Saturday, June 30, 2007


Gagdad Bob:

"In fact, the hole in scientism is big enough to drive a religion through."

Friday, June 29, 2007

There Seems To Be A Lot Of This Going Around

Interesting comment at Uncommon Descent:

I’m another who actually changed my mind. I was a big fan of Dawkins, Dennett and the like - I even shared their disdain for SJ Gould as being a heretic from the true Darwinian faith. I remember when “Darwin’s Black Box” came out in 1996, I didn’t bother to read it, instead relying on reviews that told me Behe had been conclusively debunked, nothing to see here, etc.

It was finally a philosophical crisis - the inability to accept that meaning could arise from meaninglessness - that led me to seriously investigate Christianity, which surprised me (who had read all the standard deconstructionist popular Bibile scholarship by that time) with it’s basis in pretty solid historical evidence. Of course, I was in a bind, since it seemed clear that one could not accept the materialist world of Darwin and the claims of Christianity (or, for that matter, any worldview that involved transcendence - not even a nontheistic Buddhist can really agree with Darwinism, despite what Sam Harris seems to think). Oddly enough, one of the key helpers in resolving this conundrum was Ken Miller. “Finding Darwin’s God” was like a bridge - it convinced me that one need not accept a hard-and-fast materialism, especially in the age of the Quantum, to maintain a rational, scientific view of the universe.

Of course, once I was no longer committed to absolutist materialism, I could look at some of the facts of biology without needing to fit them into a materialist “story”. And once you do that, Darwinism starts to look really, really silly. Every time I tracked down what was supposed to be some knock-down, drag-out proof of the NeoDarwinian synthesis, I found massive question begging and sheer self-delusion. Actually reading Behe, and then rereading his critics, I found that despite their huffing and puffing, they were unable to seriously refute a single one of his claims.

So I guess I would have to half agree, half disagree: the facts do speak, but only to those prepared to listen…

I can definitely relate.

Another Good Quote

Gagdad Bob:

Now that I think of it, my favorite films tend to be those that walk that fine line between comedy and drama, for example, Sunset Boulevard or One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

And now that I think of it some more -- and I'm thinking about this for the first time -- I can't even tell you how much I was influenced by the latter film. I was 18 or 19 when it came out, and it was sort of a.... religious experience. In short, I totally identified with the R.P. McMurphy character, who was quite transparently a symbol of the messiah. And when I say "messiah," I don't necessarily mean it in the Christian sense, but in Bion's sense as the person who comes along and injects a little life into the dead and sclerotic establishment. I even had the movie poster on the wall of my shabby little apartment back in the day.

Obviously, this is why I was a default liberal in my younger days, since I identified "the establishment" with conservatives. But as I was mentioning to my uncomprehending brother the other evening, one of the biggest disappointments in my life is how my own generation has become the stultifying establishment -- conformist, narrow-minded, humorless, politically correct, authoritarian, fearful of change. I mean, Hillary Clinton is the very image of Nurse Ratched, is she not?

Quote Of The Day

Belmont Club:

For that reason people like the "environmentalists" that Tim Blair describes derive satisfaction from forcing people into line. It is the Global Warming line in this instance, but any line would have done. Any port which will shelter them against the storm of doubt. The very same people who were yesterday's Communists are today's environmentalists and tomorrow's Muslim converts. It's really all the same religion to them.

H/T Dr. Sanity.

24 Observations

A blogger named Pat Sullivan sums up some of his observations of the ID/Darwinism debate.

some examples:

7. Opponents to ID ALWAYS look for one statement, one concept, one observation and seek to destroy it and then reject with disdain all other observations. This is an effective method of debate. But it is NOT science. It seems with evolutionists there is a double standard in regard to truth. If ID questions something in evolutionary thought it is ridiculed by the evolutionists. If even the smallest detail is found to be wrong in ID thought, ALL ID thought is rejected and ridiculed. All it takes is one small alleged or real error. ID has to be 100% correct, 100% of the time. But it is quite alright for evolutionists to regularly change, alter, modify, suggest and explain differently their observations and theories. Or to simply say, "We don't have an exact answer for that as of right now, but we will discover the reason in the future and macro evolution will still be true."

8. It seems when an evolutionist uses conjecture to imagine and suggest how some machine, molecule, system etc. MIGHT have arisen, this imagination is often treated by other evolutionists as newly, proven fact. If the suggestion is in someway rational and at least potentially rebutts any well reasoned ID observation, the new conclusion is ALWAYS accepted and the ID observation is ALWAYS rejected no matter the strength of the two observations. Again, the evolutionist’s reasoned conclusion must always be right because anyone ID is "not a scientist, religious, and stupid."

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Flash app shows how you're mouse pointer really works.

And You Just Can't Have That

Some interesting and telling quotes highlighted in this post.

A Brand That Is Starting To Crater

China's got some very serious problems in its future (no permalink available, the post is entitled "China's Brand and the Product Liability Lawsuits to Come"). Let's just say there are some massive quality control/corruption problems becoming evident that could eventually cost China its trade with the US.

Here We Have A Prime Example

Of how Darwinism, when pushed to the wall, is most strongly supported by what amounts to a theological argument. If it could be shown that IC systems have been built via an undirected process (offering actual details and not hand-waving assertions), then the argument in favor of Darwinism would be strictly based on that evidence. Since such a thing has not been shown, the argument is based on theological conundrums that are essentially of the nature "what kind of incompetent/evil designer would make this world?" While certainly an interesting question to ponder, it bases what is alleged to be a scientific theory on theological musings and moral/aesthetic judgments.

The NYT has an article which is a classic example.

Refreshingly, the article holds back from the usual "who designed the designer" canard, which when asked always seems to me to be a virtual admission that the person asking it embraces Darwinism on purely philosophical grounds. Because the person cannot conceive of an undesigned Designer, unguided evolution must be true. After all, if a Designer is ruled out on logical grounds, what else could the answer be? It is therefore for them not really a question of physical evidence at all. This is of course a radically unempirical stance, and hence, unscientific.

Dawkins Cross Examined

More empty-handed bluster from the Darwinists deconstructed here, in a review of Dawkin's NYT review of Behe's latest book.

It appears that Dawkins review is behind the NYT firewall, but a science blogger is kind enough to excerpt some parts which he finds devastating.

Here's one:

If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe's theory, what would you do? You'd take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let's call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you'd wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility.

Don't evade the point by protesting that dog breeding is a form of intelligent design. It is (kind of), but Behe, having lost the argument over irreducible complexity, is now in his desperation making a completely different claim: that mutations are too rare to permit significant evolutionary change anyway. From Newfies to Yorkies, from Weimaraners to water spaniels, from Dalmatians to dachshunds, as I incredulously close this book I seem to hear mocking barks and deep, baying howls of derision from 500 breeds of dogs -- every one descended from a timber wolf within a time frame so short as to seem, by geological standards, instantaneous.

Wow. I guess Dawkins wins by a knockout.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Is Darwinism A Friend Or Foe Of Conservatism?

The American Enterprise Institute held a debate on this topic. Tom Bethell reflects.


Early in May, the American Enterprise Institute held a debate about Darwinism, a faith embedded in many debates, whether scientific, religious or political.


Arnhart, the author of Darwinian Conservatism (2005), has carved out a nice niche for himself by arguing that conservatives need Darwin. He makes his case by presenting conservative political ideas and arguing that Darwin’s theory of natural selection supports them. Darwinian mechanisms give rise to a “spontaneous order,” he said at one point, contrasting it favorably with the “utopian vision” of liberals.


In Darwin’s Conservatives: The Misguided Quest (2006), and in his talk, West rejected the claim that Darwinism supports traditional moral teachings. Darwin’s Descent of Man, published 12 years after The Origin of Species, overflows with arguments embarrassing to conservatives and liberals alike. “Maternal instinct is natural, but so is infanticide,” West writes, describing Darwin’s explicit position. “Care toward family members is natural, but so is euthanasia of the feeble, even if they happen to be one’s parents.”

The truth is that Darwinism is so shapeless that it can be enlisted in support of any cause whatsoever. Steven Hayward, a resident scholar at AEI, made this clear in his admirable introduction. Darwinism has over the years been championed by eugenicists, social Darwinists, racialists, free-market economists, liberals galore, Wilsonian progressives and National Socialists, to give only a partial list. Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer, Communists and libertarians, and almost anyone in between, have at times found Darwinism to their liking. Spencer himself first used the phrase “survival of the fittest,” and Darwin thought it an “admirable” summation of his thesis.

Both selfishness and (with a little mathematical ingenuity) altruism can be given a Darwinian gloss. Any existing psychological trait, from aggression to pacifism, can be deemed adaptive by inventing a just-so story explaining how genes “for” that trait might have arisen. The genes themselves do not have to be identified, nor does the imagined historical scenario have to leave any trace behind.

The underlying problem is that a key Darwinian term is not defined. Darwinism supposedly explains how organisms become more “fit,” or better adapted to their environment. But fitness is not and cannot be defined except in terms of existence. If an animal exists, it is “fit” (otherwise it wouldn’t exist). It is not possible to specify all the useful parts of that animal in order to give an exhaustive causal account of fitness. If an organism possesses features that appear on the surface to be inconvenient—such as the peacock’s tail or the top-heavy antlers of a stag—the existence of stags and peacocks proves that these animals are in fact fit.

So the Darwinian theory is not falsifiable by any observation. It “explains” everything, and therefore nothing. It barely qualifies as a scientific theory for that reason. The impact of Darwinism on any and all political groups can be argued any way you want and it’s not very illuminating for that reason. So the AEI discussion frequently veered off into related areas.

Inevitably, the subject of intelligent design came up. The National Review’s John Derbyshire right away sought to conflate it with creationism. Someone in the front row reminded him that there were no creationists present. Derbyshire replied that a judge had equated intelligent design with creationism and that was good enough for him.


[But Intelligent Design] is informed by science, not religion. That is why it has made Darwinians angry, and why they try to identify it with creationism. They have also imposed a rigid orthodoxy upon all whose hiring, credentialing and promotion they can control. They are not interested in any debate. Discovery Institute people told me that last year a group of graduate students from prestigious universities wanted to learn more about intelligent design. A conference was arranged in which these young people showed up and wore name tags with pseudonyms and all papers were collected up at the end. The students were afraid that their identities would be leaked to their professors. That’s the intellectual climate surrounding this issue today. There are parallels with the Soviet dissidents in the 1970s, who had to communicate by samizdat.

In the question period, I asked Derbyshire if he could think of any observation that would count as falsifying Darwinism. He said: “I think miraculous creation would do it. The miraculous appearance of an entirely new species.”

That answer at least points us in a useful direction. Pursue it, and we might be able to clarify the Darwinian conundrum. The point is that in Darwinism a philosophical assumption, rarely explicit, circumscribes the “scientific” conclusions that are permitted. The assumption is this: Only naturalistic explanations can be allowed within biology. Naturalism implies the exclusion of mind, intelligence, or absolutely anything except atoms and molecules in motion. Nothing else exists. Everything must be explained in terms of physics and chemistry and anything beyond that will be derided as “creationism.” Good Darwinians are not allowed by their own rules even to entertain the possibility that intelligence was involved in the origin or development of life. No research is needed to come to that conclusion. It is axiomatic within the theory.

Derbyshire responded: “Scientists embrace naturalism because science is a naturalistic pursuit. A working scientist is by definition naturalistic.”


Ah yes, the mind! But that, too, consists of nothing but atoms and molecules in motion, no? Which brings us to the Inner Sanctum of the materialist dogma: Mind itself is nothing but matter. Free will is an illusion, and so on. (Darwin accepted these propositions, noting “the general delusion about free will.”)

There is no reason in the world to accept the materialist faith, but once you do, then something very much like Darwinism has to be true. Life exists—we got here somehow, along with billions of other organisms. So how did it happen? Must have been that animals self assembled a little bit at a time, in a long chain of accidental survivals.

The scientists Derbyshire talks to at Cold Spring Harbor Lab say there is no controversy about Darwinism and so he counseled that “we can only defer to that consensus.” Because every observation they ever make seems to corroborate the Darwinian tautology, most scientists probably do believe that the theory is universally true. But as the philosopher of science Karl Popper saw, the same was true of Freudianism. For good Freudians, everything seems to confirm the theory because it is protected against falsification by its own logic. Likewise Darwinism. “To say that a species now living is adapted to its environment is, in fact, almost tautological,” Popper wrote. “There is hardly any possibility of testing a theory as feeble as this.”

If It's In The Times It Must Be So

The NYT has made it official. There is no human soul. Let's fisk this, shall we?

In 1950, in a letter to bishops, Pope Pius XII took up the issue of evolution. The Roman Catholic Church does not necessarily object to the study of evolution as far as it relates to physical traits, he wrote in the encyclical, Humani Generis. But he added, “Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”

Pope John Paul II made much the same point in 1996, in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, an advisory group to the Vatican. Although he noted that in the intervening years evolution had become “more than a hypothesis,” he added that considering the mind as emerging merely from physical phenomena was “incompatible with the truth about man.”

But as evolutionary biologists and cognitive neuroscientists peer ever deeper into the brain, they are discovering more and more genes, brain structures and other physical correlates to feelings like empathy, disgust and joy [in other words, the Roman Catholic Church is full of crap!!]. That is, they are discovering physical bases for the feelings from which moral sense emerges — not just in people but in other animals as well [and obviously, just as physical correlates for things like vision, hearing, and other sense perceptions disprove the existence of actual physical objects that can be sensed, so does the discovery of these other correlates disprove religion].

The result is perhaps the strongest challenge yet to the worldview summed up by Descartes, the 17th-century philosopher who divided the creatures of the world between humanity and everything else. As biologists turn up evidence that animals can exhibit emotions and patterns of cognition once thought of as strictly human, Descartes’s dictum, “I think, therefore I am,” loses its force [It's self-evident. I can't think of any pertinent differences between the cognition of humans and animals. Can you? But then I'm not a scientist].

For many scientists, the evidence that moral reasoning is a result of physical traits that evolve along with everything else is just more evidence against the existence of the soul, or of a God to imbue humans with souls [so it is established. The existence of a soul is a question that science can answer. Also, by this criterion *any* form of reasoning is a result of physical traits that evolve along with everything else. Including science's own pet theories, which by that criterion are just as suspect]. For many believers, particularly in the United States, the findings show the error, even wickedness, of viewing the world in strictly material terms. And they provide for theologians a growing impetus to reconcile the existence of the soul with the growing evidence that humans are not, physically or even mentally, in a class by themselves [except for those wicked Catholics].

The idea that human minds are the product of evolution is “unassailable fact,” the journal Nature said this month in an editorial on new findings on the physical basis of moral thought. A headline on the editorial drove the point home: “With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.” [Yup. So much for Gould's "non overlapping magisteria". A particular ideological camp of scientists is getting pretty bold in showing its true colors, here.]

Or as V. S. Ramachandran, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Diego, put it in an interview, there may be soul in the sense of “the universal spirit of the cosmos,” but the soul as it is usually spoken of, “an immaterial spirit that occupies individual brains and that only evolved in humans — all that is complete nonsense.” Belief in that kind of soul “is basically superstition,” he said [what is this "he said?" don't you mean "such are the the sounds emitted by the temporary aggregation of matter known as V. S. Ramachandran?"]

For people like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, talk of the soul is of a piece with the rest of the palaver of religious faith, which he has likened to a disease [Is this supposed to be a semi-factual science column, or some sort of bigoted diatribe? Even in an opinion column, would I expect to read something along the lines of "Holocaust denier so and so maintains that the filthy jews made the whole thing up, and they can be likened to a verminous infestation?" without it being a direct quote? The author of this piece was not directly quoting and got to choose these words]. And among evolutionary psychologists, religious faith is nothing but an evolutionary artifact, a predilection that evolved because shared belief increased group solidarity and other traits that contribute to survival and reproduction [science also contributes to survival and reproduction. So I guess it is false].

Nevertheless, the idea of a divinely inspired soul will not be put aside [because religious people are SUCH FREAKIN' MORONS!!]. To cite just one example, when 10 Republican [Boo! Hisss!!] presidential candidates were asked at a debate last month if there was anyone among them who did not believe in evolution, 3 raised their hands. One of them, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, explained later in an op-ed article in this newspaper that he did not reject all evolutionary theory. But he added, “Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order.” [THAT REPUBLICAN SON OF A BITCH!!!!]

That is the nub of the issue, according to Nancey Murphy, a philosopher at Fuller Theological Seminary who has written widely on science, religion and the soul. Challenges to the uniqueness of humanity in creation are just as alarming as the Copernican assertion that Earth is not the center of the universe, she writes in her book “Bodies and Souls or Spirited Bodies?” (Cambridge, 2006). Just as Copernicus knocked Earth off its celestial pedestal [the medievals thought of the earth as being more of the sump tank of the cosmos, subject to corruption unlike the celestial sphere, rather than as some exalted place, but whatever], she said, the new findings on cognition have displaced people from their “strategic location” in creation.

Another theologian who has written widely on the issue, John F. Haught of Georgetown University, said in an interview that “for many Americans the only way to preserve the discontinuity that’s implied in the notion of a soul, a distinct soul, is to deny evolution,” which he said was “unfortunate.” [if Haught means the denial that evolution took place, then I agree. If he means the denial of Darwin's woefully deficient mechanism, then I disagree. The helpful author of this column doesn't make the distinction]

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth [ooohkayyy].

For Dr. Murphy and Dr. Haught, though, people make a mistake when they assume that people can be “ensouled” only if other creatures are soulless.

“Evolutionary biology shows the transition from animal to human to be too gradual to make sense of the idea that we humans have souls while animals do not,” wrote Dr. Murphy, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. “All the human capacities once attributed to the mind or soul are now being fruitfully studied as brain processes — or, more accurately, I should say, processes involving the brain, the rest of the nervous system and other bodily systems, all interacting with the socio-cultural world.” [So science, then, is not a human capacity attributable to the mind. Some monkeys like to do science, some monkeys like to do religion. May the monkeys that reproduce the most win!]

Therefore, she writes, it is “faulty” reasoning to want to distinguish people from the rest of creation. She and Dr. Haught cite the ideas of Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century philosopher and theologian who, Dr. Haught said, “spoke of a vegetative and animal soul along with the human soul.” [Murphy and Haught. Aquinas is a dim bulb next to their shining brilliance]

Dr. Haught, who testified for the American Civil Liberties Union when it successfully challenged the teaching of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism [and this is a fact, FACT, FACT!!], in the science classrooms of Dover, Pa., said, “The way I look at it, instead of eliminating the notion of a human soul in order to make us humans fit seamlessly into the rest of nature, it’s wiser to recognize that there is something analogous to soul in all living beings.” [So it's cool to have pantheistic religious beliefs, but not other kinds. Science has spoken]

Does this mean, say, that Australopithecus afarensis, the proto-human famously exemplified by the fossil skeleton known as Lucy, had a soul? He paused and then said: “I think so, yes. I think all of our hominid ancestors were ensouled in some way, but that does not rule out the possibility that as evolution continues, the shape of the soul can vary just as it does from individual to individual.”

Will this idea catch on? “It’s not something you hear in the suburban pulpit,” said Dr. Haught, a Roman Catholic [in open denial of the teachings of his church] whose book “God After Darwin” (Westview Press, 2000) is being reissued this year. “This is out of vogue in the modern world because the philosopher Descartes made such a distinction between mind and matter. He placed the whole animal world on the side of matter, which is essentially mindless."

Dr. Haught said it could be difficult to discuss the soul and evolution because it was one of many issues in which philosophical thinking was not keeping up with fast-moving science. “The theology itself is still in process,” he said. [The real problem is the exact opposite. Scientists are untrained in philosophy. It is their thinking which is not keeping up with slow-moving philosophy]

For scientists who are people of faith, like Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, asking about the science of the soul is pointless, in a way, because it is not a subject science can address. “It is not physical and investigateable in the world of science,” he said. [BUT WAIT A MINUTE, THIS WHOLE SCREED UP TO THIS POINT WAS SAYING THAT IT IS]

“Everything we know about the biological sciences says that life is a phenomenon of physics and chemistry, and therefore the notion of some sort of spirit to animate it and give the flesh a life really doesn’t fit with modern science,” said Dr. Miller, a Roman Catholic [in open denial of the teachings of his Church] whose book, “Finding Darwin’s God” (Harper, 1999) explains his reconciliation of the theory of evolution with religious faith. “However, if you regard the soul as something else, as you might, say, the spiritual reflection of your individuality as a human being [what the hell does that mean?!?], then the theology of the soul it seems to me is on firm ground.” [Let me rephrase: "If you regard the soul as something non-spiritual, like the spiritual reflection of your individuality as a human being, then the theology of the soul it seems to me is on firm ground." Firm ground? Well, if Jesus could walk on water, why not Dr. Miller?]

Dr. Miller, who also testified in the Dover case, said he spoke often at college campuses and elsewhere and was regularly asked, “What do you say as a scientist about the soul?” His answer, he said, is always the same: “As a scientist, I have nothing to say about the soul. It’s not a scientific idea.” [And so our nice little science column ends on a self-negating note. How fitting]

Losing The Marketing Battle

Interesting take on the ID/Evolution controversy.

We're Far Too Lazy And Unimaginitive To Have Invented Such A Thing

Mark Shea:

I also enjoyed Hahn's retort to the tired, "God did not exist, we would have had to invent him" canard. Hahn's reply: God does exist, so we invented atheism. Too true. Lewis remarked years ago on how silly it is to suppose that anybody would be pleased--and nothing but pleased--at the God Christianity reveals to us. The doctrine of God as Wish Fulfillment Fantasy is contradicted by universal experience. The reality is that the human person, apart from revelation, tends neither toward Christianity (which nobody could have invented) nor toward atheism. It tends toward a vague pagan pantheism, what an atheist acquaintance referred to as "religious methadone treatment" when it's in the context of a post-Christian culture. People want vague reassurances that Michael Landon likes them and that their life is not without meaning. They intuit that there is a spiritual realm. They have a grasp of the natural law. They experience longing for the transcendent. They experience the reality of holy fear from time to time. They recognize that both justice and grace happen. And from these elementary experiences of being human, they construct the baffling variety of philosophies and mysteries and assorted paganisms of the world. They do not construct the Christian faith, only things with a flashing and transitory glimpse of the Christian revelation.

The Scam: Ever Ancient And Ever New

Here's a pretty good history of the fiat money system. I will gladly create the "money" to pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today...

The piece also tells us where we got the term "stock" for shares in a company, as well as where we got the phrase "short end of the stick".

Monday, June 25, 2007

Behe Begins To Answer Latest Critics

I recently finished reading Michael Behe's The Edge Of Evolution, as well as the highest profile negative reviews to date. My verdict: it's one hell of a good book, and the negative reviews (just as with Darwin's Black Box) miss the mark.

Here, Behe responds to Jerry Coyne, on an Amazon blog. Good stuff.

He's also turned off comments to the post. Poor John Kwok. What will he do with his time? (John Kwok is all over the comments to reader reviews of the book like a cheap tuxedo)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Friday Afternoon Photos

Taken at the Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park.

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Bigger versions here, here, here, and here (clicking the "All Sizes" button will get you wallpaper sized versions).

Why Not Just Wear A Trendy Swastika Handbag In Israel?


Actress Cameron Diaz appears to have committed a major fashion crime in Peru.

The voice of Princess Fiona in the animated Shrek films may have inadvertently offended Peruvians.

They suffered decades of violence from a Maoist guerrilla insurgency by touring there on Friday with a bag emblazoned with one of Mao Zedong's favourite political slogans.

While she explored the Inca city of Machu Picchu high in Peru's Andes, Diaz wore over her shoulder an olive green messenger bag emblazoned with a red star and the words 'Serve the People' printed in Chinese on the flap, perhaps Chinese Communist leader Mao's most famous political slogan.

While the bags are marketed as trendy fashion accessories in some world capitals, the phrase has particular resonance in Peru.

The Maoist Shining Path insurgency took Peru to the edge of chaos in the 1980s and early 1990s with a campaign of massacres, assassinations and bombings.

Nearly 70,000 people were killed during the insurgency.

A prominent Peruvian human rights activist said the star of There's Something About Mary should have been a little more aware of local sensitivities when picking her accessories.

"It alludes to a concept that did so much damage to Peru, that brought about so many victims," said Pablo Rojas about the bag's slogan.

"I don't think she should have used that bag where the followers of that ideology" did so much damage.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Quip Of The Day

From a comment to this post:

In an infinite number of universes the presence of a designing intelligence is not just a possibility but an inevitability.

Also, a salient point from another comment:

“Just add time and really big numbers”. Reason, logic and the scientific method are thrown to the winds in desperation to fend off teleology. Just imply it is “scientific” - after all, a scientist is proclaiming it. No way to observationally confirm the existence of any of these other universes? No way to falsify the hypothesis? Not to worry, anything to fend off notions of ID.

He carefully chooses the kind of infinite multiverse he wants, “….an infinite multiverse with a finite number of distinct macroscopic histories (each repeated an infinite number of times)”. Any reason to suggest that this particular kind of partial infinity is the one? No, but it seems to lead where he wants to go. Where he wants to go is to anything that avoids teleology even with greatest strainings of credulity. Of course that must be the truth, since anything else would be unthinkable, strictly taboo.

He points out that in this infinite multiverse even an OOL event way below Dembski’s limit of submicroscopic improbability would happen. In fact it would happen an infinite number of times. But everything else would happen an infinite number of times. So all the uncountable events, “random” mutations, etc. that happened in evolution also had to happen an infinite number of times on an infinite number of other earths. So they were also inevitable and didn’t require a designer, any more than the origin of life. But since all these incredible number of events in the history of life were inevitable, Darwinistic processes had nothing to do with evolution - it all just happened. No need for any explanation.

This sort of idea foisted off as a valid hypothesis is a reductio ad absurdum of muddled philosophical thinking. I agree with Behe in Edge of Evolution that this is akin to abandoning reason altogether.

Trying To Have It Both Ways

Good observation:

In a remarkable editorial, the editors of Nature recently responded to Senator Sam Brownback’s essay What I Think about Evolution in the New York Times. Senator Brownback wrote:

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it….

Referring to materialistic evolutionary theories for the emergence of the human mind, Senator Brownback notes:

…Aspects of these theories that undermine [the] truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Natures’ editors took Brownback to task for ‘crossing lines’:

…there are lines that should not be crossed, and in a recent defence of his beliefs and disbeliefs in the matter of evolution, US Senator Sam Brownback (Republican, Kansas) crosses at least one.

They asserted, with confidence in their science:

Humans evolved, body and mind, from earlier primates. The ways in which humans think reflect this heritage…the idea that human minds are the product of evolution is not atheistic theology. It is unassailable fact.

The editors assert that the emergence of the human mind without intelligent design is an ‘unassailable fact’. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this claim, aside from the problems with their interpretation of the scientific evidence itself, is the admission by the editors that the question of intelligent design in biology can be adjudicated by the scientific method. If the evidence for or against intelligent design can be evaluated scientifically— as the editors at Nature firmly assert that it can— then intelligent design is a real scientific inference, albeit, according to the Nature editors, a mistaken one. And if they are asserting that intelligent design is mistaken from a non-scientific standpoint, then the editors are advancing an atheistic theology, as Brownback pointed out.

The mainstay of the materialists’ argument against intelligent design has been that it isn’t science. Yet, as the Nature editors inadvertently demonstrate so clearly, the materialists’ argument against intelligent design is self-refuting; they argue that intelligent design isn’t science, and that it’s scientifically wrong. Yet if intelligent design is scientifically wrong— if it is an 'unassailable fact' that the human mind is the product of evolution, not intelligent design— then the design inference can be investigated (and, they claim, refuted) using the scientific method. Then intelligent design is science.

Either the conclusion that the editors reached is the result of a scientific analysis of the design inference, or the conclusion that the editors reached is the result of a non-scientific analysis of the design inference, which would be, as Senator Brownback observed, atheistic theology posing as science.

Either intelligent design is science, or Senator Brownback got it right.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Have Seen The Face Of Evil

My wife and I went to a DirectBuy open house last night. You may have heard of them from radio ads. The showroom seemed nice, and it sounded like a great concept at the time (but more and more absurd, reflecting back on it). Luckily, my policy is that when someone tells me that I need to decide right then and there whether to immediately cough up $6500 to join their money saving club or forever hold my peace, without being allowed to independently check out their record, or even to look at the vaunted catalogs, my answer is essentially, "go to hell". I'm polite about it, of course.

After getting home from their amazingly devious sales pitch, I googled "DirectBuy scam". There were over 9,000 hits.

This link and associated comments sum it up pretty well. This is a criminal enterprise. Avoid it at all costs.

Mark Shea On Atheism, Part 3

Good stuff.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good Science Simply Cannot Be Done By Religious Fanatics. Such Science Is Ipso Facto Null And Void.

What a nutter. His only motivation for promulgating his spurious "laws of motion" and absurd "infinitesimal calculus" must be to establish a theocracy. I'll bet he voted for Bush, too.

Gentlemen Debating

This is how it is done. Hitchens vs Douglas Wilson.

Here's a taste (from Wilson in Part 5):

[I]t is interesting that the same thing happens to you when you have to give some warrant for trusting in "reason.". I noted your citation of LaPlace in your book and am glad you brought him up here. LaPlace believed he was not in need of the God hypothesis, just like you, but you should also know he held this position as a firm believer in celestial and terrestrial mechanics. He was a causal determinist, meaning that he believed that every element of the universe in the present was "the effect of its past and the cause of its future."

So if LaPlace is why you think belief in God is now "optional," this appeal of yours actually turns into quite a fun business. This doctrine means (although LaPlace admittedly got distracted before these implications caught up with him) that you, Christopher Hitchens, are not thinking your thoughts and writing them down because they are true, but rather because the position and velocity of all the atoms in the universe one hundred years ago necessitated it. And I am not sitting here thinking my Christian thoughts because they are the truth of God, but rather because that is what these assembled chemicals in my head always do in this condition and at this temperature. "LaPlace's demon" could have calculated and predicted your arguments (and word count) a century ago in just the same way that he could have calculated the water levels of the puddles in my driveway — and could have done so using the same formulae. This means that your arguments and my puddles are actually the same kind of thing. They are on the same level, so to speak.

If you were to take a bottle of Mountain Dew and another of Dr. Pepper, shake them vigorously, and put them on a table, it would not occur to anyone to ask which one is "winning the debate." They aren't debating; they are just fizzing. You refer to "language in which to write this argument," and you do so as though you believed in a universe where argument was a meaningful concept. Argument? Argument? I have no need for your "argument hypothesis." Just matter in motion, man.

You dismiss the idea that the death of Jesus—the "torture and death of a single individual in a backward part of the Middle East" — could possibly be the solution to the sorrows of our brutish existence. When I said that Jesus is good for the world because he is the life of the world, you just tossed this away. You said, "You cannot possibly 'know' this. Nor can you present any evidence for it."

Actually, I believe I can present evidence for what I know. But evidence comes to us like food, and that is why we say grace over it. And we are supposed to eat it, not push it around on the plate—and if we don't give thanks, it never tastes right. But here is some evidence for you, in no particular order. The engineering that went into ankles. The taste of beer. That Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, just like he said. A woman's neck. Bees fooling around in the flower bed. The ability of acorns to manufacture enormous oaks out of stuff they find in the air and dirt. Forgiveness of sin. Storms out of the North, the kind with lightning. Joyous laughter (diaphragm spasms to the atheistic materialist). The ocean at night with a full moon. Delta blues. The peacock that lives in my yard. Sunrise, in color. Baptizing babies. The pleasure of sneezing. Eye contact. Having your feet removed from the miry clay, and established forever on the rock. You may say none of this tastes right to you. But suppose you were to bow your head and say grace over all of it. Try it that way.

You say that you cannot believe that Christ's death on the Cross was salvation for the world because the idea is absurd. I have shown in various ways that absurdity has not been a disqualifier for any number of your current beliefs. You praise reason to the heights, yet will not give reasons for your strident and inflexible moral judgments, or why you have arbitrarily dubbed certain chemical processes "rational argument." That's absurd right now, and yet there you are, holding it. So for you to refuse to accept Christ because it is absurd is like a man at one end of the pool refusing to move to the other end because he might get wet. Given your premises, you will have to come up with a different reason for rejecting Christ as you do.

Lots of great writing and argumentation on both sides can be found in the whole series.

Big Goings On

Looks like some very major combat operations are now opening up in Iraq. Michael Yon:

Thoughts flow on the eve of a great battle. By the time these words are released, we will be in combat. Few ears have heard even rumors of this battle, and fewer still are the eyes that will see its full scope. Even now—the battle has already begun for some—practically no news about it is flowing home. I’ve known of the secret plans for about a month, but have remained silent.

This campaign is actually a series of carefully orchestrated battalion and brigade sized battles. Collectively, it is probably the largest battle since “major hostilities” ended more than four years ago. Even the media here on the ground do not seem to have sensed its scale.


Political solutions only work with people interested in a resolution where all parties can move forward. Al Qaeda is more interested in an outcome where they dominate through anachronistic anarchy. Our philosophies are so fundamentally different that fighting is inevitable. They want to go backwards and are willing to kill us to do so. We are unwilling to go backwards, and so they started killing us. Finally, we started killing back, but only seriously so after they rammed jets into our buildings, by which they hoped to cause the same chaos and collapse in America (where they failed) that they are fomenting in Iraq (where they are succeeding).

The doctor has made a decision: Al Qaeda must be excised. That means a large scale attack, and what appears to be the most widespread combat operations since the end of the ground war are now unfolding. A small part of that larger battle will be the Battle for Baquba. For those involved, it will be a very large battle, but in context, it will be only one of numerous similar battles now unfolding. Just as this sentence was written, we began dropping bombs south of Baghdad and our troops are in contact.

Northeast of Baghdad, innocent civilians are being asked to leave Baquba. More than 1,000 AQI fighters are there, with perhaps another thousand adjuncts. Baquba alone might be as intense as Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in late 2004. They are ready for us. Giant bombs are buried in the roads. Snipers—real snipers—have chiseled holes in walls so that they can shoot not from roofs or windows, but from deep inside buildings, where we cannot see the flash or hear the shots. They will shoot for our faces and necks. Car bombs are already assembled. Suicide vests are prepared.

The enemy will try to herd us into their traps, and likely many of us will be killed before it ends. Already, they have been blowing up bridges, apparently to restrict our movements. Entire buildings are rigged with explosives. They have rockets, mortars, and bombs hidden in places they know we are likely to cross, or places we might seek cover. They will use human shields and force people to drive bombs at us. They will use cameras and make it look like we are ravaging the city and that they are defeating us. By the time you read this, we will be inside Baquba, and we will be killing them. No secrets are spilling here.

Our jets will drop bombs and we will use rockets. Helicopters will cover us, and medevac our wounded and killed. By the time you read this, our artillery will be firing, and our tanks moving in. And Humvees. And Strykers. And other vehicles. Our people will capture key terrain and cutoff escape routes. The idea this time is not to chase al Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. When they are wounded, they will be unable to go to hospitals without being captured, and so their wounds will fester and they will die painfully sometimes. It will be horrible for al Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they sow, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest. They can only fight and die, or run and try to get away. Nobody is asking for surrender, but if they surrender, they will be taken.

We will go in on foot and fight from house to house if needed. We will shoot rockets into their hiding spaces, and our snipers will shoot them in their heads and chests. This is where all that talk of cancer and big ideas of what should be or could be done will smash head on against the searing reality of combat.

These words flow on the eve of a great battle, but are on hold until the attack is well underway. Nothing is certain. I am here and have been all year. We are in trouble, but we have a great General. The only one, I have long believed, who can lead the way out of this morass. Iraq is not hopeless. Iraq can stand again but first it must cast off these demons. And some of the demons must be killed...

In addition to the above excerpt, the piece contains a lot of interesting aanalysis and reflection.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Stunted Growth

One picture is worth a thousand words.

"I Suppose She Will Blow Herself Up, Then Apologize To Herself For Driving Herself To It."

Beyond absurd. I found the link via this Mark Shea post. The title of my post comes from a commenter to his post.

Jesus is God. Jesus is not God. Whatever. Sez the reverend: "[W]hy would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam? At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need."

Well, isn't that special.

From another commenter:

One suggestion for Ms. Redding. Book a flight to Mecca for the Haj. Be sure to wear your clericals, and explain to your friendly fellow pilgims your "dual role". Then, be sure to have your next of kin ready to sign for the cardboard box they send back to Seattle with your remains. Actually this may provide some common ground for both Christians and Muslims: "This woman is nuts".

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Even Darwinists Are Becoming Aware Of What A Pathetically Weak Case They Are Making

This is interesting (via Uncommon Descent). A Darwinist takes Jerry Coyne to task for his weak-assed arguments against Behe's latest book. It is interesting to read the Darwinist blogger's piece, because here is a guy who finally is beginning to understand why Darwinist counter-arguments have been so uncompelling. It's worth reading closely if you've been following the overall ID debate. If Darwinists really do have a case, then they're quite simply going to have to do a whole lot better at presenting it. This has been obvious for years, but still remains largely unaddressed, as the Darwinist establishment has not really moved past ad hominem and straw man argumentation. It's nice to see someone on that side of the fence realizing it, and being frustrated by it. Not that his own piece is not filled with mindless vitriol but hey, even the slightest glimmer of recognition of the problem is something to note.


Jerry Coyne has published a very long review of Michael Behe's book The Edge of Evolution, for The New Republic. Coyne is a biologist at the University of Chicago. When I learned of this review's existence I grew very excited. With plenty of space with which to work and writing for an audience of sophisticted nonscientists, I figured Coyne would take the opportunity to present some really interesting science and give Behe a proper drubbing.

Alas, it was not to be. Simply put, his review of EoE is a terrible piece of work. It's all snideness and ridicule with very little in the way of good arguments. It really infuriates me when someone like Coyne is given such a terrific platform, several thousand words in a classy magazine like The New Republic, and then writes as if the whole project is beneath him.

Behe may be worthy of contempt and his arguments not worth wasting time on, but if that is your attitude then don't ride into print on the subject. If you are going to write a long review of Behe's book, you treat his arguments with the utmost seriousness and refute them point by irresistable point. That's far more effective than all the snideness and one-liners in the world. This was a perfect opportunity to present some real science to an audience that would have appreciated it, and Coyne declined the invitation.

Coyne begins by discussing the anti-Behe statement from the Lehigh Biology Dept. To anyone who is not already anti-Behe that will look like a vicious, ad hominem attack. Everyone knows ID is unpopular among scientists, the question Coyne is supposed to be answering is whether that unpopularity is merited. If you're going to mention this statement at all, you do it at the end of the article. First you demolish his arguments, then you point to that as the reason for Behe's colleagues finding him embarrassing. Placing this at the beginning of the review makes it look like Behe is right. The mean old scientific establishment is coming down on one poor guy with unorthodox views.

There then follows paragraph after tedious pargraph recounting some of the history of ID. This goes on way too long, I kept yelling at my screen for him to get to the science, but even worse is the way it is written. Virtually every sentence is written with a tone of sneering contempt. I make fun of creationists for writing like this, for thinking that in every sentence they have to keep reminding their readers who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Now here's Coyne doing the same thing.

At one point he writes:

The reviews of Darwin's Black Box in the scientific community were uniformly negative, for two reasons. First, we do understand something about how these pathways might have evolved in stepwise fashion, though we are as yet admittedly ignorant of many details. (It is harder to reconstruct the evolution of biochemical pathways than the evolution of organisms themselves, because, unlike organisms, these pathways do not fossilize, and so their evolution must be reconstructed entirely from living species.)

I kept waiting for him to explain some of what we know about the evolution of complex systems and how we know it. Instead Coyne says almost nothing to back that statement up. It looks precisely like the groundless, dogmatic assertion Behe says it is.

And Coyne follows this with the argument that lacking a good explanation now is no reason to give up on the problem and attribute it to design. That's a reasonable point, but making it one of your lead arguments right out of the gate is rhetorically very weak. Behe claims that all currently suggested naturalistic theories for the origins of complexity are utterly inadequate. They're not even close, according to him. You don't answer that by saying, well, who knows, maybe we'll discover something new in the future. The fact is that biologists have the resources today, in the present, to shed a lot of light on the evolution of complex structures. That's the point you hammer home. The not giving up can come at the end, when you're showing that Behe has o good ideas of his own to offer.

Section two is a bit better, where he explains the basics of evolution by natural selection. But at one point he tells us that scientists have much evidence that genetic mutations are random in the usual technical sense. Seeing as how that is precisely the point Behe is challenging, it might have been nice for Coyne to describe some of that evidence. Instead he's too busy speculating about Behe's motives implying, based on nothing, that Behe is not sincere in his acceptance of common descent but rather concedes it out of some sort of political consideration. This is totally inappropriate this early in the review. You earn the right to speculate about motives only after you show that the guy's arguments are so ridiculous that it's reasonable to think there's some insincerity in his views. If his arguments are good, I don't care about his motives. Coyne never gets around to actually doing that, however.


So what does he do with the space that might have been dedicated to, you know, presenting some facts useful for assessing Behe's arguments? He presents an argument from authority. And which authority did he find to make it clear the flagellum is the product of evolution?

Indeed, the whole problem of the evolution of cilia was argued before Judge Jones in Harrisburg, who ruled that there was no convincing evidence that evolution could not have produced this structure, making legal doctrine from something biologists already knew.

Are you kidding me? In a paragraph meant to impress people with the idea that Behe is snowing nonscientists with a wealth of technical detail, Coyne uses as a counterargument that we managed to convince a Judge that the flagellum evolved? This is embarrassing. How could anyone on the fence read that and not come down on the side of the ID folks?


Sadly, Coyne isn't yet through being foolish. In a five-paragraph section meant to persuade us that the cilium could have evolved gradually, he devotes one whole paragraph to challenging Behe to provide his own explanation, and talks about the vacuity of design theorizing. That's a fine thing to point out in a later section, when Coyne is discussing Behe's own views on the matter. But in a discussion of cilium evolution it looks like this:

BEHE: The cilium could not have evolved gradually. COYNE: Could to! And how do you explain it Mr. Big Shot?

Real convincing. And then, having just shot himself in the left foot, he then turns around in the next paragraph and shoots himself in the right by talking once again about how just because we don't know the details of cilium evolution now doesn't mean we never will. You might as well just concede Behe's point and be done with it! We can say a lot about cilium and flagellum evolution, but no one reading Coyne's essay would have the slightest idea about any of that. Instead, they would think the only difference between Coyne and Behe is that Behe thinks the problem is insoluble, whereas Coyne holds out hope that maybe someday we will be able to say something.

Section five has a few decent points about the futility of elementary probability calculations in discussing protein evolution, but some specifics would have been nice. After all, one of Behe's main charges is that evolutionists wave their hands a lot but never get around to showing the details. Alas, there is nothing in this essay to counteract this view.

But then Coyne totally steps in it with this one:

Consider the evolution of whales from terrestrial animals, now documented by a superb fossil record. The fossils show a wolf-like creature gradually becoming aquatic, with the hind limbs being reduced and finally lost, the forelimbs transformed into flippers, and the nostrils gradually moving atop the head to form the blowhole. How can anyone say that these changes (which of course look planned at the end) are unconnected or incoherent? They represent a case of natural selection eventually turning a land animal into a well-adapted aquatic one.

How on Earth does Coyne conclude, on the basis of a handful of fossils, that a wolf-like creature evolved into an aquatic mammal by natural selection acting on random genetic variations? The mechanism is the only issue here. The fossils certainly provide strong evidence of evolution and common descent. But Behe accepts all that. One of Behe's main arguments is that evolutionists routinely use evidence of common descent as if it is also evidence of a particular mechanism. Behe will delightedly use this as an example of that phenomenon in his subsequent talks.

Friday, June 15, 2007

That's All Ya Got, Huh?

Jerry Coyne knows ID is bunk, because the truth is so simple! Here he is as quoted at Uncommon Descent (from Coyne's "devastating" review of Behe's latest book):

Wrong. If it looks impossible, this is only because of Behe’s bizarre and unrealistic assumption that for a protein-protein interaction to evolve, all mutations must occur simultaneously, because the step-by-step path is not adaptive. Yet Behe furnishes no proof, no convincing argument, that interactions cannot evolve gradually. In fact, interactions between proteins, like any complex interaction, were certainly built up step by mutational step, with each change producing an interaction scrutinized by selection and retained if it enhanced an organism’s fitness. This process could have begun with weak protein-protein associations that were beneficial to the organism. These were then strengthened gradually, involving more and more amino acids to make the interaction stronger and more specific. At the end, you get what we see today: many proteins interacting strongly and specifically. What seems improbable in a single leap becomes much more likely when it evolves gradually, step by step.

A simple example shows this difference. Suppose a complex adaptation involves twenty parts, represented by twenty dice, each one showing a six. The adaptation is fueled by random mutation, represented by throwing the dice. Behe’s way of getting this adaptation requires you to roll all twenty dice simultaneously, waiting until they all come up six (that is, all successful mutations must happen together). The probability of getting this outcome is very low; in fact, if you tossed the dice once per second, it would take about a hundred million years to get the right outcome. But now let us build the adaptation step by step, as evolutionary theory dictates. You start by rolling the first die, and keep rolling it until a six comes up. When it does, you keep that die (a successful first step in the adaptation) and move on to the next one. You toss the second die until it comes up six (the second step), and so on until all twenty dice show a six. On average, this would take about a hundred and twenty rolls, or a total of two minutes at one roll per second. This sequential way of getting twenty sixes is infinitely faster than Behe’s method. And this is the way natural selection and mutation really work, not by the ludicrous scenario presented by Behe.

This is ludicrously flimsy, as pointed out by several commenters to the post:

Protein to protein interactions occur in all useful proteins, just as sewing occurs in most useful garments. By themselves p2p interactions are nothing more than weak glue. In order for protein interactions to be at all useful, they need to be at particular sites on particular proteins. These proteins must be in turn organised into productive groups with purpose.

A replica of the Eiffel Tower made of popsicle sticks has many glued points, but a pile of popsicle sticks, each with a few random dobs of glue on them will never make an Eiffel Tower replica.

I am baffled by the fact that NDEs are happy if they can find a few p2p interactions that may be possible by RM and NS and they think they can build IC.


It kills me how these guys always present the obviously hyper-speculative as irrefutable fact: “These were then strengthened gradually…” and “…interactions between proteins… were certainly built up step by mutational step…” and “…this is the way natural selection and mutation really work…”

Coyne’s dice example assumes that all biological systems, every single one of them, are such that one six is better than no sixes, two sixes are better than one six, etc. But what if a biological system is like a combination lock with six numbers, and a sequence of 20 specific numbers is required to open the lock? The useful function of the lock is that it opens. Getting one of the 20 numbers right doesn’t make the lock open a little bit, and getting two of the 20 numbers right doesn’t make the lock open a little bit more. In fact, getting 19 of the 20 numbers right doesn’t make the lock function any better than getting none right.

Coyne’s example requires that not even a single biological system be like the combination lock. Yet we now know that these systems are machinery (incredibly sophisticated and tightly functionally integrated machinery), and machines are like combination locks. The more we learn about the machinery of life, the truth is that in all probability almost no (statistically speaking) biological systems are amenable to being generated by Coyne’s dice tossing.


I think a better analogy for a working protein is a key to unlock a door. You can’t gradually evolve a key, one tumbler at a time, and depend on the improved “door-opening ability” as a guide to finding the right key. Certainly there may be a large number of keys that with a little jiggling might open the door, but in that case each tooth is very nearly the optimum size. Dr. Coyne’s coin-flipping analogy is embarrassing.


Coyne’s example, while it sounds simple on the surface, actually involves some fairly specific specifications. While I’m sure I’ve left some things out, they would minimally include:
1. Obtain a die. Die must have 6 (or perhaps more) sides.
2. Obtain a mechanism for rolling the die (or wait until something else rolls it or it rolls itself).
3. Obtain a mechanism for evaluating the value of the die when it is rolled.
4. Obtain a mechanism/location for keeping the die when the desired outcome is obtained.
5. Determine that a six is what is wanted.
6. Roll the die.
7. Evaluate the outcome.
8. If desired outcome is obtained, keep the die.
9. Ensure that all retained dice are kept from any further rolling.
10. Repeat steps 1-9 until 20 such dice have been retained.
11. Optional: Stop the rolling and retention processes.
12. Determine a mechanism for assembling the dice into a coherent, functional whole. Presumably, the assembly could be done piecemeal while the die rolling is going on, but the assembly mechanism would have to exist either way.
13. Assemble the dice.
14. Successfully integrate the completed adaptation into the larger organism.
15. Do it all with no intent or plan, no intelligence, while completely blind, and entirely unaware that a “complex adaptation involving 20 parts” is being built.

Coyne and I have something in common: we’re both incredulous.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

And The Judges Wept Openly

This is worth having a look at. A case of monumental hidden talent.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Incoherence Of Atheism

Good Mark Shea article.

Fantasybox Addiction Produces Socialist Zombies

Interesting. There seems to be a correlation between hours spent watching teevee and the holding of leftist opinions.

A Heyday Long Past

From The New Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, 1973-74:

“Darwin did two things: he showed that evolution was a fact contradicting scriptural legends of creation, and that its cause, natural selection, was automatic with no room for divine guidance or design.”

Case closed.

This was common "knowledge" a generation ago. But times do change...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Se Habla Projection?

Priceless. Sullivan takes Romney to task for not following the doctrines of his church.

Now That's Funny

Nicely done.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Supermodels. Is There Anything They Don't Know?

Mark Shea introduces this one pretty well:

Theologian Barbie weighs in on chastity in the Church

A reader adds:

Thank God. For far too long the Church has gone without the wisest counsel of the supermodels. Perhaps now, finally, we can arrive at the fullness of revealed Truth thanks to Brazilian cover girls.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Not Faking It Is Just Plain Easier

Mark Shea:

The Left Continues to Battle the "We Hate Christians, and Indeed God, with Every Fiber of Our Being" Image Problem

The reason they have this image problem is because of the bleedin' obvious fact that Christian-hatred is endemic on the Left as even a casual reading of Kos, DU, or a thousand other gung-ho Lefty sites will demonstrate. This weird synthetic piety is about as fake as Dukakis in a tank or Hillary baking cookies. I'd have more respect for them if they just didn't phony it up.

Not that GOP elders are bastions of sincerity. They quite often hold their religious party faithful at arm's length disdain. The difference is, precisely, that the party faithful of the Dems--the energized base--tend to be the God-and Christian-haters and the party elders have no problem with that (Amanda Marcotte anyone?). However, the Dems have to play toward the middle if they want to win, and the middle tends to be Christian. So they have to pretend that the zealous Christian-hating flesh eaters who constitute their base don't exist and they are jes' like folks. GOP elders don't have to pretend that their base is as deeply religious as the rest of middle America. They just have to pretend that they are. Having less to prove in this department, they can afford to just say the Usual Stuff about family values and not have to have weird quasi-show trial conducted by Soledad O'Brien in which they have to make bogus confessions of sin to prove that they speaka the lingo.

Sense Spoken Here

Mike Huckabee does not hem and haw. Very interesting video highlights from his debate performance here.

The Total Disconnect

Well stated by Hugh Hewitt:

MSM anchors always struggle in big debates for a simple reason: The world in which they exist has a completely different set of priorities than the world in which most voters live, especially Republican voters. Really, when was the last time any MSM anchor really lost sleep over the price of gas or the inability to get an insurance company to run a test? Has an MSM anchor ever had to worry about the quality of a school system burdened by ESL kids, or emergency room overcrowding, both of which conditions are quite obvious secondary effects of massive illegal immigration in some areas of the country? A farmer or a landowner unable to use their property because of the Endangered Species Act is more likely to get an injunction from a federal district court --very unlikely, btw-- than a hearing from the MSM.

Wolf Blitzer is probably the most professional of the big anchors right now, and is a good bet to host the fall '08 debates between the nominees, but it was frustrating last night to see him steer away from the immigration debate that is transfixing the nation and leading to hugely important decisions in the life of the country. He had the entire range of spokesmen in front of him, but the constrained nature of the format and the desire to rush on to other issues was unfortunate. When John McCain declared against the border fence, for example, where was the follow-up? If Tancredo sounded nativist, why not push that with a direct ask to the Congressman followed by a discussion of the nativist fringe's impact on the D.C. debate (vastly overstated, and often used as an excuse not to deal with the particulars of the bill)?

The problem of the question set is less pronounced with the Democratic debates as the MSM anchors understand and often sympathize with the left's agenda, and thus Blitzer or Russert etc will naturally find themselves posing questions that intensely interest the Democratic primary electorate --Iraq, Iraq, Iraq-- but couldn't find a Second Amendment question with a searchlight and a blood hound.

Thus we are already seeing the emergence of perennials --the Mormon question is already as old as Rip Van Winkle, Rudy gets an abortion question every time, and did it surprise anyone that there are no fans of single payor health care on the GOP stage-- but we don't get a chance to hear the candidates either speak any piece they'd like to or to tackle new subjects. The war rightly gets some attention, but there is hardly a moment spent on the Kennedy Four or the Fort Dix Six except when the candidates bring up the plots and the terrible reality behind them. The evolution question has turned up in two GOP debates now, but nothing about the slow collapse of some school districts or the nature of the PRC's challenge to the West.

The candidates would serve themselves very well to accept debate invitations that will allow for some non-Beltway anchors. Elite media, D.C. division, has rarely been as cut off from the rest of the country as it appears to be these days, and that isolation is impacting the campaign coverage in obvious ways...

The God Fuse

Haven't read it all yet, but this is very well done and well thought out. I always have thought that the "religious" and the "militant atheists " have far more in common with each other than either does with the merely indifferent.

Rev 3:15-16

"I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

Also, there's one image in the post that had me cracking up until the tears were running down my face. And that's hard to do.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

With Seizures Like This, It's Got To Be Good

I don't know what they were thinking when they came up with the logo for the 2012 London Olympics.

The grim story is covered here.

The Real Leviathan

Politics--really--is just a sideshow. A diversion from seeing the man behind the curtain. Someone has created what looks like a rather good series of YouTube videos explaining the truth about how banks work and what our modern "money" really is. I've only seen part one so far, but it is well done.

I found the link in this post, which is also of interest. In the post, Mish describes the video series thusly:

Money and Debt

There is an interesting 5 part You-Tube series on money and debt. It covers in nice cartoon animation what has happened to money over time, fractional reserve lending, how money is created today, why interest rates are so low, why we get unsolicited credit offers, and why debt is exploding.

The video concludes that it is taking exponential increases in debt (money) to stave off a a collapse of the entire banking system, and that this cannot go on forever.

I agree with the video that there are practical limits on how high debt can get. So does economist Paul Kasriel at the Northern Trust. (See An Interview with Paul Kasriel)

Interesting Quotes from the Video:

* "Debt... That's what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn't be any money." Marriner S. Eccles. Chairman and Governor of the Federal Reserve Board.

* This is a staggering thought. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit. We are absolutely, without a permanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture, the tragic absurdity of our hopeless position is almost incredible, but there it is." Robert H. Hemphill, Credit Manager, Federal Reserve Bank, Atlanta Georgia.

* "One thing to realize about our fractional reserve banking system is that, like a child's game of musicical chairs, as long as the music is playing there are no losers." Andrew Gause, Monetary Historian

* "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." Kenneth Boulding, economist

* I have never yet had anyone who could through the use of logic and reason, justify the Federal Government borrowing the use of its own money... I believe the time will come when people will demand that this be changed. I believe the time will come in this country when they actually blame you and me and everyone connected with Congress for sitting idly by and permitting such an idiotic system to continue." Wreight Patman, Congressman 1928-1976, Chairman, Committee on Banking and Currency 1963-1975

* The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of slight of hand that was ever invented. Sir Josiah Stamp, Director, Bank of England 1928-1941

Unfortunately the video's conclusion is a bunch of socialist nonsense: Eliminate interest, let governments and only governments create money, and supposedly government will then use that money wisely to build roads and bridges that will add value to society.

The government cannot decide what has value or not. Only the free market can do that. Otherwise you have bridges built to nowhere based on political clout, needless wars, and other malinvestments of capital. If government printing led to prosperity we would be talking about Zimbabwe, the Weimar Republic, and the Soviet style command economy of the 1940's through 1980's in glowing terms. The proposed solution is ridiculous.

The video also incorrectly blames the gold standard for problems created by fractional reserve lending. However, the video does a reasonable job of pointing out many of the problems with the current system of debt creation in a very entertaining and (for the most part) educational way. On that basis, I recommend watching all five parts.

A Tale Of Two Brothers

A fascinating article by Peter Hitchens, brother of atheist leftist (and supporter of the Iraq war) pundit Christopher Hitchens. Peter does not think religion is a delusion, as Christopher argues in his latest book.

High Impact Advertising

The raunch at the end adds nothing, but the slapstick earlier on is pretty good.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Well Said

In the comments to this post:

Brian Killian wrote:

Victor said:

…elementary particles do not behave like matter.

That really is the question isn't it?

Not "what is mind?"; but "what is matter?"


Other questions that readily spring to mind are:

What is Energy?

What is Space?

What is Time?

What is Causation?

It never ceases to amaze me that materialists seem to think that these are any less mysterious than Mind, Consciousness, Reason, or Value. The latter set of phenomena is experientially accessible to us directly (Cogito ergo sum and all that). But the former are not, as such, so directly experienced as our own mental states.

Indeed, it is arguably that lack of experiential immediacy with regard to physical stuff which is one central motive for doing physical science.

But, as I've asked before, why hold that mindstuff is more mysterious than matterstuff?

It strikes me that our conscious mental lives are the most obvious, matter-of-fact, taken-for-granted, intuitively indubitably self-evident realities there are; and that it's things like curved spacetime, energy fields, quarks, and suchlike that are the really 'mysterious' things.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Adios, GOP

Can't find much to disagree with in this Peggy Noonan column.

It concludes:

One of the things I have come to think the past few years is that the Bushes, father and son, though different in many ways, are great wasters of political inheritance. They throw it away as if they'd earned it and could do with it what they liked. Bush senior inherited a vibrant country and a party at peace with itself. He won the leadership of a party that had finally, at great cost, by 1980, fought itself through to unity and come together on shared principles. Mr. Bush won in 1988 by saying he would govern as Reagan had. Yet he did not understand he'd been elected to Reagan's third term. He thought he'd been elected because they liked him. And so he raised taxes, sundered a hard-won coalition, and found himself shocked to lose his party the presidency, and for eight long and consequential years. He had many virtues, but he wasted his inheritance.

Bush the younger came forward, presented himself as a conservative, garnered all the frustrated hopes of his party, turned them into victory, and not nine months later was handed a historical trauma that left his country rallied around him, lifting him, and his party bonded to him. He was disciplined and often daring, but in time he sundered the party that rallied to him, and broke his coalition into pieces. He threw away his inheritance. I do not understand such squandering.

Now conservatives and Republicans are going to have to win back their party. They are going to have to break from those who have already broken from them. This will require courage, serious thinking and an ability to do what psychologists used to call letting go. This will be painful, but it's time. It's more than time.

Yup. No one has done more to utterly destroy Reagan's revolution than guys named Bush.