Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Is science like a religion?

     Now, of course, in its ideal state, science should nothing like a religion. Science is supposed to be about recognizing large scale patterns, about reproducible results, and about useful predictions. Religion is about dogma, about facts determined by decree, and about coercing minds. I know; I will have readers thinking, "Sure other religions are like that; but my faith is different."
     Science, as implemented by scientists has become bulky and resistant to challenge. Entering into science now requires years of study that induce the student to think in the same old patterns. Part of this is unavoidable. Without years of study, people would be continually "reinventing the wheel." But it has a drawback. Truly innovative ideas and grand discoveries need a fresh mind. After years of training in one way of looking at the world, most people will find it difficult or impossible to look at it any other way.
     So modern science now comes with its own untestable dogmas. Large-scale evolution is one of those dogmas. It is an extrapolation of small-scale evolution (which can be tested) but there is really no way to know how far out the model remains effective. We cannot conduct a billion-year experiment. There is also "string theory" which is touted highly but does not not deserve the name theory. From what I have read they still cannot concieve of an experiment to test it in any way. It, therefore, belongs to the class of ideas that are "not even wrong."

Intellectual Responsibility?

     Okay, I find the rather interesting. The "Atheism Is Dead" blog claims to "promote intellectual responsibility" and reverse the effects of "manipulative attempts of atheist apologists." But the particular style they have for moderating comments looks quite manipulative. I will present my argument and let the reader decide.
     First off, I fully understand that they have a troll trying to disrupt the site. They have every reason to use moderation to block the troll. I do not object to that. I am, in fact, in full support of that part. The objection is a little subtler.
     When they approve comments, they do not approve them in the same order as they were written. Comments which are deleted for cause are not relevant to this. So if they get comments A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H, all acceptable to the moderation policy, but comment C is inconvenient to them -- say it makes a point they would rather not address -- they are apt to approve A, B, D, E, F, G, and H at once, wait 12 hours, and then approve C. When C is approved, it shows up buried.
     When someone objects that a legitimate comment has been deleted, they are certainly able to point out that it does appear in the thread. But people reading the discusstion on the blog are likely to miss the comment. If they come back to the blog after having previously read through comment H, they are likely to pick up where they left off. They have no reason to believe that an unread comment now appears between B and D, which they have already read.
     A user with a username of Scott complained about the "out of turn" approval of the comments; and the blog moderators acted as though it was a complaint about the fact that the blog was moderated at all. Either they are oblivious to the actual nature of the complaint (which I doubt as I added a comment to clarify -- I don't expect it to be approved) or they are doing this deliberately to manipulate what people see. This is a subtler tactic that has the same effect as deleting comments except when someone is actively checking whether a comment has been deleted.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The "Intelligent Design" Controversy

     I have been hearing quite a bit from evangelical christians about trying to put "intelligent design" into public education. Some have said that they are not finished because the court in the Dover trial was not an appellate court and so does not establish precedent. I have some news for them. Judge Jones (sppointed by George W. Bush) is probably the most sympathetic judge they are going to get.
     Oh, but the claims are interesting. They say that they don't want teachers to be silenced when they want to offer alternatives to evolution. I am not terribly impressed by large-scale evolution, myself; but I see no evidence that teachers are trying to offer alternatives. Indeed, in the Dover instance, teachers refused to read the statement prepared by the school board questioning evolution. They assert that "intelligent design" is not religious in nature. It has already been established that public schools cannot teach religious beliefs as science. But all the major public supporters are christian groups (groups set up to promote christianity not just groups composed predominantly of christians.)
     My own bias should be noted at this point. I do not trust christians when they are trying to spread christianity. Many are willing to "lie for Jesus." But there is a broader principle here. I do not trust the pushy salesman.
     At any rate, the current trend by ID advocates to try to link Darwin and Hitler reeks of dishonesty. My readings have suggested that Hitler rejected Darwin outright. There is certainly no evidence that belief in Darwin's ideas leads to Naziism. I get a distinct sense of an attempt to "rally the troops."
     There is one point on which I must agree with the ID proponents. It is true that when in the minority, evolution supporters sought to "teach the controversy" and that they seem to want to hide the controversy now that they are dominant. I think this speaks more to human nature than to anything else. When one is in the minority, one wants a chance to make one's voice heard. When one already has the minds of the largest part of the population, one does not want challenges to the control. I see the same effect in religious groups. Their claimed goals are quite modest when they have little control. But, historically, when they had greater control, they were strong suppressors of dissent.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Blog reading level

     I found an unusual site the other day. One of the blogs I was browsing placed in the sidebar an assertion that his blog reading level was rated "genius." (He has since taken that down and, as of this writing, the reading level rates "college.") Perhaps I simply fail to understand his purpose. My understanding is that one writes these blogs in an effort to communicate with other people -- the readers. If what one writes can only be understood by someone who reads at a genius level, one will reach very few people.
     My own blog apparently has a reading level not conducive to most people understanding it. That is a problem as I am really trying to communicate. Unfortunately, the way I write is the way I think.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Does "In God We Trust" on our money mean that we are a christian nation?

     I saw a comment on another blog in which the commenter said that he knew that this country was founded as a christian nation because "In God We Trust" is printed on our money. An interesting web site should correct that notion for anyone who checks it. The motto first appeared on coins in 1864.
     More significantly, this is one of those things that I consider to be image-conscious. China officially calls itself the "People's Republic" of China. Is anyone fooled?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No more anonymous comments

     I have had a little recent trouble with abusive anonymous comments. So I have decided to disallow anonymous comments. It appears that a christian (or someone pretending to be one) feels secure in making anonymous threats. I am equally confident that Blogger will be happy to help track sources of such threats when they can.
     The change shouldn't be a problem. Nearly everyone who has posted a comment on this blog has a user name anyway.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Which Roman god? Answer

     The correct answer to the Which Roman god question is D. Mars (according to legend) was the god of agriculture. Now, let's deal with the wrong answers. The god of music was Apollo. The god of fire was Vulcan. And the god of oratory was Mercury.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Is the bible reliable?

     The claim made by believers is that the bible is a message from an omnipotent god who wants everyone to act on it. (Some believers claim it is a "personal" message; but I will not address that at this time.) An omnipotent being thinks it is important that I know a message comes from him and he uses a two-thousand-year-old text of dubious authorship? Can't he tell me directly?
     Consider. If you are trying to get an important message to someone, and all options are available, what method do you use?
     A> Tell him directly.
     B> Call him on the phone.
     C> Send him a letter.
     D> Leave an anonymous note on his doorstep.
     E> Have a homeless person give him the message.
     The nature of the bible reeks of inauthenticity. There may be a supernatural being behind it. But he is not who he says he is.

Which Roman god?

     In a previous post, I mentioned that Mars was a Roman god (according to the legends, at any rate.) But can you identify which one?

     A> god of music
     B> god of fire
     C> god of oratory
     D> god of agriculture

     Ten points for the first correct answer. Yes, one of the answers is correct.

Demands for Respect

     On another blog, I read someone commenting about ID proponents demanding respect and claiming that anyone or any group that deserves respect already has it and that anyone demanding respect deserves only ridicule. This writer also wonders why these people are allowed a forum at all.
     They are allowed a forum because if people judge their ideas ridiculous without hearing them, they become suppressors. Unfortunately, it has proven necessary in history for groups worthy of respect to demand it. They were otherwise being marginalized and not heard out. The ID crowd is not such a group. But if we denied them the opportunity to make their case, they could rightly say that it was just an attempt to silence them.