Saturday, April 14, 2007

I don't know how I missed it until the night before but Climate Action day is tomorrow April 14th

This April 14th, tens of thousands of Americans will gather all across the country at meaningful, iconic places to call for action on climate change. We will hike, bike, climb, walk, swim, kayak, canoe, or simply sit or stand with banners of our call to action:

Find an event near you here.

The Science Friday show on the event is here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Farewell Kurt!

From Pharyngula

We all have a request from Kurt Vonnegut.

I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, "Isaac is up in heaven now." It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, "Kurt is up in heaven now." That's my favorite joke.

Kurt is up in heaven now.

I think it is also only fair to give him Kilgore Trout's epitaph: "We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane."

Asimov and Vonnegut, along with Douglas Adams and Carl Sagan were strong formative influences in my younger years. The realization that they are all gone fills me with sadness. But I am more than ever grateful for their thoughts and ideas.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bush administration wins award!

For its unprecedented efforts of discouraging, changing, and sometimes censoring the reports and studies of government scientists in order to make them more supportive of political policies, a 2007 Jefferson Muzzle goes to… the Bush Administration.

Bush's anti-scientific stance has been unrelenting. Add this to the list.

It only took his "Human-animal hybrid" and "gross abuses of medical science" comments to entirely lose confidence in the Bush administration. Even more so than the Iraq fiasco and scandals too numerous to count.

Just remembered the scandalous misinformation the administration is passing around regarding alternative fuels and refusing to revise CAFE standards...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Taking an example from the Piraha

From NPR

A missionary met small amazonian tribe called the Piraha and while relating the gospels the following conversation ensued:

Piraha: "You met someone that came back from the dead? That's amazing!"
Missionary: "Well, I didn't actually met him."
Piraha: "Well, never mind then..."

May we all be a little more skeptical, like the Piraha. Funny part was that the missionary began to question and doubt his faith.

Framing Science

There is an interesting kerfuffle going on in the science blogosphere about how to frame science for the public. I think this is similar to Dawkins vis-a-vis Neil de Grasse Tyson as best illustrated by this short video:

Both approaches have their place. We need communicators with both styles for differences audiences.

The Guard Dilema

XKCD is one of my favorite cartoons. Today's strip has an interesting take on the guard dilema. It brings fond memories of the "Pyramids of Mars" Dr. Who (Tom Baker's) storyline.

By the way. I do enjoy the contemporary Dr. Who. Both new Drs have been excellent. I am saddened to see Rose and Co leave the show but am intrigued by a companion that walks around on a wedding gown. I hope she gets to keep it.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Klinghoffer examined

The Seattle Times had an interesting editorial by David Klinghoffer on the new atheists. I will enumerate a few points that are easily falsified and let the masters take a better shot at it.

1)"Yes, atheism begins with a faith, namely that only material and physical (not spiritual) causes make the world run."

Uninformed atheism can be a faith. However, someone with enough understanding of the natural world has no problem concluding that god is highly improbable and in Laplace fashion "an unnecessary hypothesis". True faith is religious because it creates a de novo hypothesis in the abscence of any evidence or observation.

2) "God-centered religion evolve in prehistoric man as a useful adaptation or as a surprising byproduct of other evolutionary processes? The possibility that it developed in response to a living God was not considered."

Yes it has the problem is that there is evidence for the former and none for the latter. The latter is a wish.

3) "Unfortunately, Dawkins does not grapple with the latest arguments for intelligent design as formulated by their chief proponents."

This problem has been solved ever since Darwin. Not to mention every word Dawkins type "grapples" and overcomes the arguments of IDsts.

4) "Dawkins, for his part, mocks the God of the Hebrew Bible as "arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Such a wild caricature will be unrecognizable to any believer (like me) in the God of Israel. But Dawkins and Harris seem unfamiliar with religious tradition as biblical monotheists know it from personal experience and deep study. Frankly, the success of the new atheist faith would be hard to imagine without today's soaring levels of societal religious illiteracy."

I have explained before PIDs or points of intellectual dishonesty. This is one. Dawkins accurately describes the god of the old testament as described in its pages. What Klinghoffer wishes to see is another (delusional) matter.

Science Friday on the Volt and other green cars

The excellent Science Friday had a segment on green cars. There is an interview with a GM VP (Environment and Energy!?) about the Volt. She doesn't give a timeline on the availability of the car but mentions that it all depends on "battery development". Maybe they should rip them from the EXISTING and perfectly funtional Rav4EVs!

I keep getting this feeling that the volt, just like fuel cells, are PR stunts or FUD against hybrids and plug-ins.

I do want to believe GM but their record after the EV1 fiasco leaves much to be desired.

Dawkins and Collins on NPR's Fresh Air

Dawkins and Collins had separate interviews on NPR's Fresh Air (not yet posted). As usual Dawkins is excellent and answers all questions with a combination of logic and humility that is to be commended. Its Collins that is always frustrating. On a dime, Collins can go from reasonable to crossing what I call the "point of intellectual dishonesty", or PID.

Some of Collins' reasons for believing in god are his experiences with patients, the DNA code and the nature of the universe. Here we have the three major PIDs of religious scientists; 1) Because it makes me feel better it should be true, 2) Because its awe-inspiring it must be god and 3) Belief out of ignorance. Collins should know better. I will not go into arguments because it has been covered much better than I could by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and others but I thought outlining the fallacies in a short paragraph would help.

Am I the only one that would like to see them in a joint interview? They did have a joint interview on Time magazine, but the audio for this interview is not available.