Monday, May 11, 2009

Linkable Notables, Notable Linkables

* Mark Chu-Carroll discusses the problems with a recent paper by Dembski. He has a very good summary of reasons why you have to be very, very careful in treating evolution in terms of search and search landscapes.

* What is Jughead's hat?

* Greg Frost-Arnold notes that when you tie validity to Venn diagrams, the result is not classical. I've noticed this with Carroll's literal diagrams modified for propositional logic myself, although I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it here; that's not surprising, since literal diagrams and Venn diagrams are very similar sorts of diagrams. Given the way this sort of diagram relates to inference rules, I think that the reason for it is that the rules of Addition and Weakening can only apply in a very limited and restricted form -- i.e., to use them in their full sense would require changing the diagram to a different diagram every time you used them to introduce a new proposition unless you were (per impossibile) working with a diagram that already contained all possible propositions. (How exactly it would work in a particular case would depend, I imagine, on precisely what conventions of diagramming you were using.) Like Frost-Arnold, I'm sure someone has looked into something like this in the literature; but I've never been able to find anything like it. If you know of any case, let me know.

* Chad Orzel has a fun post on Rumpelstiltskin and spinning gold from straw.

* John Farrell looks into the evolution of protein folding.

* James Chastek has a good post on what Thomas Aquinas means when he talks about similitudes in the mind.

* Peter at "On Philosophy" reflects on the philosopher as artist.

* John Wilkins discusses what it means to ask whether religious cognition is adaptive. I'm inclined to agree with his suggestion that "religion is adaptive at various levels in various conditions, and no general claims can be made about it"; the reasons he suggests seem reasonable to me. Although, confessedly, part of my inclination here is that I also tend to think that there are too many very different things that get the label 'religious' for it to be a natural explanandum in the first place. It's like asking whether political cognition is adaptive; the first thing you'd have to do even to make much sense of the question is to begin to distinguish all the jillion very different things that can fall under that category, and you would expect that some of those are and some of them aren't, and you would expect any that are to be so for very different reasons, depending on how it relates to survival and reproduction, and you would expect the whole investigation to be extraordinarily complex and difficult. The sort of study discussed is indeed one of the things you'd want to do, in the hopes of clarifying things; but it's only one, and on its own barely begins to explore a very convoluted surface.

* YouTube finds:

Would anyone fall for the Trojan Horse trick again? One of the funniest things I've seen. At least the Turkish consulate knew better than to trust the Greeks bearing gifts.

The day the squirrel went berserk in the First Self-Righteous Church; I've always liked that one. It's almost as good as his Ballad of the Blue Cyclone, and even better than I'm My Own Grandpa (although on that last, it's hard to beat Lonzo & Oscar).

* Anita Silvers has an article on Feminist Perspectives on Disability at the SEP. Like much of Silvers's work, it is very interesting.

* Ed Peters discusses lay blessings in communion lines at Catholic Mass. I have never been able to make sense of the practice; it seems that was because there's no sense. The trouble is that I suspect that it will be virtually impossible to stamp out as long as non-Catholics are present at the actual communion; it's a very common habit, and very commonly recommended by Catholics for non-Catholics without any clarification or qualification, and I suspect both that lay ministers would not really know what to do if the practice were suspended and people still came up to them for it and that it would be something of a nightmare in many parishes to try to get across the underlying idea for the suspension to the people in the pews.

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