Ignoring the elephant

In which the New York Times is astounded to discover that poverty isn’t to blame for substandard intellectual achievement:

An achievement gap separating black from white students has long been documented — a social divide extremely vexing to policy makers and the target of one blast of school reform after another. But a new report focusing on black males suggests that the picture is even bleaker than generally known.

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.

The data was distilled from highly respected national math and reading tests, known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which are given to students in fourth and eighth grades, most recently in 2009. The report, “A Call for Change,” is to be released Tuesday by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban public schools.

Although the outlines of the problem and many specifics have been previously reported, the group hopes that including so much of what it calls “jaw-dropping data” in one place will spark a new sense of national urgency….

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

It is truly remarkable what lengths some people will go in order to avoid the conclusion that is not so much staring them in the face as smashing in their teeth. While there are sociological factors involved – that 72% illegitimacy rate probably doesn’t help foster the development of black mathematicians – it’s more than a little absurd to insist that every group across the human race has precisely the same intellectual capacity. They don’t. This is an observable fact and would be an accepted scientific fact as well if scientists would focus on science instead of politics.

The current state of science is such a joke that it borders on parody. All the charlatans who want to pontificate about the holy theoretical mechanism behind the origin of the species are deathly afraid to admit to the obvious conclusions dictated by that mechanism while sociologists search desperately for an alternative to the completely obvious. If you’ve got one kid who is reading Tolstoy at five and another one who can’t sound out the word CAT, there is a very high probability that the first kid is significantly more intelligent than the second one.

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Applying science to string theory

What a novel idea!

String theory was originally developed to describe the fundamental particles and forces that make up our universe. The new research, led by a team from Imperial College London, describes the unexpected discovery that string theory also seems to predict the behaviour of entangled quantum particles. As this prediction can be tested in the laboratory, researchers can now test string theory.

Of course it seems probable that if the prediction is incorrect, the string theoreticians will follow the example of the Darwinists and insist that string theory is still totally scientific and totally accurate even though every attempt to utilize it to make predictions keep showing it to be reliably incorrect. When even Richard Dawkins feels the need to start using qualifiers in his would-be magnum opus in defense of the theory of evolution by (probably) natural selection, henceforth TEpNS, only the most fanatic Darwinist could fail to recognize that there is a very real possibility that the theory’s future lies with space aether, phrenology, and phlogistons.

Darwinianism and evolution

The vehement objections of those who believe in the evolution of the species notwithstanding, there can be no doubt that Darwinianism is a religious cult of faith. This is a simple and provable matter of observable evidence. But the key is to understand what “Darwinianism” means, for as is all too often the case, the atheists who subscribe to Darwinianism engage in their usual bait-and-switch by hiding their philosophical beliefs behind a false veneer of science. So, when the Darwinian denies that belief in the ever-mutating biological theory of evolution by (probably) natural selection is a religion, he is absolutely correct. And yet, the denial is irrelevant. This is because the Darwinian cult has its foundations in the biological theory, but cannot legitimately be conflated with it.

Consider one of the first great prophets of Darwinianism, Herbert Spencer, who stated that “Evolution can end only in the establishment of the greatest perfection and the most complete happiness.” In Revoking the Moral Order, David J. Peterson writes:

Spencer taught further that society embodied a self-perfecting process…. Using his own “scientific” methodology which he dubbed “reasoning by analysis” he concluded that creating the ideal man biologically was analogous to bringing about the ideal state of society; a realization of utopia.

Herbert Spencer, if you do not recognize his name, was the founder of “Social Darwinism”, which has absolutely nothing to do with the heartless, Dickens-era capitalist connotations applied to it today. It is, instead, the religion to which today’s New Atheists and progressives subscribe. This means it is entirely correct to describe a Darwinian as possessing “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe”, or in other words, as possessing religious faith. However, keep in mind that the mere belief in the theory of evolution by (probably) natural selection is not alone sufficient to make one a Darwinian. That requires a belief in evolution-driven progress towards an eventual end of one sort or another.

To say that a fish evolved into an amphibian is to be an evolutionist. To say that Man has evolved beyond traditional morals is to be a Darwinian. The distinction is an important one, as is least a biological quasi-science whereas the latter is nothing more than a secular religion.

Human evolution observed in the wild

After only 150 years, Man finally witnesses evolution from one distinct species into another:

A dragon-sized, fruit-eating lizard that lives in the trees on the northern Philippines island of Luzon has been confirmed as a new species, scientists reported on Tuesday. Hunted for its tasty flesh, the brightly colored forest monitor lizard can grow to more than six feet in length but weighs only about 22 pounds (10 kg), said Rafe Brown of the University of Kansas, whose team confirmed the find.

“It lives up in trees, so it can’t get as massive as the Komodo dragon, a huge thing that eats large amounts of fresh meat,” Brown said by telephone. “This thing is a fruit-eater and it’s only the third fruit-eating lizard in the world.”

I think it’s remarkable proof of the power of natural selection. And to think that it only takes three generations for homo sapiens to evolve into draco arboris! No doubt the families of those missing Japanese soldiers will not only be relieved to know the ultimate fate of their loved ones, but proud to know that both the Sakurakai and Shintaro Ishihara were right and the Japanese are, in fact, the most highly evolved form of Man on the planet.

Of course, we had better wipe these dragons out at once before the pressure placed upon them by quasi-cannibalistic Philippinos causes them to evolve the ability to breathe fire. And in other evolution news, the Missing Link was found again. What are the odds that it lasts longer than last year’s extraordinary fossil find, Ida?

A science teacher responds

Scott Hatfield replies to my post supporting his call to reject a proposal to further federalize education:

Vox’s reply is interesting and wide-ranging. I can only touch on a few points (in fact, three) that might be said to fall in my area of knowledge. Vox writes:

“I’m curious to know how Scott would prefer to see teachers evaluated.”

This is a thorny question, in that there are political realities at work. Most teachers are affiliated with teacher’s unions which tend to resist objective measures tied to student performance on standardized tests, for reasons that Vox acknowledges. Unfortunately, many unions tend to resist objective measures in general, and many educational professionals in administration and in government are so wedded to ‘standards-based reform’ that considering a different approach is unlikely to occur during my teaching career. I’m not punting, you understand, just acknowledging that there are practical reasons why we have the impasse that presently exists in terms of assessing instructor performance.

One of the things I enjoy about discourse with Scott is that unlike so many other evolutionists, he is open to the possibility that skepticism about TENS is not intrinsically related to one’s religious faith; this happens to be a position that is also in accord with the observable fact of numerous irreligious evolutionary skeptics. Nevertheless, I have to take some small exception to Scott’s belief that I misread the 8a of the California standards, specifically the second sentence quoted: “Students know how natural selection determines the differential survival of groups of organisms.” Because there is insufficient scientific evidence to indicate that natural selection even exists beyond the tautological level, I don’t see how anyone, let alone students, can presently know how it determines the differential survival of anything, including groups of organisms.

And in the interest of forestalling all the poorly read evolutionists who will be tempted to claim that I don’t understand the science due to their failure to keep up on the latest research, please note that the erroneous basis of most of the evidence presently cited in support of natural selection isn’t something you should take up with me, but rather, with Masatoshi Nei, Shozo Yokoyama, and Yoshiyuki Suzuki. And yes, I know they still believe in natural selection despite their criticism of the statistical evidence, but then, their personal opinions are neither science nor the point.

Of mice and gods

I found this exchange in the comments to be more than a little amusing, as Darth clearly picked up on the same scientific ignorance of the design process in reading about the Pagel paper that I did in reading Richard Dawkins’s latest book.

Darth Toolpodicus: “‘Rather than designing each species from scratch, as an engineer might, evolution is conservative, using the same designs over and over.’

Are you freaking kidding me?!? SERIOUSLY?!? Pagel plainly doesn’t know the first thing about design engineering… Wow is that gaspingly ignorant. Of course, what would I know…having only spent my entire career in R&D design engineering.”

Schadenfreude: “You’re right. Let me rephrase it for him: “…as an engineer who, unlike human engineers, was not limited in time, resources, or ingenuity, and who did not for some hidden reason want to make every organism appear related just as one would expect if evolution had occurred.”

The reason that this is so funny to a game and technology designer like me is that whenever evolutionists attack the idea of creation from a design angle, they almost invariably do two things. First, they make what is best described as the Scheisskopfian Plea, after the character from the Joseph Heller novel.

“‘I don’t believe,’ she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. ‘But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make him out to be.’”

The Creator God in which the evolutionist doesn’t believe is a good designer, a careful designer, an efficient designer. He’s not the lazy and careless designer that the apparent design imperfections make him out to be.

The second thing that they do is reveal a near-complete ignorance of the design process. Every designer, hardware and software, reuses as much material as he can. I’m finishing up a design document right now, and it is literally nothing more than the exact same document I used for a previous design, but with most of the graphics and some of the text changed. I’ve also been reviewing a number of development projects over the last two weeks and the best of them was described to me like this: “It’s “famous game designer’s” latest, it’s just “very successful game” set in a [different] setting.” And, after reviewing the material, that’s precisely what it is. As far as I can tell, not even the hotkeys have changed.

The design process is messy, haphazard, and often involves a certain amount of retrofitting. If you pop the top on the average high-end mouse, you’ll not infrequently find the circuit board inside crossed with a wire or three. That retro-fitted inefficiency is not an indication that the mouse evolved through natural selection, it just means that the design engineer decided to fix a problem without starting from scratch. And most designs are, to be blunt, a little crazy and a lot stupid. Before embarking upon my most recent technology design project, I looked through patent after patent and was astounded by how many people and corporations had designed multi-button mice over the last thirty years… and how every single one of them had placed those additional buttons right under the palm of the user’s hand, which is the second most-inaccessible location they could possibly have chosen.

Once you take into account that the Biblical God is said to have regretted that He made Man (Genesis 6:6) and that He made Saul king over Israel (1 Samuel 15:11), it seems more than a bit… clueless… to base an argument upon the idea that a god who informs us in his own scriptures that he makes mistakes cannot design anything in a manner that we might consider to be mistaken. And this does not even take into account the obvious possibility that planned imperfection was part of the design. For example, I find myself wondering what evolutionists who favor the Scheisskopfian argument conclude from the obvious design failure involved in the susceptibility of digital Call of Duty characters to the flying projectiles that infest their environment.

After all, imperfection and death couldn’t possibly be part of a truly efficient design….

Mailvox: inference and fact

Blackblade explains his take on Richard Dawkins’s invalid substitution of inference for fact in his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth:

My reading may be oversimplifying but, summarising, his fundamental assertion is this: There is sufficient evidence, direct and inferred, to prove that evolution has occurred (although not the mechanism by which it did so), to the normal standards of such proof and it should therefore be viewed as fact.

He then attempts to justify his nomenclature of evolution as a “fact” by somewhat confusing hypotheses, theorems and facts and the definition thereof. He even goes so far as to create a new one called theorums so as to be more precise in his meaning. However, since you made a few words up yourself in TIA for a similar purpose I think you can’t complain on that one too much 🙂 But, yes, I do agree that your original point was valid.

However, and this is why I made my original point, the whole thing is a distraction from the fundamental issue … is there sufficient evidence to conclude that evolution has occurred and with what degree of confidence … the nomenclature of what confidence level deserves the imprimatur “Fact” is, to me at least, largely inconsequential and Dawkins would have done well to have avoided the pseudo-philosophical and just focused on the evidence.

I certainly can’t disagree with the latter part of that statement. Dawkins would always do well to avoid anything that is even remotely philosophical, pseudo or otherwise, since philosophy is demonstrably outside both his competence and his interest. However, what Blackblade is missing here is that The Greatest Show on Earth is not a rational case for the theory of evolution by natural selection or possibly something else. It is instead a polemical work of propaganda; as in The God Delusion, Dawkins is not presenting his case and methodically supporting that case with evidence, he is instead merely attempting to browbeat and bedazzle the careless or moderately intelligent reader into accepting something that is provably and demonstrably untrue. The reason that Dawkins could not simply focus on the evidence because the evidence, scientific and otherwise, is insufficient to make a convincing case, let alone a conclusive one.

Consider the insidious and characteristic bait-and-switch in which Dawkins engages in the first chapter alone:

“Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt. Beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact.”

“Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it.”

“I shall demonstrate that evolution is an inescapable fact.”

“I shall show the irrefragable power of the inference that evolution is a fact.”

Notice the rapid devolution in Dawkins’s case from “evolution is an inescapable fact” to “I infer that evolution is a fact”. These are two very different statements because an inference is not a fact, by definition. It cannot reasonably be considered a fact no matter how much Dawkins elects to argue that it can be. And Dawkins knows this perfectly well, for he even writes: “The dictionary definition of a fact mentions ‘actual obervation or authentic testimony, as opposed to what is merely inferred‘ (emphasis added). The implied pejorative of that ‘merely’ is a bit of a cheek. Careful inference can be more reliable than ‘actual observation’, however strongly our intuition protests at it.”

But what Dawkins has done here is to cherry-pick aspects of the definition of “fact” and silently substitute “apparent fact” for “fact” in order to dishonestly justify his substitution of inference for fact. It is true that careful inference can be more reliable than actual observation, but it is also true that astrology, blind luck, and women’s intuition can be more reliable than actual observation. None of these comparisons of reliability have anything to do with the definition of a fact. In addition to leaving out the greater portion of the definition, Dawkins skates over the obvious distinction between fact and apparent fact, which is to say that if an observation or testimony is incorrect, then the claim based on that observation or testimony is clearly not a fact. Now let’s consider the definition.

FACT
–noun

1. something that actually exists; reality; truth
2. something known to exist or to have happened
3. a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true
4. something said to be true or supposed to have happened

Dawkins blatantly leaves out the first two definitions and the second part of the third one in a devious attempt to leverage the small opening provided by the first part of the third one into misleading the reader into accepting the idea that an inference is equivalent to a fact. But it is not. It cannot be, according to its own definition.

INFERENCE
–noun

1. the act or process of inferring.
2. something that is inferred
3. Logic.
a. the process of deriving the strict logical consequences of assumed premises.
b. the process of arriving at some conclusion that, though it is not logically derivable from the assumed premises, possesses some degree of probability relative to the premises.
c. a proposition reached by a process of inference.

Of course, the reason that Dawkins wants to claim that his proposition, his conclusion with some degree of probability that is not logically derivable from the premises, is something that known to exist or have happened, is that if he sticks to what he can actually prove to be true, he has absolutely no basis for claiming that people who reject that proposition are “History-deniers”. Because, by the very definition of inference, there is some degree of probability that the skeptics are correct to doubt the validity of his conclusion.

I note with no little amusement that no man who was so foolish to write, as Dawkins did on page 249 of The God Delusion: “I do not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca— or Chartres, York Minster or Notre Dame, the Shwe Dagon, the temples of Kyoto or, of course, the Buddhas of Bamiyan.”, should ever dare to use the term “History-denier” in public. Remember, we are dealing with such a historical ignoramus here that he not only doesn’t know it was atheists who destroyed 41,000 of Russia’s 48,000 churches, 240 of 700 Buddhist temples in Vietnam, and 7,000 Buddhist temples in Tibet in the previous century, but genuinely believes religion is a primary cause of war.

Blackblade points out that Dawkins coins a somewhat useful term, “theorum”, in order to distinguish non-mathematically provable scientific concepts in which he has a high level of confidence from mathematical theorems. The ironic thing, however, is that Dawkins destroys his own case in his very definition of “theorum”.

“[It] has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; [it is] a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles or causes of something known or observed.”

What follows are 434 pages of explaining why the reader should accept Dawkins’s proposition as a fact despite the absence of observation and experiment in support of it. I think my favorite argument was Dawkins’s technologically naive citation of the recurrent laryngeal nerve in mammals as good evidence against a designer. Speaking as an veteran technology designer, I would invite anyone who finds that argument convincing to open up the shell of an electronic device; in many cases you will find no shortages of wires indicating similar reroutings of the printed circuit boards.

And ironically, even if evolution by possible natural selection is both propounded and accepted as accounting for the known facts by every sane, informed, intelligent individual, that pesky and means that in addition to not being a fact, Dawkins’s inference does not even qualify as a theorum by his own chosen definition.

The historical fact of the matter is that evolution by natural selection is a failed science. It has a long and inglorious record of failed predictions that puts even Keynesian economics to shame. Evolutionists know this, which is why they prefer polemic to predictions and why the foremost evolutionary propagandist has adopted rhetorical tactics that are utilized by the devotees of another pseudoscience, anthropogenic climate change/global warming.

The Greatest Show on Earth is an apt name for Dawkins’s book. For, as the man who made that phrase famous is popularly and erroneously supposed to have said, there’s a sucker born every minute.