Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Fountain of Stupidity

There's a certain kind of columnist who, whenever some deplorable event occurs (such as the recent riots in Britain), doesn't hesitate to use it to rail opportunistically against some perceived moral failing. Reliable scapegoats to blame include liberals, immigrants, and atheists. And the morons who read these columnists eat it up.

Michael Coren is that sort of columnist.

He offers "six ways to prevent a repeat of London, Vancouver, Toronto scene". But his "six ways" are mostly vague appeals to religious morality, with no specifics.

Let's look at each of Coren's solutions in turn:

1. "Reduce the role of the state and, as a balance, increase the role of the family."

Right, because in the days when the state played little role in supporting health and the poor, there were never, ever, any riots in Britain? The Economist dismantles that claim. England has a long history of violent youth; the Economist traces it back to at least 1751.

Coren says, "parents are not informed by law if their underage daughters tell doctors or teachers they are sexually active, but they are left to face the consequences when teenage pregnancy or STDs occur." But ironically, he supports a church that declares birth control to be a sin. No disconnect there, no sirree.

2. "State-supported education and health care may, arguably, serve a purpose, but state-supported welfare and social services have become so all-embracing that individual self-reliance has evaporated. The balance is important here. Neither the fanatical libertarian nor the obsessive socialist model works."

I'd agree with the last line, but not the first. Where's the evidence? The last time I looked, European social democracies such as Sweden and Norway were prospering (in terms of objective measures, e.g., healthy life expectancy, longevity, child mortality, and homicide), while more libertarian countries such as the US do not do as well. And European social democracies lead the world in scientific papers per capita; no sign that social democracy has sapped "self-reliance" there.

3. Stop the war on religion. Whatever your view of faith and God, the massive decline of religious observance and community in Britain has removed one of the glues that held the country together.

This is just an insane fantasy. There is no "war on religion", metaphorically or otherwise. God-soaked commentators like Coren are just so used to not being questioned about their beliefs that they mistake demands for evidence, or questions raised about their beliefs and their consequences, as a "war". In reality, it's just that religion is increasingly being subjected to the same standards as other truth claims about the world. Religion has been exempt from these standards for far too long. If, for example, Coren supports the Catholic Church's ban on condom use and thinks that this ban is a boon to people in developing countries, let him make that case without appealing to sectarian dogma.

I don't deny that religion can hold people together. But it can just as easily drive them apart. There are many reasons why immigrants came to North America, but the religiously tolerant climate of their home country wasn't one of them. Coren doesn't present any evidence that the "war on religion" led to the riots, and as the Economist article shows, similar violent events have occurred in England for at least 250 years.

4. Control immigration, so it is based on the cultural and social needs and unity of the host population as well as on compassion and economic growth.

And what do you think immigration is based on now? Go read this page from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to see the kinds of professions that Canada is looking for. Surely physicians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists contribute to the "cultural and social needs" of the country.

5. Liberate the police from the whims of political correctness and government fashion.

Right. If only the police had been able to taser those damn rioters, that would have taught them a lesson. After all, it's not like the police had anything at all to do with the immediate cause of the riots.

6. Do not romanticize the worst of lower-class antics on TV and in cinema and music. Entertainment once presented a world worthy of aspiration, now it glorifies the mud and muck.

This is exactly the same argument that the small-minded made 60 years ago against classics like Caldwell's Tobacco Road. Coren is no better.

Boors like Coren don't have any interest in thinking deeply about the causes of mob violence and how to remedy them. They're just interested in blaming the usual suspects from some assumed position of moral superiority. From their mouths, a fountain of stupidity spews forth.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Challenge: Identify this "Design Theorist"

Without using a search engine, see if you can identify this "design theorist" from quotes from his 1992 book:

  • "The product of the total number of these identified relationships would thus give an `overall probability' for assessing if what we are seeing ... favors a design --- or merely chance."
  • "What is the probability for this being merely a random situation?"
  • "Some critic will immediately leap up and shout, `But, that's assuming a strictly random process.... [subject] is not a random process..."
  • "Which gives less than one chance in a hundred million that this unique relationship ... is random!"
  • "If we are looking at multiple levels of connection and association, Occam's Razor would tell us to choose the simplest model for it -- which here appears to be that we are looking at Design!"
  • "What are the odds against that randomly occurring?"
  • "The product of the two preceding probabilities ... leads to an overall probability of less than one chance in 70 trillion that this ... is the result of merely random forces!"
  • " direct support for the Intelligence Hypothesis..."
  • "...the overall probability is overwhelming-- That what we are observing ... [is] ... designed."
  • "We are seeing `the products of Design' ... and all that that implies."

Hint: It is someone with the same kind of credentials and respect as our other beloved "design theorists".

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sucking Up to Royalty Again

Peter MacKay, Canada's Defence Minister, is renaming Canada's air force and navy.

They will now revert to their pre-1968 names, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy.

Licking the boots of royalty is, regrettably, still popular in Canada. Many Canadians still prefer to be subjects of the ruler of a foreign country instead of standing up on their own feet.

You can express your opinion about this silly move.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Those Creationists are Just so Darn Cute When They Try To Do Math, Part II

Here's your favorite ignoramus "reporter", Sneery O'Leary, trying to understand the mathematics of infinite sequences:

...Series terminate, according to their nature.

For example, the number 1 is the terminus of the natural numbers. It just is. There is no natural number below 1.* If you do not like that, you do not like reality.

Some series terminate because they depend on a higher or larger series at a certain point, one that governs them...

*0 is a placeholder, signifying: No number occupies this position.

Hopeless confusion in all measures here.

- confuses sequences with series
- doesn't understand that the "natural numbers" often (but not always) are considered to contain the integer 0 (it's just a convention, and not one that is universally followed)
- thinks that 0 is not a number
- confuses the sequence of natural numbers with decimal representation of numbers
- thinks sequences always terminate
- etc.

But remember - her blog is the reliable source for news, destined to replace the New York Times!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sometimes Raymond Tallis Sounds Just Like a Creationist


Here are three points of concordance:

- use of dismissive and propagandistic terms, such as "Darwinitis", "neuromania", and "neuromaniac"
- insisting that the position he is arguing against constitutes "orthodoxy", as if it were a religious doctrine
- dismissing "materialism" and ignoring the lack of evidence for immaterial objects

Of course, I don't think he's actually a creationist. But I do wonder why he adopts their tactics.

Maybe he should have chosen another dismissive term in place of "Darwinitis", because it already has a definition:

a complaint that afflicts those of a literary bent and strong attachments to pre-scientific culture, who find in the theory of evolution a disturbing and mysterious challenge to their values (Anthony West)

Come to think of it, that sounds like a reasonably good description of Tallis (replace "evolution" with "evolutionary & neural explanation of consciousness")

Matthew Taylor probably wasn't the best choice for an opponent to Tallis. I imagine that Daniel Dennett (whose last name was comically mispronounced by Tallis) would have him for breakfast.

Both speakers agree that human beings are the only ones who "think about thinking". I wonder how they know this with such certainty? For example, how do they know that dolphins do not think about thinking?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Those Creationists are Just so Darn Cute When They Try To Do Math

From Eric Holloway, we learn:

Interestingly, Kolmogrov complexity is uncomputable in the general case due to the halting problem. This means that in general no algorithm can generate orderliness more often than is statistically expected to show up by chance. Hence, if some entity is capable of generating orderliness more often than statistically predicted, it must be capabable, at least to some extent, of solving the halting problem.

From the moronic misspellings of "Kolmogorov" and "capable" to the moronic misunderstanding of algorithms, what they can generate, and the halting problem, this is just too funny for words.

But remember, Uncommon Descent is destined to replace the New York Times as the respected source for news!