The failure of empiricism

Ironically, even as the atheistic cult of science fetishism vehemently insists that only science is capable of determining truth and now even morality, genuine scientists are gradually coming to realize that the scientific method is not only incapable of being the sole arbiter of truth, it isn’t even capable of dependably producing consistent scientific evidence when it is properly utilized:

The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws. But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. In the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only antipsychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants: Davis has a forthcoming analysis demonstrating that the efficacy of antidepressants has gone down as much as threefold in recent decades.

For many scientists, the effect is especially troubling because of what it exposes about the scientific process. If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved? Which results should we believe? Francis Bacon, the early-modern philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method, once declared that experiments were essential, because they allowed us to “put nature to the question.” But it appears that nature often gives us different answers….

The disturbing implication of the Crabbe study is that a lot of extraordinary scientific data are nothing but noise.

Murray Rothbard was an agnostic who repeatedly made the conclusive logical case against empiricism. It applied not only to economics and the Samuelsonian empiricism that presently serves as the basis for modern mainstream economics, but the basic concept of empiricism in general. Yet despite the decades-old Rothbardian case, the science cult continues to ignorantly insist that the only reason anyone could ever possibly doubt empiricism is religious dogmatism, thereby proving Rothbard’s point. Between scientific fraud, the decline effect, publication bias, selective reporting, and the long, verifiable history of disproven scientific assertions, it is astonishing that anyone would still attempt to argue that science is a reliable arbiter of anything outside a very narrow range of applied hard disciplines, let alone the only one that merits use.

And some still doubt that God has a sense of humor.

The WSJ discovers a banking problem

It’s only three years into the crisis. They’re clearly on the cutting edge of business journalism with their groundbreaking news of a growing number of failing banks. At this rate, they’ll discover the Great Depression 2.0 towards the end of 2013:

Nearly 100 U.S. banks that got bailout funds from the federal government show signs they are in jeopardy of failing. The total, based on an analysis of third-quarter financial results by The Wall Street Journal, is up from 86 in the second quarter, reflecting eroding capital levels, a pileup of bad loans and warnings from regulators. The 98 banks in shaky condition got more than $4.2 billion in infusions from the Treasury Department under the Troubled Asset Relief Program….

Seven TARP recipients have already failed, resulting in more than $2.7 billion in lost TARP funds. Most of the troubled TARP recipients are small, plagued by wayward lending programs from which they might not recover. The median size of the 98 banks was $439 million in assets as of Sept. 30.

This little table shows the real problem at hand. It’s from the spreadsheet of bank failures that I’ve maintained for the last two years and shows the number of failed banks along with the number of problem banks with a high risk of failure published by Calculated Risk. These “problem banks” are an unofficial tally, but the list tends to precede the official FDIC list of problem banks with a fair degree of accuracy.

2007: 76 problem banks, 0 failed banks
2008: 252 problem banks, 25 failed banks (33%)
2009: 545 problem banks, 140 failed banks (56%)
2010: 919 problem banks, 157 failed banks (29%)

This is why I expected more than 200 failed banks in 2010. I didn’t expect a seizure rate of 56%, but I did assume it would be over 40% given the continuously rising number of problem banks. However, the percentage of problem banks that were seized by the FDIC fell from 56% to only 29% this year. However, the number of problem banks continued to rise, so even if the percentage of problem banks seized by the FDIC remains around 30% in 2011, that would indicate 276 bank failures in 2011. And at the 2010 average of 262 million in bad assets per bank failure, there would be $72.3 billion in bad bank assets going up in smoke and $130 billion+ in deposits, nearly 2% of total deposits, put in jeopardy.

In other words, don’t trust the recovery crowd. Temporarily papering over a problem is not the same thing as fixing it.

The best they’ve got

In case you’re still not convinced of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of atheism, consider this list of what atheists believe to be “the big guns” of the best atheist quotes.

Needless to say, I was deeply unimpressed. It was amusing to see that the thread’s creator actually cited the illogical and theologically ignorant “One Less God” quote from Stephen Roberts that Ricky Gervais plagiarized in his recent article: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Three errors in just three sentences.

1. No, we are not both atheists.
2. No, you are confusing God with gods. If you simply take the First Commandment into account, you will know that this is incorrect. Few atheists understand that monotheism concerns the worship of one supreme Creator God, not belief in the existence of only one supernatural being that demands worship.
3. Unless an atheist dismisses the Christian God because they believe Him to be an evil supernatural being falsely posing as a deity worthy of worship, he is not doing so for the same reason that Christians dismiss the pagan gods.

There are the expected appearances of Dawkins and Harris, Galileo’s fictional quote, and the concocted quote that David Hume falsely attributed to Epicurus. It is so eminently fitting that atheists should rely upon fake quotes to argue in support of their supposed dedication to reality.

But let us be fair. Whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, select whichever quote you consider to be either the least nonsensical or most effective in support of the atheist case. Mine is the following, which is absolutely true:

“A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietsche is correct in that faith doesn’t prove anything. The problem, of course, is that it isn’t supposed to, by literal definition. Paul writes in Hebrews: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. The very fact that we have faith, is evidence that what we hope for is real.”

Of course, the common atheist confusion concerning the matter notwithstanding, “evidence” should not be mistaken for “proof”. Again, this should be completely obvious, as it is why linguistic concepts such as “competing evidence” and “weighing the evidence” are utilized.

WND column

Brave New Year

There are times when nothing very interesting seems to happen, when the years fly by like one of the uneventful periods in the history book that connect one war to another. Of course, as Americans learned on Sept. 11, 2001, it is those uneventful and uninteresting periods of history that provide a superior quality of life for those actually living through them. It may be tedious for future historians to read of people living peacefully for year after year in prosperity, but no sane individual would prefer the excitement of famine, chaos and war to comfortable boredom.

On the modern Ivy League education

In which Tom provides an eloquent summary of the present state of the elite American university education:

“Cicero’s The Republic and The Laws”? I admit I’m an Ivy leaguer, but I thought Plato wrote those?

If you, like me, are familiar with a sufficiently large number of Ivy Leaguers, this response no doubt strikes you as a highly unlikely one. One is forced to conclude that Tom is only pretending to possess a degree from an Ivy League university, not because he doesn’t know the works of Cicero, but because he isn’t anywhere nearly pretentious enough about the chance to correct someone else he assumes is insufficiently familiar with Plato. Any genuine Ivy Leaguer would surely have phrased his response thusly:

The Republic and The Laws? Um, Plato, anyone?”

Ivy Leaguers are, almost to a man, moderately intelligent but uneducated individuals who nevertheless believe they are very well-educated and extraordinarily intelligent. MPAI applies to them with an ironic vengeance. They tend to be heavily inclined towards intellectual bluffing, presumably based upon the magical properties of their sheepskins, which is why you should always call them on their assertions and ask pointed questions on any occasion when you are not already certain that they are demonstrably incorrect.

For example, Tom is partly right. Plato did indeed write both The Republic and The Laws. The dialogues have been famous for centuries and anyone with a halfway-decent university degree will have heard of them, or at least The Republic. (On the other hand, very few of the degreed folk who are prone to happily citing the question “Who will watch the watchers?” at the drop of a hat has actually read either dialogue.) And even fewer happen to know that Cicero, who was a learned admirer of Ancient Greece, (albeit not to the extent of his great friend Atticus), also wrote a number of dialogues, among them De Re Publica and De Legibus.

While the more proper translation of these two dialogues would be “On the Republic” and “On the Laws”, they are more commonly known as “The Republic” and “The Laws”, which, as it happens, is exactly how the new Oxford translation to which I was referring has them.

VPFL Championship Game

It’s the Swamp Spartans vs the regular season champion Sidhe. The winner claims the championship and a place in the league next year. The first round games:

70 MS Swamp Spartans
68 Valders Quixotes

61 Bane Sidhe
52 Greenfield Grizzlies

Post-university education

This is a rather interesting historical insight courtesy of an Instapundit reader:

We are somewhat poorly served by applying the term “education” to what is now much more properly referenced as “schooling.” Those two used to overlap almost completely, and some the the greatest damage wrought by easy funding with other people’s money is that from pre-K to Ph.D. schools these days offer bloody little real education apart from the sciences and engineering. Things are likely to change.

Eight hundred years ago education was controlled by the church. Groups of independent scholars, using Latin as a common language, began to congregate apart from the church to pursue a true education. By mid-12th century this grew into the university movement — Hic et ubique terrarum (here and anyplace on earth) as they said in Paris in 1163. It took a century or so, but by AD 1400 the church no longer controlled education.

In our time education is controlled by the universities and their lower level minions. Once again groups of independent scholars, using English as a common language have begun to congregate apart from the universities — internet, home-schoolers, independent researchers, and many others — to pursue a true education. The pattern is repeating, for the very same reasons. Hic et ubique terrarum indeed.

A friend of mine who is a well-regarded university professor took a look at a few of the Voxiversity quizzes not long after we had finished the study of Thucydides. He remarked that the quiz was harder and more comprehensive than any test that would be given at his university. I think one can quite reasonably argue that it is now not only possible, but probable, that one can get a better education outside the elite university system in four years than one can inside it. One can’t obtain marketable credentials, of course, but then, the whole point of the email was to distinguish between schooling credentials and a genuine education. And, of course, the ironic thing is that the university’s usual defense of the humanities depends upon the importance of education rather than credentials.

Speaking of my own ongoing education, I was delighted to receive some Christmas gifts that may or may not make an appearance in a future Voxiversity, including the complete Plutarch’s Lives, Cicero’s The Republic and The Laws, and best of all, The Landmark Arrian. I can also attest that Tim Layden’s book about tactical NFL inventions from Pop Warner’s Single-Wing to Jim Johnson’s Double-A Gap Blitz, Blood, Sweat and Chalk is a light and easy read, but it is as interesting as Peter King claimed it to be.

Merry Christmas, one and all

I wish you all a Merry Christmas today.  To the believers, that you may know joy and hope in the fullness of your faith.  To the unbelievers, that God will help your unbelief and one day grant you that which you truly seek, whatever that may be.  Regardless of whether you are a believer or not, I encourage you to set aside a few minutes amidst the happy chaos of the celebration today to reflect upon what we are celebrating today. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)  Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
– John 1:1-17

I’m working on it

This is courtesy of an award-winning graphic artist with whom I have been collaborating on the map and interior art for the sequel to Summa Elvetica.  It’s not the cover, just an image that he was inspired to create as a reminder that there is a second book on the horizons for the fans of Selenoth.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a very productive year on the writing front; I ended up being very busy with some other projects that required priority and kept me too occupied to get very much done in either fiction or non-fiction terms.  Also, I’ve thrown out the planned structure at least three times now, so I wasn’t ever able to really get rolling.

But, I’ve put myself on a strict writing schedule now, so I’m determined to finish the book in 2011.  I can’t promise that it will actually be published then, since that’s somewhat outside my control, but it will be completed.  Marcus is at an important nexus and is facing a difficult decision; having turned away from the presumably brilliant clerical career that everyone was expecting of him, he now has to decide what he is going to do with his life.  As a scion of a wealthy patrician family, the world is literally at his feet, but how does he reconcile his ambitions to make a meaningful mark in life with his scholarly pursuits in an empire that stands upon the twin pillars of its unshakeable faith and its unbreakable legions?

Note: “Summa Elvetica II” is not the title.  It’s merely for reference.