Tara Smith posted Entry 1876 on January 4, 2006 03:10 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1871

Over my “vacation” (which unfortunately ended up being more work than play), I was at a dinner with two of my best friends from the past 15-odd years. For whatever reason, the topic turned to evolution–and we quickly realized that we had, erm, differing opinions on whether evolution actually occurred or not. Now, this was pretty depressing to me, as both of them are very intelligent women, and one happens to work in a scientific field. So, we retreated to a coffee shop for some animated conversation on science, religion, and politics. I don’t know if I changed any minds or not, but that wasn’t really my goal anyway–rather, just to talk about the evidence that supported evolution, and to discuss their own reservations and objections. Obviously there were only so many things we could cover, but it was an interesting chat (and I hope I wasn’t too harsh. It’s a topic that makes me a bit…excitable.)

Anyhoo, I wish I’d had this op-ed on me. Written by evolutionary biolgist Olivia Judson, it highlights just a few things that make evolution so amazing:

Organisms like the sea slug Elysia chlorotica. This animal not only looks like a leaf, but it also acts like one, making energy from the sun. Its secret? When it eats algae, it extracts the chloroplasts, the tiny entities that plants and algae use to manufacture energy from sunlight, and shunts them into special cells beneath its skin. The chloroplasts continue to function; the slug thus becomes able to live on a diet composed only of sunbeams.

Still more fabulous is the bacterium Brocadia anammoxidans. It blithely makes a substance that to most organisms is a lethal poison - namely, hydrazine. That’s rocket fuel.

And then there’s the wasp Cotesia congregata. She injects her eggs into the bodies of caterpillars. As she does so, she also injects a virus that disables the caterpillar’s immune system and prevents it from attacking the eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the caterpillar alive.

It’s hard not to have an insatiable interest in organisms like these, to be enthralled by the strangeness, the complexity, the breathtaking variety of nature.

(Continue reading at at Aetiology)

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #67458

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2006 3:51 AM (e)

Yes, I have many intelligent friends with masters or PhD’s in economics or business that are just as ignorant of evolutionary theory as your friends apparently were.

ignorant does not always equal stupid, by any means. Most folks that don’t take biology at the college level have an extremely poor grasp of evolutionary theory and the evidence for it.

This reflects the poor state of education of this subject at the secondary level. I think most likely because of the inevitable controversy it creates among those who have fundamentally opposed religious beliefs - for whatever reason - results in fewer teachers willing to do a good job teaching the subject.

However, even past secondary education, there is no incentive for someone who is in business management to keep themselves current in the slightest bit with important scientific theories that have no relevance in their daily lives.

while as a scientist, i too tend to lament this attitude, it is understandable.

the only folks i end up criticizing directly and profusely any more are those that prefer to maintain their denial when they actually ARE presented with the evidence and theory, and/or attempt to get their opinions publically reviewed without bothering to even check the evidence first.

Folks like that are quite common enough to keep my ire up indefinetly :)

cheers

Comment #67461

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2006 3:57 AM (e)

However, even past secondary education, there is no incentive for someone who is in business management to keep themselves current in the slightest bit with important scientific theories that have no relevance in their daily lives.

i should rephrase that to “…important scientific theories that they THINK have no relevance in their daily lives.”

As has been pointed out many times here on PT, and is a fact readily discernible by anyone who takes a quick gander at the literature, ET is a theory that is damn critical to the quality of every day life we have become accustomed to.

Comment #67465

Posted by Renier on January 4, 2006 5:23 AM (e)

I am no scientist (just a Systems Analyst) but I make sure I still read up on biology, physics, quantum mechanics, chemistry, astronomy etc. It allows me to see a “bigger” picture. That’s why I love this blog.

Comment #67470

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on January 4, 2006 7:09 AM (e)

Tara Smith wrote:

I think I’ve mentioned before that this my high school bio class was like this as well–lots of memorization, a good dose of anatomy, but no emphasis on evolution to tie it all together. In fact, I thought biology was boring before I took an intro course in college.

All college intro courses are not created equal. Could you say a little about the good features of yours?

Comment #67480

Posted by Daniel Kim on January 4, 2006 8:19 AM (e)

While we may be alarmed that PhD economists are ignorant of even the basic principles of evolutionary theory, I must confess that my grasp of economics is pretty thin as well.

I wonder if some scholars of the “dismal science” feel equally alarmed by the nation’s ignorance of economics. Government economic policies have a huge influence over our daily life, and yet they are set by idealogues who promote voodoo “trickle-down” economics.

I never took a class in economics in high school or college. I am sure that the stupefying ignorance revealed in American polls regarding evolution is more than matched by the belief that tax cuts to the very wealthy will create new jobs on Main Street.

Comment #67484

Posted by Dave S. on January 4, 2006 8:57 AM (e)

While we may be alarmed that PhD economists are ignorant of even the basic principles of evolutionary theory, I must confess that my grasp of economics is pretty thin as well.

Of course no-one is expert or even particularly well versed on every subject. I’m not well versed on economic theory either, which is exactly why you won’t see me making any particular strong claims about that field, as if I knew what I was talking about.

The problems happen when people with obviously little knowledge nevertheless see fit to make sweeping indictments and authoritative sounding arguments against the position they know so little about. And follow up by refusing to consider that they might lack competance in that area.

Comment #67486

Posted by steve s on January 4, 2006 9:17 AM (e)

I always grin when someone misspells the word ‘competence’.

;-)

Comment #67488

Posted by Flint on January 4, 2006 9:36 AM (e)

I must confess that my grasp of economics is pretty thin as well…I never took a class in economics in high school or college…Government economic policies have a huge influence over our daily life, and yet they are set by idealogues who promote voodoo “trickle-down” economics.

This sort of statement makes me grin as well, since I’ve studied quite a bit of economics. Daniel Kim may have a “pretty thin grasp” of economics, but this doesn’t prevent him from “knowing” that economic policies that offend him (but which he doesn’t understand even slightly) are “voodoo”.

This is very closely analogous to those who don’t know squat about evolution, but know that it’s also “voodoo” and doesn’t happen. And their “knowledge” that evolution doesn’t happen is informed by convictions as unrelated to evolution as Kim’s are to economics.

This isn’t to say that “trickle-down” economics is a good idea (because if you DO know something about economics, you’ll know that ANY economic policy good for someone is either bad or less good for someone else, and that different policies with opposite effects can have the same label in the world of politics), only that Kim has denounced it immediately after admitting he doesn’t understand it. He’s never studied it, he’s never taken a course in it, but he knows that those genuine, practicing, professional economists promoting a policy he dislikes are “stupefyingly ignorant.” Creationists do not exceed this level of arrogance.

Comment #67490

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 4, 2006 10:02 AM (e)

Just thought I ought to let you know where the term ‘voodoo economics’ came from before you denounce ‘non-economists’ from using it:

When vying for the Republican party presidential nomination for the 1980 election, George H.W. Bush derided Reagan’s supply-side policies as “voodoo economics”.

from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voodoo_Economics

Come on - ‘All is fair in love or war’ - same applies to politics too - its up to specialists to explain their reasoning in a democracy - not cloak it in obscure language and say that the proles can’t play.
Ken Millar made the point in his webcast last night that science needs to celebrate its popularisers, - not get sniffy about the likes of Sagan and Jay Gould.

We all have a duty to expand the boundaries of our understanding, and realise their limits. And if we have a deeper understanding that we feel to be important - then we have a duty to convey that in a meaningful way to a society that is going to make decisions about the matter.
I actually studied economics as part of an ecological science course - there are some interesting parallels between human and natural systems. That’s why John Nash’s insights inform study of both. Social organisms all evolve their societies by a form of ‘trade’. Perhaps evolutionary biology and ecology should be taught as an integral part of economics courses?

Comment #67491

Posted by Flint on January 4, 2006 10:20 AM (e)

its up to specialists to explain their reasoning in a democracy - not cloak it in obscure language and say that the proles can’t play.

This idea is both good and necessarily limited. Even the most lucid popularizer cannot communicate the depth of understanding that can be achieved by those who dedicate their lives to some discipline. So the best popularization can only go so far.

What’s annoying is that in some fields (like economics, politics, psychology, etc.) we have the public perception that “opinions are like assholes” and no amount of education or experience can lead to a better understanding of these topics than can be assimilated in kindergarten.

So I’m amused at the irony here. Tara Smith has friends who are intelligent, educated (but not in evolution), and still “know better” than to “believe in evolution.” And here we have a response from someone intelligent, educated (but not in economics) who still “knows better” than to “believe in” trickle-down economics. Without knowing even what it is. Sound familiar?

Comment #67504

Posted by harold on January 4, 2006 10:52 AM (e)

Flint -

A layman can certainly grasp the major impact of some basic economic policies.

Not only that, but in a democracy, an individual is obliged to to have some concept of what type of economic policy direction he or she supports.

An individual does not need a PhD, nor even a bachelor’s degree, in economics, to see the general effects of, say, the tax cuts supported by the Bush administration. And to either support or oppose that particular policy, based on reasonable predictions of the outcome. The terms “trickle down” and “voo-doo” were invented by academic economists and powerful decision makers, and have come to be quite broadly understood. Major figures in academic economics have made statements similar to those made by Daniel Kim.

Unlike evolutionary biology, or purely descriptive economics, public policy decisions do carry a major normative component, and there will always be different opinions even in the face of the same facts, even if all disputants are equally educated.

Having practiced an important yet obscure branch of pathology for many years (note - not any more), and being very aware that it may be close to impossible to explain some things adequately to lay people who lack extensive background studies, I sympathize with the view that expert understanding cannot easily be translated. But I also think that Dean Morrison is right. We should try. We can at least let people know what basic material they need to study, and where it is available.

Comment #67510

Posted by Greg Peterson on January 4, 2006 11:13 AM (e)

Might I just say that evolutionary biology is frigging HARD? Nothing could be more obvious than evolution–the evidence for it is truly overwhelming and no other explanation makes a bit of sense. But the MECHANISMS of evolution are frankly a nightmare to grasp. I don’t mean the basic variation-selection riff, but the newer evo-devo stuff, as outlined in “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” by Sean Carroll and “facilitated variation,” as posited in “The Plausibility of Life” by Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart. This stuff might be child’s play to a biologist, but to a layperson who is merely fascinated by biology, it is complex, confusing, difficult material. And these authors are very good science popularizers, using lots of examples and illustrations. Please, pity any non-specialist trying to stay abreast of innovations in evolutionary science. Imagine how in some ways it would just be so much easier, and in some ways more intuitive, to throw up one’s hands and say, “Well, maybe God just did it somehow.”

Comment #67514

Posted by Flint on January 4, 2006 11:23 AM (e)

Harold:

An individual does not need a PhD, nor even a bachelor’s degree, in economics, to see the general effects of, say, the tax cuts supported by the Bush administration.

OK, where do we start trying to popularize and communicate here. For example, if there ARE any effects, how long before they become visible? How large an input (size of tax cut) is required for eventual visibility? What other factors might significantly enter into play here? What are THEIR timelines? Will those factors (list individually) increase or decrease the net effect of the tax cuts? What actually *happens* with the income no longer taxed? Trace the trajectory of that money in some detail. Do Congressional spending programs relate to government income in any way? If so, how? Economically, does it matter WHOSE taxes get cut, or will the effects (if any, see above) be related to the size and not the recipients of the cut?

Now, all of these questions (and quite a few more) are *directly significant* in evaluating the policy. Yet you claim to see the “general effects” already? I’m impressed, if this is true. My knowledge tells me this is not yet possible. My experience tells me there are too many variables to extract exactly what if anything such a small net taxation difference does to a huge national economy. My observation tells me that people react for or against such policies on emotional and (for lack of a better term) moral grounds, and economics per se are irrelevant anyway.

The “trickle-down” philosophy presumes a chain of events and circumstances that would appeal to Rube Goldberg. Nonetheless, these are specific predictions capable of being traced and measured. It really IS possible to follow the money. Doing so takes a lot of time and a lot of good detailed information. After all, new jobs ARE created all the time. Working backwards, where did the investment money come from to create them? Some of it probably came from sales of stock. Some of that stock was purchased by the wealthy. Some of that wealth was available because it wasn’t taxed. Does this mean the tax cut led directly to the job? Of course not. Would the jobs have been created anyway? Can we even collect good enough data to know how many extra jobs were created by the investment of un-taxed money, and how many would have been created without it?

Backing off from the details, is it even generally true that money spent by the government, however beneficial it might be to the beneficiaries, is not *productive* money? Governments are consumers and redistributors, not producers. So can we say in general terms that the less money the government extracts from an economy, the more productive that economy is? What should we use as a basis for comparison? It’s not like economics has a “control nation”.

Even today using supercomputers, our best econometric models are lousy predictors. Indeed, they are good postdictors primarily of the historical cases used to calibrate them! Once calibrated, we plug in every variable we think is significant relative to some OTHER historical economic condition, the model crunches away, and ends up predicting something that did not happen! So we add THAT to our calibration suite, try to postdict something else, it fails, and so on.

So does this mean economics remains beyond human comprehension? Is this why economists are said to be paid twice, once to tell you what will happen and again to tell you why it didn’t? But nonetheless, you tell me that “a layman can grasp the impact of some basic economic policies.” Too bad economists can’t model it, despite decades of tweaking. Maybe they should go out and poll some laymen?

Comment #67519

Posted by harold on January 4, 2006 11:33 AM (e)

Greg Peterson -

Understanding truly current scientific issues typically requires far more time and background than the average person has.

A scientist is nearly always justified in saying “if you wish to understand my work, you’ll need to at least familiarize yourself with potentially long list of background knowledge sources>”.

However, it is critical to remember that science is ultimately about convincing the skeptical observer with data. Yes, the observer has to be a “peer”, to some degree - they have to have at least the minimum background, one way or another. But in the end, scientific ideas are critically evaluated. The “intelligence” or “education” of the scientist are ultimately irrelevant.

It is extraordinarily common for creationists to claim that their high IQs or advanced degrees mean that they “must be right” (and by logical extension, that their intended audience “shouldn’t really try to understand”). This is just a variation of appeal to authority, however. It is critical to distinguish between saying “you’ll need to learn more to understand this work” (which is logically valid) and saying “it doesn’t matter what you think, because I have a higher IQ or a PhD” (which is essentially the opposite of a scientific approach).

Comment #67528

Posted by harold on January 4, 2006 11:49 AM (e)

Flint -

A good reply, and one worthy of far more time than I am able to give today.

Most of your points are indisputably correct. Overall, I’d say I’m a bit more confident that we can predict certain effects of certain types of economic policies. I would say that policies associated with certain polarized ideologies (on both sides of the spectrum) can be reasonably predicted to produce certain outcomes. I’m neither an expert at the PhD level (although I am current working on an MBA :) ), nor a totally uninformed and opinionated ignoramous, on this particular topic.

I’ve copied your post and pasted it into a file, and I’ll try to do it some justice later in the month. Any resemblance of this promise to the words of mealy-mouthed creationists who demand a “different forum” or “private debate” is coincidental; I really will try to do it justice and post any reply I make in an appropriate slot right here on PT. It’s quite literally a matter of time.

Comment #67530

Posted by jim on January 4, 2006 11:54 AM (e)

I think it’s essential to understand that due to the amount of knowledge that humanity has accumulated, we *must* rely on experts in various fields.

No one has sufficient time to be an expert in every field which will impact their lives and requires expert knowledge (economy, taxes, medicine, science, religion, etc.).

To that extent in the PR war, it is essential for scientists to list their credentials and the commonly accepted views on various subjects when addressing public venues. Note that they do this in trials & even in science with your Vita’s.

I’m not saying that we should rely on arguments from authority, but these credentials are often a quick & easy method of providing relative weight to 2 sides of an argument.

Therefore, these projects (the Clergy Letter & the Steve’s project amongst others) are excellent tools. My position is that we do NOT need to convince people that our side is true. We only need to convince people that if they want to get down to the truth, they’ll have to look into it a bit for themselves.

My gut feeling is that of those motivated to investigate for themselves, we’ll win over a very high percentage.

Comment #67537

Posted by Chris on January 4, 2006 12:11 PM (e)

Evolution is science? It is admittedly unobservable, lacking fossil evidence, dependent upon scientific consensus, and essentially a belief system about past life on Earth. The following 12 quotes are from leading and well known scientists and researchers. A larger work with 130 similar quotes is available: “The Revised Quote Book”, edited by Dr. A. Snelling, PhD, pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia

“The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.”
Stephen Jay Gould (Professor of Geology and Paleontology, Harvard University), “Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?” Paleobiology, vol. 6(1), January 1980, p. 127

“Contrary to what most scientists write, the fossil record does not support the Darwinian theory of evolution because it is this theory (there are several) which we use to interpret the fossil record. By doing so we are guilty of circular reasoning if we then say the fossil record supports this theory.”
Ronald R. West, PhD (paleoecology and geology) (Assistant Professor of Paleobiology at Kansas State University), “Paleoecology and uniformitarianism”. Compass, vol. 45, May 1968, p. 216

“The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that ‘a tornado sweeping through a junk yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein’.”
Sir Fred Hoyle (English astronomer, Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge University), as quoted in “Hoyle on Evolution”. Nature, vol. 294, 12 Nov. 1981, p. 105

“Echoing the criticism made of his father’s habilis skulls, he added that Lucy’s skull was so incomplete that most of it was ‘imagination made of plaster of Paris’, thus making it impossible to draw any firm conclusion about what species she belonged to.”
Referring to comments made by Richard Leakey (Director of National Museums of Kenya) in The Weekend Australian, 7-8 May 1983, Magazine, p. 3

“The entire hominid collection known today would barely cover a billiard table, … the collection is so tantalizingly incomplete, and the specimens themselves often so fragmented and inconclusive, that more can be said about what is missing than about what is present….but ever since Darwin’s work inspired the notion that fossils linking modern man and extinct ancestor would provide the most convincing proof of human evolution, preconceptions have led evidence by the nose in the study of fossil man.”
John Reader (photo-journalist and author of “Missing Links”), “Whatever happened to Zinjanthropus?” New Scientist, 26 March 1981, p. 802

“A five million-year-old piece of bone that was thought to be a collarbone of a humanlike creature is actually part of a dolphin rib, …He [Dr. T. White] puts the incident on par with two other embarrassing [sic] faux pas by fossil hunters: Hesperopithecus, the fossil pig’s tooth that was cited as evidence of very early man in North America, and Eoanthropus or ‘Piltdown Man,’ the jaw of an orangutan and the skull of a modern human that were claimed to be the ‘earliest Englishman’.
“The problem with a lot of anthropologists is that they want so much to find a hominid that any scrap of bone becomes a hominid bone.’”
Dr. Tim White (anthropologist, University of California, Berkeley). As quoted by Ian Anderson “Hominoid collarbone exposed as dolphin’s rib”, in New Scientist, 28 April 1983, p. 199

“We add that it would be all too easy to object that mutations have no evolutionary effect because they are eliminated by natural selection. Lethal mutations (the worst kind) are effectively eliminated, but others persist as alleles….Mutants are present within every population, from bacteria to man. There can be no doubt about it. But for the evolutionist, the essential lies elsewhere: in the fact that mutations do not coincide with evolution.”
Pierre-Paul Grassé (University of Paris and past-President, French Academie des Sciences) in Evolution of Living Organisms, Academic Press, New York, 1977, p. 88

Comment #67542

Posted by Tara Smith on January 4, 2006 12:20 PM (e)

Just a few comments:

Dunk wrote:

All college intro courses are not created equal. Could you say a little about the good features of yours?

I doubt my course was all that extraordinary. It was a large lecture (200+), but the profs didn’t seem to be reluctant to teach it (which was the impression I got from my intro chem profs, for example). And they were either experts or talented up-and-comers in their fields: Nick Ornston, Peg Riley, heck, Nobelist Sidney Altman even taught 2 intro bio lectures. (Though, admittedly, he wasn’t the best lecturer). They just made it interesting, real, and exciting. It was probably dull to those who already had AP bio, but for someone with my biology background, it was just that “eureka” class where everything came together.

Flint wrote:

Tara Smith has friends who are intelligent, educated (but not in evolution), and still “know better” than to “believe in evolution.” And here we have a response from someone intelligent, educated (but not in economics) who still “knows better” than to “believe in” trickle-down economics. Without knowing even what it is. Sound familiar?

Just to clarify and to come to their defense–neither claimed to have really studied the issue, and I brought up a lot of issues they hadn’t considered before. (I also, of course, followed up with an email with lots of sources, and some other things I hadn’t had time to discuss that evening). Like I said, I don’t know whether it changed minds, but I hope it at least encouraged them to study the issue further.

Chris wrote:

Evolution is science? It is admittedly unobservable, lacking fossil evidence, dependent upon scientific consensus, and essentially a belief system about past life on Earth. The following 12 quotes are from leading and well known scientists and researchers. A larger work with 130 similar quotes is available: “The Revised Quote Book”, edited by Dr. A. Snelling, PhD, pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia

Hi Chris–you’ll find that people here generally aren’t impressed by quote-mining, but I hope you stick around, read some other threads and learn more about the evidence for evolution–including ample fossil evidence. In addition to this site, http://www.talkorigins.org (which isn’t loading for me right now) has a searchable index where you can find more information. Understanding evolution is also a good intro site.

Comment #67549

Posted by BWE on January 4, 2006 12:42 PM (e)

I would just like to point out that monkeys do as good of a job picking stocks as professionals
( http://www.xent.com/FoRK-archive/july99/0271.html )
while biologists have a pretty good track record of understanding the ecosystems that influence our chosen field of study - meaning that I can predict a great number of things using the theory of evolution but even Robert J. Aumann can’t predict a market with any kind of accuracy even with 10,000 economic theories.

So, whether we understand supply and demand, and whether we have read milton friedman ghhaaaa… we can understand that an unregulated marketplace favors those who begin with more capital over those whos ideas are better. Even though the regulations hamper business, they also maintain a level playing field and a healthy environment. Also, we can understand that walmart is a result of supply side economics and we can understand that we are subsidizing them in the most disgusting way possible by allowing them to place the burden of health care and food purchasing ability on the communities it enters. Dispicable.

So, I did take econ 101 and I can have slightly educated opinions about economics. But I would posit that economic desisions that we need to make as a people are largely moral decisions. i.e. How far do you let members of your community fall? How do we justify witholding preventative health care based on income? Are we equating income with quality of being? etc.

Evolution on the other hand, is explained by evidence and has no moral underpinnings other than that science in general has utterly shattered religious beliefs that include magic in their mythologies like rerssurection, hurling thunderbolts, parting red seas, burning bushes talking to people, petty gods killing all the firstborn children of a people and etc. But that isn’t moral, it’s just reality.

Comment #67554

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 4, 2006 12:54 PM (e)

Flint - of all subjects - Economics doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s study depends on the concept that people make ‘economic decisions’ - rational or otherwise - all the time. These decisions can be drastically affected by what ‘economists’ say (or keep to themselves). (A bit like Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle - although I know one shouldn’t make inappropriate analogies to quantuum mechanics - it’s the sign of a quack).
Perhaps economists have even more responsiblity for intellectual honesty and effective communication, along with a dash of humility, than in most subjects.
My understanding of the ‘tax cuts for the rich’ programs of Reagan and Bush2 is may lead to apparrant prosperity -coupled with increasing national debt to quite astonishing levels. Doesn’t the US owe the Chinese a lot of money? Perhaps I am wrong - (and it hardly matters as I am not a US citizen) - but if i’m going to plan my spending and use my vote on that basis unless an economist puts me right.
In reality I’d base my decisions on my perceived motivations of the players involved - something I got from John Nash - you see Economics and Evolutionary Biology do have a meeting place…. and that Troll ‘Chris’ has just posted his exact same reading list on another thread - sadly I doubt he’s listening Tara.

Comment #67555

Posted by Stephen Elliott on January 4, 2006 12:56 PM (e)

Posted by BWE on January 4, 2006 12:42 PM (e) (s)

Evolution on the other hand, is explained by evidence and has no moral underpinnings other than that science in general has utterly shattered religious beliefs that include magic in their mythologies like rerssurection, hurling thunderbolts, parting red seas, burning bushes talking to people, petty gods killing all the firstborn children of a people and etc. But that isn’t moral, it’s just reality.

I doubt that.
Check out some creationist sites.

Comment #67558

Posted by AC on January 4, 2006 1:05 PM (e)

Chris wrote:

pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia

‘Nuff said.

I think expertise is a crisis for the social animal. We seem conditioned for an environment where tasks and tools are basic, and any individual can perform any task using its associated tools. Cultivating expertise allows huge advances, but it throws off that conditioning. So you get people trying to comment on things about which they know little to nothing*, and they get offended when someone frankly tells them they’re not qualified. Some people are just wallowing in egotistical pride, but some seem genuinely disoriented by expertise. I think we can cope with this organizational change in the long run, but two things appear to be vital to our success: experts must always live in glass houses, and non-experts must take the initiative to look at them and refrain from throwing stones. Criticism alone tends to keep honest people honest.

* In fact, I may have just done that very thing in this post!

Comment #67562

Posted by burredbrain on January 4, 2006 1:16 PM (e)

I find it interesting that Chris’s mined quotes are more than 20 years old.

Comment #67571

Posted by Dave on January 4, 2006 1:29 PM (e)

Yes, those are amazing examples of life’s variety, but how did you convince your skeptical friends that they are the result of known evolutionary mechanisms?

Lets face it, evolutionary science is very immature in 2005 to explain the origin of these sorts of features. If you want to be credible, stick to what can be explained by science, and be honest when you are speculating.

Comment #67585

Posted by caerbannog on January 4, 2006 1:56 PM (e)

Chris wrote:

Posted by Chris on January 4, 2006 12:11 PM (e) (s)

Evolution is science? It is admittedly unobservable, lacking fossil evidence, dependent upon scientific consensus, and essentially a belief system about past life on Earth. The following 12 quotes are from leading and well known scientists and researchers. A larger work with 130 similar quotes is available: “The Revised Quote Book”, edited by Dr. A. Snelling, PhD, pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia

….….….…..

How dare you defile the good name of Chris by engaging in such a pathetic quote-mining exercise under that moniker!! So please – either dispense with the creationist quote-mining or change your name to something like “Not-Chris”, “Un-Chris”, or “Anti-Chris”.

Puzzled by this request? Well, here’s a bit of background information from the unauthorized and unofficial University of Ediacara FAQ
( http://www.coe.uga.edu/%7Epkeck/ediacara/FAQs.html ):
###############################################################

# What’s all this “Chris” nonsense? I know some of those folks, and their names are not Chris!

First, lighten up, pal. It’s supposed to be fun . Even before the formalization of the University, it seemed that talk.origins had more than its share of people named Chris, and virtually all were on the “evolutionist” side. In a clever parody of that quality we most despise, i.e. mindless following, many of the t.o. denizens adopted the name Chris in an effort to show the inevitable moral corruption brought on by such sheeplike behavior. It’s also fun. And…

################################################################

So like I said, the name “Chris” belongs to the pro-science, pro-evolution types in this neck of the woods. Please do not defile that good name by using it to promote creationist drivel…

Comment #67587

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 4, 2006 1:57 PM (e)

Lets face it, evolutionary science is very immature in 2005

2006 Dave, 2006…… do try to keep up…

Comment #67591

Posted by steve s on January 4, 2006 2:02 PM (e)

Steve is the new Chris.

Comment #67592

Posted by Tara Smith on January 4, 2006 2:05 PM (e)

Dave wrote:

Yes, those are amazing examples of life’s variety, but how did you convince your skeptical friends that they are the result of known evolutionary mechanisms?

Hi Dave. As I mentioned in the post, I *didn’t* have that op-ed at the time, so those specific examples weren’t discussed.

Lets face it, evolutionary science is very immature in 2005 to explain the origin of these sorts of features. If you want to be credible, stick to what can be explained by science, and be honest when you are speculating.

Indeed. But from the tone of your post, I suspect we might disagree about “what can be explained by science.”

Comment #67593

Posted by Jim Harrison on January 4, 2006 2:06 PM (e)

People are impressed by equations. How else explain the amazing prestige of economics among people who despise sociology? Economics, after all, is a branch of sociology. It isn’t the physics of money. Note that I’m not suggesting that economists don’t know a thing or two, but then I think the other sociologists also have some insight into what’s going on.

Comment #67595

Posted by Flint on January 4, 2006 2:11 PM (e)

BWE:

I would just like to point out that monkeys do as good of a job picking stocks as professionals

Does this mean that professionals are dumber than monkeys? Or does it mean that the stock market is not predictable? As a matter of fact, some models of the market explain exactly WHY it can’t be predicted. The market is largely a reflection of every investor guessing what every OTHER investor is going to do. Game theory is more helpful than economics here.

we can understand that an unregulated marketplace favors those who begin with more capital over those whos ideas are better.

From which I suppose we can deduce that regulation is bad, and “better” ideas are those that match your ideas? But creationism also works by equating “good” with “my preferences”.

Even though the regulations hamper business, they also maintain a level playing field and a healthy environment.

Let’s agree here that competition, if enforced, produces results we find desirable - growth, opportunities, rejection of undesirable practices, etc. The purpose of (some) regulation is to make sure competition stays competitive.

Also, we can understand that walmart is a result of supply side economics

I think you are falling into jargon here. WalMart succeeds because customers prefer to shop there. Customers shop there because they want lower prices for the same products.

we can understand that we are subsidizing them in the most disgusting way possible by allowing them to place the burden of health care and food purchasing ability on the communities it enters. Dispicable.

If by “we” you mean all of the people who choose to shop there, you’re correct. We could, if we wished, shop at (or even start up) stores who pay decent wages and provide decent health care. Of course, we’d have to charge high prices to afford to do so, and we wouldn’t have any customers. What you’re doing is adopting a posture of moral superiority that has nothing to do with economics.

But I would posit that economic desisions that we need to make as a people are largely moral decisions. i.e. How far do you let members of your community fall?

At the microeconomic level, I doubt this. Remember, everything in economics is a tradeoff. So which members of the community have “fallen” (whatever that means), and what did the community get in exchange? Well, the community got low prices. This scenario has played out endlessly: Henry Ford impoverished the families of countless buggy-whip makers. For shame! I DO suppose you are still walking everywhere out of moral principle, yes?

How do we justify witholding preventative health care based on income? Are we equating income with quality of being?

Are you SURE you studied any economics? Money is nothing more than a symbol of value, an abstraction of the goods and services the economy generates. By economic principle, those who have more money are producing more of value - that is, more stuff that other people are willing to pay for. Those who provide health care are ALSO providing it because others are willing to pay for it. Should they work for nothing, for moral reasons? Or should we subsidize them out of what we make?

The only “morality” in economics is that everything has a cost. Everything has a price. Costs can ONLY be paid by doing without some of X to pay for more of Y. Economics really has no morality at all; it’s just a distribution mechanism in this sense. The morality is projected onto economics by those who don’t like how other people are getting things distributed. So these moralistic do-gooders go around labeling efficient and truly competitive businesses “dispicable” simply for BEING efficient and competitive. We want our cake, and we want to eat it too, and those who eat their cake are dispicable for eating it, and those who don’t are dispicable for hoarding it.

Dean Morrison:

These decisions can be drastically affected by what ‘economists’ say

Now truthfully, just how much (as a percentage) of your total income do you allocate to what any economist recommends? Any at all?

My understanding of the ‘tax cuts for the rich’ programs of Reagan and Bush2 is may lead to apparrant prosperity -coupled with increasing national debt to quite astonishing levels.

No. There is, like it or not, very little relationship between how much a government takes in, and how much it expends. At the end of the Clinton administration, self-serving government economists looked at the 1999 numbers (at the end of the largest economic boom in history), projected those numbers over 10 years (!), and came up with a “projected surplus”. Congress promptly spent the ENTIRE PROJECTED SURPLUS in one 2-month binge. Of course, the surplus never could have materialized; it was simply a pretext to spend (remember 2000 was an election year).

There are certainly people who WANT to connect revenue with expenditure, do no deficit spending, and even reduce BOTH taxes and government, in lockstep. Doesn’t happen. But the central point is, cutting taxes isn’t what causes deficits. Spending is what causes deficits. The failure of “trickle down” policies doesn’t lie in the economic theory, but in the schizophrenic practice. There are three simultaneous goals here: to reduce taxes, to maintain or increase spending levels, and to keep the national debt in check. In economic reality, you can pick any two of these, and suffer the inverse of the third. In political reality, you can’t touch spending, you cut taxes to your voting constituency base, and you let the debt grow freely.

Comment #67601

Posted by Dave S. on January 4, 2006 2:32 PM (e)

I always grin when someone misspells the word ‘competence’.

;-)

O.K., so economics is not my only area of less than stellar ‘competence’.

~8^P

P.S.: This time I used the “Check Spelling” button, so any such errors now can be blamed on PT. :)

Comment #67610

Posted by steve s on January 4, 2006 2:50 PM (e)

I only learned how to spell it correctly after being embarrassed myself.

Comment #67611

Posted by steve s on January 4, 2006 2:52 PM (e)

when it comes to -ance/-ence, I usually just guess.

Comment #67623

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 4, 2006 3:13 PM (e)

These decisions can be drastically affected by what ‘economists’ say

Now truthfully, just how much (as a percentage) of your total income do you allocate to what any economist recommends? Any at all?

..mm. now I’m beginning to doubt your ‘economic’ qualifications Flint. I can ignore econmists - but as long as someone is listening to them and acting accordingly - then they are influencing the market conditions I am living in. Remember the ‘Wall Street Crash?’

To quote yourself:

The market is largely a reflection of every investor guessing what every OTHER investor is going to do. Game theory is more helpful than economics here.

Agrre with you on the second part and nice to see you mention ‘game theory’- something evolutionary biologists understand well (at least ones that study the evolution of social organisms)- thanks again John Nash!. - When listening to any ‘economist’ or politician I always ask myself ‘now what’s their game?

.. you do seem to be trying to push one view of economics as the truth. We are in danger of dragging this thread way off-topic.

It would probably be better to help Tara develop some ways of explaining evolution to her friends the next time she meets up for coffee. -Any chance that one of them is single, with an interest in Englishmen Tara??

Comment #67624

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2006 3:14 PM (e)

er, not that this thread should totally shift vehicles and begin discussing economic theory, but I personally would like to see some references to the original publications relating to the development of “trickle-down theory” (yes, also properly known as “voodoo-economics”).

Flint, do you have any articles in your library, or run across the original references in the primary literature in your explorations?

thanks

Comment #67625

Posted by Tice with a J on January 4, 2006 3:16 PM (e)

Chris wrote:

The following 12 quotes are from leading and well known scientists and researchers. A larger work with 130 similar quotes is available: “The Revised Quote Book”, edited by Dr. A. Snelling, PhD, pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia.

A quote book. They have a whole quote book.
These people have turned quote-mining into an art form.

Comment #67641

Posted by Flint on January 4, 2006 3:56 PM (e)

Dean Morrison:

The problem here is, economists all disagree. Another old joke is that if you put every economist in the world end to end, they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion. Like the market investors, the economists basically cancel one another out. However, Black Monday (I think this is what you are referring to?) was largely the product of automated stock purchase/sales programs running on the computers of the institutional investors. Back in 1987, they all had the same programs, which all decided to sell at the same time based on the same trigger.

Notice, however, that this “crash” didn’t lead to any economic impacts, and was fairly quickly rectified (and the programs rewritten). In other words, there was nothing wrong with the underlying economy at all, nor was there anything fundamentally wrong with the market. I don’t think that economists themselves influence either the market or the economy in any long-term way (but high-profile stock-pickers CAN influence specific stocks in the short term!).

you do seem to be trying to push one view of economics as the truth.

I’m trying to stick pretty much to supply and demand. Fiscal policy is far more political than economic.

ST:

“Trickle-down theory”, in reality, isn’t a theory. The Official Party Line is that if capital is consolidated, investment will be more focused, thus more productive, thus create more jobs, thus putting more people to useful work, thus increasing per capita output, thus enriching us all! And of course the way to consolidate capital is NOT to tax it away from those who have it. Who just happened to be the source of the bulk of Republican campaign contributions.

To put it bluntly, “trickle-down theory” is the answer. The *question* was, How can we reward those whose money got us into office, and make that reward sound appealing to the Great Unwashed who have most of the votes”?

I think the closest you’re going to come in the literature is to something I mentioned above: there seems to be some statistically-reliable relationship between the health of a national economy in terms of per capita production, and the amount of money the government taxes out of that economy expressed as a percentage of GDP.

(One of the tenets of “supply side economics” is that if the governmental tax burden is reduced, the economy will become productive enough to generate higher government revenues despite lower tax rates, because a growing economy lifts all boats. Indeed, you can find endless graphs purporting to show just that. Of course, let me decide on the endpoints (in time) of my graph, and I can find an example of anything. One thing I’ve come to appreciate about such economic theories is, there seems to be no such thing as the primary factor responsible for anything. That’s why those econometric models are so unreliable - the number of factors that *could* be decisive is essentially infinite.)

Comment #67646

Posted by jim on January 4, 2006 4:06 PM (e)

Living through the bubble of the 90’s, it became obvious to me that there would be a correction (I seem to recall thinking this in late ‘98 to early ‘99). Of course I had no idea when the correction would occur or how large it would be. One of the big clues was that everyone was rushing out to buy the latest hot stocks and “economists” were touting the “new economy”.

Although our economy isn’t going gang-busters like it was in the ’90s, it hasn’t been hit too terribly hard either.

So my question is, were there similar early warning signs for other market and economic corrections (the Great Depression, problems in the ’70s & ’80s, etc.)?

What sort of indicators do economists look for now?

How much longer can we expect the Chinese to prop up the US economy?

Comment #67650

Posted by Flint on January 4, 2006 4:14 PM (e)

jim:

So my question is, were there similar early warning signs for other market and economic corrections (the Great Depression, problems in the ’70s & ’80s, etc.)?

Sigh. Yes, of course there were similar early warning signs. Indeed, there are *always* similar signs. The biggest boom in economic history, during the mid to late 1990s, were preceded by the following books written by economists:

1993, The plague of the black debt: How to survive the coming depression

1993, America in Depression: The Coming Economic Collapse

1993, The Great Reckoning: Protect Yourself in the Coming Depression

1993, Crisis Investing for the Rest of the 90’s, Douglas Casey
Since his first Crisis Investing (1979) book, Casey has been warning of coming financial disaster. Once again he sees us as being on the brink of what he now calls the Greater Depression, citing various plausible excesses, including the cycle of boom and bust.

1993, Nostradamus Now Warnings of Upcoming Political and Economic Disasters

1993, Bankruptcy 1995: The Coming Collapse of America and How to Stop It

1994, World Economic Collapse: The Last Decade and the Global Depression

1994, Coming soon: The biggest financial disaster in America’s history

Yep, those signs are unmistakeable!

Comment #67653

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 4, 2006 4:20 PM (e)

However ‘Black Monday’, Which is what I think you’re referring to?

No, I meant the ‘Wall Street Crash’ of the thirties - for which computers can’t be blamed. When I used ‘remember’ - I meant from your economics classes.

Of course I could have used Black Monday, Wednesday, The South Sea Bubble; or any less spectacular effect an economist opening his mouth (even idf only to advise a politician) as an example. The principle is the same… can we get back to Tara now?

Comment #67654

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2006 4:22 PM (e)

“Trickle-down theory”, in reality, isn’t a theory

yes, i know this Flint, hence why i put it in quotes. However, all economic models, even supply side economics originate with publications from economic theorists.

what I’m asking for is who is the key economic theorist behind supply side economics, and what were the primary publications where the idea was originally expressed?

or is that info. lost to history at this point?

Comment #67657

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 4, 2006 4:29 PM (e)

..sigh….. still, anyone who want’s to talk on-thread about this one can go over to Tara’s blog at:

http://aetiology.blogspot.com/2006/01/this-view-of-life.html

.. there’s always the bonus of that nice picture, and Tara herself is being very nice to some creationist types..

Comment #67661

Posted by RBH on January 4, 2006 4:39 PM (e)

Flint wrote

However, Black Monday (I think this is what you are referring to?) was largely the product of automated stock purchase/sales programs running on the computers of the institutional investors. Back in 1987, they all had the same programs, which all decided to sell at the same time based on the same trigger.

That’s the so-called “portfolio insurance” explanation. Portfolio “insurance” was a technique that called for institutional holders of equities (mutal funds, etc.) to sell futures on the S&P as stock prices fell, thereby reducing their loss (short futures make money when the stock market falls). One consulting firm sold their algorithm for controlling the selling to a fair number of institutional clients, so a lot of folks tried to seel SPZ into a falling market. There were two fundamentally flawed assumptions underlying the algorithm:

1. Prices move continuously. They don’t; they can drop from 450 to 445 without any transactions at the intervening 444, 443, 442, or 441. When your model calls for selling at 443 and the market zooms right past 443 without pausing, the model ratches up what must be sold at 442, 441, and by the time you’re trying to seel the accumulated burden at 440 the sell orders overwhelm the buy orders on the order books of market makers and they (in the futures) back off: they are not required to trade at any price. On the stock exchange, specialist firms are charged with maintaining an orderly market, and there is evidence that many (if not most) specialist firms bagged it just like the futures guys in the SPooz pits in Chicago.

2. Portfolio insurance assumed (for the same of the maths) that there will be a willing buyer to take the other side of the trade at some price close to the trigger point specified by the algorithm. In the case of portfolio insurance, the willing buyers were supposed to be the arbitrageurs who would buy the futures and short the stock, locking in a sure profit. However, there were two problems with that assumption. First, any arb with an ounce of brains gets the hell out of the market when it’s behaving erratically; and second, in order to short a stock you have to borrow it from someone else. With a lot of people trying to short stocks, the pool of ‘borrowable’ stocks is depeleted and no more offsetting arb trades can be made.

As a consequence, the futures market and the underlying equities market became disconnected, and the result was something very like the avalanches that one sees in self-organizing criticality theory.

The world market system is a complex adaptive human social system, which is why using evolutionary algorithms to model it (not merely the stock market) have had some success.

RBH

Comment #67662

Posted by jim on January 4, 2006 4:39 PM (e)

Well, to Dean’s point. I had a similar eye opening encounter with my mother over Thanksgiving holiday’s. My mother was a lawyer and very well educated and not one whit a Fundamentalist; so you can imagine my surprise at her position.

I think ID has one the PR war in that respect. They’ve put together a nice bit of drivel that appeals to religious types of all stripes. Since the drivel sounds like it matches many’s world view, the neglect to examine the details like they would for arguments that appear to contradict their world view.

So it might behoove us to:
1) develop our own PR that is actually true and reflects reality and matches with the majorities’ world view.
2) develop a set of sound (word) bites that casts enough doubt on the claims of ID so that the intellectually honest will look into the matter with a bit more skepticism.

Comment #67663

Posted by Russell on January 4, 2006 4:40 PM (e)

Judson wrote:

It’s hard not to have an insatiable interest in organisms like these, to be enthralled by the strangeness, the complexity, the breathtaking variety of nature.

Hmmm… breathtaking variety or breathtaking inanity. I just can’t decide which is more satisfying.

Comment #67664

Posted by jim on January 4, 2006 4:41 PM (e)

Dooh, the “one the PR war” should read “won the PR war”.

Comment #67666

Posted by RBH on January 4, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

Um, make that “… they can drop from 450 to 445 without any transactions at the intervening 449, 448, 447, or 446. When your model calls for selling at 448 and the market zooms right past 448 without pausing, the model ratchets up what must be sold at 447, 446, and by the time you’re trying to sell the accumulated burden at 445 the sell orders overwhelm the buy orders …”.

Sorry for the confusion.

RBH

Comment #67670

Posted by Flint on January 4, 2006 4:59 PM (e)

Dean:

I admit I have never before seen the proposal that large, long-term economic trends (or even market crashes) are even a little bit the result of self-fulfilling prophecies by any economists. I doubt even Keynes had that kind of influence.

Some of those books I listed above were best-sellers, yet the market did exactly the opposite.

ST:

You might start with Wikipedia and take it from there…

Comment #67674

Posted by BWE on January 4, 2006 5:03 PM (e)

Ok, I appologize. This is going slightly OT. Unless we are trying to equate education in different disciplines to understandings of our world.

Stephen Elliott

Evolution on the other hand, is explained by evidence and has no moral underpinnings other than that science in general has utterly shattered religious beliefs that include magic in their mythologies like rerssurection, hurling thunderbolts, parting red seas, burning bushes talking to people, petty gods killing all the firstborn children of a people and etc. But that isn’t moral, it’s just reality.

I doubt that.
Check out some creationist sites.

So? They’re ignorant.

Flint

Does this mean that professionals are dumber than monkeys? Or does it mean that the stock market is not predictable? As a matter of fact, some models of the market explain exactly WHY it can’t be predicted. The market is largely a reflection of every investor guessing what every OTHER investor is going to do. Game theory is more helpful than economics here.

Funny, that’s why I used Robert J. Aumann as my example.

we can understand that an unregulated marketplace favors those who begin with more capital over those whos ideas are better.

From which I suppose we can deduce that regulation is bad, and “better” ideas are those that match your ideas? But creationism also works by equating “good” with “my preferences”.

You’re the one equating creationism with economics.

Even though the regulations hamper business, they also maintain a level playing field and a healthy environment.

Let’s agree here that competition, if enforced, produces results we find desirable - growth, opportunities, rejection of undesirable practices, etc. The purpose of (some) regulation is to make sure competition stays competitive.

And some is to keep the consumer safe.

Also, we can understand that walmart is a result of supply side economics

I think you are falling into jargon here. WalMart succeeds because customers prefer to shop there. Customers shop there because they want lower prices for the same products.

and they keep prices low primarily by shifting the burden of healthcare and food purchasing to the community and hence the other businesses in the community.

we can understand that we are subsidizing them in the most disgusting way possible by allowing them to place the burden of health care and food purchasing ability on the communities it enters. Dispicable.

If by “we” you mean all of the people who choose to shop there, you’re correct. We could, if we wished, shop at (or even start up) stores who pay decent wages and provide decent health care. Of course, we’d have to charge high prices to afford to do so, and we wouldn’t have any customers. What you’re doing is adopting a posture of moral superiority that has nothing to do with economics.

wrong. it has everything to do with economics and morality too. If we allow walmart to keep prices low by shifting their costs to the local community then we are giving an economic advantage to a corporation. If all the corporations follow suit in order to compete, what happens to the community?

But I would posit that economic desisions that we need to make as a people are largely moral decisions. i.e. How far do you let members of your community fall?

At the microeconomic level, I doubt this. Remember, everything in economics is a tradeoff. So which members of the community have “fallen” (whatever that means), and what did the community get in exchange? Well, the community got low prices. This scenario has played out endlessly: Henry Ford impoverished the families of countless buggy-whip makers. For shame! I DO suppose you are still walking everywhere out of moral principle, yes?

Right. And since it is a tradeoff, there are moral decisions to make about each tradeoff.

How do we justify witholding preventative health care based on income? Are we equating income with quality of being?

Are you SURE you studied any economics? Money is nothing more than a symbol of value, an abstraction of the goods and services the economy generates. By economic principle, those who have more money are producing more of value - that is, more stuff that other people are willing to pay for. Those who provide health care are ALSO providing it because others are willing to pay for it. Should they work for nothing, for moral reasons? Or should we subsidize them out of what we make?

Um. I only took one econ class. I attempted to read A Theory of the Consumption Function by milton friedman but I confess, I was to frustrated by his assumptions to finish. I did read wealth of nations for a political science class and a few others of mostly analytical nature but that was nearly 30 years ago so I am a bit rusty on all the details. However, what is it you are trying to say here?

The only “morality” in economics is that everything has a cost. Everything has a price. Costs can ONLY be paid by doing without some of X to pay for more of Y. Economics really has no morality at all; it’s just a distribution mechanism in this sense. The morality is projected onto economics by those who don’t like how other people are getting things distributed. So these moralistic do-gooders go around labeling efficient and truly competitive businesses “dispicable” simply for BEING efficient and competitive. We want our cake, and we want to eat it too, and those who eat their cake are dispicable for eating it, and those who don’t are dispicable for hoarding it.

Maybe, but economic decisions are very much moral decisions and it is dangerous to think otherwise. People are not numbers and thinking that they are, abstracting their humanity, allows us to look at walmart and not ask ourselves, “is this good?”

Comment #67676

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2006 5:11 PM (e)

wrong. it has everything to do with economics and morality too. If we allow walmart to keep prices low by shifting their costs to the local community then we are giving an economic advantage to a corporation. If all the corporations follow suit in order to compete, what happens to the community?

Walmart themselves could tell you. they funded an independent study of the economic impact of their business practices, expecting they would only see good things in the report, but it turned out like most of us would have anticipated; showing how the cost shifting strategy negatively impacts communities.

I have the reference to the original media reports, if anybody wants to see them. In fact, i posted it to the after the bar closes area a while back, which is probably where the rest of this discussion about economic theory and practice should go, yes?

Comment #67678

Posted by BWE on January 4, 2006 5:20 PM (e)

after the bar closes?

Comment #67683

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 4, 2006 5:36 PM (e)

‘After the Bar Closes’ is a Panda’s related discussion board where subjects can continue to be discussed after the original thread dies off. Especially good for off-topic stuff (you can open new threads there, Flint could open one on economics for example: something not all of us can do here) - and the place to encourage loopier type of troll to go to.
Took a while for me to work out - I pop over every now and then to taunt ‘Ghost of Paley’ about his racism.

Comment #67684

Posted by Dean Morrison on January 4, 2006 5:37 PM (e)

I wasn’t suggesting Flint was a troll by the way!!!

Comment #67688

Posted by Flint on January 4, 2006 5:55 PM (e)

BWE:

I can only disagree that economics is a form of morality. We might make economic decisions for moral reasons, but economics doesn’t care, anymore than mathematics cares if we decide three is a magic number.

We have seen economies (or at least attempted economies) where taxes are 100%, and *everyone* lives by subsidy. We saw terrible productivity, terrible environmental practices, entirely shoddy workmanship (when anyone bothered to work), empty shelves “full” of “free” goods, etc.

You may not *like* the idea that income determines the quality of our lives in many ways, but not for nothing is the free market described as the worst possible arrangement, except for everything else that’s been tried.

ST:

If WalMart thought their economic strategy was a pure win, they were being simplistic. Yes, everything has costs. What an economy does, in this sense, is quantify those costs. It should be pretty obvious that if people are paying lower prices for things, those *receiving* the lower prices can’t purchase as much, such as health care.

But I think we should also recognize that these are very minor cost-shifts. The big ones are international. Most of the cost of our lower prices are paid by the Chinese workers who produce the products. In a wider sense, we’re seeing labor arbitraging. And in India, we’re seeing the cost of labor rising as much as 20% a year in some technical fields. Competition does that too.

What allows WalMart to work is that almost no skill is required to operate the store, and so there’s no reward for any competitor hoping to lure high-demand-skill WalMart employees away by offering more money and benefits.

Dean:

Awww, can’t I be a troll?

Comment #67690

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 4, 2006 6:08 PM (e)

But I think we should also recognize that these are very minor cost-shifts. The big ones are international

minor is a relative term. I doubt that the local communities with a Walmart would think it’s influence to be a minor one, one way or the other.

in any case, I still think this is a very inapporpriate thread in which to continue this discussion (tho it is interesting).

Could we please move this to ATBC?

here: i set up a new topic:

Economic theory, game theory and social impacts

over at the bar

http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=43bc0e76580cfaa0;act=ST;f=14;t=131

cheers

Comment #67695

Posted by BWE on January 4, 2006 6:50 PM (e)

Ok. I posted there. Flint, I do enjoy the discussion. I hope you post over there. As for you Chris, even though that can’t be who you are, we’ll talk later.

Comment #67703

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on January 4, 2006 7:17 PM (e)

you’ll know that ANY economic policy good for someone is either bad or less good for someone else

My goodness, Flint — that sounds an awful lot like “class struggle” —- two words that economists (most of them, anyway) definitely do not like to hear.

;)

Comment #67704

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on January 4, 2006 7:18 PM (e)

Evolution is science? It is admittedly unobservable, lacking fossil evidence, dependent upon scientific consensus, and essentially a belief system about past life on Earth.

Says you. (shrug)

I suggest you go and read the Dover decision. Have an educated person explain all the big words to you.

Comment #67736

Posted by Tara on January 4, 2006 9:32 PM (e)

The op-ed doesn’t provide any support for evolutionary theory. Its speculative. So, if you are trying to educate a skeptic, I would propose that you find and use examples that are supported by the science that has been done, rather than the science that you hope or expect will be done.

When you assert that those mechanisms evolved with little or no scientific support you confirm in the skeptics’ mind that evolution is a weak theory that has to be supported by intimidation, censorship, and hand waving.

The scientifically supported examples aren’t as flashy, but you gotta start somewhere.

Comment #67782

Posted by bystander on January 5, 2006 1:53 AM (e)

I take some interest as a layman in economics and I read two books that expounded on opposite theories. I read one and thought it was convincing and read the second and at the time also thought it was convincing. What got me in particular was that they both dissected the 20th century American economy. One book would say that A’s policies caused a recession which B’s policies then eventually corrected. The other book said that A’s policies were doing fine but then B came along and turned a minor downturn into a full blow recession.

I think that if you have an open mind the evidence for evolution is much easier for a layman to believe than what is the correct economic theory.

Comment #67847

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on January 5, 2006 7:59 AM (e)

I think that if you have an open mind the evidence for evolution is much easier for a layman to believe than what is the correct economic theory.

I think it was economist Milton Friedman who said, “None of us really knows what all these numbers mean”.

Comment #67942

Posted by ChrisB on January 5, 2006 1:01 PM (e)

I took a look at the article entitled “Organisms that look designed.” What was interesting to me was the inclusion of Wuchereria Bancrofti. It’s unbelivable to me that somebody thinks any designer would would create his “supposed” greatest masterpiece, the human, and then go on to create a parasite that causes great damage and disfiguration to it’s human hosts. I would expect much more logic and rationality from a great designer. Does this designer just want to punish the poor folks that happen to live in the warm climate preferred by the Wuchereria Bancrofti? No. Just like every other living organism, the Wuchereria Bancrofti was evolved and it will take any host it can use. Humans are nothing special to them.

Comment #67959

Posted by Tara Smith on January 5, 2006 1:48 PM (e)

Just checkin’–you realize that’s a spoof, right?

Organisms that look designed wrote:

“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose by God, but we won’t admit that even if he comes down from heaven and slaps us silly.”
- Richard Dawkins, Oxford University Professor of Zoology by day, godless communist sympathizer by night

I assume you do, but with many creationist writings, it’s hard to tell sometimes. WinAce was a comedic genius, but definitely no creationist.

Comment #67962

Posted by ChrisB on January 5, 2006 1:57 PM (e)

Alright, I feel dumb now. Maybe if I had read the whole thing I would have realized that…or maybe not. I’ll go back to lurking mode.

Comment #67965

Posted by ChrisB on January 5, 2006 2:08 PM (e)

Before I go, I will just say that it’s interesting to me that many organisms that creationists believe are too complex to have evolved, I believe are too complex to have been designed. The Bible talks about how God created Earth and life but there is not a mention about the creation of matter (strings, quarks, protons, neutrons, electrons, etc.) itself which I consider to be as grand a feat if not more so.

Comment #67969

Posted by steve s on January 5, 2006 2:14 PM (e)

The excerpt from Monty Python on that page is apt. It’s more or less the motto of ID:

“All things sick and cancerous,
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous,
The Lord God made them all.”