Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Potpourri

A few notes on various topics that I haven't got around to writing about in detail...

In Iraq, militants, presumably Sunnis, blew up the al-Askari shrine in Samarra. It is believed that no one was killed in the explosion. Sunni militants have been trying to start a war with the Shiites since the invasion. They have killed hundreds of Shiites in cruel and vicious attacks. But now they've really done it. They've gone and blown up a religious building. Now the Shiites are enraged. Only now?

In the last three weeks, the world has seen violent Muslim protests over cartoons that suggested that Islam was a violent religion.

George W. Bush approved the transfer of ownership of U.S. ports to a government-owned company of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE was home to two of the 9/11 terrorists and was the port of entry for half of the 9/11 attackers. UAE does not recognize the state of Israel, and has been criticized for a lack of cooperation with the 9/11 investigation. I don't know exactly what port ownership entails, but I expect it is similar to the role of airline and airport workers at a airport terminal. Though TSA mans the security checkpoints, airport workers can bypass security systems. Still, Bush is consistent: his friends stand to gain financially from the transaction. All of this Republican corruption and corruption gets in the way of actually securing our ports, something you may recall John Kerry proposing in 2004.

As the probability rises that the Democrats will retake the House of Representatives in the autumn, George Will wonders whether Democrats will live to regret it. I see no such silver lining for the Republicans, but the fact that Will is writing about this is a sign that the Republicans are worried.

Since the Dover trial, the pro-ID bloggers over at TelicThoughts have preferred to write about breaches of protocol. They ask whether supporters of evolutionary biology separating their science from their belief systems? It's not relevant. Intelligent Design wasn't cast out of the schools because its motivation was religious, but because that's all there ever was to it.

There's a very interesting post over at another pro-ID blog called iDesign@UCI. A chap named Wedge responded to my posts, and he's a much more friendly and thoughtful fellow than most of the ID bloggers I've run across. However, he says something quite interesting in response to my criticism of CSI:
CSI-as-design-predictor is not a hypothesis that design theorists are testing by applying it to biological systems. If it were, your criticism would be accurate. CSI is an attempt to make rigorous the process of design inference that humans use all the time, and apply it to biological systems. If you don't think that CSI is a good indicator of design, I think you at least must admit that humans distinguish design from chance and necessity all the time. There doesn't seem to be any compelling reason why these criteria couldn't be applied to biological systems.
This reveals quite clearly that CSI is intended to as a measure of what "looks designed." In other words, ID via CSI is precisely the ancient argument for God by design. There's nothing more to it.

There's an excellent article by PZ Meyers on gene transcription factors over at Pharyngula. I haven't finished reading the whole thing yet, but I highly recommend it. Meyers deserves a medal for his efforts at public education.

3 comments:

sartresamigurumi said...

My first reaction to the destruction of the Golden Mosque and the increased conflict was the same as yours. I have to wonder though… What if someone flew a plane into the White House, but did not kill anyone, would this act cause more outcry than let’s say, someone kidnapping a killing Americans (for arguments sake, let us say from American soil)? An act against the White House would symbolize aggression against all American people and their government. Maybe people see the violence against individuals as acts committed by individuals. In the case of the Golden Mosque or my hypothetical White House scenario, these types of acts can awaken a primary group identity whether it is secular or religious in nature. Unfortunately in this case it was religious as with so many, many other conflicts. I agree with the view that religion stifles critical thinking, but so do other things. Identification to any particular group can be become mindless if it is used only to produce conflict with the “other”.

Doctor Logic said...

sartresamigurumi,

I agree with everything you say, especially when you say that critical thinking can be stifled as much by nationalism as by religion. However, I think that the attacks on Shiites have been both severe and systematic since August of 2003 (the bombing outside the Imam Ali Mosque). I would have expected the response from Shiites to be proportional to their perceived risk of becoming a victim of Sunni attacks, a risk that was already high.

Then again, if the Golden Mosque was seen as a foundational icon, Shiites might feel like nothing was safe any longer.

Peg said...

Just one step closer to the ultimate goal.