"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, February 09, 2019

Links - 9th February 2019

Stop Using Google Trends – Danny Page - "Note how the Washington Post also said: “Plenty of Americans” — What does ‘plenty’ mean here? Remember, Trends is relative. And we can see this with the most recent Google Trends Freaking Outrage (GTFO): The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it
They note that searches about the EU tripled. But how many people is that? Are they voters? Are they eligible to vote? Were they Leave or Remain? Trends doesn’t tell us, all it does is give us a nice graph with a huge peak. More likely, it’s a very small number of people, based on this graph that puts it in context with other searches in the region... it’s giving plenty of people cover to insult the entire country, when it’s likely just a few people searching for something in a way that they always search for something. It makes “The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it” absurdly disingenuous without better numbers. Update: Remy Smith points out this out: The peak was merely ~1000 people! It’s ludicrous that so few people get turned into a massive story, but it underscores the need for context. I’m disappointed that this is how data is being used, and really drives home the need for people to understand the data before they use it incorrectly. Google Trends is an interesting tool, but please do a bit more research before using it. Beware, you can look quite foolish by solely depending on it"

How Donald Trump appeals to men secretly insecure about their manhood - The Washington Post - "Measuring fragile masculinity poses a challenge. We could not simply do a poll of men, who might not honestly answer questions about their deepest insecurities. Instead we relied on Google Trends, which measures the popularity of Google search terms"

Is Google Trends a reliable tool for digital epidemiology? Insights from different clinical settings - "Internet-derived information has been recently recognized as a valuable tool for epidemiological investigation. Google Trends, a Google Inc. portal, generates data on geographical and temporal patterns according to specified keywords. The aim of this study was to compare the reliability of Google Trends in different clinical settings, for both common diseases with lower media coverage, and for less common diseases attracting major media coverage. We carried out a search in Google Trends using the keywords “renal colic”, “epistaxis”, and “mushroom poisoning”, selected on the basis of available and reliable epidemiological data. Besides this search, we carried out a second search for three clinical conditions (i.e., “meningitis”, “Legionella Pneumophila pneumonia”, and “Ebola fever”), which recently received major focus by the Italian media. In our analysis, no correlation was found between data captured from Google Trends and epidemiology of renal colics, epistaxis and mushroom poisoning. Only when searching for the term “mushroom” alone the Google Trends search generated a seasonal pattern which almost overlaps with the epidemiological profile, but this was probably mostly due to searches for harvesting and cooking rather than to for poisoning. The Google Trends data also failed to reflect the geographical and temporary patterns of disease for meningitis, Legionella Pneumophila pneumonia and Ebola fever.The results of our study confirm that Google Trends has modest reliability for defining the epidemiology of relatively common diseases with minor media coverage, or relatively rare diseases with higher audience. Overall, Google Trends seems to be more influenced by the media clamor than by true epidemiological burden."

ATC Memes - Posts - "Southwest gate agent mocks 5-year-old girl's name online. Abcde Redford's mother says the agent made fun of the girl"
Comments: "Her brother DAFUQ was equally upset."
"Mother: "why are you picking on my child?"
Everyone else: You have done that yourself"
"Mom: So honey, what do you want for your 18th birthday?
Abcde: The forms for a legal name change because I'm tired of spending half my life explaining that you were stoned when I was born."
"I am pissed off about the drama I have created in my child's life."
"“Not everyone is nice and not everyone is going to be nice and it's unfortunate.” Fact. As evidenced by your own mother naming you Abcde."

FACT CHECK: Did Sgt. Al Powell Stop a Terrorist Attack at Nakatomi Plaza? - "This isn’t the first time that a piece of pop culture has been repurposed as jape to spread misinformation on the internet"
Snopes is a joke - they're "fact checking" memes

Symbolic laws | Prospect Magazine - "Many people feel uneasy about the idea of symbolic legislation—and clearly there are potential problems, especially if it leads to political interference into how zealously or otherwise laws are applied. But symbolism is an intrinsic part of the law and one could argue that all legislation is at least partly symbolic. Legislation that is mostly symbolic prompts us to re-examine the law as a trigger for, and shaper of, political debate and a creator of constituencies. Symbolic legislation, one could argue, contributes positively to the making of political society.Some argue that symbolic legislation fails because in most cases it cannot achieve its own objectives—either because legislation is the wrong instrument for the job or because the legislation does not reassure as it is supposed to. But legislating often has multiple aims, and while the stated or perceived primary aims of a law may not always be fully achieved, the legislation may have important secondary impacts. The controversial Brady (gun) law in the US, introduced in 1993, is a good example of this. Because the law was perceived by some people as the long-awaited gun regulation that would lead directly to a drop in gun-related crimes, its detractors were able to portray it as a failure: it was easily circumvented and statistics showed that whatever caused the drop in gun crime, it was not attributable to Brady. Not so, its framers replied: Brady was not intended as comprehensive legislation, but merely to prevent prohibited purchasers from buying guns in retail outlets. Moreover, Brady was also intended to show gun control advocates that they could break the stranglehold that the National Rifle Association had on congress. Symbolic legislation such as Brady can break a deadlock and pave the way for increasingly effective legislation.Other symbolic bills are useful because they deal with what the American legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin has referred to as “checkerboard statutes”—statutes elaborated for specific constituencies resulting in inconsistent treatment across groups. The religious hatred bill redresses such a situation by affording Muslims a protection that is already enjoyed by Sikhs and Jews through race legislation... Partly because policing and enforcement elude us in increasingly borderless situations, the trend, and not just in law, is away from sanction and punishment towards changing attitudes and modifying behaviour. Governments are warming to the notion that it is in part through moral persuasion and debate created by legislation that attitudes and behaviour will change."

Do social psychologists have an ideological aversion to evolutionary psychology? - "A new survey of beliefs held by social psychologists (335 mostly US-based members of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology) has confirmed previous reports that the field is overwhelmingly populated by researchers of a left-wing, liberal bent. What’s more, David Buss and William von Hippel – the evolutionary psychologists who conducted and analysed the survey – say their findings, published open-access in Archives of Scientific Psychology, suggest that some social psychologists may be opposed, for ideological reasons, to insights rooted in evolutionary psychology. Buss and von Hippel add that compounding matters is an irony – the desire of some researchers to signal their ideological stance and commitment to others who share their political views, which is a manifestation of the evolved human adaptation to form coalitions. “Part of this virtue signalling entails rejecting a caricature of evolutionary psychology that no scientist actually holds”... As a case in point, Buss and von Hippel highlight the recent book Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds by psychologist Cordelia Fine – a text that argues against biological differences between the sexes (and in favour of sociological explanations) and which won wide praise from journalists and left-leaning scientists around the globe, while at the same time receiving scathing criticism from evolutionary biologists and psychologists with relevant expertise in evolutionary science... Critically, Buss and von Hippel make the point that recognising our evolved psychological adaptations and predilections will actually lead to more effective efforts toward social justice (on the other hand, denying the biological roots of human nature will surely blind researchers from understanding some of the important factors at play in the social injustices that they seek to address)... “Not a single degree-granting institution in the United States, to our knowledge, requires even a single course in evolutionary biology as part of a degree in psychology,” they write, adding that this is “an astonishing educational gap that disconnects psychology from the rest of the life sciences.”... In the UK, undergrad psychology degrees must follow the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education’s benchmark statement for psychology, which lists evolutionary psychology as an example topic within the compulsory subject area of Biological Psychology"

Ideology trumps science once again: Daphna Joel and Cordelia Fine deny the notion of “male vs. female brains” « Why Evolution Is True - "what are Joel and Fine talking about?It turns out that their article is slippery in two ways. First, it conflates average differences between the sexes in behavior, emotions, and mentation with whether an individual can be diagnosed as male or female. So while Joel and Fine admit (grudgingly) that there are differences between men and women in both brain structure and behavior, they harp relentlessly on whether a single person can, from inspecting that individual’s behaviors and brain, be put neatly into the “male” or “female” class. Actually (see below), we’re already close to that.But that’s a bogus problem, for the general claim about male/female differences rests on averages, not whether an individual can be diagnosed with 100% accuracy... We all know that there are average height differences between men and women, with men being about 7-9% taller than women in nearly every country in the world, yet you can’t tell from the height of a single individual whether it was male or female. I’m a short male (5 feet 8 inches), and there are plenty of women taller than I. I could claim, as do Joel and Fine, that “the notion of fundamentally female and male heights is a misconception,” and I’d be right. But that would be missing the real difference, which is hugely significant and, of course, raises scientific questions... By conflating average differences—which could be substantial, and important in explaining, say, male versus female preferences and differences in sexual behavior—with diagnosability of single individuals, they are somehow conveying the message that there aren’t differences between men and women’s brains and behavior. They are blank slate-ists, and they know what they’re doing. But they’re doing it for the wrong reasons: their motivation seems to be that the admission of some differences between men and women’s brains and behaviors will somehow justify sexism. This becomes clear at the end when they describe their social program... Joel and Fine’s tendentious piece reminds me of those people who deny genetic differences between ethnic groups because there are not single diagnostic differences that can tell you your ancestry. But their are small differences among many genes, and taking them all together you can discern someone’s genetic background with remarkable accuracy... multivariate analyses are actually quite good at discriminating male and female brains into two groups. (I can’t find a reply by Joel et al. to these critiques, but one may exist.) Joel and Fine do not mention these credible criticisms of their paper; they just pretend that their statement stands clear and unrefuted. I find that a sleazy way to behave, and had I vetted the editorial for the NYT, I would have insisted that Joel and Fine at least point it out."
On 'Can We Finally Stop Talking About 'Male' and 'Female' Brains?'

Open borders, wages, and economists - "Clemens and Kennan generally concede the possibility of some small depressive effect but argues that it would be temporary and/or could be compensated for at a policy level by suitable taxes and transfers. This is a radically different story from that told by, for example, Ha-Joon Chang, in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism . Chang’s third “thing”, “Most people in rich countries are paid more than they should be” contains a parable of two bus drivers, Ram in India and Sven in Sweden. They do similar jobs, but if anything Ram’s requires more skill as he “has to negotiate his way almost every minute of his driving though bullock carts, rickshaws and bicyles stacked three metres high with crates.”(25) Yet Sven is paid 50 times more than Ram is (and it would be easy to find examples where the pay divergence is much larger, perhaps as much as 1000 times between unskilled labourers in poor and wealthy countries). Chang things it implausible that Sven embodies more human capital than Ram does as a result of education and training, since most of his Swedish education is irrelevant to what he does on the job. So if Chang is right, an open border policy would have a massive depressive effect on the earnings of non-migrant workers in wealthy countries since other people would be happy to take unskilled or low-skilled jobs for much less than the current wage (but more than they could get at home)."
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