John Searle’s homunculus announces phased retirement
After 54 years of teaching at Berkeley, the man inside John Searle’s head has announced he will be entering a three-year phased retirement after the end of the current semester. The diminutive Zhu Tao made the announcement at a press conference Monday in a rare out-of-costume appearance.
At the conference Zhu said he is retiring from his current position in order to spend more time with Searle’s family. “I have become quite attached to these people,” Zhu said through a translator. “Although, admittedly, not being able to understand a word they say has limited the intimacy of our relationships.”
While he expressed sadness at the end of an era, Zhu looked back with pride at his time inside John Searle’s head. Zhu is popularly credited with sparking the shift away from brain-based cognition. Today that shift continues apace, with figures such as Andy Clark and David Chalmers outsourcing their thinking to call centers in India as part of a growing movement of philosophers who believe cognition can extend beyond the boundaries of one’s skull.
Recently in Slightly Off Topic Category
I was very saddened to receive the following a few minutes ago:
It is with great sorrow that Talk Reason announces the death of TR co-founder and major contributor Mark Perakh on May 7, 2013, following a brief illness. He was 88 years old.
Mark Perakh was a professor emeritus of mathematics and statistical mechanics at California State University in Fullerton, CA. Perakh taught physics and wrote some 300 scientific papers. His work in physics focused on superconductivity and his book on thin films was translated into eight languages. He also wrote and published the novel Man in a Wire Cage.
Perakh’s fame particularly comes from writing about science and religion on Talk Reason (a website he helped found) and from his regular contributions to the blog The Panda’s Thumb. He also wrote a book critical of pseudo-science, Unintelligent Design.
His death is a great loss to the scientific blogging community.
Mark also contributed considerably to Why Intelligent Design Fails (which I edited with Taner Edis) and was available any time I needed advice. I will miss him greatly.
My old friend, the Alert Reader, sent me a cartoon that he claimed had appeared on Ken Ham’s Facebook page. Captioned “Famous sayings of Ken Ham,” the cartoon shows a caricature of Ham and three balloons, including this one:
It’s designed to do what it does do.
What it does do it does do well.
Yes, it does.
I think it does.
Do you? I do.
Hope you do, too. Do you?
I found it hard to believe that the cartoon was not a parody and wondered why it is found on Ham’s own Facebook page. The Alert Reader responded with the following, also reportedly from Ham’s Facebook page:
By Steven Mahone
David Klinghoffer has exploited the recent national tragedies to insult people he calls “Darwinists,” a term that he incorrectly conflates with callousness, indifference, and atheism. My colleague Steven Mahone was unimpressed by Klinghoffer’s post, penned the following reply, and graciously agreed to share it with our readers.
Update, April 24: Mr Mahone seems to have gotten Mr. Klinghoffer’s attention.
David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute is despondent over the recent string of tragic events that have befallen our nation. This despondency is understandable – especially since every mentally healthy person I’ve come across either in person or on social media shares essentially the same sorrow and anguish for those who were affected. Which is why I’m confused as to the intent of Klinghoffer’s recent online article, If Darwinists [sic] won the debate, what would they say to impart comfort, meaning to those in grief? In that article, Klinghoffer seems to imply that it would be a difficult task indeed for anyone who’s not inclined to pre-order the latest “game changing” polemics from his colleagues Berlinski, Meyer, or Luskin, to offer genuine consolation or even a sincere word of encouragement to anyone who is in need. Klinghoffer is convinced that while those cold, heartless, and impersonal men and women of material science might be able to cure the disease, afterwards you’d better not expect anything more than a firm handshake.
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that wild bees pollinate plants more efficiently than domesticated European honeybees. Not only that, they are free, whereas domesticated honeybees have to be rented and are becoming more expensive because of colony collapse disorder.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported a striking decline in the number of wild bee species and, in particular, of the once-familiar furry, yellow, and black American bumblebee.
*Sorry, could not resist.
Reporter James McNair recently reported in a Cincinnati newspaper that the attendance at the Creation Museum has dropped for four consecutive years and that Answers in Genesis lost over $500,000. These tidbits inspired my colleague Dan Phelps and me to look at AIG’s Forms 990. These are tax forms that must be submitted by nonprofit organizations to the US Internal Revenue Service and may be found if you have a (free) account on GuideStar.
According to various Forms 990 through the tax year ending June 30, 2011, in four consecutive years, AIG has run surpluses of approximately $2.1 million, $716,000, and $940,000, and a loss of $540,000. Not exactly a monotonic decline, but certainly a steep drop from a surplus of $2.1 million to a loss of $540,000 in three years. Can we expect similar losses due to the Ark Park? Maybe: Joe Sonka in the Louisville newspaper LeoWeekly reports that “… correspondence between Ark Encounter and the Tourism Cabinet reveal an application process that proceeded with remarkable speed, little scrutiny, and standards that appear different from that of [another applicant].”
The 2010 Form 990 (for fiscal year ending June 30, 2011) has some interesting information.
For reasons completely unknown to me, people who know nothing whatsoever about the ancient Mayans and, indeed, could not care less about the ancient Mayans think that the world ended yesterday. I had serious doubts, so I pinched myself and listened to the weather forecast before deciding that the world had not ended yesterday. My wife told me to shut up and go to sleep.
But when will the world end? That depends, of course, on what you mean by the world ending. If you mean when will Earth itself be destroyed, then that will happen roughly 5 billion years from now, when the sun becomes a red giant. Notice that I said 5 billion years, with a B, not, thank God*, a mere 5 million years, with an M.
If you mean, when will life on Earth be obliterated, that will happen in a more disquieting 1 billion years.
Second, there’s the winter solstice on the 21st, the beginning of winter. It’s the day the sun is at its lowest altitude above the horizon in the northern hemisphere and the day is the shortest of the year. The winter solstice is celebrated by many cultures, not including those who have to go to work in the dark of morning and return home in the dark of evening. But be of good cheer: The days will get longer again!
Finally, of course, both of those holidays are trumped by the ultimate on the 21st, THE END OF THE WORLD! (Or maybe just a transition to a new world of sweetness, light, and endless beer for the FSMers.) At least some of the loonier wingnuts (see here for some descriptions) tell us the world will end, basing their story on a misinterpretation of the Mayan calender. Skeptics notwithstanding, you can watch the end of the world live here.
So, Merry Kitzmas, Happy Solstice, and I’ll see you on the other side of the end of the world (maybe…)!
Last night, I saw a splendid production of “How the World Began” produced by the Boulder Ensemble Theater Company, also known as Betsy. If you hurry, you can catch the last performance of Catherine Trieschmann’s fine play this afternoon at 4 p.m. According to the director, Betsy’s production is only the fourth, after New York and two other cities.
Very briefly, the play involves a young, idealistic, single, pregnant biology graduate who comes from New York to teach biology in a rural Kansas town, at least in part because it has recently been destroyed by a tornado. Early on, she obliquely refers to creationism as gobbledygook and is challenged after school by a very troubled student. Unfortunately, she digs in her heels and refuses to apologize, with consequences both predictable and unpredictable.
I haven’t the foggiest idea, but I recently saw a video, which you may link to here, in which Mr. Craig, a Christian apologist, argues that (nonhuman) animals cannot feel pain but only responses to stimuli. Or if they can feel pain, then they do not know it is pain. And if they can feel pain but do not know it is pain then it is not pain. Or something.
My unsolicited advice to Mr. Craig: Study today’s (Nov. 16) Non Sequitur cartoon very, very carefully.
It’s here. Not only does this journal have the highest rejection rate of any journal; it has no page charges. You may submit your manuscript with no anxiety, since you know it will be rejected. Unfortunately, as a colleague of mine has pointed out, if the paper is rejected immediately, you may not leave it on your resume for long; it would be better if they held your paper under review forever.
You may buy a T-shirt at their store: they claim that they will not reject your money.
Finally, if you submit a paper to a journal that will never publish it, have you created any information?
Thanks to John Scales of the Colorado School of Mines for the link.
Dan Phelps, author of a recent PT article on the Creation “Museum”, sent us this link to a “documentary” on “replicating” the Ark. The “documentary” is a three-part series and has supposedly been produced for PBS stations.
Mr. Phelps says he could not find any PBS stations that are actually airing the “documentary.” Can any reader point to a PBS station that has shown it or plans to show it?
***Update, October 10: Joe Sonka, in an article for the Louisville newspaper LEO Weekly, reports that PBS has no knowledge of any documentary. He quotes Ken Ham, however, as saying that PBS had agreed to three documentaries. Perhaps Mr. Ham is exaggerating.
The director of the “documentary,” Johan Bos, incidentally, is associated with an oddball outfit that offers classes in film production and guarantees, “This class is a Christian safe environment. This class does not teach secular or worldly views.” A Christian-safe environment. I had no idea that Christianity was so fragile.***
As one gets older one learns to ration one’s obsessions. I don’t play Angry Birds, stayed away from SimCity, and successfully avoided first-person shooters. However, there’s a web toy that’s about to capture me: The Allen Brain Atlas. I’ve only recently managed to fade out exploring synteny viewers, but I fear that wandering around gene expression networks will capture whatever leisure time that frees up.
Update, Sept 5, 2012: The answers have been posted, but the site cannot handle the traffic. Scientific American has posted the candidates’ answers here. I have not studied them yet, but according to a press release,
Notable highlights include a shift in Romney’s policy toward climate change away from his more recent position of “My view is we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet…” back toward his view in June of 2011 when announcing his run for president. However Romney’s ideas about what to do about the problem are not clear. They contrast with Obama’s, who says he has specifics plans and is taking specific steps such as doubling fuel economy standards, but who was unable to get a cap-and-trade bill through congress.
Shawn Otto, the founder of ScienceDebate, further adds, “Some of the questions aren’t fully answered when they become politically difficult and others could really benefit from followup discussion.…”
… but Congress refuses.* See here for the presidential edition and here for the congressional edition of the questions. The presidential campaigns’ responses will be published here. Science Debate is an “independent citizens’ initiative” sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academies, and others.
* Well, OK, Representatives Henry Waxman and Chris Van Hollen have responded to the questions, so 2/535 = 0.0037, or about 0.4 %, which is close enough to 0 for my taste. Besides, John Boehner refused outright.
Dan Phelps, right, armed for battle, with his new friend, Ken Ham.
On July 28, 2012, Answers in Genesis (AIG) held a “Behind the Scenes” event at the Creation “Museum’s” Legacy Hall. The event was free but with RSVP required via the Ark Encounter website. I made it a point to register well in advance and ask for a space for a guest. I invited reporter Joe Sonka from LEO Weekly to come along since he has done numerous critical news articles and blog postings on the Ark Park. Indeed it was Joe who asked Governor Beshear and Ark Encounter representatives some embarrassing questions revealing that the Ark would have dinosaurs on it when the project was announced in December, 2010. What follows is my account of the event and summary of the status of the proposed park.
I wish I had thought of that title, but it is actually an article by Joe Sonka in the Louisville newspaper, LEO Weekly. According to Sonka, the Ark Park (properly known as Ark Encounter) will have to raise $22 million before it can even start construction, and $44 million an additional $22 million to complete the project (it was unclear to me whether that is an additional $44 million, above the first $22 million). Sonka further estimates that the project will take at least 3 years to complete, and an estimated $53 million will have to be invested over the next decade. If the project takes that long to complete, however, they will presumably lose at least some tax incentives.
But cheer up! There is hope: If you invest $100,000, the minimum investment, they project a 20.6 % return on investment. At this point, I am torn between a quotation attributed to P. T. Barnum and a myth concerning the sale of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Ken Ham, the driving force behind the Ark Park, claims that PBS will air a documentary this fall, but I could find nothing on the PBS website besides this broadcast, a year ago. According to Sonka, Ham claims that the PBS documentary will net the Ark Park 2 million visitors per year, an attendance that Sonka says would rival that of a big amusement park in Cincinnati, a city of roughly 300,000. Grant County, by contrast, has a population of around 25,000 and is located at least an hour’s drive from any major metropolitan area.