Saturday, February 17, 2007

Iraq is the 9th deadliest civil war since WW2

...9th largest by the metric of annual casualties (60,000 over three years). Funny how actual facts make current events clearer. Jim Fearon explains much more in his excellent FA article Why the U.S. Can't Win Iraq's Civil War.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pascal's Wager

Either God is tricky, or maybe probability is.

Pascal's Wager: Say there's only a small chance God exists. If you are an atheist but God does actually exist, He will send you to hell for eternity. This is infinitely bad. Therefore you should believe in God on the off-chance he does exist, since a small chance of something infinitely bad is worse than the alternative.

Believe in Pascal's Wager? Have I got a deal for you! says if you believe it, you should send Alex Tabarrok money because he will put in a good word to God for you. Hey, there's a small chance he has a direct line to God, which yields infinite utility (or avoids hell's infinite disutility).

FWIW, I'm thinking the paradoxes in this sort of arithmetic always happen when you start doing addition/multiplication distribution across those darn infinities. Like on the third page Tabarrok starts talking about p1*Inf - p2*Inf = (p1-p2)*Inf. That's shady shit.

And more about the big PW.

I don't like the SEP entry on it, because there's too much history and it talks too much about the boring stuff like the oddness of a decision to believe or disbelieve something.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

When linguists appear on ironic parody talk shows

The Colbert Report website is promising Steve Pinker this upcoming week. This could be great, or atrocious.

I bet it won't be as good as the somewhat-legendary Ali G interview of Noam Chomsky, reproduced below.