Emanations from Rev. Bob's rectory
- "Television knows no night. It is perpetual day. TV embodies our fear of the dark, of night, of the other side of things."~Jean Baudrillard 2012-09-07
- I <3 Barney! Barney Frank Likens Gay Republicans To Uncle Toms | TPM2012 - http://t.co/TfKAXPE6 2012-09-06
- "We should tackle reality in a slightly jokey way, otherwise we miss its point."~Lawrence Durrell via http://t.co/4nmlehHN 2012-09-06
- RIP Joe South- http://t.co/dTuemS72 - http://t.co/e5TQyfg4 2012-09-06
- I intend to vote in the way that is the most effective in bringing about the destruction of conservatism. Now explain to me why you won't. 2012-09-06
- Moms, want to know why your kids are hungry?'Epicenter of missile defense' growing on Redstone Arsenal - http://t.co/f3GQlpM7 2012-09-06
- A home run by a stunning lady - Transcript: Michelle Obama's Convention Speech : NPR - http://t.co/zI5Rocuj 2012-09-05
- A Buddhist walks up to a hot dog stand and says Make me one Chicago style, extra mustard. 2012-09-05
- "Romney calls immigrant children illegals. Obama calls them DREAMers. That tells me everything I need to know." -David Simas 2012-09-04
- People who say "on a daily basis" instead of "every day" must die. Where's my disemboweling kit? 2012-09-04
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After 3 months of treatments, the vision in my left eye has improved from corr. 20/400 to 20/60 and continues to improve. It’s a medical miracle! Who could have predicted that researchers specializing in eye diseases would come up with a treatment for an eye disease? Or that my local ophthalmologist would refer me to a retina specialist instead of to a podiatrist?
Atoms: wicked entities that refuse to acknowledge that they were created to glorify some god & stubbornly obey the laws of physics instead.
Professors of theological science are hopeful that more exotic forms of matter may be more responsive to invisible spirits and demons.
Got ‘em crossed? Start crossing them now for May 25.
7 Minutes of Terror from NASA JPL.
In an earlier exchange on the old blog Tim took great exception with an author I’d cited who claimed that even in the hallowed halls of science, gender bias against women was a a problem today and may have gotten worse over the decades.
I found an MIT study that Tim landed on with both feet, emphasizing the chair of the committee that produced the report was a professor of English. But that’s understandable. Tim has to descend from such a great height and replies with such solemnity that he has to land hard; otherwise he’ll look like a nun on a trampoline.
I offer two studies, one in preprint for Nature and another in print in Science: H/t to Zuska for these refeferences.
Two topics for the price of one: see y’all at the National Day of Reason
The hottest new movie this season will certainly be Expelled.
You probably haven’t heard of the movie unless you’ve stayed up late enough to see the ads. But you’ve probably heard of the narrator, former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein. You probably remember the quiz show Win Ben Stein’s Money, and despite the faster than the eye crawler that concealed from everybody who didn’t have a TiVo that Ben wasn’t reaching into his own pocket to pay the contestants, the show was entertaining.
Which is what convinces me that moviegoers will storm the theaters to listen to an hour and 45 minutes of Ben Stein’s golden voice narrating the shocking story that the real reason you can’t find Young Earth Creationists on the faculty of any decent university isn’t because of the creationists’ incompetence and dishonesty. Oh my, no! It’s because of a conspiracy by a Cabal of Evil Evolutionists (i.e., actual biologists, astronomers, paleontologists, and geologists) to keep The Truth from good clean white Christians.
Which is why I’m shocked, simply shocked that those Evil Evolutionists have a website, Expelled Exposed, that’s just gone live.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think. Which I’ll bet is a hell of a lot more than you’ll get out of Expelled itself.
Bob’s post has coincided with my reinstallation as an occasional writer, so just to test that everything is working, I’ll offer up this quote, from one of my favorite philosophers of science:
In the enterprise of grasping the facts, [judgement] relies on whatever concept or combination of concepts looks most promising, yet it stands ready to replace them by other, more befitting ones if and when they become available. Everyday concepts are, however, flexible in a way that physical theories are not. According to the conventional wisdom, “if it walks like a duck, it swims like a duck, it quacks like a duck, then it is a duck.” And a duck’s deviant behavior will not easily lead one to reclassify it as something else. [...] On the other hand, the unexplained perihelion advance of Mercury by a mere 43″ per century [...] is enough to conclude that neither the Sun-Mercury system, nor the entire Solar System, nor, for that matter, any gravitational system in the world can be represented to our full satisfaction by a Newtonian model. Due to their great rigidity, physical theories cannot supply us with resilient articles of belief that can vie in endurance with myths and superstitions. But this feature of mathematical physics is also a great source of power for those who wield it with circumspection to find their way about the world.
from =The Philosophy of Physics=
To be fair to Torretti, he provides a caveat, noting that in fact while the perihelion advance was unexplained, it wasn’t instrumental in Einstein’s thinking.
But you can see there the source of the current anti-evolution strategy. Any given scientific theory is brittle. One bad fact can break it. But superstition is silly putty – it bounces back, it changes its shape over time (there’s room here for an extended metaphor, but I won’t indulge myself). So they throw as many stones as they can, but only one needs to hit. Whereas none of their own mistakes and inconsistencies matter. Superstitions can absorb the blows.
What they don’t understand is that the breaking and reforming of scientific theories is a forging process – and each newly emerged theory is sharper and tougher than the last. And in the end, the proof is in the pudding. Antibiotics and semiconductors weren’t imagined in the sacred texts, and the explanations of their operation won’t be had there.
(I believe American Scientist or some similar mag had, about a decade ago, an article attempting to make as coherent a picture of the fundamentalist’s cosmology as possible. The author hoped to show it much more vulnerable to those stones than the scientists’ view. At one point I thought it a laudable effort, but this quote of Torretti’s suggests that it would remain only preaching to the choir. As laughable as that geologic history was, the author didn’t realize that it wasn’t brittle. Something other than facts is necessary to bring it down.)
Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds. – attributed to Richard Feynman (h/t to Leiter Reports)
But perhaps philosophy of science might come in a little handy for scientists and the rest of us when we’re trying to respond to believers a bit more than “I’m not very religious, thanks”
We respond, especially in public forums, in the hope that somebody‘s listening, — it’s usually not the believer, unless that believer is one of those rare birds of that species for whom life is actually a dialogue, not a monologue.
“Here’s your bible,” they shout, and then point to something by Darwin. I can’t imagine missing the point worse. It’s like hollering “Here’s my Godfather of Soul” and pointing to that picture of the dogs playing poker. Not just pointing to Hannah Montana, but these guys.
It isn’t that Darwin isn’t the authority we all follow. Scientists and nontheists don’t have authorities. In fact, we’re lousy followers. That isn’t the way science, skepticism and nontheism work.
I think it was PZ Myers who said
Scientists have heroes, but they don’t have authorities.Well, I guess that shows what kind of authority Myers is around these parts. I couldn’t even remember his name, but I enjoy reading what he says. It shows thought and wit.
Believers can quote scripture (some of them love to quote scripture) till they’re blue in the face. They might as well be speaking Swahili. Worse than that — some of us actually know a few words of Swahili Authorities, holy or otherwise, just don’t mean that much to us, ahsante sana. They aren’t speaking our language. Speaking in tongues would work better.
Don’t tell the authorities. That is, don’t tell me the authorities you follow if you’re into that sort of thing.
Maybe believers should forget the scriptures for a while and try a little thought and wit. Maybe dogs should try playing poker. They can — not the dogs,silly, but anybody who’s halfway human can think and have a sense of humor and have wit enough to know when they’ve stopped communicating.
I’ve just done that. Fortunately I also stopped typing.