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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Note to readers

Because I am writing a book, I probably will not be blogging much before December, but expect to see me then, if not before. I did post some new material today. For stories on the intelligent design controversy, go to Uncommon Descent - Denyse

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Further news from The End of All Things department

I was writing about this earlier. Michael Moyer at Scientific American notes,
Once again, the world is about to end. The latest source of doomsday dread comes courtesy of the ancient Mayans, whose calendar runs out in 2012, as interpreted by a cadre of opportunistic authors and blockbuster movie directors. Not long before, three separate lawsuits charged that the Large Hadron Collider would seed a metastasizing black hole under Lake Geneva. Before that, captains of industry shelled out billions preparing for the appearance of two zeros in the date field of computer programs too numerous to count; left alone, this tick of the clock would surely have shaken modern civilization to its foundations.
And more. Well, there is always a catastrophe somewhere; right now, the floods in Pakistan.

It looks like an interesting SciAm issue, though I don't think that fear of catastrophe is - as claimed - the outcome of "pattern-seeking brains." That's just another neuro Darwinism crock. For one thing, for most catastrophes, there is no pattern. That's the problem.

If there are 18 houses down the street from you, and 14 of the owners have been murdered in the last three weeks, I would be surprised if you were still living in #19 tonight. I wouldn't advise it. A decision to move in with your sister for a while would be an instance of pattern-seeking.

Pattern-seeking causes us to buy home insurance and auto insurance. Provided we have enough common sense to realize that bad things happen to heedless people. If we don't realize it, our mortgage bankers and motor vehicle departments usually realize it for us, via their lending rules or regulations.

No, I think the situation is more like this: We know we will die; we just don't want it to happen any time soon. So we seek to rid our lives of risk, sometimes going overboard in risk assessment and reaction, or leaning too hard in one direction vs others. Anyway, many of us do feel better going overboard than under water.

Such people can indeed be a pain in the neck. The guy who smokes two packs a day, but is worried about a supposed "metastasizing black hole under Lake Geneva" is a case in point. The two packs a day are a pattern; the supposed hole would be unique. The pattern is precisely what he avoids thinking about.


Coffee! Bats more dangerous than mothballs?

A reader kindly shares this BBC story with me, "Bat and moth arms race revealed" (19 August 2010 ) by Jason Palmer.
In a strategy that may be a moth-hunting adaptation, some bats are known to use clicks that are at a frequency, or pitch, either above or below moths' hearing ranges.

High-pitched clicks have a larger range, while lower-pitched clicks are absorbed less by the atmosphere It remains unclear whether these pitch-shifting techniques adapted specifically to bypass moth defences or simply to cope in certain environments or situations.

Dr ter Hofstede and her colleagues were able to listen in on the Barbastella bat as it hunted, demonstrating that it had a completely different approach - its clicks were much reduced in volume, becoming even quieter as it closed in on prey.

"It seems like the majority of bats... call very loudly because they need as much information as possible from their surroundings," Dr ter Hofstede told BBC News.

"We're saying that this [low-volume tactic] is an adaptation to get around the moths' defence - it doesn't have any other useful purpose."

While the lower volume of clicks reduces the range over which the bats can successfully hunt, the team showed that the approach leads to Barbastella bats eating significantly higher numbers of the nutrient-rich moths than other, louder species.
The information race between bats and a favoured prey, moths, is described as an arms race (it is actually a race to interpret clicks. Neither party is armed, and certainly not the moth.)

As is characteristic of legacy mainstream media, the story must all be interpreted dogmatically through Darwinist theory. But what's missing from this very interesting account is how - exactly - the information race could evolve. "Natural selection" is increasingly evoked as a mere incantation, in the face of ever-growing awareness of complexity that are beyond its powers. That is, natural selection must be the cause because we "know" it is true.

By the way, there is a great closeup of a moth's face.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Intellectual freedom in Canada: News roundup

- Rev. Sean Binks in Nova Scotia makes an appeal for help for Kathy Shaidle for her legal expenses in a SLAPP suit against her by "human rights" advocate Richard Warman, now that there has been a promising development in her case, explained here:
Warman must hand over his neo-Nazi records

The Post story is headlined "Lawyer who launched libel suit against Ezra Levant ordered to hand over computer", and that's a pretty accurate summary of what happened this week. In brief, an Ontario judge has ordered Richard Warman, a former Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) staffer and Canada's most prolific censor, to hand over a copy of his laptop computer to an independent forensic expert, who will search it for evidence relevant to Warman's Nazi activities.

Warman's neo-Nazi activities already condemned by Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Those activities are at the center of Warman's two nuisance lawsuits against me. Warman is a member of several neo-Nazi organizations, including Stormfront and Vanguard, and he posted hundreds of anti-Semitic, anti-black and anti-gay comments online, including my personal favourite, when he called Jews "scum". That last comment was particularly offensive to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which issued a ruling last year calling Warman's racist conduct "disappointing and disturbing". No kidding.

Writing hundreds of bigoted messages is bizarre and un-Canadian to begin with. But even weirder is that Warman published much of this bigotry while he was working at the CHRC [Canadian Human Rights Commission], and then later when Warman went on to work at the Department of National Defence's own internal human rights commission, called the Directorate of Special Grievances. Seriously, that's what it's called.

So here was someone claiming to be fighting against "hate speech" by day, but pumping out hundreds of hateful comments by night.
This is what happens when a society chooses government by bureaucrats, grievance lobbies, and self-appointed censors over government by elected officials. Anyway, a computer expert is required, and if anyone can help Kathy Shaidle and civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant with the cause, they both have PayPal buttons.

They and Blazing Cat Fur are excellent sources of material on the battle for intellectual freedom in Canada, as is Binks's Free Canuckistan.

- Blazing Cat Fur, regarding Toronto mayor candidate for the fall elections, Rob Ford,advises that, of all things,
Sharp eyed Rob Ford supporter ES has caught someone from an IP address traced to the Toronto Star "editing" Rob Ford's wikipedia page to include reference to a parody web site Legal steps were taken against the parody site and its author elected to remove it. Check out comment no. 7 for ES's revelation of the wikipedia editor's identity.

I thought the Star had reached a new low when they hired Heather Mallick however this escapade shows a determined effort to plumb ever greater depths of left wing derangement. Papers are supposed to report the news, they should not be engaging in election hijinks.
Here's the National Post on the story. The Star is an old and large newspaper. If Staristas are indeed acting like Wikimorons, it is bad news indeed. Fortunately, the Star redeemed itself to some extent by an investigation that discovered some potentially damaging information about Ford and substance abuse. It doesn't appear to have damaged Ford's chances. But in any event, that is what a newspaper should be doing. Otherwise, let us bloggers handle it. We will do it for PayPal donations.

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