Sunday, 22 August 2010

Spurious correlations

I heard the following snippet on UK Radio 4's pick of the week, by Chris McManus of University College London.  I may not have recorded exactly correctly but I hope this gives the gist of it:

"People are extremely good at making explanations of things they find in the World, but those explanations may not be true. People are also very good at spotting differences such as red hair, left-handedness etc but then they often make spurious correlations such as "she's a writer, she's left handed; She must be a writer because she is left handed. -  And then we boring scientists come along, sort it out and then find there is no correlation at all."

Perhaps this human propensity to make any connection rather than none (no matter how bizarre) and avoid having to admit that the real answer is not yet within human capability to understand;  is part of what is behind enduring religious belief.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Saw this great definition again today...

The American Humanist Association's Definition of Humanism:

"Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility. It advocates the extension of participatory democracty and the expansion of open society, standing for human rights and social justice. Free of supernaturalism, it recognizes human beings as a part of nature and holds that values -- be they religious, ethical, social or political -- have their source in human nature, experience and culture. Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny."

Monday, 9 August 2010

Dark humour

I've been struggling to keep it together recently.  The following has little to do with anything on this blog except humans sometimes find comfort in black humour to which they can relate. For me it works where religion does not.  The following cheered me up no end.  Still chuckling about it.  I have a terrible memory.  One of the few upsides is that I refind jokes I had forgotten and they make me smile all over again:

"Welcome to the Psychiatric Hotline.

If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.
If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2.
If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5, and 6.
If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want. Just stay on the line so we can trace the call.
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.
If you are depressed, it doesn't matter which number you press. No one will answer.
If you are delusional and occasionally hallucinate, please be aware that the thing you are holding on the side of your head is alive and about to bite off your ear."

I've been there, and I've met all these people....