The “Soul”

There’s a lot of (mostly very obscure) talk about “the soul” here and elsewhere. (Is it supposed to be different from you, your “mind,” your “ego” etc.? Is it some combo of [some of] them, or what?)  A friend recently passed along the following quote from psychologist James Hillman that I thought was nice–and maybe demystifying–at least a little bit. Continue reading

Ideological Turing Tests

Following up on my last post I’d like to suggest another video from Leah Libresco that perhaps should be required viewing here.

Not only is it relevant to every conversation we have here but it is related to Turing Tests something that I find fascinating and important for “my Game” if I ever get around to it.


Here is a link for the corresponding Ideological Turing Test

What do you think? Should we come up with some questions surrounding Intelligent Design?


Coyne vs. Shermer vs. Wood on the silliness of skepticism

I recently viewed Dr. David Wood’s video, Scooby-doo and the Case of the Silly Skeptic. The target of Wood’s criticism was Dr. Michael Shermer (pictured above), who defended a principle which he referred to as “Shermer’s Last Law,” in the course of a debate with Wood on October 10, 2016. According to this law, any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God. The reason is that technologically advanced aliens could easily produce effects that would look like miracles to us. As Wood puts it (paraphrasing Shermer’s argument): “They might be able to cure diseases instantly, or regenerate limbs, or change the weather. These kinds of things would seem miraculous to human beings, and so from our perspective, aliens who could do these kinds of things would be indistinguishable from God.” So if we saw something miraculous, how would be know that it’s God and not aliens?

In the debate, Wood fired back at Shermer, asking: “If you did want to know that God exists, wouldn’t you want some method to figure out if He exists, something that would lead you to the truth about that? According to Dr. Shermer, there can be no such method, because [for] anything God could possibly do, you could say, ‘Aliens did it.’ … So it’s built into the methodology that you could never know whether God exists or not. If it’s built into your methodology [that you can] never know the truth about something, then I have to question the methodology.” In his video, Dr. Wood added: “If somebody says to me, ‘Prove to me that statement X is true,’ but an examination of his methodology shows that he won’t allow anything to count as evidence that statement X is true, how can we take that demand for proof seriously?” Finally, Wood administered his coup de grace against those who demand proof of God’s existence: “When I use an atheist’s methodology against him, he can’t even prove his own existence,” since advanced aliens could make me believe that I am arguing with an atheist when in fact I’m not, simply by messing with my brain.

Wood also attacked Shermer’s hypocrisy for asking why God doesn’t detect amputees: even if He did, Shermer still wouldn’t be convinced of God’s existence. And how reasonable is it, asks Wood, for Shermer to believe the evolutionary naturalist myth that life originated from non-living matter, while at the same time insisting that the regeneration of a limb from living matter would somehow constitute proof of God’s existence?

Is Shermer simply being willfully perverse, as Wood seems to believe? Much as I profoundly disagree with Shermer, I would argue that his position is at least intellectually consistent, even if I also consider it to be unreasonable. Here’s why.

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Evolution’s Puzzle & Trans-Evolutionary Change

In lead-up to the recent Royal Society’s “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology: Biological, Philosophical and Social Sciences Perspectives” meeting in London, which courted the terms ‘extension,’ ‘replacement’ and ‘amendment’ in regard to the (neo-)Darwinian evolutionary ‘Modern Synthesis’ in biology, as presented by active and leading members of the (mainly Anglo-American) biological scientific community as well as philosophers (and a couple of largely physical rather than cultural anthropologists), including several members of The Third Way of Evolution, this was one of a few trans-evolutionary change preparations aimed at liberating the social sciences and humanities from positivist, reductionist, evolutionist, atomist & naturalist (PREAN) ideologies (none of which, of course, refers to a single soul at TSZ because almost everyone here is – by definition of being a ‘skeptic’ – skeptical about even their own admittedly personal ideologies that are often so easily identifiable by their words made in public?), which display hegemonic tendencies by capital-capture political positioning scholars & dehumanising ‘public understanding’ gurus coming from oftentimes highly specialised natural-physical sciences fields that have become an unfortunate burden in collaborative science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse, to everyone.

Cheers to moving beyond (neo-)Darwinian evolutionism with trans-evolutionary li-ber-a-tion!

Lightning rods and the Church: John Loftus resurrects a hoary old myth

The lightning rod invented by the Czechoslovakian priest Prokop Divis in 1754. Image courtesy of Bohemianroots (author) and Wikipedia.
The lightning rod invented by the Czechoslovakian priest Prokop Divis in 1754. Image courtesy of Bohemianroots (author) and Wikipedia.

Well, it looks like atheist John Loftus, author of Why I Became an Atheist and Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End, is at it again. In a recent blog post, titled, DC Regular Mattapult On Church Lightning Rods (October 30, 2016), he resurrects the “Warfare” thesis propagated by Andrew Dickson White, and accuses Christian clergymen of obstructing the installation of lightning rods on churches in the eighteenth century. Loftus writes:

How bad was the problem of lightning striking churches?

“For centuries, the devastating scourge of lightning had generally been considered a supernatural phenomenon or expression of God’s will. At the approach of a storm, church bells were rung to ward off the bolts. “The tones of the consecrated metal repel the demon and avert storm and lightning,” declared St. Thomas Aquinas. But even the most religiously faithful were likely to have noticed this was not very effective. During one thirty-five-year period in Germany alone during the mid-1700s, 386 churches were struck and more than one hundred bell ringers killed. In Venice, some three thousand people were killed when tons of gunpowder stored in a church was hit.”

Franklin’s results are well known: he discovered that the electricity could be directed to a lightning rod which would save the building from being burned down. Most were delighted to find protection from this disaster, but not everybody:

“In some circles, especially religious ones, Franklin’s findings stirred controversy. The Abbé Nollet, jealous, continued to denigrate his ideas and claimed that the lightning rod was an offense to God. “He speaks as if he thought it presumption in man to propose guarding himself against the thunders of Heaven!” Franklin wrote a friend. “Surely the thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the rain, hail or sunshine of Heaven, against the inconvenience of which we guard by roofs and shades without scruple.”


Excerpts From: Isaacson, Walter. “Benjamin Franklin.” Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Is Loftus telling the truth?
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According to Michael Skinner; Darwin’s theory that natural selection drives evolution is incomplete without input from evolution’s anti-hero: Lamarck… Really now?!

Let’s just call this my random act of mischief for the day!                   😉

Michael Skinner, professor of biological science at Washington State University just came out with the following in the popular press:

Unified theory of evolution Darwin’s theory that natural selection drives evolution is incomplete without input from evolution’s anti-hero: Lamarck

Is it indeed time to revise the theory of evolution?  Or… Is Skinner in error and invoking a common misconceived textbook caricature of Lamarck?  IMHO: Short answers = NO! & YES!

I urge any and all to read Mark Ptashne’s insights before weighing in the discussion.

Bottom Line: Nucleosome modifications may be necessary for epigenetic responses, but they are not sufficient.

To quote PZ Myers, who cuts to the chase:

We say epigenetics is really important in development and in physiological adaptation — it’s good to know more about it, and is essential for understanding the state of the organism. But evolution? Meh. Acquiring the process of semi-permanently modifying the cell state is something that was a key innovation (OK, many innovations) in EVOLUTION [emphasis mine], but it’s been overhyped as an information transfer process on evolutionary timescales…

So who got the epigenetics story right? PZ Myers & Mark Ptashne?… or Michael Skinner?…

True or false? Log-improbability is Shannon information

True or false? If p is the probability of an event, then the Shannon information of the event is -\!\log_2 p bits.

I’m quite interested in knowing what you believe, and why you believe it, even if you cannot justify your belief formally.

Formal version. Let (\Omega, 2^\Omega, P) be a discrete probability space with P(\Omega) = 1, and let event E be an arbitrary subset of \Omega. Is it the case that in Shannon’s mathematical theory of communication, the self-information of the event is equal to -\!\log_2 P(E) bits?

Dice Entropy – A Programming Challenge

Given the importance of information theory to some intelligent design arguments I thought it might be nice to have a toolkit of some basic functions related to the sorts of calculations associated with information theory, regardless of which side of the debate one is on.

What would those functions consist of?

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Competing Origin of Life Hypotheses – Fantastic Summary by the BBC

This article by Michael Marshall on the The Secret of How Life on Earth Began is probably the best summary on the topic I have read to date. I compiled a quick glossary below.

It’s not just about the “smoker” vs “souper” debate (sometimes referred to as the Metabolism First vs RNA World Brouhaha).  This article also examines other disparate competing hypotheses regarding the origin of life and even suggests that a unifying grand hypothesis may be possible.

A great read!

oparin haldane charles darwin atp tree of life chemiosmosis rna world franklin hershey chase peter mitchell cyanide nick lane alkaline vents hydrothermal vents clay meteorites geothermal pond volcanic pond ultraviolet compartmentalisation first lipid world genetics first montmorillonite citrate magnesium copper lipid precursors hodge podge world metal ion core deborah kelley lost city william martin luca last universal common ancestor origin of life reactor pier luigi luisi glycol nucleic acid günter wächtershäuser jack corliss michael russell pyrite david bartel philipp holliger gerald joyce peter nielsen polyamide nucleic acid pna albert eschenmoser threose nucleic acid tna eric meggers miller urey watson crick orgel john sutherland thomas cech walter gilbert thomas steitz jack szostak ribozyme rna enzymes ring of life vitalism trofim lysenko alexander oparin j. b. s. haldane armen mulkidjanian jillian f. banfield friedrich wöhler benjamin moore biotic energy warm little pond