Monday, January 26, 2009

New Feature: Reading List

I've gotten some recommendations of books for me to read, and I'll be putting them on my Reading List on the left side of my blag. Mostly because I'm a freakin undergraduate, and I have no time to read, but I don't want to forget these (excellent) recommendations. I will get around to them eventually, and then strike them from the list when I do.

So if you have any ideas, please propose them here or on any other thread.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stream of consciousness, Re: The Secret.

(I spend a lot of time on the internet, exploring the best of what it has to offer on some topic or another. I love blogging, because I consider it something like an internet book club; I invite you not only to my thoughts, but you can also peruse the context in which my thoughts are couched and come to your own conclusion.)

I'm feeling pretty lazy. So I'm going to talk about prayer. Or more accurately "The Law of Attraction" a.k.a "The Secret". You can find the believers' definition here, but the Wikipedia article is much more accurate.

The Law of Attraction is standard magical thinking: "like attracts like". My mom is a big fan of the New Age stuff, and one of my best friends truly believes in something like it. It's basically that your beliefs influence what happens to you - if you think about good things, good things will happen; if you think about bad things, then bad things will happen. If you constantly worry about losing your job, then chances are... Oh, and, If you really believe Obama's going to win...

(Right now I'd like to mention confirmation bias, and also that one can reach a true conclusion with completely false premises. Anyway...)

And when I ask, why? Why do you, who I think is very reasonable and intelligent, think that the world works this way?

They tell me, I have experienced it! I have wanted things very badly, and it didn't look like I was going to get it, but then at the last minute something unexpected happened and I got what I wanted! I wanted it so badly, and the thing that happened was so random and unlikely, that I'm sure that my thoughts mattered.

(What runs through my head now is how the human reward system works: you receive the biggest "rewards" when there's a large mismatch between what you expect and what actually happens - no wonder it seemed so significant!)

I hate it when my boyfriend does this kind of thing, so I feel like a real snot for saying here that I've taken some statistics, not a lot, but enough to appreciate coincidence.

That applies to prayer, too. I find even the best video that illustrates this to be very patronizing, maybe good for children but adults might prefer the text.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This Semester, In Brief

I'm finishing up an undergraduate dual-major in neuroscience and psychology. So I have some higher-level psych courses with a focus on behaviorism, and some higher-level neuro courses which include neurophysiology. So maybe sometime this semester I'll post something about one of those subjects. Neurophysiology is supercool.

Also, I'm applying to graduate schools, and I have my first (and only so far!) interview Jan 30 - Feb 1. I look forward to hopefully interviewing at more than one school... hopefully...

In addition, I have recently received a kitty! She's a lap-cat too, and I adore her. (Brace yourself for pictures at some point.)

Add these factors together, and you can predict that I'll be a little busy.

I've made the conscious decision to make this blag a priority, though. So fear not! There will be posting! Just letting ya'll know what's up so you're not surprised by cat pictures, or analogies between the membrane and a circuit, or picture tours of the University of Oregon, or behaviorist analysis of my cat, or whatever.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

WTF, Supreme Court?! I trusted you!

The Supreme Court has decided that illegally acquired evidence can be used in court in the case of wrongful arrest due to a clerical error.

What. The. Fuck.

This is so many levels of wrong.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Totally missed this...

But happy one-year blog anniversary!

Damn, I can't believe I actually made it a full year. And I might have a reader or two, too!

Thanks to you who actually read this silly thing occasionally.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Seven No True Scotsmen Fallacies

Despite what you may have read, there is such a thing as a non-fundamentalist, non-literalist Christian (#2, #7). Also, you can be liberal and Christian at the same time (#3, #4). You can be tolerant and also Christian (#1, #3, #5). You can disregard the entirety of Leviticus and still be Christian (#3, seriously now).

And - it's appalling that I have to point this out - you can be simultaneously black and Christian (#6 - wtf).

This may come to a shock to some, but the term "Christian" covers a very specific type of belief. Generally it involves this dude Jesus Christ, maybe you've heard of him? From what I understand, that's the important thing as far as, y'know, Christianity is concerned.

Though, what do I know, I'm a godless heathen Atheist.


Go Stillers!

I particularly enjoyed the off-the-helmet play, and also Hines Ward's beaming face when he sees an opening and runs his heart out.

Oh, and freaking Willie Parker!

Comments welcome from the Steeler nation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


No. You shouldn't.

And that was on Digg's as "The disadvantage of being a man."

I say bollocks to that. In fact, it'd be a lot better if no one perpetuated that idea. PHMT!!!

Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Seriously, though - there probably is no God.

I got a good belly-laugh today reading about the complaint lodged to the (I'd presume British) Advertising Standards Authority about the atheist bus ads.

You know, the ads that say, "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Apparently some eedjit wants to challenge the ads because - get this - it's "unsubstantiated" that there is probably no God.

HAH. Ho ho haha hee hee heee!

Quote (links theirs):

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA), said: "I’ve sought advice from some of our key people here, but I’m afraid all I’ve got out of them so far is peals of laughter.

"I am sure that Stephen Green [the guy who lodged the complaint] really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God (though presumably only the one that he believes in) but I pity the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of god’s existence."


Let me catch my breath here...


Oh, oh man. This is too good. The Ultimate 747 indeed!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

CMU students are cheaters!!

Ok, not really. However, Dr. Free-Ride just posted an interesting little ditty about an interview that referenced a study on cheating that was done at Carnegie Melon University (CMU).

During this study, they hired an acting student from CMU to blatantly cheat, to see what kind of effect this would have on the other students. The results?
Dan Ariely, Duke University: We ran this at Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburgh. And in Pittsburgh there are two universities: Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh. All the students who participated were Carnegie Mellon students. If the cheating student, the acting student, was wearing a Carnegie Mellon sweatshirt, he basically got people to cheat more. But if he was wearing a University of Pittsburgh sweatshirt, he got people to cheat less. What is basically happening here is that when he stood there with a Carnegie Mellon sweatshirt, he gave a social justification for a new social norm to emerge about cheating. But when he was wearing a University of Pittsburgh sweatshirt, all of the sudden people said, "This is cheating. This is what the other people in the bad school are doing. This is not what we're doing." And therefore cheated actually less.
Since Adventures in Ethics and Science is all about, well, scientific ethics, Dr. Free-Ride's analysis tackles how these findings apply to cheating in the sciences. As she puts it, "[C]onsider what this result suggests about how people evaluate whether cheating is permissible: If someone from my group is doing it, it's OK for me to do it."*

I generally think that this tendency is a broader failing of "human reason" to topple our primate thought processes. It saddens and aggravates me every time I hear of people who, in all seriousness, aggrandize the people who belong to their affiliated tribe** or tear down those who belong to an "opposing" one. Say what you will about the various institutions; CMU may be the MIT of Pittsburgh, but it doesn't make CMU's students morally superior to Pitt's students. It makes CMU engineering grads slightly more likely to get into a good grad school or good job position. That is all.

And I'm saying this as a person who is currently attending Pitt while dating a CMU alum. My dude occasionally joshes me about my university, and I sometimes poke fun at his. But when it comes down to it, we know that CMU and Pitt are basically equivalent (though CMU has an absolutely superior engineering department, and Pitt has a more well-rounded curriculum and a stronger sports presence).

And since it's discouraged at Dr. Free-Ride's blog, you are more than welcome here to bitch about how Duquesne or Carlow or Point Park wasn't included as one of "Pittsburgh's two universities". Or about how any serious Pitt/CMU rivalry is pretty silly.


* As I posted in a comment on Dr. Free-Ride's post: As an up-and-coming scientist, if I knew that a "successful" scientist at my University had consciously cheated to get there, I would not consider that person a success, especially not a success in science. It's about getting closer to the truth, not about having the longest CV.

** Tribe = city, state, country, neighborhood, school, major, program, sports team, fan club, religion, denomination, church, etc.