Grey Thoughts
Movies - Star Wars Sith and Politics
Many people out there have an opinion on whether or not George Lucas made intentional references to George Bush in the latest Star Wars Film 'Revenge of the sith'. Particular attention has been paid to the lines
Skywalker: You are either with me, or you are my enemy.
Kenobi: Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

Parableman makes the comment
I don't know if Lucas wrote the line since Bush had adapted this saying, but he wrote the first draft this script in the 70s, and the major themes were all there. I believe him when he says that Bush had nothing to do with this film and that if any American president was the inspiration for the emperor it was the Nixon in the era of power-hungry politics.

In actuality, it seems most likely that Lucas wrote the final screenplay after he had done the other 2 movies. You can read about his struggles for inspiration here. I am quite sure that the original storyline has been mapped out for many years, however, the actual dialogue would have been a very recent construction.
Whilst Lucas can tell us that the story was written before Bush and Iraq, I think it is definitely possible (and maybe even probable given his views on George W Bush and the War in iraq) that he put in certain lines to cast George in a bad light. Lucas has been quoted saying
I hope this doesn't come true in our country. Maybe the film will waken people to the situation
which seems to indicate his desire to educate people. But all this is really pointless. Lucas is well aware that movies educate people. So, even if it does not refer to George W Bush, the comment is still trying to push a particular point of view on his audience.

As Lucas said in this interview
The thing I like about fantasy and science fiction is that you can take issues, pull them out of their cultural straitjackets, and talk about them without bringing in folk artifacts that make people get closed minded....By making the film "about" something other than what it's really about. Which is what mythology is, and what storytelling has always been about. Art is about communicating with people emotionally without the intellectual artifacts of the current situation, and dealing with very emotional issues.
George Lucas understands that being subtle in trying to teach a particular message is what it is all about.

In placing the idea that 'Only the darkside deal in absolutes' he is trying to convey the idea that anyone who talks of absolutes is talking evil. He probably believes that is absolutely true as well. Note the contradiction. The fact that he cannot consistently use this principle throughout the movie however is evidence that it is unusable. Here is the script from the movie, where we find Annakin telling Obi-wan
OBI-WAN: From the Sith!!! Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil.
ANAKIN: From the Jedi point of view! From my point of view, the Jedi are evil.
So here we find Obi-Wan professing an absolute - The Sith are evil, and Annakin professing relativism 'Evil is just a point of view'. Other examples abound. The Jedi constantly profess absolutes such as unarmed prisoners should not be killed, that the ends do not justify the means, where as the dark side constantly take a relativists position to justify their actions.

That Lucas is unable to convey his message of absolutes being evil is a great testament to absolutes not being evil. That he is unable to show the advance and actions of evil without using relativism shows quite clearly that evil progresses through the pretense of relativism. He is unable to convey it any other way because the story doesn't work otherwise. The very thing he set out to do he is not only unable to do, but supports the opposite contention.

Update: Michael Graham has a blunt message for those worrying too much about the politics in Episode 3
Politics - It works so lets stop doing it
Listening to ABC radio this morning, I heard the most amazing thing. It was to do with Australia's immigration policy and detention centers. Tim Costello, head of World Vision Australia. was calling for releasing all Women and Children from the centers. His reasoning was basically that because we no longer get loads of boat people trying to illegally enter Australia we can get rid of detention centers.
He says such strong deterrents are also no longer necessary.

"Security has changed - the boats aren't coming, our airports are more secure and safe," Mr Costello said.

Last night, Prime Minister John Howard appeared to be ruling out such a debate.

"Mandatory detention is essential to maintain the deterrents that now exist for people to come to this country as illegal immigrants," he said.

Essentially, He agreed that the government's measures had been working and used that as an argument to change the government's measures. Whilst you may or may not agree with detention centers, you have to admit this is one of the stupidist arguments you have ever heard.

Update: I just noticed this comment at the end of the article
More than 250 doctors meeting in Darwin for the AMA national conference agreed to push the Commonwealth to release all children as well as people with mental illnesses.

We should release people with mental illnesses??? What the? Release them for what purpose?
Science - Diamonds may be a bad investment
With recent news announced on Science New Daily, it appears that the cost and time of producing high quality, large diamonds in the lab is decreasing rapidly. From the news release
"High-quality crystals more than three carats are very difficult to produce using the conventional approach," said scientist Russell Hemley, who leads the diamond effort at Carnegie. "Several groups have begun to grow diamond single crystals by CVD, but large, colorless, and flawless ones remain a challenge. Our fabrication of 10-carat, half-inch, CVD diamonds is a major breakthrough."

Clearly, in the not to distant future diamonds will become cheap and common. What will people buy for engagement rings then?
Politics - Orson Scott Card Talks about Newsweek
Orson Scott Card has a long, reasoned article regarding the attitude of the media and some on the left during the war.
I mean, what kind of idiot breaks a hole in the hull of his boat during a storm, just because he doesn't like the guy at the tiller and thinks the storm could have been avoided?

Read the whole thing
Media - Anti-christian bias?
You have to wonder whether the media is just plain old ignorant or hopelessly biased. Over the last few days a couple of headlines have caught my attention.

Ex-Pastor, Wife, Charged With Sex Abuse
A Ponchatoula, La., ex-pastor, his wife and six former congregants have been arrested for sexual abuse in a case that may involve up to 24 children.
There is a warrant for the arrest of a ninth person.
Investigators believe the alleged abuse occurred between 1999 and 2002 and involved congregants of the now-defunct Hosanna Church, according to Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's spokeswoman Laura Covington.
Nowhere in the article does it actually explain that this church is a cult. A convenient ommission if you want to cast the Christian church in a bad light.

NASA technology reveals texts of Trojan Wars, early gospels
A relatively new technology called multispectral imaging is turning a pile of ancient garbage into a gold mine of classical knowledge, bringing to light the lost texts of Sophocles and Euripides as well as some early Christian gospels that do not appear in the New Testament....There were plays by Sophocles and Euripides, poems of Pindar and Sappho, and some of the earliest documents recording Christianity's spread to Egypt. The gospel of Thomas, for example, records the "Sayings of Jesus" in a manner that some scholars of early Christianity believe is more authentic than the Gospels in the New Testament.
You've got to be amazed at the audacity. 'Some scholars'. What a joke. The New Testament can be almost completely reconstructed by the writings of the early church fathers (All bar 11 verses were quoted). How many verses of the Gospel of Thomas have been quoted by the Early church fathers? None that do not appear in New Testament (Roughly half of the Gospel of Thomas has a rough counterpart in the new testmanet). Indeed, the gospel of thomas is most widely quoted in the 2nd and 3rd century by gnostic writers, which seems to clearly indicate that it either was not known in the first century, or was already thought to be heretical, like the rest of the gnostic works.

Yet here we have a reporter who claims with a straight-face that 'some scholars think it is more authentic' and in the title of the piece talks of 'early gospels' as if it is equivalent to the accepted and well supported 4 gospels.
Evolution - Differentiating between ID and evolution
John Lynch at Stranger Fruit has a post on how ID, although it might someday be 'science', it is not there yet.
However to make this claim John makes some interesting comments.
If ID has something to say about biological evolution, do biological research - not literature surveys, statistical simulations, thought experiments, etc. Generate testable hypotheses that come from the design perspective. Make sure these hypotheses can differentiate between evolutionary and design predictions. Test them using observation or experiment. Rinse. Repeat.

I just have to ask. If this is a requirement to prove that ID is science, can Evolution pass the same test? The committed darwinist may say yes, but looking closely at the 'predictions' of evolution which have failed again and again indicate that evolution has enough Ad Hoc explanations that it can pretend to cover every observation. If this is true, then no other hypothesis can really differentiate between its and evolutions 'predictions'.

Wells’ work is currently an untested hypothesis. Even if we are unable to falsify it following multiple experimental or observational tests, it does not (as currently formulated) explicitly differentiate between design and naturalistic predictions;

It is interesting that John here contrasts ID with 'naturalistic' predictions.

just because Wells assumed the centriole was designed, and this allowed him to make a testable hypothesis, does not mean that the centriole was designed, nor does it demonstrate that a naturalistic origin for the centriole is impossible.

The idea that 'nothing makes sense except in light of evolution' and that evolution provides useful insights into research is often trumpeted as an important point, especially in terms of eduction. That ID can also provide useful insights seriously weakens the force of any such arguments.
Life - Updates from around the world
Life site news as a raft of informative posts today.

It seems more and more people are speaking out against abortion. Carl A. Anderson, head of a 1.7 Million catholic organisation spoke against abortion and euthenasia at Canada's National March for Life's banquest. Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov of the Russian orthodox church spoke out against abortion and labelled it a major cause of the Russian population crisis. Guy Sebastion, the first Australian Idol winner is using his earnings to create a new crisis pregnancy center and speaks out about the harm to mothers of abortion.

Japan's population crisis continues to worsen with their birth rate dropping to record lows.

It seems there are long term effects from taking the Pill. Studies have found significant and permanent decreases in the sex-drive of long term pill takers.

The law in the Phillipines is having to crack down on UN supported NGO agencies to stamp out illicit provision of the abortion pill ru 486 by those NGO's.

Michigan is moving towards requiring ultrasounds before an abortion with this bill.

The UK Telegraph has an article about how a twice-divorced mother blames the education system for the fact that her 3 daughters, aged 12, 14, and 16, are all single mothers. This is what happens when the idea of the state being responsible for upbringing rather than parents becomes prevalent.
Church - Controlling personalities
Dory at The Wittenberg Gate has a informative post on signs of a controlling/manipulative personality.

Whilst it is written in the context of a church, it will generally apply to any situation where someone could or does have authority over others. It is definitely worth checking out as most people are bound to bump into these sorts of personalities at some point.
Evolution - ID response to Allen Orr
Allen Orr has an article in the New Yorker criticising Intelligent Design arguments. To his credit is is a well written article with little or no rhetoric and actually shows a reasonable knowledge of ID arguments. I was going to respond to this article however it seems that Idea Center has written a thorough response.
Evolution - Panda's Thumb and Teleology
Reading Panda's Thumb and their response by Burt Humburg to the Dawkin's article I commented on yesterday and I came across these gems.
Teleological thinking is generally shunned as a scientific method because it’s not useful, but concepts in science are often a lot easier to get across if teachers refer to enzymes or organelles being “designed” to do a particular function.
So other than using teleological thinking when it is useful, it isn't useful in science? Thats funny. Of course, it isn't just used in 'teaching concepts' as anyone who regularly reads scientific journals should know.
For example from Gong et al., “Dynamic Error Correction and Regulation of Downstream Bubble Opening by Human RNA Polymerase II,” Molecular Cell, Volume 18, Issue 4, 13 May 2005, Pages 461-470; you can find the following teleological words
high fidelity, quality control, inner workings, genetic coding, exquisite nanotechnology in living systems, genetic control, blueprint for life, industrial assembly line, conveyor belt, preloading, criteria, backs up to correct the error, sensed and corrected, acceptable level of error required for the speed at which cells must reproduce, elegance of cell creation, fidelity mechanism, tried and true design, and enduring design.

or maybe Q&A: Howard Berg, Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 6, 29 March 2005, Pages R189-R19
Many such papers exist heavily using teleological concepts to describe and understand biological systems.
(HT: Creation Safaris)

Similarly, Dawkins talks about the incorrect default explanation of design. That is, to a creationist, once one rules out a current understanding of science or evolution, it’s as good as proving design. This is an intrinsic failure of an eliminative method, like Dembski’s “Explanatory Filter.” (Suspect design, rule out chance; rule out science: design.)
I don’t want to gild Dawkins’ lily but he’s absolutely correct. Eliminative methods can be used in science, but not as evidence for something. Rather, eliminative methods are used in place of evidence - as a surrogate for positive reasons to consider one explanation over another.
Burt fails to explain why chance or even evolution should be considered the default answer. It is just assumed. He does go on to talk about likelihood
But what if the patient in question was 30 years old? A 30 year old is incredibly unlikely to have Alzheimer’s disease. To get me to believe a patient like this had Alzheimer’s, I’d have to see a reliable brain biopsy that confirmed the diagnosis, and I’d do that only at the end of ruling out every form of temporary dementia (aka, delirium) I could think of. Even then, I’d be hesitant to settle on that diagnosis unless it was really my last option.
Yet he fails to elaborate on how or why evolution is even remotely likely or that chance can somehow turn pond scum into people?

Essentially, he is trying to claim that his beliefs should be the default belief. You may argue that we don't claim anything other than chance or law are responsible for most scientific investigations, however I think if you actually investigate what type of science is being used you will notice that it is experimental science that accepts chance and law are default. Part of the experimental method actually excludes design as a possible, so this is quite understandable.

However, when you look at the historical, more fuzzy types of science, you will note a much greater allowance for intelligence, especially when dealing with objects that are specified and complex. When an archaeologist finds a bronze spearhead, he concludes it was intelligently designed because it is unlikely that chance and natural law could create the seemingly purposeful shape of the spearhead. But also note, that it is possible for chance and natural law to create the shape, but just exceedingly unlikely. Burt has failed in any way to show why this same sort of reasoning is invalid in looking at the origin of biolgoical features which also seem to have purposeful shape and which chance and natural law have great trouble explaining.
Evolution - The Eyes Have It
I have had a couple of recent posts on Richard Dawkin's comments in the Times Online, and specifically his comments about eyes.

ID The future has a series of links on the same topic that are definitely worth checking out.
Only someone who does not know, or does not care to know, the myriad problems with eye evolution could make such a claim with a straight face. Leading Darwin doubter David Berlinski shows just how feeble the Darwinists' account of eye evolution is in this excerpt from Commentary. And here Berlinski's critics criticize his critique and he responds.

Dawkins' claim is also rebutted in this cogent Times letter from Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory, University of Leeds:

Evolution - Is evolution science
I recently fisked a Richard Dawkin’s contribution to the Times Online. One of Richard Dawkin’s comments however merits further investigation.
The relevant chapter of my Climbing Mount Improbable is called “The fortyfold Path to Enlightenment” in honour of the fact that, far from being difficult to evolve, the eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom.

The evolution of the eye has been a history of ad hoc explanations (Explanations given after the fact without any other justification for the express purpose of explaining that fact). Dawkin’s here reiterates a common theme of the eye having evolved convergently (i.e. Independently in different organisms) 30 to 40 times. This claim of convergent is based on the differences in the eyes and the lack of a common ancestor that could be interpreted to have had the required primitive eye for the cases in question. It is an Ad Hoc claim in that the only evidence that it is true is

A good example of this claim of convergence is between the human eye and the octopus eye. Genome Research has this figure which shows the normal phylogeny and basis for requiring that the eye evolution of humans and octopi be convergent. The full paper however has even more interesting comments.
This view has been changed, however, by Gehring and Ikeo (1999), who maintain that the expression of the common master regulator Pax6 in both types of eyes indicates the divergence of these two types of eyes from a single prototype eye present in the common ancestor of cephalopods and vertebrates. It has previously been reported that Pax6, a "master control" gene for the development of the eye, is highly conserved across species. Within molluscs, it has been shown that the scallop, ear shell, and squid all express Pax6 (Tomarev et al. 1997)

There are two things to note here. Firstly, the Pax6 Gene is highly conserved across many species. This makes convergent evolution of the gene pretty much a statistical impossibility as this very specific gene would have had to have evolved nearly identically in separate species. Whilst evolutionists can cope with things looking similar on the outside, the incredible similarity in the actual DNA code for a supposed instance of convergent evolution makes this claim absurd.

The second thing to note is that the claim of convergence itself was an Ad Hoc explanation, created specifically to deal with observed features that did not fit predictions of a continuum of features (the phylogenic tree) amongst related species. So even though convergence was Ad Hoc, and now research on the Pax6 Gene has shown that this ad hoc convergent explanation cannot be true, evolution is protected by yet another Ad Hoc explanation by pushing the creation of this gene back to a common ancestor of both, in this case, the octopi and homo sapiens.

As the paper states
In spite of the evolutionary divergence between octopuses and humans, 69.3% of the genes examined (729 of the 1052 genes) were commonly expressed in the camera eyes of human and octopus. Moreover, comparison of octopus-eye ESTs with genes in the human connective tissue indicates that the similarity of gene expression between human and octopus eyes should be remarkable.

Essentially, despite the large divergence according to evolutionary theory, there is a remarkable amount of homologous (very similar) sequences. Evolution would have predicted that no significantly homologous genetic sequences should have been found between the octopus eye and the human eye. Yet this prediction has proven to be false. However, by the addition of another Ad Hoc explanation, evolution is not questioned and still explains the facts at hand.

Karl Popper’s criteria of Falsification was created specifically to refute Ad Hoc explanations being added on in order to save a theory or hypothesis.
The Marxist account of history too, Popper held, is not scientific, although it differs in certain crucial respects from psychoanalysis. For Marxism, Popper believed, had been initially scientific, in that Marx had postulated a theory which was genuinely predictive. However, when these predictions were not in fact borne out, the theory was saved from falsification by the addition of ad hoc hypotheses which made it compatible with the facts. By this means, Popper asserted, a theory which was initially genuinely scientific degenerated into pseudo-scientific dogma.
These factors combined to make Popper take falsifiability as his criterion for demarcating science from non-science: if a theory is incompatible with possible empirical observations it is scientific; conversely, a theory which is compatible with all such observations, either because, as in the case of Marxism, it has been modified solely to accommodate such observations, or because, as in the case of psychoanalytic theories, it is consistent with all possible observations, is unscientific.

Comparing evolutionary theory's treatment of octopus and human eyes and these comments it seems clear that Evolution is surviving merely on a series of Ad Hoc explanations and so is not science.
Evolution - Doctors support desgin
ID The Future has a post on a recent survey of doctors views on evolution. The actual poll is available here. Whilst at first look, it seems that most doctors are in favor of evolution over intelligent design, however this simply appears to be due to a misunderstanding of intelligent design.

If you look at Question 7, it shows that roughly 60% of doctors believe that either Young Earth Creationism (~18%) or God started and guided human development through evolution (~42%). Both of these is consistent with intelligent design's claims. However, when you look at question 10, it seems that ~58% believe that ID is pseudo-science. Clearly, there is much confusion about ID out there, and I would have to lay the blame for that confusion at the feet of peole like Richard Dawkin's who give the veneer of being truthful and rational, whilst in reality are driven by their own blind faith into falsehoods and irrationality.

On the lighter side, at least 42% of doctors think that ID is science and it puts lie to the evolutionist propoganda that only uneducated and ignorant people believe that we are intelligently designed.

Update: Burt Humburg over at Panda's Thumb also comments on this poll. And notes that
Again, ID creationism receives its support for reasons not related to science. ID creationism is a response to socio-religious issues, even among highly educated people who (though they tend not to be as well educated in the doing of science as popular opinion believes) presumably at least use the results of scientific research every day.

Once again, someone tries to act as if there is some neutral, default position that is without bias. Unsuprisingly, it is an atheist. Acting within his own presupposition, Burt claims that supporters of ID give their support because of socio-religious reasons. And of course, Burt adds in the expected jab that these people aren't as 'educated' as you might think.

I could just as easily claim that support for evolution is based mostly on presuppositions about reality and that those who support it are close-minded and biased rather than enlightened and reasoned. Obviously the fact that 98%+ of atheists agree with undirected evolution is strong evidence of this. And to counter Burt's obvious Ad Hominem fallacy all I would have to do is put forward the well known case of Anthony Flew, the atheist who turned to deism, mainly because of Intelligent Design. It seems that his religious views followed from Intelligent design, and not vice versa
Evolution - Highpriest of Atheism gets it wrong
Times online has a contibution by Richard Dawkins Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University where he whines about Intelligent Design and Creationists oppressing scientists. This is going to be long sorry, as most of the article is irrational rubbish.

Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant
As the Religious Right tries to ban the teaching of evolution in Kansas, Richard Dawkins speaks up for scientific logic
Wow. In an article attempting to show that creationists are ignorant, the first sentence displays a keen lack on knowledge on what is happening in Kansas, where whether or not to teach evolution is not up for debate. Evolution is going to be taught no matter what. The debate in Kansas is over whether the numerous scientific criticisms of evolution should be taught as well.
Science feeds on mystery. As my colleague Matt Ridley has put it: “Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on.” Science mines ignorance. Mystery — that which we don’t yet know; that which we don’t yet understand — is the mother lode that scientists seek out. Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a very different reason: it gives them something to do.

Science attempts to find explanations for natural phenomena. Obviously, if you are militant atheist high-priest such as Dawkins, the only explanations you find acceptable are completely naturalistic ones. Essentially Dawkins begs the question and rules out possible explanations without even considering the evidence. Also, it doesn’t take long for Dawkins to try and cast scientists in some noble light in order to be able to contrast them to those ‘ignorant’ creationists.
Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. Worse, it threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect that creationism or “intelligent design theory” (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name.

If admissions of ignorance are good for science, then why does Dawkins oppose teaching some of the things that the Theory of Evolution does not explain in a science class? It seems clear that Dawkins is emotionally tied to the Theory of Evolution as it allows him to be an ‘intellectually fulfilled atheist’. He ‘knows’ it is true. I guess he doesn’t really believe his own rhetoric.
Let me make one thing clear. Intelligent Design is not creationism. Anyone aware of the various groups should know this. But Dawkins here is trying to use guilt by association. He further tries to use fear-mongering saying that ID ‘threatens the enterprise of science itself’. Please Richard, show me one iota of evidence that this is the case. It doesn’t sound like you are being very ‘progressive’.
Intelligent Design merely seeks to find a scientific way to determine whether something was designed by intelligence. It is asking questions and making inquiry. Of course to the faithful such as Dawkins who, because of their faith, have already decided that it must of happened a certain way, it seems that they are the one who are avoiding being ‘mystified’ based on their own ‘religious’ assumption of atheism.
It isn’t even safe for a scientist to express temporary doubt as a rhetorical device before going on to dispel it.
“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” You will find this sentence of Charles Darwin quoted again and again by creationists. They never quote what follows. Darwin immediately went on to confound his initial incredulity. Others have built on his foundation, and the eye is today a showpiece of the gradual, cumulative evolution of an almost perfect illusion of design. The relevant chapter of my Climbing Mount Improbable is called “The fortyfold Path to Enlightenment” in honour of the fact that, far from being difficult to evolve, the eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom.

Actually, Darwin immediately went on with a Just-So type story to try and explain how something as incredibly complex as an eye could have possibly evolved. He had no evidence it did so, he just gave a ‘slick’ and ‘superficially plausible’ possibility with no evidence. This story-telling seems to appeal to Dawkins faith, as he concludes that the eye must of evolved at least 40 times independently. This is a direct reference to ‘convergent evolution’, an Ad Hoc explanation that evolutionists use when observed features do not fit their nice little phylogenic tree. So once again, Richard is not ‘mystified’ by it, but merely assumes that evolution did it. An ‘evolution of the gaps’ argument if you may.
The distinguished Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin is widely quoted as saying that organisms “appear to have been carefully and artfully designed”. Again, this was a rhetorical preliminary to explaining how the powerful illusion of design actually comes about by natural selection. The isolated quotation strips out the implied emphasis on “appear to”, leaving exactly what a simple-mindedly pious audience — in Kansas, for instance — wants to hear.

Note that even Dawkins argues that organisms appear to be designed. He says so himself in the previous paragraph. Yet somehow it is unconscionable for someone who thinks evolution is lacking to point out that evolutionists agree that things looked designed. Clearly he is just saying what the simple-minded faithful atheist audience wants to hear.
The deceitful misquoting of scientists to suit an anti-scientific agenda ranks among the many unchristian habits of fundamentalist authors. But such Telling Lies for God (the book title of the splendidly pugnacious Australian geologist Ian Plimer) is not the most serious problem. There is a more important point to be made, and it goes right to the philosophical heart of creationism.

I find it amazing that Dawkins would quote the ironically titled ‘Telling lies for God’ when his current article contains many falsehoods and ad hominem attacks. To join yourself to Ian plimer, a purveyor of falsehoods is not the wisest move. Dawkins also seems to want the reader to believe that every quote given by a creationist is out of context. I could simply argue that Dawkins is merely taking creationist quoting of scientists out of context in order to claim the creationist is saying the quote means more than the creationist actually claiming.
The standard methodology of creationists is to find some phenomenon in nature which Darwinism cannot readily explain. Darwin said: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Creationists mine ignorance and uncertainty in order to abuse his challenge. “Bet you can’t tell me how the elbow joint of the lesser spotted weasel frog evolved by slow gradual degrees?” If the scientist fails to give an immediate and comprehensive answer, a default conclusion is drawn: “Right, then, the alternative theory; ‘intelligent design’ wins by default.”

I’m not sure that Dawkins understand what he is saying. He essentially quotes Darwin who says that showing that Darwinian evolution was inadequate to explain any biological feature would invalidate Darwinian evolution and then complains that creationists try to do just that. He further complains that Intelligent Design try to claim that it wins by default if evolution can’t explain it, and yet this is exactly what he is trying to claim for evolution; that Evolution wins by default unless you can categorically prove Intelligent Design. Such blatant hypocrisy.
Notice the biased logic: if theory A fails in some particular, theory B must be right! Notice, too, how the creationist ploy undermines the scientist’s rejoicing in uncertainty. Today’s scientist in America dare not say: “Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frog’s ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. I’ll have to go to the university library and take a look.” No, the moment a scientist said something like that the default conclusion would become a headline in a creationist pamphlet: “Weasel frog could only have been designed by God.”

Dawkins is blinded by his own fervent faith. Anyone who reads a lot of science literature is constantly bombarded by statements of uncertainty over how something could of evolved. It is a constant stream, and yet creationists don’t seem to jump on all of these cases. Perhaps Dawkins should stop whining like a baby whilst creating straw men in pitiful attempts to pretend that zealous atheististic scientists like him are the victims.
I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: “It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history.” Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader’s appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore “gaps” in the fossil record.

The gaps in the fossil record are plentiful and well documented by many people. That’s why we have the absurd and ad hoc punctuated equilibrium modification to neo-darwinian theory. It's no use complaining when what you are quoted as saying is in fact a valid observation
Many evolutionary transitions are elegantly documented by more or less continuous series of changing intermediate fossils. Some are not, and these are the famous “gaps”. Michael Shermer has wittily pointed out that if a new fossil discovery neatly bisects a “gap”, the creationist will declare that there are now two gaps! Note yet again the use of a default. If there are no fossils to document a postulated evolutionary transition, the assumption is that there was no evolutionary transition: God must have intervened.

‘Many’ transitions amount to a handful amongst a huge range of necessary transitions. As Darwin said “But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?... I believe the answer mainly lies in the record being incomparably less perfect than is generally supposed”. Note that Darwin ‘Believed’ that geological record was imperfect and more investigation would remove the problem. The problem is that if (Neo) Darwinian evolution was true, then small changes showing transitions of one species to another should be the rule, not the exception in the fossil record. Complaining that the record is imperfect is an ad hoc explanation. Deal with the evidence, not the excuses Richard.
The creationists’ fondness for “gaps” in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.

It is a gross misrepresentation of the ID position to claim that it is relying on gaps in knowledge. This is materialist bigotry at its most blatant. ID at the moment has 2 suggested methods of detecting design, Specified Complexity and Irreducible Complexity. To claim that these are gaps merely use gaps in knowledge is to beg the question. If some structure of a living organism was designed, how would we tell? Well, by looking at how we recognize other non-living items as designed, we would essentially informally use something akin to the two aforementioned concepts. Richard has assumed that those features were not designed and so any suggestion that they are designed HAS to be an appeal to ignorance.
It’s a pity Richard either doesn’t understand basic logic or he is so blinded by his atheistic faith that he cannot see that his own assumptions are causing him to be irrational.

Update: Links to Ian Plimer items fixed
Science - Global Warming causes icecap growth
It seems that global warming is blamed for everything these days. If an icecap is evidence of global warming, if one warming again. Things that make you go hmmm...
Life - UK Man sues for food
In a case with shades of Terri Schiavo, Englishman Leslie Burke has sued to ensure that he will receive artificial nutrition and hydration. The big difference between him and Terri, is that he is able to express his wishes, and with Terri, the government was on her side.

In Leslie's case, a lower court judge ruled in his favor, due to human right's concerns, and the National Health Service and the government is appealing for the right to starve Leslie to death, against his wishes. Why would they do this? From the article
Why do Britain's medical establishment and government insist that Burke be denied a right to decide whether he receives tube-supplied food and water? It all boils down to two concepts that are increasingly intertwined in modern bioethics theory and practice. First is the so-called quality-of-life ethic that presumes to judge the worth of patients' lives according to their mental and physical capacities. Under this view, doctors or bioethicists may judge a life to be of such low quality that it is not worth extending, irrespective of the patient's wishes. The second issue is money--an especially potent factor for England's increasingly strained socialized medical system.

I would put forward that any socialist system must necessarily have the government decide on whose quality of life is worth living, especially in relation to health care. In cases such as Burke's, there will be a logical push to terminate the life because allowing him to suffer in starvation would be 'inhumane' and so the socialist government will then actively murder anyone who they deem is too expensive to live.

When the government decides whether you life is worth it or not, it is probably time to find a new place to live
Life - Stem Cell Research Primer
Joe Carter has a great post over at the Evangelical Outpost on Stem Cell Research. Joe gives a great primer on stem cell research and has listed 58 tangible results from Adult Stem Cell Research, and compares that to the zero from Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Note that there are many future uses and some current uses that have been overlooked in this total of 58, such as curing blindness, and customized skin grafts, and even breast implants. Life Site news has a great section for investigating the success stories.

Joe agrees, as I have said before, that
When time and money are limited it's not only irrational but immoral to divert funding and attention from promising areas of research to ones that have absolutely no evidence of producing results.

Check out the list of 58 benefits of Adult Stem Cells.

Update: The Australian has an opinion piece by Michael Cook on the same topic. Michael quotes a couple of Embryonic Stem Cell Experts
This is an opinion shared by many scientists, starting with Australia's Alan Trounson, a world expert on embryonic stem cells. He told the journal Nature Medicine earlier this month that "the so-called therapeutic cloning to my mind is a non-event". As a way of creating cures, he observed, "it's just not realistic".

He was supported by an American expert, Jose Cibelli, of Michigan State University, whose tip is that, "I can predict that therapeutic cloning is going to be obsolete".

Christianity - Resurrecting the debate
Stand To Reason posts that ABC's 20/20 recently did a report on the Resurrection which, as Melindda Penner informs was fairly well balanced. Beliefnet also has a serious of contributions by those who took part on the topic that are well worth reading.

Melinda points out
What was consistent in those who deny the Jesus' physical resurrection is their conviction that the Gospel accounts are late, written decades after the event, probably in the second century long after the eyewitnesses had died. They believe that the accounts are legends grown over time. Those who defended the physical resurrection take the accounts to be written early. This is always something to look for as you evaluate a scholar's explanation. It's important to know why someone believes something, not just what they believe. What is their view of the Bible?
Indeed. But I think she misses the real point of disagreement. Those who think the resurrection was 'spiritual' or a metaphor clearly have an anti-supernatural bias. As ABC says
They say after the crucifixion, the disciples — dispirited and defeated — simply went home to their lives as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Instead of a physical return of Jesus, they say, the stories in the Gospels are describing dreams or visions that Jesus' closest followers had.
But why conclude they are dreams? Certainly the bible clearly indicates visions and dreams from waking reality time and time again, yet somehow this time they didn't?

John Shelby Spong clearly displays this anti-supernatural bias. From his comments on beliefnet
We have identified the places in the narrative where exaggeration entered the texts, where miraculous elements were heightened, and where history forced new details into the ancient story.
Does anyone wonder how we have identified these places in the narrative? Obviously because of the anti-supernatural bias, it was in the miracles. Spong continues
Noting the time-sequence gaps in the gospels, we suggested that "three days" was a symbol, not a measure of time. This opened the possibility that months may have separated the day of the crucifixion from the dawning of Easter.
Spong is just making it up. He follows with long rationalizing story-telling about how the disciples finally came around months later and starting spreading christianity. Unfortunately for him though, his explanation has no evidence supporting it and indeed historical evidence in the bible that contradicts it. Whilst he has provided possible explanation, that does not make it likely or true, and due to the ad hoc fashion of his explanation and his need to explain away historical evidence makes it exceedingly unlikely. The only way you would accept the explanation as the most likely is if you have already ruled out supernatural events, which is begging the question.

I have to wonder why people feel the need to reinterpret the bible and the lengths that people go to justify this interpretation is sometimes astounding. ABC continues
Scholars also say that dreams to people in the first century were no less real than waking reality. "In the ancient world, dreams were real. If you had a dream at night, the assumption was that it was real," said Arthur Dewey of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
What a joke? This is just more bigotry against the people of those times wrapped up in pseudo-intellectual authority. If anyone cares to think about the range of dreams you have had in your life and then ponder on what you would conclude if you thought those dreams were actually reality. It is absurd and insulting to the intelligence of those people.

Clearly, people are so attached to their preconceived notions that they are unable to be objective. I am impressed that ABC have done a well balanced job of presenting the different opinions, it is just a shame that they didn't connect the dots interms of people making conclusions before looking at the evidence.
Links - Keeping informed
Ethiopia is having purported democratic elections. Will Franklin and Ethiopundit have a lot of info on the state of democracy there. (HT: )

William Stuntz has an article on the undestanding of what rights are over at leader U that is well worth reading.

We could take some cues from Russian Jewish Leader, Zeyev Wagner, who argues ALL religions should encourage large families and fight abortion as a priority. He seeks to unify religions in Russia to do just that.

In software news, Software piracy is worse in poor countries, especially communist countries, with little traditional morality. But we also see that Cuba is switching from Microsoft to Linux for "all state owned computers". Someone should tell slashdot that Cuba's state owns everything...that whole communism thing.

Radioblogger has a transcript of an interview between Hugh Hewwit and ABC News Terry Moran where Moran accepts that the Media is anti-military and this has been coloring their judgement since Vietnam. It is a candid and informative interview all up.
Life - A right to know about the right to death?
Fiona Stewart, At online opinion has an article on how we are being denied the 'Right to know about the right to death'. No Such right exists in our constitution. You just gotta love how people make everything that want to be a 'right'. Boundless has an interesting article on a similar topic today. Ben Domenech talks about Life and Death and Terri Schaivo.
For many, the slow, painful dehydration and death of one woman, Terri Schiavo, is enough to make one question what kind of civilized society we inhabit today. What strange fashion of humanity is it that finds the disabled to be broken, useless and therefore expendable?

The whole idea of quality of life is a destructive notion that is somewhat ironically illogical. Let me explain.

The quality of life idea argues that people do not have any intrinsic worth, thereby discounting any notion of God. But then we need to notion of people deciding their own purpose and worth. Now you might think this is all fine and rational, but if so, then why do people think suicide is such a bad problem? Is that not just someone deciding their purpose and quality of life is not worth living? Obviously others are pushing their own ideas of what a worthwhile life is onto those poor soouls. It becomes even more obviously flawed when you look at cases like Terri Schaivo and aborting of 'disabled' foetus's. Here, once again, we have people deciding the worth of other peoples lives based on their own criteria.

Obviously, people arguing for quality of life as a criteria for death are imposing their own external, subjective values onto others. We need to make this clear before Terri Schaivo becomes the rule, not the exception.
Education - Religion in the public schools
A recent Roy Morgan survey has found that a large majority of australians favor teaching religion in public schools (in one class a week). 62% came out in favor, 30% against and 8% undecided. 5 Years ago it was 66% in favor, and 27% against. Not a good trend really.

What is really suprising that of the christian's surveyed, at most 88% (baptist) favored religion in public schools and at worst 69% (catholics) favored it. What would be really interesting is to here some of the reasons why people answered the way they did.

Clearly, there is a long way to go before christian's understand how dangerous it is to let secular humanists educate our children.
Abortion - Anglican Archdeacon and logic
The Age has an opinion piece by Peta Sherlock,an archdeacon in the Anglican Church and the vicar of the Parish of Banyule. It seems Peta wants God to be wild?
Some people like their faith to be black and white and under control. Me, I like the red season. We need a God who is wild and uncontrollable, bigger than our imagination, stronger than our will, and less predictable than our daily lives.
So lets look at this briefly. If God is less predictable than our daily lives, can we trust Him? If god is 'wild' does that man that he is a God of chaos, not of order?

Sounds almost pagan, but hey, on some levels this may me considered accurate. I can give her the benefit of the doubt. Then I came accross this paragraph
I don't experience life as black and white. My ethical decisions are mostly of the grey variety, choosing not the right over the wrong, but the lesser of two evils. I am suspicious of church leaders who tell me that faith is sight and that hope is certainty, who claim that speech is free, and abortion and euthanasia and divorce are just plain wrong.
Yup. Welcome to the Australian Anglican Church, where absolute truth is so out of step with the current culture and we can justify reinterpreting the plain teaching of the bible simply because it is inconveniently clear. I'm suprised she didn't say anything about homosexuality.
Communism - What is communism
Years ago, I thought that I had a reasonable understanding of Communism. I knew it was bad, mostly because of the simple fact that people flee communist countries without exception. I knew the goal was a utopian society without property ownership that would always fail because of the true nature of man. However, over the last few months I have been studying communism in a lot more depth and I now realize just how little I truly understood about communism and its methods.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be writing a series of posts on Communism in an attempt to explain accurately what communism is and how it acts. Much of the material I am using comes from Marx, Engels and other proponents of communism as well as the works of Fred Schwartz and David Noebel. It is my wholehearted belief that we need to understand communism in order to properly understand the last 100 years of history as well as to protect us from its evil in the future.

So what is communism?

Back in 1848 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the ‘Communist Manifesto’, melding Feuerbach’s materialism to the dialectics of Hegel to create dialectic materialism. The materialism part of dialectic materialism is easy to understand. Basically it is the position that Matter proceeds Mind (the opposite is idealism)
The ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought. --Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1
This idea essentially entails atheism/naturalism.

Hegel’s dialectic is a little more difficult to understand. Basically, Hegel starting people looking at history as a clash of thesis and antithesis, that is a position and the opposite position (its ‘negation’), producing a synthesis, or combination of the two positions. This synthesis position then clashing with it’s own negation to produce a new synthesis and so on.

Marx used this idea in looking at history, but framed it in a materialistic world in which the clash between two classes, the bourgeois (the owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (those who work with the means of production for the owners) was the primary driving positions used in the dialectic. Ultimately, Marx viewed history as a series of advances and withdrawals (Dialectic progress) towards the communist utopia

A useful illustration in understanding this view of dialectics is to consider the task of hammering a nail into a board. The ultimate goal is to have the nail completely in the board, however to get there, the hammer has to go through a series of strikes and withdrawals on the nail. With each strike, the nail goes further towards its ultimate goal but also, each withdrawal is necessary to enable the next strike. In the same way, history progresses towards its supposed ultimate goal of worldwide, utopian communism by a series of advances and retreats towards that communism. Note that I said that history ‘progresses’ towards global communism. The idea that history ‘progresses’ through dialectic change is important to the communist. All change is progress towards their goal and this idea of progress is simple accepted as a matter of faith without being defended. It is also important to understand that this article of faith is where the term ‘progressive’ comes from.

This concept of dialectic has several important ramifications. Firstly, any particular snapshot analysis of the superficial manifestations of communism is inadequate. To understand this point, recall the illustration of the hammer, it would be foolish to think that the hammer has given up or been defeated simply because you see it withdrawing. A current example is that of China, where the communists are still in power, but have instituted capitalism in order to gain resources. The Chinese communists have not changed their idea of communism one little bit; they are just operating under the dialectic idea. They are still just as committed to the concept of a worldwide, utopian communism. Many such examples are also seen in the history of Russia, for instance between 1921 and 1929 Lenin instituted a new economic policy to garner more agricultural surplus.

The second ramification of the dialectic approach is that current evidence is useless to convince a communist that his ideas are wrong. If the communist country fails in the socialism stage and is forced to revert to capitalism, this is just seen as another phase of the dialectic which will be reversed at a later date, bringing global communism closer still. Any event can be interpreted as just part of either a dialectic withdrawal or advance and so no possible observation can count against the communisms faith. In this way communism is unfalsifiable and merely a matter of faith.

Implicit in communism is the idea of atheism. It is from this presupposition, combined with evolution that the communist derives the idea that man is evolving, both biologically and socially, to become able to live in a utopian communist system. This utopia of communism is envisaged where collective ownership has created an over abundance of produce to satisfy all the needs of all the people, so that none live in want and no-one needs to oppress their fellow man; The State will be unnecessary and people will live in peace and harmony. In this, it also shares much with Secular Humanism, which also has an optimistic view of man’s future incarnations based on evolution. The communist (and secular humanist) believes that the right environment, i.e. socialism, is an important stepping stone in humanities evolution towards this goal.

Another important part of the Atheistic presupposition is that of Amorality. Essentially, the communist denies traditional morality (and religion) as merely a tool of the ownership class, used to control and placate the workers so they do not revolt against their oppression. Ultimately, the communist views any action that moves society towards the goal of a global communist utopia is a moral action. The ends justify the means. This means any action they want is considered ‘moral’, including the 100 million or so deaths due to communist purges that happened in the 20th century. Combining this amorality with the dialectic way of thinking means that the communist can undertake any action, make any false promises, even join any religion and still be considered acting in line with communism and being moral.

The final part of communism to note is that its stated goal is GLOBAL communism. Without global communism, no society can be completely safe. This is because if the ownership class still exists it will, by definition try to oppress the worker class, even across national boundaries. So until the communists can control the environment of all people, it cannot guarantee that the ownership class will not rise again.

In summary, the important components of communism are Dialectic Materialism, Atheism, Amorality, Evolution and Globalism. Understanding these components and how they interact is vital to understanding communist actions and motives in the past and present.
Media - The Fruits of the Neutrality Myth
With the recent Mass Media debacles including Dan Rather and his "Fake but Accurate" memo, Jason Blair just making stuff up, Newsweeks deadly Koran flushing rubbish and even NBC's today show jumping on the Koran desecration bandwagon you might think that some huge change has happened in the last few years to make the media go off the deep end. Many people think that all these recent occurances are due simply to the blogsphere catching the Main-Stream Media (MSM) out when they print such obviously wrong or biased articles and others show just how one-sided the staff at Media institutes can be, the real issue that is missed is it isn't bias that is the problem but the idea of being able to be neutral.

Consider the recent rash of MSM failures, especially Newsweeks recent efforts that resulted in riots and murders. Even now, the MSM does not accept responsibility in any part of causing those deaths. Whilst Newsweek didn't pull the trigger themselves, they certainly encited others too. Even if this story was true, Newsweek would have still been a part of the cause of those deaths. Yet they would have reported what end? (These same reporters would happily support the burning of the flag, or someones right to destroy a bible.) As long as they continue to believe the lie that they are just reporting 'facts' and other people act on those facts, they will continue to cause pain, suffering and even death all the whilst pretending their hands are clean. Even in the past, the MSM was directly responsible for turning the public against the Vietnam war, and millions died when America and Australia pulled out.

It is not surpising that this lie of neutrality is also the same that has allowed secular humanism to gain control of the state school system. The pretence of neutrality appeals to many people. Yet this very pretence is one of the most damaging lies in existence. It encourages people to put faith and trust in people and process that in reality cannot be neutral, that effects and influences others towards particular ideas and actions.

Everyone understands that Christian schools impart christian ideas (Well, sometimes anyways), but why do people seem to think that state schools impart only neutral ideas? Where did the myth of neutrality arise and how did it work it's way into the media and schools?

I would have to say that the proponents of Secular Humanism and Communism created the lie. Both of these systems agree that human character and ideals are just a product of their environment and so already recognize that the environment, including education and media, is never neutral. Yet it is the proponents of these systems who inhabit the MSM, and who championed the idea of the public education system. They know it is a lie, yet they use this lie to gain influence, authority and power over those systems, so that their worldview can be spread.

The blogsphere has been vital in catching out some of the fruits of the bias in the MSM, but it seems many people still think that true neutrality is possible, and until they realize this too is a lie, they will continue to fall prey to the fruits of that lie.
Philosophy - Presuppositions and Blame
Irwin Graulich takes a look at the blame game over at the American Daily.
Whose fault is it that I accidently murdered the liquor store owner in a botched robbery attempt? Judaism and Christianity say, "It's my fault and I should most likely receive capital punishment." George W. Bush says, "If he did it, let him be brought to justice." Ted Kennedy says, "It's George Bush's fault for leaving a child behind." Liberals say, "It's the fault of a bad neighborhood, and has nothing to do with a fatherless household." The left says,"Of course they should be punished. Let them have cable tv, weightlifting, basketball, a great library, free room and board, free medical care, etc. for the next 15 years and then they'll be rehabilitated."
It all depends on your presuppositions. If you think that people are merely a product of their environment and not inherently bad and are just matter in motion, then it isn't really their fault, and if you give them a better environment they will obviously become a better person. On the other hand, if you think they are not just a product of their environment and have free will and moral responsibility, then you will think they need to be held accountable.
Evolution - The Blind Faith of Progressive Creationists
You would think that finding soft tissue in something 70 Million years old would be enough to make even the most ardent evolutionist question his faith. But when you have progressive creationist site Reasons To Believe who are more committed to an old earth than they are to the bible trying to take Answers In Genesis (AIG) to task for its coverage of the event you really have to wonder whether it is a panic reaction or just blind faith.

You can read AIG's response here.

When even evolutionists express wonder and suprise, you would think the Progressive Creationists would be less willing to simply try to spin the issue as a Young Earth Creationist misunderstanding.
Science - Historical versus Experimental
Prosthesis has a great post about the difference between experimental science, which deals with predictions and historical science that deals with make intuitions about how something happened in the past, which he calls retrodictions.

From the post
The other type of scientific explanation appeals to historical causes. This type of explanation may or may not appeal to the general regularities or laws that the previous type of explanation appealed to. Instead, this type of explanation is more concerned with what happened in order for some phenomenon to occur. For example, to explain some unique geological feature, we might talk about a certain series of events that occured. Laws, by themselves, can't explain these types of phenomena. Meyer uses the example of the law, "Oxygen is necessary to combustion." This law doesn't explain how a house fire occured. An explanation will talk about a unique event (say, a smoker falling asleep in his chair or a space heater tips over). This type of explanation, rather than making predictions about future events, instead makes retrodictions. Based on some observed phenomena (and perhaps some known laws or regularities), we can retrodict past events or conditions.

I doubt there is much dispute about the accuracy or value of experimental science. When you get into historical science however, you get a lot more assumption and a lot less observation. We have enough trouble being certain of recent events (on crime scenes for instance), that when people start telling you just how something happened thousands of years ago (without eye-witness testimony) you have to take everything they say with a few thousand grains of salt.
Evolution - Plastic Explanations
Just when I thought I had all of the ad hoc explanations evolutionists could use when observed features didn't fit their ideas, I find this one.

Essentially, they are saying that Stegosaur plates and spikes are only for 'looks' to differentiate species. They couldn't even use sexual selection in this case because there was no real difference between male and female plates and spikes.

I have to wonder how such features evolved if it provides no natural or sexual selective advantage.

This quote by Russell Main, in graduate school in Harvard University's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.
But in the case of stegosaurs or even ceratopsians, like triceratops, and also in modern bovids and some other artiodactyls, where you see a number of different types of horn or antler arrangements, you don't necessarily need to apply functional explanations. They can be relatively easily explained by talking about species or mate recognition.

So essentially, they find no functional use for it, so it must be species recognition. So let me get this straight....Intelligent design is criticized for trying to bring design into the argument when the chance explaintions do not seem to work, but this piece of work, concluding that because a functional explanation for something doesn't seem to work it must be 'species recognition' is regarded as good science? Yeeesh...

It seems as long as you are supporting evolution, anything is acceptable.
Democracy - Limited Governement is Ideal
R.J. Rummel has a very informative post today on how Limited Democratic Government seems to be ideal for getting rid of the vast amounts of democide (Murder of people by governments) that plague civilization. R.J. Rummel has gathered huge amounts of data and has some very handy graphs to show just how strong his thesis is.

It is definitely worth checking out.
Evolution - Gene Duplication Doesn't Help
Molecular Biology and Evolution has a paper on the large negative selective value of gene duplication.
A doubling of gene expression, as it occurs in a gene duplication event, is significantly selected against for all genes for which expression data is available.

Whoops. It seems that gene duplication is not going to be the great source of new information that evolutionists have bluffed about for years. Doesn't leave much for them to work with. Horizontal transfer (between species) doesn't create new information. So pretty much all they have left is point mutations and the odd substitution/insertion. Proving evolution can create new information is getting harder.

(HT: Creation Safaris) has an article today on recent
Freedom - Kuwaiti women can vote now
Welcome to the transformation of the middle east. Now who predicted that again?

I am very happy for Kuwait and think this a great step forward. Women will also be able to run for parliment too!
Abortion - Poll about Australian Views
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has linked to a recent survey on Australian opinions on abortion.

The Southern Cross Bioethics Institute has an executive summary on its website.

There is quite a few interesting tidbits of information in the summary.

All I can say is that Australians seem to be more pro-life than I expected.

ACL also has an estimate of the cost of providing mandatory independent counselling ($28 Million per year) and ultra sounds during that counselling ($5 million per year) which according to this recent study, seems like a good investment. In addition, these costs would be offset by the decrease in medicare funded abortions.

The current ACL push in Australia is to require independent counselling and get ultrasounds, and so this study strongly supports that position. Hopefully, many politicians will become aware of these prevailing attitudes and we can save some loves.

One other thing to note is the arguments that need to be addressed most. It is clear that most australians favor debate and male inclusion in the debate. I hope this is a wake up call for some of our politicians who simply try to shut down any discussion or claim it isn't something 'men' should comment on.

The strong support for the argument that 'it is a woman's right to control her own body' means that this is an argument that needs to be seriously addressed, as well as the arguments for abortion the disabled. It is suprising to see that 58% of people do not accept the personhood argument, and continual focus on this should increase that percentage.

Generally, this is quite an encouraging study and it should help to push the 3rd party counselling and ultrasounds, which should continue to increase awareness and opposition to abortion.
Life - News and links
Life site news has an interesting slew of news on the pro-life front.

Brazil legislators have gotten abortion pills put on the free and readily available medication list by grouping them with contraception. An odd move considering Abortion on demand is illegal in Brazil, and 85% oppose abortion on demand. Another case of abortion sneaking in through the backdoor. Hopefully, someone over there will take more notice and throw this out.

Canadian Pro-lifers had a march and rally last thursday. Six thousand turned up and some members of parliment also spoke. I thinkt his highlights the need for more co-ordination and organisation of pro-life efforts here in Australia, where turn-outs for such events are much much worse.

There may be shortages of abortion doctors in Augusta, Georgia soon. We can only hope.
Evolution - Unable to make real predictions
MSNBC has an article about where the evolution of the human race is heading. High-priest of evolution Richard Dawkins things that any good evolutionist will avoid the question...and why?
The problem is, scientists can't predict with precision how our species will adapt to changes over the next millennium, let alone the next million years. That's why Dawkins believes it's imprudent to make a prediction in the first place.

I.e. We have no clue and our vaunted theory of evolution doesn't really provide any tight predictions, only vague concepts with enough wiggle room to allow any occurance to be within what we find.

And, as reader ReSoT4eM reminds in this post on the lack of uses of Common Descent Evolution in practice, it even has trouble with guessing what current observations actually mean. Case in point, thanks to evolution, many doctors used to think that the human body had 100 or so vetigial (without function and left over from a previous ancestor species) organs. This lead to a wide variety of unnecessary operations and bad diagnosis.

So if evolution can be trusted to predict the future or describe the present, why do we trust it to illuminate the past?
Iraq - UN Count Civilian Casualties
A previous study by the 'prestigious' Lancet group estimated the number of casualities at 100,000 plus or minus 92,000. This figure has been trumpeted and repeated my the media, lefty organisations and blogs as if it was holy grail of proving the Iraq war was EVIL! They got this figure by interviewing 808 households.

Now, a UN Study of more than 21,600 households in iraq has come to the conclusion that civilian casualties amount to 24,000 deaths, plus or minus 5,000. If you are really keen, here is the link to the 55 page UN report proper.

Now I wonder why this isn't getting more press?

Tim Blair has a great roundup.
Evolution - Not useful in practice
Previously, I have written about how the false claim that many scientific advances have been made because of evolutionary theory (specifically the theory of common descent via modifaction).

Today, ID The Future links to a statement by Professor Philip S. Skell, Member, National Academy of Sciences and Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus Penn State University. This open letter explains just what I was saying. Practical biology does not rely on Evolutionary theory in the slightest. From the letter
Darwinian evolution is an interesting theory about the remote history of life. Nonetheless, it has little practical impact on those branches of science that do not address questions of biological history (largely based on stones, the fossil evidence). Modern biology is engaged in the examination of tissues from living organisms with new methods and instruments. None of the great discoveries in biology and medicine over the past century depended on guidance from Darwinian evolution---it provided no support.

It doesn't get clearer than that. However, I doubt the die hard atheists will stop making this false the letter also says and I agree that
For those scientists who take it seriously, Darwinian evolution has functioned more as a philosophical belief system than as a testable scientific hypothesis. This quasi-religious function of the theory is, I think, what lies behind many of the extreme statements that you have doubtless encountered from some scientists opposing any criticism of neo-Darwinism in the classroom. It is also why many scientists make public statements about the theory that they would not defend privately to other scientists like me.

Quiz - Dark side or Light side
With the upcoming star wars film, I can't help but get involved in the Star Wars mania! Here is a ahum, scientific quiz which tells you which side of the force you would lean towards. (with sounds and some, um, unusual questions!)
It Appears I get a rating of 6, a little on the light side side of the force. I am most like 'Mace Windu' A suprmeme bad-ass Jedi who's best mate is Yoda.
Faith - Bad Theology Rewrites the Bible
Joe Carter has an interesting post over at the Evangelical Outpost. I'm not quite sure what it is on, as he meaders off topic a fair bit. (Good to see anyone can be a bit scatter brained sometimes...Okay, so I am scatter brained all the time, but thats just a matter of degree ;)

One great point Joe does make though is on what the important question of christianity is. The post addresses the real issue of eigesis versus exegesis and shows how we have to rewrite the bible when we bring our own ideas into the bible rather than getting our ideas out of the bible.
Along with his writing talent and good story, RLP adds a liberal dose of ... the epistemology of a French Deconstructionist. One of the most telling examples ... can be found in his view of faith:

"Likewise, we think having faith means being convinced God exists in the same way we are convinced a chair exists. People who cannot be completely convinced of God’s existence think faith is impossible for them.

Not so. People who doubt can have great faith because faith is something you do, not something you think. In fact, the greater your doubt the more heroic your faith.

I learned that it doesn’t matter in the least that I be convinced of God’s existence. Whether or not God exists is none of my business, really. What do I know of existence? I don’t even know how the VCR works. [emphasis in original]

This mix of fideism and heroic existentialism probably appeals to the same immature crowd that appreciates a preacher who cusses. ... Personally, I find such dumbing-down morally repugnant. When did Jesus say that we should leave our brains at the church door? Did I misunderstand that part about loving God with the whole mind? RLP's view of faith certainly seems peculiar. Perhaps I'm using an old translation of the Bible and the real conversation went something like this:

Jesus (to Simon Peter): “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter: “That question isn’t really important since I don’t even know if you exist. In fact, I don’t really think its any of my business who you are, is it? Now, what should I do. That’s the question you should be asking…”

Indeed. Much of peoples theology these days forces us to rewrite the bible. Of course, another popular example of rewriting the bible is the belief that Noah's flood was not worldwide. if you look at Genesis 7:19-21 you might just be able to squeeze in an alternative, local interpretation by saying that references to the scope relate to only what was on the continent, or in the local area of man.
And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man.

The real rewriting comes when you have to look at other verses relating to the scope of the flood, which are God himself commenting

Gen 6:13 "And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth."
Gen 6:17 "And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die."
I guess we need to rewrite these as
"And God said to Noaj, "The end of all flesh that you know of has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence in your local region; and behold I will destroy them with the earth"
"And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh which you can see in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth in your local area shall die"

Is God a liar? When he says that he is destroying all flesh, and everything on the earth is he misleading us?

Gen 9:11 "Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
We have certain had local floods that covered as far as the eye can see again. Has God gone back on his promise?

I guess we need to rewrite this one to say
"Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all human flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth at every place where humans are."
Philosophy - Is Atheism a default Belief
Online Opinion has an interesting book review today. Ben-Peter Terpstra reviews the book "Faith of the Fatherless" by former atheist Paul C. Vitz. Paul's whose main thesis is that negative or non-existent relationships with their fathers has led many down the path of zealous atheism. (Some Examples given are Stalin, Nietzsche, Camus, Satre, Hume) Whilst it does not necessarily show causation, it does show the hollowness of the often heard cry that 'Faith in God is a crutch for the weak' or 'religion is a projection of our own needs'.

This really highlights the issue of worldviews. If you start with the presuppostion that God and the supernatural does not exist (Part of the atheist worldview), then obviously you must conclude that religion must be something man made up. There is no other alternative explanation due to that presupposition. But since the real question is 'does God and the supernatural exist', then the 'religion is just a projection' meme can not be used as evidence for the belief that God does not exist. If it was used, then they person would be guilty of begging the question.

It should be noted that this applies equally to the thesis that 'because Atheists fathers were essentially non-existent, atheism is false'. Instead, these claims should be viewed as an attempt to explain observations within the framework of their preexisting beliefs. (As the set of our set of presuppositional beliefs or 'worldview' needs to be able to explain every observation otherwise it would be considered evidence that part our worldview was incorrect)

The comments in response to this book review are quite informative and revealing. A small sample
Enaj - I am a third generation secular humanist with a strong and very much present and loving father and grandfather (and mother and grandmother, for that matter). I am, in the main a happy and productive member of society, with my own ideas about truth and morality, but I do not expect others to believe what I believe. My truth is my truth, not The Truth.
Xena - Ben-Peter Terpstra [should] be more concerned about the good you can do in this current life and leave others to follow their own consciences....BTW my father is alive and well and we have a very good relationship.
Maracas - I embraced atheism after I participated in and rejected the alternatives.
Greg_m - “the psychological concepts…can also…be used to explain their unbelief.” This is a bit like explaining an unbirthday, in true Mad Hatter style. The onus of proof lies on those who want to believe in something, not in those who don’t. If I started trying to explain someone's unbelief in unicorns as a means of justifying my belief in them I would rightly be laughed at....The ideas of this book go some way to confirm the belief that religion is best viewed as virus of the mind (like Dawkins’ meme theory). It is a form of mental ‘programming’ which spreads through minds via culture and language.
Deuc - Even if one assumes that Vitz is correct and atheism is (often) a projection of psychological needs & issues, no argument would be made out against the atheistic position. A psychological explanation for belief in gods is a valid argument against theism because it provides a reason for religious belief that is not supernatural. But the counter claim is merely an attack against atheists themselves, because it would never suggest a supernatural cause and instead the argument must rely on the ad hominem fallacy.

It is interesting to see that many Atheists are quite indignant when the accusation that their faith in their beliefs are not based on rational decisions. Perhaps they will learn from this and no longer accuse theists of the same.

Many of these comments assume that their belief is the default belief. As Greg_m says “The onus of proof lies on those who want to believe in something, not in those who don’t” This is the biggest lie that atheists have gotten accepted by repetition. For a long time Christian's have accepted it as true. It wasn't until Alvin Plantinga argued that the statements 'God Exists' and 'God does not exist' should require equal burdens of proof, that the lie of a 'default belief' was properly investigated.

The claim to be a 'default belief' is at worst an unfounded attempt to change the rules of discussion, and at best it is basing the claim on other assumptions in the atheistic worldview. The Atheist believes the claim that the natural world exists is a default position? But why? Certainly Christians would agree the natural world exists, but pantheists such as Buddhists would not. Obviously then, claiming the natural world exists is a positive claim. But what basis does the atheist have for claiming they can know the natural world exists? The Christian certainly has a logical reason, based on their concept that special revelation is a valid source of knowledge. The Atheist however, must rely on another assumption, and that is that their brain is wired to accurately interpret their environment. Once again, the Christian here is at an advantage, as they believe they were designed to do so. The atheist however must merely assume this is the case.

Clearly, the Atheist makes several positive claims, that the natural world exists and that their brains can accurately interpret their environment through their experiences. Whilst Christians may agree with these claims, it is important for the Atheist to be able to defend these claims according to their own worldview, and not merely be allowed to borrow their validation from a competing worldview.
Philospohy - Presuppositions and perception
The Late Stephen Jay Gould said in "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History" on the topic of Continental Drift
In short, we now accept continental drift because it is the expectation of a new orthodoxy. I regard this tale as typical of scientific progress. .... Facts do not `speak for themselves', they are read in the light of theory.
The concept that facts do not speak for themselves but are interpreted based on previously held beliefs (Be it a scientific theory or any other belief) should indicate that we need to be aware of our own presuppositions (beliefs we hold before we look at those facts) and how they effect our own interpretation as opposed to how other peoples presuppositions will effect theirs.

I recently commented on the poor reporting on a recent study on scent, pheromones and sexuality. An even more recent study has been reported by Opinion Journals Best of the Web. This new study, reported in the New Scientist links brain activity to negative perception of black americans in contrast to the brain activity when looking at white americans. The New Scientist explains
The new study showed that both white and black people had increased activity in an area of the brain called the amygdala--which responds to fearful or threatening situations--when completing a matching task with images of black faces....

"I think the results are very specific to being raised in this society where the portrayal of African Americans is not very positive, on average," says Matthew Lieberman at the University of California, Los Angeles, US, who led the study. "It suggests that those cultural messages are not harmless." . . .

Both black and white people showed increased amygdala activity on the visual matching task with black target photos. The same task with a white target face produced no such activity. Because black faces are presumed not to be "novel" to black subjects, Lieberman concluded they must have learned, through pervasive cultural cues, to associate black people with fear.
It seems pretty clear that the presupposition in interpreting this recent study was that the negative opinion of black americans was a learned behaviour (as best of the web observes), but more than that, the presupposition is also that this learned behaviour is learned due to racist messages that society is giving out. The options that this response is genetic, or due to observational experiences as opposed to cultural conditioning is ignored. (Note: I am not saying that either of these options is the case, I am just saying they are options, but they are ignored due to assumptions that are held, prior to the investigation)

Update: I have another post which also highlights the importance of presuppositions here.
Links - Truth and Fiction
Real life imitates art as a 70 Year old woman falls 9 stories, lands on a canopy and survives

In a bizarre and ironic twist, pregnant woman who are pregnant with boys may be more focused and able to handle tests that tax memory in the areas of listening, computational and visualization skills. This considering how young boys won't sit still.

In Kenya, a stray dog rescues an abandoned baby and takes the baby accross a busy road, through barbed wire to its own pups.

Reality is out of ideas?

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