Friday, July 25, 2008


More than once on this blog, I've mentioned LBJ's claim, as he signed the Civil Rights Act, that the Democratic Party would lose the South for a generation. Over and over again, I've mentioned that racist beliefs underly every Republican Party tactic. Though they surely do believe in this or that economic, international and national policy, still, whatever its claims about those policies, the Republican Party's hidden strength, its appeal and staple product, is racism just as racism once was the Democratic Party's staple and underlying appeal to the Southland.

America will never be able to hold up its head in international company until both the Republican and the Democratic parties renounce any interest in the South and turn it over to some latter day States Rights Party or George Wallace for president bunch. We are shamed by every appeal we make to Southern interests in our politics. Granted, racism is not solely located in the Southland, but its strongest roots are there. And FoxNews, I'll bet, if we could just measure its appeal, will show its strongest base to be in those nether regions of America.

So I'm enjoying, and hope you are too, NAS's (hip hop gangsta rappa) presentation of signed petitions about racism at the doors of FOX headquarters in New York. I signed that petition myself on the internet and so my name is on one of those petitions which Fox refuses to accept. Until they do, we'll know that the FoxRepublicanRacistNews face is forever, now, painted clearly on its red state face, its racism clearly for all to see.


In my final days as a working man at Mackay Manufacturing, I'd often listen to audio tapes as my machine whirred and wailed its way through stainless, aluminum and steel or plastic blocks of material, turning rectangular slugs into this or that fascinating part for one kind of machine or another. Ah, yes, the job shop!

One man's tapes particularly interested me, and he was Stephen J. Gould. The way he could work through an intellectual problem, exposing it in finest detail, laying bare the incongruities and inconsistencies of human reason intrigued me to no end. Now, retired on my veranda, I'm reading a couple of his books that I once listened to, and I find myself—this is true—near tears at the beauty of the workings of his mind. I'm often moved by displays of human imagination and reason when they clearly transcend the average. Currently, I'm reading The Mismeasure of Man in which Gould lays bare the falsehood of trying to measure intelligence as if it were a single unitary thing that can be measured and used to classify people. I know... I've probably said that more than once in the last couple of days.

Anyhow, today, I came across his analysis of statistical correlations and their relationship to cause (which is practically nil). Read this paragraph. Better yet, buy and read the whole book.

"The spirit of Plato dies hard. We have been unable to escape the philosophical tradition that what we can see and measure in the world is merely the superficial and imperfect representation of an underlying reality. Much of the fascination of statistics lies embedded in our gut feeling—and never trust a gut feeling—that abstract tables summarizing large tables of data must express something more real and fundamental than the data themselves. (Much professional training in statistics involves a conscious effort to counteract this gut feeling.) The technique of correlation has been particularly subject to such misuse because it seems to provide a path for inferences about causality (and indeed it does, sometimes—but only sometimes)." —Gould

Then Gould goes on to dissect this problem of cause and correlation in his usual clear and incisive manner. The statement above makes me think of the Monty Hall problem. I'm not going to state it here. Just Google "Monty Hall Problem", and I'm sure you'll find it. I can think of no clearly case by which one can experience the very real disconnect between numbers (math) and nature than in that problem. A very real percentage is generated in that Hall problem, but when one takes it out into the wild and sets the problem up as a hunting problem (anyone can do it), he will discover that the math lies or, at least, suggests something that is not true.

The math is valid but not true—I think that's the way to describe the conclusion. When I think of this Monty Hall problem and about the simplest math functions in our brains that evolved out of our hunter/gatherer need to find where the game might, on average, be or where we would be most likely to find a certain plant during a specific season (a law of averages at work in the real world) I am enlightened considerably about the evolution of the brain and its adaptations for survival. In short, the brain works one way and mathematics works another. It's a toss up as to whether or not mathematics opens doors into a new reality for future humankind or leads us up blind alleys to dimensions that really don't exist.

Also, I'm aware that I'm really "out there" pretending to understand stuff I may not understand at all, but at least I'm trying to get my Neanderthal brain to grasp the stuff of mathematics.

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