Couldn’t happen to more deserving guy

No Andrew Wakefield  Ha.  Wakefield finally gets all the respect he’s due.  Which is none.

ht: Kavin Senapathy:

“Disgraced former gastroenterologist and researcher Andrew Wakefield, known for a fraudulent 1998 paper linking the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism, directs the movie” [Vaxxed]


After initially inviting a showing of the anti-vax propaganda, Robert de Niro and the Tribeca Film Festival team decided to drop the quacks from the schedule.


Not surprisingly, Wakefield – whose livelihood depends solely on speaking fees and book sales to the anti-vax community – is quick to whine about “totalitarian censorship”.  He cries, “We were denied due process”. 


As Senapathy responds:

“Due process? Due process clauses in the 5th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution only apply when government is involved. This isn’t a court of law, and Andrew Wakefield doesn’t deserve such considerations for his anti-vaccine propaganda film. He doesn’t deserve a platform to spread anti-vaccine disinformation, after widespread panic in the wake of his fraudulent paper led to a sharp drop in vaccination rates and thousands of preventable deaths and counting from vaccine preventable disease.

In the meantime, there have been a whopping zero casesof autism caused by vaccines.”





Identifying what the designer does – stealing bikes!?


“The reason a bike lock works,” explains Meyer, “is that there are vastly more ways of arranging those numeric characters that will keep the lock closed than there are that will open the lock.”

Most bicycle locks have four dials with ten digits. So for a thief to steal the bike, he would have to guess correctly from among 10,000 possible combinations. No easy task.

But what about DNA? Well, in experiments Axe conducted at Cambridge, he found that for a DNA sequence generating a short protein just 150 amino acids in length, for every 1 workable arrangement of amino acids, there are 10 to the 77th possible unworkable amino acid arrangements. Using the bicycle lock analogy, that’s a lock with 77 dials containing 10 digits.

I believe this is what Mung has been talking about. I asked Mung: Continue reading

The Disunity of Reason

Last night I was talking with an old friend of mine, an atheist Jew, who is now in the best relationship of her life with a devout Roman Catholic. We talked about the fact that she was more surprised than he was about the fact that their connection transcends their difference in metaphysics. He sees himself as a devout Roman Catholic; she sees him as a good human being.

This conversation reminded me of an older thought that’s been swirling around in my head for a few weeks: the disunity of reason.

It is widely held by philosophers (that peculiar sub-species!) that reason is unified: that the ideally rational person is one for whom there are no fissures, breaks, ruptures, or discontinuities anywhere in the inferential relations between semantic contents that comprise his or her cognitive grasp of the world (including himself or herself as part of that world).

This is particularly true when it comes to the distinction between “theoretical reason” and “practical reason”. By “theoretical reason” I mean one’s ability to conceptualize the world-as-experienced as more-or-less systematic, and by “practical reason” I mean one’s ability to act in the world according to judgments that are justified by agent-relative and also agent-indifferent reasons (“prudence” and “morality”, respectively).

The whole philosophical tradition from Plato onward assumes that reason is unified, and especially, that theoretical and practical reason are unified — different exercises of the same basic faculty. Some philosophers think of them as closer together than others — for example, Aristotle distinguishes between episteme (knowledge of general principles in science, mathematics, and metaphysics) and phronesis (knowledge of particular situations in virtuous action). But even Aristotle does not doubt that episteme and phronesis are exercises of a single capacity, reason (nous).

However, as we learn more about how our cognitive system is actually structured, we should consider the possibility that reason is not unified at all. If Horst’s Cognitive Pluralism is right, then we should expect that our minds are more like patchworks of domain-specific modules that can reason quite well within those domains but not so well across them.

To Horst’s model I’d add the further conjecture: that we have pretty good reason to associate our capacity for “theoretical reason” (abstract thinking and long-term planning) with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and also pretty good reason to associate our capacity for “practical reason” (self-control and virtuous conduct) with the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (and especially in its dense interconnections with the limbic system).

But if that conjecture is on the right track, then we would expect to find consistency between theoretical reason and practical reason only to the extent that there are reciprocal interconnections between these regions of prefrontal cortex. And of course there are reciprocal interconnections — but (and this is the important point!) to the extent that these regions are also functionally distinct, then to that same extent reason is disunified. 

And as a consequence, metaphysics and ethics may have somewhat less to do with each other than previous philosophers have supposed.



A Beautiful Question

I’ve just completed the book A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Nobel Prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek.

This book is a long meditation on a single question:

Does the world embody beautiful ideas?

Our Question may seem like a strange thing to ask. Ideas are one thing, physical bodies are quite another. What does it mean to “embody” an “idea”?

Embodying ideas is what artists do. Starting from visionary conceptions, artists produce physical objects (or quasi-physical products, like musical scores that unfold into sound). Our Beautiful Question then is close to this one:

Is the world a work of art?

Continue reading

God said “Let there be light”

No, this isn’t a religion thread.  It’s a response to some posts in the intentionality thread.

Quoting from Genesis:

1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

I’m going to take that as a metaphor.  I’ll take “let there be light” to stand for the evolution of light sensitive cells in some biological organisms.  Once they had light sensitive cells, they had the possibility of distinguishing between light and dark.

1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.

I was taught that the most basic step in geometry is to draw a line, and divide the world into the part on one side of the line and that on the other side of the line.

So, what we see here can be considered geometry.  It is also an example of what philosophers describe as “carving the world at the seams”, except that there are no seams.  We divide the external world on the basis of an internal criterion (the state of the light sensitive cells).

This dividing can also be called “categorization”.  That’s one of the possible meanings of “categorization”, and I see it as the important one.

Continue reading

Life with Intelligent Design

People want to know what happens if ID wins. What scientific research will ID spawn?

That’s easy- for starters there are all of those questions that get asked by any design inference- the who, what, how, when, where and why- all valid research venues given ID. There’s plenty there to keep scientists busy for decades, if not longer.

With respect to biology we would set out to find that something else, the something else besides chemistry and physics that makes living organisms what they are.

With respect to SETI we would use the findings from “The Privileged Planet” to find any other technologically capable civilizations and habitable planets.

So far from being a scientific dead-end ID would spawn new research that will keep us busy for some time.


President Trump?

I’ve been following the current round of US primaries with some interest. Not ever having visited the US, I have no business criticizing the system or the candidates but I must admit to being fascinated by the progress of Donald Trump and the seemingly growing possibility that he may become the Republican presidential candidate. Presumably, there is also the possibility that he could become the next President of the United States. Continue reading