Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Anti-Intelligent-Design Arguments, Adolescent Edition

These aren't very fair, but they are damned funny and do capture the attitudes and rhetoric of the most obnoxious missionary atheists who go after IDers: Best of the Burning Panda. Some of my favorites:
8)The argument from falsifiability
1. I.D. isn’t real science because it isn’t falsifiable.
2. Evolution is true and has falsified design.
3. Therefore evolution is true.

11)The argument from computer programs.
1. A programmer wrote a program that he installed on a computer.
2. The code took written words and randomly placed them together, under certain programmed rules, to form complete sentences.
3. See? Random processes CAN create information.
4. Therefore evolution is true.

28)The appeal to Richard Dawkins
1. Richard Dawkins is an evolutionist
2. Richard Dawkins is also smart
3. Therefore evolution is true.

SIDENOTE: I have added a new blogroll category, Weird Science, where I will have links to Intelligent Design and other "fringe" science related blogs I find interesting.

UPDATE: Before some itinerant Web hooligan jumps on me as a "nutjob creationist", let me point out that while I am religious, I have never had the slightest problem with evolutionary theory, nor am I a particular fan of Intelligent Design. I do, however, think there is value in having scientific spoilsports such as IDers, and find that evolution partisans too often dress up as "science" what is actually their own arrogant personal ideology.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Shaidle on Conspiracy Theorists

Speaking of conspiracy theorists, Kathy Shaidle of Relapsed Catholic has a nice essay on conspiracy theory buffdom.

Didion Reviews Schiavo Case

Joan Didion has an excellent retrospective on the Terri Schiavo case, clearly laying out the facts and speculating on the motivations of the different groups pulled into the battle.

Something important she fails to point out is how groups on both sides were primed to go off as soon as a well-publicized case like this appeared. Anti-euthanasia groups, seeing how euthanasia legalization seems to be gaining ground and expecting this to continue, jumped on it on the assumption that it was the first major assault of the anticipated war over euthanasia. On the pro-euthanasia side, it appeared to be viewed as similarly pivotal, and as a tremendous chance to gain public sympathy for their cause given the massive media attention.

The problem was that the Schiavo case was not the perfect one for either side's public argument. Terri was a little too incapacitated for the anti-euthanasia side -- someone more visibly functional would have been easier for the undecided to sympathize with. For the euthanasia advocates, the case was simply not airtight enough. There were too many uncertainties surrounding the history of Terri's medical condition and questions about her husband's behavior and interests, and there was the added twist of her parents being willing to take over her care. Ideally for them, there would be no ambiguities, and a stark choice between only euthanasia or indefinite minimal hospice care as her possible futures.

Didion's piece also came out too early to incorporate the results of Terri's autopsy, although as Andrea Harris ably points out, they are ultimately irrelevant in judging the morality of the decision.

Weirdo (Ex-)Roommate Conspiracy Theory No. 8

Weirdo Roommate may be gone but he is certainly not forgotten. Here is another of his crazy claims I happened to remember this morning...

Claim: The US government is who brings all illegal drugs into the country. After all, who else could fly the stuff here? Mexicans don't own planes, and blacks are afraid to fly!

Eh, maybe WR wasn't all bad... he did provide some cheap entertainment.

Friday, June 10, 2005

My Singularity Singularity

I seem to be encountering my own singularity on the Singularity these days. Without really intending to, I keep stumbling on great material related it. Via someone I'm too lazy to look up again, I found Logic, DNA, and Poetry, a critical and refreshingly new take on how two of the potential feeders into the Singularity -- artificial intelligence and genetics -- have been hobbled by reductionistic thinking. Further digging into the the author, Steve Talbott, and his associated organization looks promising as well.

Even better, on a totally unrelated web search I found an issue of Whole Earth magazine on the Singularity. (The issue-specific links don't seem to be intended as permanent, however, so you probably want to check it out quickly if interested.) Lots of promising material there.

I may eventually blog more on these finds, real life permitting.

UPDATE: The Talbott piece is also in the current issue of The New Atlantis.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Threat of the Singularity, or Instapundit (Slightly) Redeems Himself

I have always considered Instapundit to be a shallow-thinking technomaniac on bioethics and other issues involving societal impacts of technology. Today, however, he manages to redeem himself a bit. In this entry discussing the Singularity, Glenn says this about its potential dangers:
The bigger danger won't be the creation of a godlike artificial intelligence. It will be the creation of many millions (and eventually billions) of individuals with powers that would have been until recently regarded as godlike, in the rather small space that humanity currently inhabits.

Exactly. The primary danger lies in access by one and all to powers of immense destruction -- powers that today are available, in weaker forms, only to a few governments. Even if the vast majority handle the ability to create weapons of global destruction on their tabletops responsibly, there will inevitably be a few who do not -- and a few is all it will take.

Glenn proceeds to give a typically techno-libertarian solution to the problem:
That problem will be reduced, however, if we expand beyond the earth beforehand. I certainly agree with Stephen Hawking that the alternative is extinction. But I think that we'll do it in time.

True, space colonization will help to ensure that, should an apocalyptic disaster occur, some of humanity will survive. This overlooks, however, what I fear will be the immediate means for dealing with the problem: totalitarian surveillance and control of society. The most direct solution is to make sure people do not have the secrecy that allows them to covertly create super-weapons, and to squelch any inclinations in them toward doing this in the first place. This would entail total, continuous surveillance of the population, and the "rehabilitation" of any who exhibit signs of criminal mindset. And it will be the very same Singularity that yields the technologies for surveillance and mind control that will make this possible.

As for Glenn, now if only we could get his rare, nominal squeak of allegiance to Christianity to inform his bioethics a little more, we might actually be getting somewhere...

Our Bioengineered Future

Of Genes and Genomes provides an insightful review of a predictable but worthwhile new book giving an overview of genetics. In particular, it has a succinct summary of what gives so many critics pause over the attitudes of the techno-triumphalists.

Intelligent Person's Guide?

The book is part of a new series entitled "Intelligent Person's Guides". Am I alone in finding this appeal to readers' egos hilarious?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Real Mao

The Guardian is ridiculously treating it as if it's a new revelation, but this review of a book on Mao Zedong's reign provides a good overview of what an evil, oppressive tyrant the oft-venerated bastard was.