Thursday, May 22, 2008

Amy Winehouse Tormented by Ghost - WTF? is reporting that Amy Winehouse has fled her home because " a poltergeist – who she has named Henry – is haunting her North London flat and is trying to harm her" [1]. Apparently, the nefarious apparition has repeatedly attacked her leaving scratches on her arms. She refuses to return to her home until someone can preform an exorcism and relieve the tormented singer of these pernicious phantoms.

Right... these are ghost scratches on my arms, officer.

What kind of world do we live in where crazy pop singers can't even brood in drug-induced angst in peace? Shame on you, Casper! Don't make me get the Ghost-Whisperer on your ass!

-Safari Bob


[1] - Amy Winehouse

Monday, May 19, 2008

Are Americans Getting Dumber? DUH!!

I ran across this article on whether or not Americans are foreswearing learning for TV and video games. For instance, how many Americans would have to look up the word "foreswear"? Why do Americans not have time for reading and yet plenty of time for watching reality TV or World of Warcraft?

What worries me is a seemingly prevalent mindset that learning is bad. Terms like "geek" and "nerd" have long been pervasive in schools. I remember being teased and harassed in the seventh grade because some classmates saw a book I was reading (Inside the Atom by Isaac Asimov). Certainly students that like science are often castigated for their interests [1] and this conduct seems to be spreading to all areas of education - especially to young girls. What is going on?

I have asked my students about this and they just shrug their shoulders as say, "I dunno." Does anyone out there have any ideas?

-Safari Bob


[1] See: Sagan, C. (1996). The Demon-Haunted World. New York: Ballantine Books, pp. 321-323.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Einstein Letter Proves that God is Worth Money

The New York Times is reporting that a letter written by Einstein to a friend about God has sold for $404,000! That's alot of money for a letter by a physicist about religion. I wonder how many prayer cloths ole Robert Tilton (aka the God Shark) would have to 'schelp' in order to buy something like that? Now, don't get me wrong; I would love to own it. But I cannot help wondering if the price rose so high because of all those spurious (mis)quotations about God that are attributed to Einstein out here on the Internets.

-Safari Bob



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Four Common Misconceptions About Science

I am a member of a pipe-smoking forum and I encountered a thread discussing Expelled--No Intelligence Allowed. On an aside, has there ever been a title more descriptive? In any event, I was not surprised to find so many misconceptions about science and evolution. In fact, most of the people engaged in the discussion loved that movie and thought that "science is too big for its breeches". Good Lord n' Butter! Frankly, this kind of talk simply makes my butt tired. I responded by listing these four misconceptions and interestingly, this killed the thread.

1. Science is a method--not a belief system per se. This method is based (since Bacon and Newton) on inductive reasoning while theology and philosophy (like Aristotle) tends to use deductive reasoning. Inductive methodology is similar to the Sherlock Holmes manner of investigation while deductive reasoning is often expressed in a series of if/then statements (like Aquinas, Aristotle, and so on down to DesCarte). ID uses a deductive method that is loved by theology but generally reviled by science.

2. Evolution does not study the origin of life--just how it proceeds. This is important to understand because starting with an observation is important to inductive reasoning while starting with a presumption is deductive. Ideally, one may start with any observation and, through testing, follow the empirical evidence back or forward as evidence permits .

3. Empirical evidence is different in humanities and science. In humanities, empirical evidence may be derived from ethnography or interviews. In science, empirical evidence must be generalizable and repeatable as well as provide direction via predictability.

4. Scientific theories must be falsifiable which means that any model, theory, or even law can be tested in some way. Some philosophical, psychological and theological (ie social sciences) theories cannot be falsified. A classic example of this is Marxism or Freudian dream analysis. A skilled debater can argue these theories in any circumstance and, instead of being proven wrong (or false), these theories tend to fall in or out of popularity--based on current thinking rather than scientific data.

-Safari Bob