Custom Search

Friday, October 19, 2007

Decline of materialist TV?

In The Last March of the Dinosaurs, Hugh Hewitt explains how and why network news has lost so many viewers (or snorers?), while reviewing Howard Kurtz’s Reality Show :
This is a detailed and often riveting account of the unexpectedly rapid and often dramatic transition from the network anchor era of Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather to the new "big three" of Charlie Gibson, Brian Williams and Katie Couric. From the high point of the first big three to the week just finishing, the networks lost about 30 million viewers, and now welcome a combined audience of less than 25 million each night. Reality Show is a chronicle of decline, long on the details of what happened, not so long on the why.

So if you have ever wondered why the earnest airheads of network TV are quite sure that materialism is true and that everything in the universe all just sort of “happened”, wonder no longer. These are not people who even need a why. They never asked and never knew.

Labels: ,

Mathematics and Darwinism?: Buddhist says no dice

A defender of Buddhist spirituality draws our attention to the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in science and engineering:
The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning."
1. (2) There is no Darwinian explanation for the presence of mathematical abilities within the mind. The ability to understand physics could not have arisen by evolution. Although our bodies may well be the product of random mutation and selection al the way from amoeba to man, our minds have some 'unevolved' dimension. To quote Hamming:
"But it is hard for me to see how simple Darwinian survival of the fittest would select for the ability to do the long chains that mathematics and science seem to require".
"If you pick 4,000 years for the age of science, generally, then you get an upper bound of 200 generations. Considering the effects of evolution we are looking for via selection of small chance variations, it does not seem to me that evolution can explain more than a small part of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics."

One theory that will NOT work is that mathematical ability was somehow a survival adaptation, as evolutionary psychologists claim. The ability to understand the difference between more and less, sure. Knowing when one member of a small group is missing is handy too. But there is really no “evolutionary” explanation for the math nerd who finds the next largest prime number.

Labels: , ,

James Watson apologizes ... sort of

According to the Guardian, following the row that erupted over his characterization of people of African origin as less intelligent (whatever that means, given that no one has ever defined “intelligence” in an empirically meaningful way), DNA pioneer Watson has backed off:
Prof Watson's statement did not clarify what his views on the issue of race and intelligence are, but he hinted that he had been misquoted.

I somehow doubt that. More later.

Update!: The “more later”: According to the Independent, Watson’s own institute has apparently disowned his comments:
"Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory does not engage in any research that could even form the basis of the statements attributed to Dr Watson," the institute's president, Bruce Stillman, said. Dr Watson's comments were entirely his own and "in no way reflect the mission, goals, or principles of [the laboratory's] board, administration or faculty".

Similar condemnation followed from other parts of the US scientific establishment, where the incendiary issue of race and science is intimately bound up in the history of slavery and segregation. "We have enough problems in this country without Nobel laureate American scientists pontificating in error about fields of science outside their own expertise," said the editor of ScienceWeek, Dan Agin, "especially when the issues are vital to public policy and when what they say rips the American social fabric into pieces."

His institute would not have reacted so rapidly if there was much chance he had been misquoted.

In my view, his capitulation illustrates the power of political correctness in our society. Whether PC happens to be fronting something true, false, or nonsensical, it is the new Inquisition. (Yes, of course, PC might happen to be fronting something true - remember, a stopped clock, even one that stopped back in the 1970s, is right twice a day.)

Here are some comments from friends:

One friend suggests that Watson is behaving like a true Darwinian fundamentalist in that he assumes that if some situation is believed to be true today, it MUST HAVE come about because of natural selection. Thus, anecdote becomes fact, and the newly created “fact” becomes “evidence” for evolution, and ... well then whatever he believes, on whatever basis, is now incontrovertible.

Another friend note that, while Darwinism does not necessarily imply racism, the alleged inequality of races was offered as EVIDENCE for Darwinian evolution in the nineteenth century.

A third notes that if a collection of Watson’s goofy remarks were published, it would be a long book. And perhaps it will find a publisher, too.

Check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?.

Labels: , ,

Who links to me?