SocraticGadfly: 2/6/05 - 2/13/05

February 12, 2005

Once again, proof that the Democratic Party has no balls

As if you really needed proof

I just got a letter on the latest Ohio voting recount work from the Cobb/LaMarche 2004 Green Party presidential campaign. For those of you who may not remember, it was Cobb and the Greens, joined by the Libertarians and their presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik, who launched the request for an Ohio recount, while the Democratic Party kept its collective hands parked under its collective ass.

Here’s the kicker graf from the Green letter:
“In Coshocton County alone, one thousand and eighty new votes were counted because of our recount demand.”

Now according to the 2000 Census, Coshocton County, between Columbus and Canton, had 36,655 residents. That’s about 27,000 people 18 or older, of whom there’s probably about 20,000 registered to vote.

Let’s say they were motivated to get out and vote at 75 percent last November. That’s 15,000 voters.

And nearly 1,100 of those votes were lost before the Green recount? Holy Batshit! That’s 7 percent of the votes.

That’s exactly why the Greens need support to continue to recount, even while the Democratic Party continue to keep its collective hands parked under its collective ass.

You’re really not an employee, just a wage slave

And bloggers who get canned for blogging about their jobs are living proof.

Another example of why Democrats as a party and progressives in general need to focus more on labor rights in the future.

Tony Blair, wake up and smell the coffee

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he believes President Bush “wants to start discussing measures to combat climate change and suggested there may be an agreement during Britain's G8 presidency, to be showcased at a summit in July,” according to Reuters.

Nice to know that Tony the Pony’s been sniffing the same faith-based crack that floats around large segments of BuchCo Washington. I’m not talking so much about the Religious Right as I am the neoconservatives and their faith-based foreign policy.

They believed Iraq had WMDs. They believed Saddam Hussein was behind bin Laden, etc. Well, with faith like that, definitely count me an atheist. Too bad Tony’s not yet been disabused.

Steven Pinker, the David Brooks of ev psych?

Pharyngula’s post on “a delicately dissected Pinker”, which led to Echidne’s link, flipped the “on” switch in my brain that Pinker is the David Brooks of evolutionary psychology popularizers.

He takes bits of anecdotal data, presents them as incontrovertible overarching conclusions, paints with a broad and caricaturizing brush. You can’t tell which one I’m describing, can you?

Bobos the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your vacuous self-delusions of grandeur.

See Pinker’s original column in The New Republic supporting the general thrust of Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ comments on women in the sciences here.

Behe tells psycho-lies; Ruse let Dembski off the hook

And is contradicted by top fellow Ider

In his Feb. 7 New York Times column, discussed by me here, Michael Behe claims intelligent design is “not a religiously based idea.” He goes on to claim that “intelligent design itself says nothing about the religious concept of a creator.”

But in the book “Debating Design,” coedited by Michael Ruse and leading ID proponent and lecturer William Dembski, their introduction says:
”Intelligent Design is the hypothesis that in order to explain life it is necessary to suppose the action of an unevolved intelligence. One simply cannot explain organisms … by natural causes … or a consequence of evolution, such as an evolved extraterrestrial intelligence.” (Page 3, emphasis added.)

The coeditors do, it is true, go on to state:
”Although most supporters of Intelligent Design are theists, it is not necessarily the case that a commitment to Intelligent Design implies a commitment to a personal God or indeed to any God that would be acceptable to the world’s major religions.

This appears to let ID off the hook as religion, right?

Not quite, in my opinion, and it ties in with my contention that Ruse let Dembski off the hook here.

That statement above while theoretically acknowledging that some IDers might be nontheists of some undefined stripe, does not explicitly say that there are any agnostic or atheist IDers. Nor does it explicitly say that ID does not imply a commitment to any sort of traditional personal God, nontraditional personal God, impersonal God or Force, or any other “object of ultimate concern.”

No, unlike Michael Ruse, I’m not a PhD in philosophy, but nonetheless (without knowing the background of how this introduction was hammered out), here’s where I think he let Dembski off the hook.

First of all, he should have insisted on the language of the introduction being tightened up in the way I have suggested.

Second, he should have challenged Dembski to name names of atheist or agnostic IDers.

In any future debate, panel discussion, etc., I hope the Darwinian side does just that, given even the smallest opening to do so.

February 10, 2005

John Cornyn: Texas senator, puritanical prude

John Cornyn is the junior senator from Texas, elected in 2002.

Like most senators, when you e-mail him through a citizens’ activist group such as the Sierra Club or the ACLU, via one of their e-mail action alerts, his office requires that you select a subject for your e-mail from a drawbar menu.

That's all fine and good.

But one of the subjects on the menu for his office is: "Super Bowl halftime show."

Janet Jackson was more than a year ago.

Senator, like your winger supporters say: Get over it.

British people want William, not Charles, as king; I have a better idea

Yahoo reports that a majority of Britons want Prince Charles to have the English crown pass over him after Queen Elizabeth dies, and devolve on his eldest son, Prince William.

I have a better idea. Why not have it devolve on Prince Harry instead? He could then wear his swastika armband with pride while his Hitler-embracing great-great-uncle, Edward VIII/Duke of Windsor, does handsprings in his grave.

February 09, 2005

Rep. Sensenbrenner - junior Hitlerite?

Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s new Department of Homeland Security immigration bill would, in essence, give DHS the unchecked right to overturn any law it chose in the name of immigration security.

Gee, this sounds familiar.

Maybe because it’s similar to Nazi Germany’s 1933 Enabling Act, which gave the Nazis the same type of power.

February 08, 2005

Darwin's Black Box is Michael Behe's braincage

Or, what’s in Behe’s fallacious bag of tricks?

Want proof? Take a look at this New York Times column Behe penned Feb. 7.

Before going into a detailed breakdown, let me look at an overall pattern. It is IDers, not their critics, who exemplify closed-mindedness on this issue. Behe illustrates this with a variety of classic means of fallacious argumentation, including false dilemmas, appeals to the crowd and more.

Behe repeatedly argues that machinery implies design, with the unstated implication this, in turn, implies design by a designer. From the fact that he has no way of knowing whether analogizing from human macro-scale machinery to cellular micro-scale machinery is either logically or empirically doable to the fact that he simply cannot or will not consider the possibility of bootstrapped design. Ergo, he is arguably engaging in the fallacy of false analogy.

As my reference book, “The Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion,” says: "It is the business of analogy to illustrate or suggest, not demonstrate; the fallacy is committed when one argues from the analogy to a conclusion claimed to follow necessarily."

Now, I don't think Behe only does that. My version of this fallacy that I see in him is a false analogy in that I don't think he has situations that are really as analogous as he claims.

This reminds me of a book by a 1960s-70s theologian named J.B. Phillips, called “Your God is Too Small.” Behe’s “design” is too small, as far as his ideas of what can cause design, or bootstrap design, without the invocation of intelligence.

He makes this clear near the end, when he says, “The next claim in the argument for design is that we have no good explanation for the foundation of life that doesn't involve intelligence.”

First, as many people have pointed out, Darwinism is about the evolution of life forms, not the development of life per se. So, Behe is dishonestly shifting tables. This is near a version of the fallacy of composition, but maybe not quite the same thing; it goes beyond fallacy to changing terms of argumentation.

No matter. While it is true that the details of early amino acid synthesis, protein development, etc. is still hotly debated in many details, the general idea that development of living forms from nonliving forms is doable without an Intelligent Designer is widely accepted today.

If it weren’t, NASA wouldn’t have forked over the money for Cassini to go to Saturn and the European Space Agency certainly wouldn’t have paid for Huygens to land on Titan. But they did, precisely to look at different directions in which “proto-living”compounds could have developed, or gotten design.

Speaking of that, there’s no need to run from the word “design,” in my opinion. Rather, we need to continue to develop better counter-analogies that are readily understandable by the general public.

Now, some specific observations.

First comes the claim that “And intelligent design itself says nothing about the religious concept of a creator.”

In a word, bullshit.

“Intelligent design” implies an “intelligent designer” and Behe is surely well aware of that. Following “The Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion, this could be called a fallacy of hasty generalization, argument from ignorance, or black-or-white fallacy, depending on exactly how I analyze this.

Now, he might semantically argue that I am inferring ID implies Designer. However, I have no doubt that, to the degree that Intelligent Design is the old gray mare of the philosophically fallacious argument from design gussied up with a Thoroughbred’s racing silks, “intelligent design” as its founders’ pet phrase is designed to conjure up images of an intelligent designer.

That’s clear from his examples by analogy of Mount Rushmore and William Paley’s famous watch. He offers up no examples of apparent design without an actual designer.

My inference of implication follows logically from Behe’s next statement: “Rather, the contemporary argument for intelligent design is based on physical evidence and a straightforward application of logic.” That, in turn

Then, note his use of attempted argument-tilting emotional language (technically normally considered a variant of the fallacious appeal to the crowd) such as “Modern Darwinists disagree with Paley that the perceived design is real, but they do agree that life overwhelms us with the appearance of design.” (Emphasis added.)

Or, this choice phrase:

“Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, once wrote that biologists must constantly remind themselves that what they see was not designed but evolved. (Imagine a scientist repeating through clenched teeth: ‘It wasn't really designed. Not really.’)”

But Behe is not anywhere near done with his bag of fallacious argumentation tricks. Note this classic false dilemma:

“Scientists skeptical of Darwinian claims include many who have no truck with ideas of intelligent design, like those who advocate an idea called complexity theory.”

Of course, there’s no conflict at all between Darwinism and complexity theory, despite Behe’s implications of one.

And finally, we have this appeal to the crowd, via antiscientific populist obscurantism:

“Besides, whatever special restrictions scientists adopt for themselves don't bind the public, which polls show, overwhelmingly, and sensibly, thinks that life was designed.”

Well, if that were the case, we might still be teaching Ptolemaic theory solar astronomy, er, terrestrial astronomy, in many Southern states.

Update, Feb. 16: Welcome to all visitors from Skeptics' Circle 2. If you're interested in further reading, please go to my home page and browse the headers for related posts. I have put up two brief posts as the beginning of an extended review of “Debating Design,” an excellent 2004 book which gives equal air time to orthodox neo-Darwinians, IDers, non-IDer theistic evolutionists, and non-orthodox neo-Darwinians, such as Stuart Kauffman, talking up how complexity theory can shed non-Darwinian new light on evolution inside the naturalistic framework.

More torture by U.S., and it still doesn't work

More torture, including more sodomy, of Guantanamo detainees has come to light. And, contra the Instapundits of the world, torture doesn’t work, as the Guantanamo Kuwaitis in question say they made false confessions.

February 07, 2005

Was Cheney "right" about FactCheck in 2004 VP debate?

Maybe Dick Cheney knew what he was talking about in last year’s vice-presidential debate. As Josh Marshall reports on Talking Points Memo, Fact Check, the purportedly nonpartisan political fact-checking group hilariously misreferenced by Cheney during that debate appears to be drinking from the Presidential Kool-Aid on the Social Security privatization issue, selling the Presidential line in attacking ads by MoveOn, for example, that claim Bush will cut Social Security.

Anyway, read Josh’s article for more, including the Republican National Committee new using FactCheck’s attack on MoveOn to threaten TV stations running MoveOn’s commercial with various legal possibilities.

February 06, 2005

Bush has "God within him"

And Zig Ziglar's head up his ass.

The Zigster, who qualifies as one of the country's all-time great Pollyanna snake-oil men in my book, gushes over Bush the salesman on the Social Security trail:
"You can tell he has God within him!"

Actually, if I were religiously minded, I'd think he had seven demons to be cast out.

Meanwhile, as Atrios notes, the godlike Bush is trying to sell his own brand of snake oil to a three-job single mother Mary Mornin.
As the Washington Post reports:
Mornin tells the president, "I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters."
"Fantastic," the president exclaims, and he tells her she has "the hardest job in America, being a single mom."
Later, she tells Bush that she works three job. He asks her if she gets any sleep.

So, she's expected to pore over thousands of funds from hundreds of investment planners while she watches over three kids, works three jobs and tries to find time to sleep.

Hey, Zig, does the Blessed Leader have enough divine mojo for a miracle?

Note: Another blogger who did a trackback to Atrios' post said Mornin made enough money to buy take-out food for her dog.
Aside from the ridiculous materialism of America that this reflects, I don't think it neglects the main points of Atrios' post. She may well have to do multiple jobs because she's not considered employable enough for a single full-time job. In any case, three part-time jobs of, say, 25, 13 and 7 hours a week still adds up to 45 hours, plus extra commuting time going to three jobs instead of one, all of which underscore my point about how ridiculous it is to expect her to have the time to pore over hundreds of Social Security privatization investment options.