Thursday, October 19, 2006

Compatabilism and Libertarianism

David Siemens thinks J.P. Moreland is wrong. Moreland argues the human mind is part of nature and is endowed with libertarian capacities, such that it is capable of true choice. Siemans believes that this is a capacity that only God has. He notes:

Moreland has produced a straw man, but one with a curious consequence. If, as he claims, physics is not self-contained, that is, if there are nonphysical causes of physical phenomena, where does he draw the line? Psychokinesis? Energy vortexes, like those claimed to exist near Sedona, AZ? Crystals? Pyramidology? Alien intelligences exerting forces we cannot detect or measure? Astral influences?

He argues that Moreland has conflated terms for different disciplines:

"Mass" is obviously an important scientific term, from Newton's [f = ma] to Einstein's [
E = mc2]. This does not mean that I can insist that it be applied by psychologists to determine the mass of anger when someone loses his temper. Conversely, I cannot ask how angry a uranium nucleus is when it spalls.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The notion of complementarity

I have always sort of axiomatically taken it that science exists to describe the natural world and cannot resort to supernatural explanations. J.P. Moreland seems surprised that anyone would take that position.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Science quotes

I am preparing for my second forum on ID and theistic evolution. The first one went well and one of the attendants said she will try to fill the room next time. Along the way, I have been reading up on teleology. Here are a few quotes I came across:

Teleology is a lady without whom no biologist can live.  Yet he is ashamed to show himself with
her in public.
-- Ernst Wilhem von Brücke (German physiologist, 1819-1892)

"The species of whale known as the black right whale has four kilos
of brains and 1,000 kilos of testicles. If it thinks at all, we know what it is thinking about."
--Jon Lien, "Whale Professor" at St. John's University, Newfoundland,
speaking to the Norwegian Telegram
Agency (spring 1995).

Then, there is the famous one by J.B.S. Haldane:

"If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of
creation, it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars
and beetles." (1951)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Foxnews Page

Fox News has divided its science section into various categories, one of which is "Evolution and Paleontology" and is devoted to recent news of the field. This sounds promising.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


The recent problems that the Republican party has had with science has not gone unnoticed. Scientists and Engineers for America is a new organization devoted to supporting "science friendly" candidates in the political arena. Part of the preamble to the SEFORA Bill of Rights reads:

Science demands an open, transparent process of review and access to the best scholars from around the nation and the world. Mistakes dangerous to the nation’s welfare and security have been made when governments prevent scientists from presenting the best evidence and analysis.

This is probably a good idea. Politicians make bad scientists and I, for one, have been embarrassed to claim the Republican party on this issue. Time will tell whether or not it makes the same mistake that other organizations with laudable goals have made by venturing into areas of the political arena (such as abortion or human rights) that are, at best, peripheral to the scientific endeavor.

Hat Tip to Marilyn Savitt-Kring.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Winds of Change

Blogging might be a bit funny over the next few weeks. I have accepted a professional position in the library at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and will begin the new job on November 6. With a fourth child on the way, there wasn't much debate about this.

  • Same benefits
  • Better vacation
  • Much better pay (equivalent to an assistant professor salary)
  • No ugly, hideous relocation: my wife and I don't have to move a foot.

I will continue to write (one article in revision, one planned by the end of the year), teach online for UT and blog, but this seems like to great an opportunity to pass up. Just ta let ya know.

Time Magazine

Time Magazine is doing an issue on "What Makes Us Human?" CNN has a short blurb about it. I intend to pick the issue up and have a look. I haven't read Time in years because it tends to take a leftist approach to things but this will be worth a look.

A public forum on evolution and ID

I have been asked to participate in a public forum at the Baptist Student Union here at UT on October 10, 17, and 24 with a retired physicist and ID supporter by the name of Neal Caldwell. We will discuss the nature of science, evolutionary theory and how theology should or should not play a role in scientific discourse. The proceedings will be moderated by Julian Reese.

Along the way, we will try to define Intelligent Design and distinguish it from "creationism" and what the evidence for macroevolution really is. It should be fun. If you are local, please swing by. It will be at noon on each Tuesday.

Flores again

An article has appeared in the September 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2006, vol. 103(36): 13421-13426) by Jacob et al. called "Pygmoid Australomelanesian Homo sapiens skeletal remains from Liang Bua, Flores: Population affinities and pathological abnormalities," arguing that the hominid remains from the island of Flores are not the remains of a new hominid/hominin species (whew!) . I can't provide a link because this article is behind a subscription wall. The authors write:

Our reexamination of the original skeletal material shows that there is insufficient morphological or metric evidence for a new hominin species on Flores, where evolution over millenia in total isolation is unproved, unlikely, and at variance with Stegodon migrations and glacial geology.

The authors further remark that the morphology of the remains:

...exhibits a combination of characters that are not primitive but instead regional, not unique but found in other modern human populations, particularly some still living on Flores, and not derived but strikingly disordered developmentally.

This will make Jonathan Hawks happy. I am guessing there will be rebuttals to this paper, especially given the bad blood between Jacob and the original discovery team.

Hat tip to Art Durband.