Disestablishmentarianism

I hereby advocate the Disestablishment of the Church of England, that is I support revoking the Church of England’s status as the official State Church in England. There are several reasons for this. First, the United States has enjoyed centuries of religious vibrancy as a result of its refusal to establish churches. Though radicals here and there have tried, the free market in religious ideals have kept faiths strong, vibrant, and focused on both God and their adherents.

England has not been so lucky. The State Church (COE) has not been so lucky. In England, not only are there more Catholics attending mass than Anglicans, but there are more Muslims attending Friday prayers than Anglicans attending Sunday service. The State Church has provoked a quasi-schismatic blacklash so bad, that the “loyal” Anglicans are outnumbered worldwide by the Copts!

The antidisestablishmentarians want to keep COE as the State Church, because it prevents the Anglican church in England from signing onto the Jerusalem Declaration (a theological matter). It is absurd for a modern democracy to interfere with a religion as much as the United Kingdom does through its COE.

The Church of England was founded on the state-oppression of religion. Disestablishing the Church of England would be as much of a victory for religious freedom as if Communist China disestablishments the COE’s twin across the centuries, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. While the CPCA prevents the free development of religion in China, the COE would do the same across the world.

Religious freedom is an important right. The greatest oppressor of religion in the world today is Communist China. The United Kingdom can set a good example by ending its own oppression, disestablishing the Church of England, and setting the Anglican Communion free.

On the Improvement of Certain Segments of the Population

Really great news about a therapeutic technology will assist those who have problems in living normal lives live a bit more freely:

Tongue Drive System Helps Severely Disabled Have More Independence | Scientific Blogging
A new assistive technology developed by engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology could help individuals with severe disabilities lead more independent lives.

The novel system allows individuals with disabilities to operate a computer, control a powered wheelchair and interact with their environments simply by moving their tongues. The tongue-operated assistive technology, called the Tongue Drive system, was described on June 29 at the 2008 Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. An article about this system is also scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Of course, some people will be against this new technology. The fact that those disabled who choose to have the treatment can do more with their lives naturally put those who choose not to at a disadvantage. This “new source of inequality within society” is the argument that some use against gene therapy, so I imagine it will soon be applied against other forms of therapy, as well.

The Housing Market

Mother of tdaxp has long insisted that the Great Depression worked a great deed that is often not appreciated: it broke up many of the landed estates that had developed by the 1930s, making land cheap and allowing a new generation of farmers to till the land.  Thus, one of the effects of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s American midwest was a great transfer of wealth from the richer to the poorer.

We’re seeing some of the same dynamics as a result of the Subprime Crisis, and two friends of tdaxp are cashing in!

Now employed at a leading logistics firm, they recently purchased a house.  I took greta pleasure in helping them mow and fertilize their yard, and we took a trip to Pier 1 to buy a chair to help furnish the main room.  The house is all-together beautiful, though it stood empty for a year.

We brought some food and a dining set as a housewarming gift.  No longer apartment-bound, they gave us a very nice low-table that been been gifted around our circle of friends.

Still, a house is not all fun and games.  The recent hailstorm killed a number of plants, and as like a shotgun to some of the shutters.  A lot of work lays ahead.

To end the day we ate Mongolian and (American) Chinese food, topped off Tsingtao Beer and Mountain Dew.

Intelligence Did Not Matter Much

A recent post by Gene Expression has mind-opening implications, if you read closely:

Gene Expression: Selection, drift, disease and complexity, all rolled into one….
I would have to say that the distributions here are not totally surprising based on other things we know, this is an empirical confirmation to a great extent of rules-of-thumb which many hold because of the theoretical and experimental insights of a century. For example, it is well known that complex-traits which exhibit a continuous distribution and are highly heritable tend to have weak fitness implications. Conversely, Mendelian diseases are usually classified as diseases for a reason! Additionally, the authors find that diseases which are expressed dominantly, that is, one copy results in the disease, have lower values of Dn/Ds, than those which express recessively so that two copies are necessary. This is what we would expect from the fact that when low frequency alleles which only express as homozygotes are segregating within the population randomly most copies are carried within heterozygotes who are not subject to selection; in other words, there is little purification of these genes unless their frequencies are very high as per Hardy-Weinberg. To make the difference between complex-disease loci and Mendelian ones more concrete, think of it in a non-disease context. Height is a quantitative trait, while eye color seems quasi-Mendelian. HMGA2 is a height locus which explains 0.3% of the variation within a population for the trait in question, while the region around OCA2 seems to account for 75% of the variation in blue-brown eye color. In addition the region around OCA2 may have been subject to selection and this selection may explain the difference in eye color across populations. It seems unlikely that we’ll find strong signatures around height loci that explain the variation of height across populations.

General intelligence is a complex trait that has a continuous distribution and is highly heritable.  So, for that matter, do political orientation and personality.  Thus, it is likely that general intelligence, personality, and political orientation did not do much for your ancestors.

Your ancestors were winners, because unlike the vast majority of humans who ever lived, they spawned offpsring who are still alive today.  But the secret of their succeess was probably something other than how quick they were.

Doing Artsy Stuff Isn’t “Creativity”

I’ve talked about creativity before, in the context of the OODA loop, purposeful practice (a form of metacognition that is the opposite of “flow”), and mental illness. Another part of creativity is being recognized as useful by the field of a domain. If you invent a new type of hot water heater, that is being creative. If you’re chess technique allows you to rise in international chess competitions, that’s creativity. If you cure cancer but don’t tell anyone, that’s just wasting your time.

So this article is somewhat off-base:

Why Do Men Share Their Creative Work Online More Than Women? | Scientific Blogging
A recent Northwestern University study has a surprising results – substantially more men are likely to share their creative work online than women even though both genders engage in creative activities at essentially equal rates.

As it confuses artsy-stuff (making music, taking photographs, etc.) with creativity. Certainly artsy-stuff can be a form of practice, therapy, or good old recreation. Perhaps it can lead to creativity one day when you share it with others. But if you sit on it, you’re enjoying yourself, not being creative.

The Audacity of Political Calculation, Part III

And also, free trade.

From CNN Fortune:

“Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified,” he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA “devastating” and “a big mistake,” despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.

Props to Eddie of Hidden Unities, who first warned me that I shouldn’t listen to Obama’s words, but rather expect him to do what he needed to do to win.

I get less worried about Barack “Bush III” Obama by the minute!

The Rise and Decline of Great Powers

Tom Barnett and Jennifer Chou have a pair of great posts on the expanding influence of the great powers of the Core: the United States, the European Union, and China. While the posts and the articles they link to don’t address the reasons directly, an important one are the three factors of production: capital, land, and labor. While the US, the EU, and China are all well run economically, each has a special advantage: large-scale immigration increases the US pool of labor, the incorporation of new states increases the EU pool of land, and the continuing market reforms increases the Chinese pool of capital.

One formerly great power that doesn’t enjoy legitimate growth in these factors of production is Russia. While Russia has been trading land for cash for generations (losing influence in more and more countries in order to keep revenues up, most recently seen in Moscow’s squeezing of Belarus), she has been unable to create a productive economy. Even these days of high energy prices only further addict Russia to energy-export, a dead end for nearly every country that tries it.

The increase in land, in capital, and labor is vital for America to be not just a great power, but also a Super Power. Part of this is keeping a liberal economy. Part of this is comprehensive immigration reform which will increase the arrival of both high- and low- skilled labor. Part of this is adding new states.

An X-Prize for Battery Life?

This is a very cool idea from Senator John McCain:

My Way News – McCain offers $300 million for new auto battery
PHOENIX (AP) – Sen. John McCain hopes to solve the country’s energy crisis with cold hard cash.

The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting thinks the government should offer a $300 million prize to the person who can develop an automobile battery that leapfrogs existing technology.

The prize would equate to $1 for every man, woman and child in the country.

In a speech being delivered Monday at Fresno State University in California, McCain is also proposing stiffer fines for automakers who skirt existing fuel-efficiency standards and incentives to increase use of domestic and foreign ethanol.

The $300 million bounty on a new feat echoes the Ansari X-Prize, a financial award given to the first successful commercial spaceflight. Indeed, McCain’s plan is similar to the official Automotive X-Prize, which would give a far smaller amount to the creator of an environmentally-friendly car. I don’t know whether the Ansari X-Prize’s success would translate into better car battery life, but it seems that the downside is small and the upside is great.

Still, an “X-Prize for Electric Cars” should be only part of a broader push to get us better technologies. Other approaches include granting permanent residency to foreigners to graduate with PhDs at U.S. R-1 research institutions, as well as abolishing affirmative action. (So far neither candidate has pledged to do these things.)