Category Archives: Media Criticism

Reversing Aging

A long but interesting interview with George Church:

Certainly if you could fix all nine hallmarks at once that would do well. Reversal of aging has been demonstrated in simple animals. Some people will dismiss those as too simple — because they have such a short life already, it’s not surprising you can make them live longer. But I think it’s quite clear that aging is programmed in some sense. It’s not like you’ve been programmed to die at some age, but the laziness of evolution has resulted in your program to not avoid dying.

Over evolutionary time, to use analogy, it was not cost effective to invest a lot of your precious food to live longer because you’re going to get eaten by a wolf anyway. Now we have plenty of excess food, and rather than becoming obese let’s spend that on living longer, by spending extra ATP on repair and rejuvenation. That’s something 20-year-olds do fine, but after 60 you stop investing quite as well.

Yes. There has been no evolutionary pressure for us to live longer, but it’s absurd to think it would violate any laws of physics (and ultimately, even biology comes down to physics) that prevent us from living indefinitely long lives. And how soon could it happen?

The simple answer is, I don’t know. Probably we’ll see the first dog trials in the next year or two. If that works, human trials are another two years away, and eight years before they’re done. Once you get a few going and succeeding it’s a positive feedback loop.

That’s pretty exciting, but still: faster, please.

But I did come across this:

If you find that in the western world we’re eating a lot of marbled cow that didn’t exist in the ancient days, all you have to do is get rid of the marbled cow and you’re all set.

Except I’m not aware of any scientific evidence that marbled cow is a problem. I wonder how up on nutrition he is?

When People Are Questioning Your Sacred Cows

Listen up:

…as I attempted to explain why this story looks weak to a lot of journalists (I was not the only one who noticed the thin sourcing), I began to understand why I’d triggered such outrage. Because several people asked me some version of the same question: “Why would you even question this story?” In their minds, it was clear that there could be only one reason: because I was trying to somehow salvage Moore’s candidacy.

I get asked this question a lot these days. Why would you even argue about rape statistics, when we know that rape is a problem? Why would you give even a moment’s consideration to those who theorize that global warming could be moderate rather than catastrophic? Why would you raise questions about that terrible gang rape at UVA?

My interlocutors have a point: We all make choices about which assertions we interrogate, and which we accept on easy faith. And because we are biased, we tend to interrogate most ruthlessly the inconvenient claims that stand in the way of something we’d very much like to believe. When someone casts doubt on a politically charged story, it’s not crazy to infer an ulterior ideological motive (even though in this particular case involving my qualms about that Roy Moore mall story, this inference was dead wrong).

But if we are committed to believing only things that are likely to be true, then how much does the motive of a questioner really matter? I’d argue “not much.” Knowing someone’s political commitments tells you that they are likely to accept evidence for some propositions more easily than for others. But it does not tell you that their analysis is wrong.

This is reminiscent of the other day when, in having the temerity to point out, horrible a human being as Roy Moore is, that there was no available evidence that he was an actual pedophile, I was accused of “defending” him, or being a pedophile myself.

Millennials’ “Education”

The hard lifting of undoing it:

One of the falsehoods that has been stuffed into your brain and pounded into place is that moral knowledge progresses inevitably, such that later generations are morally and intellectually superior to earlier generations, and that the older the source the more morally suspect that source is. There is a term for that. It is called chronological snobbery. Or, to use a term that you might understand more easily, “ageism.”

Second, you have been taught to resort to two moral values above all others, diversity and equality. These are important values if properly understood. But the way most of you have been taught to understand them makes you irrational, unreasoning. For you have been taught that we must have as much diversity as possible and that equality means that everyone must be made equal. But equal simply means the same. To say that 2+2 equals 4 is to say that 2+2 is numerically the same as four. And diversity simply means difference. So when you say that we should have diversity and equality you are saying we should have difference and sameness. That is incoherent, by itself. Two things cannot be different and the same at the same time in the same way.

Furthermore, diversity and equality are not the most important values. In fact, neither diversity nor equality is valuable at all in its own right. Some diversity is bad. For example, if slavery is inherently wrong, as I suspect we all think it is, then a diversity of views about the morality of slavery is worse than complete agreement that slavery is wrong.

Similarly, equality is not to be desired for its own sake. Nobody is equal in all respects. We are all different, which is to say that we are all not the same, which is to say that we are unequal in many ways. And that is generally a good thing. But it is not always a good thing (see the previous remarks about diversity).

Related to this: You do you not know what the word “fair” means. It does not just mean equality. Nor does it mean something you do not like. For now, you will have to take my word for this. But we will examine fairness from time to time throughout this semester.

Read all.

The Obama/Clinton Crimes And Corruption

Sessions is considering appointing a second special counsel to (finally) actually investigate them:

The list of matters he wanted probed was wide ranging but included the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, various dealings of the Clinton Foundation and several matters connected to the purchase of the Canadian mining company Uranium One by Russia’s nuclear energy agency. Goodlatte took particular aim at former FBI director James B. Comey, asking for the second special counsel to evaluate the leaks he directed about his conversations with President Trump, among other things.

I hope so.

Bill Clinton, Reconsidered

Well, this is refreshing. Caitlin Flanagan excoriates feminists for letting him off the hook for decades for his sexual abuse. I wonder if this also means that the truth will finally come out about all their other corruption and crimes, now that they seem to have been defenestrated?

[Update mid-morning]

Hell has frozen over. The NYT has defended Juanita Broaddrick.

[Update at noon]

The thing is, going after him now — when they don’t need him anymore, and when they’re trying to hustle Hillary off the political stage for 2020 — doesn’t make up for what they did then. Rather, it underscores it.”

[Wednesday-morning update]

The dam seems to be bursting. Now Democrats are saying that the years of defending Bill Clinton were morally indefensible. Gee, ya think? That’s why I swore never to support another Democrat two decades ago. Even Matt Yglesias now realizes he was wrong, and that Clinton should have resigned. But he still has this wrong:

In the midst of the very same public statement in which he confessed the error, Clinton also mounted the defense that would see him through to victory — portraying the issue as fundamentally a private family matter rather than a topic of urgent public concern.

“I intend to reclaim my family life for my family,” he said. “It’s nobody’s business but ours. Even presidents have private lives. It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life.”

To this line of argument, Republicans offered what was fundamentally the wrong countercharge. They argued that in the effort to spare himself from the personal and marital embarrassment entailed by having the affair exposed, Clinton committed perjury when testifying about the matter in a deposition related to Paula Jones’s lawsuit against him.

What they should have argued was something simpler: A president who uses the power of the Oval Office to seduce a 20-something subordinate is morally bankrupt and contributing, in a meaningful way, to a serious social problem that disadvantages millions of women throughout their lives.

But by and large, they didn’t. So Clinton countered with the now-famous defense: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Ultimately, most Americans embraced the larger argument that perjury in a civil lawsuit unrelated to the president’s official duties did not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.

It’s wrong on two levels. First, both things were terrible (and as Flanagan notes above, the behavior with Lewinsky destroyed the credibility of the feminist argument against relationships in the workplace of disparate power). Second, he (as do and did most Democrats) continues to minimize what Clinton did legally. No, he didn’t merely “commit perjury.” He suborned perjury from others, including Betty Currie, Monica Lewinsky, and Linda Tripp, via bribes, and physical threats to the family of the latter. This was a major obstruction of justice in order to prevent another woman upon whom he had predated with the power of the state, from getting a fair trial. And he did this after having taken an oath to see that the laws were faithfully executed. As George Will wrote at the time, Bill Clinton may not have been the worst president, but he was probably one of the worst men to ever be president.

I’m glad that the scales are finally falling from some eyes over this, but some of the blindness persists.

[Update a while later]

If Roy Moore wins, it will be because of Democrats.

[Update a few minutes later]

Michelle Goldberg struggles to figure out what to say.

That can be a problem when you’ve been a lying hypocrite for decades.

[Update late morning]

Flash from the past: Democrats standing and applauding Bill Clinton after his impeachment in 1998. They had no shame. Most of them still don’t.

And “liberals'” sudden condemnation of Bill Clinton is cynical and self serving. No kidding.

Roy Moore

A lot of people are calling him a pedophile. He’s an awful human being, but he’s not that. I got into a stupid Twitter war this morning on that issue.

A pedophile is someone who has a desire for sex with actual children (and by children, I mean people who have not attained puberty, not teenagers). We have seen no evidence of that. But for simply pointing that out, I was accused of being one myself for “defending” him (I’m not, and I didn’t defend him, other than to point out that his attempted statutory rape is not pedophilia). And because I have a mustache.

Contra what so many confidently and ignorantly informed me, pedophilia has nothing to do with the age of the perp. It doesn’t matter how old Moore was when he attempted sex with these young women (and yes, a female who has started menstruating is a young woman, not a “child,” though she may be emotionally). All that matters is the age of the victim.

Moon Versus Mars

Alan Boyle reports on the “debate” in Seattle on Thursday at the space event sponsored by The Economist (which was overall very interesting and worthwhile, other than this). As I noted at the time, it was a false choice based on a false premise.

It started out annoying, and got worse with time. Talmadge said something like (I’m paraphasing) “Before we start this, let’s see if we’ll be able to change some minds. How many think we should go to the moon first.” Hands go up, not mine. “How many think we should go to Mars first?” Other hands go up. “How many think we shouldn’t do either, and should take care of the earth?” Very few, if any hands went up, given the audience. My hand obviously didn’t go up at any of them.

And then they launched into a debate on those three topics, with Naveen Jain making the case for the moon, Chris Lewicki doing the same for asteroids, and poor John Logsdon having to defend the premise that we shouldn’t be doing things in space (something that he doesn’t believe).

So that was the false choice (that is, he didn’t ask the fourth question: “How many people think “we” don’t have to make such a choice, and that some will do one, some will do the other, some will do some other things not mentioned, and some will stay home?”).

The false premise, of course, is that this debate has some relevance to policy, and that unless “we” have a societal “consensus” on what the next step will be, it won’t happen. This is Apolloism.

I think that Chris made the best case, which was basically, we should go anywhere we find useful. And of course, John’s argument isn’t that we shouldn’t settle space, but that we probably won’t. But his example of Antarctica as a harsh environment that hasn’t been really settled (ignoring his arbitrary rule that a settlement requires more than a couple thousand people) fails to persuade because, as Jeff Greason pointed out in audience discussion. On Antarctica, people cannot own the land, they cannot dig the land, they cannot sell the output of their labor, they cannot pass on anything they do there to their descendants.

What he didn’t point out, which I would have, is that the reason for this is the Antarctic Treaty. And if we don’t settle space, a large part of the reason is that the Outer Space Treaty was modeled on it, and it was enforced.