Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Show notes for Episode 62

Posted by Ethan Clow on May 11, 2010

Radio Freethinker Episode 62 – Neanderthal genes in humans, teachers converting to Catholicism, election reform in the UK, interview with The Globe and Mail’s Andre Picard.

Download episode here.

Song: Anarchy in the UK by Megadeath.

Skeptical News:

Neanderthal genes in humans here and here

First draft of the Neanderthal genome here

Why won’t polio go away? Story here

Why Copy Others? Story here

Teachers converting to Catholicism to get jobs. Story here Publicly funded catholic school demotes teacher for being gay. Story here.

Main topics:

Electoral Reform and Britain:

– UK uses same single member plurality system Canada uses (the only parliamentary democracies that still use SMP/FPTP)

– Whoever gets the most votes in each riding wins – people can win with far less than 50% of the vote in a riding
– Creates “fake” majorities – a party can win a majority of seats without a majority of votes
– Leads to wasted votes – in a conservative riding, voting for labour or lib dems is unlikely to change anything
– Leads to strategic voting – Race even between con/labour but I like lib dems – Labour is the lesser of two evils for me so I vote for labour rather than the party I truly like
– Not all “bad” – provides one representative for every citizen – an MP people can interact with
– Limits party power somewhat – if someone is popular in their district they could ignore wishes of party – hope to win in another party or independent if party does something

Two other systems that could be used (not pure proportionality)
– Alternate Vote systems
– Not a huge change
– People get a main vote and alternate vote
– If first vote does not provide a majority for a candidate, the candidate with the smallest percentage is knocked out and the alternate votes of those people are added
– Still one MP per district
– Limits strategic voting / wasted votes
– Allows people to put who they really want first, and then a more mainstream second if they want (eg. green party first, then NDP second)
– Single Transferable Vote
– Multi-member districts
– Preferences are ranked by voters
– A quota of votes is needed to ensure a seat
– 100,000 voters voting for 4 candidates
– 20,001 is the quota needed to to be elected
– Other preferences are calculated once first preference is elected with more votes than the quota, or first preference has the fewest votes
– Leads to fairly proportional outcomes
– Limits party power as individuals from within parties can be chosen separately
– Easier for small parties/individuals to be elected

Mathematical Reasons why elections pretty much have to be unfair, no matter what method you use:
– particularly interesting result: FPTP can give exactly opposite ranking from what people actually prefer
– very good explanation of how vote-splitting happens and why it is bad to let it
“Saari showed that given a set of voter preferences you can design a system that produces any result you desire.”


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