Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Key plant groups pushed back tens of millions of years

The report backdates the origin, not only of podocarps (the evergreens), but of seed ferns and cycad types of plants. Those are millions of years of natural selection acting on random mutation (Darwinism) that these plants did not turn out to have. If Darwinism seemed unbelievable before, what do you think now? Read More ›

Does human mortality really slow down between 105 yrs and 110 years?

Remember the story earlier this year about the anomalous plateau found in the human lifespan, such that “after the age of 105, human mortality seems to hit a plateau. That is, you aren’t any more likely to die at 110 than at 105”? It’s been challenged by a study in PLOS Biology which suggests that the finding may be an artifact of errors in record-keeping re births and deaths: Age-recording errors can theoretically lead to plateaus in very old ages, Newman and other demographers have suggested, because at those extreme ages, most people with age underestimation errors have already died, meaning that people with age overestimation errors—whose mortality rates correspond to their true, younger ages—make up a greater and greater proportion Read More ›

Feser (and Ross) on the immateriality of the mind

Edward Feser has presented a lecture on the immateriality of the mind, which is worth listening to: The papers here and here will flesh out details. The core logic of the argument pivots on the principle of distinct identity, turned to how distinguishable entities are inherently different. Syllogistically: 1: Formal thought processes can have an exact or unambiguous conceptual content. However, 2: Nothing material can have an exact or unambiguous conceptual content. So, 3: Formal thought processes are not material. Worth pondering as we reflect on this season. Enjoy the Christmas season. END

Science op-ed: Humans should get over the idea we are exceptional

Op-ed here. Further to the benefits of human extinction, there is the need to see humans as nothing special: Environmentalism is growing darkly anti-human. That misanthropy has also seeped into science. Vivid case in point: Science, one of the world’s most prominent scientific journals, just published a screed directed against human exceptionalism. The author, Eileen Crist, has a PhD in sociology, not in any of the natural sciences. She writes to warn that the end is nigh — and the reason for the pending catastrophe is “human supremacy.” From “Reimagining the Human”: “This worldview esteems the human as a distinguished entity that is superior to all other life forms and is entitled to use them and the places they live. Read More ›

2018 AI Hype Countdown 8: AI Just Needs a Bigger Truck!

AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: Can we create superintelligent computers just by adding more computing power? The claim that AI can be written to evolve even smarter AI is slowly being abandoned. AI software pioneer François Chollet, for example, concluded in “The Impossibility of Intelligence Explosion” that the search should be abandoned: “An overwhelming amount of evidence points to this simple fact: a single human brain, on its own, is not capable of designing a greater intelligence than itself.” A computer cannot do that either. Some think computers could greatly exceed human intelligence if only we added more computing power. That reminds me of an old story… More. See also: 2018 AI Hype Countdown 9: Will That Read More ›

J. R. Miller on the SJWs

Further to “Social justice warriors turn their sights on evo psych prof,” J. R. Miller has some thoughts on the SJWs at More Than Cake: About Reprogrammed: Every Thursday at 11:00 Pacific, former SJW Keri Smith joins Unsafe Space to co-host “Deprogrammed.” We’ll explore the philosophy, strategy, and tactics that Marxist and postmodern nihilists use to program “Social Justice Warriors,” turning otherwise thoughtful, critically-minded individuals into armies of extreme leftist NPCs. Each week, we’ll talk about a different aspect of “social justice” culture, drawing both from Keri’s personal experience as well as current events.More. Who knew that the Enlightenment would end in Punch Yer Lights Out? See also: Social justice warriors turn their sights on evo psych prof. We thought Read More ›

Human extinction as collateral damage

Recently, Clemson U philosopher Todd May whistled through the system on the pros and cons of human extinction: May’s reasoning is fascinatingly nihilistic. He argues that human extinction would be tragic because we have a tragic flaw – our shortsighted use of the environment – which would be recitified by our extinction. “Humanity,” he says, “is the source of devastation of the lives of conscious animals on a scale that is difficult to comprehend.” And while he recognizes that “nature itself is hardly a Valhalla of peace and harmony,” humans are uniquely cruel (in our defense, we don’t have a generalized habit of cannibalizing our mates, as some species do). He explains that we’re wrecking the world. Ben Shapiro, “Clemson Read More ›

New atheism in decline?

Well, we have heard that astrology is on the rise but not much about new atheism being in decline. A Google Trends graph from 2004 through 2017 shows Sam Harris, rising and Richard Dawkins declining: Dawkins has always been the heart of New Atheism, meaning its decline and his decline are linked at the hip. Harris, probably because of his Hollywood background/connections, is much more media savvy and branched out from New Atheism, first with meditation related stuff and now, with the “Intellectual Dark Web” stuff. “Dawkins vs. Harris” at Shadow to Light It’s worth considering. Keep in mind though that the Google Trend decline could be accounted for in part by the fact that Dawkins is 77 and Harris Read More ›

Nature (journal) goes to Tackytown for Christmas

Christmas carols with “science” lyrics: [30:52 Hark! It’s Hayabusa2: The last of this year’s songs is an ode to a lander that touched down on an asteroid millions of miles away from Earth. Scroll to the transcript section below for the lyrics.podcast with Benjamin Thompson and Ali Jennings, “Podcast: Quantum physics adds a twist and festive fun” at Natureem> When some of us were young, mischievous teens and nerdy grad students used to do this at Hallowe’en. We didn’t think the fad would end up finding a home but, who can tell? Meanwhile, Messiah Oratorio: See also: Eureka! Christmas spirit located in brain… Follow UD News at Twitter!

Social justice warriors (SJWs) turn their sights on another evo psych prof

It actually doesn't matter what Kanazawa concludes. You can’t reason with a pack. Having been taught from childhood that humans are animals, the SJWs have become a pack. For technical reasons, that is easier than becoming a hive. Read More ›

PBS Video: Why String Theory Is Wrong

Hmmm. We don’t often see serious skepticism of Cool ideas like string theory except from brave souls like Sabine Hossenfelder.  With luck, if this pans out to be a serious discussion, it will begin a trend. Note: Some of us would be okay with “Why String Theory Is Right,” provided it is a response to skepticism taken seriously and the theory is treated as a theory with serious problems—not a sort of foregone conclusion, upholding a multiverse. Hat tip: RealClearScience See also:  Sabine Hossenfelder: Black holes do not behave as string theorists say they should “Perhaps physics has slipped into a post-empirical era…” (from a review of Hossenfelder’s book at Physics World) Post-modern physics: String theory gets over the need for evidence and Read More ›

9: Will That Army Robot Squid Ever Be “Self-Aware”?

From the 2018 AI Hype Countdown at Mind Matters #9: AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: What would it take for a robot to be self-aware? The Army Times headline would jolt your morning coffee: Army researchers are developing a self-aware squid-like robot you can 3D print in the field Reporter Todd South helpfully adds, “your next nightmare.” The thrill of fear invites the reader to accept the metaphorical claim that the robot will be “self-aware” as a literal fact. Although we could, for technical reasons, quibble with the claim that the robot squid will be printed in 3D, we won’t just now. Let’s focus instead on the seductive semantics of the term “self-aware.” For humans, Oxford tells Read More ›

Chinese researchers who stray could face “social penalties”

That might include not being able to get a loan, run a company, or apply for a job: The policy, announced last month, is an extension of the country’s controversial ‘social credit system’, where failure to comply with the rules of one government agency can mean facing restrictions or penalties from other agencies. The punishment overhaul is the government’s latest measure to crack down on misconduct. But the nature and extent of the policy has surprised many researchers. “I have never seen such a comprehensive list of penalties for research misconduct elsewhere in the world,” says Chien Chou, a scientific integrity education researcher at Chiao Tung University in Taiwan. … As of April, the number of times people were denied Read More ›