Monday, November 5, 2007

The Forest for the Trees

We concern ourselves with idiotic political issues so that the political system can continue to exist. We do not use democracy to harness and focus human potential. We could accomplish feats of extraordinary worth if we utilized the power of commonality that stems from mutual concern and admiration. It isnt as relative or subjective as it seems, we are facing calamity. We won't need social security if we are a nation of refugees from climate collapse.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The intelligent design debate

It is apparent to any news-savvy biologist that the intelligent design debate has an interesting hold on the American public consciousness and a consequent impact on both the perceived character of the American scientific establishment and the interface between scientific research and society. The character of the debate is, interestingly, capable of shedding light on the prejudices of both groups (the scientific establishment and the public) and is informative and important as a result of this capability.
Depending on who is debating and why, the debate seems to take two forms. There is substantial tendency for the scientific perspective to take up the gauntlet of defending a secular perspective (agnostic or atheist no matter) and then face the retort that intelligent design "theory" does not stem from a theology but rather a branch of scientific inquiry. There are two problems with this and the first is simply that science is a methodology and not a metaphysics. Science and religion are both ways of rendering out of experience an epistemology but they differ radically in almost every other respect. Accused of Materialism many scientists would, quite rightly, feel maligned. For many scientists a religious world view need not contradict or impede acceptance of any scientific theory suitably postulated and tested. Those who use the debate about intelligent design to further the agenda of secularism seem to be saying religious people are so stupid they perpetually come up with hair-brained bogus notions just to spite us. This is reprehensible to say the least, but no more than the alternative. When Creationists attempt to foist onto the public a religious doctrine utilizing the argument that it is scientifically based inquiry or theory they are guilty of the sin of duplicity and also of a misunderstanding of the way hypothesis testing works.
If the debate is not railroaded into a theological or semantic direction though, the second form it seems to take is about whether or not the "theory" of intelligent design is testable scientifically. They usually then go on to cite supporting evidence that is based on irreducible complexity in biological and astronomical systems. The horrible flaw here is that we as scientists do not set out to support our hypotheses but instead to attempt to disprove them. This keeps us from the temptation of "Cherry-picking" data. It makes bias unlikely, or at least much less likely. Intelligent design theorists do not postulate hypotheses and set about gathering evidence to disprove them. They do just the opposite. If they looked for disproof they would find it in such great abundance that they wouldn't have time to teach Sunday school or run school boards in Kansas.

Friday, April 27, 2007

From Somewhere in the Median

LIFE WITH KIDS IS CHALLENGING AND WONDERFUL. Oddly, life without kids would be wonderfully challenging would it knnaughhtttt? ( Sorry, tongue stuck in cheek.)

Those are Trichomes

Yes, that is a leaf of Glycine max L. Merr seen at about 200x photographed by yours truly in 2004 for a plant anatomy course at UIUC that was tedious but very educational. Feel free to use it as a visual aid to illustrate trichomes, leaf vasculature, or even waxy cuticle if you have any reason to be speaking about any of these things.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Least aware republicans

I recently heard that more and more students from accredited college campuses were "turning off" middle of the road democrats with their angry rhetoric. The gist of this radio news report was that middle class working voters had a harder time aligning themselves politically with war protesters and environmental chicken-littles, and there was thus hope for a centrist led Republican surge in 2007-08. The problem I have with that supposition is that it seems most politically savvy television viewers are watching The Daily Show and PBS's Lehrer News Hour (See Above) both left of center by a few inches to say the least. The same pew survey reports that while the upper echelons of those polled for the survey (otherwise known as the politically aware) were composed equally of Republicans and Democrats the bottom third was predominantly republican. Radical leftists aside, why are the average folk of this country unwilling to ally themselves with the clerisy? Is it still uncool to be informed and intelligent? I thought that sentiment died in the 80's.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Liberal Doses of Consevative media

I listen to NPR alot and interestingly I also have to listen to some conservative pundits from time to time as well.I find that the best reports about world news that come from independent media sources usually have one thing in common. That is they usually try to present a balanced or agenda-free perspective. It is more complicated than simply providing two experts with divergent opinions. It comes down to a balanced presentation. This is particularly difficult to achieve in unedited formats but frequently not achieved in the editing room either.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Random encounters

If it is indeed true that random encounters between people are less likely to generate epiphany, then it must be concluded that the majority of profound human interaction will occur within family groups. I find this difficult to believe. My assertion would be that all encounters are equally likely to produce moments of profound shifts in perspective and the variable most likely to influence the level of insight is duration and not familiarity. Does anyone study this? Your input would be appreciated.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

I blog u blog

It is difficult to imagine a more interesting time to be a scientist.