Saturday, August 27, 2005

Devils from Mars!

Dirt devils on Mars as photographed by the Mars Rover "Spirit". has all sorts of good stuff about the Rover Missions. It is generally filled with rich, geeky goodness, so check it out.

Not even my Mom reads this

Science, to some extent, is the attempt to stop fooling yourself. I am a pro. My paycheck (such as it is) comes from doing science. Still, I constantly struggle with the tendency to jump to conclusions, or to discount data I don't already agree with. In the many years of training it took to become a scientist, I didn't learn a magical way to turn these instincts off. But I did learn to challenge my assumptions; I learned to require proof of myself. I developed skeptical habits.

My skeptical habits and analytical skills have made my life better. I would like to share what I can of them, and I sorta started this blog to give myself a chance to spread my gospel o' scientificity. And to share the cool shit that science uncovers in abundance. But...

Nobody reads my blog. Now, Dad stops by once in a while. My uncle has peeked in, but he may have lost interest, since I wait a while between posts. I'm not sure how many peeks I've had. But in the great bloggy scheme of things, I'm talking to myself.

So I will post to suit myself. I will devote the blog to science and skepticism, if only to clarify my own thinking. If someone reads it and is pursuaded, if only that I am a moron, well, hunky dory.

Oh, and I changed the blog name. Since no one reads this, I don't envision it being a problem.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Regional English

Your Linguistic Profile:

45% General American English

20% Dixie

20% Upper Midwestern

10% Yankee

5% Midwestern

Interesting mix. I guess the dixie comes from growing up in Kentucky. The upper Midwest, from living in Michigan perhaps. I don't know how this questionaire was put together, but it's fun. There are a bunch more blog quizzes at the site linked above.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Intelligent design

I have read news reports that President Bush wants "Intelligent Design" taught along side evolution in public schools.

I'm against it because "Intelligent Design" is not science; it is a lawyerly turn of phrase, precison-engineered to legitimize the aim of asserting the faith of fundamentalists over science.

I don't plan to debate this here, because as it is I'd just be talking to myself, but I will state my position:

I think evolutionary explainations for the diversity of life on earth are far preferable to weak "God did it" arguments. They require real observations of real organisms, and produce data. Data can be flawed, and must be handled with skepticism and care. But with data and scientific method, one can correct mistakes, which one cannot with slavish devotion to the literal reading of ancient and venerable books, regardless of evidence.

Consider: I personally believe God did do it, indirectly, by imbuing nature at the outset with further self-creating potential. I recognize the attraction of Intelligent Design. The God I envision is the Enlightenment God, dispassionate, the architect of creation, whose cause is completely set into motion by some mysterious creative act, but then proceeds logically and, quantum mechanics allowed for, predictably. I have no scientific basis for this, but it is my intuition, questionable and dubious, but in the absence of an 'ultimate theory', what I will live with. A lot of religious people I love and respect would be unsatisfied with the God I posit, and a lot of scientific people I love and respect think I'm a goof for postulating any God. (Discussing it here makes me queasy, but I feel obliged to accurately represent what I think.)

This sort of idea of God would not sit well with ID proponents, I imagine. I'm unaffiliated with orthodoxy of any sort, and I don't hold any book, congregation or council, however revered as holy, as counter to scientific data, where it exists or could exist.

So why am I not a "Deist for ID" or the like?

I sometimes believe things without evidence, of course, but I try not to assert stuff without evidence. I might discuss that I think God, as I conceive God, created the universe, but past what we can measure, I do not expect anyone else to care.

I think evolution is natural and undirected.

I respect the uninformed who are skeptical about evolution, but I have no time for people who knowingly distort things to make a case. Liars for God are still liars.

I think science must proceed as if the universe is intelligible to do science. It seems logical that whether God exists or not, the universe still could be unpredictable and/or unintelligible. But we are constrained to look for order, and explanation, if science is to yield useful knowledge.

What people believe about God is not my concern. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg, to borrow from Thomas Jefferson. I think that mixing religious faith with science will do great harm to both, though.