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Friday, February 16, 2007

Recent podcasts: God isn't as smart as She thinks she is (?), and more ...

✎ One of the most interesting discussions I've ever had on the intelligent design controversy was with Jay Kelly at Wired Parish. Kelly, who has a background in philosophy, sees the big picture better than most radio hosts.

(You'll have to paste this link into your browser. I can't seem to make it work any other way. - d.)

✎ I may have mentioned Beyond the Book's You Better Believe It, presented by the Copyright Clearance Center. The Center's Chris Keneally interviews four Canadians, including me, on the book scene in Canada:
Panelists include Marlene Coghlin, the executive director for Christian Booksellers Association in Canada; Denyse O’Leary, Canadian-based journalist and author of an award-winning book on intelligent design, By Design or By Chance?; Oriah, the author of several inspirational and prose-poem best-selling books; and Brian Stiller, president of Tyndale University College & Seminary, and founder and former editor-in-chief of Canadian magazine Faith Today.

I talk a bit about the origin of my recent book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?.

✎ Here's a show that was a lot of fun! Australian science journalist Robyn Williams, author of Unintelligent Design: God Isn't as Smart as She Thinks She Is and I go at it, with Sheridan Voysey of Open House Australia trying to moderate. I had meant to say more about Williams' interesting book, summarized at Amazon,
Why make the earth, the solar system, our galaxy and all the rest when the Garden of Eden was all that was wanted? And then there's lifespan. During long periods of human history, the life expectancy of men was a mere 22 years and children were lucky to toddle, let alone grow up. Why the waste? And shouldn't we sue God for sinus blockages, hernias, appendix flare-ups and piles, not to mention bad backs? Using all sorts of examples from the natural and scientific world Robyn Williams takes on the stalking monster of fundamentalist religion and creationism in a short, wicked and witty debunk of intelligent design. This is a book to infuriate the Christian fundamentalists and amuse the rest of us.

Williams is fundamentally - so to speak - confused about the difference between intelligent design, optimal design, and perfection. Intelligent design just means input of a higher level of information than law and chance together account for. Optimal design means the best available design, given constraints, but the best optimized systems do not perform well under all circumstances. As for perfect design, well, in a universe where everything must be mortal, it would be disastrous. But I digress. Robyn and I are poles apart, no less.

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Thinkquote of the day: Feynman on not fooling people

I would like to add something that's not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you're talking as a scientist.

– Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, 1974 commencement address at Caltech.

I like the refreshing honesty with which Feynman admits that not fooling the layman is not essential to the science. I've heard endless guff about how scientists are more honest or humble than most people, but nothing I have observed bears that out particularly - nor was there any reason to expect it. People are generally as honest as they make up their minds to be, and when a whole professional class has decided to adopt an alternate reality (mind is an illusion) and suppress evidence of the prevailing reality (there is a mind behind the universe), insisting on the prevailing reality requires a singular act of courage.

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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