher unemployment for those complaining about the worker "shortage". Even the labor party has twisted the problem around by saying it is a "skill" shortage. It is not. There is just not enough of the trained unemployed like we had in the Keating era.