0808: "The Economic Argument"

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby suso » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:53 pm UTC

Another XKCD <-> SMBC crossover perhaps? Not as strong as the last one, but both talk about GPS today when normally they don't.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:54 pm UTC

Tomtomtom wrote:this comic shames xkcd. it defies the fundamentals of science, also contains glaring logical flaws.

....

A good example of something that is NOT a theory would be the "theory of relativity". Goedel found a proof that the theory of relativity is only applicable to universes where no time exists, making it pointless. Einstein knew this proof and was very agitated by it, as he was unable to find a flaw in the proof and held Goedel's work in high regard. The theory is also based on the assumption that the speed of light is constant, which was already proven to be wrong decades after Einstein's death. Finally I have read that the theory of relativity and that of quantum mechanics are mutually exclusive. None of these factoids help me believe in a "theory of relativity". So instead it should be called "model of relativity" until someone finds a flaw in Goedel's counter proof and the other problems with the "theory".
Relativity: false (as a theory, useful as a model)

I personally disregard most esoteric claims but I have no love for people like the author of this comic who hate scientific progress. Many many things which have been proven by science and which we use every day were discovered by people who were willing to disregard the canon of accepted knowledge of their time and try to come up with or prove something new. Ridiculing these explorers shows that you are not a scientist at heart and that you are opposed to progress if it goes beyond the things which will predictably be developped from what has already become accepted knowledge.

Shame on you, comic author!


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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:57 pm UTC

Inkstain wrote:
woodrobin wrote: When was the last time you ran into a doctor, hospital or insurance company that was interested in cost reduction through treatment? Any treatment, scientific or otherwise?


The last time I talked to a hospital executive, actually.

I had an interview with the CEO of a local hospital about the future of the health-care industry. He argued passionately that the industry couldn't survive without controlling costs through shifting to an outcome-based paradigm to reduce costs and increase incentive to use treatments that work cost-effectively.

Some people here seem to be conflating the desire to maximize profits with artificially increasing expenses. I'm not sure what economic model that falls under.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby teddy4 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:58 pm UTC

Crazy Phenomena: women earn 72 cents on the dollar for the same work
If so, companys would make a killing: Hiring only women to get the same work for a huge payroll savings.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby teqmc2 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:00 pm UTC

Ok, to begin with, tradition outweighs ruthless profit seeking FAR to often in the corporate world. There is a principle called "cradle to cradle" economics, which was invented by a team that included several economists, an architect and a chemist. Every company that has switched to this model has had significant profit increases, in some cases amounting to a doubling of profit. Now, the entry cost is expensive, but no company has failed to earn back that entry cost in more than five years. And yet, a very low percent of companies in the world have made this switch. Look it up: you can google "cradle to cradle" or you can find the book. So no, corporate use is not a good judge of effectiveness.

As for Homeopathy, the reason that it is perceived not to work is because most people do it WRONG. Homeopathy is, in fact, grounded in good biology. The idea is that the body has a minimum reaction to toxins. If a toxin that lowers the heart rate enters the body, the body will raise its heart rate by some minimum increase, or more than that. (simple example, there are more complex applications) The idea of Homeopathy to treat bradicardia (dangerously low hear rate) is to administer a microscopic dose of just such a toxin. The calibration should be enough of the toxin for the body to notice, yet an amount which will have an effect smaller than the minimum response threshold. Thus, the net result is an increase in hear rate. The same can be done to increase immune alertness, to increase or decrease nerve conductivity, to adjust blood pressure or intercrainial pressure. Any disease whose symptoms can be mimicked by a toxin can be treated by Homeopathy.

As for Curses and Hexes, the issue with those is that anyone with sufficient skill to accomplish them will refuse to do so. This is because any time a person casts a curse or hex, there is a side effect on the caster which is greater than the harm to the target. While there is a scientific reason for that, I will not go into it here. Any person who does not know about the side effects probably does not know enough to accomplish an effective curse. Thus, the Army could only have found incompetent practitioners to test, because those who would have succeed refused to participate in the tests.

As for why Magic is not used in Medicine, the answer is that it is. It is just used outside of the mainstream practice. In fact, charts like the one which we are discussing are the reason that these things are not well understood. It takes scientific training in order to do good research. Part of scientific training includes the idea that "these phenomena are not true, thus you are wasting your time in looking at them." since this gets believed by almost everyone who knows how to do science, most of the people who look at these phenomena have not enough training to test them properly. Thus, their studies are done badly, and are laughed at, a self perpetuating cycle. There a few people who have scientific training, and still want to look at magical phenomena, but they can't get funding for their studies, because those who fund studies don't believe in the phenomena either.

So, my exhortation to Randall Munroe is this "Stop inhibiting science, in the name of science!" You are doing a major disservice to a field which desperatly needs more research every time you post a comic like this one.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby edbdqt » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:01 pm UTC

LeiraHoward wrote:I know of several people who can successfully dowse for water 100% of the time. Almost all of them have the same difficulty with keeping battery-operated watches running.


Verifiable names or they don't exist. And video they can't keep their watches running.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:19 pm UTC

sorceror wrote:Let's assume the Earth is only a few thousand years old. Where did the oil come from? Was it created in the ground with the rest of the Earth? If so, is there a way to predict where it might be found? Or perhaps it really did form from plankton (with a few plants and dinosaurs), but about 10,000 times faster than any chemist believes it could in those conditions? Any way you look at it, a young Earth and a Flood would imply some very interesting scientific questions to ask, some interesting (and potentially extremely valuable) research programs to start. How come nobody's actually pursuing such research programs?

Why don't creationists put together an investment fund, where people pay in and the stake is used as venture capital for things like oil and mineral rights? If "Flood geology" is really a better theory, then it should make better predictions about where raw materials are than standard geology does. Why isn't anyone doing this?


10,000 times faster than anyone thinks it could happen? We've known for 25 years that crude can form in less than a decade. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v308/n5955/pdf/308177a0.pdf It doesn't take esoteric conditions, either.

As far as I know, Flood Geology isn't used for oil prospecting because it doesn't make much of a difference. Whether plant life was buried by small floods here and there and sat there for billions of years OR was buried by a large flood and sat there for a few thousand years really isn't going to make a difference in location (though it's admittedly difficult to understand why individual oil reserves are so large if the former is true).

What geological assumptions are usually made in prospecting for oil fields?

//end stubborn rant

As a general rule, I like the comics that are generally bemoaned. But this one is an exception. It's funny, yes, but it's a science fail. The legitimacy of things like crystal energy and therapeutic prayer aren't economically invalidated; they are scientifically invalidated. Likewise, quantum field theory isn't invalidated simply because no one has yet gotten a fusion generator up and running.

Take crystal energy. Wholly bogus from a scientific standpoint, yes. But a (foolish) person who wants to increase his stamina or energy might try to use a crystal to "help" him meditate, resulting in a feeling of greater vitality. We know that he might as well be meditating on a happy meal, but that's not the point; people still make a killing selling energy crystals.

And the alt-text does nothing to redeem it. Making an economic argument for why things are scientifically invalid, then posting an "except in cases where people believe it but we know it's scientifically invalid" disclaimer....how does that help us at all? We'd be better off throwing out the economic argument altogether and sticking to science.

Wait....that's probably why I chose physics.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Geekoid » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:22 pm UTC

Thank you. Thanks you thank you.

I have made the argument many times. It like when people think big pharma is hiding a cure. That is basically saying that the upper managments is so nice, they pass up on getting HUGE bonuses, and hurting their competitors so the people that eventually replace them can make a few bucks.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby bluefoxicy » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:28 pm UTC

Icalasari wrote:I personally think that something such as an aura may exist. However, like electricity and people in the medieval ages (watch as somebody provides an example showing people back then understood electricity), we have no clue what we are doing and, like Calgary drivers, people should have their licenses revoked until they prove that they aren't idiots


haha Calgary drivers....

Hit and miss, but when I'm near someone or I see someone I see more than just visible light. I haven't been able to quantify this scientifically so I remain a skeptic; but I do react to it. Of course good science is skepticism anyway right? Just, I look at people and I "see" what kind of person they are, like if the universe speaks to me or whatever you want to call it. Like that "feeling you're being watched" you get, then you turn suddenly to look and the sniper hits you in the shoulder. How do you feel someone staring at you from a thousand yards away wtf?

The problem comes when you start trying to make outlandish claims like "I can look at you and start telling your life's history" or "I can peer into anyone's soul." There will be times when you "get a feeling" and times when you don't; and, frankly, people "get a feeling" one time and start running around throwing flowers into the air talking about how they can "see the Ether" or whatever the hell else, like they're high.

The correct response here is to chalk this up to unexplained but occasionally useful phenomena-- and let's face it, if everything made sense we would have finished the last book of Science already.

That said, I'm annoyed at the constant stream of idiots in these fields. The super-diluted homeopathic garbage teaches people that i.e. TCM is quack medicine (eat this root, balance your chi, whatever), and they decide chiropractors (the people that x-ray you and then fix your back, not the people that think they can fix cancer by giving you a back rub over the phone by pure will power) are worthless. So there's all this useful knowledge out there that people pass right over because it's "associated" with quackery-- things pertaining to meditation, spirituality (i.e. the spiritual health given by good judgment and balance in your daily life, part of the core of Taoism i.e. yin-and-yang), anything "medical" that involves something not prepared in a lab (eat this ginger root, it'll fix your nausea... or jumping on horribly damaging Lipitor rather than consuming red yeast rice as a first attempt)... all because there's these crackpots out there that think they can read your palm and see your aura and talk to the spirits and fix cancer by rubbing your elbow with aromatic grass.

It's sad really. Science provides a method for validating things we can't understand: The statistic method. Okay, so we can't figure out how balancing the spiritual chakras works, and this whole "energy source" thing seems kinda hokey. Take a control group of normal people; a control group of normal people doing breathing meditations; and a control group of people doing full Kundalini focused meditation. If your breathing meditation control group and the experimental Kundalini meditation group show no differences in daily stress, this doesn't impact stress. If they show behavioral differences, then this affects behavior. Same with each of these groups versus non-meditators. Maybe we can't explain it; but if we can measure it, guess what? It's there. And if we can see it, we can measure it (you can survey people about their interactions and opinions about other people as a measurement, and look for trends). If it can't be measured, apparently it's not there.

Meditation is a great example for this, because by all rational consideration it's bound to produce behavioral effects. Crystal energy is, too, because by all rational consideration (and I'd guess by all experimentation) it's bound to produce absolutely nothing, although prove me wrong and I'll start seeking out the Chaos Emeralds.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby maja » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:30 pm UTC

Randall's economic argument aside (as many of you seem to think that companies using these 'technologies' already proves him wrong), there is another economic argument that is not 'neo-liberal':

If anyone could prove any of the aforementioned technologies, James Randi will give them 1.000.000 dollars.

So yeah, homoeopathy and dowsing are being used, but noon is making a killing out of them and if they could actually show they worked, they would get 1 million USD. So why hasn't anyone done that, hey?

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby lly » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:30 pm UTC

edbdqt wrote:
LeiraHoward wrote:I know of several people who can successfully dowse for water 100% of the time. Almost all of them have the same difficulty with keeping battery-operated watches running.


Verifiable names or they don't exist. And video they can't keep their watches running.


Prove they don't exist.I generally don't go around telling people that they don't exist or that people they know don't exist, it's rude.

What you mean to say is that you have no reason to believe they exist, which is fine, but LeiraHoward may have a perfectly good reason to believe they exist. Operating off of anecdotes and individual cases, but a lot of very good studies start with someone saying "huh, that's interesting..." and noticing an anecdotal trend.

It doesn't mean that scientists should incorporate it into their map of reality or that you have any reason to believe it is true (or, for that matter, false), but it does mean that I would be very interested in seeing a study before declaring people to arbitrarily "not exist."

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:31 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:The legitimacy of things like crystal energy and therapeutic prayer aren't economically invalidated; they are scientifically invalidated. Likewise, quantum field theory isn't invalidated simply because no one has yet gotten a fusion generator up and running.
Yeah, he should really take out that conclusion at the bottom of the comic that states that the observations are proof that these pseudoscientific claims are invalid.

OH WAIT, it doesn't come to that conclusion at all - it merely states that if you're arguing that these pseudoscientific claims are true, then you're implicitly arguing that modern capitalism isn't profit-focused. It's not a proof against the claims, and it doesn't pretend to be.
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Geekoid » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:34 pm UTC

sonalita wrote:
nooby wrote: in the UK you can get homeopathy on the National Health. For patients with intractable conditions it can be a very cost effective solution


The treatment is effective because of the Placebo effect


False. The treatment is not effective by any objective measure. In some cases people claim to feel better. In those case there is still no objective measure that it's a treatment.

To be pedantic:
It works because of A placebo effect. There are many forms, and not just medical. You can see it when someone buys an expensive item and they say it was worth it, but then in conversation that talk its problems. See:Apple~

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby jc » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:35 pm UTC

pleasedonthitme wrote:I've never felt the need to create an account or post on the xkcd forums, and I have a feeling the community will not appreciate my initial offering, but my grandfather actually did supplement his income by successfully dowsing for water in the arid regions of Northern Montana. ...


Actually, I've read some conjectures that describe a reasonable explanation of how dowsing (at least for water) might work. It's based on the fact that humans evolved in the semi-arid parts of east Africa, where the ability to find water would have been a survival characteristic. And it doesn't matter how a water finder explains their ability; all that matters is that they be better at it than the water-finders in other tribes.

The conjecture was partly triggered by the observation that trained observers can often locate underground water sources with good success from aerial photos. Such hidden water sources have an effect on the vegetation near the water leaks. This is more visible at a high altitude, since the information would be spread out and difficult to integrate on the ground. But a person who was good at such integration could conceivably notice the subtle variations in vegetation while wandering over an area, and make the inference that the soil is somewhat more moist over there.

Again, the person doesn't need to know how they get this information. They can attribute it to divine (or infernal) telepathic induction of knowledge if they like. They can attribute it to the magical motion of a stick that has been "activated" by a special ritual. Or they can be frauds that just made up the story for its effect on the rest of the tribe. They need not be consciously aware of what they're doing. All that matters is that they be able to spot the variations in vegetation that signal a source of extra water, and lead their people to it. Their people will thrive relative to their neighbors, and the trait will be propagated.

Of course, this is all just conjecture. To my knowledge, it hasn't been tested in any scientific way. But dowsing may be no more strange than, say, animal tracking. There are good trackers who can spot all the little signs of an animal's passing by, and follow the track that most others can't see. Both "magical" abilities could be based on spotting subtle clues and integrating them over an area to infer the location of what you're looking for.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Apeiron » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:36 pm UTC

Fucking magnates. How do they work?

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby rglenn » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:38 pm UTC

I haven't been on the boards in a while - is it always so full of illiterates and swindlers who don't know to read the mouseover text? I mean, come on, that's XKCD 101.

I'm sure those who find this comic disappointing can apply for a full refund for the purchase price.

Edited because philistine isn't the word I was thinking of.
Last edited by rglenn on Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:41 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:39 pm UTC

teqmc2 wrote:As for Homeopathy, the reason that it is perceived not to work is because most people do it WRONG. Homeopathy is, in fact, grounded in good biology. The idea is that the body has a minimum reaction to toxins. If a toxin that lowers the heart rate enters the body, the body will raise its heart rate by some minimum increase, or more than that. (simple example, there are more complex applications) The idea of Homeopathy to treat bradicardia (dangerously low hear rate) is to administer a microscopic dose of just such a toxin. The calibration should be enough of the toxin for the body to notice, yet an amount which will have an effect smaller than the minimum response threshold. Thus, the net result is an increase in hear rate. The same can be done to increase immune alertness, to increase or decrease nerve conductivity, to adjust blood pressure or intercrainial pressure. Any disease whose symptoms can be mimicked by a toxin can be treated by Homeopathy.


I'm sure that this has been pointed out a thousand times, but you seem rather bright and I don't think you're intentionally trolling, so I'll state it again:

The reason homeopathy doesn't work is because anything greater than a 30X/15C dilution no longer has any chance of provoking any bodily response. That's because, in this universe, anything diluted past a certain point (10^23 dilutions to be precise) no longer exists. There is absolutely no difference between a 15C dilution of sodium chloride and a 15C dilution of arsenic, because both have been diluted until they are gone.

While the economic argument isn't particularly useful, the "pride-of-science" argument is. Dawkins stated it most beautifully (and I apologize for the poor paraphrase that follows):

If homeopathy really worked—if a remedy could be constructed that had measurable effects despite having been diluted beyond the point of no return—it would be the holy grail, not only of medicine, but of physics as well and all the rest of the sciences. The researcher who proved such a thing would go down in history with Galileo and Newton and Einstein, for it would be the single most wonderful discovery in the history of physics.


Scientists would love nothing more than to discover such a fabulous thing. That's why hundreds of double-blind homeopathic studies have been conducted. Sadly, none have ever shown any promise for homeopathy performing any better than a placebo.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby dharris » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:41 pm UTC

RikRaccoon wrote:Um... so let's run this argument through for Scientology.

Crazy phenomenon: Dianetics. If it worked, companies would be making a killing in... Offering random people on the street psychology tests. Do they: YES.

So according to Randall, the economic argument states that Dianetics is true.


The alt text applies to Dianetics: "Not to be confused with 'making money selling this stuff to OTHER people who think it works', which corporate accountants and actuaries have zero problems with."

That's more accurate. Scientology (and other companies) aren't making a killing because its philosophy is true, but rather because OTHER people think it works.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Inkstain » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:03 pm UTC

lly wrote:Prove they don't exist.


Logical fallacy of false burden of proof.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby edbdqt » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:10 pm UTC

lly wrote:
edbdqt wrote:
LeiraHoward wrote:I know of several people who can successfully dowse for water 100% of the time. Almost all of them have the same difficulty with keeping battery-operated watches running.


Verifiable names or they don't exist. And video they can't keep their watches running.


Prove they don't exist.I generally don't go around telling people that they don't exist or that people they know don't exist, it's rude.

What you mean to say is that you have no reason to believe they exist, which is fine, but LeiraHoward may have a perfectly good reason to believe they exist. Operating off of anecdotes and individual cases, but a lot of very good studies start with someone saying "huh, that's interesting..." and noticing an anecdotal trend.

It doesn't mean that scientists should incorporate it into their map of reality or that you have any reason to believe it is true (or, for that matter, false), but it does mean that I would be very interested in seeing a study before declaring people to arbitrarily "not exist."


No, what I mean to say is "Provide verifiable names or they don't exist." His argument is based on something unverifiable. Once he provides VERIFIABLE evidence to back up his claim, then we can move forward. Until then his claim has all the weight of you saying "I'm a billionaire superhero with with a cave lair, a batmobile, a 12 inch penis, the home game and a lifetime supply of Riceroni." Until we see pics of the lifetime supply of Riceroni, your statement is false in that it cannot be considered to be true in a logical sense, that is to say, at least a portion of your claim is false so the entire statement is false.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:15 pm UTC

dharris wrote:The alt text applies to Dianetics: "Not to be confused with 'making money selling this stuff to OTHER people who think it works', which corporate accountants and actuaries have zero problems with."

That's more accurate. Scientology (and other companies) aren't making a killing because its philosophy is true, but rather because OTHER people think it works.


And so we can tell the difference how?

I mean, if the point is that we can tell which philosophies are true based off of who makes money on them....but this doesn't work if the philosophy isn't true and it's just other people think it works....what is the point?

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby TheSoberPirate » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:18 pm UTC

Jeezy Creezy, I feel dirty just reading through the comments on this comic. I thought the xkcd forums would be one of the few places on the internet free from straight-up pseudoscience, but I guess not. I think I need to go listen to several old episodes of the Skeptic's Guide as penance.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:22 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:I mean, if the point is that we can tell which philosophies are true based off of who makes money on them

Is that the point? Which part of the comic makes this statement?

(I already addressed this point you made earlier, but apparently you're selective in which posts you're reading.)
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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:27 pm UTC

teqmc2 wrote:As for Homeopathy, the reason that it is perceived not to work is because most people do it WRONG. Homeopathy is, in fact, grounded in good biology. The idea is that the body has a minimum reaction to toxins. If a toxin that lowers the heart rate enters the body, the body will raise its heart rate by some minimum increase, or more than that. (simple example, there are more complex applications) The idea of Homeopathy to treat bradicardia (dangerously low hear rate) is to administer a microscopic dose of just such a toxin. The calibration should be enough of the toxin for the body to notice, yet an amount which will have an effect smaller than the minimum response threshold. Thus, the net result is an increase in hear rate. The same can be done to increase immune alertness, to increase or decrease nerve conductivity, to adjust blood pressure or intercrainial pressure. Any disease whose symptoms can be mimicked by a toxin can be treated by Homeopathy.


Sure if there's any of the actual substance in question in the water go nuts with this.
If the water is just pure water with zero molecules of the substance in question you enter the relm of imitative magic.

As for Curses and Hexes, the issue with those is that anyone with sufficient skill to accomplish them will refuse to do so. This is because any time a person casts a curse or hex, there is a side effect on the caster which is greater than the harm to the target. While there is a scientific reason for that, I will not go into it here. Any person who does not know about the side effects probably does not know enough to accomplish an effective curse. Thus, the Army could only have found incompetent practitioners to test, because those who would have succeed refused to participate in the tests.

And I guess curses don't stack then?
If it was merely a case of the curses effecting the caster more than the target then there would be a massive market for *teams* of wizards working in concert to hurt one person.
Hook 10 of them up to medical equipment to oxygenate their blood then have each of them curse the enemy dictator such that his lungs take up 10% less oxygen for a half hour.
They spend a day or 2 recovering and suffering 10 times the effect.
The enemy dictator suffocates while giving a speach.

But I guess either 1:
No wizards are patriots willing to risk death to end a war faster and save their fellow countrymen.
or 2:
No wizards are willing to die to kill dictators who are attempting genocide... even the wizards amongst the persecuted peoples.

So in short wizards are bastards.

Plus I'd be happy to suffer a few percent 2nd degree burns over my arm in exchange for cursing james randi with boils in order to win his 1 million.

As for why Magic is not used in Medicine, the answer is that it is. It is just used outside of the mainstream practice. In fact, charts like the one which we are discussing are the reason that these things are not well understood. It takes scientific training in order to do good research. Part of scientific training includes the idea that "these phenomena are not true, thus you are wasting your time in looking at them." since this gets believed by almost everyone who knows how to do science, most of the people who look at these phenomena have not enough training to test them properly. Thus, their studies are done badly, and are laughed at, a self perpetuating cycle. There a few people who have scientific training, and still want to look at magical phenomena, but they can't get funding for their studies, because those who fund studies don't believe in the phenomena either.


You speak as if massive funding is required to prove anything or at least get good enough results to get more funding.
If someone came to me with magic powers I'm happily help them design a half decent protocol and I can think of more than a few people who are better scientists than I who'd happily pitch in on the design for the fun of it.
Worst case they prove to be frauds and I've wasted an afternoon lugging buckets of water around in a 2 story building to test a dowser.
best case it turns out to have some substance and I invest some real time designing and running a more rigorous experiment and publish something interesting.
Give a man a fish, he owes you one fish. Teach a man to fish, you give up your monopoly on fisheries.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:51 pm UTC

uncivlengr wrote:
davidstarlingm wrote:I mean, if the point is that we can tell which philosophies are true based off of who makes money on them

Is that the point? Which part of the comic makes this statement?

(I already addressed this point you made earlier, but apparently you're selective in which posts you're reading.)


Well, the comic certainly implied it. But I was responding specifically to someone else's statement on the subject.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby karroje » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:52 pm UTC

What, no mention of evolution? Yeah, I can't figure out where business is using it either. Maybe an indication of a business opportunity? Perhaps an indication of the short term horizon of modern business? I dunno, but it does seem like a glaring hole.


Its important in medical research and drug development. One example: Mutations to a gene frequently cause them to break or work less well (instances where they make the gene better are very rare). If a gene is critical to survival, then a mutation to the gene is going to kill the carrier, to won't be passed on -- an evolutionary dead end. Meaning that critical genes will more or less stay exactly the same over generations. So if a critical gene was present in, for example, the common ancestor of humans and mice, it will likely be identical in both species (or identical to a degree proportionate to its importance). On the other hand, DNA that is not useful will have, in the time since the species parted, changed significantly. Thus, when we can identify DNA that is near identical in mouse and human, we can take this as an indication that it is likely important (else it would have changed). Hence we have a way of searching for important (i.e. medically relevant) areas of the genome though software -- significantly cheaper and faster than trying to study it in the wet-lab. Finding such areas in an important step in developing drugs to deal with problems related to them. (I'm over-simplifying here -- but you get the idea.)

My favorite example: someone wrote a program that looked for areas of the genome identical in chimp and chicken, but that seems to have changed in humans. The best example they found was 118 nucleotides long, and almost identical in chimp in chicken. This does not happen by chance -- its important to both species. Yet there were 18 mutations in human. This suggests this is a critical area (critical enough to survive 300 million years without a change), but is somehow related to what makes humans different -- one of the rare instances where mutations helped. The biologists have focused on this, and found that this region is crucial in neurodevelopment. It would have been next to impossible to identify this region in the lab if you didn't know where to look.

Presumably you could use similar (and superior) tricks based on the principles of Intelligent Design, if you can figure out the core engineering principles used to design us. But for some reason, nobody has managed to go any where with that.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby monicaclaire » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:52 pm UTC

I was trying to tell someone the other day that GPS works off the principles of relativity. They said I was crazy! :lol:

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby TheSoberPirate » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:53 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:So in short wizards are bastards.

If there's one thing Terry Pratchett has taught us, it's that wizards are typically selfish bastards, and don't actually do much magic. So the crazy might actually be onto something there.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Sofie » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:55 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:
dharris wrote:The alt text applies to Dianetics: "Not to be confused with 'making money selling this stuff to OTHER people who think it works', which corporate accountants and actuaries have zero problems with."

That's more accurate. Scientology (and other companies) aren't making a killing because its philosophy is true, but rather because OTHER people think it works.


And so we can tell the difference how?

It would work for non-believers too. It doesn't matter if you believe in relativity, your GPS is going to work because of it. If you tried sending up a satellite to make a non-relativity GPS, you'd get much worse precision, no matter what you believe. Belief is irrelevant for reality.

And yes, making a *killing* is the key here. If homeopathy actually worked, it would obsolete current medicines, due to being way cheaper to make.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby snowyowl » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:57 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:If someone came to me with magic powers I'm happily help them design a half decent protocol and I can think of more than a few people who are better scientists than I who'd happily pitch in on the design for the fun of it.

Count me in for one. I like lugging buckets of water around buildings :)
The preceding comment is an automated response.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby sorceror » Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:08 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote: 10,000 times faster than anyone thinks it could happen? We've known for 25 years that crude can form in less than a decade. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v308/n5955/pdf/308177a0.pdf It doesn't take esoteric conditions, either.


I said "under those conditions". Crude can form quickly, but the conditions for forming it quickly (very high temperatures and pressures) aren't common.

davidstarlingm wrote:As far as I know, Flood Geology isn't used for oil prospecting because it doesn't make much of a difference. Whether plant life was buried by small floods here and there and sat there for billions of years OR was buried by a large flood and sat there for a few thousand years really isn't going to make a difference in location (though it's admittedly difficult to understand why individual oil reserves are so large if the former is true).

What geological assumptions are usually made in prospecting for oil fields?


Well, here's some: http://news.stanford.edu/pr/94/940804Arc4170.html

In order to asses the a petroleum source, you have to be able to make some predictions about the prevailing climate in various areas in the past; dry, arid plains won't support the kind of forests that produce a lot of oil. Modern geology and plate tectonics make such predictions; why are they right?

To predict where a reservoir might be found, you need to know the history of the region again, to know what types of sediments will be deposited where. Evaluation of maturation requires, again, detailed knowledge of the geological history to be able to make predictions about how long the hydrocarbons have been there, and under what conditions, to estimate how much useful oil is present. Migration, too, requires knowing what's happened in the region that affects where the oil is.

As I pointed out, one exceedingly obvious area that mainstream and Flood geology make drastically different predictions is in maturation. In the Flood model, there simply hasn't been enough time to form the oil deposits we see, and yet there they are. It's possible to make oil faster than a few million years, but it requires high temperatures and pressures. Such pressures and temperatures must inevitably affect the structure of the rock; such changes aren't generally in evidence.

Again, why is mainstream geology right about this, right enough for oil companies to invest literally tens of billions of dollars in it? (Exxon's oil exploration budget alone is over $20 billion.) Flood geology wouldn't have to be very much 'more right' to be exceedingly profitable. Seriously, if the Flood models work at least as good as the mainstream ones… why are no oil companies using it?

For a report of an actual young-Earth creationist who found actual geology irreconcilable with a young Earth, see the story of Glenn Morton: http://news.stanford.edu/pr/94/940804Arc4170.html

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby DorkRawk » Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:20 pm UTC

lly wrote:What you mean to say is that you have no reason to believe they exist, which is fine, but LeiraHoward may have a perfectly good reason to believe they exist. Operating off of anecdotes and individual cases, but a lot of very good studies start with someone saying "huh, that's interesting..." and noticing an anecdotal trend.

It doesn't mean that scientists should incorporate it into their map of reality or that you have any reason to believe it is true (or, for that matter, false), but it does mean that I would be very interested in seeing a study before declaring people to arbitrarily "not exist."


Exactly, studies start with this, they don't end with it. "I heard about this one guy..." doesn't carry any clout.

Also saying that the only people who can do it are people who don't want to be seen doing it makes for a pretty weak argument. This is why when a child says that she has an imaginary friend that only she can see we call that an IMAGINARY friend.

I think along the lines of this economic argument there's a similar scientific one. Not every scientist toes the party line. A lot of them would like to make a big name for themselves by discovering something paradigm shifting. If a neurologist could find legitimate, irrefutable evidence of ESP or telepathy it would be amazing for their career. Lots of people would get LOTS of grant money out of it. There are SMART people in the right places who would love to find real evidence of this stuff.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby squig » Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:33 pm UTC

elrunethe2nd wrote:In fact, to hell with that. I should start reading CAD. It's been funnier than this sort of humor we're seeing here lately.


Yes, why don't you do that?

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby fmapE » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:00 pm UTC

I'm just disappointed that #808 didn't have something to do with drum machines...

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby davidstarlingm » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:01 pm UTC

sorceror wrote:I said "under those conditions". Crude can form quickly, but the conditions for forming it quickly (very high temperatures and pressures) aren't common.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't those researchers trying to simulate the conditions (temperature and pressure) under which crude oil did form? They weren't just introducing random conditions for no reason.



I looked at that link, and discovered that we find "age markers" in coal that are aeons younger than how old the coal is supposed to be. Not sure how that is relevant.

In order to asses the a petroleum source, you have to be able to make some predictions about the prevailing climate in various areas in the past; dry, arid plains won't support the kind of forests that produce a lot of oil.


Right, because it's not like they find oil in deserts. "But the Arabian desert used to be a forest!" Certainly. But it would appear, then, that the past is the key to the present, not the other way around. There are plenty of ways to model a given set of variables.

Flood geology wouldn't have to be very much 'more right' to be exceedingly profitable. Seriously, if the Flood models work at least as good as the mainstream ones… why are no oil companies using it?


So what exactly are the differences in predictions that Flood geology would create?

I could be wrong on this, but if I had to wager, I'd say that geologists working on oil exploration spend more time focusing on what they can observe and quantify in the present than they do consulting overall geological/tectonic models. In most industrial fields, any application of a general origins model is so narrowly defined that the overall model is quite far removed from any actual analysis.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby rcox1 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:05 pm UTC

The premise of this comic is false. Corporations so not use every tool at their disposal. Not do corporation just mindlessly try to maximize revenue and profits. Most corporations have a core competency, and not matter what, they tend to work in the method directed by their core competency. This is why so many of them get decimated when a new technology comes around. For instance Valero core competency is fossil fuel, so they are funded the proposition in California to insure that fossil fuels have preferred status. This does not mean that other energy possibilities are magic, simply that Valero is not willing to invest in them.

If we go back a bit further we could look at ballooning. It is arguable that the nation who used manned and unmanned ballons in warfare would have had great tactical advantages, but the competency of war was land based and the businesses and countries of the time were not able to monetize the ballons, so an air force was delayed 100 years.

In terms of actual magic, there are any number of industry that sells what is essentially tarot reading. The financial industry is a prime example. They use fancy words, and essentially say the information is for entertainment only, but large corporations have been built on the snake oil. Then of course there is always amusing moster cable, which sells expensive digital cables that will magically make your zeros and ones into better zeroes and ones.

And then there is the tech that simply won't make money. The SCOTUS is currently hearing a case where a safer vaccine was not used simply because it would not make as much money as the less safe vaccine(They do not dispute this allegation, only that the congress made them immune from lawsuits). Who knows how many technologies do not exist because there is simply no money to be made. In Texas the TAMA sues every other kind of healer because MD are the only one who can diagnose. They do this, arguably, because each patient a non-MS healer helps for a couple thousand dollars is 50K of billing stolen from the MD. Of course the screwed up health system means that it is cheaper for the patient to see an MD.

This is not to say the comic is not humorous or accurate on a certain scale. Just that we ridicule everything we do not agree with, we move beyond criticism to dogma.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby Felipe Budinich » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:30 pm UTC

As an artist that sells no art for a living, i find frankly amusing that people relate financial markets experts to tarot.

It's risky, it's uncertain, but you can make educated guesses. Sometimes you win, and the least of times you lose. Of course you wont be rich in two days, but you can make a living, you just have to read newspapers, for example, a couple of weeks ago I bought Lan shares, they had just took a dive becuase the fusion with Tam did not work as expected, then Lan was buying more Airplanes, so you could think that they are either going to replace some older airplanes, or they are going to expand the fleet.

Since you already know that they might expand the fleet, you check if they are hiring more pilots, and guess what, they did, so if everything goes alright I can expect my shares to rise. And it also is a good idea to tell people what you are doing (after you already bought), because if there is more demand for the shares, they go up in price, you just have to know when to get out, and don't be too greedy.

As for dowsing rods and homeopathy, yes please do use them, it makes easier for the rest of us to access real experts. Think of it as woo-euthanasia for the feebleminded*.

*An aside: But i'm completely against the anti-vaccination movement and similar groups, those sociopaths are endagering people besides themselves.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby philip1201 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:42 pm UTC

rcox1 wrote:The premise of this comic is false. Corporations so not use every tool at their disposal. Not do corporation just mindlessly try to maximize revenue and profits. Most corporations have a core competency, and not matter what, they tend to work in the method directed by their core competency. This is why so many of them get decimated when a new technology comes around. For instance Valero core competency is fossil fuel, so they are funded the proposition in California to insure that fossil fuels have preferred status. This does not mean that other energy possibilities are magic, simply that Valero is not willing to invest in them.

If we go back a bit further we could look at ballooning. It is arguable that the nation who used manned and unmanned ballons in warfare would have had great tactical advantages, but the competency of war was land based and the businesses and countries of the time were not able to monetize the ballons, so an air force was delayed 100 years.


Not every corporation uses every tool at their disposal. However, it remains so that everywhere except the true fringes of science (where knowledge has only recently become available for application. The unscientific things listed here have been known for decades and anyone in the western world could have tested them), there is a company for every profitable system (Not to mention scientists investigating it for the sake of research grants and/or fame and/or knowledge). If homeopathy worked, extremely low doses of drugs could be used. Pharmaceuticals salesmen could increase their stocks by a factor of 10^20 - a single pill enough to cure the entire world of the relevant ailment. It would be used. The same holds for every single one of the methods listed there - since they are always thought up by those who have little knowledge of science, and therefore aren't high tech.

If the claims made about these magics had any validity, they would be far more profitable than the systems currently used to do the same things.
Note that each of these magics has had decades, if not centuries or milennia, to show it's merit. All have failed. Significantly, they became unpopular when functional alternatives became available.

rcox1 wrote:In terms of actual magic, there are any number of industry that sells what is essentially tarot reading. The financial industry is a prime example. They use fancy words, and essentially say the information is for entertainment only, but large corporations have been built on the snake oil. Then of course there is always amusing moster cable, which sells expensive digital cables that will magically make your zeros and ones into better zeroes and ones.


As the alt text explains, nobody said people can't sell bulls :!: . It's just that if more profitable alternatives are available, they are used. Given that each of these magics would be extremely profitable if applied, they do not work. Note however that, all despicability and memetic working class anger aside, the financial industry actually does work. It's just that due to the inherent nature of capitalism, they fail at long term game theory. Players/investors choose short term profit over long term health simply because everybody else does it. At it's very simplest, it's that every player/investor is faced with a 2x2 game matrix: (+4 -2) above (+1 -4), where the top row is him leeching money off the economy, the bottom row is him investing in the economy, the left column is what happens if the rest of the players invest, the right column if the rest of the players also leech. Finding out the exact nature of this matrix, and all it's complexities, is what the financial industry does. However, because of their nature, they still pick the option which is profitable to them and costly to the community.
It's not as much that they sell snake oil, it's that they choose capitalism over socialism in a marketplace that is anarchic. I do not know moster cable, so I won't talk about that.

rcox1 wrote:And then there is the tech that simply won't make money. [example]


Read the comic. Look at the central column. What does it say? Exactly, the method by which the magics may be used to gain profit.

rcox1 wrote:This is not to say the comic is not humorous or accurate on a certain scale. Just that we ridicule everything we do not agree with, we move beyond criticism to dogma.

There is a large difference between ridicule and rejection. There is also a large difference between things we don't agree with, and things which just don't work. Also note that there is no ridicule in this comic, only an argument. See the title.

In short, please look the alt text, comic title and comic content before you post.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby sarkeizen » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:48 pm UTC

ganglion wrote:I'm pretty sceptical about a lot of this stuff but also don't want to rule it out on principle simply because it doesn't agree with current scientific ideas.


Ugh...sorry you're ending up being the focus of this but statements like that are one of my pet peeves. I admit I'm not sure what "rule it out" means but I'll assume that it means something along the lines of "so incredibly unlikely that it is reasonable to act as if the chance of their existence is zero". Yes, people in the past believed wrong things, some of them scientists, some of them based on experimental evidence and yes even today we constantly correct our body of scientific knowledge. However what you seem to be implying is that ANY modern concept has an equal chance as things did in the distant past (or at least some significant chance) of being incorrect. This is categorically false.

IMHO as citizens of this planet we are absolutely NOT required to "keep an open mind" we are required to investigate where there is LEGITIMATE EQUIPOISE and be open to contradictory ideas where the conflicting evidence is COMMENSURATE WITH STATISTICAL CERTAINTY of current ideas. Everything else can be left to preach to it's respective choir.

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Re: 0808: The Economic Argument

Postby joe9000 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:51 pm UTC

I don't understand how very intelligent people still believe in divining rods & homeopathy.

If you were to dig wells (water, oil, etc) based on a) divining and b) any other reasonable method, given a sufficiently large enough sample (a few thousand tries), there would not be a significantly different result from group a and group b.

Using homeopathic remedies also lacks any statistical difference in measurable results.

So until someone can show me a reputable study that uses a sufficiently large enough sample size, stop yammering about you uncle who divines or your inside knowledge that oil companies use it. (whether they do or don't doesn't change the results) And stop yammering about the UK paying for homeopathic medicine, show me a large study with a control group and that there is a statistically significant difference in measurable results.


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