discarded lies: tuesday, september 19, 2017 11:54 pm zst
Keep Calm and Carry On
daily archive: 08/30/2005
zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Mom, I need this!
One of my small consolations every fall before school started was buying tons of cool stuff that was "absolutely necessary" in order to have a successful school year. You know, like pink and purple pens, and pencils in all sizes and shapes, and erasers that smell like strawberries. And if I was a student today, I'd want all this stuff too: A new class of school supplies
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throbert in Channel Ж:
G-d answers a few questions

In Papijoe's kingdom, Travis wonders:

if there is only one God, why has he created so many different doctrines to confuse us all?

BEHOLD! Sayeth the LORD, it is really quite simple.
Firstly, as my servant Travis hath correctly stated, all of the diverse religious doctrines among mankind issueth from ME. Yes, the Torah, and the Christian Testament, and the Qur'an, and the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads, and the Analects of Confucius, and the Buddhist sutras, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and believe it or not, Atlas Shrugged -- 'twas I who inspired these oft' mutually contradictory doctrines, and many others.

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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
An Overwhelming Tragedy
The situation in New Orleans is going from bad to worse.
Rescuers along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast pushed aside the dead to reach the living Tuesday in a race against time and rising waters, while New Orleans sank deeper into crisis and Louisiana's governor ordered storm refugees out of this drowning city.

Two levees broke and sent water coursing into the streets of the Big Easy a full day after New Orleans appeared to have escaped widespread destruction from Hurricane Katrina. An estimated 80 percent of the below-sea-level city was under water, up to 20 feet deep in places, with miles and miles of homes swamped.

"The situation is untenable," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. "It's just heartbreaking."
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evariste in Discarded Lies:
Free Opera for all!
Happy Tenth Birthday, Opera!
zorkie's and my favorite web browser EVER is celebrating its birthday with an online Opera Birthday Party and free registration codes for all! Have you been too cheap to shell out the cash for a license? Good job! Now you can have it free!
Party favors: Get a free Opera registration code by clicking the "go free" button below. We're giving away registration codes for as long as the party lasts!

Go free now!
kianb would like to remind you that Firefox is always free, not just on special occasions. And evariste would like to point out that Firefox still sucks, but better Firefox than Internet Explorer, which not only sucks but also blows chunks out of its rear end at the same time.
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
What's not in the news
Iraq's Unseen War: The Photos Washington Doesn't Want You To See. Okay, let's say that "Washington" doesn't want us to see images of dead soldiers or dead civilians in this war. What's stopping the media from showing us the images? And this is not about Iraq. What stopped the media on 9/11 from showing us people jumping to their deaths, the sounds of bodies hitting the ground every few seconds? Why are the news sanitized?
But the media is also responsible for sanitizing the Iraq war, at times rendering it almost invisible. Most American publications have been reluctant to run graphic war images. Almost no photographs of the 1,868 U.S. troops who have been killed to date in Iraq have appeared in U.S. publications. In May 2005, the Los Angeles Times surveyed six major newspapers and the nation's two leading newsmagazines, and found that over a six-month period, no images of dead American troops appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Time or Newsweek. A single image of a covered body of a slain American ran in the Seattle Times. There were also comparatively few images of wounded Americans. The publications surveyed tended to run more images of dead or wounded Iraqis, but they have hardly been depicted in large numbers either.
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Ken Gets A Spanking
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evariste in Discarded Lies:
The God of Irreducible Complexity
This fascinating overview of Intelligent Design theory takes me aback a little. I'd previously given them about as much credibility as these clowns, but that's because I'd never seen their case advocated so competently. Now I'm not so sure they're deluded.
BUT WHY SHOULD SCIENTISTS reject design as a matter of principle? And why should they do so when naturalistic explanations are lacking or deeply flawed, and the evidence of design is becoming more and more compelling?

That's the question being asked by the intelligent design theorists. William Dembski, whom we met above (the bespectacled guy with the bookcase full of advanced diplomas), has developed powerful arguments based on mathematics and information theory to show that design can be detected scientifically. He also demonstrates that as a matter of principle blind necessity -- that is, the laws of nature -- cannot produce design of the kind life exhibits. Neither can that kind of design be produced by the interaction of chance and necessity -- that is, by the Darwinian principle of random variation filtered through the laws of nature. Only intelligence can produce what Dembski refers to as "complex specified information," and life exhibits complex specified information (or "specified complexity") to an extraordinary degree.

It may seem strange, at first blush, to speak of life in terms of "information." A fascinating part of this debate is that the naturalists do not disagree with the ID theorists in the slightest on this fundamental point. Both sides agree that life exhibits specified complexity, and that information theory is a fruitful and even necessary tool in explaining how life may have developed. But the term "information" is used here in a specially defined way.

For information of that type to be present in an object, Dembski explains, three conditions must be satisfied. These are contingency, complexity, and specification.

Let's look at contingency first. In an ordinary sequence of letters typed on a computer keyboard, each "slot" in the sequence can contain any of the 26 letters of the alphabet, as well as numbers, punctuation marks, or other symbols. The symbol that can go in any one slot is therefore "contingent": it might be A, it might be B, and so forth. But suppose my computer keyboard had only one key, and all I could type was:


My computer would be incapable of producing contingency. This is rather like the operation of many physical laws in nature. A pattern may be produced, but multiple outcomes are not possible. When molecules arrange themselves in a repeating pattern to form a crystal, that is the necessary result of their physical properties. Different, "contingent" outcomes cannot occur (at least not if the conditions under which the molecules are brought together remain the same).

Now let's look at complexity. The sequence of 22 letters:


is complex in a certain sense, because that exact pattern is highly unlikely to be produced by chance. If my computer keyboard could type only capital letters and the space character, there would be 27 characters that could go in any "slot" of the sequence. The total number of unique sequences of characters that could be produced would be 27 multiplied by itself 22 times, or 27 to the 22nd power. That is a very large number. Expressed in powers of 10, it is more than 10 to the 31st power (10^31); that is, 10 with another 30 zeros behind it. To give an idea of the size of that number, fewer than 10^18 seconds have elapsed since the universe began about 20 billion years ago. If we wrote a program to run on a supercomputer that would generate random strings 22 characters long, and our supercomputer could run through a trillion tries every second, the odds would still be against producing this exact sequence by chance in 20 billion years. The fact that it's very improbable to produce this precise sequence by chance is another way of saying, in information theory, that it is highly complex.

The third criterion is specification. Here's another 22-character sequence:


When we see this sequence, we conclude without a moment's hesitation that it has been produced by a fine intelligence. Like the gibberish sequence of the same length, it is complex because it would take more than those trillion tries a second over the history of the universe to produce it by chance. It is also specified in relation to a pre-existing standard or function; in this case, the rules, spelling, and vocabulary of the English language.

We easily, and usually accurately, make inferences as to when purposeful design by an intelligent agent is at work. In New Hampshire, there was for centuries a rock formation called "The Old Man of the Mountain," that resembled a human face. (It was obliterated by a rockslide in 2003.) Most of us would recognize this formation as simply a chance occurrence rather than design. There are lots of rocks in the world, and humans tend to see patterns that resemble faces. But if we plucked a villager from a remote valley in Nepal, who had not the slightest knowledge of American history, and whisked him to South Dakota, he would instantly and correctly recognize Mount Rushmore as an instance of design by an intelligence.

CAN COMPLEX SPECIFIED information be produced by unintelligent natural causes? Dembski argues forcefully that it cannot. In every case in which we know the "causal story" underlying complex specified information (writing a sonnet, creating a computer program, or sculpting Mount Rushmore) we know that it has been produced by an intelligence. Citing the "Law of Conservation of Information," Dembski also shows that, apart from intelligence, the amount of information in a closed system can only stay the same or decrease. Natural causes can "shuffle around" information, but the total amount cannot increase without the activity of an intelligent agent.

As a matter of both theory and experience, therefore, specified complexity does not come into existence unless it is designed by an intelligence. And, where it exists, specified complexity can be identified either in a rough and ready way (Mount Rushmore) or by more rigorous, probabilistic means. In employing improbability to detect design, Dembski has formulated what he calls the "universal probability bound." This is a number beyond which, under any circumstances, the probability of an event occurring is so small that we can say it was not the result of chance, but of design. He calculates this number by multiplying the number of elementary particles in the known universe (10^80) by the maximum number of alterations in the quantum states of matter per second (10^45) by the number of seconds between creation and when the universe undergoes heat death or collapses back on itself (10^25). The universal probability bound thus equals 10^150, and represents all of the possible events that can ever occur in the history of the universe. If an event is less likely than 1 in 10^150, therefore, we are quite justified in saying it did not result from chance but from design. Invoking billions of years of evolution to explain improbable occurrences does not help Darwinism if the odds exceed the universal probability bound. Why should we care how specified complexity comes about, or how it can be detected? Because all life contains an enormous amount of complex specified information. The DNA in genes and chromosomes that makes up the blueprint for life is basically computer code. The information is contained in long sequences of nucleotide bases. There are four potential bases for any "slot" in the sequence, often abbreviated by the letters A, C, G, and T to represent their chemical names. The sequence of those bases specifies what proteins will be produced, and how a plant or animal will be produced.

Like computer code or language, the sequencing of those four bases is contingent -- the nucleotides don't bond with the nucleotides next to them in a necessary, repeating sequence. DNA sequences are also complex. In the human genome (that is, in the DNA present in each of our cells) there are about three billion such slots. The amount of information in the DNA of every human cell is greater than the information in all of the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Most importantly, DNA sequences in living things are specified in relation to a function: building a human, animal, or plant that can, at minimum, survive and reproduce.

HOW COULD THIS VAST AMOUNT of complex specified information come about without intelligence? The problem for Darwinian theory is particularly acute with respect to the origins of life. But even after life gets underway, random variation and natural selection can't conceivably generate the magnitude of information necessary, the ID theorists argue.

To take just one example, a well-known (and unsolved) problem for Darwinism is the Cambrian Explosion. As noted by Stephen Meyer in the book Debating Design, this event might be better called the Cambrian Information Explosion. For the first three billion years of life on Earth, only single-celled organisms such as bacteria and bluegreen algae existed. Then, approximately 570 million years ago, the first multi-cellular organisms, such as sponges, began to appear in the fossil record. About 40 million years later, an astonishing explosion of life took place. Within a narrow window of about 5 million years, "at least nineteen and perhaps as many as 35 phyla (of 40 total phyla) made their first appearance on Earth...." Meyer reminds us that "phyla constitute the highest categories in the animal kingdom, with each phylum exhibiting unique architecture, blueprint, or structural body plan." These high order, basic body plans include "mollusks (squids and shellfish), arthropods (crustaceans, insects, and trilobites), and chordates, the phylum to which all vertebrates belong."

These new, fundamental body plans appeared all at once, and without the expected Darwinian intermediate forms. The amount of new biological information necessary to create these abruptly emerging body plans is staggering. Meyer states that sponges such as those that existed right before the Cambrian explosion probably required about five basic cell types. More complex animals like the arthropods would have required 50 basic cell types. These in turn are dependent on new and different proteins. Citing recent research, he notes that the more complex kinds of single cell organisms might require about a million DNA base pairs to manufacture the necessary proteins. But a complex, multicellular organism such as an arthropod would require "orders of magnitude" more coding instructions. The modern fruit fly is an arthropod, and it has about 120 million base pairs. The odds that this quantity of information could be generated by random variation filtered through natural selection quickly surpass the "universal probability bound." It's not going to happen. Not even once, in the entire universe, in its whole history.

But it did happen. The preceding paragraph of this article also happened, even though the odds of it being produced by chance also far exceed the universal probability bound. That's because it's not difficult for an intelligence to produce complex specified information that would otherwise be vanishingly improbable. That's also why the ID theorists contend that only an intelligence could possibly produce the vast and detailed information base that is required for life in all its amazing complexity and variety.

This is not an "argument from ignorance" or for a "God of the gaps." The ID theorists are not saying "We don't know how something occurred, therefore God must have done it." Rather, it is an "inference to the best explanation." Naturalistic explanations have turned out to be wholly insufficient, in principle and in practice, to explain the specified complexity that characterizes life at the cellular and molecular level. We know that intelligent agents can generate complex specified information. As a matter of both experience and theory, it appears that complex specified information can only be generated by intelligence. So when we find living organisms that exhibit specified complexity, the best explanation is that the information was produced by an intelligent agent, and that the organism was, in fact, designed.
Read the whole thing:The Little Engine That Could...Undo Darwinism (and a thimbleful of cognac to Dances With Typos for this one).
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evariste in Discarded Lies:
Good writing about New Orleans
I found this and really liked it, it's great writing.
NEW ORLEANS MAYOR C. RAY NAGIN, usually a laconic man with a neat moustache, shaved head, and sleepy eyes, has a panicky air about him on television tonight. He has just received a phone call from Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, and the news was not good. Katrina, a monstrous hurricane swirling in the Gulf Coast, is making a beeline directly for New Orleans. Mayfield informed Mayor Nagin that in his entire career, Mayfield has never seen a storm like this. Mayfield strongly urged Nagin to make the evacuation of New Orleans mandatory; if there's any political fallout, Mayfield said he would take full responsibility. On a local newscast, as the anchormen detail the growing storm, Nagin shouts a single word: "Leave!"

A direct hit from a hurricane the size of Katrina would level New Orleans. The city exists in a basin, bordered on the north by Lake Pontchartrain -- the second-largest salt water lake in the United States -- and crossed on the south by the Mississippi River. The city is protected from flooding by a system of levees, but a direct hit from a large hurricane would breach these protective barriers, flooding the city with water poisoned by industrial chemicals from the thousands of factories that border the lake. This is a nightmare scenario referred to as "filling the bowl," with much of the city drowned under 18-to 20-feet of water, "Body-bag time," says Walter Maestri, director of emergency management for New Orleans's Jefferson Parish in an interview with American Radioworks. "We think 40,000 people could lose their lives in the metropolitan area." Indeed, there are already rumors that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Mortuary Team (DMORT) has been activated and told to be in New Orleans by Tuesday, the day after Katrina is supposed to strike. Their function? Setting up temporary morgues, identifying bodies, and disposing of remains. No wonder Mayor Nagin looks nervous.

Almost exactly a year ago, Mayor Nagin evacuated New Orleans in preparation for Hurricane Ivan, which also inspired talk of doomsday. The daily paper ran a series of specials on the outcome if Ivan directly hit, which included such nauseating details as balls of fire ants floating on the surface of the flooded city, swarming survivors. But Ivan zigged at the last moment, leaving those who remained in the city feeling pretty smug about their devil-may-care attitude. "Leaves in the pool," one told the paper, describing the effects of the hurricane that was supposed to drown the Crescent City. But forecasts expected that Ivan would zig; evacuating the city was simply a precaution. With Katrina, there is no indication yet that the beast will turn. It is a day before it strikes land, and it is projected to rise from the sea like some Biblical plague, headed almost directly toward New Orleans with winds as high as 155 miles per hour, enough to fling an automobile like a child's toy, enough to snap trees in half, enough to tear the roof off a house and burst its windows.

In preparation, many French Quarter businesses have boarded up their windows. But this is the Vieux Carre, and life goes on, even if death approaches. Bourbon Street is filled with the usual array of drunken tourists -- less, perhaps, than usual, but these are sweltering summer days and tourism is usually low. Nonetheless, they crowd into Pat O'Briens, a Bourbon Street institution that credits itself as being the busiest bar in America. Pat O's is also home to a drink that bears the name of the disaster that may destroy the city: a legendary and fruity rum drink called the Hurricane.
Read the rest: Daily Lush Magazine: The Hurricane. It reminds me of Thousand Sons's writing.
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evariste in Discarded Lies:
Chavez: A Right Mixer
I believe they call this chutzpah.
The Venezuelan government said Sunday that it will provide assistance for at least 7 million poor people in the United States, the world's first economic power, despite struggling against poverty in its own territory.

In a Sunday radio and television program, President Hugo Chavez said that there are many poor people in the United States, and every year a large number of them die of cold during the winter.

That is why "we're going to offer fuel for heating that is 40 percent cheaper" than market prices, said Chavez, adding that the plan would benefit 7 million to 8 million poor people in the United States.

He said the price reduction would be attained through the elimination of intermediaries, with the sale being made directly through Citgo, a US branch of Venezuela's state-run petroleum company PDVSA.

Chavez said the fuel would be distributed to the poor through organizations headed by veteran defender of civil rights in the United States, Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover and other personalities.

Jackson, who is currently visiting Venezuela, joined Chavez on television to announce his involvement with the plan.

In addition to fuel subsidies, the Venezuelan assistance plan will also include more than 150,000 eye surgeries a year for US people and 242,000 for people from other Latin American and Caribbean countries.
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