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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Censorship by Google?: In the Western world?

(Note: Unexpectedly, this months-long problem has just got solved, shortly after the bloggers started complaining publicly about it. - d.)

A Web guy at Uncommon Descent writes me to say,
On approximately the 19th of September, the blog operated by Bill Dembski and friends (including me) Uncommon Descent
was delisted from the Google search index. [That means that you can't find items from Uncommon Descent using the Google search engine.]

No reason has ever been given for why the site was delisted, despite requests for reinclusion.

This blog has tens of thousands of legitimate links, especially from trusted institutions of higher education.

This blog had been around for well over a year.

This blog has a Google PageRank of 6/10 (meaning it is considered quite important, even by Google)

The blog is run by a nationally recognized scholar and author [Dembski]

Well, over to you, Google monster. I've heard that the problem might have been caused by some idle fellow who swatches copy from Uncommon Descent, so that he and his friends can beggar around with it. But if that kind of thing has tied up Google, then Google has some glitches to fix.

Meanwhile, readers interested in following the ID controversy should make a point of using the Uncommon Descent link on the blogroll window to the right. You are missing half the fun if you don't!
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.

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Further quick posts: Recent events in the intelligent design controversy

■ In Frederick Turner's What's Good about Atheism
Societies that have developed sophisticated theological systems have tended to develop sciences and advanced technologies as well, because of a fundamental theological belief that things make sense and that there is an underlying order to the world. Thus from a strictly Darwinian perspective—the ultimate practical expression of pragmatism (and one to which I subscribe), religion is a powerful, perhaps the most powerful, survival strategy. One can even set aside the statistics that show that religious people tend to be happier, more long-lived, richer, and get better sex. If, pragmatically, by their fruits ye shall know them, and truth is whatever gets you the goodies and continues your germ line, the atheist should try to hypnotize himself into being a believer.

But this is shooting fish in a barrel. There are, actually, many valuable correctives and important questions that are offered by the atheist perspective.

One is here reminded of Satan's fateful question regarding Job,
"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." (Job 1:9-11, NIV)
, which precipitate's Job's wild career of suffering, during which he never did curse God. Turner's attempt to find a natural religion stumbles over this, I think.

■ On origin of life, oceanographer Edward Peltzer (UCSD '79) writes to say
1. The structure of DNA (the double helix) and Miller's first experiment were published in the same year, literally months apart, in 1953. In the ensuing 53 years, genetics and molecular biology has made great strides, Miller and cohorts are still trying to make all 20 amino acids plus the 5 nucleobases in a single pot (they can make them all but have to do it in several vessels with different conditions in each = evidence of fine tuning, but that is a different story). Why is one field making daily discoveries and the other is still crawling? Simple: genetics begins with the presumption of a code = intelligence; Miller began with the presumption of random reactions leading to a random walk for the field = wandering in the wilderness with no sense of direction.

2. OoL researchers assert that a few simple reactions is all that is needed to go from a dilute broth to a living organism BECAUSE then they can dismiss an intelligence behind it all. Their investigations are directed by their materialist prejudices. In reality, we already know what the few simple reactions are that come next -- Miller describes a red oily goo coating the insides of his flasks after a few days -- and these are the products of the Maillard reaction. The reaction is well known (look it up on the web) and adequately explains the fact that the amino acid concentrations plateau long before the precursor compounds are consumed. These colored products are known as melanoids (formed by the condensation of reducing sugars with amino acids). They are highly branched, cross-linked, heterogeneous and generally intractable to detailed analysis. Hardly the compounds necessary as precursors of the linear, homogeneous bio-polymers one needs to start building a cell. Only someone with great faith in a materialistic pathway can look at this mess and think that they are on the path to life.

3. An intelligent person can clearly see that each new discovery in biochemistry / genetics raises the bar that they are attempting to jump over.

Yes, but an intelligent person with a whack of grant money and the presumption that they must come up with an accidental origin, no matter how implausible?

■ Re ID in the UK A friend notes the following news stories:
ABC - "Widespread creationism teaching would worry Blair" in a story from Reuters that is just breathtakingly wrong.


BBC - Blair downplays creationism fears . This story is locally grounded and makes some sense.

However, from New Scientist we learn that in response to a question,
One subject that is of great concern to scientists is creationism. There has been a suggestion that creationism is being taught in some British schools. What are your views on this?
Blair replied,
This can be hugely exaggerated. I’ve visited one of the schools in question and as far as I’m aware they are teaching the curriculum in a normal way. If I notice creationism become the mainstream of the education system in this country then that’s the time to start worrying. As I’ve said, it’s really quite important for science to fight the battles it needs to fight. ...

The whole interview is worth reading. At some point, some legacy media firm's story stencil needs replacing. This is that point, but they might go out of business first.

■ Norbert Smith, also known as Doc Gator, on whose recent book on the passive fear response in alligators, marsupials, and placental mammals I have blogged writes me to say that he has been refused permission to use a photo by an Ontario based photographer because he is writing for the Creation Society Research Journal
I KNOW this will not make the Evening News, but thought you might like to know that prejudice in science is alive and well, even in Canada. I am writing a small article for CRSQ about how skunk cabbage can literally melt the snow by non-shivering thermogenesis much like endothermic animals keep warm. I sought permission to use the first in the series of beautiful photos found at Ontario Wildflowers - Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), but was denied permission to do so.

Well here's the letter:
The goals and values of the organization to which you will be submitting your article do not at all match mine. So I decline to provide permission for use of my photo for this purpose.

Thank you for your inquiry. I respect your point of view and that of CRS, but those views are simply not mine. I wish you all the best with your journey.

The refuser was an Ontario naturalist photographer. I cannot reveal his name, as I have not sought his permission.

I will say this, though: Many Canadians garner a cheap righteousness from dissing whoever they can get away with. Sometimes we do this in order to inflate our own achievements, but more often to preserve our narrow, pristine world which is always under a supposed threat. Smith informs me that he can find another photo. I am sure he can.


News media and the ID controversy: Links to better news coverage?

When I blogged recently on the media coverage of the intelligent design controversy, I remarked, "Then the big challenge is to find a publication that actually wants the real story. That means readers who want the real story. Only those readers can help you."

An Australian commenter wrote to ask,
Do you have any ideas on where we will find such readers? Should we be concentrating on informing believers? Will this be resisted by interested parties? Will we then divide our house? Should we concentrate on convincing religious and political power brokers?
ID is often accused of being a media beat up rather than a scientific controversy. Will we reinforce that view if we concentrate on media?

These are challenging questions, so let me take them in turn:

- Do you have any ideas on where we will find such readers? Anywhere there are Internet-linked terminals. There is no shortage of people who question the worldview of the ''Darwinoids", as a journalist friend calls them. The difficulty is that we are in a transitional phase between reliance on print/broadcast media and reliance on the Internet. The latter operates fundamentally differently from the former because it does not empower the big over the small. Don't believe me? Look what the Swift Vets did to John Kerry, or the pajamaheddin did to Dan Rather. The swifts and the pajamas were nobodies - apart from the fact that both groups knew something that the public would be very interested to discover.* In the legacy media, both groups would be promptly stifled because they did not fit the story template that had already been hammered out. (Everyone who mattered knew that Kerry was a good officer, you see, and Bush was a bad airman.)

Only on the Internet could these nobodies have succeeded because anyone who can use a search engine could find out what they had to say. Currently, some want to reduce the Internet to the state of the current print/broadcast media, controlled by a few key opinion-shapers. That is more orderly, you understand. The government of China apparently does it now.

The whole point of the Internet is to circumvent that very thing! The world does not need another medium, it needs a different kind of medium - one that allows both user control and user input.

So use the Internet to find the people who doubt materialism/Darwinism and forget the legacy media.

* For the record, I will not enter into any controversy on anyone's military record. I am concerned only with whether viewpoints that contradict a pre-existing template can easily reach a broad public while they still make a difference.

(Note: A word to people whose comments I have not published or have deleted. Why depend on me? Start your own blog. In the West, the Internet is still the last free country in the world. Stake out a virtual land claim while you can.)

- Should we be concentrating on informing believers? Believers in what, exactly? If you mean evangelical Christians, no. Most of them are educated way, way beyond their obedience now. And you do not want to get dragged into useless disputes about the age of the Earth. Reach people who do not want to hear a long jaw about God and religion but realize, for example, that the materialist dogma that the mind is merely an illusion or a chance buzz in the brain is simply not true. The materialist must believe it, of course. But his belief does not make it true, even if he is a professor somewhere. Start from there and work back to just how and why our pundits came to know that people are nothing but animals with a big brain. You'll find plenty of people interested in hearing alternatives.

- Will this be resisted by interested parties? No, they will shower us all with tickertape and pink champagne! Okay, no, they won't like it a bit. But so? That's the beauty of the Internet. You don't depend on them.

- Will we then divide our house? Hmmm. Are you asking whether people who believe that the universe shows evidence of purpose and design will split up over the age of the Earth? Not if they have any sense, they won't. And if they don't, let the gods punish them. I certainly don't have the time or the inclination, nor should you.

- Should we concentrate on convincing religious and political power brokers? I wouldn't recommend that. See, power brokers usually come with a fixed set of opinions, the ones that brought them to power. In some cases, they can help you. In others, they must oppose you. But conviction rarely plays as strong a role as you'd like. People who don't seek power can afford convictions. Take advantage of whatever comes your way, but don't rely on power brokers. Build your own networks.

- ID is often accused of being a media beat up rather than a scientific controversy. Will we reinforce that view if we concentrate on media? No, what I am trying to say is that on the Internet, you are the media. When you open a site or blog, it is like starting a newspaper or magazine. If you have something to say that is worth hearing and know how to reach your public, your detractors are only helping you by broadcasting far and wide, "— is a dangerous liar who is planning to take over the planet and impose public prayer in US inner city schools, where once drug lords and security guards prowled."

Hope this helps., cheers, Denyse
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?

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy att he University of Minnesota.

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.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being granted tenure at Baylor after a long struggle - even after helping in a small way to destroy the Baylor Bears' ancient glory - in the opinion of a hyper sportswriter.

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.

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