Save them, smash them, relocate them or critique them?

I’m not going to write about the tragic events in Charlottesville in this post. I think the VICE News video says it all. It should be obvious that in this particular march, the violence that occurred came overwhelmingly from the alt-right, many of whom came to the march armed with pepper spray and hidden assault weapons (see the end of the video), although I note for the record that a few protesters on the Left did as well. I am frankly mystified by President Trump’s reluctance to condemn the white nationalist marchers en masse and by his bizarre assertion that there were some people “protesting very quietly” at the torchlight march on the night before the rally (which has been debunked by Paul Blake of the BBC), but I doubt whether racism is his underlying motivation: after all, the marchers shouted Nazi slogans against the Jews, and the President’s own daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. Perhaps the man is morally timid, and reluctant to condemn even bad people who might vote for him. Or perhaps the President views racism as self-evidently absurd, requiring no further comment in the 21st century. Or perhaps he fears that by demonizing the 500 or so marchers who took part in the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, he will only succeed in making them look more appealing to alienated juvenile delinquents, thereby consolidating their base of support. I don’t know. In any case, this is not a post about Trump, whose White House seems to be facing a meltdown of its own making.

Instead, what I’d like to write about in this post is the question of what Americans should do with the 718 monuments and statues (709, according to the BBC) situated on public property throughout the country, mostly in the South, although there are also a few in former Union States, including Iowa, Kansas and Pennyslvania, and there’s even one in Massachusetts. The Southern Poverty Law Center has published a paper calling for their removal, and a summary of their responses to counter-arguments can be found on pages 38 to 39.

I’d like to begin by asking viewers how they feel about this video, showing a statue of a Confederate soldier being pulled down in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday (courtesy of World Viral Videos):

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Working out a gentleman’s agreement between TSZ and my publishing activities

As much as the TSZ regulars may have sharp disagreement with many of my views, I actually have a vested interest in seeing TSZ survive and prosper and attract participation with talent and brains. TSZ is valuable because of the quality of the participants, namely, professors (like Joe Felsenstein, Jeff Shallit), textbook authors (like Larry Moran), specialists (Tom English, John Harshman, Mark Frank, Mike Elzinga, etc.), academics, practicing scientists, etc. I suspect JohnnyB and VJTorley might have comparable reasons for their participation at TSZ.

The purpose of me posting here is to see what sort of INFORMAL gentleman’s agreement can be worked out to the mutual benefit of TSZ and my publishing efforts.
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Betting on the Weasel

… with Mung.   In a recent comment Mung asserted that

If Darwinists had to put up their hard earned money they would soon go broke and Darwinism would be long dead. I have a standing $10,000 challenge here at TSZ that no one has ever taken me up on.

Now, I don’t have $10,000 to bet on anything, but it is worth exploring what bet Mung was making. Perhaps a bet of a lower amount could be negotiated, so it is worth trying to figure out what the issue was.

Mung’s original challenge will be found here.  It was in a thread in which I had proposed a bet of $100 that a Weasel program would do much better than random sampling.  When people there started talking about whether enough money could be found to take Mung up on the bet, they assumed that it was a simple raising of the stake for my bet.  But Mung said here:

You want to wager over something that was never in dispute?

Why not offer a meaningful wager?

So apparently Mung was offering a bet on something else.

I think I have a little insight on what was the “meaningful wager”, or at least on what issue.  It would lead us to a rather extraordinary bet.  Let me explain below the fold …

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A Reason To Doubt Design In Nature

I’ve never found the ID arguments for the design of biological organisms all that compelling for a number of reasons. The dubious math, the fallacious arguments, the disingenuous bait and switch to Christian apologetics, and so forth. But even beyond that, there was something about objects in nature – organisms themselves – that just don’t seem designed to me. There is something different about them compared to man-made objects, but for the longest time I just could not put my finger on what I felt the difference was. And then it hit me last night: replaceable parts.

All man-made objects – every single one – is either designed specifically to be discarded or has components that are designed specifically to be replaced. Why? Because tool users learn really quick that tools and/or certain parts of tools wear out. So as designers, we <i>anticipate the need for maintenance</i>.

No such anticipation or planning for maintenance can be found in nature. None. If something breaks in an organism, either that organism learns to live without it or it dies. Or, in the case of humans, that part gets replaced by human designed or human configured replacements (as in my case). But even in the later case, humans have to create a work-around, because biological parts actual <i>resist</i> being replaced. You can’t just replace human parts with other human parts willy-nilly. In most cases, the new parts just won’t work, or worse, they’ll be rejected by the body’s immune system. But of particular note, there’s no surplus of replacement parts anywhere; no storage unit somewhere with a bunch of eyes or hearts or toes or hair or kidneys or…anything. Not even bark or leaves or antennae or scales. Nothing. There’s replacement part supply or even creation in nature.

Of course, this makes perfect sense given evolution and other similar natural processes. It makes no sense if there were an actual biological designer behind it all.

The Mysteries of Evolution: 4. How did we get here…

…from: “having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one”?

Welcome all after vacation!

I have been reviewing many different articles recently and it hit me like a bolt of lighting: How did materialist who promote the Darwinian theory of evolution get to spontaneous emergence of life from what Darwin himself wrote in the Origin of Species:

“There is grandeur in this [natural selection] view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved”

One would think that scientific, experimental evidence convinced Darwinists to change their mind… Unfortunately, just like many of my posts and comments have revealed, no such evidence has emerged…. So, my question is: what prompted the Darwiwnists to change the fundamental idea about the origins of life originally written by Darwin himself, if no evidence for such a change exists?

Granville Sewell’s argument for Intelligent Design

Over at Evolution News, mathematician Granville Sewell has written an article titled, From Barren Planet to Civilization — Four Simple Steps (July 27, 2017). My intention in writing this post is not to critique Dr. Sewell’s latest argument, but to clarify its premises. Sewell’s own comments reveal that it is ultimately a philosophical argument, rather than a scientific one. Although I agree with Dr. Sewell’s key intuition, I contend that his argument hinges on two assumptions: that unguided processes have a snowball’s chance in hell of giving rise to factories, and that mental states do not supervene upon physical states.

The bulk of this post will be devoted to what Dr. Sewell has written in his latest Evolution News article. At the end of my post, I will briefly comment on the thermodynamic arguments in his accompanying video, which I see as peripheral to Sewell’s main point.

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How ENV muddies the waters on the evidence for human evolution

Recently, Evolution News and Views published an article titled, The Human-Ape Missing Link — Still Missing (July 18, 2017), which attempts to cast doubt on human evolution by quoting from a recent BBC article which highlighted the massive uncertainties that still remain over the identity, appearance and date of the last common ancestor (LCA) of human beings and chimpanzees, and which even questions whether the chimpanzee is our closest relative, after all. The Evolution News and Views (ENV) article also revives the myth of an unbridgeable gap between Australopithecus and Homo.

Here’s my two-sentence rebuttal: uncertainty as to who the last common ancestor of humans and chimps was, what it looked like, and when it lived, in no way diminishes scientists’ certainty that it existed. And while the fossil record of human ancestors is very meager and patchy until about 4.4 million years ago, from that time onward, we have a veritable hodgepodge of hominins – and no unbridgeable gaps.

Well, that was quick, wasn’t it? Now for a more detailed rebuttal.

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Suffer the children

During the past few days, there has been much discussion of philosophy professor Gary Comstock’s spirited defense of infanticide, in the case of a severely handicapped newborn baby who is likely to die (New York Times, July 12, 2017). Such an infant, argues Comstock, lacks “the things that make a life: thoughts, wants, desires, interests, memories, a future.” And if did have thoughts, its dominant thought about being kept alive on a respirator would surely be: “This hurts. Can’t someone help it stop?”

Bioethicist Wesley Smith has pointed out that the case described by Comstock (who is not a doctor), of an infant suffering excruciating pain as its life is needlessly prolonged, is totally fictitious: “When life support is removed, doctors do not just let patients twist choking in the wind. They palliate — as necessary to alleviate pain and agitation.” The testimony of palliative care physician Ira Byock (whom Smith mentions in his article) is well worth citing: “In more than 35 years of practice I have never once had to kill a patient to alleviate the person’s suffering. When other measures fail, palliative sedation for alleviation of physical suffering is reliably effective. Alleviating suffering is different than eliminating the sufferer.” (Maryland Medicine vol. 17, no. 4; January 2017.) And Dr. Michael Egnor, commenting on Comstock’s article for Evolution News and Views, writes: “The notion that handicapped children intractably suffer is a lie. I’ve treated thousands of these kids. Most of the conditions that cause severe neurological impairment aren’t painful and don’t inherently cause physical suffering. Spina bifida, holoprosencephaly, various trisomies and anencephaly don’t ‘hurt,’ and in fact the children afflicted are often quite content babies. They are loved by their families, and they can enjoy life in accordance with their physical limitations.”

Wesley Smith and Michael Egnor point out that infanticide is a crime against humanity, for which doctors were hanged at Nuremberg. Some of these doctors had euthanized handicapped children. Both authors make a telling point; nevertheless, the question needs to be addressed: exactly why is infanticide wrong?

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Clever methodology aimed at detecting ‘stealth atheism’

From an article in Vox entitled How many American atheists are there really?

How to find “closet atheists”

So if you can’t ask people outright whether they’re atheist and get an honest response, how do you go about finding them?

Gervais and Najle set up a very subtle test. They sent a nationally representative poll to 2,000 Americans, who were randomly assigned to two conditions.

The first condition asked participants to read through a bunch of statements like, “I am a vegetarian,” “I own a dog,” and, “I have a dishwasher in my kitchen.”

All the participants had to do was simply write down the number of statements that were true for them.

The value of this method is that participants don’t have to directly say, “I am a vegetarian,” or, “I’m a dog owner” — they only have to acknowledge the number of statements that apply to them. That alone should zero out any embarrassment or hesitance to admit to a particular item.

That’s important because the other 1,000 or so participants saw the exact same list — but with one statement added: “I believe in God.”

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