Argument from ignorance? – Berlinski on the Question: How in the world could these complex machines and systems have come about without intelligence? – A first look at the question


Warning 64pxAttention:  This is not necessarily an article about Intelligent Design; this is an article about how we think, how we think about scientific propositions, how we think about our own and other people’s thinking and more particularly how the logical fallacy of the Argument from Ignorance can be part of the dynamic.

All of what follows was wrapped around a conversation that was organized around a discussion of Intelligent Design hosted by the Watermark Community Church in Dallas on April 19, 2009 at a forum called The Creation Conversation.  Ok, the building, the host, and the audience were some brand of evangelical Christian, and their ulterior motives were whatever they were, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing for the rest of us to learn from what transpired there, that is if you can be open minded enough to set aside for the moment the place and intentions of that particular conference and learn something from what was said there.

Therefore, we will all be expected to proceed, for the sake of the discussion, as of the subject matter is worth of being treated as a legitimate hypothesis, to be falsified or passed forward to the next round of discussion because it attempts, in good faith, to answer a question that other hypotheses have failed so far to answer:  How in the world could these complex machines and systems have come about without intelligence?

Fair enough?

Continue reading

Comment on Kloor – Trusted Influentials – Rising in the reasonableness ranking


Science journalist Keith Kloor, has an article up at his blog Collide-a-Scape at the Discover.com website titled: Trusted communicators who shape the GMO Discourse.  Kloor seems to be a fairly sensible fellow, and is a journalist who is generally rising in the Meme Merchant’s quality blogger index.

Lately, KK has been on a sort of anti anti-GMO tear, that is trying to roll back some of the fear, hysteria and disinformation that is surrounding the entire anti-gmo movement.  In today’s case he talks about the role of people he terms “influentials” in shaping the debate within the anti-GMO movement:

Influentials are the information brokers that have major media platforms and big receptive audiences. For example, on the GMO issue, top influentials include Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Dr. Oz, and Vandana Shiva. Each of these influentials have been responsible for spreading or endorsing nonsense about GMOs via social media and other highly trafficked venues.

Its not the point of this blog post to take on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms in general, or even the anti-GMO movement in particular.  I am much more interested in the notion of “Trusted Communicators”, why do we trust them?  And why do we continue to trust them even if they have been demonstrated to be wrong on many occasions about what they are saying?

Trusted is not the same as trustworthy, as I’m sure we can all agree – at least in principle.  But when it come to your own cherished beliefs however…

Kloor quotes Princeton social scientist Linda Fiske:

People trust people they think are like themselves. This is human nature. They trust people who they think share their values and goals.

I would paraphrase Ms Fiske slightly, ‘People trust people who think like themselves’. People like having their world view reinforced, its very natural.  People don’t like cognitive dissonance, they don’t like doubt or uncertainty.  An excess of doubt or uncertainty can make decision making difficult, or even day to day functioning.  People walk out the door every day with the expectation that they will not be run over by the bus or a planetesimals will fall out of the sky and wipe out civilization.  We tend to reserve doubt for critical situations, and ones where we expect to need it.

Continue reading

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew – Part One – the redacted reply


The E.M. Smith ‘theme’ image, a new PhotoShop hatchet job by Atani         [©Atani Studios-2012]

[You will note that we now have a Musings from the Chiefio theme image at the top of the post.  We will be using this image as a kind of ‘flag’ whenever we have a post based upon E.M. Smith’s blog – and can’t come up with anything better that is unencumbered by copyright ~Ed.]

Once in a while I find that, intellectually, I have bitten off more than I can chew in one bite and have to spit it back out so I can cut it into a more manageable mouthful.  Unfortunately what is left lying on the plate is usually not very appetizing, and you really don’t want to put it back in your mouth.  I have had one of those two-half messes sitting in my WordPress drafts folder for the past several days as I’ve been working up the courage to pick them back up off the plate and start chewing again.

Since I’ve already put in a fair amount of time on the subject I’m loath to let the mental effort go to waste – this may have something to do with my yankee waste-not-want not upbriging about not wasting food.  So, I will be a good boy and attempt to clean my plate.  Hopefully in the process I can produce something appetizing for your intellectual apatite.

Isaac  Bashevis Singer once said:

The waste basket is the writer’s best friend.

No doubt true, especially in the days of the manual typewriter and yellow legal pads, the ability of the writer to look critically at his own work and stop wasting time on an unworthy effort can be invaluable; however, I’m also very hip to the archeological notion of mining the midden for useful information, so the office trash receptacle could really be more some kind of a recycling bin or cache for potentially useful bits of intellectual fodder.