Leap Year Free Fire Zone

Tomorrow, dear reader, is the 29th day of February — a date that occurs every four years, more or less. Such calendar adjustments are necessitated by the ridiculously sloppy mathematical relationship between the length of a terrestrial day and the length of a year.

You know what that means, don’t you? Isn’t it obvious? It’s clear, undeniable evidence that the solar system, and therefore the whole universe, were not intelligently designed.

That conclusion was the decisive factor in your Curmudgeon’s decision to use this weekend as an opportunity to begin our spiritual journey. So we went to the train station. It was a grimy place, with strange people lurking around, but we were determined to proceed. We approached the ticket counter. “One ticket on the Glory Train,” we said.

The agent looked up at us with a bored expression. “We don’t actually sell those tickets,” he informed us. “The Conductor knows when you’re ready for your journey, and he’ll stop for you.”

“You mean … I just have to wait around here?” The agent shrugged.

We took a good look at the other passengers, sitting on uncomfortable benches. The thought of a long wait at this place wasn’t very encouraging. “Never mind,” we told him. “Perhaps this isn’t the right time.”

“As you wish,” the agent said. “But, you may end up on a train that goes … somewhere else.”

We thought about that. Then we thought about the 29th of February. Then we left the train station, determined never to return.

That creepy tale is all we’ve got for you today, dear reader, so we’re declaring this to be an 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.

Okay, the comment section is open — have at it!

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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28 responses to “Leap Year Free Fire Zone

  1. My dark side has noticed that we are approaching our Curmudgeon’s celebration of “Creationist Wisdom #666”. . . .an auspicious event. One hopes for a particularly delicious morsel to be served up in its honor.🙂

  2. waldteufel says:

    we are approaching our Curmudgeon’s celebration of “Creationist Wisdom #666”. . . .an auspicious event. One hopes for a particularly delicious morsel to be served up in its honor.

    If an appropriately crazed letter doesn’t show up, I’ll reserve that number until it does.

  3. I searched the usual creationist blogs to see if they discuss the problem of leap year. The Discoveroids don’t mention it. Neither does ol’ Hambo’s site. But the venerable Institute for Creation Research has an article from 2005 by John D. Morris, son of ICR’s founder: In the Early Earth, Were All the Months Exactly Thirty Days Long?, which claims that all months used to be exactly 30 days long, but the Earth’s orbit was changed by the Flood.

  4. @DavidK

    Golly! Many thanks for that link.

  5. In sharp contrast with the ‘controversy’ about ToE, where one side is rational and the other is not, I find the current case of FBI vs. Apple one in which I genuinely feel conflicted–and I would be interested (but only if it doesn’t provoke flaming, which is unnecessary and unwanted) if others have a clear view on what I find a complicated and unclear debate.

    Neither the FBI nor Apple are among my favourite organisations, by a long stretch. The current case puts me in mind of a popular hypothetical ‘ticking bomb’ argument re: justification of water-boarding or other forms of torture: that is, suppose you have captured someone who has planted a time bomb in some populous centre but refuses to disclose its location (you know the scenario). That particular argument always strikes me as somewhat idle, but FBI v. Apple is, alas, all too real.

    Intelligent thoughts on this one, anyone?

  6. OK, I have a leap-year question: isn’t it time for the Curmudgeon to devote a column to Evolution 2.0, by Perry Marshall? To whet your appetite, here’s a capsule summary of his thesis:

    1) DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern; it is a code, a language, and an information storage mechanism. 2) All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information. 3) Therefore DNA was designed by a mind. If you can provide an empirical example of a code or language that occurs naturally, you’ve toppled my proof. All you need is one. Perry Marshall

    The summary may mislead, in that his thesis is more than just ID: “Evolution 2.0” is evolution that proceeds by “[self-]adapted mutations + natural selection + time.” DNA, in other words, contains its own ability to adapt and mutate in response to its environment. Random mutations can also occur, of course, but they are like noise that obscures a signal, and almost never result in any evolutionary step (again, due to DNA’s abilities to self-repair and/or adapt). Thus evolution has proceeded not randomly, but by self-adapting code that was formed that way, with natural selection still doing its job to weed out the less successful mutations.

    He is offering a $3 million prize for the first person to provide an example of a naturally occurring code or language other than DNA itself; details are here.

  7. A. S. Haley mentions: “a $3 million prize for the first person to provide an example of a naturally occurring code or language other than DNA itself”

    There are numerous examples of Self-organization, each different, so none is precisely like the others. I suspect that the prize is as phony as a million three-dollar bills.

  8. I have a habit, the product of many years of observing creationist anti-evolution arguments. I ask: What is the creationist solution?
    Does anyone have an example of a code or language which does not involve natural processes? (I do not make an exception for DNA.)

  9. Regarding the randomness that makes leap years necessary and incidentally also means that all the ratios we base our calendars on — days to phases of the moon, months to years — are fractional ratios. Likewise every other astronomical relationship we observe except for a few satellites whose orbits fall into harmonic relationships.

    In an article for a different site I proposed that if there was a creator who wanted to make sure his creatures would recognize him as responsible for creation, he should have designed the universe, or at least the solar system, to operate consistently according to some consistent numerical base. Humans have mostly settled on base 10, probably because that’s how many fingers we have. That could work, but I suggested that for calendar-counting orbits base 12, the dozen, would work better. If the designer had spun the orbits of the moon and sun just right, we could have had a dozen months, each with 4 dozen-day weeks. If he timed the orbits precisely to the millisecond and kept them consistent over the generations, no one could doubt they were intentional and not random. To drive the message home, he could have given us six fingers on each hand so that we would grow up counting ordinary objects and events with the same system that governed our heavenly home, and we would know that we lived in a universe that was fitted exactly for us.

  10. Also the art of throwing a baseball would be enriched.

  11. Here’s a very nice video of ancient Rome and how it looked. Enjoy.

  12. @Mega: the most intelligent comment I met on the Apple/FBI issue is of course one I didn’t think up: since when is the FBI incapable of hiring hackers to do the job for them?

  13. Megalonyx asks about the current case of FBI vs. Apple.

    The best suggestion I’ve seen is that Apple should (assuming they can) crack into the phone and give the FBI its decrypted contents, without giving the FBI the software tools for doing the job.

  14. If Apple did provide the information the whole privacy system would be compromised. I believe that the privacy of all users of these systems is more important than the thought that the phoned MIGHT contain useful information. If there existed evidence that the phone actually contained material that would be useful I might view the situation differently – the case at hand is merely a fishing venture or, even worse, a cynical attempt to destroy our privacy.

  15. michaelfugate

    DNA is not a code nor is it an information storage system – period.

  16. It’s clear to me that the Intelligent Designers intended there to be five months consisting of 73 days each. Every fourth year, however, there should be 61 months; each month consisting of two weeks; both weeks lasting three days.

    The leap second, like the gravity wave, is a result of man’s sinful nature.

  17. Retired Prof said:

    Humans have mostly settled on base 10, probably because that’s how many fingers we have.

    What about our toes? WHY ARE WE NOT BASE 20!??!
    It’s just sooooo wrong.

  18. Oh, and that was an excellent short story, SC.

  19. Thanks, Gary. At least someone around here has good taste.

  20. Gary, Behe states that originally human males could count to 21. When humans started wearing animal skins (intelligence!), man’s ability to count was reduced to 20. When shoes were invented, man’s ability to count was reduced to base 10. When gloves were invented, in cold climates, early man could only count to zero. This is an example of intelligent design in reverse and may be unique in the field. That said, since this IS a Curmudgeon endorsed free fire zone, I’m wondering if other examples of reverse intelligent design have been documented by others? I’m wondering if more research on the topic has been done by members here that simply has not been reported yet.. .For instance, is intelligent design in reverse responsible for the “Darwin Awards” phenomena in popular culture?

  21. Cyano de Bacteregerac

    ‘Twas so in the beginning, but the smell… In His infinite wisdome, the Intelligent Designer made us such that we share the primates’ stinkiness although we aren’t related to them in the slightest.

    @Och Will
    I remember when all computer user interfaces had the close and min/max buttons on opposite sides, so you couldn’t close a window by mistake. The misfeature of having them all next to each other may or may not have started with Windows 95, but it’s now spread everywhere – even to Apple, once renowned for user interface design savvy. How’s that for an example of idiotification in design?

  22. Hans-Richard Grümm

    There are several thousand languages still in existence. Every single one occurs naturally.

  23. @A.S.Haley mentions a $3 million prize. The offer of the prize says that it is offered if patentable.
    I am not a lawyer, so I would like to know how a process which is not designed can be patentable. Or, for that matter, if it is designed by someone else.

  24. I have annoyed someone at Uncommonly Dense by trying to improve on Demski’s math. The response is about what I might have expected.

    Curmie: if you want to add a rel=nofollow on that, please do.

  25. Tomato Addict says: “Curmie: if you want to add a rel=nofollow on that, please do.”

    It’s already there. I’m not sure, but I think it happens automatically in comments.

  26. Tomato Addict: you are correct. Demski’s expression is a good approximation if the probability is small compared with the reciprocal of MxN. I suspect that that is what he had in mind. If the IDiots had defended Demski’s effort in those terms, we could have simply shrugged and merely maintained the he was a little sloppy. Their actual defence is ridiculous, and strongly suggests a very poor grasp of statistics.

  27. @Richard B, I am working on a reply specifically address the “but it’s an upper bound” criticism. Algorithmic probabilities are a bit more complicated, but Dembski’s quantity is not a probability is correct under that definition as well.