Jim Downey's picture

Well, gee, this is *such* a surprise.

This will likely come as news to you all, I'm sure:

Believers’ Inferences About God’s Beliefs are Egocentric

Religious people tend to use their own beliefs as a guide in thinking about what God believes, but are less constrained when reasoning about other people’s beliefs, according to new study published in the Nov. 30 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, led the research, which included a series of survey and neuroimaging studies to examine the extent to which people’s own beliefs guide their predictions about God’s beliefs. The findings of Epley and his co-authors at Australia’s Monash University and UChicago extend existing work in psychology showing that people are often egocentric when they infer other people’s beliefs.

* * *

Jim Downey's picture

"It's already been done."

I just do not understand the mindset that some people have.

OK, let me explain. Monday I posted an excerpt about our upcoming "Cylinder Gap" tests to several of the gun forums I frequent, because I thought it would be of interest to some people who hang out at such places. And, for the most part, that proved to be correct.

But one place I got a response from one guy who said "it's already been done". See, he had done these sorts of tests using one brand of revolver which allows you to adjust the cylinder gap, in both a smaller and a larger caliber than the .38/.357 we're testing. And the difference wasn't that big a deal. Oh, he had the data somewhere, but he didn't have it readily available. There was no real reason for us to conduct the tests.

OK, so here's a guy who tested something different than we did (different calibers, and I guess only one barrel length in each). And he never published the data, though he says he'll dig it up. Nor did he document the process he used.

Doesn't sound to me like "it's already been done."

Jim Downey's picture

"We all vibrate."

How homeopathy "works":

So stupid, it's funny. In homeopathic terms, that would be the intelligence of this video has been diluted to a 30c level, to the point where it just overwhelms your rational resistance. Or something.

I want my 8:12 back.

Jim Downey

Via MeFi.

Jim Downey's picture

Origin of Stupidity

OK, I'd seen references to this elsewhere, but not the actual video. Just in case you too happened to miss it, here it is:

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Who, me, cynical?

Yeah, OK, I know I'm more cynical nowadays, but I think that even in my most charitable moods I would tend to see this as nothing more than a case of the Christian nuts being mercenary:

$6 million budget shortfall forces Focus on the Family to drop Ex-Gay program

Citing a “serious budget shortfall” the conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family has been prompted to issue a special fundraising plea, and has also decided to hand over control of its contentious “Love Won Out” Ex-Gay program to another religious organization, a FotF spokesman said Tuesday.

Focus on the Family is looking at a $6 million short fall in its $138 million budget for this fiscal year- a budget larger than all national and regional gay-equality organizations combined.

From the Love Won Out website:

Jim Downey's picture

They just didn't pray *hard* enough.

This is what happens when you let religion determine health policy:

Teen pregnancy and disease rates rose sharply during Bush years, agency finds

Teenage pregnancies and syphilis have risen sharply among a generation of American school girls who were urged to avoid sex before marriage under George Bush's evangelically-driven education policy, according to a new report by the US's major public health body.

Jim Downey's picture

Playin' the odds.

Well, you gotta die from something, so you might as well make it interesting. Here are the latest stats on what your odds are of dying from various non-natural causes:

The odds of dying from...

The table below was prepared in response to frequent inquiries asking questions such as, "What are the odds of being killed by lightning?" or "What are the chances of dying in a plane crash?"

The odds given below are statistical averages over the whole U.S. population and do not necessarily reflect the chances of death for a particular person from a particular external cause. Any individual’s odds of dying from various external causes are affected by the activities in which they participate, where they live and drive, what kind of work they do, and other factors.

I think "Ignition or melting of nightwear" is probably my favorite. That's some hot sex, folks.

miranda's picture

Blazing New Trails in Diving World

Writing a thesis paper on diving can be a difficult and tedious task because there are just a few resources available and even a fewer academic papers about it. At the end of the day, it is just about being creative and thinking outside of the box. The thing is, students just need to think of ways on how to turn these drawbacks into their advantage.

Here are some of the advantages that students can look forward to should they decide to pursue a thesis paper on diving:

1. Interest. If diving is really a sport that you are interested in, then you are already have a great edge. The best academic papers were written by the people who genuinely like the subjects and topics that they are working with.

Think about it this way: you will be dedicating a semester or two working on your thesis. If you will be working on something that you do not like, you will easily get bored and burned out. Because diving is something that you really like, it would be tad easier for you to do your research as you will learn more about the sport that you love.

Jim Downey's picture


Just a follow-up to this post the first of the month. From Richard Wiseman's blog:

In short, all four trials were misses.

When I analysed believers and sceptics separately, the results were the same, with no difference between the groups. So the study didn’t support the existence of remote viewing, and suggested that those who believe in the paranormal are good at finding illusory correspondences between their thoughts and a target .

* * *

Update: I have just looked at the data from those who claimed some kind of psychic ability, and had a high confidence in their choice of target. This sub-group of participants also scored zero out of four.

Surprise, surprise.

Thanks, Richard -

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to my blog.)

Jim Downey's picture

Yeah, I heard the same sort of craziness.

Via Phil Plait, a glimpse into how far woo can go wrong:

Orbiter crashing into the moon

There is a Japanese lunar orbiter named Kaguya that is scheduled to crash into the moon today at about 2:30 pm ET. Scientists hope to learn something about the moon’s composition by observing the debris that is kicked up.

In many traditions, including astrology, the moon represents the feminine. It is the yin, the intuitive, the emotions. Women are connected to the moon by their menstrual cycles while they are fertile, and all beings, including the earth herself, are affected by the pull of the tides.

* * *

Did these scientists talk to the moon? Tell her what they were doing? Ask her permission? Show her respect?


Just . . . wow.

Jim Downey's picture

Can you see me now?

I'm not quite sure what to make of this:

Twitter's first scientific study needs you!

Can some people correctly identify a place using mind power alone?

Psychologist Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, wants to find out, and New Scientist readers can help.

Over the course of this week, we'll be carrying out an experiment to find out if there's any substance to claims that some people are "remote viewers" – able to psychically identify a distant location without being shown or told where it is through conventional means.

I dunno - I'd think that twits and woo make a bad combination. The sort of thing that would have you hunched over a toilet after the party, if you know what I mean. But the way that they are doing it at least seems reasonable on first glance:

So, how is the experiment going to work?

Jim Downey's picture

"We should have the right to kill our children in this country."

Via PZ, news that the woman who prayed over her daughter while she was dieing from a treatable condition, rather than seeking basic medical care, has been found guilty of reckless homicide. From the news report:

Mother found guilty in Wausau prayer death case

Wausau - A jury Friday found a central Wisconsin mother guilty of killing her 11-year-old daughter by praying for her to heal instead of rushing her to a doctor.

A Marathon County jury deliberated about four hours before convicting Leilani Neumann, 41, of rural Weston of second-degree reckless homicide. No sentencing date was set. Neumann remains free on bond.

But of course the kooks who were behind this are still certain that they did the right thing in letting an 11 year old girl die:

Leilani Neumann's stepfather, Brian Gordon of San Diego, said he was disappointed by the verdict and the jury was mistaken. He said his stepdaughter did nothing wrong in trusting in God to heal her daughter.

Jim Downey's picture

Allegro ma non troppo.

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
-- Lazarus Long

I can't believe it.

One of my favorite economic historians from my undergrad days wrote a famous treatise on human stupidity, and it took me 20 years to find out about it.


Well, just in case you too missed this little gem, I offer:

By Carlo M. Cipolla

Go. Read the whole thing. It's not too long. And if you have a wry, cynical (maybe even sardonic?) twist to your view of the world (as I certainly do), you will laugh your proverbial ass off. Maybe even your real ass. But since most people need a bit of convincing to actually *read* things these days, here's a taste to whet your appetite:


The first basic law of human stupidity asserts without ambiguity that:

Jim Downey's picture

We have this weather phenomenon . . .

Sorry I've been gone. Been trying to avoid getting killed. While getting new glasses.

No, I haven't been messing around with a jealous ophthalmologist's wife. I went to see a friend who is a top-rate ophthalmologist and who has cared for my eyes for years. And along the way kept hearing the theme to "The Wizard of Oz" playing in my head. From a note I just sent another friend:

Been hearing about the storms on NPR.

Ayup. Six dead. Tornadoes to the left of us, tornadoes to the right . . .

Jim Downey's picture

Out of the mouth of . . .

. . . well, certainly not a babe (in either sense of the term):

Biden says avoid planes, subways; puts out clarifying statement

Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not recommend taking any commercial flight or riding in a subway car “at this point” because swine flu virus can spread “in confined places.” A little more than one hour later, Biden rushed out a statement backing off.

“I would tell members of my family — and I have — I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show.. “It’s not that it’s going to Mexico. It’s [that] you’re in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. …

“So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you’re out in the middle of a field when someone sneezes, that’s one thing. If you’re in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom, it’s a different thing.”

Paul Fidalgo's picture

Texas Crazy: Master's Degree in Stupid

The creep of creationism in Texas is not limited to the public school system, which is often held intellectual hostage by backward members its Board of Education, as was discussed in other posts of mine. No, it doesn't end there, for Texas State Rep. Leo Berman wishes to give full scientific legitimacy to biblical literalism at the graduate level. Berman has introduced House Bill 2800 (PDF), which would exempt purely private, nonprofit schools from the authority of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board when it comes to the certification of master's degrees. While the legislation is actually quite sweeping it its implications, Berman's purpose is to allow "schools" such as the Institute for Creation Research to offer Master of Science degrees in, yes, creation science.

Per Nora Zimmett of Fox News, I'm going to let Berman speak for himself here, for he does it better than I could paraphrase:

Jim Downey's picture

Confession Time: "Balance that Egg!" edition.

Well, it's been a year since I started this series, and I should probably offer a refresher on the idea for new readers. From the original post:

OK, it seems to me that one of the advantages that religion has is in dealing with guilt and absolution. Granted, most religions compound those problems for most people by adding in ridiculous rules and behaviours, but that is neither here nor there for my purposes.

Simply put, we all do things that make us feel a little guilty. And now I'm going to kick off an occasional feature called "Confession Time" which will allow us to 'fess up to a guilty pleasure and receive the absolution of our community. Each "Confession Time" will be devoted to one topic, and the rules are simple: confess to a guilty pleasure you have within that topic, and explain why it makes you feel guilty. And don't worry, I'm not serious about this.

Today's topic: What woo did you do, when you used to do woo?

Jim Downey's picture

R.A.H. would smile even more.

Not quite a year ago I wrote about the Raytheon Sarcos powered exoskeleton, which was a major step towards the Powered Armor of Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Well, now there's some competition:


Dismounted Soldiers often carry heavy combat loads that increase the stress on the body leading to potential injuries. With a HULC exoskeleton, these loads are transferred to the ground through powered titanium legs without loss of mobility.

Jim Downey's picture

Hmm, seems to me that there's more than one way to understand this.

Bit of news from that I found somewhat interesting:

Researchers find brain differences between believers and non-believers

Believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress, according to new University of Toronto research that shows distinct brain differences between believers and non-believers.

In two studies led by Assistant Psychology Professor Michael Inzlicht, participants performed a Stroop task - a well-known test of cognitive control - while hooked up to electrodes that measured their brain activity.

Compared to non-believers, the religious participants showed significantly less activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a portion of the brain that helps modify behavior by signaling when attention and control are needed, usually as a result of some anxiety-producing event like making a mistake. The stronger their religious zeal and the more they believed in God, the less their ACC fired in response to their own errors, and the fewer errors they made.

richg's picture

Beyond the Firmament Website

Here is a (Christian) set of videos about science that takes apart not only Creationism, but also Intelligent Design in support of traditional science.

I'd like to get some feedback evaluations and reactions to his presentations.

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