"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Travel Time

I'll be on the road over the next couple of weeks. I'll only be able to post sporadically. Have fun ya'll...


Sciencewatch Continues To Show IDiotic Bias

Although Darrick has stopped me (anyone!?) commenting on his Sciencewatch blog, he can't stop me reading it.

He quotes on his main page that paragon of scientific virtue, the eminent lawyer Phillip E. Johnson, saying these fine words:

"Science should never fear honest intellectual tools such as precise use of terms, unbiased investigation of evidence and refusal to accept unjustified extrapolations."
It is utterly bizarre, therefore, that Darrick's posts to his Blog continue to be so woefully and idiotically biased.

His recent post Environmental Extremists Costing American Economy Billions references an article Steve Milloy - who is hardly an "unbiased" source.

His RNA Still Unsolvable Problem for Evolution quotes a scientific paper as evidence against evolution - without mentioning that the authors of that paper see it as nothing of the sort. What kind of dishonesty is that?

Most hilarious is the post Hundreds of Scientists Defect from Evolution Pseudoscience. This links to a list of "more than 300 scientists" who "have courageously stepped forward and signed onto a growing list of scientists of all disciplines voicing their skepticism over the central tenets of Darwin’s theory of evolution..." The article is dated 1 April 2004. Why did Darrick post it on his blog this week? I'd say that my recent posts on the overwhelming scientific support for evolution probably have something to do with it. In any event, DD's list contains at most six "Steves".

Compare that with the NCSE's list of over 500 scientist "Steves" who have signed up to this statement:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.
There are also substantially more than six Steves on the list of over 4,000 Christian Pastors who have signed a recent statement saying that they accept standard evolutionary theory alongside their faith.

Darrick's attempt to show the lack of scientific support for evolutionary theory does just the opposite. Instead he has clearly demonstrated that only around 1% of scientists think that there is any real controversy over standard evolutionary theory. And he has also shown that, despite the empty words of Phillip Johnson, his Blog remains a bastion of bias and unjustified extrapolations.

Well done Darrick.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An open letter to Jonathan Bartlett

Dear Jonathan

You kindly took the time to respond to my essay Just who is immoral in the evolution debate?, which I posted at soc.religion.christian.

My answer to your post will appear there in due course... But in the meantime I thought it would be worth contacting you directly. One of the benefits of posting publicly is the opportunity it gives to understand how other people see things... And as I hope I can demonstrate here, I think your views on Intelligent Design and Evolution are mistaken.

You seem to think that standard evolutionary theory discounts the hand of God. It does not. It may discount certain notions of "God" - the YEC interpretation being a prime example - but it most certainly does not equate with atheism. It also does not say that evolution occurs through "chance". Similarly, there are certain atheists who argue that evolution disproves any notion of God. (I do not agree with them.) Again, that position is beyond the scope of standard evolutionary science.

As I wrote in my essay, the Catholic Church accepts standard evolutionary theory. (A great many other Christian and Jewish organisations do to). As I noted, their position is "that evolution is the product of divine will - but that is a question beyond the scope of science". They clearly do not accept certain "atheistic" views of what evolution means, but that doesn't stop them agreeing that life evolved through natural processes, from microbes to man. (They believe that God provided man with a soul - but again that is beyond the scope of science to demonstrate or disprove).

You seem to think that disproving or challenging some part of evolution is support for an "alternate" theory of Intelligent Design. It does not. Intelligent Design makes specific claims (depending on whom you ask) that all life. or certain aspect of molecular evolution, could not have occurred naturally - and more than that, that we can reasonably infer the hand of an "intelligent designer" in this process. This position has almost no scientific support. It does, of course, have vocal and powerful support amongst the US population... But quite staggeringly, even ID scientists themselves admit Intelligent Design does not (yet?) offer a viable, teachable, useable alternative to standard evolutionary theory. What is most incredible in all of this is that ID supporters do not appear to care about any of this. All that matters to them, it seems, is that evolution is "wrong".

Let me be clear. I am not saying that Bonnie Alba, Ken Ham or anyone else are bearing false witness by not believing in standard evolutionary theory. My accusation is specific. They misrepresent what other Christians believe - either deliberately or through ignorance. That is bearing false witness. That is wrong. The fact that they know that they are misrepresenting other Christians makes it more than wrong. It makes them dishonest. Even more worrying, they do not care.

In your reply to my post, you wrote: " That [Philip Johnson]... believes the falsehood of pure naturalism is so bogus that nearly everyone can easily recognize it? How is that dishonest?" It is dishonest because the overwhelming majority of scientists who are recognised authorities in biology do not believe in a personal God. A much higher proportion are atheists and agnostics than the general population.

You write: "without God morality has no intellectual basis" and "that if morality is simply the _result_ of an unguided evolutionary process, then it is, in its essence... meaningless". That is gibberish and, frankly, insulting. I'll ask you what I have asked a great many Christians. If you ceased believing in God, would you suddenly go out and kill and rape and steal? Would nothing stop you? Answer that question. No other Fundamentalist Christian I have asked has had the courage, wit or courtesy to.

In your post, you referred me approvingly to a Blog entry by Crevo which contains the following statement:

"By its own admission, scientific knowledge is tentative. However, we let the tentative results of science trump belief in the authoritative word from scripture. As Christians, our authority is in scripture. Ceding that to other authorities is the equivalent of idolatry."
Please explain to me why insisting upon the "truth" of the Bible in the face of all of the wonders of creation is not idolizing scripture.

In closing, if you can provide cogent, reasoned, arguments against anything I have written here, I am prepared to change my position, Can you say the same thing?

Thanks for your time!


Astrology & Uncritical Thinking

From Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions: Astrology:

"...astrology promotes the worst thing in the world: uncritical thinking. The more we teach people to simply accept anecdotal stories, hearsay, cherry-picked data (picking out what supports your claims but ignoring what doesn't), and, frankly, out-and-out lies, the harder it gets for people to think clearly. If you cannot think clearly, you cannot function as a human being. I cannot stress this enough. Uncritical thinking is tearing this world to pieces, and while astrology may not be at the heart of that, it has its role."

"...astrology takes away from the real grandeur of the Universe. We live in an amazing place, this Universe of ours, and it's quite fantastic enough without needing people to make up things about it. Astrology dims the beauty of nature, cheapens it. "
Too, too true.

And, of course, born-again Christians are more likely to believe in channeling, astrology and reincarnation than the rest of the population.

Monday, June 13, 2005

God - a paranoid, violent psychotic role model?

If you want to see the "clash of worldviews" in action, consider these two recent posts...

First is my old friend Darkstar218. He writes of his six year old daughter:

"Ruth... asked something along the lines of 'well, when will I find a husband for me to love?' I smiled and told her 'sweetheart, someday Daddy will find you a good man. He will find you a man that will love you the way Daddy loves Mommy. He will be a Godly man. And when the time is right, Daddy will bring him to you.' ..."

"When Fathers turn their hearts toward their children, and the children turn their hearts toward their fathers - it prepares the way for children for a right relationship with God. When children have their hearts turned to their earthly fathers, the way is paved for them to easily turn their hearts to God to be their Heavenly Father. But if Fathers don’t prepare their children’s hearts, if children grow up in rebellion against their earthly fathers, if they never have their hearts COMPLETELY turned to their earthly fathers, there will always be a struggle for them to surrender completely to their Heavenly Father..."

"I told her that when she looks to me, she should see God. I told her that someday, she will have a relationship with God much like she has with me - that I might be her father on earth, but God is our Heavenly Father. And whereas I might not always be perfect, God is perfect always. If she learns to trust me, obey me, and love me - she will someday understand how to trust, obey, and love God as well."
In other words, Darkstar218 says, his job as a father is to prepare her daughter for submission to God by teaching her to submit to him.

Interesting, huh?

Especially when you consider what the Bible says this about God:
"No man may see me and live" [Exodus 33:20]
As the Raving Atheist points out today:
"Look, omnibenevolence has it limits. It’s not that God’s a paranoid, violent psychotic, just don’t fucking stare at it or it will massacre you, okay??? Oh, and the word 'man' in 'no man may see me and live' includes women this time because there is no Hebrew word for 'person,' and because God likes to kill women."
Extreme? I don't think so. Consider this passage in the Bible, where God threatens to punish King David for disobedience:
"This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight." [2 Samuel 12:11]
A while ago, I asked Darkstar218 about the morality of threatening this rape (or at the very least sexual immorality, then subject to the death penalty) as punishment. He replied:
"Most of the time, we focus on David’s sin for sleeping with Bathsheba.However, doesn’t the door swing both ways?We are not certain from Scripture, but there is no mention of Bathsheba resisting David’s advances.Could it be that she chose to sin as well and needs to be punished?2.) We are also uncertain by the passage in 2 Samuel 12 that the wives that are taken by Absalom were raped.On the contrary, we know that Absalom was known for being very handsome and most likely adored by women.Could it be that this punishment hurt and embarrassed David as King more so than anyone else?... Even if the incident was painful for David’s wives, it don’t see how that detracts from an Absolute Morality in the least."
In other words, Darkstar218 argues, God can do anything he wants, including breaking his own rules, because he is the absolute authority. He is, after all, God.

While I have no doubt that Darkstar218 is a loving and capable father, I find it disturbing that he expects absolute obedience from his children... And that he uses as his model for absolute authority an Old Testament view of God who his subject to no limits in His enforcement of that authority.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Just who is immoral in the evolution debate?

You can't look far in the debate over evolution, creationism and intelligent design without finding some warning about morality.

The writer Christopher Hitchens recently described conservative Christian extremists as a "creeping and creepy movement" that is "trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent."

The creationist Reverend Jerry Falwell thundered in reply: "That is certainly a simplistic - and wildly exaggerated - way to define the efforts of religious conservatives who want to preserve their rapidly disappearing rights in this great land... Mr. Hitchens has specifically gone to great lengths to define creationism as 'nonsense' and to belittle those who dare to disbelieve that the universe just randomly appeared."

He went on to praise Answers in Genesis (AiG) founder Ken Ham, who states, "If you can't trust the Bible's history, how can you trust its morality?" and added "Christians must be equipped to defend their faith and be prepared to give an answer to everyone who challenges them on their views."

But how moral is creationism?

In answer to an accusation of dishonesty in a book it promotes, AiG replied that its opponents must "justify the very concept of honesty if we are just rearranged pond scum."

I had a similar recent experience with creationist columnist Bonnie Alba. I pointed out a recent article of hers on evolution was blatantly wrong, and asked her about the Biblical prohibition on bearing false witness. She answered "There can be no meaning of what I write or the commandments of God for a humanist or an atheist since all is relative, is it not?". I asked her how that justified her own behaviour. She did not answer.

There is something insidiously nasty at work here.

These Conservative Christians say that without creationism there can be no morality. They conveniently ignore the facts that every human culture has morality and that evolutionary theory provides ample explanations for moral and altruistic behaviour. We can even see apparent examples of such behaviour in the animal world.

These Creationists also deliberately ignore the fact that organisations representing more than half of the Christian world say that there is no conflict between an earth that is billions of years old; standard evolutionary theory; and their faith. And they mislead their followers by pretending that any more than a tiny portion of scientists see that there is any "controversy" in evolutionary theory.

But it is not just creationists who push this false claim that only they can be moral - and who are dishonest about the beliefs of other Christians.

Philip Johnson, a lawyer and leading member of the Intelligent Design movement, says: "The fundamental and most far-reaching assumption of Darwinism is that life is the product of forces that are impersonal and purposeless - that life is a cosmic accident... This is a philosophy that strikes most Americans as false, not just fundamentalists. If Christians frame the debate that way, we can't be marginalized." And there is the key to this dishonesty.

The leaders of the Creationist and Intelligent Design movements have a vested interest in misleading the public over the beliefs of other Christians and the overwhelming scientific support for evolution.

The ignorance they preach is repeated - deliberately or otherwise - throughout the creationist and ID movements.

Please understand - I am not saying that Creationists and ID supporters are insincere in their beliefs. I am only saying that they are misguided in their actions and motives. And and, by bearing false witness against science and other Christians, they are behaving immorally.

There simply is no need for this behavior. Religious leaders hardly come more conservative and "Biblically moral" than the new Catholic Pope Benedict XVI.

As a Cardinal under Pope John Paul II, the then Joseph Ratzinger presided over the church's International Theological Commission. This stated that "since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism."

Oh course, he believes that evolution is the product of divine will - but that is a question beyond the scope of science.

If Pope Benedict XVI can preach Biblical morality without relying on dishonest statements about science or the beliefs of other Christians, then why can't the Creationist and Intelligent Design movements?

If Jerry Falwell, Ken Ham, Philip Johnson and others wish to push their brand of Biblical Morality, they should do it honestly. They should openly recognise that the vast majority of scientists, and a great many Christians, see no "controversy" in evolution.

For now, the political influence of the Creationist and ID movements its easy to see. Publicly, President Bush may say that "the jury is still out" on evolution - but his science advisor John Marburger is clear: "Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory... I don't regard Intelligent Design as a scientific topic."

The American public, led by well intentioned but misguided religious leaders, haven't quite realised that yet.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Evolution "warning labels"

The Panda's Thumb has a great piece NCSE files amicus brief on the history of evolution "warning labels" which has this eye-popping stat on the relative scientific support for & against evolution:

In comparison to the Discovery Institute’s forty-eight (48) scientist signatories, the Science Organizations Amicus Brief is signed by fifty-six (56) science organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  In comparison to the eight (8) biologists who signed the DI brief, the Science Organizations Amicus Brief is signed by about twenty-one (21) biology organizations.  Altogether, hundreds of thousands of scientists are represented by this collection of organizations.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Silly Humans - Atheist Dominion?

That's right kiddies, the atheists have taken over America and are trying to bury your God and eradicate your right to worship it!

Well, unless you want to acknowledge reality.

In the latest Associated Press/Ipsos poll on religious attitudes within 10 industrialized nations, Americans came out as the most willfully delusioned people in the group...

The poll shows that around 70% of the US population have no doubts that God exists. The figure for the UK is just 23%.

More stats from 2003 and before are available on my Facts For Fundamentalists page.


The irony is that fundamentalists surely acknowledge that nature, the human brain, and reason are among God's gifts. What could be more Godly, for example, than the attempt by contemporary scientists to understand the creation of the universe by observing the heavens themselves? Did sacred revelation suddenly cease 2000 years ago? Indeed, it seems egotistical and presumptuous to allow creationist dogma to trump the evidence from both God's universe and our God-given brains. Why do fundamentalists so despise the notion that we are connected through evolution to the rest of God's Earthly creations, that indeed God created humans and evolution is the way he/she did it?

Creationism promotes the worst form of pollution, namely pollution of minds. A person who is convinced that eternal damnation is a possible consequence of rational thinking is likely to shun rationality, and thus forfeit the very faculty that most makes us human. As the Enlightenment forerunner Galileo put it, 'I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.' America's future will be dim if fundamentalists win their home-grown holy war.

Creationism, Modern Times, by Art Hobson, NWA Times 28 May 2005

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bonnie Alba's War On Culture

Bonnie Alba's latest salvos in the Culture Wars are attacks on "Evolutionary Psychology". *

Her previous writings have shown her to be ignorant both about evolution (which she apparently opposes) and "Intelligent Design" (which she purports to support). This time, she keeps things subjective. Only those who believe that their "mind-soul will survive death", she says, "will see the merits" of her arguments.

Bonnie's position is essentially this: science alone cannot achieve absolute knowledge. Its truths are always provisional, in that other information may come along to change them. Therefore science alone cannot be trusted to make moral judgements. When faced with questions of science and morality, Bonnie argues, we should ask what is "beneficial for the progress of mankind?"

But why is this controversial? Morality and ethics have been debated by philosophers for thousands of years. Does one really need to believe in an afterlife to hold that there are moral and ethical questions which science alone cannot answer?

Bonnie certainly thinks so. She recently wrote: "Churches and Christians must teach their young people the difference between the worldviews so they are better prepared to reach the conclusive, objective biblical truth of who God is and what he says about himself and his creation."

In other words, Bonnie argues, religious truth is "objective", and can override the "subjective" truths of science. Now, as Bonnie points out, I cannot prove or disprove the existence of anything beyond the physical world. But I can demonstrate that she is dishonest in her arguments. Bonnie claims, for example: "Today’s scientists see no boundaries in proposing their singular unethical theories".

If that statement sounds ridiculous, then that's because it is. If you have visions of thousands of mad atheistic scientists roaming the streets looking for embryos to experiment on and animals to have sex with, then good - that's precisely what Bonnie wants you to imagine.

"Darwin’s theory", she continues, "is... a produced-in-the-brain idea which threatens to overtake all of humankind to dissatisfactorily explain all things".

But wait - isn't Darwin's theory accepted by the Catholic Church, an august and conservative organisation with a moral line very similar to that championed by Ms Alba? Well yes, it is.

The flaw in Bonnie's magical thinking is this... She claims that her basic beliefs in Christianity and the Bible are objectively "true". But how can she be so sure? If her "truth" comes from religious revelation, then who is to say that it is more true than any other claim of "truth" from religious revelation - such as that claimed by Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, abortion clinic bombers or anybody else?

The real truth is that objectivity is something we must strive for - not something that we can claim to have by default.

Bonnie believes the Bible teaches that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The overwhelming majority of scientists say the evidence is conclusive - the Earth is vastly older than that.

Does that make the Bible "wrong"? Of course not. But it does make Bonnie's interpretation of the Bible wrong. And if the "truth" of the Bible is dependent upon one's interpretation of it, then that "truth" is clearly relative - not absolute.

The irony is that while Bonnie claims to champion absolute morality and truth, her own words and behaviour speak of morality and truth being relative. If her arguments were "absolutely true" she wouldn't have to pretend that only those who believe in an afterlife "will see the merits of" them.

There is a real moral debate about what is acceptable and what is not in science, whether that means animal testing, embryo research or genetic screening.

But it is not as facile as Bonnie pretends. She says that Evolutionary Psychology's "desire is to correct present adaptations of natural selection and eliminate God, religion, morality, values, standards and let 'right behavior' select itself -- their way. Most of us will fight tooth and nail to keep what has worked for civilization, knowing that without rules and morality, we have chaos and anarchy."

But in truth it is Bonnie and her ilk who wish to ignore "what has worked for civilisation". Her claim that "Science" calls for an abandonment of "rules and morality" is ignorant, bigoted and dishonest.

If we follow Bonnie and insist that the only "truth" comes from her interpretation of the Bible, then we are stuck with only her "truths" as a guide in this moral debate. Bonnie insists that we must reject everything else that humanity has learned over thousands of years in many different cultures. She insists that we must believe only as she believes - and that it does not matter if we are dishonest about what others believe, because they have less of a claim on "truth" than believers in her "true" religion.

Ask yourself: Is that beneficial for the progress of mankind?



The Evolutionary Information Gap Between Science and Bonnie Alba, PTET, May 20, 2005

Scientists Speeding Up Darwin's Natural Selection?, Bonnie Alba, May 23, 2005

That Old Magic - Evolutionary Psychology, Part I, Bonnie Alba, June 01, 2005

Nature Vs. Nurture - Evolutionary Psychology, Part II, Bonnie Alba, June 08, 2005

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Scientific support continues to elude Intelligent Design

Over at Sciencewatch, my friend Darrick Dean makes this observation:

"While we have seen no science in the journals supporting young-earthism what-so-ever, here is what may be #200,899,999 evidence for an old universe..."
That got me thinking. Just how much evidence is there for Intelligent Design? Interestingly, the ID movement set itself a clear goal on this point. The Wedge Document, made public in 1997, Set ID a "five year" objective of "One hundred scientific, academic and technical articles by our fellows". That five year period ended in at least 2002. And what has been published in support of ID?
"Although Davis and Kenyon... claim that intelligent design represents a viable alternative to neodarwinian evolution, the scientific literature does not support that claim. Compared with several thousand papers on evolution, the combined searches produced only 37 citations containing the keyword "intelligent design." A closer look at those 37 references suggests that none reports scientific research using intelligent design as a biological theory."

George W Gilchrist, The Elusive Scientific Basis of Intelligent Design Theory March 16, 2001

"Ultimately, whether a scientific issue is controversial or not is determined by the number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals. When the ratio is 1:1, there's a controversy. When it's 3:1, there's a dominant view and a more heterodox but still respectable view. When it's 100:1, it's safe to say that there's no controversy. In the case of evolution vs. creationism, if I had to bet I'd say that the ratio is in the vicinity of 10,000:1 in general and 1:0 in Nature and Science (i.e. no pro-ID papers have been published in either of these journals)."

Alon Levy, commenting on Lisa Peters is a hero!, at Pharyngula, 14-MAY-05 at 11:39
When faced with this lack of scientific papers supporting ID, its supporters generally claim that ID scientists are "censored" or ostracised by their peers. (The case of Richard Sternberg is often given as an example). But the thing is:Even "Intelligent Design" Scientists admit that ID is not yet a "Theory".

If there's no science for ID supporters to publish, then what is there to censor!?

Given the all but absolute lack of scientific support for "Intelligent Design", there surely can't be long left before its "supporters" give up on it as a theory all together...


Update: I'll link to this post from my ongoing discussion with “bareshiyth”.

Update 2: I meant to link to the Index to Creationist Claims page on Peer review & Intelligent design...

reDiscovery Institute

The reDiscovery Institute maintains a slick web page, and tirelessly promotes archaic religious dogma elegantly dressed in modern scientific terminology, to school boards, museums, theaters, and editorial pages across America...

The reDiscovery Institute urges adherence to John Phillipson's Ice Pick Gambit: "Until we gain total control, keep the old testament part of our agenda quiet because it frightens normal people." The reDiscovery Institute is backed by members, a board, and an ultra-conservative, ultra-rich, California savings and loan heir who believes that the American democracy should be replaced with biblical theocracy.

This parody really hits the spot. Their New Periodic Table is just genius...

ID in their own words: Dembski

A recent pronouncement from Dr Dembski on ID has been causing a bit of a furore over at The Panda's Thumb...

As for your example, I'm not going to take the bait. You're asking me to play a game: "Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position." ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it's not ID's task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.

William A. Dembski Organisms using GAs vs. Organisms being built by GAs thread at ISCID 18. September 2002
In other words, Dembski claims that the more he studies ID, the less it is able (or required) to explain. Or, as Kize Catson points out in a TO post, 'ID really *is* short for "I Dunno".'

Not that Dembski's dance will have any effect on ID believers. In my experience, most ID believers have very little clue what ID actually does and doesn't say. Hey ho.

On a seperate note, thanks to Rich for heads up that the Smithsonian has backtracked entirely on the reported "co-sponsorship" of a supposedly "pro-ID" film. I'm sure that Darrick Dean will provide a clarification/update on this story on his Sciencewatch Blog. Not! ;>

And finally, “bareshiyth” has moved my discussion with him over at Alcaide's Cafe over to it's own featured thread. Which is nice!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Friday Update

My daily look at RobotWisdom led me to the Harper's Index for May 2005. This contains the following eye-popping stats:

  • Annual cost of all sixteen U.N. peacekeeping missions currently underway : $3,870,000,000[United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (N.Y.C.)]
  • Monthly cost of the U.S. occupation of Iraq : $4,100,000,000[U.S. Department of Defense]
  • Revenue from Iraqi oil sales that the CPA could not account for, according to a 2005 audit : $8,800,000,000[Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Arlington, Va.)]

  • Estimated number of U.S. intelligence reports on Iraq that were based on a single defector : 100[Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the U.S. Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington)]
  • Number of times the defector had ever been interviewed by U.S. intelligence agents : 0
Other interesting stats refer to anti-american feeling in the Muslim world:
  • Rank, on the Turkish bestseller list in March, of a thriller depicting a U.S. invasion of Turkey : 1[D&R (Istanbul)]
  • Rank of Mein Kampf : 2
Scary stuff... But how many people know that much of the nonsensical anti-american propaganda still circulating in the Middle East came from the CIA, back in the 70s when it was propping up the Egyptian leader General Nasser?

Talk about reaping what you sew...

And on that point, check out the conservative commentator William S. Lind's piece on how Donald Rumsfeld's legacy will be a wrecked the US army. (Update: Also check out Lind's article Turkish Delight...)

Moving over to Sciencewatch, the indomitable Darrick Dean seems to have disabled comments on his blog entirely. This allows him to post his usual diet of anti-evolution & YEC-bashing diatribes without having to bother to defend anything he says. How nice for him :-)

My favourite post is the one where he invites his readers to "Join astronomer Hugh Ross, biochemist Fuz Rana, JPL physicist David Rogstad, physicist Rodney Whitefield, nuclear engineer Jeffery Kirkbride and others at the Cosmic Fingerprints: Evidence of Design conference..." He says "While skeptics want you to think intelligent design is some construct of mindless religious fanatics, these scientists will show you how design is science." How nice. Of course, Darrick doesn't mention that the scientists he lists all (being members of Reasons To Believe) hold that "The Bible is therefore our supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses." After all, if Darrick did that, people might think that these scientists were "religious fanatics" :-)

In another post, Darrick claims that "...the Smithsonian Institution will co-sponsor a viewing of a film intended to undercut scientific materialism..." For those interested, Panda's Thumb have the real rather grim story here: Smithsonian Warming to ID?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaanway... I'm still talking to "bareshiyth" on the Alcaide's Cafe blog; and I've also posted in a fun discussion on agnosticism & rationality on the Scottish Nous philosophy blog.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries

The "National Conservative Weekly" Human Events Online has a rather hilarious piece entitled Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. It claims that "The Evil Empire of the Soviet Union put the [Communist] Manifesto into practice"; "The [Kinsey] reports were designed to give a scientific gloss to the normalization of promiscuity and deviancy"; and "The Nazis loved Nietzsche". Aah, the wonders of anti-intellectuallism... But hey, who cares about nuances, contexts, arguments and facts when you have mindless prejudice to guide you ;>

Thanks to Fark for the link.

Scottish Nous: Evolution Necessary?

Here's a heavy post from the Scottish Nous philosophy Blog, entitled Evolution Necessary?:

Dr. David Deutsch is a renowned Oxford quantum physicist (winner of the Paul Dirac Medal) who has recently defended a bizarre physical view known as Omega Point Theory, a theory that I take it was originally expounded by Frank Tipler.  I was sent the link to this article via e-mail and briefly commented on it in response...

...What's worse is that Deutsch has to conclude that evolution (perhaps not our evolution but the evolution of some other beings in our universe or "some other universe") is/was NECESSARY. That's ridiculous. It's obviously (intuitively) merely POSSIBLE that intelligent beings evolved. If one can derive the conclusion that intelligent beings must exist necessarily from any premises, at least one of those premises is false.
It's tough reading for a layman like me, but in short the article argues against "deterministic" views of science, evolution and the universe (i.e. that there is any philisophical necessity for our existence). It argues against extreme interpretations of what the reviewed article refers to as "the Darwin-Dawkins theory of evolution" - but the same philosophical objections clearly apply to "Intelligent Design" theory. It shows that philosophers and scientists can be skeptical without letting their brains fall out...

What is Your World View? (updated)

I don't usually like these "quizes", but this is interesting:

You scored as Modernist. Modernism represents the thought that science and reason are all we need to carry on. Religion is unnecessary and any sort of spirituality halts progress. You believe everything has a rational explanation. 50% of Americans share your world-view.









Cultural Creative








What is Your World View? (updated)
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(Thanks to Robot Wisdom for the link)