Immense News Void — Free Fire Zone

This is the quietest weekend we can remember for our kind of news. The Drool-o-tron™ is just sitting there, waiting, but it can’t find anything. Most state legislatures aren’t in session, the new school year has just begun, there are no reports of school board madness, and nothing’s going on with the few creationist court cases we’ve been following. Even the usual websites we visit (the Discoveroids, ol’ Hambo, etc.) have nothing much to say.

We’ve been through slow periods before, so we know this won’t last much longer, but for the moment it’s up to you to keep things going. Therefore, we declare another Intellectual Free-Fire Zone.

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 © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Immense News Void — Free Fire Zone

  1. Well, there was the “Answer” recently on AiG website about sand injectites “destroying millions of years” (Why always millions? Don’t they ever learn we speak up to billions ’round here?):

    To sum it up: they claim that the math of million-year-old sediment deposits means the wet sand took to long to rise and should have dried out long ago, so flooddidit.

    I’m no expert in geology, and I cannot give a satisfying explanation for the scenario, but I do know that a global flood laying the sediment down doesn’t really give enough time for a thousand feet of erosion.

  2. OK, a little exercise in attempting to ‘think like an ID-creationist’ (if that isn’t too oxynoronic) I’ve been toying with recently:

    Does a spider’s web contain CSI? Never mind that CSI is ill-defined, lacks any means (or even unit) of measurement, this is a thought experiment. In ID-Creationist style, I will boldy proclaim that no number of tornados blowing through a junkyard could ever produce a basic spider web, ergo a spider web contains oodles of CSI. That is, it is just brimming with ‘information’, the irrefutable hallmark of an Intelligent Designer.

    But the question at once presents itself: who is the Designer of the spider’s web? Is it the spider itself? Are we to suppose a spider designs its web? Or does the great invisible intangible odourless Intelligent Designer (blessed be He/She/It/Them!) intervene to individually design each individual spider web and somehow communicate that design to the individual spider, as the building contractor, to manufacture it?

    What we must of course rule out–as devout ID-Creationists–is any atheistical materialistic notion that the spider is a relatively simply organism that, by reiterative application of a simple mechancal algorithm, builds a complex artefact of which it has no concept of design or even purpose…

  3. @Megalonyx You forgot to mention that the spiderweb is perfect, but then quickly retract that phrase when contrary evidence is produced, considering it “Absolute PROOF of the fall”.

  4. I remember as a kid being told that the perfect design of a beehive is a sign of intelligent design. And, even as a kid I realized that that was bunk, that the hexagons would be produced by a quite simple process. I think that that was a vaccination for my brain to protect it against later memes about intelligent design.

  5. Is $40/bbl oil a punishment from the designer for the godless geoscientists who insist on using logic and reason in their exploration work?
    Or is it a demonstration of the awesome corporate lobbying power of Westie and Klinkledinkle. God knows it couldn’t possibly be marketplace forces at work.
    Adam Smith’s invisible hand strikes again…
    Or yahewh punishes the heathen.

  6. I just witnessed an incredible sight. As the International Space Station was passing over just north of my location north of Lafayette, Ind., a meteor streaked right by it on a parallel course — visually, very close. Since the ISS was at an elevation of about 66º at the time, the meteor was passing very nearly underneath the ISS. It would have passed through the ISS’s altitude at pretty nearly the same time the ISS was there. In other words, the crew of the Space Station had a very close call. This happened at right about 9:00 PM EDT. (Anyone see the movie Gravity?)

  7. For the record, the meteor was about 3rd magnitude and not that fast-moving. It was traveling in the same direction as the ISS — SW to NE.

  8. Just back from northern Indiana, where churches host survivalist seminars and decry evolution from the pulpit – cannot directly attest to the latter, but I did see a church billboard that read “Evolution is not a hope, it is a hoax.” Should have taken a picture or stopped in to see what the good reverend had in mind – couldn’t quite figure it out.

  9. About sand injectites – they’re scarce geologic phenomena. I’ve seen them in the field once – near Colorado Springs during a Geological Society of America stealth field trip led by creationists who lied in order to get people signed up. There were real geologists present who gave the non-woo version of the injectite outcrops. Long story short – creationists should look up “clastic dikes” – they’re well known and understood. You can see them in certain places at Badlands National Park in South Dakota, for example. Clastic dikes are a tiny bit different from sandstone injectites, but it’s essentially the same process of formation.

    About Indiana – I did some fossil collecting at St. Paul, Indiana over the weekend, at a quarry that allowed a club to visit. The principal target was fossils from the Waldron Shale, a famous Silurian unit. I had never seen or collected the Waldron before. No sunshine, and it started raining 3 hours into the visit. However, it was the 2nd best crinoid head collecting I’ve ever had. At one point, I picked up a Eucalyptocrinites crinoid head, then half a minute later, another one & half a minute after that, another one. Also got good brachiopods and corals and bryozoans, plus dalmanitid trilobite material. Interesting minerals there included pyrite (“fool’s gold”) and macrocrystalline calcite and glauconite (“the rarest common mineral”).

    About creationists – they’re still mean and wicked and stupid.

    About the movie “Gravity” – I saw it in the theaters and the suspense nearly killed me. A friend of mine who’s an astronomy buff said that the premise of the deliberate destruction of a Russian spy satellite that generated lots of debris in orbit was based on a real-life event done by the Chinese, just to be mean. I’ve heard that lots of people are ticked at them for arbitrarily generating tons of new space trash up there. Swine Communists.

    About meteors – the last ones I saw were in mid-August during the Perseid shower. I was in Yellowstone, observing geysers and hot springs for a couple weeks. A memorable moment was lying down outside, close to midnight, watching the stars, and having both White Dome Geyser & Gemini Geyser erupt simultaneously around me, while meteors streaked overhead. Bravo Nature!

  10. About spider webs – all I know about them is from a presentation that zoologist Bill Shear gave years ago when I was in graduate school.
    Evolution of Spider Webs

  11. [A modest offering for the Intellectual Free-Fire Zone, but at immoderate length, I fear. I don’t need to remind the Great Hand of Correction of his prerogative to delete this post if the length is unacceptable!]


    There was once a young man who delighted in beholding all the splendours of the world. A blazing summer sunset, or a spider spinning its web, or salmon leaping over a weir, were just a few of the myriad of natural wonders that could hold him spell-bound with awe and thrilled by the workings of the world.

    But he longed to see more—not only in the hope of discovering new wonders, but also the better to appreciate what he had already seen—and he grew impatient therefore with the limits of his eyesight. So one day he betook himself to an Optician for an eye test to learn if he was indeed seeing as much as he was able.

    The Optician greeted him warmly, seated him in the examination chair, and unfurled on the far wall a massive Eye Test Chart. The Chart covered the entire wall, with large letters at the top by the ceiling and with each successive line of letters in progressively smaller fonts. The top few lines were simple to read, the following dozen or so successively more difficult, and below those the lines were barely discernible as lines at all; in fact, the lower half of the chart down to the floor was simply a grey-toned smudge.

    The man read out the letters in turn from the top, until he began to strain and struggle to read them on the 14th line, and confessed he could no longer discern the individual letters on the 15th line.

    “Actually, your vision is perfectly normal, 20/20,” announced the optician. “Well done.”

    “But I can’t distinguish the letters past the 14th line,” protested the man. “And I can’t make sense of the letters that I can read. At first, I thought they were just a random sequence, but then I noticed that a few short words appear in the lines in a couple of places, but never together nor in a sequence that makes any sense. And I also notice that wherever there is a letter ‘Q’, it is always followed by the letter ‘U’, though wherever there is a ‘U’, it may be preceded by any letter. And I also noticed that sometimes the same letter may appear twice together, as say ‘DD’, but the letter ‘X’ never appears doubled. So it seems like this complicated jumble of sequenced letters is not completely random, but has been assembled in accordance with some rules—or at least, that’s how it seems from what I am able to read so far. If I could read more, I might be able to work out if there really are some rules at work here, or if the rules I think there are really do hold. And perhaps there is some sort of overall meaning to be discovered? It’s intriguing, but I just don’t know for sure; how can I find out?”

    The Optician smiled wryly. “You aren’t the first to ask me this, and I daresay you won’t be the last. So I will tell you: you have a choice. Let me explain.

    “Option 1: I can prepare for you a set of prescription spectacles, with lenses made using the best available technology by the celebrated NULLIUS IN VERBA SPECTACLE COMPANY. Equipped with these, you’ll be able to read another 3 or 4 lines of the chart, so you will be able to further test your hypotheses about specific rules, or perhaps detect other possible rules. But be warned: this can be a lengthy process, with no guarantee of any specific outcome. You may find, for example, an instance of a doubled ‘XX’ or a ‘Q’ followed by a ‘K’, in which case you will have to revise your proposed rules. Or you may discover a further word or two, possibly shedding some light on the store of words you have already found in the chart, and that might suggest some sort of meta-meaning—or it might not, there’s no telling in advance. You could spend many hours using your spectacles and discover some exciting new features you hadn’t suspected—but equally, you could find you have advanced your knowledge of the chart but very little.”

    “I see,” the man, doubtfully. “What are the other options?”

    “Option 2 is this little tract.” And so saying, the Optician handed the man a single page of a cartoon strip entitled BIG DADDY COMICS. The cartoon strip explained that the Eye Chart had been written in an ancient language by someone called Big Daddy, and it wasn’t meant for mere mortals to read. All that was necessary was to accept that the Chart was full of meaning, and the meaning was simply, ”Give thanks unto Big Daddy, or spend eternity in the Lake o’ Fire”.

    “That explains nothing about the Chart,” said the man, “and simply isn’t credible to me. Why should I believe it?”

    “Well, plenty do,” said the Optician, “but if you want reasons to believe, then you’ve already failed the Big Daddy test. But there is another option, which you may find a bit more satisfying. Have a look at this book.”

    The man took the book, which was titled Wholly Stricture (Ver. 1), and began to leaf through it. The book purported to be a translation of the entire Eye Test Chart, with all its hidden meanings laid bare, though these were chiefly various injunctions beginning “Thou shalt not.”

    “This would be invaluable,” said the man, “if it really were an accurate transcription and translation of the entire Eye Test Chart. But how can I know if that is so?”

    “Well, as the book itself explains, it was miraculously dictated by the Author of the Eye Test Chart Him/Her/Itself, via a Burning Bush, to an ancient prophet, who took it all down in shorthand.”

    “…Hmm,” muttered the man. “Strains credulity somewhat, don’t you think?”

    “Well,” said the Optician, “if that one doesn’t convince you, maybe have a look at Wholly Stricture (Ver. 2), which is said to have been dictated by an Angel to a different ancient prophet. It flatly contradicts everything in Wholly Stricture (Ver. 1), enjoining you to devoutly do all the things that the first book expressly prohibits, and vice versa. Or maybe Wholly Stricture (Ver. 3), which was transcribed from Magic Golden Tablets right here in America, or Wholly Stricture (Ver. 4), which was first published a few decades ago by a Science Fiction Writer, or—“

    “Enough!” said the man. “I’ll take the Spectacles from Option 1! They might only extend my knowledge a bit, and even that knowledge can only be provisional, but that is clearly the best one can do!”

    Here endeth the lesson…

  12. @Megalonyx-
    Am I being pedantic in noting that nothing in Version 1 or Version 2 describes their origins as being direct dictation (other than occasionally some quite small parts). (In fact, there are a few places where they explicitly describe other origins or reject direct dictation.) However, I must admit my total ignorance of Version 3 or Version 4 in that regard.

  13. DISCLAIMER: In the previous parable, any resemblance between the fictional Wholly Strictures (Ver. 1 to Ver. n ) and any actual book written in any language (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.

    This parable is told by weight, not by volume; contents may have settled during shipping and handling. We want this parable to reach you in perfect condition. If you are in any way dissatisfied about anything at all, please call our 24/7 Freefone Customer Care Line on 1-800-WHYDOYOUHATEBABYJESUS?

    Any ‘truthiness’ in the parable is void where prohibited by law (KY residents, add 85% Ark Folly Tax). All entries must be postmarked not later than Midnight 29 February 2016 and include 3 boxtops from Kellogg’s Klinghoffer Krud Krispies.

    All Divine Judges’ decisions are final; no correspondence will be entered into: once you’re in that old Lake o’ Fire, that’s it.

    Emissions from the parable are guaranteed by Volkswagen Group S.A.not to exceed statutory limits in the United States and the European Union (but they may really let rip in the Peoples’ Republic of China, where no one fusses about such things very much).

    No animals were harmed in the writing of this parable (apart from the baby pastrami that went into my lunchtime sandwich). Under the terms of the Berne Convention (1886), Megalonyx wishes to be recognised as the sole stud-muffin property of the exquisite Olivia, q.v.

    Batteries not included. Use spare parts supplied only by an authorised Megalonyx Agent; attempted repairs by end user will void the warranty. Choking hazard for children under the age of 14.

    May contain nuts.

  14. I just read in “The Economist” that IBM is going commercial with its “Watson” AI experiment.
    What do you think that Watson would report about ID, YEC, etc.? Here are some possibilities;
    Not well enough defined to say anything more than standard science is well enough supported to place a considerable burden on anything which calls it into doubt.
    Not even wrong.
    This proves that David Hilbert was wrong when he said, “If one were to bring ten of the wisest men in the world together and ask them what was the most stupid thing in existence, they would not be able to discover anything so stupid as astrology.”

  15. Megalonyx tells “THE PARABLE OF THE OPTICIAN”

    I heard a similar story, but it was about the origin and meaning of complex geometric shapes, and it occurred in a Seattle proctologist’s office.

  16. Megalonyx further claims: “If you are in any way dissatisfied about anything at all, please call our 24/7 Freefone Customer Care Line on 1-800-WHYDOYOUHATEBABYJESUS?”

    In the version I heard, the complaint hot-line was 1-800-Planet7.

  17. Eddie Janssen

    I have noticed that you very seldomly comment on anything from Uncommon Descent. The comment section is particularly informative…
    It could certainly fill an empty weekend.

  18. Eddie Janssen says: “I have noticed that you very seldomly comment on anything from Uncommon Descent.”

    I only visit a few creationist websites. The Discoveroids are worth the bother because of their ambitious (and ridiculous) political agenda. Ol’ Hambo’s website is worth it because: (a) he’s popular among the droolers; and (b) his stuff is so darned funny. And I look in on ICR and Jack Chick because of … well, their historical role in promoting creationism. There are hundreds more, but I don’t regard them to be worth the effort.

  19. Uncommon Descent is also covered very well indeed by The Panda’s Thumb, whose commentariat often actually cross over with UD.

  20. Dear Curmudgeon, have you ever addressed the skirmish in this battle known as the Library Wars? I found this fascinating as a side issue. Public librarians are harassed by creationists who expect their favorite biology books to be shelved in science, not religion. There are apparently operatives on both sides who stealthily shelve and reshelve books.

  21. Jill Smith asks: “Dear Curmudgeon, have you ever addressed the skirmish in this battle known as the Library Wars?”

    Not for a while, but it’s come up a few times, e.g.: Creationism and the Dewey Decimal System. Search the blog for “Dewey.”