I Still Hate the Phillies


A remarkably stupid sentence:

“Even if confirmation bias is in play, that means there’s something to confirm.” -Barry Petchesky, On Philadelphia Fans, Deadspin.com, 4.19.2016, available here.

The author seems to have a rudimentary understanding of confirmation bias, but does not understand how a “hypothesis” works. Confirmation bias is when one credits information that supports a hypothesis, while disregarding information that discredits that hypothesis, solely because the information supports or discredits an existing preconception. It typically refers to the exact opposite of what Petchesky is trying to describe: people seeing evidence of things that don’t exist purely because they want to see it. By the logic of the sentence above, every time a proponent of intelligent design sees evidence of the Flood, we should take that itself as evidence of the Flood.

This should in no way be read as a defense of Philadelphia sports fans. We can show why they are awful without falling for confirmation bias or Petchesky’s terrible understanding of confirmation bias.

Talkin’ Baseball


For the first time in nearly a decade, I’m starting the baseball season with optimism. I’m sure the Mets will find some way to make me regret that, but for now, here’s a distinction most baseball fans ignore:

When a batter hits a ball into fair territory, and the ball leaves the playing area, but does not do so on the fly (and at least 250 feet from home plate), the batter is awarded a double. See MLB Rule 6.09(e)-(h). The typical example of this is a ball bouncing over the outfield fence. Most fans would call this a “ground-rule double.” But it’s not. It’s an “automatic double.” A “ground-rule double” is one that is awarded based on the idiosyncratic rules of particular ballparks. Another summary is here.



A “spandrel” is an “evolutionary by-product.” It is an unrelated trait that travels with another trait, sometimes for totally unknown reasons. One possible example of this is the color of cats: certain fur patterns or colors are linked to higher levels of aggressiveness, but it is unclear why that would be true.

The word originally meant the space between two arches. It was adapted to cover the biological phenomenon by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, in a 1979 essay. The essay (which I haven’t had a chance to read) is here.

Wisdom and Knowledge


An unsourced quote (or at least one I’ve never found a credible attribution for) that I’m fond of:

“Knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster. Wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein is the monster.”

But see xkcd.



A “skeuomorph” is a type of vestigial design element, that refers to an older, no longer necessary, feature of an object. Look at your phone, there are probably a few right there. The Apple logo for the phone on an iPhone is one (the headset looks like an old phone), and the notes app resembles a legal pad. This is one of those things, like bad kerning, that you have trouble un-seeing.