Minarets and Temple Domes and Church Spires

Food for thought

There is an article on the BBC website titled, “Vatican and Muslims condemn Swiss minaret ban vote.” With the sub-heading, “Religious leaders across the world have criticised Switzerland’s referendum vote to ban the building of minarets.”

Which makes me wonder why the religious leaders around the world don’t have a standing condemnation of numerous Islamic countries A) for being Islamic countries and not secular nations and treating, by law, followers of other religions with supreme inequity and B) not allowing the building of temples and churches in their own nation?

Is this integration only one way?

And if so, is the ulterior motive behind such expansion to increase Islamic presence everywhere and diminish other religion’s presence in Islamic countries?

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Foxes vs. Hedgehogs

A certain aspect of Mr. Kristof’s New York Times article dated 3/26/09 , “Learning How To Think”  really caught my attention. 

In the article he provides results from research conducted by Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The research is conducted on Expert Opinion provided by Experts and its accuracy. Dr. Tetlock  tracked 82,000 predictions by 284 experts over two decades. The experts’ forecasts were tracked both on the subjects of their specialties and on subjects that they knew little about.

The result? It appears the experts were, on average, only a tiny bit better than random guesses! More confounding, it made no difference what their education level or experience level was.

Next, to quote from the article:

 “Indeed, the only consistent predictor was fame — and it was an inverse relationship. The more famous experts did worse than unknown ones. That had to do with a fault in the media. Talent bookers for television shows and reporters tended to call up experts who provided strong, coherent points of view, who saw things in blacks and whites.  People who shouted — like, yes, Jim Cramer! “

I consider it important to interject a note here: Mr. Kristof and Dr. Tetlock seem to be soley focused on opinionators in the media and the opinions they aired in public. However, the way the column is written it is misleading since it seems to undermine all expert opinion. That is not the point I agree with or I am focused on.

I am more interested in creating more foxes vs. hedgehogs, you will soon see what I mean.

Quoting the paragraphs that are most important for the purposes of this post:

 “Mr. Tetlock called experts such as these the “hedgehogs,” after a famous distinction by the late Sir Isaiah Berlin (my favorite philosopher) between hedgehogs and foxes. Hedgehogs tend to have a focused worldview, an ideological leaning, strong convictions; foxes are more cautious, more centrist, more likely to adjust their views, more pragmatic, more prone to self-doubt, more inclined to see complexity and nuance. And it turns out that while foxes don’t give great sound-bites, they are far more likely to get things right.

This was the distinction that mattered most among the forecasters, not whether they had expertise. Over all, the foxes did significantly better, both in areas they knew well and in areas they didn’t. “

This I believe in. 

Mr. Kristof ends his column (not quoted here) by talking about putting a system in place that measures the success ratio of experts that are paraded out in the media. While important, I think he missed the opportunity to make a more fundamental point: How do we train people to be more like foxes than hedgehogs?

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Education and its importance

The fecklessness of some of the Republican representatives to the Congress and Republican Senators is hard to believe — they oppose the money allocated for education in the stimulus bill for the reason that money cannot buy good education.

Wrong!

According to the American Federation of Teacher’s website, the average salary of a public school teacher in 2006-2007 was $51,009 and it was the first time since 2003 that it surpassed the inflation rate. And  A University of Washington study had calculated that the recession would lead to cuts of 574,000 school jobs without a stimulus.

I am sorry, but with the finance industry “worker” wolfing in millions on the average as compensation — I bet you even the secretary at these institutions is paid more than $51,000 — and knowing what we all know about the $18.4B taxpayer paid bonuses in 2008, I cannot fathom what these so-called representatives of people are thinking? I rather that the teacher’s average salary rise up to $100,000 so the best and the brightest start becoming teachers than give these exorbitant Wall Street bonuses. Continue reading