Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Discovery Institute's Latest Fellow, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad?

First, read this transcript of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's talk at Columbia University.

Now, ask yourself: wouldn't he be perfect as a Discovery Institute fellow?

The Discovery Institute wants to allow supernatural causation in science, "to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." (Wedge Document)

Ahmadinejad says "One of the main harms inflicted against science is to limit it to experimental and physical sciences..." and "... the material is just a shadow of supreme realities..."

The Discovery Institute wants us to "teach the controversy" about evolution. Ahmadinejad wants us to teach the controversy about the Holocaust: "...if, given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives?"

I think the Discovery Institute should move quickly to hire him, before Ahmadenijad is offered a position at the Institute for Historical Review.


Anonymous said...

How would you compare theocracies with political correctness?

Key aspects of political correctness are contradicted by scientific evidence.

In both cases, one goes beyond science for the (perceived) benefit of society.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

I don't think the term "political correctness" is well-defined. It seems to be used to mean "anything I don't like". If there is some particular belief or policy you'd like me to comment on, you need to be more specific.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if political correctness is the correct term. But certainly, many democracies try to promote equality for race and gender, although scientific evidence contradicts this view.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Anonymous: I think the notion of political equality has little to do with equity of ability, achievement, or opportunity. Einstein had 1 vote and so does Britney Spears.

Anonymous said...

I'm not referring to political equality, but rather, equality in education/work.

How can you support governments that require affirmative action and allow scholarships targeted to minorities?

If you don't like laws based on religion, then surely you must object to laws that are directly contradicted by science.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

I must be dense, but I don't see how affirmative action laws are "directly contradicted by science".

Anonymous said...

Affirmative action laws are based on the false premise that various groups of people are equal in terms of ability.

How else can you justify them?

Jeffrey Shallit said...

I don't agree. I think affirmative action laws are predicated on the observation that certain groups have been and continue to be discriminated against, and that it is a legitimate governmental interest to try to level the playing field.

It seems to me that if you believe that certain groups are inherently disadvantaged, this would be an even greater reason to support affirmative action for those groups, for how else can political equality be realized?

I must admit that I am uncomfortable by affirmative action, but not for any "scientific" reason. I think it would be more desirable if affirmative action were based on income, not considerations such as race and sex.

Anonymous said...

Instead of taking the view that all groups of people have similar abilities in all areas, one can take a more realistic view that each group has distinct strengths and weaknesses.

So as long as each group takes advantage of its strengths, it should be able to achieve a reasonable level of political equality.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Your answer doesn't take into account the effects of discrimination.

I don't believe every group of people has equal abilities in all areas. But people are remarkably flexible, and assertions like "this group can't do this activity" are, in the light of history, rather suspect.

Anonymous said...

Discrimination occurs due to probabilistic reasoning based on a lack of information.

With more information, such as the DNA sequence of the candidate, discrimination will go away.

LancelotAndrewes said...

"Discrimination occurs due to probabilistic reasoning based on a lack of information."

"With more information, such as the DNA sequence of the candidate, discrimination will go away."

Maybe I'm just ignorant, but is there any historical precedent for this claim?

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just ignorant, but is there any historical precedent for this claim?

You could test this claim by comparing levels of discrimination across fields of differing levels of objectivity.

One would conjecture that you would have more discrimination in more subjective fields.

Papa Giorgio said...

This is analogous to saying that Darwin would fit well in the Third Reich.

Erdos56 said...

Somewhat off this topic (and certainly off the topic of the persistent commentator), but I just had the opportunity to read your '03 paper with Elseberry on Dembski. Excellent work, and I'm pleased someone took the time to carefully refute his broad claims in a systematic fashion. Having Vitanyi and others review it for you was a coup, as well, in terms of reinforcing an appreciation of the misunderstandings in Dembski's arguments.

Having worked in evolutionary algorithms and approaches related to K Complexity, the notion that Dembski had used these methods to refute complex self-organization struck me as laughable, but I didn't have the fortitude to actually obtain or try to parse his arguments.

One additional line of counter-argument to Dembski I thought of is the extensive work on unsupervised learning approaches in which the fitness criteria are not specified, yet high-quality learning systems emerge. These kinds of systems can produce awe even in stalwart AI types. A large amount of the grammar-inferencing work that uses Minimum Description Length (MDL) criteria to organize predictive grammars, for instance, shows how an extremely lightweight rules system produces structures of remarkable and human-like complexity. This parallels your critique of Dembski in the remarkable proofs of universal computing in alife systems.

Anyway, thanks for the enjoyable read.