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Date: 2005/08/31 16:31:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Okay, don't usually do this, but Prof. Syvanen expressly requested that troll-baiting not occur in the comments to his article about lateral gene transfer and LUCA on the Thumb. And I have been called a "fool" by a troll there named Paley's Ghost, who, if he should desire can use this space to put his money where his big mouth is.

Here was PG's theory <snicker> of gene transfer:
Evolutionists have always used the existence of the same genes in a variety of organisms as proof of their amoral ontology, but once again they have been disproved by real evidence. The genetic similarities that they use to build their anti-God “Tree of Life” represent nothing more than the fact organisms occasionally eat each other. If you eat steak and then some cow genes are in you, evolutionists think that proves you came from cows—what a bunch of stupid, amoral left-wing ideologues!

My reply was a dashed off suggestion that the effectiveness of parsimony analysis in constructing congruent phylogenies using different genes pretty much lays to rest the idea of "common design" or any such rejection of common descent as good evidence for evolution. (I also called his idea the "meat'n'potatoes" theory, and implied it was "stupid," so I asked for it)
And here is what I got:
Unlike fools like you who can barely comprehend high school algebra, you assume the only way for a creature to have a certain gene is for that creature to be related to another creature who has this gene. You’re committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent. You assume becuse there are puddles of water in the streets, it rained last night when what really happened was a bunch of commie hippies from the ACLU had an all night vigil in protest of their evolutionary lies challenged in public schools and peed on everything. Even techniques of mathematical analysis occasionally used by evolutionists show this not to be the case.

Charges of the fallacy of affirming the consequent are all the rage these days. It sure sounds impressive, but most often it's just waved around like it's a ticket to unassailability, as in "You're affirming the consequent. now you have to be quiet."

In this case, it's nonsense. I'm affirming that IF we assume that most instances of organisms sharing genes means the organisms also share ancestors, there are testable consequences, and that, further, parsimony analysis, used as a test, bears out the assumption.

There it is, for the record. So, Paley's Ghost, in the unlikely circumstance that you would have the slightest interest in backing up your lunatic ideas or your insults, here is a space in which you can do so.

Date: 2005/09/01 06:40:26, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
More proof that you can't tell a creationist from a parody, I guess. I thought "Anti-God tree of life" was pretty over the top...

But I've seen some pretty over the top creationist nonsense, and being called a "fool" just made me want to provide some more rope for the auto-hanging.

#### good parody *tips hat*

Date: 2005/09/21 12:31:42, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Thank The Flying Spagetti Monster, sauce be upon him!
A fellow Pastafarian, armed with His Noodly Appendage, fearless in the face of Darwinian Pressure Groups, ready and willing to suck helium wind in the endless quest for Truth, Justice, and the Italian-American Way.
Sir, I Caesar Salad you.

Date: 2005/10/18 09:51:45, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
If ever there was a misbegotten Intraweb flame-war thingie, well, here it is.
It's not actually D*mbski, can't be.

And if it's not the original spoofer (Cerutti, ya in there?), then the inheritor of the Paley-themed moniker certainly is playing up to the original, down to half-a$$-ed defense of the original "meat n' potatoes" theory which occasioned my (misplaced) ridicule.

So, really, people, I think we need to be aware that somebody's probably spoofing us again, cut n' pasting off of ARN or some such.

Date: 2005/10/18 10:20:41, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Now the sun orbits the earth, and the Apollo landings were faked?
Been to Loch Ness lately? Got any ammo for that slingshot to shoot at the Satanic Holocaust Believers?

Sublime maths!!!

Thanks for the entertainment withered husk.

Date: 2005/10/18 14:03:24, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I still think you're a fraud, husk, so I am loath to make any substantial reply.

But a query perhaps: What is the fundamental difference between a "mathematical model" and a "computer simulation"?

Now, don't say "one uses a computer" you cute little guy, 'cause that's not your style anyhow. No, what I mean is, what can one do that the other can't, in principle?

Date: 2005/10/18 14:29:44, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Since you argue exclusively by insinuation, you project the behavior onto those around you.

It's a simple query. It's not intended, of itself, to substantially deal with any of Berlinski's attacks on the model. Just one of his more outrageous assertions.
And I read the link.

So, answer the question, lifeless wisp.

Date: 2005/10/19 13:46:31, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Well, peachy and the withered wisp seem to be utilizing SOME feature that allows them to ignore things like evidence, and logic, so I would say: yes. yes it does.

Date: 2005/10/20 07:58:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Are you running for king of the cranks or something?
Really, ghastly, this is over the top, even for you.

I was going to disabuse you of your reverence for "The Master," but, like Mr. Fox, I am afraid that your credibility has been utterly exposed as non-existent.

If you are (as I believe) joking, well, it's gone about as far as it can at geocentrism.
Good fun, but all things come to an end.
Even ghosts.

Date: 2005/10/20 10:17:36, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
'Sfunny, because this exact false dichotomy is exactly how creationists justify their beliefs.

The argument "I personally find the evidence for evolution lacking, therefore Gawd musta dunnit" is a classic example of faulty reasoning of the sort Not X, therefore Y, where no independent justification whatever for (Y) is offered.

Even if the theory of evolution went belly up tomorrow (stop dreaming, TivoSpeech), I would still be under no compunction to embrace any form of creationism.

Date: 2005/10/20 12:25:50, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I don't recall being "scared away." Not everybody has the luxury of being undead, and having 22.5 hours a day to troll the internet. Besides, I'm not scared of geocentrist ghosts.

Date: 2005/10/31 07:54:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Thus the ratio of neo-Darwinism to horizontal gene transfer can be estimated from the extent to which new classes of organisms appear as a slowly increasing number deriving from a similar precursor (neo-Darwinism) or as a significant number of species appearing almost simultaneously without any obvious precursor (horizontal gene transfer). The latter form would appear to be the dominant form.

There's a lot to cover in this post, but the tidbit here is not justified by the fossil record. There are no fossil specimens "appearing... without any obvious precursor," at least not since the Cambrian. Note that finely-graded transitionals between individual species is not expected given the "coarseness" of the fossil record, but between larger taxonomical classifications the fossil record does not contain lineages that "pop up" without a related, and older, lineage being present.
Further, and this regards the entire point being made, what is the mechanism for lateral transfer between multicellular species? The transfer of material between bacterial genomes is well-documented, but I do not know of gene transfer between "higher" organisms. (Aside from sexual reproduction, as Henry notes, but that is gene transfer within a single species.)
((I am not a biologist either.))

Date: 2005/11/03 14:31:35, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The usual figure given for the difference between humans and chimpanzees is about 3%. This translates into roughly 600 genes. Of these over 200 can be shown unequivocally to have arrived by HGT from bacteria. (Look it up.)

Better give me a link, because as far as I know, that is simply wildly untrue.

Date: 2005/11/05 09:38:13, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Who/What-ever the heck this guy is, he's something else isn't he?

Yes, GoP (hmmm...), I'm stll lurking about, and I haven't forgotten about The Master, either. But my optics is a little rusty, haha.

Awaiting the ummm, "unveilling."

Date: 2005/11/14 09:40:47, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I come in peace. (with no desire to crucify anyone-- it just makes a martyr of 'em)

But the difficulty I see here is similar to one with ID proper: what are we saying happened, and when?

Continuing with the thought experiment, let's say that, yes indeed, the earth was visited by tinkering aliens a square billion years ago, and they "encoded" such a sequence into the genome of a protozoan, had a good laugh, and left, never to return. What is to keep that sequence from further mutating in the intervening billion years? Should we be looking for sequences "near" Pi, within the tolerances of the molecular clock?
To go even further, say we identified a very near sequence that later mutated, without human agency, to be a perfect 100 digits of Pi? What should we conclude about that sequence? Was it (to foist on you a stinker of an ID term) frontloaded? How prescient can we make our aliens without stretching credulity to its limits?
And, perhaps most important, what does contemplation of "near-Pi" sequences do to our calculation of the improbability of such sequences, which, remember, is what's leading us to the "design hypothesis" in the first place?

Date: 2005/11/14 10:05:11, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
if the encoded sequence were long enough, enough could survive after a billion years for it to be identified to a high statistical accuracy even though errors would have accrued.

But, regarding my last point, wouldn't this "expanded" filter for sequences we will deem improbable enough to even begin considering designed create a situation where essentially random-looking sequences have to be considered too?

This sort of destroys the rationale for the inference in the first place.

Date: 2005/11/14 10:52:05, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (lutsko @ Nov. 14 2005,16:25)
So I would claim the challenge remains: a recognizable, simply coded sequence outside the bounds of chance is found embedded in the DNA of some organism: would it be unscientific to allow for design as an explanation?

Just to make it a little bit more juicey: suppose some rich, deluded person gave a group of molecular biologists and computer scientists a load of cash to look for such messages - would that be a valid "scientific" project?

My answers: no, and no.

No, it would not be categorically "unscientific" to posit the design of (sme part of) a genome. After all, xenobiologists from Mars would be incorrect if they did not attribute the genomes of genetically engineered organisms to human design.

But, the search, absent a priori reasons to believe design occured, would be about as productive as an intensive search of pre-Cambrian strata looking for Haldane's rabbit. (That is, not very.)

Date: 2005/11/17 08:03:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
In the "Fundamental Religious Argument" comments from PT, (recent posting by Jack Krebs, 350 + comments) I made the following post. It was swamped out by several overlapping and interminable arguments. I'd like to expose it to a lttle scrutiny, and see whether it's a viable part of the arsenal of anti-creationist argumentation, or a non-starter. (I know what you think, GoP, but I'd be happy to let you have it as a punching bag for a minute if you've got any input.)

The strong theist sees atheist implications of the idea of natural selection, that the fantastic web of biodiversity we see is the product of a process that simply cannot “see ahead.” So, long-term Purpose would seem to be absent. But what makes these people so sure that Divine Purpose would be so easy to detect, were it in fact operative?

Presumably strong theists believe that God’s purpose is active and ongoing, so why do they not see a problem with our “undirected” economy, in which a large and dynamic construct is the product of short-term decisions made in the interest of individual gain, without top-down oversight? Where is God amidst all this activity by the “Invisible Hand”? If this seemingly purposeless process can be the instrument of providence, why not the short term reproductive advantage of competing lineages?

The only specific reply was this:

Free will. Most Christian theists dissociate the ‘events’ of their lives - which occur on the basis of free-will, with the ‘value’ of their lives - which depends on God.

To which I replied:

Sure. But “God helps those who help themselves,” right? Meaning that a strong theist who works hard, prides himself on honest dealing, and gets wealthy, will certainly “thank God” for his good fortune, even though, looking back, every transaction, every good deal, was made by individuals, with, as you point out, free will, and their own interests at heart. On the surface, this collective outcome would seem as “undirected” as the “good fortune” of human evolution.

Now, let me be clear. I am not proposing that this analogy "proves" evolution, or "disproves" theism, or anything of the sort. Rather, I am interested in the theist objection to "undirected" processes, and skepticism about the powers of such processes. If the theist is comfortable with God's role in the undirected economy, then why is it so hard to imagine that he has a role in the undirected (in human terms) course of evolution? Why is it easier to imagine god "pulling the strings" in a human sphere (where the agents putatively have free will, by fiat of God no less) than it is to imagine him tinkering in an undetectible way with what looks to us like "unguided" evolution?


Date: 2005/11/22 08:55:17, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Teach the controversy!
--er, I mean don't teach that there's a controversy!

No, no. Get it right. We want to teach the controversy. I'm sure that's what the DI said.

But don't teach that there is a controversy, that's all.

So, we're supposed to teach it, but not that it exists...

You're catching on.

Date: 2005/11/29 08:47:38, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Truly, er-- staggering, wisp.
I especially like this bit:
I will then utilise Shannon's information theory to convert the excess charge to work, thus uniting my oeuvre with Dembski's.

The similarities are already glaring. Let's see, megalomaniac delusions of overturning whole disciplines, useless and confusing formalisms, hand-waving bluster, obfuscating use of higher mathematics to impress the rubes, utter disconnect to reality...

I'd say your "oeuvre" belongs in the same (circular) file as D*mbski's already, husk.

Date: 2005/12/06 09:10:54, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Well, it's moot, because Sal's acting like such a sneering juvenile, but he gives away the store with this one, I think: (paraphrased, because I'm in lazy-like-a-creationist mode)

"You don't need another theory to know that phlogiston and epicycles are wrong."

Now, I'm not a Kuhnian (heck, Kuhn says he's not a Kuhnian), but I think if there's one lesson to take away from SSR, it's that you do, in fact, need another theory to see the way out of a dead-end paradigm. I mean, I don't think anybody thought those epicycles were particularly elegant, but they were accepted because they fit in the only framework available for theorizing about orbital dynamics. Once another framework was proposed and began to gain acceptance, then you could see clearly that epicycles were ad hoc and unnecessary.

Date: 2005/12/07 12:24:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
A friend of mine (named Kepler btw, sister's name Tesla) kept the family tradition alive and named her two kids Sagan, and Darwin.

We're kind of out of touch, but, at the time, she DID live in Kansas.

Date: 2005/12/15 13:01:21, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (J. G. Cox @ Dec. 15 2005,17:09)
Scordova wrote:
 "On what basis can he claim that such selective forces existed in the past?"

 answer: the principle of uniformitarianism, without which most science is impossible.

That, and the absolute logical necessity of differential survival of varying replicators in an environment of finite resources.

Sheesh, Sal.

Date: 2006/01/04 13:53:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
A random thought Re: "economics doesn't care" vs. "economics depends on an economy (with its moral baggage)"
It has often been pointed out that, even if it were true, as many fundies like to claim, that "evolution is bad (for morals or society) because it teaches us we're no better than (amoral) animals" this implication has no bearing on the truth or usefulness of the theory AS a scientific theory.

So, does a similar situation hold in economic theory? i.e. should economists consider the potential effects on society of economic policies inspired by their work? Or are they engaged in a descriptive enterprise that can be isolated from actual economic behavior?

Date: 2006/01/31 14:04:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Actually, Stephen, I think the common-usage meaning of random is closer to what we mean in the context of "random mutation" than DaveScot's hyper-scientist definition above. Determinism doesn't really come into it. After all, a coin-flip, an exemplar of "randomness," is perfectly deterministic. However, it's the result of a "butterfly effect"-like series of deterministic causes that is, in practice, unknowable before the event.

In the same way, a mutation is random, with regard to the effect on phenotype. No part of neo-Darwinian theory requires that the causes of the point mutation, or whatever it may be, be "random" in the philosophical sense DS is using, which is better phrased 'non-deterministic." He's employing his stock-in-trade: aggressive obfuscation.

Date: 2006/02/07 11:21:37, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Nothing's "timeless" exactly. A photon is the best example of a massless particle. Why "massless"?

Per relativity, as the velocity of an object approaches c, the mass approaches infinity. So nothing with mass can have a velocity equal to or greater than c. Photons, lacking mass, "automatically" travel at c. Thus, "the speed of light."

The quantum and relatavistic views of the universe are indeed weird to the untutored human imagination. But it's important, I think, per S. Elliot's question, to draw a line between the difficulty of describing "ultimate reality" in ordinary language, and the essentially arbitrarily assigned "spooky" qualities of an eternal, omnipotent entity.

On one hand, you have elegant congruence between mathematical abstractions and observed phenomena. On the other you have made-up "mysteries" that need not be congruent with any observation.

Date: 2006/02/07 11:28:37, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Re: the "main" mechanism.

Huh? Natural Selection is the only mechanism, in principle, that can explain the adaptive complexity we see in nature. Now, "adaptive complexity" is not the end of "evolutionary change," so maybe we're talking about drift, the founder effect, and other elements of speciation. But it's the "purposeful arrangement of parts," to use Beheian terminology, that gets everyone talking, and that really demands an explanation.

So maybe you can clarify for me, Wesley.

Date: 2006/02/07 11:40:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
OK. I hadn't quite thought of it that way, but it makes sense. I was making "timeless" synonymous with "eternal." In any case, my main point stands, which is directed at Stephen, and is: "massless" and "timeless" are necessarily fuzzy terms in physics, because they are approximations to mathematical descriptions using ordinary language.
Applied to God, they're just window dressing. It isn't contradictory, after all, to say God masses as much as the Milky Way, rests every seven days, and is going to die next Wednesday. Who can tell me different? (At least, before next Thursday?)

Date: 2006/02/07 12:11:46, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
This is the howler of the day:

Avocationist said:
IDists are more scientific than the Darwinists because the IDists are into detail.

Dembski doesn't agree, I'm afraid:
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.

Date: 2006/02/07 12:47:15, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Stephen, reading your last post, I take it you believe MLK, Jr was a racist?

He was a strong advocate of Affirmative Action, what I believe you would call Positive Discrimination.

My stance on the issue is that it is one on which reasonable people can disagree. (I favor it, but there are good arguments against it.) One of those is not, however, that it is racist.

Date: 2006/02/07 13:12:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Well met, wisp.

Any but the weakest definition of "racism" includes the idea of an asserted superiority. A white racist is a white supremicist. They think black people are inferior.

AA, while discriminating on the basis of race, does not assert that any group of people is inferior or superior to any other.

If you wish to say discrimination = racism, fine. But then we just need another word for the real thing.

Date: 2006/02/07 13:47:37, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
There are at least three (not mutually exclusive) rationales for affirmative action:

The one that currently flies in the US courts for higher education is that there is an educational benefit to all students in being part of a diverse student body.

To redress the crimes of the past.

To redress present discrimination.

This last must be what you're talking about, C. Hyland. But I don't think it assumes that all members of any group are inherently racist. It just accepts as fact that some (negative) discrimination exists, in hiring, contract awarding, etc. and attempts to "make up" for it.

The reasoning being that simply making discrimination illegal doesn't stop it, which is certainly true.

Date: 2006/02/07 13:56:20, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
A.A. posits White moral inferiority

No, I don't think it does. It's well understood that some significant fraction of black people probably don't like white people very much, for no good reason, just as much as vice versa, possibly.

But it's much more likely, given socio-economic factors, that a white person will be called upon to hire a black person, than the reverse.

Date: 2006/02/08 10:04:13, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Some people are saying that quantum mechanics has proved nonlocal consciousnesss, and that material reality cannot function without consciousness.

And, some people are saying that pigs fly.
"Spiritual" interpretations of QM are piffle, pure and simple. Also, I have always found it quite funny that those opposed to the "reductionist" program find God in QM, the most reductionist theory, ever.
Put down The Dao of Physics and walk slowly away.
Or, if that's Paul Davies you're smoking, realize that he sells books by speculating wildly about the more far-fetched implications of physics.

Date: 2006/02/08 13:12:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
That book, and others like it, were born trounced.

Because they largely tilt at straw-man versions of evolution, they mostly do not even attain "clash" with the actual claims of neo-Darwinian theory.

Several claims of Behe's IC have been discussed on PT, including the supposed IC of the flagellum.

Dembski's output has been treated by Mark Perakh, and by Shallitt and Elsberry. Those are well-known, so I'll assume you've seen them and were "not impressed." They're the best I've seen, so why don't you pick a point on which you feel Dembski comes out ahead and we can discuss it.

Date: 2006/02/10 06:53:38, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Science has begun to take a stand against respecting the grand mystery that is God

Gosh darn that Galileo!

Date: 2006/02/10 07:47:07, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The problem is, this argument can easily be turned around. And it certainly seems to me that people who insist Darawinism is so obvious are glossing over the very good arguments against, which to my knowledge have never been answered because there exist no answers, and is every bit as blind as you think the other side is. You make the very good point that personal preference is a very strong, if not the strongest, cause for people to believe what they do. But if you think only the other side has that problem but not your own, then you may not have looked honestly.  

It strikes me as just as true that those who cannot see any problem with Darwinism, or who are scandalized at the thought of intelligent design, are "unable to overcome" their bias.

Let me repeat: to simply insist there are no really good causes for a rational person to doubt Darwinism seems like a form of fundamentalist thinking, which is to say, completely unable to see another point of view.

The Darwinian explanation is not obvious. If it were, Darwin's discovery and elucidation of it would not have been the momentous event that it was. The "arguments against" are dismissed, not out of "bias" or "fundamentalism", they are dismissed because the time for argumentation is long past. The theory has been relentlessly and rigorously tested, against empirical evidence, for over a hundred years now. In scientific circles, this trumps arguments not so supported.
"There are no really good causes for a rational person to doubt Darwinism" because 'rationality' includes unbiased examination of evidence in order to come to a conclusion.

But if there is a God, then presumably this God has something to do with causation of this universe, probably s/he would have something to do with the Big Bang, for example. So if our reality includes a God, then it is naturally possible that there are clues or evidence of that.

Think this through carefully. Can there be evidence for something, if, in principle, there can be none against?

No line of empirical study will ever succeed in "disproving God." And by the same token science cannot prove the existence of God either.

Date: 2006/02/10 09:18:48, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
No, I think they believe we're lying. Or on drugs.

Date: 2006/02/10 09:31:20, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
What resource would we use to ascertain that "human reason is inherently flawed," other than...

human reason?

Seems like you're caught in the PoMo dilemma there Paley.

Date: 2006/02/10 11:59:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
This seems incoherent, Avocationist.
ID claims to want to revolutionize --and redefine-- science, but, if it becomes accepted, you don't think science would be affected?

"Reverse Engineering" designed organisms can act as a case in point. It seems to me that "scientific" disputes within such a framework will inevitably become theological/ontological discussions, unless the designer is universally believed to be the Christian God. And then you would just have specifically Christian theological debates among what would pass for "scientists."

Imagine it: "Well, I'm trying to reverse engineer this deadly, flesh-eating virus that causes blindness, great pain and death."
"That was designed by satan, so you have to look for the 'devil proteins'."
"No, I think God did it."
"But that's so horrible..."
Cue theological discussion of 'the problem of evil'.

Really, I'm afraid you underestimate the degree to which the ID movement is antiscientific, in every meaning of that word. ID is a showstopper for scientific inquiry.

Date: 2006/02/10 12:40:18, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (gregonomic @ Feb. 10 2006,18:14)
Russell: congratulations on your latest publication (that's you right - J Virol, Feb 2006?).

Avocationist: how many papers did you say you've published?

While it's good to know that we have a bona fide expert in our ranks, and good that your paper got published, Russell (congrats), I'm a little uncomfortable with the implication that avocationist's contributions here are unwelcome, or not worthwhile, because he is not a professional research scientist.

I, for instance, have no papers to my credit, no higher degrees, just an interest in the issues, a willingness to learn, and a functional BS-detector.

Date: 2006/02/10 13:02:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It is amusing sometimes, and I know you weren't really strongly implying what I said. But it can cut both ways.

Absurdly, people like Sal Cordova get away with chasing people off of Dembski's trail, because they "don't have the maths" or the like.

In a rhetorical environment, you either have an argument worth listening to, or you don't. I totally know what you mean about people willfully ignoring evidence and not understanding that such a stance pretty much invalidates their claims. But most of us out here in the ether aren't scientists, just concerned, and to whatever degree, (mis)informed, citizens.

Date: 2006/02/10 14:16:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (gregonomic @ Feb. 10 2006,19:16)
So, are you saying that, when someone clearly doesn't have the credentials to support the claims they are making, we shouldn't call them on it? Or that we should do it in a less mocking tone than the one I used?

No, certainly we should call them on it.

And to mock or not to mock is a personal choice. I usually save extended sarcasm (the best weapon in my arsenal) for those who are more obnoxious or vitriolic than avo, but again, we all have our tolerance levels.

I guess I was just responding to the "how many papers" bit, because any ol' IDiot engineer or what have you could dismiss me as easily with the same tack.

Date: 2006/02/14 08:37:55, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Of course I have personal incredulity, and lots of it. And the whole approach of modern science generally is to be skeptical and nonsuperstitious. I tell you, if the evidence is so damned good, why the need to remind people not to descend into personal incredulity? This is a group-powered shaming device and nothing more. Is this not a roundabout way of scorning those who lack faith?

The evidence is good. But it seems to invite incredulity for a number of reasons. First and foremost, most people are theists of one stripe or another. The human mind, while capable of the most subtle and sublime contemplations, evolved because it helped our ancestors survive. One of the ways it may have done this is to be wired to attach significance and comprehensibility to otherwise capriciously dangerous nature. Personifying the forces of the universe is deeply seated in the human "soul".

Darwinian evolution, like many radical scientific discoveries before and after it, calls on us to abandon this deeply rooted tendency to assign agency to the manifold attributes of nature, in all their obvious and dazzling complexity. Many people simply won't do it. It's too big, it's otherwise incomprehensible. Somebody has to be in charge, end of story.

Another incredulity-pump is the fact that the evidence for evolution is additive and consilient. It's no good pointing to peppered moths or antibiotic resistance, and saying "there!' as it might be with the cosmic background radiation for the big bang, or sea-floor spreading for plate tectonics. So you have to take multiple lines of evidence from different fields and see the agreement between them to really begin to see the overwhelming weight of the facts pointing to what is still an inherently unobserveable series of ancient events.

Finally, we're simply not equipped to appreciate "deep time." It seems preposterous to most people that, for instance, a 1% improvement in wing efficiency could act as a "force" leading to differential survival among a lineage of proto-birds. This is because they're not looking at the big picture of hundreds of thousands of generations and trillions of individuals. Evolution of the sort that creationists like to call "macro-" usually doesn't happen on timescales that are even approximate to all of human history, which seems like a really long time to most folks. It's not.

Date: 2006/02/14 13:21:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Churches make many, many more atheists than science classes.

Date: 2006/02/15 06:54:46, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
So, this 'debate' challenge by whoever, seems to me they're itchin' to give TurboGoalposts v.3:16 a field-test.

Date: 2006/02/15 13:03:40, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Sure, but does it teach us better if it actually happened?

Myths are myths.

Date: 2006/02/15 13:13:37, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
My father is an ecologist, and I was a paleontology-nut when I was a kid, so I grew up fairly informed about evolution, and I stayed interested in it, from an educated layman's point of view. Kept informed via popular books by Dawkins, Gould, the usual suspects.

Furthermore, I did that growing up in Kansas, so when the most recent outbreak of IDiocy happened there, I decided to get involved, at least nominally. I found the forum at Kansas Citizens for Science ( and from there, lots of other web activity, including Panda's Thumb.

Date: 2006/02/17 08:29:13, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Finally, we're simply not equipped to appreciate "deep time."
Ah, yes. Another Dawkins favorite. Let's see what Spetner has to say in Not By Chance. Dawkins is discussing improbable events occurring to bring about origin of life. This is in chapter 6 of Blind Watchmaker. He says that Dawkins asks us to drop our intuitive feeling for chance. I guess he doesn't think it evolved very well, probably because his didn't. Dawkins likens the probability of certain admittedely very unlikely events to a long-lived alien playing bridge for millions of years, waiting for that perfect hand of bridge. He said a being who lived millions of years, would have a very different feeling about chance and time. If the being lived 100 million years, it would not be unusual for him to see a perfect hand of bridge from time to time and he would scarcely write home about it.

But Dawkins didn't do the calculation. And I have to ask myself - is it because he has no feel for probability, or is he dishonest? According to Spetner, if the being played 100 hands of bridge every day for 100 million years, the chance of seeing a perfect hand of bridge just once in his life is one in a quadrillion. Definitely something to write home about.

Now, I can understand a bumpkin like myself making this mistake. But Dawkins has a PhD, a science degree, is a chair at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, has written books that specifically deal with the problems of evolution, and he is the Grand Poobah of the public understanding of science.

As you've seen by now, Dawkins' calculation was perfectly appropriate to illustrate the point. But even if it weren't, you're just dealing with the illustration and not the point, which is valid. People are not generally equipped to conceive of frames of reference more than a couple of orders of magnitude from our everyday experience. This gives them an excuse to object to evolution on a 'gut level' without engaging the evidence.

It seems preposterous to most people that, for instance, a 1% improvement in wing efficiency could act as a "force" leading to differential survival among a lineage of proto-birds.
No, it doesn't seem preposterous at all. What seems preposterous is that a creature could have 7% of a wing, or 22% of a wing.

A couple of points here.
First, the idea that any biological feature is some 'percentage' of the 'completed' feature misunderstands evolution. Only with hindsight can we say that one organism was 'evolving into' another. If a creature possesses what we arbitrarily deem to be '20%' of a wing, it's because that feature provided a discernable advantage to that creature's ancestors in its way of life. If an improvement in that feature comes about due to mutation, the improved version will spread in the population.
Additionally, there are numerous examples (flying squirrrels, flying snakes, flying fish) of gliding animals that do, indeed, have features that can be compared to 'partial' wings. Remembering my first point, though, we must keep in mind that a flying squirrel is a 'complete' organism in its own right, whose ancestors were successful in perpetuating a lineage of gliding arboreal mammals. They were not 'striving' to be 'more like a bat' for instance.
Berlinski dealt with this in his answer to the Fish Eyes paper, but you folks don't read him, do you? Meyer deals with this problem also - but I don't suppose anyone has read his scandalous paper either. There are other authors and I am sure I have some at hand who find the problem of random mutations leading slowly to novel features and managing to incorporate them into existing structure all the while problematic. Now, maybe it occurred, but it is definitely problematic.

I have in fact read Berlinski's bombast regarding the Nilsson and Pelger paper, the original of which I have also read. Have you?

I still maintain that what is 'problematic' about evolutionary narratives of this sort is the personal incredulity of the individual with a problem. "I don't see how" (X) occured is just not a convincing argument when someone is telling you that they DO see a plausible progression. That these sorts of explanations are routinely derided as 'Just-so Stories' by creationists without further analysis is just shorthand for "keep up that incrtedulity." The problem you have with "managing to incorporate them into existing structure" might be ignoring that the original function of a 'co-opted' structure may have been an entirely different one in the ancestral lineage. The evolution of the mammalian inner ear is a classic example.
As regards fish eyes, I saw a fascinating report recently about a 'four eyed fish'. It seems that the lens structure in the newer set of downward facing eyes is entirely 'reinvented.' i.e. Despite having a perfectly good embryonic pathway for growing lenses in the original eyes, another one has evolved from scratch. Kind of spells trouble for 'frontloading' arguments. Don't remember where I saw it, but if I can I'll try to link it up.
And, avo, if you have any interest in looking into the Nilsson and Pelger paper and Berlinski's critique, we can link that up too and talk it over.

Date: 2006/02/17 08:56:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (Russell @ Feb. 17 2006,14:41)
Besides biological can Bill's math be applied to any other "designed" artifact?
Once again, PuckSR, you're trying to horn in on one of my imminent Nobel Prizes. I've been asking for the calculations of Mt. Rushmore's "specified complexity".

My favorite is take it straight back to ol' Paley himself.
I've asked Sal Cordova: Okay, you come across a pocketwatch laying in the grass. How much CSI is in the watch, how much is in the grass, and how can I perform the calculation for myself?

No answer was forthcoming.

Date: 2006/02/21 09:33:42, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The take home lesson here is that there is way too much that we don't know about how life really works.

Both sides can agree on that much. It's the corollary to the general rule on which we are divided.

To wit: The IDer takes this as an assertion of the failings of the Darwinian paradigm: an admission of ignorance! The smell of blood in the water!

The corollary for ID is that our ignorance is total and irremediable. A call for the non-explanation that is IDCreationism. Goddidit.

The corollary for the evolutionist is that there is more to learn. Having identified the TTSS as a possible precursor is all that need be done to put the supposed example of  an IC system to bed. Because the IC argument demands that there be no such identifiable possible precursor. It's the logic of this argument that leads to Behe's goalpost shifting around the whole issue of the flagellum.

Date: 2006/02/23 08:05:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
avo responds:
I wasted my time. This is actually beyond astonishing. I am at a mad tea party here. Behe has not moved the goalposts - he has no need to. No one can account even in a plausible way for how a system like the flagellum can have evolved. I mean, did you even read what I wrote? In what way does coming up with 10 out of 40 proteins help? In what way does it put the sytem to bed if the Type 3 system devolved from the flagellum?

What is astonishing is that you persist in accusing us of not reading, not understanding, etc.
What I wrote, what you simply cannot believe you read, is right in line with the mainstream evolutionary response to the application of IC to the bacterial flagellum.
For instance, from Ken Miller:
The very existence of the Type III Secretory System shows that the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex. It also demonstrates, more generally, that the claim of "irreducible complexity" is scientifically meaningless, constructed as it is upon the flimsiest of foundations – the assertion that because science has not yet found selectable functions for the components of a certain structure, it never will. In the final analysis, as the claims of intelligent design fall by the wayside, its advocates are left with a single, remaining tool with which to battle against the rising tide of scientific evidence. That tool may be effective in some circles, of course, but the scientific community will be quick to recognize it for what it really is – the classic argument from ignorance, dressed up in the shiny cloth of biochemistry and information theory.

The full article can be found Here.
Honestly, I suggest you find a minute to read it, avo.

Date: 2006/02/23 08:34:28, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
errrm, no, I guess I had lost track.
But I see no evidence that she understood what she read, if indeed it's what she's responding to.

Date: 2006/02/28 07:56:15, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
May I ask how many other scientific schools of thought had to rely on the Supreme Court to rescue them? If ID was so frigging wonderful, wouldn't it have made more progress on its own merits by now?

For that matter (and it's been said before) how many scientific schools of thought were pushed by proponents into secondary schools before associated research programs and adherents in university departments even existed?

To me, that's the lowest and most despicable thing about these ID creeps, like chatbot Dave Springer. They unabashedly want to push their crap on schoolchildren because they know, deep down, that no rational adult without serious religious hang-ups wants thing one to do with it.

Note to Dave: If it's "too easy" you might want to think about Why? If something is too good to be true, then it probably isn't.

Note to self: chatbots don't 'think'.

Date: 2006/02/28 13:12:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
To: The Designer
Re: Bird Flu

Thanks, Big Guy!
Love your work.

Date: 2006/03/01 09:58:51, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Of course, we do the same thing here, we rarely get a dissenter, and we just all agree with each other....

I take serious issue with that statement, Puck.
/smart aleck

Date: 2006/03/02 07:22:41, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Until Dover, it was my belief that Behe was apostate, that he didn't really believe it anymore and he was just going through the motions as a 'dissenting academic.'

After seeing the thrashing he took at the trial, though, I thought, nobody would go through that unless they were a true believer.

Dembski's as much as admitted that his output is so much snake oil. He just likes to sell books, preach to the choir and thumb his nose at evilutionists.

Date: 2006/03/02 09:25:48, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I think DaveScot and Davison...

Whoa, whoa!
I thought we were talking about 'smart people.'

Date: 2006/03/06 08:37:53, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Intelligence can accomplish things that nature cannot

This is just assinine, isn't it?
Given that every intelligence for which there is a shred of evidence is a subset of "nature" the statement is just meaningless. Not even wrong.

So ChatbotDave either means "God" when he says "Intelligence," in which case, nice going dipstick, or he means "non-intelligent natural processes" when he says "nature," in which case, he's constructed a very nice little tautology.

Date: 2006/03/06 08:54:09, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (PuckSR @ Mar. 06 2006,14:48)
quick question

i thought you couldnt unbake a cake because of chemical reactions.....wouldnt Dave's "entropy" analogy only be valid if we were dealing with chex mix or something.

Yes that's right. But in theory, the Prime Baker or The Pastry Chef to the Gods, or whatver 'intelligence' we're dealing with, could disassemble the cake molecule by molecule and reconstitute the original ingredients. I guess.

That is, if we're talking about an entity with the basic skill set to, say, create Adam out of dust.

Date: 2006/03/06 13:13:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
That shirt! My Gawd.
Talk about suboptimal design... sheesh.

Date: 2006/03/07 08:48:22, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yeah DaveTard is OK, but, as you yourself noted, it's rather unfair to the disabled...

I like DaveChatbot, myself.

Date: 2006/03/07 12:43:00, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
non-believers will be seriously challenged to reconsider their beliefs.

That's a laugh.
The only belief Hovind's likely to make me reconsider is that murder is wrong.

Date: 2006/03/10 08:21:54, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Re "I think the variables in actual evolution are so complex that we cannot create a computer program to simulate it."

Yeah, any computer simulation is going to have to leave out a huge amount of detail, so there is a risk of this messing up a conclusion.

But this is the point of computer simulation, and their strength. Computing power simply allows the experimental method to benefit from a new "control space." It's no different in principle from a 'nuts and bolts' experimental design, where variables are as tightly controlled as possibe.

The point of experimentation is to limit the variables to try and draw limited conclusions from idealized conditions.

The map is not the territory, and no scientist, whether performing physical experiments or computer simulations, thinks that it is. But, a good map allows us to reliably navigate the territory.

there are too many improbable miracles in evolution theory, and there are too many systems that seem highly unlikely to congregate without intelligent design behind them somewhere.

Can any of you see that the possibility of the existence of an eternal being is
1) A reasonable assumption given the mystery of the existence of anything at all without cause
2) That such a being might accomplish things just as we do

I credit you, as have others, for being reasonable, and, especially, civil. But I feel like we haven't made any progress. The above is just more assertion based on incredulity. And science just doesn't engage in "reasonable assumption[s]" based on "mystery."

Once you start positing miracles, empirical inquiry breaks down. If nothing else out of this thread, I would like you to understand that.

Date: 2006/03/10 13:15:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Science is but a method to interpret empirical evidence and give it meaning.  ID is an explanation of why we are here similar to ToE being an explanation of why we are here.  Your contention is that the latter is legitimate because it uses this method while the former doesn't.  But by what method do IDers interpret empirical evidence and give it meaning outside of the scientific method?  Is there another method?

I hesitate to call it a 'method,' but yes, there is.
You start with the conclusion, and 'prove' it, using data acquired by others.

This is all ID does. There is no research program. There are no publications or conferences. In short, there are no ID scientists.

A point I believe you're missing, a step in the method you're leaving out, is the actual acquisition of data, before its given any interpretation at all. Yes, in a sense, the universe is just there for the observing. But it's been a long time since the naturalist just went out in the field, cataloging specimens and musing about conclusions. What scientists these days are willing to call "data" is acquired through selective observation and good experimental design.

IDers skip this entirely, and "cherry pick" their data from real science, then slather it with what you're calling "interpretation," all the while looking for only those bits that will support a foregone conclusion.

Date: 2006/03/13 12:33:51, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
That's funny.
I propose that all future posts to this thread be embellished with parodic self-bannings.

just as this blog will no longer be embellished with your presense, o'cryin' -dt

Date: 2006/03/14 11:12:43, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
If you are familiar with Gould's PuncEqu, you would know that new structures or phenotypes of new species appear suddenly and stay unchanged for millions of years.  What is the genetic basis for such sudden appearance of new phenotypes?  I suggest that the new phenotypes should be correlated with new genotypes which stay largely unchanged during evolution.  But the present theory says that the new species, depite having drastically different phenotypes, differs very little in genotypes from its ancestor species when they first splited.  Then subsequently, the genotype of the new species keeps mutating/changing during evolution, all the while the phenotype stays unchanged.  It does not seem to make any sense.  As I said earlier, the theory is self destructive or self contradictory when it says that changes in phenotypes is associated with mutations while it also says that no change in phenotype is also associated with mutations.

You're conflating "phenotype" with "gross morphology" here. Gross morphology is what fossilizes. Phenotype, while inclusive of gross morphology, is not synonymous with it, encompassing as it does all expressed products of gene differences, most of which will be invisible to the paleontologist. So no contradiction. Also, like many before you, you overstate the import of PunkEek. PE is a hypothesis about the fossil record more than it is about the actual history of life represented by it in its fragmentary fashion. Until you understand that, refrain from drawing grand conclusions from the idea.

Small amout of mutation do occur within a species.  But there is no direct evidence that genotype difference between species is caused by accumulation of variations within species.  Humans can try to mutate bacteria randomly for however long time and they will not be able to make a eukaryote out of a bacteria.  Bottem line, there is limit to everything.  Against such common sense, the present theory requires us to believe the fiction that there is no limit to what random mutation can do.  The many examples of stabilities of structure and phenotypes prove that random mutations can do very little.

Eukaryotes arose via endosymbiosis. Really, as you make your ideas more clear, I realize that this is not much more sophisticated than "we see dogs, we see cats, but nobody's ever seen a 'dat.'" And why not go ahead and use the terms "macroevolution" and "microevolution"? All the cool creationists are doing it.

Date: 2006/03/14 11:53:38, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Beginning in the species split, dramatic morphology change is associated with very few changes in genotypes.

Incorrect. The current theory does not predict dramatic differences of any kind between populations undergoing a speciation event. In fact, it reveals that such events can only be aprehended as such with the benefit of hindsight.
And I am certainly not suggesting anything of the "directed" sort. I cannot imagine what would give you that idea.

Date: 2006/03/14 12:05:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I s there a lineage in particular that you find lacking?

Date: 2006/03/14 12:19:53, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
"Lack" is not a very precise term. While I will agree that there are "gaps," they are not nearly as pronounced after a hundred and fifty years of evolution-informed paleontology as they were in Darwin's day. Dawkins has made the point that we are lucky the fossil record isn't "complete," for the proliferation of finely-graded specimens across multiple morphological markers would make the task of nomenclature a farce. We have the transitionals we need to have a high degree of confidence in the theory, which is also supported by other lines of evidence. And more are discovered all the time. You don't hear so much about the cetacean lineage so much anymore, for instance.

I'm sorry you are frustrated, but, quite frankly, since the obfuscatory sheen of your argument tarnished, you seem to be engaged in the aping of long-ago refuted creationist boilerplate.

Let's look at it from this angle: If this "lack" (of transitional fossils) is so well-understood, and it poses such a big problem for the neo-Darwinian account, what exactly is wrong with the paleontologists and evolutionary biologists of the world? Are they a) stupid, b) dishonest, or c) confused?

It would seem you need one or more of those to be true, across the board. Seems a little unlikely to me.

Date: 2006/03/14 12:59:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
self interest takes over
And I'm glad you raise an interesting point. The best way to earn a lasting name in the sciences is to conclusively overthrow an existing "self-evident" belief.

So why is it that it's just creationists sniping from the wings who see evolution the way you're describing? You don't think there would be at least a few scientists out there who are neither a, b, or c, just itching for their moment of fame?

You verge pretty close to conspiracy theory, and I have no patience for that.

Date: 2006/03/16 12:40:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Let's first keep in mind that monotheism, and thus belief in specifically a creator, is a late arrival to human spirituality (which term I am using in the sense of 'religious feeling' ).

The first gods were probably 'small gods,' or animistic spirits, the 'god' of a specific river, or of a species of tree, for instance. Now, you'd like to claim, I suppose, that it was close examination of those various empirical phenomena that led our ancestors to attribute their vagaries to the action of supernatural forces?

Date: 2006/03/17 12:12:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
One is left to wonder how something so useless, ridiculous and silly can cause such fear and consternation?  Do you have an explanation?

I do. The dishonest purveyors of ID, having utterly failed to get their vacuous drivel taken seriously by science, are trying to push it on schoolchildren.

In case anybody's still confused, thordaddy is simply espousing a kind of academic affirmative action for bad ideas.

Science is a process. Its definition, while perhaps not "static" as you say, is still much more constrained than you think.

The funniest thing about the ID movement, by far, is the fundies getting in bed with the post-modern relativists.

Date: 2006/03/17 13:16:28, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm not doing it "for the children". I'm doing it to do my part to expose arrogance and dishonesty that has as its target young and impressionable minds. For, I guess, the goal of not living in a world where misguided indoctrinated children are the up-and-coming generation of leaders in all fields. So keep your red flags down. I'm not trying to hide my contempt for ID and pseudoscience behind pieties.

The difference (and you don't sound like Ken Miller to me) is that it's just bad pedagogy to teach that evolution "might be guided." First of all, it's illegal in the US, because the first question is "by whom?" second, it distorts the central truth of evolution by natural selection: contingency. There is, and can be, no goal. It just doesn't work that way, whatever your definition of "empirical evidence". Now, if in your private musings, you prefer to believe that a benevolent intelligence set the ball spinning just so, in order to contrive a universe that would result in li'l ol' us, all the while obscuring any indication that such an intelligence exists, go ahead. It seems silly, and certainly unnecessary, but how you waste your time and energy is really your business.

How public school teachers waste children's time and energy is, too bad for you, all of our business.

Finally, if there is not a very large overlap between IDers and fundies, how come the Kansas BoE couldn't find anybody but lunatic YECers to come testify as "experts" at their cute little "hearings"?

Date: 2006/03/17 18:23:42, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
But the whopper is this whole notion of being "no goal" as you fight for that very thing.  If there is indeed "no goal" for evolution then lay it to rest and let it be.  What's the difference to you in how it all began?  You don't really care do you?  Talk about "unnecessary" and "silly!"  What is it that makes you so fearful of goal-oriented evolution as opposed to goalless evolution?  What's the fundamental difference in your mind?

It's you who lack understanding of the actual claims of the neo-Darwinian account and therefore can't see the difference. Trust me, I do care.

The answer to your penultimate interrogation is: What makes you so fearful of "goalless evolution", and furthermore, do you fear it so much that it actually excuses your chronic shoplifting problem?

The answer to your final question, generously assuming that you actually want an answer, is: The fact of the matter versus wishful thinking. That's a fundamental difference.

Date: 2006/03/17 18:31:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Since when were children not the target of all kinds of indoctrination?  Why you find ID especially egregious is the question?  The best you can muster is the idea that it's arrogant and dishonest.  I don't think this qualifies as reasonable justification.  Afterall, some of the greatest minds in human history have pondered the relevance and evidence of an intelligent designer.  Could I assume that you take these great thinkers to also be arrogant and dishonest?  Let's not forget, science is but an afterthought.

Emphasis mine, and on the subject, yes, I do think arrogance and dishonesty are bad pedagogy.

Glad someone's on their side, though. It's only fair.

Date: 2006/03/18 09:11:46, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
CJ O'Brien,

Can I assume you have no children of your own?

I don't really care; it would be typical, but factually incorrect.

Can I assume you're dodging the issue?

Date: 2006/03/22 08:22:10, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
What can science say about my motivation for posting to this forum... nothing!

So, it's God of the gaps, but, in this case, the 'gap' in question appears to reside between thordaddy's ears.

Date: 2006/03/23 06:55:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
And why does Dougmoron think we should carte what a bunch of maitre'd's think about science anyway?

That is what "MD" means, right... right?

There's no table for you right now, smart guy. Beat it -dt

Date: 2006/03/23 11:29:45, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
What is it about ID that leads its supporters to also embrace reactionary idiocies like this? Wanna throw in some Global Warming denial, there dooddy? Got any genocides you can apologize for?

Do they feel an overwhelming need to be wrong about everything?

Date: 2006/03/26 10:09:47, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
My experience was quite similar to stevestory's. Despite regular enforced church attendance for most of my childhood, I never really believed (in God).

One significant exception, though: you might say they got me with Santy Claus, and I never fell for it again.

Date: 2006/04/04 09:01:39, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Dembski's bragging about turning the guy in to Homeland Security is just over the top.
Oh, to be a tap on that line.
"Thank you for calling Homeland Security. This call may be monitored for training purposes. In order to better serve you, our menu offers the following options:
If you are wearing a tinfoil hat, press 'one.'
If you are ratting on your neighbor in retaliation for his dog 'doing his business' on your lawn, press 'two.'
If you just saw a swarthy man get into a late-model GM sedan, press 'three.'
If you are a pseudo-academic with narcissistic personality disorder and a grudge, calling to inform us of what is already in the newspapers, and is a tempest in a teapot anyway, please press 'four.'
If you are a terrorist, please stay on the line. An operator will be with you shortly.
Your call is important to us. Thank you for calling Homeland Security. To hear these options again, press 'pound.'"

Date: 2006/04/04 13:45:11, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Is it rude to call these people retarded?

To retarded people.

Date: 2006/04/05 10:54:05, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
He's agnostic on issues like just how many victimless crimes should be penalized by stoning, and whether apostasy deserves burning, or drowning.

Stuff like that.

Date: 2006/04/06 09:11:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The real question here is one of the validity of absolutism.

The naive human intuition insists that every object, every concept, must be an example of a specific "kind" of thing, must, in short, be amenable to definition.

That the universe doesn't care about our intuitions is a tough pill to swallow for those with an anti-scientific worldview.

Date: 2006/04/06 11:42:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
"early morality." LOL

Date: 2006/04/06 13:26:40, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I certainly am against free will, as an answer, if it is the wrong answer.

In your thread, Chris Hyland very cogently pointed out to you just why it is highly unlikely that a complex set of behaviors like homosexual behavior does not have at least some genetic component.

You're right, there's never going to be a discovery of "a gay gene," as in one gene that "causes" homosexuality. But to derive from that the answer you seem content with (you know, the one you assumed from the beginning) is laughably naive. I believe it all starts with your inability to deal with any degree of ambiguity, as pointed out on yet another of your threads.

Date: 2006/04/07 12:11:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'd rather either discard the notion that they developed separately, or come up with a new facet of evolutionary theory, such as perhaps some sort of Platonic realm of ideas in which there are just so many body forms available.

We don't need anthing as spooky as a "Platonic realm" to see why there are "just so many body forms available." In evolutionary time, nature has faced the same problems, over and over, many many times.

Eyes have evolved in many diverse lineages. Sight is a good solution to the ever-present challenge of being aware of the environment.

Check out a Mososaur, a big shark, and a dolphin. Simple hydrodynamics gives us a much better idea why that streamlined shape is a good idea for a large marine predator than any notion of Platonic forms.

So, that the adaptive radiation of a few ancestral marsupial forms in Australia led to several derived forms that are quite similar to the derived forms of a similar adaptive radiation of placental mammals is not at all surprising, and is predicted by an evolutionary model, at least in a general sense.

Date: 2006/04/07 13:22:54, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
You're basing this too much on gross morphology, I believe, which is not the same as anatomy, by which metric, convergent marsupials and placentals have preserved their idiosyncratic differences (and I don't just mean the obvious, divergent reproductive anatomy.)

And your supposition about "not really separated as long as we think," or words to that effect, highlights one of the supreme difficulties facing the evolution-denier.

You see, no science is an island. It all has to fit in with what is understood from other disciplines, often across quite divergent areas of inquiry. You are now at the point where the conclusions of geology have to be called into question. The breakup of Gondwana and the isolation of Australia is not very much doubted in the theory of Plate Tectonics. Island biogeography, also, can tell us a lot about the capability of different types of animals' ability to traverse the open ocean between widely seperate islands.

Date: 2006/04/08 13:08:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
My bet is the left wing of the science establishment got all lawyered up and threatened to dover the tiny Seguin Gazette for a million bucks. That’s what biology is all about these days, don’t you know, suing instead of science. But hey, suing and science both start with an ’s’ and have two syllables so it’s all good. -ds

This is just staggering, from all angles, but "the left wing of the science establishment" is a scary echo of the way science is being manipulated in the corridors of power associated with the Bush Administration.

I read a really damning article recently about the politicization of appointments to various posts in NIH, the EPA etc. Paraphrasing a scientist who had his appointments questioned and outright blocked on political grounds, "this guy was a biochemist. I swear to you that there's no such thing as 'left-wing biochemistry'."

It's frightening and wrong, so of course DaveTard's all over it.

All over? yep. seeya, commie -dt

Date: 2006/04/10 13:47:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yeah, I love how IDers make both arguments: The public overwhelmingly believes in a creator, but come see our beleaguered minority getting oppressed.

<cue "The Constitutional Peasant">

Date: 2006/04/11 09:06:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Here is Meyer:

"Experience teaches that information-rich systems … invariable result from intelligent causes, not naturalistic ones. Yet origin-of-life biology has artificially limited its explanatory search to the naturalistic nodes of causation … chance and necessity. Finding the best explanation, however, requires invoking causes that have the power to produce the effect in question. When it comes to information, we know of only one such cause.

"Indeed, in all cases where we know the causal origin of 'high information content,' experience has shown that intelligent design played a causal role."

These are some very strong statements. Completely wrong, in my opinion, and maybe I'll have time soon to get into it. But for the present, I'd like to point out that in 14 or so pages, we seem to have made no progrees on what was one of the central points of contention early in the thread: your argument is largely one of incredulity toward the accounts of mainstream biologists that contradict your received notions about the universe, yet you seem completely credulous toward extremely questionable assertions from second-rate philosophers and apologists like Meyer.
It's fine to be skeptical about appeals to authority and the claims of so-called experts. But when it doesn't cut both ways, it begins to look like your mind is utterly made up, and in your mind no ID proponent can ever be wrong.

Date: 2006/04/11 11:32:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
There's a lot to cover there.
I'll start by cutting your list roughly in half, by identifying the non-facts:

1. The fine-tuning of the physical constants.

3. The Cambrian explosion.  Dearth of species but abundance of phyla.

4. Body plan appears first.  Evolution at the species or individual level cannot cross the phylum or higher taxonomic levels.

8.  The finality of a pattern.

9. The era of phyla is followed by the era of species that is followed by the era of minds.  The creation of phyla was long finished.  The creation of species was largely finished since the creation of the human mind.  The creation phenomenon of nature is now largely confined to the domain of the human mind.  

11.  The evolution of human mind/culture and the future evolution on Earth dominated by the human mind.

12.  The prevalence and persistence of the 5 petal design in flowers most relevant to humans.  The fascination of human culture with the number 5 and the 5-pointed star.

19. Sex as the dominant way of reproduction.

21.  The phenomenon of specified and irreducible complexity.

23.  Why beauty/goodness dominates ugliness/evil rather than the reverse in the long run?

25.  Simultaneous creation of genetically diverged life forms.  There are no discernible phylogenetic or antecedent relationships among metazoan phyla or between bacteria, archea, and eukaryotes.

28.  The absence of .../ill-adapted or/... transitional life forms in fossil records.

These are either vague notions, or highly disputed interpretations of evidence, like "fine-tuning" or "specified complexity." They are not facts. Most of the others are likewise poorly stated or misleading in presentation, but I'll let them slide as being more or less "factual."

Not surprisingly, none of them strike me as much of a problem, at least in principle, for Darwinian evolution.

Date: 2006/04/13 12:47:58, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Even Jesus had a mom.

Can I get that on a t-shirt?

Nope. All we got is wifebeaters. $24.95 plus shipping, punk. -dt

Date: 2006/04/14 09:25:17, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Re: relativity, there had long been recognition that the orbit of Mercury was anomalous under Newtonian mechanics.

Date: 2006/04/14 09:53:10, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Oh, man.
On the current PT thermo thread, Steve just linked up the DaveScot classic where he claimed that him typing a sentence violated the SLoT.

I will never get over that. I was thinking about it last night. It gives my spirits a lift, every time.

And then I thought of the best ever name for ol' dt:

Maxwell's Dumba55

I mean, it doesn't contain "dave" and it doesn't rhyme, but hey, it celebrates possibly the stupidest thing he's ever said. Heck, that might be the stupidest thing anybody's ever said.

Date: 2006/04/19 12:41:23, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Personally, I've always thought the specific objections to the term "Darwinist" were a little silly. And comparing it to a racial slur is beyond silly.

"Evolutionist" is really no better, though, and I'll tell you why. It's the "ism". Using terms like this for the opposition gives the creationist a little boost from the outset. It amounts to an unstated premise: There are two worldviews here, two "isms" on equal footing, and you have to choose which to believe.

As folks have been telling you here, "belief" is not at issue when assessing the relative merits of scientific hypotheses. And, further, evolution does not come with a worldview. Its adherents run the gamut, politically, religiously, morally, etc. Follow the evidence, all the evidence, not just the bits and peces that can be twisted into supporting a foregone conclusion, and evolution's the only game in town.

Date: 2006/04/21 16:49:49, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I've honestly never minded Heddle that much. About the only thing he's got in common with most of his fellow-travellers is the smug tone of false-superiority.

He says he believes in "cosmoloogical ID" and all he really bases it on in argument is the supposedly "fine-tuned" very small but non-zero value of the cosmological constant. He typically backs away from criticizing evolution, and he's honest about his apologetics in so far as he doesn't confuse them with anything scientific.

Date: 2006/04/23 10:11:50, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Since Kuhn, there's been a lot of post-modernist mumbo-jumbo that purports to make science just another part of the "discourse," a subjective worldview in support of power and money. Sour grapes, I say, from a bunch of academics who must know, somewhere deep inside, that their rhetoric is just so much obscurantist garbage.

(Highly recommended: Fashionable Nonsense, by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont.)

Not to blame Kuhn, necessarily, but has any book been more misread and abused than The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

Date: 2006/04/23 12:48:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Seriously. That guy is like a broken record. I think there's one quotation he uses THREE TIMES on that one page.

He posts at Kansas Citizens for Science sometimes (KCFS, where, btw, I post as "Connor J"), and he's a grade-A jerk, in addition to being utterly clueless. Suffice it to say, he has a deep problem with the concept of 'burden of proof.' He knows one thing about it: it's never on him.

Date: 2006/04/23 12:50:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Re: where does Salvador blog, anyway?

steve, I don't think Sal has a blog. But his spew can frequently be found (if you can stand the smell) at ARN.

Date: 2006/04/23 13:30:14, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
So help me, I jumped in the fray.

Bored Sunday. At work. You know how it goes...

Date: 2006/04/25 13:49:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Y'know, I don't think this forum has gone far enough in our discussion of various sexual orientations and their effects on science, religion and society.

So here's a question: when a gay man and a lesbiand have sex, is it gay sex?

If a gay man and a lesbiand get married, is that bad for the american family? (Bonus question: how about if it's fictional, but it's on prime-time network TV?)

C'mon people. Let's take it higher!

Date: 2006/04/26 07:04:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
AFDave, as has been said, you are spouting boilerplate. There is nothing here but stale rhetoric. However, a couple of points need to be made as often and as forcefully as possible.
There is much evidence which is routinely marshalled to support both naturalistic and super-naturalistic views,

It's all the same evidence. The difference is that science looks at the evidence in its totality, integrates it with the larger totality of everything that is known, and tries to draw the conclusion that makes the best fit. Creationism proceeds from the conclusion, and cherry-picks anomolous or misconstrued results out of the evidence in order to support that conclusion for the benefit of the credulous.
Creationists want to have 'their own evidence,' but science does not, and could not, proceed on such a basis. The upshot is that a young earth is flatly contradicted by ALL of science.
but nothing can ultimately be proven on either side,

This is trivially true, as science is not in the business of 'proving' anything.
since the origin of life has never been directly observed.

ALL observations are mediated to some degree. You're harping on this point as if it weren't true of all science. Whether the observation is a fossil of a fifty-million year dead creature, or the track made by a particle that died a nanosecond after the result was recorded, all obswervations are indirect, and concern past phenomena. If you like, Dave, you can try to argue that the degree to which evolutionary observations are separated in time from the events in question is terribly significant, but you cannot get away with construing it as a difference in kind from any other scientific observation, in any other field.

Date: 2006/04/26 10:18:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Wow. Just wow.
Kizzzmet said...
cj you wrote:

"And I agree that IC is easy to understand. What is also easy to understand is that we expect such structures to result from natural selection, and, in fact, NS is the only well-understood process that could, in principle, give rise to such features."

The problem is that natural selection doesn't change bodily structures, all it does is decide what survives. Mutation is supposedly what changes bodily structure. Chance mutation somehow built bio technology so complex that we cannot even begin to replicate it nor really understand how any of it works in great detail. A series of mutations built an eye? built a hand? built a nervous system? built wings? built mango seeds? built a rose? How can blind chance mutations build highly sophisticated bio technologically integrated massively complex information storing and reading life forms? That's like believing if you zap an amoeba and it's offspring with radiation for long enough that it will turn into an apple tree by chance. Or if you throw paint at a canvas long enough you'll get the Mona Lisa. It's just plain dumb.

You also wrote:

"A couple of questions, there, kizzmet:
When, in your understanding, did this "unified field of superconcious energy" came into existence?"

Many if not most physicists already believe and have hypothesized about a unified field of energy throughout the universe for some time now. When you want to consider the origin of matter/energy in the universe you have to come to a point where you say matter/energy has always existed. Why? Because if anything exists then there was never a time when nothing existed. This is because if there ever was a time when nothing existed then nothing would ever come into existence because nothing produces nothing. So the conclusion according to the current accepted laws of physics is the matter/energy can not be created nor destroyed. All it does is change into different types of matter/energy.

So where did the universal superconscious unified field come from? It was always here. Although the consciousness and mind was in a potential state until some unknown change came about. The universe (infinite universe not the big bang bull) came alive at some point in time a very long time ago. It developed from an ignorant state into a supra intelligent state. This is how it had to happen because knowledge is not inherent in anything. All knowledge has a source and must be acquired. Therefore "God" was born totally ignorant and then developed over a very long period of time until eventually he/she was able to entertain itself. When you're the only conscious entity in existence with nothing to do but exist in infinite space all alone you are highly motivated to change that situation. The earth and similar planets are the result of "God" wanting something to do and intelligent people to relate with.

Then you wrote:

"Was everything in the living world designed, or just things that are IC?"

All the product of design, "God" controls everything and everyone. We and everything else exist within and are a part of and depend on "God" for our existence.

Then you wrote:

"Was everyhting designed at the same time?"

"God" has to actually make a plan and design things just like anyone else, so no it took a long time to design everything. But everything we have experience of on earth was designed trillions of years ago. "God" is very very ancient. Earth is just a tiny planet amongst trillions of similar and better planets with humans on them. Humans are the forms "God" created to enjoy with and to give other people lives to enjoy with. Our bodies are not the product of chance, they are the ultimate enjoying machines (potentially, when you have evolved your consciousnes to the perfected stage then you are given a perfect body and you will live on a perfect planet with no disease, death, old age etc)

Then you asked:

"Why are there so many extinct species?
Thanks so much."

It's all a part of a historical plan. History is not chaotic, it's all planned out and it happens in the same way on countless other earth type planets. The way history on earth has unfolded is for a purpose. It's like a movie in that it plays out according to the script and the director for a purpose. That purpose is to elevate our consciousness, evolve our consciousness. So the ancient earth existed for modern day purposes, for modern day debate. You must remember that until a little over one hundred years ago the very ancient past of earth had never been known by any humans throughout history. It's only in modern society where we have learned about the earth's distant past. What happened millions of years ago on earth was for the purpose of discussing it in modern society, to incite debate on these topics, to show us something e.g. the great age and planning skill of "God".

But ID doesn't have ANYTHING to do with religion.

Date: 2006/04/26 10:32:20, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (Faid @ April 26 2006,04:47)
Quote (Chris Hyland @ April 26 2006,04:29)
Has anyone else noticed that (presumably philosophical naturalist) cosmologists are taking the idea of a multiverse — of which there is absolutely no evidence! — a lot more seriously since cosmic fine-tuning was discovered and widely recognized, since they need those probablistic resources to avoid the conclusion of intelligent design?
Has anyone else noticed that if you google "probabilistic resources" you only get pages associated with Dembski?. Kind of the same way that if you google "amino-peptide complex" (ie. protein) you only get pages related to oil of olay.


as in second fiddle? That's my job around here -dt

Date: 2006/04/27 09:43:43, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Form a hypothesis -- I don't want any criticism of my hypothesis -- according to the rules above, it can be anything I want it to be.  You can save your criticism for my evidence which purports to support it.

Okay. It can be anything you want it to be, but by the same token, we are justified in rejecting it out of hand if it is epistemologically inferior to other hypotheses, which yours clearly is, based on parsimony and the logic of explanation.

When we say a hypothesis potentially explains a phenomenon, we say that it describes the phenomenon in terms of other phenomena that are well-understood, and simpler than the phenomenon we are purporting to explain. "God" is simply not an explanation. No testable predictions follow from 'an omnipotent being, who could have done anything at all, did this.' So, evidence aside, it's just a loser of a hypothesis.

Further, it completely abuses the principle of parsimony, which leads us to accept for consideration the hypothesis that asks us to make the fewest and the best supported assumptions. Yours assumes the existence of a being with 'the basic skill set' to construct an entire universe. A huge assumption that you can only support with the very same 'evidence' that you will use to support the hypothesis itself. Circular reasoning such as this will get you exactly nowhere.

Logic alone doesn't give us answers. It tells us where to look for them. Application of sound logic has served the sciences well, and that is why 'Godidit' is no longer allowed. Science ends where creationism begins, and tortured attemps such as this to pretend it's not so do exactly zero to advance anyone's knowledge or understanding. Quit wasting your time.

Date: 2006/04/27 09:54:17, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
If Dave, or anyone else, is interested in a longer discussion of parsimony and creationist "explanations," check out Occam's Hammer.

Date: 2006/04/27 12:42:17, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Gotta figure.
I mean, they close your bank account when you die, don't they?

Date: 2006/04/28 11:46:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Steve, that's hilarious. What is it?
Reads like Pratchett.

Date: 2006/05/02 09:10:23, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
These tidbits from your favorite DI fellows aren’t evidence, Dave. And, remember, they’re the same as the justification for the assumptions implicit in your *cough* hypothesis.
You start with the anthropic musings of Meyer:
Physicists have discovered some seventy separate
physical or cosmological parameters that require precise calibration in order to
produce a life-sustaining universe

First, as you will hear in practically every response to this post, I would be quite surprised to find myself in a universe where my existence was impossible.
Second, what does “life-sustaining universe” mean? Does it mean “universe identical to this one?” If so, that’s a neat tautology. On the other hand, it could mean “a universe with fundamentally different life from this one” in which case no one knows how “precise” this “calibration” would need to be. For all that we know about life on Earth, it’s still a sample size of one. We, all of us, are fundamentally ignorant about the ‘parameter space’ in which something we would be willing to call ‘life’ can occur. Unless, of course, you would only be willing to call DNA-based para-terrestrial organisms ‘life,’ in which case you’re back to the tautology “the universe is fine-tuned to be… just like this universe!”

And then we get a patented Denton howler:
All the evidence available in the biological sciences supports the core proposition of traditional natural theology--that the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality, from the size of galaxies to the thermal capacity of water, have their meaning and explanation in this central fact.

All the evidence available in the biological (and geological) sciences in fact supports the proposition that life began ~3.8 billion years ago, and that from that time forward the most numerous, diverse, robust, and tenacious life-forms have been prokaryotes. Multicellular, animal life has been around for maybe a billion years, most of that as relatively undifferentiated worm-like creatures. Mammals have been around for 80 to 100 million years, primates about 40 million, hominids 7 to 8 million, and genus Homo maybe two million. The human conception of a creative “Super-Intelligence” is about the only thing the Bible dates correctly, being about 5 or 6 thousand years old. In other words, roughly .000001 of the history of life, or .0025 of the existence of our genus. Pretty long build-up for the punchline, wouldn’t you say?
Now, I like people too, Dave. I think we’re pretty darn special. But you have to see that, against the backdrop of the actual “evidence available in the biological sciences,” the conceit that the entire universe is just for us can begin to seem like so much wishful thinking. Keep saying it, I guess. But it sounds like whistling past the graveyard to me.

Date: 2006/05/02 09:35:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
But there's a relatively narrow 'window' in which a child must experience spoken or signed language, or the capacity never develops. After 5 or 6 years old, maybe 8 tops, without exposure to speech, conceptual thinking is literally impossible.

Sign languages are fully grammatical 'natural languages.' There is no difference in principle between them and spoken languages for the purpose of first-language acquisition.

Date: 2006/05/02 11:00:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It's true, as far as we can tell from the feral children who have been studied. Here's theWikipedia article on language acquisition. There's a link there to the feral children article.

Of course, as with most social science, 'hard' experimental results could only be gained at the expense of committing an atrocity, so I hope we never 'know for sure.'

I would tend to believe that she would assign supernatural properties to many of the natural phenomenom that she couldnt explain....however I believe she would fall short of assigning it all to a single creator.  Why do you think early, primitive religions were mostly polytheistic?  They saw the "supernatural" nature of several things...but at the same time they observed the conflicting and imperfect nature of the world.  They assigned the good to the supernatural, and the bad to either the evil supernatural, or conflict between the supernatural.....

All of these ideas, however 'primitive' they seem to us, grew out of millennia of people in groups, thinking and saying and singing, doing all the things that lead societies to have traditions. Even two individuals with, we'll say, intact conceptual thinking skills, would not be a culture, capable of organizing experience into shared myth. I have a feeling that in a 'state of nature' the line between 'supernatural' and 'natural' would have been so completely blurred as to not really be comprehensible to you and me. But I certainly agree with what I think is your central thesis: there is nothing especially 'natural' or inevitable about believing in a Sky Father.

Date: 2006/05/02 11:36:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Far too often, IDers are just allowed to pull a fast one with all their bluster about 'complexity.' They're intentionally avoiding two points: one is that, in the world of human engineering, a good, elegant design is recognized by its simplicity. And nature abounds with needlessly complex 'designs.'
But the real irony to me is that, in coming up with their descriptions of these fantastic bits of microbial technology, these 'molecular machines' they love to go on and on about (I'm looking at you, Behe), they drasically oversimplify in order to push the macine analogy, because we all know that machines don't just evolve. For instance, the flagellum. Behe breaks it down into five or six parts and then invites you to marvel at how like a human-designed propeller it is. Well, it isn't. In human terms, it's more like forty different kinds of sticky yarn, each with a different strength, elasticity, and characteristic kind of knot, all bundled together in a hopeless tangle that, miraculously, it seems, serves somewhat the purpose of a propeller.
A human engineer proposing that as a propulsion system would be laughed out of the concept meeting.

Date: 2006/05/02 12:14:07, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
sauteed, with a little butter and garlic?

Date: 2006/05/02 19:11:14, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (C.J.O'Brien @ May 02 2006,14:35)
Sign languages are fully grammatical 'natural languages.' There is no difference in principle between them and spoken languages for the purpose of first-language acquisition.

Quote (TCE @ May 02 2006,21:13)
That just isn't true; I'm deaf myself :-)

I certainly don't "think" in sign which I learnt before I could lip read. I don't "think" in English either ;-)

I think I understand what you're saying.
But perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I was warding off the impression that sign languages are like pidgins, not possessed of their own grammar, or are dependent somehow on a spoken language for their basic syntax.

Also, I said 'in principle.' In practice, acquisition of a sign language as a first language must introduce many complications. But children (and please correct me again if I am wrong and then I'll be quiet) acquire sign languages 'organically' in signing linguistic environments. Meaning when the caregivers are deaf and/or sign fluently, and the child is known to be hearing-impaired. It occurred to me, though, just in thinking this over, that an obvious complication that can't be avoided is the need to be able to see the speaker.

So I in no way meant to imply that there are no differences at all between spoken and signed languages. In calling sign a grammatical language I was differentiating it from codes, pidgins, and various forms of animal communication. In sign, as in any language, you can say anything that comes into your head, on the spot, using just a few rules of syntax and a lexicon of a given sophistication. Now, we often fail to do just that, no matter what language we use, so, clearly, no one thinks exclusively "in" any language. I suspect that there is a continuum of variation among people, such that some "think in language" more than others, who might be predominantly visual thinkers, or what have you. The evidence for a 'universal grammar' has led some to posit a 'mentalese,' a universal cognitive 'machine language' that would be the medium of pre-linguistic thought. In any case, everyone is familiar with thoughts that 'can't be put into words.'

With Arden, I would be interested if you felt like elucidating your experience. A couple of undergrad Linguistics courses, more theory than practice, doesn't tell you much about the ordinary details that comprise real life.

Date: 2006/05/03 07:56:14, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
These tidbits from your favorite DI fellows aren’t evidence, Dave.
If they are not, then could you propose an example of what IS evidence?  Let me guess ... mountains and mountains of 'scholarship' from the science establishment to support Naturalistic Explanations Only?  This was the kind of odds Galileo was working against too.  Are you telling me that I should believe your evidence and reject mine because yours fits with the majority?

One of the things about science that YEC's just can't get their heads around is that there just isn't any "my evidence" and "your evidence." Science demands transparency and replicability. So all of the evidence we have comes from that dreaded "establishment." Unless there's a YEC research program I'm not aware of, all you have to go on is the evidence uncovered by the hard work of scientists, spit on by the cretins at AiG et al.
Second, what does “life-sustaining universe” mean?
Exactly what it says.  And I challenge you to propose some parameter changes and ask a biologist how likely it would be for life to continue.  The problem with naturalistic speculators like yourself is that you guys like to say "Well, we only know about life on earth ... sample size of one.  There could be other planets, other universes, who knows!"  OK, great.  I agree.  And there could be a Fairy Godmother for all I know.  But if we are going to admit wild speculation into the arena, let's admit ALL kinds of wild speculation into the arena.  My favorite is "Parallel Universes".  I don't know how people can tell me with a straight face that there might be an infinite number of parallel universes, then in the next breath tell me I'm a wild speculator for proposing an Infinite God character.

It's a simple question (with complicated implications), and you didn't answer it, Dave. And there are demonstrably "other planets," so the 'parameter space' that would allow for life is a completely open question, just in the universe we are sure exists. You'll notice that I didn't say anything about multiverses, not because I agree with you that the concept is on an epistemological level with your "Super-Intelligence," but because, in a simplistic debate like this, it's open to your facile dismissal. Why don't you respond to the arguments I did make, rather than the ones you wish I'd made?

Regarding the Denton "howler" ...  THIS is the howler ...
All the evidence available in the biological (and geological) sciences in fact supports the proposition that life began ~3.8 billion years ago
*cough* because we arbitrarily made some massive initial conditions assumptions so it would come out that long

We did? This is interesting. Can you lay out for me a few of these "massive assumptions"?
and that from that time forward the most numerous, diverse, robust, and tenacious life-forms have been prokaryotes.
the old 'what do you think makes humans so special, just look at the bacteria' saw ... sometime I'm going to do a thread on the implications of this thinking on law and culture ... talk about a howler ... this one will be way better than Rush Limbaugh and the Tree Huggers!

Again, you're responding to something I plainly did not say. Microbial life has dominated this planet from the dawn of life to now, and will continue to do so, right up until the sun, a bloated red giant, swells up to devour the earth. From a prokaryotes 'point of view,' the universe is made for it. And I can't imagine anything being worse than "Rush Limbaugh and the Pill Poppers," so have fun with that.

Multicellular, animal life has been around for maybe a billion years,
based on our flawed assumptions in dating supposed 'index fossils'

Again with the mystery assumptions. And I think you're confused. Index fossils are mostly used to date rocks, not necessarily other fossils, and certainly not the earliest. The date is derived from the earliest trace fossils, and the radiometric dates of the rocks themselves. Why don't you finish toppling the facade of evolution before you start in on digging out the rotten foundations of nuclear physics, there, tiger.

most of that as relatively undifferentiated worm-like creatures. Mammals have been around for 80 to 100 million years, primates about 40 million, hominids 7 to 8 million, and genus Homo maybe two millionDitto above ... funny ... every non-YEC history book I can find anywhere says things like "4000 (or so) BC: History Begins" (I never find over 10,000).   Hmmm... what did all those 'Homos' do for 1,996,000 years?  You're telling me they all of a sudden started writing and making artifacts only in the last .000000001% (or whatever) of their existence on the planet ... yeah, pretty plausible

"Writing" and "making artifacts" are separated by millions of years. Is it too much to ask that you try to perceive that technology developed through time? I mean, why cave painting, when they could've invented TV and been done with it?  
The human conception of a creative “Super-Intelligence” is about the only thing the Bible dates correctly, being about 5 or 6 thousand years old. In other words, roughly .000001 of the history of life, or .0025 of the existence of our genus. Pretty long build-up for the punchline, wouldn’t you say?
the buildup is in your imagination, Mr. O'Brien, which is great.  I like imagining things too.  Have you seen Narnia?  It's a good one for the imagination, but it's not about science, unless we redefine science ... which I'm not opposed to as long as the rules are fair.

If it's in my imagination, then evidently it is also in the imagination of the entire scientific community. Conspiracy theories? The rules are unfair? How dreadful.

Date: 2006/05/03 10:11:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Oh, he already did.
It consisted of the anthropic principle, and some quotes from Behe and Denton.
I don't know about you, but I'm convinced.
Quick! Somebody get me a snake!

Date: 2006/05/03 10:26:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Ah... memories.

('course, I called it the "meat n' potatoes" theory, but "guts to gametes" seems to have caught on, and, heck, it's catchier anyway.)

We've come a long way, baby.

Date: 2006/05/04 06:34:45, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Not just the sun, my friend. The entire freakin' universe revolves around the earth.

As to what the withered wisp actually believes...
I think he believes in entertaining himself by yanking people's chains on the internet. But the geocentric "model" does have that special cranky something you crave.

Whatever else you can say about the husk, he keeps 'em coming back for more.

Date: 2006/05/04 07:18:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Re: micro/macro

1+1=2  BUT

1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 =/= 10?

In other words, what is the barrier to cumulative microevolution events resulting in macroevolutionary change in a lineage?

Date: 2006/05/04 12:33:55, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
You guys have GOT to cool it.
Some of us are at work, here, and the loud guffaws are starting to make people wonder about the level of my dedication.

Date: 2006/05/05 11:55:07, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Suuure. I remember that one. It goes something like

Thou shalt not bugger thy neighbor without wearing a sheath on thy willie.

Coveting thy neighbor's willie-sheath is right out.

Date: 2006/05/05 12:59:23, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It probably is "harder." But it doesn't follow that the average doctor is necessarily smarter or a better judge of scientific evidence than a PhD, certainly not in the field of expertise in question.

A big reason why it's harder is the great number of people who want to be doctors and make serious money. So med school and residency are gruelling tortures that act as a seive, letting only the hardiest and most dedicated through.

Date: 2006/05/09 08:54:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
No.  I do not believe there is such a thing as 'more evolved' humans.  I just asked our ToE advocates why there ARE NO EXAMPLES of 'more evolved' or 'less evolved' humans.  There should be some living today if ToE is true.

It seems likely from the evidence of paleoanthropology that, at any given time in Africa, there were several extant species of Australopithecine simultaneously. And that H. habilis probably overlapped with Australopithecines. H. habilis and H. erectus were probably alive at the same time. And, most recently, H. sapiens and H. neanderthalis certainly lived at the same time. So, for most of the history of hominids, the situation you describe roughly pertained. Of course, "more" and "less" evolved still betrays a misunderstanding. All of the creatures in question were successful species in their own right that lived for millions of years. H. sapiens sapiens is the question mark there. A million years is looking like a longshot for us.

It cannot be stressed enough that a single human lifetime is the briefest of 'snapshots' through which to view the history of life on earth. And even the history of civilization is a blip in deep time. That is why a serious engagement with the molecular and fossil evidence is the only way to understand the basis for evolutionary thought. Against tens of thousands of scientists uncovering and interpreting this evidence for over one hundred years, you offer only incredulity, based on prior religious commitments. No one here is going to buy it, so your fantasies of "waking up" a deluded Darwinist is mere bluster. You're just here to amuse yourself (as well as your wife and children, apparently).

Date: 2006/05/11 08:49:55, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Trivial!  Trivial!  I just choke on that!  To me, biological systems are the most profound antithesis of "triviality" that one can possibly imagine!

Reading comprehension, Dave.
He didn't say "biological systems are trivial." He said, the resemblance of biological systems to human-designed machines is trivial.

Not only is it trivial, it's an oversimplification that ceationists use to push how "obvious" design is. I suggested awhile back that the way we recognize elegant human design is by its simplicity, not by the seemingly needless, often redundant, complexity we see in biological systems. You did not respond.

Everyone appreciates the complexity. The difference between creationists and scientists, is that scientists don't gloss it over for the sake of a cheap analogy and then throw up their hands and say "beats me!" They investigate the complexity that exists, and try to understand its origins. "Look at this fantastic machine" is just a restatement of the problem, and thus is useless as an explanation.

Date: 2006/05/11 11:47:45, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Right. And that line of reasoning brings us right back to parsimony. You can add God, The Designer, Kali, FSM, what have you, to a model, any model, and... it does nothing. It's just a redundant loop. The model suffers not a bit if the loop is removed, and so we see no need for God in any scientific hypothesis.

Date: 2006/05/11 12:14:51, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Larry of course didn't get it, but over on his blog, I pursued this with him on the subject of coevolution.

Basically, non-YE creationists are caught on a logical fork when they try to simultaneously admit what they call 'micro'evolution, and claim that coevolutionary relationships are too specific, or 'finely tuned' to have evolved.

If 'micro'evolution happens, then it will quickly throw such relationships out of whack, meaning that what we see today wasn't designed, it evolved, even if the 'original' relationship was designed. If 'micro'evolution, on the other hand, won't alter the relationship, then how specific could it have been in the first place? Not specific enough to be any kind of logical problem for evolution apparently.

Anyway, it's great to see the YECs in the 'big tent' make ID look stupid, talking about "kinds" and such. That's their only refuge from the question, though. Good luck getting anyone to answer it.

Date: 2006/05/11 14:21:10, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
More words to live by:

"But still, it moves"
    --Galileo Galilei

(but it seems to stand still)

(but it seems to stand still)

(but it seems to stand still)

(but it seems to stand still)

(but it seems to stand still)

(but it seems to stand still)

(but it seems to stand still)

(but it seems to stand still)

Date: 2006/06/22 11:00:09, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The main problems with a "look-ahead" function in the genome are: what information is the function acting on, and how does it stay encoded in the genome long enough to have a phenotypic effect?

Let me explain. You say
So the mutation is not random in a mathematical sense, but it is also not really random from a fitness perspective because the DNA is undergoing mutation in response to the current conditions (whatever they may be) and at particular genes to encourage...what?  I don't know, that would really depend upon the gene in question and the conditions initiating the response.

But exactly what is at issue is that information about "current conditions" is all out in the environment, shaping the genome, by reference to phenotype, solely by the differential survival of individuals. So a given genome is in a sense a repository of information about the past conditions in which an ancestral population thrived enough to give rise to the current population. As Dawkins has put it, beaver genes are "about" damming streams, and bower bird genes are "about" attracting mates; these genes represent the means by which an individual carrier of them got to be here, but if conditions have changed, they tell us nothing about how it is, right here and now.

Of course, it's possible to imagine a "look-ahead" feature, but the logic of selection shows pretty readily that it wouldn't work. In a nutshell, there's coding DNA (codes an amino acid sequence) and non-coding DNA that is still somewhat mysterious, but seems to be parasitical on the genome. "Junk" DNA and ERVs (endogonous retroviruses) are examples of non-coding DNA. They don't "do" anything toward contributing to phenotype, as they have no expression in an amino acid sequence. Their "function" is solely to get copied at meiosis, and transmitted to the next generation. Applying the logic of selection at this level, the genome is the environment, and the various "parasites" are the competing agents vying for representation in future populations.

Now, imagine that a stretch of this piggybacking genetic material somehow came to reflect the current environmental conditions being experienced by the individual organisms, and further, somehow "promoted" mutations of a certain kind, in other parts of the genome, in response to this information. Nice try, it would have been a great deal all around, but these sequences, since their "positive" contributions are invisible to selection, will quickly die out due to pervasive competition from single-mindedly parasitic sequences.

Date: 2006/06/27 19:19:28, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Hi Lenny.

I am simultaneously glad to see you on the boards and embarrassed that you are so intent on acting like you're being censored.

You stated your intent. Shouldn't a blogger, especially at hi-pro PT, have the right to have discussion (however misguided according to you) without intentional disruption otherwise devoid of content?

Date: 2006/06/28 07:33:41, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Thanks a lot, Chatfield.

Now I am haunted by the image of Sal Cordova sporting a baby-doll T.


time to find another haunt, baby-doll -dt

I mean, homo -dt

Date: 2006/06/28 08:09:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (dhogaza @ June 28 2006,12:46)
I'm curious as to why the big bang is being lobbed at scientists. I'm relatively sure it was.. you know.. scientists who actually came up with that one. Is it another one of those "scientists did it but it's a victory for ID!" things?

Some believe that since the Big Bang postulates a beginning, it supports the Judeo-Christian creation myth.

A CreoBot of my acquaintance loves this one. The reasoning seems to be that, before Hubble, the scientific consensus was a static, eternal cosmos. In fact, Einstein added the cosmological constant to the GR equations specifically in order to reconcile them with a static universe (one that is not expanding or contracting).

So, to the creos, the Big Bang theory is a big turn-about that somehow proves they were right all along. And it allows them to imagine bigwig scientists, like Einstein, with egg on their face when the truth came out.

What's funny about it to me is that the pre-Big Bang consensus doesn't seem to have been supported by any particular data. It was just something "everone knew." But to creos, it was evidence that the establishment was stubbornly assuming that any teleological account of creation was out of bounds, and now that there's a big bang, well we knew Gawd musta done it, all along.

Date: 2006/06/28 08:16:10, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
No, no, I get what the Wisp is trying to say. See, in the past, all the valid knowledge in scripture just flowed plumb out.

And so now there's none left.

Date: 2006/07/21 08:44:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien

Date: 2006/07/21 14:09:48, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I think, in Brown's hydroplate theory[sic], that the water exploded off the earth into space and thus explains comets.

Or something. It's been awhile.

Date: 2006/08/03 12:21:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
A genome would have an ability of mounting directed searches if specified portions were allowed to mutate more readily than others, and if these "optimized" regions of genetic flexibility were located at strategic points so that the metabolic changes they produced  would have a (relatively) high probability of solving the  environmental crisis of the hour.

You're glossing over the real obstacle to the existence of a "look-ahead function" in the genome.  Which is identifying, in advance, "the environmental crisis of the hour."  This is where skeptic goes off the rails in his bid to reinvent evolutionary theory, and it's something you don't seem to have given much thought to, either.

In your example of antibiotic resistance, you ask "do bacteria indeed rely on a strictly random search for resistance," and this puts the whole thing on a misleading teleological foundation that doesn't exist.  What bacteria "rely on" is the diversity of the population before there's any environmental crisis.  A few individuals, by chance, already have a mutation that happens to confer resistance to the unfamiliar agent.  Over generations, the descendants of these variants come to dominate the population.

ericmuurphy pointed out to skeptic, on his thread, that teleology is always found to be the wrong answer in biology.  "Hard to believe," for some people, but demonstrably true, nonetheless.

Date: 2006/08/04 14:11:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It's often said, but it bears repeating:
Natural Selection is a relentlessly conservative process.

Because there are so vastly many more ways of being dead than being alive, when Nature finds a way of being alive, she don't let go without a fight.

How's that for teleology?

Date: 2006/08/05 14:11:14, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm not really 'famous,' but I pretend to be on my blog.

And I'm gay.

Date: 2006/08/07 12:51:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Any fool knows that Huckle's embryo drawings are A SHAM!!!

And, and Pillsbury man! Now, with Pepper mouth!

And... Cambri-cumbrou-mutter <mumble>... Something about phyllo dough... maybe?

And, that's about it.

Pathetic, ain't it?

Date: 2006/08/08 11:58:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien

Date: 2006/08/08 13:10:58, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I forgot which direction the sex change went, I think it was man to woman, Denyse O'leary probably knows

Why? Did they trade?

Date: 2006/08/09 15:50:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It reminds me of something out of Huxley's  Brave New World.


Date: 2006/08/17 15:13:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
cancer-induced ID

As opposed to the old-fashioned, retardation-induced ID, maybe?

Date: 2006/08/24 11:48:50, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
So, like, if Gawd goes out of business, will he have a big clearance sale?

I hope so, 'cause I heard he's got a lot of pretty nice stuff.

Date: 2006/08/25 08:33:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
On the PT thread, I lost my sympathy for McNeill when he equated Johnson's Darwin on Trial with Dawkins's Blind Watchmaker, calling them both "polemics" or some such rot.

He's not dealing with the issues. It seems more like the media, pre-Dover, when every article had to have "balance."

Good pedagogy and balanced reporting do not require tolerance for intellectual dishonesty. Some ideas are just factually and logically wrong. ID is one of them, and any treatment of it in an academic environment that doesn't come to that conclusion is corrupt and counterproductive to free inquiry in my book.

And I don't care one whit how "polite" Sal acts when he smears his lying sleaze all over the web. Lying is lying.

Date: 2006/08/25 10:52:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
200 tard-tastic pages!
*pops champagne*

Date: 2006/08/27 11:45:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
C. but...

If there were in the curriculum a generalized critical thinking unit, a discussion of various pseudo-sciences and how to tell the difference could be valuable.

Date: 2006/08/30 08:49:24, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
well, if you decide to read the whole thread on PT first (which i recommend), best you pull up a comfy chair and nice hot cup of coffee to relax with

I might recommend a stiff drink instead, but...

Date: 2006/09/01 07:42:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Whoa, whoa! Hold up everyone.
Assume that a Stephen King super virus wipes out all human life next year.

Did Barry just advocate the destruction of humanity?
Somebody, quick, call Forrest Mims at the batcave, and I'll get Homeland Security on the hotline.

Church burnin' Ebola boys to the rescue!!!

Date: 2006/09/01 14:01:46, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
All right. You talked me into it.
*pops beer*

Date: 2006/09/03 13:01:07, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
You'd think a self-proclaimed journalist would be ashamed of this, but apparently not.

An individual who joins forces with Billy D. and consents to have her picture displayed with his on a website is, by definition, without shame.

Plus, shame puts a big crimp in the whole lyin' fer Jeezus schtick.

Date: 2006/09/03 13:06:15, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
California ain't Texas

But the irony of it is, I'd love to have the opportunity to vote for Kinky Friedman.

Ahnuld vs. Angelides? no good choices there.

Date: 2006/09/06 14:01:07, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Jeebus, but that thread is stupid. I mean, they could play that game every single day over there.

"Let's find a paper in genetics that none of us understand and then let's all talk stupid about it and correct each others' stupidity and then let's listen to SpringerBot tell us about his magic mushroom farm in his basement."

Rod and Todd: "Yaaaayyyyyy!!!"

Date: 2006/09/07 10:49:23, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
There was a long interview with ol' Shrub on TV last night, with some network talking-head, they all look the same to me, anybody else see that? It was,er, quite a performance.

Best line: "One of the hardest parts of my job, see, is connecting Iraq to 9/11."

Priceless. I laughed until I cried.

As far as 9/11 conspiracies go, I'm here in Berkeley, which is probably ground zero for that stuff (forgive the pun). And it's pretty screwed up, because I talk to people about it, and there's this typical polarization that goes on. I express my doubts (which extend to all such speculation), and I'm immediately labeled an apologist for the administration or some kind of sympathizer.

I can't get people to take of the tinfoil headgear and understand that it's not that Bush and his cronies are somehow above such a horrible act. They're plenty evil. The question is one of risk/benefit. Did they NEED such a disaster to acheive their goals (presumably, the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq)? It's hard, IMO, to make a case that they needed it badly enough to risk exposure and execution as history's worst traitors.

The bottom line is, the bigger and more reprehensible the aims of the conspiracy, the more likely someone gets cold feet and talks, or there's a leak. Now, if there were a pattern of mysterious deaths in the administration following the event or something, there'd be more of a case. But the idea that a couple of operatives could pull off something like this is just stretching.

And, of course, as eric points out, the official account is pretty shady as it is.

Date: 2006/09/08 08:32:48, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
PUDS: Post Uncommonly Dense Syndrome.

Date: 2006/09/08 10:49:52, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the Uncommonly Dense poker party.

beta testing the EF as a means of cheater-detection.

High CSI hand wins.

SpringerBot calls PaV's literature bluff.

Sal Cordova quotemines the other Hoyle for a change.

JAD loses all his money, flips the table over and storms out in a rage, only to emerge sheepishly from the closet door he just slammed behind him.

Date: 2006/09/12 14:03:34, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
"Wow, guys... just wow. I don't know where to start... Thanks, Mom, and Dad, for, k'know, just making sure that my education was rotten. Thanks to all the jaded teachers at the bible school. A big thanks to pastor Dembski for making sure I never had to really think about anything.

We weren't sure, y'know. We really tried to pack in the incorrect, misguided and just plain stupid stuff in the post... but, you just never know... sometimes, you just take a big breath, trust in God, and just, y'know, let it go out there into the educated, intelligent world, and... just let people make their choices. I guess, in this case, the folks at AtBC saw what we did, and this... *holds up trophy* and they could just see the blood, sweat and tard that went into it... *seems to sob for a moment* I will never forget this day... thanks to the crowd at UD, you guys are the best... Thank you, God!"

Date: 2006/09/20 13:04:24, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
O'Brainless? O'BRAINLESS???!!!

Hmmm... does Celtic solidarity factor in here at all?

mmmm, No.

Date: 2006/09/21 14:03:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Why does that only happen on AFDave's thread?

Date: 2006/09/22 16:08:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
So there's a situation.
But this is just the sort of wingnut that needs to meet Paley and dave and all our buddies. In a veritable torrent of double- and triple-posted drivel on PT, he ("Your Competition," long ago improved to "Young Creationist") demanded:
Let me ask you something…you like to sit there and laugh and say Creation web sites are “useless.” What makes them useless? I would like an intelligent answer to this.

Solid AtBC material, I figger. Heyeck, Imantuligibent answers is our specimified thingy, rahght?

Date: 2006/10/13 18:45:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Paley protested too much from the beginning.
C.J. O'Brien likes to think I am a troll because he senses my intellgence is so vastly superior to his own.


Date: 2007/04/02 18:23:36, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Hey, Ever'body!!! (been awhile)

The problem, my insufficiently skeptical skeptic, is definitional. That's the point. And it's right where your argument goes off the rails.

If somebody says "This thing, or maybe entity, I don't know what it is, and nobody can agree on a definitive list of it's attribtes, but it makes me feel good, exists."

Do you really think that statement is equivalent, logically to "No, it doesn't." ???

Define God as something that might possibly exist, and then we'll talk. But somehow, I think you'll be dissatisfied with your God.

Date: 2007/04/12 15:38:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Well, they could, but Adam didn't know where to stick his wee wee.

Date: 2007/04/13 18:10:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Pi as the Library of Babel! I like it. Have you read the Borges story?

Date: 2007/04/14 19:22:53, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Gosh, all my old friends from KCFS seem to be showing up.  Fun times.

Hi Ftk!
(C.J. = Connor J)
If we got Josh and Joe Meert on here, it really would be old times wouldn't it?

Date: 2007/04/16 18:04:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
One of the all-time great middleweight boxers

Date: 2007/04/17 12:36:33, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
And not just fundies, you big, tard-cap wearin' lug.

Myself, I grew up in Kansas. That's reason enough right there. When the Kangaroo Kourt was happening in my native state (I'm in Cali now) I caught onto the forums at KCFS and kept abreast of events that way. I also met some good folks, and found out shooting down creationist nonsense is fun!

Jack Krebs of KCFS is also a PTer, so eventually I started hanging out at the Thumb (I even wrote an article). From there, it was just a matter of time before I came over to the Church Burnin' Ebola Boys for the lighter side of "The Controversy." (My entre to this board was the dubious move of luring Paley's Ghost to defend his "guts to gametes" nonsense.) Needless to say, the rest is history.

Date: 2007/04/18 12:31:35, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (oldmanintheskydidntdoit @ April 18 2007,03:06)

My favourite language book, "Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language"
I'm currently reading Douglas Hofstadter's latest, "I am a strange loop", amazing so far.

I love that book, omitsddi. I have come across very few who have read it, despite the popularity of GEB. And, I didn't know he had a new book out, so thanks for the tip.

Date: 2007/04/18 14:49:36, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm not a linguist, but I get drunk and act like one in bars... (honestly, I took some anthro. and linguistics in college, so I have some idea what I'm talking about.)

Language is just fascinating stuff, and there are a lot of misconceptions about it floating around out there. One good source for a popular-level discussion of such issues is the book Language Myths, by Laurie Bauer.

Arden does a good job here of listing some common and pernicious misconceptions. What I find interesting is not so much debunking such myths as investigating them, teasing out what they reveal about culture and language and people's relationship to them.

I live in Oakland, so I have more than passing familiarity with Black English. Some of you may remember the "ebonics" debate about 10 years ago, where the Oakland schools floated a proposal to actually teach some classes using primarily black english. A hue and cry went up, and Op-Ed pages nationwide featured a lot of hand-wringing about "the state of our language," and other such twaddle. I'm afraid I can't cite a source, but I remember reading one such magazine piece, in which a seemingly intelligent commentator made the claim that "it would be impossible to teach physics, for instance, in Black English."

I've waited lo, these many years for a soapbox upon which to decry this idea. The problem is that you can't really teach physics using standard English either, without importing into it the specialized vocabulary of physics. It is exceptionalism to imagine that that vocabulary "properly belongs" to the standard dialect of the language. And this, I feel, is at the heart of misconceptions about Black English, and other "non-standard" dialects. People don't realize that a) nobody really speaks "standard" which is a useful abstraction, nothing more, or b) what a dialect really is.

To a linguist, in a nutshell, what you, I, and everybody else speaks is an "ideolect." That's your language, and nobody else's. Whatever quirks of idiom and vocabulary and pronunciation you've picked up from your upbringing and other influences, form your ideolect. A "dialect" is a grouping of similar ideolects, and "A Language" is just a grouping of all the dialects (made up of ideolects) "of" that language. To a linguist, the "borders" can be fuzzy, and it can be difficult sometimes, in certain cases, to say that a given dialect is definitely part of one language or another. Or, as one wag once put it, "A 'language' is a dialect with a navy."

This seems all backwards to a lot of people, who seem to assume that "the language" is some fixed, immutable entity, of which a non-standard dialect can only be a distortion. But the upshot of this conception in the present context is that specialized or technical vocabularies can be "imported" into anyone's ideolect; they don't "belong" to one, supposedly "standard" dialect.

As regards your irritation with spoken Black English, steve, that brings me to another, underappreciated point about the intersection of language and culture. We forget that the only purpose of language is not just communicating the exact literal content of our utterances. Language is a cultural signifier, and, at times, speakers use their language to define an in-group and to marginalize perceived members of an out-group. Loud, obnoxious teenagers (of whatever race or linguistic identification) are often using language in this way to be intentionally abrasive and unintelligible to others.

Date: 2007/04/18 16:38:23, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
However, I do feel that it's important that schoolchildren are taught standard English.  Without it they will risk becoming marginalised.

Oh, I definitely agree. But another thing about the ebonics proposal that got swept aside by the flood of ill-informed criticism at the time is that they were not going to teach Black English per se, they wanted to use the kids' dialect --the one they speak at home-- in some classes, as a pedagogical tool. Not at all the same thing.

Date: 2007/04/18 17:51:05, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
And speaking of romantic languages and germanic languages, english is derived from both.

Not in the sense we usually mean "derived." English is descended from Anglo-Saxon, a Germanic language. Due to the unique history of the British Isles since Roman times, English has had a great many opportunities to acquire loan-words, primarily from Latin, and then from French. As Arden pointed out, for a mixture of cultural and linguistic reasons, English voraciously assimilates foreign terms.
Then, after the shifts phonon mentions, a great many Latinate terms were added to the language as neologisms. A lot of the "Latin" in English comes from deliberate coinages in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Date: 2007/04/18 17:56:04, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Actually I currently live in Emeryville. For many years I lived in the Grand Lake neighborhood, just off Lakeshore. I also spent some time in North Oakland, off 40th St.

(I didn't say Emeryville because nobody who doesn't live here would know where the heck that is, and, my house is literally 50 feet from the Oakland line.)

Date: 2007/04/20 19:22:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
A friend of mine from high school had an uncle that was a hard-core Relativity-denier. I never met him. But, apparently, he had sold his house and was cruising around the country in an RV with a laser rig and an experimental set-up that he would bring to --I'm not kidding-- church basements and obtain results, supposedly, that ran contrary to Mickelson-Morley's.

He11, if a patent clerk can revolutionize our basic understanding of physics, why not an old fat dude in an RV? /sarcasm

Date: 2007/04/25 12:27:46, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Agree with Arden: Peet's rules (sippin' on some free Peet's at work, as we speak).

Never mind vodka... doesn't anybody drink BEER? I mean, of course, fine California ales, such as Mendocino's White Hawk Select IPA, my current brew of choice.

Date: 2007/04/25 12:47:47, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Now, now. The difference between your run-of-the-mill "American beer" and a fine California- or Oregon- micro-brewed ale is like the difference between cold Dunkin Donuts coffee and a steaming fresh-brewed cup of Kona blend. No comparison.

But you're the snooty brit. I understand, old chap. One must keep up appearances.  :p

Date: 2007/04/27 16:00:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
"Darwinists" are impeding "ID research" the same way Manny Ramirez is impeding me from playing in the All-Star Game.

Date: 2007/05/01 16:52:05, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
shaner74, on the other hand,is a tard
It also seems belief in global warming and Darwinism go hand in hand…hmm…

hmm... what is it about those guys and the truth?

Date: 2007/05/01 19:43:37, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
How it all just come together to work as one. So when someone tries to say that it just happens, and it all just works. You can really see the comment for what it really is. Which makes me wonder why science would even promote such comments because it reveals that they do not know as much as they would try and make you think they know. Which makes it more and more conceivable that all of this points to a divine Creator.

Notice the fixation on "comments"?
I think these people think that's all it is: "Science" promoting "comments." Like the entire enterprise of empirical inquiry is just a message board that they're banned from, because of the mean, evilutionist admin.

Date: 2007/05/03 11:29:47, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Liz, Jack, Jeremy, Josh, Burt....speak up.  Someone went to some work to find that one.

First of all, wasn't me.
And you can't seriously believe that Jack would do anything like that. I doubt Josh or Liz post or lurk here (well, I know they don't lurk, because that's not their style). Jeremy hasn't been on the KCFS forums much lately; I doubt he's hanging around here. I really don't know Burt, so I suppose it's a possibility, but I think it was someone not on your list of suspects.

Date: 2007/05/03 12:14:15, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm tellin' ya, FTK, it's not Liz's style. I know there's no love lost, but I honestly think you're barking up the wrong tree.

Date: 2007/05/03 12:32:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
They're hardly friends. FTK and I go way back from the Kansas Citizens for Science discussion forums. She was the most prominent dissenting poster for several years there.

All the people we're talking about are known to me only on-line. But I think you can get a pretty good sense of character from someone's on-line behavior, especially over a time-span of years. I'm sure it's a former nemesis of hers from that arena (she has more than a few), but not one of FTK's named suspects.

I have no particular information on this. I base my judgement on my sense of character only.

Date: 2007/05/03 12:49:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It's definently someone from KCFS.

Liz would do it.


Date: 2007/05/08 13:35:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Evolutionists act as if the world is just a chance event.  That doesn't seem terribly interesting or exciting, IMO.  Their personally credulity seems to keep them from expressing the grandeur and complexity of nature.

"Evolutionists" are the ones explaining and elucidating "the grandeur and complexity of nature." Now, I realize that from some perspectives, nothing kills the buzz like a materialist explanation of something that's otherwise a complete mystery. But that's science, and I believe it speaks to something just as basic and integral to the human spirit as spirituality: the desire to understand and explain.

Creationism just says, "don't bother because we know all we need to know." Granted, not in so many words. But "the design perspective" is vacuous. It offers no way forward; no avenues for further discovery. The fact that there still is not one iota of original research coming from the DI and other such organizations just proves the point. "Design" is sterile, and much more "boring" than science, which discovers and explains more every day.

Date: 2007/05/08 18:01:09, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I was born a sharp thing, Spews. I know where to put teh stickers: that's what I auto-diddled for Michael Dell on his desktop. Homo. -dt

Date: 2007/05/09 12:23:44, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Granville Sewell weighs in on the giraffe discussion (you guys following this?):
The objection raised by “bFast” reminds me of an objection that is raised almost every time I write about the second law. Nature can create order out of disorder, goes the argument, it happens every time a fertilized egg grows into a baby! I usually respond by saying it isn’t clear that this is actually an increase in order (or information), the information is already there in the DNA, because I don’t want to fall into the trap set for me, and try to argue that the birth of a baby violates the second law. But, please, give me an example that doesn’t involve life!

Gee, I don't know, maybe The Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction?
Anyway, the display of proud ignorance of developmental biology in the article they're discussing, and in the comments, is vintage tard.

Date: 2007/05/09 13:29:33, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Okay. I need help... I'm a tardaholic --I can't give up tardahol!!!

This conjecture, an arbitrary taboo on intelligence and ‘mind stuff’ other than human, must include not justy the known physics, but the vast unknown region of more than 10^16 orders of magnitude between the plackian scale objects at 10^-33 m and our smallest elementary particles (distances of 10^-16m accessible experimentally). The latter taboo is highly implausible since one could easily fit into this unknown region, between the planckian scale objects and our elementary particles (which seem awfully well tuned in favor of life in the universe) all of the physical complexity that exists between electrons, protons, netrons,.. and us, humans.

Looks like nightlight found a reeeaaaly small gap to hide his god in.

Date: 2007/05/09 13:44:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
You're confusing "not falsified" with "unfalsifiable."

There have been many instances in which, had the natural world been found to operate differently than it does, the theory would have been falsified. In all such instances to date, the natural world has been found to be consistent with the theory. Exactly as if it were true! Imagine that.

Date: 2007/05/09 14:06:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
FTK is an adherent of Walt Brown's Hydroplate Theory(sic). So, yes, she believes in a global Noachian flood.

(Or did...)

Date: 2007/05/09 18:06:00, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
As regards FTK scoffing at the notion that IDers do what they do, at least in part, for the money, here is Wiliam Dembski on why he does not publish in the peer-reviewed literature:
"I've just gotten kind of blasé about submitting things to journals where you often wait two years to get things into print," he says. "And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well. I get a royalty. And the material gets read more."

Quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Date: 2007/05/10 15:13:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Gawd, what a pompous blowhard:
Vladimir Krondan writes on the giraffe thread (Yes, they're actually on about the giraffe... anybody following this?)
Ah, yes, the second law. The show-stopper. Or rather, the show-beginner. You can be talking shop about diffusion-advection, Onsager reciprocity, driving terms, conjugate-gradient solvers, and all that. A Darwinian, understanding nothing of what you are saying, will wait until you are misfortunate enough to mention the second law, or until he sees the letter “S” in an equation. And that’s his cue - the show begins with “you don’t understand the second law…” and builds into the usual tedious lecture assembled from web cut-and-pastes. In the process of this tedious lecture, the Darwinian will present the usual confusions between open, closed, and isolated systems, and probably throw in mindless nonsense like “the second law doesn’t apply to open systems!!”. But do so he must, for it seems he has no free will about it.

You can be talking shop about gene duplications, point mutations, frame-shift errors, polyploidy and sympatric speciation vs. peripatric speciation and all that. A creationist retired engineer, understanding nothing of what you are saying, will wait until you are misfortunate enough to say 'genome' or until he detects a reference to a genetic code. And that's his cue - the show begins with "but you don't understand information" and builds into the usual tedious lecture assembled from discredited creationist sources. In the process of this tedious lecture, the creationist retired engineer will present the usual confusions between Shannon entropy and various metrics of complexity and probably throw in mindless nonsense like "mutations can only cause loss of information!" But do so he must, for it seems he was designed that way.

Date: 2007/05/14 16:24:07, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
A TE of my acquaintance put it like this once:

"Saying 'God did it' does not add to the natural explanation, BUT, having a natural explanation doesn't mean that God didn't do it."

And I agree with that, as far as it goes. But it seems to me that (many? most!?) TE's really do want God to add something to the natural explanation. As Louis puts it, "undetectable" starts to sound like "not there," and I suspect it's not just us atheists who can perceive that echo. This whole undetectable, quantum-level tweaking just smacks of "Last Thursdayism" to me. Not trying to be glib, really I'm not. It just seems like too easy of an answer, and one that pays for its facility in one area by giving up theological ground in another...

(not to derail, but, for example, theodicy. If God is such a clever and undetectable manipulator of the gross, biological world, then why not of individuals' psychology? A little shot of extra seratonin here, a bit of oxytocin there, and the would-be murderer's free will has been "undetectably" altered, and an innocent yet lives. Win-win, no?)

Date: 2007/05/14 18:06:39, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (Robert O'Brien @ May 14 2007,17:38)
[quote=Arden Chatfield,May 14 2007,17:19][/quote]


I did not bomb out of my first grad school, Bob.

Nor did I.

I do not have an internet award for idiocy named after me, Bob.

I don't accept awards from college drop-outs/failed comedians.

I finished my PhD (University of California), Bob.

That's nice. I am also at a UC, in a more demanding discipline.

I have over a dozen peer-reviewed publications, and my diss was published through a major academic press, Bob.

That's nice.

So, who precisely is the 'loser', Bob?


R O'B, the master of the post with more code than content.

I was RO'Bbed, I tells ya, RO'Bbed!!!

Date: 2007/05/15 13:02:52, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
These critics of ID have become so shameless that they think they can simply intuit the wrongness of ID and then criticize it based simply on those intuitions. The history of science, however, reveals that intuitions can be wrong and must themselves be held up to scrutiny.

Cough! Hack!
*waves away smoke*

*reaches under desk, unwraps new irony-meter*

Date: 2007/05/15 13:06:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Evolutionists don’t seem to grasp the necessity for empirical validation in science.

*sprays fire extinguisher*

*picks up phone, dials*

"Acme Irony Meters? Hi, yeah, I need to place a bulk order..."

Date: 2007/05/15 18:17:39, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Christ on a cracker!

Sal (Canary in a Quote-mine) Cordova has dredged up an interview from 2005 with the guy who invented the laser and is attempting, in his usual, disingenuous way, to... well, frankly, I don't know what that dipstick is trying to prove, when his newest idol says things like this, in the very aricle he links to:
People who are anti-evolution are working very hard for some excuse to be against it. I think that whole argument is a stupid one. Maybe that's a bad word to use in public, but it's just a shame that the argument is coming up that way, because it's very misleading.

Nice going Sal. Good of you to draw yet more attention to the stupidity of anti-evolutionism.


Date: 2007/05/16 13:24:39, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Evidence for free will is evidence against Darwinism, no matter how it is spun.


Lemme get this straight. So, a theory that doesn't require a mystical, omnipotent sky-daddy to be running about poofing flagella on microbes, killing millions in global floods, condemning misbehavior with various disasters, natural and manmade --this theory is antithetical to free will?

The stupid! It burns!

Date: 2007/05/17 12:21:40, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Seems that more and more, for whatever reason, dissenters from ID don’t write much here.

Yeah... *scratches head* why is that? Could it be... by Design?
*cue eerie music, cut to Mad Dr. Dembski, cackling, playing with plush doll and vise*

Date: 2007/05/17 17:59:11, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Gawd, what a bunch of tards.

Oh, we knew that, didn't we? heh.

But really, in that "Flies and Free Will" comment thread, I'm just left (almost) speechless by the tard. They truly have no idea what the philosophical issues really are. Seriously. None.

"Blinded by the Taaard, I was blinded by the Tard."

Date: 2007/05/18 14:40:43, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Orac is a funny dude. Of course, the tardyon stuff is priceless, and most welcome in this context.

But I gathered a few sharp looks from co-workers when I burst out laughing at this:
Maybe I'll build a pyramid in office and put my partially finished grant applications and manuscripts in it when I'm not working on them, the better to be published in Cell and take that next step in my ability to get funding

Anything to get through those last few hours of the week, people! You're working too hard, with too little woo.

Date: 2007/05/23 12:33:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
This is the advantge of the second law, or “Sewell’s Law”, or specified complexity, argument: evolutionary biologists have a long complicated argument, with virtually no experimental confirmation, which claims to prove that natural forces created all the order we see on Earth today, but there is an extremely simple, direct proof that it couldn’t have. As a mathematician, I prefer the simple, clear proof, and thus frankly don’t believe you need to know much biology to reject the long complicated argument.

Backwards, Granville. You need to not know any biology to swallow this kind of pap. I'm amazed (how? how can these idiots amaze me after all these years!?). They're on about the 2nd Law again! How do you convince yourself that a century and a half of productive research went on even though it's supposedly impossible? Are biologists supposed to be: 1. Stupid? 2. Deluded? 3. Evil?
The stupid really, actually burns.
Subjective information, or specified complexity, appears to be subject to 2LoT but mind (intelligence) can violate 2LoT by routinely choosing to do what is almost impossible for nature such as making a gold watch from a gold nugget.

I am helpless in the clutches of uber-tard. I just don't know what to say.

Date: 2007/05/24 11:49:58, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
"subjective information"

Wow! Really?! I wish I had come up with such a cleverly mocking phrase for "CSI".

Not only have they failed to recognize their flawed assumption -- despite blindly tripping over it -- they are now enthusiastically dry-humping it.

I know, I can't believe that they don't see what a huge concession that is. 10 years of Dembskian mumbo-jumbo about made-up formalisms --devised specifically to ward off the very notion that "information" could ever be "subjective"-- down the drain in a mere few 2LoT-defeating keystrokes.

So, if all this spooky information that we can't explain via evolution is now subjective, then it conforms to the ordinary informal understanding everyone has of information, which is, roughly "aboutness." Information informs, right? When we are in possession of information, we are informed about something. So now IDers, armed with their new understanding, are ready for the answer to the puzzle that's been bedevilling them all this time. Because now the two questions, "where did the information come from?" and "what is the information about?" are equivalent.

And what is the information in the genome about? Holy crap! They discovered evolution! Took you awhile, guys, but good too see you climb on board, however belatedly.

Date: 2007/05/24 15:30:44, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
btw, did anyone catch that Pumpkinhead is another Loki-project of the entity sometimes referred to as the Ghost of Paley?

Date: 2007/05/24 18:03:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yeah, I wish I had linked to that when it happened. One of the PTer's (sigh, I can't even remember which one), in deleting a Pumkinhead screed and evidently banning him said something to the effect of "so the Pumpkinhead/Paley's Ghost/Ghost of Paley entity is no longer with us."

Which I took to mean that P.head's IP address matched that of our old buddy, who, if you think about it, hasn't been seen 'round these parts for a few days at least.

Date: 2007/05/25 11:39:20, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Oh, Dennis! There's some lovely tard over here!
Consider the following link: It discusses the natural abilities babies have with language. I’ve been puzzling the necessity of all of this. Why should babies retain the ability to hear sounds that their language group does not use? Did our ancestors share babies between diverse laguage groups sufficiently to warrant this ability?

Let's see, genius. What would we expect to see if the capacity for language in humans was an evolved adaptation, a general-purpose language organ that, in order to work, needs to be able to assess the local linguistic environment and start picking up the language(s) Mom and Pop are going to be using?

Why, I think we would see that babies are extremely sensitive to linguistic cues! We would expect them to have broad-spectrum sensitivity early, being winnowed down with age to the sounds of the local language. We might even see that they were pretty good at telling different languages apart!

What in Falwell is bFast's point? Can anybody tell?

Date: 2007/05/25 13:02:54, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
[1] In the beginning was the Tard, and the Tard was with God, and the Tard was God.
[2] The same was in the beginning with God.
[3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
[4] In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
[5] And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
[6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was Bill.
[7] The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
[8] He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
[9] That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
[10] He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
[11] He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
[12] But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
[13] Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
[14] And the Tard was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Date: 2007/05/29 17:50:37, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien

What you want is Photoshop Elements. CS3 is for pros, really. Lots of bells and whistles you'll never use, unless you're serious. Elements is more in the "everything you need, nothing you don't" mold.

Though Ichthy's open-source solution is probably even better, since even Elements retails for 120-150 US$.

Date: 2007/05/29 18:36:28, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
S Wakefield Tolbert:
Richard Dawkins may know science, but he looks like a child fiddling with crayloa crayons when pondering the nature of God and Church and the interrelations of these to science.

LOL. That's so precious, I don't even mind or hardly notice the scorch marks from yet another irony-meter-related little oopsy.

So do we all, SWT, so do we all.

Date: 2007/05/30 15:17:48, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
This Tolbert guy is trying to give Joseph a run for his money in the Unintentional Irony by a Tard category:
Darwinists are desperate to explain away anything–and I mean anything–that casts doubt on the prevailing orthodoxy. This is one step too far, in that if they are correct and the world is seen through the lens of a majic show in the brain’s function evolved to make sense of things, then surely the very logic of the underpinnings of science (and come to think of it, anything else that requires at least a cursory analysis) are also liable to be pure phooey and a deception to make us think something is obviously laid out plain jane when in fact it is not.

We are back to the whole issue of materialist explanations for mind, which darwinists claim does not counter the notinos of free will and consciousness, but then the deception is belied by the very notion that other Darwinists have cooked up saying we can’t be sure of what we merely THINK makes sense–it is all a Copperfield light show!

Yeah, let's see. Science is essentially an invention created specifically for the purpose of overcoming the limitations imposed by the individual's perceptual and intuitive preconceptions. Preconceptions that, when naively and, I might add, childishly clung to, might lead one into all kinds of anti-rational nonsense like, oh, Idunno... Creationism???

I'm so desensitized the stupid doesn't even burn anymore. It's more like a mildly irritating rash. That normal?

Date: 2007/05/30 20:29:41, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Now, I won’t claim that this is proof of 24 hour days, but it ought to at least make you scratch your head.

*scratches head*

Date: 2007/05/30 20:36:22, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The Darwinists must now defend themselves on two fronts

The courts, and the public schools. Got it covered, Sal.

All the rest of this BS is just laughing at how stupid you are.


Date: 2007/05/31 12:03:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
God is Real, the Bible is Literally True, and Mark says he can prove it to you.

Date: 2007/05/31 16:17:54, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It's overexposure to Teh Stupid, man. Nothing burns like it's supposed to anymore.

Heck, I need a few paragraphs of Icons of Evolution just to get out of bed these days.

Date: 2007/06/01 18:13:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Hoo boy.
bornagain77 says "theism" predicted the big bang. Here's his um... "evidence."

Job 38:4-11
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched a line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed my limit for it, and set bars and doors; When I said, ‘This far you may come but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!’

Yeah, Job. Were you there?

...and then he gets huffy:
For you to deny Job 38:4-11, which was written 1000’s of years ago, has any connection whatsoever to details of Big Bang Cosmology, that were revealed just last year, is just plain hard headedness on your part. If you can’t see the stunning similarity between recent scientific observations and these scriptures there is no point in me debating any of the other points with you for you are beyond my feeble powers of persuasion.
Excuse me if I sound rude but, I truly don’t understand how anyone like you can be so blind in their mind.
Though the scripture is indeed ancient, it truly reads like a daily newspaper account of very recent observations. I’ve debated several people like you and it truly is like talking to a brick wall for me. I’m sorry if this offends you but I can think of no other way to put the way I feel.

Uhh... yeah.

Date: 2007/06/04 15:23:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Ed Brayton's comments

Date: 2007/06/05 22:29:36, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
yeah, I just read it, and all I can really say is pwned.

or Amen. Amen works.

Date: 2007/06/07 13:03:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
jb makes a suggestion:
Wow! Bornagain77. You certainly have a lot to say! Have you ever considered doing your own blog?

Yes, please. Ohhh pleeaase!
*Homer Simpson noises*

Date: 2007/06/07 14:53:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Google says what?

Date: 2007/06/07 15:10:42, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
google says nothing useful, in that case.

Yeah, I know. But sometimes I just like to plug in long questions like yours and see where they take you. There's a whole lot about bread and baking there in those four results.

Date: 2007/06/08 17:43:36, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I never fail to get a chuckle out of that picture.

But... really, Louis, advocating violence? It's almost like you had a little plush doll you went about torturing with vises and whatnot... oh, right. Same guy.

Carry on...

Date: 2007/06/08 17:47:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Re: brownies,

The other thing to keep in mind, besides dosage, is onset time. Takes awhile longer than smoking. And the tendency is to get impatient and eat more while you're waiting. And then a little more... and then you whitey...

...somebody told me once.

Date: 2007/06/11 16:19:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
There are sockpuppets, and then there are socks that no one would ever, ever think of using to make a puppet...

hmm, well, Jack Handy I'm not.

Date: 2007/06/11 16:32:21, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Even the Bible stated that God created man out of earth, just as the theory of Evolution. Why would the Bible state that humans were created out of earth, when we clearly are quite different from the ground beneath us, if there wasn't any truth to it?

Gee, I dunno.

Why would the Bible state that tens of thousands of Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, escaped, and then wandered around Sinai for years, if there wasn't any truth to it?

Please understand: the Bible does not contain factual truth. It happens to match up with reality occasionally, but no more than you would expect by random chance, sort of like that broken watch that's right twice a day.

Date: 2007/06/12 12:48:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
What the Falwell is a "non-living organism" anyway?

Date: 2007/06/15 14:13:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
ROTFLMAO!!!!  Are you serious?

The posters here make it their mission in life to make fun of people and their appearances!

The difference, dearie, is that we're the G.D. peanut gallery. Look at steve's avatar, fer chrissake. This thread exists for the purpose of making fun of the people we disagree with. Public figures have no recourse against satire, and fools like DaveScot, Cordova, and Dembski, like it or not, have asked, begged, to become public figures. Be careful what you ask for.

But Dembski is (nominally) Jerry Coyne's peer, and he's making juvenile smears based on possibly the least relevant topic available --his personal appearance! In what is (again, nominally) an academic dispute! I don't think you have an appreciation for just how pathetic that makes Dembski look to serious scholars. He knows that he's a laughingstock, clearly. Anyone with any degree of dignity as a professional academic would refrain from such japes in public.

So, just what are you saying, ftk? That Dembski's position is equivalent to one of us nobodies on the nets, making jokes and blowing off steam? Fine. Then why does anybody give an effing Falwell for the tard? He's just another poo-flinging idiot with a laptop and an axe to grind, so shut up.
Or, are you saying that Dembski's outings into street theater, however rare, make some valid contribution to the discussion? That you think Jerry Coyne's appearance is a salient point, worthy of consideration?

How you manage to be so self-righteous while not even maintaining a coherent point is beyond me.

Date: 2007/06/15 14:45:52, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
So, you're saying that all the posters here are just a bunch of dopes?  What about those who post at PT?  Dopes as well?

I'm saying, hypocrite, that we are (mostly) ordinary folks taking snipes at public figures. Do you contest that public figures have an obligation to stay above that kind of fray or be considered by their rivals beneath serious consideration?

Obviously, I don't think I'm "just a dope," but I can also recognize that satire and ridicule are not serious entries into the debate, and I don't particularly think anyone should attach any importance to my posts when they're clearly not intended as anything other than humor. I can have very little real effect on this "controversy," for all my amateur interest in it. Dembski, as a professional charlatan and a first-rate pseudo-intellectual, has a following. He has a responsibility, as the nominal leader of a creationist faction, to represent these people seriously with the kind of consideration their fervent belief warrants. That he cannot even be bothered to do this tells me he doesn't think any more of the rubes who continue to hang on his every word than he does of his own place in history.

Date: 2007/06/15 15:26:24, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
you can't scientifically test the "identity, motives, and methods" of the designer.  We consider that when studying theology.

You've contradicted yourself in fewer than twenty words. Not a record or anything, since we have world-class nitwits like Cordova spewing their imbecility at every opportunity, but respectable, nonetheless.

If you claim to be agnostic about the designer's identity, why are you so certain that theology is the proper discipline in which to consider the question? Does theology have more than one putative agent as its subject?

Date: 2007/06/15 15:35:51, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I've got one.
Just finished Dennett's "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon."

In all the furor over the recent entries of Dawkins Harris and Hitchens (the new infernal trinity), there has not been much talk about Dennett's book. Anybody else read it?

Sorry if I'm OT, Stephen. I've not heard of "The ragged trousered philanthropists." It's a book, yes? By whom?

Date: 2007/06/15 15:38:14, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Certainly one should consider evidence for all the "agents" before deciding if there is one or more in particular that is supported with sufficient evidence for belief.

So evolution by natural selection could be the designer?

If not, can you tell me how ID rules that out?

Date: 2007/06/15 16:48:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It seems ftk has bailed for the weekend, and life will go on here, so Ijust want to highlight the questions that she didn't answer before her abrupt departure.
Does theology have more than one putative agent as its subject?

Certainly one should consider evidence for all the "agents" before deciding if there is one or more in particular that is supported with sufficient evidence for belief.

That is why, again, ID has nothing to do with religion.  There are many beliefs out there and Design inference  certainly can't prove any of them.

This is an obvious evasion of the question. If theology is the discipline we use when we ponder questions about the designer, the designer is god. If not then:
So evolution by natural selection could be the designer?

If not,can you tell me how ID rules that out?

No answer.
Indeed, ID has no answer.

Date: 2007/06/18 14:16:17, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Pssst. Hey, buddy...

What you're lookin' for's not in the big tent, see.
That little tent, there, behind the big tent. Two bits a gander.

Date: 2007/06/19 12:47:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
bFast curses the darkness:
We clearly do not understand information, that is true. We can recognize some of it, but doing a good job of defining it, or establishing its characteristics is proving most difficult. As living cells are information-driven engines, we must come to a clear understanding of the characteristics of information.

I wonder why it is that the Fig Newton of Infomazing Apolobatics hasn't been more effective in educating the flock?

Date: 2007/06/19 16:15:43, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
God to Kristine:

Maybe you didn't get the memo. I help those who help themselves.
I'd like to give Bill a hand, really, but his latest prayers have been drowned out by farty noises.

Date: 2007/06/20 14:06:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I think a better term for "whatever it is IDers mean when they're on about 'information'" is "aboutness." "Meaning" strikes me as too amenable to anthropomorphism: "the meaning of life," "I say what I mean," etc.

The information in the genome is definitely about something: it tells how to build a myriad of lifeforms of greater or lesser complexity. The stumbling block for IDers is "where did all this aboutness come from?" If you're convinced that there can be only one source for "true aboutness," that aboutness cannot be generated by any natural process, this would, indeed be a mystery calling for an extraordinary answer.

Of course, since Darwin, we've had an answer to the mystery. "Aboutness" comes about through the environment, via selection. The genome tells the story of the past environments in which the lineage was able to survive and reproduce.

All their bogus meandering around the point with useless metrics like CSI serves only to obscure this.

Date: 2007/06/27 14:42:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Later, Tom.

I assume you will still be flaunting the shiny new OM over at PZ's joint?

Date: 2007/06/29 15:43:53, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Here is another (slightly differently translated) quotation of the beginning of that passage from Augustine, without the elipsis:
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other
elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions,
about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of
animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and

--your devoted minion, CJ

Date: 2007/07/03 17:05:10, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Most recipes I've seen tell you to put marinading meat in the fridge. And depending on how acidic that marinade is, you don't want to soak meat in it for much longer than a couple of hours, in my experience. If the acidity is low and it's mostly herbs and spices, you might want to go with a rub.

I grilled a mean sage-rubbed pork-T the other weekend. Quite good.

Date: 2007/07/12 15:57:53, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Hereby nominating JAM as Tard-mine employee of the month.

This facility has operated for 8 days without an irony-meter-related injury.

Date: 2007/07/12 17:21:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I love it when tards think they're actually unappreciated (unwitting?) geniuses.

You just turn the irony meter off, and ride the high...

Date: 2007/07/20 11:32:24, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Well, guys n gals, we had a decent run. However the scurrying lickspittle must be dispatched to update the sign on the TardMine floor:

This Facility has operated for 0 days without an irony-meter-related injury

OSHA regs.

Get well soon, Rich. Everybody else, PLEASE adjust the gain on your meters! Tard level is orange. Repeat: tard level is orange. Manual irony filtering is not recommended.

Date: 2007/07/21 14:29:46, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien

Date: 2007/07/26 18:08:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Gah... teh stupid!!!

It burns.

That's why they're on about pepperrs, right? What's that? They think... they... you mean...?


Date: 2007/07/27 12:41:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Degrease O'Smeary is on about orchid wasps and co-evolution:
The amount of entirely blind, unreasoning coordination that is actually required is stupefyingly improbable, as compared with both life forms just going extinct. UNLESS some underlying law or design is invoked.

And good ol' Larry Farfarfromsane chimes in:
wonder how the Darwinists can explain that one. The above wasp-orchid relationship is supposedly an example of co-evolution, where two different kinds of organisms exert “mutual evolutionary pressure” on each other. My blog discusses co-evolution at —

It's so tardalicious when cluless creationists take some of the best evidence for evolution and try to act as if it supports their nonsense.

I mean, let's face it. Delicate co-evolutionary balancing acts like this are a slam-dunk for natural selection. Let's go ahead for the sake of argument and grant Degrease her central claim, that "some underlying design" must be responsible. Now, unless we're denying the efficacy of what creationists like to call "microevolution," which is so far off the tard scale that not even these clowns are stupid enough to do, then we have to allow for some degree of variation within populations, with the attendent differential reproductive success (cf. Malthusian Logic 101).

Now remember the incredulity with which our creationis friends regard these intricate relationships: "The amount of entirely blind, unreasoning coordination that is actually required is stupefyingly improbable."

And reflect that, even if some such relationship were poofed into existence by the noodly appendage of a telic entity with an inordinate fondness for Game Theory, the current state of co-evolutionary affairs must be a product of microevolution.

The only other option is to admit that the relationship isn't so miraculously improbable after all, and is, in fact, rather robust against the vagaries of variation and selection.

Thus do I hoist tard on its own petard.

Date: 2007/07/27 15:58:42, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
And, as everyone knows, if you're curious about elite groups, ask a Calvinist!


Later y'all --I'm off to de-mediate myself, off the grid for a blissful week of beach-bum existence.

Keep the tard warm for me.

Date: 2007/08/08 13:07:42, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (Chris Hyland @ Aug. 08 2007,12:48)
Quote (skeptic @ Aug. 08 2007,12:18)
God, ultimately, is a personal concept and in truth it has no bearing on God's existence what anyone's personal concept is.

I know that's hard to accept but I believe your resistance comes from the fact that you're trying to frame this as a scientific question and it is not one.

Since this is turning into a fairly one sided discussion I will jump in and agree with skeptic on this point. That's certainly how the vast majority of religious people I know view it.

I don't buy it. It's just like saying, "Yes all psychics are frauds and charlatans. Not a one of them has any actual paranormal abilities... But, I know psychic powers are real."

If nobody, including those who claim to know the most about God, can give a non-self-contradictory account of the attributes of this entity, and, further, if none of these accounts agree with each other, what possible reason can you give me to believe? What does the name "God" even refer to, beyond a concept, in Skeptic's post above? If something exists, but it need have none of the attributes traditionally assigned to gods, what justification do we have for calling it a god?

Date: 2007/08/08 14:31:22, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The two questions can't be entirely untangled.

Can the concept of leprechauns be approaced scientifically?

Not really, because (in part) nobody believes in leprechauns.

Date: 2007/08/13 16:18:17, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
But I would say that all atheists have strong emotions (call it hatred) toward God.

Not me.

I don't even know who you're talking about, unless you mean a literary character. Why would I have any feelings about him/her/it?

Am I mad at Thor, too? Are you?

If not, please explain the difference.

Date: 2007/08/15 14:29:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Pssssst. Louis!

Don't scare him away. Supposedly he's about to openly espouse dualism. That should be good for a laugh at least.

*drums fingers*

Date: 2007/08/15 16:32:46, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I say that there is so much more and those people live in a pale, colorless world without sampling the beauty around them. ?I pity those people.

Good Christ skeptic!

Could you blither ANY more patronizingly?

Was there "so much more" to a thunderstorm when the average person believed there was heavy cosmic activity going on up there in the heavens to cause the brilliance of lightning and the rumble of thunder?

Pray tell, how, exactly is my awe at the spectacle of a great big storm (I grew up in the midwest --we like big storms) impoverished by my understanding of electromagnetism and meteorology?

Short form of my question: What is better about experience if you put a veil of imaginary incomprehensibility between yourself and the realities of life?

Please, let's have the dualism soon, if it's so easy.
I'm primed to deliver a good smackdown after that last bit of wooier than thou BS.

Date: 2007/08/20 17:27:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Nor can you disabuse me of my beliefs because to do so would require me to deny that which I already know.

Wrong. You don't know these things:
What I'm saying is I believe in these things and accept them to be real even though I can provide no evidence that they exist.

By your own admission, you believe these things without, or in spite of, evidence. That is not knowing.

And you have not provided any sort of argument as to why we should care one whit about your religious opinions or what in Falwell they have to do with the rift between science and reliigion. You start out claiming there are these two, equally valid ways of knowing, and end with admitting that one way isn't knowing at all.


Date: 2007/08/23 12:56:55, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The use of ?venomous rhetoric? and ?tyranny? is pretty strong language. It makes you sound angry and desperate, as if you are arguing from a weak position. People who are confident of their position don?t need to be so vehement.

So if ID is not creationism, then exactly who is the designer? Isn?t he the same as the creator? Creator (a person who creates), designer (a person who devises or executes designs, esp. one who creates), they sound the same to me. Can you tell me how they are different?

Is the designer a person, a supernatural being, an energy force, a deity, or what? Help me out here. Persuade me.

Rocket is no longer with us. ?WmAD

Do not seek to know the identity of the Designer, ever.
So saith [redacted]!

Date: 2007/08/23 17:37:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Jehu shoots! He scores! (on the Crackpot Index anyway)

The ape skull story is an excellent example of Jehu?s Law, which is that new discoveries will always push evolutionary events further back in time. For example, if you google ?evolved? and the phrase ?earlier than expected? you will get over 40,000 hits.


Date: 2007/08/23 17:44:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
What's that smell in the big tent? Eyes turn disaprovingly to Joseph:

ID is OK with universal common descent and Creation is not. Hopefully that will be made clear in the movie.

I wonder if it occured to Joseph that he's commenting on a blog called "Uncommon Descent"?

Date: 2007/08/28 12:39:07, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Taste may simply be sensory response to stimuli which is purely physical in this regard but why does it seem to transcend this to many people?

Why are you willing to hang so much on seeming?
Mind seems independent from brain.
Truth and Beauty seem to be external to human thoughts and motivations.
The Sun seems to go around the Earth.

My point here is twofold. For one, I'm saying that the progress of rational thought has led to discarding a great many seemings. The way it seems to you is not convincing to anyone, because we know very well that seeming isn't reliable. And for another, your points are obvious and banal. They've been dealt with, long ago. You're merely defending a maximally naive form of essentialism. If things didn't sometimes seem other than they are, would we have any need to methodically investigate the universe at all? Your philosophizing is extremely amateur sophistry. I do wish you'd quit patting yourrself on the back for it.

Date: 2007/08/28 14:41:11, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yeah, sun. Why you gotsta be givin' life, warmin' the planet n'shit?

Lousy gasball.

Date: 2007/08/28 17:49:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
You know what, Sophist?

I can answer all of those questions, to a fairly high level of detail. That would be a lot of work, though. I'm not going to do it. You know why? Because at the end of all that work, all you're going to say is, "That's not capital-B Beauty."

You are capital-B Boring.

Date: 2007/08/28 18:15:34, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Kennedy was on Fresh Air - the radio interview show. I've never heard Terry Gross actually get rattled before (well, except for by Gene Simmons, but that was a little different).

He is frightening.

Date: 2007/08/29 01:32:04, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote ("Rev Dr" Lenny Flank @ Aug. 28 2007,20:14)
Quote (Erasmus @ FCD,Aug. 28 2007,20:07)
Lenny unless I can be convinced why not, ?I do suspect that asking about 'Capital B-Beauty' or 'are blondes hotter than brunettes' is like asking 'what color is a five sided square'.

after all, as louis has repeatedly and verbose-ly pointed out, that question is rather indistinguishable from nonsense without the subjective qualifiers. ?

do you not agree?

No, I do not agree.

And the reason is simple --- if you go out on the street, stop five or six random people, and ask them: ?(1) what color is a five-sided square?, and then (2) are blondes cuter than brunettes?, you will very quickly discover something interesting.

Everyone will answer the second question.

Nobody will answer the first.


One question has meaning to people.

One doesn't.

It won't take long to discover which is which.

Go try it.

We have a semantic tangle. I recommend to anyone who has skimmed the longer posts here that they read Reciprocating Bill's last few posts with some care. Clarity was needed, and Bill delivered.

My own contribution to an unravelling of the particular knot Lenny worries at here is the concept of speech acts. Language is a part of human behavior, more of a conduit through which we mediate interpersonal affairs than a channel dedicated to noise-free information transfer. A great deal of the time, our speech acts, that is, discrete utterances, do not "say" the literal meaning of what we "said."

Classic examples are like "Do you have the time?" The speaker is not interested, particularly, in a yes or no answer, which, taken literally, the question requires. The speaker wants to know the time. This is what Searle and others have called indirect speech acts. The concept can be applied to questions like Lenny's though, and doing so reveals that they are just not the same kind of speech acts as questions about matters of easily verified facts and results of measurements.

The question "Are blondes hotter than brunettes?" in ordinary discourse is really a request: "[Tell me your opinion:] are blondes hotter than brunettes?"

So, while it takes the identical grammatical form as questions like "Are bricks heavier than feathers?" it is not a speech act requesting an assertion of fact, but an opinion. That is why it will generate a reply from the man in the street, and Louis's nonsense question will not. If you asked the same random person, "Are blondes hotter than brunettes, always, for everyone?" you'd get the same blank stares as you would if you babbled.

Date: 2007/09/05 01:58:39, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (Hermagoras @ Sep. 04 2007,18:02)
Joe's back on my blog. ?He refuses to admit he's wrong. ?Surprise!

That is: my joke blog pro-science (linked above), not paralepsis.

For a shot of stupid, I looked at this.

Joe G pours with a heavy hand.

Date: 2007/09/10 12:36:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
This hypothesis postulates that (1) shortly (in geological terms) before Cambrian period a Universal Genome that encodes all major developmental programs essential for every phylum of Metazoa emerged in a unicellular or a primitive multicellular organism;

So what about the Ediacaran fauna? Was that a beta-test? And what about trace fossils, presumably made by bilateral, worm-like organisms, the oldest of which were made 1.1 billion YA? Is that "shortly" before the Cambrian (from ~545 million YA)?

(2)The Metazoan phyla, all having similar genomes, are nonetheless so distinct because they utilize specific combinations of developmental programs. In other words, in spite of a high similarity of the genomes in phyla X and Y, an organism belonging to phylum X expresses a specific set of active developmental programs, while an organism belonging to a different phylum Y has a distinct set of  “working” programs specific for phyla Y…

This is pretty mushy. First, where do plants and fungi fit into all of this? Sure, everybody loves animals. They're where the evolutionary action is. But are the authors claiming here that plants, animals, and fungi all have "similar" genomes? In all, I detect some very outmoded taxonomic thinking here masquerading as a serious hypothesis.
Beyond that, what possible mechanism is there for conserving all these "useless" sequences until such time as they have a function?

There are two main testable predictions of the presented hypothesis, which are absolutely critical for validation of the model: (1) full or parts of the developmental programs characteristic to
higher taxons must be encoded in genomes of lower taxons, and (2) blocks of genetic information encoding these developmental programs in more primitive taxons must be useless in these taxons…

"Higher" and "lower"? If, by "lower," they mean this supposed "unicellular or a primitive multicellular organism" which is undoubtedly extinct, how in Falwell do they think they can test this? If they don't mean an extinct organism, then how is this not circular?

Frontloading presents more problems for creationism than it solves.

Date: 2007/09/12 14:15:20, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm sitting in the editorial offices of a prominent non-fiction publisher right now.

I also talk to people at a couple of literary agencies from time to time as well.

Pitch it!

(PM me if you want to talk via email.)

Date: 2007/09/14 10:45:33, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien

Date: 2007/09/14 12:41:13, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
What is going to get funded is pretty dependent on the state of the field. No prominent funding body is going to award grant money to research specifically aimed at falsifying MET, because the scientific consensus is, simply, that MET is not false.

And a rabbit in the Cambrian isn't quite as ludicrous as following Al Sharpton around to see if he violates the laws of physics. The idea is a little more general: ANY radically out-of-place fossil would raise eyebrows. The real issue is that no single data point is going to falsify a theory with the kind of empirical support MET enjoys.

Creationists who parrot this line about Evolution not being falsifiable are really just crying about the fact that it has not been falsified, and that this is clearly good evidence that it's true, in broad outline at the very least. It must be frustrating, but not as frustrating as watching them talk in circles about their denial.

Date: 2007/09/18 17:17:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Further proof that you can't tell a creo-parody from the real thing. Were it not for the apparently extensive electron trail of this loon's prior adventures on teh intertubez, I would be calling shenannigans.

Date: 2007/09/20 12:29:45, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I have not yet decided what I think really happened in the "history of life" on this planet, but I am convinced of one thing: whatever happened was by design.

What has convinced you of this?

The key difference between science and apologetics is that scientific inquiry begins with the data and moves toward the best explanation, while apologetics begins with an "unshakeable" conclusion and finds data to support it. Cherished notions, "common sense," assumptions and "what everybody knows" are all up for examination in science. It's a human activity, so bias and error naturally occur. But because it is a widely distributed activity and its practitioners insist on transparency of method, its explanations converge, ultimately, toward the best available.

Science, therefore, seeks consilience. Whatever explanation is proposed for a set of observations must not only be the best fit for those data, it must also fit within the framework of all the other observations and conclusions drawn in the field. The data used to support preferred conclusions in apologetics are often "cherry-picked," that is, they only support the foregone answer if we ignore other, contrary, observations in the field.

Finally, when all is said and done, a scientist is allowed to return the answer "we still don't know." Intellectual honesty sometimes compels it, though it is usually deeply unsatisfying to admit ignorance when one has worked hard to explain. There are always unsolved problems, and if there weren't, there would be no need for science.

Given all of this, I will echo Glen: If you won't adopt the scientific attitude toward these questions but are instead going to stick to your pre-formed conclusion and labor to keep it "evidence proof," then I don't think there will be much of a meaningful exchange here.

Date: 2007/09/20 13:38:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Those great men were prominent scientists and you have no right to call anyone using their arguments that they use "pre-formed arguments" and not "scientific attitudes".

No right? I beg to differ.

Davison is a crackpot. If Daniel thinks there's any merit to any of his, or your own, output, I will say again, I don't see a meaningful exchange in the future of this thread.

Now that you're here, I see it even less.

Date: 2007/09/20 16:05:26, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It's a daphnia, not a flea!
The common name is "water flea."

I looked at the paper I believe our stuporsquirt is on about, and I found it interesting that it's written entirely from a Darwinian perspective: the authors don't seem to feel they've uncovered any weird Lamarckian mechanism, stuporsquirt. Why do you? Are you more qualified than they to interpret their results, or are you talking out of an orifice other than your mouth?

After a little checking on my lunch break, it turns out that the phenomenon, called "inducible defenses," has been observed in many different lineages (although, not, to my knowledge, fleas). There's a book on the subject, which is reviewed here
Oh, and here's the paper

Why don't you learn something, squirt?

Date: 2007/09/20 17:13:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I don't care what you call it or what other people think.  The reality is these spines did not form by way of natural selection.....they did not form randomly...they did not form by tiny changes in nucleotides...they did not change because of mutations....they did not change gradually over time.  For this, you can eliminate a darwinian explanation.

Going for a world record in assertion without substantiation? Keep it up. Stay hydrated.

But you may have noticed that the authors of the paper clearly do not agree with your analysis. Why is that, do you think?
And, why, if they got the conclusion wrong, according to you, would you trust anything else in the paper?

Date: 2007/09/20 17:33:39, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'll stick with beer.

You say that like they're mutually exclusive.

Date: 2007/09/24 15:35:31, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The only aspect of "artificial" selection in dogs that's really artificial is the fact that theoretically any breed of canis familiaris can produce viable offspring with any other. We've artficially suppressed speciation.

But how long would it take a population of chihuahuas and a population of great danes to fully speciate in wild conditions?

As a rule, creationists abuse the concept[s] of speciation.
Ring Species are illustrative of the complexities that are always ignored in this type of argument.

Date: 2007/09/25 11:41:22, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The "magic" in your coin example is a result of your conflating macroscopic objects with quantum systems and asking us to expect that the properties of one "should" also adhere to the other. With no justification. Why should we expect quantum-scale systems to have the properties of macro-scale objects? If we in fact shouldn't, all the magic drains away.

Granted, we are left with some counter-intuitive behavior at very small scales, but, in the same vein, that is only because our intuitions are based on our experiences, which all occur in the macro world.

Similarly, appealing to quantum woo to explain the "mystery" of consciousness is persuasive only if you insist that consciousness is somehow so inexplicable as to seem magical. It doesn't to me, so I am unpersuaded that this is anything more than navel-gazing. (And yes, I've read Penrose on the subject.)

Date: 2007/09/27 11:31:48, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'll elaborate a bit on that, Rich. The problem with frontloading is basically that evolution happens, and nothing (known) can really stop it from happening. Given this, the very idea invites an infinite regress, which is a really good sign that the idea is "not even wrong."

Here's why:
If you posit some frontloaded genetic material that does the organism no good in the present, but is being conserved somehow for future function, then you need some kind of regulatory structure or some as-yet unimagined mechanism for preserving these frontloaded sequences against mutation and selection.

But your conservation mechanism does the organism no good in the present either, because the sequences it's conserving don't. So you need some kind of regulatory structure or some as-yet unimagined mechanism for preserving the sequences that preserve the frontloaded sequences.
But your conservation mechanism does the organism no good in the present either, because the sequences it's conserving don't. So you need some kind of regulatory structure or some as-yet unimagined mechanism for preserving the sequences that preserve the frontloaded sequences.
But your conservation mechanism does the organism no good in the present either, because the sequences it's conserving don't. So you need some kind of regulatory structure or some as-yet unimagined mechanism for preserving the sequences that preserve the frontloaded sequences.
But your conservation mechanism does the organism no good in the present either, because the sequences it's conserving don't. So you need some kind of regulatory structure or some as-yet unimagined mechanism for preserving the sequences that preserve the frontloaded sequences...

Date: 2007/10/04 16:43:44, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Consciousness has to be tied to interconnected quantum effects.  Consciousness can't be purely algorithmic.

This has not been demonstrated.

And that's the trouble I'm having with your ideas. I see no justification for positing that quantum effects are important, to either evolution or consciousness. I just don't see what is so desperately in need of explanation that justifies a radical departure from the traditional modes of investigation of these phenomena.

Even if we had a GUT of physics, evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists would still have plenty of work to do.

I guess, in short, (and apologies: I know your dislike of labels) I sense in your treatment of these concepts what Dennett calls "greedy reductionism." IOW, just because there's a quantum reality that underlies our ordinary classical-scale existence, it doesn't mean that it's useful to try and explain every phenomenon in quantum terms.

I'd like you to rein in your theorizing, and tell me what it is a theory like this would even be called upon to explain. And don't just say "consciousness," unless you can demonstrate the bit I quoted from your post at the top, there.

Date: 2007/10/09 17:12:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
So when I examine the evidence, is that what I find?  Yes, that is exactly what I find.  I find complex intricate systems analogous (but far superior) to power plants, factories with automated assembly lines, communication networks, super highway systems, waste management (with recycling!), and on and on.

Bob O'H already made this point, but at some length.
For concision: None of that is evidence in the scientific sense. It's a restatement of the question in explicitly teleological terms. To consider this evidence (the result of empirical investigation beyond a cursory glance) is to beg the question.

When you actually get in depth and look at some of that cellular machinery, Daniel, you'll see that it does not resemble at all the products of a rational design process. It rather resembles a Rube Goldberg-type cobbled-together mess eerily similar to the sorts of engineering solutions arrived at by evolutionary algorithms.

Most concise: Analogies are not evidence.

If everybody could understand and accept this basic fact of epistemology, Creationism in all its forms would die a long-overdue and merciful death.

Date: 2007/10/10 12:35:26, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I've not seen any descriptions of any biological functions that come across as haphazard and random as you describe them.  In fact I find the opposite to be true.  Whenever I learn the details of how a biological system functions, I'm struck by the sheer brilliance of the system's design (and I'm not going to creationist sources for this info).
Take the process of protein synthesis for example.  Please explain how that process is just a hodgepodge of cobbled together mish-mash that somehow, almost by accident, gets the job done.
Or explain how the brain is just a random lucky accident, or the various visual systems, or the mammalian kidney, or the avian lung, or the central nervous system, or all the various systems of flight, or any other system.  In fact, I challenge you to provide details of how any biological system is just a cobbled together hodge-podge.

Daniel appears to be running TurboGoalposts v.3:16.

First, we were talking about biochemistry, not how the brain (or anything else) is "just a random lucky accident," which is a straw-man representation of evolutionary theory as well as off the subject.

That there is a certain kind of elegance to biochemical processes is not in question. They work well enough to have sustained evolving life on Earth for billions of years, and are perfectly capable of supporting the functions of big, complex animals like ourselves. So I am not saying that they barely "get the job done." I am saying, though, that all of the highly-touted complexity of the cell, when it is actually investigated, not simply remarked upon, seems to owe its existence to a maddeningly short-sighted designer --one that seems incabable of building a structure or pathway using anything other than pre-existing components, often themselves integral parts of other, fully functioning systems. But you challenged me for examples.

Here is Ken Miller on the vertebrate blood-clotting cascade

Here is a TalkOrigins summary of several articles on the evolution of the Krebs Cycle

Here is an abstract of a Science paper on the evolution of a steroid-hormone receptor

Date: 2007/10/11 16:41:45, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
And there you have it, folks.
Smart animals know a good thing when they see it.

Sugar cane. I was talking about sugar cane.

Date: 2007/10/15 14:07:36, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
We know quantum effects happen in "day to day" chemistry (the whole lot is predicated on it actually)

A problem I see here is a conflation of two concepts: One is what I'll call "quantum-scale effects," the other is "quantum effects." The former is what Louis is talking about here. It is trivially true that all of nature is ultimately "reducible" to quantum-scale phenomena. What is at issue is whether a description at this level is useful or illuminating. Theoretically, a baseball game  could be described as a series of quantum-scale events. But could you get the kind of information from that description that you can easily get from a good-ol' fashioned box score? No, because it's the wrong level of analysis.

"Quantum effects," on the other hand, are those that become manifest in highly contrived experimental set-ups, and there's no particular justification for appealing to them in a given macroscopic system. Now, if baseballs had the habit of occasionally "tunneling" through the right-field fence, it would be a different story. But for effects that won't happen, by probability, in several million lifetimes of the universe, I say you can safely ignore them as foundational explanatory concepts for systems with viable macroscopic explanations.

Date: 2007/10/25 16:15:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
How is this possible?  How is this possible?  

Hey!  What do you know?  I just increased the information content of my question using duplication!
I hope you can see that duplication does no good in having a genome gain info to code for novel structures.

Do you understand what is being claimed when we point to gene duplication and subsequent divergence as a trivially easy refutation of this "mutations degrade information" nonsense?
'Cause it's real simple.

1. Genes are stretches of the genome that code for proteins.
2. Proteins are essential for the operation of an organism, and there are a lot more ways to code for a not-protein than a protein, which are specific amino acids, in sequence, that also have to fold up right.
3. By 1. and 2., we can see why coding sequences are conserved by selection. Most mutations that change the sequence of amino acids will be deletrious and will not be passed on.

4. Sometimes, a mutation causes a gene to be duplicated.
5. After duplication, there are two copies of a sequence that codes for a protein.
6. If one diverges due to further mutation, 3. above no longer applies, because there's still a working copy, churning out the correct protein.
7. The duplicate sequence is free to drift. It is no longer conserved. It is essentially invisible to selection.
8. If it randomly happens on a new coding function, a novel gene is the result.

New Information, Christopher. In 8 easy steps. What have you been telling your students?

Date: 2007/10/25 16:49:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
That's awesome.

*golf clap*

Date: 2007/10/30 14:19:53, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
My guess is that it has to do with the selection criteria.  With a specific goal in mind, random solutions can be consecutively selected until they actually build something useful.

The main reason these types of selection algorithms work is because they select for potential.

Natural selection is not so kind.

You're wrong, Daniel.
here and here for an object lesson in Evolutionary Computation.

Date: 2007/10/31 18:35:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Here you go Daniel. Find me the potential. FORTRAN Code for Dave Thomas's Steiner Tree GA

Date: 2007/10/31 18:38:38, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Note also, that in a strict and very real sense these are not "simulations of evolution."

GA's like these we are speaking of are instantiations of real, no-kidding, actual Darwinian processes.

Hope that clears up your misunderstanding of JAM's post.

Date: 2007/11/01 14:26:38, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I would also wonder if the folks over at ISCID would know of ID researchers that could use support in their work on new medicines.

I get this image of a guy in a dusty lab, with half the lights out and the rest making a racket with bad ballasts, sort of desultorily wiping at a beaker with the hem of his lab coat and staring out a dirty window at the dumpsters in the parking lot.

All science so far!

Date: 2007/11/01 17:47:45, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
you and your cohorts should spend *absolutely no* time bitching about religion.

This "logic" --and it is very common-- never fails to astonish me.

It's just like this: I'm walking along, minding my own business, and a passerby calls my attention to a stick on the ground.
"What does that stick mean to you?" he asks.
"Nothing, really," I reply. "It's just a stick."
So the stranger picks up the stick and starts hitting me on the head with it.
"Watch it!" I say. "Stop hitting me with that."
"I thought it was 'just a stick,'" he says with a shit-eating grin. (The same stupid one on FTK's face when she deludes herself into thinking she has a point.)

Date: 2007/11/02 14:52:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Kansas isn't geographically in the south? Bloody well should be. It is ideologically. Nothing but bible bashers and rank bad hatters. Bastards to a man!

Uh, Louis? You misspelled "Missouri"

Date: 2007/11/02 16:10:14, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
From an evolutionary & Godless standpoint on this issue, I see no reason why the issue of incest would be a bad thing except due to health issues.  If both parties are willing, who would you be hurting?  

Personally, I believe God put a stop to it due to His knowledge that as the population grew and our bodies were no longer perfect, it would become increasingly dangerous for our offspring in the future.

God sees "no reason why...incest would be a bad thing, except for health issues," and thus holds an "evolutionary and godless" position on the subject?

'Cause that's what I'm taking away from your post.

Date: 2007/11/02 16:48:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
So, could God make his own sister so SexiHawt, that even HE couldn't resist?


Date: 2007/11/02 16:56:04, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It's worse than that, oldman.

Time of Creation: Incest mandated by God.
Lot's daughters: Well, Okay. Just this once you little vixens. (but your descendents are gonna be sorry)
A while later: Stop that! You are abominable in my sight!

*God wanders off to play craps with Satan for Job's house*

Date: 2007/11/05 12:47:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
If language existed, I really see no reason why early man wouldn't have put down their thoughts in writing much, much earlier than they did.


I do see, and like Arden, I think I'll wade in on this, because sometimes doing so makes the stinging rash I get from teh stupid fade a little.

First, writing was not invented in order for anyone to "put down their thoughts." The invention of writing was roughly contemporary with intensive agriculture and consequent urbanization. The first known instances of graphical representation of language are strictly utilitarian. Essentially, it looks like, writing was invented to keep track of commodities, which could only exist in surplus economies, which do not occur in hunter-gatherer or horticultural societies. Such societies, it should be noted, characterized human social structure for 95% of our species' existence. The same elites who began using writing for accounting purposes quickly saw the potential for codification of laws and scriptures, but again for the utilitarian reasons that doing so consolidated their exclusive dominion over these cultural products. It simply would not have occured to anybody other than elites to record personal information, because nobody was interested, at least, nobody who actually could read.

See, inventions are responses to challenges. They solve problems. No need, no writing. Long after the rise of written language, even in ostensibly literate societies, the oral tradition remained the primary vehicle of information transmission and accumulation among all but the society's elites. It's not really until the rise of printing, many thousands of years after the invention of written language, that ordinary people began reading and writing. (Much to the dismay of many elites.) But even to this day, the vast majority of literate people use writing purely for utility, not to "put down their thoughts." Film, television and music, which occupy the same niche in modern societies as oral transmission did in pre-literate societies, are vastly more popular than the written word.

Oral traditions served their own purposes too. They were a better way for ancient peoples to record their hymns and stories and myths than writing could have been. They served as entertainment (ever sung songs around a campfire? It's still fun.) They unified communities in ways that simply having a copy of the same writings never could.

There's your reasons. It's a shame. I'd love to have a "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Cro-Magnon," but the would-be literary geniuses of the Pleistocene were busy with other things.

Date: 2007/11/05 14:32:24, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
My other point was that I just find it odd that with all these early humans running around talking and socializing for approx. 100,000 years, it just seems that perhaps we should see earlier signs of the written word, advanced architecture, or more clues about their social lives.

I find it odd that with all these early humans running around --just that, running around-- and occasionally walking for approx. 100,000 years, it just seems that perhaps we should see early versions of the golf-cart. I mean, dudes, take a load off, would you? Jeez, you're makin' me tired.

Date: 2007/11/05 15:52:41, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm interested to know how well these ID books sell nowadays since most everyone on planet earth knows IDc is a scam.

The Edge of Evolution has sold 7,921 copies to date. Shortly after its release, it peaked at 845 copies sold in one week. Currently it's selling 100-150 copies a week.

Dembski's The Design Inference in paperback (I'm not sure if there was a hardback edition) has sold a whopping 361 copies since its release in March 2006.

Answer: not especially well. For perspective, the paperback of Dawkins's The Ancestor's Tale has sold 54,549 copies since its release in Sept. 2005. As recently as this July, it sold 850 copies in one week, and its best ever week it sold more than 2000 copies.

Waterloo! Waterloo!

Date: 2007/11/05 16:15:37, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
In hardback, The God Delusion has sold 326,694 copies. It's still selling 2000+ a week.

Paperback is due in January, at which time it will pick up again. By the end of next year, it's fairly likely there will be close to a million copies in print.

Date: 2007/11/05 17:10:39, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Where do you get these data?

Nielson, the same company that does TV ratings, does books, too. It's a subscription service made available to me by my employer, a publishing house.

Why Intelligent Design Fails sold a few over 1000 copies in hardback, and has sold 890 in paper. It's still selling 5-10 a week. Its best week was quite an outlier: 115 copies in early August 2006. I wonder if a prominent review spurred that or if it was just a fluke. (Note that at $39.99, the hardback was considerably more expensive than some of the more popular titles published by trade presses.)

That's the last request I can do today. I need to do some real work, sadly.

Date: 2007/11/06 14:11:05, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Where do you go for spices, Arden?

Date: 2007/11/06 14:30:49, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yessir. We talked about it once before, remember? We both used to live right by 40th and Telly.

I'm in Emeryville now, on San Pablo.

Bombay... is it on University?

Date: 2007/11/06 16:19:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I see why this would be controversial, but not why it would be controversial here.

...because everyone who disagrees should have been banned by now.

Date: 2007/11/07 13:55:50, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
it seems pretty clear that God’s energy is required to keep the whole bowl of wax moving forward.

Wow. You can't make this stuff up.

This has got to be one of the all-time best mangled mixed metaphors I've ever seen, and I am a bit of an afficionado of the form.

Date: 2007/11/07 17:19:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Down the memory hole, just like that. Didn't even hold a bannination. How is it that these wingnuts don't see what an echo chamber they hide out in?

Date: 2007/11/07 17:51:30, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
we spend more time with the tards then Dembski does

I know. We should be getting attendant wages or something.

*If I have to wipe up one more goddamn puddle of drool, I'm gonna...*

(OK, OK. It's in poor taste. I worked for a disability non-profit providing transportation for a couple of years in and after college. It was a good job. The truly mentally and developmentally disabled deserve compassion and respect, which I always gave those in my supervision. Those who choose the way of tard, not so much.)

Date: 2007/11/08 11:50:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
MacTgets in Gramma Spice's grill about a supposed "scientific consensus" that apes could acquire grammar.

And then, downthread a bit, G. Spice is going to test your irony meter *this is only a test*
getawitness, it would be scary indeed to think that everyone was fooled. But one Chomsky doesn’t alter a pattern that Mario Beaaregard and I note in The Spiritual Brain - a very familiar pattern, replicated widely over many issues. The notion that apes can learn grammar was treated as the default “scientific” position in accounts of the subject - even though one did not need a great deal of familiarity with the area to see why it probably wasn’t true.

Now, of course, the fact that that was the case - as is demonstrated by the way popular culture sources replicate it to this day - is somehow supposed to fall down a memory hole.

That way, we can avoid disconfirming a materialist prediction.

I for one will work to see that it doesn’t fall down a memory hole, but is entered among the disconfirmed materialist predictions.

That will force materialists to redefine their theory so as to exclude what they once enthusastically included as evidence. Eventually, a paper trail develops …

This is a rich vein. I can't get into it all right now. But irony aside, this business of "materialist predictions." (A phrase once confined to the madhouse screeds of BatShit007 now mainstreamed by G. Spice)

Were the researchers who made inflated claims vis a vis ape's facility with language materialists, but the linguists, primatologists, and animal behaviorists who remained skeptical were not? Did anybody really predict anything, as opposed to simply being credulous and over-enthusiastic about training these animals? Last, is Clive Wynne, the animal behaviorist and expert on animal cognition whose article is the subject of the thread, a non-materialist? (I don't know, but I certainly know that he is not any sort of creationist.)

In short, where does Gramma Spice get off claiming that this is in the least bit relevant to her cause?

Date: 2007/11/08 13:15:42, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yeah, and if a frog had wings, he wouldn't bust his ass a'hoppin'

Date: 2007/11/26 15:51:36, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It's the airtight Bart Simpson defense:

"I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it, you can't prove anything."

That's enough for me. Won't somebody help Dr. Bill find the real culprits?

Date: 2007/11/29 16:40:48, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Y'all hear that? apoplectic sez we can go back ta burnin'churches an' killin' fundies!

What a guy.

Date: 2007/11/30 13:04:02, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
"But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."
--Carl Sagan

We need to overcome the impulse to give creedence to ideas simply because their proponents speak with conviction against prevailing consensus. There is a broad streak of anti-intellectualism, most prevalent in the US I believe, that leads many to accept denialist claims not in spite of the fact that they fly in the face of hard-won consensus, but precisely because they do. Conspiracy theories, systematically invulnerable to contradictory evidence (evidence against a conspiracy is actually evidence for it --that's how powerful and devious the conspiracy is!), are attractive to those who see scientists and "intellectual elites" as arrogant and uncaring about "the common man." You've a leg up on convincing people who think this way, just for espousing a controversial point of view, because they'd rather see "the experts" with egg on their face than actually hold justified, true beliefs.

Date: 2007/12/04 14:48:16, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
"opium makes you sleepy because of its soporific effects"

virtus dormitiva is the technical term.


Date: 2007/12/04 16:36:15, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Me? Heavens no. Wouldn't touch it. Let's let Dr. Pangloss 'ave a go, shall we?

The sleep of reason produces, not monsters, but LOLCats. For the internet surely suggests insomnia, and subjective whingeing is the most tiresome activity to witness. Therefore, your lack of sleep proves that internet bulletin boards are the highest acheivement of man in this, the best of all possible worlds.

/Panglossian nonsense

Date: 2007/12/04 16:51:27, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I agree with Heddle, but not necessarily for the same reasons.

When those dumbasses over there finally figure out that they've got, at most, like ten genuinely deluded cheerleaders and about three times as many sock-puppets trolling for shits and grins, forever after they will justify their draconic bannination methods by pointing to this episode. It just gives them a chance to whitewash their despicable intellectual cowardice, the exposure of which has always been one of the primary raisons d'etre of this thread.

It can be funny, especially how Uncommonly Dense the (non)response has been, but really, they just want more examples of Evilutionists behaving badly, and we're giving it to them, in spades.

Date: 2007/12/04 17:10:33, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm not saying it actually does justify their censorious ways, just that they will use it in the future to attempt to do so, and they may get some sympathy from some who are not as aware of the history of this stuff as we are.

Added in edit: Yeah. I guess that's why I don't play. I fight them here, so I don't have to fight them there... or... something.*

*Yes, I just wanted to "add in edit"**

**Not that it makes me in any way superior to those who... um, lack this function.***

***Imitating Louis? Thank you, don't mind if I do.

Date: 2007/12/05 11:49:50, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Well, presumably, he's a Wedgie. They're committed to overturning the materialistic bias rampant in the scientific community, right? And if that bias needs to be fabricated in order to overturn it, so be it.

He's openly hostile to the entire enterprise that he ostensibly applied to become a lifelong part of. What I'm getting at is, I don't think the DI has helped him, in the sense that his career is pretty much finished. But I think his goals and the DI's are pretty consonant, and he accepts that his career needed to be sacrificed for this PR stunt. He'll still make money getting speaking engagements and writing books, just like Behe, except for the tenure thing.

Date: 2007/12/05 12:36:13, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
From a review of a book called Blasphemy in Modern Brittain:

Finally, the conclusion to the book reviews the current situation of the law on blasphemy in Britain, emphasising both the patently unsatisfactory nature of the legacy of the Gay News case and the need for a clear understanding of the history of this issue in order to address the unresolved tensions of its present state. As Nash points out, in the years since the Gay News case, the issue of blasphemy has resurfaced, most notably in the Rushdie affair, but also in relation to the actions of the British Board of Film Censors and their refusal to grant a certificate to the film Visions of Ecstasy. Moreover, in recent years – and especially in the wake of the controversy over The Satanic Verses - the focus of debate has tended to shift towards discussion of the inequality of the existing blasphemy laws in their failure to protect the religious sensibilities of religious believers other than Christians. Thus recent discussion of the law on blasphemy has often proposed that modernisation of the law might mean its extension rather than its abolition. The danger thus remains that religious groups – especially those acting ‘from below’, from the grassroots – might seek to move the law on blasphemy yet further in a threatening or restrictive direction. In modern culture, Nash warns, blasphemy can easily represent ‘a dangerously open door to those who might wish to profit from the status of the offended.’

And here's the wiki on the Gay News case mentioned.

Funny aside: I was talking to my five-year-old son the other night, and we were talking about technological change and what things might be like when he's grown up. I told him that when I was his age, there were no personal computers, and no Google.
He said, "But how did anyone find anything out?"

It was hard to remember.

Date: 2007/12/06 16:55:48, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Dave is a classic narcissist. Addressing him is pointless.

pointlessly edited to add: You suck, Dave.

Date: 2007/12/12 12:09:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Do us a favor. Take a break in your garage. With the car running.


Date: 2007/12/12 16:06:43, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
My gift, for someone without a sig.

Santa rocks. Thankee Santy Claws.

Date: 2007/12/12 17:58:32, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yes, JohnW, it is probably uncalled for. Where's my charity in the Solstice Season?

Of all the creo-bots, though, Air Farce Dave and Sal just piss me off beyond my ability to ignore.

But whatever. Enjoy life, Dave.


*No creationists were harmed in the production of this not-pology.

Date: 2007/12/13 20:25:47, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Those are great. I like "Consilience" also. So concise, yet it pretty much sums up the whole phenomenon of denialism. I like the rabbit out of the hat too. Why should we draw non-obvious conclusions about anything? Just sit back and enjoy the show.

Good stuff.

Date: 2007/12/21 12:40:13, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Gawd, pantsloading is stupid, and never moreso than when a moron like Dave gives you a big ol' whiff of a sincere attempt to make it sound sciency.

Everything we know about genetics argues against it, so, naturally, says Dave, we need to know more about genomes, because we haven't found the evidence for his pet conjecture yet.

With billions of generations of mushrooms in the basement, maybe the ol' Tard could lend a hand on that.

Date: 2008/01/09 14:03:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Well, I, for one, know that I don't understand QM at the level of Heddle, a physicist, or even Sewell, whose maths are far in advance of my dimly remembered calculus.

However, I despise quantum woo. In the realm of interpretation and philosophical implications, I am often amazed at the knots otherwise seemingly intelligent commentators can tie themselves into when discussing the matter. For instance, what do we gain by positing these "miniscule but non-zero probabilities"? By what process of reasoning do we expect the very fabric of quantum-scale reality to be comprehensible in terms of classical "billiard ball" physics? I don't deny a sense of wonder at the strangeness that has been teased out of the quantum world by ingenious experimenters, but somehow, it's just never seemed that outrageous to me that at some point our macroscopically oriented intuitions just don't cope well with the notion of an irreducible probability lurking at the heart of everything. For whatever reason, the stuff just doesn't throw me for a loop, much less tempt me to embrace mysticism over it, a la Davies, Capra, and apparently Granville Sewell (but, not, apparently, Heddle).

Date: 2008/01/09 18:24:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
My goodness. The ratio of pseudo-erudite gobbledygook to coherent phrases in that post by the Frost-meister is, er, quite high. An object lesson in clueless quantum woo.

Teh stupid! It burns!

Date: 2008/01/10 18:06:17, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Poor skeptic.

Do you even know what is meant by "random" in this context? It's not difficult to understand. "Random" means random with regard to fitness. That is, whatever causes a given mutation is irrelevant to discussions of the range of variation selection has to work with. The handwaving is all yours.

Date: 2008/01/11 13:34:21, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Searle's Chinese room demonstrates the first point fairly persuasively

It does no such thing. It uses rhetorical sleight-of-hand to misdirect one's attention from what is at issue.

The question is does the system as a whole, the Turing machine, understand Chinese?

It is stipulated in the thought experiment that any utterance in Chinese can be the input and that the system makes coherent replies in Chinese.

What other operational definition for "understands Chinese" is there?

Date: 2008/01/11 14:32:53, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Whether or not the mutation has a direct impact upon the fitness of future generations or has more indirect result is probably up for grabs and maybe both depending upon the situation.  To constantly claim that mutations occur with no apparent relation to fitness is only reality in a test tube, and probably not even there either.

Well skeppy, there are many more ways to miss a point than to get it, and, in this case, you seem determined to try out every last one.
No one is asserting that "mutation[s have no] direct impact" What we are saying, in small words whenever possible, is that the occurance of a mutation happens without regard to fitness. That is, nobody has succeeded in bringing light to a mechanism whereby "directed mutation" or "frontloading" would be a live possibility. As far as any investigator can tell, mutations just happen, willy-nilly, and pass into the great filter of natural selection. Conserved regions are regions where mutations do not get passed on, not regions where they never occur in the first place. This is clearly on the selection side of things.

Date: 2008/01/11 17:52:38, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
"Y'ate what?"

"We ate sand."

Date: 2008/01/17 17:45:53, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Barry A's defenses of dualism are just childishly naive.

cf. Stupid, Teh, burning

Date: 2008/01/22 18:30:40, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Artificial selection is just a subset of natural selection in which the selecting environment's most salient feature is the preferences of an intelligent agent. It's a special case of co-evolution. Certainly, in most cases, it is easy to say when artificial selection is going on. But it really is no different in principle from ordinary mutualism, which occurs all the time in natural selection.

And GA's are not "simulations" of anything. Used as engineering solutions, they are an example of actual, real-life Darwinian processes, not models of them. (If we can allow what we'll call a "Darwinian process" to be substrate-neutral, which should be unproblematic. All that is required is that we have reproducing entities that vary arbitrarily, and that said variation non-trivially affects reproductive sucess.) That is why they're so frightening to creationists, and why jokers like Gil Dogen have to play dumb when they make claims about them. Blind, undirected processes can solve problems. And that's the facts.

Date: 2008/01/23 12:21:51, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Happy Birthday. Thanks for all that you do.

Date: 2008/01/24 15:52:33, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I've been meaning to take a day trip up to Point Reyes to see the elephant seals that are congregating on a beach up there, but the weather's been pretty brutal, and it seems like winter on Point Reyes even in the summer. Plus, I've been busy. But this weekend or next, I'm going to make the trip. If I spend all day, I should have a good shot at spotting some migrating gray whales to boot.

And then, on the inland side, there's just an amazing profusion of waterfowl in Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon.

Date: 2008/02/01 14:22:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
if a UFO came down, and little green men popped off. If they went on to claim that they are the designer of life on earth. If they then sat down with the scientists and showed them how they did it. This would be a solid victory for ID.

Too Funny.
I was just thinking about a scenario like this. (The inimitable DaveTard got me thinking about it via his recent tirade against "Who designed the Designer" arguments.) Because how solid a victory for ID would it be really, if the aliens could prove they were indeed the designer of life on Earth, but steadfastly maintained that our conception of Evolution was perfectly correct and furthermore that our designers were convinced beyond a doubt that their own origins were the result of organic, contingent processes -- Dreaded Chance + Necessity? How many IDers are still on board the lead float in the victory parade? One suspects not very many.

It's a perfect opportunity to highlight the real interests of your average Creationist. Do they want to prove anything specific about life on Earth, or do they simply want the imprimatur of science on their religious beliefs? The average cdesign proponentist no doubt believes the two ends are perfectly consonant, but bFast, "unwittingly," natch, illustrates the beginnings of a proof that it just ain't so.

I'm going to extend bFast's cute little counterfactual a little, and show just how disastrous such a scenario would actually be for ID's target audience.

Let's say that not only do our super-high-tech aliens show that they designed life on Earth, but intervened significantly in human history as well. Specifically, they are able to show via extensive documentation and beyond doubt that they are responsible for the origin and perpetuation of monotheistic religion. Abraham's YHWH, the burning bush, Noah's boat trip, complete with unnatural flood, alien android miracle-working prophets, the works. Let us say, furthermore, that Jesus was also an alien android, the "miracles" were Clarke's Law-type sufficiently advanced technology, and the early Christians were the beneficiary of significant interventions bolstering the cult and ensuring that the beliefs would persist into the modern era. How is ID faring now?

Scientists would be extremely surprised to find out that they had been fooled regarding the evolution of life, of course. But remember that the aliens agree with Evolutionary Theory, and indeed believe it was instrumental on their own planet. They simply show convincingly that they circumvented it via intervention on Earth, all the while rigging the evidence to be indistinguishable from a natural origin. While shocking, this would sink in and become acceptable to scientists.

And atheists would say, well, there's your God, then. But most theists wouldn’t be happy at all, would they? “That’s not God! That’s trickster aliens. God is Transcendent and Immanent and all that stuff. And they say THEY evolved. They must be wrong. There IS a God, and he designed them, so they could design us.” The scenario, when you really look at it, is a complete non-starter for creationists –when you ignore what they say they want and focus on what they’re really after.

Methinks bFast’s victory parade is going to encounter some afternoon showers.

Date: 2008/02/07 13:25:58, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Gawd, Berlinski is such a smug, disingenuous twit, isn't he?
The idea that science is a uniquely self-critical institution is of course preposterous. Scientists are no more self-critical than anyone else.

Notice the bat-and-switch, right off the bat. He blatantly conflates the "institution" of science with "scientists."

Let's try this: "The idea that baseball, as a sport, is uniquely amenable to statistical analysis is of course preposterous. Baseball players are no more experts in statistics than any other athletes." Sounds pretty stupid.

They hate to be criticized… Look, these people are only human, they hate criticism — me too. The idea that scientists are absolutely eager to be beaten up is one of the myths put out by scientists, and it works splendidly so they can avoid criticism.

Yeah, they hate to be crticized --especially by pompous ignoramouses with no expertise in the field. And they may well, depending on individual personalities, hate to be criticized by scientists in their field. But, and this is crucial, do they also hate to criticize? And are they aware, whatever their own personal feelings, that progress in the field (any field) depends on vigorous critical exchanges between investigators? What does Berlinski think goes on at all these national conferences? Lots of backslapping bonhomie, no doubt. Nary a voice raised, not a disagreement to be had. Right, Dave.
And that last line... I've got a brilliant idea! We'll tell everyone we just loooove criticism, can't get enough of it... so then, nobody will criticize us! QED.

Logic, Dave. You're doing it wrong.

There's lots more to say about this execrable bit of inellectually-bankrupt swill. But it's so obvious, I have trouble caring, I guess.

Date: 2008/02/12 13:20:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Finally got out to Point Reyes to see the elephant seals. So cool. Most of the action was over a few weeks ago. ("The action" being the fighting and dominance displays between the bull males for the prime spots and the biggest harem.) There were about 200 females on the beach, divided into (I think) three harems. The big-daddy alpha bull was 20 feet long if he was an inch. The docent at the viewing site (overlooking the beach) said they were estimating he was about 5000 pounds. There were some younger males hanging around, too (poor guys --most of them, after getting sand kicked in their faces, depart to other, nearby, beaches), and I actually saw a fight between two. Not sure why they were fighting, since the prizes were all spoken for. And it wasn't two alpha-males going at it, but still quite impressive. Two 15 to 17 foot long, 4000 lb. beasts makes for quite a bout. Very interesting creatures that you don't see every day. And a nice day on Point Reyes, which it almost never is.

Date: 2008/02/12 14:01:50, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
They've been making a comeback. From the National Park Service website

After being absent for more than 150 years, elephant seals returned to the sandy beaches on the rocky Point Reyes Headlands in the early 1970s. In 1981, the first breeding pair was discovered near Chimney Rock. Since then, researchers have found that the colony is growing at a dramatic annual average rate of 16 percent. When severe storms occurred in 1992, 1994, and 1998, many pups were killed. During the El Niño winter of 1998, storms and high tides washed away approximately 85% of the 350 young pups before they had learned to swim. Nevertheless, the Point Reyes elephant seal population is between 1,500 and 2,000. Fanning out from their initial secluded spot, the seals have expanded to popular beaches, causing concern for both their safety and that of their human visitors.

Date: 2008/02/14 13:53:40, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Concisely, a theory unifies diverse observations into a single explanatory framework that can be used to make predictions about future observations and generate novel hypotheses.

A law is an expression of a deep regularity in nature that has never been observed to fail under given conditions. Laws really have no explanatory power at all. They simply express how things are.

The classic example would be Kepler's Laws of Motion and Newton's Theory.

Date: 2008/02/14 17:22:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
*munches popcorn*

Date: 2008/02/15 16:44:49, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I've been on a historical Jesus/early Christiam mythmaking kick. (It was a subject that I had previously held relatively uninformed opinions about, so I thought I'd inform myself.)

I started with Gospel Truth by Russel Shorto. It's a good, quick read, an overview of recent scholarship on the question of what can be known about the historical figure behind the myths. It doesn't give much more than a couple sentences to the idea that Jesus is wholly fictional, but it doesn't greatly overstate what is known either. It's mostly focussed on the Jesus Seminar and its critics and the various approaches to New Testament exegesis. Lots of context and differing views, very little assertion.

Now I'm reading Who Wrote the New Testament? by Burton Mack, and Excavating Jesus by Dominic Crossan and Jonathan Reed. (I switch back and forth; the Mack is somewhat dry at times.)

Mack is exclusively concerned with scriptural exegesis. He apparently doesn't even consider the question of the historical Jesus meaningful for his purposes. He draws some fascinating conclusions, but I do have to say that he comes across as a little dogmatic at times about his own particular theories. There is none of the larger scholarly context of these questions. This is Mack's book, and you get Mack's take. None other. That said, he does paint a detailed and compelling picture of the earliest Jesus people (his term) as well as the socio-political motives for the invention of the myths that find their way into the canonical Gospels. He charts the transition from Jesus movements to the Christ cults of the later First Century C.E. in a way that makes a lot of sense, but I know there are scholars who disagree. I don't have the knowledge to make informed decisions about who is more likely to be right, and this book has no interest in giving it to me. It's as I said a little dry and on the scholarly side for a popular book.

Excavating Jesus is part Achaeology, part exegesis. I haven't got very far into it, but I will read more of it this weekend. Before I'm off my kick, I also intend to read some stuff by Bart Ehrman, another highly regarded New Testament scholar. If anybody has any other recommendations along the same lines, I'd love to hear them.

Date: 2008/02/22 12:06:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The Cynics were rebels, man. They liked to shake up The Man with their crazy hair-dos and their wild ideas. Interestingly, some of Jesus's most perplexing teachings (attributed to him by early Jesus movements that were more on the order of a Greek school of philosophy than like the Christ cults of the later 1st Century) bear a striking resemblance to Cynic teachings. Many Cynic aphorisms have the flavor of Zen koans --their aim was to puzzle the listener to make him question societal mores and envision other ways of living than traditional modes. Hippies, basically. The modern connotation of the term came about because the Cynics were interested in puncturing complacency and sending up social taboos --their take on society was jaded and critical, though with intent to reform, which is missing from the modern meaning.

Epicurus was an atheist materialist. He rejected concepts of an afterlife or supernatural realms of the gods. His philosophical school therefore focussed on the question of how to live this life, in this world, without looking ahead to 'a better place' but also without fear of death. They valued worldly pleasures (hence the vernacular connotations of the name), but being good Hellenes, they also regarded moderation in all things as the highest virtue. So the caricature of the Epicurians as hedonists is not really accurate.

Date: 2008/02/22 14:32:58, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yes, the sophists were Plato's straw-man punching bag, so as far as the Western canon is concerned, they never really got to speak up in their own defense.

Date: 2008/02/26 17:53:21, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
See? This is why we can't have nice things!

Date: 2008/02/27 13:27:34, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (EoRaptor013 @ Feb. 27 2008,12:50)
Quote (skeptic @ Feb. 27 2008,13:01)
Raptor, *sigh*, alright go right ahead but don't say I didn't warn you.

Before you go, weren't you going to show how advanced your understanding of the Bible is?

Let's try a simple one:

What effect did the Babylonian exile have on the development of Jewish, and ultimately Christian, theology? Please point to passages that support your view.


ETA: Is there a better thread for this discussion -- assuming there ends up being a discussion?

Yeah, apoplectic there did get all high and mighty about the bible, didn't he?

I'll bite, too.

Since the subject of this thread is miracles, maybe apoplectic would care to enlighten those of us who are clearly scripturally challenged about the miracles of Jesus.

Like, for instance, what passages in John point to the existence of a lost source, known as the Signs Gospel? What can we make of the interpretation of the miracles as "signs," and what were they signs of? Bonus points for discussion of the emphasis in Matthew and Luke on the Davidian geneology, why those two accounts might differ, and why the identification of Jesus with the house of David was significant to what groups of early Christians, and why?

Or perhaps apoplectic would like to hold forth on how the pattern and order of the miracle stories in Matthew and Luke suggest that those two writers had Mark as a common source?

We await your expertise, O enlightened one.

Edited to add: A different thread would be fine by me as well, as I can see that skeptic would rather avoid questions rather than bestow upon us the glory of his scriptural wisdom.

Date: 2008/02/27 14:03:41, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
See you on the book thread.

I've moved on to Crossan's The Historical Jesus. It's a terrific synthesis of cultural anthropology, archaeology, and exegesis. The one I picked up at the library by Ehrman is just called The New Testament. I've been looking for Misquoting Jesus, too, but it's new and so always checked out.

The point is, skeptic, plenty of us are interested in and know a fair amount about scripture. High-handed attempts at intimidation on that score are just an invitation for us to pile on.

Date: 2008/02/28 15:35:41, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
[Graffiti moved to Bathroom Wall. -Admin]

Well, the quotation in your sig is obviously Richard Feynman. Have you no shame?

Date: 2008/03/04 13:33:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Hey, thanks for posting, prof. MacNeill. Interested lay-person here.

If I may, I'd like to ask about this:
sexual selection (which some evolutionary biologists, including myself, consider to be functionally separate from simple natural selection)

and what you mean by "functionally separate"?

I have always conceptualized natural selection (the fundamental logic of which you summarize above) as a general, substrate-neutral process that will operate whenever the conditions of heritable variation exist and where variant traits affect fitness and environmental resources are limited. If natural selection is conceived broadly this way, then "sexual selection" is natural selection where the most salient feature of the environment is the behavior of conspecifics, specifically with regard to (usually female) mate choice. Similarly "artificial selection" is natural selection where the most salient feature of the environment is the behavior of a more or less intelligent species with regard to the tendency to value certain traits more than others.

I don't doubt there are good reasons, but would you mind explaining what my sketch misses, and perhaps what is the utility to Evolutionary Biologists of considering sexual selection as inherently distinct from a more general phenomenon?

Date: 2008/03/04 16:15:20, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Terry Bisson is a twisted genius.

Date: 2008/03/05 13:02:51, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
...that is not necessarily the way the Apostle Paul defended the Christian faith in Acts 17 when he cited Greek prophets.

Most likely written by the author of the Gospel attributed to Luke, by the way, and certainly not by Paul: the style is all wrong and matches Luke, and anyway Paul was deceased at the time of its composition in the 80s CE.

In the context of the Greco-Roman world, attributing writings to famous figures or past leaders of movements was not considered deceptive or dishonest. It was a legitimate way of extending traditions and updating doctrine to deal with present realities. The intended audience (late first century C.E. Christians) would have understood this. The "New Testament" is riddled with this kind of attribution.


*Yes, I'm still reading way too much New Testament history

Date: 2008/03/05 13:15:38, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
RB is also a twisted genius. Thanks for bein' you, man.

Date: 2008/03/11 11:55:51, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Yeah, I mean, why do we stil have worms barely visible to the naked eye? If evolution were true, all life should have advanced to the stage of autodicktard messymorph cheesypoophages.

I love it so!

Date: 2008/03/11 16:20:55, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
You forgot the step Call Homeland Security. That's between snacks in the car, but before anyone complains, or, indeed, even notices.

Date: 2008/03/12 16:17:03, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
If a gene codes to a protein, as somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 do, then any two versions of that protein would indicate two versions of the gene, two alleles, would they not?  I agree that I sometimes refer to two versions of proteins because the proteins are closer to the phenotype, and it is only the phenotype that natural selection works on.  However, I do recognize that the "alleles" are the variants of the genes involved.

Your terminology is still confused. An allele that results in a different sequence of amino acids by definition codes for a different protein, not a different "version" of the same protein. Not being well-versed in biochemistry, I'm not even sure that terminology is ever used, but I suspect that if it is, it refers to the same sequence of amino acids folded differently.

You're still not dealing with the idea of loci, which is the concept underlying alleles as "different versions" of the same gene. We consider them different versions of the same gene because they are two different sequences at exactly the same locus on the same chromosome.

Date: 2008/03/12 17:36:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Why don't you just start using the only definition there is? Don't project your confusion onto us.

Date: 2008/03/18 15:44:56, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Hey all,

The last formal education in Physics I had was longer ago than I care to contemplate, so I have an (admittedly very basic) question to ask of those wiser than I.

So, we had my son's birthday party at Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley over the weekend. The temporary set of exhibits was called "Speed," and they had all kinds of hands-on gizmos illustrating various aspects of "speed": velocity, acceleration, drag, etc.

And one was this pneumatic thingy that shot a penny at great speed into a metal plate and then spit it out so you could see how it deformed on impact. They had some exemplars of what happens, based on composition (zinc vs. copper) and angle of impact (the pennies could "flutter" in the tube). It was pretty cool, and we fed it several pennies. But my issue is with the explanatory sign accompanying the exhibit.

It gave F=ma, talked about the force being applied to the penny. So far so good, but then it got into the "equal and opposite" reaction to the force, and then came the inexplicable talk about (paraphrased) "the plate pushes back" and said (verbatim) "the plate is the big F." (meaning the 'F' in F=ma.)

Is it me, or is this just crazily wrong? As I understand it, F is the initial force applied to the penny to shoot it down the tube, and the "equal and opposite reaction" is the deformation of the penny, i.e. the shedding of kinetic energy into heat and stresses in the material of the penny, causing it to be smashed, cracked or folded.

The way they explained it is analagous to saying that if the force of gravity is pushing you into the ground, then the opposite reaction is somehow the ground "pushing back." And that's all wrong. The ground, or the plate in the exhibit, don't exert any force at all, right? In the gravity example, the equal and opposite reaction is all going on inside your body: it's the various stresses and tensions on your skeletal-muscular system involved in keeping you upright, or, if not upright, then at least not a puddle. Right?

And if so, why does a freaking science museum at freaking UC Berkeley have signs that don't hold up to basic high school physics?

Date: 2008/03/18 16:57:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I guess it makes more sense the way you guys describe it. The whole idea of a stationary plate exerting force just struck me as strange. But I do get that there's a positive acceleration launching the penny, balanced by a sudden negative acceleration as the penny hits the plate and comes to rest.

But, again, with gravity and the ground "pushing back," I'm still befuddled. So, if I push on a solid, stationary brick wall, and nothing moves, where is the opposite reaction, required by Newton's Third Law? Does the wall push back? Or is the action, me pushing, balanced by internal stresses in my body (me throwing out my back)?

I think I understand the difference now that I write it out like that. The forces are balanced in my body, because, pushing on something, that's where the impetus comes from. In the case of gravity, the impetus is external.

Thanks, fellas.

Date: 2008/03/18 17:51:55, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (Texas Teach @ Mar. 18 2008,17:37)
C. J. the explanation for why inanimate objects like the ground or the plate can "push" on you is that the bonds between the atoms stretch like the material of a trampoline when you push on them.  The force of those bonds trying to return to their rest position is what allows the ground to hold you up or the plate to resist the penny.

There we go. Thinking this way (along with Venus Mousetrap's example of substituting paper for metal plate) makes it all much clearer.

I still think there's a better way of putting it than "the plate is the big F" but I see that the explanation is substantially correct, just using a somewhat confusing shorthand.

Sometimes I overthink these things. I appreciate you all taking the time to educate me.

Date: 2008/03/19 13:02:23, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I second Good Omens and American Gods.

Xanth, the entire output of Piers Anthony for that matter, skip it. Pratchett is far superior.

I could write a pretentious novel of my own on the subject of genre literature (SF/Fantasy), but I'll try to limit myself to what I consider the cream of the crop.

My favorite genre author, bar none, is Gene Wolfe. Often referred to as "the best writer you've never read," his prose never fails to be anything but excellent. His magnum opus is the tetrology The Book of the New Sun. I like genre-bending stuff, not quite science fiction, not quite fantasy, and this one sets the standard for that kind of thematic inventiveness.
I am especially fond of the Latro books. Originally published as Soldier in the Mist and Soldier of Arete, they are now in print in one volume, called Latro in the Mist. Set in the ancient Mediterranean just after the Persian Wars, the story is presented as the "diary" of a (Roman?) soldier who was wounded in battle and has amnesia. Along with this disability, however, comes the ability to see and interact with the gods, who seem to take an at times unhealthy interest in Latro's doings. It can be frustrating to read, since many events have to be inferred --Latro often has no idea what's going on around him. But, if you can dig it, the narrative trick is Wolfe's art, and he is truly a master. There's a new one out, too, after twenty years, called Soldier of Sidon.
There's agreat deal more, both SF and Fantasy, and a lot of it you couldn't say what it is really. Mostly it's just damn fine writing.

Another favorite author is Michael Swanwick. He deals in a brand of decidedly grown-up dark fantasy that would frankly scare the pants off the likes of David Eddings. My fave is Iron Dragon's Daughter, which turns the fairy-tale upside down and sets it in a gritty, magical-industrial dystopia. Again, a tantalizing blend of Fantasy and Sci-Fi themes. It's currently out of print in the US (not sure about the UK), so look for it used or at the library. Just out is a sequel, Dragons of Babel, which I have not yet read. I believe its release has occasioned a reprint of Daughter, so the first one may soon be available new.
Swanwick isn't the craftsman Wolfe is, but then, nobody is.

On the SF side, for a taste of "the new Space Opera," I recommend two authors: Charles Stross, especially Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise, and Alastair Reynolds, a series beginning with Revelation Space.

My Fantasy runners-up are China Mieville (Perdido Street Station et al) and Ian R. MacLeod (The Light Ages and House of Storms). Both brilliantly inventive, if not outright weird, both much darker than traditional swords n' sorcery-type Fantasy.

Date: 2008/04/03 15:09:21, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Constructing narratives is certainly a human universal (a feature of all cultures), and all such behaviors should at least be considered possibly adaptive.

The basic ability to consider a counter-factual could be considered the root of narrative, and if you buy into "talking to yourself" hypotheses of the origin of language, this set of capabilities may have been instrumental in the adaptive nature of language itself (which I take it we all agree is an adaptation).

The idea goes like this: with increasing cognitive abilities, especially for sequential mental and physical tasks, comes the ability to look ahead and not only forsee obstacles and difficulties, but to begin to consider solutions or methods of avoidance before the eventuality even occurs. This clearly would have had tremendous adaptive significance for small-group-orinted, migratory savannah-dwelling proto-humans. Purposeful action could be taken with full consideration given to the kinds of trouble that might be encountered and the likely means that might be employed to avoid it.

[See Dennett on "evitability"]

Now, while all of this could have evolved hand in glove with language as it's traditionally considered: a general-purpose communication system, it need not have. In fact, some have argued that language itself rose out of these abilities: that, first, we were able to "talk to ourselves" about possible future events (while reflecting in detail on past events), and only later were able to use grammar to communicate these thoughts to others, which, in turn, would have ratcheted up the adaptive value considerably.

Full-blown artful narrative like mythmaking, then, would have arisen later out of this primal adaptation.

There are also sexual selection hypotheses for the evolution of language and art and other uniquely human cognitive abilities.

Date: 2008/04/04 14:35:38, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Guess what? The economic hardship was only momentarily delayed and has arrived anyway, and it is going to persist far longer than if the stocks had been managed properly all along.

The older I get, the more I realize that this, alas, is a summation of the human condition. 'Twas ever thus.

The difference is, in the 21st century, we're playing for all the marbles. I am not optimistic.

Date: 2008/04/11 17:57:05, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
[Graffiti moved to Bathroom Wall. -Admin]

First: moving posts and preserving context rather than deleting them is in no way censorship.

Second: keeping posts on topic is Lou's JOB around here. Unlike at UD, mods here serve the users, not their own petulant, self-serving whims.

Finally, the whole exchange was fairly content-free. Censorship is a tough charge to make stick when there's no content-expunging motive. You're so stuck in solipsistic martyr mode that you can't even draw these elementary distinctions.

Date: 2008/04/16 16:34:33, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I think ultimately science will lose. I fear, my friends, that we are living in the fading glow of the last, guttering remnants of the flame lit at the Enlightenment. Against the thousands-of-years backdrop of "normal" human existence --the lot of servitude, ignorance, superstition, and authoritarian brutality-- our age of reason and affluence will look like a blip, an outlier, a statistical anomaly. The future belongs to raving lunacy and xenophobic isolation. But I'm having a bad day. So ask me tomorrow.

Date: 2008/04/22 14:14:26, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
All the "science" are computer models using assumptions that fix the direction of the result.

Really? Perhaps you could identify these assumptions? Here are some links to information about climate modeling. Show me in these descriptions of the models where the assumptions are that invalidate the results in your view.
Or are you just bloviating about matters completely beyond your understanding?
I'm more inclined to trust the resilience of this massively complex system called Earth then to accept that we can dramatically alter it after about 200 years of industry.

Got it. Bloviating.
Here's the deal, skip. "Massively complex systems" are dynamic. They depend highly sensitively on feedback loops. What may look like "resilience" on the timescales familiar to human experience is actually the result of fluctuations between attractors over geological timescales. However, the study of chaos theory and dynamic systems in general tells us that while the system may seem locked in to a basin of attraction, perturbation may cause a rapid shift to a new attractor or chaotic fluctuations. What we've done by pumping trillions of tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere is give this feedback dependant system just such a perturbation.
Finally, it's not the resilience of Earth that we're worried about. All can agree that the climate has been different in the past, and that it will be different in the future, all due to entirely natural fluctuations. However, in the short term, the resilience of human agro-economy is very much in doubt, what with our teeming billions of mouths to feed.

Again, actual science rather than rhetoric is desired here.

Agreed. Got any?

Date: 2008/04/28 12:55:58, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I find malaria much more threatening than GW but that's just me.

The irony is palpable.

What you're missing is the inter-connectedness of things when you're dealing with a dynamic feedback system on a global scale.

From The NRDC website's page on GW:

Consequences of Global Warming
Global warming is expected to increase the potential geographic range and virulence of tropical diseases as well.

Disease-carrying mosquitoes are spreading as climate shifts allow them to survive in formerly inhospitable areas. Mosquitoes that can carry dengue fever viruses were previously limited to elevations of 3,300 feet but recently appeared at 7,200 feet in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. Malaria has been detected in new higher-elevation areas in Indonesia.

Date: 2008/05/09 16:32:50, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
All future Old Testament comments will be deleted.

In other news, we have always been at war with the Phillistines.

Date: 2008/05/09 16:37:34, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
The enemies of the natural moral law are the enemies of freedom.

Did I mention that ignorance is strength?

Date: 2008/05/12 16:30:45, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
My spam filter has been netting quite a few neck enlargement offers lately.

"Stop straining and wishing! Give her what she's begging for --only $29.99!!!"

Sometimes, I guess, an idea is just in the air.

Date: 2008/05/12 16:43:54, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (Richardthughes @ May 12 2008,16:40)
Quote (C.J.O'Brien @ May 12 2008,16:30)
My spam filter has been netting quite a few neck enlargement offers lately.

"Stop straining and wishing! Give her what she's begging for --only $29.99!!!"

Sometimes, I guess, an idea is just in the air.

You buy it once, CJ, You're on their mailing list forever...


Once?! Hell, I've tried every...

Oh. heh.

Date: 2008/05/12 18:07:40, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Pulled off an Eggs Benedict for the missus on Mother's Day. It's not so much difficult as it is a freaking juggling act, trying to get everything ready at the same time. We do love us some Hollandaise. Not a low-fat meal, by any stretch.

Weekend before we had some friends over and I pan-seared some shrimp. Got the recipe from Cook's Illustrated. It's a great way to cook 'em --sear in that flavor without overcooking. Over-cooked shrimp are not good. Had some jasmine rice and a little veggie stir-fry to go with it (bok choy, snow peas, broccoli). 'Twas teh excellent.

I figure the two balance in the cholesterol book.

Date: 2008/05/15 18:15:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Aww, did youse guys get all science-fiction-y while I was out?

Some alternatives to heavy-acceleration, high fraction of c drives or FTL:

Generation Ship: The slow boat. So much drama on board, you'll think it's reality-holovid!

Life Extension: sit back and enjoy the ride due to futur-ific bio-tech or sleep comfortably in your cryo-chamber and let the AIs do the work!

Upload: Why leave all the fun to the AIs? Be one!

Date: 2008/06/05 12:35:14, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
For my part, with very little effort and preparation I could present an entire lecture on the limitations of the current theory and never once mention ID or creationism.

As noted, "limitation" is not synonymous with "weakness."
However, why don't you put up or shut up? With even less effort and preparation, you could post an outline of this lecture for us to peruse. I suspect it's all bluster anyway.

Date: 2008/06/05 17:46:15, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Dembski replies to Beckwith (whom he calls "Frank" in that smarmy way the really clueless, no-social-skills guy you know puts his hand on your shoulder when he's talking to you):

I’ve argued that ID is not an interventionist theory. There is no ID grand metanarrative. The only thing ID is committed to is the inadequacy of evolutionary mechanisms as conceived in Enlightenment terms and the detectability of design in nature.

"... And, when it suits me, I've argued the exact opposite. So nyaah.


Farty noises upon request.

Date: 2008/06/12 18:36:06, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Jon, I was there. The actual posts by Walt Hizzownself definitely did not number over 20. It consisted almost entirely of short sections of the book being posted by FTK followed usually by ten or twenty more or less devastating replies. The best and most substantive were overkill (Wally's not really armed, you understand), but I actually used to have the thread bookmarked because it had so many links that were useful in combatting all sorts of Young Earth TARD.

Good times...

Date: 2008/07/02 14:32:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Anyone who remembers a dream knows that what we see and feel are constructs of the brain. Anyone who has kicked a large stone with bare feet knows that the constructs [usually] correlate with something "real."

Fixed that for you, since the entire article is about when they don't.
Fascinating article, btw, with a pretty good layman's explanation of the "sensorium as construct" concept. Being an amputee and intimately familiar with the phantom-limb phenomenon, I was especially interested in the success of the "mirror-limb" technique in giving relief to patients with bad phantom pain. I myself do not experience pain (usually) but just a slight, tingly presence, and so it isn't bothersome enough to call for therapeutic intervention. But it would be kind of cool to try, just to experience such a strange inversion.

Date: 2008/08/11 13:06:52, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Some people think there are other things to do besides arguing with strangers on the intertubes.

Heretics! Somebody get the Ebola.

Date: 2008/08/11 14:28:58, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
IDers like Dembski et al. may be dishonest and incompetent in science, but I think they believe in ID.

There's an important distinction to be made here, and you didn't quite get there.

I believe that Dembski is a sincere creationist, in the sense that he truly does believe that an entity answering to the description of the Abrahamic deity really did create the entire universe and set up a Fall of Man and the Redeeming Messiah and all the rest of it (without getting into literalism per se). But, I do not think he believes in the "ID" of CSI, irreducible complexity, No Free Lunch, Conservation of Information, and all the rest of the pseudo-formalisms invented in the last ~10 years.

I don't give him any great props for intellectual acumen, but I do think he's smart enough to see what the rest of us can: that these concepts are "written in jello" to borrow the almost impossibly apt phrase. ID is a scam, and he's one of the main perpetrators: he knows what he's up to.

Date: 2008/08/15 11:48:00, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I mean, c'mon, Dave. Do at least a cursory amount of research before you go shooting your mouth off.

Mhmm. And then what would we do all day?

Date: 2008/08/15 11:57:47, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
the TT crew often wishes it didn't know me

And here I thought I had nothing in common with those clowns. I mean, besides the big floppy shoes.

Date: 2008/08/29 12:29:49, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien

Is that something like a midden?

/Archaeology humor
I'll get my coat.

Date: 2008/09/08 17:31:47, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (JohnW @ Sep. 08 2008,16:40)
This is one of the saddest things I have ever read:



12:55 pm
Denyse: Excellent! The Obama/Palin juxtaposition is most apt. If plagiarism wasn’t a vice, I would steal your words and use them as my own. I suspect that most of those who deny design in nature are also sorry that Trig Palin is still alive.

My emphasis.

Uh-huh, and if inadvertant auto-dismemberment weren't lethal, I'd borrow your rusty, damaged chainsaw to cut down this 'ere tree.

Date: 2008/09/10 17:54:51, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
people may actually get interested in the facts.

Doubt it. Six months from now, it'll be like "remember when those scientists tried to blow up the world and it totally didn't work?"

But we can hope, I suppose.

Anyway, very cool info. Thanks BWE.

Date: 2008/09/15 14:15:59, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (keiths @ Sep. 14 2008,02:39)
David Foster Wallace is gone.

I'm just really bummed about this. Having lost friends to suicide, I feel for his wife and family. It's something you never really get over.

Date: 2008/09/23 12:37:13, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
They don't make tard like that anymore.

Date: 2008/09/25 13:27:11, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
A tard called Domoman:

Man, I believe I could, and probably anybody on here, especially those blog on here, could totally defeat Obama in an argumenta about evolution. He probably believes in it based off of what he learned in colleges… which is close to nothing in reality. If you show one side of a story that supports and idea, of course it’s going to support that idea. Evolutionists like to ignore all the experimental data and just say, “Mutations can do this and that and Natural Selection will do this, and then ta-da! Evolution!” Go go education text-books!


Date: 2008/09/30 17:51:17, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'd kind of like to know, also: does Obama violate SLoT when he types?

ETA: dog-dish oncology? Do tell!

Date: 2008/10/07 15:52:01, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
And the banned played on.

Welcoming BDKnight in 3... 2...

Date: 2008/10/07 16:07:09, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Advice needed.

I have tried, several times now, to cook bratwurst in beer and use the reduced beer to make a gravy. I have tried this with Shiner Bock and Guiness.  In both cases, the resulting gravy has a bitter edge to it that spoils the dish.

I need suggestions for a style of beer that has alot of flavor, but doesn't have that bitter finish to it. What say you?

Actually, we're going to have a little Oktoberfestivities on the homestead and so I was looking around for just such a thing. I found this online. It sounded good, so I will make.

1 large jar of Sauerkraut - drained
1 large sweet onion - chopped
8 slices bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 bratwursts, sliced thick
1 dark beer
In large skillet, cook bacon til crispy. Remove, drain, and crumble. Add chopped onion to bacon grease, and saute on low/medium heat until soft. Add drained sauerkraut. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top, then stir in with brown sugar, and beer. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Add sliced sausage on top. Cover and simmer on low about 20 minutes until the brats are cooked. Serve and enjoy!

No linky, sorry, 'cause I didn't know I was going to be sharing. Totally forget where I found it. However, in answer to your question, carlsonjok, I think a bock beer will do well here. Sweeter than a stout, but robust of flavor.

ETA: Doh! you say you used Shiner, so maybe not, I don't know. As I recall, though, Shiner is a little more bitter than most bocks I have tried. Maybe it wants a doppelbock or just a more traditional German bock?

Date: 2008/10/07 16:56:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
You do need to add a bit of sugar to tame the bitterness, but I wouldn't toss in 1/4 cup all at once

Yeah, I thought that seemed a little heavy on the sugar. Thanks for the tip.

Date: 2008/10/15 12:03:58, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I have no doubt that a programmer with Oscar Wilde’s dialogue skills could program a computer as a clever conversation partner.

The level of ignorance here would be astounding, but c'mon, this is Granny Spice, on UD no less! Who of us, hardened in the tard mines, could be surprised at this crap anymore?

But, really. Does she imagine that chess-playing algorithms must be programmed by grandmaster level players, since the best of them now play at that level?

(Superfluous answer to rhetorical question: Yes. Yes, she probably does.)

Edited: I found a widdle typo

Date: 2008/10/16 12:41:39, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I still don't see why the only path to atheism is through a careful study of scripture.

You're taking it a mite too literally ("only" is an exaggeration for effect). In as far as it's an argument, it opposes the Dawkinsian line that scientific discovery alone gives sufficient reason to reject theism.

And it's a humorous statement, where the humor comes about through an inversion of expectations. The religious might say, "The true path to the Kingdom of God [or whatever] is through the careful study of scripture." Dr. GH is just emphasizing "careful" to make the point that believers in scripture and disinterested scholars have a very different idea in mind when they use that word in this context. The believer has to be careful not to read to carefully.

Date: 2008/10/16 13:25:12, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Ya know, a year or two ago, when we were asking "where will ID go from here?" I don't think any of us predicted that.

"Teach from the penitentiary!"

Date: 2008/10/16 14:31:40, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
asparagus coated in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and broiled for 2-3 mins.

Works well on the grill, too.

Date: 2008/10/21 12:16:47, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Fascism is not a program in politics, it is a mood.

So my wife had a bad day the other day, and now my neighbors have been disappearing, local industries have been nationalized and reconfigured as armament factories, and I appear to have woken up today in some manner of... work-camp, I guess you'd call it... boy, was she in a mood.

Date: 2008/10/21 14:32:08, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
So, what you are saying is that marriage = fascism?

Welllll... given there are these quite sturdy looking gentlemen in the room right now, with truncheons and wearing jackboots, I must say no, not at all. My comments on the matter have been taken wildly out of context. I love Big Sister with all my heart, and trust that She has only the best of intentions for the Fatherland. I have nothing more to say on the matter.

Date: 2008/10/22 01:43:49, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Oktoberfest accomplished. The beer brats were excellent. I used the Spaten Optimator doppelbock in the recipe I copied above (but with a mere heavy tablespoon of dark brown sugar, not the 1/4 cup called for [as John sagely counseled]. A less malty and sweet beer might call for somewhat more sugar.)

Also grilled locally made chicken sausages and guests brought this yummy German noodle concoction. All with salad, and baked apple goodness with ice cream for dessert. The odd beer was quaffed here and there.

Date: 2008/10/31 13:55:09, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
Quote (Advocatus Diaboli @ Oct. 30 2008,17:50)
If UD's a bit quiet, check out Michael Egnor's latest Titanic Supercharge against materialism.

The materialist project to explain the mind reads less like a compendium of scientific and philosophical investigation than like a psychiatrist’s case log. Succinctly, the materialist project is batsh*t. The mind is a catastrophe for materialism. Materialism doesn’t explain the mind, and it probably can’t explain the mind. Materialism flounders on the hard problem of consciousness — the problem of understanding how it is that we are subjects and not just objects. Now a number of scientists and other academics are challenging this repellent materialist nonsense. There’s no scientific or even logical justification for the inference that the mind is merely the brain, without remainder, and the philosophical and sociological implications of the materialist view of the mind are abhorrent. Now there’s a reality-based push-back to materialist superstition, and the materialists have an insurrection on their hands.

The meat-robots are stirring.

Some functionalists, for example Daniel Dennett, elide this obvious defeater for functionalism by denying that qualia actually exist as real subjective experiences. Yet Dennett, presumably, still asks for Novocain at the dentist’s office.

At this point, I think Dennett is pushing S.J. Gould for the coveted title "most misrepresented by creationist kooks and other denialist morons."

For the record, Dennett does not deny the blindingly obvious: that experience has a subjective dimension. What he is "denying" is that so-called qualia have any of the properties that dualists ascribe to them in order to make their attacks on materialist investigations.

Yet more Egnorance:
Some materialists deny the reality of intentionality, and describe it as a trick played by our brains. We don’t really have "meaning." We just have brain states, which we misinterpret as having meaning. Two principal proponents of this view are Paul and Patricia Churchland, materialist philosophers who actually think that minds don’t exist at all. They advocate what is called eliminative materialism. Eliminative materialists assert that we are just brains, and that beliefs, meaning, and desires aren't real. Only the brain is real. Our belief that we have minds is "folk psychology," which is a cornucopia of naïve inferences (such as the naïve view that we have beliefs, opinions, desires) held by the benighted mass of humanity who don’t understand the real materialist nature of man.

Sigh. The "naive view" isn't that we have beliefs, opinions and desires, it's the characterization of those states as independent of the material operations of the nervous system.

All of these "arguments" (and they hardly qualify) about qualia and intentionality are just semantic sleight of hand.

Step 1: assert that the common-sense view of some mental category is correct without support beyond "it's common sense!"

Step 2: define this category as non-material without data or supporting argument.

Step 3: Announce Waterloo for materialism.

Step 4: ?

Step 5: Profit!

Date: 2008/11/07 16:38:57, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It really is brilliant. One thing: what does it say on the side, there, under IQ?

Date: 2008/11/12 14:26:25, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
It is on the face of it a compelling argument; I mean, I personally can't explain why I have a conscience, or why I desire to do good when I could easily get away with doing nothing, or even being bad.

What we call a conscience can be explained pretty easily, I think. Members of a social species are disposed to monitor their conspecifics, and construct internal representations of their social environment. Human altruistic and ethical behavior is the result of this, but with a great deal of elaboration engendered by the fact that we carefully monitor not only our conspecifics but ourselves as part of our representation. Good empirical research in Psychology and associated social sciences has suggested that, at root, our gut-level reaction to what we consider immoral behavior arises from our ability to detect cheating --defector behavior, if you like Game Theory and the iterated Prisoners Dillemma, which is a pretty good model of social interactions within a small social group of the kind our ancestors evolved in. So "a conscience" is a product of the interaction of our "cheater detection" module with our self-representation --whether we're introspectively aware of it or not, we're assessing our own future courses of action in terms of their likelihood of detection as anti-social behavior by our social peers. And we've evolved to be about as scared of social ostracism as we are of bodily injury. For good reason, since one guy alone on the Savannah is also called "lion food."

As for "moral" behavior among non-human animals, and "whose" are the morals by which these can be judged, I think it's a misleading question. Members of social species are capable of altruistic behavior. You are correct to point out that there can be no absolute arbiter of whether such proto-moral behavior is "right" or "good." But social behavior among other social mammals shows many similarities with human altruistic behavior. The main difference, in this view, is the complexity of the internal model of the social environment, and, crucially, the inclusion within it of a highly resolved self-model.

Date: 2008/11/19 17:07:19, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I thought Rich run off 'cause Sternberger Story was moving stuff to the BW?

(Lenny, from my point of view, was looking for a reason to make a break with the whole Evo-Creo scene. Louis just kind of gave him that extra oomph --yes, Louis, that's what the kids are calling it* these days.)

As for the zoo photos**, Gary, I've been wondering the same thing.

*you know, "it"
**see "oomph"

Date: 2008/12/12 16:09:55, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm reading Anathem, the new opus from Neal Stephenson, the author of Cryptonomicon and the "System of the World" books.  It's amazing how many issues that are au currant in our little science-creationist skirmishes that NS manages to render into lively fiction...

Yes, good stuff. I've been reading it, too... almost done.

What did you think, Stevie? (I'm assuming you've finished it by now)

Date: 2008/12/16 13:15:43, Link
Author: C.J.O'Brien
I'm behind, I know.

But the whole "brain as radio" analogy that gets trotted out in support of dualism, well, it's stupid.

Some good arguments made to that effect. But what's always struck me as particularly stupid is that the analogy doesn't take into account the huge complexity asymmetry between the radio receiver and the whole complex of systems required to generate not only the signal received, but the content of the transmission, whatever it is.

The radio is simple; the signal's origin, generation, and propogation are complex.

Compare this with the brain, which is only a chunk of the most densely interconnected matter known anywhere in the universe. For the analogy to make any sense to me, you have to posit a signal for my brain-radio to be receiving. And, unless the brain is just radically over-designed, the process(es) required to generate that signal, and the signal itself, are going to need to be vastly more complex than the most complex thing we know about.