Monday, August 29, 2005

Kibble and Bits

* Dennett's op-ed on ID is worth reading. Dennett always seems to me to be very uneven, and I think he is here, too (I think he starts off very weak, but he gets better near the end); but there are some very good points, and I agree with those who say that he's done a good job of distilling the issue to the basics. One problem with this debate is that the critics of ID keep haring off after second issues; and if there's one thing that's needed, it's a bit of zeroing in. (HT: Mixing Memory)

* I've been doing some slight defending of the Battle Hymn of the Republic at Right Reason. I think the basic question asked by the post is at least reasonable; I just don't like my favorite hymn being dragged down into a political discussion.

* Speaking of hymns, at my suggestion, Rebecca posted The Old Rugged Cross for her Sunday hymn series.

* Also in my out-and-aboutness, the discussion with Clark on infinite regress has spilled over into a new post.

* It looks like New Orleans was spared. Of course, as the damage reports come in, 'spared' is not the word that will come to mind. It could have been much worse, but it will still be bad for many people. Dr. Jeff Masters' Wunder Blog is a good place for informed updates. It looks like we in Toronto will just catch it as it goes post-tropical. The Canadian Hurricane Centre is providing updates on how this is expected to affect Southern Ontario and Southern Quebec (given how far we are from Katrina's landing point, we're likely to get nothing but wind and rain, with chance of flooding, but storms have been known to pick up more strength than expected over the Great Lakes, so it's worth keeping tabs on it). So far it looks like the petroleum system is holding, stretched though it be, but the damage isn't fully assessed yet; if things break down too much in Louisiana things could get hard for everyone over the next few months. The Oil Drum discusses the issue.

* "The Rhine River" has some speculation about what deity the Cylons worship. The issue is complicated by the fact that so much of our knowledge of Cylon belief is mediated through Six, who may have peculiarities in religious belief which other models tolerate but disapprovingly (as they seem to do with Six's libido -- one curious feature of the humaniform Cylons is that they don't seem to agree about much except their basic plan). Certainly Boomer seems much less devout (but that may be because she is like the Colonists to an unusual degree). Also, the Six in Baltar's head seems to be out on her own in some way, and her agenda is certainly at least partly religious. It's further complicated, as Nathanael notes, by the fact that the Colonists are tricky to pin down as well -- except the Colonists from Gemenon, who are literalists, the 'Globalized Mormonism' (as it has been called) of the Colonists is usually nominal, and is generally considered a private matter, anyway. The Cylons actually remind me a bit of QT-1 in Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" -- Cutie, you will recall, started as a Cartesian and then began to consider himself the Prophet of the Master, as he called it, which was the space station on which he was serving. Rationalism tends monotheistic, elitist, and intolerant of anything it regards as superstition, so I think the post is probably on the right track.

UPDATE: A short summary of an article on the likelihood of a scientific paper's being wrong (very high, the author suggests). PLoS Medicine has a good editorial on the subject. (HT: MM Sidebar)

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