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Showing posts from December, 2012

Gun Control

There certainly has been a lot of news about shootings lately and everyone all over the Internet is buzzing about the topic.  So, I'm going to compile a bunch of arguments that I've heard concerning the matter of gun control and say I how I feel about them.

The first argument is along the lines of "criminals don't follow the law, so making guns illegal won't stop criminals from owning them".  This statement can be demonstrated to have several holes in its logic.  First, we try to apply the same principle to something else.  "Criminals don't follow the law, so making theft illegal won't stop criminals from stealing."  Certainly, this is true, since there still are people who steal things even though the law forbids it.  However, the conclusion "therefore theft should be legal", which is analogous to the conclusion from the gun argument "therefore guns should be legal".  By definition, criminals don't follow the law.  I…


The scientific process starts with formulating a hypothesis.  One of the requirements for this hypothesis is that it be falsifiable.  The reason is that if the hypothesis cannot be demonstrated to be false regardless of what evidence is presented, then it cannot be tested.  The purpose of the scientific experiment is to determine whether the hypothesis is true or false.  If it cannot be shown to be false, then it follows that believing the claim cannot be rationally justified.

There is a big difference between falsifiable and false.  The theory of gravity is falsifiable, but not false.  If two bodies of mass were shown to be unaffected by the force of gravity, then the theory would be proven false.  Thus, there is a conceivable method for demonstrating the theory to be false, if such evidence could be found.  But, no such evidence has been found, and thus the theory of gravity is given the label of "theory", which is essentially the scientific seal of approval that it is ge…

Unempathetic Words

I'm not a psychologist, nor have I had any psychology classes since high school.  My understanding of the subject is limited, so what I say is mostly from my own experience and world view.  Young children do not think of other people's feelings.  It's not so much because they don't care how other people feel, but rather that they're not aware of how other people feel.  As children develop, they learn to feel empathy.  They are taught by their parents or mentors to think of other people's feelings.  They learn that other people feel the same feelings that they do.  A child will learn that ey isn't the only one who feels pain when ey is hit, that other people will be happy if ey does something pleasant for them, and so forth.

By the time we are adults, we learn several cues to help us understand how other people are feeling.  We pick up on body language, tone of voice, context, verbology, and many other things to help us understand what another person is fee…


I remember my mother teaching me that when a baby is holding something (perhaps that is dangerous or something you don't want the baby to be holding) that if you try to pull it away, the baby will instinctively grasp tighter, but if you gently stroke the baby's knuckles then ey will release eir hold.  That may be true or it may be an old wives' tale, but I believe that the principle is true in general.

I want to make the world a better place.  If I accomplish nothing other than improving quality of life for another person, or other people, then I will be content.  I teach math because I think the world is a better place with the knowledge of mathematics, and that my students will be able to benefit from the knowledge and in turn help to make the world a better place.  I do math research because I think that an increase in the amount of knowledge available to us as a race helps improve our quality of life (even though I rarely delude myself into thinking that my research wi…

Our broken testing system

I've often participated in group grading.  My first experience with it was in 2007, the year I graduated from BYU.  It's horrible.  This semester, as I was sitting with a couple other people grading a common final, I reflected on the futility of the final exam system that we have in our colleges.  (Of course, the standardized tests we have in elementary schools are far more ridiculous--trying to determine a teacher's effectiveness by asking children to draw bubbles on paper, but I won't go there today.)
What is the purpose of a test?  Why do teachers test students?  If you ask me, the purpose is to determine how well the student has internalized the material taught in the course.  The purpose should be to illuminate the level of understanding (or lack thereof), to decide whether the course has been beneficial to the student.  When I write a test, I want to make sure that I test all of the key points that I taught.  I want to make sure the questions are worded unambiguo…

The Great Disconnect

Today something terrible happened.  27 people were killed in a shooting at a public school.  This is awful.  It's horrible.  It's mortifying.  There is no reason for it.  And all of the responses that people have been giving on Facebook help me see that people have not altogether lost their humanity.

"Awful news today. What else can be said? It's a nightmare."
"mortified and very angry"
"I cant even begin to imagine what those parents are going thru...and I hope I never have to..."
"I am sad and disgusted. My heart is hurting for the family's in CT."
"Just when I'm feeling slightly better from my cold, I am emotionally ill. May God bless us all with peace in our hearts at such tragic news. :-/ Especially those for whom life will never be the same."

It is good to see people caring.  It's good to see people expressing empathy for those affected--for the family members of those who have been killed, for all of the …

When Mormons wear pants

The other day, a friend posted a Facebook event entitled "Wear Pants to Church Day" or something similar.  It was a Mormon feminist event.  In some churches, including the LDS church, women are expected to wear skirts or dresses to church.  The rationale given for the dress code that the church has is that at church, the atmosphere should be one of worship and reverence toward God.  I can respect that.  When I first saw the event, I just thought "Why is wearing pants a 'thing' for these feminists anyway?"  To be honest, I've never understood why women burning bras was part of some liberation or feminist movement or whatever.  I can't say because my breasts have never been large enough to require support, but I would imagine that I'd want to wear them.  But I digress.

The point is, my initial reaction was "Why pants?"  I have never had any overwhelming urge to wear a dress or a skirt.  I have never had an overwhelming urge to wear make…

Santa worships Jesus

So, I've seen various versions of this picture floating around Facebook this year.  (As far as I can recall, this is the first year I've seen this.)  I understand the sentiment, really I do.  It's a reminder that Christmas is really supposed to be a celebration of Jesus' birth and not just centered around Santa and buying lots of things you don't need.  And I really do hope that people who are posting this are making a sincere effort to center their celebration of loving other people and being kind rather than buying out of control and trying to impress people with their thoughtful gifts.  I am always disgusted at the commercialism and greed that we promote and cultivate in our society, and I'm glad to see efforts to curtail that.
But, do you really want this image to represent your beliefs?  Let me suggest why you might want to reconsider the concept of this picture.  Last year, I wrote a post about the parallels of Santa and God, about how the story of Santa…

Separation of person and idea

I really should study more psychology because it fascinates me to observe people and try to figure out how they work.  I suppose for me it's always one of those "If I ever get a round to it" things.  Maybe one day when life isn't so hectic (if you could hear my tone of voice at this point in time, you'd be laughing with me, not at me) I'll look into it more.  For now, I'll just content myself with voicing my own musings and my own findings.

Many Christians, especially my Mormon friends, often repeat the phrase "Love the sinner, hate the sin."  And one time I saw one of those trending Facebook text-pictures that said "If you can love the sinner and hate the sin, then I can love the believer and hate the belief."  At least that statement is logically valid.  But, one thing I've noticed is that it's not quite as easy as we sometimes like to think that it is.  I have found myself on many occasions not being able to separate my fee…

Wiki it

So, the term "wiki" comes from the Hawaiian word "wiki wiki", which means "speedy".  It was originally used because the wiki style of creating web pages is very quick.  In fact, anyone who can type can make a wiki page.  No computer programming or markup language of any kind is necessary at all.

Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger took this idea of a wiki and decided to make an encyclopedia out of it.  It is known as Wikipedia.  Wikipedia was launched in January of 2001.  The English version currently has over 4 million different pages.  There are over 280 different languages which also have content in Wikipedia.  This project has grown to several other projects under the umbrella of the Wikimedia Foundation.  It has rapidly become a vast source of knowledge and data.  Overall, there have been over 1 billion edits to Wikimedia pages (including all projects).

The reason I'm writing about it is because I have had countless people tell me that Wikipedia is not…

Holding on too tight

I have subscribed to numerous email lists over the years.  Every single one of them has at the bottom of each email an unsubscribe link.  Sometimes I sign up for an email list unknowingly and other times I simply decided that I wasn't interested after all.  So, I click the link at the bottom.  More often than not, that's the end of it.  Sometimes, it sends you to a page where you type in your email address or hit a "confirm" button to make sure you really do want to unsubscribe.  Every once in a while they'll ask you to give the reason why you want to unsubscribe.  But that's about as difficult as it ever gets.

Just a few months ago, I switched my internet service from AT&T to Comcast (and multiplied my download speeds by about 20 or so).  It was not difficult to discontinue my service with AT&T.  I did have a one-year contract with them, so they did charge me for the month and a half or so that I had remaining, but at least they gave a slight discoun…

The Great and Abominable Fallacy

In nearly every (rational/at least remotely rational) conversation I have had with a Mormon (and a handful of people from other religions as well, but most of the conversations are with Mormons) about religion, I have heard the arguments "But Mormons are nice people" and "The church makes me better than I would otherwise be".  This is not a rebuttal.  It is not a counter-argument.
It may well be the case that every Mormon, every Christian, every religious person on the planet is a good person.  It's not the case, but assume that it is.  It is not logical to say that the religion practiced by a person is true because the person practicing it is "good".  There is no logical cohesion to that argument.  It is not sound.  A person may be a good, contributing member of society and also believe that we have never landed on the moon.  This is a false belief, and sufficient evidence has been presented to contradict anyone who believes it.  People have the choi…