“Is this the way to Dublin?”

In the midst of attempting to resolve the issue of the lost plugins, I’ve had a couple of brief exchanges with Lizzie (Dr Liddle, owner of this website) and Vincent (Torley, fellow admin, currently our most prolific contributor) regarding what options there are for the site and what could be done to bring those about. Lizzie suggested that one thing we could do is to solicit suggestions from our contributors and readers. By this post, I invite you to do so.

Below is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of interlinked issues that occurred to me

  1. The preservation of and access to The Skeptical Zone as it is now
  2. What to do to ensure TSZ continues in future
  3. Copyright
  4. Is Lizzie happy continuing to provide and pay for webhosting indefinitely
  5. Would Lizzie prefer to retain ownership of the URL
  6. Backing up

I have my own thoughts, but rather than pre-empt discussion, I’ll wait to see what others have to say. Whether this post receives comments is itself a comment, I suppose.

Open Thread: Contributions Invited!

And warmly encouraged…

This site is a little quiet these days. I know it is the middle of the Summer holiday season and the impact of Covid has been devastating to normal life. But I wonder why the site is still receiving around 100 unique visits a day when seemingly fewer of those visitors are adding opening posts or leaving comments.

If anyone has thoughts about what would encourage more participation, exchange of ideas, please let’s hear from you.


Share your experience, tips, advice, questions…

As it seems most communities world-wide are going into voluntary or enforced quarantine that involves staying at home and avoiding physical contact as much as possible, I thought we could have a thread where we could try a bit of mutual support by cheering each other up over the next few days, weeks, months… Who knows?

I don’t know: suggestions on films to watch, books to read, gardening tips, exercise ideas

Usual rules apply plus a guideline. Let’s be kind and supportive to each other.

Happy New Year

To all TSZ Members and Readers!

The end of the year and the imminent arrival of the new decade made me wonder when exactly Dr Liddle set this blog up. I see it was in (or at least prior to) August, 2011. Lizzie put up her first opening post Where does information come from? here. You can tell it’s the first because the link is to “hello_world”, the example post that comes with the WordPress package. UD addicts may like to follow this link to exchanges between Lizzie and the charming Upright Biped that may have had some part in the birth of TSZ. So TSZ is well on the way to it’s first decade – a remarkable achievement considering Lizzie has not actively participated here for some years.

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Felsenstein presents the 37th Fisher Memorial Lecture

Joe Felsenstein, who posts and comments in The Skeptical Zone, presented the 37th Fisher Memorial Lecture on January 4, 2018. The video recording of his lecture is now available. I’d say that the cover frame, at the very least, was well worth the wait.

Rooting out confusion is much harder than sowing it

Excuse me for attaching to this post a brief rejoinder to a pathetic response to the lecture. Andrew Jones’s “The Law of Zero Magic” appeared in the flagship publication of the intelligent design (ID) movement, Evolution News & Science Today. The title is hugely ironic, inasmuch as the movement conceives of intelligent design as violation of a law of nature, and struggles to devise the law that is violated. Continue reading

Fisher’s not-so-fundamental theorem

Congratulations to our resident theoretical biologist of high renown, Joe Felsenstein, on his presentation, yesterday, of the 37th Fisher Memorial Lecture. [ETA: I’ll post a separate announcement of the video, when it is released.] Following are the details provided by the Fisher Memorial Trust (with a link added by me).

Title: Is there a more fundamental theorem of natural selection?

Abstract. R.A. Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection has intrigued evolutionary biologists, who wondered whether it could be the basis of a general maximum principle for mean fitness of the population. Subsequent work by Warren Ewens, Anthony Edwards, and George Price showed that a reasonable version of the FTNS is true, but only if the quantity being increased by natural selection is not the mean fitness of the population but a more indirectly defined quantity. That leaves us in an unsatisfactory state. In spite of Fisher’s assertion that the theorem “hold[s] the supreme position among the biological sciences”, the Fundamental Theorem is, alas, not-so-fundamental. There is also the problem that the additive genetic variances involved do not change in an easily predictable way. Nevertheless, the FTNS is an early, and imaginative, attempt at formulating macro-scale laws from population-genetic principles. I will not attempt to revive the FTNS, but instead am trying to extend a 1978 model of mine, put forth in what may be my least-cited paper. This attempts to make a “toy” model of an evolving population in which we can bookkeep energy flows through an evolving population, and derive a long-term prediction for change of the energy content of the system. It may be possible to connect these predictions to the rate of increase of the adaptive information (the “specified information”) embodied in the genetic information in the organisms. The models are somewhat absurdly oversimple, but I argue that models like this at least can give us some results, which decades of more handwavy papers on the general connection between evolution, entropy, and information have not.

It is time to say goodbye to J-Mac

As some on you have probably realized, the time comes for everyone to move on…
This time came for me…I believe it is in the best interests of everyone…without getting into any details.

I have learned a lot here. It was fun too…

For those who care, I have several time-consuming projects going both in my professional life and in my very rich life of the many hobbies… Interestingly, some of my hobbies became more that just that, and today pay many of my bills…I just hope that my new hobbies will not join the other side as there are only 24 hours in each given day.. 🙂

I wish you all well and please keep seeking the truth… wherever it leads you…


Is Guanoing Posts Indiscriminately More Ethical than Banning?

This is essentially the heart of the complaints by Sal, and Lizzie and co.

I say no, it is not.  We have a situation here where Lizzie and Patrick can chose to remove any post they don’t like, for any reasons they create, without explaining why, and relegate it to a garbage dump section.  And then they claim, that because technically someone could go into the dump and read the banished posts, that this is somehow ethical moderation.

This is absurd of course, because the post is then taken completely out of context, and it does not show what the post was in reply to.  It really is just a smokescreen technique for the site to fight their war on ideas, without admitting they are practicing censorship.

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A note to our friends at Uncommon Descent

I see that Denyse has taken time away from misinterpreting / misrepresenting decade old articles she found on google to visit our little home. Come on in Denyse! Would you like a cuppa? Don’t worry, there are no “Brit Toffs” here.

Listen, as you’ve stopped by, we’d like to have a quick chat about UD:

Frankly, we’re a bit disappointed. We were hoping for some design science to chew on, some CSI calculations to review. But instead we were saddened when we learned that neither Barry Arrington nor KairosFocus understand CSI. We’re going to give you a little time to get up to speed with the literature so that we can re-engage when you know the stuff. You don’t need to make up more acronyms like FIASCO: FOCUS on mainstream ID concepts. We may find fault with Dembski’s work but he was leagues ahead of where you are now.

Start here:


There’s an EleP(T|H)ant in the room that you need to come to terms with. Perhaps when you understand the source material we can have a better chat (and therefore more posts).

We also note that UD has expanded to more general science denialism / Republican talking points. Are you sure you want to do that? Pretending to be a science blog was more entertaining.

Well thanks for dropping by. We’ll keep our ears to the ground and report back if scientists ever isolate the specific, “selfish gene”.

Uncommon Descent: Back to Banning?

Couldn’t resist the tribute to Denyse?

The new open policy at Uncommon Descent appears to have stalled somewhat. In trying to post a comment this morning I find it disappears. I tried on a couple of threads to no avail. Going on past behaviour, I suspect Barry Arrington has found having an open venue even less appealing than a blog dying from lack of traffic. Of course I could be wrong and will be ready to eat my hat if it turns out to be a glitch. Continue reading

Charity and desserts

The game rules of this site are “assume other posters are posting in good faith”.  This applies whether or the assumption is valid.  The reason for this rule is that I set up this site to be a place where we could get past arguments about motivation and down to the nitty gritty of whether an argument actually makes sense, or is supported by evidence.

Things get a little tricky when it comes to perfectly valid topics like church-state separation, or other topics with a political dimension, for example anthropogenic climate change.  But I want to make it clear to all readers that the game rules for this site are simply: for the purposes of debate here, assume other posters are posting in good faith.  You do not have to assume that people are acting in good faith when they are acting as public figures, or elsewhere, but you do have to assume it when they are posting here.

So, no, I don’t think ID proponents “deserve” charity, nor do “Darwinists”.  I don’t think that anyone “deserves” charity.  I think charity is a good thing, but I think it is orthogonal to what anyone “deserves”.  It is also irrelevant to the rules of this site, where the assumption that other posters are posting in good faith is simply a rule that applies irrespective of who the other poster is, or what anyone thinks they “deserve”.


Hacking and access woes

Some folk might be having problems trying to login to the site.  I don’t know much about this, but here’s what I do know:

  • When I tried to login today, I received a response “WordPress administrator area access disabled temporarily due to widespread brute force attacks.”  As far as I know, you can neither login nor logout.  However, your current login will still expire (as did mine).
  • Here’s a report that is probably related: Brute Force Attacks Build WordPress Botnet.

In case you are wondering how I managed to post this – I was actually logged in with two different browsers.  My login with “firefox” (my preferred browser) has expired.  My login with “rekonq” has not yet expired.  I think it has another week to go.  So I am posting this from “rekonq”.

New categories and menu item

I’ve added a menu item called “Old but Active” where you can find threads that are still creating discussion but which have dropped off the front page.

I’ve also added two new categories, one for Upright Biped’s Semiotic Argument for ID and one for Granville Sewell’s (or anyone else’s) ideas about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

I hope this will make things easier to find.  The search engine actually works fairly well, though.