Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Scientific theories need to be falsifiable

...but the adjective automatically includes "in principle"...

I have discussed several answers to the annual (and problematic) question Which scientific ideas should be retired? but Sean Carroll's answer wasn't among them.
Falsifiability needs to be retired (Carroll's answer at

What Scientific Ideas Are Ready for Retirement? (Carroll's blog)
Sean Carroll mentioned his answer on his blog, The Preposterous Universe, and he got largely criticized, especially by commenters like Doc C, Bruce Caithness, Dan, John Duffield, Andy Odell, and DEL. I mostly oppose these critics (who got most of the positive votes) and sympathize with Carroll's spirit but I would still disagree with the main thesis that "falsifiability may/should be retired".

Karl Popper became famous for the observation that the scientific process is a sequence of falsification events in which older, insufficient theories are abandoned so that they must eventually be replaced by less bad ones. Ideas that can't be superseded in this way are unscientific.

If one carefully studies what he really said about this process, I would endorse Popper's theses (although I would say that the claims are kind of trivial and many other philosophers and philosophical clubs, like the Vienna Circle, said similar things with a different focus that could get a higher rating from your humble correspondent). He also correctly said that the authorship of a hypothesis is a creative inductive act but the resulting scientific knowledge is deductive.

One of the often overlooked details – and Carroll realizes this detail very well – is that Popper acknowledged that the falsifiability that must be possible for a statement to be scientific really means "falsifiability in principle".

It's a very important subtlety. After all, Popper wanted to eliminate Marxist economics and Freudian psychoanalysis that were arguably never falsifiable, not even in principle. I would say that the same thing holds for many religious and spiritual interpretations of physics and many of the vague and permanently flexible claims rooted in the anthropic principle. But by demanding that statements in science must be falsifiable in practice – or even soon or cheaply – would mean to throw out the baby with the bath water.

We often discuss examples of theories and propositions that are perfectly scientific yet probably unfalsifiable in practice – in a foreseeable future – like string theory and some claims from the cutting-edge cosmology (not all of them, and many cosmologists' and surely Carroll's bizarre musings may be falsified very easily because they are utterly wrong).

But it's important to notice that science depends on many claims that are unfalsifiable in practice but we still choose to believe them because they naturally follow from theories that have been tested or established. In principle, these claims are falsifiable.

For example, take the existence of other (distant) galaxies. One may invent an alternative explanation. They are just some collections of light dots on a celestial sphere, a screen that is some millions of light years away from the Earth and someone is projecting these dots over there. Our explanation is that the light actually comes from collections of stars that are analogous to the Milky Way, our galaxy.

Which explanation is the right one? An extremist Popperazi would be forced to admit that this question is unscientific. We can't really travel to the other galaxies – which are millions of light years away from us – anytime soon. We can't really prove the other galaxies' finite distance from us by the method of parallax, either. The parallax is too small. And so on.

However, we still prefer to say that the other galaxies are as real as the stars in the Milky Way. It is definitely a part of our scientific image of the Universe. This explanation can't be compared to the bizarre alternative explanations by a doable experiment but we still have rational reasons to conclude that the alternative explanations are much less likely. They (the theories with distant galaxies as movies) are more contrived, less unifying, less symmetric, depending on too many exceptions, and so on. We know that this question makes sense because in principle, we could travel to the other galaxies (at least there surely seems to be no potential, unavoidable restriction that could prevent us from travelling millions of light years).

The other galaxies' guts are inaccessible to "easy testing" because they are too far. Other scientific concepts are extremely separated from the everyday life when it comes to different quantities. For example, our theories of the Sun imply that the Sun will keep on burning for 7.5 billion years or so before it becomes a red giant. This follows from the models describing the conditions and reactions inside the stars. But this statement about the far future of the Sun is also unfalsifiable in practice. No lab paid by the taxpayer can really wait for 7.5 billion years.

Grand unified theories, supersymmetry, and string theory are probably (let's assume that there are no large/warped ADD/RS extra dimensions) unfalsifiable in practice (at least if we talk about some direct testing that doesn't allow us to include any sophisticated calculations or argumentations) because they deal with phenomena that occur at too short distance scales, too short time scales, and that require too high temperatures or energies per particle to be probed by accelerators. But these theories, concepts, and propositions about them are exactly as scientific as the statements about the distant galaxies or the distant future of the Sun. They're unfalsifiable by direct experiments that are doable in practice because they are extreme in certain respects. However, they are clearly physical and in some important sense, string theory is much more tangible and precise physics that allows one to calculate things (like cross sections of particle collisions) more accurately than any other theory. Any analogy with Marxism, Freudism, religion etc. is totally absurd.

There is a whole movement that bastardizes Popper's dictum to claim that science has to be practical – something that Popper surely didn't want to say (after all, philosophy in general has been less practical than the least practical parts of physics at least since the birth of physics). The very first comment on Carroll's blog is extremely explicit about this delusion.
Doc C: Either science is a tool to answer practical questions, or it is a tool to satisfy our anxiety over the uncertainty we experience in our existence. It can’t be both. Falsifiability makes science practical rather than psychotherapeutic.

Put another way, In deciding to spend our money, how much should we devote to speculative imagination, and how much to practical solutions? Does it really matter how well we understand string theory if its not going to be testable or yield practical applications in any foreseeable time? Are there better problems to focus on? Who gets to choose, the academics, or the indigent?
Science is a systematic process of learning how Nature works because the knowledge of the truth is assumed to have a very high, independent value. The knowledge often may and does bring us practical advantages, too. But they're not the main raison d'être of science. After all, science in the modern sense was founded by Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton and they were surely not studying the motion of planets or moons or balls near the tower in Pisa to solve practical problems. They wanted to know how the world works.

So in the first paragraph by Doc C, the second answer is much more correct than the first one, despite the dishonest attempts to present the thirst for the truth as a psychiatric disease. It may be a psychiatric disease but those who don't suffer from this disease are just healthy animals, just slightly more refined equivalents of pigs and cows. Activities counted as science are sometimes motivated by practical applications, especially "applied research", but they're also and primarily motivated by the thirst for the truth, especially the "pure science". The purer the scientific research is, the more it is motivated by the thing that Doc C presents as a psychiatric illness.

We are not studying string theory to improve the life of primitive mammals like pigs or cows or Doc C. We don't throw copies of Polchinski's textbook to the pig sheds or Doc C's house because it would be a waste of resources. We grow pigs because pork is a pretty good meat. I am not sure why we grow the likes Doc C but let me assume that someone would be able to find a reason, too.

At any rate, the money for advanced science that makes us human is clearly not willingly contributed by Doc C or the dozens of scumbags who upvoted his idiotic comment. The money is being contributed by much more spiritually refined people who actually appreciate the intrinsic value of the scientific truth – individuals like Kavli, Lazaridis, or Milner as well as millions of similarly feeling citizens of most countries in the world. Those would like a much higher percentage of their taxes to be paid for science. The actual result – something like 1% of the GDP for science – is some kind of the (weighted?) average of all the citizens' opinions.

But the result is that some money is being paid to science and science, by definition, cannot be affected by unscientific pressures such as the question whether a primitive moron nicknamed Doc C finds something useful for himself. Science has its own rules and the search for the truth in particle physics simply isn't affected by the impression of practical use in the eyes of Doc C. His "demand" that such factors should be taken into account is completely analogous to the wishes of a "sports fan" who pays to watch a baseball match but demands one goal to be added to the score whenever a cheerleader of that team performs a strip tease (he wants this modification of rules because he finds the strip tease much more interesting than some collisions of bats and balls and running men – and so do I but that's not the point here LOL).

The rules of baseball just don't allow such a thing; it would be against the whole spirit of the game. Baseball is about the bats, balls, and running men, not about strip tease. And exactly the same is true for science and the unacceptable demands by Doc C and others. Someone is paying for science which means a rather particular thing and has some pretty well-defined rules; it is surely not what Doc C demands science to be. If a "sports fan" came to a baseball match and aggressively demanded strip teases, he would probable be given a proper thrashing, and that's exactly what should be done with Doc C and dozens of similarly aggressive anti-science Mujahideens.

I am still puzzled by the dozens of aggressive foes of pure science who keep on visiting science blogs like Sean Carroll's blog in this case but who hate science so much that they demand research in science to be practically useful for their lives. Why don't they spend their time with things they actually like or find practical? Sean Carroll's blog has never been about applied physics, has it?

Almost nothing in science is useful for your lives because you are primitive morons, Doc C et al. The stupider you are, the less useful to you science seems to be. It's that simple.


  1. This text is one of the reasons why I love this blog. I just had to say it.

  2. Lubos, an excellent exposition. I'll limit my remarks to physics. We had a beautiful Newtonian framework, consistent, and predictable. But there were these tiny discrepancies which finally led to a relativity, quantum theory, and a general relativity. Each of them probably has its limits; I'll discuss now the general relativity. It has singular solutions (black holes, and a Big Bang), we could hardly ask for a more extreme environment. It may be correct there, but to postulate the correctness is stretching the applicability to its limits. On a more pedestrian ground, to explain observations of movement of distant stars we had to postulate the dark matter, and then to save the Big Bang, also a dark energy. It looks like we need a lot of falsification.

  3. A superb post, Luboš. Lovely!

    I second Cesar's endorsement.

    You're very right about those like Doc C — mere utility is no substitute for the real thing. A proper attitude to science and mathematics is marked by an impulse akin to lust. It is lust. :)

    By the way, I see we share the same tastes with respect to baseball and strippers. :)

  4. "Grand unified theories, supersymmetry, and string theory are probably...unfalsifiable in practice " All theory contingent upon the Equivalence Principle is vulnerable to falsification by a sub-parts-per-trillion measurable footnote.

    If photon vacuum symmetries are not exact for matter, failed theory is sourced and ab initio correctable. Bosons and fermions (quarks) are not exactly interchangeable. A geometric Eötvös experiment is 90 days in rare apparatus. Given a pair of good differential scanning calorimeters or a pulsed chirped FT microwave spectrometer, one day. Render string theory predictive at a stroke. Ed Witten would be smitten.

    "The stupider you are, the less useful to you science seems to be Indeed. Organikers have tetraphenylcyclopentadienone. Inorganikers have (CO)5(W)(S=CPh2). Where is purple in astronomers' spectra?

  5. Well, that's almost but not completely right.
    Before the advent of Christianity, conversion to Judaism was very popular in the Roman Empire (Jews were not persecuted before the rebellions in the first century AD, and were actually treated quite favourably by the roman rulers from Caesar to Nero, the one exception being Caligula). So at peak about 18% of the population of the empire (about 10 million people) were of Jewish faith. Eventually, most of these eventually converted to Christianity but no doubt some Jews are descended from these converts.
    It's not quite true that the Jews of Judea were completely wiped out. After the failure of the Bar Kokhba rebellion at the time of Hadrian, the Jews were forbidden to live in Judea, which Hadrian had renamed "Syria Palestina" (intending the Jewish state to be totally forgotten). The ban on the Jews lasted for about one hundred years (although some Jews continued to secretly reside in Judea, ironically disguised as Christians, who though persecuted were not forbidden to live in Palestine). After one hundred years the ban ceased to be enforced in practice and Jews started drifting back to Jerusalem. Then in 361, some time after the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, the emperor Julian (known by the Christians as "The Apostate" and by the Jews as "The Hellene") ordered the destroyed Jewish Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt. That lead to quite many Jews returning to Jerusalem.
    Julian did this not out of any sympathy for the Jews, but to spite the Christians, from whose religion he had turned away (and replaced official Christianity by a policy of equal treatment of all religions). Julian intended not only to fully rebuilt the Temple but also to make Jerusalem again the centre of Judaism and proceeded with his typical great energy.
    However, the Jews had one of those periodic strokes of bad luck and while the work progressed there was a large earthquake, which the Christians naturally interpreted as a decisive sign from Heaven. Julian had no intention of giving up, but was distracted by the war he launched against Persia, which although initially successful ended with his accidental death (which was again considered as a sign of divine intervention by the Christians whose triumph was now to be complete and permanent).

    The Temple has never been rebuilt but there was a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem from that time till the present day.

  6. Yes, this is indeed wonderful news. Although in some sense I would say, modern Europe belongs to *Isreali* culture, less the other way around, in large part thanks to a particular Jew whose ideas were once quite popular in Europe.

  7. The discrepancies that led to relativity were small but those that led to quantum mechanics were not. The total power emitted by a black body was infinite according to classical theory and atoms could not exist at all, classically.
    It is also, in my view, impossible to imagine any limit to the accuracy of quantum mechanics; it has no limits.

  8. This is indeed quite likely, but in the case of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe I would attribute just as much too simply interbreeding with the local populations. This too place in two ways. To start with Jewish male immigrants married local women (who normally would convert for this purpose). There seems to be strong evidence of this from DNA studies, although almost all Christian countries had laws punishing apostasy from Christianity by death. (This very well known fact is often forgotten these days. In fact the first formal constitution in Europe and the second in the world after the American one, the Polish Constitution of the 3rd of May 1791, even though it guaranteed “full rights” to religious minorities, it continued to uphold the death penalty for apostasy from the ruling religion.)
    In spite of that, there seems to be a clear genetic evidence of such intermarriages.

    Then, of course, there was another form of “genetic mixing” that was particularly common in in later periods - the pogrom. Since Jewishness is passed on only by the mother, it would not have represented a visible stigma (indeed, it may be related to the reason why the Jewish laws in this regard changed at some point for it is certain that in pre-exodus days it was the father that counted and there are important Jewish figures in the Bible who took gentile wives and yet their children were regarded as Jews).

    In any case, this would probably explain the fairly high incidence of light haired and light eyed Jews in Eastern Europe (like my father), which of course was of enormous advantage I surviving the Holocaust. Nevertheless even these light haired and light eyed Jews could be recognized by “experts”, as indeed happened to my father and my uncle one day in Warsaw (and it was this event that induced my uncle to go to the lion’s den, that is Germany, for there were fewer such “experts” there than in Poland.

    An report on the genetic similarities between different Jewish populations can be found here

    A small correction to what I wrote earlier: although Jews were gradually allowed to return to Palestine about one hundred years after their expulsion, they were prevented from living in Jerusalem until Julian “the Apostate” . Julian invited them back and they came in large numbers. However, after his death, when Christianity was restored, they were forbidden from living there again and were only allowed to pray at the Wailing Wall (for a fee). They were again allowed to return by Empress Eudocia, the wife of Emperor Theodosius II, and again for the same reason: like Julian she was a pagan and as in all such cases, this happy time for the Jews did not last long.

  9. Well, a recent research reveals that Europe is actually more Egypto-Christian than Judeo-Christian.

  10. I am a fan of Liberman, but you can judge for yourself in this video (which I already once posted on this forum). The singer, by the way, is the great Russian "bard" Alexander Rosenbaum, who, by the way, was once elected as member of the Russian Duma as a candidate of Putin's party (but did not take his place).
    This is actually a party political broadcast for Lieberman's party and is sang in a mixture of Russian and Hebrew. Also, it's a good chance to see various types of Jews, including Rosenbaum and Lieberman near the end.

  11. Oh yep, those lunatics who pompously feel entitled to patronize people that are much smarter than themself by telling them what they are allowed to do and interested in, who aknowledge nothing but applied science as worth doing, etc always drive me up the wall too :-(!
    And I dont understand why they bother reading fundamental physics blogs either, their attitude of wanting to destroy everything they dont value personally is very dumb, negative, and destructive; I really hope that it will never be those trolls who determine what research can be done etc ... :-/

    I think DOC C would a nice TRF blacklist candidate ... And the John Duffield Troll is well known in the whole physics blogospere too ;-)

    This TRF post I like, it perfectly resonates with my love for fundamental physics:-)

  12. This is good, I think the more good members CERN has the better :-)

    Cheers !

  13. I cannot help but wonder who the hell you are, lucretius. Your knowledge of history is encyclopedic and your mastery of the english language is equally remarkable (despite a very few carless errors). You surely are a welcome addition to the TRF responders.

  14. Hi Eugene, I don't mean to be abrupt or impolite, but your words indicate that you are neither Israeli nor really have any idea (even in the slightest) about Israeli politics.

    Let me explain, in factual rather than emotive terms, the problems I have with Avigdor Lieberman:

    1) He smashed the head of a 12-year-old boy into a wall in 2001 (he was 41 years old at the time), a crime that he plead guilty to in the Jerusalem District Court and was fined for.

    2) I disagree with a number of his sentiments, for example:

    a) "When there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important,"
    b) "[90 percent of Israel’s Palestinian citizens] have
    no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost.”
    c) There should be a massive and forcible transfer of population (also known in colloquial English as an ethnic cleansing) of all non-Jews from Israel. I understand that he has now downgraded this to a "voluntary" removal of all non-Jews.

    3) He is dedicated both in word and deed to annexing both the West Bank and (ultimately) Gaza into Israel proper, in the process expelling the native populations forcibly.

    4) He wishes to expel all Arab citizens from Israel who refuse to make a loyalty-to-Zionism oath (not a loyalty-to-Israel oath mind you, a loyalty-to-Zionism oath).

    5) He has stated (perhaps in jest, perhaps seriously) that he wishes to execute all members of the Knesset who who either meet with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority wing, or mark Israel
    Independence Day as the anniversary of the displacement of the
    Palestinians ("al-Nakba").

    6) In 1998 (perhaps in jest, perhaps seriously) that it would be a great idea to bomb the Aswan Dam, which would have the effect of
    murdering perhaps all 80 million Egyptians, in retaliation for Egypt supporting Arafat.

    7) In 2002 he suggested (perhaps in jest, perhaps seriously) that the Palestinians should be given an ultimatum that, “At 8am we’ll bomb all the commercial centers … at noon we’ll bomb their gas stations … at two we’ll bomb their banks …”

    8) In 2003, he suggested (perhaps in just, perhaps seriously) that all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel should be drowned in the
    Dead Sea and offered to provide buses to take them there.

    I'm sure there are more points that I feel qualify him as legitimately deserving the title of "thuggish" and/or "brutal," but I can't think of any right now.

  15. Either way, Christianity is a "descendant" of Judaism.

    Of course, even if they are no longer believers, the Europeans still come from hundreds of years of historically Christian culture. The elements of European culture-both good and bad, right and left, are all tied back to that history and shaped by it.

    Of course, if what you say is correct, looking at Egypt lately sure explains a lot! ;)

  16. "Repposim—the opposite of Popperism—says that the mark of a good theory is that you can truthify it. A truthifiable theory might make mistakes, but if it's a good theory they're mistakes you can build on." —
    Frank Wilczek
    "The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces"

  17. That was so much fun! :-) To the point... the purest motivation in science is the need to understand things. If you have that motivation I regard you as a true scientist. People tend to have other motivations as well (money, fame), but those motivations eventually let you down in some way or the other.

    This purest motivation is all you need. It won't necessarily bring you the nobel prize or lots of money, but it gives you the internal satisfaction which keep you smiling :-)

    The matter of falsifiability is reasonable condition for a scientific theory for sure. But it sure is very subtle thing as mr. LM described. However, in case of TOEs, like ST, I do prefer a theory which provides more concrete falsifiable experiments, but that's just me! (disclaimer: I do have my own interest involved here)

  18. Both Christianity and Muslim religions are heresies of Judaism, and in this sense you are correct that the culture of Europe based on Christianity has very many common roots with Judaism.

  19. 2 points: 1) I'm surprised you didn't comment on Smoit's answer(s)...
    2) More seriously, I 've read enough on this blog to understand things fairly well at a layman level with limited but some knowledge of advanced math I think, and I understand the parameter space and short distance/high energy scales as well as a laymen can, however, I do think there is at least something to some of the things critics say. How is one ever going to differentiate between two theories that can't be probed but are both consistent at low energy limits? I'm thinking of things like the landscape v. one universe, or say, 2 different unification or SUSY theories that can't ever be probed. I mean, if it's true SUSY exists but we'll never know it because it only manifests at extremely high energies, how would we ever know which SUSY theory was correct unless there was a unique one? I understand the "where is the 3/2 spin particle" argument, but in the end, if we are never going to see a spin 3/2 particle no matter what we do, doesn't it start to resemble angels on the head of a pin?

  20. I wonder if any study has been made further than looking at Nobel statistics. It seems to me that the excellence of the Jewish descent people in the sciences and generally whatever needs high IQs must be the result of evolution. They have been so much persecuted after Christianity appeared that survival of the fittest allowed those with portable abilities, intelligence being the first, to survive the innumerable pogroms, from the small town ones to the nation wide. The stupid and complacent perished and did not propagate their genes.

  21. How is it possible to "hog" a Nobel Prize. I thought (at least in the sciences) they are given out more or less meritocratically?

  22. Just would like to warn any fanatic anti-sexism fanatic out there to interpret the word "men" as individuals, of either of the two+ sexes of humans, who find it fun to miss a ball with a bat far more often than to hit it. ;>

  23. Hi DvtheDV, no I'm not Israeli. So what? I've lived in Israel for months, I have family there, and the English-language media (news, books, blogs) afford comprehensive coverage if one is interested.

    It would be nice if you could explicitly admit that you had no right to call Lieberman corrupt. Regarding your litany of complaints, it's not impressive. Had he been guilty of murder or attempted murder (the way you paint it), he would not have gotten off with a fine.

    I view Lieberman as someone carrying on in the tradition of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the "revisionist" who promoted a cold-eyed, realist, long-range view of the conflict with the Arabs. He may not be quite the intellectual equal of Jabotinsky or even of most of his peers today, but then most of us do not reach up to the shoulders of that generation, either.

    When "the Russians" came to Israel in large numbers, the country shifted to the right. This pained many Israelis who had voted Labor all their lives, but it also helped to bring about some much-needed realism. Not every Israeli can be Ben-Gurion. There can be only so many rejections and refusals of peace overtures until disillusionment sets in. That is why the Israeli people elected Sharon and Netanyahu, that is why the Left in Israel is moribund.

    Israeli Arabs had taken part in the violence of the Second Intifada. Of course that raised questions about their loyalty as citizens and about a potential future civil war if they continued on that trajectory. If it takes a bogeyman like Lieberman to scare them into non-violence -- if they won't be nonviolent of their own accord -- then so be it. One could call him the embodiment of the "iron wall" that Jabotinsky promoted: a forceful declaration that Arab hopes for an expulsion or subjugation of the Jews by whatever means had no hope of being realized.

    Maybe these scare tactics are becoming unnecessary; I don't know Israeli Arabs well enough to judge.

    Overall, and admittedly speaking as someone from the outside of Israel, I think Lieberman is doing a good job. Every government needs a minister like him.

  24. I agree.. I would like to add that although I have a similar relation to Israel to Eugene, I also have a fair knowledge of the Lieberman’s “constituency” - the people who he speaks to, whose views he expresses and he vote for him. Without them he would not be what he is.

    This community is, of course, the “Russian" Jews, actually Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union (Lieberman himself comes from Moldova). I know this community pretty well for I have lived for a number of years in America in the 1980s among the same kind Jewish immigrants from the then still existing USSR. I met them everyday, we spoke Russian and English, I think I know their way of thinking, which I actually admire. They are, indeed, very, very different from typical American Jews, in many was as far as possible. I think it is a good thing.

    These “Russians” are very well educated, mostly in science, engineering, computer science etc. Today they are about 20% of the population of Israel but they are as much overrepresented among Israeli academics and people working in high tech as Jews have been in Russia. In fact, almost 50% of members of Israeli science and math departments today are Russian speakers.

    But what distinguishes these immigrants so clearly both from the Israelis and a lot more so from American Jews their striking “toughness” both psychological and very often physical. For many Jews life in the Soviet Union was a “training ground”, even tougher than the harshest parts of the United States. I know of many stories that can illustrate this but I don’t have the time for retelling them and in any case, the point I am making does not need them.

    Avigador Lieberman has all the qualities of this community: he is highly intelligent, very tough, completely without any illusions but actually flexible and pragmatic. He is also, like the entire “Russian” Jewish community, thoroughly secular.

    As foreign minister of Israel he has set himself the task that is quite typical for him, to establish closer relationships with countries which traditionally have been cold or hostile to Israel but which now share many common interests with it. These are, above all, Russia, China, India and some smaller countries that feel threatened by militant Islam, or even secular Muslim countries like Azerbaijan, which partly thanks to Lieberman’s efforts has become a very close ally of Israel in an area where allies look, at first sight, unlikely.

    How successful he has been is disputed, but certainly he has excellent relations with Russia and the former Soviet Union that no other Israeli politician can match, and China has been showing many signs of wanting to have much closer relations with Israel (although one can argue that this would have happened without Lieberman anyway).

    Many of the accusations against Lieberman originate from political or ideological opponents others are stated out of context. In fact, he is, above all, a very practical, secular and rational politician, of the kind that Israel particularly needs in the Age of Obama.

  25. Hi Kimmo,
    I would like to see the word "need" reserved for referring to those relatively few and simple types of things, influences and interactions that we instinctively [i.e. largely independent of learning and social and cultural environmental factors but dependent on opportunity-type and threat-type selection pressures in the phylogeny of our species] seek to experience and look out for.

    However, curiosity is definitely an instinct that is in the service of Science - even of scientific enquiries that are in no way needed. ;-)

  26. For two different (also different from yours) and very interesting views of this matter see:

  27. It should probably say 0.2%. Then your calculation would make sense.

  28. Lucretius,

    Very interesting. Thanks. I didn't know any of that. But then that's hardly surprising — the peecee brigade and the organs of state, al beeb in particular, would hardly allow the putting out of such information as it might give Britons ideas, and that's despite the fact that ordinarily they trip over themselves in the rush to bad-mouth* Israel (in their terms, that is — clearly Lieberman is irredeemably a big-bogeyman right-winger). "We can't be be having any of that now, oh no — keep 'em in the dark and keep piling that multi-kulti shit on their heads" seems to be the order of the day.

    Britons sorely need their Lieberman, wouldn't you say? I think we could do with being "completely without any illusions" and having some "much-needed realism" too. And the best thing would be for us to reverse the process whereby our political class has overseen the construction of mini 'Gaza Strips' all over the country. And I'm not just talking about muslimes. Our 'Gaza Strips' are populated by intruders from the whole of the third world. [For the avoidance of doubt, I'm talking about repatriation in one form or another, and forced if necessary.]

    "He is also, like the entire “Russian” Jewish community, thoroughly secular." — Lucretius.

    Jewish but secular? I see, so the religion itself is not key to their 'identity'**. I guess it must be something else then. ;) I can understand that. In fact, I do understand that. Very much so. I'd feel exactly the same — I'm very secular too.

    Hey, you're a mathematician! Do you think there might be an isomorphism lurking around in here somewhere. (φ: Britain → Israel)? :) Would you care to comment?

    I don't want to spoil anything but happily I have noted the words 'racist' and 'racism' haven't cropped up so far. Indeed, I don't see why they should have but I feel sure if the subject had been Britain rather than Israel then, well, you know....

    Hey, I was thinking about starting up a new religion myself, one for Britons. I'm not too interested in the precise form. I'd be quite happy to have maypoles and Morris Men, and maybe start a tradition of littering Stonehenge with empty beer cans at the summer solstice and swearing at the big stones — whatever keeps our intellectuals happy. The point is though that membership of the religion would be transmitted only through the bloodline. 'Racism' wouldn't come into then, would it? If anyone dare bring it up all we'd have to do to close the 'conversation' down with a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free-Card would be to point at the Jews and say "Hey, we have our religion too, y'know!" :)

    * I've never understood this. I imagine a small amount might be due to anti-semitism perhaps but I doubt that's the driving force. I think it's more the left's dislike of success, Israel's in this case. But even so...? How can they be that blind to the existential threat facing Israel? As I say, I've never understood this.

    ** OK. Let's get real. Anyone who thinks otherwise has to be pretty stupid.

    P.S. I see you have used the word 'community'! Naughty, naughty. :)

  29. Is there an isomorphism? Well, maybe not quite, but I think there are probably a number of non-trivial homomorphisms in both directions ;-)

    Anyway, you ask difficult questions but I do intend to try to answer. However, I don’t like to give answer questions of this kind without giving them careful though and right now I am just too busy with other thing. But I definitely will return to this.