Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Jonathan Bartlett: The First Law of Automation

is Think!: The worst trap that people who are pursuing automation fall into is the desire to automate everything. That’s usually a road to disaster. Automation is supposed to save time and money, but it can wind up costing you both if you don’t carefully consider what you automate. How Automation Goes Wrong Elon Musk found this out the hard way. His original dream called for the Model 3 to be built almost entirely by robots. He believed that automation would increase the speed and decrease the costs of his production line. However, as GM found out in the 1980s, when an automated line goes wrong, you wind up automating failure instead of success. Apart from the fact that the Read More ›

Proven: If you torture a Big Data enough, it will confess to anything

In his fascinating new book The AI Delusion, economics professor Gary Smith reminds us that computers don’t have common sense. He also notes that, as data gets larger and larger, nonsensical coincidences become more probable, not less. Read More ›

Planets with oxygen not necessarily good candidates for ET life?

Researchers have found that the presence of oxygen in a planet’s atmosphere may not be a strong indicator of life: Simulating in the lab the atmospheres of planets beyond the solar system, researchers successfully created both organic compounds and oxygen, absent of life. The findings, published Dec. 11 by the journal ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, serve as a cautionary tale for researchers who suggest the presence of oxygen and organics on distant worlds is evidence of life there. “Our experiments produced oxygen and organic molecules that could serve as the building blocks of life in the lab, proving that the presence of both doesn’t definitively indicate life,” says Chao He, assistant research scientist in the Johns Hopkins University Department Read More ›

Feathers originated 70 million years earlier than thought

It certainly is “amazing,” as Professor Benton says, that a complex array of features appeared 250 million years ago, rather abruptly, just as life was recovering from the Permian extinction. Would anyone have predicted that? Talk about “fossil rabbits in the Cambrian.” Read More ›

“Adam and Eve” researchers say their work does NOT disprove Darwin

Remember the recent study in which Adam and Eve practically reappeared and extant species turned out to be only about 100,000 years old? The researchers, who found their own conclusion “very surprising” and “fought against it” are anxious that the world know that none of it disproves Darwin: Shortly after the Daily Mail published its article under the headline “All humans may be descended from just TWO people and a catastrophic event almost wiped out ALL species 100,000 years ago, study suggests,” Thaler and Stoeckle sent out this clarification: “Our study is grounded in and strongly supports Darwinian evolution, including the understanding all life has evolved from a common biological origin over several billion years. Our study follows mainstream views Read More ›

Social science hoax papers is one of RealClearScience’s top junk science stories of 2018

We knew about the “rape culture in dogs” paper that got taken seriously but did you know about this one?: Hoaxers Reveal That Some Social Science Journals Will Publish Nonsense. This year, three academics, James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian, revealed their efforts to publish blatantly ridiculous hoax papers in a variety of social science journals. … Accepted at Affilia was “Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism,” which essentially reworded a chapter from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Revised and resubmitted to Women’s Studies International Forum was “Stars, Planets, and Gender: A Framework for a Feminist Astronomy,” which argues “that feminist and queer astrology should be considered part of the science Read More ›

Rodney Stark: A social scientist who begged to differ with the “distinguished bigots” on faith and science

Social scientist Rodney Stark offers an alternative to the Sunday magazine truisms about the relationship between Christianity and science: The basis for much of the antipathy toward Christianity is the image of the medieval Catholic Church fostered by “distinguished bigots,” as Stark calls Edward Gibbon and Voltaire among other Enlightenment notables. Stark, relying on primary source historians like the renowned Marc Bloch, shows, on the contrary, that medieval Catholicism was the breeding ground for modernity. Most, if not all, ancient societies believed in fate. However, Yahweh gave humans the wondrous and terrifying attribute of free will, freedom. Individual freedom in the West then merged with the legacy of Athenian democracy and the Roman republican tradition to form “the new democratic Read More ›

Psychology: Study of religion takes evidence-based turn

It became impossible to ignore the fact that traditional religious lifestyles were associated with Intro of longer life and better health: For anyone who took a college course in psychology more than a decade ago or who is even casually acquainted with the subject through popular articles, a close examination of today’s field would undoubtedly prove surprising. The science that for most of the 20th century portrayed itself as the enlightened alternative to organized religion has taken a decidedly spiritual turn. Bowling Green State University professor Kenneth Pargament, who in 2013 edited the American Psychological Association’s Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, notes just how dramatically his profession’s attitude towards faith has changed in recent times. As a young academic Read More ›

India: Is an odd mix of nationalism, science, and religion gaining ground?

A recent lecture in Mumbai raises the question: Organized by a group called “Bharatam Reawakening,” the meeting — and the group — aim to glorify India’s past and the contributions of their ancestors to the world, even if it means taking a detour into the fantastic and the unlikely. The talk itself was titled “Vaimanika Shastra,” which means “Aeronautical Science” in Sanskrit, and at its heart is the claim that an ancient Indian civilization had developed aeronautical technology centuries before the Wright Brothers flew their first plane. A small but significant number of Indians believe that the mention of flying vehicles in Indian mythology is evidence that such technology was already created by their ancestors. It’s just one of numerous Read More ›

Templeton’s odd position: Atheists dump on them for no particular reason

Here’s Jerry Coyne (who is beginning to “get it” about a bunch of stuff), bashing Templeton Foundation again: Nautilus Magazine is an online site that bills itself as “a different kind of science magazine.” And indeed it is—for it’s partly supported by the John Templeton Foundation (JTF). The Foundation is largely dedicated to showing that religion and science are compatible,—even in harmony—for Sir John left his dosh to the JTF to fund projects showing how science would reveal the divine. Thus the magazine publishes accommodationist articles, like this one from last July, and now we have a new one by Brian Gallagher, editor of the Nautilus blog Facts So Romantic and a “Sinai and Synapses” (oy!) fellow. As we see Read More ›

Could giant marine animals have been wiped out 2.6 million years ago by a supernova?

In a puzzling extinction, something took out giant shark Megalodon and 36% of big marine animals generally. Researcher: "There really hasn't been any good explanation for the marine megafaunal extinction. This could be one. It's this paradigm change -- we know something happened and when it happened, so for the first time we can really dig in and look for things in a definite way. Read More ›