Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bush calls British sailors 'hostages' in Iran -

Here the words of the wise political philosopher of our time is apropos. Messr Jon Stewart commented that "We (the US) may not be very good at nation building. But we are very good at nation un-building".

And I seriously doubt that people have forgotten of the Falkland Wars, especially since it's front page news on the I mean, the British went to war over a piece of land that no one in Britain had visited much less heard of before the war started.

Thumbing your nose at the "Western imperialist powers" may be all well and good, but seriously man, whazzup?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Aardvarchaeology : Skeptics' Circle 57: The Zebra Spilled its Plastinia on Bemis

More Skeptical Yumminess.

I think it's worth mentioning that my grandmother was a medium throughout her entire life and has mystical powers attributed to her. I was a young participant in some of the rites and her place would literally be packed with people not just in the house but queuing up outside, some even coming all the way from Malaysia to visit her and seek her aid and advise.

I make no comment on that time as I was too young to consciously consider it but what I can say is that I was brought up in the background of that entire Chinese syncretic religion and that in turn heavily colored my viewpoint as to the existence of the supernatural.

My first foray into the world of skepticism was the realization that "magic" was simply illusion and camera trips. But whatever vestigial residue left was blown apart by James Randi, where I learned about cold reading, ideomotor effect, placebo effect, truth about homeopathy etc.

And I never looked back since. My world may be "colder" but it's a much saner, rational and logical world.



Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blog on Hiatus?

Well, I'm back from Portland and San Francisco, nice places both and well worth visiting if you're in the Pacific Northwest or generally on the West Coast.

But due to some course scheduling, in particular my inability to get certain courses that I would like, my course load is perhaps slightly heavier than I would have expected. This is not in terms of the number of credit hours but in terms of my familiarity of the subject matter at hand. So without the straight international economics and developmental state stuff that I was hoping to get, I have had to take International Copyright & Trademarks as well as International Mergers & Acquisitions, neither of which I am as familiar with as was the case with International Law or even First Amendment.

And I already have readings to do.

Thus to cut a long story short, I may be shutting down this blog for the next few months until I return home, unless someone else wants to guestblog for a while.



Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring Break!

Southwards ho for more sunshine and warmth. Back late next weeks.



Thursday, March 15, 2007

T-Shirt Slogans I want Printed

1. You Don't Believe in Thor?! Why Do you Hate Thor?!!

2. PolSci: Where Ignorance is Rational

3. Economics: Assume!

4. Sleep: An Inadequate Substitute for Caffeine

5. Woo /= W00t


TODAYonline: Creation, sex and condoms

W00t! Exams over and what better way than to thrall our ever present lovely local media for more stuff to write about. Anyway, I admire Ms. Ong's approach to sex and sexual education of her children but I just want to touch on the ever present problem of the naturalist fallacy that permeates way too many arguments.

creation, sex and condoms

Friday • March 16, 2007

frances ong

When my daughter attended a camp last year, her father gave her a box of condoms and explained that, like all good scouts, one must be prepared. When I went to Hong Kong alone for work, my husband gave me a box, too, and smiled.

Before anyone throws the first stone at him, allow me to explain.
*Sigh*, bring birth control pills for one really obvious reason. If you happened to get raped, swallowing a certain number of birth control pills act somewhat like emergency contraception to prevent implantation. But that's just a public service announcement.

We believe the best place for our teenagers to learn about sex is at home. This includes learning about the proper use of contraceptives, such as how to put a condom on and the benefits and side effects of the Pill, the IUD, and about abortion.

However, the use of contraceptives must not be taught in isolation. It is not a simple issue of "prevention is better than cure". Contraceptive use can prevent the creation of an unwanted child, protect oneself from sexually transmitted diseases and also might give one a false a sense of freedom to have sex with anyone, anywhere and anytime.

Argument of moral hazard: This is an argument that has arisen a number of times and like any argument, can be generalized and examined in other contexts. The idea is that if one is protected from risk, one is more likely to engage in risky behavior. This pops up all over the place, from mandatory statutory workmen compensation schemes, to state insurance in lieu of tortious action, to IMF bailout policies and of course my favourite response, just because we have fire extinguishers in the house does not mean we're going to start cooking with grease.

I remember an exchange I once had with Prof Kumar during torts when he was mentioning the aforementioned mandatory insurance scheme in the workplace whereby every employer contributed a certain amount to essentially pay for coverage for their workers. My question was whether this would give rise to an issue of moral hazard in the absence of statutory safety requirements and the like. His response was that people who purchase disability insurance are not likely to start running across the road or engage in riskier behavior just because they are covered. BUT this was qualified after some thought on the basis that risking your own life and limb is not akin to risking your employee's safety as long as you meet safety requirements.

The more general principle that can be drawn from these examples is that it is somewhat simplistic to simply argue that moral hazard will be the result of any action that reduces risk. By that "logic" moral hazard is everywhere the moment we reduce risk. Instead the more pertinent analysis would be a marginal one i.e. does this particular increase in risk prevent reduce risk to an extent whereby people end up taking even more risk than would otherwise be the case? In some cases this would be true (imagine a failure rate of over 90% for parachutes and then imagine whether your average reasonable person is going to want to do skydiving and now start considering whether it is rational for people to go skydiving with all the risk prevention mechanisms that are in place).

For me, I agree with Mrs Ong here insofar as nothing beats out evolutionary biology in terms of our desire to procreate. Hormones exist for a reason. Anyone who wants to pretend otherwise is attempting to ignore reality. Does acculturation help? To an extent, but I've done a previous post highlight a recent study that show pre-marital sex has been remarkably constant since the 1940s. So one does wonder whether there really has a golden age of chastity.

This was not our intention when we embarked on this journey with our children. We hope they will not engage in premarital sex, but we are aware that peer pressure and societal values act as a counterweight to what we teach them. We recognise that we cannot stop them if they intend to have sex.

All we can do is show them the true freedom of sex within a marriage. We are very open with our children about our sex life. They know that, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it is best to leave their parents alone. They realise that sex is the deepest form of communication between two committed individuals.

Of course, some people will argue that this can also take place outside marriage. They will argue that they have formed meaningful, happy relationships and that marriage does not guarantee fidelity.

While others are free to make their own lifestyle choices, we believe sex should not be just a recreational activity one engages in after a single drink (or more, probably) on the first date.

Fair enough. But even adults? Even those pushing 30 or older? There is a distinction to be drawn between teenage sex and adult pre-marital sex, I'm still waiting for a justification against adult pre-marital sex that does not involve very dodgy statistics and "science" or that is based on some written text that claims divine inspiration (and you should know my views about religion by now).

We have observed that many teenagers and adults engage in premarital sex because they feel insecure. They want a sense of assurance from others. But, one of the untold effects of casual sex is the sense of insecurity one feels after the act is over.

Some people seek companionship and believe that offering their bodies is the easiest way to tie someone down. But, they may soon begin to ask themselves: Will my partner continue with this relationship, or will he or she seek another person to have sex with tonight? If we could fall in bed so easily last night, will we fall out of love as easily today? Why do I feel like a piece of used tissue paper when he does not continue the relationship?

Hop aboard the non-sequitor train! This is where I like to point out the socialization argument as once made much more hilariously by Bertrand Russel who pointed out our entire society's neurosis and even psychosis on sex by simply replacing the word sex with trains. So blinker a child's mind, make trains a taboo topic, cover his eyes when you approach a railway station, and you end up with the exact same reaction that is at its core utterly and totally nonsensical and fallacious.

Or to simplify, kids feel that way because society make them feel that way and for no other reason. Put sex on a pedestal for no good reason and this is the result you create. It is not sex, or pre-martial sex or casual sex that is the root cause of it. It is our attitudes towards it that is the underlying basis for this entire melodramatic Sturm und Drang.

Sex between two committed individuals is enjoyable, and the fruit of this relationship is the child that will be created in the process.

One of the reasons why our birth rate has plummeted is because, through the use of contraceptives, we have separated the act of creation from sex. By understanding the purpose and function of our body, we will learn to respect it as a powerful tool to create new life.

When they are taught about sex in this light, our children will be less inclined to engage in pre-marital sex, as creating a life brings on new responsibility.

Ah...finally the naturalist/naturalistic fallacy a.k.a. what is natural is good. What's the point of Understanding and of Knowledge if we do not apply it? I think it's fantastic we have managed to separate sex from procreation and I think it's an absolute moral good insofar as women now have control over their bodies. The gender revolution could not have occurred, nor the strides women have made if they could not control their reproduction. There are no two ways about it.

Anyway, this has made a nice interlude post Roman Law and dinner and possibly screwdrivers.



Saturday, March 10, 2007

Not Dead Just Busy With Exams

General hiatus from blogging for a while. If I still have any readers left, I'll see you in about a week.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Second Sight: 55th Skeptics' Circle: The Number Of The Skeptic

The 55th Skeptic Circle is up. I would strongly and strenuously urge people to read it, if nothing else, to shake up your beliefs in the supernatural, the unfalsifiable and the sheer non-evidential.