William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Ask A Scientific Ethicist: Boy Who Thinks He’s A Boy & More

The Scientific Ethicist, PhD

The Scientific Ethicist, PhD

This week, three letters from concerned readers.

Bobby’s Bad Behavior

Dear Scientific Ethicist,

Our eight-year old child has been acting out, speaking out of turn, making shapes of weapons with zis fingers, and is firm that ze has gender identified as a “boy”. As forward-thinking parents we want to make sure all of zir needs have been met and ze is developing appropriately. We have given zim only the best gender neutral toys but ze still insists on turning these toys into armies that fight!

What can we do to correct zis behavior?

Parent at Wit’s End

Dear Wit’s End,

About half of human babies are born with a Y chromosome, a very few are born with two, while nearly all the remainder are born without. An almost vanishingly small contingent are born with chromosomes that don’t fit either of these categories well.

As contrary to common sense as it seems, human mating requires one human with a Y chromosome and one without to reproduce. That they do mate is what accounts for the occasional pregnancies in the humans without the Y chromosome.

Science has proven beyond all doubt that the humans with the Y chromosomes can sometimes recognize the humans without. This mechanism is still not fully understood: more research is needed. But deduction tells us it must be present or the mating process could never begin.

This shows, once again, that Science is found everywhere!

The Scientific Ethicist

Aging judgments

Dear Scientific Ethicist,

Years ago, I first noticed that the older I got, the stupider other people acted. I can’t think of a scientific explanation for why this should be, but it has gotten to the point where the correlation is undeniable.

What could possibly cause this seemingly bizarre correlation?

Thank you,

Milton

Dear Milton,

Science has conclusively proved that change, such as motion, chemical reorganization and the like, is the cause of time, and scientists can now track the units of this change at the most fundamental level. Science calls this Planck time, which is the amount of time required for light in a vacuum to traverse one Planck unit, which is 1.616199 x 10-35 meters. This works out to be about 10-43 seconds.

That is an absolute boundary, beyond which we cannot peer. Mathematically, it is easy to see that a 60-year-old man has lived about 1,893,456,000 seconds, and therefore could have traversed 3.060202 x 1017 meters. Not linearly, you understand, but additively. Looking backwards over this distance can produce a foreshortening which scientifically accounts for your experiences.

This is the raw power of Science!

The Scientific Ethicist

Diabetes shots at meals

Dear Scientific Ethicist,

My husband has diabetes and takes insulin shots after meals. He makes quite a thing of it and injects himself at the table, even in restaurants. I’m used to it, but not everybody is. The sight of blood can ruin the meals for some.

I don’t know how to bring this up with my husband because he’s very sensitive about his condition. Though clearly something has to change or we cannot go out to eat any more. What should I do?

Cindy

Dear Cindy,

Science tells us that human blood is actually composed of blood cells, which ferry oxygen and nutrients around the body, and a liquid plasma in which the cells are suspended. Evolutionary psychologists, starting with those scientific facts, ran an experiment which resembled your situation. The result was that the area postrema, the region of the brain associated with nausea and vomiting, was activated in 42.761% of college students exposed to the word BLOOD printed in 24 pt New Times Roman upper case on a standard sheet of non-glossy white copy paper (the American and not European size). They also reported a mean nausea score of 3.48121 (on a scale of 0 to 6.5).

Truly, there is nothing Science cannot do!

The Scientific Ethicist

Send in your questions to the Scientific Ethicist today! Or read his previous column.

22 Comments

  1. Not to argue with science, or the Scientific Ethicist, but Cindy might check out an insulin pen, or, if science is the answer, use an insulin pump. It even has a cool “computer” on board, is advanced technology and only produces blood if one accidentally pulls the tubing out. See, science does indeed cover everything! (And a long t-shirt will cover the accidental pulling of tubing.)

    Otherwise, there’s Google glasses for all the dinner guests. They won’t notice the blood.

  2. Dear Scientific Ethicist,

    Why?

  3. Isn’t “why” in the philosophy department?

  4. There’s many ways to make a point, sometimes the direct approach is best–much less wordy & once made need not be repeated in so many various forms:

    “I’m a statistician offering my statistical analysis services. While I realize that the predominant application of these services is with the sciences (even in business applications), I cannot help myself of sarcastic disdain of science itself and I can show you, philosophically, why I’m right & everyone else is wrong. Please don’t hesitate to follow the 4th link at the top of this blog.”

    Great marketing tactic, eh?

  5. Briggs

    May 16, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Ken,

    I of course can’t speak for the Scientific Ethicist, but it appears to me he’s ridiculing scientism, not science. Poking fun at the absurd idea that any question of right or wrong can be answered scientifically.

  6. “Poking fun at the absurd idea that any question of right or wrong can be answered scientifically.”

    In your opinion, how do we acquire knowledge of right and wrong? At it’s root, the scientific method posits that all knowledge (and right and wrong is knowledge) is gained from observation. Is knowledge of right or wrong gained by some other means?

  7. Finding these columns very entertaining. Keep up the good work!

  8. Brandon Gates

    May 16, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    William M. Briggs, my dear fellow. I so much enjoy what has become my daily routine of checking in on your blog to get my daily dose of high blood pressure. It’s a great way to clear out the pipes as it were, and get my brain functioning so that it can better address other items on my task list.

    Being a nascent gentleman of liesure, one of my hobbies is to daily wander into a den of rabid atheists who worship at the altar of scientism and pillory them for being useful idiots. This while simultaneously pointing out the benefits of living in a highly moral society dominated by good Christian peoples. My deep veins of narcissistic superiority adore being self-stroked so fondly.

    With that lecture as background, I have an actual argument, for I know of your rightful disdain of drive-by shootings which are bereft of actual content.

    Satire is an effective and satisfying form of communicating criticism.

    It sometimes has the beneficial result of causing those with different ideologies from your own to examine themselves and see the errors of their thinking and beliefs. Your satire often has this effect on me. My appreciation is genuine, and I often don’t laugh at it because I take in the serious message behind the humor.

    I’ve sometimes found that even more effective is satire directed at ones own ideologically similar fellows. I suspect the reason for this is that we have less animosity for ourselves, therefore the satire comes across as less biting, more light-hearted. And, being more familiar with our own beliefs, our self-satire can reach deeper truths by identifying deeper, more obscure falsehoods.

    So no, I’m not laughing today. I think the first item about chromosomes and sex determination is particularly odious and idiotic. The others may actually be funny once I have gotten over myself and can bring back the part of me that can take a joke, but I wanted to first speak to my anger while I was feeling it.

    Regards as always and as cordially as presently possible, Brandon R. Gates.

  9. Briggs

    May 16, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Brandon,

    Oh very well, tell us just why this perfectly accurate scientific description is “odious”, especially considering the question.

    Jim S,

    My opinion won’t be the same as the Scientific Ethicist’s. He probably doesn’t believe, as I do, that certain truths are known a priori. Well, Aristotle also held all knowledge originates in the senses, but that doesn’t mean it stops there. A vast topic, and more than we can do here.

  10. I identify as female and as a grandmother.

    Reading the book ‘The Organization Man’ by William H Whyte 1956.
    Chapter 15: The Test of Conformity

    we come to this paragraph talking about “Personality Testers”

    ‘When confronted with recalcitrance or criticism, many testers, as is so characteristic of the followers of scientism, do not address themselves to the ideas in dispute but speculate, instead, on the hidden maladjustments that drove one to take a position contrary to theirs.”

    For his definition of Scientism, read the book.

  11. Brandon Gates

    May 16, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Briggs: It’s “odious” to me*because I read into it a subtext that I find offensive. Namely that you were conflating “scientism”, which you mock (and I agree, it deserves much derision) with the scientific method, for which I have great respect so far as it is good at answering certain types of questions.

    I readilly admit that this is a raw nerve for me, even after I read your comment explaining that scientism is the target of your critique, not science. It speaks to my negative and prejudicial stereotyping against people of faith because I’ve seen so many of them make far less nuanced arguments that actually do conflate the two.

    I wanted my anger to be heard while I was having it, knowing full well at the time that that I probably wouldn’t be able to stand on it logically once I’d calmed down. And yeah, I’ve calmed down, and yeah, I can’t justify my anger via logic. I can explain it perhaps, but not justify.

    My general concern, fear-based really, is that many people distrust science for reasons that I don’t consider nuanced. In other words, unfairly. In stronger terms, stupidly wrong. Fear can lead to anger. I felt moved to publicly express both of them.

    I’m not saying the post isn’t funny. I do think it’s great humor, I’m just not at the point where I personally can laugh along with you on it.

    Capice?

  12. Brandon Gates

    May 16, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Briggs PS: “… especially considering the question”

    You’re asking for an elaboration here, but not sure what it is. Por favor a clarification since I’m perhaps still seeing you a bit as the matador?

  13. Mr. Gates, The Scientific Ethicist is a moron.

  14. Brandon Gates

    May 16, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    JH: By that I take it you mean Briggs, the author of the Scientific Ethicist? Assmuming “yes”, let me look … no, I don’t have his IQ results or a psych eval handy. Never met the man before. All I have are his words, and they are not the words of a moron. They do say a lot of things that I disagree with, vehemently at times, but differing opinions do not an idiot make, else we would all be stupid.

  15. Brandon, isn’t JH’s statement perfectly intelligible?

    The character “The Scientific Ethicist” is a moron. TSE is not indentical with Mr. Briggs.

    In fact, it seems fair to say that Mr. Briggs also thinks TSE is a moron.

    I think JH thought all of this was obviously, and should have cleared up any confusion.

  16. “Mr. Gates, The Scientific Ethicist is a moron.”

    Dear JH,

    There are two types of elementary particles. There are bosons, which are interchangeably inconsequential and seem to collude in consensual cohabitation. And then there are fermions, which are exclusively eclectic and catty. The Science is clear on this. Isn’t it wonderful?

  17. In fact, it seems fair to say that Mr. Briggs also thinks TSE is a moron.

    Obviously then not a Cats lover.

  18. I reached “Evolutionary . . .” and got the point.

  19. Brandon Gates

    May 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Ed:

    Brandon, isn’t JH’s statement perfectly intelligible?

    No, it’s sufficiently ambiguous so as to lead to a wide variety of interpretations. The comment history is ample enough evidence to support this.

    anona:

    There are two types of elementary particles …

    Very good, a worthy response in kind. +1 for helping me get my funnybone back …

    General comments:

    … and now back to Serious Business. As I see it, the following are true statements:

    1) Briggs writes TSE.
    2) TSE makes arguments in the form of “scientism”.
    3) Briggs thinks TSE’s arguments are are idiotic.
    4) Therefore Briggs thinks “scientism” is idiotic.
    5) Some comments appear to conflate “science” with “scientism”.
    6) Therefore some of Briggs’ readers are overly and unjustifiably suspicious of the general utility of science and/or the general good faith intentions of scientists.

    In other words, some here apparently think that science is idiotic, and scientists have a malicious agenda, which does not seem to be Briggs’ intent. But I am not sure, and am uncomfortable in my own uncertainty.

    I may be able to unravel my own discomfort if any here would participate in the following two-question survey. For each question describe whether you consider the statement indicative of “science” or “scientism”. If you wish to explain your reasoning, please do. Answers need not be limited to a binary decision.

    1) The theory of evolution falsifies Christianity.

    2) The theory of evolution supports the proposition that a literal interpretation of the Creation events described in Genesis is untenable.

  20. Mr. Gates,

    Briggs wrote:
    “My opinion won’t be the same as the Scientific Ethicist’s. ”

    I sure hope people don’t take TSE’s opinions or advices seriously!

    BTW, be sure to laugh a little! I usually don’t call people stupid or anything of that sort.

    Anona, yes, science is wonderful! It has always been one of my favorite subjects. Is there such a word ‘moron-a’?

  21. Brandon Gates

    May 18, 2014 at 1:11 am

    JH, thanks for the clarification with apologies for my misdirected fire.

    There are people who take TSE-type arguments seriously … they either miss the satire, or they manufacture an argument so ridiculous that it looks like satire. And then they say things like, “science marches on” or “additional research is necessary (unspoken but implied: in perpetuity because science must be wrong about this)”.

    Thanks for reminding me to laugh a bit. I let my humor peek out more elsewhere … often when an mouth-foaming atheist has just unwittingly stuffed it. Unintentional irony is a particular favorite.

    Like you, I don’t usually call entire people stupid, but I will loose harsh adjectives against egregiously stupid arguments … especially the sort that real-life TSEs use as ammo against religion.

  22. “Science has proven beyond all doubt that the humans with the Y chromosomes can sometimes recognize the humans without.” Ah yes, the root of many ills. I understood almost none of what’s posted above but this I can understand. And “mate” I did with very satisfactory results. And in the recognizing lies much pleasure.

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