Saturday, November 11, 2017

Scientists Are Not Stupid!

I thoroughly enjoyed this post: "Scientists aren’t stupid, and science deniers are arrogant". It's from the site "The Logic Of Science", which is a blog I run across frequently but now I will be adding it to my regular reading list.  The main premise can be summed up in this quote:

"I have found that not only do people with no formal training in science think that they know more than the entire scientific community, but in almost every case, they think that there is a fundamental and obvious problem that essentially all scientists have either missed or are willfully ignoring."
As I read this, nearly every conversation I have had with a denier on Evolution, Climate Change, and even Tobacco could have been an example cited in this article.  How it usually works for me is they start with some simple fact, twist it around and try and use it to discredit and entire scientific discipline, and then defend it with amazing rationalizations that simply boggle my mind.

Two examples of their use of facts:  Climate Change v. the Little Ice Age and Evolution v. the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.  Conversations usually start with a brief explanation from Google or Wikipedia, which is usually fine.  Then they add in something heard from a very conservative source -- most often funded by an industry or special interest with a bone to pick with the science.   Commonly the Oil/Gas Industry or their funded 'think tank' the Heartland Institute when it comes to Climate Change, or a religious ministry like the Discovery Institute or Answers in Genesis when it comes to Evolution.

Once you start poking holes in their arguments, they veer away from their pseudo-facts and start rationalizing.  My favorite is the 'rice bowl' analogy.  If you are unfamiliar with the term, what it means is when someone jealously protecting a project or program.  It's believed to be from some Chinese or Japanese slang concerning losing your job -- i.e.: your method of providing for your family with staples, like food -- hence the use of 'rice'.  I've heard it many times in the military over the years.  It's also often expressed as 'defending your turf' as well.

If goes like this:  "Scientists are too busy protecting their jobs and sources of funding, so they dismiss evidence that opposes their self-interest."  There is a simple problem with this one.  While it's true job security is an objective of most working adults, what would happen to a scientist who succeeds in disproving something like Evolution?  Can you say 'Nobel Prize'?  Here's another quote from the article:
"Disproving evolution would result in me going down in history as one of the great minds of the 21st century. So, why haven’t I or any of the thousands of other ambitious young biologists published that evidence? Because it doesn’t exist! This idea that you have to blindly go along with the “dogma” to get anywhere in science is totally backwards. You don’t get grants to confirm things that everyone already knows. "
There is the fallacy in the argument, most scientists are not highly paid, in fact I make nearly twice the average salary of a climate scientist, and I am a computer programmer with a Master's.  Of course that data depends on a lot of things, like the exact position or even what part of the country they live in.  But no matter what data set you are looking at, climate scientists are not very highly paid.  If you look at a Biologist, or worse a Biology Teacher, their remuneration gets even lower.

Now, who do you think are scientists who make higher salaries?  Not the ones toeing some imaginary party line, but the ones making breakthroughs, discovering new things, developing new medicines and medical treatments.  So this 'protecting your turf' argument fails on many levels!  Plus you have to factor in that we are not just talking about scientists at one institution or location, but world-wide.  Think of how illogical to believe in a decades-long, multinational conspiracy of silence just so current scientists can keep their positions.

However, when you look at the people arguing against science, you really can't see the rice bowl protection going on?  Look at how climate science can impact profits of the current energy companies, you know the ones funding anti-climate change marketing material?  How about religious groups who are terrified of the impact real science might have on their congregations and donations?  And you think scientists are being defensive?

Conspiracies theories might be entertaining and fodder for idiotic television and radio shows, but when you look at the logic of them, they tend to be absurd.  One last quote from Logic of Science:
"Anytime that an argument requires you to think that the entire scientific community is hopelessly stupid, ignorant, incompetent, etc. you should be extremely skeptical. Scientists aren’t stupid, and if you think you have found something simple and obvious that all of them have missed, you are almost certainly wrong. It is the epitome of arrogance to think that a few minutes or even hours on Google have endowed you with a better understanding of science than the collective scientific community gained through countless years of training and experience."
Why is it so hard for too many people to recognize that training and experience count for a hell of a lot in the real world.  I wish one of them would look up computer programming on Google and see how well they would function doing my job, let alone one in physics or biology.  Would trust a dentist with your mouth who received such an 'education'?  Here's something fun to watch.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Why The Earth May Not Be Round!

We are not advocating teaching the Earth is Flat, we are advocating to expand science education by teaching the controversy over why the Earth may not be round.  Sound familiar?

The official (cough, cough) policy of the Discovery Institute (DI) of not advocating the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) is pure BS.  If it were true then they would not be writing lesson plans, politicking politicians and student groups, nor supporting legislation designed to weaken real science education, among other tactics and strategies.  What they claim to be advocating is expanding science education by teaching the controversy over Evolution. They re-iterated this in a recent post addressed to Utah (Dear Utah: Teach About the Scientific Controversy Over Evolution, Not About Intelligent Design)

I have a question, does teaching this 'controversy' really expand science education?  It would be one thing if there really was a scientific controversy over Evolution, but since the only controversy is an artificial one, a culturally-contrived controversy over whether or not religious beliefs should be taught instead of actual science -- is this really an expansion?

What this does is weaken science education, and this was found to be true during the Dover Trial.  Imagine a science teacher who covers the scientific theory of evolution, and then is required to introduce religious arguments against it -- arguments without any factual support or evidence.  What would be the outcome?  The Dover Decision made that pretty clear -- confused students because of a weakened science education.  Teaching religion as if it was science is a bad idea because  . . . well for one reason, it doesn't work.

Buildings are not held up by prayer, cars do not run because of the wishes of a capricious deity, medicines do not work because of wishful thinking.  They work because of the science and applications of that science in architecture,  engineering, and medicine.

I have to argue about one statement they made:

"In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned."
Is Evolution really taught as dogma and not open to any scrutiny?  That's what this statement implies.  So my next question is whether or not it is taught dogmatically.  So what evidence would support that?
  • Textbooks covered it as dogma
  • No changes to Evolutionary Theory since it's inception
  • An increasing number of scientists/science group advocating a non-religious alternative
First up textbooks:
However, I have look at a number of textbooks, including my own, my daughters', and my granddaughter's and there doesn't seem to be any evidence of that.  In my last visit to a local college library (Wright State University), I looked up several biology texts and also found it taught as a scientific theory and not dogmatic at all.
There is one point that I do keep hearing from creationists or varying stripes as evidence for this dogmatic approach -- evolution being explained as a fact and not a theory, but that is more word play than anything else.  Gravity is a fact -- hold something out at arms length and drop it, it falls -- only please don't do this with an iPhone, they seem to be more disaster prone than others (as my granddaughter can attest).  The fall of an object is a fact, and we call that fact Gravity.  Gravity is also a theory, it is the explanation of why things fall as they do.

Do you see the difference?  We use the same term to describe both the fact and the explanation.  We do the same thing in many areas of science, Light is a fact, the Theory of Light is the explanation.  Germs are a fact, Germ Theory is the explanation.  Evolution is a fact, the Theory of Evolution is the explanation.  Calling Evolution a fact isn't dogmatic, but contextual use of the word.  When you look at the evidence for life changing over time, you see the fact of evolution.  When you see the genetic differences and similarities between organisms, you see the fact of Evolution.  What you want to understand how those facts occurred, you look at Evolutionary Theory.

OK, how about whether or not evolutionary theory is open to scrutiny:
Has the Theory of Evolution changed and is it still changing?  The answer is 'hell yes!'  Since Darwin's day there have been many changes.  There have literally been thousands of scientists questioning all or part of Evolutionary theory on a daily basis and coming up with more and better explanations.  That's how science works.
If scientists thought Evolution was not open to scrutiny, would any of this come to pass?  There would be very few, if any, scientists working on it.  There would be very few changes, again if any.  Major changes would be unheard up.  Things like Punctuated Equilibrium, Genetics, Genetic Drift, and many others wouldn't possibly exist if Evolution was some untouchable sacred cow.

The reason they do exist, and new ideas and theories that will come in the future, is because science treats little as untouchable.  We've learned the lessons of the past that when ideas are considered inviolate, we cannot ignore evidence that appears to violate them.  Ignoring evidence is not how science advances. We learn by asking questions and finding answers, and when those answers don't match current theories, we keep going and figure out why, then adjust the theories with the new knowledge.

The reason I think folks like the DI keep making this 'dogmatic' argument is mainly because their failure to formulate and actual scientific theory that includes their religious beliefs.  Several years ago even the daddy rabbit of ID, Philip Johnson, even admitted it:
"I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world." (Berkeley Science Review, Spring 2006, retrieved from Wikiquote)
That's why they make this argument, not because they really think it's being taught dogmatically, but because they have not made any headway in an actual opposing scientific theory.  Without their cries of 'dogmatisim', they would have little else to say.  So the real question is not whether or not Evolution is taught dogmatically, but why haven't you, DI, been able to formulate a scientific theory that can compete with Evolution?  The Dover Decision included this little gem on why they argue the controversy instead of focusing on actual science:
"ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard"
One last thing, are there non-religious alternatives to Evolutionary Theory?
If there are, no one seems to be talking about them, anywhere.  The only alternatives that people hear about are Creationism and it's little brother Intelligent Design.  I know the DI likes to claim ID is not religious, but no one seems to believe them.  Their own actions, strategy documents, even the audience for their marketing materials all prove that ID is nothing more than re-packaged Creationism.  One last quote, and it's from the Dover Decision:
"The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism."
And that is why Intelligent Design will remain in the same section of the bookstore where religion, physic powers, numerology, and tarot cards are sold.  You can get your 'Flat Earth' conspiracy books there as well.  It should also be the reason why states, including Utah, should pass real science standards which focus on science and not religious beliefs.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Does There Have to be an Ultimate Purpose? Apparently Not!

In a recent post little davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, one of the many Discovery Institute (DI) talking heads, said this:

'In what our friend Eric Metaxas calls the “scientistic materialist” perspective, there is not only no ultimate purpose or meaning to life. “If we are just material beings,” says Eric, “then there is actually no such thing as life,” either.'
Eric, like most DI talking heads and their friends, misses an even simpler point, "Why does there have to be an 'ultimate' purpose or meaning to life?"

Seriously, before telling me that life is meaningless without some sort of ultimate purpose, explain why that is a requirement?  Has anyone ever done that?  Really done that?  No!

Oh I know one or more theists will start spouting Bible verses, but once you scrape off the religious dressing, what's left?  Absolutely nothing.  Look at this website (What is your Ultimate Purpose?) if you want, it clearly wants you to believe that your ultimate purpose is to be an immortal being, like their version of God.  Talk about circular logic.  Let's create a deity, tell everyone that he created you in his image and when you come back to him, you'll understand your ultimate purpose.  In the meantime, keep up the donations.  Seriously?  Only in Theology would that make sense.  Try thinking like that in a real science or math class and see how far you get.

I am not asking what that ultimate purpose is supposed to be, just why must there be one.  Religious groups never get around to explaining this, they start from that assumption and build their whole shaky edifice of arguments on this apparent need they have for purpose.  That seems to be what separates believers from reality, the need to have some higher purpose to believe in, and religious groups cash in on that need.

So I am asking the question, why does there have to be some sort of ultimate purpose or meaning in life?

The only answer seems to be 'There doesn't!'  We have who knows how many religions on this planet and I would say a majority of people belong to one of them.

Look at it honestly, which of the thousands of religions has told you what your ultimate purpose is?  None of them, right?  A few make some stupid claim, but then there are hundreds of others that contradict such claims.  But no one has found the one, single ultimate purpose/meaning for life, have they?  And, if they are like the site I linked to above, their ultimate purpose is quite self-serving.  It's not your ultimate purpose, but the religion's ultimate purpose that keeps you on their rolls (and donating).

Eric is mistaken in another area, science is not inherently materialistic. What science is driven by is a philosophy called 'Methodological Naturalism', which is not the same thing at all. Methodological naturalism is a way of acquiring knowledge. It is a distinct system of thought concerned with a cognitive approach to reality.  In other words science does not address things like purpose/meaning, just like it doesn't address the supernatural.  That's not the same thing as saying that science says there is no purpose/meaning, but that it doesn't address them.  It's like saying Math is wrong because it's not addressed in English.

But people like Eric and klingy like to redefine things to their own purposes.  They are the ones who define things like 'scientistic (is that even a word?) materialist' and then claim that means science says there is no meaning.  Not addressing something is not the same thing as such a categorical statement like:
"there is not only no ultimate purpose or meaning to life"
So, do we need to have some ultimate purpose?  I don't think so, but if you are one of those who demand to have some sort of ultimate purpose, instead of looking at religion, look at your life.  Look at the people you surround yourself with and make your own ultimate purpose.  I know my personal purpose in life changed when I got married, it changed again when I had children, and changed yet again with my grandchild.  Doesn't seem to be a bad purpose for my life!

There's also another advantage to considering my children and granddaughter my purpose, I get to deal with my purpose in this life, right now.  I don't have to wait and find out in Pascal's Wager is true or not, I am living my purpose!  I really don't care if one of the many deities has some other purpose for me in mind, if they want to bitch about the way I am living my life, they aren't much of a deity then, are they?  So instead of counting on them in a crisis -- because that always works, right?  And instead of spending time and resources focused on such an imaginary being, I spend it with reality, the reality of my family.  Now that seems to be a damned good purpose to have!  Imagine how many children would be alive today if certain people would have focused on them instead of letting them die of neglect because those parents/caregivers preferred their belief system instead of those children!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's Late, but Answers in Genesis might be joining the 20th century . . . finally!

The Theory of Evolution does not belong to Charles Darwin.  It has grown so much beyond his work, much in the same way physics has grown beyond Isaac Newton.

Now this isn't something new, scientific theories rarely become stagnant.  There are always other scientists, even new generations of scientists, taking things further and further.  If Darwin and Newton were alive today, they would recognize the underpinnings they gave their respective sciences, but the modern details would probably shock and amaze them.

So, for some reason one of little kennie ham's pet 'creation scientists' said: "Cell Biologist: Let's Replace Darwin by Studying DNA and Genetics".  Well I hate to be the one to tell him, but biology already has, I guess no one told Answers in Genesis (AiG) about it, so they might be catching up to Biology from last century, but they still have a ways to go.  Look at what Nathaniel Jeanson says:

"He determines that if Darwin were to examine the evidence today using modern science, his conclusions would be vastly different."
Maybe, but there is no way of knowing this, is there? If Darwin's work had no current applicability, then it would have faded into the scientific history books, like Hanow, Treviranus, and al-Razi.  Look them up, you might be surprised at their contributions -- but they certainly aren't household names.  Yet Darwin's work continues to be the foundation of all of modern biology. Did Darwin know everything? Of course not.  But what he did discover and document has been well supported by evidence time and time again.  Did he have all the details?  No, because much of what we do know now is the result of things unavailable to Darwin.  

The fact that new discoveries are made doesn't discount the contributions from the past, but builds on them.  No one, outside of Creationists like those at places like AiG, refer to Evolution as 'Darwinism'.  Darwin is a frequent target for creationists, especially those pretending to be scientists.  But nothing they have uncovered, or claimed to have uncovered, actually shakes those foundations.  It's not news that Darwin isn't the end -all of Biology, well maybe it is news to folks like AiG.

While genetics was re-discovered following Darwin's work, creationists of the day claimed that genetics would be replacing Darwin's theories.  Is that what happened?  No, genetics served to confirm Darwin's theories by providing a mechanism Darwin's own work had not been able to define.  More recently a new theory, called 'Punctuated Equilibrium (PE)' was also hailed at the death of Darwin's theories once and for all.  Did that happen?  No, PE is considered an addition to Darwin's theories and is currently part of the overarching modern Theory of Evolution.  How often does one creationist or another announce the imminent demise of the Theory of Evolution?  It's been a pretty common theme for about the last century and a half.

So, here in the 21st Century and an AiG 'creation' scientist is repeating the claim that genetics will finally put the nail in Darwin's coffin, something creationists have been saying since Darwin published over 150 years ago.  Stuff like this:
"His current research involves using DNA comparisons to understand the true beginnings of life as we know it."
Something seems more than a little off here.  After all, what does AiG claim is the beginnings of life?  It has nothing to do with genetics and DNA and everything to do with their religious beliefs.  So pardon me if I take this little article with a bag of salt.  Even if what Nathaniel says becomes fact, he might find himself drummed out of the religious theocracy little kennie is building.

I mean suppose his study of genetics actual yields a non-religious result?  I know, it probably won't happen because, as a member of AiG, he starts and ends with the Bible.  But who knows, he might drop his bible-colored glasses and start seeing some reality.  It's been known to happen.  But this article seems more at odds with AiG than their typical preaching.  I guess we shall see if he can actually tear himself away from his adherence to theological orthodoxy and do some actual science.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Water, Water Everywhere and Not A Drop Supports Intelligent Design

The Discovery Institute (DI) announced that they have a new podcast on which Michael Denton tells us "how water is specially equipped to allow life to flourish on our blue planet." from his new book: "The Wonder of Water".

No, I have not read the book, nor listened to the podcast.  Something struck me from this announcement: "specially equipped".  So that being said I looked at a few things, like the Amazon listing for Michael new book and noticed a couple of things:

  • The full title on Amazon is: "The Wonder of Water: Water's Profound Fitness for Life on Earth and Mankind (The Privileged Species Series)".  Please note the 'Privileged Species' part of the title.  Yes, we can see where this is going.  It's part of the whole 'Privileged Planet' argument that has never had any scientific support.
  • It was published by The Discovery Institute Press, that vanity press that the DI created because their publications cannot stand the light of scientific scrutiny.
  • They say this is part of the 'Privileged Species Series', but they forget to mention that the 'series' has only one book in it, this book.  There is a DVD by that title, also put out by the DI, but it isn't clear if that also belongs to this 'series'.
  • Unlike most of the DI's self-published foolishness, there are no reviews, not even editorial reviews.  Remember when 'Darwin's Doubt' came out?  There were over a dozen editorial reviews for it before it was published -- all written by fellow members of the DI or other already well-known ID proponents.  But nothing yet for Michael?  I find it hard to believe they read anything that  they comment on, so it's not like they have to put much effort in saying nice things.
So I guess this means we are going to be inundated with more titles all saying the same basic thing:
"This, that, or the other thing" is real, therefore Intelligent  Design [ID] is true!  
Of course they will put anything in the placeholder of 'this, that, or the other thing' and say what they want because they still offer no support other than conjecture and wishful thinking.  Look at some of their recent publications:
  • Undeniable -- people have intuition and intuition is always better than rational thought, therefore design is true.
  • Signature in the Cell -- Cells are complicated and that means no one understands them, therefore design is true.
  • Darwin's Doubt -- Real paleontologists are idiots because we didn't even need one to write this book which is about Paleontology, therefore design is true.
  • Debating Darwin's Doubt -- We wrote this book to deal with the critics of the first one, only we forgot to deal with the criticisms -- and we still didn't need a paleontologist, therefore design is true. 
That's just a few, but you get the idea.  Anything and everything they can think of supports design -- well except for any actual scientific work.  In the announcement for the book itself, the writer of the announcement quotes Denton:
"Whether the remarkable instances in which various properties of water work together to serve a vital end — such as the suite of properties involved in eroding rocks, or the suite of thermal properties involved in temperature regulation — are actually the result of design or not, there is no doubt that they convey a compelling impression of design."
Well, whether or not the impression of design is compelling or not is a matter of opinion, it is still only an impression.  I am sure his book, and the podcast, boil down to the same point -- that design proponents see the appearance of design and declare it to have been designed -- all without offering one shred of evidence supporting design.  I doubt Michael's stuff with add anything to the argument.  If I see it in the Christian section of my local library, I will take a look.  It's only 200 pages so it's not like he had a lot to say about water.  If I do read it, I will write a review -- but I won't pay for a copy.  I have so many other books that actually offer thought provoking ideas to read, Denton's doesn't look like one of them.

What I expect is a re-hash of many of the connections between water and life -- which have been documented in many books and papers.  For example something I learned in junior high science class.  It is entirely probable that one of the reasons life exists on Earth is because water expands when it freezes.  Think of a small body of water, when ice forms, it floats and even when the entire surface freezes, it expands and has a surprising amount of air trapped between it and the water.  If water froze from the bottom-up, there is a good possibility that life would have died before making it through one winter.  Remember this is junior-high science and it was a long time ago, but that was something that stuck.

I agree, water, and it's physical properties has had a lot of impact on life as we know it.  However, does that mean it was designed?  No!  You cannot just point to something and claim design, you have to offer more support than your opinion.  Yes water is incredible, yes our blood is mostly water, yes our cells are mostly water, yes we would die without water . . . but since we evolved in the presence of water, why do we need to insert design as part of the explanation?  The only reason has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with religion!

The DI, including their vanity press, is a religious ministry after all.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Taking a Knee is not Disrespectful to the Flag! It is an Expression of the Right of Free Speech Guaranteed by the US Constitution!

I am a 20-year Veteran of the USAF and have expressed my opinion on the whole 'kneeling during the National Anthem' several times.  I came across this and decided it expressed my feelings in a much better way that anything I personally said.  I did not originate the following, but after reading it, there was only one thing for me to do:

You probably guessed it:
The top image copied from a Facebook post.  I couldn't find the original, so if anyone has that information, I would love to be able to credit the source.  It mentions a Navy Veteran 'Dan A.'.  Great Job Dan A.!

The bottom image was from 'Know Your Meme' website.  I simply really liked this image and thought it was better than just saying "Boom, Mic Drop!"

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Does Appearance = Fact? Only If You Refuse to Engage the Brain!

In a recent post I commented on the following quote.  It's from an announcement post by the Discovery Institute (DI) about a new group joining their Intelligent Design Network in Colorado:

"In other words, the fact that the world appears to be designed is a testament to the truth that it is, in fact, designed." (The Announcement)
I wanted to expand on it a bit. One of my peeves about the quote is the idea that if something 'appears', then it must be as it appears. I listed a few examples in my previous post (And There is Still Nothing Religious about Intelligent Design) where that isn't the case.  You cannot reliably assume that the appearance of anything is the fact of that same thing.

This quote is a paraphrase from the guest speaker,Doug Axe, for this new group's first meeting.  I've spoken about Doug before, about his book "Undeniable" (Design Intuition . . . is that really a Thing?), which certainly doesn't live up to its title.  All it takes is one example of someone's intuition not being accurate, that makes intuition easily deniable!  The tack Dougie is on is trying to sell people on the idea that their intuition is as valid and useful a way of making determinations about any subject as anything else, such as scientific investigation.  Here is a quote that states what they want to sell pretty clearly:
"We don't need to rely slavishly on what scientists say because, in an important sense, we are all scientists, capable of judging a big scientific idea like evolution, if not necessarily the technical details, for ourselves." (More Scientists Praise Douglas Axe's Undeniable)
Harvard Business School has an interesting way of raising some issues about 'Intuition'. At this site: (Test Yourself: Are You Being Tricked by Intuition?). The article briefly discusses that people generally use two 'systems' for processing information, they call them System 1 and System 2 . . . I know, silly names, but the point is that System 1 is an intuitive approach, System 2 is when you think about it before making a judgement.  In general System 1 is used when we either don't have time to think things through, or are unwilling -- for whatever reason -- to think things through.  They make this comment:
"Of course, it's easier to simply rely on our intuitions than to bother to check them, but performing that check can improve the quality of our judgments and choices."
So what the DI is really asking you to do is to not think things through.  It's as simple as that.  They do not want you to think, they want you to rely on your intuition about a subject, intuition that can easily be led astray by appearances.

Don't tell me, but think about it, can you think of a situation where your intuition about something or someone let you down?  If you want, go ahead and comment here about it.  I'll tell you one:
One of my favorite people is a lady who I will call 'Mary'.  I didn't work with Mary, but would pass her office two or three times a day.  She looked to be considerably younger than myself, dark hair with a streak of dark red in it, and dressed most often in black and other dark colors.  My intuition said 'goth', or as near as you can get in this particular workplace.  Now this wasn't a negative thing, I just never bothered taking the time to do more than pass by. 
That changed one day when she sneezed.  I know, pretty silly, but you should have seen it.  I was carrying a cup of ice and a soda coming up on a corner.  She was just about to come around the corner from the opposite direction when she sneezed.  There was no warning, no inhalation, no sound telling me someone was there, just this sharp, and loud sneeze.  She startled the hell out of me -- I didn't drop my drink, but it was close.  The two of us laughed about it and talked for the first time. 
What I discovered was a lady older than my estimation, with an incredible sense of humor, a hair trigger on her bullshit meter, and someone who shared a surprising number of the same interests as myself.  I got into the habit of stopping by her cubicle at least once a day to talk for a few minutes, share some news, pass on a joke or pictures.  She even got along with my granddaughter over a shared appreciation for a Gothic version of Barbie called 'Monster High'.  OK, I didn't say we had everything in common, just a surprising amount. 
My intuition failed me when I pigeon-holed her as someone with whom I would have little in common.  What I ended up with is a friend!  I don't work in that area any longer, so we don't see each other that often.  But we do have lunch on occasion and email/text each other often.
That's only one example.  I'm sure you can think of many others for yourself, I know I can!  Anyone reading this a gambler?  I love to play poker and the number of times my intuition has let me down is why I do not make a living as a professional poker player!  One of my uncles likes to play the ponies, in fact he took me on my first ever visit to Aqueduct in NY.  His 'intuition' was also why he didn't make a living picking horses!

Our intuition rarely helps us make good decisions!  Yes, it does sometimes, but not as often as you might think.  I know someone reading this will probably come up with more than one occasion when their intuition was dead on, but I want to raise two points about that.

First of all, how did you know your intuition was right?  It was after you used System 1 and started thinking about things (System 2), wasn't it?  You had to think about things, gain some experience with whatever, or whomever, you intuited about and come to a conclusion based on more than just your intuition, didn't you?  You had to go further to reach a point of deciding your intuition was correct, but do you always get that chance or even take that opportunity?  So in the end, it's not that your intuition was correct, but you had to rely on something other than your intuition, didn't you?  You might remember the times when your first instinct about something was correct, but do you really remember all the times when it was not?  Be honest, at least with yourself!  I know when my intuition fails, I don't blame my intuition, I simply move on and rarely consider it.

My second point is buried in my story about 'Mary'.  If I hadn't gotten to know her, I would have left that job believing that my intuition was correct, if I gave her any thought at all.  I would have no idea how wrong I was because we would have never interacted.  How often do you really get your intuition confirmed or denied?  That's something you have to consider.  Often we never go past our intuitive judgment for any number of reasons, possible time or simply circumstances don't allow it.  You assume your intuition was correct, not because it is correct, but because you have this inflated view of your intuition because it may never had gotten tested.

Have you ever been disappointed in a meal at a restaurant?  Especially trying a dish or a new restaurant for the first time?  You go to a new place because of your intuition.  Maybe you heard some good things, read a good review, or someone you know said something about it.  You have no first-hand knowledge so you go there based on what, a hunch?  Usually it works out OK, not often spectacular, but OK.  Sometimes you are severely disappointed.  You go from your belief to actual knowledge and come to a final decision.  There are a number of places I will never set foot in again!  I'm sure you know a few yourself!  In those rare cases when the results are spectacular, you pat yourself on the back for 'knowing' it was going to be good -- but reaching that conclusion wasn't intuitive, but based on actual experience.  It could have just as easily gone to other way.  Intuition is a crap-shoot.

One last story of how my intuition nearly cost me a terrific job opportunity:
I was working as a government contractor for a small company and the contract was re-competed and awarded to a different company.  I had contact with several people from that company previously and I was less than impressed.  It wasn't their technical skills, but their religious beliefs.  Yes the three I had contact with were very narrow-minded evangelicals who made damn sure everyone around them knew it and kept trying to preach to everyone around them -- often whining about their religious freedom when the government supervisors would basically tell them to knock it off!  I even wrote a little about one of them here.  You can imagine how well that goes over with me!
Well, I very nearly didn't go to my interview because my impression of the company was colored by these three religious nut jobs and because I had already had a couple of other very promising interviews, so I wasn't worried about continuous employment.  However, since I had already made the appointment, I went and it resulted in a pretty terrific job for a pretty terrific company -- I stayed there many years longer than any of the religious idiots!  To give you an idea of how good the interview went, I even raised my concern over the three amigos to the owner of the company, and he handled that part of the discussion in a very professional manner!  I was impressed.  I would have missed out if I let my intuition guide me.
There is my problem with this whole argument from the DI.  They want you to stop thinking, to take everything at face value, because that's all they have.  They have no real science, they have made no scientific advances, they have nothing but their religious beliefs and they certainly do not want anyone 'thinking' about those beliefs.  They want you to make decisions based on your religious beliefs and fight anyone who wants and expects you to think!

Intuition is fine when you have to make a snap judgment occasionally, but as a regular part of your decision making, I would encourage you to think more often.  I would also encourage you to consider careful any calls that want you to stop thinking!  When they want you to disengage the brain is when you should rev it up into high gear and think even harder!  Odds are someone is trying to hide something from you.  In the DI's case, the sheer vacuous nature of their arguments.

I want to toss one more thought.  The DI uses one tactic where they claim to not want to push Intelligent Design, but to engage students with 'critical thinking' to show the weaknesses in Evolutionary Theory.  I believe this whole intuition argument shows you how that critical thinking tactic has failed, because when you think critically about ID, you find there is nothing there!  So now they switch gears and don't want you to think at all.  Interesting, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

And There is Still Nothing Religious about Intelligent Design

The Discovery Institute is bragging about a new member of their 'network'. The first was in Houston, the new one is in Colorado. Aside from each of those groups seeking donations, there is something I wanted to point out. First from the Houston group:

"We meet monthly in various churches across the greater Houston area on a rotating basis." (their About page)
and this form the latest announcement of their second group:
"the chapter will hold its first public event: at Colorado Christian University" (The Announcement)
Anyone notice what I noticed?   Houston meets in various churches and the first meeting of Colorado is in a Christian University.  And yet the DI continually claims there is nothing religious about Intelligent Design, that it's based on science.  Really?

If it were really science, would you ever hear a real scientist claiming this:
"In other words, the fact that the world appears to be designed is a testament to the truth that it is, in fact, designed."
It's from their Announcement of this new group.  So when something 'appears' that is 'a fact', seriously?  Let's look at a few examples:
  • So just because that cup of coffee 'appears' cool enough to drink, it is 'in fact' cool enough to drink?  Anyone else ever burn the heck out of your mouth on a hot drink before?  
  • Just because someone 'appears' to be trustworthy, you can 'in fact' trust them with your children?
  • Movie trailers make movies look entertaining, anyone else ever walk out of a movie because it was so incredibly bad?  I have walked out of three, but there have been others that I walked out of quite disappointed!
  • So . . . when I look at a picture of one of the DI fellows and I think that he, or she, 'looks' like a moron, they are in fact a moron?
There is a very old saying "Appearances can be Deceiving", but apparently the DI doesn't subscribe to that saying.  I have said for years that the DI takes the appearance of design as the fact of design, but this is one of the few times they explicitly stated it outright.

You know, for a second I was temping to offer the DI as an example of 'appearances can be deceiving', but they do not appear to be a scientific organization.  They do appear to be a religious ministry, and, for a change, their appearance is dead on.  However, that judgment is not made based solely on their appearance.  Therein lies the difference between the DI and the real world.

We don't judge books by their cover, we read the book and then make a judgment.  We don't judge the DI by its appearance as a religious ministry, we judge it by its actions, and those actions show that for all their posturing, they are a religious ministry.

How to Ruin Halloween!

Little kennie ham, the purveyor of multiple pseudo-Christian ministries (Answers in Genesis, the Ark Park, and the Creation 'museum') is trying to take any fun out of Halloween. In a post over on his blog, "Sharing Christ with Trick-or-Treaters" and offers his view on how 'trick or treating' should happen. He wants you to:

  • Buy one of his booklets to hand out instead of candy (A Biblical and Historical Look at Halloween)
  • Or try "reverse-trick-or-treating" when you bring a basket of goodies to bless your neighbors. Include a gospel booklet with your home-baked or store-bought treats. 
  • Have a family discussion about this day with a DVD (Halloween, Paganism, and the Bible), it's by the same guy who wrote the booklet 
  • Get kennie's “Halloween Learn and Share Kit”, which includes the previously mentioned booklet and DVD and also two different kinds of dollar-bill sized tracts.
Yes, each and every one of his alternatives to costumes and candy involve purchasing something from his store.  He's not just after having others do his preaching, he wants you to pay him for the privilege!

I enjoy Halloween, I always have.  It's one of my favorite holidays.  The best part is all the kids coming to the front door.  The costumes are terrific and it's just plain fun!  When my daughters were younger, trick or treating was usually limited to 2 hours.  For the first hour they would go trick or treating and for the second hour they would help us give out candy to the other kids.  They loved both parts and, to this day, still love it as much as I do.

My local town has a Halloween Parade and several stores filled with Halloween accompaniments.  We decorate inside and out, in fact this weekend we'll be putting up some lights, spiders and webbing, and corn stalks.  The evening before trick or treating my daughter, granddaughter, and I will be hand carving several pumpkins.  The next evening we will thoroughly enjoy giving out candy and seeing the incredible costumes and cutest kids!

I choose not to preach to those kids and their families.  I have no idea what religion they might be, so assuming they would even welcome preaching is hubris personified.  But we know why kennie wants us all to preach his party line -- he doesn't accept any religion but his own.  Remember his 'World Religion Conference'?  He advertised it as:
"Join us for the World Religions Conference July 24-27 and please share this with friends and family members who might be interested.More than ever, Christians need to know what other religions believe and then learn how to reach the lost souls mired in them." (World Religion Conference)
Did you note the phrase 'how to reach lost souls mired in them [religions other than his own].  So he doesn't even recognize that people coming to his door might not appreciate preaching his narrow viewpoint.  I pretty much can picture what will happen next year, if I did as kennie wants -- very few kids coming to the door!  The kids might not remember, but I am pretty sure the parents will.  Having a light on won't make much difference, the neighborhood kids will avoid my house!  Following kennie's suggestions would only ruin a perfectly fun holiday.  Little kennie's not going to ruin this holiday!

I am sorta curious if anyone bothers to go to kennie's house for Halloween?   I wonder what his house looks like, probably something more on the order of a mansion, like many other Evangelical preacher's homes.  So I bet you don't even get past the gate.

In closing I have to post this.  It has nothing to do with kennie and his whining.  It's just cute.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pence uses his Rights in a Protest of NFL Players who He Refuses to Grant the Same Rights

So the Vice-President walked out of the Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49'er game this weekend.  That's the only fact around this story that seems true.  There are three other stories revolving around it that I find amusing.

First of all Pence claimed responsibility and tweeted:

Then his boss, that hamster-haired serial liar and misogynist control freak tried to take the credit and tweeted:

However, NBC's  Peter Alexander is reporting that Pence's walkout was pre-planned because he had every intention of leaving early.
So exactly what was going on?  I see it as planned political grandstanding and doing nothing more than throwing gasoline on a fire.  This certainly seemed staged to me.  Pence, and pretty much the rest of the world, knew some of the players would be on their knees.  So claiming to have left because of it is just grandstanding, especially when you give the Press a heads-up before going into the stadium.  He knew damn well some players would be kneeling and he wanted the Press in the right spot so he could make his statement -- probably had it all written up and ready to go.  I would have thought refusing to attend the game would have been a better statement -- not a good one, but better than staging a political stunt, especially how much that stunt probably cost the American Taxpayer -- early estimates are looking at about $250K when you factor in the travel and all the security.

And all this from a politician who was preaching unity just days ago at a speech.  That's the gasoline.  Pence, and his Overlord, do not want unity, they want control!  They want everyone not only doing what they say, but cheering them on even if what they are doing violates the Constitution of the United States.  Apparently those Oaths they took mean little to them!  Disagreeing with them means you should be silenced, called a 'son of a bitch', and fired -- even though your protest did not violate any laws, contracts, or even NFL rules.

Now, I have two opinions.  The first you probably already know about.  Since those protests are an example of a guaranteed right given by the US Constitution, Pence should have sat his ass down and enjoyed the game and, if asked, he should have re-iterated those rights.  But that would be reasonable and even something that might have gone a long way in healing the divisiveness this issue has caused.  But the high road seems to be too much to expect from him or his boss.

My second opinion is if those players do not have the right to protest, then what gave Pence the right to walk out in protest himself?  I find that insults every fan who was present in that stadium!  Why are his actions cheered by some?  Why wasn't he silenced, called a 'son of a bitch' and threatened with firing?

If he had the ethics we would like our elected officials to have, he would resign rather than allow the US Constitution to be violated.  But again, that's the high road, and I am not sure he or his boss knows what that means.