Month: July 2013

Job of the future?

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quantum_mechanicThis could be a confusing job, though.

You would simultaneously have it, and not have it, which could get a bit annoying.

 

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson on creationism

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This from correspondent Dan Rea. Thought it was worth posting on its own, rather than having it buried in a comment thread. Dan’s comments follow the vid.

If you’d like to cut to the creationism-bashing you can skip to the 31:00 mark, but the whole video is interesting and (as always with deGrasse) very entertaining. The overriding point he is making is intriguing; he points out how many of the greatest minds throughout history subscribed to creationist ideas at the limits of their understanding, and how these limits shift over time. In the past I’ve heard him describe the concept of god as an ever shrinking archetype as humanity’s knowledge increases, but I never really thought about the processes going on in the minds of great people (far smarter than me) who came to creationist conclusions.

Speaking of intelligent design…

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As I said a couple of posts ago, given all the flaws in our ‘perfect’ universe, claiming that your god created it all is a massive own goal. This vid sums it up nicely.

Another kicking for chiropractic – well done Catalyst!

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It’s seems an age since I’ve ranted about that other favourite ‘therapy’, chiropractic. I’ve put the word therapy in quotes, because in this context it means ‘completely bogus time-wasting, money-sucking, and potentially dangerous non-profession’.

I finally caught up with a recent episode of Catalyst, which did a lovely job of exposing the nonsense that is chiropractic. I’ve said it all before: for example here and here, but it’s always nice to have one’s own understanding re-affirmed by people who know what they are talking about.

Have a look at the episode – I particularly enjoyed the look of exasperation on the face of one of the neuro-surgeons as they ask him to explain what a chiropractor has just said about ‘static’ in the spinal chord – that happens at about 6:26 into the show.

Enjoy.

How Intelligent Design disproves God

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I’ve been thinking…

Those who have fabricated a false-science argument for god (ie intelligent design), have unwittingly created the perfect argument to disprove him.

For those unaware, intelligent design (ID) was invented by creationists as a means of sneaking religious dogma into schools under in the guise of science. Sneaky indeed, and not very, er, christian.

Their central thesis was that some things are so complex that they could not possibly have evolved, and therefore must have been designed. They invented the concept of ‘irreducible complexity’ to indicate that for some things, the component parts could not have evolved because they serve no other purpose in nature, and appeared for the first time in those particular things.

Their star example was the bacterial flagellum – a tiny bacterium, which propels itself through fluid via a propeller – watch the video – very cute. To cut a long story short, their case was shot to ribbons in the Dover v. Kitzmuller trial a few years back, when the judge called them for what they were: sneaky and deceptive. In any case, the scientists were able to show that their examples were crap, and that all the parts of the flagellum for instance have a valid antecedent.

But I’ve come at it from a different angle. And let’s leave aside the blindingly obvious idea that even if there were an intelligent designer, why need it be god? It’s just as likely to be an alien, or, the head programmer in the simulation we inhabit, right?

There are two reasons ID proponents undermine their own arguments, as follows:

Design or Assembly?

Firstly, design, by definition, requires iteration – that is, movement from less good to better as each component is improved to advance the overall functionality. This implies that the designer isn’t perfect, otherwise iteration would not be necessary. If on the other hand the design is perfect from the start, then our designer is simply doing assembly. A flat pack from a heavenly Ikea you might say.

Unnecessary Complexity

However, someone must have designed those parts in order for god to assemble them, right? Maybe, but if you are a being capable of instantly conceiving of all of the complexity in the universe in one go (ready for assembly), then why would you make everything so complex? Why for instance, having developed a perfectly good propulsion system for simple structures like sperm, would the designer say: “Well I’m bored with little tails, I think I’ll create a rotating propeller for a small class of bacteria. Yes, that’s it. That will brighten up an otherwise dreary Sunday.”? Really this argument applies to such a broad range of things it’s difficult to overstate. If you were designing universe from scratch, then surely you could make it simpler. You could start by simply not creating, say, oh, a billion or so species of insects, or, Catholic priests. If god did indeed find a better way to propel a bacterium, then clearly he is involved in design, and is therefore imperfect. The observed complexity of the world is just unnecessary and totally arbitrary for a perfect being. It suggests trial and error, and again, not fitting for a perfect being.

In summary:

  • God can’t be both a designer AND a perfect being.
  • Design implies trial and error, and improvement. Anything else is merely assembly.
  • Unnecessary Complexity suggests arbitrary decision-making and waste, and that an iterative approach was taken, which in turn implies that trial and error were at play, and hence the concept of god is impossible to take seriously.

Dane Cook – Atheist

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This from correspondent downdr56…

Thanks JR.

Rationalbrain is back

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OK, I’m back – where was I? Oh, that’s right, I was just saying that religion is bullshit, miracle cures are bullshit, anti-intellectual and anti-science right wing commentators are nuts, anti-vaccination proponents are dangerous nuts, and sci-fi is good. That about sums it up.

But seriously, I’ve been distracted for the last few months, and to some extent, jaded by the accumulation of bullshit in the world. It’s the old ‘whack-a-mole’ game. There’s always another nutter to attend to.

But now I feel like having another crack at it, albeit at a lower intensity, so don’t expect something every couple of days. I plan to keep my aims modest and see how it goes.

In any case, it seems that rationalbrain has ticked over just nicely without me, with steadily growing visitation over the several months of downtime – in fact since September last year, visits have grown every month, to now be more than double the number at that time.

For this, I need to thank scenar, Swisse and Elmore especially, and feel that there may be a chance that I’ve persuaded at least one person to avoid wasting their money.

This is not to say that I haven’t been involved – on the contrary, I made a point of responding to any comments which came in. If you’re interested in some friendly banter, look no further than the scenar articles, for which I’ve copped a heap of abuse. It’s strange how a request for evidence makes people froth at the mouth.

Must be doing something right. So, hope to see you around.

rb

(p.s. thanks for the encouragement rationalfollower)