April 2009

Dinner by candle-light, originally uploaded by FuzzyGamer.

Damn power-outage! And I was planning on watching "House" and "24" tonight.


My family has accepted the fact that I don’t know anything about current affairs. I don’t have a TV (get ’24’ and ‘House’ in the form of torrents and watch them on my Xbox), don’t read the papers, don’t bother reading CNN or any other news sources. I didn’t know when that guy threw a shoe at Governor Bush. Didn’t know about that pilot who landed a plane in a river and then all the asshole passengers thanked God for it. Didn’t know about swine flu until I got a semi-panicked phone call this evening.

I assumed XKCD just had yet another brilliant idea, namely of starting a rumor about a fictional disease and watching the masses go ape-shit. Now the comic seems less funny.

This is a pretty specialized C# programming example, so placing it right after the jump.


Individuals who have too many children are penalized, not because the whole population goes extinct, but simply because fewer of their children survive. Genes for having too many children are just not passed on to the next generation in large numbers, because few of the children bearing these genes reach adulthood. What has happened in modern civilized man is that family sizes are no longer limited by the finite resources that the individual parents can provide. If a husband and wife have more children than they can feed, the state, which means the rest of the population, simply steps in and keeps the surplus children alive and healthy. There is, in fact, nothing to stop a couple with no material resources at all having and rearing precisely as many children as the woman can physically bear. But the welfare state is a very unnatural thing. In nature, parents who have more children than they can support do not have many grandchildren, and their genes are not passed on to future generations. There is no need for altruistic restraint in the birth-rate, because there is no welfare state in nature. Any gene for overindulgence is promptly punished: the children containing that gene starve. Since we humans do not want to return to the old selfish ways where we let the children of too-large families starve to death, we have abolished the family as a unit of economic self-sufficiency, and substituted the state. But the privilege of guaranteed support for children should not be abused.

Contraception is sometimes attacked as ‘unnatural’. So it is, very unnatural. The trouble is, so is the welfare state. I think that most of us believe the welfare state is highly desirable. But you cannot have an unnatural welfare state, unless you also have unnatural birth-control, otherwise the end result will be misery even greater than that which obtains in nature. The welfare state is perhaps the greatest altruistic system the animal kingdom has ever known. But any altruistic system is inherently unstable, because it is open to abuse by selfish individuals, ready to exploit it. Individual humans who have more children than they are capable of rearing are probably too ignorant in most cases to be accused of conscious malevolent exploitation. Powerful institutions and leaders who deliberately encourage them to do so seem to me less free from suspicion.

The Selfish Gene, Chapter 7, Family Planning, pages 1117-118


Holy fuck! I seriously hope the these rules (try to read whatever isn’t obscured by the message) are not part of some corporate contract. I think that this is a list of rules at a church, for people working there. I certainly wish that’s the case. Though that’s still a lesser-evil stance. The fact that any organization has specific rules about “[riding] alone in a vehicle with a member of the opposite sex” is unsettling.


The comment under the image said:

I understand how hard it is to try to live your faith in a world where no one seems to believe the same things as you – be strong! I’m praying for you.

Just a few thoughts on this one, in addition to a bit of a ramble.

First, if you’ve found something that makes you happy, like Catholicism, good for you.

Second, it is regrettable that we must hide our true selves, for any reason.

Third, to the commenter, the problem here is not that others don’t believe in the same thing (this is not necessary!), but that believing in something different is frowned upon, or worse.


I’m sure everyone finds themselves in situations where pure personal honesty will be detrimental. I keep my beliefs to myself around certain people, mainly because it makes life simple and avoids un-necessary conflict. There are certain coworkers who don’t know that I’m an atheist. Most don’t know about this blog. The reason for it is that this makes life easier. Two of my coworkers (very brilliant people for whom I have a great deal of respect) are particularly religious, so I tend to keep religious discussion out of our non-work dealings. Others… well, they know exactly how opinionated I am on the subject of beliefs, faith and the “pointlessness” of life. (Though even in that case, there are overlaps, where not all people are privy to everything I think.)

Does this make me a hypocrite? Am I a sometimes-closeted atheist? Certainly. But it makes life easier, and so I go on with the charade.

Above I mentioned that it is regrettable that we must hide our true selves. In some cases, in certain parts of the world, the truth about our beliefs (or sexual orientation or political views or whatever) can be harmful and even deadly to ourselves or our loved ones. (Have you heard about one of the most popular extreme sports in Russia? Political humor.) This is quite different, though, from the choice that most of us make to hide ourselves. I can tell every person I know what I think about organized religion, Republicans and sexual repression (or expression), but this would make my life more difficult.

In many species a mother can be more sure of her young than a father can. The mother lays the visible, tangible egg, or bears the child. She has a good chance of knowing for certain the bearers of her own genes. The poor father is much more vulnerable to deception. It is therefore to be expected that fathers will put less effort than mother into caring for young.

Similarly, maternal grandmothers can be more sure of their grandchildren than paternal grandmothers can, and might be expected to show more altruism than paternal grandmothers. This is because they can be sure of their daughter’s children, but their son may have been cuckolded.

Indeed in a society with a high degree of marital infidelity, maternal uncles should be more altruistic than ‘fathers’ since they have more grounds of confidence in their relatedness to the child. They know that the child’s mother is at least their half-sister. The ‘legal’ father knows nothing.

The Selfish Gene, Chapter 6, Genemanship, page 106


[Wynne-Edwards] suggested that individual animals deliberately and altruistically reduce their birth rates for the good of the group as a whole.

We have probably all seen examples of the startling calculations that can be used to bring [unchecked population growth] home. For instance, the present population of Latin America [as of 1976] is around 300 million, and already many of them are under-nourished. But if the population continued to increase at present rate, it would take less than 500 years to reach the point where the people, packed in a standing position, formed a solid human carpet over the whole are of the continent. This is so, even if we assume them to be very skinny — a not unrealistic assumption. In 1,000 years from now they would be standing on each other’s sholders more than a million deep. By 2,000 years, the mountain of people, travelling outwards at the speed of light, would have reached the edge of the known universe.

The Selfish Gene, Chapter 7, Family planning, pages 110-111

Hmm, so I guess the question of space travel will be answered by the Duggar’s of the world. Well, at least now we know what their contribution to humanity will be.

An hour or two back I was reading “The Selfish Gene”. The current chapter is covering a bit of math concerning the logic behind altruistic acts that end up benefiting the gene, even at the expense of an organism carrying the gene. The mathematics involved were concerned with the genetic similarity between individuals. Genetically speaking, a person’s cousin is equal to their great-grandchild. That is, both have 1/8 of their genetic material in common with you.

To determine the genetic relatedness (ratio of genetic material in common) between two people: determine the generational distance between the individuals (call this X); determine the number of common ancestors (in case of siblings, this number is 2; in case of step-siblings, this number is 1) (call this Y); relatedness = Y * ((1/2) ^ X).

This formula then suggests that relatedness for children, parents and siblings is 1/2; for aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, grandparents and grandchildren, and step-siblings is 1/4; for third cousins it’s 1/128; and for the identical twins, it’s 1.

Now, for some quick and dirty math. A single American generation is defined as 25.2 years. The length of time between Fry’s birth and that of Professor Farnsworth’s: 1974 to 2841 = 867. This translates to 34.4 generations. Let’s call it 35.

2 * ((1/2)^35) = 0.

bite my shiny metal ass

OK, fine, it’s not zero. It’s actually 5.82076609 × 10-11

Uh-huh. Can we just call it zero?

Essentially what this means is that (a) Fry is related equally to every human living in the year 3000 or (b) Fry’s family practiced inbreeding “religiously”.

But whatever, it’s still a great TV show.

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