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Friday, February 06, 2009

Intelligent design and high culture: Ben Stein bounced from commencement ceremony!

Ben Stein was disinvited as University of Vermont commencement speaker, due to intelligent design sympathies.

What's hilarious is that the Howard Dean, widely known outside Vermont as the Deaniac, former US presidential contender (Democrat), has been nominated instead.

John West at the ID think tank Discovery Institute, offers some thoughts:

"In today's academic double-speak, invitations to far-left revolutionaries and race-baiting Congressmen are apparently 'inclusive,' while inviting a speaker who favors free speech on the issue of evolution is beyond the pale," says Discovery Institute's John West.

Apologizing for inviting gifted actor and writer Ben Stein to be commencement speaker at the University of Vermont, University President Daniel Fogel has highlighted what he called Stein's "highly controversial views" about "evolutionary theory, intelligent design, and the role of science in the Holocaust." Fogel went on to express penance for inviting Stein by claiming that Commencement should be a time when our community gathers inclusively, not divisively.

I guess inclusivity is why in 2007 Fogel chose as commencement speaker Democratic congressman John Lewis, who in 1995 compared Republicans to Nazis (last year Lewis compared John McCain and Sarah Palin to segregationist, George Wallace and racist church bombers). Or perhaps President Fogel's concern for inclusivity is better demonstrated by his 2006 commencement speaker, Gustavo Esteva, a far-left activist and advisor to the radical Zapatista National Liberation Army in Mexico.

Of course, it's being reported that Stein withdrew as the university's commencement speaker voluntarily. Voluntarily, that is, after he received a phone call from Dr. Fogel likely making clear he was no longer welcome.
Well, two thoughts here:

1) If Stein is a classy guy (I assume so for present purposes), he obviously withdrew when he saw he wasn't welcome. However, that is how one disinvites classy people. So he was disinvited.

2) The episode merely shows a trend evident at universities for some time: Violent crackpots are welcome, but people who think that the universe shows evidence of design would not be.

President Fogel isn't probably not a hypocrite; he really believes what he says. Despite the thoughts of great scientists, he believes the many mediocre science celebs and airhead science writers who say that the universe shows no evidence of design.

Oh yes, and violence and destruction are forms of salvation.

The problem is this: People who attend such institutions may not learn skills that lead to a lifetime of learning, or health, wealth, or sanity; rather a culture of grievance and entitlement, and a demand for income and for suppression of anything that challenges them. Which is precisely what we see today. It's not even their fault, I have come to realize. They simply do not know any other way of living.

Yes, yes, we have similar problems in Canada, but at least we are fighting back. I wish the Yanks would start. In the twentieth century, they were late for TWO World Wars in a row!

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Podcasts and video in intelligent design controversy

Podcast: Dr. Robert Marks and the Evolutionary Informatics Lab: Marks, a Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, ran afoul of Texas's Baylor University when he started to show that a number of computer programs that seek to prove Darwinian evolution mainly prove that hope springs eternal. The U took his Web site down. He has a paper coming up for publication on this subject, if it is not suppressed. Listen here.

Here biologist Ralph Seelke, a University of Wisconsin-Superior prof, explains why Darwin's theory of evolution should not be treated as a Scripture that one is forbidden to doubt or criticize.

Here plant geneticist Mauricio Alcocer Ruthling, Director of Graduate Studies at the Universidad Autónoma in Guadalajara, Mexico, talks about the genetic barriers that limit evolution, based on the study of plants. (I suppose that is why we don't have flower beds outside the local McDonald's with Ronald McDonald's face showing on all the flowers? It's NOT like they wouldn't have thought of it ... )

Here is a video series from the U.S. State of New Mexico on teaching about the evolution controversy, courtesy Joe Renick.

Apparently, in New Mexico,
New Mexico Biological Origins Education Bill
The bill stipulates that teachers cannot be prohibited from including relevant scientific information on either the strengths or weaknesses pertaining to biological and chemical evolution when those subjects are taught in the public schools. (Note that this bill does not place a requirement on teachers.)

The bill pertains solely to the teaching of scientific information and specifically does not protect the promotion of any religion, religious doctrine, or religious belief.

Students may be held accountable for knowing and understanding material taught, but they may not be penalized because they subscribe to a particular position on biological evolution or chemical evolution.
I guess the Darwin Police had better get on this right away.

Darwin police, don't say you haven't been warned. Imagine, this is happening in the Holy Year of the bicentenary of Darwin's birth!

The Economist now knows for sure that Darwinism is more important than science achievement

David Warren, a stalwart hack of the Ottawa Citizen, derides a recent Economist article, "Untouched by the hand of God: How people in various countries view the theory of evolution" (Feb 5th 2009), which allows us to know,
IT IS 150 years since the publication of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which suggested that all living things are related and that everything is ultimately descended from a single common ancestor. This has troubled many, including Darwin himself, as it subverted ideas of divine intervention. It is not surprising that the countries least accepting of evolution today tend to be the most devout. In the most recent international survey available, only Turkey is less accepting of the theory than America. Iceland and Denmark are Darwin's most ardent adherents. Indeed America has become only slightly more accepting of Darwin's theory in recent years. In 2008 14% of people polled by Gallup agreed that “man evolved over millions of years”, up from 9% in 1982.
Well, let's see: The United States is the world's science leader, Iceland is on life support, and Denmark? Well, Denmark is a brave little country if you go by the Mohammed cartoons episode, but these days, they would be wiser pray for divine intervention than subvert it.

But classically, for Darwin enthusiasts, basic facts mean nothing; only attitude means something.

Anyway, Warren had pretty much the same reaction, and writes to say about the article:
1. It wantonly confuses two issues: whether evolution happened, & whether Darwin's explanation of it is true. (Darwin hardly "discovered" evolution.) I would myself have to agree "Yes" to the proposition as stated, though I would almost certainly VOTE "NO" since I would spot the game.

2. It implicitly accepts a choice between "faith" & "science," while explicitly denying that any such mischief could ever be intended. The very evocation of the choice is scientistic.

3. Like Darwinism itself, it reduces great complexity to pristine simplicity, by removing from consideration every detail except the premise from which it begins.
He adds,
The Economist itself did not used to play these cheap-hit media games. That is why I used to subscribe to it (decades ago), & read it attentively every week -- back when it served a much smaller audience of businesslike people who were averse to the sort of pony-doo that is smeared through the liberal newsmagazines. Today it is only slightly better than Newsweek or Time, & full of exactly the sort of progressive posturing & "attitudinizing" that it used so roundly to condemn.
But David, isn't that's precisely what we should expect when people confuse the mere attitudes of science celebrities and the pop science media for actual evidence and actual achievement?

I think I will order the Economist staff another jug of Kool-Aid. The brew seems to be taking effect, at last. Goodness knows, I have waited long enough for this.

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Wintery Knight: Also, some LIKE it cold

In a post on Frank Turek's debate with Christopher Hitchens, on an interesting new blog, Wintery Knight, the Knight comments,
First, here is the syllogism for the argument for a supernatural cause that brings the entire physical universe into being:

Whatever begins to exist requires a cause.

The universe began to exist.

Therefore, the universe requires a cause.

Second, let’s review the 6 fairly recent discoveries that confirm premise 2 with scientific observations. These discoveries reversed the atheism-friendly theory of an eternal universe, and led to the theory of the creation of the entire physical universe out of nothing.

Einstein’s theory of general relativity

the red-shifting of light from distant galaxies

the cosmic background radiation (which also disproves the oscillating model of the universe)

the second law of thermodynamics applied to star formation theory

hydrogen-helium abundance predictions

radioactive element abundance predictions

Why do atheists deny these findings? Probably for emotional comfort ...
Read the rest here.

Well, yes, some like it cold. They think they could organize the universe more easily without meaning, purpose, accountability, or God. Maybe they could. But that is not evidence for their position.

I have added Wintery Knight to the blogroll ("Never a dull moment ...").


Coffee break: FAQ 2: Note to "real scientists" - stay OUT of police work

Over at Uncommon Descent, Barry Arrington notes that FAQ2 addresses the claim that No Real Scientists Take Intelligent Design Seriously

Well, there is a big scandal going on right now in my home province of Ontario, involving accusatins of cheating in lotteries. As explained by the inimitable Toronto Star,
Previous estimates suggested that lottery vendors and their employees and families have taken home $106 million in prizes over the past 13 years. The new audit says the actual figure is $198 million, a figure that Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin characterized yesterday as "astronomical." In fact, it is almost certainly an underestimate of what insiders have been pocketing.

Winners' names are only recorded for larger prizes – about one-third of the $14 billion in total winnings distributed since 1995. The rest of Ontario's lottery jackpot is distributed directly by stores in the form of small cash prizes.

It is very likely, then, that these prizes are even more vulnerable to cheating.
"Astronomical is news speak for "These numbers are way too high to be the result of chance (as in "game of chance, or lots = lottery") and therefore must be due to design."

The widespread accusation - based on a previous case in which police laid charges- is as follows:
CBC discovered many retailers defrauding their customers by claiming their lottery tickets were worthless, when in fact were worth in some cases millions of dollars, which retailers promptly cashed.

A Statistican calculated that the odds of this many retailers winning a big lottery were like a trillion to one, far worse than their clients chances of winning at 14 million to one.
A class action lawsuit has been launched, and there is also a proposal to forbid ticket vendors, their employees, and families to participate in the lottery.

Of course that proposal won't work. These days it would produce nothing but a huge raft of lawsuits and human rights commission hearings over what constitutes "family."

My advice would be ... start a savings account instead. Yes, the bank might go under, but the odds of that happening are much lower than of you losing the lottery, and probably lower than you being cheated out of a win as well.

And if you are a scientist who really, honestly believes that randomness produces intelligence ... put your financial affairs in the hands of a reliable trustee. And don't ever think of police work.


Ben Wiker picks 10 Books That Screwed Up the World and explains how

If you got a bit of birthday money, Ben Wiker's 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: and 5 Others That Didn't Help would be a good use of your dimes.

Wiker, senior fellow at St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, is also the author of Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists.

Wiker makes clear that he is not saying that the books he criticizes should be censored, still less that you shouldn't read them. He encourages us all to read them - critically appreciating the fundamental defects, warps, and wrongness of the ideas. These ideas underlie and help to explain many disorders of popular culture today. Unfortunately, however, they are usually treated with sanctified solemnity in hushed lecture halls, presided over by establishment figures who may be alarmed by criticism.

For example, we often hear people say "If it feels good, do it!", "Feelings matter way more than facts," or "He can't help doing that, it's his genes/hormones/upbringing/society." One aspect of fixing the problem is exploring the origin of such ideas and asking people to think critically about them.

Wiker starts with four books that he considers "preliminary" screw-ups (books that didn't help):

- Machiavelli's The Prince (on how to govern without morals and get away with it)

- Descartes's Discourse on Method (a failed attempt to rescue us from materialism),

- Hobbes's Leviathan (on why morals don't really matter), and

- Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men (more of same).

Wiker discusses the books in order of writing, not "worst"-ness)

About the worldview offered by The Prince specifically, Wiker says,

As we shall see in subsequent chapters, yielding to the temptation to do evil in the service of good will be the source of unprecedented carnage in the twentieth century, so horrifying that to those who lived through it, it seemed hell had come to earth (even though it was largely perpetrated by people who had discarded the notion of hell). The lesson learned - or that should have been learned - by such epic destruction is this: once we allow ourselves to do evil so that some perceived good may follow, we allow ever greater evils for the sake of ever more questionable goods, until we consent to the greatest evils for the sake of mere trifles. (p. 14)
As an example, he cites a recent report that women in the Ukraine were being paid $180 for their babies - to be aborted and used in beauty treatments. Few, even among the most strongly pro-choice, would want to think of abortion as a means of making some spare cash - yet that is apparently what happened.

Machiavelli, whose style is copied by many modern politicians, counselled the importance of merely appearing to be religious - appearing at prayer breakfasts, endorsing "values," and ... and then ... enacting what sort of legislation?

Discussing Descartes's Discourse on Method, Wiker addresses Descartes's famous claim, "I think, therefore I am":

... it is simply ridiculous to single out thinking as the act by which I know I am existing. One could just as easily use hearing, smelling, or coughing ... I am not denying that thinking is more fundamentally human than hearing, smelling, or coughing, but only calling attention to the point that Descartes' argument is not somehow essentially tied to thinking. It is only this: that while I am doing X (whatever X is), I cannot doubt my existence because I have to exist to do X.

Many people who have awakened from deep unconsciousness to considerable pain will understand what Wiker means: You hurt, therefore you exist. The nature of your existence remains to be determined.

Also, he asks,

If Descartes is the father of modern dualism, what does dualism itself beget? A walking philosophical bipolar disorder, a creature who dwells in dual extremes, either as wholly a ghost or entirely a robot. One day he feels that he is a god, a purely spiritual being, capable of completely mastering and manipulating all nature (including his own body) as he would any machine, and the next day believes that he is a purely material being, a helpless machine entirely mastered by the mechanics of nature. Our culture has seen plenty of both phases.
About Rousseau and Hobbes, he comments,

If we might be a bit glib, whereas Hobbes's men in the state of nature were gorillas - nasty, brutish, and curiously short - Rousseau's primitive men were suave, peaceful, innocent, carefree, and cheerfully libidinous bonobos. Rousseau therefore gave us a new Adam, a carefree, make-love-not-war ancestral archetype who became the societal ideal of the "free love" movements. (p. 45) The modern "evolutionary psychology" movement is largely dedicated to giving Hobbes's and Rousseau's imaginings the veneer of science, by explaining how these conflicting origins of human behaviour supposedly promoted our survival.
But now, here are Wiker's ten key books, and a brief comment on their relation to the current intelligent design controversy, as it plays out in popular culture:

Ten Worst Books 1: Marx and Engels's The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848)

Ten Worst Books 2: John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism (1863)

Ten Worst Books 3: Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man (1871)

Ten Worst Books 4: Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil (1886)

Ten Worst Books 5: V. I. Lenin's The State and Revolution (1917)

Ten Worst Books 6: Margaret Sanger's The Pivot of Civilization (1922)

Ten Worst Books 7: Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (1925)

Ten Worst Books 8: Sigmund Freud's The Future of an Illusion (1927)

Ten Worst Books 9: Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa (1928)

Ten Worst Books 10: Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)

The fifth book that didn't help? Betty Friedan's the Feminine Mystique (1963)


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