The Bathroom Wall

| 671 Comments

With any tavern, one can expect that certain things that get said are out-of-place. But there is one place where almost any saying or scribble can find a home: the bathroom wall. This is where random thoughts and oddments that don’t follow the other entries at the Panda’s Thumb wind up. As with most bathroom walls, expect to sort through a lot of oyster guts before you locate any pearls of wisdom.

Just because this is the bathroom wall does not mean that you should put your #$%& on it.

The previous wall got a little cluttered, so we’ve splashed a coat of paint on it.

671 Comments

First graffito!

What? No “Creationists suck”?

Wow. The first JAD-free Bathroom Wall.

Finally, a JAD free Panda’s Thumb.

Alas, poor Yorrick…

I guess I’ll never get a coherent definition of semi-meiosis now.

Leave JAD alone, harmless nuts don’t deserve to be picked on.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 8, column 2, byte 228 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Let’s start a party.

I’d like a discussion on “Why Intelligent?”

Why not just Design?

Who are we to identify something as “intelligent?” What does that mean?

If “we” can figure out that the flagellum is like a 10 E-09 hp motor, powering that wave hopping bacterium along at a cm per year then why don’t we build our own and add twin screws and a ski rope?

How do “we” know it’s “intelligent” design? Suppose our designer came in last in his class. Then what? You know what they call a student who comes in last in his medical school class, don’t you?

Doctor.

So, how do we spot intelligence? My cat is intelligent. Oh, sure, he can’t paint the Mona Lisa, but neither can I. I spend two hours a day driving to and from work. My cat sleeps. Who’s intelligent?

And, finally, anybody who refers to a freaking MOUSETRAP as “irreducibly complex” has obviously, obviously never tried to install a wireless network card with Windows 98!

Let loose the Dogs of War…

Let slip the Dogs of War …

Interesting review of Peter Lipton’s “Testing Hypotheses: Prediction and Prejudice” at Philosophy of Biology.

The NYT:

Smithsonian to Screen a Movie That Makes a Case Against Evolution

By JOHN SCHWARTZ Published: May 28, 2005

Fossils at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History have been used to prove the theory of evolution. Next month the museum will play host to a film intended to undercut evolution.

The Discovery Institute, a group in Seattle that supports an alternative theory, “intelligent design,” is announcing on its Web site that it and the director of the museum “are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception” on June 23 for the movie, “The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe.”

http://nytimes.com/2005/05/28/natio[…]hsonian.html

from that article:

The museum, he said, offers its Baird Auditorium to many organizations and corporations in return for contributions - in the case of the Discovery Institute, $16,000.

When the language of the Discovery Institute’s Web site was read to him, with its suggestion of support, Mr. Kremer said, “We’ll have to look into that.”

This is the second time in a week I’ve heard of deliberate lies by the DI. Remember they claimed that guy was a biochemist?

Maybe Bill Dembski is the Fletcher Reede of Information Theory?

Gah. Creationists Suck!

Read the article about the Smithsonian, it turns out that (surprise) they were just letting the IDers rent the room for the screening, which they will do for just about anybody. But of course the creationists can’t get any traction without deception, so we have this BS about how delighted the museum is to have thier little piece of fiction.

Seriously, is there anything to their strategy except repitition? All of their arguements have been refuted again and again, but they still keep babbling on. It seems more and more likely that their strategy is to fill so much time and space with their rhetoric that no one will have time to hear the other side.

I repeat :Creationists SUCK.

FWIW, I found this on the DI website:

June 23, 2005 Smithsonian Institution Premiere of The Privileged Planet

The Director of the National Museum of Natural History and Discovery Institute are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception for The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe, 6pm Thursday June 23, 2005.

The documentary showing will be in the Baird Auditorium of the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Insitution, Washington D.C.

The reception following will be in the Smithsonian Institution’s Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals.

Attendance is by mailed invitation only.

Now lets look at that NYT article again:

But a museum spokesman, Randall Kremer, said the event should not be taken as support for the views expressed in the film. “It is incorrect for anyone to infer that we are somehow endorsing the video or the content of the video,” he said.

The museum, he said, offers its Baird Auditorium to many organizations and corporations in return for contributions - in the case of the Discovery Institute, $16,000.

When the language of the Discovery Institute’s Web site was read to him, with its suggestion of support, Mr. Kremer said, “We’ll have to look into that.”

Re “I guess I’ll never get a coherent definition of semi-meiosis now.”

Maybe one of the biologists around here read enough of his material to summarize that concept? I think I got the gist of it, but the technical details go over my head.

The gist of it, to the extent that I could follow from wading through half of the “manifesto”, plus a handful of comments on here in which he actually talked about it, is that sometimes the female (or females?) of a species will shift into using an alternate means of reproducing, essentially inbreeding with herself, producing offspring that have identical alleles for all genes. I think the idea there is that those with a bunch of bad recessives will mostly die without descendants, and the handful that don’t get the bad recessives will be genetically “clean”. Those can then shift back into normal sexual reproduction with a “clean slate”, so to speak.

Plus, if during that semi-meiotic reproductive phase, some chromosomes fused, or split, or acquired inversions, or otherwise got rearranged, the descendants would then be a new species.

Now how that’s supposed to relate to the “new” species acquiring different anatomy or new abilities, I don’t know. Also don’t know how it’s ever supposed to work for types that have few offspring per parent, since in that case any one female going into semi-meiotic “mode” would be unlikely to produce any of those few with all clean genes.

Anyhoo, if I got the gist wrong, or if greater detail is wanted, maybe some resident biologists can fill it in.

But, if the above is more or less what he was saying, what really baffles me is that he wouldn’t simply say it in a few paragraphs.

Henry

Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day.

Give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.

- Timothy Jones

How many erroneous arguments against evolution can you pack into a single column? This columnist at “Intellectual” Conservative.com attempts to set a new record –> Entropy: Enemy of Evolution?

The natural tendency of matter and of all of energy is toward greater disorder – not toward greater order or complexity as evolution would teach.

Very few scientists have considered or pondered the implications of the law of entropy upon the theory of evolution.

The theory of evolution teaches that matter tends to evolve towards greater and greater complexity and order. We are so accustomed to seeing evolution of technology all about us (new cars, boats, ships, inventions, etc.) that we assume that nature must work the same way also. Of course, we forget that all those new gadgets and technology had a human designer behind them. Nature, however, doesn’t work the same way.

The simple fact is that the law of entropy precludes macro-evolution from ever occurring. Entropy is the measure of increasing disorder in a system. The natural (or spontaneous) tendency of matter and of all of energy is toward greater disorder – not toward greater order or complexity as evolution would teach. This tendency towards disorder that exists in all matter can only be temporarily overcome if there exists an energy converting and directing mechanism to develop and maintain order.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/[…]CF001_2.html

Claim CF001.2: The entire universe is a closed system, so the second law of thermodynamics dictates that within it, things are tending to break down. The second law applies universally. Source: Wallace, Timothy, 2002. Five major evolutionist misconceptions about evolution. http://www.trueorigins.org/isakrbtl.asp Response:

1. The second law of thermodynamics applies universally, but, as everyone can see, that does not mean that everything everywhere is always breaking down. The second law allows local decreases in entropy offset by increases elsewhere. The second law does not say that order from disorder is impossible; in fact, as anyone can see, order from disorder happens all the time.

2. The maximum entropy of a closed system of fixed volume is constant, but because the universe is expanding, its maximum entropy is ever increasing, giving ever more room for order to form (Stenger 1995, 228).

3. Disorder and entropy are not the same. The second law of thermodynamics deals with entropy. There are no laws about things tending to “break down.”

References:

1. Stenger, Victor J., 1995. The Unconscious Quantum, Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

full text of the email sent to [Enable javascript to see this email address.]:

Intellectual Conservative is not being very Intellectual in publishing this piece by Babu G. Ranganathan entitled Entropy: Enemy of Evolution? Babu says, “The natural tendency of matter and of all of energy is toward greater disorder – not toward greater order or complexity as evolution would teach.” This is just fantastically stupid, so old and dumb that physicists groan when they hear it. A standard response can be found at http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/[…]CF001_2.html . The conservative movement makes a tactical mistake by aligning with pseudoscience advocates, such as global warming deniers and evolution deniers. While I’m a liberal, I send this to you because I want the other side to have the best possible arguments, in order that we may be strengthened by strong competition.

In the spirit of the Bathroom Wall, and because shooting down ID creationists is a boring fish-in-the-barrel game, I pose a novel question:

Anyone know what Aimee Mann’s wonderful song Red Vines is about?

Thanks Henry

So semi-meiosis is postulated to produce genetic variation. This is then available to the process of natural selection. Isn’t this evolution?

Hi all,

I’m arguing in another place with a guy who claims to be neither a Creationist or IDer but keeps spouting anti-evolution arguments. The discussion’s actually got to a point where I think he’s a disciple of James P Hogan’s “mainstream science is wrong about everything and any theory it disagrees with is correct by definition” view. Anyway, he has made some fairly silly claims about the inability of natural selection to explain the sort of “microevolution” events in the lab that even the Creationists are happy with these days, but we’ve wandered quite some way from my expertise in physics and astronomy, so I was hoping I could get some of you clever people to check my counter-argument for holes.

Here’s what he cut-and-pasted from somewhere (I think Hogan’s “Kicking the Sacred Cows” book, but I’m not 100% sure):

The normal form of E.coli lives on the milk sugar lactose and possesses a set of digestive enzymes tailored to metabolize it. A defective strain can be produced that lacks the crucial first enzyme of the set, and hence cannot utilize lactose. However, it can be raised in an alternative nutrient. An interesting thing now happens when lactose is introduced into the alternative nutrient. Two independent mutations to the bacterium’s genome are possible which together enable the missing first step to be performed in metabolizing lactose. Neither mutation is any use by itself, and the chances of both happening together is calculated to be vanishingly small at 10-18. For the population size in a typical experiment, this translates into the average waiting time for both mutations to happen together by chance being around a hundred thousand years. In fact, dozens of instances are found after just a few days. But only when lactose is present in the nutrient solution. In other words, what’s clearly indicated in experiments of this kind—and many have been described in the literature—is that the environment itself triggers precisely the mutations that the organism needs in order to exploit what’s available.

And here’s my draft response:

OK, so the odds of both mutations happening at once is vanishingly small. But if both of those mutations by themselves have no harmful effect on the organism’s survival chances, then they won’t be selected against and so you will soon establish three populations – the originals, ones with mutant gene A and ones with mutant gene B. Then all you need is for one of the A mutants to also mutate the B gene, or vice versa, and you have your lactose-eating bug. It doesn’t have to happen at the same time.

Let’s look at the numbers. If the odds of A&B both mutating in the same reproduction event is 10^-18 then if each mutation is equally likely the odds of just A or just B mutating is 10^-9. If odds of 10^-18 work out to once every hundred thousand years then presumably odds of 10^-9 work out to once every 0.0001 years – and 0.0001 years is 52 minutes. So before the first hour of the experiment is up you have your first mutant version that could mutate again to give you the lactose eating one. Obviously, the mutant populations are going to be much smaller than the original population, so a few days seems about right for them to mutate again and suddenly find themselves able to eat the lactose. And of course once that happens the fact that they can eat stuff that’s all around them that the others can’t means they’ll outcompete them.

So basically it’s a classic example of evolution by natural selection of random mutations.

Any feedback welcome.

From today’s NY Times: Smithsonian to Screen a Movie That Makes a Case Against Evolution

Fossils at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History have been used to prove the theory of evolution. Next month the museum will play host to a film intended to undercut evolution.

The Discovery Institute, a group in Seattle that supports an alternative theory, “intelligent design,” is announcing on its Web site that it and the director of the museum “are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception” on June 23 for the movie, “The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe.”

The film is a documentary based on a 2004 book by Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of astronomy at Iowa State University, and Jay W. Richards, a vice president of the Discovery Institute, that makes the case for the hand of a creator in the design of Earth and the universe.

News of the Discovery Institute’s announcement appeared on a blog maintained by Denyse O’Leary, a proponent of the intelligent design theory, who called it “a stunning development.” But a museum spokesman, Randall Kremer, said the event should not be taken as support for the views expressed in the film. “It is incorrect for anyone to infer that we are somehow endorsing the video or the content of the video,” he said.

The museum, he said, offers its Baird Auditorium to many organizations and corporations in return for contributions - in the case of the Discovery Institute, $16,000.

Pardon the interruption, my brother directed me to this site, and you seem the best people to ask. I homeschool my kids, and, whenever I go to the NCHE bookfair or homeschool bookstores they are all dominated by creationist science books. They are not all necessarily obvious about their creationism but the bias is almost always there. I am about to order a science education set for the middle school level(5th-8th) and I could only get a superficial look at it first. The website for the company is http://www.beginningspublishing.com/ I have looked at the site and can’t detect any bias in that direction but some are very cagey about identifying themselves with this movement. Does anyone already have any experience with this company, and its products, that they can share? Thank you in advance. Sionan

well, judging from the about section on the site you provided, I’d say there is something odd there.

also, this line could be a bit of a concern:

.deference to the Holy Scriptures

this certainly implies that “technical accuracy” might be suspect.

However, any legitimate textbook publisher should be able to provide a sample book for perusal.

ask for a sample in the area of concern, and judge by that.

I realize I may not have been clear. I know that I can’t really avoid the science books that have the bias I don’t really like. Phrases like “deference to the Holy Scriptures” and euphemisms like “honest segregation of scientific knowledge and theoretical speculation with supporting evidences as well as technically sound critiques[teach the “controversy”] of those theories” are dead giveaways to the bias of this company. But for middle-schoolers, basic science ought to be basic science and even creationists shouldn’t be able to screw it up. I’m hoping this set is reasonable in that regard. Sionan

just taking a look at the sample junior high biology lesson (http://www.beginningspublishing.com/R1Sample.htm) provided answers your question quite nicely, here is a quote from the introduction to the biology lessons on evoltionary theory:

In this text we will attempt to teach the general theory of evolution because a good education in the sciences requires it. We present it as a theory—a working model into which scientific data are fitted—but which we ourselves do not accept. As new observations are made, models will be altered, radically changed or altogether discarded. After many years of study and observation in my discipline as a microbiologist, I hold that the general theory of evolution is in serious error and is entirely inadequate for explaining a great volume of scientific evidence. I also hold that the universe was created by a Supreme Being possessing design and creative capabilities far beyond our comprehension.

it just gets worse from there.

so, how you missed such obvious bias is odd, but trust me, it’s VERY biased. I wouldn’t recommend it at all.

“I know that I can’t really avoid the science books that have the bias I don’t really like”

wow, if that is the case, I weep for the future of private schooling.

are you SURE this is so?

Aside from that, you really can’t have a legitimate discussion of biological science while including constant biblical references.

“even creationists shouldn’t be able to screw it up”

but that’s my point, they can and do. even at the junior high level, basic discussion of SCIENCE should never include religion as alternative explanations for observed phenomenon. this only induces unnecessary confusion and innacuracy at best.

This is why we all here at PT are so vehemently against teaching ID as a “theory” to begin with, alternative or not. It simply ISN’T science, and it is confusing and deceitful to teach it as such.

If the best you can do is find texts that include such allusions to religion as science, perhaps you should write your own?

But for middle-schoolers, basic science ought to be basic science and even creationists shouldn’t be able to screw it up.

Uh, yes they can.

Ms. Atkins, is there any reason you can’t use the texts from a reputable publisher?

I don’t know where you are – but some states allow local schools to loan texts to homeschoolers. Some localities require it. I’m not a great fan of most biology texts, since they tend to deadly dullness (the publishers are working on that), but it would be difficult for an independent publisher to do better than the mainstream educational publishers.

Check out the websites for Holt Rinehart and Winston, and for Prentice Hall, and see what they have.

One could also assemble a pretty good curriculum in biology from PBS tapes, especially with the series “Evolution.” There is a great website that accompanies that series, and Carl Zimmer has a fine companion book that I’ll bet you can find at discount and in paperback.

And while they are not deep, having not been required to take biology before college, I got a great background from the Merit Badge Series from the Boy Scouts – Nature, Soil and Water Conservation, Forestry, Wildlife Management, Animal Science, Archaeology, Bird Study, especially Environmental Science, Fish and Wildlife Management, Fishing, Gardening, Insect Study, Landscape Architecture, Mammal Study, Medicine, Oceanography, maybe Pets, Plant Science, Public Health, Pulp and Paper, Reptile and Amphibian Study, and Veterinary Medicine. That’s more than you need – you can tailor a program to your kids’ interests. There is a pamphlet, or booklet, available on each one, and a set of requirements that kids must complete to get the badge, which would be great study assignments (bonus: Enroll your son in Boy Scouts, get the merit badges, earn ranks …). Here in Dallas the Dallas Zoo offers short courses in things like the Reptile Study badge, so kids can get the badges using the resources of the zoo. Local nature centers often help out, too, and so do local chapters of the Audubon Society.

I also recommend supplementing biology with other Scout science Merit Badge books: Astronomy, Atomic Energy, Chemistry, Weather, and Geology.

One advantage of these books is that kids tend to have more fun and do a lot more hands-on stuff. They’ll come out understanding not only how biology works from books, but knowing how it affects them and their community every day.

If evolution is one of your state requirements for kids that age, you’ll have to supplement – the PBS series is great way to do it, and be sure to check out the University of California at Berkeley site on evolution (you can find it through NCSE’s site).

You can find good lesson plans at the New York Times website, on some topics.

Maybe you don’t need a book at all …

Moses: Okay, are you honestly ignorant or just willfully ignorant? Because all you’ve done is a complicated circular exercise in new age navel gazing because you can’t deal with the purposeless universe. One of my favorite quotes from my favorite scientist (that’s not my wife) of all time:

Sorry, that doesn’t mean anything to science. Do you have a specific point of contention?… or are you just going to pretend like you have a clue, while spewing nothing specific like so many others love to do?

SEF… it ain’t cuz I asked for it… ZING!

Island, why exactly did you ignore my question? I mean the one calling for published articles. Instead of insulting us you would do well to consider the possibility some of us may actually want to know more than what you’ve written on your web site. I would imagine that it’s this kind of response that attracts comparisons with ID, not any substantive creationism in your posts.

But to demonstrate my good faith, let’s examine those “first couple of paragraphs” of you’ve been urging us to read:

island Wrote:

An empirically supported argument can be made that an “entropic” Anthropic Cosmolgical Principle is ‘most-natural’ in an expanding universe for self-explanatory reasons

What empirical evidence are we talking about? What are the “reasons” and why are they “self-explanatory”?

island Wrote:

but is there enough justifying evidence that the predominant expansive inclination of our universe also represents the reason that the forces are “tuned” in a manner that produces “sites” where intelligent life can arise and evolve?

This sounds promising: I’m listening.

After a couple of obvious questions and answers we come to this:

island Wrote:

C ) Is there evidence that humans are capable of some higher-level contribution to the process that is relatively uncommon or “unique” enough in our universe to justify an Entropic Anthropic Cosmological Principle?

What do you mean by “higher-level contribution”?

island Wrote:

Once, again, the answer is yes, as humans are by far the most energy-efficient of only three known sources for isolating the release of enough energy to make real particles from the negative energy of the quantum vacuum, which directly affects the symmetry of the universe, so it is less probably a coincidence that the “flatness” of the universe is also the most apparently significant of all of the “anthropic coincidences”.

Please explain this one sentence. Take your time. [This is what I had in mind when I mentioned the post-modernist generator.]

island Wrote:

The evidence most certainly does support a valid hypothesis for design in nature… in terms of a thermodynamic mechanism that enables and requires human creation as a means to satisfy a very practical physical need.

What do you mean by “design”? A “mechanism” that “enables and requires human creation”? Explain how this isn’t circular. Whose “pratical physical need” are you talking about?

This should be enough to keep us busy for a couple of posts.

Island, Is Dorion Sagan’s book a good primer or would you recommend another? Paul

Comment #43559

Posted by island on August 17, 2005 04:06 PM (e) (s)

Wow… two clueless morons in a row… Is there anyone that knows any physics that I can talk to?

I have a BA in Physics. But I’m not going to talk to you about the fine tuning “problem” because creationists refuse to understand the nature of the problem. It’s the theory which needs great fine tuning, but creationists demand it’s the universe which is fine tuned. They find a misstatement or two by a physicist, or a nut like Tipler, and will not be convinced otherwise. The cosmological constant is not known to even one significant digit, so don’t talk to me about it being extraordinarily tuned. It’s small size in the MKS system is completely arbitrary and meaningless, and has no bearing on how likely it is.

Lowercase steve has noticed yet another person posting as simply “steve”, so to avoid confusion, he thinks he might change that to steve story.

Who are you people and what have you done with all my favorite PT commentators?

Island, from your website:

Dirac noted that the number of baryons, (protons plus neutrons), in the universe is equal to the square of the gravitational constant, as well as the square of the age of the universe, (both expressed as dimensionless numbers). From this, Rober Dicke realized that a even a slight change in either of these relationships life could not exist. Stars of the right type for sustaining life supportable planets only can occur during a certain range of ages for the universe. Similarly, stars of the right type only can form for a narrow range of values of the gravitational constant.

I honestly don’t know how we can determine that life could not exist if these relationships were any different. Could you explain that please?

In 1957, Robert Dicke noted that carbon based life can only exist in our universe when the Dirac’s Large Numbers Hypothesis is true. Human existence is possible because the constants of the universe, and for planet Earth, lie almost exactly between the spectrum of potential, within certain highly restricted ranges. Dike’s observation means that Dirac’s Large Numbers Hypothesis is somehow true even though his cosmological model was flawed, but per the above “new” physics, Dirac’s hypothesis is valid within the framework of Einstein’s static model if the energy of the observed antiparticle exists in a negative energy state, (by way of negative vacuum pressure), until enough vacuum energy is condensed over an isolated region of space to achieve positive gravitational curvature.

This application exposes the causal mechanism for the Anthropic Principle, thereby giving the Strong Anthropic Principle real physical meaning, while removing the weakness that gets it labled as a tautology or a truism. It stands to good reason that repairing Dirac’s cosmological model would also repair his large numbers hypothesis, thereby sheding new light on the anthropic principle, and Dirac, (who was known as ‘the purist soul in physics’, for his “self-honesty”), would expect no less from us, than we should take a hard look at what the math is telling us.

I think it is an unwarranted jump to conclude that the Strong Anthropic Principle has “real physical meaning,” if you mean by that what I think you mean. Please define that term though.

island Wrote:

Tim wrote:

No, he didn’t.

What part of “not Tim” don’t you understand?

No part.

LOL.

http://www.ilja-schmelzer.de/ether/crank.html http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/crackpot.htm

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 3, column 90, byte 424 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

I will have to pick up his book sometime. I think I’m in the minority on this issue; I don’t care. Not to be crass, but, it doesn’t matter to me which way the wind-blows, if God exists and created stuff, then great, if not, then great too. Either-way, both truths seem good to me. It seems that those who are debating this issue are emotionally invested in the outcome.

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This page contains a single entry by Prof. Steve Steve published on June 1, 2005 2:26 PM.

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