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Monday, February 12, 2007

Fun for once: Dilbert cartoonist fights back against "ass hat"

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, the fashion-challenged engineer, has the endearing habit of asking questions, including questions about intelligent design. Endearing to me, maybe, but not to Darwinist PZ Myers, who has attacked him a few too many times.

I still cannot figure out why anyone would attack a professional humourist, but Adams has correctly identified the psychological taxonomy of Myers as ass hat.

You must read the rest for yourself, but whatever you do, do not miss this wonderful cartoon of Dilbert as a baby engineer. When I was much younger, one of my offspring was just such a baby engineer, thus the subsequent career in engineering was no surprise to me. By the way, I did NOT cry, I rejoiced. (See the cartoon and you will understand.)

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Media watch: New York Times profiles/targets young earth creationist who received geology PhD

Marcus Ross, a young earth creationist who seems to be a sharp geologist, received his PhD in the same - and Cornelia Dean of the New York Times has gone to considerable lengths to try to dig up dirt about him, without success. Apparently, many people were surprised that all he had to do was complete the requirements for his PhD, not profess a materialist creed. I wonder when the witch hunt will start in earnest? Ross tells me he is no longer a member of the American Scientific Affiliation, a group of about 2000 allegedly Christian US scientists that sponsors a list on which he is attacked here.
If you are interested in the intelligent design controversy, check out my book, By Design or by Chance?

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From the American Scientist's bookshelf: What Darwinism really means to its supporters

A friend directs me to the American Scientist bookshelf, which features a number of recent books addressing the intelligent design controversy from a materialist perspective - the reviews are an education in themselves:

Richard Bellon, a books columnist at American Scientist writes , about Michael Ruse's Darwinism and Its Discontents
The secular skeptics of natural selection form a more heterogeneous group, and, perhaps inevitably, Ruse's engagement with them lacks the momentum that drives his discussion of creationism. In many cases, as Ruse concedes, critics are responding, understandably if unfortunately, not to Darwin's core ideas but to the ideological uses to which evolution has been put: "Some dreadful stuff has been fobbed off under the umbrella of evolution, and even when it is not that dreadful, some very shaky assumptions have been incorporated." His strategy relies on demonstrating that Darwinism, properly understood, does not really stand behind any of the often-noxious philosophies that have claimed its authority. Despite well-documented abuses, Ruse argues persuasively that "there is no good reason to think that . . . the professional side of modern Darwinism . . . is simply an excuse for promulgating the values of modern (or past) society.

That, of course, is nonsense. Modern Darwinism is about materialism - the idea that the mind is an illusion and humans are just big-brained apes. That is the point of it all, rammed home in so many "cutting edge" books, breathless articles, glitzy TV programs, and dodgy textbooks.

As another American Scientist reviewer Robert J Richards, patiently explains, dismissing Francis Collins' entirely dismissible Language of God ,
Despite Collins's irenic efforts, the well-confirmed results of modern evolutionary theory and genetics do endanger the faith of the religiously minded. Or at least these results should make their religious convictions more precarious.
Collins maintains, as did Darwin, that the moral impulse is an essential component of our humanity. Yet if our various other human traits—reason, personality, emotional responses and so on—have arisen over the millennia through natural selection (which Collins believes to be the case), why is it that only our moral traits require divine intervention? Does not the ability to do science, to create art and to appreciate the beauty of nature also constitute what it means to be human? If these abilities have evolved, why not also moral judgment?

In other words, all those liberal clergy signing the Darwin pledge (I do! I do! I do! believe in Darwin) and even preach on the subject are useful idiots - at best.

And, of course, there is Michael Shermer, an ex-evangelical, explaining to evangelicals why they should embrace Darwinist materialism. Reviewer James Robert Brown notes,
Shermer is quite aware that he's in a battle over culture as well as science, so he often tries to soothe the ruffled feathers of Christians, though not with complete success. After attacking intelligent design as utterly silly, he sympathetically quotes the theologian Paul Tillich: "God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him." This statement strikes me as bordering on nonsense, and it almost inclines me to sympathize with fundamentalists appalled with the blither that often passes for liberal theology.

Well, in my view, anyone who is not appalled by the blither is either clueless or looking for a safe way to sell out.

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ID in the UK: Engineering prof speaks for design

Stuart Burgess, professor of design and nature, in the mechanical engineering department at Bristol U argues"> that intelligent design is as valid a scientific concept as evolution:

I've been designing systems like spacecraft for more than 20 years. One of the lessons I've learnt is that complex systems require an immense amount of intelligence to design. I've seen a lot of irreducible complexity in engineering. I have also seen organs in nature that are apparently irreducible. An irreducibly complex organ is one where several parts are required simultaneously for the system to function usefully, so it cannot have evolved, bit by bit, over time.

The same pattern is unfolding in Britain as in North America: Pondering herds of forgettable notables assure us that the universe cannot show evidence of intelligent design and - miraculously! - that there is no conflict between Darwin's design-free theory of evolution and monotheistic religion which posits a creator/designer. Then a guy like this comes along and you see why the forgettables have to act fast to ram it all down everyone's throat - their stale date is coming up pretty fast.

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Thinkquote of the day: Avoiding simple, obvious truths

"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest & most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, & which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives."

- Leo Tolstoy

Remember this when you hear some fatuity claiming that all those important people couldn't possibly be wrong. It;'s not even a question of wrong. They all believe in the system that gives them their position.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

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 review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

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

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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