Month: August 2011

Engineering trade-offs, Ep #23547

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Followup to ‘One small step’

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Regular correspondent Blamer posted the following comment to my One Small Step entry, and I thought it was worth highlighting it in a post of its own.

Be sure to listen to the fascinating sound grab using the link provided. It gives an insight into the utter cluelessness of those who are provided access to our kids for the sole purpose of perpetuating their brand of fantasy.

Government schools in VIC are now allowed to offer an alternative when Religious Instruction is in session. And “no response” doesn’t equate to parental consent.

Both are small but important first steps.

The VCAT case is based on discrimination resulting from the segregation of children along religious lines. That’s what’s happing inside a government school. The “compulsary, free, and secular” system that was co-opted by the churches in 1951.

ACCESS Ministries still has their 96% monopoly. So it’s their Christian Religious Instruction. It isn’t general religious education.

Schools still aren’t allowed to refuse them if they rock up with their volunteers ready to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Any parody would be indistinguishable from the real thing:

One small step for man*…

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I hate to sully that famous phrase by co-opting it for a minor stoush on planet Earth, but it seems apt.

It seems the tide is starting to turn on the religion-in-schools debate, with the news that Education Department has modified it’s policy to ensure that non-RI kids are given ‘meaningful activities’ to do instead of simply sitting at the back of the class or sitting unsupervised in corridors. Interestingly, the change in policy comes mid-way through a VCAT hearing resulting from a complaint that the former policy discriminates on the basis of religion. The Age report is here.

Not surprisingly, the Minister for Education, Martin Dixon, is painting this as a ‘clarification of responsibilities’, rather than a change in policy. Even though a change in policy is clearly what it is. He even re-iterated that insulting ‘I haven’t received any complaints about children running around the corridors unsupervised’. Trivialising the issue to that extent is disingenuous at best, and moronic at worst.

Despite the changes, counsel for the parents who initiated the case, Holding Redlich partner Andrea Tsalamandris,  has said:

‘The new guidelines were potentially a positive step, however,  they relied upon significant resources within schools to enable other activities to be offered and for these to be supervised.’

This is a good point – I would argue that, as do the parents involved in the case, why should these extra resources even be required, if they are simply propping up the teaching of religion in the school?

There’s a simple solution: teach it out of hours. It’s no different to tennis, music, macrame, yoga, or any of a hundred other extra-curricular activities – pay your money, and have your children learn whatever fairy tales you wish, but don’t expect the taxpayer to indulge you.

Better yet, if can avoid indoctrinating children with that nonsense altogether, then it will indeed be a giant leap for mankind.

*(C) NASA 1969, even though Neil Armstrong blew it – he was supposed to say ‘One small step for A man’.

Homeopathy and Round-up

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I don’t know why the blogosphere wastes so much time and effort on discussing homeopathy. The jury’s back, and homeopathy has been found guilty of being crap.

However, the subject is like onion-weed which keeps popping up in the fairway of common sense, on the golf course of life. (Can you tell my annual golf trip is coming up?)

You just have to keep spraying.

This time, with his finger on the spray trigger, it’s Orac, with a terrific little piece (well, ‘little’  by Oracian standards), discussing a recent article he found trying to defend homeopathy yet again. In demolishing the article, he also provides a nice summary of the history and key claims of proponents.

The article he reviews actually takes the tack of criticising western medicine (I take ‘western medicine’ to mean ‘medicine that works’) for something they call ‘plausibility bias’, and making the point that requesting plausibility is somehow an unfair requirement. In other words, the bar is set too high. See one of my earlier posts on Bayesian analysis, which discusses how prior probability (aka plausibility) is relevant to assessing claims.

To help lower the bar, the article which Orac analyses proposes ‘pragmatic’ clinical trials – in other words, trials freed from those tiresome constraints of blinding and controls. Orac goes on to make the point that:

As I and others have pointed out before, “pragmatic” trials represent an inappropriate methodology to determine if a therapy works, because they are not blinded, often not well controlled, and therefore subject to all the biases to which less rigorous clinical trials are subject. Rather, the purpose of pragmatic trials is to test a therapy in “real world” conditions after it’s been demonstrated to be safe and efficacious in proper randomized clinical trials in order to see how much its efficacy and safety decline away from the ivory tower environment under which many clinical trials are run. Even then, there are lots of problems with pragmatic trials due to their less rigorous nature. In any case, using pragmatic trials to test efficacy is a blatant attempt to lower the standard of evidence

I think that says it all, and elegantly.

I’m ready to tee off now, but well aware that the weeds will be back.

Of Apes and Sci-fi

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When recently I held forth on sci-fi vs fantasy, I tried to enumerate the attributes of each, and identified a critical point of difference.

Being somewhat of an expert in this area, I think I succeeded. At the very least, the heuristic proposed for distinguishing between the genres has withstood the inevitable “but what about [insert random sci-fi/fantasy title here]”, as correspondents try to tear apart my logic.

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Elmore Oil – just one more testimonial…

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At the risk of boring readers senseless with the continuing Elmore saga, and given the unpleasant comments from the Elmore-bots, I thought I would just post front and centre a comment from a less-than-gruntled user of Elmore products. It’s a refreshing contrast to the usual suspects, who all seem mysteriously to have the same IP address.

Anyhow, here’s what reader Ann had to say:

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