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Sunday, December 04, 2005


An L.A. Times article about a new Darwin exhibit in New York:

The display, which opened two weeks ago, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is a collaboration of five leading natural science centers in three countries. More than a retrospective of one scientist's achievement, it walks the visitor through Darwin's lifetime voyage of intellectual discovery, a journey that culminated in his theory of evolution.
The exhibition comes at a time when the teaching of Darwin's work increasingly is under attack by conservative Christian groups around the world.
Museum president Ellen V. Futter said curators organized the Darwin display because "American education in science and mathematics is failing dreadfully — in ways that undermine the country's economy and security and yield public confusion about major scientific issues, including the origins and diversity of life on Earth."

The exhibition features Darwin's love letters, the tools he carried aboard the HMS Beagle and the red leather notebooks in which he worked out his ideas.
The American Experience at PBS did an excellent documentary on the Scopes Monkey Trial a couple years ago. Unfortunately, this is not one that you can view online, like these from Frontline. You'll have to set up your DVR to look for it, like mine has been looking for Inherit the Wind for about a year now.

Here's an interesting review of the PBS documentary from the NRO:
There is an overlooked source of darkness at the trial that is well worth bringing into the light, the very high-school biology textbook at issue in the trial, George William Hunter's A Civic Biology. Few have even heard of it. Even fewer have read it. I happen to run across a copy, of all places, at a local thrift store.

Simply put, the textbook which John Scopes was using was offensively racist and blatantly eugenic, and the racism and eugenics were both part and parcel of Hunter's presentation of Darwin's theory of evolution.

Hunter ranked the races according to how high each had reached on the evolutionary scale. There are "five races or varieties of man…the Ethiopian or Negro type…the Malay or brown race…the American Indian…the Mongolian or yellow race…and finally, the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America." [emphasis added] By implication, we can surmise who, for Hunter, was on the bottom.
There is more, then, to the Scopes Trial, than the standard story of light vs. dark, science vs. religion, reason vs. faith, much more. Until it is all brought to light, we simply won't have the full story.


This story from the Associated Press is an interesting look at investor sentiment and emotion:
Many Wall Street professionals see most people in the market as a herd. If the herd is heading one way, they say they'll head the other. As a result, they can't get enough polls gauging how people feel about stocks. If the majority of investors love stocks, the pros take that as a strong sign to sell. If most investors hate stocks, that's a reason to buy.
It was good to hear that the San Francisco Gold Show was not mobbed this year - that makes a lot of sense. It seems like the herd has yet to rediscover precious metals in a big way. When the price of gold went from $320 to about $400 during 2003, the gold show was mobbed.

Mining stock indices in December 2003 were at levels (HUI at 257) which have yet to be breached this year, as gold has gone from $420 to just over $500. If you were to use the same price-of-gold to HUI ratio today that was in effect in December of 2003, you'd get a HUI at about 315 - more than 25 percent above where it stands now.

On investors acting the way investors act:
"Much of economic and financial theory is based on the notion that individuals act rationally and consider all available information in the decision-making process. However, researchers have uncovered a surprisingly large amount of evidence that this is frequently not the case," Tilson wrote in a paper called "Psychology & Behavioral Finance."

One problem: We're too emotional. A study published in "Psychological Science" co-authored by professors at Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Iowa pitted people with normal brains against people whose limbic systems, the brain's emotional center, were impaired.

The paper asks whether a neural systems dysfunction that curbs emotion can lead, in some circumstances, to more advantageous decisions. The answer, in terms of investing, was yes.
"Medical study confirms brain impairment HELPS improve investment returns," Ajay Singh Kapur, chief global equity strategist at Citigroup, wrote in a summary of the study.
Stocks, real estate, anyone?

To psychologists and objective observers all the world over, how can efficient market theory, as it relates to today's markets, be anything other than nonsense, given the quantity and quality of investors in the world?

Of course, that's not what you hear on CNBC - there efficient market theory is real.


Click to enlarge


Julian Vandercook said...

I thought you might like this link as it kind of relates to the first part of your post in a funny way.

Tim said...

I thought the Global Temperature vs. Pirate chart was very disturbing - I had no idea.


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