Home > Regular Features > Weekend reflections

Weekend reflections

March 12th, 2010

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:
  1. smiths
    March 15th, 2010 at 11:28 | #1

    your unsubstantiated allegation of systematic criminal misconduct on the part of the accounting firms is not only unproven but just illustrates how desperate you are on this. - Andrew Reynolds

    a matter of days after this comment we have

    Ultimately the biggest loser from the whole Repo 105 scandal may not be the perpetrators … but the alleged “fact-checkers” – auditors Ernst & Young.
    Just like Enron’s Star Wars-based off balance sheet accounting gimmicks brought down Arthur Anderson, so “Repo 105″ may likely be responsible for the downfall of E&Y. - zerohedge

    which bit of Ernst & Youngs systemic criminal misconduct at Lehman would you like to refute Andrew?

    further to my other point that the global financial crisis was a sham and should rightly be called the greatest public wealth theft in history, i note the new forbes rich list has a higher entry bar than ever,
    only billionaires are eligible now, wealth is literally pouring upwards and anyone who thinks carlos slim got to the top selling phones is misfiring in their cranium

  2. Freelander
    March 15th, 2010 at 18:17 | #2

    @smiths

    Atheism isn’t a world view. It isn’t a belief system at all. It is simply an absence of belief in any God. Similarly, Asantaism, that is, absence of belief in Santa Claus is not a belief system and entails nothing in particular. People who haven’t even heard of Santa don’t believe in Santa. Atheists can be bad or mad or sad for many reasons but none of them are due to atheism.

    The rule on celibacy is certainly not healthy but celibacy is not the central problem or the reason for the problems in the catholic church. To suggest that paedophilia is due to the church’s current rule on celibacy for the priesthood is silly. The problems existed in those people long before they became priests. That is not to say that upbringing in the faith is necessarily unrelated to some of those problems. Or that the priesthood doesn’t offer certain types of people with certain types of problems certain attractions and protections. For some it has historically provided a happy hunting ground. The church should get rid of celibacy but not simply as a cure for paedophilia. Celibacy was only introduced to protect church assets from dissipation anyway. Not exactly a core scriptural reason. Actually, they should give all church assets away. Then there would be no need to protect them.

  3. smiths
    March 16th, 2010 at 14:44 | #3

    freelander,
    i have to disagree with you on that, spiritual belief systems are as old as humans,
    it is not correct to say that non-belief in deities is the same as non-belief in one particular character fixed in a certain place and time like santa,
    its the kind of sweeping generalisation atheists often make without really considering the logic,
    as i said in my post,
    there are a range of atheisms,
    some believe that they can categorically deny the existence of deities which of course requires the same kind of unobtainable proof which eludes religious believers, they say they dont need a proof of a negative assertion but i disagree with that,
    if you say that god does not exist i say how do you know?
    most light atheists are really agnostics, they dont really believe in god, they suspect that all evidence suggests the absence of a deity but admit that ultimately there is simply not enough evidence to prove it one way or the other
    honestly though, i dont really care,
    i think the arguement about where did we come from and why are we here proves to be one of the greatest distractions from the real questions,
    who and what do you love, and what are you doing to nourish those people and things you love

  4. March 16th, 2010 at 15:13 | #4

    smiths,
    One accounting firm being wrong (or even committing fraud) on one job no more indicates systemic fraud than one bank manager stealing from a bank indicates systemic theft amongst bank managers or theft by an aid worker indicates that the whole global system of aid distribution is corrupt. A single employee that commits theft does not mean that you need to sack your entire workforce.
    It may or may not be the case, but that is not evidence for it. Your accusation is still unsubstantiated.
    The big four firms each sign off on several thousand jobs every single day of the working week. To prove any fraud to be systematic you would need to show that there is systematic fraud on a reasonable percentage of those jobs. With the evidence you have so far I believe that a court would, on a charge of systematic fraud, still pronounce a resounding “Not Guilty”.

  5. Freelander
    March 16th, 2010 at 15:31 | #5

    @smiths

    My non-belief is quite general, just like everyone’s non-belief. There are an infinity of things I don’t believe in. Most of them I don’t even know that I don’t believe in them, but if you asked me about them one by one I could confirm my disbelief. Santa Claus, the various versions of the Abrahamic God, the various other gods, Gods I haven’t even heard of. If a God gave some evidence of existence then I might change my mind but I put the likelihood of that as being much smaller than Santa Claus doing the same. Or to put it another way, I give it probability zero of happening. Not impossible but exceedingly unlikely.

  6. smiths
    March 16th, 2010 at 15:38 | #6
  7. smiths
    March 16th, 2010 at 15:40 | #7

    i’ll give you evidence of god, infinite space and time

  8. Freelander
    March 16th, 2010 at 15:45 | #8

    @smiths

    How do you know that space or time are infinite? Why not what I don’t believe in, or what I don’t know? Those are infinite.

  9. March 16th, 2010 at 15:49 | #9

    Freelander – an event with a probability of zero is impossible. If you want “exceedingly unlikely” you need to head for a number than is greater than zero but (probably) less than 0.1 or 0.05.
    Let’s just chalk that one up to another error, shall we? Probably a bigger error than a spelling mistake.
    .
    smiths,
    That was an interesting link – and Francine seems to know a fair bit about what she is saying. Her discussions of several cases (seems to be between 1 and 2 a month) being brought against audit firms does not (IMHO) indicate that there is a major problem in an industry that signs off on thousands of audits a day.

  10. smiths
    March 16th, 2010 at 15:50 | #10

    yeah, those as well,
    actually i think that time is a byproduct of space so i probably shouldnt include that one,
    really though, anything you want can be evidence if you so believe, the ridiculous improbability of life, love, beauty, imperfection, random acts of shocking cruelty

  11. smiths
    March 16th, 2010 at 16:15 | #11

    @Andrew Reynolds
    i think you set the bar higher than i do Andrew,
    i am talking though about the big four auditors and the biggest world banks,
    not the guys that audit my little companies accounts once a year

  12. Freelander
    March 16th, 2010 at 16:15 | #12

    @Andrew Reynolds

    Praisie Andrew. I said probability zero. If I had taken your claims about yourself seriously I would have thought that you would know that that does not necessarily mean that an event is impossible. But I am not surprised that you don’t know this. I suppose you don’t know too much maths or statistics or probability theory. Still haven’t asked about what your ‘south park’ avatar reveals.

    smiths. In this universe, the existence of some life is not improbable at all. This universe has the necessary properties. Not surprising really, if it didn’t we wouldn’t be here.

  13. March 16th, 2010 at 16:24 | #13

    Freelander,
    An event with a probability of zero has no chance of occurring – it is that simple and is absolutely basic statistics. To quote the Wikipedia “A probability is a real number between zero (the event cannot happen in any trial)…”.
    Yet another basic error. The trick when you make these is not to bluster on as if you know what you are talking about, but to correct yourself. You should try that.
    .
    smiths,
    If you want to restrict it to just the the big four firms and multi-million dollar accounts there would be hundreds or thousands of these signed off each year. For there to be questions raised over just 1 or 2 a month (and not even findings made or suits finalised, just questions) then that is not evidence of systematic fraud. If anything, this seems to be evidence of exactly the opposite.

  14. smiths
    March 16th, 2010 at 16:28 | #14

    look i dont want to get into a silly conversation about how we come to be here,
    yes, the building blocks are there, and we are here to ponder them, fine,
    but you know, the planet sits in a narrow range, it was bombarded a lot more before by meteors, the sun itself seems to sit in a sweet spot,
    theres lots of variables,
    i am just saying that if you believed in god you could take these things as evidence quite reasonably,
    especially since there is no satisfying theory of how complex life actually arose,
    i am sure i read the other day it might have begun on those vents in the deep sea … speculation though

  15. Freelander
    March 16th, 2010 at 16:51 | #15

    @Andrew Reynolds

    Get an education. I said probability zero. An event with probability zero is not necessarily impossible. An impossible event has probability zero, but an event with probability zero is not necessarily impossible. It could happen but (maybe) not overnight. Consult a mathematician. (Actually, JQ is a mathematician and so is Ernestine.) Otherwise, get over it.

  16. Freelander
    March 16th, 2010 at 16:56 | #16

    @smiths

    The satisfying theory is evolution. And where the self aware are in existence, with or without a god, either the means for them coming into existence there, or the means of them getting there from elsewhere is automatically entailed. Not only is that true with probability one, but because it exhausts the possibilities, it is also a certainty.

  17. smiths
    March 16th, 2010 at 17:09 | #17

    evolution from what, water bears ?

  18. Donald Oats
    March 16th, 2010 at 17:14 | #18

    @smiths
    I’m the full-on atheist in the sense that I have a lack of belief in any god(s), or other supernatural stuff.
    Obviously no one can prove the non-existence of god(s), since they are so good at hiding. However, one doesn’t need watertight logic and a mathematical proof that god(s) don’t exist in order to be satisfied, for the following reason:
    smiths, Do you believe that your physical body will only live for a finite number of years, and almost certainly fewer than 200 years (to pick a number at of the hat)? And that once dead, your physical body will start to decompose?
    If so, you are making the same logic error that you are claiming that (some) atheists make. You cannot prove that you will die, except of course by killing yourself – which wouldn’t prove it to you anyway, since you’d be in no position to know the answer by then. Yet I’d wager that you think it is a dead certainty (pun intended) that you’ll die, even though you cannot prove it. Afterall, people are dying all the time, so there is plenty of evidence that people die. And as far as oldest living person goes, no one so far has made 150 year of age.

    On the assumption that you agree with me that it’s highly, highly unlikely that you’ll live forever, or even for another 200 years, perhaps now you can appreciate that my position is I’m as certain that there is no god or gods as I am that I will die one day. I don’t need mathematical certainty, just the fact that the evidence of existence of god(s) is itself restricted to heresay and the claims of a few individuals long ago, whereas the evidence that people die is extremely convincing. If other people require even more certainty than what I’ve presented, then fine, they may choose a different course to me. I won’t be mad at them for doing so. Unlike what the Age and the Australian may have led people to believe.

  19. Freelander
    March 16th, 2010 at 17:16 | #19

    @smiths

    From Adam and Eve of course, six thousand or ten thousand, or whatever years ago. Eve evolved out of a purloined rib.

  20. smiths
    March 16th, 2010 at 17:27 | #20

    donald,
    if you are saying that given the available information, the odds are that gods dont exist is almost a water-tight cert then i’d say thats fair, but we are acknowleding its a wager, rather than a fact right?
    have you vere known or met anyone who you trusted with their sanity who has seen a ghost?

    and freelander, you are not jokingly suggesting that i might believe that are you?

  21. gerard
    March 16th, 2010 at 18:40 | #21

    i am just saying that if you believed in god you could take these things as evidence quite reasonably,
    especially since there is no satisfying theory of how complex life actually arose

    Not really, because if you posit “God” as an explanation for how complex life arose, you then have to explain how God arose, and you’re back at square one – or actually even further back, since God is presumably more complex than the complex life it created…

  22. SJ
    March 16th, 2010 at 18:55 | #22

    An event with a probability of zero has no chance of occurring – it is that simple and is absolutely basic statistics.

    No, Andrew, it’s more complicated than that. Before you discover the first black swan, the a priori probability that the next swan that you see will be black is zero.

  23. sdfc
    March 16th, 2010 at 19:02 | #23

    I see the religious zealots are still at it.

    Yes he does think you believe that Smiths, Freelander can only handle cartoon concepts. Saying evolution as it is currently understood is a certainty suggests he doesn’t even understand it.

    Gerard, no one has to explain how god or whatever you want to call it arose, that is just silly.

  24. Donald Oats
    March 16th, 2010 at 19:03 | #24

    I’m saying that in the world of mathematics it may be possible to prove some things, which makes them “theorems”, but in the world we inhabit we don’t have the luxury of 100% certainty. Absolutely everything physical must be observed by some means in order to reason about it; without observation we are guessing. However, in the case of the physical world we have observed a regularity in the behaviour of mass, matter and energy, and we can derive mathematical equations that describe the observed behaviour. It is the existence of a) the means of observation; and b) the ability to derive equations adequate to the task, that allows scientists to make (accurate) predictions of the Earth, moon, Sun system, taking into account the effects of the other planets, for example.
    In the case of god(s), we have the problem that the vast majority of people never observe them, a miniscule number of people claime to have observed god(s), and the god(s) (assuming that they exist, for sake of the argument) fail to leave any decent physical evidence of their presence. If they do leave evidence, it must be indistinguishable from natural happenings, otherwise the failure to obey natural laws (eg gravitational attraction, the example I used earlier on in this comment) would stick out like a sore thumb and be observable by many people, perhaps even measurable. In that case, we would have sufficient evidence to establish that either we are missing some scientific laws relevant to the human time and space scales, or something that behaves as we imagine a god or gods to behave has left us a calling card, so to speak. Evidence of that nature would open up the idea of god or gods as being plausible, maybe even true.

    So, I just live my life as though there are no gods. I make no claim to know answers to the big questions, like how did the Universe come into being assuming an origin? In fact, I’m not even sure that questions like that can even in principle be answered, at least not with the tools we currently have at hand. Of course, that (thankfully) doesn’t stop some people from trying.

  25. sdfc
    March 16th, 2010 at 19:29 | #25

    I have not targeted my point about religious zealotry at you Donald but rather those who think it necessary to label all Christians as pedophiles simply because it is a convenient way for them to explain away the vast amount of social assistance the various churches provide to the community. I said earlier (but it was deleted) an atheists or anyone’s personal views as to the nature of existence are none of my business.

  26. gerard
    March 16th, 2010 at 19:51 | #26

    Gerard, no one has to explain how god or whatever you want to call it arose, that is just silly.

    if you are using god to explain how life arose, then you have to explain how god arose. if this is a “silly” question, then it is also a silly question to ask how life arose.

  27. Alice
    March 16th, 2010 at 19:55 | #27

    I hate to say this …but there is no god. We …every atom and every part pf every atom…has been here on earth since the big bang and there is nowhere to go except right here unless you believe your atoms have some memory in which case you may have some of your atoms re-incranated into another life force (which you will undoubtedly have no memory of either).

    Sacriligious.

  28. gerard
    March 16th, 2010 at 19:55 | #28

    …those who think it necessary to label all Christians as pedophiles

    nobody on this blog did that, and probably nobody anywhere else did either

  29. sdfc
    March 16th, 2010 at 20:34 | #29

    Hate to break it to you Gerard but existence didn’t start with biological life.

    Commenters on this blog did associate Christians with child abuse. When I pointed out to Freelander that the church provides goods and services to the most needy in the community the discussion degenerated into accusations of child abuse as some sort of ulterior motive for good works in the community. Most of those comments have now been deleted. You can see the remnants of that discussion on the Deltoid v Thunderer thread.

  30. sdfc
    March 16th, 2010 at 20:38 | #30

    gerard :Scientology is slightly different from mainstream churches in that it forbids its members to undertake any professional treatment or medication for mental illness. This is dangerous. But on top of that, it is different because it charges tens of thousands of dollars for progression through various stages of bogus “enlightenment” (culminating eventually in the aliens-and-volcanos Xenu story). It is a pure scam that preys on the emotionally vulnerable for their money.
    The prize for life-threatening stupidity probably goes to the Jehova’s Witnesses who threaten any doctor who wants to give a patient a blood-transfusion with lawsuits. There should be some sort of law that prevents religious idiots from killing people (such as their own children) by denying them necessary medical procedures.
    Meanwhile the world’s largest organized child-abuse ring (a.k.a. the Catholic Church) has finally had its infallible boss implicated: Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry (Times Online, March 13). I was going to post this on the other thread but did not want to continue that derail.

    Gerard since you chose to post the above comment in the middle of that discussion it appears your objection to my statement of accusations of child abuse being levelled at all Christians is a little disingenuous.

  31. gerard
    March 16th, 2010 at 21:21 | #31

    Thank you for reposting my post, I know it’s so good that it deserves repetition, but can you pinpoint where I (or anybody else) has levelled accusations of child abuse at “all Christians”? No you can’t, because nobody ever did that, here or anywhere else.

    Undeniably, the Catholic Church hierarchy has such a well-established history, in country after country, decade after decade, of enabling and protecting pedophiles, that it really isn’t hyperbole to say that no other institution can compete with it on this count.

    But unless you are a complete idiot, you must be well aware that this is entirely different from saying that “all Catholic priests are pedophiles”, let alone saying that “all Christians are pedophiles”!! Making a leap like that is more than a little disingenuous, it wins the prize for Strawman of the Millennium, congratulations.

    As for the other matter we’re talking about – existence – well the same argument applies to the origin of the universe as to the origin of life. If you’re going to say that “God” explains the origin of the universe, then what explains the origin of God? If you then say that the origin of God doesn’t require an explanation, then why does the origin of the universe require an explanation? The silliness works both ways I’m afraid.

    Logically, God is totally redundant as an explanation for the creation of anything. If we don’t need to explain the origin of God, then we don’t need to explain the origin of the universe. But if we do need to explain the origin of the universe, then logically we also need to explain the origin of God!

  32. sdfc
    March 16th, 2010 at 21:56 | #32

    I can tell your uncomfortable with being called out participating in such a discussion. Claiming you have no knowledge of the exchange and then claiming there is no proof of the discussion, knowing full well the comments were deleted, does you no credit.

    You can carry on all you like about the catholic church. I’m not a catholic or any other denomination.

    Explaining the origin of God? You obviously like circular arguments. What explains the origin of the big bang? Or the singularity that some think preceded it (for want of a better word)?

    You should try and not get so hung up on other people’s beliefs.

  33. sdfc
    March 16th, 2010 at 21:56 | #33

    Yes I know it should be you’re.

  34. March 16th, 2010 at 22:02 | #34

    Freelander,
    You are embarrassing yourself again. An event that has a zero probability is impossible. That is how it is defined. As you did with your embarrassment over the simile question, I recommend that you now ignore this crass error and move on. The more you harp on the less credible you become – if, indeed, you have any credibility left.

  35. Gerard
    March 16th, 2010 at 22:12 | #35

    There was never any comment that said all Christians are pedophiles, deleted or otherwise. Maybe you hallucinated it.

    We can continue the other discussion when you learn what a “circular argument” actually is, or even what an “argument” is, since you don’t seem to know

  36. Gerard
    March 16th, 2010 at 22:16 | #36

    Andrew you’re wrong. In continuous state space there is a difference between zero probability and impossible. I know it’s counter-intuitive, that’s why my probability professor emphasized the point

  37. Nick R
    March 16th, 2010 at 22:57 | #37

    Many religious people use an infinite regression to justify belief in God. These arguments are usually made by repeating the phrases ‘…well what happened before that?’ or ‘why?’ enough times such that eventually the birth of the universe must be explained. At this point people invoke God to terminate the regress.

    As Dawkins explains there are several flaws with this thinking. Firstly the concepts of time and causality do not have simple definitions in a cosmological sense the way they do on earth, and thus applying them in an infinite regress is invalid. Secondly if a religious person was to argue that the regress was valid they would need to explain what happened before God and how God came into existence. Claiming that ‘God has always been here’ or ‘God needed no creation’ is unscientific, though it does imply that the regress argument is invalid.

  38. gerard
    March 16th, 2010 at 23:22 | #38

    @Nick R
    thanks, you said it better than me.

    to sdrc I was just making the point that if you’re going to use God as an explanation for the Big Bang, then it is not any more silly or less silly to ask “What caused God”? than it is to ask “What caused the Big Bang?”

    That’s just straight-forward logic, although I know that religion and logic have a tendency to be incompatible.

    Unlike sdrc I was raised pretty staunchly Catholic. I didn’t really question that God created the universe, but I remember one time when I was about six I had a brainwave and asked “Did God have any choice about creating the universe? After all, if he didn’t create it, he’d be God of nothing.” Although I was told that it was a stupid question, I had realized that even if God had created the universe, he mustn’t have had much say in the matter.

    I have to say though, nothing cures one of religion quite as thoroughly as a good old-fashioned Catholic school.

  39. Freelander
    March 17th, 2010 at 00:03 | #39

    Gerard :
    Andrew you’re wrong. … there is a difference between zero probability and impossible. I know it’s counter-intuitive, that’s why my probability professor emphasized the point

    Gerard, you’re not resort to the use of facts and knowledge gained from an education? Andrew will accuse you of hitting below the belt. I should have thought that Google would have allowed Andrew to have found that out all by himself. Interesting that the finance expert didn’t know that. Mustn’t be a ‘quant’ then?

  40. March 17th, 2010 at 00:28 | #40

    Gerard,
    I have never come across an event that had a zero possibility, yet was not impossible and I have dealt for a long time in probabilities. To me, that would be really counter intuitive. Can you give an example?

  41. Freelander
    March 17th, 2010 at 00:38 | #41

    @Andrew Reynolds

    Probability zero, you nong.

  42. March 17th, 2010 at 01:15 | #42

    Freelander,
    So far the only “nong” here would be someone who insists that it is OK to truncate a sentence and then claim that the truncation is a fair basis to evaluate the original sentence.
    In any case you “nong” Gerard has clearly said “zero probability”, not “probability zero”. Again, if there is a difference I would be interested, as I said.
    Good to see you continuing to stick by the abuse policy as well.

  43. Freelander
    March 17th, 2010 at 01:54 | #43

    Praisie Andrew. I stick to the policy with greater fidelity than you do. If you want to portray yourself as clever, you will have to lift your game. If you don’t know much about maths, or stats or probability or history what exactly do you know? Are you indeed an adult as you seem to claim? And you claim to work in finance and at a university? Clearly you are not an economist, and you do not have much quant training.
    Also, why do you expect everyone here to supply you with a free education? Especially when you’re such a cheeky chap. You’re a libertarian. Why don’t you go out and purchase one? “curing chemotherapy” doesn’t make sense. It contains a lexical selection error. As for you correcting everyone for imaginary mistakes, maybe you should also purchase some treatment for that and your other problems while you are at it. Maybe you’ll get a volume discount.
    Gerard did not say ‘zero possibility’, in case you didn’t notice.
    If you are interested, you have already been given a suggestion on how you might go about doing your own research – start with Google. (Remember everything you find on the web is not necessarily correct.) However, Google probably isn’t enough. Learning without guidance is not so easy for some. You still haven’t inquired about what your ‘south park’ avatar reveals. I might tell you that one for free.

  44. March 17th, 2010 at 02:26 | #44

    Freelander,
    Perhaps you can address your seeming fascination with my gravatar elsewhere. As for the rest, I am not sure of what, if any, point you are trying to make. That comment seems to be all over the place. I might also be interested in why you are continuing to repeat smiths’ picking up of my mis-spelling of the word précis, but I think that is only likely to start yet another incoherent spray.
    As I advised you a while back – get a life. An education in forming an argument would be another worthwhile step.

  45. Freelander
    March 17th, 2010 at 02:36 | #45

    Praisie Andrew. Your banalothon continues. Now you are once again claiming to be an expert on argumentation, and I suppose logic. Yet all the evidence is to the contrary.

  46. March 17th, 2010 at 05:13 | #46

    I do not need to be an expert to see that you seem to have a problem with the concept of a paragraph. Oh – and Gerard did say “zero probability”. Right there, in the bit you blockquoted.

  47. Freelander
    March 17th, 2010 at 05:21 | #47

    Andrew Reynolds :
    Gerard,
    I have never come across an event that had a zero possibility, …

    Praisie, in what way is ‘zero possibility’ synonymous with “zero probability”? Nong.

  48. Freelander
    March 17th, 2010 at 05:24 | #48

    Sorry Andrew, my natural empathy can only stand so much of your public humiliation. Goodbye.

  49. gerard
    March 17th, 2010 at 08:38 | #49

    Ok Andrew, I’ll attempt an example, although maybe not the best one, and maybe it will seem silly, but…

    what’s the probability that the temperature at a given moment will be 20 degrees celsius?

    Zero. Why? Because temperature is a continuous variable. When we say “20 degrees”, we are not only excluding 19.9 degrees and 20.1 degrees, we are also excluding 19.9999999999999999 degrees and 20.0000000000000000000001 degrees, and so on, to an infinite number of decimal places. As the number of decimal places that you are excluding goes to infinity (which is the definition of a continuous variable), the probability of it being exactly 20 goes to zero. In fact, the probability of it being any exact point on the continuum is zero. But that’s different from saying it’s “impossible” that the temperature is 20. The temperature has to be some exact value after all – even if the probability of it being any particular exact value is zero.

    That’s why on continuous distributions you always measure the probability over an interval, and not at a single point.

    PS I’m not an expert so if anybody who actually is an expert wants to correct me, feel free.

Comment pages
1 2 8396
Comments are closed.