Bryan Caplan ponders the possible consequences of safe and relatively inexpensive ectogenesis — that is, technology allowing one to grow a fetus in an incubation tank rather than a womb. I doubt this would have any big consequences. Although pregnancy is no doubt a diffcult experience, those difficulties are only very small portion of the costs of raising a child.
One of Bryan’s commenters goes on to wonder, “What if the government could produce humans to order, by efficient industrial means?”, and a number of silly dystopian predictions follow. There is a big difference between efficiently churning out Jem’Hadar and efficiently churning out screaming infants. Any government wanting to use ectogenesis to further its evil plans had better already have an army of loyal people ready to indoctrinate those industrially produced babies and change their diapers.
I recently overheard someone express apathy towards the Olympics, whereupon a second party scoffed at the first for failing to patriotically cheer on the US Olympic teams. I shall quote the eloquent Rebecca Watson on this matter.
I don’t watch, I don’t discuss it around the water cooler, and I don’t scan the sports section of the paper to see how many medals “we” have won (”we” is odd because I had nothing to do with it and only have the good fortune to live in the same swath of 3.5 million square miles as some of the athletes).
There are lots of things to dislike about collectivism but none as outright disgusting as the way it allows people to take credit for the accomplishments of others. And just in case it still needs pointing out, I will say this explicitly: nationalism and patriotism are collectivist sentiments.
I’ve recently observed several people use the word “deconstruct” as a synonym for “analyze”. Let’s see what the dictionary says about “deconstruct”:
1. To break down into components; dismantle.
2. To write about or analyze (a literary text, for example), following the tenets of deconstruction.
A deconstruction is a particular type of analysis: one done in accordance with these mysterious tenets of deconstruction. Thus, you probably should not use the word “deconstruct” without a clear understanding of said tenets. I won’t try to explain deconstructionism but instead will just note that it is strongly associated with the postmodernist movement in academia. This fact suggests an alternative, looser, way to use the word: you could use “deconstruction” in place of “analysis” to signal that you are a postmodernist, even if the analysis in question isn’t really done using the deconstructive method. In fact, using the word “deconstruct” does signal that you’re a pomo regardless of whether you had intended to do so.
This might be a good time to point out that many people, myself included, think that deconstruction and the postmodernist movement are Bad Things. So please, don’t go about “deconstructing” things unless you actually understand what “deconstruction” is, and whom you are associating yourself with.
The Volokh Conspiracy bloggers have been wondering whether the Fed actually has the legal authority to bail out AIG in the manner it which it is doing. The Fed is authorized to extend credit to private firms, but the law does not give it authority to buy them; the law also does not explicitly forbid this. Although the bailout has the form of a loan, the Fed will very likely end up owning 80% of AIG. Eric Posner argues that were the issue to arise in court, the judge would almost certainly rule such a deal to be a sale rather than a loan. That brings us to Posner’s follow-up post, which I quote in its entirety:
FOUR WAYS TO RATIONALIZE THE AIG DEAL
1. It really is a loan, not a purchase. 2. It’s a purchase but it’s called a loan and words like “interest rate” are used, so therefore the Fed can do it under the terms of the statute. 3. Even if it’s a purchase, the statute does not literally say that the Fed can’t purchase things and therefore (presumably under Chevron), the Fed has the authority to purchase (see Marty’s comment on my earlier post). 4. It’s an emergency, and a Schmittian state of exception is in play. No one really cares whether the transaction is lawful or not, just do something! Cite something in the Constitution – Article II, somewhere. I mean go to #3 and cite the canon of avoidance just to be sure! (Indeed, this post suggests that the executive branch is really pulling the strings.)
#2 is silly; #3 is a respectable type of legal argument, according to which every grant of authority to an agency for limited purposes turns into a grant of vast discretionary authority unless Congress very very busily lists all the things the agency can’t do; #1 remains possible but unlikely; #4 is most plausibly the truth. We might call #3 the polite version of #4, but to find out for sure I agree we’d need a test case where the Fed actually broke a clear rule – arrested AIG shareholders and put them in Guantanamo Bay or something like that. Maybe tomorrow.
Have you laughed your arse off yet?
No? (WARNING: Explanation follows. Reading on may ruin the effect of Posner’s brilliantly subtle joke.) Then allow me to point out that although #3 is flatly absurd, it nonetheless is a respectable legal theory. It is, after all, the legal theory which everyone (except a few curmudgeony libertarians) accepts regarding the Constitution’s grant of powers to Congress.
“Creation Scientists” vs. Real Scientists
Why, you ask, are Creation scientists not truly scientists? Item one: provided that it doesn’t appear to contradict their holy books, Creation scientists couldn’t care less about how the natural world works. The creationist I recently encountered certainly exhibited that mindset. He of course, was merely a random engineering student.
To see how professional Creation [...]
Posted 23-Feb-2008 in Mathematics, Natural Sciences
Geology, Topology, and Stupidity
Apparently, some people really can’t tell the difference between a donut and a coffee mug, although I doubt this particular crackpot is any sort of professional topologist.
Hat tip to The Quantum Ponitiff for finding this hilarious video (or should that be a mitre tip?).
[Video from YouTube illustrating a crackpot "the earth is growing" theory, [...]
Posted 18-Feb-2008 in Epistemology, Natural Sciences
Sean Carroll, Epistemologist
By day he’s a physicist at Caltech, but Sean’s posts at Cosmic Variance include some of the clearest and most level-headed discussion of epistemology to be found anywhere (regardless of academic department).
In a recent post, he carefully explains why it is unreasonable, in light of our best physical theories, to believe in telekinesis and other [...]
Posted 11-Feb-2008 in Epistemology, Natural Sciences, Rants, Religion
God In The Stars
I found this comic via Hemant.
That hypothetical situation sure showed what an intellectually dishonest fellow that fictional atheist was! I have no idea whether this comic is trying to make some sort of point, or what that point might be.
The only reason I’m posting this is because I’ve long dreamed of launching an array of [...]
Posted 15-Jan-2008 in Natural Sciences
Didn’t See That One Coming
We regret to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, the publication of The Astrological Magazine will cease with the December 2007 issue.
There is (poetic) justice in the universe after all!
Hat tip to the Bad Astronomer for finding this.
Posted 26-Dec-2007 in Natural Sciences, Politics, Religion
Vote for the Creationist!
The Bad Astronomer condemns Ron Paul for reasons which are… politically misguided. Namely, Paul is a creationist.
I think I speak for a lot of atheists libertarians when I say that, yes, Ron Paul’s views on evolution/creationism are awful, but in spite of that I’d still be fairly overjoyed to see him in the Oval Office. [...]
Posted 11-Sep-2007 in Epistemology, Mathematics, Natural Sciences
Pure Math, Applied Math, and A Priori Proofs
Some people think that scientists doing theoretical work can use mathematics to prove things about the real world a priori of any empirical investigation. This is wrong. Allow me to explain.
It is true that the results of pure mathematics do follow from whatever axioms one starts with a priori of any empirical observations. Indeed, empirical [...]
Posted 8-Sep-2007 in Aesthetics, Natural Sciences, Politics, Technology
Links! Get Yer Links!
The Economist brings us an article about some very cool biologically inspired architecture.
PZ points out a video showing a squid giving birth to hundreds of tiny offspring. Truly wonderous.
In case you missed it, there was a terrorist incident at Los Angeles International airport last week. Care to guess what notorious group was responsible?
As should be [...]
Posted 9-Aug-2007 in Mathematics, Natural Sciences
There has been far too much religion and politics on this blog lately. Here are a few sciency links to freshen things up.
Several groups have found different ways to use the Casimir effect to levitate objects. The New Scientist has a nice summary; specific papers can be found on arXiv.org.
Mike Dunford, The Questionable Authority, gives [...]
Posted 30-Jun-2007 in Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Personal
Paper in Phys. Rev E
A paper, “Determination of Inter-Phase Line Tension in Langmuir Films”, which I wrote with Lu Zou and our many colleagues will be in the next issue of Physical Reviews E! You can grab a non-gated copy here or from arXiv.org.