Happy Darwin Day

February 12, 2008

codemonkeyhappy_darwin_dayMonkey launcher

Hug a monkey, it’s Darwin Day.

Debating Science

January 29, 2008

I as a general rule, I don’t think that the debate format is appropriate to scientific topics. A debate necessarily has a winner, whose ascendancy is determined by their ability to make a superior argument in the eyes of some theoretically impartial adjudicator. Reality however, doesn’t really care about rhetoric or majority opinion, and neither should science. The debate format is a circus, lending equal weight to opposing views that may or may not merit such treatment and which may or may not fully encompass all of the possible views. It also presupposes that the debaters are themselves qualified to argue their points and that the adjudicating person(s) is similarly competent to impartially weigh the opposing arguments.

As a case in point, consider this debate between Christopher Hitchens and Jay Wesley Richards.

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Expelled reviewed

December 18, 2007

Dan Whipple has seen and reviewed an advance viewing of Expelled. Sounds like it’s more or less what everyone expected – now we wait and see how it plays out.

(Via Pharyngula)

More video from AAI 07

November 9, 2007

Home sick today – stupid Viral Pharyngitis. On the up side, the Richard Dawkins Foundation has put up more video from the Atheist Alliance International 2007 Conference. As well as the Dawkins footage I posted about the other day, there are now clips with Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Andy Thomson, Matthew Chapman, Eugenie Scott and Ed Tabash.

Share and enjoy.

This is going to suck so very, very badly.

I first came across this movie via Pharyngula, where PZ outlined how he had been interviewed for the film under false pretenses. Eugenie C. Scott seems to have had a similar experience.

Ben Stein has a blog attached to the main site. Hoo boy. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to look at Ferris Bueller the same way ever again. Interestingly, he’s put a little header over his posts:

What we see below are two views of Intelligent Design’s place in science. One quote is from a brilliant, open minded and humble man…the other from a man typical of those who believe that they know better, but who don’t have much to offer, other than a closed-mind.

What on earth does humbleness have to do with truth?

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I’ve managed to scrape up some footage of the debate to scientifically prove god’s existence between two members of the Rational Response Squad and the dynamic duo behind Way Of The Master, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort.

Here is video posted by the Rational Responders – they’ve edited it, so it’s not entirely unbiased:

You can also view a clip on the ABC website.

From what I can see Ray and Kirk just trotted out the same old painting/painter argument from design and their very own ten commandments version of Pascal’s Wager (which incidentally violated their own premise that their proof could be made without referring to the bible).

The Rational responders didn’t do too badly, but Ray is a polished speaker and can talk complete crap without flinching, so every time they stumble over a point it looks like they don’t know their material – and unfortunately appearances count for a lot in this kind of show-trial format.

Ray and Kirk’s arguments are completely devoid of anything resembling logic, reason or perception of reality. I mean seriously, that argument from design gets refuted every damn time ray says it (changing the analogy from a watch to a coke can to a painting to whatever, does not make this a better argument) and he still uses it. Is he is stupid or wilfully disingenuous? You can’t argue with these people, because they just ignore your explanations or refutations and repeat their same old debunked argument as though repetition makes their argument less stupid.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sold on the whole debate concept. I have long thought that it is generally bad policy to debate creationists (or other flavours of pseudo scientific lunatic for that matter). It gives the loonies a legitimacy that they don’t deserve and I think that the debate format contributes little to the understanding of an issue (and can actually trivialise the enormous weight of methodology and review that corroborates a legitimate scientific theory – victory in debate is generally more reflective of the winners skill at debate that the actual information presented). A theory like Darwinian evolution has survived 200 years of scientific critique and it is undignified and wrong to have to defend it adversarially against a guy who’s main argument is based on biblical literalism.

(Having said that, I’m going to completely contradict myself by saying that there are a couple of people I’ve heard debate whom I consider exceptions to the rule. Dr Steven Novella of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast is a clear and precise speaker who knows his material and is adept at not allowing logically dubious assertaions to go unchallenged. You can hear him here defending the scientific legitimacy of the field of Psychiatry against Dr. Fred Baughman.
When it comes to debating evolution, I don’t think I have heard anyone better than Dr Massimo Pigliucci. He is brilliant, charming, articulate and funny, grinding creationists to make his bread. More Infidel Guy audio with Dr Pigliucci debating Robert Allen here and “Dr” Kent Hovind here.)

In response to the Blasphemy Challenge sponsored by the Rational Response Squad, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have decided to challenge two atheists to a debate to prove god’s existence. From this article:

Two Christians are meeting two atheists in a televised debate with the subject the existence of God, and Ray Comfort, a best-selling author and expert on Christian evangelism, says he can prove the existence of the Almighty in his allotted 13 minutes – without mentioning the Bible or faith.

This I have to see.

“We are excited that the network has decided to do this, because we have something very relevant to present,” said Cameron. “Most people think that belief in God is simply a matter of blind faith, and that His existence can’t be proven. We will not only prove that God exists, but as an ex-atheist I’ll show that the issue keeping so many people from believing in God – Darwinian evolution – is completely unscientific. It’s a fairy-tale for grownups.”

Evolution is “unscientific”? This can’t be going anywhere intelligent…

Comfort told WND he’s constantly amazed at “how many respectable men of God say you cannot prove God; that it’s only a matter of faith.”

“I’ve seen atheists backslide when they’ve heard me provide them proof,” he said.

I have audio of Ray Comfort debating the existence of god at an atheist conference. His argument was a bizarre blend of anecdote, personal revelation, scripture as evidence and poorly realised analogy. One could be forgiven for thinking that his strategy was to say stupid things until the atheist’s head exploded from the agonising barrage of wrongness.

“Most people equate atheism with intellectualism,” Comfort said, “but it’s actually an intellectual embarrassment.”

Well, someone here is an embarrassment. I’ll follow this one and keep you posted.