Monday, April 25, 2016

Sanders Facebook Support Pages Shut Down on Facebook

It started out good enough. A quiet evening watching the Simpsons and idley swiping through Facebook. Then I noticed that one of the Bernie Sanders supporter pages I was in went from public to private. Later, I see the following post on my time line.  I tried to reply to it, but according to Facebook:

Post Has Been Removed

The post or object that you were commenting has been removed by its owner and can no longer be commented on.
Fortunately, I hadn't closed out the thread so I was able to copy and paste it below.

39 mins
We are connected in spirit and will not be silenced!!! New Bernie groups will form in an instant!
See original post for comments!!!
Please share this to any Bernie groups you're in. The "online activist" group Hillary's super PAC hired (basically paid trolls) are striking tonight. By spamming the "report post to Facebook" feature on posts in Bernie groups, they've successfully shut down 3 of the largest Bernie groups within the past 20 minutes. Bernie Believers, Bernie Activists, and Bernie Sanders is my Hero had over 120,000 group members.
Don't panic! This should only be temporary until Facebook reviews the situation. Forgetting for a moment that this is easily one of the slimiest tactics I've ever seen in politics, you can still go to reddit to keep current on what's going on in the campaign. They hit us the night before tomorrow's primaries for a reason. Stay organized and stay informed.
Bernie Sanders 2016 • /r/SandersForPresident

So far, according to the above thread on Reddit, the following pages have been taken down:
  • Bernie Believers
  • Bernie Sanders is My Hero
  • Bernie Sanders Discussion Group
  • Bernie Sanders Activists
  • Bernie Sanders 2016 - Ideas Welcome
  • Bernie Sanders for President 2016
  • Bernie Sanders or Bust
This is a horrible abuse of power from the Hillary camp. While she herself may not have ordered the attack, as the leader of her campaign she is ultimately responsible for it. I, myself, am conflicted. Part of me, the social studies teacher side, hopes she will call out her minions that would do such a cowardly act and hand them over to the authorities (the legality of this in uncertain) or at least flat out fire them. Another part of me wants to see this added to the growing stockpile of unethical deeds the GOP would use against her in the general election. If she gets the nomination that is. Sadly, she is already behind when it comes to millennials, and it is exactly this crowd that know what this kind of attack is!

I will write more as this unfolds, but as far as unethical campaign practices go, this is a new one.

Update: As of 11:30-ish 4/25/2016 the pages were back up thanks to the staff of Facebook looking into the matter as fast as possible.

While this attack may seem minor, it only is so because of the fast acting staff of Facebook, and the thousands of FB users that counter-reported the pages being shut down. This could have been far more serious because the attack happened on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary. This was a coordinated attack by people in the Hillary camp. Redditor, jdkon, was able to procure proof:

On the left you have a $hillbot saying to keep ip the good work shutting down the pages, and on the right are the masses of $hillbots patting themselves on the back.  The attacks were successful thanks to FB's algorithms which look at the frequency of reports an a page or a post. If a mass of people report a page in quick succession, the algorithms give FB's automated systems the go ahead to shut the page down. Better safe than sorry. And that's OK. But the Hillary camp exploited this safety feature to silence a political opponent.

This behavior is exactly why a political revolution is necessary right now. We have lost what it means to be a democracy. In a democracy that values free speech, you NEVER silence your opponent. You engage them, you debate them, you out politic them, but you never silence them. If your positions are genuinely superior to your opponent's positions then the voters will silence them at the ballot box. Anyone who tries to silence political discourse is a failure as a citizen.  This includes anyone in the Bernie camp that is thinking about retaliation. 

Sanders does not have to resort to dirty tricks to beat Clinton. Bernie is the leader of our little revolution, but only because he was in the right place at the right time. It just as easily could have been Elizabeth Warren. Sanders is doing so well because he is there for us, not the other way around. That is something Clinton and many of her supporters are blind to, because Clinton is only there for her. Her supporters that launched these attacks are only in for Clinton as well. Clinton is a demagogue who's only objective is to obtain the power of the Presidency. That power is an ends for people like her. For Sanders, it is only a means to implement policy that makes our democracy fair at the polls and fair at the work place.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Why there is no Faith in Science

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that misunderstood concepts are expressed quite a lot in social media. The other day I saw a post of a witty cartoon showing how philosophy is still relevant to science. The cartoon, shown here, can be found at Completely serious Comics.

One commentator said the following, "We ALL do. It's just that those who hide behind science think they don't- i.e. that they are all reason, no faith. It reminds me of the know-it-all kid in class who says "well, Teacher agrees with ME!" lol"
Another commentator replied, and I'll paraphrase, that faith is unnecessary in science. In fact, faith is the opposite of science. To which, of course, the first commentator replied the following:
"You do have a faith, you just pretend to be above it all and made of pure reason. Put away your childishness and perhaps we could have a conversation on such an important topic. But I don't joust with snobs..."

Naturally, I had to chime in. My reply is below.

Philosophy =/= faith. the philosophical ground work of science relies in observation and logic grounded in some assumptions.
The assumptions are that there IS a physical universe, that we can learn things about the universe and finally, that explanations that predicts future observations are superior to explanations that do not.

Now, saying all of that, science is a method of decreasing uncertainty, not a method for "absolute" truth. After all, "absolute" truth is still an unanswered philosophical question. The great thing about science is that it is not a belief system. It is a way to explain the physical universe. that distinction is important because explanations can be abandoned if needed for better ones (see last assumption above).

A case in point is gravity. Various cultures had various myths as to why things fell to Earth. Sometimes fairies were involved, at other times it was a deity of some sort. Along comes Sir Isaac Newton. He develops a theory that gravity is a force of attraction between two objects. His theory predicted that a body moving at a certain velocity can balance with the force of gravity creating an orbit. However, his equations showed that the orbits would be unstable and thus it must be the hand of God that corrected the minor discrepancies.

A few decades later, a French mathematician named Pierre Laplace refined the equations and showed how the Solar system is stable all by itself. When asked by Napoleon as to why there is no mention of a creator in his model, Laplace answered, "I had no need of that hypothesis." In other words, deities and fairies were not necessary, the natural forces did it all by themselves.

And here's the kicker: They were BOTH wrong. Gravity is not a force (at least not in the conventional sense), it is a curve in the space-time continuum. Imagine a bowling ball on a foam mattress. That is a good visualization of gravity. This theory of gravity is Einsteins. Why is it better? First let me back up just a little. Einstein's theory of gravity is incredibly complex from a mathematical point of view. In fact, if his theory were developed first, the work of Newton and Laplace would probably be replicated as just a short cut because their equations are much simpler for everyday mathematics! So why are they still "wrong"? Einstein's theory predicts more phenomena. One such phenomenon is that gravity will bend light. This has been observed during solar eclipses. But perhaps some day Einstein's theory will lose out to an even more precise and predictive model. or maybe not. But how exciting will it be if it is so!

As you can see, faith isn't necessary. Now, no one pointed this out, but one could counter that holding the assumptions are done in faith. No. They are assumptions, not beliefs. The assumptions I pointed out are made for the sole purpose of just getting on with it. If better assumptions come along that improve the scientific process, then the old ones will be thrown out and the new ones accepted. We make those assumptions because they are useful, and keep them only as long as they are useful. A faith-based belief is something often adhered to in spite of contrary evidence. Often the belief is handed down by authorities that cannot be questioned, not experts who gained that title through being rigorously questioned.