Wednesday, December 21, 2005

inteligint Desine

US District Judge John Jones just found that Intelligent Design (ID) is not a scientific idea, and therefore it has no place in state-funded education. Here is a pdf of the judgement:

The ruling holds that (ID) is inseperable from its religious roots, and thus teaching it in public schools would violate the seperation of church and state, a separation protected by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

ID is the idea that because the biological world is so complex, it must come as the result of an intentional being. This apparent intentionality comes of course, as a direct result of the rigid logic ruling natural selection: live and breed successfully, or your genetic contribution withers. (See most recent blog for more on this).

Criticism from the Christian Right has rained upon this decision. Associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute Dr John West called the decision "an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work".

Judge Jones disagrees with this claim about his activism. He claims that in contrast, the case is a "result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on intelligent design". The judge characterised the school board's decision as "breathtaking inanity".

The sentence that struck me most however though, was that the judge "totally misrepresents intelligent design and the motivations of the scientists who research it." What research do they do please? How is this science? I don't believe there is any foundation for this implicit claim.

Here is some faux science in favour of ID:

The flaw in this "research" is the utter irrelevance of anything said on this page to Science. Strongest example of this: the claim that we are observing the existence of ID when we see intelligence. In sum, "From our understanding of the world, high levels of complex-specified information are always the product of intelligent design". Errr, what? Does "I am a moron therefore the world is flat" carry the same weight? Observing intelligence is NOT the same as observing ID. You really can't get off that lightly.

Another cracker example of appalling science is headed "putting ID to the test". How is this done? By observing the process of design (by people). Turns out, people typically do "NOT create completely functionless objects or parts". Yeah? And? So? What?! This certainly doesn't eliminate the possibility of a designer-less world. Cats typically meow, but this doesnt have many implications beyond cats. In the same vein, the existence of designers does not imply that the absence of a designer is impossible.

Judge Jones has made a wise landmark decision. ID does not have scientific weight. It comes from a religious worldview, and this does not make for good science. Im looking forward to the demise of ID stupidity (though I'm sure it'll be too slow).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

inteligint Desine

Why Intelligent Design is stupid: because there is a really good alternative explanation, which doesn't require the actions of God/s.

The reason we don't want God/s in our explanation is that it _isn't_ an explanation: God as explanation equals "then a miracle happens". And miracles are by definition non-scientific. That is, miracles (or anything non-scientific) can't be observed, described and tested. And if we can't do these, there is no reason to believe a thing is true. Anything else could be equally true: an omnipotent omnibenevolent etc entity, or a fluro-orange-tentacled homosexual camel could equally be creators of the universe. Maybe the pair got together and bred to create the universe. But as we can't verify the truth of either of these, there is really no reason to believe either one exists.

So, discounting the existence of miraculous entities, we still want to explain the apparently "designed" nature of reality. That the universe has a semblance of order is indisputably true. For example, those wacky giraffes are excepionally well suited to browse the luscious leaves of tall trees, pythons are really good at constricting the life out of their prey, and cheetahs svelt muscular bodies are able to run at 100km an hour! Then there are the characteristics of humans which have to be experienced to believed - our exceptional intelligence (we're talking relative to the rest of the animal kingdom here), our ability to dream and thus psychologically experience events that don't actually happen (it's great practice!) and of course the trait we share with other complex organisms: the intricate, delicate and startlingly useful eye. This is one Darwin picked out as being an especially counter-intuitive example of evolution.

This amazing world does not need to appeal to an intentional designer. There is an obvious, consistent reason for this _apparent_ but _non-existent_ intentionality. And this, my rational friends, is the COLD HARD LOGIC of natural selection. That is, the completely amoral way that being less well-equipped to compete for resources means you will die sooner, and get laid less (or biologically speaking, reproduce. But y'know, popular appeal).

The very reason that the world has evolved so as to fit together so well (as tho by design yo) is that natural selection is more logical than any intentional actor has ever been. (Okay its true, I say that without having surveyed all intentional actors ever. But I'm still comfortably certain of the truth of my claim).

Who needs God/s when you can explain reality in terms we can actually observe, describe and test the workings of natural selection? Not I. Anyone care to differ?

Coming soon via an IP near you: why religion evolved, and why it persists when we have better alternatives.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

inteligint Desine

Sometimes I think that people promoting creationism and/or intelligent design aren't very logical. Today, I am convinced of this.

By logical, I mean "clear and consistent". ( agrees with me, as it happens).

Yesterday, a Kansas University professor Paul Mirecki got tailgated (by a large pick-up truck!) and then beaten up. It seems that no long-term damage to the guy was done, but its still uber-crappy. The reason? Mirecki was set to teach a course which called Intelligent Design a mythology. However this course got cancelled after Mirecki sent an indiscrete email calling his course a big slap in the fat face of fundies. (Keep it for spoken dialogue!! I have a personal policy of never writing down anything I wouldn't be happy for _everyone_ to read. Especially electronically: won't you please think of the forward, or the bcc options?). Mirecki said the attackers made reference to his course while beating him.

Anyway, lack of clarity and consistency. These pick-up truck drivers are beating for Jesus! I know enough about christianity to know that that's just stupid. The phrase "fucking for virginity" comes to mind. What is the point of christianity if it is not to follow christian principles? In other words, if you are not consistent in the way you apply principles, why insist that these principles are too sacred to dispute?

Consistency is a fundamental rule of holding a logical position. If one applys a position inconsistently, they hold it not at all. I have no sympathy for people who call themselves "mostly vegetarian" with "just a bit of red meat for my iron levels". You are either vegetarian or you are not, this contradiction is not compatible. Of course, for all its apparent simplicity, the rule of consistency is terribly hard to apply. It is often easy to see what ought to be done to fulfill the criteria of consistency. But because people are so very prey to their emotions, they favour their own interests so far above those of others as to be inconsistent when there is some short-term benefit to be had. E.g., "all people should follow the peaceful teachings of Christ, except me while I kick the crap out of this here infidel".

In short, I have contempt for the actions of these Christians. In the same way, I have contempt for the actions of atheists or agnostics when they are inconsistent with their own positions. If your theory can't step up to the challenge, refine or relinquish!!

Coming next: why intelligent design is stupid.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

no new blogs this week

This week I am not posting any new blogs as I am busy at work and am moving house out of work time. Moving house is a huge mission. Packing sux. But does anyone wanna come help me move at about midday on Sunday the 20th?

In the meantime, I suggest you read this blog (in case you don't already):,

Friday, November 11, 2005

more inteligense

Big shoutouts to the blogspam that hit me within minutes of my first post, very efficient of you spammer, thanks.

Anyway on with yesterday's rant. In a stroke of absolute genuis Pat Robertson (Mr. 700 club, aka wacko-thief from confused old people) has claimed that Pennsylvania may be struck by some form of natural disaster since voting God out of their city. (See yesterday's blog link re the Dover school board decision to oust the godly folk and vindicate biology.) has the fully story.

One of the coollest calls he makes follows:

"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever," Robertson said. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."
This reveals a terrifying aspect of the nature of these religious freaks. The idea that we can call on this supernatural deity for help in times of crisis is an awful idea, for two reasons.

The first reason that calling on God in times of crisis is a really shitty one is that it won't work. When there ain't nothin there, there ain't gonna be any help coming. If the placebo effect helps you think positive, all very well. However, if reliance on God stops you from actually doing something to save your own arse you are stupid, and far more likely to die than a realist who attempts to say, find clean water and blankets.

Secondly, by implying that God is the one responsible for saving our arses, we shift the responsibility away from people that actually could do something to alleviate human suffering. Given a choice between George Bush II and God, I'd choose Georgie every time. Don't get me wrong, the guy's a moron, but at least he exists and has access to capital. Even the hideous mess that was the gov'ments New Orleans relief effort was better than God's contribution.

A pervasive theme I've noticed is that truth is truckloads better than lies. Truth is consistent, and it means you can actually achieve stuff. When you are transparent with people about your motivations, actions, and the nature of reality, you are covering your own arse. It's heaps easier to remember too: when you've got some people believing A and have told others B, its gets confusing pretty quickly.

The actual achievements part is the most important thing that happens when honesty occurs. For example, our recent realisation that weather is a natural phenomenon that conforms to laws of cause and effect has meant real achievements. We can tell when an extreme hurricane or similar is iminent, and evacuate people to minimise harm. If on the other hand we still believed that weather patterns reflected the whim of the gods, we wouldnt bother to note surrounding weather patterns, because we wouldn't know nearby weather would likely move toward us.

Another excellent example of fact-based decisions being way more helpful that superstition based decision is medicine. Give me chemicals and surgery a thousand times over before bringing a crystal or prayer near my cancer-racked body.

Pat Robertson and others of his ilk make some really lame calls, which they wouldn't if they based their assertions on fact rather than the authority of a deity. Such as the following:

feminism encourages women to"kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians".

In that I am for gender equality, I am a feminist, but the evidence shows that I have never done any of the above. Heck, I haven't even killed a foetus yet. Basing statements on fact makes them far more likely to benefit humanity.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

dem bible bashers is crazy

It seems to be decision time in the US for some school boards. Biology (and the scientific method) are under attack by the shrill fury of "intelligent design" advocates. And the decisions are going both ways, while a school board election in Dover, Pennsylvania kicked out the anti-science brigade, replacing them with supporters of evolution,,zeliger,69964,2.html other boards have shown far less wisdom. Such manifest stupidity should be a thing of the past, but http:// shows a Kansas school board oust the scientists and reward the christian lobby by endorsing pro "intelligent design" dogma.

My favourite irony about any religious group is when they call themselves advocates of truth, or claim to be simply presenting both sides of the argument, or such nonsense. Rational appraisal of competing theories is what good scientists and philosophers do. Scientists also test their theories against the evidence. The best theories are falsifiable: they are posed in such a way that if the theory is incorrect, we will be able to tell. This is called being falsifiable. Note the -able part at the end of the word: being falsifiable doesnt mean that a theory is a false, it means that if it is false, there will be a way of telling. In this case, the theory is falsified.

Critics of evolutionary theory claim that it as it is "just a theory", it holds no more weight than any other theory. (Say, for example, an omnipotent omnipresent but never seen supernatural being that created humanity and loves us - but is quite willing to damn us to hell.) But they're SO WRONG!

Evolutionary theory is falsifiable. Because of the way fossilisation occurs - in layers mon - species throughout the fossil record will, if evolutionary theory is true, be preserved in a very specific way. The oldest species should be lower down in the rocks, while species that emerged more recently will be higher up. If a single fossil was found in the wrong level of rock, strong suspicion would be cast on evolutionary theory. Because this would mean that theories central to evolution - that early and late species did not co-exist - would be falsified.

By contrast, religion is notoriously non-falsifiable. It is often "faith-based": that is, we have no reasons, believe it because god(s) said it. (Though how anyone knows what god(s) said is beyond me.) I'd be fascinated to know any examples of religious people posing any arguments that they consider to be falsifiable; to my knowledge it has not occurred so far.

More on this soon.