Weekend Intellectual Free-Fire Zone #22

What’s the news this weekend? Alas, there’s very little going on out there that’s of interest to this blog. We’re still waiting for the Coppedge decision, but the judge is taking his time and there’s nothing to report yet.

As for ol’ Hambo, he’s pleased to inform us that he collected $300 from some kids for his Noah’s Ark project (see the thrilling tale here).

Elsewhere, it’s been discovered that Pluto has a fifth moon, and astrology buffs will be delighted to learn that People born from September to November are significantly more likely to reach 100 years of age than those born in March.

So there you are. It looks like we’re on our own again. As with all our free-fire zones, we’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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32 responses to “Weekend Intellectual Free-Fire Zone #22

  1. “Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast”… and bloviate. Don’t forget bloviation.

  2. I’m guessing that the fifth Pluto moon means that the New Horizons probe will have even more work to do when it arrives at Pluto in 2015. I just hope that they give it a real name soon. “S/2012 (134340) 1″ takes too long to say.

  3. So, the little bible thumpers scampered all the way from Numbskull, Georgia to give professional con-man Hambo $300 for his Ark Lark. Goodie for them! Great use of their $300. Now, let’s see what else they might have done with their time and money. What might be simple and do some tangible good in the world.

    I wonder, I wonder.

    Sheep in the flock or Messenger of Peace? You choose.

  4. Spector567

    I’d love to see the results of a lie detector test on hambo. I think the results would be revealing.

  5. How about “3960 BC for the creation of the world”? Who needs Ussher? We have Jeff Swanson! I want you to know I sacrificed brain cells getting this information. If you want to skip all of the prelims (including the part where he felt he was being “lied to” by science all of his life after seeing the Paluxy river “man tracks” for himself), just jump to 13:45 in the video.

  6. Retired Prof

    Let’s see. I read somewhere that this is year 5772 according to the Hebrew calendar. Counting backwards from 2012 AD gives 3760 BCE as the beginning, if you ignore the absence of a year zero in our calendar. Does Swanson think God’s Chosen People lost count of 200 years? Or did nobody think to start counting till 200 years had elapsed? Or was my source wrong?

    Makes a big difference in getting ready for the Apocalypse.

  7. I happen to have seen a very authoritave study that fond that people who have the most birthdays tend to live the longest. Statistically, I believe this study has a larger sample than the astrology based figures cited above.

  8. I succeeded in getting support@texassboe to forward to EVERY elected member, a particularly devastating and eloquent critique of creationism I recently saw. It addressed the tactics of some of the more cunning anti science members of the board w/o specifically targeting the Texas sboe. Maybe it will put a little iron in the spines of the pro science members of the board who have the potential to
    more effectively challenge the butchery creationists coached by the Discoveroids have
    wrought on science in Texas recently. This blog and it’s commenters inspired this. Step 3, political activity against creationism leaders.)

  9. Typos typos above d’xxz !

  10. Note sure if you linked to it elsewhere, but this Panda’s Thumb article discusses a nice review of the DI’s latest book. I started leaving comments on the Panda’s Thumb, but unfortunately most people there preferred to feed a troll, so I left more detailed comments on the reviewer’s blog.

    Of particular interest to me, is that this book is one of the clearest admissions of what appears to be the DI’s “average” position regarding “what happened when,” namely that of “progressive” OECs, who have no problem with mainstream chronology of life (& death before the Fall), but do have a problem with common descent. As expected of ID, the book criticizes Francis Collins’ acceptance of common descent (how dare a good Christian do that!) but makes no mention that the DI’s own Michael Behe accepts it too.

  11. retiredsciguy

    Believe I read somewhere in the past that people born in the Fall statistically have higher IQs than average. The thought then was that gestation during summer provided better nutrition for the developing fetus.

    It would stand to reason that smarter people would take better care of themselves. Also, higher IQ = higher income (on average), which buys better health care. Thus Fall babies would live longer — on average.

    Has nothing to do with astrology, folks.

  12. @retiredsciguy:

    From death before the Fall, to birth during the Fall, who knew? ;-) In fact, I was born in the Fall, as were both of my parents.

  13. docbill1351

    I was born after the Fall.

  14. What really matters is the alignment of the stars when we’re conceived.

  15. docbill1351

    I think Eddie Fisher was boinking Marylin Monroe when I was conceived. Does that count?

  16. An interesting TED talk about educational videos: http://youtu.be/RQaW2bFieo8 (about 6 minutes).

    This suggests that giving clear and concise responses to Creations nonsense may be the wrong approach, and if we want to persuade, we need to address misconceptions.

    Of course, they probably just want to preach, not learn. Oh well.

  17. retiredsciguy

    docbill cracks, “I was born after the Fall.”

    Just knew someone would say it. And Eddie Fisher >>Marilyn Monroe?? Really? JFK>>Marilyn Monroe, but it was Eddie Fisher>>>Liz Taylor.

  18. Oh no! I was born in July! I’m gonna die! ghaaaaaaa!!!

  19. Curmudgeon: “What really matters is the alignment of the stars when we’re conceived.”

    I heard that the gravitational force from the one doing the delivering completely drowns out any effect from objects light years away. ;-)

  20. @Curmudgeon:

    Kidding aside, you are right that if there’s any effect from anything, it is far more likelt to occur at conception, not birth.

  21. My understanding is that the moment of the severing of the umbilical cord is what counts in astrology.

  22. docbill1351

    Back at Cherry Tomato, you can’t debate, persuade or educate the hard core propagandists (Disco Tute fellows, ICR, AIG, and the rest of those scumbags) They’re not in the business of understanding.

    Nor can you persuade the hard core ideologues because they’ve already made up their minds and beds: school board nuts, crazy politicians, demented teachers.

    And, the rest of the adults have either stopped learning (they don’t care) or they are lifelong learners and you don’t have to worry about them because they’re rational.

    That leaves the kids which is where the battleground is. It’s for the education of the children. Who was the comedian (Cheech and Chong) who wrote about the Mormon pioneer, Gettum Young?) If you can plant the seeds of doubt about science in kids young, perhaps as young as the 4th grade, it’s difficult to change later. Sure, some kids will break the chains and become scientists and engineers anyway,

    Just imagine a generation of Eric Hovinds and Kirk Camerons who produce nothing but expect somehow for the world to provide them their needs magically (infrastructure, electricity, medical, etc)

    Theocrats are very, very selfish and shortsighted, and they are very dangerous. Happy Monday!

  23. docbill1351

    This is just too cute! And entertaining and educational.

    Probability calculations using a Doc Bill example of all things. Of course, I didn’t even do the dirty math, only the thought experiment.

    Another one I postulated was to calculate the probability of a particular photon being emitted from the sun, traveling to Jupiter, reflected back to Earth only to get lodged in my eyeball, where it ends its journey.

  24. DDKGood video, and it demonstrates the nonsense of such calculations. I have a quibble tho (on which I’ve quibbled before), about the more fundamental assumptions. The Creationist use an unstated assumption that the probability of Divine/Designer creation is 1.0, and the result of this can only be this original assumption. Working through the math shows the silliness of the argument, but we should question that assumption from the very start (and before doing the complicated math).

    The next time this comes up, I’m going to try asking for the assumed probability of Divine/Designer creation, just to see if I can get an answer. If any of you folks try this, maybe let me know how it works out.

    Oh yeah, there is quote mine* of mathematician Emile Borel:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_probability_bound
    Don’t let them get away with this either.

    * according to the Wiki article, W. Dembski is back to using this “probability limit”. At one point I read Dembski stating that it would be necessary to calculate a more proper likelihood for comparison of his CSI (in theory, the statistically correct approach), and that this calculation was “not yet possible”. Maybe he figured out that its actually impossible to do this and went back to the old dodge.

  25. Try calculating the probability that any particular person would be born.
    Make it a special person, like you, or me, or the Queen of England. In order for you to have been born, this means that all of your ancestors
    had to survive to maturity and have met and mated with another of your
    ancestors. In days not so long ago, it wasn’t unusual for kids to die before reaching maturity – let’s estimate that the probability of surviving, meeting, and mating was 50%.
    Now let’s estimate the number of distinct ancestors that a given person has had. The number doubles as you go back each generation, but obviously there had to have been a lot of intermarriage because the doubling quickly outruns the number of people on Earth. Let’s be conservative and say that a few generations back a person has an average of only 10 ancestors per generation, and 3 generations per century. That’s 30 ancestors per century back to the time of Noah, let’s say 4000 years ago, which means a total of 1200 people who survived.
    The probability that 1200 people would survive to become your ancestors is (0.5)^1200, about 1/ (10^360). Far less than one in a googol cubed.
    You really are something special, not just a product of random events.

  26. TomS says: “You really are something special, not just a product of random events.”

    But if everyone is something special, then there’s nothing very special about it.

  27. @TomS: Before doing any calculation, state what alternative(s) you might conclude, and how you will calculate the corresponding probability of the alternative(s).

    It’s an important point that I overlooked for a long time too. Your calculations may be perfectly correct, but the reason they lead to a nonsensical conclusion because of a nonsensical assumption. It’s a great demonstration, but we should avoid getting so caught up in the math that the underlying error goes unmentioned.

    Here is a dead simple version: I roll a 6-sided die and is come up 3-pips. Therefore, I conclude there is something wrong with my die, because the probability of rolling a 3 (1 in 6, or 16.7%) is less than 1.0. Note it doesn’t matter what I rolled, ALL the outcomes have a probability of 16.7%, therefore all possible conclusions from this are that is something wrong with the die. There error is not in the calculation of the probability; the error is in comparing that probability to 1.0.

    My point, is don’t argue the probabilities with a Creationist and tacitly allow the faulty assumption to go unchallenged. Start with the response: “This test is faulty because it can only conclude the implied assumption.”

  28. retiredsciguy

    Frank J says, “I heard that the gravitational force from the one doing the delivering completely drowns out any effect from objects light years away.”

    Right. It was Carl Sagan in Cosmos, and he used the planet Mars as his example. Not light years away, but same effect.

  29. retiredsciguy

    And no , I don’t have a steel trap for a memory. It’s just that I played that episode of Cosmos many, many times as part of my jr. high science class curriculum. (Maybe not Billions and Billions, but enough times to remember it well.)

  30. retiredsciguy

    Tomato Addict — Talking about rolling dice brought to mind another argument to refute the probability fallacy:

    Let’s say you roll a pair of dice one thousand times, and carefully record the result of each roll. What are the odds of rolling that exact combination in that sequence?

    I’m not a mathematician, but I don’t have to be to make my point — the odds are truly astronomical. And yet, it happened! But it just happened once, which is the fact that’s overlooked when the creationists bring up the “impossible odds” concerning the formation of life. That happened just once, also.

    People confuse the odds of something that happened with the odds of repeating the event.

  31. I find it interesting how many arguments against evolution are at least as good arguments against reproduction.
    For example, the argument that goes like this:
    If our brains are the product of evolution, then how can we trust our reasoning?
    Becomes the even better argument:
    If our brains are the result of genetics, reproduction, development and metabolism, then how can we trust our reasoning?

  32. retiredsciguy

    “If our brains are the product of evolution, then how can we trust our reasoning?”

    Any person making that statement definitely should not trust their reasoning.