Saturday, March 23, 2013

Prepare for Apocalypse.

Just through from Townhall Magazine.... see below. Interestingly, the very scary link Townhall have provided below links to similar  material that can now be found using the embedded links in their mail shot about the  End of Mayan Calendar Post Apocalypse Self Help Guide.  So clearly they are still expecting the apocalypse. But in the meantime make sure you click on the link before the New World Order Illuminati  close down the site! Better arm up and be ready for war, fear and famine!  Yes, fear... that's it in a nutshell; it explains everything; it is fear that these monsters from the id feed on, use to spread their delusions and hold people in stultifying bondage.  And Townhall is helping to feed the fears.

Townhall Daily Newsletter
Gun Myths... BUSTED

Friday, March 22, 2013

Conservative Magazine Promotes Liberal Magazines

I want one of these! Should make a nice dint in the New World Order! What's the magazine capacity? long as a piece of string! No chance of me ever saying I wish I was carrying less amo! 

I occasionally publish the mail shots I get from the right wing magazine Townhall. See below for my latest Townhall posting which concerns their views on  gun control. As you read it remember that these are the same people who brought us the  End of Mayan Calendar Post Apocalypse Self Help Guide.  (Hint: Those guides are probably bargain basement right now, so if you are still interested in getting a copy, hurry while stocks last!). However, that no apocalypse was ushered in after 21 December 2012  doesn't mean that one day you won't have to defend yourself against the government of  "The New World Order". It's no surprise, therefore, to hear Townhall's pundit telling us it's not a good idea to limit ammunition magazine capacity.


Popular Gun Myths... BUSTED

In our April issue of Townhall Magazine, we talk to gun industry experts to dispel 10 firearms myths that have permeated U.S. cultural thinking. Have you heard these myths from your neighbors or coworkers? Now you'll have the knowledge to fight back. Check out an exclusive sneak peek of just a few items that made our list by scrolling down below.
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Excerpted from Townhall Magazine's April cover story, "10 Myths About Guns and Gun Control," by Mark Kakkuri:

Myth #3: Civilians do not need a certain type of gun.

"Need is irrelevant," says Richard Mann, author of the upcoming book "Handgun Training for Personal Protection" and contributing editor to several firearms magazines. An award-winning pistol shooter, Mann has served in law enforcement and the military and has trained personnel in both in defensive shooting.

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"Need?" he asks sardonically. "With speed limits at 70 mph we don't 'need' a car that goes any faster, we don't need iPads, DVRs or microwave ovens. When we start limiting the rights guaranteed by one amendment based on 'need,' they will all soon suffer."

Beyond Mann's philosophical point, a practical matter that often arises in firearms discussions is that of ammunition capacity, whether for rifles or pistols. How many rounds, for example, does a civilian need for his or her pistol for a typical self-defense situation?
Civilians have occasional need for high-volume magazines for pistols, such as when thwarting the attack of multiple assailants, says Ayoob, but most self-defense encounters will not require much ammunition.

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"However, you'll never hear anyone who's been in a gunfight say, 'I wish I was carrying less ammunition than I was,'" he says.

Ayoob says civilians consider police officers to be the resident experts on firearms and naturally like to do what the officers do in terms of choosing guns: "So if police carry a polymer pistol that holds 16 rounds of .40 such as a Glock 22, that's what they will think is best. The cops must know what are the best tools to defeat the bad guys in the area."

Myth #5: An AR-15 is inherently more dangerous than other semi-automatic firearms.

No firearm gets more attention than the ubiquitous AR-15. Although made by multiple manufacturers in a myriad of configurations with scores of accessories, these "black rifles" or "modern sporting rifles" are both praised and condemned and usually the first target of liberal gun control legislation. As such, the myth persists that they're more dangerous than other semi-automatics.

"Reporters and activists sometimes write this because they don't know better," says Mike Bazinet, public affairs director for the Newtown, Conn.-based National Shooting Sports Foundation. "Some activists don't know better or they may actually want to confuse matters in the public mind in pursuit of their public policy objectives. Rifles of any kind are rarely used in criminal activity."

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No other magazine offers you this brilliant combination of smart, conservative, in-depth reporting and opinion that truly reflects your values.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Conspiracy Theory Parody

A recent internet hit..... just goes to show how, with a  little bad faith, a touch of paranoia and above all lots of imagination, a very plausible conspiracy narrative can be constructed that neatly packages the consensus facts.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Config Space via Mathematical Impressionism. Part 2

This series is intended to provide a very general conceptual frame work for thinking about evolution. In the first part I introduced the following graphical representation of configuration space:

The horizontal axis represents the size of a configuration. The vertical axis is the logarithm of the total number of logically conceivable configurations consistent with a configuration size of value S. For a given size S, each possible configuration is counted by mapping it to a point on the Log Z-S plane. In order to organize this count of points the area under L0 has been divided up into wedge shaped bands using lines L1 to Ln. If we take a given size S, then the vertical distance across a band is the Log measure of the number of configurations that have a particular disorder value, where disorder increases from bands 1 to n respectively.

Arranging configurations of a particular value of disorder and size into a 1 dimensional line doesn't do justice to the multidimensional nature of configuration space, a fact I alluded to in the first part of this series. Mapping configurations of a particular disorder and size onto a single vertical line in one of the wedges above will have the effect of forcing a separation on otherwise natural near neighbors in configuration space. In fact this is similar to the effect that occurs when one maps a multidimensional space onto linear computer memory; neighbouring points get separated. 

In spite of the limitations of my graphical representation we can nevertheless use it to help talk about the conditions needed for evolution to occur.

In the first part I defined living structures as configurations with powers of self-perpetuation - a process that includes self-repair and reproduction. Therefore the sort of self-perpetuation I'm thinking of is very proactive in that it is not simply down to atomic bonding stability (as it is for strong crystalline structures), but instead a form of maintenance that depends on a blend of proactive repair and reproduction; in fact in terms of molecular bonds living materials are by and large very fragile.

One of the fairly obvious requirements of evolution as conventionally understood is that of “reducible complexity” (I have talked about this point many times in this blog).  Given axioms 3 and 4 (Seen part 1), conventional evolution requires that living configurations, when mapped to configuration space, give rise a set of points in this space that are close enough to one-another to form a completely connected region; very likely this region would be the multidimensional equivalent of a “spongy structure” made up of extremely thin membrane walls.  This connectedness will mean that the random agitations of evolutionary gradualism can set up a diffusional migration across configuration space without resort to highly improbable saltational leaps. It is this connected structure that defines what “reducible complexity” means. It also explains why so many in the de-facto “Intelligent Design” community are quite sure that living structures are “Irreducibly Complex” rather than “reducibly complex”. A class of structures is irreducibly complex if they form a scattered set in configuration space - that is, they do not form a connected set but are by and large individually isolated.  If self-perpetuating structures are arranged as an irreducibly complex set in configuration space then this means these structures can only be reached by saltational leaps. The de-facto ID community then contend, (with some plausibility), that if this is the case then the only agent we know capable of literally engineering these leaps is intelligence.

To be fair to the ID community, the notion that organic structures form a reducibly complex set is moot on at least three counts

ONE) If a reducibly complex set of self-perpetuating structures exists then it is likely to be highly sensitive to the selected physical regime. I suspect, although I have no proof, that the physical regimes implying reducible complexity is a very small class indeed; I guess that any old selected physical regime won’t do. But even if physical regimes that favour reducible complexity have at least a mathematical existence we are still left with the question of whether our particular physical regime is one of them!

TWO) Axiom 2 tells us that the set of living structures is tiny compared to the set of all possible non-self-perpetuating structures. This fact is an outcome of axiom 1 and the nature of disorder: If living structures occupy the mid regions between high order and high disorder then the logarithmic nature of the vertical axis on the LogZ-S graph will imply that disordered configurations are overwhelmingly more numerous. This raises the question of whether there are simply too few self-perpetuating structures to populate configuration space even with a very thin spongy structure; in fact the spongy structure may be so thin that although mathematically speaking we will have an in-principle reducible complexity, in terms of practical probabilities the structure is so tenuous that it may as well not exist!

THREE) My definition of life in terms of self-repair and reproduction would seem to imply a threshold of sophistication of configuration that is relatively high. Even if this set of structures form a completely connected set in configuration space how did the first structures come about? Their sophistication would seem to demand a size that is too large  to have come about spontaneously (see Axioms 2 and 3). Therefore if evolution is to work our reducibly complex set of structures must be continuously connected to and blend with a set of small stable structures toward the lower size end of our graph where small configuration sizes mean that the probability of spontaneous appearance is relatively high. (An implication of axiom 2). This is the subject of the Origins of Life (OOL) which as far as I’m aware doesn't have any substantive scenarios on the table.

I must express (again) my feeling that solutions to the above questions are not likely to be succinctly analytical, because I suspect that attempts to solve them analytically will hit Wolfram’s computational irreducibility barrier. That is, that the only way of probing these questions is to do a full simulation,  because there may be no other shorter way of computing the result than working, event by event, through the full natural history of the world. But perhaps I'm being too pessimistic!


The de-facto “ID” community, in my opinion, are not getting the respect and hearing they deserve. After all, the big issues I've outlined above don’t have obvious answers. Nevertheless, as I have expressed many times before, I continue to feel uneasy about the de-facto “ID” community’s ulterior philosophy and underlying motivation.  This uneasiness stems from: a) Their failure to register that even bog-standard evolutionary theory presupposes highly computational complex pre-condition;, that is high information conditions (Which is essentially the lesson from their very own William Dembski. b) That many de-facto IDists still see the subject through the fallacious God did it vs. Naturalism did it dichotomy.  This dichotomy is seductive to both theists and atheists. The polarized and acrimonious state of the debate in North America, where it is cast in the mould of a “Masculine God vs. Mother Nature” paradigm, has probably help keep this dichotomy alive. In this context the natural history question is framed entirely in terms of whether it is guided or unguided - guided by a driving masculine homunculus or left unguided by a scatty mother nature. So, in my next part I will look into the subject of whether evolution, as it is conventionally conceived,  has direction. 

North American Paradigm: Mother Nature or Guiding Homunculus?

Finally I must add this caveat: Although I eschew the North American paradigm that swings so much on the question of whether natural history is "guided or unguided”, this is not to say that the established picture of evolution is correct. As I have said before the game of chess is considerably constrained by its rules, but if you try moving chess pieces about at random even under the constraint of those rules you are unlikely to end up with a sensible game. Physics, as we currently understand it, may not be strong enough constraint to imply a computation that follows the established evolutionary paradigm. In later parts of this series I may probe whether there are ways round the problems outlined above.

End Note: Clearly living structures capable of self-perpetuation in one environment may not survive in another. Therefore the way self-perpetuating structures are arranged in the Log Z-S plane will depend on the environment we are looking at.  Moreover, since the presence of organic structures are  part and parcel with the environment this will introduce non-linear feedback effects. For simplicities sake these non-linear issues have been left out of the above discussion.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Configuration Space and Evolution Continued.

I have been doing further work on the notion of "configuration space" and its relation to evolution. As my ideas on this subject have clarified it has lead me to making various clarifications and enhancements to Part 1 of the relevant series, a series that is the vehicle by which I am exploring this subject.  Part 2 will be coming soon.

Note: 17/03/13. God did it vs. Naturalism did it. The latter (false) dichotomy, which is one of the themes of this blog, is further illustrated in this post from Larry Moran. He tells us about a page published on the anti-evolution web site of the Discovery Institute which lists scientists who dissent from “Darwinian Theory” and points out that the “Statement of dissent from Darwin” that heads the list of signatories is general enough for him to agree with! Moran goes on to quote Joshua Youngkin from an article on “Evolution News and Views”. According to Youngkin  this list is... 

"…. a thorn in the side of those who say there's no scientific debate over whether evolution works in a completely naturalistic fashion."

This is typical: Joshua Youngkin sees any insufficiency of the established evolutionary picture to describe natural history as a failure of "naturalism", a failure which presumably he sees only being made good with “non-naturalism”.  The implicit logic of this non-naturalism vs. naturalism dichotomy is likely to imply that if an upgraded version of evolution succeeded in describing natural history then that would classify as a success for "naturalism" and a concomitant failure of "non-naturalism". Youngkin’s presumed belief in "non-natural" agents would then be challenged! Hence amongst the kind of IDist Youngkin represents there is a great need  to hold on to a negative theory of "anti-Darwinism" at all costs.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Conspiracy Theory: Infamy! Infamy! They've all Got it in for Me!

Carry on Conspiracy Theorising!

In order to expand my background  knowledge of conspiracy theory a friend very helpfully lent me his box set of History Channel DVD's entitled "Conspiracy?" (See below).  The subject of conspiracy is also proving to be very relevant to my study of strict and particular religious communities, sects, cults and wackos. Such groups have a way of marching very close to the conspiracy theory mindset, if not being fully paid-up conspiracy theorists themselves. The contents of the  DVD set are as follows:

Disc 1  
TWA Flight 800. Was this airline crash due to malfunction or missiles?
Majestic Twelve: UFO cover-up: Did this top secret committee exist and cover up Roswell?
FDR and Pearl Harbour  Did Roosevelt know that this attack was coming but deliberately did nothing to stop it?
Area 51: Did Bob Lazar work on an alien flying saucer?

Disc 2
Who Killed Martin Luther King JR?: Was James Early Ray a patsy? Was King's death the work of a conspiracy?
Lincoln Assassination:  Was Confederate President Jefferson Davies behind the assassination?
Oklahoma City bombing:  Did and Neo-Nazi's and Middle East terrorist help Timothy McVeigh with his bombing?
The CIA & The Nazis: Did the US use ex-Nazi War criminals in intelligence, science and engineering?

Disc 3
Jack Ruby:  Did Jack Ruby act alone when he killed Lee Harvey Oswald?
The Robert F Kennedy Assassination: Did Sirhan Sirhan act alone when he killed Robert Kennedy?
Kecksburg UFO: What was the UFO? Was there a cover up?

Actually, most of these conspiracies were of the plausible variety in that they left one wondering "May be, may be not!".  Even the Kecksburg "UFO" may have had an unremarkable explanation; it could have been a piece of secret military kit that went astray.

As I have said in my piece on the Kennedy assassination human beings are built to be reactive animals. Their chief intellectual strength is in retrospectively adapting to a changing environment. Human beings are poor planners because they don't find themselves in a planner friendly world; chaos ensures that! Outside of war-time, cover ups are in most cases likely to be due to the retrospective cover-up of faux-pass connected with one or more of the following: Incompetence, ignorance, pride or moral sleaze. 

However, I don't think the foregoing remarks apply to the Majestic 12 conspiracy and the Bob Lazar conspiracy.  Here we are being asked to swallow boarder-line crackpot conspiracy narratives. This prompts a tricky question: How does one distinguish between a plausible conspiracy theory and the crank variety?  That question can at least be partly answered if one is able to identify the motivational complex that keeps multiplying entities/players/adjustable variables so that the theory may be saved as a workable explanatory narrative.  And the reason why the theory has to be saved is to satisfy the ego of the conspiracy theorist: Any insecurity that belief in a malign conspiracy bring the theorist is offset somewhat by the comfort and consolation in knowing that he is important enough to be targeted by a mega-conspiracy and/or sees himself as clever enough and moral enough not to have been taken in by the conspiracy. In fact the conviction that one is fighting a grand, totalising and immoral conspiracy registers as having cracked the meaning of life and becomes an all-consuming purpose. Egocentricity and moral pride are the most resilient of human sins!

Fascinating Stuff, but probably not crackpot enough for the kooks!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Mangling Science Part 1: Ken’s Can of Worms

A can of worms makes good fish bait

I hardly need tell anyone that protestant fundamentalism has a problem with science, a problem on at least two counts; although these two counts are bound up with one another. The first count is probably connected with fideism. The second count is down to science delivering up many conclusions inconsistent with the protestant fundamentalist’s handling of the Bible. In society at large, however, science as an epistemological institution has great prestige, perhaps because it simply has produced undeniable results which have authenticated it as an epistemology. This has left the literal minded fundamentalist with the problem of how to repond. One response, I suppose, is for fundamentalists to disdain science as unsacred knowledge that a People of The Book should not profane themselves with. Ultra-separatism like this leads to the time-honored religious practice of disengaging with society altogether and the formation of exclusive holy remnants who stick to the traditions of the elders passed from one generation to the next.  (Perhaps the Amish fall into this category) Ultra-separatist communities conveniently bypass the hassle of attempting to engage science – they simply do not bother because it is considered to be the unclean domain of sinful man.

More interesting perhaps are the fundamentalists who have attempted to engage science rather than declaring it to be all for the burning. They can’t deny that science has produced results and those results have lead on to technology. Any working artifact of technology is a bit like an experiment endlessly repeating the same test thus confirming the physical principles on which it is based. The fundamentalists who populate organizations like Answers in Genesis feel that they cannot usefully disassociate themselves completely from the social kudos of science. Somehow they have to avoid looking like anti-science bigots and yet at same time undermine those results that contradict their teachings based on their reading of the Bible. So what to do?

These Fundamentalists need to explain why they only accept some of the conclusions of science and do all they can to undermine the conclusions which contradict the way they think about the Bible. In the case of AiG the answer is to attempt to redefine science in a way that gives them a criterion for rejecting the results they don’t like. They do this by distinguishing two types of science; you will hear them taking about “observational” or “operational” science which is in contradistinction to “historical” science. It is the latter that they have in their sites, because it so blatantly contradicts their handling of the scriptures.

So how do these fundamentalists distinguish operational/observational science from historical science?  In a blog post entitled “Darwin, Dinosaurs and the Devil (Part 1)” and dated 19th February 2013 Ken Ham just assumes this distinction:

In addition, these secularists never give up on their false accusation of our ministry’s supposed “science denial.” That’s because the secularists play around with definitions; they use the word “science” for both historical science (beliefs about the past) and operational science (based on observation that builds our technology). Actually, it is the secularists who teach a false understanding of the word science (and how it works) in their attempt to brainwash students and the public in their anti-Christian religion of evolution and millions of years. For more on the differences between historical and operational science, read Troy Lacey’s article Deceitful or Distinguishable Terms—Historical and Observational Science. * (My emphases added. See Footnote)

Reading this one might think that from its title alone the AiG article that Ken Ham links to looks promising. Looking through this article it does give us the expected examples of what isn’t observational science:
….we have stated that neither creationism nor cosmic evolution nor Darwinian biological evolution is observational science, and they are not observable, testable, repeatable, falsifiable events. Therefore, we would state that you cannot “empirically prove” them.

But as I look through the article I can see nothing that positively defines operational/observational science. Going back to Ken we recall:

….they use the word “science” for both historical science (beliefs about the past) and operational science (based on observation that builds our technology).

According to Ken then, the crucial concept that distinguishes historical science has to do with beliefs about the past. So presumably "operational" science is defined apophatically as not entailing beliefs about the past! At first sight this seems obvious; at least it is to our Ken, the man who matters as far as thousands of his followers are concerned!

This approach of not being very careful with terms is, I find, very typical of AiG; keep it all on a fairly superficial and poorly defined level; in fact pro-actively disparage good definitions as mere semantics! After all, AiG need ultimately only appeal to their less than critical followers who have lives to lead and don’t have time to do any serious thinking; as long as the argument looks superficially OK, that’s all that is needed to not only convince their following, but above all to convince themselves.

This is all very reminiscent of the issues I raised with AiG’s concept of “mature creation” which I probed in my “Beyond our Ken” series (See here). And just like the “mature creation” concept we find that once we start looking closely at AiG’s "operational science" verses "historical science" distinction we find it to be based on a false dichotomy and we open up a can of worms. be continued

* Footnote: Notice that in Ken's view it is the establishment that is trying to redefine science and not him!  As one might expect from a member of a marginalised "hell and damnation" religious community the motives for this claimed redefinition are considered to be intentionally malign; hence the use of  strong terms like  "anti-Christian religion" and "attempt to brainwash" from someone who sees his community getting all the stuff from the back-end of an anti-Christian conspiracy!