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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Podcasts in the intelligent design controversy

Abuses of Power in Science: An Interview With Darwin Skeptic David Berlinski

Mathematician and novelistBerlinski, interviewed here, is always fun. His Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its scientific pretensions is both sharp and funny. As a secular Jew, he is not arguing for religion, but rather making the point that science is not atheism's best friend by any means:
•Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.

•Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.

•Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.

•Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.

•Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.

•Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.

•Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.

•Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.

•Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.
To me, the main question is not why some out there try to co-opt science to support the new atheism, but why they get disproportionate attention.

Once Richard Dawkins told Expelled's Ben Stein that maybe space aliens started life on Earth but not God, I would have thought that ended the matter of who and what to believe. I gather Francis Crick entertained the same idea. Carl Sagan must have been flirting with it when he wrote Contact. And we need this?

Here, Berlinski talks about the problem of how to address dissent in science. Personally, I have a simple rule: If it can't be disconfirmed, it isn't science. That's how I knew Darwinism was not science - I was always being told that the evidence for natural selection acting on random mutation as a source of intricate machinery was overwhelming when it was quite obviously underwhelming. Disconfirmation was simply not allowed. Scientists had to slirt very carefully around any suggestion that their research suggested it wasn't true. And that's only the stuff that got published. Vast amounts of time and energy have been put into shoring up this unbelievable belief. Well, the nice thing for me as a traditional Christian is that, in general, this scandal at least can't be laid at our door.

Meanwhile, here's Bill Dembski on new peer-reviewed paper, "Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success," published in IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics A, Systems & Humans.
Listen in as Dr. Dembski shares how his research provides accounting practices for checking out where the information in evolutionary processes is being inserted and expressed, thus holding evolutionists accountable to the fact that information is coming from an outside source.
Here is the paper. I remember when Baylor University tried to get rid of the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. This could be one reason why. With any luck, there will be others.

Lastly, here
On this episode of ID the Future, Logan Gage interviews professor of neurosurgery at SUNY, Stony Brook Michael Egnor. Dr. Egnor discusses his current research into cerebral blood flow and the buffering of the brain from the force of blood pumped by the heart. Dr. Egnor's approach to this problem is that of an engineer, using the design inference to understand how the brain protects itself from the pulsatility of the arterial blood flow of the heart.
So just think, if it rains, you can listen to podcasts instead of raking leaves.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Intellectual freedom in Canada: News roundup

Franklin Carter of the Book and Periodical Council of Canada notes:

In Toronto, British intellectual Timothy Garton Ash delivered a lecture on the need for more free speech in diverse societies. Julie Payne reports for The Canadian Journalism Project.

Here, I am reminded of Mark Steyn's remarks at the Ontario Legislature, when he pointed out (among other things) that in societies where people are not allowed to criticize religion or the government or social habits, they often respond by just blowing stuff up. One reason Canada was a low threat society for so long was precisely because it was okay to say you didn't believe in God or thought the Prime Minister a fool or thought some people should solve their "victimization" problems by staying in school, getting a job, and waiting till they have a stable partner to have children. If few care what the opinionator thinks, few will pay attention. But he has no motive for violence.

In Halifax, Canadian intellectual Mark Mercer examines the CHRT's ruling in the dispute between Marc Lemire and Richard Warman.

Carter also draws my attention to
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about bombs or the intelligence quotients of one race as against another . . . if a man is a scientist, like me, he’ll always say “Publish and be damned.”

Jacob Bronowski, quoted by George Steiner, Has Science a Future? (1978)
People today publish and are damned, alas, but by the "human rights" commission, not the public. I am thinking, for example, of the Catholic Insight case.

Re intelligence: I've always thought differential intelligence comparisons a waste of time because often it's unclear what precisely the subject under investigation is. Do we mean theoretical intelligence, like Albert Einstein's? The ability to solve practical problems, like designing a better beehive? The ability to live in a competent way? Racial comparisons only stir up needless strife. I'm not saying it should be illegal, but I sure would not fund it or consider it academically respectable.

Also, Blazing Cat Fur advises me that a petition is available:
As you know, freedom of speech is an essential characteristic of a free society. In Canada, however, this freedom has been under attack in recent years under the pretext of protecting and promoting human rights. Laws that prohibit the free expression of opinion undermine the very foundations of a free and tolerant society and are, therefore, illegitimate and must be abolished.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Studies has just launched an online petition calling on lawmakers at all levels of government in Canada examine legislation within their jurisdiction intended to protect and promote human rights, and to remove those provisions that prohibit or otherwise limit the free and sincere expression of opinion.
Go here.

Some question the value of such petitions: "online petitions are worse than a waste of time. They are a distraction and a drug, and in fact, are couter-productive." I'm not sure. Some people salve their consciences that way; others, having done one thing, are motivated to go on to do something more useful. We shall see.

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