SocraticGadfly: 9/10/06 - 9/17/06

September 16, 2006

I love to see Michelle Wie getting slapped down

The latest PGA pratfall? A first-round nine-over 81 and a 14-over, last-in-the-field, cut-is-out-of-sight two-day total of 158 at the men’s 84 Lumber tourney.

I’m not sexist about men’s sports vs. women’s. I am a realist about the athletic differences. And I don’t hate Michelle Wie, either.

Instead, every time she has not just a near miss of the cut at a men’s event, but a crushing, routed failure, is perhaps one step closer to her father, B.J., waking up and smelling the coffee. I just hope it happens before he wrecks her career.

Because daddy needs a whole Thermos of extra-strong java.

First, he needs to stop coaching her himself. That will probably solve most of the other problems right there.

Second, he needs to stop entering her in men’s events.

Third, he, or rather her new coach, needs to get her to working on a bunch of skills besides driving.

Fourth, new coach needs to work on her psyche, which probably had been too pampered by daddy before she regularly started getting her head handed to her on PGA events, and folding like a cheap tent in a hurricane in LPGA ones.

Finally, daddy needs to decide whether he wants his daughter to be a successful pro golfer or an exhibition toy.

Why does she flop against the men? She doesn’t have the overall skill set they do, and despite her power with a driver, she still doesn’t have the full upper-body torque that allows the top male golfers to do more with their short games than women can. And, daddy?

She’ll never have that. So pour yourself a double shot of espresso.

September 15, 2006

Will the last person trying to turn around Ford please turn out the lights?

Or should we just start singing, “Hello, Carlos”?

The third turnaround attempt in five years? A bullet through the brain, or the engine block, would be more humane.

The story says investors were disappointed Ford didn’t sell Jaguar. Frankly, I don’t think that will be enough. Within one year, maybe six months, Bill and the rest of the Ford family are going to have to make one of two choices, in my opinion.

1. They rustle up the money to take Ford private. (That will require selling Jaguar, both for the liquidity and to create a smaller company, more easily privatized.

2. They call in Carlos Ghosn and Nissan, details still to be worked out. And by “call in,” I mean call all the way in. If Nissan becomes, if not the majority shareholder, at least the plurality shareholder above the Ford family, then that’s what happens, unless Bill and the Fords can’t stomach it. Then, it’s plan No. 1.

More on why Belo sucks

The world’s first female space tourist is from Dallas and The Dallas Morning News has no story that I’ve seen, and WFAA Channel 8 had a 15-second clip, not produced by them, last night.

Nope, Belo couldn’t report on this:
"We have a lot of white male astronauts," said George Whitesides of the National Space Society, a nonprofit group that advocates space travel. "To have someone different is great. It enables girls and women to identify more with space and talk about being a space explorer someday.”

Nope, Belo couldn’t report that.

To my friend Chuck Bloom: The Morning News that you’re waxing nostalgic about died years ago. It died not recently, with the struggles of seven-day dailies. It died years ago, its face stuffed by the arrogance it got from the luck of the better local paper, the Times Herald, being an afternoon paper and eventually folding, followed by the luck of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram deciding to stop circulating in west Texas. Chuck, mi amigo, that was a full decade ago.

September 14, 2006

Why would Rhode Island Dems cross over to vote for Chafee?

R.I. law allowed them to declare as unaffiliated and cross over in the Senate primary. Why would they not write in Steve Laffey to give Dem nominee Sheldon Whitehouse a candidate to demonize personally, as well as W. behind him?

Evolutionary Psychology, Dan Dennett, and the supposedly algorithmic nature of evolution

In my
previous post about the wrongness of Evolutionary Psychology, after connecting the dots that led to that conclusion, I then started thinking about Dan Dennett’s strong, even vociferous, support for the algorithmic nature of evolution.

Then, further dots connected, as I realized how connected this is to his being a strong adaptationist.

If adaptations cause traits that approach the optimal or even reach it, we can define “the optimal” as a specific point. This, then, gives us something analogous to convergent series in mathmatics, whether geometric or arithmetic series.

One formula for either type of series solves any convergent series.

I don’t know if Dennett — or other strong adaptationists who are also “algorithmists” — have consciously thought of this analogy, but I’m thinking it has had to be floating somewhere in their minds. Even if not, it’s one of the better arguments that I think could be mustered for the algorithmic reduction of evolution.

Well, first of all, I think this is a case of Dennett being hoist by his own petard, found guilty of not reductionism but greedy reductionism.

That, though, is a secondary point.

The main point is that, since adaptationism simply isn’t true, per my previous post, and not only isn’t true, but as quasi-utopian and arguably philosophically idealist isn’t good science, that an algorithmic understanding of evolution that is pinned to adaptationism also fails on both counts.

Cross posted on Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly

R.I.P., Ann Richards

The former Texas governor, and sober former alcoholic drinker, dead at 73.

Note my phraseology; I prefer labeling behaviors to people.

The obits say she died of esophageal cancer. It goes to show that chronic drinking, especially if combined with smoking, can get you long after you’ve quit.

Evolutionary psychology — adaptationism defined sub specie Leibnitz

Adaptationism: “The Leibnitzian view of how gene-based evolutionary changes produce the optimal development of traits in individuals, therefore individuals as individuals, and secondarily, species composed of groups of such individuals.

Now, no confirmed Ev Psycher may like that definition, but if the shoe fits, that adaptationism claims this is the best of all evolutionarily possible worlds (or nearly so) …

How else can you describe a theory that says most or all traits are optimal adaptations? It’s too bad Gould was too mild-mannered, and neither Eldridge nor Lewontin among others has the pen of a Voltaire to have produced this definition already.

And that is why I am not an Evolutionary Psychologist, although I do certainly consider myself to be some sort of evolutionary psychologist (per Buller).

Another way to look at this, perhaps, is to see that adaptationism, whether specifically put in the service of Ev Psych or not, smacks of utopianism. Materialist utopianism, perhaps; less-than-all utopianism, when compared to religious utopias, dependent on the “omnis” of traditional theology. BUT, utopianism, nonetheless, and arguably a more dangerous utopianism precisely because it’s in the guise of a scientific theory.

Sure, the “optimal development” traits tend toward may be hedged, with “many” or “most.” OK, then I’ll hedge my previous paragraph and call adaptationism quasi-utopian.

Nonetheless, I am an ev psycher, in small letters. I’m a naturalist, it seems clear the brain is the mind (making allowance for neurotransmitter chemicals outside the brain), I believe in evolution, even as details of the neo-Darwinian synthesis get hammered out toward a neo-neo-Darwinian synthesis (influenced by developments in areas such as symbiosis). Anyhow, take a naturalist approach that brain=mind, combine that with an acceptance of evolutionary theory, and QED, the mind must evolve along with the rest of homo sapiens (and other critters).

Just not in the way that Ev Psychers claim, including not “optimally.”

Some critiques of Ev Psych are right; its proponents have sniffed too much Paley, not nearly enough Hume, else they’d be much more skeptical about “optimal” ANYTHING in evolutionary biology.

Cross-posted at Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly

September 12, 2006

Will the last one leaving The Dallas Morning News please turn out the lights?

Most of their arts critics gone. Belt-tightening elsewhere. A one-fifth cut in overall editorial staff, as listed here.

Of course, the Snooze is going to spin this the best it can, including a “fluff” bombardment of local news stories the next few Sundays.

That said, many of those will be written by freelancers. And, even with that, especially when you discard fluff features, the Snooze still won’t have the breadth of local hard news coverage that my suburban newspaper group offers.

Yet, just as the Snooze has dysfunctionally whored for years for recognition as a “national,” not a “regional” newspaper, so too will many Metroplex residents, especially in the Southern Sector, whore for coverage in the pages of the Snooze.

Meanwhile, despite a major employer too cheap to even offer a free résumé writing seminar (thought both the Detroit Free Press and Arizona Republic [former employer of op-ed editor Keven Ann Willey] have no problem with providing one gratis — read the blog linked above) is slashing a fifth of the staff, you have some dysfunctional employees who still hold up the Snooze as the greatest thing since sliced bread, as posted on the Dallas Observer’s blog, in a quoted e-mail.
Speaking as one of the 85% of the newroom that is not taking the buyout: We are not chopped liver, damnit! Yeah, this sucks. And yes, we are losing some very good people. But some very good journalists will remain.

I’m no toadie for management and the myriad ways they’ve made things worse. But here’s a sad truth: Even a diminished DMN will be better than most other papers in the country. And will still have by far far far far the largest news gathering staff and news hole (or however you want to measure available news info) in NTx. And will still have more than a couple of talented folks.

Did you happen to catch Josh Benton’s weekend double, for instance, on school testing, cheating and the truly moronic ways our Texas ed officials are (not) dealing with it?

So show a bit of sensitivity for us, if you don’t mind.”

To which I responded in the comments:
Sorry, but I don’t agree with the News employee.

First, he IS being apologetic. Most semi-major to major companies at least shill out for resume training or job-hunting seminars when you get downsized. Some even let you use office space or facilities during a couple of months of transition time.

But noooo, not the mighty A.H. Belo. A recruiter is coming down from the Detroit Free Press for a resume seminar gratis and the mighty Belo can’t shell out for one of its own.

And you STILL want to play suck-up? Be my guest.

Second, one of the areas the Snooze always touts about itself is sports — number of APME awards, etc. Well, losing your section editor plus three columnists might diminish chances at more of that hardware.

Third, losing your three top arts and entertainment critics (not counting personal favorite Scott Cantrell, although he, too, may have accepted)? At least the pop music critics are still there (I think).

If Belo had been thinking, it would have instead saved money at three papers a couple of years ago while sparing some ax-swinging, by consolidating its D.C. bureaus for Dallas, Providence, R.I., and Riverside, Calif. But some Dallas Belo exec was probably still harboring wet dreams of the News being a true national newspaper. Well, it ain’t happening.

As for largest news-gathering staff in north Texas, etc., what about the rumblings that the StartleGram might move east?

Josh Benton’s story? Could have been better in part 1… looked like it gave somewhat of a pass to rich kids. (I’m from the southside.) And it certainly deserved better than the typical wishy-washy editorial. (Thought that was all supposed to change a few years back?)

I have no problems showing sensitivity; I’ll show more once News employees, or soon-to-be former employees, start showing more reality.

And, not all print media in the Dallas area is dying, either. In fact, some (and no, I’m not referencing the StartleGram) is growing.

What is it with D.C. Congressional representation and/or statehood?

It seems like this is a liberal special-interest shibboleth.

My answer is the constitutional one. (And NO, let it NOT be said that I enshrine the Constitutional of the United States in any Sinai-like way. Read my Amazon review of Daniel Lazare’s “The Frozen Republic” to see just how strongly I agree that the document is anachronistic and archaic.)

Anyway, the constitutional solution for D.C. Congressional representation is retroversion. D.C. gets “disestablished” and reverts back to Maryland. Period.