Author Archive: Dan Klarmann

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

rss feed

Author's Website

How are Humans Better?

May 8, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
How are Humans Better?

A new comment thread on an old post discusses the precept that humans are somehow “better” than all other creatures. Sure, as a member of our team, I’d like to think that we are Number One. We’ve even written books attributed to deities that prove that we are the reason for creation, that the octillions of stars in the universe were all put there just for our amusement. Therefore, the book and its believers maintain, we must be the best thing ever. But as an educated human raised by scientists to find first sources and question suppositions, I wonder: “How are we better?”

I have posted before on some of the ways in which our Creator (to use that paradigm) has short changed us. Name any characteristic of which we are proud, and it is easy to find another creature that exceeds our ability. I can only think of one exception: Communicating in persistent symbols.

Unlike cetaceans, birds, fellow primates, and others who communicate fairly precisely with sounds, gestures, or chemical signals, we can detach communication from ourselves and transport or even delay it via layers of uncomprehending media (paper, wires, illiterate couriers, etc). We can create physical objects that abstract ideas from one individual and allow the idea to be absorbed by another individual at a later time. It also allows widely separated groups to share a single culture, at least in part.

This learned behavior is based on our apparently unique ability to abstract in multiple layers and to abstract to a time well beyond the immediate future. We can take an idea to a series of sounds to a series of static symbols, and back again. Our relatively modern ability to reason abstractly (math, science) evolved from our ability to abstract communications. Even Einstein couldn’t hold the proof of E=MC2 in his head.

But is this unique ability really sufficient to declare ourselves overall inherently “better”?

Share

Read More

Why You Can’t Fail a Bible Quiz

May 1, 2010 | By | 11 Replies More
Why You Can’t Fail a Bible Quiz

Here is a humorous/snarky look at some of the continuity problems inherent in an absolutely infallable text:

It even gives the chapter and verse so we can confirm the true and inerrant details of this quiz

Share

Read More

Another Musing on Our Evolving Ability to Perceive

April 27, 2010 | By | Reply More
Another Musing on Our Evolving Ability to Perceive

I have occasionally ruminated our improved ability to see and understand the universe around us. On this blog, it usually is in terms of comparing the Young Earth view with what we’ve learned in the last few hundred years. Posts such as The Universe is not Specified to Human Scale and My limited vision make the point.

But I’ve started another blog that focuses less on politics and culture, yet found that one of my first posts again addresses the issue of how we’ve improved our vision of the world around us in the last few dozen generations. Please peruse The Object At Hand: Light Lens a Hand, to Help us Understand and see if I am off the beam.

Share

Read More

Tea Party: A House Divided

April 25, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More
Tea Party: A House Divided

Yes, friends, the Tea Party is split down the middle. On one side, Ron Paul and his anti-government clique. On the other, Sarah Palin and her theocracy coven.

What of the Christian Nation side? Here’s an analysis:

Share

Read More

Ross Perot, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin?

April 22, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More
Ross Perot, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin?

I’m perforce following the antics of the Tea Party movement. This organization couldn’t have snowballed without the Web 2.0 social networking system to enable it. Perot didn’t have any access to such power in 1992. Ron Paul tried, but it hadn’t yet reached critical mass.

This is probably the answer to a question I recently posted as a response on (facepalm) FaceBook:

Where was that Tea Party 7 years ago, after the president declared “Mission Accomplished” in that elective war? That excursion from reality was a significant factor in converting the budget surplus he inherited into record debt. As was his creation of the largest government bureaucracy ever (Homeland Security) nominally to do what other agencies were already supposed to be doing. Then his decision to roll back those pesky banking regulations established in the 1930’s to prevent lenders from packaging bad debts as good bets, sure has worked out well.

But now there is a coordinated effort to undermine the legacy political process by uniting people of disparate intentions under a single banner. Anarchists, Libertarians, Christian-nationists, assault-rifles-for-the-kids, and anti-taxers now gather together in front of cameras from every corner of the nation. Who is the current figurehead of the movement? Sarah Palin.

Not that Ron Paul is yet out of the running. But certain faith-based reports count him out of Tea Party support.

Maybe I’m just confused, but I’d really like to see an actual Tea Party party in the next big election. This would be a true referendum on how much support they have.

But as near as I can tell from my casual reading, the Tea Party goal is not to take responsibility, but rather to sink candidates from the other parties who disagree with their very particular simple positions on complex issues.

Share

Read More

Copyright Bite

March 10, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More
Copyright Bite

I received a warning when I logged into my YouTube account recently. I had openly and with attribution used a couple of popular tunes in some of my videos. Those have been flagged as violations of copyrights, my account to be reviewed, and the videos may be pulled, or my account suspended. Meanwhile, those videos sport pop-up ads to buy the tunes.

The two offending videos use tunes that had their heydays in the 1930’s and 1970’s. Even the children of the original creator and performer of the older tune are all dead. Is it right that some corporation is making a fuss over my sharing this with a few friends? There have been less than 75 views in the year since it’s been posted.

I see no reason to fight this. I’d be quite content to have ads pop up for the tunes I use. I even wish there were a mechanism in place to request ads to pay for use of related content. It’s not so much that I like ads, but that I respect content creators. But I don’t respect any right in perpetuity for corporations to hold creative rights once a creator and his direct heirs are out of the picture. Like McCartney having to pay the estate of Michael Jackson to use his own songs.

Share

Read More

On the Value of Information Technology

March 8, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More
On the Value of Information Technology

I’m not writing about gadgets here, but about the information that makes the gadgets useful: Software. This video is nominally about web design consulting. But I’ve lived these situations back before the web, as well as with web clients.

One problem is that the buyer of information has no idea what it’s worth until he has it. And once he has it, why should he pay someone for it? Therefore, it isn’t valuable. This dovetails neatly into other copyright issues, but I’m not going there.

I have a few websites, most of which are loaded with free information that I painstakingly collected and developed. The sites are also built from scratch, mostly with a simple text editor. Some people see value in this; I receive donations. Some years as much as the low three figures.

People used to ask me if HTML was easy. I’d say, “Yes, you just need to remember how a few hundred easy commands interact.” Most developers don’t bother to make sure their site even meets official web standards (as published and tested for free by W3C.org). Even WordPress, the engine on which this site is built, shows errors in the validator. Google? Thousands of errors on every page.

I’ve had clients who understand what I do, and were happy to pay. Unfortunately, usually their superiors had to be cajoled. Eventually, these situations melt down and leave me out of work.

The “Just a small change” problem comes up often. After I’ve been reporting and demonstrating every step of the way, and finally a web site is finished, then do they bother to look and notice that it isn’t what they need. They make “little” requests comparable to having a builder simply move a bathroom from the first floor to the second as the keys to a house are handed over.

This video made me cringe.

Share

Read More

Climate: OJ and the Haystack

February 27, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More
Climate: OJ and the Haystack

Why Climate Change Denial Is Like the O.J. Trial is an interesting article. The essence is that the climate denialists are using the same techniques as the OJ defense team: Find anything resembling a needle in a vast haystack of data, then claim that the presence of the needle casts doubt on the character of the haystack itself.

Because there is an overwhelming pile of evidence in support of anthropogenic global warming, there are bound to be occasional pieces of data that can appear to contradict the mass of affirmative information. The pile is overwhelming, especially to non-scientists. Therefore few have the patience to understand the whole thing.

Those who want to spin the counter argument claim that, because the two sides are both represented, therefore the issue is in doubt. And, as in the OJ trial, if there is cause for doubt, then no action is to be taken.

Share

Read More

How Good Need Medical Evidence Be to Prevent Quackery?

February 18, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More
How Good Need Medical Evidence Be to Prevent Quackery?

Here is an interesting observation posted in a medical journal. It concludes:

Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticized the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.

So, do we really know if parachutes are better than a placebo for surviving skydiving? Alt-Med advocates are all over this one.

Share

Read More