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Comments by Nerevarine

Go to: Why smart people are stupid

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Nerevarine


I wonder if it's a universal, or merely a cultural phenomenon. If this same experiment was carried out in a different country - a Chinese university, perhaps - could we expect to see the same thing?

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 00:42:34 UTC | #947296

Go to: Louisiana lunacy: tens of millions to be spent on faith-based education

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Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory

Bible based MATH books? Really? I understand why they might want to subvert history and science to suit their own agenda, but what possible threat could set theory pose to them?

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 21:36:15 UTC | #946640

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Nerevarine

Over here in Arizona, high school biology classes do not present evolution at all (at least at the schools I attended). For me, biology was nothing more that a collection of facts about various living things - classification (phylum, order, species, etc...), the parts of cells, a tiny bit about DNA, the various kinds of microorganisms, plant anatomy and how photosynthesis works, and finally human anatomy.

I hated biology because it seemed like just a large collection of separate, mostly unrelated facts and fancy definitions to memorize. At a school where most of the students came from deeply religious families (and I suspect many of the teachers were creationists), I guess I couldn't expect anything more.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 06:59:06 UTC | #946058

Go to: Study: US College Students Advance Little Intellectually

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“It’s good to lead a monk’s existence [in college]," says Eric Gorski, an Associated Press writer who reported on the study. "Students who study alone and have heavier reading and writing loads do well.”

I think I'm a victim of this. I was one of the students who had no social life in high school / college and just studied all the time, alone. I received excellent grades, my teachers praised my dedication to my studies (I received a lot of scholarships because of it), and graduated with degrees in both computer science and mathematics.

Unfortunately, I'm learning the hard way that maybe the party-goers with mediocre grades had the right idea all along. Strong interpersonal and communication skills seem far more important than any technical skill, which is why I'm struggling to hold a job. I couldn't cut it as a computer programmer, nor as a math teacher because my "soft" skills remain woefully underdeveloped.

Tue, 01 May 2012 06:29:35 UTC | #938581

Go to: Dawkins Foundation brings political hope to Atlanta Freethought Society.

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Comment 1 by Byrneo :

While reading the article a pop-up suggested that I "might like" this: Is Richard Dawkins An Imbecile? I suppose I "might" have thought something about it but "like" isn't the right word.

The author of this paper seems to be saying that strictly local rules could never produce complex global patterns, and that it's "utterly moronic" to think otherwise. Is this a typical argument of creationists?

I wonder what he'd say if he ever saw a good cellular automata animation.

Thu, 12 Jan 2012 17:14:51 UTC | #907724

Go to: Islam, Charles Darwin and the denial of science

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Comment 1 by Voodoo :

What poor decision making of these students. Why invest everything into a degree you refuse to agree with...?

Perhaps their dream is to learn enough about biology to be able to pick apart and refute Darwinian evolution?

Wed, 07 Dec 2011 20:19:17 UTC | #896566

Go to: Does God exist?

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Comment 26 by Functional Atheist :

The business about the Central Doctrine of Science struck me as peculiar for an MIT man, and I also took issue with his assumption that atheists must believe that "All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe."

Really? What about the apparent differences in the physics of the very small, quantum mechanics, and the physics of the very large, cosmology? What about the apparent super-expansion of space immediately after the Big Bang? Or how about weird stuff like Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and physical dimensions beyond the familiar three?

Ahh... this is exactly what I was trying to get to. Isn't it the case that physicists endeavor to find a "theory of everything" - a simple, mathematical model that can not only explain these seemingly contradictory observations? Or are we supposed to accept that the universe may contradict itself... that there may be phenomenon with no possible explanation? That idea may not bother you, but it bothers me greatly. So much of the universe seems to behave in a relatively simple, understandable, predictable way (science works, bitches!), and has for at least recorded history. It seems almost arbitrary that only a few phenomenon in a particular field of study would lie permanently outside our understanding.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 07:29:01 UTC | #877307

Go to: Does God exist?

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Comment 21 by Steve Zara :

comment 19 by Nerevarine

All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe.

is, what I assumed, exactly what atheists believe. The universe is, essentially, a mathematical object.

It's not what this atheist believes. I have no idea what the universe essentially is. I also have no idea how a law could "govern" the universe.

I'm a materialist much more because I don't believe that a partition of the universe into material and non-material makes any sense rather than having some firm belief in "materialism".

What I believe is that the fundamental operation of reality, whatever it is, is mindless, because minds are things that emerge as a result of that fundamental operation.

Interesting. I'm not quite sure how to respond.

I always thought of scientific theories not merely as tools for predicting what results ought to be expected when certain conditions are applied, but as attempts to describe the actual mechanisms by which phenomenon operate. Hence, the assumption is that such mechanisms actually exist, they are always there, and they always behave the same way. The phenomenon is never some sort of random, unexplainable event or a mere illusion.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 07:17:44 UTC | #877302

Go to: Does God exist?

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by Nerevarine

An atheist is someone who does not hold a belief in gods. There are no beliefs necessary to make you an theist anymore than being a non-stamp collector involves collecting non-stamps.

How many times does it have to be said.


I don't understand how this guy claims to be a scientist and atheist, specially when he spews out such strawman. Atheists just lack a belief in God and are skeptical about it. They don't claim they know there is no God. Stupid article

This is the same argument I used to make. Believing in the existence of god is like believing in fairies. Since you can't prove that fairies don't exist, we'll never actually claim that they don't. We'll just be skeptical and withhold judgement indefinitely, or at least until we have evidence.

But I no longer think this is a reasonable stance - to "withhold judgement" on every ridiculous proposition just because you can't prove whether or not its true. That god (as usually defined... an intelligent, omnipotent, omniscient being that decided to dream our universe into existence, and that loves you and hears your prayers and sometimes answers them) exists is just as ridiculous a proposition as, e.g., a jolly 150-year-old magic man lives at the north pole. I just have difficulty understanding how a self proclaimed atheists wouldn't, at least privately, reject the claim that god(s) exist.

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 06:50:17 UTC | #877297

Go to: Does God exist?

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Comment Removed by Author

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 04:20:19 UTC | #877279

Go to: Does God exist?

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Comment 4 by Steve Zara :

This article contains a lot of nonsense. There is no Central Doctrine of science, and to suggest the idea of there being fixed laws with God outside of them is to misunderstand profoundly misunderstand what scientific laws are.

I think I disagree. "Central Doctrine" might be a bit of a misnomer, but the definition that the author gave:

All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe.

is, what I assumed, exactly what atheists believe. The universe is, essentially, a mathematical object. We assume that any phenomenon that we observe can, in principle, be modeled and reproduced (or, rather, if we can reproduce the conditions under which the phenomenon occurred, we can reasonably expect it to occur again). The universe behaves like a machine (albeit, perhaps a non-deterministic machine, but that still obeys the laws of probability at least). "Materialism", I think its called. I don't see how you can be a scientist without being a materialist (unless your field is sociology or something similar).

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 04:18:59 UTC | #877278

Go to: Can Computers Reconstruct Your Dreams?

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Nerevarine

I wonder if this could work for audio. I don't know whether this is true for the general population, but before I say a sentence, I can almost "hear" the first few words of it in my mind. If a machine could record and play back this imagined sound, it could provide people who are otherwise unable to communicate a way to speak. I wonder if recording sound would be easier than images?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 00:51:57 UTC | #874149

Go to: Can we be sceptical about scepticism?

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Nerevarine

Science works!

The progress we've made, especially over the last century, is a darn good reason to no longer be skeptical about whether the methods of science lead to truth. No other human endeavor has been so successful toward this end.

I think part of the reason superstitious beliefs are so prevalent is that you have to be taught that personal feelings, intuition, and "gut instinct" are just your brain attempting to find patterns which may or may not exist. Psychics, religion, and other unscrupulous people/institutions prey on this pattern matching to get you to buy their services. Just because something "feels true" doesn't make it so, nor even likely in many cases. But this is counter-intuitive to a lot of people (at least a few in my family).

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 04:56:05 UTC | #862905

Go to: Texas textbook supplement hearings: July 2011

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Maybe it's a shame that the Confederacy lost the civil war? If they had won and became a separate nation, the U.S. might not be burdened today by all this extra [tea]baggage.

I just don't understand how the nation that landed a man on the moon, built Voyager, Cassini, Galileo, Hubble, etc..., and brought forth the information age could still be debating the issue of creationism vs biology in its science classrooms.

Sat, 13 Aug 2011 05:21:41 UTC | #860621

Go to: For 2012 Election, Stand Up and Tell Them You Are an Atheist

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by Nerevarine

How should Obama have answered this question?

"You're entirely right. Faith-based organization should not receive any tax-payer funding".

First, this statement wouldn't accomplish anything but guarantee his loss in next year's election. Congress would never pass such a bill, at least not in this day and age.

Second, he's correct in at least one way. If an organization is hiring for the job of, e.g., Catholic minister, it's reasonable for it to require candidates to at least be Catholic. I personally agree that such organizations should NOT receive tax-payer funding, but I doubt the president has power over that.

Tue, 26 Jul 2011 05:35:47 UTC | #854089

Go to: The Unreasonable Beauty of Mathematics [Slide Show]

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Comment 1 by mmurray :

Interesting article but unfortunately you will hit a paywall unless you or your workplace subscribe.


Umm... no you won't.

Tue, 26 Jul 2011 05:10:16 UTC | #854083

Go to: Neil Tyson talks about UFOs and the argument from ignorance.

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Comment Removed by Author

Mon, 18 Jul 2011 06:17:54 UTC | #850680

Go to: Neil Tyson talks about UFOs and the argument from ignorance.

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 65 by Nerevarine

It's interesting that people see 5 lights spaced far apart in the night sky and conclude that it must be one giant object. A definite "brain failure" if I ever heard one.

When I watch the video, it looks like exactly what I would see if a plane dropped a few flares while flying over South Mountain.

Realize that Luke Air Force Base is about a 30 minute drive from downtown Phoenix. I've frequently seen military jets fly around in the open desert out west of Phoenix, exercises or training I suppose. There's also plenty of wide open desert just south of Phoenix (at least there was in 1997 - we've had a lot of housing development since then). If they were going to do exercises involving flares, that's as good a place as any to do it.

Mon, 18 Jul 2011 04:19:21 UTC | #850655

Go to: Journalism can help combat pseudoscience….?

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Comment 2 by 12PM :

amateur scientists, responsible citizens etc are doing their bits unpaid. I don't call it pseudoscience. they have witnesses and proofs. you just visit YouTube and spend a few days watching all the available videos.

You have proof? Show me!

Unless, of course, your "proof" consists of personal testimony, Photoshopped pics, or special effects in youtube videos, in which case don't bother. There's a damn good reason why these aren't considered evidence.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 03:56:56 UTC | #844243

Go to: Journalism can help combat pseudoscience….?

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Nerevarine

Another reason why pseudoscience reaches more people than science does is an obsession with anecdotes and testimonials.

This, I think, is one of the biggest problems we face in educating the public about true science. Anecdotes are easier to understand, you can relate to them, and it isn't self evident how biased and distorted they can be. People are far more easily moved by personal stories than by statistics and rigorous research.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 00:19:59 UTC | #844158

Go to: Brain Simulations - an ethical issue

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Nerevarine

My first post on this website touched on a similar issue: Artificial Consciousness Seems Absurd

The argument basically went like this:

Assume that it is possible for a computer simulation of a living organism to be alive, self-aware and conscious. Thus, it is possible to modify the simulation in order to torture the organism, in which case it would be immoral for us to run it.

A computer simulation is just like any other computer program - i.e., a list of instructions carried out by the processor. The hardware upon which this simulation runs does not influence whether the simulated organism can be considered conscious.

Specifically, whether the instructions are carried out by a modern day silicon transistor-based computer, a vacuum tube-based computer, or even a purely mechanical computer (e.g, a Turing-complete equivalent of Charles Babbage's difference engine), does not influence whether the software, while running, is conscious.

Thus, whether a person (or multiple people) traces through each instruction of the program by hand with pencil and paper cannot influence whether the simulation is conscious, since all the same computations are performed.

A computer program is nothing more than a mathematical equation. I know - C++ / Python / etc... doesn't look much like calculus - but there are other languages (specifically the purely functional programming languages, like Haskell) in which all programs really are just large equations, and any C++/etc... program can be translated to Haskell and vice-versa.

Thus, there exists equations which, if solved, will create a new consciousness and subsequently torture it. There exists equations which are immoral to solve, even by hand. I consider this an absurd proposition, suggesting that the original assumption is probably false - i.e., that computers (or at least deterministic Turing-equivalent machines) cannot become conscious.

Since that post, I've also thought a lot about what a mathematical equation is. I don't think there's any difference between an equation and whatever it evaluates to (e.g, there's no difference between "42" and "30+12"). If you can force the torture simulation to return the value of 42 once it's finished, then the corresponding torture equation will evaluate to 42. Since the equation and the value are identical, just thinking of the number 42 is immoral.

But this last aspect is a bit harder to argue, certainly more confusing, and probably irrelevant to my main argument. It might be interesting to a mathematician though.

Fri, 24 Jun 2011 07:42:45 UTC | #842146

Go to: Sharia law: an eye for an eye

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Comment 119 by Madz3000 :

Put him in prison, he can't do it again! Compensate the woman and get her the best surgeon in the country. What more do you want?

What's more valuable to you - your sight or your freedom?

As I said before, I think his punishment is more merciful than life imprisonment. He'll be unconscious during the procedure, so I doubt he'll feel any pain (in which case you can't compare it to stoning or hanging or whatever).

How long of a prison sentence would you recommend?

Sat, 14 May 2011 21:53:19 UTC | #626880

Go to: Sharia law: an eye for an eye

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 85 by Nerevarine

I'm curious. What action would an ideal legal system take against Movahedi?

Call me a medieval barbarian if you want, but I do not find this punishment appalling. I actually consider it to be more merciful than life imprisonment. The punishment also serves its purpose - being blind would prevent Mr. Movahedi from ever hurting another woman like that again.

Sat, 14 May 2011 17:40:50 UTC | #626825

Go to: New Mexico Bill Seeks to Protect Anti-Science Education

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Nerevarine

What if all the rational people around the world moved to one country and allowed the rest to fall however they may? "Jesus Freaks" could create their own dark age if they want, whereas we could concentrate in high enough numbers to build at least one nation that always values science and reason over superstition.

Fri, 04 Feb 2011 02:30:43 UTC | #587664

Go to: A Key Series of Events Helped Giffords Survive a Gunshot Wound to the Head

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Nerevarine

The most important predictors for how well a victim will recover from a gunshot wound to the head are the type of bullet and its travel path once inside the brain.

They forgot to mention what is perhaps the most important predictor for survival - she was a Congresswoman!

Ordinary people - even with decent health insurance (which few can afford) - probably would not have received the same quality of care.

Wed, 12 Jan 2011 05:52:55 UTC | #576990

Go to: There should be no atheists

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Nerevarine

Why can't we just call ourselves "not religious"?

"Atheist" is a loaded term. I don't care what the dictionary definition is - the average joe on the street has a very different idea of what it means. Unless you also want to fight to change the word's meaning in the public eye, we should just drop the term altogether.

Sat, 08 Jan 2011 00:51:59 UTC | #574920

Go to: Bill O'Reilly vs. David Silverman: You Know They're All Scams

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 43 by Nerevarine

I don't know why people are saying Silverman did poorly. He was excellent. O'Reilly is very good at dominating the conversation, but Silverman didn't let that happen. O'Reilly has just broadcast to the masses his incredible ignorance of earth science - that speaks for itself. Silverman was right not to waste time on that point.

Furthermore, Silverman provided clear examples of how atheists are persecuted in this country - billboards with threats of hellfire and such. Saying that the church is a scam isn't anywhere near as hurtful.

All in all, he wasn't trying to convert Christians. He was simply reaching out to closet atheists, particularly those trapped in the sort of ultra-conservative household that would watch O'Reilly. In this regard, I think he did a good job.

Wed, 05 Jan 2011 18:16:50 UTC | #573760

Go to: Reminder - Solstice Lunar Eclipse Tonight!

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Nerevarine

Does a lunar eclipse really look better against a snow-scape?

Mon, 20 Dec 2010 16:35:59 UTC | #566085

Go to: Voyager near Solar System's edge

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Nerevarine

Someday we'll build a space ship capable of catching up to Voyager 1. Then we can bring it back to Earth and put it on display at the Smithsonian.

Wed, 15 Dec 2010 21:22:17 UTC | #563903

Go to: YouTube fails to halt jihad videos

Nerevarine's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Nerevarine

I read that about 24 hours worth of video is uploaded to youtube every minute. It would be horrendously expensive to hire enough staff to monitor it all (realize that youtube does not make any profit and actually costs Google). So yes, sometimes vile stuff does get posted... but then it (usually) gets flagged by the community and deleted.

Sun, 07 Nov 2010 17:53:30 UTC | #543775