Uncommon Sense

August 24, 2021

Can You Spell Pandering Boys and Girls?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:25 pm
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How can you go to church and pray when you’re wearing a mask?
Do you think God can hear your prayers through a mask
?” (Televangelist Jim Bakker)

I guess when Jim Bakker got out of prison he went back to the only thing he knew how to do: bilking people out of money by spouting nonsense.

So, can God hear you praying when you are wearing a mask? If not that puts a pretty low upper limits upon His omnipotence and omniscience, now doesn’t it? (When you get old, your hearing starts to go, then your memory and this god is really, really old. . . . ) Doesn’t Jim Bakker’s god know everything, everything that has happened and will happen? So, in effect he has already heard your prayer, no?

And what about the Gospel of Matthew’s condemnation of those who go to pray in public places? Couldn’t Jim Bakker’s church goers pray their hearts out . . . out loud . . . before they left home or, maybe in their car on the way to church? Surely there are things to do in church other than pray, no?

So much for “you can’t hide what is in your heart from God.” (A mask means you can hide!)

So much for “He knows when you are sleeping, He knows when you are awake, so . . .” ooops, wrong deity.

So much for this god which lets tens of thousands of children die from hunger every damned day, but is willing to listen to your whiny ass prayers and, on occasion, throw you a bone: letting your high school football team win a game, helping you find a parking space, or making sure there was enough buttermilk in the fridge for you to make biscuits tonight.

I challenge Jim Bakker to quote scripture where it says “Thou shalt not wear a mask into a church building!”

I am waiting. (I am not simultaneously holding my breath.)

February 27, 2021

Made You Look—A Documentary

Filed under: Art,Business,Culture — Steve Ruis @ 8:33 am
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Last night I watched an interesting documentary about a massive art fraud in New York City. In the late 1990s and much of 2000s $80 million of fake paintings were sold as if legitimate. The pieces had sketchy provenance, so they were often “authenticated” by experts.

This is a fascinating documentary, well done, but a number of points were never mentioned or were glossed over.

The Authenticating “Experts” Were Full of Shit
Various experts were asked to “authenticate” these paintings and often did so wholeheartedly, even though they turned out to be fakes. This process has been shown to be flawed over and over but keeps being used. If a new painting is discovered, one not seen in catalogues of the artist’s works, an expert should go no further than to comment something along the lines of “It appears to be in this artist’s style and the painting appears to be of an appropriate age.” That’s it. But these “experts” were stumbling all over themselves to state that the paintings were authentic, something that couldn’t be told without extensive testing. When the extensive testing was done, some of the pigments hadn’t been invented until after the artist died, which is kind of a clue, don’t you think?

The experts basically should limit there comments on a previously unknown painting to “is worth further testing.”

Collectors were Glowing About the Fakes
When the fakes were purchased, the new owners loved those paintings, gushed about how beautiful they were, etc. so they were good art, no? But when they were proved to be fakes the collectors were outraged. Clearly they were not buying art for the sake of the art. They, instead, wanted to brag about how much money it cost, or that it was painted by a famous painter, or looked at it as an investment, but these people never say things like: ”It was such a good bargain, I could see myself selling it for a nice profit is just a few years.” or “I wanted to snatch this up before a bidding war started. It will be much more valuable in time.” So, these hypocrites gush over the quality of the painting but are outraged when they find out that it was faked. Apparently they can distinguish between fake beauty and real beauty . . . not.

This Has Been Going On for Years
This was mentioned a couple of times. It was not a surprise to find out that the forger/painter was a Chinese gentleman. Whether he was a willing participant in the fraud was not determined because there is a tradition in China of copying other works (and not just China). These copies are often sold quite cheaply to people who could not come close to affording the real thing. Much like we have posters of famous art works to hang on our plebian walls. It was suspicious, of course, the lengths gone to to use period and artist correct materials, which would not be necessary for “decorative art pieces.”

Art students are often seen in museums copying masterworks as exercises. And when the originals are being sold for millions, the temptation is there. In this case the works copied were those of American Expressionists (not my cup of tea) which are random enough to be more easily copied, also materials of the age these were created (1950s and 1960s) are still available.

Fueling all of this were prices of hundreds of thousands paid by the art dealer for paintings that sold for much more, even millions. This was a point critics say should have cause alarms to go off, but since greed is the driving force of this age, no one noticed anything sketchy for over a decade.

October 4, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh, My!

Filed under: Economics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:20 am
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In an article by Monte Morin in the Los Angeles Times © 2012, the following revelation was proffered:

“Fraud, plagiarism and other forms of misconduct are responsible for the majority of retractions in biomedical journals, according to a new study. The finding, published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contradicts earlier studies that suggest most retractions are the result of errors.

“In a review of 2,047 retracted biomedical papers, study authors found that only 21% were withdrawn due to research error. But 67% were pulled due to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud, duplicate publication and plagiarism. Miscellaneous or unknown reasons accounted for the remaining 12%.”

Gasp, faithful readers of this blog know that I am one of those “science-types.” And I am sure you are dying of curiosity to know what I think about my vaunted colleagues’ behavior.

It is: ho, hum.

Basically, the closer you get to publishing on medicine and the farther you get from basic science the more fraud there is. I came to this realization while trying to find the science behind what seemed to me to be weird nutrition recommendations. (If you are curious it was why high carbohydrate diets (low fat, moderate protein diets are automatically high carbohydrate) were recommended for weight loss when that is what you feed mammals to fatten them up (wheat and corn to cattle, rice to Sumo wrestlers, etc.). If you are interested in the topic, I recommend heartily “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes.)

I was appalled at the poor quality of the research and the thinking behind it.

But, there is money (I mean mucho dinero, really mucho) to be made, so scientists often receive large grants, from people they should not, to do research. The Reynolds’s Tobacco Institute sponsored a great deal of research. And if it didn’t back up the points they wanted to make, it never saw the light of day and those researchers never saw another grant. You can see how the game is played. The same is true to a much higher degree when it comes to pharmaceutical research. Research into patented drugs that doesn’t back up their efficacy finds the inside of a safe. The reason: the value of a “star” pharmaceutical is mind boggling (look up Viagra in Wikipaedia).

This is why drug companies shouldn’t be sponsoring external drug research, unless, unless . . . (are you ready for another of my big ideas?) . . . unless the sponsors create a blind funding source. I am sure you are aware of “double-blind” research studies, where neither the patient nor the doctor know which drug is being administered (so that neither can skew the results), for example. Why not do this with grants for scientific research. Some benevolent agency collects funds from companies for, say, a particular sort of biomedical research. The people collecting the funds in this agency and the people dispensing them are separated from each other. Voila! Trying to please one’s client goes bye-bye, as does the deep sixing of research that doesn’t meet the donor’s criteria. (This is what government sponsored research is: you and I and everybody else contribute a few pennies to a large pool of dollars that are then spent—with no strings attached—for the public good.)

In any case, scientists are human and the closer one gets to “real money,” not the chump change that a professor’s salary represents, the more fraud and deceit will take place (think “Wall Street” with pikers).

So, does this study prove that my field, science, is corrupt? On the contrary, these people got caught and had to retract their work. I wish we had such power over the opinions of politicians!

And, there is room for improvement in the field of scientific research, to be sure.

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