Things That I do not Understand 20091124

As a professional scientist, I am accustomed to observing some phenomenon that is interesting to me, wondering about its significance, looking at background data (if any exist, and yes, “data” is the plural form of “datum”), and then trying to figure out the principles behind.

That works well, for the most part, in systems that can be controlled and only one variable at a time changed.  That is the essence of the scientific method as it generally practiced.  I dispensed with the classical steps, which are observation, formulation of a hypothesis, experimentally testing the hypothesis, refining or rejecting the hypothesis, and then doing more and better experimental tests to test the hypothesis further.  If one is very lucky, the refined hypothesis becomes a theory, and if no exception after crushing peer review, becomes a principle or a law.

Well, there are some questions that do not stand up to that treatment, since they are not science in the classical sense.  I will not refer to organized religion at all in this essay, because whislt not mutually exclusive, science is based on observation and experiment, whilst religion is based on faith.  I shall also make no value judgment on any organized religion in this post.

I will say this, however.  There are many similarities betwixt religion, superstition, mythology, and self deception.  The most obvious similarity is that there is no formal analysis in an experimental fashion.  For one brief example, Aristotle posited that the sun was the center of the Universe and everything else revolved around it.  Even casual observations showed that this was not true, but it was adopted, and became the canon of the Catholic Church for eons.  It is interesting to me that the Church would adopt the dicta of a pagan, but that is one of those questions for which I have no answer.

Well, on to my questions.

First, if gold is such a good deal right now, why do the firms that sell it hawk it so hard on the right wing radio talk shows and the Fox “News” Network?  If I thought that it were such a good investment, and that the dollar was not (always implied and most often expressed in the adverts), then I would hold on to the gold.  Yet the firms that hawk it seem very ready to sell it.  Something is wrong in their logic if they currently hold something worth more than dollars, but yet want to trade it for dollars.  Please help me here.

Second, why are the conservative commentators so whiny?  I am serious, they are the most whiny folks that I have ever heard.  They are, at least on air, on the blogs, and the cable TeeVee so positive that they are correct, that they very certain that they are correct.  As any of you who read my regular Pique the Geek series here on Sunday evenings, I often find myself in disagreement with folks who have either better or worse information than have I, a different point of view, or occasionally just someone trying to be disruptive.  Unless I can show with facts that such a commentator is intentionally being misleading and disruptive, I will engage that person for a long time, and usually we come to common ground.  By the way, I have quit the HR thing for those who disagree with me unless they are abusing others unfairly.  But the big radio folks rejoice in belittling those who disagree with them, essentially demonizing those who hold other views.  What gives?

Third, why is it a story only of Fox “News” and affiliated of Limbaugh that the “scoop” about the “crooked scientists” concerned with climate change?  The usual suspects were all over it the last couple of days, whilst the “state regulated” media were not.  Could it be a wee bit of sensationalism?  Fodder for the ignorant, I suspect, but any illumination would be appreciated.

Forth, and this is related the the first point, why to the ultra right folks hate America?  Those adverts swear that the dollar is fading, and one even used words that say, to use a very close paraphrase, “… gold will still be money when the US dollar is a footnote in history.”  That is very patriotic.  I have heard these adverts only on the most right wing, pro America sources, but they clearly state that the US dollar, and, by association, the US, is fated to be a footnote in history.  Why do the right folks hate America?

Fifth, and this will be the last, why do these people have such a large following?  I monitor them because I want to know what they are telling folks, and it takes me a good dose of Ed, Tweety, Rachael, and especially KO to come back to my senses.  However, I believe it is important to examine all sides of many issues.  I posit that I am the “fair and balanced” one here.  Am I, or am I deceiving myself?

One tiny criticism of KO:  as much as I dislike Lou Dobbs, the voice characterizations are not accurate nor even funny.  Dobbs is not a dottery old man, but rather a very misguided and ambitious one.  With greatest respect to KO, the voice characterizations do not help him make, but rather detract from his making, the point that is quite correct.  Just an observation from a staunch KO supporter.

Well, here are five things that confuse me.  Any illumination that readers can provide are more than welcome.  By the way, my essays are more designed to elicit comments than to impart views, except for the very long ones that are more technical, so the comments are the most valuable part.  I have praised with faint damnation one of my heroes, but I hope that KO, if he even bothers to read this, will take the observation as intended:  to assist him with his important work.

Warmest regards,


Crossposted at


  1. without good answers?

    Warmest regards,


    • Inky99 on November 26, 2009 at 8:09 am

    is that you are watching WAY too much right-wing media.

    So you might want to ask yourself:  why?

Comments have been disabled.