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Everything posted by AL

  1. I'm still upset about the death of Theo van Gogh. That was more brutally ironic than the reaction to this cartoon. Well, at least so far. Maybe heads will start rolling and things will start blowing up in a few days....
  2. Normally when you sign up for a webhost, they will give you very detailed, step-by-step instructions or FAQs on how to get a basic site started. Many of them have their own proprietary tools or free software downloads. This is the case with godaddy.com and 1and1.com (two hosts I've worked with not too long ago). In particular, 1and1.com will give you free copies of just about every type of software you'll need to run a site (for instance, they give you wise-ftp, netobjects fusion which is a visual page designer similar to dreamweaver, etc.). As far as making the site pink and girly, that's just a matter of skinning it properly. If you're going to go with a content management system, once you've found one with the features you like, you can take an existing skin from that system and alter it to make it pink and girly. Or if you don't want to design your own, most of the well-supported cm systems out there have community pages where users submit custom skins and you can just take one of theirs. The last cms I worked with was Mambo (which recently became Joomla), but of course, like webhosts, there are a zillion of them out there, so shop around.
  3. The notion of a placebo effect is pretty well-established, and nothing in this article suggests that acupuncture has possibly been "sciencified" beyond such an effect. The comment by Wildsmith that "it is more likely to be effective if you believe it" confirms that his opinion leans toward this being the case.
  4. AL

    Science Magazines

    I'm a satisfied SciAm subscriber. It's pretty easy reading and covers a wide range of topics -- even the social sciences which is a plus (though I'm not sure if other pop-sci mags cover social sciences as well). My main complaint with SciAm is what's the deal with all those ads for bizarre, seemingly pseudoscientific-like products? I'm seeing such ads as Juvenon, a nutritional supplement that allegedly grows mitochondria to promote youthfulness, and ads for books claiming to have some Final Super Ultimate Happy Theory of Everythingness. Not that there is something necessarily wrong with these products, and you can't blame SciAm for wanting ad money as part of their business model (in the same way I can't blame SFN for those bizarre google ads at the top!)...but still, there's something bothersome about these products being plugged uncritically in a mag that should promote critical looks. Anyway, just my aside.
  5. I suppose one way to measure persuasiveness is by how much it influences popular opinion, but it certainly isn't the only way. Popular opinion polls don't control for the fact that many people don't gather information on the debate before formulating an opinion, so it isn't a really good way to measure how well argued the case for evolution is if people aren't listening. My main point is that proponents of evolution are not simply saying "take our word for it" as Card suggests. They have a case, and they have arguments.
  6. This seems like a bit of a strawman, as I've read Behe's work as well as many critiques of his work written by actual people who've read his book and neither I or nor they would make or have made most of these statements. A few I might make if allowed to qualify them further. Regarding claim 1), it may not be strict, literal, young 6,000-year-old earth creationism, but it is a rehash of Paley's natural theology and an attempt to instill a need for a god-concept in science by arguing from the gaps evolution can't explain. Same deal, the only difference is in what they see as the gaps. The young earth creationists think geologists can't explain the Grand Canyon, the IDers think evolution can't explain how the vertebrate immune system evolved. Even if they were both right, this does not substantiate their case beyond "currently accepted theories can't explain this." I also find it silly that Card would say the IDists accept evolution to some extent and that this distinguishes them from creationists. Even a staunch YEC like Kent Hovind will say "microevolution occurs" so it could be said that the YECs too accept evolution to some extent, but this isn't a point of contention if they don't contend it. It's what the IDers and YECs do contend about evolution that is the issue, so of course a statement like "IDers and YECs reject evolution" may be seen as too general, but it should be interpreted as being specific. For claim 2), I wouldn't doubt some people unfortunately do argue along those lines. Behe has a phd in biochemistry and Dembski has one each in philosophy and mathematics. Both take the approach of their disciplines in formulating their argument (e.g. Dembski tries to recast Paley's arguments using a lot of unnecessary mathematical formalism). Not that it matters even if they didn't have such degrees, as a good argument is still a good argument and a bad one still bad regardless of degree. I suppose I should bring up that Dembski himself resorted to credentialism to dismiss a critique of his use of the No Free Lunch theorems by a reviewer with only a bachelor's in statistics. Unfortunately for Dembski, one of the co-authors of the No Free Lunch theorem (who has a phd) agreed that Dembski misused the theorem. Claim 3) is just silly. I think proponents of evolution do an excellent job of explaining their theory carefully as well as acknowledging the limits. I think it's the acknowledging the limits part that sometimes gets them in trouble. Claim 4) is silly as well. It's important to point out where their argument is faulty, but of course it's a straightforward argumentum ad logicam to say because their argument is fallacious that their conclusion is wrong. It is however, reasonable to conclude that if their argument is fallacious, they did not make their case with respect to that argument and should not be treated as though they had (i.e. if we are to call it science, it must at least have a case). I'm not going to address claim 5), even though I should since this thread was posted in the politics forum. Sue me. In my opinion, Mark Perakh has written some of the best critiques of ID. Some of his writings can be found on talkorigins, a few you'll have to get in print publications. He does not resort to any silly arguments, and I think Orson Scott Card should read some of his works before suggesting that proponents of evolution are running from the fight. All that said, I don't deny there are bad arguments made for evolution. To his credit, Dembski addresses a few of them quite well. For instance, it is sometimes said that the Mandelbrot equation implies that complexity can arise by simplicity, since the infinitely complex Mandelbrot set fractal can be generated by the simple complex* equation Z = Z^2 + C. This is right up Dembski's alley, being a mathematician. Dembski argues that this simply isn't true. While the equation is simple, the process of taking a value generated by the equation and plotting it onto a coordinate system to generate the fractal requires a complicated algorithm. I agree with Dembski's counterargument, although I never found this Mandelbrot argument to be very convincing to begin with and a refutation of it certainly does not imply that simplicity cannot give rise to complexity. Moreover, we can still argue over whether there is more than just a nebulous line between simplicity and complexity (which is why I never found the argument convincing), but that's another matter. *Complex here means it refers to the complex numbers, not complex as opposed to simple or uncomplicated.
  7. Sorry, I've contributed more than my fair share of arguing this point, and would rather not continue with someone who insists all arithmetic must be numerical (such that an objection like "you can't keep adding 9s infinitely" might hold water) as opposed to analytic (where such an objection holds none). All his yacking about Marx, Newton, feminists and political correctness doesn't do much to help convince me he has all his marbles. Also, I'm not sure how to interpret your claim that he is Norway's most rational philosopher as anything but an ethnic slur against the good people of Norway.
  8. AL

    Memorise pi

    I actually pulled Hiroyuki Goto's name from a book on pi that I have, which mentions him in passing as the world-record holder. For purposes of this thread, I just wanted to find a quick link on the web to his name so you guys can click rather than cite the book I have which I'm certain none of you will go out and buy. But if you're curious, it's called The Joy of Pi by David Blatner.
  9. You're not going to understand it, even if it were in English, because it's nonsense. In the world of math cranks, the 0.99_ is not 1 people outnumber the circle quadrature cranks by exactly 314,159 to 1, and there's no shortage of absurd reasoning ranging from "limits are nonsense, we should use infinitesimals" to "Zeno was right about his paradoxes, there is no motion." My favorite part was when he whined about Ayn Rand failing to make an appearance in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and cited that as proof of an academic conspiracy against the Truth™. Funny how crankdom and conspiratorial thinking go hand-in-hand. Well, not so much a highly intelligent answer as a clever dodge.
  10. AL

    Memorise pi

    There really isn't any math involved in rote memorization of pi. That said though, there are actual pi memorization/recitation contests. The "pros" use word-length mnemonic poems to recite pi. That is, for each digit of pi, they find a word that has that number value of letters, and they assemble a poem which they memorize in place of pi itself. The basic mnemonic they probably taught you in junior high was "How I wish I could calculate pi," which has 3, 1, 4, 1, 5, 9 and 2 letters respectively, the first 7 digits of pi. The current world record is held by Hiroyuki Goto, who recited 42,000 digits from memory. http://www.pi-world-ranking-list.com/lists/details/goto.htm Not sure what sort of prize he got, but I'll pat him on the back.
  11. Yes, all that we know to exist and even those things we don't know to exist but may find out about in the future are all regarded as natural under this definition. The only distinction between natural and supernatural that I have ever heard is that the latter is said to defy the laws of nature. But once you are over the idea that a law of nature is some sort of immutable cosmological mandate rather than a powerful inductive description that can be subject to revision with new knowledge, this distinctinction is of no use, as you would not say that the planet Mercury is supernatural because its orbit violated predictions made by Newton's universal law of gravitation (which was revised by Einstein, subsequently accounting for this anomaly).
  12. Well, Bible code 2 didn't technically predict anything. It's a postdiction.
  13. AL


    I'm not sure if anyone's ever complained about racism on the TV show Family Guy, but there's plenty of race jokes there, many of which are made by white characters about black people, so this might pass your double-standard stink test. (My guess is that there is probably a way to do racist humor "right" so that it doesn't raise a stink, but just a guess.) Quick, how many can all the Family Guy geeks here quote?: "Remember folks: Guns don't kill people. Dangerous minorities do." "We now go live to Ollie Williams with the Black-u-Weather forecast. Ollie?" "I'S GOIN' RAIN!" "Thanks, Ollie." "Tom, I just plain don't like black people. Ahahah!" Cleveland: "I must say, I do feel a strange satisfaction watching the black ball topple all those self-righteous white pins." Joe: "Can't blame them for being self-righteous. The black ball's in their neighborhood uninvited." Cleveland: "The black ball's done nothing wrong." Joe: "If the black ball's innocent it has nothing to fear."
  14. AL

    Merry Christmas

    There was a time when I thought I was too mature to ever laugh at a fart or testicle joke. That was before I ever watched Family Guy.
  15. I still can't make heads or tails of your posts, Sunspot. Do you have a point, or do you just like sounding like an out-of-context excerpt from a first-draft, unedited textbook manuscript? The only way people can respond to your posts is to nitpick one or two of your sentences here and there, because your sentences taken altogether do not appear to have a point.
  16. He's Norwegian. I'm not sure about Norway, but many European countries use a "." as a "," in their numbers. Although you are still technically correct that $50,000 is at least £1.
  17. That website, as well as the first few dozen that turn up on Google are not critical examinations. They simply assert her claim. They are not even mainstream media outlets -- all of them are Christian evangelical sites, and there's good reason to be skeptical of them. Even the WB network (which broadcasts 700 Club and Christian Broadcasting Network where I live) puts up a disclaimer before the show saying the views expressed and the claims reported within are not the responsibility of the network, and I don't blame them for doing that. It's one thing to have a case of cerebral palsy where the symptoms inexplicably dissipate. It's a whole other thing to make the inference from that to there being an all-powerful God with a son named Jesus. Someone needs to critically examine her claim, is all I'm saying. Though I suspect that calls for a critical examination would result in her supporters being offended and the critics chided for "lack of faith," as is the case with my two aforementioned favorite miracle scam healers, Benny Hinn and John of God. Just to be sure, you do know that a law of nature is not "legislation" that things in the universe are all expected to obey, correct? A law of nature is a decription we make based on our observations. Natural laws do not get violated, but as descriptions, they can turn out to be incorrect. That said, defining miracle to be a violation of a natural law is a poor definition, as a miracle would essentially result from an inadequate description/explanation on our part (i.e. the degree to which something is a miracle is the extent to which we are ignorant of what caused it).
  18. Pat Robertson's 700 Club makes claims like these pretty much every morning, and they always go unscrutinized, unchallenged, and unreported by the media. And before anyone claims the media doesn't report this because the media have a godless, secularist agenda, keep in mind one is talking about the same media that goes bonkers everytime someone sees the Virgin Mary in a carpet stain. Either someone should critically examine this claim, or proponents should attempt to substantiate it rather than assert it. Until then, I don't really expect the results to be any different from that of hard-hitting investigations of Benny Hinn or John of God.
  19. I already mentioned him in the first reply. His colleagues have accused him of fabricating results regarding the cloning of human embryos (and their stem cells), so his team's research results are questionable. If you're thinking of the scientists who cloned the dog, it's the same guy who led that team. I think it's safe to call that claim into question as well. More info: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4533786.stm
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