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.

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.

Grow up, Brent

Now Mr. Bozell is offended by Comedy Central:

Speaking of cartoonishly overdone death scenes, let’s not ignore the season finale of “Drawn Together,” another vile “adult” late-night cartoon that airs right after “South Park,” in which cartoon characters from different eras and genres are thrown together in a house like a reality show. Predictably, the producers brag on the Comedy Central website that they’re doing the same humor they enjoyed in “tenth grade.”

The finale was a “clip show” of previous episodes, putting all of the most shocking cartoon sex and violence in one intense package. One clip mocked the “Veggie Tales” cartoon for Christian preschoolers. The cucumber character goes on a shooting rampage, killing nearly all the show’s major characters, shooting most of them bloodily in the head. Behind the killings, a laugh track howls.

Another clip features the “Veggie Fables” characters singing a song called “God Is Watching.” The lyrics predictably associate Christianity only with condemnation. The happy vegetables sing about how God watches you shower and touch yourself, and they then turn angry and promise, “Your flesh will burn, your bones will churn, your soul will be torn asunder. You wretched, heathen, heretic, burn in Hell! For eternity!”

I rather like the Veggie Tales, (in the background, that is to say, the music is much better than most kiddie schlock), but this sounds absolutely hilarious. It reminds me of the time that Big Chilly’s little brother’s school choir – public school, of course – had a concert, but changed the words of the song “God is Watching Us” to the very creepy, pedophilic “They are Watching Us”. The choral director couldn’t figure out why people in the audience kept cracking up.

Christians face enough genuine challenges in secular society without going out of their way to invent new ones. And vegetables singing about eternal damnation is funny, so just accept it and spend your energy figuring out how to get your kid out of the secular mind-warp facilities.

It is unseemly for Christians to adopt the victimization/protest model of their opponents. We have the Light on our side, there is no need to indulge in passive-aggressive Gramscian deception.

Tangential note: As a creator, what I find incredibly annoying about people such Hagelin and Bozell how that they’ll devote space infinitum to talking about eeeevil products that they dislike, but seldom bother to so much as mention Christian books, movies and games that might provide a worthwhile alternative. Ironically, the only way to ensure coverage in the Christian is to combine children or elements of the sacred with decapitation, sodomy or witchcraft.

An assault on the last male bastion

Rebecca Hagelin wants to ban video games… again:

Arrested on suspicion of car theft, Moore was brought in for booking and ended up on a bloody rampage. He lunged at Officer Arnold Strickland, grabbed his gun and shot him twice. Officer James Crump, who responded to the sound of the gunfire, was shot three times. And before he ran outside with police car keys he snatched, Moore put five bullets in Dispatcher Ace Mealer. Was this the first time Moore had committed such a heinous crime? Yes and no.

Moore was a huge fan of a notorious video game called Grand Theft Auto. As the title suggests, the goal is to steal cars. If that’s all there was to the “game,” it would be bad enough, but it gets worse: The way to acquire and hold on to the cars is to kill the police officers who try to stop you. And the sick minds behind the game give you plenty of choices – shooting them with a rifle, cutting them up with a chainsaw, setting them on fire, decapitation.

If you shoot an officer, you get extra points for shooting him in the head. It’s no surprise, then, that all of Moore’s real-life victims had their heads blown off. According to court records, Moore spent hundreds of hours playing Grand Theft, which has been described as “a murder simulator.”

But this time, his victims weren’t a collection of animated pixels on a TV screen. They were flesh-and-blood human beings whose lives were snuffed out in seconds. They had families who continue to mourn their loss – such as Steve Strickland, Officer Strickland’s brother. Tomorrow, he will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property. Chaired by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the purpose of the hearing is to examine the constitutionality of state laws regulating the sale of ultra-violent video games to children. Three psychologists will testify about the potential link between playing violent video games and copycat violence, and whether the games contribute to aggressive behavior.

With the ever-expanding use of technology by our children, such hearings are critical. We must determine if Moore and other murderers like him are anomalies or if ultra-violent video games dangerously warp the psyches of our youth. Those tempted to scoff at the connection between video games and behavior should bear a couple of things in mind. First, video games are not passive or spectator media. While playing the game, teenage boys and young men – the largest users of video games – actually become the characters who cut up their victims with chainsaws, set them on fire, or chop off their heads.

The amusing thing is that this is absolutely nothing new. Remember how parents who bought Mortal Kombat pretended that they had no idea that a game with a title that means “fight to the death” could possibly be violent. And wait until Rebecca learns that you can – gasp – beat up women after hiring them for sex.

Heck, Big Chilly and I half-managed to convince Computer Gaming World that we were going to release Rape 3D back in 1994. Unfortunatly, Big Chilly pushed it too far when he started going on about how our next project would be “William S. Burroughs: the game”, which would be based on scoring smack, young men and playing William Tell with drug-addled women.

What is highly annoying is the way in which women simply won’t leave men alone to pursue their chosen forms of entertainment in peace. They’ve largely chased men away from television by turning it into a wasteland of stupid, soppy, male-denigrating slop; if it wasn’t for sports, I wouldn’t even bother to own a television. (Madden’s is better on a 40 square foot projection screen anyway.) Men, especially young men, like to blow things up and kill things, would you rather they blew off steam in a virtual world or in the real one?

Are violent video games a negative influence? You would think so, although the facts are that murder rates have dropped consistently as video games have become ever more popular and more realistic. (They’ve always been violent.) And while they’re demonstrably less damaging to society than divorce, can you imagine the collective hissy fit that would ensue if men called for a Congressional investigation of “Desperate Housewives”?

If we are to determine that anything should be banned from this incident, it’s quite obviously police guns. After all, if the dead police officers hadn’t been armed, Mr. Moore couldn’t have shot them. As for her insane points theory, perhaps poor dimwitted Rebecca should keep in mind that police officers often wear bulletproof vests, so if you want to kill them, it’s generally a good idea to shoot them in an unprotected area that will still prove fatal. An area such as, oh, I don’t know… the head?

Another cheerleader begins to crack

David Frum worries about Jorge Bush:

My forebodings of a year ago seem to be taking on my reality every day: Immigration truly is emerging as an issue that can shatter the Republican party. The president is determined to thrust upon the party an amnesty/guestworker approach that is opposed by the overwhelming majority of the Republican rank-and-file. He has come to believe – and tells visitors to the White House – that party opposition to him is based on irrational fear, ignorance, and prejudice. (Just like Dubai! Or for that matter, Harriet Miers.)

If anything were calculated to solidify the perception that this administration scorns the values and concerns of the ordinary Republican – if anything were designed to discourage ordinary Republican from turning out in November 2006 – it is what this administration is doing now. At a moment when the president needs his maximum strength to see his foreign policy through to success, he is gambling everything on a wager he cannot win. His version of immigration reform can only pass Congress with Democratic votes, and there is zero possibiilty that the Democrats will help him – but every likelihood that they will egg him on to incite a Republican civil war on the issue that most bitterly divides the president’s party.

Well, of course he has to do something to infuriate his base! How is Hillary Clinton going to get elected without Dear Jorge shattering the Republican party for her? It would be a tragedy if she didn’t get to use all those neat new Patriot Act toys that he’s prepared for her.

Few things amuse me more than a Republican who is still desperately trying to hold onto their faith in the fundamental goodness of Jorge. They so desperately want to believe… but there’s two more years to go….