Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some Autumn Photos

A foggy morning today, taken in my yard. I didn't realize there were little grape vines coming over the fence from next door until today. Zoomable versions here.

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Explained Again And Again And Again, Ignored Again, And Again, And Again

What is specified complexity? Darwinist minds seem to have a whole lot of trouble with this concept:

Low Probability is Only Half of Specified Complexity

In a prior post the order of a deck of cards was used as an example of specified complexity. If a deck is shuffled and it results in all of the cards being ordered by rank and suit, one can infer design. One commenter objected to this reasoning on the grounds that the specified order is no more improbable than any other order of cards (about 1 in 10^68). In other words, the probably of every deck order is about 1 in 10^68, so why should we infer something special about this deck order simply because it has a low probability.

Well, last night at my friendly poker game I decided to test this theory. We were playing five card poker with no draws after the deal. On the first hand I delt myself a royal flush in spades. Eyebrows were raised, but no one objected. On the second hand I delt myself a royal flush in spades, as well as every hand all the way through the 13th.

When my friends objected I said, “Lookit, your intuition has led you astray. You are infering design — that is to say that I’m cheating — simply on the basis of the low probability of this sequence of events. But don’t you understand that the odds of me receiving 13 royal flushes in spades in a row is exactly the same as me receiving any other 13 hands. ” In a rather didactic tone of voice I continued, “Let me explain. In the game we are playing there are 2,598,960 possible hands. The odds of receiving a straight flush in spades is therefore 1 in 2,598,960. But don’t you see, the odds of receiving ANY hand are exactly the same, 1 in 2,598,960. And the odds of a series of events is simply the product of the odds of all of the events. Therefore the odds of receiving 13 royal flushes in spades in a row is about 2.74^-71. But, and here’s the clincher, the odds of receiving ANY series of 13 hands is exactly the same, 2.74^-71. So there, pay up and kwicher whinin’.”

Unfortunately for me, one of my friends actually understands the theory of specified complexity, and right about this time this buttinski speaks up and says, “Nice analysis, but you are forgetting one thing. Low probability is only half of what you need for a design inference. You have completely skipped an analysis of the other half – i.e. [don’t you just hate it when people use “i.e.” in spoken language] A SPECIFICATION.”

“Waddaya mean, Mr. Smarty Pants,” I replied. “My logic is unassailable. ” “Not so fast,” he said. “Let me explain. There are two types of complex patterns, those that warrant a design inference (we call this a ’specification’ and those that do not (which we call a ‘fabrication’). The difference between a specification and a fabrication is the descriptive complexity of the underlying patterns [see Professor Sewell’s paper linked to his post below for a more detailed explanation of this]. A specification has a very simple description, in our case ‘13 royal flushes in spades in a row.’ A fabrication has a very complex description. For example, another 13 hand sequence could be described as ‘1 pair; 3 of a kind; no pair; no pair; 2 pair; straight; no pair; full house; no pair; 2 pair; 1 pair; 1 pair; flush.’ In summary, BarryA, our fellow players’ intuition has not led them astray. Not only is the series of hands you delt yourself massively improbable, it is also clearly a specification. A design inference is not only warranted, it is compelled. I infer you are a no good, four flushin’, egg sucking mule of a cheater.” He then turned to one of the other players and said, “Get a rope.” Then I woke up.

No Danger Of Truth

All too typical.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Darwin: The New Aristotle And The New Ptolemy!

Well said:

Walker cites Darwinist philosopher Barbara Forrest to defend the assertion that atheism is a scientifically justifiable inference. Dr. Forrest:

…the relationship between methodological and philosophical naturalism, while not one of logical entailment, is the only reasonable metaphysical conclusion, given (1) the demonstrated success of methodological naturalism, combined with (2) the massive amount of knowledge gained by it, (3) the lack of a method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural, and (4) the subsequent lack of evidence for the supernatural. The above factors together provide solid grounding for philosophical naturalism, while supernaturalism remains little more than a logical possibility.

Dr. Forrest is mistaken. The demonstrated success of methodological naturalism has no bearing on the truth or falsehood of philosophical naturalism, because the assertion of philosophical naturalism (there are no extra-natural things) is outside the purview of methodological naturalism (the study of natural things). Methodological naturalism is defined by its inability to adjudicate extra-natural questions.

Dr. Forrest’s claim (3) that philosophical naturalism must be true because of "the lack of a method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural" is nonsense. The methods for knowing the supernatural are by definition beyond the scope of methodological naturalism and are properly philosophical methods, not scientific methods. Forrest's implicit assertion that there is no philosophical "method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural" is an assertion that two and a half millenia of Western philosophy don't exist. What of Platonic Forms, Thomist proofs for the existence of God, Anslem's and Descartes' and Plantinga's Ontological Arguments, and Kant's Argument From Morality? It's safe to say that most of Western philosophy addresses issues that transcend our direct experience of the natural world. Ironically, Forrest's use of the scientific method to assert that the supernatural world doesn't exist employs one of the few philosophical methodologies that can't address questions outside of the natural world.

Methodological naturalism — the scientific method — precludes all extra-natural philosophical constraints on interpretation of physical data. That’s the point of methodological naturalism — the method of data collection and interpretation must be without extra-natural assumptions. Colloquially, methodological naturalism is 'following the physical evidence, unencumbered by extra-natural inference.' The design inference is based on evidence about the natural world. It is a violation of methodological naturalism to categorically exclude the design inference based on the postulate that the supernatural does not exist. The scientific method hews to evidence, not to philosophical dogma.

The approach to science in the era before the scientific method, much like the approach of atheists and Darwinists today, was to apply a priori philosophical constraints to the study of natural phenomena. The ancients modeled planetary motion as perfect circles because of the philosophical assumption that heavenly bodies must move ‘perfectly,’ and non-circular motion was considered imperfect and thus impermissible. Johannes Kepler’s laws of elliptical planetary motion were an early triumph of the scientific method because Kepler discarded philosophical dogma and considered only the evidence. Of course, Kepler was a devout Christian (as were nearly all Enlightenment scientists), and he interpreted the laws of planetary motion as God’s geometrical plan for the universe. Philosophical constraints — a priori constraints — on interpretation of data are inconsistent with the scientific method, but philosophical reflection on the data isn’t. Newton derived his laws of motion from mathematical considerations and from data, yet he believed that the fabric of space and time in which the laws acted was the mind of God. Philosophical reflection on scientific data — including reflection on supernatural causation — has a long and quite honorable history.

So what of Forrest’s fourth claim: that the truth of philosophical naturalism is supported by "the subsequent lack of evidence for the supernatural"? It's a bizarre inference, as divorced from empirical evidence as could be imagined. The past several centuries of Western science have revealed a universe created ex nihilo, governed by astonishingly intricate mathematical laws accessible to the human mind and characterized by properties of forces and energy and matter so closely tied to the existence of human life that cosmologists have had to invoke the existence of countless other universes to elide the anthropic implications. Life itself depends on a code — remarkably like a computer language — to produce, run and replicate cellular components that are themselves best described as intricate nanotechnology.

Here’s the atheist interpretation of this scientific evidence: atheism is the only permissible explanation. Atheists are entitled to their opinion, but they have no business teaching students that atheist fundamentalism defines the limits of science.

Gagdad Bob

Has an interesting post today.


Saw it on Sunday. I have no idea why this film has gotten the hype among Catholics that it has. Barbara Nicolosi has a good post about the movie and the entirely unwarranted approbation it has received. There's not much to disagree with here. Films that are any good as art don't need e-mail campaigns to get people to see them. Catholics and others shouldn't drink the artistic Kool-Aid just because a film has a purportedly good message (which this film completely garbles, anyway). And if the producers tell you you are under "demonic influence" for not thinking their little project is very good (as they told Nicolosi), well, you know, screw 'em.

Update: A pretty good concurring review by a blogging nun here.

Einstein Quotes

Some good ones, with pictures, here.

A Sane Ending

Andrew Meyer, of "Don't tase me, bro!" fame, admits he was in the wrong. An investigation concludes that the police were in the right.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It Is A Real Crash


From a reader:

I believe this housing market will decline further. I have an interesting story to offer and give you an idea how bad things have been in Sacramento area. About 3 years ago my wife and I decided to purchase a second house and keep our starter house as an investment. What was happening in the market at the time was really strange. After we bought our first starter home for $150k in 2001, prices began to spike. By the time we bought our second home 2 years later it was worth $80k more (a lot of money back then). Then prices stabilized for a year. In 2003 we bought a slightly bigger home because our family was growing. We paid $223k for the 1441 sq foot home which was I believed overpriced by about $40k at the time. We went ahead and bought it because it was a long term investment. In a matter of 3 short years the price of the house nearly doubled. I was in disbelief. I would see the same homes in my area (I have a cookie cutter house so I had a close idea the value) rise by nearly $10k a month during that period. I tried to research why this was happening. It just did not make sense. As a home owner, you love it when your home appreciates in value, but this was almost unrealistic and made me very nervous. It took my parents 30 years to pay off there home which was worth 300k, while it took my wife and I a little more than 3 years roughly to accumulate that much in equity (on both homes including the rental). I knew something was unnatural and this is when I came across your blog trying to find an explanation on the internet.

My neighbor sold his house (same as mine) for $430K the same day he put it on the market, $30k over asking in late summer of ‘05. A friend of mine in the real estate industry bought multiple homes with little or no money down, a family member bought a 350k home and we was not even working at the time of purchase. How is this possible? At this point I told my wife that it was time to bail out of real estate and sell one of our homes. The market was starting to decline in Jan of 06 in Sacramento and we priced it lower to sell fast. I would much rather price ahead of the curve than follow the market on the way down. So we sold for $400k, 30k less than all time high. We struggled because it took 2 months to sell. Remember my neighbor sold his for $430 three months earlier. So it took a lot longer than we had anticipated. I was about to lower the price to $379K when we found a buyer. To make a long story short, a similar home I saw listed on MLS just earlier this week is selling for $219k. I feel vindicated. Thanks to doing my research and reading your blog, I feel I made a very good decision.

I do feel bad for all the people that losing their homes, but when you work as a janitor (no offense to janitors) and you can own half a million dollar home, it just does not make sense. Both my wife and I are working professionals earning six figures salaries and we live in what many folks consider a starter home. Now with the fallout of the housing industry, I had no idea how widespread and prevalent all these exotic toxic, ninja, liar loans were. I have coworkers who are clerical, custodians and blue collar workers who own half million to $720,000 homes (at the height of the boom). I have to admit but I was very jealous and confused. Both my wife and I have advance degrees and we can barely make ends meet. We have very little left for luxuries. It is sad to see this generation being robbed from an opportunity to buy a home. I see folks driving Escalades and Hummers, and I know for a fact that they are not professionals. Now I know how they did it. It’s all funny money that will have to be paid back. I strongly feel that we will return to 2002 or even to 2001 prices. In the mean time I am just saving the money that I made on the sale of my house.

Ironically even real estate agents are conceding that real estate will further decline. When I talked to my real estate agent about a nice large (3000 sq ft) home 2 blocks from us that has come down from 630k to 419K, he simply told me to wait. He said I would be able to get the same house next year for $300k.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Good Points

In the comments to a Telic Thoughts post responding to Behe's most recent Amazon post:

In my view all arguments that try to shield God from evil inevitably fail. What one should ask instead is if life, as it is, is worth the potential for evil? I've asked atheists why they hate life so much. Almost invariably they say that to the contrary for the most part they love life. If that is so then why be so critical of the concept of a creator of such a life?


I'm not sure what to think of the free will versus predestination debate, but I will say one thing: Whenever someone talks about how God could create a universe where there are nothing but perfectly good creatures in perfectly good nature for all time, I have to grin. Because the argument becomes "A perfectly good, omnipotent God would have never let me be born."

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Very Low Standard For Decisive Evidence

I guess anything will do:

A news release this week from biologists at the University of Manchester in England reports some world-shattering findings…

St. Bernard Study Shows Human-directed Evolution at Work

They report that by looking at 47 St. Bernard skulls spanning a period of 120 years - since the time that the breed standard for these dogs was first defined - they could see that the skulls steadily conformed to these standards over time. Because the breeders of St. Bernard dogs had bred for those traits.

Whoa. You're telling me that dog breeders can breed toward desired traits? What'll they think of next… breeding black and white spotted milk cows or fast race horses?

Okay, that was admittedly snarky. But it's a little amazing to me what counts for Breaking Science News! these days. Oddly enough, the release doesn't mention the fact that all dogs - Chihuahuas to Great Danes - are the same species. They got their individual good looks by selective breeding. I learned that in the 3rd grade.

Now, humans have been selectively breeding livestock for thousands of years. They have learned a thing or two in all that time about selecting for desired traits. It works, too. We know this. The real *surprise* of this research comes at the end of the release…

"These changes are exactly in those features described as desirable in the breed standards. They are clearly not due to other factors such as general growth and they provide the animal with no physical advantage, so we can be confident that they have evolved purely through the selective considerations of breeders.

"Creationism is the belief that all living organisms were created according to Genesis in six days by 'intelligent design' and rejects the scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.

"But this research once again demonstrates how selection — whether natural or, in this case, artificially influenced by man — is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life on the planet."

There you have it, children. The ability of humans to select for desired traits gives us NEW confidence that evolution is true because selection works, and that explains everything. Even better, it proves creationism false. By the way, creationism is Literal Genesis Intelligent Design that rejects the notion that dog and cattle and horse and cat and chicken (et al.) breeds are the result of selective breeding. As well as the 'scientific notion' of evolution altogether.

You know, if you spend any time reading science news releases, you might start to wonder who pays for all this wasted time. And whether these people have real-world skills they might use to become productive members of society someday. Luckily, I'm jaded. Some of this stuff is pure propaganda.

Darwinism Is Rooted In (Bad) Theological Arguments

Michael Behe:

Kenneth R. Miller and the Problem of Evil, Part 3
8:11 AM PDT, October 26, 2007

(This is the third of three posts on Kenneth Miller and the problem of evil.)

I think the reason for Miller’s deep disdain of a relatively minor difference in our positions on evolution is not scientific. Rather, it’s theological. It’s called the problem of evil. Briefly stated, if God is responsible for designing not only the lovely parts of biology, but also the dangerous and nasty parts as well, then we have a theological problem on our hands. What kind of a God designs not only pretty flowers, but deadly malaria, too? Is God actually malicious? On the other hand, if God simply designed a process like Darwinism that He knew would lead to life, then, the thinking goes, He didn’t directly design those nasty parts of biology — the process did. So God escapes any blame for bad stuff.

The eminent geneticist and former priest Francisco Ayala says exactly that in so many words in his recent book, Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion: Darwin’s “theory of evolution provided the solution to the remaining component of the problem of evil [that is, natural evil such as diseases and earthquakes].” (pp. 4-5) Ayala cannot stomach the alternative: “The natural world abounds in catastrophes, disasters, imperfections, dysfunctions, suffering, and cruelty.” (p. x)

I shudder in terror at the thought that some people of faith would implicitly attribute the calamity to the Creator’s faulty design.” (p. xi)

Attributing these to specific agency by the Creator amounts to blasphemy. Proponents and followers of ID are surely well-meaning people who do not intend such blasphemy, but this is how the matter appears to a biologist concerned that God not be slandered with the imputation of incompetent design. (p. 160)

Those are Ayala’s words, but as far as I can tell they reflect Miller’s sentiments too, who worries in his review that:

To Behe, these are not byproducts of a fruitful and creative natural world that also gave us the beauty of a sunset, the grace of an eagle, and the talent of a Beethoven. No, each vicious parasite and fatal disease is the direct and intentional work of the designer. This isn’t my conclusion; it’s Behe’s.

So there you have it. Miller (and Ayala) won’t tolerate life on earth being designed because that would impugn God’s reputation. Too many bad things inhabit the earth. They embrace Darwinism, at least in large part, for theological reasons.

Wow, and they say ID proponents get their conclusions from religious motives!

So, how to respond to such a position? The first thing to say is that it’s very hard to see how the Miller/Ayala position gets God off the hook. The “byproducts of a fruitful and creative [Darwinian] natural world” that Miller alludes to are not simply byproducts — they are deadly, dangerous, vicious byproducts. No matter if malaria were designed directly by God or indirectly by a sloppy process He put in motion, many children of mothers in malarious regions of Africa are going to be just as dead. There is going to be as much suffering in the world one way as the other.

Why couldn’t a grieving mother justifiably demand of an infinitely powerful God that He explain why He chose such a sloppy process to make life, instead of a more efficient process that would not produce natural evils such as parasites and tsunamis? One that wouldn’t cause such enormous pain? It seems to me that designing a poor Darwinian process that inevitably spins off natural evils leaves One as vulnerable to being sued for incompetence as directly designing them as finished products.

My own view (which Miller spectacularly fails to grasp) is that, as a scientist, one is obliged to look at the evidence of nature dispassionately and nonjudgmentally. If the coherence and complexity of the malaria parasite point to its purposeful design by an intelligent agent, then that’s where the data point. As a scientist, one is not allowed to pass judgment on the morality of nature. To reject the weight of evidence because it shows the universe to be something unpalatable is to betray science.

On the other hand, as a theist one can make an argument that what strikes us as evil in nature is part of a larger whole which is good. In his recent book Francisco Ayala wrote that one could regard tsunamis as the unintended side effect of a good process (plate tectonics) which is necessary to build a habitable world. Well, heck, one can make the same argument for parasites and viruses. It may well be that such seemingly vile creatures actually play positive roles in the economy of biology, of which we are in large part unaware. If that’s the case, then directly designing parasites and viruses is as defensible in terms of the overall goodness of nature as is designing the processes of plate tectonics. The fact that they are dangerous to humans is an unintended side effect of something that is good in itself.

What’s more, there can be just about as much real contingency and freedom in nature in the extended fine tuning view as in the view of theistic evolutionists of the Ayala/Miller stripe. Even if God purposely designed the malarial parasite, He may not have decreed that a particular infected mosquito would bite a particular person on a particular day, or that a particular tiger would eat some one in particular. In the case of the tiger (designed or not), for example, a human’s fate might depend on when he decides to go for a walk, which route he takes, etc., etc. Nature and human life would still be chockful of contingency and freedom.

As I wrote in The Edge of Evolution, it seems to me that our world was designed to be a a dangerous living stage, one that’s set up for improvisational theater. It allows for real suffering, real pleasure, real pain, real joy. It allows for real freedom and real consequences. But if the world were not designed in sufficient detail, then no intelligent life would be around to act on the stage.

Of course there is also the little matter of "the fall"...

It's comical to me that Darwinists somehow think that the idea of a severely messed up world is not part of Christianity, and is somehow a stumper. It's amazing what these guys don't know.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

He Never Said That

Some Christian humor. Mark Shea also came up with one (and invites others to do so):

He also never said, "You believe in me because my warm fuzziness inspired you to share your loaves and fishes. Now go forth to all the nations with a cock-and-bull story of 'miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes' as a midrash on this purely naturalistic event. For behold, what could be a greater wonder than that ancient semitic people should show hospitality? As it is written: 'Everybody everywhere is as chintzy as a suburban American is about sharing food. For suburban America is the Measure of All Things.' So sharing food shall be accounted a wonder of God and a great sign."

Ahnuld Puts The Smack Down On Reporter's Mendacious Questions

This is worth watching. Firm, polite, and humorous.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blame The Church

Two parodies against the absurd.

Belief And Unbelief

Excellent Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred post.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Eye Opening

Excellent Dinesh D'Souza column re:the current atheist jihad, espacially as it impinges on education. A log of very interesting quotes rounded up in the article. This article is one to share with others.

Lileks Movie Review

Well done:

Speaking of provincialism: I mentioned that I finally watched “Letters from Iwo Jima.” It was one of the best war movies I’ve ever seen, and was far superior to “Flags of Our Fathers.” It also annoyed me from start to finish, because when taken with its companion film, they constitute a perfect example of Hollywood’s instinctive discomfort with the war genre.

If you are a director, for example, you will be applauded for showing that the men who served in the enemy forces were People Too – which comes as a stiff rebuke to all of us who thought they were animated clay devoid of individual personality – and if you dwell not overlong, or at all, on the nature of their imperialist, racist, theocratic government, you are creating a Space in which the common humanity can be understood. You will also be applauded if the men who served on “our” side were Human as well, which is to say they were capable of casual brutality. We see some Japanese soldiers killing a POW – the details of the torture are omitted, possibly because they are quite unhelpful – but later a captured soldier is given medical treatment, and has a bonding moment with a Japanese officer who had spent some time in California. When he dies the officer reads the letter the soldier had in his pocket, and all give it a respectful hearing. Later two soldiers give themselves up to the Americans, and as they discuss whether or not the Americans will give them a hot meal, a soldier shoots them dead, because he doesn’t want to spend the night guarding them. By this point your sympathy for the “enemy” is nearly complete.

“Flags of our Fathers” spent as little time as necessary on Iwo Jima, and concentrated its rambling Mobius-strip narrative on the domestic propaganda uses of the flag-raising photo. The government, for the usual devious reasons, used the photo to bolster support for the war, which was going on for some reason or another; the details weren’t entirely clear. “Letters from Iwo Jima” spends as little time as necessary on the domestic front, but a flashback does give us a hint about Japanese society during the war. An officer assigned to Iwo Jima to enforce political purity – you know, the way the Navy regularly posted officers to make sure everyone bowed to a picture of FDR every day – reveals his moment of shame, when he was forced by a superior to kill . . . a dog. A family dog. That tells us everything, I guess: these guys will kill a family dog in front of the kids. I gather the dog is supposed to stand in for Nanking.

“Flags of our Fathers” informed me that there were no great causes, that the soldiers were a complaining, fractious lot who fought for each other, and there was no such thing as heroes, just “men like our fathers.” The two being mutually exclusive, I guess. “Letters from Iwo Jima” told me that the enemy was full of honor and discipline, which was Tragically Misguided, and it was all quite sad because several of the Japanese officers had been posted to the United States, and performed charmingly at official functions where they were accepted as equals before that terrible misunderstanding at Pearl Harbor.

I almost quit the movie after the Yanks shot the surrendered soldiers. The recollection of the first film, with its vapid screaming PR displays and careful elisions and gruff cynical vets recalling the BS of it all, eventually overwhelmed the respectful treatment of the Japanese. If the same traits – death-worship, the nobility of suicide, fixation on honor not as a trait but a code – had been ascribed to Allied forces, it’s impossible to imagine a Hollywood movie that would not have treated the characters as absolute lunatics. I have no problem with a respectful treatment of the soldiers who fought on the other side. But the point of the first movie seems to be the unfortunate effect of the battle on Ira Hayes. Clint Eastwood gave the hero of “Letters” an honorable death. Ira Hayes ended up face down in a pig farm.

The text on the back of “Flags of Our Fathers” describes the “complicated nature of heroism, courage and patriotism.” “Letters from Iwo Jima” simply describes the acts of the Japanese defenders as “heroic.” Make if it what you wish.

The Condensed Story

Good comment to this Captain's Quarters post which discusses apparent growing desperation on the part of Osama bin Laden (or whoever it is that is making "Osama" recordings):

History remembers the final result and the aftermath.

Everything else is smoke and noise.

Bush/Cheney resolved to unleash some whopazz on the jihadis after looking upon the ruins of lower Manhattan. I expected no Presidential power to be left not pushed to the limit to go after these clowns, everywhere.

Osama is hurtin' and the jihadi bodies are stacking up like cordwood.

The Coverup Never Ends

Details here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007


From comments here:

So, if there’s an infinite number of universes so that all possibilities exist, does that mean there’s a universe out there somewhere in which there are no parallel universes?

Simple Common Sense


Artificial Intelligence Is Lost in the Woods

A conscious mind will never be built out of software, argues a Yale University professor.


The ideas of the philosopher Jerry Fodor make him neither strictly cognitivist nor anticognitivist. In The Mind Doesn't Work That Way (2000), he discusses what he calls the "New Synthesis"--a broadly accepted view of the mind that places AI and cognitivism against a biological and Darwinian backdrop. "The key idea of New Synthesis psychology," writes Fodor, "is that cognitive processes are computational. ... A computation, according to this understanding, is a formal operation on syntactically structured representations." That is, thought processes depend on the form, not the meaning, of the items they work on.

In other words, the mind is like a factory machine in a 1940s cartoon, which might grab a metal plate and drill two holes in it, flip it over and drill three more, flip it sideways and glue on a label, spin it around five times, and shoot it onto a stack. The machine doesn't "know" what it's doing. Neither does the mind.

Likewise computers. A computer can add numbers but has no idea what "add" means, what a "number" is, or what "arithmetic" is for. Its actions are based on shapes, not meanings. According to the New Synthesis, writes Fodor, "the mind is a computer."

But if so, then a computer can be a mind, can be a conscious mind--if we supply the right software. Here's where the trouble starts. Consciousness is necessarily subjective: you alone are aware of the sights, sounds, feels, smells, and tastes that flash past "inside your head." This subjectivity of mind has an important consequence: there is no objective way to tell whether some entity is conscious. We can only guess, not test.

Granted, we know our fellow humans are conscious; but how? Not by testing them! You know the person next to you is conscious because he is human. You're human, and you're conscious--which moreover seems fundamental to your humanness. Since your neighbor is also human, he must be conscious too.

So how will we know whether a computer running fancy AI software is conscious? Only by trying to imagine what it's like to be that computer; we must try to see inside its head.

Which is clearly impossible. For one thing, it doesn't have a head. But a thought experiment may give us a useful way to address the problem. The "Chinese Room" argument, proposed in 1980 by John Searle, a philosophy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is intended to show that no computer running software could possibly manifest understanding or be conscious. It has been controversial since it first appeared. I believe that Searle's argument is absolutely right--though more elaborate and oblique than necessary.

Searle asks us to imagine a program that can pass a Chinese Turing test--and is accordingly fluent in Chinese. Now, someone who knows English but no Chinese, such as Searle himself, is shut up in a room. He takes the Chinese-understanding software with him; he can execute it by hand, if he likes.

Imagine "conversing" with this room by sliding questions under the door; the room returns written answers. It seems equally fluent in English and Chinese. But actually, there is no understanding of Chinese inside the room. Searle handles English questions by relying on his knowledge of English, but to deal with Chinese, he executes an elaborate set of simple instructions mechanically. We conclude that to behave as if you understand Chinese doesn't mean you do.

But we don't need complex thought experiments to conclude that a conscious computer is ridiculously unlikely. We just need to tackle this question: What is it like to be a computer running a complex AI program?

Well, what does a computer do? It executes "machine instructions"--low-level operations like arithmetic (add two numbers), comparisons (which number is larger?), "branches" (if an addition yields zero, continue at instruction 200), data movement (transfer a number from one place to another in memory), and so on. Everything computers accomplish is built out of these primitive instructions.

So what is it like to be a computer running a complex AI program? Exactly like being a computer running any other kind of program.

Computers don't know or care what instructions they are executing. They deal with outward forms, not meanings. Switching applications changes the output, but those changes have meaning only to humans. Consciousness, however, doesn't depend on how anyone else interprets your actions; it depends on what you yourself are aware of. And the computer is merely a machine doing what it's supposed to do--like a clock ticking, an electric motor spinning, an oven baking. The oven doesn't care what it's baking, or the computer what it's computing.

The computer's routine never varies: grab an instruction from memory and execute it; repeat until something makes you stop.

Of course, we can't know literally what it's like to be a computer executing a long sequence of instructions. But we know what it's like to be a human doing the same. Imagine holding a deck of cards. You sort the deck; then you shuffle it and sort it again. Repeat the procedure, ad infinitum. You are doing comparisons (which card comes first?), data movement (slip one card in front of another), and so on. To know what it's like to be a computer running a sophisticated AI application, sit down and sort cards all afternoon. That's what it's like.

If you sort cards long enough and fast enough, will a brand-new conscious mind (somehow) be created? This is, in effect, what cognitivists believe. They say that when a computer executes the right combination of primitive instructions in the right way, a new conscious mind will emerge. So when a person executes the right combination of primitive instructions in the right way, a new conscious mind should (also) emerge; there's no operation a computer can do that a person can't.

Of course, humans are radically slower than computers. Cognitivists argue that sure, you know what executing low-level instructions slowly is like; but only when you do them very fast is it possible to create a new conscious mind. Sometimes, a radical change in execution speed does change the qualitative outcome. (When you look at a movie frame by frame, no illusion of motion results. View the frames in rapid succession, and the outcome is different.) Yet it seems arbitrary to the point of absurdity to insist that doing many primitive operations very fast could produce consciousness. Why should it? Why would it? How could it? What makes such a prediction even remotely plausible?

As I've written before:

Consciousness is the one thing a computer does not need to operate correctly. So how does proclaiming that my brain is a neural computer explain my consciousness?

Funny Stuff

Check out the first two videos in this Lileks post. The first is a well-known (and well done) commercial from last year. The second is a parody.

This Assumes They Know What Both Happiness And Feminism Are


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

McCain/Feingold Has Brought Some Benefits

Interesting thesis developed here.


Prior to McCain-Feingold, the enormous sums of soft-money that poured into campaigns were controlled by each party's respective high-command. These consisted of experienced politicians and highly-paid political consultants. Each party's mission in the campaign was to obtain votes, not to generate a national conversation. In fact, controversy and debate were actively avoided, as they might reveal a candidate's actual beliefs (or lack thereof), which in turn could alienate at least one segment a significant voting block. The campaigns spent vast sums on ads carefully engineered to avoid tough issues. Indeed, these ads were heavily influenced by prior focus group analysis to assure that they offended as few voters as possible.

A genuine dialogue regarding important issues characterized by the clash of differing opinion -- certainly an ideal of a democratic society -- was avoided to the greatest extent possible.

Once the parties were prohibited from raising soft-money, big donors sent their money to 527s (so named for the area of the tax code under which they exist) which by law cannot have operational ties to political parties. These 527s were organized and led by true-believers committed to voicing their often radical messages to America. Money previously spent eradicating controversy was now busy bankrolling it.

For instance, during the 2004 election directly attacked Pres. Bush with ads that assailed not only his record on Iraq, but also his service in the National Guard and his failure to prevent 9/11. The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth aggressively challenged John Kerry's military service in a way that Republican campaign consultants never would have recommended.

The unintended consequence of McCain-Feingold was that the 2004 campaign saw a refreshing, even bracing variety of important issues thrust into the spotlight rather than deliberately obfuscated or concealed.

Ironically McCain-Feingold turned up the volume of debate so much that it was frequently misinterpreted by the mainstream press as symptomatic of America being "more divided then ever." In fact, what had happened was that the new law provided a voice for opinions that were always there, but had never been in a spotlight. America had grown so used to the stale, scripted, image-intensive but debate-and-controversy-free campaigns of the 1980s and 90s, that the newfound open clash of opinion that resulted from McCain-Feingold was novel and took the mainstream media by surprise.

To date, conservatives appear to have benefited the most from these unintended consequences of McCain-Feingold. Over the past five years, the most prominent 527s on both sides developed their own peculiar identities. 527s on the left are mostly organized by young, militant liberals who generally appear more shrill, extreme and self-righteous than their counterparts on the right. The biggest 527 failure to date, America Coming Together (ACT), was a centerpiece of the left's 2004 campaign strategy. ACT employed more than four thousand campaign staff and ten times as many paid canvassers in key swing states to help elect left-leaning candidates, and, most importantly, to defeat George W. Bush. Now ACT is almost entirely defunct and apparently operates only to pay out six-figure FEC fines related to its '04 campaign activities.

The "Betray Us" ad, whose tone and content was more suited for a Yearly Kos convention than a national newspaper, illustrated the type of speech generated by left leaning 527s. While the future course of America in Iraq is certainly worthy of serious national discussion and debate, the tone of this ad, with its personal attack on General Petraeus, has become a clear liability for the Democrats in Congress opposed to the current war effort.

In contrast, 527 organizations on the right generally represent the opinions of older, conservative individuals from middle America. For instance, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was organized by Vietnam combat veterans who served with Kerry. Not surprisingly, 527s on the right speak with a voice that, while issue oriented, is generally less shrill and confrontational.

Conservative 527s not only connect better with Americans, their words fill a far greater speech vacuum...

The Glorious English Reformation

Mark Shea:

Steve Greydanus really--I mean *really*--doesn't like Elizabeth: The Golden Age

The triumph of the Anglican monarchy over the Church and the people of England is best described, I think, as a the revolt of the rich and powerful against the poor. It is one of the greatest examples of Stockholm Syndrome in history that, at this late date, the consolidation of power, the theft of so much property that had once been common, and the enslavement of so many poor people in the service of the Tudors and their group of toadies should *still* be portrayed by Hollywood as a glorious triumph of liberation.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton, say, should deliberately cultivate a cult of worship by identifying herself with the Blessed Virgin Mary while systematically despoiling hospitals, food banks, and homeless shelters to enrich herself and her cronies. Then imagine the children of the victims of her depredations adoring her for it and telling stories of the monsters who used to share their food and educate their parents. That's more or less the history of post-Elizbethan English Protestantism and this movie continues that marvelous triumph of Big Brother Love.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Victory Is As Victory Does

Good essay. It ends:

A narrative has been created in which the impression of victories simply could not occur

Now we're achieving the real thing, on the most massive scale. The major element of the "insurrection" (an unsatisfactory term, but does anyone have one better?), the Al-Queda, is being chewed to pieces. The new "surge" strategy -- actually a classic counterinsurgency strategy similar to that utilized in the final years in Vietnam -- has proven itself as clearly as any on record. The enemy has been unable to respond, and is on the run wherever engaged. The Sunnis have been coming over in ever-increasing numbers, fulfilling one of the basic requirements of a successful counterinsurgency effort: the full cooperation of the civilian population. A serious reconciliation has been blooming between the newly-dominant Shi'ites and Sunni minority.

Barring unforeseen setbacks, the Coalition appears to be set to prevail. (A number of critics newly cognizant of counterinsurgency are pointing out that it takes years for such an effort to succeed, overlooking the unique aspects of the Iraq situation: the "insurrection" is actually a form of invasion by outside forces, namely Al-Queda. Destroy them, end the invasion, and the "insurrection" becomes a matter of bandits and diehards, easily handled by domestic Iraqi troops.)

And how is all this being depicted? It isn't. Early coverage of the surge emphasized how it could go wrong. A "September surprise", a sudden rise in casualties prior to General Petreaus's report to Congress, was predicted. Discord between Iraq factions was emphasized. Several Jihadi "offensives" were announced. None of it came to anything. No "surprise" occurred. The factions are, for the moment, reconciled. Al-Queda offensives, if they ever existed, fizzled out.

And in recent weeks... almost nothing. Suddenly, Iraq is not a topic. Achievements in the field have gone unmentioned in a media that couldn't get enough of car bombs, IEDs, massacres, and assassinations. The focus has shifted to the domestic: the endless campaign, bogus "health-care" bills, Al Gore's latest prize. If Iraq is mentioned at all, it's in the context of scandal, as in the Blackwater shooting incident, quite serious in and of itself, but nothing to overshadow the events of the past three months. It's as if news of Pvt. Eddie Slovik's execution overwhelmed any mention of the Allied advance into Germany.

We will see more of this. Last Friday, the New York Times, which has granted no meaningful coverage to the surge, featured no less than three stories dealing with civilian casualties. Reportage of a speech by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez ignored his criticism of the media's role in Iraq (or the fact that he calls for redoubling our efforts there), in favor of his attacks on the administration's war efforts. Last week the UN demanded not greater support for the newly-invigorated Iraqi government, but an investigation into the Blackwater incident.

There are muted lanterns in the graveyard, the clink of shovels on gravel. Victory in Iraq, one of the hardest-fought in recent American history, is being buried before our eyes.

This is unacceptable. American victories are not those of a Tamerlane piling up skulls, of SS units reveling in genocide. As Victor Davis Hanson revealed in his classic study, The Soul of Battle, American wars are fought to free the enslaved, to punish the tyrant, to set right what has been overturned. American victories are nothing to be ashamed of.

Pacifist opposition to victory in war is a case of misapplied idealism creating more of the very horrors it decries. A war not properly ended simply engenders more conflicts and creates more misery.

If war is useful for anything, it is for solving intractable problems completely and finally. Victory is a key element of this. Victories that are not victories, but simply cessations of combat, will always end up being only temporary.

They used to ring bells, the bells of churches, in both thanksgiving and celebration when a war ended victoriously. We don't do that anymore. But we do need to discover the equivalent for the new millennium. The rituals that will enable us to reclaim victory, and with it a lost portion of our humanity.



Pride And Temper Tantrums

Something just occurred to me. If you look at all the ID/Darwinist debates happening on the internet, you find a couple of things. First, holders of scientific degrees (at least the vociferous Darwinist ones engaged in the debate) are extremely proud of their achievement. Pretty much to the extent that they regard themselves as being the best and the brightest, and even to such an extent that they regard other fields (philosophy, theology, engineering) to be far below them, offering no valid insights into any important questions. So the implicit truth that energizes their pride must be:

Science is a very difficult undertaking. Only the intellectually exceptional and strong of heart can cut it.

Okay, accepting that, I think one would conclude that given the difficulty, it would be the case that the establishment of scientific truth is a struggle; all good scientists are looking through a glass darkly, trying their best to come up with interpretations of all available data, daring to make bold conjectures, buck convention to come up with daring new insights, etc. Since all scientists are struggling at this very difficult and important job, I would expect differing interpretations to be taken in good faith. But this is not, in fact what I find at all. I cannot count the times I've heard such as Dembski and Behe referred to as "dense" or "frauds" or "liars" simply because they offer a different interpretation. They are not merely wrong, as any brave pioneer could easily turn out to be, but they are "IDiots", or "retarded", and even a person without a science education should be able to see that they have been "soundly refuted, years and years ago".

The truth being communicated:

Science is easy and only a retard or liar could get it wrong.

It seems, then, that Darwinist scientists are either intellectual supermen, or merely the non-retarded. I guess it depends on the occasion.

So, which is it, Darwinists? Am I to be in awe of your intellect, credentials and achievements? Or should I more sensibly regard your speculations, reasonings, and conclusions as no more noteworthy or credible than those of anyone else with an IQ above room temperature?

He Is The Anointed Of God. Can't You See?

Well stated:


ABC News reporter David Wright wonders at those who would defy a small panel of Norwegians:

Even the Nobel Prize is not going to be enough to silence the naysayers ...

It’s called dissent, pal, and for your information it happens to be the greatest form of patriotism. Among the sayers of nay remains Mark Steyn:

A schoolkid in Ontario was complaining the other day that, whatever subject you do, you have to sit through Gore’s movie: It turns up in biology class, in geography, in physics, in history, in English.

Whatever you’re studying, it’s all you need to know. It fulfils the same role in the schoolhouses of the guilt-ridden developed world that the Koran does in Pakistani madrassas.

In the West, they study the Goran.

UPDATE. Rob Read: “Al Gore (Peace Prize be upon him).”

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Tactics Never Change

An all-too-typical exchange. Scrutiny is to Darwinism as a cross is to a vampire.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Seething Bigotry Is Not A Side Effect, It's The Whole Point

Good point in a comment here:

[R]ead Wikipedia’s “featured article” of yesterday about ID, and you will find there an old concept often exhibited by our kind “enemies”, even on this blog: that IDists are bad and hypocritical people (false), because they say that ID is not a religious theory (true) while most of them are religious people (true again). I think there may be no better example of a wrong, arrogant, intolerant way of thinking. This is hating one “because” of one’s religious belief. This is affirming that I cannot express my scientific ideas sincerely and objectively “because” I have religious beliefs. That’s, in my opinion, personal persecution. I really feel it as a personal persecution against me, and I don’t like it, and I will do anything I can to fight it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Illustrious Company

Al Gore gets the Nobel Peace Prize, and thereby joins the Pantheon of Greatness. Powerline blog surveys the rarefied fraternity:

When did the Nobel Peace Prize go off the tracks? Today's award to Al Gore and the IPCC "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change" fits in with a subset of cosmopolitan frauds, fakers, murderers, thieves, and no-accounts going back about twenty years:

MOHAMED ELBARADEI (joint winner). He's done such a nice job with Iran.

WANGARI MAATHAI. The Kenyan ecologist peacefully teaches that the AIDS virus is a biological agent deliberately created by the Man.

JIMMY CARTER JR., former President of the United States of America. A true cosmopolitan, he has undermined the foreign policy of his own country and vouched for the bona fides of tyrants and murderers all over the world.

KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary General. Among other things, they have respectively served as the vehicle for, and presided over, one of the biggest scams in history.

YASSER ARAFAT (joint winner), Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, President of the Palestinian National Authority. He was a cold-blooded murderer both before and after receiving the award.

RIGOBERTA MENCHU TUM, Guatemala. She is the notorious Guatemalan faker and author, sort of, of I, Rigoberta Menchu.

THE UNITED NATIONS PEACE-KEEPING FORCES New York, NY, U.S.A. Notwithstanding rapes and sex abuse committed by the team in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and the Congo, still doing fine work all over the world.


And Bill Katz adds:

Alfred Nobel's will specifies that the peace prize would go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." That's Al Gore? Al, we hardly knew ye.

By the way, to fully appreciate the farcical nature of the peace prize, you need only go back to the painful years before World War II:

In 1931 the prize was shared by Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University, whose later enthusiasm for keeping good relations with Nazi universities has been a source of embarrassment to Columbia.

In 1933, 1934 and 1936, the peace prize went to executives of the League of Nations, already a colossal failure.

From 1939 through 1943 there was no peace prize. You know, World War II was such an inconvenience, and Oslo, where the peace prize is given, was under occupation. Ah, the success of those past prize winners!

Also in the Powerline post is a good quote from Jeff Jacoby contrasting the Peace Prize with Nobel prizes in more technical fields, which are only awarded to achievements that have withstood the test of time.

High Stakes Diplomacy

Good Lileks column details a parent/child dispute.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


From here:

Saying that mind is an emergent property of matter is like saying that a Porsche Boxster is an emergent property of cash.

Every Conceivable Thing Counts As Evidence For, No Conceivable Thing Counts As Evidence Against

Good critique.


[T]he final sentence of the paper:

The characterization of copy number variation among humans and between humans and other primates promises considerable insight into our evolutionary history.

So are these evolutionary inferences, as distinct from the actual data on comparative genetics of salivary amylases, good science? To answer this question, I ask Dr. Packer to permit me a little speculation. Imagine that the data on human and ape amylase gene copy number and variation were different from the data compiled by the authors. Of course the data could take any of a number of permutations — humans could have had fewer copies of salivary enzymes than apes, or less copy number variation, etc. What inferences could be drawn?

What if humans had low salivary amylase gene copy number, and apes had high copy number? How could the authors invoke evolutionary theory to explain these observations? The authors could assert that human vulnerability (our relative inability to digest tubers) led to a need for interdependence and socialization to ensure survival, and gave rise to human cooperation, altruism, language, and civilization. This is of course explained by natural selection. The press release: ‘We Were Weak, So Now We’re Strong: Evolutionary scientists report groundbreaking research on how an evolutionary vulnerability led to the emergence of humans...’

What if humans had low intraspecies salivary amylase copy variation, and apes had high intraspecies variation? No problem. The evolutionary theory: low human intraspecies copy variation is evidence for strong evolutionary conservation — providing further evidence that human ability to digest tubers provided enhanced energy for evolutionary adaptation or that human vulnerability (inability to digest tubers) generated a need for interdependence, gave rise to cooperation, brain growth, altruism, language, and civilization. Natural selection is consistent with either of the evolutionary hypotheses! The press release: ‘Old Genes Are Good Genes!: Scientists make groundbreaking discovery linking surfeit (or lack) of critical enzymes in saliva to human evolution and world domination...’

What if humans and apes both had high salivary amylase gene copy numbers? The evolutionary explanation: abundant salivary amylase was essential for human and ape evolution, because it allowed digestion of energy-rich tubers, thereby facilitating human and ape brain growth and giving rise to intraspecies cooperation and altruism. More evidence for natural selection! The press release: ‘Scientists Discover What Makes All Primates’ Mouths Water…”

What if humans and apes both had low salivary amylase copy numbers? The evolutionary explanation: paucity of salivary amylase is essential for human and ape evolution — lack of ability to digest energy-rich tubers caused need for interdependence gave rise to ape cooperation, and to human brain evolution, altruism, language, civilization. Clear evidence for natural selection! Press release: Hard Times Make Good Species: Could world domination have begun in the cheeks…”

Perry et al.’s inference to natural selection is irrelevant to the specific data in their paper. ‘Natural selection’ could be invoked for any permutation of their data. Yet in science, inferences must depend on data, and must be subject to falsification by data. Inferences that are independent of data, such as the inference that amylase gene copy number and variation are explained by natural selection, aren’t scientific inferences at all, because the inference to selection could be drawn from any data on the comparative genetics of salivary enzymes. Of course, individual stories as to how the adaptation arose can be adjusted to fit data, but the fundamental inference to ‘natural selection’ is untested.

At the core of Darwin’s theory of evolution are two hypotheses: heritable variation arose randomly, without teleology, and individuals that were rendered more reproductively successful by heritable variation were more reproductively successful. When applied to several-million-year-old genes for salivary enzymes, the first hypothesis — that heritable variation arose without teleology — is untested, and the second inference — that reproductively successful individuals are reproductively successful — is a tautology. The inference to ‘evolution’ in the authors’ paper is an inference to the untested and to the tautological. The authors would have us believe that their inference to evolution is cutting-edge science. Yet the synthesis of ‘untested’ and ‘tautological’ isn’t science at all.

The authors would no doubt protest that some aspects of selection can be tested, and Dr. Packer points out that ‘robust’ statistical methods were applied to questions of positive selection, negative selection, and neutral drift. Yet what do these terms mean? Positive selection means the heritable variation helped, negative selection means it hurt, and neutral drift means it didn’t matter. Any heritable variation — non-teleological or teleological — would meet one of these three criteria, so how do the ‘robust’ statistical methods provide evidence for natural selection acting on random variation? One could apply the same ‘robust’ statistical methods to genetic engineering — some inserted genes improve a function, some hinder it, and some don’t matter. Yet one could not draw the inference that Darwin’s theory was at work — on the contrary, the variation was intelligently designed. Robust statistics don’t redeem unfounded inferences.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Standard Operating Procedure

The lawyer of Robert Marks in the Waco Tribune:

John Hugh Gilmore, guest column: Mob rule, not academic freedom, at Baylor

Sunday, October 07, 2007

To its proponents, intelligent design is nothing more than a sophisticated, comprehensive critique of the theoretical and scientific foundations of Darwinism and its progeny. In other words, the theory of evolution should be put to the test. Like Marx. Like Freud.

To the opponents, intelligent design — ID — is an intellectual crime. Or so we must assume by the actions of Baylor University.

As counsel for Baylor Distinguished Professor Robert J. Marks II, I was amazed and discouraged by the controversy surrounding his rather routine yet scientifically exacting Web site that was shut down by the dean of his Engineering Department. This action came after anonymous complaints, but without an opportunity for him to respond beforehand.

The crime? His research might implicate intelligent design.

This is how a serious university should behave?

From this action, even a dispassionate observer could not help but note that Darwin has intellectual shock troops gathered around him that Marx and Freud could only admire.

Sadly, those troops not only disparage opposing ideas — a welcome fight, thank you. They seek to, and often do, destroy the careers of any academic sympathetic to ID.

Almost universally secular liberals, these types would be shocked to be called McCarthyites. But that term itself is too forgiving.

Having represented academics sympathetic to ID for almost a decade, I would call their foes on campus intellectual fascists.

Cue the usual liberal outrage replete with the usual supine coverage in the old media: How could liberals be fascists?

Easier, apparently, than they think: Shut down a Web site because of its content.

In any other circumstance, this would be the very definition of viewpoint discrimination and a gross violation of academic freedom.

Because it involves ID, however, the mob that demanded Marks’ Web site be shut down thinks nothing of it.

Many in this mob are doubtless among the bien- pensant who approved of that dwarf from Tehran (to quote the late Oriana Fallaci) speaking recently at Columbia University. Academic freedom for a dictator; none for a distinguished professor of engineering at Baylor.

In its public utterances, Baylor claims this is a dispute about process and procedure: If only Dr. Marks had filled out the right forms, his Web site would be up and running.

The evidence is against this public relations offensive.

No other Web site has been shut down or assaulted after receipt of a few complaints (those complaints have not been made available to me or my client).

We have no idea if they came from the Baylor community or, more likely, the praetorian guard of Darwinian orthodoxy, against which no ID question must be raised.

In any event, no procedures exist per se for establishing faculty Web sites, and this is true generally across the county.

When my client and I met with the administration in early August, we readily agreed to post a disclaimer on the Web site so that a casual visitor would not think my client’s views were those of the institution.

Baylor, like all institutions, deserves that basic fairness. Indeed, I consider it Baylor’s legal right.

Unfortunately, ever since that meeting, the agreement has unraveled.

Increasingly, more demands and restrictions were placed on my client and his Web site.

We tried to accommodate many of them, even though they were never raised in our meeting. It became clear, however, that the real goal was to keep the Web site down and off of Baylor’s servers.

Oddly, my client has two other Web sites on Baylor’s servers currently. Neither of them went through the non-existent process and procedures the university publicly claims were necessary.

Of course, neither of them deals with ID, and so they have not been selected for special discrimination and persecution.

Baylor’s claim that Marks’ Web site was not shut down because of its content is simply untrue.

In Minnesota, where I live, a well-known biologist and faithful believer in evolution, Professor P.Z. Meyers, has followed what Baylor has done and called for it to reverse itself.

Meyers loathes ID and its proponents and blogs about it, frequently with exceptional humor. It is more than telling — shameful, perhaps? — that Meyers, a self-identified atheist, sees something amiss here that those in power at Baylor cannot or will not.

Apart from one quote early on, I have forbidden my client from speaking publicly, and these words are mine alone.

Marks was, it should be noted, earnestly recruited by Baylor after teaching at the University of Washington for more than a quarter- century. His reputation is international in scope. He chose Baylor because of its Baptist mission and commitment to excellence.

Now such an outstanding educator finds his Web site placed on a digital bonfire.

He must suffer the university’s insulting comments to the effect that the ensuing controversy is his fault. Though tenured, he does not know what the future holds.

These intellectual pogroms by Darwinists take a frightening toll on the individuals upon which they are inflicted.

Like so much else, it’s just one more thing the evolutionary establishment doesn’t want you to know.

It's Already Been Decided, So Please Shut Up

All too typical.

Treason A Small Price To Pay For Entertainment

This kind of foolishness is getting old.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Out In A Blaze Of Glory

Geeks have the hardest days. Poor Porkins. H/T Instapundit. I think the funniest thing is the crowd reaction.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

One Side Wants To Talk Science, The Other Side Wants To Talk Theology

Gil Dodgen:

Last evening I truly enjoyed a wonderfully edifying experience at Biola University in La Mirada, California: a debate between Paul Nelson and Michael Ruse.

The theme of what was characterized as an “undebate” was, What would it take to make you change your position on Darwinism versus ID? Both men were extremely articulate, and I witnessed a side of Ruse of which I had not been aware. He has a clever sense of humor.

Nelson concentrated on two evidential issues and one philosophical issue: the problem of the origin of self-replicating biological systems and their complex machinery, the problem of the origin of new body plans (specifically the Cambrian explosion), and the truth-seeking deficiencies associated with the exclusion of design inference in the toolkit of scientific inquiry. Nelson provided one of the most articulate defenses I have ever heard as to why Darwinists cannot logically divorce the origin of life from Darwinian theory. Nelson said that if it could be convincingly shown that there are reasonably conclusive naturalistic explanations for the origin of life and new body plans, he would be challenged to abandon his views.

Ruse first posed the question, Why would I want to become an ID proponent? He then made the point that just because we don’t currently have naturalistic explanations for the problems outlined by Nelson, that doesn’t mean we will not find them in the future. He then made the case that ID proponents don’t really take seriously the notion that ETs designed life, and that most are really apologists for the Christian God. The rest of his lecture focused on theodicy. If God can intervene in genetics to make a bacterial flagellum, why wouldn’t He intervene to prevent dreadful genetic diseases?

The problem of evil was pretty much the take-home message I got from Ruse. He also told what I presume was a mostly evangelical Christian audience that the ID movement has “sold them a bill of goods.” He commented that, within the confines of a Christian world view, he could accept the logical consistency of the argument that God intervenes in the world for purposes of human redemption and salvation. The implication I took away was that the ID movement also claims that God intervenes in the natural world for other purposes (e.g., for purposes of engineering bacterial flagella), and this makes God look petty and sadistic, since he’ll intervene to bring about something trivial but not to alleviate human suffering.

Unfortunately, Ruse never did address the evidential challenges presented by Nelson.

The interesting thing to me was that Nelson focused mostly on science, and Ruse focused mostly on religion — quite an irony, since Nelson is a theist and Ruse is an atheist.

In all fairness, one should listen to the entire presentation and make his own judgment. The graphics were essential, so I hope Biola offers a DVD of the event.

Good comment thread, too.

Friday, October 05, 2007

There's A Reason I Haven't Watched A Single Hour Of Television In The Last Year

Mark Shea shares the transcript of some deep conversation, and ends it with this Chesterton quote:

The modern world will accept no dogmas upon any authority; but it will accept any dogmas on no authority. Say that a thing is so, according to the Pope or the Bible, and it will be dismissed as a superstition without examination. But preface your remark merely with "they say" or "don't you know that?" or try (and fail) to remember the name of some professor mentioned in some newspaper; and the keen rationalism of the modern mind will accept every word you say.

The Future Is Now

Good Onion video parody (one four letter word at end).

And If You Notice, Gentlemen, The Faster I Go, The More Simmons Sounds Like A Motorboat!

Blog title is from an old Far Side cartoon in which "A bunch of scientists in lab coats [are] standing around. One scientist is kinda bent over a table and has his mouth pursed as if to make an "Ooooooooo" sound. Another guy is behind him drumming on the first guy's back with his fists." [description lifted from this page].

For some reason, I was reminded of the cartoon when I read this article, which contains this very interesting scientific observation:

The best knotting came from very flexible, long string contained in a large box. "A highly flexible string placed in a very large container will have a higher probability of becoming knotted than a stiff one that's confined in a smaller container," Smith told LiveScience.

The researchers suggest that cramped quarters limit the tumbling motion that facilitates the string weaving through the coils. That would explain why knots were less likely to form in smaller compared with larger boxes.

I sure hope those guys published in a peer reviewed journal, because otherwise, I wouldn't believe it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Quite an interesting post at One Cosmos.

Stewart v Matthews

Now here's some good TV.

Self-Refuting Names

Occasionally you'll find a product name or book title that is amusingly self-refuting. Here are a couple:

I Can't Believe It's Not ButterTM Spray

The Only Investment Book You'll Ever Need, Revised And Updated

Please comment if you can think of more...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

You Gotta Like Autumn

Image Hosted by

Big, zoomable version here.

There's A Reason Why American Cars Are Generally Inferior

They have to be to remain cost competitive and still pay UAW pensions. And this puts them in great peril.

Well Stated

Mark Shea:

It Turns out God was Right

...and the Mandarins of sexual libertinism were wrong. Wouldn't you know it? When men and women just move in together because it "sounds fun" this results in indistinct, vague relationiships in which the woman wishes the guy would commit and the guy sort of hangs around, not buying the cow because the milk is free and simultaneously lusting after other women/feeling guilty and then wishing he could escape the relationship in which he sort of participates. The arrival of children acts, not as a blessing, but as an intrusion and a complicating factor. Who could possibly have foreseen this?

Victory Is Boring And Un-Newsworthy. Yawn.

When your allies are losing big, I guess the best policy is to clam up. Highlighting it is just bad for morale. Right MSM?

Good editorial from Investor's Business Daily:

Media And War: Ever since the Sept. 10 testimony of Gen. David Petraeus, we've heard less and less from the mainstream media about the war in Iraq. The old adage "no news is good news" has never been truer.

That the media are no longer much interested in Iraq is a sure sign things are going well there. Instead, they're talking about the presidential campaign, or Burma, or global warming, or . . . whatever.

Why? Simply put, the news from Iraq has been quite positive, as Petraeus related in his report to Congress. Consider:

• On Monday came news that U.S. military deaths in Iraq fell to 64 in September, the fourth straight drop since peaking at 121 in May and driving the toll to a 14-month low.

• Civilian deaths also have plunged, dropping by more than half from August to 884. Remember just six months ago all the talk of an Iraqi "civil war"? That seems to be fading.

• The just-ended holy month of Ramadan in Iraq was accompanied by a 40% drop in violence, even though al-Qaida had vowed to step up attacks.

• Speaking of al-Qaida, the terrorist group appears to be on the run, and possibly on the verge of collapse — despite making Iraq the center of its war for global hegemony and a new world order based on precepts of fundamentalist Islam.

• Military officials say U.S. troops have killed Abu Usama al-Tunisi, a Tunisian senior leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who was responsible for bringing foreign fighters into the country. Not surprisingly, the pace of foreign fighters entering Iraq has been more than halved from the average of 60 to 80 a month.

• Last month, 1,200 Iraqis waited patiently in line in Iraq's searing heat to sign up to fight al-Qaida. They will join an estimated 30,000 volunteers in the past six months — a clear sign the tide has turned in the battle for average Iraqis' hearts and minds.

• Finally, and lest you think it's all death and destruction, there's this: Five million Iraqi children returned to school last week, largely without incident, following their summer vacations.

None of this, of course, is accidental. The surge of 28,500 new troops announced by President Bush last February, and put in place in mid-June by Gen. Petraeus, seems to have worked extraordinarily well. Al-Qaida, though still a potent foe capable of committing mass atrocities, has been backpedaling furiously.

"They are very broken up, very unable to mass, and conducting very isolated operations" is how Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson described al-Qaida's situation in comments this week.

Things have gone so well, in fact, that leading Democratic contenders have stopped calling for a "timetable" for withdrawal and can't even promise they'll remove all the troops by 2013.

In short, the U.S. is — yes, we'll use the word —winning the war against al-Qaida. And not just in Iraq. In fact, the only way we won't win is if we do something very stupid — such as letting the overwhelmingly negative media convince us we can't do what we clearly are doing.

The Question Remains

If consciousness is the one thing not needed by computers to function, then how does hypothesizing that my brain is a neurological computer explain my consciousness?

Monday, October 01, 2007