Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Ideas have consequences: Jesse Kilgore

Here’s a podcast with the father of 22-year-old Jesse Kilgore, who killed himself after reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Too bad young Jesse did not give himself a chance to read Alister McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion. My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew him. No doubt there was more going on than we know.

It’s a very sober reminder that, in a world where many believe that young people care only about text messaging aimless gossip, some take the critical questions deadly seriously.

In a very different chain of events a lttile over a year ago, a young Finnish social Darwinist killed himself and eight others , in an event reminiscent of Eric Harris at Columbine.

Significantly, when I reported on the Finnish school shooting, I received a storm of complaints from Darwinists who wanted me to know that their belief system was in no way implicated. I responded, Read More ›

Life From Chiral Crystals . . . Really?

The other day I made an offhand comment that the chirality problem was nowhere being solved. Yellow Shark was nice enough to provide a link to new research published in November, 2008. Now I was referring to scenarios which could occur in nature, not in lab conditions, and so I contacted some friends to see what they thought and to see if the research was indeed relevant to OOL scenarios.
Read More ›

Humanist control of education

Modern American State education is based on the Prussian Education System – influence for this system came from the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who wrote, “The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will.” Frederick II began the introduction of compulsory education in Prussia in 1763. The purpose was to instill loyalty and obedience to the crown and state through education and make the people fit for service in the military and public administration. The Prussian Education System was first introduced into American Schools by Horace Mann in 1852. There is a strong streak of Plato’s Republic in this system. Plato wrote Read More ›

Mind reading technology: In your face and in your mind – or not

Here is a Fox News interview with Japanese physicist, Michio Kaku, who is quite convinced that in the near future we will be able to read people’s minds – high tech phrenology, really.

(= Bumps on the brain explain your mind.)

You know, I heard all this a zillion years ago when video killed the radio star.

As I recall, computers were going to think like people. That didn’t happen, but … on to the next thing, no delays!

Evolutionary psychology! You ARE the cave man! Okay, so that didn’t turn up a single piece of useful information, and just got further and further from science? Well, obviously, .. More money for research is needed …

Oh yes, and … chimps think like people! Didn’t you know? When was the last time you tore off your neighbour’s arm and ate it before her eyes?

Was it last summer at the block barbecue? I guess her aunties must have been kind of cautious about offering her bracelets for Christmas …

Actually, it makes more sense to argue that dogs think like people than that chimps do (at least dogs like being around people, which is a beginning …. )

Anyway, look, welcome to the latest schtick: Neuroscience will soon read your thoughts, as per this video. Wowza! Or maybe not …

A couple of thoughts, to orient a reasonable person: Read More ›

When reporters write what they “know” …

Last night, the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. offered a panel discussion on the theme of the book, edited by an old friend Paul Marshall, Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion.

By the by, in Chapter 8, “Getting Religion in the News Room,” Terry Mattingly discusses a recent “dropped ball” in coverage of the intelligent design controversy:

Consider one of the most loaded terms in religion news – “fundamentalist”. In a New York Times story, reporter Jodi Wilgoren described the beliefs of Discovery Institute fellows highly critical of Darwinian evolution. In the final-edition version of the story, Wilgoren wrote: “Their credentials – advanced degrees from Stanford, Columbia, Yale, the University of Texas, the University of California – are impressive, but their ideas are often ridiculed in the academic world. … [Most] fellows, like their financiers, are fundamentalist Christians, though they insist their work is serious science, not closet creationism.” But the group included Episcpalians, Catholics, Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Baptists, and several strains of Presbyterianism. What does the world “fundamentalist” mean in this context? (p. 148)

It means a person to whom Jodi Wilgoren considers herself immeasurably superior, even though she has probably not got the least idea why anyone would doubt the Big Bazooms theory of evolution. Mattingly continues,

On top of that, a bible of journalism – the Associated Press Stylebook – warns against using the divisive term in precisely this manner. It states: “fundamentalist: the word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent yeas, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians. In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.”

Apparently, the Times had to retreat on this one, and it offered a correction in the digital archives. Mattingly comments further,

To avoid having to make that correction, all that was neecdd was to consider the Associated Press Stylebook or allow members of the group to describe their own ideas and beliefs, rather than using labels assigned to them by their enemies? (Pp. 148-49)

Well, I don’t know. Given that the whole point of the Times’s coverage is to suck up to the DI group’s enemies and to reassure those enemies that nothing is happening – nothing that can’t be contained by propaganda and crackdowns – why not just continue to use the labels? And when the group’s enemies can no longer pay for the persecution, hit on the government!

Think that won’t happen? Look here where Jonah Goldberg notes,

… journalistic Brahmins, who last year would have spontaneously combusted at any hint of government meddling in the Fourth Estate, now openly debate whether we should revive the Federal Writers’ Project to give jobs to scribes thrown out in the cold by newspaper downsizing.

I myself have had to leave at least one prominent Canadian writers’ organization because members are obviously far more interested in writers’ welfare than intellectual freedom. So yes, it is in the air.

Never mind, I have a trade for Terry Mattingly: Here Wilgoren’s colleague Elisabeth Bumiller substitutes “biblical” for “biological” when interviewing a Discovery Institute fellow – and can you guess the results? Read More ›

Materialist Hypocrisy

Many materialists argue out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to consciousness.    On the one hand, they argue that consciousness is the key to dignity and the right to life.  See, for example, the arguments of Peter Singer, who argues specifically that there is no ethical problem in killing an unborn baby because the baby at that stage of development is not self-conscious.    But then materialists turn right around and argue that consciousness is ontologically meaningless, asserting that it is nothing but an epiphenomenon of the electro-chemical activity of the brain.    Well, which is it?  Is consciousness absolutely crucial, literally a matter of life and death, or is it the essentially meaningless byproduct of chance Read More ›

Coffee break: Zipf’s law and the patterns that underlie our lives

A friend alerts me to this PhysOrg article about Zipf’s law, according to which,

… the same patterns emerge in a wide variety of situations. The linguist George Kingsley Zipf first proposed the law in 1949, when he noticed that the distribution of words in a newspaper, book, or other literary article always followed the same pattern.

Zipf counted how many times each word appeared, and found that the probability of the occurrence of words starts high and tapers off. Specifically, the most frequent word occurs about twice as often as the second most frequent word, which occurs about twice as often as the fourth most frequent word, and so on. Mathematically, this means that the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank. When the Zipf curve is plotted on a log-log scale, it appears as a straight line with a slope of -1.

Some enterprising researchers tested Zipf’s law on the growth of Linux:

“Linux Debian gave us the opportunity to verify the ‘proportional mechanism,’ thanks to an important dataset and a huge investigation potential,” Maillart said. “All changes (evolution) in open source software are freely available and therefore can be tracked in detail. However, model verification has brought one answer and many resulting questions we intend to give an answer to. We think particularly of mechanisms of success/failure of projects in relation with their management.

“Remember that we still do not clearly understand the reasons of the success of the open source, since it’s free and based on altruist contributions by programmers,” he said. “Additionally, one can bet that further research in this direction (open source and proportional growth) may raise useful questions for other systems (cities, economy, etc.) that would bring new insights to explain their evolution.”

Re the appearance of words in a document, one factor may be that, to discuss a given subject, some words are essential and others useful but not essential. A third group are optional and thus may or may not appear. Here, for example, is a Wordle of this post:

Incidentally, a friend writes to say,

There you have, altruism raising its ugly head once more. An “evolutionary” software project, probably run by people that wouldn’t question evolutionary assumptions in any other context, relying upon the altruism of its contributors.

Actually, it’s not that they don’t understand the reasons, it’s that they can’t accept the evidence. The evidence is that altruism is normal enough among humans not to need an explanataion as an aberration – but not universal and therefore not governed by a law. Call it part of the design, if you like.

Here’s the abstract info: Read More ›

Scientific American – who’s telling the porkies?

The December issue of Scientific American has an article by Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch entitled ‘The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom’ Not being an American citizen it is perhaps not for me to comment on American education policy, but the article provides some humorous circular reasoning. At one point it says that evolution is not ‘scientifically controversial,’ and anyone who says it is, ‘miseducates students about evolution.’ Presumably if evolution wasn’t controversial the authors would not have felt the need to write the article. But in the article there is precious little evidence to justify their position, but lots of empty rhetoric. “Vast areas of evolutionary science are for all intents and purposes scientifically settled; textbooks Read More ›

“Scientific” vs “Supernatural”

An invitation to provide initial posts for discussion here at UD was recently extended to me.  My name is Donald M and for those who have posted here for a while, I’m probably not a stranger.  I’m a strong proponent of ID and I have serious doubts and reservations about several aspects of Darwinian evolution.  My main area of interest is in the Philosophy of Science and the philosophical assumptions of science and scientific practice.  While I am not a working scientist, I do hold a Masters degree in a scientific field.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some thoughts here, and hopefully provide some fodder for useful discussion among participants. 

With that brief intro, I’ll dive into my first contribution.

The January issue of Scientific American is focused entirely on the Evolution of Evolution. There are several articles on different aspects of Darwin and evolution. The article I want to focus on here is a critical piece by Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch of the NCSE (National Center for Saving Evolution Science Education). Entitled The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom, the article laments the fact that Science still has to deal with “creationism”…the favored term over Intelligent Design for purely pejorative reasons. Read More ›

“Unpredictable” Does Not Equal “Contingent”

In a previous post JT believes he has crushed the entire ID project by pointing out that: “A process determined entire[ly] by law can have EXTREMELY complex behavior and extremely difficult to predict behavior.”   No one disputes JT’s point, but it is beside the point as far as ID is concerned.  JT is making a common error – he is confusing “unpredictable” with “contingent.”  They are very different things.   When a bomb explodes the pieces of the bombshell are scattered willy nilly, and it is impossible to predict where any piece will land.  Nevertheless, where each and every piece lands is utterly determined by law.  In other words, where each piece lands is a function of nothing but the Read More ›

The intelligent design community and the media revolution – an old hack’s thoughts

When assessing media coverage of the intelligent design controversy, the first thing you should do is forget what defenders of legacy mainstream media say about their media. You’ve already heard it all anyway: “We’re objective.” “We’re not biased.” “We only report the facts.” Et cetera. Not only isn’t that true, but it couldn’t possibly be true, as I will explain below. And it wouldn’t be a good thing if it were true. Modern media grew up self-consciously aware of their key role in promoting materialist ideas. You know the sort of thing: “Science has shown/research has demonstrated/studies have shown” .. what? The Big Bazooms theory of evolution? Due to the rise of citizen-directed, Internet-based, new media, they currently face a Read More ›

Molecular biology: The Bloom’s complex mousetrap

Nature 456, 453-454 (27 November 2008) | doi:10.1038/456453a; Published online 26 November 2008 Robert M. Brosh, Jr Genomic instability often underlies cancer. Analyses of proteins implicated in a cancer-predisposing condition called Bloom’s syndrome illustrate the intricacies of protein interactions that ensure genomic stability. Bloom’s syndrome, which is characterized by severe growth retardation, immunodeficiency, anaemia, reduced fertility and predisposition to cancer, is caused by mutations in the gene BLM. At the cellular level, the hallmark of this genetic disorder is a high rate of sister-chromatid exchange — the swapping of homologous stretches of DNA between a chromosome and its identical copy generated during DNA replication Robert M. Brosh Jr is in the Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology, National Institute on Aging, National Read More ›

Origin of life: A meatier theory?” Or just another theory?

Over at Access Research Network, British physicist David Tyler asks, “Did meteorite impacts help to spawn life?”, as per the theory of the week:

The Scientific American report emphasized the tentative nature of the research: meteorites “may have helped spawn life” and “Did heat, pressure and carbon from meteorite impacts create biological precursors?” An astrobiologist is said to fear “that theories of life’s origin may never move beyond the hypothetical”. Astronomer Donald Brownlee found the research interesting but added: “If the body is too large, generated materials are probably destroyed by impact processes.” One of the authors of the paper cautioned that the meteorite-impact theory “is not ready to supplant the vaunted Miller-Urey experiment”.

Tyler notes,

It is one thing to generate organic molecules but quite another to label them as “precursors of life”. Life does not exist without biological information, and until abiogenesis research takes information seriously, it will continue to explore cul-de-sac avenues.

(Biomolecule formation by oceanic impacts on early Earth Yoshihiro Furukawa, Toshimori Sekine, Masahiro Oba, Takeshi Kakegawa & Hiromoto Nakazawa Nature Geoscience, Published online: 7 December 2008 doi:10.1038/ngeo383)

Yes, that is the point precisely. Current research models are looking for something that probably never happened and never could have happened: Random swish of chemicals gradually produces Altair that later evolves through natural selection acting on random mutations into a dual core processor. At some point, I am going to make a list of all the origin of life scenarios I have heard along these lines, but I’d have to take time off …

To me, the fundamental insight of the intelligent design theorists has been to apply insights from information theory to biology. The results were disastrous for Darwinian theory, of course – and especially ruinous for the New Atheism movement (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, et al.) that depends so heavily on Darwinism as its creation story. Read More ›

Information: Why the Darwinian Mechanism is Dead Except as an Explanation of the Trivial

When Darwin proposed his hypothesis in the 19th century it was assumed that the basis of living systems was fundamentally simple. The exact opposite has been shown to be the case in the 20th century. It was thought that chemistry, physics, mechanism, and chance were the foundational principles underlying living systems, but we now know that information and information processing are the essential, underlying ingredients of life. Chemistry, physics, and mechanism represent the medium in which information is processed, interpreted, stored, retrieved, error-detected, and repaired. As we enter the 21st century it is becoming increasingly obvious that there is a third entity that must be added to matter and energy as an explanation for all that exists, and that entity Read More ›

99% is not enough. Now it’s the 99.5% myth.

On last night’s CSI-Las Vegas Lawrence Fishburne guest starred as a psychology lecturer at a local university named Raymond Langston.  In a scene in which Langston was lecturing his students he described an incident reported by Jane Goodall where two chimps killed ten other chimps.  Langston compared the chimp killings to human serial killers and noted that we should not be surprised because – wait for it . . . wait for it – chimps and humans share 99.5% of their genetic code.   First, as far as I know, no one has ever suggested that humans and chimps share 99.5% of their genetic code.  99% is the highest figure I have ever seen reported.  But even that figure has Read More ›