Thursday, November 26, 2015

Another Intelligent Design Fail

Over at the creationist blog, Uncommon Descent, they just don't know when to shut up.

They present the story of an artifact which may be a 45,000-year-old flute. Then again, it might just be a partially eaten bear femur. And they present it with the title "Design inference: is it a Neanderthal flute?"

But wait a second. Don't the ID folks have a mathematically rigorous method of detecting design? I thought intelligent design was a thought revolution that was going to have significant impact on almost every field of science, including archaeology.

Then why hasn't anyone in the intelligent design field jumped in with their "mathematically rigorous" method and resolved the question about the flute? Why are there no papers by the ID giants like William Dembski and Jonathan Wells and Stephen Meyer and Paul Nelson submitted to Science and Nature about artifacts like this? Or even submitted to their own vanity journal, which has published a total of one paper this year?

The answer should be obvious. Intelligent design is a massive intellectual fraud. It's a completely useless tool in science which can't even answer the simplest challenges put to it.

ID is not really about science at all -- it's just a cover for conservative Christianity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Zonnestraal in Hilversum

Another cool set of buildings I saw in the Netherlands was Zonnestraal, an old tuberculosis sanitarium in Hilversum. The goal was to let as much light in as possible, and indeed, the buildings are practically entirely glass. My architectural in-laws tell me it's extremely famous. It's still being used as a physical rehab facility. There's also a family connection, as my wife's great-grandfather worked there in 1921-2 and wrote a little book about his experiences, which was published in 1923.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"Thinking Machines" Lecture at Waterloo November 27 -- And a Free Bingo Card

At first glance, this upcoming lecture at the University of Waterloo looks like it might be interesting:

Date: Friday, November 27, 2015 - 7:30pm
Lecture Title: Mathematics and Thinking Machines
Talk abstract: In the nineteenth century, mathematician Charles Babbage designed a programmable calculating machine that could execute algorithms with an accuracy and speed surpassing human abilities. Though Babbage’s mechanical computer remained unbuilt during his lifetime, his interest in developing machine intelligence anticipated twenty-first-century concerns about the promises, limitations, uses, and misuses of machine-generated data. This lecture will consider how our conceptions of thinking machines have evolved over the past 200 years and what issues may arise in the future. What does it mean to imagine machines “thinking”? What avenues are made available to us by the power of machine mathematics? And in what ways do calculating machines challenge our sense that human cognition is an exceptional phenomenon?

But when I look at the people speaking, I'm not so confident.

Nevertheless, I'll probably go.

To keep myself amused, I've made the bingo card below. It contains just a few of the worst arguments (courtesy of people like Michael Egnor, David Gelernter, John Searle, Roger Penrose, and Hubert Dreyfus) that I've heard proposed against the idea of thinking machines.

If you want to join me, print out a copy and bring it. Try not to disrupt the lecture by shouting "Bingo", though.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Library at TU Delft

There were lots of interesting buildings in the Netherlands. Here is just one: the library at TU Delft. Outside there is a large grassy ramp leading to the top, punctured by a cone. Inside, the cone gives light to the lower floors. At the far wall are all the books.

The building won a bunch of awards, and was designed by Mecanoo and built in 1996-7.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Dutch Support the People of Paris

Here's a sign in the Delft (Netherlands) train station on Monday, November 16. It says (roughly) "Respect the victims of the Paris bombings with one minute of silence in stations and in trains at 12:00 Noon".

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Are All Neurosurgeons Crazy?

I'm beginning to think so, what with Ben Carson claiming that the pyramids were used to store grain, not to bury rulers and that he had a violent past.

So it's not really a surprise to see that walking Dunning-Kruger effect-man, Michael Egnor, claiming that humans can't be apes because "Human beings have mental powers that include the material mental powers of animals but in addition entail a profoundly different kind of thinking" and "Human beings think abstractly, and nonhuman animals do not".

I'm really curious to know how Dr. Egnor knows with certainty that nonhuman animals cannot think abstractly. I guess he is just egnoring all the research that suggests just the opposite. It's not like this is hidden stuff; Egnor could read, for example, the books of Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal.

Maybe not all neurosurgeons are this batshit loony. After all, another thing that Carson and Egnor have in common is that they are both creationists. Maybe that's the real problem. Maybe you have to be immersed in jeebus-juice to believe, like Egnor does, that "Human rationality is different because it is immaterial." I guess our thinking powers are just magic; all that neurocircuitry is just there for show.