I ate my wafer...


I was very happy to see that Blandus has returned to the ID discussion, and the following is an attempt to clearify my alledged preferential treatment of evolution, which Blandus has called "the most disappointing thing I've ever seen Bob write."

I was referring to the lack of useful results from ID theories which would be required to overturn, or modify current theory. That is, to vastly simplify, ID theories tends to fall into two classes: pointing out inconsistencies or holes in evolution (Behe, Wells, Dembski) , and inferring a designer from fine-tuning and similar (Dembski, Barrow, etc).

For the scientific community to accept a theory of the first sort, there would need to be a predictive element, merely pointing out a gap and throwing in a designer is useless. I've argued with Wells that he needs to get away from simply saying that “bacteria in X experiment didn't evolve” to “based on the fossil record, etc, evolution says that the bacteria should have certainly evolved by N generations”, that is to be seriously considered he needs to attack evolution on predictive grounds. I think that it is fair to say the scientific community is very suspicious that ID's own predictive ability, (and usefulness in experimental design) boils down to playing god of the gaps. When I said that new theories are held to a higher standard, I was specifically thinking of things such as the design of the eye, which it can be argued that evolution cannot explain, but ID can simply explain by inferring design. In the eyes of science, evolution gets a pass on explaining the eye when compared to a theory that merely referring a designer unless there is experimental evidence or a predictive ability to the theory that inferred the designer. (If that isn't clear, I would be happy to expand, but this is running long enough as is.)

Arguments of the second sort are inherently limited in effect, that is, they appeal to areas of science that are bordering on metaphysics. That is, they fall in an area of cosmology, while fascinating (especially to philosophers), is not horribly “hard” as far as science goes, and has relatively little, if any influence over the rest of science; it is to physics what psycho-therapy is to biology. Assuming for a second that I buy the logic used to support the fine-tuning argument, I would have no reason to see it having a practical consequence in science any more than the various theories on the consistency of dark matter change how biological experiments are planned. That is, the fine-tuning argument and its kin have no practical uses. This ties in with my original comment that the vast majority of science is conducted without regard to philosophy.

I will admit to being less that current on the latest literature, but I have yet to hear a practical benefit to ID theory. I've heard lots of vague references to reducing the prevalence of philosophical naturalism, occasional appeals to a desire to unify all of human knowledge, and extremely vague claims that “fixing” science to include elements of design could result in different areas of research, or somehow influence experimental design in a positive sense. Only the latter would have much relevance to the scientific community, and I have yet to hear a convincing, or even complete argument made from it.


Blandus has stirred up the ID hornets nest over the Ockamist. To quote Sam, "There is a just division of labor here in the blogosophere," and it appears that this one is Sam's turn. Since Blandus and I have a long history of related arguments, I probably won't be content to sit back entirely, but Sam is doing an excellent job.


PCB’s and Pantyhose: Suprisingly hot topics.

A. PCB’s

<>So, I was sitting in Environmental Law today, minding my own business when the topic of what sorts of workplace safety laws the average union worker prefers came up. I contributed that I had worked with “a bunch of redneck machinists that waterproof their boots with PCB transformer oil, and dispose of chlorinated solvents in a pit behind the parking lot*.” The class reaction to that one was...interesting to say the least. At least one or two people tried to rationalize such behavior as resulting from unseen economic pressures, etc. Another student apparently works for a union, in the health care industry, and wanted to talk about how blue collar workers are actually obsessed with workplace safety and environmental protection. I rather pointedly mentioned the differences between a union full of RN’s and actual factory workers, which lead to yet another round of heated comments. The discussion was cut short before it could get really interesting, but apparently I accidentally attacked some sort of cherished liberal belief...and it was fun. Perhaps next, I should tell them about the farmer I know that sometimes mixes his roundup/scythe with diesel instead of water. Anyway, I think that the whole PCB thing was part machismo, part middle finger to the government regulations, part ignorance, and part related to the otherwise unhealthy lifestyles of the workers involved. Any thoughts? Do blue-collar workers really care about the environment and workplace safety?

B. Pantyhose

<>Speaking of topics that are much more controversial than I would have ever imagined, I got into a discussion several weeks ago about gender equality and dress codes. To be specific: whether prohibitions on bare legs are sexist, or otherwise bad. The question boils down to whether pantyhose is so uncomfortable, unnecessary, and unpractical as to be downright evil. Since I was pretty clueless to the whole issue, I’ve been trying to ask as many of my female acquaintances as possible about it.** Any thoughts? As of yet, I’m maintaining the position that any dress code that allows the alternative of a pantsuit cannot be sexist. I’m not certain about in social situations, but I think in more formal settings it is equivalent to all of the useless accessories that go with a man’s Tuxedo.

Oh, and for the amusement of former Galloway residents, I found the following quote in a book I’m reading on the history of beer brewing:

“According to an early Anglo-Saxon veterinary surgeon, nothing cheered a sheep up more than a little new ale poured quickly down its throat.”

*Yes, I know: The first rule of blogging it that you don’t talk about work, The second rule of blogging that you don’t talk about work. However, in this case, I think I’ve been vague enough that I should be OK, given the number of places I’ve worked, the time gap, etc.

**Which is difficult to do without looking like a pervert with a stocking fetish, or in the alternative as just a pervert with a leg fetish.


Hmm....perhaps we now know the real reason Will is in Japan....apparently starting with his secretary.


Internet Quiz...

So I finally got around to taking Jake's political oreintation quiz, which although it didn't particularly work for me, I did like it better than the ubiquitous , and rigged, Libertarian one.

Oh well, on a lighter note, I stole the following quiz from Musings of a Catholic Convert:

You are Sir Bedevere! Wise and creative, you are able to counsel others as well as come up with some really ingenious plans of attack...sort of.
You are Sir Bedevere! Wise and creative, you are
able to counsel others as well as come up with
some really ingenious plans of attack...sort

Which Monty Python & the Holy Grail Character are you REALLY?
brought to you by Quizilla


Gay marriage is the same as birth control...

Blandus, Jake and I are having an interesting conversation at the Ockhamist. I've already said that Hitler was a neo-conservative...


I like Mozilla firefox, I've been using it heavily for some months now, and it is everything IE 6.0 should be. (Especially with the "up level", "clone window", and bloglines extensions, I've recently added thanks to some very helpful suggestions.) However, I couldn't leave well enough alone, and tried to update my laptop (Dell Latitude D500, 1.3 Ghz Centrino, 512 MB RAM, XP Pro SP2) from RC1.0 to 1.0 today using the update tool under advanced options. It connected to the update server fine, downloaded and installed 1.0, but then refused to connect or load anything. So, I uninstalled it, downloaded 1.0 with IE and did a clean install...with the same problem. I then wasted another 30 minutes or so trying various combinations before doing a clean install of RC1.0, and reinstalling all my extensions and bookmarks. Did Mozilla outsource 1.0 to Microsoft's Windows ME team? Any ideas?


A. Autozone is evil.

B. Discount Tire is good.

So, I nearly hit a dairy cow last week, and in the process of panic stopping my car made weird popping noise, followed by scraping brake noises. I finally got around to fixing it today:

  1. Crawl under car, see metal shavings everywhere, 1 year old autozone pad shattered!?!=new pads needed.

  2. Drive to NAPA, buy $Ceramic-Carbon fiber$ pads.

  3. Drive back to parking lot, start to loosen lug nuts, only to find two are stuck.

  4. Realize that my swingset tubing “cheater” is somewhere at home in Montpelier.

  5. Realize that August Stafford has my sledgehammer.

  6. Drive to Discount tire, assuming that since they tightened the nuts, it is their problem.

  7. Explain to Discount tire employee what I want, he asks if I have any other problems.

  8. I remember that my left front tire seems to be loosing about 10psi a month.

  9. Sit at Discount Tire for an hour.

  10. Am informed that my tire had a large plug repair done elsewhere (Parney's).

  11. Discount tire replaces the ~$130 tire, even with 35,000 miles for $12, including siping.

  12. Return to parking lot, install brake pads. (40 minutes).

Not only did Discount tire match the lowest price I could find when I bought the tires, and throw in siping for almost nothing, they've replaced three tires for me, for $12 a piece since then! (This isn't a cheap shot at BFG tires, the first one had a massive sidewall tear from a piece of rebar, the second wouldn't balance after a bad ball joint wore it out of shape, and the third had a poor repair done elsewhere!)

On the otherhand, Autozone's crappy brake pad, with something like 12,000 miles and nearly 75% life remaining nearly gave the Holstein cow a lesson in the Newtonian physics (4500 pound car at 60mph hits a 1300 pound cow...). The moral of the story is never to buy the cheapest brake parts!


College life is kind of like getting drunk. It simply exagerates who you already are. -Stolen from the younger Silliman.

Reason #36 to make fun of MSU undergrads


Girl: What program is it that you use to make powerpoints?
Boy: Ahh, what do you mean?
Girl: Well, you don't click on Word for it, you click on something else when you want to make a powerpoint.
Boy: Yeah, its one of the other Microsoft Office Programs, I think.
Girl: Well, besides word, there is Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint,

Election Rehash.

Since I vote in Ohio, I was espicially happy to see Kerry concede promptly. Why?

A. I did not want to see CNN parked in my parent's yard for 36 days while votes were recounted across the street. I was pretty certain that my precinct would be flagged as a problem since their absentee ballots were never delivered, I watched the poll workers physically help a VERY senile old lady vote, Nader's name was merely covered with a strip of translucent tape in the ballot book, and finally, the ballot book part of my machine was loose enough that it could slide nearly a full canidate vertically.

B.Bush clearly won both the popular and electoral vote this time, so moveon.org, et al, can shut up about stolen elections. The American people may be morons, but they did not elect Kerry.

Gay marriage definitely won Ohio for Bush, or at least my part of Ohio. I know that isn't news to anyone at this point, but I was surprised given Ohio's existing defense of marriage law, conservative supreme court, and the horrible wording of the Ohio amendment. It was somewhat disturbing listening to uninformed voters that were convinced that they had to vote for Issue #1 or their own heterosexual marriages would cease to exist legally, that their pastor would have to marry homosexuals otherwise, etc.


Well, I'm going to go ahead and call a Bush win at this point...it looks like Bush gets Florida and Ohio, which about ends the whole race. I'm trying very hard to be disappointed, but I'm just rather numb and glad the whole mess is almost over. Who knows, maybe Bush will fire half of his cabinet and life will be good.


Election Edition

So, as I'll be voting for Kerry in a couple hours. Yes, I hate myself for it, but Ohio is a swing state, and I feel obligated after oh, the patriot act and don't want to kick myself for supporting the INDUCE act, the Anti-Pyramid Promotional Scheme Act, etc in the future. Best case, we'll get to see if my utilitarian conservatism works.

The problem is, well, Ohio will soon be home to a great deal of litigation over the election, and the people that may pick our next president just wrote this:

"There appears to be no dispute that there was a collision; the cow was not insured at the time of the collision; and that the cow caused the collision. The dispute in this case is whether the cow was a ?land motor vehicle? as defined in the policy. While a cow is designed for operation on land, we do not believe a cow is a ?motor vehicle.? The policy at issue does not separately define ?motor vehicle;? therefore we must look to the common, ordinary meaning of this term.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines ?motor vehicle? as, ?a self-propelled, wheeled conveyance that does not run on rails.? Id. at 817. A cow is self-propelled, does not run on rails, and could be used as a conveyance; however, there is no indication in the record that this particular cow had wheels. Therefore, it was not a motor vehicle and thus was not a ?land motor vehicle? as defined in the policy."

In other election related news, my dad read this, and is trying to convince me to vote on the 3rd.

And finally, I want to be Jenna Bush's liver for Halloween next year.