Archive for May, 2016

The Ship Explained

May 26, 2016 Leave a comment

My previous blog post involving the ship metaphor initiated some discussion regarding its possible meaning. The most common theory was that the ship symbolised a workplace, generally the workpace of the person advancing the explanation. A couple of people even asked if it was a way for me to say I was leaving my current job, and one person sounded disappointed when I said that wasn’t the case!

One of the cool things about allegorical stories is that people can see in them what they want. And that is also one of the great dangers of this form of communication because what people see is often not what the original author intended. We see this a lot in religious texts for example, and it explains why contradictory conclusions are often drawn from the Bible.

Well OK, what was the meaning of the extended metaphor then? Well it was all aimed a little bit beyond just an individual institution, company, or other organisation. The ship symbolised our civilisation as a whole, and especially capitalism in its current form.

At this point I apologise to anyone who found this obvious from the beginning (I thought it was when I wrote it) and who thinks an explanation is a suggestion that they are a bit dim-witted, but as I said above, no one seemed to quite get it!

So the ship is the basic structure our civilisation is based on (mainly capitalism) and it has worked moderately will in the past, but as new challenges (automation, robotics, IT, etc) appear it becomes less useful and has to be continually fixed (bail-outs, incredibly complex tax laws, etc) so that it still works. That’s what the patches and extra structures mean (feel free to go back and read the original post again at any stage!)

The luxurious quarters built by the ship’s officers which threaten the stability of the ship are the excesses the rich enjoy in society today. And the people who keep things stable by moving dead weight but in turn weighing the ship down even further are the armies of bureaucrats which hinder progress in society.

The engineers being disposed of represent the workers who are always the first victims of the incompetence of the leaders and as the bureaucratic classes rise, the workers fall. The workers acceptance of this trend is a result of them beginning to believe the propaganda used against them.

The leaders believe the immediate problems are being solved but that is only a superficial assessment. Every short-term change makes the eventual long-term result more certain. As economies grow they create greater demand which looks good economically, but climate change gets worse, essential resources are consumed, and the quality of the natural world declines.

The crew who warn others about the problems ahead represent groups such as scientists who are concerned about climate change, environmentalists who see the environment declining, and economists and social scientists who predict eventual disaster. The crew working in difficult places represent scientists who have to do dangerous and complex work which generates results contradicting the superficial views held by many others.

The failure for the captain to act on warnings which cannot be made exact reflects the fact that scientific findings are never stated as absolutes but that represent honesty rather than uncertainty.

The lack of accommodation for the crew reflects the housing problems which occur in many countries, including New Zealand, and the US where there are more empty houses than homeless people.

The outsourcing of the job of running the engines and subsequent loss of performance is a commentary on how privatisation and outsourcing generally leads to worse services which are conveniently rationalised by changing the way success is defined.

The lack of fuel and destruction of material symbolises the way resources are becoming scarce and how the resources which remain are wasted. For example, oil is far more useful as a base material for making plastics etc, than as a fuel.

The expert panels considering the minor problems while far superior ships sail past represent the inability of current leaders to really think of anything that will make a genuine difference – even though there are obvious answers they refuse to see them.

So there’s my explanation of the ship. It is rather obvious really and I never intended to write anything which was difficult to interpret. I was looking at the big picture but for anyone who thinks it represents their workplace I guess the same problems affecting the planet as a whole also happen at a smaller scale too.


Abandon Ship!

May 19, 2016 Leave a comment

The great ship had served its captain and officers (although not so much its crew) well for years, but it was beginning to show its age as it sailed into new waters quite different from what had been seen before. It had been necessary for many years to apply patches to the hull, to build extra structures onto its once clean form, and on several occasions it had been close to sinking only to be saved at the last-minute.

By now many people were wondering whether they should look for a whole new ship. But the senior officers were against this. They had spent years extending their cabins and it seemed wasteful to lose all that hard work.

The changes threatened the basic stability of the ship because the luxurious quarters were built on the upper levels and had almost caused it to capsize on many occasions. It was only through the establishment of an extended class of stabilisation experts who spent their lives moving dead weight from one part of the ship to another that disaster had been avoided. But the resources required for this had added so much weight to the ship that it had sunk dangerously low in the water.

A solution to this had been found too. It was to reduce the space available to the lesser classes of crew. Those who kept the engines running, for example, needed little space because they spent more and more time in the engine room itself. And as they worked longer hours fewer engineers were needed meaning that some could be thrown overboard to save even more space.

Some of the engineers were uncomfortable about their colleagues being disposed of with so little thought but the more it happened the more they realised how dispensable they really were, and those on the upper levels of the ship obviously could see the “big picture” so much better than a mere engineer could, so very few complained.

The commanders looked at their work and saw that they had solved the complex problems and rewarded themselves for producing such an efficient solution by extending their living quarters even further. After all, if they had to work so hard they deserved some privileges.

It was important to plan for the future so the captain had posted a lookout. According to best practice the lookout spent the day reading predictions of what storms might be expected. There was also some assistant lookouts, a media adviser, and several administrators who helped keep the process running efficiently. The people filling these essential roles all got big cabins because it was important to encourage the best people to do such an important task.

The predictions were produced by the best experts in the area and clearly stated that the ship would correct itself based on the forces it encountered in future. Everyone knew that it was important not to interfere with the self-correction processes of the ship.

There were some lower ranked members of the crew who claimed to know better. They were often seen in uncomfortable places that no true professional would go, like near the top of the mast, looking through obscure instruments like telescopes.

Their warnings could not be taken seriously by the captain because they could never agree on what exactly was ahead. Sometimes it was rain tomorrow, other times a storm the day after. Or they might predict a storm which didn’t arrive until a bit later than was predicted. Why would any competent captain change course based on such unreliable advice when the official lookout said everything was OK?

In recent times some of the lower echelons of the ship’s crew had to live on the deck because all the spare cabins had been bought by those who, through hard work and dedication, had accumulated more wealth. Seeing these people spoiling the previous tidiness of the deck upset the officers and they wondered why the cabin-less people had allowed themselves to get into that situation. Even after more cabins were built they still lived on the deck. No one could figure out what had gone wrong.

The ship wasn’t travelling as quickly as it used to but a lot of efficiencies had been gained by outsourcing the management of the engines to another group on the ship who had previously been in charge of the captain’s drinks cabinet. The senior officers were confident that the management skills this group had were clearly more important than any knowledge of engineering and the great improvements seen after the change clearly showed this was true.

The time the engines were on-line had reduced from 99% to 50% but that was considered acceptable when the streamlined management was considered. The engines were now being run by less staff and those that remained also were paid less. Why this scheme of expert management hadn’t been in place all along was the subject of many discussions around the captain’s table.

Some alarmists had claimed that fuel for the engines was getting low but using excess combustible material from the lower decks had kept them going with the same efficiency as always. The idea that eventually the fuel would be gone was considered ridiculous by the captain. After all, hadn’t the current system worked well for years?

At the end of the day, despite all the negatives heard from those who didn’t bother to participate in running the ship like it was, things were going well. Solutions to all the minor issues which had been identified were being considered by panels of experts, and abandoning the ship was totally unnecessary. Despite the sleek new ships which were often seen on the horizon there was no need to abandon the ship which had proved itself so reliable.

So the ship sails on, sinking lower in the water every year. The new models sometimes seen are starting to look a lot more attractive. And some of the crew wonder if maybe, just maybe, it really is that time… time to abandon ship!

Behavioral Economics

May 18, 2016 Leave a comment

I don’t like labels, but if I was going to label my own preferences on understanding the world I might use something like rationalist, atheist, or empiricist. Especially empiricist, because I don’t think we can take any idea seriously until it is tested in the real world.

That is one of the reasons that I don’t like religion. Religions have a revealed knowledge which is assumed to be true but is never tested. And even if some real-world facts do happen to encroach on the accepted dogma they can be conveniently disposed of with faith.

And I used to have the same criticism of a lot of social sciences, especially economics. It seemed to me that economics is based on interesting theoretical ideas that have little connection with the real world. The real problem was that no one even tried to establish the ideas’ truth, so while they might have been true, there was no real way of knowing.

But after recently reading some books on the subject of behavioral economics I now hold the subject of economics in somewhat higher regard because I realise at least parts of it make an attempt to establish real world facts through empirical testing and experiments.

Most recently I read Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, which describes a series of experiments with real people in situations which reveal the genuine way people react rather than the way conventional economics says they should react. Here’s a hint: they are completely different.

So realising that there are some branches of economics which try to take account of the way real people act was good but realising that most conventional economic and political practice is based on the old economics – the one based on interesting theoretical ideas which might or might not describe the real world situation – is bad.

The book “Predictably Irrational” has a number of chapters describing experiments involving different aspects of economics but I want to concentrate on one in particular in this blog post. The one I have chosen this time is people’s moral behaviour, especially in relation to cheating. So here’s a few of the more interesting points…

The experimenters asked their subjects to perform a skill task and be paid for the number of questions they got right. One group showed their results to the person in charge and were paid based on their performance. Another group scored the test themselves and asked for the appropriate payment based on that. Note that only the second group had an easy opportunity to cheat by lying about their real score.

Of course the second group scored better than the first (and were paid more) and since the participants were chosen at random the most likely explanation wasn’t that they were better at the task but that they cheated! Interestingly, they didn’t cheat fully and ask for payment for a perfect score, they just added about 50% onto their real score.

So people engage in moderate amounts of cheating when they get the opportunity. How could this problem be resolved? In another experiment the subjects were asked to recall the Ten Commandments before doing the test. They didn’t need to actually know them, just think about the fact that they exist. And guess what, in this situation the second group didn’t cheat at all. There wasn’t even a small increase in the second group’s scores over the first.

So is this a good reason to bring back religion? Well no, not really, because after being questioned it turned out that a lot of the subjects couldn’t even list the Commandments. And a further experiment asking participants to accept the “MIT Honour Code” before doing the experiment also gave a zero cheating result – even though MIT doesn’t actually have an honour code!

So it seems that making people think about “doing the right thing” prior to making a moral decision is enough to prevent cheating.

What does this have to do with economics and politics? Well there is a possibility that the poor standards of morality seen in professions today is a result of the professionals moving to a market model rather than a social one. In market models maximising profit is the primary objective and fair play and moral standards tend to be forgotten.

In the US during the 1960s many professions, such as medicine, law, and accounting, were largely deregulated and opened to market forces. Yes, this is the same market force model espoused by the “old economics” based on theory (or maybe ideology or dogma would be better words) rather than reality.

Since that change doctors order diagnostic tests which they just happen to have the equipment for, just to make extra cash; they prescribe drugs made by companies who give them gifts instead of what is best for the patient; and they perform unnecessary procedures for the money. In other words, their ethical standards have dropped significantly.

Of course, I’m not saying that all doctors cheat, just like not every participant in the experiments cheated, but the rate of cheating has increased greatly and surveys of professional organisations show that the members know that things are bad. In one survey half of the lawyers questioned said they wouldn’t follow that profession if they had to make the choice again.

And these experiments were just a small part of the case against conventional economics. The main point of the book was – as the name suggests – that people don’t act rationally and when they do act irrationally it is in predictable ways. The conventional assumption that people will act rationally in their own best economic interests is just not true.

But a discussion of those other experiments will need to wait for another blog post. This post just shows that if we want people to be more moral they should think about the Ten Commandments more, or the MIT Honour Code, or the Jedi Code, or whatever else they prefer, it makes no difference!

Maori Privilege

May 13, 2016 Leave a comment

A furore has recently broken out over statements made by a New Zealand television presenter and commentator, Mike Hosking. Now I should say before I continue that I am no great fan of Hosking and I don’t watch his show because I object to his continual presentation of unsubstantiated opinions as if they were facts. But I try not to let my overall impression of people prevent any possibility that they might have got things right on certain occasions, and I think he is right this time.

Well, it’s not so much that Hosking is right, more that everyone else is wrong. And, of course, I don’t literally mean everyone else because there are some people (me for example) who have seen this for what it really is. OK, maybe I should explain…

The comments were in relation to the actions of Andrew Judd, the mayor of the New Zealand city New Plymouth. Judd wanted more Maori (the original inhabitants of New Zealand) representation on the city council so he proposed setting up a ward which could be contested only by Maori. Before he carried out this plan though he ran a referendum which overwhelmingly rejected the idea (83% voted against it).

In addition Judd claims that he was exposed to various forms of abuse because of the idea and has decided not to run for mayor again in the future.

On the TV current affairs show “Seven Sharp”, Mike Hosking said this: “He [Judd] is completely out of touch with middle New Zealand. There’s nothing wrong with Maori representation on councils because any Maori who wants to stand for a council is more than welcome to do so, and you can sell your message and if you’re good enough you’ll get voted on. Simple as that.”

This immediately caused an avalanche of complaints, accusations of racism, and calls for an apology. Why? Is there anything offensive or racist saying that everyone should have equal opportunity to participate in local government? Is it not more racist and offensive to suggest that one group should have greater privileges than others based purely on their race?

And even if you believe that there is a justification to provide extra help for Maori to get onto councils that is fine, but surely the counter-argument should also be considered. The the pros and cons can be looked at and a reasonable conclusion might be reached. If the supporters of Maori wards are so keen on shutting down alternative views you do have to wonder what they are scared of. Is it that they don’t think their arguments can stand up to any contradictory evidence?

I don’t think many people would deny that there is racism in New Zealand (along with every other country). It’s very common for people to think that their culture is superior to others and I think that opinion should be considered. I know some Maori who consider their culture superior because it allegedly has a greater connection with the natural world, for example. Is that racist?

But giving one race extra privileges which aren’t available to others is clearly racist, and that’s what Judd wants to do. He might say that he just wants to compensate for the real disadvantage Maori have and that is a fair point. But the opposite point is also fair and it should be possible to state it without the ridiculous outpouring of irrelevant nonsense we have seen over the last few days.

And yes, I know that it tends to be people from the left who have objected most strongly to the comments Hosking (who is clearly from the right) has made, and that I usually see myself as being politically left. But that’s why I don’t like political labels so much: there are many traditional left ideas which I disagree with.

Also, I’m really sorry to hear of the examples of racism that some Maori have encountered in their lives. If someone lost their job because their boss couldn’t pronounce their Maori name properly that would be totally unacceptable to most people, but that isn’t really relevant here.

What is relevant is that some people want to solve problems of racism by instituting racist policies. I don’t think many people would be comfortable with that, and I think Hosking is absolutely right saying that anyone contemplating an action of that sort is out of touch with middle New Zealand (although I do admit that is just another Hosking opinion, supported by very little objective evidence, and presented as a fact).

Also, think about what this says about Maori. Every other “minority group” (women, Asians, older people, poor people, etc) might have trouble getting onto councils as well; for example, I think women are still under-represented. But only Maori want that extra help that no one else gets. It seems to me that anyone who thinks Maori need this race-based privilege, which no other group gets, is actually assuming they are in some way inferior.

Who knows, maybe I’m wrong. But there is one thing I know for sure: shutting down the debate by using the bogus label of racist and getting offended by a contrary view is not the correct way to have a fair and reasonable discussion on any matter. So on this occasion (and probably not many others) I say: well done Mike, you make a good point!

They Are Idiots

May 11, 2016 Leave a comment

I recently had an interesting discussion regarding the necessity of leadership and hierarchies in organising working groups of people. It was with a friend over a few beers at my favourite local pub, and as we all know, that environment often brings out the deepest and most valid observations regarding the state of modern society!

He thought that hierarchies were necessary and that having a leader which others submitted to the authority of was inevitable. I took the approach that many people don’t actually need leadership and that given the quality of the leaders who tend to arise, we would be better off without them.

Of course, as is always the case, the truth probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. There are people (such as myself) who are highly individualistic and work best without the burden of having to follow someone who has somehow acquired the mantle of authority. But there are others who would be totally paralysed without someone to tell them what to do.

But the problem is that in our “one size fits all” society everyone must become part of a hierarchy in one way or another and it is this lack of flexibility which I think causes the abysmal inefficiency, incompetence, and immorality we see in the modern world.

There is an unstated premise there though. That is: are many leaders, politicians, and managers really as incompetent as I tend to think they are? Note that I said “many” there, so I do agree that there are some genuine leaders around with great skills, but they are a tiny minority.

So what does the research say?

Well, long story short, that our leaders don’t know what they are doing. Most of them are so incompetent that they don’t even understand how incompetent they are, which is exactly what the well known Dunning–Kruger Effect would suggest.

That’s the quick answer but I think I should fill in a few more details than that, so I will list some summaries of studies carried out on this topic.

The research that first revealed the DKE was done in 1999 by psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning. They found that a certain subset of leaders not only gave themselves too much credit, also rated real experts as being less competent than themselves. Other studies since then have confirmed the effect.

The most harmful effect of this phenomenon is that a DKE leader can never be helped. Because they rate their own skills so highly and others so poorly they will never listen to advice, so there is no room for self-improvement. The advice for someone affected by such a leader is generally to document poor processes they are forced to undertake, not to try to advise the leader, to not take criticism from the person personally, and to move on to another position as soon as possible.

Robert Hogan is a psychologist who specialises in personality assessment and leadership. He claims that 60-75 percent of managers are incompetent and/or poor leaders. He has found numerous reasons for this, including the tendency towards narcissism, positions of power leading to the attitude that rules don’t apply, and the lack of meaningful mechanisms for promotion.

For example, one proposed mechanism which would lead to a better promotion system is to take notice of the recommendations of the people the person supervises, but this rarely happens.

More recent studies indicate the level of incompetence is closer to 50% but presumably this would depend on the degree of incompetence necessary before the person was classified that way. Either way, these are significant numbers and even if 50% are not incompetent, and therefore deemed competent, is mere competence sufficient when in a position of power over others?

Research indicates that most workers dislike their bosses to such an extent that the majority would prefer a new (and presumably better) boss instead of a pay rise. And the same study also found that bad people are hired into management positions because interviews tend to select self-confident people with narcissistic personalities, and these are exactly the people who should be rejected.

Of course, it may be that to be a good boss you must do things which your subordinates don’t like, but research has also shown that unpopular bosses tend to be bad for the organisation as a whole so that doesn’t really fit either.

One final thing is worth mentioning here too. Many authority figures justify their pay and conditions by citing the pressure and stress that comes with the position. But research indicates the opposite is true: as people rise in a hierarchy their stress levels actually decrease.

So it all seems very clear: people dislike (I was going to say “hate” there but it often doesn’t extend to that level) and despise their leaders not because they force them into doing things that are undesirable but necessary, or because they don’t like someone having authority, or because they can’t appreciate the difficulty of their work, but because the leaders are idiots!

Notes: Again, I should emphasise that there are good leaders who do a good job and this post is not intended to criticise all of them. And I haven’t offered an alternative to hierarchical leadership here but that might be a subject for a future post. Finally, I haven’t correctly referenced the research I have cited here but I could probably find the papers I made these notes from if anyone is interested.

Bordering on Impossible

May 7, 2016 Leave a comment

I have mentioned my admiration for the LIGO project before but since then it has actually achieved its goal so now might be a good time to discuss it again.

First, what is it? Well if you haven’t heard the news (if you haven’t you obviously don’t follow science news at all) and haven’t read my previous post on LIGO (titled “Ripples in Space-Time” from 2015-11-10) here’s a brief summary…

LIGO is an experiment designed to detect gravity waves.

It consists of two detectors – one in Washington and one in Louisiana – which consist of two 4 kilometer long tubes, containing a high vacuum, at right angles to each other. A precision laser shines down the each tube and is reflected back to the central point.

If a gravity wave hits the experiment it warps the detectors (to be precise it warps the space-time the detectors occupy) very slightly and that can be measured by changes in the light beam, specifically by how the two beams interact. When there is no gravitational warping the two beams are in phase but if one is warped the beams interfere.

The reason there are two detectors (each with 2 lasers) rather than one is that local effects (traffic, small earthquakes, etc) can affect them far more than gravity, but these will only affect the nearby detector. Gravity waves will affect both (with a tiny interval of time between them).

It sounds simple but the complicating factor is the size of the effect. Imagine trying to measure the size of something to a precision of one part in one hundred million trillion. That precision can never be imagined in relation to normal size objects so let’s compare it to the whole planet Earth.

The Earth is about 13,000 kilometers in diameter so to measure it with the same precision the measurement would need to be accurate to 0.00000000013 of a millimeter. If a single grain of sand interfered with that attempted measurement it would distort the measurement by a factor of 8 billion times too much. In other words, the precision is equivalent to measuring the width of the Earth accurate to one 8 billionth the width of a grain of sand.

A good phrase to describe the staggering difficulty of this task was “bordering on impossible”. In fact, many people thought it really was impossible. But it wasn’t. Because gravity waves were actually discovered at LIGO near the end of last year and officially announced earlier this year.

And there are a few interesting details of the discovery which make it even more incredible. Here’s an overview of some of them…

The gravity waves which were detected were created in an event where two large black holes, each 20 to 30 times the mass of our Sun, merged. This happened 1.3 billion light years away which means it happened a billion years ago and the waves had taken that long to get here. The event was translated into a sound which has been described as a “chirp”. It lasted just 0.2 of a second.

The detectors had been upgraded and had just been switched on again. An scientist in Germany first saw the signal and thought it might just be a test because there had been extensive testing of the new system up until then. But he soon found it wasn’t and the timing of the event in the two facilities clearly showed a real gravity wave which could even be isolated to a line through the sky. The collision happened somewhere along that line.

If a third detector had been available the position could have been deduced by triangulation but unfortunately a third device in Europe which might have been used was being maintained. But hey, you win some and you lose some, and finding the event at all so quickly after an upgrade was a big win in itself. After all, massive black holes don’t collide that often!

So what does it mean?

Well the observation finally confirms a prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity which was published exactly 100 years prior to the confirming observation. Of course, many other aspects of the theory have already been confirmed but gravity waves were one of the few that hadn’t. Relativity really is a remarkable theory and its predictive ability has never failed.

Gravity waves now allow astronomers to look at the universe in a whole new way. Instead of using electromagnetic radiation (light, radio waves, x-rays, microwaves, gamma waves) some super-energetic events can be observed using their gravity radiation.

And the confirmation of Relativity further strengthens its role as one of the core theories in physics. It is a theory related to the most basic levels of reality so there are few obvious practical benefits, but fundamental theories are what everthing in our modern, technological society are based on, so their importance cannot be overstated.

And like all great technical achievements which push the extreme boundaries of technology (the space program being the most obvious) there will be spin-offs from the actual construction of the facilities which will be used in diverse areas of technology in the future.

So yes, LIGO is an astonishing technological tour de force – on a similar level to the LHC, the Apollo program, and the Hubble Space telescope – something that every human on the planet should be truly proud of.

Biblical Science Again

May 4, 2016 Leave a comment

Before I move on to a new topic I would like to finish off the discussion of the remaining “proofs” that the Bible contains scientific knowledge unknown to other people of the time. Despite Richard’s opinion that this is pointless (he’s probably right) it would be untidy to leave the rest of this material unanswered.

I don’t have the time or space to go into the same level of detail as before but I will quickly list the claims, give the Bible verse involved (I use the NIV because it’s the easiest to understand), and say why I don’t find the claims convincing.

I did a fairly thorough analysis of the first claim in my previous blog post so refer back to that if you are interested. All of the remaining claims follow the same general form. Here they are…

2. Bible says: Incalculable number of stars (Jeremiah 33:22). Science says: Incalculable number of stars. What was known: Only 1,100 stars.

The actual verse: I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.

My comment: Clearly this is meant as a poetic statement rather than any precise mathematical fact and nothing of any relevance can really be drawn from it. I also can’t find any reliable statement on how many stars were recognised at the time, except that Hipparchus made a catalog of over 1000 of them.

3. Bible says: Free float of earth in space (Job 26:7). Science says: Free float of earth in space. What was known: Earth sat on a large animal.

The actual verse: He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.

My comment: There were some cultures whose beliefs involved the Earth being balanced on various animals but there are many others with different views, including many involving the Earth being suspended in a void, so the description seems misleading.

4. Bible says: Creation made of invisible elements (Hebrews 11:3). Science says: Creation made of invisible elements (atoms). What was known: Science was ignorant on the subject.

The actual verse: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

My comment: To claim that this is referring to atoms is rather disingenuous. The idea seems to be more to say that God used nothing to create the world and that humans should accept this on faith.

5. Bible says: Each star is different (1 Corinthians 15:41). Science says: Each star is different. What was known: All stars were the same.

The actual verse: The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

My comment: This seems to simply refer to the fact that different stars have different brightness. This would be apparent to anyone who bothered to look.

6. Bible says: Light moves (Job 38:19,20). Science says: Light moves. What was known: Light was fixed in place.

The actual verse: What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? What was known: Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

My comment: I can’t see how this can be possibly construed as saying that light moves, and I also can’t find any reference to say that anyone thought light was fixed in place anyway.

7. Bible says: Air has weight (Job 28:25). Science says: Air has weight. Air was weightless.

The actual verse: When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters,…

My comment: Everyone knew the wind has force. This would seem to imply that air has weight, but if it does then that knowledge was shared by everyone.

8. Bible says: Winds blow in cyclones (Ecclesiastes 1:6). Science says: Winds blow in cyclones. What was known: Winds blew straight.

The actual verse: The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.

My comment: I can’t find any definitive evidence on what people thought about this subject but it only seems to make sense that if the wind blows in all directions that some sort of circulation is occurring.

9. Bible says: Blood is the source of life and health (Leviticus 17:11). Science says: Blood is the source of life and health. What was known: Sick people must be bled.

The actual verse: For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

My comment: What was known is that “sick people must be bled” and this verse is suggesting a blood sacrifice. This is science how, exactly?

10. Bible says: Ocean floor contains deep valleys and mountains (2 Samuel 22:16; Jonah 2:6). Science says: Ocean floor contains deep valleys and mountains. What was known: The ocean floor was flat.

The actual verse: The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of breath from his nostrils.

My comment: There is evidence that people were diving under the sea surface about 4500 BCE (yes, that’s before the world was created according to the “scientific Bible”) so it seems likely that they noticed that the sea floor wasn’t flat. Where the claim that people thought that it was flat came from is anyone’s guess.

11. Bible says: Ocean contains springs (Job 38:16). Science says: Ocean contains springs. What was known: Ocean fed only by rivers and rain.

The actual verse: Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?

My comment: The word “springs” here is better translated as “source” or “origin” so the claim is again rather dubious.

12. Bible says: When dealing with disease, hands should be washed under running water (Leviticus 15:13). Science says: When dealing with disease, hands should be washed under running water. What was known: Hands washed in still water.

The actual verse: When a man is cleansed from his discharge, he is to count off seven days for his ceremonial cleansing; he must wash his clothes and bathe himself with fresh water, and he will be clean.

My comment: This is clearly a reference to some sort of religious ceremony which was made if the person had recovered from a disease (probably leprosy) after 7 days. So you don’t wash your hands until the 7 days are done?

It seems fairly obvious that all of these claims are completely fatuous. The author really only succeeds in doing the opposite of his presumed intention. Instead of making the Bible and Christianity look credible it makes them look ridiculous.

Why is it necessary to justify the (alleged) truth of the Bible by using such obvious poor reasoning and flawed information? And (as I said above) why aren’t there genuine pieces of previously unknown knowledge in a book inspired by God?

The obvious answer is that the Bible is a book written by bronze age desert nomads and contains no special knowledge beyond their limited understanding of the world at the time.