Wednesday, November 30, 2005

John Derbyshire on the New Yorker's 12/05 issue feature on the Dover, PA Intelligent Design case:
The clearest indicator Talbot could find was, in fact, that people who avidly read the local newspapers were anti-I.D., while people who scorned to read them were pro-I.D. This is odd, since one of the two local papers, the York Daily Record, has a pro-I.D. editorial line!
Now that's a shock, huh? Honestly, I don't see how anyone who reads the transcripts of the whole case (here) can come away with a very positive view of either the "theory" or its proponents. But I'm sure the slick PR hacks at the Discovery Institute are probably already working out how to spin the loss ("hey, the Dover folks wouldn't listen to us!")

Monday, November 21, 2005

Why do I have the feeling they are going to ruin it?

Sky One is in talks to bring back the adventure series, which starred Patrick McGoohan as Prisoner Number 6.

The series, which made its debut 1967, is today credited by its fans as being ahead of its time.

Featuring McGoohan as a former secret agent trapped in an isolated seaside village, it was shown in more than 60 countries.

The new version will not be placed in the original setting, the north Wales village of Portmeirion, or have the arty, "pop" feel of the original, according to the magazine Broadcast.

Damien Timmer, who has been lined up to executive produce the show, told the television and radio industry magazine that the new series "takes liberties with the original".

Friday, November 18, 2005

Well...I guess this was a just a matter of time.

We should be hearing about this from Pat Robertson fairly soon, no doubt.
Cleaner: It's still ALIVE.
So they’re finally getting around to releasing a new version of Cleaner for the Mac (6.5) and Windows (XL). Given the years this software has been lingering on the verge of death, whether this will be hailed as great news, or with a collective yawn remains to be seen.
More.
"I think I'll make me a lemur today.''

Why I love Charles Krauthammer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Darwin Catholic and Bearing Blog weigh in with excellent points about Intelligent Design.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Memo to Mark Shea: Reason is not the exact same thing as Science.

It might be worth going over in detail something that seems to really bug pro Intelligent Design types like Mark (who is a great guy by the way and runs a fun, engaging blog even for Evil, Dark Side pro-Darwin Papists like myself):

Why doesn’t the scientific establishment take the idea seriously?

Straight answer is: it isn’t science, but bear with me as I explain why.

Let it be said that Michael Behe begins with a perfectly reasonable observation, based on his experience as a biochemist:

1. the bacterial flagellum is extremely complex. He submits, it is too complex for evolution by natural selection to explain its development.

Fair enough. Many scientists have and do disagree, but at this point, no real problem.

Why?

Because –most scientists would be expecting Behe, as a scientist, to take the next two steps:

Let's have some fun imagining it:

2. Behe introduces the idea that some new, more dynamic system is responsible or co-responsible for the development of complex machines like the bacterial flagellum. It is a deterministic system, has nothing to do with chance and may not need natural selection. He suggests that some principle of auto-catalysis or self-organization (utilizing chaos theory) is responsible for this developmental process.

3. He calls Bill Dembski and says, “Bill, I got this problem. Is there a mathematical algorithm that might express itself in biochemical systems that could be responsible for the relatively fast development of a bacterial flagellum, or the blood clotting cascade?”

Bill says: “Let me get to work on this and I’ll get back to you.”

Six months or a year later, Behe and Dembski submit a paper to Nature arguing that the well-known Such-and-such Algorithm may have a physical counterpart in nature—indeed right inside the cell, and is potentially responsible (note their caution when they say potentially) for the evolution of complex parts of cells, such as the flagellum.

Fine.

“We suggest,” they further write, “a possible experiment in the lab to test this theory.” And they provide at least the outline of this test using some generations of fast-reproducing bacteria. NOTE: they don’t have to show that the flagellum actually evolves this way in front of our observational instruments. All they have to show to gain some interest in their theory is that the bacteria evince the development of some complexity and that it indeed seems to follow this algorithm.

Their paper gets published because it sounds like a new approach and it outlines testable features.

Six months later, Team Z headed by Drs. X and Y in the UK submit a paper to Science. They write how they came up with not just one but two ways based on Behe and Dembski’s outline on how to test Behe and Dembski’s theory. They describe their experiments, with graphics, data and conclude that… their results don’t seem to support the theory.

But wait.

A month later, another team from Japan publishes in the journal Cell, saying, “hold on, we did the same two tests and came up with a third, and factoring out certain “noise” features that should be considered, we conclude that Behe and Dembski’s theory is a very possible process that may work in tangent with natural selection—or indeed in isolation of it. We suggest continued tests.”

Behe and Dembski are psyched. They crack a six pack. They start writing some more papers. Some colleagues get excited and ask if they can pile on.

This is the way that science works, as mundane as it sounds. And had Behe come up with such a hypothetical model, we might today all be talking about Behe’s Theory.

Now, when pro-ID types get irate and wonder why most scientists don’t give the theory the time of day, it’s precisely because neither Behe nor Dembski have in fact done any of this kind of work. (Dembski’s information theory fluff basically tries to provide a mathematical undergirding for Behe’s dubious irreducible complexity.)

Instead, they stopped at point one. That’s it. Game over. We surrender. It’s just too hard to figure out. God did it. (No, wait, a giant blancmange from the planet Skyron in the Galaxy of Andromeda did it.) Whatever.

They decided…complexity is too hard to explain by science; they dropped their tools, so to say, and they leaped from point one to a non-scientific conclusion: that some intelligent agent (basically God) is responsible.

Most scientists and educated people are predictably underwhelmed. It’s a non-scientific ‘conclusion’. Meaning, by it’s very nature, it cannot be tested. And since neither Behe nor Dembski have bothered to even suggest a model by which some other mechanism than natural selection could be posited, most scientists conclude that neither Behe nor Dembski are serious.

I’m kind of bummed.

When the Dover plaintiff’s attorney Eric Rothschild asked Behe during his testimony in the Dover case, what was the mechanism for ID, Behe essentially punted. Even though he explicitly said in his book that ID can propose a mechanism for ID. But Behe has never delivered in the 9 years since his book came out. No mechanism for ID. He pulled a Bill Clinton on the stand and started equivocating about what he really meant by the word mechanism.

Worse than that, he admitted that the definition of science basically needs to be broadened to accommodate his theory. Broadened so far that mumbo jumbo like astrology gets equal time.

This is why Intelligent Design isn’t taken seriously as science.

Kenneth Miller cites plenty of peer-reviewed papers that at least take the time and the trouble to explain how complex systems evolved by natural selection (not by pure chance, by the way, as many Christians utterly innocent of Darwin’s theory believe).

That in a nutshell is why Darwin still rules.

ID may have a future in philosophy class. Not in science class.

(Yeah, I’m a Catholic. I ain’t got a problem with Darwin. So sue me.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Intelligent Design may be pseudo-science, but if what NPR reports is true, then this behavior is a disgrace, and will only confirm many anti-Darwin types in their deep-seated suspicion of "the orthodox Darwinian establishment."
Gunning for Netflix. But will the online DVD rental company sell out?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Clifford Van Meter asks: What's wrong with this picture?

Why is it whenever a new Microsoft patch comes out that fixes 77 security flaws in their crappy OS it gets reported as “Microsoft Improves Security in XP”, but anything that Apple fixes gets, “QuickTime suffers four critical holes”. TechWorld has used exactly that headline in reporting that the new QuickTime update fixes four critical security holes.

Its like the story about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates playing frisbee by the lake. Gates throws the frisbee over Job’s head and into the lake. Unflustered, Jobs walks on water onto the lake to retrieve the floating frisbee — the next day the headlines read, “Micsoft Exceeds Expectations, Apple CEO Can’t Swim.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Barbara Forrest catches the Creationist Intelligent Design crowd redhanded. (Hat tip to Nick Matzke).
It looks like the Vatican has decided to set the record straight:

"The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," he said at a Vatican press conference. He said the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator".

This idea was part of theology, Cardinal Poupard emphasised, while the precise details of how creation and the development of the species came about belonged to a different realm - science. Cardinal Poupard said that it was important for Catholic believers to know how science saw things so as to "understand things better".

Cardinal Schoenborn, please call the Vatican.

Monday, November 07, 2005

John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter has some "interesting" comments from the new Nuncio to the Persian Gulf:

The Holy See's new nuncio to Kuwait and several other Gulf States, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, a Lebanese Maronite Christian, recently gave an interview to Monday Morning, a Beirut-based newspaper. El-Hachem's comments illustrate the views of one of the Vatican's most important representatives in the Muslim world.

"The Holy See is convinced that the solution chosen by President George W. Bush and his allies is not a good one," El-Hachem said, referring to the U.S.-ledwar in Iraq.

"His holiness the pope, the Maronite patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the Maronite archbishops and bishops and all the dignitaries of the Catholic church have spoken out against the war, since it can only deepen the gulf between the parties and increase fanaticism," El-Hachem said.

Asked about a link between religion and terrorism, El-Hachem gave this response.

"I consider that terror is the result of repression, of suffering, of injustice directed against a person, a group or a particular people, who lose all that they possess and no longer have anything to regret or to lose," he said.

"This reminds me of the distressing incident at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, when young Palestinians massacred Israeli athletes. I recall the shocked outcry throughout the world and the strong condemnation by the international community. At that time I was in the Vatican. Pope Paul VI appeared at his window and addressed the faithful: 'We too reprove and denounce the massacre in Munich, but we ask the following question: Why have young Palestinians committed this act? We reply: because the Palestinian people (it was the first time anyone had spoken of the Palestinian 'people') have been the victims of the most dangerous of injustices in the history of humanity, an innocent and peaceable people turned out of their land, who have lost their roots and identity amid the indifference of the entire world… What impelled these young men to commit this act was to attract the attention of the world to their cause.'"

"This papal intervention greatly changed opinion on this drama," El-Hachem said. "Terrorist acts flow from distress and from despair of ever recovering one's rights. And such is the despair, in some cases, that an individual may be driven to suicide as a means of protestand of drawing attention to his plight."


I have some questions for Archbishop El-Hachem. Would Ghandi have agreed with Paul VI? Are we to understand from his statement that the murderers who killed over 3,000 people on September 11, 2001 did so because...the U.S. had taken their Saudi homeland away from them? Are we to understand that he believes the al-qaeda thugs currently murdering Iraqi civilians as well as U.S. soldiers are doing so...because the U.S. took Saddam's murderous dictatorship...away from them? And, since he and so many other prelates have been thus far mute in words of congratulation to the millions of Iraqis who turned out despite the threat of death to vote themselves a constitution, are we to believe he regrets the overthrow of Saddam Hussein?

("We too..." Sure.)

While I'm at it, since the Nuncio's words could be construed...in his thoughtful efforts to dignify the motivation for the greatest source of mass murder in today's world (including but not restricted to the beheadings of little Christian girls, blowing up old ladies and shooting unarmed Iraqis)... to be condoning evil in a righteous cause, are Radical U.S. Catholics now to understand that...say, shooting abortionists will be similarly "understood" by the Church?

These are just some of the questions that come up as I read the archbishop's comments (and scratch my head).

Yeah, "We, too" indeed.

Update: 11.15.05: Thanks to Sandro Magister for showing that the good archbishop was...how you say...misprepresenting the Pope.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The grave of Nicholas Copernicus found?
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Polish archeologists believe they have located the grave of 16th-century astronomer and solar-system proponent Nicolaus Copernicus in a Polish church, one of the scientists announced Thursday.

Copernicus, who died in 1543 at 70 after challenging the ancient belief that the sun revolved around the earth, was buried at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Frombork, 180 miles north of the capital, Warsaw.

Jerzy Gassowski, head of an archaeology and anthropology institute in Pultusk, central Poland, said his four-member team found what appears to be the skull of the Polish astronomer and clergyman in August, after a one-year search of tombs under the church floor.
And another thing, says John Derbyshire:
I spent last Saturday evening over at Cold Spring Harbor lab with a bunch of geneticists. One of them, a self-described conservative, said something like this:

"Biology takes it from the Right and the Left. On the Right we get these 'Intelligent Design' nuisances telling us that one of our most basic investigative tools, evolutionary theory, is all hogwash. On the Left we have these fanatics saying that human evolution couldn't possibly have produced any significant group differences, when of course we all know it did. It's a wonder we get any actual science done."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

John Derbyshire on why some American Catholics need to wise up:
There is, to judge from my mailbag, a widespread opinion that adherence to Darwininian biology is ungodly, if not actually atheistic. To the attention of NRO readers holding that opinion, I commend Francisco Ayala.

Ayala is a working biologist who is also an ordained Dominican priest. He does not only think "Intelligent Design" is flat wrong, he thinks it's blasphemous! There are some notes on his opinions here.

Ayala was raised and educated in General Franco's Spain, the most intensely Christian nation of modern times. In his Catholic schools, he was taught straight Darwinism, without warnings or qualifications. Now he teaches it himself, at UC Irvine. Note how he deals with the doubts of Catholic students (point 11).

Ayala's remarks illustrate an aspect of the I.D. business not much commented on: it is an entirely American phenomenon -- really, an outgrowth of American folk religiosity. You can find a scattered few I.D. followers in other countries, but I.D. is not a public or pedagogic issue anywhere but in the U.S.A. People in other countries are just baffled by it; scientists in other countries just shake their heads sadly. This is not the case with any scientific theory that I am aware of. Real science is international. The presence of a strongly national coloring is, in fact, a pretty good marker of pseudoscience. Compare, for example, the "Soviet science" (Lysenkoism, Marrism, etc.) of Stalin.

There is nothing wrong with folk religiosity, of course. I personally regard it as a strengthening and cohesive force in the national life, and in the conservative movement. I am happy about American folk religiosity, and regard it with cheerful approval. But-- It. Is. Not. Science.

Update: Derb's getting some support from the Vatican.

Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996 statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis."

"A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said. "(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."

He was asked about comments made in July by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who dismissed in a New York Times article the 1996 statement by John Paul as "rather vague and unimportant" and seemed to back intelligent design.

Basti concurred that John Paul's 1996 letter "is not a very clear expression from a definition point of view," but he said evolution was assuming ever more authority as scientific proof develops.


Katie Roiphe puts Maureen Dowd...um, in her place.
In fact, Dowd's most compelling example of this rarefied, lonely demographic of woman too successful for love is herself. As Dowd would have it, men simply find her intelligence, her status, her wit too daunting. (A friend called her up to complain that her Pulitzer Prize would make it impossible for her to get a date.) But is it possible that there is something else at play? In a recent New York profile, the writer reports: "she is an utter and unreconstructed fox. Something that nearly every person I spoke to about her mentioned, unprompted, is that men can't resist her." The piece further describes the wide variety of men Dowd has been involved with, ranging from movie stars, to important editors, to creators of television dramas. And they have apparently all been attracted to her, even though she is not in a service profession, or a maid, or a virgin in a gingham dress. One imagines that her intelligence, her sharpness, her sarcasm may even have interested these men. Could there possibly be another reason that the attractive, successful Dowd has not settled down? Something that is not in the zeitgeist, or the political climate, but some ineffable quality of her own psychology? It would seem wrong to raise this question about a woman writer, and in fact about any writer, but Dowd uses her experience with men as template for her theories so often, and marshals her failure to marry as evidence so frequently, that she herself raises the question in her reader's mind.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

So, the Boston Red Sox bid adieu to Theo Epstein, courtesy of the town's worst hack:
As another man once said, "all this negativity that's in this town sucks."

As any Boston sports fan knows, Shaughnessy's column was just the latest in an interminable string of ad hominem attacks, veiled and unveiled. He did it to Pedro, he did it to Nomar, he's done it to Manny. Now it's Theo's turn.

Why?

He's got to know damn well that he's the most hated sportswriter in this city. But he doesn't seem to care. Simply put, it's all too apparent that Dan Shaughnessy doesn't really like the Red Sox. He prefers gossip, innuendo, and axe-grinding. Maybe he should get a new job.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Discovery Institute. Not just dishonest. Turns out...they're spineless, too:
Now that a fifth expert has backed out of the Dover district’s court battle, a rift is widening between defense attorneys and the primary pro-intelligent-design organization in the country.