Custom Search

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thinkquote of the day: Machiavelli

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly for fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.
Niccolè Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter 6

Sure, sure, Machiavelli was amoral, but on this point he was not wrong.

Labels: , ,

Book review: Simon Conway Morris on E.O. Wilson's The Creation: Appeal to Save Life on Earth

Apparently, Darwinist E.O. Wilson has decided to quit trashing clergy, and make an appeal to them (as in "Dear Pastor") to help save the planet. Even though the planet has been around for a long, long time, and has been through many cataclysms. Conway Morris hints that Wilson may not be the best available person to spearhead such a move:
Wilson's programme is put forward with the best of intentions, yet it is underpinned by an incoherent metaphysics. Equally important, its scientistic agenda carries the real risk of imposing tyranny. Wilson is famous for his holistic programme, loosely described as 'consilience'. This aims to understand human nature in terms of entirely naturalistic processes underpinned by genetics. As part of his programme for human development, Wilson blithely writes that one of the great goals is to "stimulate the mind with the combination of artificial intelligence and artificial emotion", chosen of course by the wisest of our leaders.

Feel queasy about all that? Well, sure you do, you're just an ignorant fundie.

You'll have to pay to read the rest at the link above, fundie, but you won't be surprised to learn that Conway Morris does not put much faith in Wilson's Dear Pastor letter.

Labels: , , , ,

Book review: Andrew Brown on Dawkins' The God Delusion

No friend to religion, Andrew Brown nonetheless says that Richard Dawkins's "incurious and rambling" diatribe against religion "doesn't come close to explaining how faith has survived the assault of Darwinism," opening with
It has been obvious for years that Richard Dawkins had a fat book on religion in him, but who would have thought him capable of writing one this bad? Incurious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory, it has none of the style or verve of his earlier works.

It gets better from there - or worse, I guess, if you bought The God Delusion. Which reminds me to come to the point of this blog: When was the last time Dawkins had an original idea in biology? I don't mean an idea that works. Hey, I'm not that fussy. I just mean an original idea. Why is he always writing trash about religion now?

Oh, and here is Dawkins' own comment on his book.

Plus (!) here is further comment from Andrew Brown:
I have just finished reviewing Richard Dawkins' new book on God for someone else and spent a sleepless night wondering if I should really have been so cruel about it. It's rubbish, of course; but why say so? What is it about the jeering, smug atheism so well represented on the internet, as well as in Dawkins' books, that makes me so very angry? Perhaps this is a rage at heresy, since in lots of ways I think he's right, and our disagreements ought to be quite trivial. But the more I think of them, the more serious they become.

Brown - to his credit - realizes that a book is a bomb if he feels forced to say nice things about it.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Labels: , ,

Intelligent design and popular culture: A spoof on anti-ID group, the "Brights"

A couple of years ago, a group of atheist materialists decided to start a group called the "Brights". Approved by materialist zoologist Richard Dawkins and materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett, they proclaimed themselves smarter than others, thus inviting parodies such as the Brites.

They are actually fairly easy to parody. Consider Dawkins' fussy insistence:

Geisert and Futrell are very insistent that their word is a noun and must not be an adjective. "I am bright" sounds arrogant. "I am a bright" sounds too unfamiliar to be arrogant: it is puzzling, enigmatic, tantalising. It invites the question, "What on earth is a bright?" And then you're away: "A bright is a person whose world view is free of supernatural and mystical elements. The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic world view."

Could have told them, but why bother? Who listens? And they probably enjoy the attention.

Labels: , , ,

Intelligent design and popular culture: hilarious passages from ID guy Paul Nelson in Oslo

Nelson received hundreds of comments from Norwegians and others, to which he
responded until he ran out of time. The issues raised are mostly the same as in North America. One sees some of the same blustering, self-assured Darwinists, absolutely convinced that mind, intelligence, and information are not needed in order to explain the origin of our universe or of life. And many thoughtful people as well, wondering what it all means or posing thoughtful objections.

But the Darwinists are the fun part, for example:

[Question:] In what ways are your theories more probable than the theories of the pastafarians ? You know, the people that believe that the flying spaghetti monster created the earth and made it look older than it really is?

[Response:] I have a slide in one of my lectures showing the Flying Spaghetti Monster (blessed be He) reaching out to touch the finger of Adam. I like the guy, the FSM, although I can't say I am one of his true worshippers.

Problem is, the plates of spaghetti that I've known and enjoyed (with garlic bread and Chianti, thank you) have never done anything except sit there on the linen table cloth and give off delicious aromas.

Intelligent agents, however, do things. Like you: they write emails to newspapers.

So the FSM isn't really much of a designer, is He? No disrespect intended, of course.

Pass the parmesan cheese, please. I'm about to have a religious experience...


P.S. May the Pasta Be With You.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Labels: , , ,

Neanderthals: Closer than we thought?

According to a recent report, Neanderthals may have
held out at Gibraltar until about 24000 years ago. If so, it is more probable that the Ice Age killed them off than that modern humans did. There is also the distinct possibility that there were once hybrids between the 'thals and current humans. The report is based on a recent paper in Nature.

By the way, Casey Luskin argues, in Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design, that Neanderthals were a subspecies of modern humans, which sounds reasonable to me. In particular, Luskin warns against ape-man folklore that may give a very different picture of this vanished type of human than the reality:
Neanderthals may be depicted as culturally primitive or Homo erectus may be portrayed as a bungling and primitive humanlike form. Ironically, the same textbook may portray an australopithecine ape as physically anthropoid, but with gleams of human-like intelligence and emotion in its eyes.12 These reconstructions are only loosely based upon fossil evidence and provide a highly subjective evolutionary interpretation. If the hominid genera Homo and Australopithecus represent distinct basic types, then it might be improper to imply convergence of intelligence and emotional faculties between the two groups. As famed physical anthropologist Earnest A. Hooton from Harvard University cautioned in 1931, "alleged restorations of ancient types of man have very little, if any, scientific value and are likely only to mislead the public."13

Meanwhile, museums have been training their docents the correct spin, when questions about human origins arise. The fact that we don't really know, and for all our researches may never know, is not something we readily face up to. Do give Luskin's article a read, to get some sense of the difficulties.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Labels: ,

Intelligent design and popular culture: Beckwith, Dembski maul Baylor Bears' football chances?

Just to show how crazy it was all getting, by the time Beckwith was finally granted tenure, sportswriter J. V. Holland at put in a slightly confused-sounding piece, "Baylor aiming for Intelligent design on field", implying that the ID controversy (in which Beckwith played a minor role) was costing Baylor its status in American college football. Noting that the Baylor Bears are playing the Washington State Cougars and that the Discovery Institute (ID central) is located in Washington States, he writes,
Once upon a time, the name Baylor conjured images of a giant slayer in the Southwest Conference. In the late 70s and early 80s, Bears All-American Mike Singletary, tenacious on the field and a scholar off it, was the exemplar of all that was good about college football.

Nowadays you mention Baylor and you're more likely to get a blank stare or a reference to Charles Darwin rolling over in his grave.

Indeed, on the gridiron, the Bears of the last decade could have used a heavy infusion of intelligent design. They’ve gone 10 straight seasons without a winning record. Last year’s 5-6 showing marked the first time in eight campaigns they won more than three games.

An infusion of intelligent design indeed. Some of us would think that Baylor had better not leave the development of its football team to evolution. But it shows how much the notion of ID has become embedded in popular culture that Dembski, Beckwith and such are supposed to be somehow linked to the Bears' recent woes. How many rpm's did you say Darwin was doing down there?

Labels: , , , ,

Baylor's Francis Beckwith: Granted tenure!

In a development that is certain to reduce the cost of being pro-life, sympathetic to ID, or skeptical of the materialist establishment, law prof Francis Beckwith has been granted tenure after a long, heated struggle with political correctness and clan politics. He learned the good news on Friday afternoon.

Actually, Beckwith's main offence was TWS - teaching while smart. As I have pointed out elsewhere, there is nothing wrong with having non-materialist opinions, as long as you are a pleasant Jesus-hollering dum dum, who cannot challenge materialists on their own turf with contrary evidence and convincing arguments. It's when they have to take you seriously that you can expect trouble.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment are rarely accepted. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudeby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.

Labels: , ,

Who links to me?