Monday, April 14, 2014


Whenever I’m asked about whether I believe in something, I always say the same thing. I say that it makes no sense to believe in anything. When you say you believe in something, you are saying that you are 100% certain that this is the case. We can’t be 100% certain of anything in this existence. There’s always some room for doubt, no matter how small. Godel proved that with his incompleteness theorem (that says that we cannot know 100% of the information of a given system), as did Heisenberg with his uncertainty principle (that says that we cannot know 100% of the information of a particle). There’s always some amount of incompleteness or uncertainty in our knowledge, and since we can never be 100% certain of anything in existence, it makes no sense to say that we believe in anything. We have our best guesses and our best stories and our best bets on what’s going on, but they are just guesses and stories and bets. We can always revise those theories upon the receipt of new information. This is the scientific approach.

When I say this, sometimes someone responds that that is a depressing worldview. I don’t see it as depressing in any way. I see it as a sane and rational way to approach the world. It leaves us open for new information, and prevents us from falling into mental traps of rigid, orthodox thinking. It seems to me to be a better way to live, anyway.


Dave Roel.
Basic human contact - the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words - is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain.
- Martha Beck

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Scientific Literacy

One of the reasons I liked my physical/biological anthro class so much this semester is because it stressed the importance of having some degree of scientific literacy. I knew that was important to have, but I never really realized to what extent. And I myself wasn't-- and still am not really-- scientifically literate.

There's a lot of benefits to knowing at least a little bit about how science works. I think mainly, if nothing else, it's important to know how the scientific process works. As in, while its aim is to be objective, it doesn't always succeed in that. It's also correctable; what may be the accepted theory now could change drastically, as more tests are done and new technology aids scientists in figuring things out. Science also strictly applies to things that can be tested/repeatedly retested and (dis)proven. So if there's no real way to test it (i.e. palm reading, ghosts, creationism), it's not scientific.

(That doesn't mean belief in those things is wrong, by the way. That just means it's incompatible with science-- for instance, my teacher compared religion and science to oil and water.)

The important thing to take from that is how to distinguish science from pseudoscience. The ability to do that ensures that you'll most likely be getting the most accurate information available at the time, rather than fall prey to misinformation, which often relies on fear-mongering.

The other important thing is that you realize how important knowing even a little bit about science is. It can inform your opinion on a wide variety of topics-- anything from vaccinations, to GMOs, to global climate change, to sex ed. So many of the decisions we make have something to do with science, and knowing how to educate yourself and get the most accurate information in order to make the best decisions is immensely important.

Stay classy,

Friday, April 11, 2014

Benevolent intricacies

Dig the use of the “Verb all the nouns” Hyperbole and a Half meme on the Job Fair sign. Allie Brosh would be pleased, right before siccing the copyright monster on us.

Holy wow, are the chairs in the computer lab hurty on the spine. Think I ought to bring a pillow.

My nomination for most under-used bathroom: science building, second floor.

I’m giving a small (and by small, I mean tiny, negligible, paltry, limited, meager, microscopic, minuscule, modest, short, slight, diminutive, little, sparse) presentation at the Personal Wellness Symposium on April 23 at CSUF. My presentation is an introduction to meditation. Although I’m really not going to say anything that different from what I usually talk about on my podcast, and I don’t promote that on this blog. Why is it different when it’s in person? There seems to be some kind of gravitas and weight and formality to speaking on a stage, in front of an audience of people physically present in the room. Seems more important, somehow. I don’t think it is. The information is the important thing, and it’s the same information regardless of the medium it’s delivered in. And yet, here I am promoting it anyway, like it is something different. I guess I’m just a slave to my culturation, as indeed we all are. Well, anyway, come and learn some things about personal health, wellness, general life improvement, etc. It really is a good line-up of speakers, despite my inconsequential presence on the bill.

More extensive details than the above link.

Feel like a cartoon?


Dave Roel.
No matter what's going on, or how unusual the problem, somebody else dealt with it before you. Find and learn from them.
- Daniel Keys Moran

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


It's weird, because since entering college (and ruling out environmental engineering, which I am so not cut out for) I've been pretty dead set on becoming an urban planner. The introductory courses I took at UCSD-- which really were more like urban sociology/economics/history than urban planning-- absolutely fascinated me. I didn't consider myself to really be a science-minded person, so I thought urban planning would be perfect.

My plan was to do anthropology for undergrad and then go to grad school for urban planning. That may well still be my plan, but in the course of preparing for my anthro degree, I took  a biological anthro class this semester and it's totally caught my interest. I can't put my finger on why I never liked science before-- though I suspect it has A LOT to do with my high school teachers-- but I guess when it's applied to human history and cultures and current socio-environmental issues, I suddenly become fascinated. I totally didn't expect to come out of that course with a undiscovered passion for biology and evolutionary theory.

I'm fortunate in that biological anthropology is still applicable to urban planning, or I'd probably have to make a decision between the two. Which would be scary, because while I know I'm probably cut out for learning about urban planning, I don't know how good I'd be at doing it. Alternately, I might be interested in biological anthropology now, while I'm just reading/writing about it and no labs/chemistry/physics are involved, but were any of those things to be introduced, I don't know if I'd really grasp it.

So, I mean, I was trying to come up with advice for people who might be in similar situations, or situations where they HAVE to choose between their interests, but I honestly don't have any. Except maybe that's it okay to go for something more broad but still applicable to whatever you may want to do. That's the advice one of my urban planning professors gave to me, which is partially why I'm majoring in anthropology.

Stay classy,