Custom Search

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Three new Uncommon Descent contests: Lots of fun for physics buffs

Win a free Privileged Planet DVD, courtesy the producers, for the best post answering any of the following questions:

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 13: The Large Hadron Collider is back up and running, but why?
Nine billion dollars and 15 years later, what is the Large Hadron Collider likely to tell us that is worth the cost and trouble?
Uncommon Descent Contest Question 14: Is backwards or forwards time travel really possible?
Two physicists have suggested that Hadron's woes are due to particles travelling back in time. Their theory has been received with the amusement one might expect, but it raises an interesting question, one that is a staple of sci-fi literature - is forward or backward time travel possible, even for particles?

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 15: Can Darwinism - or any evolution theory - help us predict life on other planets?
At Britain's Telegraph (November 04, 2009), Tom Chivers advises that "Darwinian evolutionary theory will help find alien life, says Nasa scientist."
Here are the contest rules, not many. Winners receive a certificate verifying their win as well as the prize. Winners must provide me with a valid postal address, though it need not be theirs. A winner's name is never added to a mailing list. Have fun, and enter as many as you like.


Afternoon coffee!!: If Darwinists worked in the private sector

A friend directs me to the following sketch:

Today's Debate inside the Scientific Community

Darwinist: I.D. isn’t science. And if it’s not science, it isn’t true.

I.D. Proponent: Isn’t science the quest for truth about life and the universe?

Darwinist: Only if that quest is done within a materialist framework.

I.D. Proponent: But what if that quests needs to go OUTSIDE the materialist framework?

Darwinist: Then it’s not science. And thus, it's not true.

Let’s take this debate into the private sector…

Employee: Boss, I have a great idea. Instead of using typewriters, why don’t we start using computers? Computers are a lot faster and better.

Boss: Do computers use a mechanical process?

Employee: Well, yes – but what makes them better is their use of information technology.

Boss: We can’t use information technology.

Employee: Why not?

Boss: Because it’s outside the realm of mechanics. We decided a long time ago that work – by definition – can only be a mechanical process. Information theory (or any form of “mind”) must be ruled out.

Employee: Um, but computers are a lot better than typewriters! With computers, we can do twice as much work in half the time!

Boss: Sorry, get back to your typewriter.

In the private sector, that boss would never survive. How much longer can Darwinism survive?

How much longer? Well, that depends on the tactics they are allowed to use against anyone who questions them. Firing? Denial of tenure? Taking down the Web site? All have happened. If they get more desperate, more such incidents will happen.

The thing to remember about Darwinism is that the private sector doesn’t usually need much Darwinism. Its use in business is, in my experience, overblown and overrated. Business competition mostly takes place in a co-operative environment. Such an environment provides the roads, bridges, reliable energy, clean water, honest banking, law enforcement, open society, et cetera, that business needs in order to thrive.

Then competition becomes narrowly focused (= either you get the contract or he does); it is not a war of all against all. Competition functions conservatively, as a way of trimming the fat from business operations, resulting in lower prices for the same quality. One way to do this is through innovation, which is why the private sector thrives mainly on intelligent design.

Note: Stuff like the sketch above actually happened to me decades ago. It was futile trying to explain to many bosses what new technologies could do for us.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


Speciation: It’s all in how you play the tune?

British physicist David Tyler discusses the recent claims for the possibility of new species of finch developing on the famous Galapagos Islands - a possibility because the authors don’t think they are there yet, and they may never be. Tyler explains,
An ecological theory of speciation but no support for Darwinism

The Galapagos Islands have long been recognised as the home of numerous endemic species, stimulating questions about how such species came into being. Those responding with answers have supported their views more by theory than observation. But Peter and Rosemary Grant are different, because they have pioneered longitudinal studies of the Galapagos finches, particularly on the small (and relatively isolated) island of Daphne Major. A newly reported study of an immigrant male ground finch (Geospiza fortis) covers the period 1981 to the present. "We have followed the survival and reproduction of this individual and all of its known descendants, here termed the immigrant lineage, for seven generations (F0 to F6) spanning 28 years."
The bird sings differently (maybe better, if you are a hen finch). Tyler goes on to note,
Science reports of stories relevant to evolutionary theory can degenerate to the level of cheer-leading for a favoured cause. One account of the Grants' research refers to "a real-time record of evolution in action. In the PNAS paper, they describe something Darwin could only have dreamed of watching: the birth of a new species." For more, please refer to Jonathan Wells comments here.
The problem is that speciation of this type is just as likely to reverse itself when the ecology changes. Go here for the rest.

Note: For that matter, too easy speciation can lead to extinction of species.

Now and then, some environment groups shake the collection can at me for causes like (hypothetically*) the Three-Blue-Spot Horned Toad, one of hundreds of toad species in its region, including the Two-Blue-Spot, and the One-Blue-Spot.

Assume its range of one hectare is seriously threatened due to a housing development that replaces local shacks and huts. What’s more important?

Even if the housing development were not built, maybe a natural disaster overtaking a hectare would wipe out a species with this small a range.

Chances are, a viable population may be relocated, and if not, the toads would be of serious interest to collectors – who would cherish them far more than nature ever would.

I guess it all depends on how you view nature. Should we try to save every species? If so, how - consistent with other worthy goals? I don’t want to live in a hut myself, so I can understand why other people don’t. If I am going to say those people can’t have the modern housing development, the least I could do is let them move in with me, right?

Otherwise, I just don’t know. I think the canids of North America were better off in that they never fully speciated. We have wolves, dogs, coyotes, wolf-dog crosses, wolf-coyote crosses, coyote-dog crosses ... Speciation is a final decree of divorce. You want to think hard about it because you are on your own after that.

Personally I prefer to give to environment causes like maintaining shoreline and wetlands for a wide variety of species’ young and reducing water pollution wherever possible. Leave the species to sort the rest out themselves. They’ve done it for a long time, and there is still plenty of life on Earth.

*PS: But if you think something like this has never occurred, go here.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


Discovery Institute suing California Science Center over alleged undisclosed documents

Podcast here, media release below:

Discovery Institute Sues California Science Center for Suppressing Public Documents Showing Viewpoint Discrimination Against Intelligent Design

Go here to listen.

This episode of ID the Future features a special news alert by Casey Luskin. Discovery Institute has filed a lawsuit against the California Science Center for unlawfully refusing to disclose public documents requested by Discovery Institute under the California Public Records Act.
Now the media release.
For more information and continuing updates as the story develops, tune into Evolution News & Views.
Her’s an excerpt:
Discovery Institute Sues California Science Center for Suppressing Public Documents Showing Viewpoint Discrimination Against Intelligent Design
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 -- Discovery Institute has filed a lawsuit against the California Science Center (the "Center") for unlawfully refusing to disclose public documents requested by Discovery Institute under the California Public Records Act.

Discovery Institute filed the public documents request on October 9, 2009, following the Center's October 6, 2009 cancellation of a contract with the American Freedom Alliance (AFA) to screen a pro-intelligent design video, Darwin's Dilemma, at the California Science Center's IMAX Theatre on October 25, 2009.

On November 2, 2009, the Center released 44 pages of documents claiming to have disclosed "all documents" and that "no documents have been withheld," apart from a few e-mail addresses that were redacted.

"California Science Center's claims are not true, and we know for a fact that e-mail communications exist, including communications with the Smithsonian Institution, that should have been disclosed in response to our public documents request but weren't, showing clear violation of California's Public Records Act," said Casey Luskin, Program Officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Discovery Institute.
Whatta shock! I don’t know that this competes with Climategate, but if the allegations are proved, it signals a similar mentality - the absence of any sense that receiving public funds entails transparency. And that is a very bad policy.

Privately owned corporations need not usually make their business public because they receive their funds from their investors and customers. True, they must provide annual reports, but lots goes on in strategy rooms that they can keep secret. For example, if a hockey franchise is planning to trade a few players and replace the losing streak coach, they needn’t disclose anything until they feel like it, as long as they are not accused of a crime or contract violation, or cited for some other violation. And if the fans don’t like the team, they don’t buy so many season’s tickets. Then investors want out. So the system practically runs itself most of the time.

It’s different with public funds because the taxpayers who fund the enterprise - an arts or science centre, for example - are required by law to do so, even though they may never get to visit, or be uninterested in or even hostile to the project for a variety of reasons. That’s what makes transparency so important for public projects. Something I hope the California Science Center people learn.

Labels: ,

Who links to me?