Thursday, May 7, 2009

Logic/Economics problem

This is a cool problem I just came across the other idea. It's basically a logic problem that describes economic logic (most importantly, the Coase Theorem). So, I thought I'd see how ya'll skeptics do when facing a problem like this. Like I said before, I think skeptics should add economics to their 'skeptical toolbox'

There are three industrial firms in Happy Valley.

Firm Initial Pollution Level Cost of Reducing Pollution by 1 Unit

A 70 Units $20
B 80 Units $25
C 50 Units $10

The government wants to reduce pollution to 120 units, so it gives each firm 40 tradable pollution permits.

a. Who sells permits and how many do they sell? Who buys permits and how many do they buy? Briefly explain why the sellers and buyers are each willing to do so. What is the total cost of pollution reduction in this situation?

b. How much higher would the costs of pollution reduction be if the permits could not be traded?

give it your best shot - winner gets mad props

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Meet Brother Micah

Meet Brother Micah, a real-life walking cartoon version of what Fundamentalism is about. He's been to my college a few times, since Ohio University is considered one of the top 10 party schools in the United States, it's only natural that we would draw his ire. He's a pretty interesting fellow, if you don't take anything he says seriously. He spews the typical "Everyone who doesn't agree with me is going to Hell" message, which for some reason really does offend some people.
I've had a few interesting conversations with the guy (and his wife...another lunatic), and it is simply mind boggling to see how a human being can completely abandon his sanity and use of mental reasoning for the sake of letting the Bible color into black and white his entire worldview.

According to him, you're going to hell for any of the following:

Pot Smoking

Cigarette Smoking

Alcohol Drinking

Guitar Playing

Having a Tattoo

Showing Cleavage

Showing Bellybuttons

Girls Showing Their Knees

Girls Showing Their Elbows

Girls Wearing Tight Pants

Girls Wearing Miniskirts

Being Blonde

Being Fat


Kissing on the Mouth before Marriage

Holding Hands before Marriage

Groping Breast before Marriage

Having Premarital Sex


Having Anal Sex

Having Oral Sex

Being Homosexual

Judging People (He wasn't though, he was being honest)

Being Selfish

Playing Sports

Women Working

Watching BET

Watching MTV

Watching VH1

Watching TNT

Associating With Hollywood

Listening to “Gangsta Rap”, Techno, Christian Bands, and Rock and Roll

Believing in Evolution

Being Catholic

Being Jewish

Being Buddhist

Being Methodist

Being Protestant

Being Mormon

Being Muslim

Being Hindu

Being Agnostic

Being Atheist

Being a Woman (they're still paying for Eve's sin)

Being In a Sorority or Fraternity

Owning a Pet

Sin, Have Sinned, or Plan on Sinning in the Future

Oh yes, and you must listen to his "Homo Song".
I had the pleasure of hearing it today.

There are also a certain number of people who think making it illegal for these preachers to come to campus would be a good idea. I highly disagree. As John Stuart Mill argued, "Wecan never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is afalse opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evilstill."I'm personally grateful to attend a university that does not censor opinions, and I personally would fight for their right to spread this message, if only so that the rest of the world can be exposed to it and be better equipped to know why it is that we should reject their nonsense. This type of sermon reflects the kind of theology held by folks like the Westboro Baptist Church; which traces its roots to the type of Theology exposed by Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon "Sinners at the hand of an angry God"To me, again, the problem is not so much religion, as it is people's use of religion to justify their bigotry. This guy is a misanthrope. He hates anyone who is different than he, and so he needs to justify that hatred somehow, and what better way to justify it than to use the Bible? I don't think his hatred of homosexuals came from having read the Bible. His bigotry was more than likely already established by his cultural background (he's from Kentucky), and then was allowed to nourish and gain an air of legitimacy once he became a Christian. This guy is a xenophobe, and he needs to vent said phobia somehow. Its sad, but I can't find myself hating them. If you let them get to you, they've won.
The problem isn't just him and his wife, or anyone of his kind. The problem is also accentuated by the students who give him an audience. Its not enough listening to this guy's stupidity, but the students who also ask questions like "Does God have a penis?" and who try to argue with him that all morality is relative, something so easy to refute that even idiots like these can destroy such arguments. This is a type of fundamentalism that is disgusting, and its unfortunate to see that people genuinely get emotionally riled up by his vitriol, and therefore treat these people like sub-human beings. I've seen people try to steal their bibles, get into shout matches, and insult them, etc. No matter how much I may dislike them, I do have a sense of respect for them. It takes great psychological courage and strength to go to obviously hostile places like the top party schools in the U.S. and preach this kind of message. It must not only be tolling on their psychological health, but on their physical health as well. At the end of the day though, they're the ones who call for it. They can be semi-normal human beings when you approach them one on one and genuinely try to have conversations with them rather than shout fests. Maybe its because I let them finish their sentences when they talked to me, but they seem to have liked me (at least his wife did, Brother Micah compared me to a Pharisee and said I was a hellbound agnostic).

In the end, talking to them isn't going to change their minds. They've given everything up to spread this kind of message, and it would take a miracle, pardon the pun, to have them rethink any of their positions. But at the very least, conversation can lead to at least some type of mutual understanding. When they see that you're trying to talk about these things, and not trying to twist what they're saying, they've been much more receptive to talk rather than spew out Bible verses.

The entire time they were there I just wanted to give them a hug. And maybe that's what they need. I don't know their backgrounds, but a simple act of love can go many more miles than any theological dispute. And maybe thats all they need.

They drew a circle that shut me out. Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle that took them in.”