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Date: 2009/06/05 23:45:51, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (ERV @ June 05 2009,23:38)


<delete cute pix>
... that last one is a pig monkey... according to Japan...

You rang?

Date: 2009/06/06 00:43:41, Link
Author: jswilkins
Ohh, no I won't. I might put my foot in it.

Date: 2009/06/06 01:58:51, Link
Author: jswilkins
No need to be a heel. You have a nasty tongue, O'Hara. Better we should unite to defend the TOE. Remember, untied we stand, divided we fall.

Date: 2009/06/06 07:43:14, Link
Author: jswilkins

Or this...

Date: 2009/06/06 11:51:58, Link
Author: jswilkins
"Puns" and "good" in a sentence that lacks a "not" operator are an oxymoron. I don't intend to reboot AtbC, but erv made me come here.

Date: 2009/06/07 21:11:08, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (keiths @ June 08 2009,05:57)
Since this is Wilkins' thread, shouldn't we be mocking Strine?

Youse better not mock Strine or I'll drop youse like an empty stubby.

Date: 2009/06/07 22:36:40, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (afarensis @ June 08 2009,12:40)
*Yes, I have been waiting all day to make that pun here.

You have? Why?

Date: 2009/06/09 20:40:13, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (silverspoon @ June 10 2009,11:25)
Quote (dnmlthr @ June 09 2009,19:11)

You’d of thought Dave Scott would have sanded off that tattoo by now.

Where did you find that?

Date: 2009/06/10 09:53:57, Link
Author: jswilkins
The phrase was coined by the only actual social Darwinian, W. Graham Sumner, in the 1870s, I think. There was a book by Richard Hofstadter which developed the claim that it was the basis for modern capitalism, and that Spencer was a social Darwinian. That was roundly debunked by Bannister, but the message hasn't got through yet.

Bannister, Robert C. 1988. Social Darwinism: science and myth in Anglo-American social thought, American civilization. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Original edition, 1979.

Hofstadter, Richard. 1944. Social Darwinism in American thought. Boston: Beacon Press.

Sumner, William Graham. 1963. Social Darwinism; selected essays. With an introd. by Stow Parsons. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,: Prentice-Hall.

Date: 2009/06/11 22:37:39, Link
Author: jswilkins
I don't want to colloid with you punsters, but sure we should stick to a metric we can all employ?

Date: 2009/06/14 02:14:12, Link
Author: jswilkins
The joys of buying books in the US. If I did that here, I'd be waiting (and currently am) for up to eight weeks.

Date: 2009/06/23 00:24:21, Link
Author: jswilkins
[quote=CeilingCat,June 23 2009,15:05]
Quote (olegt @ June 22 2009,06:24)
StephenB moveth the goal posts:      
(The New Organon, aphorism 19)
The New Atlantis is a fictional work, describing an ideal society where knowledge is pursued in the way Bacon espoused as ideal. The most important part of the utopia he describes is Salomon's House, where all natural phenomena are examined and categorized. One of the Fathers of the house explains: "The end of our Foundation is the knowledge of causes and secret motions of things, and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible."
I think there are other, better quotes, but I'm too lazy to find them.  (Possible ID SIG?) Link

From the Novum Organon (1620), Book I:

The human understanding is unquiet; it cannot stop or rest, and still presses onward, but in vain. Therefore it is that we cannot conceive of any end or limit to the world, but always as of necessity it occurs to us that there is something beyond. Neither, again, can it be conceived how eternity has flowed down to the present day, for that distinction which is commonly received of infinity in time past and in time to come can by no means hold; for it would thence follow that one infinity is greater than another, and that infinity is wasting away and tending to become finite. The like subtlety arises touching the infinite divisibility of lines, from the same inability of thought to stop. But this inability interferes more mischievously in the discovery of causes; for although the most general principles in nature ought to be held merely positive, as they are discovered, and cannot with truth be referred to a cause, nevertheless the human understanding being unable to rest still seeks something prior in the order of nature. And then it is that in struggling toward that which is further off it falls back upon that which is nearer at hand, namely, on final causes, which have relation clearly to the nature of man rather than to the nature of the universe; and from this source have strangely defiled philosophy. But he is no less an unskilled and shallow philosopher who seeks causes of that which is most general, than he who in things subordinate and subaltern omits to do so.


But the corruption of philosophy by superstition and an admixture of theology is far more widely spread, and does the greatest harm, whether to entire systems or to their parts. For the human understanding is obnoxious to the influence of the imagination no less than to the influence of common notions. For the contentious and sophistical kind of philosophy ensnares the understanding; but this kind, being fanciful and tumid and half poetical, misleads it more by flattery. For there is in man an ambition of the understanding, no less than of the will, especially in high and lofty spirits.

Of this kind we have among the Greeks a striking example in Pythagoras, though he united with it a coarser and more cumbrous superstition; another in Plato and his school, more dangerous and subtle. It shows itself likewise in parts of other philosophies, in the introduction of abstract forms and final causes and first causes, with the omission in most cases of causes intermediate, and the like. Upon this point the greatest caution should be used. For nothing is so mischievous as the apotheosis of error; and it is a very plague of the understanding for vanity to become the object of veneration. Yet in this vanity some of the moderns have with extreme levity indulged so far as to attempt to found a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis, on the book of Job, and other parts of the sacred writings, seeking for the dead among the living; which also makes the inhibition and repression of it the more important, because from this unwholesome mixture of things human and divine there arises not only a fantastic philosophy but also a heretical religion. Very meet it is therefore that we be sober-minded, and give to faith that only which is faith's.

From Book II:

In what an ill condition human knowledge is at the present time is apparent even from the commonly received maxims. It is a correct position that "true knowledge is knowledge by causes." And causes again are not improperly distributed into four kinds: the material, the formal, the efficient, and the final. But of these the final cause rather corrupts than advances the sciences, except such as have to do with human action.

Date: 2009/06/24 20:42:13, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (Richardthughes @ June 25 2009,11:21)
[quote=Dr.GH,June 24 2009,19:50] [quote=afarensis,June 24 2009,17:25]  
Could we optimise language for thought?

Does vocabulary and syntax effect the 'quality' of thought?

It's been tried. The "universal language project", or logica universalis movement of the 16th and 17th centuries, in which Descartes and Leibniz were players, tried to provide a single logical language. The most widely known example is the Essay toward a Real Character and a Philosophical Language of my namesake, Bishop John Wilkins. It failed because there are no eternal sets of conceptual elements or logical classifications that a language can capture. Some refs:

Rossi, Paolo. 2000. Logic and the art of memory: the quest for a universal language. London: Athlone.

Slaughter, Mary M. 1982. Universal languages and scientific taxonomy in the seventeenth century. Cambridge UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Date: 2009/06/25 22:19:40, Link
Author: jswilkins
Sorry! I added my vote for Grrl before I saw Wesley's claim to the icy wastes.

But I am at least conflicted, so that's OK, right?

Date: 2009/06/29 03:29:19, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (CeilingCat @ June 29 2009,17:57)

announced/#comment-322535]bornagain77 explains how SETI can find alien life:[/URL]
That reminds me of a Peter O'Toole movie from the seventies.  Can't remember the title, but this piece of dialog is stuck in my memory: "When did you first realize that you're God?"  "When I realized that every time I prayed, I was talking to myself."

Would that be The Stunt Man (1980)?

Date: 2009/07/05 04:21:40, Link
Author: jswilkins
Colin said some things that were just begging for quote mining, but then pattern cladism has always been the seam for that. But I rather doubt that if the book is as bad as you say, that he said this about the book as you see it, if indeed he said it at all. Remember, he wrote what I consider one of the best introductions to evolutionary theory, the second edition of his Evolution, and it is indeed a Darwinian account. So my instincts are that this is not clear cut.

Date: 2009/07/05 07:40:56, Link
Author: jswilkins
I notice that they misspell his name and the "Brtish" Museum. They would have known he died in 1998 (of a heart attack, in full possession of his faculties, while riding a bike), and thus probably felt confident nobody would call them on the quote. But Colin was always used by creationists (as was his friend and my PhD advisor, Gareth Nelson), in the same way that Gould and Eldredge were - taking a scientific issue for being anti-evolution.

Date: 2009/07/06 20:22:17, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (didymos @ July 07 2009,11:00)
I swear, Clive and Joseph both seem to think that information is some sort of semantic phlogiston or computational caloric.

I am so going to use that line.

Date: 2009/07/06 20:39:35, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (Tracy P. Hamilton @ July 07 2009,11:35)
What is Latin for person who is banned from replying?  We need that category for UD: argumentum ad  .

Scleratum? And that would be dative, I guess.

Anathematismi might be better...

Date: 2009/07/08 18:08:26, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (1of63 @ July 09 2009,08:56)
Ummm, many more years ago than I care to remember, I spent an evening in a pub drinking with Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones and on another occasion with the late and great Douglas Adams.  I hasten to add it wasn't just me.  There were a number of other fans present.

Is that worth any points?

I literally bumped into Douglas Adams once, just before he died. Some years earlier I had discussed a story idea he had on evolution with him by email (nothing came of it, unfortunately). He didn't connect the two. I look different on email.

I met Terry Pratchett too (along with scores of others).

Date: 2009/08/11 11:20:42, Link
Author: jswilkins
Thanks for the icons. I added one to my blog. Where should I link to? Dumbski's site or somewhere more permanent?

Date: 2009/08/12 22:38:37, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (Reciprocating Bill @ Aug. 13 2009,10:56)
I once had an ignigma hernia. Very painful. It so happens that I had just ignored a fact. Maybe that's it.

So something unpleasant poked out, right?

Date: 2009/08/13 20:34:49, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (Henry J @ Aug. 14 2009,10:40)
Quote (Louis @ Aug. 13 2009,16:53)
Hem hem. While I admit that possibility exists, personally I think it's balls. It's sew tiring to watch people cobble together these puns. Perhaps Bill is right, we should drop it, tweed be the best thing to do.

Sometimes it can be like casting pearl before twine...

But let's not pick knits.

Date: 2009/08/18 20:27:33, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (MichaelJ @ Aug. 19 2009,07:18)
Hey Dawk and PZ are coming downunder next March. I'll be heading down to Melbourne for the show, if there are enough ATBCers there for a Quorum, we could meet for a coffee or something.

Chris Nedin, Ian Musgrave and I will be there, forcing PZ to drink designer beer.

Date: 2009/08/18 22:03:44, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (afarensis @ Aug. 19 2009,11:40)
Quote (jswilkins @ Aug. 18 2009,20:27)
Quote (MichaelJ @ Aug. 19 2009,07:18)
Hey Dawk and PZ are coming downunder next March. I'll be heading down to Melbourne for the show, if there are enough ATBCers there for a Quorum, we could meet for a coffee or something.

Chris Nedin, Ian Musgrave and I will be there, forcing PZ to drink designer beer.

I'd torture him by making him drink Coors or Miller Light...ya know, make him travel all that way only to drink American beer.

It had occurred to me. But I think Bud and its varieties are hard to find here. It's not like they're designer beers or anything.

Date: 2009/09/12 00:31:47, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (deadman_932 @ Sep. 12 2009,13:17)
Quote (Henry J @ Sep. 11 2009,21:47)
You have been forgetting to wear your tinfoil hat again haven't you?

Well, at least he wasn't foiled again?


Reminds me of the famous detective Gully Foyle, who was once investigating the mysterious suicide of a philosophy grad student.

Oddly, it seemed the young man had literally choked to death -- by eating pages of a class text he'd been reading.

It was Gully's faithful assistant, Guido, who reached a prying finger into the dead man's throat, dug out a chewed page and discovered the awful truth:

"All Hume in 'im, Foyle," he said.

"All Hume in ee-im, Foyle"...

Date: 2009/09/17 05:31:35, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ Sep. 17 2009,19:25)
OK, I got the following pics in email and a request for identification. Any international herpetologists in the house? These were taken in Lagos, Nigeria.

I think it's a Varanus niloticus or Varanus exanthematicus; a monitor lizard. Probably the latter:

Date: 2009/09/21 22:07:48, Link
Author: jswilkins
My god, Wesley! You folk do lead interesting lives. Give her my best.

Date: 2009/09/22 04:11:12, Link
Author: jswilkins
Well I'm thinking of her in the Antipodes. I thought such attacks were our sole domain. You guys aren't supposed to have dangerous wildlife; just us Aussies.

Date: 2009/10/13 12:28:15, Link
Author: jswilkins
I don't know what Oldroyd is being used for, as I haven't been following this thread while on the road, but he's an echt historian of philosophy and science,, knows his Darwin very well indeed, and wrote the best history of philosophy to have ever died stillborn (AoK):

Oldroyd, David R. 1983. Darwinian impacts: an introduction to the Darwinian revolution. 2nd rev. ed. Kensington, N.S.W.: University of New South Wales Press.
———. 1986. The Arch of Knowledge: An introductory study of the history of the philosophy and methodology of science. Kensington, NSW: New South Wales University Press.

Date: 2009/10/27 13:38:12, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (nmgirl @ Oct. 28 2009,03:48)
I'm still trying to figure out how you get 24 hour days if the sun wasnt created until the 4th day.  how did these biblical experts measure 24 hours?

Swiss watches.

Date: 2009/11/10 23:47:53, Link
Author: jswilkins
Where's that pic of Dembski and the Bible from? I'd love to use it on my blog.

Date: 2009/11/11 03:51:17, Link
Author: jswilkins
How'd you get that pic of my cake?

Date: 2009/11/13 19:07:18, Link
Author: jswilkins
Thanks, guys (assuming that Wilkens is me).

I got a new job for my birthday.

Date: 2009/11/14 19:30:02, Link
Author: jswilkins
"It was said he [Vetinari] would tolerate absolutely anything apart from anything that threatened the city[1]...

1. And mime artists. It was a strange aversion, but there you are. Anyone in baggy trousers and a white face who tried to ply their art anywhere within Ankh's crumbling walls would very quickly find themselves in a scorpion pit, on one wall of which was painted the words: Learn The Words."

Terry Pratchett, Guards, Guards, p78

Date: 2009/11/20 04:05:04, Link
Author: jswilkins
It would seam they are using this source:

Todes, Daniel Philip. 1989. Darwin without Malthus: the struggle for existence in Russian evolutionary thought, Monographs on the history and philosophy of biology. New York: Oxford University Press.

and hoping that we will bolt.

Date: 2009/11/23 20:57:27, Link
Author: jswilkins
Blogged the explosions link. Put a different spin on it, though.


Date: 2009/11/24 19:55:07, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (Cubist @ Nov. 25 2009,06:22)
Also from Canada: William Shatner. The question is, should he be counted on the 'good' side of the ledger or the 'bad' side?

That depends on whether he is doing comedy/acting, or singing, respectively.

Date: 2009/12/01 18:24:56, Link
Author: jswilkins
Also, they are completely unaware that Darwin dealt with that exact analogy over a century ago:

Variation, vol 2, pp430-432

Date: 2009/12/05 19:56:13, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (inquiry @ Dec. 06 2009,10:05)
I should have defined what I meant by supernatural since this can be a rather messy term. By supernatural I mean a being or beings that are in some sense beyond nature acting on nature that cause certain things to come into existence. I don’t think these entity/entities would have to be beyond nature in order to impact nature. Further I don’t think this being/s would necessarily interfere but could work along with natural laws

For example, we observe people building homes, cars, etc. using natural laws to create new things. People are separate or apart from the material their working on (transcendent), utilizing the laws of nature. So it seems to me that it is possible for this being/s to operate within the realm of regular discoverable rules.

Your argument would therefore be:

We observe things within nature using natural law to achieve their ends

We can therefore discover natural designers and builders

The universe and its properties are posited as being due to a designer that is not constrained by natural law

THEREFORE we can discover supernatural designers

This argument was demolished by Hume in the Dialogues. A slightly less elegant debunking is this: published version incomplete online version

in which Wesley Elsberry and I point out that you cannot make inferences from "ordinary" (that is, natural) designers to "rarefied" (that is, supernatural) designers, because nothing licenses that inference.

If God works within natural laws, then it is enough to discover and explain things through natural laws. If he doesn't, then science cannot identify his actions or distinguish them from chance or lawlike causality. Either way, God cannot be investigated by science, unless he is exactly the sort of designer that we are, and he isn't, ex hypothesi.

Date: 2009/12/06 05:42:51, Link
Author: jswilkins
My line is that if there is a god, we could not distinguish his actions from either lawful physical causation or noise (either brought about by ignorance, or chance, or just those anomalies we inevitably find in every science). A trickster god is just more noisy. We simply cannot find anything that we cannot explain through natural processes (including evolution) or which remain as presently unsolved problems, which every science has.

I'll be away for a few days without easy internet access.

Date: 2009/12/11 16:45:48, Link
Author: jswilkins
It's also worth pointing out that the BSC precedes any evolutionary view but Maupertuis' by a good decade or so; it was proposed first so far as I can tell, by Blumenbach in the late 18th century (contrary to claims of originality by Mayr).

Date: 2010/01/15 08:09:49, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (didymos @ Jan. 15 2010,19:42)
peachykeen is both peachy and keen:    

Mr. Darwin, a lot of people say that you did not regard the cell as complex. What do you have to say to that?

A cell is a complex structure, with its investing membrane, nucleus, and nucleolus, a gemmule, as Mr. G. H. Lewes has remarked in his interesting discussion on this subject (Fortnightly Review, Nov. 1, 1868, p. 508), must, perhaps, be a compound one, so as to reproduce all the parts.;pageseq=1

But wait a minute, blobs of protoplasm aren’t “complex structures” that include a “membrane” and “nucleus.” Your own words seem to contradict the claim that you thought these cells were solely protoplasm. Are you saying that these people are wrong?

Yes. Quit lying about me.

That last should be

Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure.
Origin of Species

Date: 2010/01/24 03:10:13, Link
Author: jswilkins

What does "STEM" stand for? I am guessing "science, technology, engineering, and medicine", but don't use acronyms people can reasonably be expected not to know. I hate that about educators, that they do this entirely unselfconsciously all the time.

The problem is that the standards for teaching science, around the world, are based on a set of simplistic metrics, like (to use the sort of language I have read) "demonstrating a knowledge of X process". Of course we want biology majors to know the Krebs cycle, but that's not science. That's the product of science. Science is the doing of investigation. The way we teach science in the western world is so item-based we may as well just get them to memorise the facts. Wait, that's what we do.

If you want to fix science education, IMO, remove the constraints on good science teachers, and ensure that only good science teachers teach science, from around year 3 on. If that means third graders need a dedicated science teacher, so be it. Kids will get more interested in science by blowing things up (in a small and controlled manner) than from reading the textbooks. Make science hands on and dirty for the first 9 years; and then get data driven.

Date: 2010/02/13 17:35:27, Link
Author: jswilkins
Design inferences are fully justified when you are dealing with intentional agents. She is, I believe, one of those.

Date: 2010/02/18 22:46:46, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (CeilingCat @ Feb. 19 2010,10:02)
Haven't had a chance to read all of the postings yet, but I had to print this because it seems to appropriate to the discussion:

(From The Princess Bride)      
Buttercup: And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.
Man in Black: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

I've spent the last few years trying to build up an immunity to tard.  Hasn't worked so far.

Sure it has. You can read it and retain functioning brain cells. That looks like an immunity to iocane^W tard to me.

But I'm from Australia, and as we know...

Date: 2010/02/19 20:40:32, Link
Author: jswilkins
Isn't ilk a kind of ruminant that one may only hunt in a specific season?

"Be vewy vewy qwiet. I'm ilk hunting..."

Date: 2010/02/19 21:47:05, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (Tom Ames @ Feb. 20 2010,11:50)
Quote (jswilkins @ Feb. 19 2010,18:40)
Isn't ilk a kind of ruminant that one may only hunt in a specific season?

"Be vewy vewy qwiet. I'm ilk hunting..."

You're thinking of "wilks". (Although aren't these a kind of mollusk?)

No, I think they are "winks", diminutive "winkle". As in "She gave us all a winkle, so we made her President".

Date: 2010/02/20 03:41:39, Link
Author: jswilkins
Quote (Tom Ames @ Feb. 20 2010,17:06)
I have to wonder if Wilkins showing up to make silly jokes is his way of politely telling me to stop embarrassing myself talking about free will.

Anyone up for a game of Mornington Crescent? I'll start: Gresham College.

There is no other reason for my making silly jokes than the silly jokes themselves - they are an end in themselves.

And it's easily 25 years since I thought much about this, largely because I decided

1. I am a determinist, in the sense of physical causes causes the effects they do, and I am entirely physical;

2. The legal and moral conception of "free will" has to do with a lack of coercion by other legal or moral agents, not a question of a lack of physical determinism: you are free in your actions if nobody else has coerced them;

3. The relation between physical determinism and legal/moral freedom is the relation between one's "causal nature" (what you are) and the outcomes that one might plausibly be expected to realise in social contexts. I choose according to my nature because, after all, that is who I am, but that merely means that there is a class of outcomes that can be so realised. Punishment and sanctions in general are designed to ensure that sufficient numbers of social agents bias their outcomes in acceptable ways, that's all.

So far as I know this is not incoherent, and it is most likely not original.

Can you do Gresham College as a starting move? I thought the rules of 1666 prohibited that.

Date: 2010/03/25 21:05:48, Link
Author: jswilkins
What just happened?