Scientists in glass houses, throwing stones

New Scientist magazine interviews Leonard Susskind, professor of theoretical physics at Stanford:

“If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?”

“I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent – maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation – I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now, we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature’s fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.”

One of the reasons that I think so little of Darwin’s more outspoken defenders is that most of them are not genuine scientists, they are at best third-rate academics. I do not subscribe to either ID or evolutionary theory, (being firmly agnostic on the question of both origins and methods*), but I have to say that the behavior of the evolutionists over the past few years has me leaning towards the ID camp, mostly because they don’t behave as if they have something to hide.

It is interesting that the genuine scientists are much more open to the concept of design and sometimes even God, probably because they actually understand the issues involved and are more aware of the many failures of past scientific dogma. On a tangential note, I should mention that quoting Richard Dawkins has negatively impressed me ever since I read his incoherent response to the 9/11 attacks; anyone who can misconstrue basic history and make such incredible leaps of logic is definitely not someone I want on my side. I know next to nothing about biology or chemistry and I’d still feel pretty comfortable walking into a debate with the guy on something in his field without even bothering to prepare.

Someone who is a sloppy thinker in one area is usually a sloppy thinker across the board. Experience and education help, but they are no substitute for precision and logic.

The true scientist is open-minded and requires proof that things are so or are not so. It is tremendously ironic that so many devotees of science now rely on the same sort of ontological arguments that their philosophically inclined predecessors criticized in the medieval theologians. The fact that you can imagine a landscape of 10(500) universes does not mean that it therefore exists. Leonard Susskind understands this; it is a pity that so many who hold his work in such high regard do not.

*Saying “God did it” is not at all the same as explaining precisely how God did it. If I tell you that I ate breakfast this morning, you may correctly infer that I made my own breakfast this morning, but you would not be able to explain how I made it or even tell what I ate. I don’t know how things came about, ergo my agnosticism on the subject. I strongly suspect that you don’t know either, regardless of how strongly you believe in God or Darwin’s theory.

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Kill with your eyes closed

From the BBC:

A doctor in India and his assistant have been sentenced to two years in jail for revealing the sex of a female foetus and then agreeing to abort it. This is the first time medical professionals have been jailed in such a case. Under Indian laws, ultrasound tests on a pregnant woman to determine the gender of the foetus are illegal.

I shall eagerly await hearing how feminists will defend the jailing of abortionists… apparently it’s okay to kill a child as long as you don’t know the sex. I assume this means it’s okay to shoot up a school in India, but only if you’re blindfolded.

What Would Duke Nukem Do

Someone I’ve never heard of writes about the latest idiots’ campaign for NRO:

Others at the hearing might make the argument that there is a clear correlation between violent games and destructive social behavior. But that’s another myth, as no such correlation has been proven.

Indeed almost every important social indicator has been improving in recent years even as video-game use among youths has increased. Juvenile murder, rape, robbery, and assault are all down significantly over the past decade. Aggregate violent crime by juveniles fell 43 percent between 1995 and 2004. Meanwhile, fewer kids today are carrying weapons to school or are victims of violence in schools than in the past. Alcohol and drug abuse, teen birth rates, high-school dropout rates, and teenage suicide rates have all dropped dramatically as well. These results do not conclusively rule out a link between exposure to games and violent acts or promiscuous sexual behavior, but they should at least call into question the “world-is-going-to-hell” sort of generalizations made by proponents of increased regulation.

It doesn’t get much dumber than arguing that X is causing an increase in Y when Y is declining, but that’s never stopped the “We know what’s good for you” crowd. Because it’s for the children, after all, never mind that the “child” is more likely to be a 35 year-old married man than a 12 year-old boy. It’s not the kiddies who make Maddens Day a national holiday, after all.

It’s true that video game designers are, by and large, a bit more sociopathic than the norm. I should know, being one myself. I was at the Computer Game Developer’s Conference when news of the OK City bombing broke on CNN and I remember a female reporter from a newspaper – the San Jose Mercury News, if I recall correctly – being visibly shaken when a big cheer went up at the Westin bar on hearing the news that a government building had been blown up. Good times. I suspect that most game designers don’t like reality all that much, for fairly respectable reasons, and prefer to spend time in the worlds they create.

What game critics don’t understand is that the games don’t tend to influence one’s reactions towards the outside world, they tend to make one turn away from it altogether. For those who attempt to make a drug comparison, the desire for more and more doesn’t drive one to look for an external experience, but rather a more immersive and comprehensive internal one. A hard core gamer who takes it to the limit isn’t going to attempt to recreate a Doom III slaughter zone in the real world – as if humans are any substitute for twelve-foot tall horned demons – he’s going to die of dehydration by refusing to come out of the game.

Someone commented yesterday, and I think I agree, that this is may be another facet of the War Against All Things Male. Female sociopathologies are destroying the nation, so naturally Congress is concerned about boys and men blowing things up in a virtual world. Unlike the Girl World of television, where Approved Authority Figures such as cops, judges, lawyers and doctors are the heroes, the Boy World of games lionizes the individual like Duke Nukem, who came here to kick ass and chew gum… and he’s all out of gum.

The Nanny State is almost always the bad guy in Boy World, and the hero never asks permission to violate the gun laws or the speeding limits, let alone those about smoking in a public place. No wonder women like Little Miss Heartbeat and her state-fellating amigas can’t stand to allow the impressionable youth of America to play them.

Gunner Glory

2 – Arsenal
0 – Juventus

The score doesn’t even begin to tell the tale. The Gunners ran Juve right out of Highbury, with slashing passes carving up the great Italian defense as if it belonged to one of Serie A’s bottom-dwellers instead of a team 8 points clear and headed for a second straight Scudetto.

By the end, the bianconeri were so frustrated that they were committing fouls like mad, ending up with nine men. Three players will miss the return leg, including Patrick Viera, so Arsenal may not even need an away goal to secure the tie.

Thierry Henry’s goal was phenomenal, although it was more of a fantastic finish to a team effort instead of the sort of solo feat that beat Real Madrid. It’s hard to believe that this team is only going to finish fourth in the Premiership, or that they won’t be giving Chelsea a very hard fight for first next year.

I am the Ripper Man

Astute readers may have noted that a certain blonde girl was talking a little smack about one of her rivals when she asked if the actual telephone aspect of dear, darling Treo was working. As it happens, it was not, thanks to a very annoying series of foul-ups by the retail outlet and PalmOne, who conspired to provide me with a replacement PDA phone that worked very well, except for the communications bit. The Treo happened to be blocked.

A series of telephone calls to tech support landed me in a vicious circle; by the time I spoke the first person I’d contacted to begin a THIRD CIRCLE, I was contemplating various illegal activities that probably would have landed me afoul of several aspects of the Patriot Act. There was, quite simply, no way I was going to return the Treo again, wait a month and hope that they didn’t manage to replicate their mistake.

Only then did I remember that I was a pirate by nature, intellectually opposed to most intellectual property law with millions of minds at my disposal via the Internet. Fifteen minutes, a five-meg download, two firmware upgrades and a reset, voila! Now I have a completely unblocked phone and I will certainly refrain from renewing my contract with the bureaucratic bastards when it runs out in a few months. I took great pleasure in calling their technical support and telling them precisely how I’d slashed through their Gordian Knot.

“Well, that might void your warranty with us, you know.”

“I know you’re saying you might not fix my phone if something doesn’t work. What I don’t know is how that’s any different from what you’ve been doing for the last two months.”

When the law is a ass, a man has a responsibility to go and kick it.

Conclusion: probable gross exaggeration

UPDATE II – I heard back from my friend in Paris, who says “non ne so nulla, mi spiace!”. In other words, she hasn’t heard anything about the purported library arson, and given the high literary circles in which she travels, she almost certainly would have.

My conclusion, then, is that this report is quite likely a gross exaggeration, if not a complete fabrication. However, that is only a partially-informed logical conclusion, not a fully-informed verdict.

I consider it to be relatively important to correct factual errors, as I have no sympathy for the ludicrous “fake but real” justification. That being said, I do not apologize for my default position of trusting other Internet sources until there is a reason to doubt them. Sometimes I will catch inaccuracies, other times I rely on other people to do so. It depends on the nature of the falsehood; I can spot a fraudulent CPI much better than fraud in the discovery of a new species of flower in Peru. It is downright ridiculous to expect any blogger to fact-check the links that forms the basis for his commentary; the beauty of the blogosphere is that it is self-correcting, based on the disparate knowledge possessed by each different blogger.

For example, Morgan mentioned that a mere 30 minutes of research might be sufficient to fact-check the link above, (as it happens, even a full day and a contact in Paris hasn’t been conclusive), but no one writing more than one post per day is ever going to waste their time on such superflous – and as I’ve intimated, redundant – activity. The difference between the blogs and the mainstream media is that blogs correct better, faster and without embarrassment.

Of course, if French Muslims aren’t burning books yet, it’s only because they haven’t attained an electoral majority. Just give them time….

Those Islamists may have a point

When they say that Western secular society isn’t worth defending:

A girl of 14, appearing in court for a second drink-driving offence, threw a jug of water at magistrates, punched a solicitor and ran around screaming abuse and kicking furniture after hearing that she was going to be detained for four months….

Her outburst occurred when she returned to youth court at Newbury, Berks, to be dealt with for her second drink-driving offence, committed when still under a supervision order. On arrival she pelted waiting photographers with eggs and her mother, Nora, turned her bottom towards the cameras and said: “Go on. Film this”. She repeatedly shouted that she was “proud” of her daughter.

So, let’s revisit that assertion of morality by the atheists a few days ago. Do you think it is likely that:

a) the Blacks are a devout, churchgoing family who worship the Lord Jesus Christ?

and

b) there is no connection to the huge increase in this barbarian behavior and the transformation of Britain into a post-Christian nation?

I’ll be interested to see that famous secular rationalism address this puzzling conundrum. It never ceases to amaze me how supposedly rational secularists fail to see that removing the Christian component from Western civilization means a return to the same sort of barbarism that pervaded societies that we would not consider civilized.

Remember, theory is nice, but history and observation will trump it every time.