Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Well, This Should Certainly Help Baylor's Reputation

Here's a video by creationist professor Bob Marks that claims to be a lecture he gave at Baylor's "Introduction to Engineering" course, ENGR 1302, in Fall 2011 at the invitation of Professor Brian Thomas. It prominently features the logo of the Baylor University School of Engineering and Computer Science. I wonder why Baylor's Engineering department thinks it's a good idea to indoctrinate their freshmen engineers in creationist propaganda.

Watch Marks
- violate copyright by including videos of movies
- repeat the bogus claim that information only comes from an intelligent source (easy counterexample: weather forecasting)
- dramatically overstate the importance of the "No Free Lunch" theorem (which isn't very deep or important; nor does it have any real relevance to evolution). He claims it implies that "all algorithms kind of work on average the same as blind, exhaustive search". The only problem is that this assumes that the "average" is taken over a uniform distribution of all possible assignments of values to elements of the search space. Real search spaces don't look anything like this.
- claim that "The universe is not old enough or big enough to allow the evolution of complex life" (at 50:00)
- talk about his "active information" and "endogenous information" without revealing that the only people who use these measures are Marks and his creationist friends
- misrepresent Dawkins' "Methinks it is like a weasel" example
- claim that "In general, computer programs do not have the ability to create information". (Easy counterexample: write a program to map a string x to xx. By iterating this you can generate as much information as you like.)
- cite another creationist, John Sanford, to try to impugn Avida
- suggest that exhibiting other searches that are more efficient than evolutionary search algorithms casts doubt on evolution

Having faculty deliver creationist lectures like this is certain to improve Baylor's worldwide reputation. Why, I imagine the applications for graduate study will be rolling in. He needs to work on the cheesy sound effects and the hideous cartoons, though. Maybe adding some fart noises or stolen Three Stooges footage might help.

Doves Almost Ready to Fly

Back on May 6 I showed you how some mourning doves have taken over a former robin's nest at our front door. Now there are two baby doves just waiting to make their first flight.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Matthew LaClair: American Hero

Watch this documentary about student Matthew LaClair, who stood up to his Bible-thumping teacher (despite a lack of support from the school administration and fellow students) and struck a blow for the separation of church and state. The teacher, David Paszkiewicz, is exposed as a liar and a moron.

Prize for Dishonest Reporting

You can't make this kind of stuff up. The folks at PJ Media are offering a prize for dishonest reporting, and the committee includes Glenn Reynolds and Roger Simon.

Let's see, shall we nominate Glenn Reynolds for dishonestly attributing a right-wing columnist's views to the Kansas City Star? Or the time he misrepresented economic figures to blame it on Obama? There are just so many examples to pick from.

For Roger Simon, how about his recent interview of uber-fruitcake Jack Cashill about a meaningless error in a 20-year-old biography of Obama?

Or how about PJ Media's own Andrew Klavan for this dishonest commentary?

We could also nominate the Discovery Institute "News & Views" section, for having the most consistently dishonest reporting about evolution. There are so many DI lies to choose from, it's hard to know where to start. I'd nominate Denyse O'Leary, too, except the prize is for reporting, and it's hard to call what she does with that name. "Reprinting" would be a better word.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Discovery Institute Gets a New "Expert"

I have to admit, I find it amazing how desperate the Dishonesty Institute folks are. They're willing to join forces with almost any nonentity, no matter how irrelevant their "expertise", if they toe the "evolution is a hoax and Darwinism is Nazism" party line. I mean, how else can you explain their fascination with David Klinghoffer? Casey Luskin? James Barham? John West? Not exactly Nobel Prize winners there, if you see what I mean.

Of course, their big tent has its limits. Michael Egnor got in a few columns at News & Views, but he's been quiet since this one. Even the Discovery Institute, it appears, has limits on the kind of nonsense they're willing to put up with.

Now they've got a new "expert" on their team: Stephen A. Batzer. Batzer is, at least judging from his cv, the person I might turn to if I wanted someone to give me a "review of recent glazing literature". But the theory of evolution? Not so much.

Here is Batzer's analysis of Sims' famous evolutionary simulation of locomotion strategies: "This program is modeling a very simplistic random search algorithm to produce an output, like a radar searching for an aircraft, or a robo-call computer punching out all the numbers inside of one area code, looking for a mark. The information, process, and therefore success have all been pre-loaded." I mean, you have to really work at it to miss the mark this much.

Congrats, Dishonesty Institute! You and Prof. Batzer deserve each other.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yet Another P vs. NP Proof

From the Saudi Gazette we read about the truly astonishing work of Dr. Rafee Ebrahim Kamouna, who claims to have resolved the P vs. NP question.

“The paper has been on the site of Cornell University to conform its academic standards. This means the paper is of relevance and of interest to the scientific community."

No, it means he put it on the arxiv, a preprint archive that happens to be housed at Cornell.

"Dr. Kamouna is currently writing a book that will be entitled “Bi-Polarism Theory: The Death of Computer Science, The End of Mathematics, and The Birth of Logical Physics.”

... which we are all looking forward to read with breathless anticipation.

If this silliness isn't enough to satiate you, you can look at Gerhard Woeginger's page.

More Stupidity from Hoffmann

R. Joseph Hoffmann, the world's most boring atheist, is at it again with a new post telling us why the New Atheists are just so stupid and everyone should really be listening to R. Joseph Hoffmann and the even-more-boring Jacques Berlinerblau.

The reason why we laugh at Hoffmann is not because he has anything challenging or thought-provoking to say, but because he is so shamelessly contentless in such a sneering and supercilious manner. He claims the New Atheists do nothing but "shouting at people", but gives no examples, all the while getting in a few shouts himself. (Atheists need to "learn table manners"; they don't have "savvy"; they are "historically [incompetent]".)

Of course the Gnus (and I mean Dawkins, Harris, Rosenhouse, Hitchens, etc.) don't shout, but write intelligently and calmly almost all of the time. And they're fun to read, unlike Hoffmann, who is best read late at night when having trouble sleeping.

He claims that "Americn [sic] secularism hasn’t had the savvy to know how to preach its gospel in a way that (really) ups the numbers". Yet all the polls show just the opposite: atheists' numbers are rising faster than almost every religion. (Facts are not Hoffmann's strong suit. Don't bother correcting him, because he likes to remove comments that are uncomplimentary.)

Hoffmann wonders why there is "profound stress and anxiety about religion in these movements". He could, you know, actually ask someone involved in the "movements" to tell him why. No, it's much for fun for a pundit-wannabee to throw out a bunch of made-up explanations as if they were facts.

I'd be happy to tell Hoffmann why there is "profound stress and anxiety about religion", but first he has to remove the fingers he has inserted so deep into his ear canals.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Does the University of Toronto Demand Payment by Money Order or Certified Check?

Today we had to pay the residence fee for our older son at the University of Toronto. But unfortunately the Residence Office form says they only allow payment by certified check or by money order.

Look, this is the 21st century. I can pay my taxes online. I can buy airline tickets online. I can use a credit card, or a debit card, or paypal. But not, apparently, at the University of Toronto.

Each year thousands of new students move into residences. For each one of those students, parents have to make a special trip to the bank to satisfy this archaic requirement. The University of Toronto should be ashamed for wasting thousands of hours of time just because they can't move into the present.

Stephen Woodworth Refuses to Answer

Stephen Woodworth is a Conservative MP from Kitchener Centre, the Canadian riding (Americans would call it a "precinct") where I live. Although we disagree politically on many issues, I had always been impressed with his integrity and seriousness.

Recently he's become famous for trying to reignite a debate about abortion in the Canadian Parliament, by introducing Motion 312.

In a recent press release, Woodworth claims he "hopes to answer even more questions" about this proposal. He says, "I am more than willing to answer any questions Canadians may have".

Yet he refuses to answer my question, which I have asked twice: were abortion outlawed again in Canada, what should be the proper legal penalty for a woman who has an abortion?

He replied, saying it was premature to ask such a question. That's just avoiding the issue.

This is, I'm afraid, typical of those who advocate stricter controls on abortion.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Note to Slipglass: Your CEO is a Genius

Look! It's another genius who thinks "the existence of life refutes the Second Law of Thermodynamics". It's Mark Baisley, who is the CEO of a company called "Slipglass".

And everywhere we look, physicists are scurrying around trying to repair physics after Baisley's devastating refutation.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Your Weekly Dose of Woo

If you haven't had your anti-woo shot recently, you might want to avoid visiting the Gathering of Golden Dolphins.

A Golden Dolphin, you see, is "the aspect of one's self that is the highest vibration of one’s higher self". This group got started in "March 10, 2011, [when] Tyberonn placed a call to Nina/Anaya-Ra at the nudging of Archangel Metatron".

Good ol' Nina Brown -- otherwise known as Anaya-Ra -- "creates an infinity symbol throughout the field, by means of a large 144-facet Phi Vogel Crystal, to clarify the field to its highest potential."

And Nina's got a friend: James Tyberonn, who "began channeling Archangel Metatron in 2007, and is featured each month in the 'Sedona Journal of Emergence Magazine'".

I think I have to stop now. The woo is too strong.

(Hat tip: Anna)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Discovery Institute Should Hire This Guy

The Discovery Institute should hire this guy, because he makes about as much sense as Bruce Chapman.

Why Build When You Can Rent?

A few years ago, some robins built a nest on our front porch, above the house light. It made it a little inconvenient, because everytime we came in and out, the robin would startle and fly off. After the baby robins hatched, we left the nest in place.

This year some mourning doves decided it was cheaper to move into this already-constructed nest instead of building their own. The mother dove is remarkably hard to startle, especially compared to the robin.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Authoritarian High School Superintendent of the Month

North American high schools are not places where free speech and criticism of authority are welcomed. Instead of teaching lessons about free speech, free expression, the Bill of Rights, and the Charter of Rights, principals and superintendents routinely impose arbitrary rules and punishments.

This month's Authoritarian Creep award goes to South Shore Regional School Board Superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake from Nova Scotia, for suspending student William Swinimer for five days for wearing a shirt that said "Life is wasted without Jesus".

Swinimer's t-shirt expresses a moronic and wrong sentiment, and he sounds like the typical evangelical jerk who can't keep quiet about his own "good news". But when he says, "I believe this is worth standing up for — it’s not just standing up for religious rights, it’s standing up for my rights as a Canadian citizen; for freedom of speech, freedom of religion", he's absolutely right.

Superintendent Pynch-Worthylake could have turned this into a teaching moment. She could explain that in a multicultural society there will be people who assert that their religion is the only valid one, and that's the way life is. She could explain that the Charter guarantees "freedom of thought, opinion, and expression", and even though she disagrees with Swinimer's sentiment, she defends his right to express it in a non-disruptive way. Instead, she took the authoritarian route. Shame on her.